Will Pakistan decide the next Indian PM?


Nowhere in the world a political rally has been held literally in the conscious shadow of bombs. I was witness to history being made in measures more than one in Gandhi Maidan at Patna. This is not merely an article from me in my capacity as a security analyst but someone who observed the chain of events from ground zero.

From vibrant to vitiated democracy

Henceforth Indian politics is not going to be the same because it lost its civility and political soul at Gandhi Maidan. Never in the history of India a political rally had been subjected to terrorist attack. The target was not only the leader, Narendra Modi, but the public as well. Terrorism had so far preyed on market places, metros, religious centers, defence installations, scientific installations, trains, railway stations and airports. Now a new element has been introduced in the scarred terrorist landscape which seeks to knock India out from its constitutional edifice and democratic framework.

This unprecedented happening will be a cause of persistent threat in the political paradigm in the foreseeable times to come. It may get worse as this deathly culture of violence during political rallies travels from cities to towns and rural areas, the latter two being completely defenceless. From all indications the serial blasts were orchestrated from Pakistan. It is from that country that the culture of eliminating political rivals during public rallies has finally traveled to India. If not nipped in the bud there will be any number of ‘Benazirs’ in India. It has begun to transform India from vibrant democracy to vitiated democracy.

Custodians politicizing terror

So when the Minister of State for Home RPN Singh said that the blasts in Patna during the rally were of ‘low intensity’ and were actually IEDs, he was not only technically amiss but failed to gauge the import of the event and its future ramifications on India’s democracy. Six deaths and hundred injuries by no means can be termed as low in effect.

In reality the hackneyed terms’ low intensity’ and IED are much abused. Just because low amount of explosives are used in a terrorist attack, it does not imply that the intent of the terrorist is limited in any manner. The quantity and type of explosives used depends on ease and convenience of logistics. As far as IED s are concerned, all bombs are improvised in one way or the other. Moreover, if several so called ‘low intensity’ bombs are used in series, the cumulative impact becomes high. In Patna Gandhi Maidan nearly half a dozen bombs went off in series, enough to cause stampede in an unprecedented crowd of more than more than half a million. The consequences would have been unimaginable specially if all the 18 bombs that were planted had exploded. Causalities would have been in thousands.

The attempt therefore by politicians and officials to dilute the enormity of terrorist attack by using terms like ‘low intensity’ and ‘IED’ is nothing but politicization of terror, a phenomenon which has become increasingly pronounced after 26/11 for exigencies of vote-bank politics. It needs to be constantly underscored that the Home Minister, Minister of State for Home, and Chief Ministers are not merely politicians but custodians of India’s security.

It was sheer destiny that Narendra Modi’s life was spared. It were the intangible factors and circumstances, which only those present at the location could sense that prevented thousands from being killed. Otherwise the state security apparatus in terms of willful omissions had left every conceivable security gap to invite what could have been a humongous tragedy.

This author had visited the podium area just 12 hours before the rally. There was none to stop, none to check, leave alone the area being sanitized by security and cordoned off. There were no sniffer dogs, no metal detectors and no CCTV. If this was the security sensitivity in the nerve center of the venue, the indifference in the rest of the Maidan can be extrapolated.

Such events or rallies are nothing unusual, they are routine, and call for certain routine security drills. These Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) were very much in place when President Parnab Muherjee visited Patna a day earlier, and have been strictly adhered to whenever Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have visited Bihar to address election rallies, even as they are unconstitutional authorities. In fact only recently when Sonia Gandhi visited Gaya after the blasts at Mahabodhi temple there was such a formidable cordon that crews of most TV news channels were not permitted to get anywhere close.

It needs to be reiterated that Narendra Modi apart from being a prime-ministerial candidate of the main opposition is also a Chief Minister, a constitutional authority.

Anti-national spin-doctors

The designated suicide bomber Ainul could not travel beyond the toilet of Platform No 10 of Patna Railway Station as he had messed up the circuit while preparing himself as human bomb. The other accomplice Imtiaz was not caught by the police as generally believed, but by brave and vigilant people. But for his apprehension many theories would have been fabricated. In fact the spin-doctors, some of them parliamentarians, who as facilitators of terror from across, having successfully concealed their true identities, were already on the over-drive attributing the terror attack as political conspiracy by the RSS.

For the facilitators of terrorists it has become customary to label all terrorist attacks as acts of Hindu terror unless proven otherwise. It was therefore to the good fortune of the blessed land of India that Imtiaz was apprehended, just as Ajmal Kasab, who as planned failed to destroy himself, to live to spoil the meticulously scripted agenda of conspiring in staging 2611 so that Hindu terror could be created to balance other forms of religious terror.

Salute to the public!

The Indian coordinator of the attack belongs to the Indian Mujahideen. He is one Tehseen, hailing from Samastipur in Bihar. He carries an award of Rs 10 lakhs. Tehseen has been close aide of Yasin Bhatkal, the founder of IM, whose custody the Bihar government refused to accept when he was apprehended on the Bihar-Nepal border. This is despite the fact that Bhatkal had the key role in creating IM modules in North Bihar.

Bombs were planted all around the Gandhi Maidan. They were perfectly timed to coincide with the onset of Narendra Modi’s speech. The explosions began from the eastern end at 11.40 pm and moved serially clockwise at intervals between 5 and 15 minutes. The fifth and the last i.e. sixth explosion were in the vicinity of the podium area at 12.30 pm and 12.45 pm respectively. Modi fortuitously arrived on the stage 30 minutes late, i.e. at 1 pm. It may be mentioned that nearly a dozen bombs went unexploded and were diffused later.

The plan to trigger stampede after Modi’s arrival is now quite clear. It is also evident that amidst the stampede the suicide bomber had been instructed to blow himself along with Modi.

The tangibles and intangibles that saved the day and this author was witness to were: the massive size of Gandhi Maidan (1.7 km circumference); the indifference, enthusiasm and fortitude of the people; the maturity and presence of mind of leaders on the podium; and of course wisdom of Modi. Owing to the massive size of Gandhi Maidan the crowds at the western end in the area around podium were insulated from the nature of the blasts at the eastern end. The same was later the case with regards to north and south.

The indifference and disregard for terror in the people had to be seen to be believed. This author was present at the centre of the Maidan. Even as Modi’s speech was in progress there were some 50 people who had encircled a life bomb, preventing others from straying into the perceived danger zone. A posse of policemen standing at some distance looked too befuddled to take charge of the situation. The rest of the huge crowd around chose not to be distracted from Modi’s speech.

It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the rally was conducted in presence and acute awareness of live bombs.

The leaders on the dais had commanding view of the ground and were conscious of the enormity of the situation. Not one of them betrayed any sign of worry or panic. On the contrary each one of them deliberately underplayed the blasts to the public as mere cracker explosions by over enthusiastic supporters.

As Modi arrived at the airport he was apprised of the situation and was advised to cancel his speech. He exercised great wisdom and courage in persisting with the schedule. Had he baulked and not addressed the rally, stampede or communal riots was certain. He was sagacious enough to escape completely any mention of blasts.

Such was the passion and courage of the people that several thousands of them having seen the blasts on television still headed for Gandhi Maidan after learning that Modi had arrived at Patna and was on his way to the venue. Since vehicles were not permitted, this author walked with part of this crowd, covering a distance of two kms. All through there were slogans to the effect that bombs could not deter them. There were slogans against Pakistan and against the Bihar Chief Minister for having visited that country.

The political resolve of the people had defeated terror.

Creating environment for terror

Perusal of the intelligence inputs by the Intelligence Bureau to the Bihar government is now available in the open domain. They incontrovertibly prove that the warning could not have been more specific. Even if it were not so, to a common man the threat perception in respect of Narendra Modi is well known. The threat to his life from human bombs became evident with the recruitment of Ishrat Jahan by the LeT for the purpose.

It needs to be investigated that that why was Patna chosen by the IM and its handlers in Pakistan for attempt to assassinate Modi. The truth is that a fertile ground has consciously been nurtured in the state to facilitate jihadi terror. North Bihar has emerged as the hub of jihadi terror after 26/11, particularly after the visit of the CM to Pakistan. One of the founders of IM Amir Reza Khan was from Bihar. The key early recruits to the organization Fasih Mohammed and Mohd Tarique Anjum hailed from Darbhanga and Nalanda respectively. It was Fasih Mohammad who took Yasin Bhatkal to Darbhanga. Fasih and LeT chief Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi together monitored 26/11 attack from control room set up in Malir in Karachi.

There also have been recent reports to suggest teaming up of IM with Al Qaeda. Bihar is also one of meeting points of two terrors, i.e. Jihadi Terror and Maoist Terror. Yasin Bhatkal has revealed that he met Maoist leaders in Nepal before serial blasts rocked Gaya in July. The boy who desecrated the iconic Amar Jawan Jyoti in Mumbai was one Yunus Ansari, also from Bihar. It was in Bihar that some politicians described the LeT operative Ishrat Jahan as ‘Bihar ki Beti’ (daughter of Bihar). The alleged mastermind of Patna blasts Tehseen Akhtar, is the main financer of terrorist attacks by Indian Mujahedeen and obtains money from his handlers in Pakistan through hawala transactions from Dubai, tapping into Dawood’s network. He too hails from Samistipur in Bihar.

Latest reports also suggest that eight students of particular hostel were indoctrinated, trained and paid Rs 10,000 to plant bombs in Gandhi Maidan. It indicates the level of Islamic radicalization in Bihar.

When the Chief Minister of a state begins to treat a counterpart as enemy and not political adversary for reasons solely attributable to religious votebank, it only abets fundamentalism, radicalization and terror. In effect it conveys mistaken signals to the security apparatus of the state.

It is in this politically cultivated environment that for the first time in India a political rally became target of terrorist attack. Security is the decisive component of governance. There can be no development without security. If a CM tries to toss the buck of terrorism at the Central Government it amounts to criminal neglect or conspiracy, because he is not only guilty of creating a political environment to facilitate terror but also of deliberate dereliction by willfully neglecting an appropriate response and security structure. A prominent lawyer and very credible spokesman of a political party has spoken about the infiltration of IM in Bihar Police. Jihadi terror and Maoist terror when considered together, the situation in Bihar is grim. It may be mentioned that 32 out of 38 districts in Bihar are impacted by Maoist terror. There are no go areas in certain parts of Gaya district, even for the CM. With regard to Maoist terror, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has declared Bihar as ‘severely affected’ along with Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. It is the security situation in Bihar that is deterring investors.

Political conspiracy?

The political conspiracy angle on the Patna blasts should not be treated as mere possibility. Even as links to Pakistan, based on inputs provided by the apprehended accused were being traced to Karachi, some politicians took umbrage on the very mention of the name of the country. Some politicians even took umbrage on mere expression of suspicion on Indian Mujhaideen. The same umbrage was seen in the state government over formulations like ‘Darbhanga Module’ or ‘Madhubani Module’. There was also umbrage when Maharashtra ATS and the Karnataka ATS came to Bihar to apprehend terrorists.

The magnitude of the averted disaster should have sent shock waves in the administration, engendered hard introspection, imbued a sense divine relief and stirred modicum of sympathy for main target. But the very next day hostile acerbic political comments were being made by the person who should have been most apologetic. Those comments and lessons in history could have been reserved for some other day.

The forebodings were there. A young man in his early 20s had told this author a day before that he had information that there were plans to disrupt the rally by a rival party by infiltrating its cadres in the crowd. It seemed incredulous because India never had such political culture even in the days preceding Emergency or after.

Soon after the rally as this author was waiting outside the Gandhi Maidan for the crowd to subside, a car driver of some dignitary hailing from Buxar, during the course of conversation, and in full innocence said that he had arrived at 8.30 in the morning and was warned by a bystander that he should not wait for the rally to begin as the entire venue had been planted with bombs. His apprehensive companion in fact tried to dissuade him from sharing this information.

In all political assassinations in India it is invariably observed that key personalities and functionaries are away from scene of disaster or chose to be away from town. This happened in the case of Rajiv Gandhi or more recently in the Maoist murder of politicians in Chhattisgarh and of course now. The main suspect in Chhattisgarh massacre struts openly on the political landscape of the state. The facilitators of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination have been enjoying the fruits of power under all dispensations.

Concluding question

The blasts at Gandhi Maidan pose the most alarming question, i.e. is Pakistan going to determine who will be the next prime minister of India?

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap)

Goodbye US, Israeli, Saudi alliance: A New Order beckons

Prince Bandar bin SultanBY SAEED NAQVI

Saudi refusal of the rotating Security Council seat has been seen for what it partly is: a tantrum. But it is also a clue to a coming political reality: West Asian politics may well be reverting to normality.

The frenetic pace at which events moved in the Bush years after 9/11 when the United States could ride two horses, Israel and Saudi Arabia at the same time, on the gallop, is only possible on an extensive “straight”. This was the delusionary part of the neo-cons thinking. They thought the US would be on the “straight” forever, having defeated the Soviet Union. But now there is a bend in the race track.

As we know, other powers have arisen. The threesome, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US, must perforce pause and take stock. What have been the gains? Is the triangular alliance coming apart?

Marxists have a fine system of analysis. As long as Israel and Saudi Arabia serve Imperialism’s basic interests in the region, their influence in Washington cannot be discounted. But if this “basic” interest, that of being economically and strategically indispensible to Imperialism is not being served, special relationships or powerful lobbies in the US will not be able to keep these together. Riyadh and Tel Aviv must ponder. Are they useful or a drag on US’s “core interests”?

The trio was focused on one vision of West Asia. But the opening to Iran now being followed up by the British re-opening their embassy in Teheran next week has rendered unfeasible that vision. Israel and Saudi Arabia had set their heart on “getting” Iran. That game stands suspended. Why should an enemy’s enemy now be a friend?

The alliance had gummed up a fundamental regional contradiction. How can, the Saudis in their original incarnation as leaders of the Arab world, be in an alliance with Israel which has occupied Palestinian Arab lands and will not budge.

One implication of the apparent Saudi estrangement with the US is that Riyadh will now pull out its peace plan of 2002 and resume its role as an Arab player. This brings into focus such of the Kingdom’s Foreign policy thinkers as Prince Turki Al Faisal, former Intelligence Chief and Ambassador to the US. Note the tone of the article he wrote in the New York Times over a year ago. “The special relationship between the two countries would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people.” So, focus shifts to Palestine.

The Saudis dissipated their energies promoting Shia-Sunni strife on an unspeakable scale simply to keep an external focus, away from internal threats. The US too was dragged into this mess. But the Saudis could not keep their eye off tussles within. They began to see Muslim Brotherhood ogres in all the GCC countries and when Mohammad Morsi began to consolidate the Brotherhood in Egypt, they rushed and supported the Army coup, embarrassing Obama whose photographs were posted in Egypt as a supporter of Morsi. Indeed, photographs of the US ambassador Anne Patterson also came up as a Brotherhood “stooge”. That she was replaced is a sign of which side the US backed.

In any case Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel’s head was constantly popping up as the Egyptian army’s supporter. The Saudis came barging in with their billions and billions to keep the armed forces buoyant. Such a mess.

Then Prince Bandar bin Sultan flew into Moscow. His conversation with Vladimir Putin is a study in how diplomacy should not be conducted. Give us Syria, said Bandar, and take the world. It was like the Biblical yarn about the Devil tempting Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. “Get thee behind me, Satan”, said Christ, refusing the blandishments. When Bandar offered all the guarantees for a “terror free” Sochi Winter Olympic games next year, Putin said “we know you control terrorists”.

This amazing conversation was supposed to be under wraps but one of two sides leaked it to the Russian press.

Bandar’s other startling undertaking was that whatever he offered the Russians had American backing.

This was the trump card, Bandar handed Putin at the global Casino’s high table.

US, Saudis and Israelis together overpowering everything else in the region is no longer the name of the game. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, the Levant will have to seek their salvation together slowly, step by step with other countries of the region. Saudis may not have wanted to be on the UN high perch because in the new emerging regional system, they have to manage changes secretly which has been their classical style. The new style that Bandar tried to introduce may suit him but it cannot be the style of a cumbersome monarchy, weakened by age, where competing factions must be given voice, until the order changes. King Abdullah will be 90 in a few months.

The Saudi system, indeed, the Umma was convulsed by the siege of Mecca in 1979 led by Juhayman bin Sief al Uteybi, a few months after the Iranian revolution. The elders of the monarchy focused on the external Shia threat to manage the internal upheaval. And now, the external target is receding. Refocusing is required. Who knows, the US and the Saudi may pore over a compromise formula that had been worked out in Bahrain, much the most emotive issue in Najaf and Qom. Meanwhile, no one is throwing in the towel, not yet. Israel and Saudi Arabia will beat their breast and stamp their feet to test if Obama has really been able to shuffle out of the establishment strait jacket, custom made for George W. Bush and with which the President has been grappling like a trapped man in a Marcel Marceau skit.

(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)

Has Congress always been averse to RSS?

Nehru - Gandhi - PatelBY SAEED NAQVI

By triggering a debate on its Op-ed page last week, The Hindu, possibly unintentionally, lifted the scab from an old wound for many of us.

The debate, initiated by Vidya Subramaniam’s column on October 8, 2013, had its locus elsewhere: the RSS’ growing stranglehold on the BJP. Her point was that the RSS’s relationship with the BJP violates a commitment the RSS made to India’s first Home Minister, Sardar Patel, before it was unbanned on July 11, 1949. Remember, the RSS had been banned four days after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, 1948. But S. Gurumurthy of the RSS, in the course of establishing his rebuttal, wanders into the attitudes of senior Congress leaders towards the RSS. The Congress Working Committee, as is well known, was divided on this issue as it was on the country’s partition. Congress has historically fudged these issues.

Gurumurthy clinches the fact that the RSS violated no agreement, by quoting then Home Minister of Bombay, Morarji Desai, a Patel acolyte. In a written statement to the Bombay Legislative Assembly on September 14, 1949, Desai admitted that the ban on the RSS was lifted “unconditionally”.

When, returning from Muzaffarnagar after last month’s orchestrated, piecemeal ethnic cleansing, I heard exactly the anti-Muslim slogans I had heard during the Gujarat riots in 1969, it did hurt. On that occasion Badshah Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, put down anchor in that city for nearly a month because he could not believe what he saw – 512 killed in what Justice Jaganmohan Reddy called “largely one sided riots”. Handbills calling for a “religious war” were distributed “to the rioters by the RSS and the Jana Sangh”. Congressmen joined the chorus that “Muslims were anti-national”. Yes, in 1969.

I had a ringside seat with Badshah Khan that year. The Statesman had loaned my services to function as the Frontier Gandhi’s press adviser. This was at Jayaprakash Narayan’s behest. Since Indira Gandhi had split the Congress, Badshah Khan’s utterances were being carefully weighed by both sides. Was he favouring Indira Congress or the Syndicate Congress?

The issue of which way Badshah Khan would tilt was settled by the horrible communal situation in Ahmedabad. He was pained at Chief Minister Hitendra Desai’s alleged communal bias during the riots. And he saw the Chief Minister a political descendent of the Patel line. At this stage Badshah Khan had more or less accepted Ram Manohar Lohia’s list of the Guilty Men of India’s Partition. These “Guilty Men” were, in his book, not terribly averse to association with the RSS as Gurumurthy makes quite clear.

Gurumurthy quotes Patel’s speech in Lucknow in which he chastises his “powerful” colleagues in the Congress who wished to “crush” the “patriotic RSS”. The “powerful” Congressmen being referred to must be those led by Jawaharlal Nehru. Did this galaxy include Maulana Azad, President of the Congress from 1939 to 46? I doubt it. His prestige has since taken such a beating by sheer neglect that historian Ram Chandra Guha does not even mention him among Makers of Modern India. He considers Hamid Dalwai more worthy of mention.

The Maulana was “powerful” so long the real wielders of power in the Congress allowed him to. Nehru, for instance. But once they had made up their minds that they were full square behind the AICC resolution of June 14, 1947 endorsing India’s partition, Maulana Azad was an obstacle. There could have been no more weak and isolated leaders as Maulana Azad and Badshah Khan.

When Patel suggested to Golwalkar that the RSS should join the Congress, the RSS supremo was quick with his response. The two should work separately and “converge”. When, pray, would they “converge”? When Hindu Rashtra has been achieved?

The first Home Secretary of UP, Rajeshwar Dayal, has in his autobiography, A Life of Our Times, this story about Golwalkar and Congress stalwart, Govind Ballabh Pant, UP’s longest serving Chief Minister and Union Home Minister from 1955 to 61.

When communal tension in UP was high, Dayal carried incontrovertible evidence to Pant about Golwalkar’s plans to create a “communal holocaust in western UP”. Pant was convinced of the plot but he would not permit them to arrest the RSS chief. In fact Golwalkar was allowed to escape, having been duly tipped off.

“Came January 30, 1948 when Gandhi, the Supreme Apostle of Peace, fell to a bullet fired by an RSS fanatic.” Dayal concludes: “the tragic episode left me sick at heart”.

(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)

After Jundal, Tunda and Bhatkal, is Dawood Ibrahim next?

Is India’s most wanted terrorist Dawood Ibrahim next on the list to be arrested after three big arrests (or extradition) made by the Indian security agencies in the recent months?

In June, Lashkar-e-Taiba operative and a 26/11 Mumbai terror attack handler Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, was arrested from New Delhi’s IGI airport. There is still no clarity on how he came to India.

In August, according to the claims by the Indian agencies, Syed Abdul Karim alias Tunda (Lashkar-e-Taiba bomb maker and one of India’s most wanted terrorist) and Yasin Bhatkal alias Ahmed Siddibappa (co-founder of Indian Mujahideen) were arrested from Indo-Nepal border.

But newspapers reports in Nepal have suggested that both of them were arrested there and were handed over to Indian agencies as there is no extradition treaty between the two countries. Also, apart from some vague reports about the questioning of these three terrorists, there is no news of any important arrests being made or terror networks smashed based on the inputs given by them.

Coming back to Dawood, intelligence sources have confirmed to Canary Trap that negotiations to bring the underworld don are at an advanced stage but two conditions put forth by Dawood have caused a delay in finalizing the deal.

The Deal: 

According to the sources, the contentious conditions which the Indian side is not comfortable with are:

  • Dawood wants that all his businesses after his arrest should be allowed to run as it is without any disruption.
  • Dawood is ready to face jail for all the charges except the ones pertaining to terrorism (i.e. Mumbai blasts, 26/11 attacks) as according to him there is no direct evidence that links him to these terror acts.

It needs to be seen if the Indian agencies accept his conditions or whether he withdraws them.

Why Now:

Dawood’s presence in Pakistan is getting too hot for the host country to handle. There is a constant threat to his life because of his business interests. Also, the Pakistani spy agency wants a bigger pie from his business interests which the gangster doesn’t want to give. The safer option for him then is to head back to India if his conditions (stated above) are met.

Moreover, it suits the Indian government to bring back Dawood just before 2014 polls and send a message to the electorate that they are not soft on terror.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s recent statement that he is hopeful that Dawood too would be brought back points towards this. According to a newspaper report, Shinde had also said that “India has proposed joint actions with the US to arrest the fugitive gangster”.

Some news channels curiously debated Dawood’s fate immediately after the news of Yasin Bhatkal’s arrest started coming in. Was an advisory sent to these channels to discuss the issue?

While it is a good thing that Dawood might be brought back to India so that he can be tried for all the crimes committed by him, it remains to be seen whether his two contentious conditions (stated above) are met or not.

Pakistan: From sleaze to brazen

Keran Sector attackBY RSN SINGH

Was the attack in Keran Sector initiated by Pakistan to garner international attention on Kashmir during the recent UN General Assembly meeting? Was the Indian Army compelled to call this attack an infiltration attempt so as not to derail talks between Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif? Is the Indian Army’s operational freedom being circumscribed for diplomatic and political reasons?

Any Commander, who suggests a time frame which goes beyond a day in defeating infiltration by 30-40 infiltrators would otherwise be ridiculed and chastised for being preposterous and irresolute in any professional forum. Fundamentally, what has evoked this incredulity amongst military professionals is that the operations against infiltrators on the LoC in Keran sector are now into the 14th day.

If just 30-40 infiltrators can tie-down the Indian Army for two weeks then it puts a big question-mark on the nation’s resolve to secure India and certainly shrivels the confidence of the citizens.

Attack, not infiltration

There is absolutely no doubt that the Indian Army will restore the situation at whatever cost. The concern, however, is the untruth being bandied about the nature of attack by Pakistan. In his interaction with the media, the Army Chief said that there was prior intelligence about the infiltration bid and appropriate actions have been taken. It is therefore intriguing that why have the operations taken so long. Infiltration once detected is defeated as the infiltrators will preserve themselves for another opportune time or day.

On the very first day, i.e. 23 September 2013 of the so-called infiltration attempt, it was reported that 12 infiltrators had been killed. Their dead bodies have so far not been recovered. About a week later, this author received message from a very reliable source that Pakistani militants/army had occupied two villages. Having served in that area, I treated this message as exaggerated and with the contempt it deserved. I also elicited the views of some retired Generals, who at various times were operationally responsible in that sector. They too dismissed it outright rather in the tenor of rebuke.

A few days later, sans the capture of ‘two villages’ bit, the information seemed to be partially right, as the situation had not abated. The Corps Commander addressed the media to assuage apprehensions regarding any loss of territory to the enemy. He did admit that the fight was on and the situation would be overcome. This was on the 12th day following the ‘infiltration attempt’!

It became very obvious that the so-called infiltrators had entrenched themselves. It was also revealed that they were being provided covering fire. The very fact that these infiltrators have taken defensive positions and continue to fight betrays the involvement of Pakistan Army. No infiltrating body of irregulars or regulars can sustain for so long without a logistics supply line. Infiltrators are generally lightly equipped, and at best carry small arms, limited ammunition and grenades. Thus they pose small challenge, even if in their foolhardiness they decide to fight a defensive battle on the ground of their choosing. As per conventional wisdom in the army, such operations against a platoon size force should not take more than few hours.  Reports of reinforcements and use of Special Forces further debunk the infiltration theory.

All indicators and reports therefore conclusively prove that the enemy action in the Keran Sector was not an infiltration bid, but a calibrated and selective attack by Pakistan, probably to bolster Pakistan’s Kashmir agenda at the UN.

Operations: Hostage to diplomacy

The enormity of the situation began to unravel only when the Prime Minister was on his way back from New York. It is impossible that the Prime Minister was not apprised of it while he was in the US. Significantly, his delegation also comprised the National Security Advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon.

The attack in the Keran Sector from across the LoC was in coordination with the attack on the armoured unit in Samba, in close proximity to the International Border. While the latter terrorist attack was widely publicized, the attack across the LoC was down-played as infiltration attempt. Talks with Nawaz Sharif took primacy above the security of the country. Was it on the volition of the Prime Minister or was he prodded by other international quarters? The same question continues to exercise the feelings of the Indians regarding the outrageous position of India vis-à-vis Balochistan at Sharm-el-Sheikh in 2009. This sell out was at a time when the Indian blood spilled in 26/11 had not even dried. In one stroke, the Prime Minister had made India into a perpetrator of terror rather than its victim.

The series of terrorist attacks across India emanating from Pakistan should have incrementally led to ‘zero tolerance’. Instead, the entire government machinery presided over by the Prime Minister has been engaged to inure Indians to treat terror as ‘routine’. It has done this by politicizing terror. Resolute  and  patriotic officials in states are being hunted through  some unsavory and notorious central agencies. Some unabashed leaders close to the establishment labelled 26/11 as an act of so-called ‘Hindu Terror’. This very year in April, there were blasts in Boston in the US in which three persons were killed. In the same period, there were blasts in near the BJP office in Bengaluru, 16 persons including 8 policemen were injured. Leaders of the establishment tried their best to give the Bengaluru blast a political colour. The Prime Minister conveyed his deep felt condolence to President Obama on the Boston blast, but the casualties in Bengaluru in his consideration did not deserve such gesture. One did  not expect such abominable  politics from a selected prime minister. The perpetrators of Bengaluru blast have been finally identified and belong to the Islamic Liberation Force.

2611: The tipping point

In the Pakistani establishment, prior to 2611, there was some trepidation of possible retaliation by India to terrorist attacks emanating from its soil. There is a perceptible attitudinal and behavioral change now. Personal experience and interactions with the large number of security personnel in the army, the police and the intelligence agencies, unambiguously substantiate that the tipping point was 2611 beyond which Pakistan began to view Indian security establishment with disdain. The disdain and nonchalance is apparent on the borders, in the aftermath of terrorist strikes, as well as television debates. The sneer and brazenness of Pakistani participants in such debates conducted after every terrorist attack is unmistakable and borders on slur.

One Pakistani retired Admiral invariably mocks at the Indian participants by saying that If India is convinced about Pakistan’s involvement in terrorist attacks, why it does not do something. He could not be more correct. He is also unapologetic in suggesting that if India is convinced about state sponsored terrorism from Pakistan, it should severe all relations.  Where does the retired Admiral, also a former diplomat draw his confidence from. His confidence probably flows out from his conviction that there is  the  US factor which is decisive in deciding the broad contours of India –Pak relations. It is also intriguing as to how the Indian television channels seek out these participants in Pakistan. Are they brought as a part of some fixed match to dilute India’s resolve in fighting terrorism?

Pakistan’s journey from trepidation to disdain becomes increasingly pronounced with the arrival of 2014, the year of drawdown of American forces from Afghanistan and China’s strategic territorial embrace of Pakistan by way of economic corridor. India did not gain for its unstinted support to the US in fight against terrorism. Even when US led coalition was at the climax of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’, India’s parliament was attacked leading to ‘Operation Parakaram’. Even as the hunt for Osama bin Laden was on, Hafiz Saeed unfolded 26/11, all with the key collusion of David Headley, the CIA operative. Our inaction rather strategic paralysis after 26/11 has rendered the country weak and vulnerable to Pakistan and other neighbours. The paralysis inflicted by China by incursion in the DBO sector has only compounded the vulnerability.  Consequently Indian influence in the region is rapidly shrinking.

Undermining security apparatus

Mysteriously, the Indian establishment has not only willfully conceded much diplomatic space to Pakistan but also consciously undermined the security apparatus after 26/11. Most security agencies have been targeted. The IB, the ATS and the police of some states, the Army and the Air Force have never been targeted the manner in which it is being done now. Elements in IB and the Army have been put under the scanner for carrying out counter-terror dutifully. Individuals serving in the IB and Military Intelligence are being hounded so as to drive fear among other security officials. In effect, a deleterious message has been conveyed that intelligence personnel should not infiltrate into terrorist organizations and terrorists should not be killed. Terrorists’ network are not to be busted and the complicity of certain mainstream politicians is not to be unraveled and that is why the inquiry on Technical Support Division, the continued incarceration of Col Purohit and harassment of the senior IB officer Rajendra Kumar. It is therefore not at all surprising  that terrorists have escaped or made to escape from Mumbai Court and Khandwa Jail in Madhya Pradesh. That these escapes coincide with Home Minister’s communication to give preferential treatment to members of one community under investigation for acts of terror, could be purely incidental!

There appears to be some vested interests or inimical forces orchestrating the ascendance of Pakistan and downgrading of India. Never in the history of India have so many leaks of top secret documents of vital security concerns taken place. In the US and many other democracies, one such leak can claim the head of the President or the Prime Minister. The exultation of the politicians in the ruling dispensation over such leaks smacks of connivance. The Prime Minister may be reminded that the man (James Reston) to whom Henry Kissinger leaked White House secrets had remarked “the ship of state is the only known vessel that leaks from the top” (read Blights of the General by R Prasanan in The Week, October 6, 2013).

The US factor

Without the notion of ascendency, Nawaz Shariff could not have been brazen enough to allegedly make the ‘dehati aurat’ remark. This remark also signifies the servant-master relationship between India and US in the Pakistani perception.

Readers must reflect on the time trajectory since which Pakistan’s audacity and brazenness, diplomatically and militarily, has been on the rise. They must also reflect on the US factor, a factor which Pakistan strategically is more adept in dealing with.  For India ,the US presence in Af-Pak region  has never been a restraining factor on state sponsored terrorism by Pakistan. Pakistan’s brazenness was in fact discernible after forging of US-India strategic partnership, especially after the initiation of Operation Enduring Freedom. This partnership hardly bothered Pakistan. On the contrary Pakistan was convinced about its geo-strategic indispensability for the US and was thus assured that it could ratchet terror against India with impunity  under the shadow of  US presence. The Indo-US strategic partnership necessitated re-configuring of operational parameters of India’s intelligence and security agencies to cater to the US geopolitical exigencies in the region. A ‘Zero Terror’ Indian policy against Pakistan does not serve US interests because of its imperatives in Afghanistan.

Significantly, this Indo-US strategic partnership in defence, security and nuclear spheres engendered a major shift in India’s pattern of sourcing arms. The sheer magnitude of  arms market running into hundreds of billion dollars allures predators which begin to manipulate institutions in the buyer country. It is this shift in sourcing that the terminology ‘succession plan’, a sure invitation to attempted subversion, came into vogue in the Indian Army. It is probably this shift that is responsible for the ignominy of the former Air Chief in VVIP Helicopter deal while the other major recipients continue to be politically blackmailed into silence and for future indulgence.

The much touted convergence of geo-strategic and geo-economics interest between India and US has brought no benefit to India. Rather American geopolitical interests in the region have restricted Indian options in dealing with Pakistan sponsored terrorism. The politicization and debilitation of the Indian security agencies appears to be devised by external powers through their agents within.


The Pakistani dispensation is only too aware of the US geopolitical script in the region and its own perceived indispensability. It has John Kerry’s and China to fall back upon. Pakistan knows that the current Indian dispensation is too beholden to the US and too mindful of China to retaliate to attacks terrorist or otherwise in any substantial manner. It is this knowledge that makes Pakistan court Hafiz Saeed and his likes brazenly and lavishly. It is this knowledge that makes them disdainful and dismissive of India’s military prowess.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap)

Could Modi be grounded before take off?


Recently, the Indian Express published two news items on the same page.

On top of the page, across five columns, is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s appeal: “All Secular Forces Must Unite Against Modi” the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate.

Bottom of the same page has a two column headline in which Arun Jaitley is urging the Prime Minister to “Probe Motivated Investigation” against Narendra Modi and his political soulmate, Amit Shah. The leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha has accused the Congress of misusing Investigating Agencies like the CBI and NIA against BJP leaders “including it Prime Ministerial candidate”. So, it seems the probes on Modi are closing in.

Juxtapose the two news items, one against the other, and a kind of pattern emerges of Modi’s menacing, vertical rise and the UPA’s horizontal mopping up operations of the scared “secular” formations. Without one, the other has no game to play.

In a column written in mid July, I had explained my understanding of the game. What was the hurry in projecting Modi as the BJP’s Hindu mascot for the political season upto the 2014 parliament election? Atleast those eager to promote him could have waited for the Assembly elections in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, in atleast three of which the BJP has major stakes.

Would it not be the Hindutva’s vote of no confidence in the BJP Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, when they are preparing for the November assembly elections, to have the Chief Minister of Gujarat sail above their heads? Agreed, Shivraj Chauhan, Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje Scindia do not owe their lives to the RSS as Modi does, but even so what would have been lost if the RSS-BJP had waited until the November elections? What was the urgency? Were the cases closing in on Modi and the Gujarat model? That being the case Modi had to be boosted sky high, like a rocket, so that he can be cast as a martyr just in case the investigating agencies ground him. The very first sentence of Jaitley’s letter to the PM is: “The Congress cannot fight Narendra Modi politically. Defeat stares them in the face”. Hence, the “misuse of intelligence agencies” to ground Modi. Was this the mantra whispered in the ears of the BJP stalwarts who had thrown a fit at his elevation?

It was quite startling how the senior leaders, in a state of collective convulsion at Modi’s elevation in Goa in June, had very rapidly composed themselves and begun to see light over the horizon. Modi was anointed PM candidate in September and they tamely watched. Suddenly they had changed. Why?

Brecht’s spoof on Hitler, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, does come to mind but the Indian media have decided that Modi is not resistible. There he floats above the firmament, irresistible in his designer kurtas, beard in perfect trim, once or twice I could have sworn he wore lipstick, positioning himself before a lotus here, a parapet there in admirable imitation of Sohrab Modi of the Parsee theatre fame.

During practice sessions boxers do not really hit hard. They spar, jab gently, float around for footwork but never land a punch on the chin. This is what is going on between the vertical Modi and the horizontal UPA.

In July I had written: “Since 2007, just before the state assembly elections, Modi’s public relations has been globally managed by APCO Worldwide which boasts of former US ambassador to New Delhi, Timothy Roemer, as a hands on manager with offices in Mumbai and New Delhi. APCO has an impressive record of servicing dictators like Sani Abacha of Nigeria.”

If the UPA were in serious combat with Modi, there would have been atleast a whisper about APCO among the UPA publicists. But there has been nothing of the sort. The sides are not fighting; they are jousting. The real knockout punch was administered by Rahul Gandhi not on the opponents but on his own party when he rubbished the Ordinance on convicted law makers.

Chastise me for my perverse thought, but the real effect of Modi as a Hindu mascot, coming with things like Muzaffarnagar in his train, is two fold: it enables the BJP-RSS to measure its appeal nationwide for some future round. This aggressive Hindutva is designed to drive anything which is not hard core Hindutva towards the creation of a possible UPA III because Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia are still trusted by India Inc in Mumbai and their Multinational links who have identified India as a trillion dollar market and essential for global recovery.

“Another reason why Modi’s support team have been able to impose a fait accompli on the BJP”, I wrote, “is because of an acute fear that Modi and his Sancho Panza will, sooner or later, trip up in the course of investigations under way in Gujarat. Modi’s fall will then be the BJP’s fall too; it will be the fatal collapse of the Gujarat model. But if Modi is allowed to fly high on a platform of Hindu nationalism, his being grounded will be blamed on intrigue by the forces of “pseudo secularism”. This pits Modi as an embodiment of an idea shaded in dark saffron, projected in Presidential style, against the secular formations, pale and wan, poised precariously on a rickety Parliamentary platform.”

The real battle, then, is not being envisaged for 2014 but more like 2016 – mid-term.

Jaitley’s 15 page letter, giving details of all the cases that are zeroing in on Modi and Shah is the beginning of an almighty cat and mouse between the BJP and the UPA. Is there a real fear that Modi will be grounded before take off?

(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)