US military/intelligence bases in India?

A recent report by an influential US thinktank has recommended establishing American military and intelligence facilities on Indian soil.

The report titled ‘Reorienting US Pakistan Strategy: From Af-Pak to Asia’ by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) states:

“In light of Pakistan’s geographic location, India is the obvious U.S. alternative to Afghanistan. In recent years, Washington and New Delhi have taken steps to expand their counterterror cooperation with the intention of building defenses against future attacks like the Lashkar-e-Taiba strike on Mumbai in November 2008. However, given persistent terrorist threats and Pakistan’s clear lack of capacity (and, in some cases, will) to tackle them, Washington would need to ramp up its efforts in India considerably, perhaps even to the point of establishing military and intelligence facilities on Indian soil.”

The report, authored by Daniel S. Markey (CFR senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia) recommends:

“Starting with the national security adviser to the prime minister of India, senior U.S. national security officials should begin to discuss options for significantly expanded counterterror cooperation with their Indian counterparts, up to and including the possibility of basing U.S. military and/or intelligence operatives in India to address Pakistan-based terrorist threats in a post-Afghanistan context. These conversations would be politically sensitive, so they should begin only after the next Indian government is elected in the spring. If diplomatic discussions make progress, the Pentagon should work with members of the U.S. intelligence community to develop specific implementation plans for on-the-ground operations in India.”

But the report also states that the plan may not actually work given the reluctance of the Indian political leadership to get into any “binding alliances”.

“Yet any such plan would immediately run up against India’s lingering ambivalence about tighter ties with the United States. A declared U.S. military/intelligence presence in India, even if directed against Pakistan-based security threats, is for now a political nonstarter in New Delhi, where Indian leaders jealously guard their freedom from binding alliances,” the report states.

The report recommends that: “To prepare for a likely scenario in which neither Afghanistan nor India offers adequate basing opportunities for U.S. military and intelligence operations directed against Pakistan-based security threats, the Pentagon and CIA should identify and develop alternative sites, most likely on the Arabian Peninsula and at sea, where such efforts can be sustained and expanded as necessary over the long run. The cost of these bases, while considerable, would be less than retaining facilities in a violence-plagued Afghanistan and less likely to arouse Pakistani fears than bases in India.”

Click here to read the entire report

Canary Trap had already pointed towards a possibility of proposed US bases in India in a post last year. Click here to read that post.

Assault on India by a Chief Minister


The recent dharna at the venue of the Republic Day Parade was a perfect lesson as to how external security and internal security conflate with politics. When the politics of the day assaults on the integrity of India, it is the Constitution which comes to the rescue of the State. Perniciously, this time the assault was not from extra-constitutional forces, but the elected government in Delhi. The assault was spearheaded by the Chief Minister, who continued to spit venom on the State.

His venom was unforgivingly directed at the Republic Day, which celebrates the very Constitution that made him the Chief Minister. The Republic Day Parade draws men and women, boys and girls from all parts of India. It is a perfect symbol of national integration, sovereignty and aspirations of India. Young boys and girls of the NCC wake up at 4 O’clock in the morning in the Delhi cold to rehearse for the Parade. Those children who win the bravery awards come with their parents to the Capital, full of pride and enthusiasm. The young girls’ band of Birla Public School is a regular feature. Widows receive gallantry awards on behalf of their martyred husbands and children. It is these martyrs, because of whom we live in security, the same security without which Mr. Kejriwal cannot carry out his dharnas.

If Mr. Kejriwal really understood the élan and pride that the participants evince in the Republic Day Parade, he would have probably not decried it in the manner in which the Maoists, the insurgents and separatists do. This author while writing a book on Maoism, interacted with the District Magistrate of Gaya district in Bihar, the DM narrated an incident wherein the Maoists had issued a diktat that black flags will be hoisted on the Independence Day in all schools in the area under their terror. In one of these schools, one eight year old girl could not bear the sight of a black flag being unfurled. She in a patriotic rage brought the black flag down, tore it, and hoisted the national flag. The girl and her family were subsequently compelled to relocate themselves. Is it surprising that the core of the ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ comprises over-ground Maoists, Maoist sympathizers and ‘collapsed ultra-leftists’?

A perusal of the documents issued by the Central Committee of the Maoists in India makes it evident that their final objective is to capture the Indian State. In the bid to capture the State the Maoists have divided their push for taking over the State into three broad phases, i.e. Phase-1 (strategic defence): capture of rural areas; Phase-2 (strategic stalemate): characterized by balance between security forces and Maoists armed strength; and Phase-3 (strategic initiative): capture of the epicenter of power. In this endeavor they elicit the support of all anti-state forces. Therefore, Prashant Bhushan’s advocacy for separatists and referendum on the deployment of State forces in Maoist affected areas should be seen in this backdrop. Also Mr. Kejriwal’s comments on Batla House encounter and his refusal to comment on Pakistan amounts to pandering to jihadi forces and Pakistan. One does not call a press conference to give merely inane remarks on issues of such vital security interests. The design is therefore obvious.

The Chief Minister could have gained equal amount of media traction, had he chosen to abide by the order of carrying out his dharna at Jantar Mantar. The purpose, however was sinister. It was to pose a threat to the nerve center of India, i.e. the South Block, North Block, Parliament and Rastrapati Bhawan complex. It is for this reason that he duped the authorities by first stating that only he and his cabinet colleagues would form part of the dharna. Once he established himself he gave a call to cadres from all parts of the country to converge on the nerve center of India. What saved the situation was the insipid heed to his call and the vigilance of Delhi Police.

The objective to capture the nerve center was betrayed by the very language of the Chief Minister. He went to the extent of saying that it was not for the Union Home Minister to decide whether he as Chief Minister will sit on dharna, instead it is he, who would decide where the Home Minister of India should have his office. Significantly, the target was not Mr Shinde, but the institution of Home Minister. He could have well issued the same threat to the Supreme Court of India?

All through the ‘Aam Aadmi’ leader emphasized on his status as Chief Minister and his right to dharna, anywhere and everywhere in Delhi, as ‘real democracy’. The Chief Minister should reflect on the outcome, if another group of ‘aam aadmi’ opposed to him occupy the same venue and contest his dharna in the same democratic refrain.

Apart from other pressing considerations, it is to guard against such imponderables of rogue Chief Minister that the Delhi Police cannot be placed under Delhi Government. Imagine what would have been Mr Kejriwal’s response when information was given about presence of terrorists in Batla House? He would have probably refused to order the Delhi Police to take action. It must be underscored that for most federal security and intelligence agencies located in the Capital, the Delhi Police is the armed executive force in support. A rogue Chief Minister with Delhi Police under him can even order the arrest of the Home Minister, an institution for which Mr Kejriwal showed complete disdain and disregard.

The plan of dharna was therefore well planned and calculated. It was a trial assault on India’s nerve center. What saved India from this assault was the Constitutional safeguards.

Democracy and Constitutional culture evolves. Every country passes through its period of trials and tribulations, hits and misses in the evolution of political culture and awareness. India is no exception. Even UK, the mother of Westminster democracy, has one of the most abnormal coalition government of Conservatives and Liberals, which some may say is travesty of democracy.

Mr Kejriwal displayed total hatred for national symbols and institutions. He has no business to abuse the same very system that subsidized his education and allowed him ‘study leave’ at Aam Aadmi (taxpayer’s) expense, which later had to be returned under legal threat.

Mr Kejriwal also said that from now onwards the Republic Day will be in his style. He did not have the intellectual capacity to appreciate that the Prime Minister of Japan was not coming as a Chief Guest to watch his style of Republic Day. I can bet that none repeat none in Mr Kejriwal’s cabinet knows the significance of emerging geopolitical equation between India and Japan.

The country cannot be hostage to such vicious plots by any Chief Minister in the garb of democracy. India cannot permit externally funded anti-national outfits to dismantle the constitutional framework, rather the country itself by such sophisticated plots.

(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)

Real story behind the latest Kejriwal drama


The protest by Aam Aadmi Party and its leaders over the issue of suspending five Delhi Police officials is nothing but a well thought out strategy.

The party realized that since rapes in Delhi are taking place almost daily and people would start blaming them as they blamed Sheila Dikshit government in the past, they would end up with bad publicity. So a strategy was planned to raise the issue of Delhi Police not being under Delhi government. Law Minister Somnath Bharti was authorized to pick up a law and order problem and raise it in full media glare so that it can be then converted into a larger issue of control over Delhi Police.

The Khirki Extension area in Bharti’s constituency Malviya Nagar has a lot of African nationals. Also, there is a perception among the locals that they are associated with drugs and prostitution. Considering them as soft targets, Bharti went about targeting them and also instructed the police to target them. He made sure that police in full media glare refused to do so. The idea was to show how Delhi Police was not listening to even a Law Minister. And he cleverly used the media to this end. But it went horribly wrong as his over enthusiasm turned into an international issue and the Ministry of External Affairs had to call the envoys of 20 African countries to assure them that India would take action regarding the ill-treatment of Ugandan women by Bharti and his supporters. This shameful incident also dented India’s image internationally.

NHRC has also asked for a report from the Centre. A Delhi Court too has asked the police to file an FIR against Bharti.

So to shift the attention away from Bharti and his misdeeds, the ongoing dharna was planned. The party knew that the area where they are protesting will be handed over to the Army for Republic Day rehearsals in the coming days. There is nothing spontaneous in the protests. Kejriwal and company has cleverly manipulated the minds of people into believing that they are fighting for control over Delhi Police. In reality they are just trying to take the attention away from the misdeeds of their Law Minister and also ensure that people don’t blame them for crime in Delhi. Whereas they constantly blamed Sheila Dikshit over the same issue.

Also there is a pattern here of ignoring past promises a moving on to new issues every other day to stay in the news.

The party leaders had said after they announced the water plan that while they were aware that only people with pipeline would benefit, they would announce an extensive plan to cover all areas (a large number of Delhi households don’t have water pipeline) after the DJB chairman submitted a report.

Kejriwal and his party are moving from one activism to another and in the process forgetting the past promises. They had said that once the CAG audit of power distribution companies is done, the current subsidy given by slashing power rates will be adjusted with correction in rates. But no development on that front too.

Kejriwal told a news channel that they are studying Commonwealth Games papers and in the next two days will announce an action plan to tackle corruption and also initiate inquiry against Sheila Dikshit government. So how are they going to do it with 10 days of dharna already announced? Will they clear confidential files relating to corruption inquiry in full public glare? Or will this promise also be forgotten?

So after, water, electricity, corruption, now its the Delhi Police and Republic Day. Kejriwal and company are jumping from one issue to another to just stay in the news.

The Delhi voters have to think whether they have voted to power a group of anarchists who have no plan for governance.

Armed with nuclear certificate, Iran to enter conference on Syria


On January 20 and 22 Middle East watchers will be riveted on two different conference venues in Geneva or thereabouts.

The first meeting will concern itself with the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

The five Permanent Members of the Security Council, United States, Russia, China, UK, France plus Germany and Iran agreed on a deal on Sunday, January 12. It will be watched for six months. The same deal, in a somewhat raw form, had actually been announced in November. Technical details had to be filled in. This was accomplished on Sunday.

Coming Monday the process of implementation of the agreement begins. This will be simultaneously accompanied by a “corresponding” lifting of sanctions. The six month period has been divided into 180 days. On each day, or week, you give so much and take so much. Ofcourse, there will be accusations of the scales being tipped one way or the other. But Secretary of State John Kerry is very determined this time.

The second event is a full blown conference known famously as Geneva II, focused on Syria. Geneva I was held in June 2012, a little over a year after the conflict began. It was largely a process led by governments. A concept of a “Syrian led” process towards Geneva II emerged. This resulted in rapid multiplication of insurgent groups inside Syria, some so brutal as to challenge credulity. The anxiety was to cobble together some kind of an opposition to President Assad. So, more murder and mayhem including the destruction of the great mosque in Aleppo, followed.

The war dragged on and on. Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan kept asking the Americans to give the rebel forces more time to alter the ground realities. Only then would a group emerge to give weight to an opposition delegation to Geneva II. Really, more power to the hardline Salafist–takfiri groups who have recently proliferated in Iraq and Syria will result in a credible delegation to Geneva?

All those supporting the conflict from outside have, ofcourse, succeeded in causing half of the population being internally displaced; millions of refugees pushed into neighbouring countries; about 5,00,000 civilians killed, and hundreds of years old monument in one of the world’s great civilizations, wantonly destroyed.

But they have not been able to obtain the trophy they most covet: the head of President Bashar al Assad. They were not able to affect regime change in Syria.

When all else failed, the chemical weapons attack in August 2013, allegedly by the regime (it was never proved), appeared to be the answer to their prayers. What President Obama described as a “Red Line” had been crossed. Missile attacks would follow.

Sergey Lavrov, the most respected Russian Foreign Minister since Andrei Gromyko, intervened creatively. Syria would voluntarily surrender its chemical weapons. The bargain would be straightforward: a political solution to the conflict involving all Syrian stakeholders.

For all their exertions, there is no coherent opposition yet to meet in Geneva to set into motion a “Syrian led” process for peace. Free Syrian Army and the Transitional Council members are hopping from one host country to another in quest of a delegation for Geneva II.

Are these conditions propitious enough for Geneva II to be convened on Wednesday?

Broadly, the game is as follows: the United States and Russia have agreed on two critical issues. That an agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme should be given momentum for the next six months. There will then be a pause for stock taking before negotiating the next, long term, agreement.

They are also agreed on the Syrian conflict being brought to an end through a political process.

On both these approaches, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Syria are more or less satisfied. But Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel and France are in various degrees of disappointment and nervousness.

This gang’s dream scenario would be that the nuclear deal with Iran be scuttled. Freed of the nuclear taint, (these countries fear) Iran will begin to play a regional role which will diminish theirs. The Middle East will never be the same again. They are trying to scare Washington. “Look a risen Iran will undermine the US in the Middle East”. This kind of talk has some purchase in the US Congress.

Rumours wafting from Riyadh suggest some sort of a conclusion to the Kingdom’s succession stakes. This may bring about a change in its recently aggressive diplomatic style credited to Intelligence Chief and former ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Riyadh and Jerusalem, hand in hand, are imploring Washington to go slow on Iran and certainly not to invite Iran to the Conference on Syria, Geneva II. Kerry is walking around the minefields with great skill. “Iran has not been invited” says he, or words to that effect. And he is not telling a lie. Iran has not been invited, “not yet”.

It will be different situation when the nuclear deal with Iran is set into operation on Monday. Kerry has made it clear on several occasions that he accords a higher priority to the nuclear deal than to Iran’s stand on Syria.

Once the nuclear arrangement gets going, and Iran emerges with a non stigmatized image in a region riven with terrorism, why would anyone stand in the way of a country with so much influence in Syria?

In fact it could be curtains for the Saudi sponsored Al Qaeda affiliates running amuck in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan? When the sponsorship of these groups is terminated, how will these clusters of high voltage fundamentalism ever be tamed?

(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)

PM and Prashant Bhushan in perfect concert on Kashmir


In his press conference what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was probably referring to with regard to solution to Kashmir problem was acceptance of Pakistan’s proposal of ‘open’ borders in Kashmir — a ploy to merge Kashmir with Pakistan.

It is believed that India is under tremendous pressure from international quarters as it had promised Pakistani leadership the same in exchange of latter’s cooperation on Afghanistan. Accordingly, it is these very external quarters that have been prevailing on India on not taking punitive measures against cross-border terrorism and provocation across the Line of Control (LoC) by Pakistan.

It is with this aim that the present government was encouraging withdrawal of Indian troops from Siachen — again a gift promised by international benefactors of Pakistan in the post-Afghan pullout phase.

There are several indications to suggest that with the pull out of NATO forces from Afghanistan the entire Taliban and jihadi machinery is going to be pumped in Kashmir by Pakistan to capture it. Against this backdrop what Prashant Bhushan is suggesting (about the withdrawal of Army from Kashmir) would be disastrous for India. In anticipation most of the jihadi outfits active in Afghanistan are shifting base to Pakistani Punjab. It includes Al Qaeda too. Otherwise who does not know that upon infiltration through LoC the militants arrive in the Valley to perpetrate terror as part of the proxy war. Can India fight proxy war without its Army? Can you have referendum on whether the territorial integrity of India should be maintained.

The PM dare not try to give away Kashmir as there is a resolution by the Indian Parliament that entire Kashmir, which includes Gilgit-Baltistan (which includes 75 percent of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) belongs to India. He may be under tremendous pressure from international quarters to deliver on this score, but he dare not play with the will of the people of India.

What is disconcerting is the timing of statements by the PM and Prashant Bhushan. The international umbilical of the two is common therefore the concert. Bhushan’s view on referendum on deployment of Indian Army is not ‘blurred’ or ‘innocent’ or ‘personal’ as it is being propagated by his apologists. He is too astute and pedigreed lawyer for that. It is a timed and calculated statement. He is not limited to such dangerous agenda with regard to Kashmir only, his indulgence with Maoists has been seen so many times on television after every massacre by the outfit. In fact the Maoist, jihadi and US signature looms very large on Bhushan’s political party.

It is this anti-India security discourse of Aam Aadmi Party and its political and international benefactors that is emerging as the biggest threat to the country (Read More on this here).

(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)

Indian diplomacy hostage to anti-piracy


In February 2012, Italian marines aboard an oil tanker MT Enrica Lexie, traveling from Singapore to Egypt, fired on a Indian fishing trawler St Antony, approximately 21 nm off the coast of Kerala, mistaking it as a vessel engaged in piracy. Two Indian fishermen Ajesh Binki and Valentine aka Gelastine were killed. The Italian defence ministry portrayed it as a successful anti-piracy operation. The Italian vessel had a crew of 34, which included 19 Indians. The two marines of the Italian Navy, Massi Milano Latoree and Salvatore Girone responsible for killing the fisherman were taken into custody. What followed was unprecedented bitterness and acrimony between India and Italy. No responsible authority in India explained to the people the Italian highhandedness in proper geopolitical and maritime perspective. Again on October 12, 2013 an American vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio, belonging to the US firm AdvanFort, was apprehended by the Indian Coast Guard off Tamil Nadu Coast for unauthorized presence in India’s territorial waters. The crew and guard of the American vessel, which included Indians, were taken into custody. Thus in a matter of 20 months, two major incidents off the Western Coast of India have taken place, both triggering enormous diplomatic bad blood.

Some quarters attribute that the incident involving the American vessel in October 2013 has symbiotic linkage with the issue of maltreatment of the Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade. There are suggestions that the Devyani issue was contrived to pressurize India into releasing the crew and guards of MV Seaman Guard Ohio. The vicissitudes of the Devyani story have indeed fluctuated with India’s position on the release of the personnel onboard the American vessel. Finally on 26 December 2013 the said personnel comprising 22 foreigners and 12 Indians were granted bail (stayed by higher court). Concurrently the American rhetoric on the Devyani issue could be seen to undergo a sea-change. Suddenly Devyani the diplomat, from a ‘perpetrator of human right abuses’, became a ‘victim of misunderstanding’.

The change in posturing on part of the US was too stark to go unnoticed. Nevertheless, a section of our media, who were seen to be totally in sync with the US, did not report the news of the grant of bail to the personnel belonging to the American vessel.

These two incidents which caused massive diplomatic upheavals were actually triggered by an illogical and provocative maritime framework decided by the international community to prevent piracy. Besides these two incidents, many have gone unrecorded and unreported, in fact it has become an endemic feature. It is therefore imperative to comprehend the larger dynamics behind these incidents.

The case of the American vessel acquired gravity as it was not only being replenished with 1600 liters of high speed diesel by an Indian fishing trawler inside India’s territorial waters, but also because its 35 members (10 crew and 25 security guards), in contravention of law, carried 35 assault rifles and 5680 rounds of ammunition. The crew and the guards were of various nationalities, i.e. Estonians, British, Ukrainian and Indian. All the 35 members were arrested for illegally carrying arms in India’s water and lodged at Palayamkottai Central Jail in Tamil Nadu. Even though there was no US citizen on the vessel, three officials from the US Consulate General at Chennai visited them the very next day. The US authorities maintained that the vessel was engaged in anti-piracy operations for protection of American merchant vessels, and were well beyond the Indian maritime territorial limit of 12 nm.

The crew members and the guards of the vessel, the US authorities emphasized, were specialists in anti-piracy operations and had honourable antecedents, having served in the armed forces and security establishments of their respective countries. The Indian authorities have been steadfast on their stand that they would be tried as per the ‘law of the land’. The bitterness between the US and India over the issue only ratcheted in the subsequent days and reached the ‘snapping point’ in the first week of December 2013. Addressing a press conference on the Navy Day 3rd December the Indian Naval Chief Admiral DK Joshi warned: “Unregulated floating armouries carrying combatants of certain countries are a matter of concern and can have serious security implications for the including infiltration of terrorists that can lead to 26/11 type attacks.”

The Admiral also made an impassioned plea for “reversal” of high risk areas for merchant ships plying in the piracy prone zones. Two years back the longitude marking off high risk areas for piracy was moved from 65 degrees to 78 degrees in the Arabian Sea by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) constituted in 2009 following a UN resolution. The new longitude, although away from India’s territorial waters limit of 12 nautical miles, is dangerously close to the Indian coast. Ships in order to be safe from piracy tend to hug the Indian coast from Mangalore to Kanyakumari. The Enrica Lexie incident too was primarily because of the eastward advancement of the high risk longitude.

The change in the longitude has made fishing activities by Indian fishermen extremely contentious and dangerous because of intense international shipping activity close to the Indian coast. Indian maritime authorities like the Coast Guard have been lamenting that the shift in the longitude was unwarranted and based on exaggerated threat. From the perspective of overall maritime security of India, with the shift in ‘high risk area’ by the west dominated IMO, the threat is pernicious, causing endemic hostile incidents, including two major ones as mentioned. The protestation of the Indian Naval Chief is therefore more than apposite. No country with self-respect will tolerate such an international arrangement which impinges on its everyday legitimate maritime activity and is pregnant with terrorist misuse and hostilities.

It is under these circumstances that the US vessel MV Sea Guard Ohio was apprehended by the Indian Coast Guard. Notwithstanding the US pressure, Indian authorities would be amiss if they did not treat and investigate the vessel and its crew and guards as floating armouries.

It is our this very application of the ‘law of the land’ that disconcerted the Italians and now the Americans. It could also be the reason for incarceration of Captain Sunil James in Togo, an erstwhile French colony.

When the American vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio with arms and ammunition was apprehended, there were any numbers of possibilities being bandied in India with regards to its illegal presence in Indian waters, ranging from — attack on Kudankulam Nuclear Plant — to armed assistance to Maoists — to intervention in Maldives. Such speculations were rife because the maritime authorities in India did not share with the people the simple reasons and details that had engendered these incidents. If the Indian establishment persists with its caginess there could be far more sinister and developments at sea causing animosity with other countries. The root to the solution lies in the rescission of the new high risk longitude in the Arabian Sea.

(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)