Sunday, June 30, 2013

Army Chief remembers Manekshaw, underscores role played by Indian military leaders

Chief of Army Staff, General Bikram Singh, on Thursday highlighted the evolution of military strategic vision and contemporary strategic thought over the years and the stellar role played by Indian military leaders.Delivering the memorial lecture on the occasion of birth centenary of Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw, MC (Military Cross), one of the most illustrious Generals of the Indian Army, General Singh gave a stimulating talk on "Evolution of Indian Military Strategic Thought", a contemporary topic, having immense relevance to all strategists involved in the management of security and defence of the country.The proceedings began with a welcome note from the Director General of Infantry Lt. Gen. Rameshwar Yadav.The lecture, which was organised at Manekshaw Centre, DelhiCantt, culminated with closing remarks by the Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. S.K. Singh and vote of thanks by Director General of Infantry.The commemorative event was attended by a large, number of serving and retired Chiefs of three services, other senior serving officers and veterans
Sam Bahadur: A soldier remembers
First person account of a soldier who worked with Sam Bahadur: 
It was a crisp golden morning. And I had a problem. I walked to the office of my boss: Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. He was just preparing to leave for a meeting with the Defence Secretary for a routine briefing. Sensing that I looked troubled, he paused, looked straight into my eyes, as usual, and asked. “What’s bothering you General?” I poured out the reason for my despair. I had been appointed by Sam Bahadur as the Army representative on the Fourth Pay Commission panel. There were two others as well, one each from the Air Force and the Navy. And then, there were the bureaucrats. Whatever we defence personnel recommended, the bureaucrats would shoot down. If we’d prepare one note, they’d prepare two to counter it. I was frustrated. I felt there was no point on being on a panel that didn’t take cognizance of our views. Sam Bahadur put his arm around me and asked me to accompany him to the Defence Secretary. As we walked in to the meeting, he announced, “My nominee has something to say.” He indicated to me that I speak with candor. Soon after, all civilian members of the Pay Panel were dropped. This is just one of the many incidents. Much earlier, I had encountered his sense of fair play. He valued honesty and hard work above all else. If he felt there was genuine case, he would not even be too much of a stickler for rules. I was working under him as an S&T appointment. Ordinarily, people in this department are not shifted to Infantry. However, precedence did not stop him from recommending me twice for the promotion to the Defence Ministry. An incident that stands out was one that followed the 1961 War with China. During the War, our Corp Commander Lieutenant General B N Kaul ordered a large amount of supplies and arms to be dropped in the hills for the soldiers. The War ended in a drubbing and Lt Gen Kaul was sacked. But the auditors were at our door. 
They wanted me to account for all the equipment and supplies. I had few answers. I told them frankly, that I was only carrying out the boss’ order. Unsatisfied, they recommended action. In the meantime, Sam Bahadur took over as our Corp Commander. 
I narrated to him the entire episode. He just said two words, “Don’t Worry.” 
And before I knew it, Manekshaw had used his special privilege as a Corp Commander to write off that humungous amount as war losses. And the story ended. He had saved my skin, but he did not even subtly mention the huge favour that he had done. 
Sam Maneskshaw was bone honest. Supplies to the Mess would come from Calcutta. Officers would often complain and clamour for a more lavish fare. I told him that this was possible, only that he would get a bad name. He minced no words when he told me, “Don’t listen to them. Do only what is right.” 
Sam Bahadur was a very sympathetic man. Yet he was extremely strict and a complete disciplinarian. 
It was wartime 1971. Our secrets were being leaked. And we knew of this. 
Sam Manekshaw summoned me and two others to his office and told us that the enemy was getting hold of our intelligence information. Something had to be done. And he had a plan. So far, most information would go out as written instructions, coded or otherwise. Which meant it could be officers, or clerks who typed it. He had decided to do away with the system. 
While routine information would be typed and sent out, all information related with strategy and intelligence would be sent through us. We would work as liaison officers between him and the field commanders. Manekshaw would give us oral information and we would pass it on word by word. It was a clever move and it worked. Pakistan was foxed. 
Then came triumph. Bangladesh had been liberated. Indira Gandhi asked Manekshaw to take the surrender. It was that glorious occasion that would go down in the annals of history. It was his moment under the Sun. Yet, he refused. 
Manekshaw told the PM, “My Field Commander will do the honours.” It was an example of his epic generosity. 
And forever in time, the image of Lt Gen Jagjit Aurora getting the surrender papers signed by Niazi will hang over our mantle pieces. 
When Sam Bahadur visited Dacca, LT Gen Aurora sent him a luxurious car to come. But he refused point blank. “I don’t want to ride in a stolen car, I will travel in our military Jeep,” he quipped.
It was a message he wanted to send out loud and clear. He would not tolerate looting. It speaks volumes of his eminent character that he wanted to ensure dignity in our victory. 
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was indeed a remarkable officer and a thorough gentleman! 
(The author of the piece is a Retired Army officer, who worked for many years under Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, but wishes to remain anonymous) 

Remembering Sam Bahadur

Today is Sam Maneckshaw's death anniversary. Popularly known as Sam Bahadur, he was the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the rank of Field Marshal.

Sam Bahadur
"Manekshaw, as needs little explaining, was not just a solider and an army chief, but a larger-than-life hero for several generations of Indians born post-Independence."
Ayaz Memon's column on Sam Maneckshaw recalls the man who was not just a solider and an army chief, but a larger-than-life hero for several generations of Indians born post-Independence.
Ajay Bharadwaj on the Larger than Life Punjabi Parsi - When Punjab mourned the loss of the the only tender link it had with the Parsi community 
Read this interview of Lieutenant General Depinder Singh, who was military assistant to Manekshaw during the 1971 war and has written the official biography Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: Soldiering With Dignity: on planning, conducting and winning the 1971 war
Shocking but true. Sam 'Bahadur' Manekshaw, who became the nation's first Field Marshal, did not find a place in the Actual Warrant of Precedence (AWP): When Home, defence sparred over Sam's status
... and Josy Joseph's touching obituary of Bahadur: Good night and good luck
What made genial general Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw a legendary folk hero in the army circles as well as among the people at large was his disarming ability to wear his successes and heroism lightly on his sleeve.
He was indeed an icon of democratic India.

Security Trends South Asia India Defence 
Indo US Defence Cooperation:
Impetus in Strategic Dialogue

Rahul Bhonsle

Indo US Defence Cooperation: Impetus in Strategic Dialogue
External Affairs Minister of India Shri Salman Khurshid and Secretary of State John F Kerry co-chaired the fourth India-US Strategic Dialogue on June 24, 2013. One of the key elements in the Fourth Dialogue was the track on defence and security cooperation. In the joint media interaction by the Minister/Secretary it was remarked that they, “talked about defence co-development, co-manufacture, co-purchase”.

As per the Fact Sheet issued on International Security, defense relationship encompasses military-to-military dialogues, exercises, defense sales, professional military education exchanges, and practical cooperation. Special mention was made in the Joint Statement of regular military training exercises, like the Army series Yudh Abhyas, which took place in May 2013, and the naval series Malabar planned for later this year.

The Joint Statement indicated that both countries are committed to maritime security, unimpeded commerce and freedom of navigation, and the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes in accordance with international law. A particular reference possibly in the context of the ASEAN mechanisms to China’s aggressive behavior in the  South China Sea and reluctance to evolve a common code of conduct for smooth passage of maritime trade. India and the US have consistently mentioned in the past that sea lines of communication are a part of the global commons and thus free for unhindered trade. Towards this end India also welcomed the entry of the United States to the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) as a Dialogue Partner in November 2012, and the United States welcomed India’s Observer status to the Arctic Council in May 2013.

While there are multiple tracks of defence engagement, the main focus for the US has been defence sales. Indo US defense trade has reached nearly $9 billion. The Fact Sheet found  mention of expansion in bilateral defence trade and induction of C-130J and C-17 aircraft into the Indian Air Force and of the P-8I maritime patrol aircraft into the Indian Navy. The latter two has just begun with the first of the fleet landing in India just before the Dialogue indicating that this was an issue that was being pursued at the highest level in the United States. They are now hoping that the buyer-seller relationship could be converted into a collaborative one.
Induction of C-130J and C-17 aircraft into the Indian Air Force and of the P-8I maritime patrol aircraft into the Indian Navy have been the main achievements of the past year. India is planning to order six more C-130 J special operations aircraft and 145 M777 ultra-light howitzers. Commercial negotiations for 22 Boeing Apache Longbow strike helicopters ($1.2 billion) and 15 heavy-lift Boeing CH Chinook helicopters ($1.4 billion) for the Indian Air Force are presently ongoing. Meanwhile delivery of 10 - C 17 Globemaster III is likely to be completed by June 2015 and the buzz is that 10 more may be on order. The main focus from the Indian side is on developing a model of co-development, co-manufacture and co-purchase.
In his Remarks on the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership at the India Habitat Centre, US Secretary of State John Kerry praised India’s, “defense preparedness, combating narcotics, counterterrorism, and confronting radical, violent extremists”. He also assured that US and India were working jointly to achieve the aim of the entry of India into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group. He assured United States, “support India’s full membership in these groups, as well as an expanded UN Security Council with India as a permanent member”. India’s updating of the Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment, and Technology (SCOMET) list in March 2013 is expected to facilitate an entry into the organizations that are dealing with conventional and dual use arms and weapons systems

Admiral Samuel J.Locklear, Commander, US Pacific Command called on Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of the Air Staff at Air Headquarters. A Press Information Bureau release stated that the visit saw issues such as - regional security, South China Sea being discussed, besides a review of growing US-India Security and Defence relationship. Admiral Locklear is part of the delegation that is accompanying US Secretary of State John Kerry for the 4th India- US Strategic Dialogue.

The meeting is also significant as reports in the Times of India recently stated that Indian Ministry of Defence has rejected the proposal for a permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee which would have facilitated a single point contact for visiting foreign military dignitaries. India on the other hand generally follows the lead service concept, thus a visiting military dignitary meets the commander of the lead service. In normal course Admiral Locklear would have met up with the Indian Navy Chief, Admiral D K Joshi being the lead service with US Pacific Command’s interest in the Indian Ocean region. Does this signify any change in the Ministry of Defence’s rejection of a permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee remains to be seen? Meanwhile the Business Standard reported that Minister of Defence Mr A K Antony has turned down a request by Admiral Locklear for a meeting citing protocol.

For the United States, the efforts to recover the remains of U.S. service members from World War II assume significance and hopefully some breakthrough in this direction will bring relief to the families of US servicemen who lost their lives on the Indo Burma front during the war years.

Mr K P Nayar, Daily Telegraph, Kolkata senior foreign policy correspondent based in Washington states in an article in the newspaper of 22 June that Admiral Locklear is likely to discuss with the Indian leadership the possibility of, “letting Indian forces use on a trial basis American equipment that is normally not given to non-treaty partners”.  The American gambit is that once the Indian military uses this equipment it would be attracted to buy the same thereby opening defence sales to India which at present are languishing at a total of about US $ 8 billion or so. As per Nayar an arrangement agreed upon between US Deputy defence secretary Ashton Carter and India’s national security adviser Shivshankar Menon the trial afforded to Indian military will overcome the challenges faced in US legislation on arms exports. Will this lead to more sales remains to be seen, for the Americans and also other foreign sellers have underestimated the complexity of India’s procurement system which is multilayered.

Defence and security is emerging as an important track in Indo US relations. Thus the subject was deliberated upon in great detail by the two foreign ministers with respective representatives from the defence side. While the defence relationship in the training and exercises track continues to be on a strong wicket the Americans are interested in expanding defence sales which have also picked up momentum with key American companies Lockheed Martin and Boeing pitching in with timely supply of air assets to the Indian Air Force in the recent past most particularly the C 17 and the C 130 J the latter used effectively for relief mission in Uttarakhand in June. How the track will progress beyond the buyer seller to a co-production and co-development model is what remains to be seen? For there are also legal challenges due to laws in the US in particular hindering transfer of key technologies that India wants.

China’s Response to the Islamist Threat in Mali
David Shinn, an adjunct professor at George Washington University
June 21, 2013
China has traditionally been relatively passive when it comes to dealing with extremism and terrorism in Africa.  China’s response this year in Mali to earlier Islamist successes, which have at least temporarily been halted by French and African military intervention, suggest that Beijing may in the future pursue a more activist counter-extremism policy. 
Mali has faced a long-standing internal rebellion by the Tuareg people, who demand an independent state of Azawad in the northern part of the country.  Partly as a result of mishandling the Tuareg rebellion, Mali in March 2012 experienced its first coup in 21 years.  Al-Qaeda-linked groups took advantage of the turmoil and effectively hijacked the Tuareg rebellion.  Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, which splintered from AQIM, controlled northern Mali by mid-2012. 
Since its independence in 1960, Mali has had cordial diplomatic relations with China.  Mali’s recently deposed president had visited China four times between 2004 and 2010.  President Hu Jintao visited Mali in 2009.  While China-Mali trade is not significant for China, it is important for Mali; China is its largest bilateral trading partner.  China has invested about $50 million in Mali and is a major supplier of aid.  Some 1,500 to 1,800 Chinese nationals reside in Mali.
Following the coup, China called on all parties in Mali to return to normal order and to uphold national unity and stability, a traditional Chinese response to such events.  As the situation quickly worsened, China urged the Economic Community of West African States to lead mediation efforts in Mali, a response that is also in accord with its policy of non-interference in a country’s internal affairs.
By September 2012, there was a change of tone in China’s approach to the deteriorating situation in Mali.  China’s charge d’affaires in the capital of Bamako commented on state television “we are going to bring our assistance to the extent possible, specifically in the military, where we already have a very old cooperation.”  The clear implication was that China was ready to support Mali’s army in its fight against Islamist rebels in northern Mali.  This was in keeping with another Chinese principle: maintaining a country’s sovereign integrity.
As Islamist forces threatened early in 2013 to take over most of Mali, France launched air strikes against the rebels and quickly followed up by sending troops.  Li Jian and Jin Jing, both researchers at China’s Naval Military Research Institute, in a Global Times commentary on 22 January suggested that France’s intervention in Mali was aimed at controlling gold mines and oil reserves.  They accused France of being “the African gendarme.”  He Wenping, a frequent spokesperson for China on African issues and director of African studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, warned on 23 January that France’s involvement in Mali is risky and that France may be repeating the missteps of the United States in Afghanistan.
Yun Sun, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, concluded on 23 January that China’s “tepid response” to the French intervention in Mali stems from its concern about potential abuse of the UN mandate as happened in Libya.  She argued that China believes French intervention is a “dangerous challenge” to Beijing’s non-interference principle.
By 29 January, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson outlined an African-focused approach to Mali.  He said China will support the International Support Mission for Mali, provide humanitarian aid and called for the early implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2085, which emphasizes political dialogue and deployment of an African-led force to respond to the security threat.  China also pledged $1 million in cash for the African Union and “some other material” valued up to $5 million.  These steps follow traditional Chinese policy.
On 30 January, the same He Wenping who was critical of France’s policy a week earlier stated in an interview that no Chinese officials have opposed France’s intervention in Mali.  She added “I think the French military intervention was necessary . . . because the situation was very urgent; militias in the north of Mali were attacking strategic strongholds not far from the capital city of Bamako.”  This statement of support for French military intervention in Mali was surprising compared to earlier comments and previous Chinese policy on Western military intervention in Africa.
After French and African troops pushed the Islamist forces out of most of northern Mali, China stepped up its engagement.  In a major speech on 13 May on terrorism in Africa at the UN Security Council, Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said that the fight against terrorism in Africa should not be fought by the African countries alone.  While the international community should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries under threat, it should help African countries build their capacity in the fight against terrorism.  He added that China “resolutely supports” African countries and their regional organizations in the fight against terrorism.
Within two weeks of Li Baodong’s remarks, China offered to contribute as many as 600 troops, including a civil engineering company, to the UN peacekeeping force being assembled in Mali to replace the French force.  It will incorporate those African troops already in Mali.  So far, all Chinese peacekeepers assigned to UN operations in Africa have been non-combat troops, usually engineering, medical and logistical forces.  China has not ruled out the sending of combat troops to the operation in Mali.
In just over a year, China has gone from a position of avoiding engagement to counter African extremist challenges to one of accepting French military intervention and then offering to contribute troops to a UN peacekeeping operation that includes in its mandate “steps to prevent the return of armed elements” to northern Mali.  This begs the question whether China’s response in Mali portends a more activist approach to countering extremism elsewhere.

Al-Qaeda Changing Its Ways After Leaks

By Kimberly Dozier-June 27, 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. intelligence agencies are scrambling to salvage their surveillance of al-Qaida and other terrorists who are working frantically to change how they communicate after a National Security Agency contractor leaked details of two NSA spying programs. It's an electronic game of cat-and-mouse that could have deadly consequences if a plot is missed or a terrorist operative manages to drop out of sight.
Terrorist groups had always taken care to avoid detection - from using anonymous email accounts, to multiple cellphones, to avoiding electronic communications at all, in the case of Osama bin Laden. But there were some methods of communication, like the Skype video teleconferencing software that some militants still used, thinking they were safe, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials who follow the groups. They spoke anonymously as a condition of describing their surveillance of the groups. Those militants now know to take care with Skype - one of the 9 U.S.-based Internet servers identified by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leaks to The Guardian and The Washington Post.
Two U.S. intelligence officials say members of virtually every terrorist group, including core al-Qaida members, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on what they are reading in the media, to hide from U.S. surveillance. It is the first time intelligence officials have described which groups are reacting to the leaks. The officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak about the intelligence matters publicly.
The officials wouldn't go into details on how they know this, whether it's terrorists switching email accounts or cellphone providers or adopting new encryption techniques, but a lawmaker briefed on the matter said al-Qaida's Yemeni offshoot, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, has been among the first to alter how it reaches out to its operatives.
The lawmaker spoke anonymously because he would not, by name, discuss the confidential briefing.
Shortly after Edward Snowden leaked documents about the secret NSA surveillance programs, chat rooms and websites used by like-minded extremists and would-be recruits advised users how to avoid NSA detection, from telling them not to use their real phone numbers to recommending specific online software programs to keep spies from tracking their computers' physical locations.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said there are "changes we can already see being made by the folks who wish to do us harm, and our allies harm."Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said Tuesday that Snowden "has basically alerted people who are enemies of this country ... (like) al-Qaida, about what techniques we have been using to monitor their activities and foil plots, and compromised those efforts, and it's very conceivable that people will die as a result."
Privacy activists are more skeptical of the claims. "I assume my communication is being monitored," said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch. She said that's why her group joined a lawsuit against the Director of National Intelligence to find out if its communications were being monitored. The case was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court last fall. "I would be shocked if terrorists didn't also assume that and take steps to protect against it," she said.
"The government is telling us, `This has caused tremendous harm.' But also saying, `Trust us we have all the information. The US government has to do a lot more than just say it," Prasow said.
At the same time, NSA and other counterterrorist analysts have been focusing their attention on the terrorists, watching their electronic communications and logging all changes, including following which Internet sites the terrorist suspects visit, trying to determine what system they might choose to avoid future detection, according to a former senior intelligence official speaking anonymously as a condition of discussing the intelligence operations.
"It's frustrating. You have to start all over again to track the target," said M.E. "Spike" Bowman, a former intelligence officer and deputy general counsel of the FBI, now a fellow at the University of Virginia's Center for National Security Law. But the NSA will catch up eventually, he predicted, because there are only so many ways a terrorist can communicate. "I have every confidence in their ability to regain access."

Terror groups switching to encrypted communication may slow the NSA, but encryption also flags the communication as something the U.S. agency considers worth listening to, according to a new batch of secret and top-secret NSA documents published last week by The Guardian, a British newspaper. They show that the NSA considers any encrypted communication between a foreigner they are watching and a U.S.-based person as fair game to gather and keep, for as long as it takes to break the code and examine it.
Documents released last week also show measures the NSA takes to gather foreign intelligence overseas, highlighting the possible fallout of the disclosures on more traditional spying. Many foreign diplomats use email systems like Hotmail for their personal correspondence. Two foreign diplomats reached this week who use U.S. email systems that the NSA monitors overseas say they plan no changes, because both diplomats said they already assumed the U.S. was able to read that type of correspondence. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss their methods of communication publicly.
The changing terrorist behavior is part of the fallout of the release of dozens of top-secret documents to the news media by Snowden, 30, a former systems analyst on contract to the NSA.
The Office of the Director for National Intelligence and the NSA declined to comment on the fallout, but the NSA's director, Gen. Keith Alexander, told lawmakers that the leaks have caused "irreversible and significant damage to this nation."
"I believe it will hurt us and our allies," Alexander said.

"After the leak, jihadists posted Arabic news articles about it ... and recommended fellow jihadists to be very cautious, not to give their real phone number and other such information when registering for a website," said Adam Raisman of the SITE Intelligence Group, a private analysis firm. They also gave out specific advice, recommending jihadists use privacy-protecting email systems to hide their computer's IP address, and to use encrypted links to access jihadi forums, Raisman said.
Other analysts predicted a two-track evolution away from the now-exposed methods of communication: A terrorist who was using Skype to plan an attack might stop using that immediately so as not to expose the imminent operation, said Ben Venzke of the private analysis firm IntelCenter.
But if the jihadi group uses a now-exposed system like YouTube to disseminate information and recruit more followers, they'll make a gradual switch to something else that wasn't revealed by Snowden's leaks - moving slowly in part because they'll be trying to determine whether new systems they are considering aren't also compromised, and they'll have to reach their followers and signal the change. That will take time.
"Overall, for terrorist organizations and other hostile actors, leaks of this nature serve as a wake-up call to look more closely at how they're operating and improve their security," Venzke said. "If the CIA or the FBI was to learn tomorrow that its communications are being monitored, do you think it would be business as usual or do you think they would implement a series of changes over time?"
Terrorist groups have already adapted after learning from books and media coverage of "how U.S. intelligence mines information from their cellphones found at sites that get raided in war zones," said Scott Swanson, a forensics intelligence expert with Osprey Global Solutions. "Many are increasingly switching the temporary phones or SIM cards they use and throw them away more often, making it harder to track their network."
The disclosure that intelligence agencies were listening to Osama bin Laden drove him to drop the use of all electronic communications.
"When it leaked that bin Laden was using a Thuraya cellphone, he switched to couriers," said Jane Harman, former member of the House Intelligence Committee and now director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center. "The more they know, the clearer the road map is for them."
It took more than a decade to track bin Laden down to his hiding place in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by following one of those couriers.

South Asia's boiling cauldronIndia needs to make tough choicesby Harsh V. Pant 27/6/13
Can we start using the word Indian Sub-Continent instead of South Asia.

In one of most brazen attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan in recent times, militants disguised in foreign military uniforms and carrying fake documents attacked an area outside the heavily fortified presidential palace compound earlier this week. The Taliban described the attack as part of its spring offensive and facilitated with “inside help and through special tactic”. It was timed to coincide with the visit of James Dobbins, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, to Kabul for meetings with Afghan officials about the peace talks and came a week after the Taliban opened an office in Qatar to pursue talks with the United States on a political solution to the conflict.

The discussion about these so-called peace talks acquired a new momentum after the Obama administration made it public the other day that it will be starting formal peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar, the first direct political contact between the two since early last year. There was a lot of confusion initially after the Karzai government refused to support American efforts. Kabul was angry when the Taliban displayed the group's flag during their press event and spoke in front of a banner that proclaimed, in Arabic, "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", in effect portraying themselves as an alternative government. Washington was forced to defend itself with President Obama suggesting that it was no surprise there's friction in early efforts to launch peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan's government. The US Secretary of State reportedly had to assure Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the Taliban flag had been removed from the newly opened office and the sign was changed to “Bureau of Peace Talks.”

The Karzai government remains worried about its ability to fend off the challenge from the Taliban after the departure of western troops from Afghanistan in 2014. It certainly would not want the Taliban to gain any international acceptance at this stage. Washington, which is keen on preserving some semblance of normalcy in a country where it has been militarily involved for the past 12 years, wants to enter into some sort of negotiations with its major adversary before it is too late. It faces enormous challenges as was evident over the last few days not only with what has been happening in Kabul but also because of the responses of regional states towards the peace talks.

The Afghan peace talks figured prominently during the discussion in New Delhi with Secretary Kerry for the fourth round of bilateral strategic dialogue. New Delhi perceives Kerry to be too sympathetic to Pakistan's military-jihad complex. Arguing that Pakistan has not got "credit sufficiently for the fact that they were helpful (in getting Osama bin Laden)," Kerry had suggested during his confirmation hearings that "it was their permissiveness in allowing our people to be there that helped us to be able to tie the knots." He has been against adopting a "dramatic, draconian, sledgehammer approach," because Pakistan is too integral to America's supply routes into Afghanistan. He helped broker the release of the CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, arrested on suspicion of murder and also later persuaded Pakistani officials to return parts of a US stealth helicopter that crashed during the May 2011 raid on Abbottabad. It was John Kerry who long ago dubbed the Afghan war “unsustainable,” and he has been a long-time advocate of Pakistan-centric Afghan policy.

India's other worry is the return of the Taliban. Pakistan is leveraging its role in the ongoing transition in Afghanistan by releasing some Taliban leaders and expressing its support for a negotiated settlement there. Islamabad wants to let the Taliban and the Haqqani network loose in post-2014 Afghanistan so that it can exercise control over Kabul. All this leaves India out of the Afghan picture, even though Mr Karzai has wished for an Indian presence to counterbalance Pakistan. The more dominant Pakistan feels in the neighbourhood, the more it may be willing to risk confrontation with India. There have also been damaging media reports that Kerry has struck a deal with the Pakistani Army Chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, whereby in exchange for the Pakistani Army facilitating Washington's talks with the Taliban, the US would ignore the past activities of the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban and work towards a power sharing arrangement with the Taliban.
As such, India has repeatedly made it clear that any peace initiative with the Taliban should not violate the “red lines” drawn up by the international community. India's External Affairs Minister has underlined that India has "from time to time reminded all stakeholders about the red lines that were drawn by the world community and certainly by the participants should not be touched, should not be erased and should not be violated."

During Kerry's visit to India earlier, New Delhi forced him to clarify his stand on the talks when he tried to assuage Indian concerns by suggesting that the talks with the Taliban will only be taken forward under "certain conditions." Kerry also assured India that the United States plans to continue supporting Afghanistan's military and to keep American forces in the country "under any circumstances" after the scheduled combat troop withdrawal in 2014. Washington has also sent its special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins, to brief the Indian government.

It is difficult to see how this will be enough to make India comfortable with the changing American regional priorities. But what is very clear is that the road to negotiations in Afghanistan will be a very difficult one, given all the domestic and regional stakeholders who will need to be reassured. And New Delhi will have to prepare itself for making some tough choices in the coming days. The days of merely relying on “soft power” in Afghanistan are well past their sell by date.  

China's Foray Into Bhutan Worries India

After intruding into the Indian territory of Ladakh, China has made a foray into Bhutan, India's neighbor and one of its closest allies, according to an intelligence note in possession of the Indian news channel, Times Now.The channel reported that China's People Liberation Army (PLA) had intruded into Bhutan and set up three camps and was carrying out patrols
The report comes just months after New Delhi and Beijing had a diplomatic row over a border dispute and alleged intrusions by the People Liberation Army of China. However, the row died down after Chinese troops withdrew from the disputed land at the border.The Indian government is apprehensive about China's increasing presence in the Indian Ocean, intrusions into its areas in recent times and China's dramatic influence over Nepal since the Maoist party came into power.Recently, the Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi Monday told Nepal's Foreign Minister Madhav Ghimire that the new Chinese leadership was interested in ties with Kathmandu, according to the Global Times.
Why does the soldier not vote?
Posted:Jun 28, 2013 

Spotlight: By Lt Gen (Retd) Vijay Oberoi

In the world’s largest democracy, which also boasts of the third largest army in the world, the bulk of officers and men of the Indian Military do not vote. How incongruous and what a blot on the democratic ethos of the country!

But why does the soldier not vote?

There are two broad reasons for this state of affairs. Firstly, our political leadership, never entirely comfortable with the military, did not give much thought to voting by military personnel after Independence. The system prevalent during WW II, viz. ‘postal ballot’ was continued without realizing that it was an incongruous system for a democracy because these ballots seldom reached in time to be valid. I was one who tried voting by postal ballot but gave up in frustration as a wasted effort.

The second reason for the soldiers not voting was internal to the military. The military hierarchies became so wedded to the word “apolitical”, which was and continues to be an article of faith with the Indian military, that they convinced themselves, naively, that voting by serving personnel would mean that the armed forces had become ‘political’! This was a result of not fully understanding the meaning of being “apolitical”. An individual or a group or an institution gets politicized when they align themselves to either a political leader or a political party and then toe their line.  Being aware of political events does not make one not “apolitical”, just as reading communist literature does not make one a communist! It also needs to be highlighted that voters are supposed to vote for individuals and not political parties. All military personnel must cast their votes, for voting can never result in losing one’s “apolitical” status.

It was in the last decade that the Election Commission, as part of refining our electoral system observed that “In successive elections it has been observed that only a minuscule number of service personnel are registered as voters and only a very small percentage of service voters are able to exercise their franchise on timely receipt of their postal ballots. With reduction of campaigning period to 14 days, the system of voting by postal ballots has become almost impractical for the service voters.”

 Consequently, the system of proxy voting was introduced by enacting The Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2003. This legislation amended sections 04 and 60 of the Representation of the People Act,1951 and section 171(d) of the Indian Penal Code1860. Thereafter in 2009, the Election Commission also clarified that military personnel could be enrolled as general voters at the place of their posting, and added that: "It is desirable that no member of the Armed Forces should remain unregistered as a voter and that all service personnel, including those posted in far flung areas, are made aware under their preferred category. A proactive approach is to be adopted to achieve this, with commanders playing a vital role in educating the troops about the importance of adult franchise and the options available to the soldiers for voting.”

With these wide-ranging changes, multiple avenues have opened for voting by military personnel. These include direct voting in their own constituencies if they happen to be there, voting through proxy in their own constituencies, or voting in their duty stations.

There are pros and cons of voting either at the home constituency by appointing a proxy, or at the place of posting. Let me first deal with voting by proxy. The soldier is no doubt in touch with his family but his knowledge of persons standing for election from his constituency is likely to be nil or at best poor. Since time is at a premium, a proxy vote may well see the fate of the earlier postal ballot and may become invalid by reaching late. There are other negatives too. Extraneous factors of caste, creed, religion and even unlawful inducements continue to prevail. In addition, the vote bank syndrome is active and there is danger that the soldier’s vote may be cast by his proxy for his preferred person/party without the knowledge of the soldier.

When the soldier opts for voting in the place of his posting, the above mentioned infirmities are removed and he has the satisfaction of casting his vote for the candidate he has selected. However, there may be some administrative problems, like quantum of access to be given to candidates for canvassing, keeping in view security aspects, non-obstruction of training schedules and daily routine of the soldiers and similar related issues. These are not difficult to overcome if the military authorities lay down Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in consultation with the local officials of the Election Commission. Let me add that in most of our cantonments we do have Cantonment Board elections and they are conducted smoothly, without disrupting the routine activities in the station. On balance, I favour voting in station of posting by our officers and soldiers.

Voting in elections is a sacred duty of the entire polity in a democracy, and the polity includes all military personnel. We must encourage our soldiers to cast their votes in elections. Voting does not mean that military personnel would become politicized. They will remain as “apolitical” as they were earlier. They would also feel they are in the mainstream of the nation, and not aliens who only observe while civilians cast their votes and proudly display the mark on their finger showing they have voted.

Before the general elections scheduled for 2014 there are a number of state elections. All military personnel must vote in these too. It is the hierarchy of the military that needs to take a lead in this regard, as in all other endeavours of the military.

Come November, do we see the three Chiefs and the senior officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force Headquarters taking the lead in voting in the coming elections in Delhi? Those in Delhi Cantonment will automatically follow.

(Lt Gen (Retd) Vijay Oberoi is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff and can ve contacted at