India Insight

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, India and the value of democracy

gilani kayaniOf the many comments I heard in Pakistan, one question particularly flummoxed me. Was democracy really the right system for South Asia?  It came, unsurprisingly, from someone sympathetic to the military, and was couched in a comparison between Pakistan and India.

What had India achieved, he asked, with its long years of near-uninterrupted democracy, to reduce the gap between rich and poor?  What of the Maoist rebellion eating away at its heartland? Its desperate poverty? The human rights abuses from Kashmir to Manipur, when Indian forces were called in to quell separatist revolts? Maybe, he said, democracy was just not suited to countries like India and Pakistan.

The question surprised me, in part because I had never really been forced before to defend democracy, possibly because in the West we take it so much for granted that we have forgotten why it matters. It also surprised me for the sheer conviction of the sentiment.

In Pakistan, this is not a mere academic debate. Just last week, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said there was no threat to democracy and the army had no intention of taking power. Yet the very fact he had to say so at all spoke of deep disquiet in the country over the civilian government's handling of Pakistan's floods, which with it has brought new mutterings of an eventual return to military rule.

"Why the prime minister needed to hammer this point home once again could be anybody’s guess," the Daily Times said in an editorial. "The diminishing returns of a corrupt and incompetent democracy are leading to the inescapable suspicion that something is in the air, in the possible shape of an anti-democratic intervention."

Is the government losing the plot in tackling Maoist insurgency?

A day after hundreds of Maoist rebels trapped and killed 76 Indian security personnel in a heavily mined swathe of jungle in Chhattisgarh, a feeling of shock pervades the national psyche.

The nature of the attack, the detailed planning that went into it and the government’s reaction thereafter has raised the question that is being debated for some time now.

The bodies of policemen are removed from a vehicle in Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh, April 6, 2010. REUTERS/StringerIs it time to involve the better equipped and better trained armed forces in ongoing anti-insurgency operations?

Hyderabad airshow crash a wake-up call?

INDIA-CRASH/

It was a promise that Lt Cdr Rahul Nair could not keep. Some months ago, Nair had promised to return home soon to sample his mother’s cooking.

On Wednesday, Nair and fellow pilot Cdr S.K. Maurya lost their lives during the Indian Aviation 2010 air show in Hyderabad.

The pilots, having more than a thousand flying hours to their credit, were flying the Kiran MkII aircraft, which was inducted in the armed forces in the 1980s.

The economic paradox of north-east India

India’s seven northeastern states, known as the seven sisters, have been “on the map, but off the mind”, if one goes by the title of a Tehelka-organised seminar on the Northeast.

INDIAThe region, connected to India by a narrow stretch of land called the “chicken’s neck”, has been through a string of conflicts, seen the rise of many rebel groups, lack of infrastructure and poverty.

The World Bank describes conditions in the region as a low-level equilibrium of poverty, non-development, civil conflict and lack of faith in political leadership.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, India and the United States

 

While attention has almost entirely been focused on America's difficult relationship with Pakistan - a writer in Foreign Policy magazine called it the world's most dysfunctional relationship - India and the United States have quietly gone ahead and completed the largest military exercise ever undertaken by New Delhi with a foreign army.

The exercise named Yudh Abyhas 2009 (or practice for war)  and conducted in northern India involved tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and helicopter-borne infantry. The U.S. army deployed 17 Strykers,  its eight-wheeled armoured vehicle, in the largest deployment of the newest vehicle outside of Iraq and Afghanistan for Pacific Rim forces, the military said.

"This exercise indeed is a landmark. For the Indian Army, this is the biggest we have done with any foreign army," Indian army director general of military operations, Lt. Gen. A.S. Sekhon said.

Is India downplaying Chinese border intrusions?

In response to recent reports that two Chinese helicopters intruded into Indian territory in Leh in Jammu and Kashmir, Army Chief Deepak Kapoor said he did get reports of Chinese intrusion but “this is not a new thing.”

“I want to tell you that the press sometimes hypes this but the numbers of intrusions which have taken place this year are on the same level as last year,” Kapoor said.

Soon after that the Indian media reported that Chinese soldiers had crossed the border in Ladakh last week and painted some rocks red.

How should we ‘celebrate’ the Kargil war?

Sunday was the tenth anniversary of the conflict between India and Pakistan in Kargil.

The fighting ended with a ceasefire on this day, ten years back.

As a college student I witnessed Captain Manoj Pandey’s body being brought into the Command Hospital in Lucknow cantonment before his cremation later.

He died a war hero while recapturing the Khalubar ridgeline, a dominating feature, and was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest gallantry award, posthumously.

Does India need its army to tackle the Maoists?

I have been noticing a debate in newspapers and television channels about the need to call in the army to tackle the Maoists and wonder whether it is indeed time to turn towards them before the movement spirals out of control.

Last week, hundreds of Maoists, who are expanding their influence in India, chased away police from a tribal area based around the town of Lalgarh about 170 km (100 miles) from Kolkata, capital of West Bengal state.

By attacking Lalgarh and then keeping the police at bay for four days, the Maoists demonstrated their growing influence over poor villagers and their capability to strike close to a big city like Kolkata.

Army vs police: who should maintain law-and-order?

The peacetime activities of an armed force have a bearing on its wartime capabilities and its relations with the civil society.

Although it has been the stated government policy for at least a decade to use the defence forces as sparingly as possible the Indian army has been continually engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast.

“Excessive and continuous involvement of the Army for internal security is not good, neither for the Army nor for the nation,” former army chief Ved Prakash Malik said four years ago.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India, Pakistan and covert operations. All in the family?

Do read this piece by Gurmeet Kanwal, the head of the Indian Army's Centre for Land Warfare Studies, about how India should respond to the Mumbai attacks with covert operations against Pakistan.

He says that "hard military options will have only a transitory impact unless sustained over a long period. These will also cause inevitable collateral damage, run the risk of escalating into a larger war with attendant nuclear dangers and have adverse international ramifications. To achieve a lasting impact and ensure that the actual perpetrators of terrorism are targeted, it is necessary to employ covert capabilities to neutralise the leadership of terrorist organisations."

But he also argues that India's covert capabilities in Pakistan were wound down on the orders of the Prime Minister in 1997 so as to promote reconciliation. "If that is true, a great deal of effort will be necessary to establish these capabilities from scratch. It will take at least three to five years to put in place basic capabilities for covert operations in Pakistan as both the terrorist organisations and their handlers like the ISI will have to be penetrated. The R&AW must be suitably restructured immediately to undertake sustained covert operations in Pakistan. The time to debate this issue on moral and legal grounds has long passed."

  •