Free Speech, Indian Ishtail: Sid Harth
A risky neighbour
- June 10, 2011
- By Arun Kumar Singh
While no one in India was really surprised that Osama bin Laden was finally located and killed by US Navy Seals in Pakistan, the location of Bin Laden’s safe house, next to the Pakistan military academy in Abbottabad, shows how deeply committed Pakistan’s Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are to supporting global terror.
Ironically, Pakistan has milked the US to the tune of $20 billion in aid and military reimbursement over the past decade, and then used American taxpayers’ money not only to fund global jihad but also to buy military hardware from its all-weather friend, China.
Indeed, the sole beneficiary of the Abbottabad raid appears to be China, which has 11,000 People’s Liberation Army troops in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), ostensibly to repair/ build the Karakoram highway, and lay the oil pipeline which will link Pakistan’s Chinese-gifted and strategically-located Gwadar port (360 nautical miles from the straits of Hormuz in the oil-rich Gulf region), where Chinese oil tankers would offload the Gulf oil for onward pumping to the troubled Xinjiang province.
A recent gesture by India is relevant here. While announcing an aid package of $500 million to Afghanistan in Kabul, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that “India is not like the USA” and ruled out any surgical strikes to eliminate Dawood Ibrahim, who masterminded the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts and now lives in Karachi’s posh Clifton beach area.
While giving humanitarian aid to Afghanistan is strategically in India’s interests, Dr Singh’s “no surgical strike” statement is perhaps as damaging to India’s interests as former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha’s recent statement calling for surgical strikes.
While Pakistan will choose to ignore Mr Sinha’s statement as an Opposition leader seeking to score some brownie points, it would be emboldened by Dr Singh’s reiteration of “no Indian punitive action”.
Unsurprisingly, ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, while appearing before the Pakistani senate, is reported to have assured the senators that “Pakistan had already selected targets in India (for a retaliatory Pakistani counterstrike), and had carried out rehearsals”, should India undertake any surgical strikes in Pakistan against terror camps or against Dawood, or against any of the 26/11 masterminds.
A look at US laws indicates that any operation to kill foreigners (be they political leaders or terrorists) is not permitted, and requires special presidential approval (which was accorded by US President Barack Obama for the operation against Bin Laden).
In India no such provision exists, and in any case such operations would require a very high-level of sustained human and technical intelligence, which is simply not available, since successive governments in the last two decades have “defanged and misused” the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau.
So, is there no option for India, other than employing “diplomatic pressure” and exchanging files? (Notably, Pakistan’s foreign secretary recently dismissed the files pertaining to the 26/11 attacks as “outdated”.) It also appears that Dawood Ibrahim is well beyond the purview of “outdated” files.
There are three options before the Indian government should it ever decide to “neutralise” the perpetrators of 1993 and 2008 Mumbai attacks. The first is the much-hyped “surgical strike” by the Indian military, which, in my opinion, will lead to conventional war at best, and a nuclear exchange at worst.
The second option is an operation based on high-level intelligence — which is not possible, since our RAW would be hard put to emulate Israeli secret service Mosad’s example of sending dedicated small hit-teams to foreign countries to neutralise terrorists.
The third option, which may be viable (since it has deniability built into it), is to pay and utilise local Pakistani hit men to eliminate terrorists. To my mind the Indian government will not use the third option, as India has always occupied high moral ground in the international arena.
Pakistan, which has used its military and terrorists for conventional and unconventional attacks on India (and on Indian targets in Afghanistan), is under no such self-imposed constraints. Indeed, given Pakistan’s frustration over the American operation of May 2 in Abbottabad, one needs to study Lt. Gen. Pasha’s recent statement with great care and prepare for the worst.
Because of the current anti-Pakistan sentiments in the international community, Pakistan is unlikely to start a conventional border war with India, though it has used its Army and rangers to fire at Indian border outposts to “raise Pakistani Army’s morale”.
However, because of public discontent and growing anger of its home-grown terrorists against the US operation in Abbottabad, the ISI will be very tempted to distract attention from it by using terrorists to mount a spectacular attack against India. How will this attack take place, given India’s somewhat improved internal security apparatus, is the question which must be getting debated at ISI headquarters.
In view of Lt. Gen. Pasha’s recent statement that “Pakistan has its contingency plans ready and rehearsed”, a strike, or a series of strikes, using sleeper cells in India are possible.
The recent terrorist attack on Pakistan Navy’s Mehran airbase at Karachi (PNS “Mehran”), which resulted in the destruction of two P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft, is an indication that future 26/11-type attacks on India could also target Indian Air Force and naval assets for maximum mileage.
So while Indian “experts” study the use of American stealth helicopter technology, jamming of Pakistani radars and communications and superb intelligence to mount the May 2 “Kill Osama” operation by highly-trained and well-equipped US Navy Seals, and while our security forces clamour for similar equipment, it’s time for India to go into maximum red alert to neutralise the any terror strike by rehearsing its own contingency plans.
Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam
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Coming back to your advise, oops, uncalled for advise as an OP-ED piece, of all the places, DC, couldn’t you just mailed it to the government? Par, e-mailed it. Perhaps, texted it. Perhaps taxed, oops, faxed it. Perhaps, simply dialed their super secret channel (Channel No 5) and uploaded it, oops, unloaded it at a harried general, oops, commander, oops, secretary of state, oops, Home minister?
Humor aside. I would like to debate with you. Any place. any day or night, Any time, of DC’s choosing. DC being the moderator of this public debate. DC holds all the rights, including but not limited to, wire transmission, wireless transmission, hard cove book rights, paperback book rights, Bollywood movie rights. Hollywood movie rights. Rights on prequels and sequels included.
I am serious, this time. Let’s do it, oops, do the lunch over it. Call me. I am waiting.
…and I am Sid Harth
The previous best answer was wrong. I quote that answer, “akbar.”
My good buddy, M J Akbar was the editor-in-chief, the last time I heard. M J Akbar and yours truly go a long way back. Once upon a time, MJ and I shared a black list. The publisher was someone, hundunet.org, a fascist, fundamental outfit, probably belonging to Yankee Hindutva brigade, Vishva Hindu Parishad or RSS’ other franchisee, Hindu Wishva Kendra, HVK, perhaps, Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh, HSS. Anyway, his name and my name, along with those others, including N Ram of the Hindu appeared on that fascist list. Osama Bin Laden headed the list, along with Musharraf.
I had an occasion to cross swords with MJ when he was editing or guest editing an American magazine, perhaps CBS, perhaps, Time, one of those. I commented on his OP-ED piece mentioning his stalwart leadership and his very accurate critique of Sangh Parivar. The comment appeared. I copied it and the next moment it vanished. I believe that MJ got heebeejeebies with my reference. Oh, well. Water under the bridge. I miss him. Go tell him so. If you can find his bench.
He is not in that position/job at the Deccan Chronicle presently. M J Akbar, since then, has moved north. Good for him, All that southern heat must be making him all sweaty and bothersome. He is an editor of Hindustan Times of New Delhi. Not the Editor-in-chief, though. A move which was praised by his friends, including yours truly, a long time ago. I wonder, if he is still battling, oops, batting for them. Haven’ heard from him or read about his very critical editorials in HT. Perhaps, he is benched.
Have a nice day.
…and I am Sid Harth
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…and I am Sid Harth