Tag Archives: Maoist insurgencies

India: a perfect storm


Pollyannas had looked to“the emerging economies” – China, India, Brazil, etc. — for growth to help ward off worldwide economic recession, as the Western economies and Japan stumbled.

It’s clear that isn’t going to happen. China is trimming its sails to dampen inflation, braking unlimited infrastructure expansion at any cost to produce jobs while trying to meet increasing constraints on its subsidized exports. Brazil, with a new administration enmeshed in traditional corruption, faces a commodities export crash while fighting off devastating import competition for its domestic manufacturing from its major customer, China.

But largely ignored — what with the dramatic Euro crisis and a threat of double-dip American recession –   is the more important emerging economy, India, now slipping back into its traditional morass. At stake was the hope 1.5 billion people, almost a quarter of the human race, could move with democratic values into a modern society. That possibility was long seen as counter to “the Chinese model” which economically successful, possibly temporarily, is essentially oldstyle Oriental despotism.

Heading the list of New Delhi’s woes is a leadership deficit. Italy-born, 64-year-old Mme. Sonia Gandhi, widow of a former prime minister and backseat driver to the ruling Congress Party, has been secreted away to New York for cancer surgery [if by a noted Indian émigré physician]. She leaves behind a power vacuum, not only in her ruling Party but in government. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a technocrat, increasingly is drowning in massive corruption, growing inflation and a flight of capital escaping crippling bureaucracy.

Rahul Gandhi, Mme. Sonia’s 41-year-old son, has yet to prove he has the charisma of three generations of independence leader Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s family who imperiously have dominated politics – if, arguably, preserving national unity. Caught in India’s worship of priestly figures, a traditional hunger strike by an anti-corruption hero, Anna Hazare, was mishandled. [Mr. Singh has had to backtrack from Mr. Hazare’s arrest.] The government, correctly, is terrified Mr. Hazare’s high-minded tactics could be appropriated by mushrooming anti-government, anti-business campaigns, further paralyzing governance and the economy.

India’s international role, too, is in jeopardy. Naïve Washington hopes for a U.S.-India alliance against Beijing’s growing aggressiveness have been dashed. American forgive and forget efforts have dawdled in extending nuclear and other advanced technologies after New Delhi defied the world to build atomic weapons — matched by Pakistan with Chinese and North Korean assistance. American vendors recently were shockingly left off the short list for a $10 billion fighter plane bid. There’s suspicion stricter American anti-bribery laws than notorious European “incentives” played a role. A 25-year-old case against Mme. Sonia’s deceased husband, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, for a Swedish purchase was recently shelved, more or less indecisively.

Meanwhile, decades of addiction to a Moscow alliance continues among India’s diplomats, illogical as it might be what with growing Russian arms delivery failures and Moscow’s massive military sales to China. Furthermore, India’s proposed huge overseas defense purchases may not meet its security requirements. Mr. Singh has called India’s greatest threat “Maoist” insurgencies in a dozen Indian states. New Delhi and state governments have passed responsibility for their suppression back and forth with little success. These social conflicts grew out of pro-Chinese proclivities of Bengal’s Communists whose 30-year hold on Calcutta, India’s second city, was recently broken, probably only temporarily.

After three and a half wars, negotiations continue fitfully to reach a compromise with Pakistan, the twin regime bloodily carved out of British India over half a century ago. With its own Muslim population as large as Pakistan’s, Indian leaders increasingly appreciate an implosion there would threaten its own breakup. But terrorists with tentacles leading from Pakistani military through the perennial dispute over Indian occupation of Kashmir are torturous, made even more dangerous by occasional clashes of regular forces such as took place in early September. Washington, after fitful attempts, has failed to mediate the feud, caught between aiding a bankrupt Islamabad and attempting to warm post-Soviet Cold War relations with India.

This picture is clouded further by New Delhi’s fishing in troubled ethnic waters in Afghanistan, and Pakistan itself. The Pushtoon terrorist hotbed on the Afghan border is where Pakistani, Indian and Chinese interests conflict. China, meanwhile, continues a campaign of seduction of Pakistan, a massive Tibet buildup, including missiles and probably nuclear weapons, as well as infiltration in the Himalayan border states of Nepal and Bhutan and at both eastern and western ends of the 1500-mile frontier.

sws-09-02-11

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Petraeus’ day job


Whatever else oozed out of Washington’s recent Afghanistan flap, recognition that Pakistan is key to winning America’s longest war may be the most important. Both new Afghanistan Supremo Gen. David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen finally have got around to saying so publicly.

It is late coming.

Obviously, as in all wars, there will be a final political settlement. But in most wars that would come only when one side demonstrates overwhelming power. After a decade the U.S. may well be at the tipping point. That is behind Afghanistan Pres. Hamid Karzai talking of accommodation and frenetic shuttle diplomacy by Pakistan Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.

But victory in Afghanistan – if only modestly denying future sanctuary for international terrorists who produced the 9/11 long-range attack – also will demand a truce among cantankerous neighbors. Yet willful ignorance of the Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indian incestuousness has dominated Washington strategies. “We will treat India and Pakistan’s interests completely separately”, went the Bush Administration’s mantra.

At this very moment, the relationships are entering new convoluted crisis:

Pakistan is clumsily shifting from presidential to parliamentary government. The changeover loosens ethnic rivalries and empowers more petty politicians. Meanwhile, figurehead Pres. Asif Ali Zandari fends off humongous corruption charges virtually everyone in the country believes. To compound the disorder, an activist judiciary is trying to establish paramountcy. The only virile national institution, the military, runs a parallel government after Washington helped ditch Pres. Gen. Pervez Musharraf — perhaps poised for comeback if his old alter ego, Kayani, leaves for scheduled October retirement.

Overall, always fragile Pakistan despite sharp internal divisions is unanimous in seeing a friendly Afghanistan as quintessential to its survival. Vast and intricate geographic, historical, ethnic and religious ties bind the two countries. But suffice it to say that current enemies for both Washington and Islamabad – and New Delhi — were a byproduct of American assistance through Pakistan in the successful anti-Soviet Afghan war.  Some of those “holy warriors” want to turn back the clock to a pre-modern regime such as the one which housed Osama Ben Ladin. It is no wonder then, that in Kayani’s former spy command, Interservices Intelligence Directorate, old individual ties to terrorists abound — for better and for worse.

But to put the argument in its crudest form, having fought three and a half wars with India, Pakistan’s largely secular political class constantly looks over its shoulder at New Delhi as it tries to fend off rising Islamic extremism. New Pakistani-Indian bilateral discussions toward settlement have regained momentum. But they come when Kashmir, keystone to their conflict, is seething with anti-Indian violence.

True, Pakistan in the past has fed that conflict. But that more than half a million Indian security forces cannot pacify an area the size of Minnesota suggests another political compromise is necessary. Uncharacteristically, India’s military chief just said so publicly. But India treads warily with its own Muslim minority larger and intimately related to Pakistan’s 156 millions. Furthermore, India’s dozen so-called Maoist insurgencies which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh designated the country’s biggest security threat, are increasingly attacking economic targets.

None of this has slowed New Delhi’s Afghanistan intrigues. For India, too, claims the country is vital to its security. From New Delhi’s viewpoint Afghan instability partially checkmates Pakistan and its “all-weather” ally, Communist China. With no real progress in the Tibetan border conflict – Beijing scored a short but decisive war in 1962 – this puts Afghanistan on the list of Indian strategic priorities.

New Delhi’s $1.2 billion in aid is deftly leveraged. And an appreciative Mr. Karzai’s flirtation with India infuriates the Pakistanis. Islamabad recalls New Delhi’s longtime efforts with its then ally, the Soviet Union, to exploit the same borderland Pushtoon tribals who now provide the terrorists’ sanctuary. [Mr. Karzai refuses to accept the 19th Century British India-Afghanistan border which slashes through these tribal areas, his own ancestral home.]

When Pres Barack Obama made a feint at this fundamental problem by naming boisterous Richard Holbrooke super-ambassador to all three countries, New Delhi demurred loudly. As the Bush Administration before it, Mr. Obama hoped to use massive aid to Pakistan — $10 billion over five years — as leverage along with emerging strategic ties with India [if unspoken, against expanding Chinese power]. But Holbrooke has been reduced to barking around the edges of the bloated U.S. ambassadorial network that Petraeus is likely to find his greatest headache. [It was injudiciously targeted by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s staff in the infamous Rolling Stone article.]

Furthermore, India rejects international arbitration in Kashmir after refusing a 1950s UN plebiscite which it might well have won. Hanging on is now not only seen as strategic militarily but retaining the Himalayan region’s 10-million mostly Muslims is “proof” of India’s claim to “secularism” – in a country where recent history records too many Hindu-led depredations against Muslims.

Some in Washington see Petraeus with political ambitions. If so, now here is a political problem to cut his teeth on which would make any Potomac River circus look like child’s play.

sws-07-02-10