Tag: India (page 2 of 2)


Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s article in today’s Washington Post, “At Afghan outpost, Marines gone rogue or leading the fight against counterinsurgency?” paints a picture of Marines grudgingly guarding a town in no man’s land on the edge of the desert:

“DELARAM, AFGHANISTAN — Home to a dozen truck stops and a few hundred family farms bounded by miles of foreboding desert, this hamlet in southwestern Afghanistan is far from a strategic priority for senior officers at the international military headquarters in Kabul. One calls Delaram, a day’s drive from the nearest city, “the end of the Earth.” Another deems the area “unrelated to our core mission” of defeating the Taliban by protecting Afghans in their cities and towns.”

U.S. Marine commanders have a different view of the dusty, desolate landscape that surrounds Delaram. They see controlling this corner of remote Nimruz province as essential to promoting economic development and defending the more populated parts of southern Afghanistan.

The Marines are constructing a vast base on the outskirts of town that will have two airstrips, an advanced combat hospital, a post office, a large convenience store and rows of housing trailers stretching as far as the eye can see. By this summer, more than 3,000 Marines — one-tenth of the additional troops authorized by President Obama in December — will be based here.


“And he wants to use the new base in Delaram to mount more operations in Nimruz, a part of far southwestern Afghanistan deemed so unimportant that it is one of the only provinces where there is no U.S. or NATO reconstruction team.

“This is a place where the enemy are moving in numbers,” he said, referring to increased Taliban activity along a newly built highway that bisects the province. “We need to clean it up.”

Nicholson contends that if his forces were kept only in key population centers in Helmand, insurgents would come right up to the gates of towns.”

Contrary to the way it is understood by the Marines on the ground or to some ISAF planners in Kabul, Delaram is probably one of the most significant towns in Afghanistan in the current war, after the major cities of course. In other words, the Marine commanders are correct. Why? The town sits at one end of a new road connecting Afghanistan’s main highway to Zaranj near the Iranian border. The Zaranj – Delaram road, which is being built by India’s Border Roads Organization, is part of a larger Indo-Iranian project that will connect Kandahar and Herat to Iran’s Chabahar Port on the Persian Gulf. The project will provide Afghanistan a supply route to lucrative markets while reducing the country’s utter dependence on Pakistan (and the new route is 434 miles shorter than the route through Pakistan). The road/rail project is also a vital supply line for Indian troops operating in Afghanistan.

Given the importance of this road for maintaining Afghan autonomy vis-a-vis Pakistan, it is not surprising that the road has witnessed a series of attacks on Indian construction workers. Controlling the road is critical to stabilizing the country — this is why the Marines have been stationed in this remote town. And that is also why the Marines are building airstrips and a combat hospital in a town at “the edge of nowhere.” The final reason is that the United States, despite Indian reassurances, is probably a bit uneasy at the prospect of a new access point for Iran.

Here is a basic Google Earth tour that I made for those unfamiliar with the geography being discussed:


Peace Talks and Terror Tactics

Video Source: Channel 4 (UK)

One day after peace talks between India and Pakistan, there has been an attack targeting Indian nationals on a goodwill mission in Afghanistan. I don’t think anyone seriously doubts that these Taliban-led attacks in Afghanistan are being directed from Pakistani soil. (In general, the Afghan and Indian people have quite warm relations and Afghan nationalists have gravitated toward seeking a strategic partnership with India as both countries share territorial disputes with Pakistan.) Moreover, there are strong suspicions that a Pakistani extremist organization is to blame for the terrorist attack in Pune (India) a few days before the peace talks began.

The Government of India is convinced that the militant organizations attacking Indian citizens and interests are linked to elements within the Pakistani state. In the latest peace negotiations, India requested the extradition of 33 Pakistani nationals, including two currently serving Pakistani military officers, who are alleged to be involved in the Mumbai attacks of 2008. India provided Pakistan three dossiers with evidence to support their request. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary responded that he “did not want to be sermoned on terrorism.” It became readily apparent that these talks, which had been urged by the United States, did not reflect a changed disposition toward the use of terror tactics by the Pakistani state.

In a forthcoming article in Pragati magazine, my co-author and I predict that the use of terror tactics by elements linked to the Pakistani state against India will increase in the coming years. Echoing the recent work of C. Christine Fair, we argue that more than a fear of further dismemberment, the real reason why a nuclear armed Pakistan continues to use terror is that it cannot compete economically or militarily with a rising India. In essence, the deployment of militants using terror tactics is not defensive in nature, nor is it a negotiating tactic; Pakistan’s use of terror is preventive. The main objective is to prevent peace in the subcontinent which would clear a pathway for India’s rise on the global stage. Unfortunately, Pakistan can delay but not prevent the inevitable rise of India.

American policymakers need to engage this issue in greater depth. Urging peace talks between India and Pakistan in order to free up Pakistani troops to fight America’s War on the Taliban is a pointless exercise if Americans haven’t laid the groundwork for successful talks. If the United States is serious about creating peace, it needs to force Pakistan to rethink its grand strategy. This can only be done by convincing the people of Pakistan that the quest for military and economic parity with a much larger and economically more dynamic India is a fantasy that undermines their own goals of democracy, regional peace & prosperity, and sovereignty. The Pakistani state and people must be encouraged to review their strategy in light of the 1998 nuclear tests. While Pakistan has had good reason to fear Indian aggression in the past, the strategic context has changed. It is only by re-evaluating their strategy that Pakistanis will realize that the goal of military parity is outdated, unnecessary, and harmful to their own national aspirations.

It will be argued that I am not asking India to change its behavior. That is correct. India can facilitate peace by continuing to show restraint in response to militant provocations emanating from Pakistan. Ultimately, India will need to make more sacrifices, particularly in Srinagar, but that can only come after Pakistan abandons the use of terror tactics and eliminates the militant organizations on its soil.


US Contemplated Giving India Nuclear Technology in 1961

Two days ago the National Security Archive released a fascinating State Department document from 1961. In the document, US officials recommend passing nuclear technology to India in order to take the steam out of the anticipated nuclear tests by Communist China.

Ultimately, of course, Secretary of State Rusk vetoed the recommendation to pass America’s nuclear secrets on to India. China would go on to hold its first test three years later. India would not test its first nuclear device (i.e. the “Smiling Buddha”) until 1974. Nevertheless, the document reveals a great deal about how the US State Department understood the psychological and strategic issues surrounding nuclear proliferation in 1961. Moreover, it shows that the Americans properly understood India’s nuanced position on nuclear technology despite Nehru’s public pronouncements against nuclear weapons. And Ambassador Galbraith’s strong advice against approaching Nehru directly in favor of working indirectly through Dr. Homi Bhabha was certainly wise.

While the National Security Archive discusses the relevance of the document for the current debate on Iranian nuclear weapons (I frankly don’t see the connection), I think it is more interesting to ponder what would have been the effects of a nuclear armed India in 1961.

The most obvious implication would have been that the 1962 War between India and China would have been rather unimaginable if India had nuclear weapons while China did not. Similarly, one could speculate whether the 1965 India-Pakistan War and subsequent wars would have been imaginable in this strategic context.

Of course, the potential burden of a nuclear arms race in Asia at a time when India still suffered from food shortages is a sobering thought… to say nothing of the horrific scenario of a nuclear exchange in the heart of Asia…


Why It May Be Good To Think Twice Before Opening Fire On Pirates

Daniel Sekulitch provides an update on the pirate “mothership” sunk by India last week in a much-trumpeted police action on the high seas:

“It has now been confirmed by the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre that the vessel sunk last week by an Indian warship was not a pirate mothership but, rather, a fishing boat that had been hijacked by pirates. The Thai-owned fishing boat, Ekawat Nava 5, had been commandeered early on November 18 and the crew had been tied up by their captors, according to the shipowner. Later that same day, the Indian Navy Ship Tabar encountered the Ekawat Nava 5 and ordered the fishing boat to stop for an inspection. The pirates are reported to have threatened the warship, leaving the Indians no choice but to fire on what they believed was a mothership, eventually destroying the vessel. But with the rescue of a crewman from the fishing boat day ago, after six days adrift, the real story has come to light, with tragic consequences. Fourteen of his crewmates remains missing.”

More here. And here.

Not that the Indian military doesn’t have bigger problems than bad PR over its anti-piracy operations right now.


Pakistan and Afghanistan: misguided strategic priorities

A fantastic commentary by Troy at Abu Muqawama.

If you haven’t seen it already, the New York Times magazine has an excellent article by Dexter Filkins on the Taliban in Pakistan. It is a longer piece, but well worth the read.

A fair amount of it covers ground that should be familiar to anyone who has been watching South Asia for the past couple of years:

* Taliban factions are in control of Pakistan’s tribal areas

* The Pakistan Army and ISI are actually supporting the Taliban while pretending to cooperate with the U.S. to control the militants

* By way of example, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the de facto leader of a powerful Taliban faction in North Waziristan that organizes suicide bombings in Eastern Afghanistan, is close to UBL, wanted in Afghanistan, and (drum roll please) an ISI intelligence asset! ISI quote from Filkins: “We are not apologetic about this.” Note: The Haqqani compound outside Miranshah was the target of a Predator strike yesterday.

* The Talibs are free to operate in Afghanistan/attack NATO forces provided that they “refrain from attacking the Pakistani state and from setting up a parallel government.”

* Keeping the Taliban intact is a hedge against the day when the U.S. leaves Afghanistan and the government in Kabul collapses so Pakistan can be assured that a friendly (and anti-Indian) government can reestablish stability.

* The Pakistan Army is in such poor shape as a warfighting organization that it likely couldn’t defeat the militants even if it were actually trying to do so.

* This “double game” allows Pakistan to obtain U.S. aid which is critical to sustaining its broken economy.

What Troy found more illuminating was the discussion of the new government’s counterinsurgency strategy, which focuses on economic development (billions will be poured into the tribal areas over the next five years to build roads, schools and health clinics) and negotiation with tribal leaders in a manner that seeks to sideline the militants. This contrasts sharply with the Musharraf-era negotiations that took place directly between the Army and the militants themselves. This strategy sounds similar in many respects to the notions proposed by Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason (previously discussed here) that strengthening and re-building the Pashtun tribal structures was key to bringing the tribal areas back from the radical brink.

The major problem with this mode of thinking, as Filkins makes clear, is that the Taliban has shredded the old social order that these strategies seek to re-establish. Not only have a significant number of Tribal Maliks been killed, but more importantly, the various Taliban factions have cultivated loyal adherents by overthrowing traditional tribal elders and/or hereditary feudal leaders and elevating lower-class people in their place. A number of prominent Taliban warlords, such as Baitullah Mehsud and Manghal Bagh were common laborers before picking up guns. While the attraction of the Taliban has often been framed in either religious or cultural terms, they are also tapping into that age old conflict between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Those who have benefitted under the new social order are unlikely to be too enthusiastic about a return to the old way of doing things.

Just as insightful is a comment on the post by “bill”:

But, of course, the Pakistani government’s role is very interesting. Historically they backed Islamism for national unity and the Taliban for strategic depth, both to counterbalance their demographic disadvantage against India. Until that strategic calculus changes, until Pakistan stops trying to balance India, the government will have a very strong interest letting the Taliban survive.

This is a point that deserves a great deal of emphasis. Pakistan’s strategic position today is not like it was in the 1960s, or even the 1970s and 1980s. The can deter India with nuclear weapons, of course, but the important relative trajectories–most notably economic and military trends–all point towards continued growth in the already significant gap between the two countries. This gap favors India.

India’s GDP (PPP) in 2007 was around $3 trillion. In 2006 and 2007 India’s economy grew by 8.5%. In 2008-2009 it reached 9.1%. Even with a likely slowdown, India’s prospects remain better than Pakistan’s. In 2007, Pakistan’s GDP (PPP) was around $410 billion, with growth between 6-8% between 2004 and 2008 (source for most of these figures: CIA World Fact Book). But that growth is imperiled by high inflation and interest rates.

The Pakistani military is not in particularly good shape; morale and training are quite low. India spends $26.5 billion on its military, but that’s below 2% of its GDP, and India announced in June that it would increase spending to $40 billion; Pakistan spends about $4.4 billion (with close to an additional $10 billion coming from US military aid) but even that comparatively modest expenditure amounts to an enormous drag on Pakistan’s budget and economy.

The hard reality is that India is heading for even more robust regional hegemony, and there’s very little Pakistan can do about it. But even more important is that fact that Pakistan’s major security threats are no longer external; the Pakistani state is unlikely to meet its end via an Indian invasion.

Pakistan’s major security challenges now stem from within its nominal territorial boundaries. Pakistan’s grand strategy of preserving “strategic depth” by placing a friendly regime in Afghanistan–or, at least, preventing the consolidation of a pro-Indian regime there–constitutes, in light of current challenges, an anachronism driven by the straitjacket of organizational culture within the ISI and certain corners of the military.

Indeed, the consolidation of a Taleban state-within-a-state represents the most important threat to the Pakistani government. One day, the ISI’s and military’s allies may launch much more than terrorist strikes against the Pakistani state; it is far from clear who, at that point, will be able to stop them.



Major suicide bombing in Kabul targets the Indian embassy:

he embassy is located on a busy, tree-lined street near Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry in the city center. Several nearby shops were damaged or destroyed in the blast, and smoldering ruins covered the street. The explosion rattled much of the Afghan capital.

Shortly after the attack, a woman ran out of a Kabul hospital screaming, crying and hitting her face with both of her hands. Her two children, a girl named Lima and a boy named Mirwais, had been killed.

“Oh my God!” the woman screamed. “They are both dead.”

The Taliban are denying responsibility, while the Afghan government points the finger at Pakistan’s ISI:

Still, a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, denied that the militants were behind the bombing. The Taliban tend to claim responsibility for attacks that inflict heavy tolls on international or Afghan troops, and deny responsibility for attacks that primarily kill Afghan civilians.

“Whenever we do a suicide attack, we confirm it,” Mujahid said. “The Taliban did not do this one.”

The 8:30 a.m. explosion was the deadliest attack in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and the deadliest in Afghanistan since a suicide bomber killed more than 100 people at a dog fighting competition in Kandahar province in February.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing and said it was carried out by militants trying to rupture the friendship between Afghanistan and India.

The Interior Ministry, meanwhile, hinted that the attack was carried out with help from Pakistan’s intelligence service, saying that “terrorists have carried out this attack in coordination and consultation with some of the active intelligence circles in the region.”

I’m not clear enough on the current activities of the ISI to know whether their involvement would actually exclude that of the Taliban, but it remains very clear that the evolving relationship between Afghanistan and India–built, in part, out of mutual distrust towards Pakistan–threatens Pakistani interests. This isn’t the first time that analysts have pointed the finger at Pakistan for violence against Indians in Afghanistan.

Regardless of who deserves the final blame, however, the fact remains that people, including children, continue to die untimely deaths.


Kitty Hawk to India?

From Rob at LGM, via Kevin, via Winds of Change:

The latest ROUMINT suggests that Secretary of Defense Gates, now visiting India, might give them the USS Kitty Hawk, CVN-63. The carrier is scheduled to be decommissioned soon, so rather than steaming back to the US, it could steam to India. Potential benefits to the US might include: parts and maintenance contracts, sales of planes to India from Boeing or Lockheed (F-18 and/or F-16), a strategic ally with a Blue Water navy in the Indian Ocean to help fight pirates and such.

The coolest thing came from one of Kevin’s comments:

The Kittyhawk spent most of the last few decades based out of there [Yokosuka] working with the JMSDF (you can see her in Google Earth at 35°17’28.13″N 139°39’47.29″E. Look 1200m S-E at 35°17’6.33″N 139°40’27.91″E and you’ll see the pre-WWI Japanese battleship Mikasa which is a museum piece. Compare the sizes of two first-rate warships of their time…)

I looked, its there, its kinda cool.


South Asia’s gender gap

Nirmala George of the Associated Press writes:

Lawmakers and women’s rights activists raised an alarm Monday over new evidence indicating about 7,000 fewer girls than expected are born each day in India, where women routinely suffer discrimination and parents often abort female fetuses.

The spread of ultrasound technology allowing parents to find out the gender of their unborn children has resulted in the large-scale “disappearance” of girls here. One study released earlier this year estimated that 10 million fewer girls were born here than expected in the past 20 years.

The government must “rise in revolt against the male child mania,” said lawmaker Gurudas Dasgupta during a parliamentary debate Monday.

The debate was spurred in part by a report last week from UNICEF, which estimated that 7,000 girls go unborn each day in India, where abortions are legal and a ban on finding out the sex of unborn children and aborting female fetuses is widely flouted.

The result is a skewed gender ratio — many districts in the country of more than 1 billion people routinely report only 800 females born for every 1,000 males.

Sex-selection abortions aren’t merely ethically problematic; they very likely have long-term social costs:

UNICEF’s report included dire warnings about the social fallout from the skewed gender ratio — girls getting married at younger ages, dropping out of school and dying earlier after being forced bear children when they are too young. It could also result in more violence against girls and women, UNICEF said.

But our field also saw a debate a few years ago about the possible implications for international security.Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer argued back in a 2002 International Security article, and then in a monograph, that gender imbalances could lead to a whole list of problems: increased risk of civil conflict, terrorism, and interstate conflict. Their claims–which I find plausible in some respects but not in others–touched off a methodological dispute. From the aforelinkedto Chronicle article:

Nothing in the two women’s arguments, however, persuades Joshua S. Goldstein, a professor emeritus of international relations at George Washington University [American University?], who wrote War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa (Cambridge University Press, 2001). “The problem with their design is that they’re basically just picking cases that fit their hypothesis, and so you don’t know whether it’s generalizable or not,” he says. Mr. Goldstein would prefer a much more systematic study, one that would try to identify how sex ratios interact with other variables that are believed to be linked to instability and war: rapid population growth, ethnic tension, poverty, and unstable availability of resources.

Melvin Ember agrees. “Arguing by example is not anywhere near truth or confirmation,” says Mr. Ember, president of the Human Relations Area Files, a repository of anthropological data at Yale University. “A better study would look at a large, randomly selected sample of societies with high, low, and normal sex ratios, he says. “It just requires a little bit of good will and money. The statistical techniques and the databases exist.”

A similar complaint is offered by Manju Parikh, an associate professor of political science at the College of St. Benedict, who has written about offspring sex selection. “This is an example of social-science inductive reasoning, but it’s not a very good example,” she says. “They have to show why other explanations don’t do as well. This is not a unique situation” — that is, she says, many countries with normal sex ratios have also been prone to instability and war.

Those complaints reflect a too-rigid model of explaining the world, responds Ms. Hudson, who teaches courses in social-science methodology. “This critique goes to the heart of how we know anything in the social sciences,” she says, arguing that because skewed sex ratios are a still-emerging variable, it is appropriate to sketch their potential effects more loosely, using what she and Ms. den Boer call “confirmatory process tracing.”

“I encourage others who wish to perform additional analysis using other methods to do so,” Ms. Hudson says. “But until a question is even raised, it cannot be addressed.”

But it wasn’t just the a process-tracing versus statistics dispute.

Mr. Goldstein and Ms. Parikh also worry that the Bare Branches argument leans too heavily on what they regard as crude evolutionary models of male behavior. “The authors seem to completely lack empathy for these low-status rootless men,” says Ms. Parikh. “These guys are the victims of development, and they call them criminals and potential criminals. This is so appalling.” For instance, contrary to the book’s suggestion, she says, most migrant workers in Asia maintain strong kinship ties with their home villages, send money home every month, and are nothing like the untethered marauders pictured in the authors’ warnings.

The term “surplus males,” Mr. Goldstein says, “is offensive, and for lack of a better term, sexist. They’re making a very conservative argument, which is sort of wrapped up in a feminist skin.” It is a mistake, he says, to draw easy lessons from the finding that unmarried men tend to have higher testosterone levels than do their married peers.

Ms. Hudson says she herself is skeptical of sociobiological explanations but finds it impossible to avoid engagement with them. “I don’t know of any social-science findings that are more confirmed than the fact that young men monopolize violent antisocial behavior in every society,” she says. “It may not be PC to say so, but you come up against such a mountain of evidence.”

As for Ms. Parikh’s point about migrant workers’ kinship ties, Ms. Hudson says that “feeling kinship with home and village is not the point. … Even when bare branches stay close to home, when they congregate they form new systems of norms unto themselves.” Those new norms are often aggressive and antisocial, she says. “Families cannot control their ‘stakeless’ sons.”

So what do you all think of the methodological issues? And of the sociobiological ones? I’m not much of a fan of the latter, but it strikes me that large gender imbalances in favor of males probably increase the risks of these kinds of problems… and that we don’t need to know anything about testosterone levels in unmarried males to understand why.

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