“Weapons do not cleave this self, fire does not burn him; waters do not make him wet, nor does the wind make him dry.”
“He is uncleavable, He cannot be burnt, He can neither be wetted nor dried. He is eternal, all-pervading, unchanging and immovable, He is the same forever.”
“He is said to be unmanifest, unthinkable, and unchanging. Therefore, knowing him as such, thou shouldst not grieve.”
- Srimad Bhagavad Gita
We wish our loyal readers a happy and prosperous 2005. This year starts on a tragic note with the passing of Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao and National Security Advisor J.N Dixit. The architects of India’s post Cold War policy have passed the torch to a new generation of leaders. Both Prime Minister Rao and J.N Dixit have long and distinguished careers of service to the nation. They are credited with the current success enjoyed by India in economic, political, and international arena. A deeply indebted nation mourns their loss. The December 26, 2004 Tsunami wreaked devastation on the Bay of Bengal community and caused ripples as far as Africa. The shockwave spread 1000 km in approximately two hours and caused a shocking amount of destruction. The death toll nears 300,000. However, many more lives are threatened by food shortage, disease and economic deprivation. The mobilization of financial and humanitarian aid by the global community is impressive. The long term consequences of the tragedy will be staggering as the afflicted regions are lucrative tourist destinations or areas of civil strife. India has mooted a joint warning system for future security and stands as a shining example of a country, though a victim of the natural disaster, mobilized to help affected neighbors. We congratulate the disaster management teams and Indian armed forces for quickly rising to the challenge to help those in need despite grievous losses at Car Nicobar.
2004 can best be summed up as the “Year of the Election”, from Spain to India, US to Australia democratic people voted for their government. The most important election and the one with global fallout was the American election. Aside from the domestic issues separating the candidates, foreign policy vision was a significant factor in the elections. Americans clearly favored an action oriented policy and the Bush administration seems to have taken up the new mandate with enthusiasm. The inaugural speech, in sharp contrast to the one delivered four years ago, focused almost exclusively on America’s new Manifest Destiny of bringing freedom to the world. While the reference is obvious to the regime change and elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, many have speculated to possible future intervention against perceived undesirables. A cabinet reshuffle is intended to streamline the team as well as the message. The nomination of Dr. Condoleeza Rice to Secretary of State sends a distinct message. Foreign policy will form the center piece in the new administration and is to be handled by long trusted advisors. The relatively peaceful Afghanistan election was billed as a success of American policy. President Karzai’s victory over numerous candidates and his temporary sidelining of various warlords has won him platitudes in the West. The post election peace in Afghanistan may be punctuated with renewed spring violence with increased infiltration across the Durand line. Mullah Omar has already foreshadowed this in his renewed call for Jihad. President Karzai’s visit to Iran to repair relations after the Herat incident is a reminder that Afghanistan cannot wish away its neighbors despite substantial western support.
The last three months have seen the US led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) taking aggressive steps to control violence in the run up to the elections in Iraq. The elections are an extremely important step in President Bush's visions of democracy and freedom in the Middle East. In November, 2004 the CPA decided to clean up the city of Fallujah. Readers may recall that Fallujah, a city with a large number of Sunnis and former Baathists had become the center for anti-American activity and was widely reputed to be the home base for Al Qaida's terrorist operations. The clean-up of Fallujah took several weeks and involved eight battalions of US forces and Iraqi police units. The operation targeted mosques believed to be the centers of terrorist activity. Though the operation was posted as a military success, many noted that the CPA Forces had failed to seal the city before initiating the operation. This had created a route for the insurgents to escape with fleeing refugees. Also allegedly CPA Forces failed to close off the underground infiltration channels like sewage tunnels immediately after they took the city. This slowed the pacification process. These operational issues cast a shadow over the entire operation as did the high profile cases of excesses by US troops. In sum however the operation in Fallujah represents the beginnings of a maturation of COIN philosophy in the Iraqi context. The basic (but strategically sound) ideas of immediate gain in the CPA have motivated a somewhat ungainly advance into the city. This advance has met with opposition common to a COIN environment. The opposition will over time enhance moves towards a reappraisal of the COIN ideas prevalent in the US and the CPA. The CPA has successfully built a stability window around the time of the Iraqi elections. This window will aid its ability to negotiate with the various Iraqi sectarian and ethnic factions in the context of the election. The possibility of spectacular attacks however will remain, as will a belt of instability running towards the Syrian border.
In Pakistan, the last three months have seen a number of interesting developments, with potentially long-term consequences on the country's stability and its relationship with India. In the first two weeks of January, the Balochistan insurgency flared up, with the most significant event being the attack on the Sui Gas Plant, Pakistan's largest natural gas production facility. Gas supply to the whole of Pakistan was severely affected by this event. The immediate reason for this flare up was the gang rape of a female doctor at Sui by the Pakistani army soldiers, including an officer of the rank of Major, and the subsequent coverup by military and civilian authorities. However, tensions had been simmering in the province even before this event. The Pakistan army has decided to crack down on the insurgency and has already announced plans to construct a new garrison at Sui. Locals are also being forcibly cleared from an area in the radius of 15kms from the Sui Gas Plant. The situation is still tense with a new set of rocket attacks on gas pipelines in Balochistan on January 30th, leading to a power blackout in many parts of Pakistan. Aside from Balochistan, ethnic tensions have flared up in other parts of Pakistan in the last few weeks. The Northern Areas of Pakistan occupied Kashmir witnessed ethnic tensions after the murder of the prominent Shia leader - Agha Ziauddin Rizvi in Gilgit. In the subsequent Shia-Sunni clashes, at least 23 people died in Gilgit and Skardu. Though the situation is now peaceful, the region remains a tinderbox with continuing threats of a flare-up. Karachi continued to see sectarian killings, including of a prominent Shia cleric on January 29th. There were also a series of drug-gang related killings with ethnic undertones.
There have recently been some reports about American and British Special Forces conducting training in Pakistan. The training is ostensibly to prepare for an invasion of Iran, using Pakistan as one of the bases for the military operation. One important and publicly stated concern of the United States has been that Pakistan's nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of terrorist organizations, particularly if there is a violent coup d'etat against the current regime. Recent hearings in the United States Congress have tried to elicit an assurance from the US Government that there is a plan in place to deal with such an eventuality. The fact that the existence of such a plan has not been denied gives rise to interesting possibilities on why the US and UK special forces are training on Pakistani soil.
On the external front, the composite dialogue with India continues apace. There were talks between the Permanent Indus Commissioners of the two countries regarding the Baghliar run-of-the-river power project. After there was no resolution in these talks, Pakistan decided to take the case to the World Bank for appointment of a neutral expert. This precipitate action on the part of Pakistan has not gone down well in Kashmir itself, with all political groups in the state strongly supporting the project and the Chief Minister of the state even terming it Kashmir's jugular vein. It has particularly exposed the hollowness of Pakistan's claim of standing up for Kashmiri interests. However, there is confidence in official circles in India that the Baghliar project does not violate the Indus Water Treaty, which specifically allows India to construct run-of-the-river power projects.
The events in Jammu and Kashmir were dominated by the peace process between India and Pakistan and its effect on the ground in the state. The ceasefire along the Line of Control and the International Border held throughout the year but violations by terrorists continued along with their gruesome activities. There were nearly 2000 violent incidents in the state, which included attacks on government installations, kidnappings, rape and beheading of civilians, assassination of political leaders across the spectrum, and random bombings of populated areas. On the positive side the fencing along the IB and LOC was completed and the troops were equipped with electronic surveillance devices to detect infiltration.
In October a delegation of Pakistani journalists visited the state, traveling to both Jammu and Srinagar. They freely interacted with political leaders and common people and perceived the actual ground realities in the state. Indian journalists were invited to areas of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir as well as Lahore and Islamabad to gauge public opinion. The exchange was organized jointly by the Indian and Pakistani chapters of South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) and its theme was aptly stated by the seminars held in New Delhi and Islamabad focusing on reconciliation and resolution of conflict.
In November, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the state after announcing the withdrawal of troops from both the Jammu and Kashmir regions. The maiden rally at the Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium was almost attacked by two terrorists who had taken position in a nearby abandoned building. Both were killed by the vigilant security forces. The PM did not offer any concessions to the separatist leaders or their mentors across the border. Instead he stated that there would be no cajoling to bring them to the negotiating table and no redrawing of borders. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled a Rs. 24,000 crore economic package for J&K to be spent over the next four years. This would include the re-opening of government jobs for local youth, the rapid completion of hydro-electric power projects, cleaning of the Dal lake, and boosting tourism in the state. The completion of the Jammu-Udhampur railway line, increased cell phone subscription, and the investment by major companies is strong indicator of the positive improvements in the state.
Cover image: Kamal Kishore/Reuters Yahoo Photos & AFP/File/Raveendran
Bhagavad Gita in Hindi Chapter 2 verse 23, 24 & 25: www.bhagavad-gita.org
Bhagavad Gita English translation of Chapter 2 verse 23, 24 & 25 The Bhagvadgita translated by S. Radhakrishnan.