Tuesday, February 26, 2013



‘The Hindu” of February 26,2013, has carried an article  titled “ No Solace In This Quantum of Accountability” written by Samir Saran, Vice-President, and Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, Programme Co-Ordinstor of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).It is about the accountability of the intelligence agencies.

2. My views on accountability are well known and I do not feel the need to repeat them. I wanted to comment on the following observation by the two writers: “ If folklore has it right, if R&AW had a charter, it would have legally pre-empted a former Prime Minister’s order to abandon operations in Pakistan. It cost India 30 years worth of accumulated ground assets and priceless reach.”

3. The reference is apparently to former Prime Minister Inder Gujral. It is not correct that Gujral ordered the R&AW operations in Pakistan to be abandoned. The R&AW had two kinds of operations in Pakistan---- for intelligence collection and covert action.

4.He ordered only the operations for covert action to be closed since he felt that such a gesture might facilitate his efforts to improve relations with Pakistan under the so-called Gujral Doctrine. He did not order the intelligence collection operations to be discontinued. It would have been stupid on his part  to have done so. He, like all our Prime Ministers before and after him, understood the importance of a good intelligence collection capability in Pakistan. What he ordered to be closed accounted for only about 15 per cent of the R&AW’s operations in Pakistan. He encouraged the remaining 85 per cent to continue.

5. There was a debate in the intelligence community over the wisdom of his order to wind up the covert action operations. Many senior officers met him and explained to him that building a covert action capability took a long time. If one day the Government felt the need for resuming covert actions, there would be no trained and experienced assets on the ground. It was suggested to him that if he felt strongly on the subject, the covert action operations should be suspended, but not discontinued. He could not be convinced.

6. When the NDA Government under Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee came to office, the intelligence community was hoping that he would cancel Gujral’s decision and order  the resumption of covert action operations in Pakistan. To their surprise, they found that Vajpayee too, like Gujral, wanted the R&AW to focus on intelligence collection in Pakistan and avoid operations for covert action.

7. Some serving officers, who felt disappointed by the reluctance of Vajpayee to  resume covert actions, arranged a meeting for me with Brajesh Mishra, the then National Security Adviser. I met him in his office in New Delhi, and explained to him the importance of resuming our covert action operations in Pakistan.

8. He gave me a patient hearing and said: “ I am already convinced. You don’t have to convince me. But the Prime Minister (Vajpayee) thinks otherwise. We have to carry out his wishes.”

9.There the matter ended. Even if the R&AW had a charter, there was no question of its being able to pre-empt Gujral’s orders. As R.N.Kao used to say, the R&AW and the IB are the two clandestine swords of the Prime Minister. It is upto him to decide how they will be used. His desires and orders have to be observed. No intelligence chief can overlook them---charter or no charter. (26-2-13)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India)

Saturday, February 23, 2013



( Written at the request of the Economic Times, New Delhi, and carried by it on February 23,2013)

The two blasts in the Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad on February 21,2013, in which 14 persons are reported to have died, cannot be categorized as mass fatality terrorism. The blasts were directed at soft targets in a crowded area. Details available so far do not indicate what could have been the motive or who might have been the perpetrators. The police as well as the public should refrain from speculation that could mislead and distort the investigation.

2. The improvised explosive devices (IEDs) did not have any unique signature. The explosive used does not appear to have been of a sophisticated kind . Fertiliser-based ammonium nitrate, which is easy to procure and which can be lethal when mixed with certain chemicals, is the main suspect for the present. For many years now, terrorists in many countries have been using ammonium nitrate-based IEDs, for their acts of terrorism.

3. Expertise in the fabrication of IEDS using ammonium nitrate as the core material is available in many web sites run by terrorist organisations. No special training is required in the matter. In Western countries, the counter-terrorism agencies have been able to reduce the use of ammonium nitrate by terrorists by imposing strict regulations on their storage and sale to persons who are not genuine farmers. We are yet to impose and enforce similar regulations in India.

4. If it turns out that ammonium nitrate has been used once again for an act of terror, priority should be given to measures for imposing such regulations in India.

5. Our counter-terrorism agencies continue to face the threat of sporadic acts of terrorism carried out by individuals or groups wanting to give vent to their anger against the State or other communities. While our police and intelligence agencies are able to collect intelligence regarding sustained acts of terrorism by groups with known objectives, targets and modus operandi, they face difficulty in monitoring the activities of individuals and groups indulging in sporadic acts of terrorism triggered by anger of the moment due to some reason or the other.

6.While sustained domestic terrorism of the kind witnessed before 2008 is by and large under control, sporadic attacks of the kind witnessed in Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad pose a problem for our intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies.

7. The State Police have to play a more active role in preventing sporadic acts of terrorism and they have to be assisted by the central agencies. The National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which has remained a non-starter due to reservations from some States ruled by non-Congress parties, might have strengthened the joint capability of the Centre and the States for preventing sporadic terrorism. The absence of a political consensus on the NCTC leaves a big gap in our counter-terrorism architecture.

8. We face three kinds of terrorism--- state-sponsored terrorism emanating from Pakistan, domestic terrorism of a sustained nature  and domestic terrorism of a sporadic kind. While the threat of state-sponsored terrorism from Pakistan continues, it has not repeated itself after the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. Domestic terrorism of a sustained nature of the kind that we witnessed in 2007 and 2008 due to the activities of the Indian Mujahideen has been disrupted by the action taken by our central agencies and the State police to identify and disrupt their sleeper cells. Terrorism of the sporadic kind continues as seen in Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad

9. Shri P.Chidambaram, who took over as the Home Minister after the 26/11 terrorist strikes, managed to strengthen our capabilities against all the three kinds of terrorism. His drive, though sometimes controversial as in the case of the NCTC, kept our agencies on their toes. The kind of vigorous leadership that he provided to our counter-terrorism efforts, has been missing since Shri Sushil Kumar Shinde took over from him last year. Counter-terrorism leadership is once again in a state of  decline as it was before 26/11.

10. Terrorists---whether the Pakistan State-sponsored or the domestic kind---- are looking for weaknesses in our counter-terrorism architecture which they can exploit to step up their activities. Incidents like those of Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad and our inability to detect them and identify the perpetrators definitively, will enable them as well as Pakistan to take advantage of the weaknesses that seem to be re-emerging in our counter-terrorism capabilities.

11. Without effective and dynamic leadership, even the best of counter-terrorism machinery will fail to deliver. Such leadership and drive have been missing under Shri Shinde’s stewardship of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

12. The Prime Minister, assisted by his National Security Adviser and the National Security Council Secretariat, which is part of the PMO, has to play a more active role for reversing this decline. Otherwise, we may be in for another nasty surprise as we faced on 26/11.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India. )

Friday, February 22, 2013



It is less than 48 hours since the two blasts in the Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad on the evening of February 21,2013, resulted in the death of 16 innocent civilians.

2. The police and the intelligence agencies are still in the preliminary stages of the investigation. They have not yet done a reconstruction of the act of terrorism. The collection and examination of the forensic evidence have not yet been completed .No arrests and interrogation have been made yet.

3. Instead of waiting till the investigation makes substantial progress, the police and the agencies, with the help of sensation-hungry media, have already started pointing the finger at the Muslim community, the Indian Mujahideen and Pakistan.

4. If there is terror, it has to be a Muslim. If he is a Muslim, he has to be from the IM. If it is the IM, it must have acted at the instance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). That seems to be the thinking reflex of the police and the agencies.

5. In October last, according to the Delhi Police, a Muslim suspect belonging to the IM told them during his interrogation that the IM had recced the Dilsukhnagar area as a possible target. From this, one could have reasonable suspicion that the IM might have carried out the attack. To strengthen the suspicion, one must have additional evidence which has not been forthcoming till now. Despite this, the police and the agencies in their mind have already  turned the suspicion into certainty. Almost the entire investigation is now focused on the IM, overlooking other possibilities.

6. One cannot think of a more unprofessional way of dealing with terrorism. Very often, our initial hasty conclusions remain unproved or uncorroborated. That is why the investigation of so many of our terrorism cases  has reached a dead end. Many of the cases  remain undetected or unprosecuted or unsuccessful even if prosecuted.

7. After every few months, we are taken by surprise by a new act of terrorism because we didn’t investigate professionally the previous acts of terrorism. Our track record has been one of hurtling from one hasty conclusion to another.

8. Instead of learning lessons from the past, we continue repeating the same mistakes. Imprecise intelligence, alerts not followed up by ground action to strengthen physical security, lack of beat patrolling by the police despite our talking about it for years, absence of professional reconstruction of an act of terrorism to determine how the terrorists managed to succeed, cover-up of the sins of commission and omission of our police and agencies----- that has been our track record. Unless we get out of this unprofessional rut, terrorists will continue to strike with impunity and innocent civilians will continue to die. ( 23-2-2013)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter: @SORBONNE75)

Thursday, February 21, 2013



Eleven persons are reported to have been killed and over 20 injured in two well-timed explosions in the Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad around 7  PM on February 21,2013.

2. Initial reports indicated that one of the improvised explosive devices had been placed in a cycle or motor-bike and the other inside a tiffin box.These reports are yet to be confirmed. The two blasts appear to have been well-timed and not remote-controlled.

3.I do not so far see any sign of sophistication in the assembly of the IEDs and the synchronization of the blasts. There are no reports of any crater on the ground.If a powerful explosive material had been used, there would have been craters at the place where the IEDs had been placed.

4.The deaths and injuries seem to have been caused by the power of the blasts and not by the use of any projectiles such as nails, bicycle ball-bearings etc.When an IED is placed in a cycle or motor-bike, there would naturally be projectiles in the form of the splinters, but no other projectile has been discovered.

5.Reports of damages to nearby buildings also do not indicate the use of any powerful explosive material. The timer might have been of a conventional nature in the form of a mechanical ( with a clock attachment) or chemical device.

6.Two timed IEDs of this nature could have been easily assembled and planted by one or two terrorists. The involvement of a large team is unlikely.

7.The limited geographical area of the blasts also rules out the involvement of a large team of terrorists.The objective of the perpetrators was obviously to cause fatalities as an act of reprisal.

8.The indications till now are that the two blasts are the handiwork of locals who were in a position to assemble the devices quickly and use them.

9.Till more evidence is forthcoming, it would be advisable not to speculate on the motive and the possible identity of the perpetrators. (21-2-13)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi. Twitter @SORBONNE75 )

Friday, February 15, 2013



The 12 AgustaWestland helicopters ordered for the Air Force for VVIP duties were meant for use by the Special Protection Group (SPG) for the transport of SPG protectees and also for the transport of other VVIPs not entitled to SPG protection. While the Air Force was responsible for the procurement of the best copters available and for their maintenance and for providing the crew for manning them, the SPG was responsible for indicating to the Air Force before the procurement the minimum safety and comfort requirements that must be met by the copters.

2. All that the late Shri Brajesh Mishra, the then National Security Adviser, reportedly did in 2003 was to point out in file that the inputs from the SPG had not been adequately reflected in working out the minimum requirements that the copters should meet. He did the right thing in doing so and it would be absurd on the part of anyone to contend that his action contributed the first step in the chain of wrong-doing relating to the final procurement that came about in 2010.

3.The wrong-doing came about during the subsequent action on the contract for finalizing the financial and other details. It would seem that someone in India as well as abroad claimed credit for bringing about the changes in the minimum requirements consequent upon the action of Shri Mishra and made illegal financial gains.

4.The copter scam brings to mind the Bofors scam of the 1980s when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. When the first details of the Bofors scam emerged in 1987,it became apparent that a small group of persons close to Rajiv Gandhi in India and Europe had financially benefitted from the contract.

5.Instead of ascertaining the truth, the Government of Rajiv Gandhi entered into a huge charade to prevent the truth from coming out. While making a huge pretense of having the matter investigated through the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and enquired into by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, the Government actually tried to have the illegalities covered up.

6.The truth of the illegal dealings ultimately emerged despite the cover-up exercise mounted by the Government due to some independent enquiries made by some brilliant journalists of the print media, with “The Hindu” being in the forefront. Despite the brilliant investigative reporting by the print media, the wrong-doers in India and Europe managed to escape prosecution due to the cover-up by the Government and its complicity in protecting the wrong-doers.

7. The CBI under Rajiv Gandhi came in for criticism for acting as a cover-up and not an investigating agency. Under Rajiv Gandhi, the CBI’s reputation hit the mud. It let itself be used by the Government as a willing tool for ensuring the cover-up.

8. It needs to be underlined that the huge web of corruption surrounding the Bofors contract did not vitiate the original decision of the Army to go for the Bofors, which played an important role in defeating the Pakistani intruders during the Kargil conflict of 1999.

9. It is important to keep this in mind because there have been demands for the cancellation of the contract for the delivery of the Westland copters. We should take a professional and not a self-righteous decision in the matter based on our evaluation of the performance of the three copters already delivered and their suitability for VVIP duties. We have already delayed by more than a decade the procurement process and a further delay as a result of any cancellation may  not be advisable.

10. At the same time, public and political opinion should ensure that a Bofors-like cover-up is not repeated by using the CBI as a tool for a diversionary exercise to prevent the truth from coming  out. India Against Corruption of Anna Hazare and the Aam Admi Party of Arvind Kejriwal as well as our media should play an active role in this matter.

11.One cannot expect a thorough-going investigation by the CBI so long as it acts under the supervision of the Government in the investigation. The CBI team investigating the copter scam should be placed under the day-to-day supervision of a special team of legal luminaries to be constituted by the Supreme Court. In the Bofors scam, the CBI team was placed under the supervision of the JPC which was dominated by the Congress and it saw to it that the CBI did not go after the truth.

12. There are three sets of wrong-doers in the copter scam. The first are the Indian nationals involved. The names of some close relatives of a former Air Force Chief have come up in this connection. Possibly, there are others. In the Bofors scam, the Indians in India and the diaspora managed to escape prosecution due to the protection extended to them by the then Government. We should see that this does not happen now.

13. The other two sets are intermediaries in Europe who played a role in the scam and senior officials of the Italian mother company (Finmecannica). The success of the CBI in establishing the truth about their role would depend on the co-operation extended by the Italian, Swiss and other European Governments. Here, the pressure of our diplomacy would be important.

14. In the Bofors scam, the Swiss and Swedish authorities were willing to co-operate, but it was the Rajiv Gandhi Government which avoided taking their co-operation lest the truth come out. Public and political opinion should see that this charade is not repeated by the present Government. (16-2-13)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter:@SORBONNE75  )














Wednesday, February 13, 2013




North Korea’s third nuclear  test  was not secretive. Its first two tests were with plutonium. One does not know whether it used plutonium or enriched uranium in the third. There were indications from Pyongyang about the impending test. It spoke well of the Kim Joing-un regime that it was speaking openly of the impending test even at the risk of its being a failure. We had seen similar transparency earlier in respect of a rocket launch that failed in April last. Transparency in such sensitive matters likely to have an impact on national prestige reflects its confidence in its scientists and its ability to withstand any adverse political impact of a failure.

2. The long history of collusion between North Korea on the one side and Pakistan and Iran on the other in the clandestine development of nuclear and missile technologies is well known. This collusion started when Zukfiquar Ali Bhutto was the Pakistani Foreign Minister before the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war and continued for many years thereafter. The missiles for nuclear technology exchange between North Korea and Pakistan added to Pakistan’s missile capability against India in exchange for North Korea developing a military nuclear capability. China was in the picture regarding this collusion. The exchanges of visits by the political leaders and experts of North Korea and Pakistan took place via China. Some of the road consignments from North Korea were received by Pakistan via the Chinese constructed Karakoram Highway.

3.However, one had not seen new evidence of continuing collusion ever since the clandestine activities of Pakistani scientist A.Q.Khan were exposed in 2004 and seeming action was initiated against him by Gen.Pervez Musharraf under US pressure. This does not mean that the collusion had stopped after A.Q.Khan was exposed and placed under house arrest. It only means that the two countries probably used more clandestine and restricted exchanges.

4. North Korea’s persistence on the nuclear-missile road poses serious threats to the security of Souh Korea, Japan and the US and is a matter of concern to China too which would not want a rogue state as its perceived ally.

5.It also poses a threat to the national security of India because of the past Pakistani links and Israel because of the past links with Iran. Till now, the US has been trying to neutralize North Korean capabilities through sanctions. They have not worked so far and will not work in future. Sanctions never worked against Pakistan and have not worked against Iran.

6.US hopes that China will collaborate  in making North Korea see reason have been belied so far. It will not be in China’s interest to weaken North Korea which would benefit Japan and South Korea.

7.The US has to think of  neutralizing North Korea’s capabilities through covert action to make its computer network dysfunctional and other means. The US should join hands with Japan, South Korea, India and Israel to target North Korea’s nuclear and missile establishments through covert action.

8. Israel would be happy to co-operate in this venture. India should be too.

9. This may please be read in continuation of my article of 2003 titled   'The Pakistan-North Korea nexus' at rediff.com/news/2003/apr/ ( 13-2-13)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre for China Studies. Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )


Tuesday, February 12, 2013



Intelligence agencies have to be accountable to the Executive. Otherwise, there will be no secrecy in their functioning. Without effective secrecy, there cannot be clandestine collection of intelligence having a bearing on national security. Nowhere in the world ---not even in the much cited US--- is the executive not primarily responsible for the effective functioning  of the clandestine agencies.

2.However, in an increasing number of democracies, the Executive voluntarily shares with the legislature part of the responsibility for monitoring the performance of the secret agencies to ensure their competence to protect national security and to prevent wrong-doings.

3.In the US, the Executive and the Congress negotiate from time to time the ground rules for sharing this responsibility. The ground rules are so designed that in the anxiety to provide for accountability, the capability of the agencies to function as the clandestine arm of the State is not blunted.

4.The US Congress now has the following powers in respect of the agencies of the intelligence community:

·      To satisfy itself regarding the professional suitability of the heads of the agencies. The Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee goes into the suitability of designated heads and has to confirm their appointment.

·      To go into the overall budgetary allocations for different agencies and satisfy itself that correct national security priorities are observed in making the allocations. The Congress does not, however, go into allocations for individual clandestine operations. For example, the Congressional Oversight Committees decide whether allocations made for monitoring nuclear developments in North Korea are adequate and appropriate, but cannot go into how the allocations are utilized on individual operations.

·      To examine the intelligence produced  by the agencies to satisfy itself that they adequately meet the national security needs.

·      To enquire into instances of wrong-doing by the intelligence agencies.

5.The Executive and the two Houses of the Congress decide for themselves as to how they will exercise their shared responsibility without encroaching on each other’s turf. The culture of bipartisanship in the US facilitates decisions relating to intelligence agencies being taken by the Executive and the two Parties in the Congress in continuous  consultation with each other. Congressional leaders exercise their shared responsibility in such a manner as not to weaken national security.

6. The time has come  to consider the introduction in the Indian intelligence community the concept of shared responsibility between the Executive and the Parliament for monitoring the performance of the intelligence agencies. Certain difficulties will arise in this regard which have to be addressed first:

·      In India, we still do not have the concept of an intelligence community functioning as an organic whole. Each agency functions as an autonomous unit.

·      Our intelligence agencies were set up under executive orders and not through an act of Parliament. Unless there is an act of Parliament formalizing the existence and functioning of the agencies, the question of a parliamentary role will remain vague

·      There is no bipartisan culture in India. We have a multiplicity of political parties and coalitions. How to lay the ground rules under which a Parliament with a plethora of parties will play a role in monitoring the performance of the agencies? The more the parties involved in monitoring the performance of the agencies the less will be the secrecy. The concept of a national security culture has not evolved in our political class. Consequently, there will always be attempts by different parties to embarrass each other than to strengthen the intelligence community.

7.While I have always been a strong advocate of giving Parliament a role in monitoring the performance of the agencies, before this can be done the issues mentioned above have to be resolved through multi-party consensus. While the US model may not suit India, the British model can be considered for adoption with suitable changes and safeguards.

8.In the British model, the Prime Minister continues to play the leadership role in deciding the ground rules for joint Executive-Legislature monitoring of the performance of the agencies. Under the British political culture, the political parties do not challenge the primacy of the Prime Minister in matters relating to the intelligence agencies.

9. If we have to introduce the system in India, the political parties have to accept the primacy of the Prime Minister in matters relating to the secret agencies and the Prime Minister and the ruling coalition have to concede that the time has  come to give the Parliament a role in this matter.

10.Once there is a gentlemen’s agreement on this, the nuts and bolts can be decided through joint consultations. ( 13-2-13)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi.Twitter: @SORBONNE75)





It will be incorrect to compare the execution of Ajmal Kasab,Pakistani member of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), for his involvement in the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, with that of Afzal Guru, an Indian citizen from Jammu and Kashmir for his involvement in the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13,2001, believed to have been mounted by the Jaish-e-Mohammad.(JEM), a Pakistani jihadi organization.

2. Kasab was a Pakistani citizen who was a member of the LET .He had voluntarily got himself trained by the LET for participating in the execution of the terrorist strike. He was one of the perpetrators who was seen carrying out the killings. The evidence against him was direct and documentary in the form of video recordings. There were no grounds for doubt and no mitigating factors.

3.In the case of Afzal Guru, the evidence produced by the prosecution before the court clearly showed he was a conspirator and an accomplice, who had facilitated the attack on the Parliament by voluntarily providing logistics assistance to the JEM perpetrators who carried out the attack. However, whereas Kasab was a perpetrator, Afzal Guru was an accomplice and facilitator, who did not actively participate in the attack on the ground.

4.The gravity of the JEM attack on the Parliament was as serious as that of the LET attack in Mumbai. Nobody can question the appropriateness of the death penalty awarded to him.

5.However, there were many mitigating factors in the case of Guru. He was an Indian citizen from an alienated province of India. He was not known to have been an active member of any jihadi terrorist organization of India . He had reportedly undergone training in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir as a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in the early 1990s, but the JKLF has since dissociated itself from acts of terrorism. He had no previous record of involvement in any act of mass casualty  terrorism in Indian territory. He was an accomplice and not a perpetrator.

6.Political wisdom and foresight demanded that these mitigating factors should have been taken into consideration while deciding whether it was a fit case for carrying out the death penalty or whether ends of justice would be served by commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment.

7.In the competitive pre-poll attempt to show who is stronger in dealing with terrorism, the Government  and the BJP seem to have overlooked these mitigating factors and used Afzal Guru’s execution as an unfortunate yardstick to establish their strong counter-terrorism credentials.

8.This is likely to prove counter-productive and aggravate the threat of terrorism instead of helping to bring it under control ( 11-2-2013)

( The writer is Additional Secretary ( retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Friday, February 8, 2013



 The intelligence agencies would have examined in depth the likely security implications of the execution of Afzal Guru this morning for his involvement in the attack on the Indian Parliament in December,2001, and taken necessary precautions not only in Jammu and Kashmir, but also in the rest of India.

2.They would have studied in detail the kind of security problems our agencies faced after the execution of Maqbool Bhatt of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in the Tihar Jail in 1984 for his involvement in terrorism.

3. The circumstances in 1984 were not as complicated as they are today. We had to contend with only dangers of retaliation by the Kashmiri terrorist organisations.

4.In 1984, we were not faced with dangers of possible retaliation by Pakistani jihadi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. They were busy fighting the Soviet troops in Afghanistan and the attention of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence was also in Afghanistan.

5.They were not in a position to mount instant retaliation. Their retaliation was delayed till 1989 after the Soviet troops had withdrawn from Afghanistan.

6.Today, all these groups, particularly the LET and the JEM which played a principal role in the attack on the Parliament, are well primed against India and are in a position to mount quick retaliatory attacks not only in J&K but also in the rest of India with the help of their accomplices such as the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Indian Mujahideen.

7.Our security focus has to be pan-India. (9-2-13)


( The writer is former Additional Secretary , Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )



As in previous years, the Tibetans are not celebrating their New Year’s Day this year too which falls this month.

2.Tibetans in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR),Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan as well as the Tibetan diaspora abroad, including in India, are observing their New Year’s Day as a day of mourning and prayers in memory of 99 Tibetans who have so far committed self-immolation ( 80 of them fatal) in the Tibetan areas of China to demand their freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Lhasa.

3.Their hopes that the advent of a new Chinese leadership headed by Mr.Xi Jinping could mark a relaxation of the suppression in the Tibetan areas and a willingness to address the grievances of the Tibetans have been belied so far.

4.Since Xi took over as the Party General Secretary from Mr.Hu Jintao in November last year, the Party has shown no inclination to re-consider its policies of suppression and forcible integration of the Tibetans which has driven many young Tibetan monks and others to take the desperate step of self-immolation to draw the attention of the international community to their plight.

5.Instead of recognizing the continuing self-immolations as an expression of desperation and anguish, the Chinese have been projecting them as part of a conspiracy against Beijing mounted by His Holiness and the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) and other external organizations such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

6.Instead of sympathising with the relatives and friends of those who committed self-immolation, they have been rounding them up and prosecuting them on a charge of instigating the self-immolations. Eight of them have already been sentenced after sham trials to various terms of imprisonment, including one of suspended death sentence.

7. In the face of this wave of suppression to put down the self-immolations, the Tibetans in India observed five days of solidarity with the Tibetan struggle for freedom. They observed a day of prayers on February 1 at New Delhi that was attended by about 1000 people including many Indian opposition leaders.

8.Lobsang Sangay, Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, has said the convictions  were unfortunate because “repression is the cause” of the self-immolations.

9.Sangay said it was unfortunate that the Chinese government had resorted to “sham” trials that had “no basis or legal process.”

10.He said he had asked Tibetans around the world not to celebrate the Lunar New Year this month out of respect for those who have died from the self-immolations.

11.“As a form of condolences and solidarity to all those Tibetans inside Tibet … I have asked Tibetans not to celebrate, not to organize any festivals, but to wear traditional dress and go to monasteries and pray for all those who have died and continue to suffer in Tibet,” he said.

 12.It was gratifying to note the greater public interest in the Tibetan cause in New Delhi this year, but it has to spread to other parts of India, which are hardly aware of the continuing tragedy in Tibet.( 9-2-13)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )


Sunday, February 3, 2013



China, which already has a new party leadership since the Party Congress in November last, will be having a new State leadership  from next month.

2.Mr.Xi Jinping, who took over as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chairman of its Central Military Commission (CMC) in November last, will be taking over as the State President from Mr.Hu Jintao at the end of the National People’s Congress (NPC) next month. Mr.Li Kekiyang will be taking over as the Prime Minister from Mr.Wen Jiabao.

3. One does not know much about the personal leadership style of Li , but from what one had seen since November, Xi will not be a carbon copy of Hu. He is more smiling and relaxed, more forthcoming, less bureaucratic and less formal in his interactions with his colleagues and juniors.

4. He believes that military strength comes out of economic strength and that further developing the Chinese economy should have the primacy of attention. He also realises that China’s economic gains might be diluted if corruption is not controlled and that corruption among public servants comes not only out of greed, but also out of an unhealthy desire for status.  Austerity in personal and public life is, therefore, stressed by him..

5. During his first visit to Guangdong after taking over, many noticed the conscious lack of ostentation in his travels and interactions. Lack of ostentation is emerging as a defining characteristic of his leadership style. It remains to be seen whether he is able to retain it as the State President.

6.In China, the leadership transition takes different routes in the Centre at Beijing and in the provinces. At Beijing, it takes place first in the party and then in the State. In the provinces, it often takes place first in the provincial administration and then in the Party. As a result, one can err in assessments.

7. In Tibet, for example, hardliners owing loyalty to Hu and his policies, have moved into new leadership positions in the administration. From this, it will be wrong to conclude that the hardline policies of Hu will be followed by Xi too. In the provinces as in Beijing it is the party that exercises the command and control over the administration. We have to wait to see what kind of party leadership emerges in  Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia before assessing whether we might see new minority policies with Xi characteristics.

8. Under the leaderships of Mr.Jiang Zemin and Hu for nearly two decades, one had seen two constants in Chinese foreign policy---- the anxiety to keep in step with the US and the EU in economic matters sans allowing nationalistic urges to distort its economic policies and to keep testing the waters for a more assertive role in the region without needlessly provoking the US. These constants, which are adjudged by the CPC as in its national interests, are likely to continue under Xi too.

9. Four other constants are also likely to continue---- the strengthening of strategic and economic relations with Russia and India, keeping a wary eye on Japan and slowly expanding its interests in Pakistan. Pakistan will continue to be an important factor in China’s South Asia policy and we have to keep a wary eye on it. It will be suicidal to think that China’s interest in Pakistan will ultimately decline. It won’t.

10. The new Party leadership has already made it clear that there will be no dilution of its territorial sovereignty claims vis-à-vis Japan in the East China Sea, some ASEAN countries in the South China Sea and India across the Himalayan border. It will follow nuanced approaches in relation to Japan, the ASEAN countries and India. While it has not hesitated to make vigorous policy moves in relation to its claims in East and South China Sea, it has avoided a confrontational posture towards India.

11. China, under the new leadership, will continue to maintain peace and tranquility across the Sino-Indian border without making any unilateral concessions in the Arunachal Pradesh sector. Keeping the issue alive without letting it become a tinder-box will be the policy.

12.China does not have a policy of countering India by developing a foothold in South Asia. Rather South Asian  countries have a policy of countering India by inviting China to their lands. China has no policy of a necklace of pearls in the region, but the countries of the region have separately  and independently been following a policy of putting a Chinese shackle on Indian hegemonistic urges. How are we going to deal with it?

13.It is in our interest to keep the Tibetan heart beating in this region. Decades of suppressive policy from the days Hu was posted  as the party in charge for Tibet have not been able to crush the independent spirit of the Tibetan youth and monks and their desire for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Lhasa. The self-immolations since 2009, which have reached the figure of 99, are an indication of the total failure of the Chinese suppressive policy in the Tibetan areas. Suppressive policies towards the Uighurs in the Xinjiang province have also failed to produce results. One hears reports of stirrings of ethnic/Buddhist separatism in  Inner Mongolia.

14. Under the leaderships of Jiang and Hu which came to power after Deng Xiao-Ping, China has emerged as a major economic and military power of the region, but the suppressive minority policies inspired and fashioned by Hu with his experience of association with Tibet have made China’s peripheral areas inhabited by ethnic, religious and cultural minorities, despite their economic development, pockets of increasing anti-Han alienation. Hu’s rigid line on talks with  the representatives of His Holiness has led to an indefinite suspension of these talks.


15. Without  more liberal and empathetic minority policies China’s periphery will continue to be its Achilles Heel. Now that Hu will no longer be there, can one expect a policy change in a positive direction? Xi has not given an indication on this subject so far either at the November Party Congress or subsequently. He seems to believe like other Han leaders that rapid economic development and integration will weaken separatist sentiments. Tibet has shown that this is unlikely to happen.

16. Without showing an open interest in developments in the Tibetan areas, India has to find ways of quietly working for more empathetic policies by the new Chinese leadership.

17.There have to be two constants in India’s relations with China. We must continue to expand and strengthen the economic bridges with China and the regional co-operation mechanisms with which both countries are associated. Secondly, taking advantage of the more nuanced Chinese attitude to India in relation to the border dispute, which is less contentious as compared to its attitude to its sovereignty disputes in the East and South China Seas, we should be exploring the possibility of  mutually acceptable border adjustments in the Arunachal Pradesh Sector instead of depending on an eternal status quo.

18.China prefers the status quo presently because its military position in Tibet, while steadily improving, does not give it overwhelming superiority against us. It should be the objective of our military policies that China, either on its own or through its increasing presence in Pakistan, is not able to achieve such overwhelming superiority. China’s interest in the status quo and in peace and tranquility across the Himalayan border will remain only so long as it has no asymmetric advantage over India. To deny it such an asymmetric advantage should be the aim of our quest for new dimensions of strategic relations with the US, Vietnam, Japan,  and Australia. Our head-start over China in the Indian Ocean Region has to be maintained in co-operation with the US and Australia.

19. How to achieve a new web of strategic relationships without weakening the present momentum towards better bilateral relations is the challenge before our diplomacy and military strategists as we seek to engage the new Chinese leadership. (3-2-13)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd),Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )