Italian Marines, India, and an agreement

Did India come under pressure from Italy and ratified a pact to let off Italian marines being tried in Indian court for allegedly murdering two Kerala fishermen in 2012?

A news report in The Indian Express on February 12, 2013 points to that possibility. According to the report:

The two Italian marines being tried for the alleged murder of two Kerala fishermen last year would have the option, if convicted, of serving their sentence in their home country, thanks to a recent agreement between India and Italy allowing the repatriation of their nationals lodged in the jails of the other country.

An agreement on transfer of sentenced prisoners between India and Italy became operational on December 17 last year following its ratification by both the countries….

………..The agreement with Italy was signed in January last year, about a month before the incident.

“The agreement does not apply to convicts who have been sentenced to death. Neither can the convicts exercise this option till the court of final appeal in the country in which the crime has been committed has settled the case,” the Express report stated.

Read the entire Indian Express report here

US not prepared for a cyber attack from top tier opponent

The United States cannot be confident that our critical Information Technology (IT) systems will work under attack from a sophisticated and well-resourced opponent utilizing cyber capabilities in combination with all of their military and intelligence capabilities (a “full spectrum” adversary), a new Pentagon report has stated.

The report is prepared by a Defense Science Board (DSB) Task force of the US Department of Defense.

The report titled, ‘Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat’, states:

“The DoD needs to take the lead and build an effective response to measurably increase confidence in the IT systems we depend on (public and private) and at the same time decrease a would-be attacker’s confidence in the effectiveness of their capabilities to compromise DoD systems. We have recommended an approach to do so, and we need to start now!”

According to the US’s Homeland Security News Wire, “the experts on the 33-member task force says that the United States must bolster its cyber-readiness posture through a combination of deterrence, refocused intelligence priorities, and a stronger offense and defense.”

“Defense can take you part of the way, but it needs to be balanced with cyber-offense and conventional capabilities,” the Homeland Security News Wire quoted Lewis Von Thaer, task force co-chairman and president of General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, as saying.

The report said the cyber threat to the US is serious, “with potential consequences similar in some ways to the nuclear threat of the Cold War”. It said it will take years for the DoD to build an effective response to the cyber threat “to include elements of deterrence, mission assurance and offensive cyber capabilities”.

Click here to read the entire report

US leaving Afghanistan? There is plenty of time for script to change

BY SAEED NAQVI

The 24X7 channels, whose interest in foreign affairs is usually confined to their declaring war on Pakistan presumably in pursuit of ratings, took my breath away the other day when they delved deep into caverns and, in one audacious burst of investigative journalism, held aloft Obama’s new Secretary for Defence, Chuck Hagel’s 2011 video interview at Oklahoma’s Cameron University, in which he had said a few things about India.

The former Senator from Nebraska had said “India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan.” So, what is new? Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former Commander of US forces in Afghanistan was critical even of India’s development works in Afghanistan because the goodwill so generated causes gripes in Pakistan. Gen. David Petraeus talked of India’s “cold start” doctrine causing nervousness in Islamabad.

The same channels were in convulsions when Richard Holbrooke’s Af-Pak designation had a hidden “K” word attached to it. The late Mani Dixit thought he had buried Robin Raphel’s career by creating an almighty row on her having expressed doubts on Kashmir’s status. But I thought Ms. Raphel was very much around during Hillary Clinton’s term as Secretary of State. And, if the Americans are talking to the Taliban, her experience with this lot is unmatched.

Reverting to the noisy discussion chastising Hagel for what he said years ago and slotting it exactly at the time when the Senate was deciding on his nomination made us look like sidekicks to the principal lobbies who have been opposing his nomination.

Meanwhile neither Chuck Hagel nor John Kerry, the new Secretary of State, will find it easy to sketch a credible exit strategy from a war which according to Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz has already cost $700 billion. Surely this vast expenditure has to be explained in terms of some gains for Washington.

Ever since the Taliban were ousted from Kabul in October 2001, the US has shifted goalposts with such frequency that very little credibility attaches to its announcement of intentions. Remember, the first Bonn Conference set up a “provisional” government under President Hamid Karzai. Nine years later, on July 20, 2010 at the Kabul conference convened by the UN, Karzai obtained a mandate until 2014.

Where will he go after 2014, which is just over the horizon? It cannot be anybody’s case that in this one year, a President who for security reasons cannot leave the Palace, will rapidly win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and mingle among them?

The silver lining I spot in the Afghan claustrophobia maybe the meeting of the major powers just held at Almaty to set nuclear talks with Iran on steady tracks. Can there be a meaningful US withdrawal from Afghanistan so long as Iran remains a black hole in the design. Can a country which has a 936 kms border with Iran really see the US vacate the theatre without being on talking terms with Teheran. Unless a key is found to open that lock, it seems a trifle illogical to expect American presence in Afghanistan to scale down substantially.

New Delhi is extremely skeptical of the US placing its eggs in the Taliban basket and leaving the basket in Pakistani care. This incidentally is not a new US approach.

A steady stream of US policy makers have been meeting officials and opinions makers in New Delhi with variations on the same theme. They told New Delhi that the Afghan Taliban do not trust Pakistan, specifically because the ISI has been manipulating them for decades.

Other interlocutors have also argued that India has had excellent relations with Pashtuns traditionally and should therefore sign in on the talk-to-Taliban agenda. But has Indian, Iranian, Russian, Tajik (all with CIA help) co-ordination to oust Taliban from Kabul created a permanent breach in the Pashtun’s ancient ties with India? Afghanistan (Pashtuns most of all) has suffered so much continuous trauma over the past decades that it probably has no space in the heart to nurse grievances about the Northern Alliance interlude.

The dreamy scenario of leaving Afghanistan with Taliban as the most influential group has several flaws attending it, but two can be pointed out.

When Mohammad Daoud Khan was killed in the Saur Revolution in 1978 paving the way for Afghan Communist (Khalq) leader Noor Mohammad Taraki to take over as Prime Minister, Afghan history took a turn many do not realize. For the first time in 200 years a Durrani was replaced by a Ghilzai Pashtun. By installing Karzai, a Populzai, the International Community unwittingly reinstated a branch of the Durrani clan.

Taliban are mostly Ghilzais and will seek their place in the sun. Should events take this turn, civil conflict cannot be avoided with Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras arrayed on one side. The intra Pashtun strife may appear manageable in the face of such formidable ethnic opposition. But the inter-ethnic divide will proceed inexorably towards a state which is equidistant from Kabul and Islamabad and where Pashtuns reside, exactly as the Frontier Gandhi Khan Abdul Ghaffar had predicted.

Does American departure really seem like a stabilizing voyage?

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)