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Trump Visits India: A Humiliation for the Unhinged Modi Haters


Kanwal Sibal

IFS (Retd.) & Advisory Council

Opinion makers, especially in Israel, should be careful not to fall prey to the propaganda of India’s opposition circles against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party government. Political parties ousted from power, civil society elements and the ultra-leftist student community are pushing an ideological narrative against what they call the “right-wing” BJP and its “nationalist” agenda.

They are agitating about violence against minorities, the poor and the traditionally oppressed classes – the “dalits”- with no relation to the realities on the ground. Leftist elements, widely present in the free Indian media, are actively fostering this narrative.

The English-speaking, westernized urban elites, who have wielded and enjoyed the perquisites of power for decades, feel politically orphaned because power has shifted to those – non-English speaking, non-westernized, more rooted in Hindu culture and civilization – who don’t belong to their privileged group. India’s Muslim minority has traditionally voted against the BJP because of its “Hindu” character.

The BJP, led by Prime Minister Modi, won the 2014 national election with its own majority, against all expectations. It won even a bigger electoral victory in 2019, again contrary to political predictions. This explains the mounting vehemence of the opposition to the prime minister and his party, and their latching on to any issue which could be exploited to create unrest and resistance on the streets. In a hugely diverse society, pockets of dissent and dissatisfaction are a fact of democratic life. But the opposition is trying to compensate for their inability to counter the government politically, in parliament.

Prime Minister Modi has increasingly acquired the profile of a major world leader through his many well-planned visits abroad, marking India’s aspirations to play a larger international role. He has strengthened strategic ties with the U.S., preserved close ties with Russia, engaged China’s leader – despite serious bilateral differences, actively participated in G20 and BRICS forums, deepened understandings with the Gulf countries, and, of course, forged very productive ties with Israel.
Opposition circles in India have therefore decided to broaden the scope of their attacks on the prime minister and the BJP, in a bid to tarnish their image abroad in ways that would appeal to “liberal” political, academic and media circles in the West. For that a narrative, they’re projecting the idea that Modi and his party are right-wing nationalists, anti-secular, anti-Muslim, intolerant, guilty of violating human rights, and so on.
A highly-loaded political vocabulary – one that would immediately attract attention in the West because of Europe’s own bitter experience – is used by some vocal Indian political and media commentators against Prime Minister Modi and the BJP. They use terms such as genocide, fascism, Hitler, Mussolini, Holocaust and Nazi tactics. Israelis, whether in the media or civil society, should be concerned that such a loose use of terms actually trivializes the abominable atrocities against the Jews. This kind of thoughtless exaggeration ought not to be reproduced uncritically in the Israeli media.
All this outpouring of hate-filled propaganda against the Modi-led government has been triggered by the amendment of India’s Citizenship Act in December 2019 by the Indian parliament, after an intensive debate during which the government answered all the opposition’s questions, including the perceived anti-secular nature of the amendment. The legislation was passed through an open, transparent and fully democratic process, with the support of some opposition parties. The constitutionality of the legislation has, nonetheless, been questioned by opponents and the matter will be adjudicated by the Supreme Court of India. This is consonant with the robust functioning of India’s democracy.

The Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA) allows persons belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Christian faiths who have illegally migrated into India over the last 65 years from three neighboring Islamic countries (Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan), to acquire Indian citizenship on a relatively fast track basis. The CAA was necessitated by the precarious lives these religious minorities had been living for many years, deprived of the benefits of Indian citizenship. It was a situation that could not be redressed without amending the existing citizenship law.

These minorities entered India for many reasons – persecution, discrimination, physical insecurity, threat of forcible conversion, protection of their womenfolk. They could only migrate to India, as no Muslim country would either accept them or give them citizenship.

In 1947, the non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan, mostly Hindus and Sikhs, constituted about 23 percent of the population; today they constitute about 5 percent, with Hindus at about 1.65 percent. In 1971, at the time of Bangladesh’s creation, Hindus constituted 19 percent of the population, whereas in 2016 they constituted only 8 percent.

This should be contrasted with the number of Muslims in India: according to the 1951 post-partition census, there were 35 million; their estimated number today at about 200 million (rising from 9.8 percent of the total population in 1951 to 14.2 percent in the 2011 census). Not only that, Muslims have occupied the highest positions in the country in all domains; the Indian constitution protects the rights of all minorities; and Muslims, along with other minorities, are given special rights in managing their religious and educational institutions.

Muslims from Bangladesh are amongst those who have entered India illegally over the decades. They did so not because of religious persecution discrimination, physical insecurity or threat of conversion. Previous Bangladesh regimes, unfriendly towards India and linked to Pakistani agencies and local Islamic elements, encouraged this migration as part of a policy to create a more intensively-populated Muslim belt in Indian districts adjoining Bangladesh. This was a strategy to manipulate politics to create security pressures on India.

These illegal Muslim migrants can return to their country of origin, after, of course, they are identified as illegal migrants. The Indian government estimates that there are about 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants in India, a figure officially conveyed to Dhaka as early as 2003. The exact number can only be determined after a citizenship roll is established.

The government has repeatedly clarified that the CAA aims to grant citizenship on a one-time basis to a particular group of persons with no alternative options, and not to revoke the citizenship of anyone, much less an Indian Muslim. The CAA has a cut-off date of December 31, 2014, after which no illegal immigrant, whether Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Christian or Muslim would be eligible for citizenship under the amendment. In this larger sense, the CAA is by no means anti-Muslim.

India is probably unique amongst major powers in not having a citizenship register; the system of national identity cards does not exist. This is an anomaly for a country that has open border of 1758 km with Nepal, a longer porous 4096 km porous border with Bangladesh, a 4056 km un-demarcated border with China and a 3323 km contested border with Pakistan. Ironically, all these neighboring countries have citizenship rolls of their own.

Before being divided in 1947, India was one country. Lines were drawn on the ground, not on the basis of defensible borders but in response to the religious composition of the population. No natural frontiers therefore exist between India and its neighbors – except in the north, with the Himalayas. Cross-border movement is therefore easy. This has been made easier over the years because of the fact that India is not a security state, and the policing of its borders has been lax.

India’s 200 million Muslims are spread all over the country. When Muslims from a neighboring country like Bangladesh enter the border districts of India illegally, they merge with the local population. If, as is the case at present, no citizenship register exists, over time it becomes very difficult to identify them. Local politics comes into play, especially in a democratic country where competing political parties canvassing for support promise to shield the illegal migrants from eviction in exchange for their votes.

India continues to be a major victim of cross-border terrorism from Pakistan. Sea-borne Pakistani terrorists caused mayhem in Mumbai in 2008, in which several Israelis too were brutally murdered. The shocking April 2019 terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists in Sri Lanka is a reminder of India’s vulnerabilities in its south. Muslim extremists are active in Bangladesh too. With the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, its links with Pakistani agencies, the emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan, India’s concerns about the spill-over of religious extremism and terrorism from the Pakistan-Afghanistan soil have got exacerbated.

All this necessitates, for sovereignty and security reasons, that India has a proper citizenship roll. For good governance, to ensure that the beneficiaries of government schemes are genuine citizens, for maintaining social harmony, and  to prevent illegal migration in the future as well, such a roll is essential. India also has to plan for the future, for the repercussions of climate change, including the triggering of mass cross border movement into India. The government has proposed a National Register of Citizens (NRC), but it has stepped back from the proposal for the time being, because of an opportunistic opposition campaign which accuses it of being anti-Muslim in intent.

Outside observers need to better understand the dynamics of internal politics in a raucous democracy like India. But they’re not trying to understand the issues dispassionately. Western liberal circles – political, academic and in the media – have picked up the CAA and NRC controversy in India to campaign against Prime Minister Modi’s government, because they realize they can frame the issues in terms of hot-button topics like refugees, migration, targeting of minorities and the rise of nationalism, all of which have international resonance.

In the process, they themselves show disrespect for India’s democracy. They forget that Prime Minister Modi was elected as India’s leader through the largest-ever democratic exercise in human history, winning more than 550 million votes, in an electorate of 830 million.

The irony is that despites western liberal calumnies, the leaders of western democracies do see shared values of democracy, pluralism, human freedoms and private enterprise with India as a strong basis of partnership at a time when powerful authoritarian regimes are projecting their political and economic systems as superior to liberal western systems. These shared values are constantly highlighted when India and western leaders meet and issue joint statements.

When President Donald Trump visits India on February 24-25, this same confidence in shared values will be on show again. However, America is itself deeply domestically polarized, with American liberals assailing the president for a variety of illiberal sins. The sense and purpose of the Trump visit is therefore not linked to any endorsement that it may signal for India’s democracy and the current policies of the government.

One can assume that Trump has no quarrel with some of the steps the Indian government has taken in its internal affairs, though the U.S. State Department has made some prescriptive pronouncements on them. But the issues of protecting national borders, erecting walls against illegal immigration and imposing visa restrictions on travel from specific Islamic countries present themselves differently for India, the U.S. or Israel. India is dealing with past illegal migration as an internal administrative issue linked to identifying its citizens, without making any external interventions.

In the interest of their own credibility, the foreign media should not neglect its responsibility to ensure objective reporting. Opposition elements in India support their narrative of “fascism” by citing repeatedly a few stray comments by Hindutva ideologues in the 1930s about Hitler, when India was under the British colonial yoke. Some nationalists at that time may well have thought that India would achieve freedom if the British were defeated in WWII.

The BJP, portrayed as “fascist” and Hitlerite, because of its supposed ideological roots, has actually been the strongest supporter of Israel for a long time in the Indian political establishment. The leftists and others who hurl these accusations have been most anti-Israel. Prime Minister Modi and the BJP, once in government, have been the architects of the very strong ties between India and Israel that flourish today.

To claim that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh cadres are Nazis in khaki uniform who march with arms is a pure fabrication. What’s being conjured up is a Nazi-like extermination of millions in India. That’s how far those Indians writing for the Israeli press are willing to go to purvey hate-filled fiction.

Some commonsensical questions arise. How can “220 million” Indian Muslims be in danger of disenfranchisement and being made stateless, as is alleged in one Haaretz article? That would mean abrogating the Indian constitution, ending judicial independence, muzzling the press, and, in fact, creating civil war in the country. Not to mention the grave international implications of such an egregious step. Prime Minister Modi’s aspiration is, to the contrary, to accelerate India’s growth, build a $5 trillion economy by 2024, and make India a leading power that believes in the rule of law.

Israelis, of all people, surrounded as they are by external threats, Islamic extremism and terrorism, should understand more than others why India needs a proper national register of citizens. And Israel’s own citizenship laws should help Israeli opinion makers understand the logic, purpose and, as it happens, the limited scope of the amendment made to India’s Citizenship Act by Prime Minister Modi’s BJP government.

What’s up with China

Gopalaswami Parthasarathy
Ambassador of India to Myanmar & GCTC Advisory Board Member


Negotiations for complete withdrawal of Chinese troops in Ladakh are continuing in what is likely to be a long-drawn out process. The ground situation in Ladakh will change, around mid-November, when the winter commences. While several reasons have been given for the intrusions in Ladakh, there is one inescapable reality. China does not respect the inviolability of what India regards as its existing borders. At the same time, China refuses to present a detailed map on where in its view, the borders/LAC, emanating from the 1962 conflict, lie.
Any negotiations on resolving the border issue are meaningless, until China presents India with its maps, depicting its version of the LAC. It periodically extends its borders, triggering conflict and tensions. It has no interest in serious negotiations on the border issue, even though the guiding principles for resolving differences were agreed to in 2002, between PMs Vajpayee and Wen Jia Bao. India has, therefore, to be prepared for border tensions, as long as this situation continues. While another flare-up cannot be ruled out, we should decide how we are going to deal with China politically, diplomatically and militarily. Chinese media reports depict a sense of Chinese disdain for India’s policies and capabilities.
Complementing China’s hostility are its long-term policies to ‘contain’ India through supply of nuclear weapon designs and development of plutonium facilities to Pakistan. This is complemented by China’s continuing supply to Pakistan, of fighter aircraft, tanks, missiles, radars, UAVs, howitzers, frigates, submarines, etc. China has also extended unprecedented support to Pakistan in international forums, including the UNSC on the issue of J&K. China also deals directly with governments in PoK. It undertakes construction of roads and hydel projects across PoK. Moreover, it continues to support leaders and parties in South Asia that are none too friendly towards India, as it is doing in Nepal and has attempted earlier, in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bangladesh.
China received an unexpected jolt to its policy of coercively violating the maritime boundaries of all its neighbours, including Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Leaders of the 10 ASEAN member states demanded on June 27 that territorial and other differences in the South China Sea should be settled in accordance with the provisions of the UN Convention of the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). They asserted: ‘UNCLOS sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.’ China has crudely used maritime military power to enforce its illegal claims. The primary motive for such behaviour is that the maritime space China is seeking contains 11 billion barrels of untapped oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. China now faces ASEAN countries that have objected to its bullying and territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. India, on the other hand, has settled its maritime boundaries with all its eastern neighbours.
The strongest statement against China for its bullying was by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who averred on July 13: ‘Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with might makes right.’ Beijing’s approach has, however, been clear for years. In 2010, then-PRC foreign minister Yang Jiechi told his ASEAN counterparts that ‘China is a big country and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact.’ This Chinese predatory worldview has no place in the 21st century. The US has simultaneously resorted to a display of military power. It has deployed two aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, directly challenging China’s coercive policies. Adding to China’s woes are the pressures from the US and others, for its actions in curbing democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, which are clearly in violation of China’s 1997 agreement with the UK. The US and Japan are also considering moves to dilute their existing economic relationships with China, even as China seeks to build a new relationship with Iran, involving an investment of $400 billion in the petroleum sector.
India needs to activate the recently established Quad for formulating a strategic framework to deal with China’s challenges and territorial ambitions in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. The Quad should associate Indonesia and Vietnam on issues of maritime security, across the Straits of Malacca. We should, similarly, work with the US 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, and France, which has a naval base in Djibouti, to cooperate in guaranteeing the security of energy supplies. India’s credibility will be vastly enhanced by supplying Vietnam Brahmos missiles that it has for long asked us, for its maritime security, in the face of continuing Chinese attacks. There is also need for a more focused effort on the well-documented accounts of China’s atrocities on its over one million Muslims, who are detained in concentration camps, prisons, and forced labour, while being subjected to electrocution, water-boarding and beatings. In the ultimate analysis, India will have to make it clear to China that seeking territorial gain by refusing to spell out the contours of the LAC would not work to its advantage.
Peace has returned to the Galwan valley, for the present. Our Parliament and people would justifiably want more details of the implications of what has transpired during the Chinese incursion into Ladakh. One looks forward to these issues being discussed frankly in our Parliament. A national consensus is imperative, if we are to successfully deal with the challenges a growingly assertive China presents to India and the world.

No more than dummy PM

Gopalaswami Parthasarathy
Ambassador of India to Myanmar & GCTC Advisory Board Member


Whenever I analyse the policies of PM Imran Khan, my mind goes back to meeting Imran, the cricketer, when I was India’s Consul General in Karachi in 1982. I had hosted a reception for the visiting Indian cricket team led by Sunil Gavaskar. Members of the Pakistan cricket team also attended the reception. The Consul General’s residence was located opposite the residence of Benazir Bhutto. She was then under arrest, ordered by military ruler, Gen Zia-ul-Haq. (Dawood Ibrahim now lives royally in the nearby Defence Housing Society). Imran devastated our batting in that series. Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath were among the few batsmen who read and played Imran’s devastating reverse swing consistently and confidently.
Karachi was a cosmopolitan city, where one could chat with Pakistani friends over drinks. I asked a friendly Pakistani commentator what motivated Imran to bowl with such venom. I was told that when Imran was asked why he bowled with such fire against India, he replied: ‘I do not regard it as a game. I think of Kashmir and regard it as a jihad.’ Imran’s reverse swing came into play, primarily after lunch and tea breaks, when the ball was in the pockets of Pakistani umpires! Scratching one side of the ball was known to make it swing. Gavaskar and others had noted this.
Pakistan has produced great fast bowlers like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar, who played tough and hard. But unlike Imran, they never treated the game as a ‘jihad’. They were friendly to Indian players. Imran’s politics was moulded by one of the founding members of his Tehreeq-e-Insaf Party, Lt Gen Hamid Gul, who was a hardcore Islamist and a former Director General of the ISI. Gul played a key role in backing militants in Afghanistan. He also backed militancy in Punjab and J&K. Imran was voted to power with the backing of the military establishment and the ISI, who were finding that PM Nawaz Sharif was trying to act independently on relations with India and Afghanistan.
While his predecessors looked the other way, as the ISI backed the Hurriyat and militant groups in J&K, Imran made no secret about his kinship with the Taliban, Hurriyat, and militant Islamic groups, like the LeT. It is not surprising that he is now set on conferring Pakistan’s highest civilian honour, the Nishan-e-Pakistan, on Hurriyat patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani. India had political space in the past for contacts at the highest levels in Pakistan. Pakistani prime ministers kept contacts open with their Indian counterparts. We are now dealing with a Pakistani leader who makes no bones about his backing for Islamist militancy. He even described Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 strikes on New York, as a ‘martyr’.
While he may pretend to be in charge of foreign policy, it is the army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who calls the shots. Bajwa actively participated in efforts for President Trump to end US combat operations in Afghanistan, before the US presidential elections. When Imran met Trump in July last year, he became the first Pakistan PM who was accompanied by his army chief for a White House meeting with the President. The public profile of Bajwa, whose tenure was extended by three years, till 2022, has risen steadily.
The army now directly calls the shots on developments in Afghanistan after Bajwa made an impromptu visit to Kabul and met President Ashraf Ghani on June 9. The visit was at the behest of US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Diplomatic practices and pretences have now been discarded. It is Bajwa and not Imran who leads the effort for Trump on troop withdrawal. It matters little to Trump if what follows after poorly planned American withdrawal is a return to civil war in Afghanistan, as the Taliban are not given to sharing power with others. Moreover, the Taliban are not trusted by the non-Pashtun population
It is evident that the army is determined to cut an obviously incompetent Imran to size. The high-profile former army spokesman Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa has now been appointed as Imran’s special assistant for information and broadcasting. He is now Imran’s de facto spokesman. He has also been appointed chairman of CPEC authority. In short, he not only speaks for the government, but also controls the massive funds flowing into the project. There are reports suggesting that Bajwa was appointed after Xi Jinping indicated that he was not satisfied with Pakistani decision-making in CPEC.
The marginalisation of Imran and the civilian government is evident in other areas also. The army now plays a decisive role in the National Command and Operations Centre headed by the federal planning minister. The executive head of the command centre, Lt Gen Hamood Uz Zahman Khan, is an air defence officer. Meanwhile, the National Locust Control Centre is headed by another Lt Gen. Imran, a long-term protege of the Pakistan army, has become the army’s puppet. He will be discarded when the army so chooses. The Chinese have known this for years. They are reconciled to the fact that civilian leaders like Imran are dispensable.
India is right in not rushing into a formal dialogue with Imran. He is not only pathologically anti-Indian, but also is merely a front for the Pakistan army. In these circumstances, it may be worthwhile to open an unannounced and appropriate channel of communications with the Pakistan army. One cannot realistically expect much to emerge from such a back channel, especially given tensions in the Kashmir valley and Ladakh, but a ‘back channel’ for communication, or dialogue, has its own utility, even in difficult times, and particularly during tensions.

Rajapaksas do it again

Gopalaswami Parthasarathy
Ambassador of India to Myanmar & GCTC Advisory Board Member


While the focus of media attention in India was predictably on who would win the recent parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka, few people noted some of the unique achievements of Sri Lankan democracy during the elections. Its unique facets were lauded by India’s former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi. The challenges Sri Lanka’s election commission and government faced for ensuring smooth and peaceful elections in 196 parliamentary constituencies, amidst the pandemic, were daunting. There was meticulous rehearsing, involving strict limitations on the attendance in meetings, wearing of masks and gloves, use of sanitisers, and distancing. Liberal provisions were also made for postal ballots. There was a remarkable turnout of 71% and it was substantial in the Tamil-dominated Northern Province. What has also been lauded is the meticulous and disciplined manner in which Sri Lanka has handled the challenges of the pandemic, with just 11 deaths from among about 2,900 confirmed cases.
Not surprisingly, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Party, led by the Rajapaksa brothers, PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, swept the polls, winning 145 of the 225 seats. The opposition United National Party (UNP), which has ruled for a number of years after independence in 1948, was virtually wiped out, winning just one seat. This debacle has been attributed to the ‘lacklustre’ leadership of former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe. Sajith Premadasa, son of former President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who quit the UNP and formed his own party, led an imaginative and aggressive campaign, winning 54 seats and emerging as the leader of the opposition.
India has, in recent years, kept away from internal developments in Sri Lanka. PM Modi has maintained a cordial relationship with the Rajapaksa brothers and the SLFP. Avoiding the mistakes of the past, when India was often seen as being politically partisan, Indian High Commissioners have reached out to a wide cross-section of leaders and parties in Sri Lanka. The bloodletting in the ethnic conflict took the lives of around a lakh civilians (Tamil and Sinhala) and 27,000 LTTE cadres. As many as 1,500 Indian soldiers of the IPKF also laid down their lives earlier in the conflict, when they were compelled to act against the LTTE. Former PM Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 by the LTTE; and LTTE leader Prabhakaran was killed by the Sri Lankan army in 2009. New Delhi has since poured in huge assistance for relief, rehabilitation and development of Lankan Tamils.
While India chose to develop a friendly relationship with the Sri Lankan government after the conflict ended, western governments led by the US and UK imposed economic sanctions and sought to get President Rajapaksa and others tried for alleged war crimes. The normally pro-western Sri Lankans turned against the West and moved to an ambitious and expansionist China. Appearing ready to open its purse strings and pour out so-called ‘assistance’, China led Sri Lanka into a debt trap. This is a situation which many countries in Asia and Africa, ranging from Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya, now face. The choices these countries confront are difficult, especially as western bilateral and multilateral aid from organisations like the World Bank is determined increasingly by geopolitical considerations. Sri Lanka also faces a similar dilemma, arising largely from ill-advised American and European actions, of imposing sanctions.
China has benefited by rushing in with its ‘debt trap’ diplomacy, through generous offers of assistance for infrastructure projects. Beijing has provided $7 billion assistance for projects, including construction of the Hambantota Port. Such assistance has also been forthcoming from China for projects like the development of the Colombo Port, whose earnings are derived primarily from shipments of goods to India. What have been surprising are Sri Lankan reservations in agreeing to Indian and Japanese assistance for expansion of the Colombo harbour facilities. This unfortunately leads to impressions in India that the resistance to partnering with India and Japan arises from Chinese pressures. This raises eyebrows in India about the impact of Chinese pressures on Sri Lanka. There have periodically been occasions when Chinese naval vessels and submarines have berthed in Colombo.
The elections saw a substantial turnout in the Tamil-dominated northern and eastern provinces. It is best for Sri Lanka to work out its own solutions to its peoples’ concerns in these provinces. India is now focused to providing assistance to the Indian Tamils, whose ancestors reached Sri Lanka during colonial rule to work on plantations. Modi has reached out personally to both Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa. New Delhi would be well advised to consult closely with the US and its allies to open their doors for assistance to Sri Lanka bilaterally, and through institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. Relations with Sri Lanka should be a part of the overall Indian Ocean strategy of the ‘Quad’.
The most abiding factor influencing the sentiments of the majority Sinhala population in Sri Lanka that links them to India is the Buddhist faith. The intelligence inputs that India provided to Sri Lanka about an impending terrorist attack by the ISIS on Sri Lanka’s Buddhist shrines and population last year were a manifestation of India’s commitment to the welfare of the people of Sri Lanka. India has settled its maritime boundary disputes with all its neighbours, except Pakistan. China has boundary disputes with virtually all its neighbours. It has not hesitated to use force to enforce its claims. Chinese assertiveness has an interesting history. In voyages across the Indian Ocean between 1405 and 1433, China’s marauding Admiral Zheng He abducted Sri Lankan king Vira Alakeswara and took the holy tooth relic of Lord Buddha. The relic was returned by China after over five centuries.SHARE ARTICLE

Imran’s diplomatic fiasco

Gopalaswami Parthasarathy
Ambassador of India to Myanmar & GCTC Advisory Board Member


One of the main pillars of Pakistan’s worldwide anti-India diplomacy has been its efforts to malign India in Islamic countries, especially in the Gulf and across West Asia. It constantly sheds crocodile tears about a so-called ‘India-Israel axis’ and an anti-Islamic ‘Hindu-Jewish’ conspiracy threatening the Islamic world. The 53-member Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), which is significantly influenced by Saudi Arabia, is sought to be used to promote anti-India propaganda, particularly on J&K. This era is now ending, as India’s relations with the Islamic world, particularly with the oil-rich Gulf countries, including Iraq, have significantly improved. Like India, most Arab states favour a ‘two-state solution’ to the Israel-Palestinian issue. Moreover, these countries view Pakistan as an economic basket case, forever pleading for money.
It is, however, the arrogance and ignorance of Imran Khan, obsessed with denigrating India, that has ruined Pakistan’s relations with the Arab world. He has seriously upset Pakistan’s benefactors like Saudi Arabia and the UAE by seeking to strike deals with their Islamic rivals like Turkey, Iran and Malaysia. His efforts to make Kashmir an issue for collective action by the ‘Islamic ummah’ inevitably failed. He did not realise that over the centuries, the ‘ummah’ has been afflicted with Persian-Arab and Arab-Turkish civilisational prejudices, apart from age-old Shia-Sunni rivalries. Imran inexplicably walked into a diplomatic quagmire by joining the efforts of 93-year-old Mahathir Mohammed of Malaysia and the arrogant Turkey President Recep Erdogan to set up a new Islamic grouping. He was, however, forced to pull back after Saudi expressions of strong displeasure.
Imran has little or no knowledge about the warm ties between India and the Arab states. He has led his country into a diplomatic bog. He was rebuffed on more than one occasion by Saudi Arabia on his pleas to convene a meeting of the OIC to take action against India. His loquacious Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi demanded that Saudi Arabia should immediately convene a meeting of the OIC foreign ministers. He pompously proclaimed: ‘If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask PM Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir, and support the oppressed Kashmiris.’
Imran seemed to have forgotten that Pakistan’s economy survives on annual doles from Saudi Arabia and the West. The infuriated Saudis responded immediately by freezing a $3.2 billion oil credit facility, and demanded that Pakistan commence repaying a $3 billion loan. All hell immediately broke loose in the army’s GHQ at Rawalpindi, when the Saudi sanctions were announced. The Saudi ambassador headed to Rawalpindi for a meeting with army chief Qamar Jawed Bajwa, ignoring both Imran and Qureshi. He, thereafter, met opposition leaders in Lahore.
Imran has not learnt anything from the way PM Modi had visited and befriended Arab monarchies. Saudi Arabia and the UAE see India as a diplomatically reliable and economically useful partner. Their leading national oil companies have decided to invest $60 billion in a major petrochemical project in Maharashtra’s Raigad district. At the same time, the Arab countries could not have been too pleased by the $400 billion economic deal which Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’ China had negotiated with Shia-dominated Iran. They regard Iran as their principal security threat. Moreover, for many Pakistanis, relations with Saudi Arabia are sacrosanct, as it provides employment to millions of Pakistani workers. Imran seems to have forgotten that overruling Pakistan’s objections, the UAE had invited India’s then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to a meeting of OIC foreign ministers it hosted last year.
Recognising the implications of Imran’s blunders, General Bajwa rushed to Riyadh, with the expectation that he would meet Crown Prince Salman to sort out differences. There was, however, no senior Saudi military official to receive him, and his ISI chief, Lt Gen Faiz Hamid, at the airport. Those who condescended to meet Bajwa later were the deputy minister for defence and ‘two star’ chief of defence staff Major Gen Fayyad Hamad
Interestingly, the Pakistan media blacked out all news on the Riyadh visit. Bajwa’s predecessor, Gen Raheel Sharif, is based in Saudi Arabia, commanding an ‘Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition’ that has no troops to command! This coalition is made up of 41 Islamic countries, with the notable exception of Iran. One could presume Raheel Sharif would soon be heading home.
These are important developments, confirming that India has played its cards dexterously across its western neighbourhood. It has calibrated its relations with Islamic countries. Relations with Iran also have been friendly, but marred by Tehran’s unpredictable policy on J&K. Most importantly, India has built a strong partnership with Israel, while supporting Palestinian aspirations for a viable nation state. Hence India is seen as a reliable, regional power.
Imran could now be tempted to pursue his earlier thoughts of joining an Islamic grouping, comprising initially Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia and Turkey. The Arabs have historically had less-than-comfortable relations with Turks. Moreover, there will be no ‘easy money’ available that these countries can provide to Pakistan. Imran, or whoever replaces him, will be compelled to crawl back on bended knees, seeking to renew Pakistan’s partnership with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh will naturally set hard terms for a renewed partnership. Pakistan will hopefully learn that an anti-India foreign policy is a recipe for economic disaster and political isolation.SHARE ARTICLE

Imran Khan’s Kashmir obsession

Gopalaswami Parthasarathy
Ambassador of India to Myanmar & GCTC Advisory Board Member


Many of us in India have an impression of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, as being a suave and sophisticated, Oxford educated, and modern minded. He was greatly admired as an outstanding cricketing hero. Imran Khan, however, has many facets.
His marital journeys have been colorful. His first marriage, lasting nine years, was to a British Jewish millionaire heiress, Jemima Goldsmith. His second marriage in 2015, which lasted eight months, was to a Pakistani television journalist Reham Khan. He is now deeply influenced by his third wife, Bushra Bibi, a Sufi mystic. Imran decided to marry Bushra after she predicted that he would become Prime Minister. Despite his range of spouses, Imran has remained a radical Islamist, telling Pakistani journalists, even in his cricket playing days in the 1980s, that he treated matches with India, not as a sport, but as a jihad, waged for the cause of Kashmiri Muslims.
Imran’s life, after he retired from first class cricket, was greatly influenced by a fellow Islamist and former ISI Chief, Hamid Gul, who was a great proponent of “liberating” Kashmiris from Indian rule.
Gul believed that he could win the support of Muslims in India, by making the Kashmir issue, a jihad, for the believers. Thus, for those who have known of Imran Khan’s personality since his cricketing days, his obsession with Kashmir is nothing surprising, given his rather naive belief that he could fire the mind of the global “Islamic Ummah” against India, to “liberate” Kashmir. It is this obsession, that transcending civilisational (Arab-Turkish- Persian) differences, and sectarian, (Shia- Sunni) antagonisms, Muslims across the world can be united to fulfil his weird ambitions on Kashmir, that has led Imran Khan down the slippery slope, to diplomatic disaster.
Imran has believed that as a virtual Messiah, he could get Islamic countries united against India, under a single banner of backing Pakistani claims on Jammu and Kashmir. Buoyed by what believed were successful meetings with US President Donald Trump, he decided to initially try his luck with Islamic countries like Turkey, Iran and Malaysia, then led by the 93-year-old Mahathir, whose own tenure in office was destined to be short-lived. Imran joined Mahathir and Turkey’s Erdogan in seeking to establish a new Islamic grouping, which would inevitably undermine the influence of the 57-member, Saudi dominated Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
An enraged Saudi Crown Prince, Salman, told Imran to back off, which he obediently did, in the expectation that the OIC would then back his Kashmir aspirations.
To Imran’s disappointment, Prince Salman did not oblige him. Imran, a babe in the woods on global developments, forgot or overlooked diplomatic and geopolitical realities. He failed to note that after quiet diplomacy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), two of the most influential countries in the oil rich Gulf Arab States, had already started a process of building bridges with India.
This process commenced with an unprecedented invitation by the UAE to India to participate in a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of 57 Arab/Muslim countries in Abu Dhabi, in 2019.
Angered and shaken by this honour to India, Pakistan boycotted the OIC meeting. Economic ties between India and the Gulf Arab States were expanding rapidly, with growing Indian oil purchases from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
India signed a major agreement in 2017 with the UAE, involving the development of its proposed underground, emergency oil storage reserve of 36.87 million barrels of crude oil, in Mangaluru. The UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) will store about six million barrels of oil in Mangaluru. Saudi Arabia has, in turn, agreed to invest $60 billion in a large oil refinery in Maharashtra.

Israel bashing

Imran Khan has long projected himself as a champion of Islamic causes, both within Pakistan and in Islamic forums, by taking a particularly strident and militant position on the ostracisation of Israel, and support for the Palestinian cause. He ran a virulent propaganda blitz against India for its recognition of Israel, while projecting India as backing Jews against Muslims. His arguments have cut no ice, given India’s commitment to a “Two State Solution,” involving the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State. He was also ignorant of the educational assistance for young Palestinians in India.
What he also did not realise was that with American encouragement, a number of Arab countries were not only quietly dealing with Israel, but also laying the ground actual diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
In any case, two crucial Arab states bordering Israel, Egypt and Jordan, had made their peace and have diplomatic ties with Israel for decades now. It was, therefore, no surprise when the UAE and Bahrain announced that they were according recognition to Israel.
The agreement by the UAE and Bahrain with Israel for diplomatic relations with Israel was duly signed in the White House, in the presence of President Trump, whose son-in-law, Jarryd Kushner, had worked behind the scenes, to normalise relations and end hostilities, between Israel and its Arab neighbours. It is expected that other Arab states like Oman and Kuwait, dependent on American security cover through its fifth fleet, based in Bahrain, will in course of time, follow suit in course of time
Quite clearly Iran and Turkey, which have long-time rivalries with their Arab neighbours, will try to undermine their Arab neighbours, who have sought to normalise relations with Israel, by raising Islamic sentiments against those in the Arab world, who have made or seek to make peace with Israel.
Imran Khan echoed Turkey and Iran, rivals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, by his virulent condemnation of Israel, immediately after the UAE and Bahrain recognised and established diplomatic relations with Israel. He remarked: “If Pakistan accepted Israel and ignored the oppression of the Palestinians, we will have to give up Kashmir as well, then”. He added that this was not something Pakistan could do. Every action and foreign policy decision that Imran Khan takes or talks about is linked, not to the merits of the case, but to his obsession with India.

New Year Attack in Istanbul: Predictable and Preventable!

Prabha Rao

IPS (Retd.)

Year 2017 had a bloody start in Turkey. A lone gunman, armed with Kalashnikov, entered Istanbul’s exclusive Reina nightclub, in the upmarket Ortakoy District, and indiscriminately fired at the New Year revellers, killing 39 and injuring around 70, including many foreign nationals. Located right on the banks of the Bosporus, the sprawling club was very popular with expatriates, diplomats and the Turkish elite.
The gunman first shot dead a 22-year-old police officer, Burak Yildiz, and a chauffeur for a tourism company, Ayhan Arik, on the street just outside the club. He then entered the club with impunity, shouting Allahu Akbar, and began to fire at a 600-plus strong crowd, which led to stampede as people ran helter-skelter looking for the exits, with some managing to hide under those lying injured or dead and some simply jumping into the freezing waters of the Bosporus.1

The Perpetrator

Eyewitnesses reported that the gunman spoke broken Turkish and accented Arabic, and that he was a trained assassin as his marksmanship was excellent. Moreover, he had several small explosives on him, which he threw at the crowd to distract them every time he reloaded his Kalashnikov.2 Forensic analysis of the spent bullets shows that the last bullet in the magazines was a tracer round, giving him notice to reload. This is a fairly advanced military technique now used by the terrorists in Syria/Iraq. The attacker reportedly managed to reload his weapon three times, without being prevented by any security personnel or the general public, and was able to fire a total of 120 rounds in a span of about seven minutes.
Of the 39 people dead, 38 were killed in firing and one in the ensuing stampede. The victims included twelve Turks, seven Saudi Arabians, three Iraqis, three Jordanians, three Lebanese, two Tunisians, two Moroccans and one each from Canada, Syria, Kuwait, Russia and Israel. India too lost two of its nationals- Abas Rizvi, a film maker from Mumbai, and Khushi Shah, a fashion designer from Vadodara, Gujarat.3
After indiscriminately firing at the New Year revellers, the killer went into a toilet for about 13 minutes as per the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, where he removed his cap and coat and left his long barrelled gun behind, and thereafter came out and merged with the crowd and escaped. In haste, he left a wallet with 500 Turkish lira in his coat, which, along with the CCTV footage, and fingerprints on the gun, gave the Turkish investigators valuable leads on him.
The assailant, identified as Abdulgadir Masharipov of Uzbek origin, was finally apprehended after a massive manhunt on January 16. The Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin stated that Masharipov was arrested from an apartment in Esenyurt District, a suburb in Istanbul, about 30 km from the Reina nightclub, along with an Iraqi man and three women, all of whom were affiliated with the ISIS. Pistols, two drones, mobile phone SIM cards, and $197,000 in cash were also seized. According to Sahin, Masharipov was born in 1983, was well educated, knew four languages, and had received training in Afghanistan.4
Analysis of the previous CCTV data revealed that he had visited the Reina Club about a week before on a stake out, which means he was very familiar with its layout. Suspicions have been raised as to how Masharipov was able to carry on his assault without intervention from the club’s security team, as the owner had earlier asked for police protection. It is now learnt that the killer used one of the three exits, which were being monitored by the Turkish police after the incident, and took a taxi from there.5 The terrorist also made a call from the taxi driver’s phone, but the number had been unavailable for three months. The local police is of the opinion that it may have been used as a decoy. The assailant took the taxi to Zeytinburnu, 15 kms from Ortakoy District, where he went to an ethnic Uighur restaurant to get cash to pay for the taxi. This move led to rounding up of around 29 people, along with two others from the Ataturk Airport. Those arrested were Uighurs from China, Dagestanis from Russia, and Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.
The arrests had yielded information that the assailant was part of a well organised sleeper cell of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He was reportedly infiltrated into Turkey by a handler codenamed ‘Teacher Yousuf’. The assailant himself had been codenamed ‘Abu Muhammed Horasani’ by the Amn al-Kharji, the espionage wing of the group. In November 2016, ‘Teacher Yusuf’ had reportedly installed the killer and his family, comprising a wife and two children, in an apartment block in the town of Konya, where three other families related to the ISIS cadres were living. Turkish police conducted raids at their residences in Konya, and found a mobile phone with a selfie of the gunman taken at the Taksim Square in Istanbul, giving a clear frontal image of his face, which was quickly circulated to the airports, railway stations, etc.
The other families, thought to be part of the ISIS cell, left Konya after the incident, but were traced along with their 20 children by the police in the Bornova and Buca districts of the coastal Turkish town of Izmir, 350 kms from Konya, on January 04. Forty-one passports from multiple countries were found with them, most of which were forgeries, as well as 15 fake identity cards. Also 13 mobile phones, one tablet, one military jacket, one GPS unit, and sniper sights and night vision binoculars were seized. The handler is yet to be traced.6 In a related incident, a car bomb detonated outside a courthouse in Izmir, followed by a gun battle between police and the suspected terrorists, killing a police officer and a bystander, and injuring around 10 people. Two of the terrorists were also killed, and one escaped.7
The large quantity of cash, mobile phones, SIM cards, communication equipment, arsenal, etc., that have been seized from Masharipov and his associates make it clear that the terrorist cell was well funded, and was working in coordination with the ISIS headquarters in Raqqa. The ISIS had sent a message via al-Amaq, a propaganda media outlet affiliated to the group, on January 02, 2017, that a “heroic soldier of the caliphate attacked the nightclub where Christians were celebrating their pagan feast”. The message added that the ‘soldier’, who was not named, fired an automatic rifle and exploded hand grenades in “revenge for God’s religion and in response to the orders” of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.8

Message posted online by al-Amaq9

The ISIS message claiming responsibility for the Istanbul attack was different from the ones issued after attacks in Orlando (June 12, 2016), where 49 people were killed; in Nice (July 14, 2016), where 86 people were killed; and in Berlin (December 19, 2016), where 12 people were killed, which were described as lone-wolf attacks. It was also different from the assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, on December 19, 2016, by Mevlut Mert Altintas, an officer in Ankara’s riot police squad. The Turkish authorities claimed that he had been self-radicalised and had no associates. Symptomatic red flags had shot up, as it indicated the prevalence of radicalisation in the Turkish armed/security services, apart from serious security lapses.
Parallels, however, can be drawn with the June 2016 attack at Ataturk Airport, perpetrated by an assailant of Central Asian origin, belonging to the ISIS sleeper cell comprising Rakim Bulgarov and Vadim Osmanov, and directed by a senior Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) fighter from the Pankisi Gorge, named Akhmet Chatayev. Parallels can also be drawn with the July 01, 2016 attack at Holey Artisan Bakery in Bangladesh, killing 29 people including several foreigners, which too was a venue popular with foreigners/diplomats in the affluent Gulshan area of capital Dhaka.
Warnings of an imminent attack were there in the November 2015 issue of the ISIS propaganda magazine Dabiq, which was dedicated to the “Revival of Jihad in Bangladesh”. It was stated therein that the ISIS Bangladesh was headed by one Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, also known as Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, a Bangladeshi with a Canadian passport. He later turned out to be one of the main architects of the July 2016 bakery attack in Dhaka, and was subsequently killed by the Bangladeshi forces in Narayanganj.

Warnings from ISIS

Similarly, adequate warning had been given in the case of the Reina club attack as well. On November 02, 2016, al-Baghdadi had given a 30-minute audio message, titled, “This is What God and His Messenger Promised Us”, a reference to the 22nd verse of Koran’s Surah al-Ahzab. It referred to the coalition of the Quraysh and various tribes who lost to Prophet Muhammad in the battle of Badr, implying that the anti-ISIS coalition would similarly lose to the ‘caliphate’. He also mourned the death of the senior ISIS spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who was killed in Syria earlier in August, and called for attacks against Saudi Arabia and Turkey.10 The ISIS ire against Turkey developed after latter’s détente with Russia. It further sharpened as Ankara activated the Bashiqa Camp on the outskirts of the Mosul city in Iraq, which targeted the fleeing ISIS cadres.
Later, on December 22, 2016, the ISIS put out a 19-minute video on the al-Furqan channel, titled, ‘The Cross Shield’, castigating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his inconsistent stand towards Syria/Iraq war, particularly in view of his rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, dialogue with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, talks with US President Barack Obama, etc. all of which enables the continuance of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Significantly, the video also carried pictures of the above mentioned as well as some other leaders meeting the Turkish leadership, including that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with President Erdogan, depicting them as world leaders working against Islamic interests.11
Screenshot of President Erdogan meeting Pope Francis and various world leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the ISIS Video ‘The Cross Shield’

Source: Rezaul Hasan Laskar, Twitter Post, January 02, 2017, 05:51 a.m.
The gory video also carried footage of bombings in al-Bab in Syria, where the Turkish air force is involved, and Aleppo, which has witnessed massive civilian casualties. There is also a graphic recording of the live burning of two Turkish soldiers captured by the ISIS in al-Bab, which was put out as a warning to Ankara to restrict its activities in the war. President Erdogan had banned YouTube, Facebook and Twitter in Turkey after this, but the footage indicated the shift in relationship between the ISIS and Turkey, from that of an uneasy coexistence to an all-out war.12
Finally, a message against celebrating the New Year eve was sent by the ISIS on December 26, on its al-Furqan channel, quoting the Quran: “O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as Auliya’ (friends, protectors, helpers), they are but Auliya’ of each other. And if any amongst you takes them (as Auliya’), then surely he is one of them. Verily, Allah guides not those people who are the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers and unjust)” (5:51).13 While, the majority of Turks would distance themselves from any connection/adherence to the ISIS, the meme below has reportedly been in circulation in Turkey.
The mood in Turkey today is disquieting. Since the July 2016 coup attempt, President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP in Turkish), which is based on the ideology of the Ikhwanul Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood), have been publically voicing displeasure overconsumption of alcohol, which is now heavily taxed in Turkey. Several restrictions have been placed on bar licenses and vendors. The ruling AKP also disapproves of ‘Western concepts’ such as dancing parties and night clubs, and even commemorating/celebrating Christian festivals.
On December 26, 2016, a group of young people had staged a mock execution of Santa Claus in front of a shopping mall in Istanbul, warning people against celebrating Western festivals. Dion Nissenbaum, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was strip-searched and placed in solitary confinement for publishing images from the ISIS video ‘The Cross Shield’, and a well-known fashion designer was beaten up at the Istanbul Airport by Ikhwanul Muslimeen activists, for his social media posts calling for moderation.14 In a pointed twitter feed, Prof. Howard Eissenstat, an expert on Turkey at St. Lawrence University, New York, tweeted on January 01, 2017: “Disturbing + not very difficult line to draw between official Turkish anti New Years campaign + tonight’s violence. Rhetoric has consequences.”15
Rhetoric certainly has its consequences, and Turkey today is a deeply polarised country. The alleged coup attempt in July 2016, said to have been masterminded by the US-based moderate cleric Fethullah Gulen, has resulted in massive erosion of government authority in the army, police, judiciary, education and administration. It is said that over 30 per cent of the work force was targeted by the government in its effort to fully quell the coup. This has led to schism within the Turkish state institutions.
Differences with the US and other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) countries too have been escalating. President Erdogan has blamed the Obama administration for a host of Turkey’s problems, including fight against the ISIS. In December 2015, Erdogan had publicly criticised the US diktat restricting Turkish forces from going further than 20 kilometres into Syria while conducting cross-border operations against the ISIS fighters. Apart from alleging that the US had obliquely supported Gulen in his coup attempt, Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin had further claimed that Washington is supporting the Democratic Union Party of Kurdistan (PYD), fighting for a free Kurdish nation, and helping the Kurdish group to establish a corridor between Afrin in south Turkey and Manbij in Syria, which is against Turkey’s national interest.16
Even though the perpetrator of the Reina club attack has been apprehended, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, in a provocative statement, voiced suspicion that “the Reina attack is not just a terrorist organisation’s act, but there was also an intelligence organisation involved.” He added, “It was an extremely planned and organised act.”17
Turkey’s differences with the US, European Union (EU) and the NATO have impacted its internal security, by causing serious schisms within the country, which continues to have a large secular segment. It is paying a heavy price for its tolerance of Takfiri activists and their communication networks in the southern part of the country. Erdogan’s quiescence on possible continuation of Assad regime in Syria, and growing understanding with Russia, has exposed his regime to the ire of these self-same extremists, who have already established their presence within the country, enabling them to hit at the Turkish state with comparative ease. Turkey’s position as the main transit node for entering and exiting the ISIS Dawla (state), is now of paramount importance, given the probable neutralisation of the group’s territorial hold in Syria and Iraq, and possible large scale migration of Islamist fighters towards Europe and the Af-Pak region.

India on ISIS Radar

From the Indian perspective, there are some takeaways from the Reina club attack that need to be considered. The ISIS is certainly promoting attacks outside their main battle areas, be it lone-wolf attacks or coordinated actions conceptualised in Raqqa/Mosul. Reference to Prime Minister Modi’s meeting with Turkish leadership in the ISIS video, issued on December 22, is a cause for concern. Also, the statements made by Mohammad Masiuddin alias Musa, arrested from Burdwan railway station by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on July 04, 2016, on charges of radicalising youth for recruiting them into the ISIS, that he was linked to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), and had agreed to take up an assignment from a JMB leader, Abu Suleiman, to target foreigners and the US nationals in India, need to be taken very seriously.18
Musa in his interrogation had also claimed that the JMB and ISIS have sizeable support in West Bengal. Burgeoning radicalism in the porous eastern border regions has serious security implications for the country, as does the growing influence of Salafism in India’s southern states. Containing these home-grown elements need initiatives beyond traditional policing. It requires close and real-time interaction with community leaders and a comprehensive and sustained counter narrative to mitigate the toxic narrative of radical Islamic groups.
Last year, in 2016, scores of ISIS sympathisers were arrested by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Around 450 individuals, who are considered as potential threat, are said to be under watch.19 IB has also set up a cell to monitor online radicalisation, codenamed Operation Chakravyuh, and has reportedly been able to neutralise a number of threats.
While the efforts of the security agencies are wholly praiseworthy, their tasks in view of emerging challenges remain indubitably herculean. Lapses of security, as seen in the case of New Year club attack in Istanbul, of not having adequate perimeter coverage, and real time alerts from CCTV feeds to the security network, need to be factored into India’s urban security landscape.
Terrorists are now adopting innovative and indigenously encrypted communication systems, making the task of cyber security agencies quantifiably more difficult. A system for meta-data analysis is urgently required. With the announcement of ‘caliphate’ by the ISIS in June 2014, terrorism has morphed into newer forms. India’s security blueprint therefore needs to keep pace.
1. Jamie Grierson, Haroon Siddique, Graham Russell and Nicola Slawson, “Istanbul attack: Manhunt for attacker who killed 39 in nightclub – as it happened”, The Guardian, January 01, 2017.
2. Humeyra Pamuk and Daren Butler, “Gunman in Istanbul nightclub attack may have trained in Syria”, Reuters, January 04, 2017.
3.Two Indian nationals killed in Istanbul nightclub attack: Sushma Swaraj”, Business Standard, January 01, 2017.
4. Daren Butler, “Turkey says captures nightclub attacker who acted for Islamic State”, Reuters, January 17, 2017.
5.Turkey Detains 20 Suspects In Istanbul Massacre, Most of Them From Central Asian Countries”, ThereAreNoSunglasses, January 04, 2017.
6. Jake Wallis Simons, “Istanbul nightclub killer ‘was sneaked into Turkey by sophisticated ISIS network under a secret codename and hidden in a safe house’ before carrying out Turkish massacre”, Daily Mail, January 04, 2017.
7. Lizzie Dearden and Bethan McKernan, “Izmir explosion: Two ‘terrorists’ shot dead after car bomb and gunfire outside courthouse in Turkey”, The Independent, January 05, 2017.
8.ISIS claims responsibility for Turkey attack”, Al Arabiya, January 02, 2017.
10. Graeme Wood, “The ‘Caliph’ Speaks”, The Atlantic, November 04, 2016.
11. Rezaul Hasan Laskar, “IS video claims Modi, Obama, Turkey’s Erdogan working against Muslims’ interests”, Hindustan Times, January 03, 2017.
12. Gareth Davies, “Sick ISIS savages film themselves burning two Turkish soldiers alive in disturbing new execution video after capturing them in Aleppo”, Daily Mail, December 22, 2016; “ISIS burns 2 Turkish servicemen alive, releases gruesome video”, Russia Today, December 23, 2016 and “ISIL video shows ‘Turkish soldiers burned alive’”, Al Jazeera, December 23, 2016.
13. Robert Spencer, “Islamic State: ‘To celebrate New Year’s Eve with the kuffar is to embrace their idolatry’”, Jihad Watch, January 03, 2017 and Vicky Nanjappa, “Celebrating New Years amounts to practising idolatry says Islamic State”, OneIndia, January 01, 2017.
14. Tim Arango, “In Turkey, U.S. Hand Is Seen in Nearly Every Crisis”, The New York Times, January 04, 2017.
15. Tim Arango, “Nightclub Massacre in Istanbul Exposes Turkey’s Deepening Fault Lines”, The New York Times, January 05, 2017.
16.Turkey was told not to go further than 20 kms into Syria: Erdoğan”, Hurriyet Daily News, December 05, 2016.
17.Reina nightclub attacker captured by security forces in Istanbul”, Russia Today, January 16, 2017.
18. Pooja Mehta, “Kolkata: FBI team arrives to interrogate Islamic State operative Musa”, Daily News & Analysis (DNA), December 08, 2016.
19. Vicky Nanjappa, “Year 2017: Agencies would be busy with IS recruits”, OneIndia News, January 02, 2017.

The race for leadership in supercomputers – does India stand a chance?

Prabha Rao

IPS (Retd.)

In June 2016, a significant and unusual event occurred in the world of supercomputing – the sector that specializes in very high speed computers that are used for applications such as weather forecasting and advanced weapons design. It was announced that the fastest supercomputer in the world was now the Sunway TaihuLight, a Chinese machine, which had performed at a speed of 93 petaflops – three times faster than the previous leader.1
Chinese supercomputers have been leading the field since 2011, but until now had depended to a large extent on key hardware components from American companies. What made the June 2016 event unusual was the announcement that, in a first for the industry, the Sunway TaihuLight was powered entirely by Chinese-designed and Chinese-manufactured processor chips. In other words, the new machine was evidence that China had mastered the entire computer engineering cycle, from conceptualization to detailed design and manufacture of individual semiconductor components. For the first time in the history of computing, the leadership at the cutting edge of a strategic technology – supercomputers – had passed from the United States to China.

Brief History of Supercomputing

To understand how this happened, and why countries like Japan, India, and many in the European Union have been overtaken by China, it is useful to understand the history of supercomputing, or High Performance Computing (HPC) as it is also referred to. The idea of HPC – specialized machines designed to operate at ever faster speeds to solve the most complex of real world problems – is universally credited to Seymour Cray, the legendary American computer designer. In 1964, the world’s first supercomputer, the Control Data Corporation CDC 6600, was designed and manufactured under Cray’s supervision and leadership. For almost the next 50 years, with a few exceptions, it was always a US-built supercomputer that set the trend.
Within that half century were contained two stages, or eras, in supercomputer development. The first era is usually referred to as the Monocomputer Era, and this lasted from around 1960 to 1995. The Monocomputer architecture utilized a single high speed processor accessing data stored in a single memory stack. Since this architecture was first developed by Seymour Cray and was used by all supercomputers in this era, the first era is also sometimes referred to as the Seymour Cray era of hardware.
In the early 1980s, a radically different approach began to be adopted. This new approach, or architecture, used the idea that many computers or processors operating in parallel could do the job faster than a single computer using the single processor Cray architecture. Thus began the Multicomputer Era, which overlapped with the first era starting around 1985, and is continuing till date. The Multicomputer era places far greater emphasis on the software that distributes the work between different processors, and is thus also sometimes referred to as the Multicomputer Era of the programmer.2
One very unusual feature of the early days of supercomputing was that developments took place entirely in the American private sector. It was only when the Europeans and the Japanese also started work on their own supercomputers that the US government began to take an active interest. Nevertheless, it was only in 1995 that the first formal US government policy – called the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative or ASCI – was announced. The European and Japanese initiatives, in contrast, were driven by their governments and universities.3
The chart below tabulates the progress of supercomputers through the two eras. On the X-axis is plotted the year of introduction of the captioned machines; and on the Y-axis the speed of each machine in Gigaflops, measured by the industry standard Linpack Benchmark. As the chart shows, speeds of supercomputers have been doubling every two years.

India’s Supercomputing Efforts

The supercomputer effort in India began in the late 1980s, when the US stopped the export of a Cray supercomputer because of continuing technology embargoes. In response, the Indian government set up the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) with the mission of building an indigenous supercomputer. In 1990, C-DAC unveiled the prototype of the PARAM 800, a multiprocessor machine, the first outcome of the new programme. PARAM was benchmarked at 5 Gflops, making it the second fastest supercomputer in the world at that time.

How China Achieved Dominance in Supercomputing

What, meanwhile, of China? Historical records show that China had developed an interest in HPC as early as the 1950s and 1960s. During the Mao era, even at the height of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, and in spite of the removal of Soviet assistance after the Sino-Soviet split, the Chinese computer programme proceeded without let up. By the end of the 1960s, China was manufacturing its own integrated circuits and integrating them into indigenous third generation computers, making China in some respects even more advanced than the USSR.
In July 1972, barely four months after the epochal visit of US President Richard Nixon to China, a delegation of American computer scientists visited China at the invitation of the Chinese government, and spent three weeks with their Chinese counterparts. While they were suitably impressed by the strides made by the Chinese in mastering the technology, it was the perspective and objectives of the Chinese technology programme that really gave them pause.
The Chinese, it turned out, were not interested in the small and inexpensive “minicomputers” which were at that time taking the US and Europe by storm. What they were really interested in were the high speed machines such as the CDC Star, which were considered the state of the art in the early 1970s. It was evident to the American delegation that matching US capability in this area was a major objective of the Chinese. The delegation made this observation in the report they subsequently published in the journal Science.4
The Chinese interest in supercomputing thus seems to have been established very early and remained constant during the decades of political turmoil in the 1960s and 1970s. This interest was institutionalized very substantially in March 1986, when Deng Xiaoping initiated the famed ‘863’ programme to acquire parity with the US, and with the rest of the world, across a range of high technology sectors. For supercomputing to develop, a host of other industries and sectors had to develop as well, such as semiconductor manufacture, design of integrated circuits, expertise in the mining and refining of rare earths, etc. All of these were integrated well into the 863 programme.5
It took two decades for these efforts to bear fruit. In 2006, Chinese supercomputers entered the Top 500 list for the first time. At that point, India had eight supercomputers on the list, which was otherwise dominated almost entirely by the Americans, albeit with strong competition from the Japanese at the top of the list. 10 years later, in 2016, China leads the Top 500 list with 169 machines, including the Sunway TaihuLight, the world’s fastest at 93 petaflops as mentioned earlier. The US comes second, with 165 machines. Europe as a whole has about 110 machines, and Japan barely 40, although it is to the Japanese credit that the average speed of their supercomputers is the highest. India, unfortunately, has stayed nearly static with only nine systems in the Top 500 list.
Supercomputers are the second sector where China has established global leadership, the first being rare earths mining and refining, in which it holds a 95 per cent market share. But China’s growing dominance in the supercomputer sector displays capabilities that go well beyond the specialized mining and refining technologies that characterize the rare earths sector.

Prerequisites for Making the Fastest Supercomputer

Developing the world’s fastest supercomputer requires capabilities that start with pure science – specifically quantum physics and the electrodynamics of semiconductors. Allied with this is the requirement of a highly educated and competent cadre of computer scientists who understand the complexities of such abstract computer science concepts as the ‘theory of computation’ and are able to apply these concepts to developing efficient algorithms that can solve very complex real world problems. Building up a cadre of scientists with such specialized knowledge requires decades of effort, which the Chinese have systematically put in. This needs to be combined with the capacity to design Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) integrated circuits, including complex microprocessors that are as good as, if not better than, American products.6 A host of networking and connectivity technologies that enable large numbers of processors to operate efficiently in parallel – the Sunway has over 10 million parallel processors – need to be mastered for the design to even reach the prototype stage.
Many seemingly unconnected technologies are associated with supercomputers. For example, HPC machines consume enormous amounts of power – the Sunway alone consumes as much as 28 MW. It is to the credit of Chinese scientists that the home-grown processors used in the Sunway are actually three times as energy efficient as the nearest American equivalents. The physical design of the machine, including the cooling system, is itself a mechanical and metallurgical engineering challenge.
Finally, for supercomputers to be effective, they need to be loaded with a large suite of specialized software packages, ranging from operating systems that cater for the multiprocessor environment to the application suites capable of executing algorithms that help solve the truly complex real world problems such as weather forecasting, very big data analysis, biomedical modelling, and of course security-related applications such as cryptography, advanced aerospace engineering and weapon systems design.

Future Trends in Supercomputing

This raises the questions: Do countries like India stand a chance in this race? And, what can they do? The answers may lie in a careful analysis of future trends.
The Chinese mastery of the wide range of technologies positions them well for winning the next race in supercomputers, which is breaking the “exascale barrier”. In simple terms, this is the race to determine who first succeeds in constructing a supercomputer that is capable of a speed of one exaflop per second, or one thousand million Gigaflops, one Gigaflop itself being one thousand million floating point operations per second. There are four countries in the race – China, the US, France and Japan. China looks well set to win the race in the year 2018.7 France and Japan have both indicated that they would achieve the objective by 2020, and the US has conservatively indicated 2023. But the US has also stated that it expects to regain long term leadership.8
The exascale barrier is a landmark for supercomputers for reasons that go beyond the mere desire to be the first. Supercomputers operating at such incredible speeds will encounter a variety of barriers that previous generations of designers did not have to contend with. For example, the network and interconnectivity hardware that allows millions of processors to operate in parallel will have to speed up by an order of magnitude to accommodate exascale performance. Similarly, the cooling system will become a central design constraint – a statement that supercomputer engineers are wont to make is that future HPC machines may need their own independent nuclear reactor for power supply and cooling!

What India Needs to Do

All this brings back into focus the need for innovation. One outstanding feature of the supercomputer sector is that innovation is always taking place across the entire cycle, from new theories of computation to the design of chips and to new forms of software. Unlike other sectors which stabilize based on commercial considerations sooner or later, the innovation pot is always boiling over in the case of supercomputers. This is both a daunting barrier and an exciting opportunity for countries like India. There are several imperatives if India is to regain some measure of competitiveness in this strategically vital sector.
First, India must move away from the perspective which it has allowed to dominate, namely, that the application of supercomputers is more important than supercomputer technologies themselves. In this perspective, it does not matter whether an HPC machine is indigenous or imported, as long as it is usefully applied. This perspective ignores the strategic importance of supercomputers and the abundant evidence that all major countries view these technologies as critical.
Second, India must understand that it is possible to start from the current state of the art itself. There is no need to entirely retrace the path already taken by China and the other countries. Using technological expertise that is available with the global network of Indian and Indian-origin scientists and engineers, it is possible to start from a baseline which is already advanced. In addition, the software skills and personnel base that India has built up in the public and private sectors can be effectively leveraged to propel innovation on the software components of supercomputer technology.
Third, India has to understand that supercomputer research always requires fundamental research into the next stages of computing. Thus, going beyond the exascale barrier might require new approaches that are right now only in the theoretical stage – quantum computing, for example, has been only spoken about in research forums, but may well turn out to be the basis of the next leap forward. The time frames required to operationalize and commercialize nascent technologies are shrinking, and this is something that needs to be factored into the Indian approach.
Fourth, India should set itself clear objectives of what it wants to achieve in this strategically significant sector. The Chinese perspective is telling – over 50 years ago, China set itself the clear objective of parity with the United States. While the setting up of the National Supercomputer Mission in 20159 is a laudable first step, it needs to be followed up by the identification of clear objectives and allocation of adequate resources. Within a Mission perspective, it should be possible to cut down bureaucratic red tape and allow scientists and engineers to take bold and radical steps without fear of reprisal.
Finally, it needs to be appreciated that supercomputers are strategic in the most important sense, namely, the creation of an ecosystem that extends well beyond the boundaries of science and technology and has the capacity to transform the country. A strong supercomputer sector leads to capability in a variety of other fields, from semiconductor manufacturing and precision engineering to optimal strategies for agricultural production, urban planning and the like. All this would be in addition to the national security related applications where India cannot afford to be dependent on foreign expertise. Building up capability in this sector requires active government leadership to catalyse the establishment of a vibrant academic infrastructure where research at the frontiers of physics and material sciences, computational mathematics and computer science are encouraged, to establish strong partnerships with industry for technology transfer and commercial exploitation, and finally to create widespread awareness of the possibilities and potential of supercomputers. In the more advanced countries, using supercomputer resources has become routine for a large and increasing percentage of Fortune 500 companies. In China, the Sunway TaihuLight installation is intended to function as a public service, with access available to all. It may be simpler for India to catch up with these countries than is commonly imagined. What is required are bold decisions that aim at reaching comparative parity within the next decade.


Bell, G. (2014). The Amazing Race- History of Supercomputing 1960-2020. San Francisco, California: Microsoft Corporation.
Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs India. (2015). National Supercomputing Mission (NSM): Building Capacity and Capability. New Delhi: Press Information Bureau, Government of India.
Ezell, S. J., & Atkinson, R. D. (April 2016). The Vital Importance of High Performance Computing to US Competitiveness. Washington DC: Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
MOST, China. (2016). High Technology R&D Program (863 Program).
Mullaney, T. (2016, August 4). The Origins of Chinese Supercomputing. Foreign Affairs.
Orr, G., & Thomas, C. (2014). Semiconductors in China: Brave new world or same old story? McKinsey & Co.
Thibodeau, P. (2016, June 21). US to have 200-peatflop supercomputer by early 2018. ComputerWorld.
Top500. (n.d.). Top500. Retrieved from
Trader, T. (2016, May 2). China Sets Ambitious Goal To Reach Exascale By 2020. Retrieved from HPC Wire:
1. Top 500, n.d.
2. Bell, 2014
3. Ezell & Atkinson, April 2016
4. The narrative in this and the previous two paragraphs is drawn from Tom Mullaney, “The Origins of Chinese Supercomputing And an American Delegation’s Mao-Era Visit,” Foreign Affairs, 4 August 2016, at…
5. MOST, China, 2016
6. Orr & Thomas, 2014
7. Trader, 2016
8. Thibodeau, 2016
9. Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs India, 2015

The Terrorist Attack on Ataturk Airport – Portents and Pointers

Prabha Rao

IPS (Retd.)

The June 28, 2016 terrorist attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, which left 44 dead, including 18 foreigners, mainly Saudis, Iranians and Ukrainians, and over 230 injured, was especially significant, as it was carried out on the eve of the second anniversary of the declaration of the Caliphate in Mosul by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Ataturk Airport, which was said to be one of the best-guarded airports in the world handling over 63 million passengers a year, was breached with comparative ease by a triad of terrorists, using methods tried and tested over several airport attacks. According to the Turkish interior ministry, the fault line was the external security perimeter, which had been recently expanded, and had inadequate checks to the departure terminal. This was accentuated by round-the-clock heavy traffic close to the arrival and departure terminals. After scanning CCTV inputs, officials zeroed in on three terrorists who came to the entrance of the international terminal at around 2045 hours in a taxi, with heavy winter jackets (which should have raised alarm bells), and black suitcases. After separating, one targeted the nearby parking lot of the international terminal while the second moved towards the security checkpoint at the terminal entrance. They opened indiscriminate fire, lobbed grenades and finally detonated themselves using suicide vests. And the third waited at the entrance and targeted the public streaming out of the Airport in panic.1
The incident, which had been meticulously planned, lasted a little more than three minutes. The attackers struck an hour after iftar, and so reportedly caught the security staff unawares.2 According to inputs, Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency, MIT, had warned about a possible suicide attack a few weeks earlier,3 although specific details were not available. The incident in Ataturk Airport was an almost mirror image of the attack on Zaventem Airport, Brussels (March 22 2016), which highlighted the possibility that it was an ISIS-sponsored attack, and re-emphasised the vulnerability of European airports. Turkey, which considers Ataturk Airport to be a national symbol, and the gateway to its tourist revenue, has seen an immediate sharp decline in tourist footfalls, which, European countries in general, can ill afford in the present climate of economic slowdown.
The perpetrators of the attack were identified within 36 hours; a testimony to the efficiency and reach of Turkish Intelligence and local police. Two persons, holding Russian travel documents, have been identified – Rakim Bulgarov and Vadim Osmanov, according to Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu (June 30). The MIT located a flat rented by Osmanov in the Aksaray neighbourhood, Fatih district, Istanbul, where he had to give his passport copy, which foreign nationals are required to furnish, for security vetting. Anadolu, quoting police sources, said that information about the flat had been obtained through a laptop the bombers threw away before leaving for the airport.4 The police, apart from positively identifying Osmanov from his passport, were also able to seize digital data and documents linked to the ISIS in the flat,5 and learnt that Vadim Osmanov had attended a Salafi mosque in Makhachkala in Dagestan, Russia, which is known to have radicalized a number of Caucasian Jihadis.6
The Aksaray neighbourhood has become a hub for Syrian and Iraqi nationals who have moved to Turkey following unrest in their countries and set up scores of small shops, restaurants, real estate agencies and import-export businesses. It also houses a network of North Caucasian migrants, many of whom are battle-hardened from their experience in either the Chechen wars or Afghanistan, and are vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment by transnational jihadi groupings. The Aksaray region can be compared to Molenbeek in Belgium, the home of some terrorists connected to the Paris and Brussels attacks. As in the case of Saleh Abdelsalam, the terrorist involved in Paris and Brussels, who moved in from Syria and sheltered in Molenbeek, Vadim Osmanov entered Turkey from Syria on his Russian passport about a month ago. Police further said that he had entered Turkey from Raqqa (Syria), the capital of the ISIS, at least once before in 2015 and is suspected to have had links to jihadi cells inside Turkey.7 The third bomber has not yet been named, but initial reports suggested that he was from Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, Turkish police carried out several raids against suspected Islamic State cells in Istanbul, the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, and the border town of Gaziantep (June 30-July3), and have arrested around 44 individuals, including 17 foreigners.8
Some reports have suggested that the mastermind of the Ataturk attack was Ahmed Rajapovich Chatayev, a senior member of the Kavkaz Emirate, a grouping active in Syria, which is now affiliated with the ISIS. While the Turkish government mouth piece, Yeni Safak,9 has written that he was the prime mover of the attack, the Turkish Government has not yet made an official statement. However, Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, has stated that Chatayev was probably behind the three suicide bombers who carried out the attack on Istanbul airport. There are also differing reports about his arrest, with NSBC International reporting on July 1 that Turkish authorities had arrested Chatayev, but CNN stating that his whereabouts were still unknown. Chatayev’s involvement has also been claimed by the Russian media as well as by social networking sites associated with the Turkish Government.
Ahmed Chatayev’s possible connection in the incident presages a dangerous portent, given his jihadi profile. He has been on Russia’s watch list for his involvement in the second Chechen war (1999-2000), where he lost an arm, earning him the sobriquet of the one-armed jihadi. He was closely associated with Doku Umarov, the Chechen leader, who decided to go beyond Chechen nationalism by anointing himself as the self-proclaimed Emir of the entire North Caucasus region of Russia and declaring it a putative Islamic State of the Kavkaz Emirate (2003). Till his death through poisoning in 2013, Umarov had been the top terrorist leader in Russia, and taken responsibility for several attacks on civilian targets since 2009, including the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings and significantly, the 2011 Domodedovo International Airport bombing, which has a marked similarity to the Ataturk Airport attack. While his attempts to prevent the holding of the Sochi 2014 Olympics was unsuccessful, he succeeded in radicalizing not only a large number of North Caucasians, but also got the Bashkirs and Tatars into the terrorist net.10
Due to his links with Doku Umarov, Ahmed Chatayev was on the wanted list in Russia since 2003 for sponsoring terrorism, recruiting extremists and membership in a terrorist group. Chatayev escaped to Europe and claimed asylum on the grounds that he was a victim of torture, was being persecuted by Russian authorities, and was subsequently granted asylum in Austria. He was arrested in the Swedish town of Trelleborg in 2008 and was detained with some Chechen nationals as police found Kalashnikov assault rifles, explosives and ammunition in his car, and he consequently spent more than a year in a Swedish prison. Chatayev was again arrested in 2010 in Ukraine and blue prints of IEDs and data regarding Chechen terrorists in Russia and Middle East were found on his mobile. Russia’s request for his extradition on terrorism-related charges was rejected, as Chatayev filed a case in the European Court for Human Rights, which ordered Ukraine not to hand him over to Russia, and Amnesty International sent out a statement that his extradition could cause a miscarriage of justice as he could face torture and ill treatment.11
A year later, Chatayev was once again detained as he was crossing the border between Turkey and Bulgaria. And once again he avoided extradition because of Amnesty International, which stressed that Chatayev had a refugee status in Austria and thus cannot be sent to Russia. Between 2012 and 2015, Chatayev reportedly lived in Georgia, where he established a strong presence of the Kavkaz Emirate. Since mid-2014, he has recruited large numbers of fighters from the North and South Caucasus to join the ranks of the Islamic State. Largely because of his role, the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia has become a major transit route for jihadists travelling to Syria to fight on behalf of the Caliphate.12 He cooperated closely with Omar Shishani (Tarhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvi), a Georgian, who headed the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’s (IMU) contingent in Syria/ Iraq and was the Military Commander of the ISIS in Raqqa till his death (March 16 2016).13
Chatayev had left Georgia in February 2015 for Syria, where he joined ISIS militants. He is said to be the commander of the Yarmouk Battalion, a Chechen faction of the ISIS. According to the United Nations Security Council, Chatayev now controls 130 ISIS militants whom he uses for terrorist activities in Syria around Aleppo, and other areas adjacent to southern Turkey. He has considerable clout in the ISIS, due to his work in the Pankisi Gorge area, from where he is reported to have brought in over 1000 jihadis into Syria/Iraq. Chatayev is said to have set up a branch of the Kavkaz Emirate in Turkey, and since 2015 has focussed on recruiting young men from immigrant families who hold European Union passports. In January 2016, the Russian paper, Kommersant, warned that Chatayev was “training executors for acts of terror not only in Russia but also in Western Europe.”14 Later, Andrey Przhezdomsky, the advisor to the chairman of the Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee, claimed the Chatayev was the head of a special ISIS unit now in charge of arranging blasts in Russia and Europe. Significantly, Russian claims about Chatayev have been endorsed after the interrogation of two North Caucasian ISIS cadres, Yakub Ibragimov and Abdulla Abdullaev, in Turkey last year, who confessed that they recruited young Caucasians via social media, provided them with fake passports, and took them to ISIS camps where they underwent training organised by Chatayev’s team.15
Russians have maintained that Chatayev was not extradited, despite overwhelming evidence against him, due to the intervention of the Security Service of Ukraine’s (SBU) chief, Valentin Nalyvaychenko, and protests by the Ukrainian nationalist organization, the Tryzub. The Russians further claim that the “Dzokhar Dudayev” battalion (named after the first rebel Chechen leader who tried to declare independence from Russia) was formed by the nationalist Right Sector, a Ukrainian militia, to participate in the military conflict in the Donbass region, on the side of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Battalion has been split into the Sheikh Mansur battalion (named after an 18th century Chechen warrior) and has incorporated illegal armed formations and terror groups mainly from the North Caucus, some of whom have migrated to the Syria/Iraq theatre after earning their jihadi credentials on the Ukrainian frontline.16 The Dudayev and Sheik Mansur Battalions also cooperate closely with the Kavkaz Emirate (CE), and Chatayev has been the representative of Doku Umarov and CE in Europe since he got asylum in Austria. Russian media has pointed out that, had expeditious and legal action been taken against Chatayev, the Istanbul blast could have perhaps been prevented.17
Security officials have opined that the group’s motive in the high voltage attack, which was Turkey’s first suicide attack in an Airport, could have been to intimidate Ankara because of recent attempts at rapprochement with Russia.18 On June 27, Erdogan sent a letter of apology to Russian President Vladimir Putin seeking to bury the hatchet over Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian fighter jet on November 24, 2015. Putin and Erdogan spoke by phone the day after the terrorist attack at Ataturk Airport, when the former ordered the Russian government to launch the process of restoring cooperation with Turkey, including tourist traffic, and enhance cooperation to contain terrorism.19 Recent conciliatory moves towards Moscow is a matter of real disquiet for the ISIS mujahedeen, especially the IMU and Kavkaz Emirate cadres, as they had been using communication routes through Turkey, and had set up an extensive network there. For them, Turkish cooperation with Russia could be an existential threat.
The involvement of Chechen mujahideen in Europe is a disturbing phenomenon. The Istanbul attack was the first instance of Caucasian mujahideen with the ISIS involving themselves in a terror attack outside Syria/Iraq. The incident is indicative of not only the network that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Kavkaz Emirate have set up in Turkey, but also the fact that European intelligence has failed to keep track of identified dangerous elements within the EU. According to the Federal Security Services of Russia (FSB), around 3,400 Russian citizens had gone to fight alongside ISIS/Jabhat ul Nusra in Syria and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, and around 2,500 Islamic State fighters have gone from other Central Asian countries. Given the current migration crisis in Europe, a number of terrorists could slip into the EU via Turkey on fake passports and documents. One of the alleged suicide bombers in the Istanbul attack, Osman Vadinov, also slipped into Turkey on a Russian passport and fake visa. Apart from the networks that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Kavkaz Emirate have set up in Turkey, Bashkirs and Tatars, who are ethnically Turkish and have joined the Kavkaz Emirate from Russia and Ukraine, had been getting covert support from Turkey, and are now present in sizeable numbers in Syria. Turkey, which has a porous frontier with Syria, has been an easy passage for all sorts of Salafi opposition groups under the combined umbrellas of Ankara, Riyadh and Qatar. It is unsurprising therefore that ISIS has many sleeper cells in Turkey. The Turkish security agencies, especially the MIT, have lowered their threat perception from these Salafi groups well below that of the Kurdish insurgent groups, and have instead focussed on giving clandestine support to anti-Bashar al-Assad opposition groups, notwithstanding their allegiance to al Qaeda or ISIS, and permitted a jihadi corridor through Turkish border towns.20
The ISIS attacks are definitely a blowback of Turkey’s role in Syria, and the group has perpetrated four other major attacks in Istanbul this year – notably in the Sultanahmet district on January 12 and in Taksim Square on March 19, both targeting popular tourist spots and foreign civilians with an intent to attract international attention.21 President Erdogan, who resisted terming ISIS a terrorist group till 2016, used the international coalition against terrorism to put down threats Ankara perceives from the militant wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, and its ally the Democratic Union Party (PYD). In August 2015, the Peoples Protection Group – YPG, had been able to wrest the strategic towns of Kobani and Gire Spi, and was poised to seize Jarablus, the last ISIS held town on the Turkish border that the so-called Caliphate had been using to resupply its capital in Raqqa with weapons, materials, and recruits. At that juncture, Erdogan made a public announcement that Jarablus was a “red line” and that if the Kurds moved ahead the Turkish army would intervene militarily. So Jarablus, one of the main towns on the arterial road required by ISIS, remains in terrorist hands.22 Erdogan stated on June 29 (and there is undeniable public pressure on him to do so) that he would escalate the war against ISIS. If his statement would result in choking Raqqa from getting logistic supplies and finances through purchases of contraband oil, it would quantifiably hasten the ultimate degradation of ISIS. In the meanwhile, analysts are of the opinion that with the ISIS under tremendous pressure, especially after the loss of Fallujah in Iraq and Manbij in Syria, it would try to showcase its continuing strength and relevance. Hence lone wolf and wolf pack attacks are to be expected, not just in Turkey, but in the rest of Europe as well.23
An interesting point that needs to be noted is the similarity between the Istanbul attack and the attack on Zaventem Airport Brussels (March 22), which gives rise to the premise that this incident, like the previous ones in Brussels and Paris, were planned in Raqqa. An ISIS defector, Abu Khaled, who took asylum in Paris, stated during his interrogation that the planning of external terrorist actions in areas outside of ISIS’s core territory is done through the Amn al-Kharji, a wing of ISIS’s bureaucracy responsible for selecting and training operatives and for planning terrorist attacks in Europe.24 According to Abu Khaled, the Amn al-Kharji was one of four agencies that fall under ISIS’s Amniyat, or security apparatus. The other three agencies are: the Amn al-Dawla, which is responsible for internal security within ISIS’s territory; the Amn al-Dakhili, the interior ministry; and the Amn al-Askari, the military intelligence wing. The Amn al-Kharji was responsible for conducting and monitoring espionage and terrorist attacks, and it had developed considerable expertise in infiltration and casing of suitable targets. According to Abu Khaled, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s chief spokesman, was the operational commander of the Amn al-Kharji,25 and that detailed operational planning was done by one Abu Sulayman al-Faransi. Incidentally, Al-Faransi’s name surfaced in investigations into the Brussels attacks, when Belgian authorities went through the hard disk of a computer owned by Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of the two suicide bombers who struck the Zaventem airport, and concluded that Bakraoui had been in contact with him. Al-Faransi has a number of theatre commanders responsible for planning operations in various regions that ISIS wants to target, who serve as a bridge between strategic planners and tactical operators. The possibility that Ahmed Chatayev, given his profile in the ISIS, is one of the ‘theatre commanders’ of the ISIS cannot be dismissed. Inputs from the testimony of Abu Khaled, when seen in tandem with the established infiltration routes and networks in Turkey, portend continuing danger from terrorism in EU.
The June 28 attack on Ataturk airport, as also the Zaventem attack in Brussels, have highlighted the security lacunae in all airports, which do not monitor the arrival terminals, permitting terrorists to use combinations of AK 47s, IEDs and suicide vests to advantage. More policed security perimeters around airports, a multiplicity of check-in points, with escalated staff/security, and reduced waiting time, are now absolute necessities. Another urgent requirement is more sophisticated equipment to detect newer forms of explosives like Triacetone Triperoxide – TATP, which is currently not detected by security checks. TATP uses easily available precursors like Acetone and Hydrogen Peroxide, which do not draw attention, as do nitrate/ fertiliser based explosives, and was used by ISIS cadres in both Paris and Belgium. Training is being given by the group in Syria/Iraq in the innovative use and manufacture of explosives, as also in its online magazines.
Here, attention needs to be drawn to the latest arrests made by the National Investigation Agency in Hyderabad,26 which has busted a terrorist module allegedly affiliated to the ISIS. Among those detained were Mohammed Ibrahim Yajdhani, a young software engineer, and his brother Mohammed Iliyas Yajdhani, a computer applications graduate. According to NIA officials, the module had gathered considerable material to prepare explosives and secured arms. Officers found ammonium nitrate and hydrogen peroxide stored in the residence of these youths. The presence of Peroxide needs to ring warning bells, as it may indicate attempts to home manufacture TATP, as was done in Molenbeek, Belgium, before March 22, 2016. Hence, while the numbers of Indians involved with the ISIS is miniscule, our vulnerabilities are myriad and adequate preparations to counter, contain and control terrorist activities needs to be the sine qua non of our security architecture.
1. Jane Onyanga-Omara, “Official: Turkey bombers from Russia Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan,” USA Today, June 29, 2016,
2., June 30, 2016.
3. Mete Yarar, “Flying Blind: Why Turkey’s Intelligence Agency Can’t Prevent Terror Attacks,” July 3, 2016,
4. Umar Farooq, “Turkish officials identify two of three suicide bombers in attack at Istanbul airport that killed 44,” Los Angeles Times, July 1, 2016,
5. Faith Karimi and Steve Almasy, “Istanbul airport attack: Planner, 2 bombers identified, report says,” CNN, July 2, 2016,
6. “Suspect in terrorist attack at Istanbul airport attended a Salafi mosque in Dagestan,” July 5, 2016,
7. “Turkish government does not confirm Akhmed Chatayev’s participation in Ataturk Airport attack,” June 30, 2016,
8. Julian Barnes, Thomas Grove and Richard Bordeax, “U.S. Suspects Chechen Was Behind Istanbul Airport Attack,” Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2016,
9. Note 7.
10. For more details about Umarov, see the various reports listed at
11. “Ukraine: Chechen Risks Torture if Returned to Russia,” Amnesty International, January 11, 2010,
12. Mark Kramer, “The Return of Islamic State Fighters: The Impact on the Caucasus and Central Asia,” PonarsEurasia Policy Memo 381, August 2015,
13. “ISIL commander Omar the Chechen confirmed dead,” Al Jazeera, March 16, 2016,
14. Will Stewart, “Was one-armed Chechen warlord behind Istanbul airport attack? Bearded ‘terror mastermind’ fled Russia 12 years ago before settling in Turkey as ISIS recruiter, security services say,” MailOnline, June 30, 2016,
15. Ibid.
16. Andrew E. Kramer, “Islamic Battalions, Stocked With Chechens, Aid Ukraine in War With Rebels,” New York Times, July 7, 2015,
17. Alex Gladki, “Circumstantially proves that these jihadis are being promoted by the west,” Niqnaq, June 30 2016,
18. Catherine Putz, The Turkish-Russian Rapprochement, The Diplomat, June 30, 2016,
19. “Putin Instructs Gov’t to Start Talks With Turkey on Restoring Ties,” June 29, 2016,
20. Note 18.
21. Natasha Bertrand, “Why it’s unlikely that ISIS will claim responsibility for the Istanbul airport attack,” BusinessInsiderIndia, June 29, 2016,
22. David Graeber, “Turkey could cut off Islamic State’s supply lines. So why doesn’t it?,” The Guardian, November 18, 2015,
23. Eric Schmitt, “As ISIS Loses Land, It Gains Ground in Overseas Terror,” New York Times, July 3, 2016,
24. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Nathaniel Barr, “Recent Attacks Illuminate the Islamic State’s Europe Attack,” The Jamestown Foundation, April 27, 2016,
25. Ibid.
26. “Hyderabad: Suspected ISIS terror module busted by NIA after midnight raids,” Indian Express, June 29, 2016,

Deciphering Pakistan’s Kashmir Lexicon

Prabha Rao

IPS (Retd.)

Kashmir has been claimed by Pakistani leaders as central to their foreign policy. But a closer look shows that it has been more of a political convenience for Pakistan since 1947, both as a smokescreen to cover up endemic deficiencies and as a convoluted foreign policy mechanism to use state sponsored terrorism in the quest for “strategic depth” – a concept which is increasingly viewed as illusory.
Exploiting the Kashmir Protests
A cursory glance at Pakistan’s current lexicon on Kashmir demonstrates both these above aspects. After the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani on July 8 in Kokernag, Anantnag district, barbed references have been made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his cabinet members eulogising Wani as a martyr and emphasising anti-Indian, anti-Hindu, sentiments in the Valley. Much of this was in fact underwritten by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The Pakistani cabinet, not so subtly, declared July 21 as Kashmir Black Day, to coincide with elections in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The result was the ruling PML-N winning a landslide victory with 31 of the 41 seats. Nawaz Sharif, who was under a cloud due to his family connections with shell front companies allegedly involved in money laundering which had been disclosed in the Panama papers, and also under threat from a section of the armed forces and public obliquely supporting Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, seized the opportunity to proclaim his political relevance and resilience.
The leitmotif of his victory speech at Muzaffarabad was “Kashmir banega Pakistan”, which was repeated in his Independence Day address on August 14. Pakistan’s President, Mamnoon Hussain, reiterated the message in his address to the nation. As did Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, who emphasised Islamabad’s unswerving commitment to the Kashmir cause, testing the already strained relations with India.
These Independence Day speeches reflected the current reality in Pakistan, where the emphasis was primarily on terrorism; paeans of praise for the success of Operation Zarb-e Azb, criticism of terrorist attacks from Afghanistan, and of course the Kashmir issue. There was no talk about economic growth, job creation, or any serious development agenda. The rhetoric on the Kashmir issue is now serving as an effective smokescreen for the flailing economy and fractured politics of the country.
Pakistan’s Diplomatic Campaign
At the multilateral level, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, requested the Islamabad-based Ambassadors of the member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir, which comprises Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Niger, to raise their voice against “the blatant human rights violations” affecting Kashmiri Muslims in the Valley. Subsequently, the Secretary General of OIC, Iyad bin Amin Madani, (former Saudi minister for Information and Hajj), going beyond the usual litany of the Kashmiri right to self-determination and a referendum as per UN resolutions, publicly stated on August 21 that Kashmir was not India’s internal problem but an international issue given humongous human rights violations. He exhorted the international community to raise its voice against alleged Indian atrocities. And added that the OIC contact group would meet in New York in the run-up to the United Nations General Assembly session, where Nawaz Sharif would be delivering an emotive speech on the situation in Kashmir, and warned that several groups would be demonstrating against Prime Minister Modi there. The OIC Chairman’s speech was uncharacteristically harsh, and indicative of the sustained campaign launched by Pakistan regarding Kashmir.
Later, the President of PoK, Sardar Muhammad Masood Khan, and Prime Minister of PoK, Raja Farooq Haider, in a statement issued on August 25 following the swearing in of the former, pledged that they would ensure that “the blood offered by the men, women and children in Kashmir in the current struggle will not go vain.” Muhammad Masood Khan, a career diplomat, who was earlier Foreign Ministry spokesperson and Ambassador to China in addition to a successful stint as Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, has been nominated as PoK President to further Islamabad’s Kashmir agenda in the UNGA. In his inaugural speech, Masood Khan emphasised that Kashmiris needed to increase their outreach and multiply their friends to influence powerful countries and multilateral agencies. He noted that “[t]he UN will not come to us, we will have to go to the UN to remind it of its seemingly forgotten commitments on Kashmir.”1
He also added that Islamabad needs to work on the UN Secretary-General and influence him to use his good offices and appoint a special emissary for Kashmir without waiting for consent from India, as New Delhi was not prepared to accept mediation. Significantly, Masood Khan has also spoken about the necessity of cultivating sympathetic sections of India’s political class and civil society in order to put pressure on the Government for agreeing to bilateral talks on Kashmir with all stakeholders.2
It is interesting to note that Congress leader Saifuddin Soz has publicly asked for the revival of Pervez Musharraf’s four point action plan for Kashmir, which contemplates:
status quo on borders to remain, with people on either side of the Line of Control (LoC) allowed to move freely;
autonomous status (not independence) to Jammu and Kashmir along with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for internal management;
troops to be withdrawn from the region in a phased manner; and
a joint mechanism, with Indian, Pakistani and Kashmiri representatives, to supervise the implementation of such a road-map for Kashmir.
While the Musharraf plan has no legal basis either in the UN recommendations or the Constitution of India as regards autonomous status for Kashmir, Soz’s statement provides a tailwind for Islamabad’s international initiatives, given that such opinions are being voiced by members of mainstream political parties in India.
Pakistan’s Plans for the UN General Assembly Session
Nawaz Sharif’s chief international strategy is now focussed on the 71st UNGA session (September 13-26), where Islamabad wants to highlight what it terms India’s bellicose jingoism in Kashmir. Sharif has appointed 22 “envoys” to work globally and sensitise countries about the situation in Kashmir before the UNGA session. Given below is a communication from the Pakistan Prime Minister’s office appointing the Envoys and the countries they are to concentrate upon. Pakistan’s Opposition and sections of the media have questioned these appointments, as all the appointees are from the treasury benches, and most of them have tardy attendance in parliament – their chief qualification being proximity to the establishment.
Pakistan’s Continued Use of Terrorism
Pakistan’s Kashmir script is being enacted, and to a large extent written by, state-sponsored actors, headed by Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT)/Jamaa’t ut Dawa (JuD) and ably supported by Masood Azhar and his cohorts of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Syed Salahuddin of the Hizbul Mujahideen, as well as minor terrorist dramatis personae. The US country report on Pakistan states unambiguously that
“Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or HQN, or substantially limit their ability to threaten U.S. interests in Afghanistan, although Pakistan supported efforts to bring both groups into an Afghan-led peace process. Pakistan has also not taken sufficient action against other externally-focused groups such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which continued to operate, train, organize, and fundraise in Pakistan.”3
This report is borne out by the statements given by Bahadur Ali, alias Abu Saifullah, a resident of Raiwind, Lahore, who was arrested on July 25 in Yahama village in Handwara in North Kashmir. Bahadur Ali, who is a regular LeT cadre and Falah e Insaniyat Foundation activist, claimed that he was given three training sessions by the LeT – the ‘Daura-e-Tulba, which is the basic ideological training at Manshera in the year 2013, the ‘Daura-e-Aam’ which focused on arms training at Aksa camp near Muzaffarabad in 2014 , and ‘Daura-e-Khas’, which involved training in the use of sophisticated arms and communications equipment at Tabook camp near Muzaffarabad in 2016. He was then infiltrated into India from the Mandaku area of PoK with the active assistance of the Pakistan Army on the LoC. According to him, officers who were called ‘Major Sahib and Captain Sahib’ by the trainees in the camp briefed them about the objectives in Kashmir, which included causing disaffection, engendering pro-Pakistan pro-Salafist sentiments, causing violence by lobbing grenades at security forces etc.4
This information has been corroborated by another LeT cadre, Mohd. Naveed, who was arrested following an attack on a BSF convoy at Udhampur in August 2015. Bahadur Ali was in touch with his Pakistani handlers on a real time basis, with instructions given to him from a control room called Alpha-III which is said to be located in PoK. Communication was being carried out using Japanese I-com radio sets that had been modified to give them an enhanced range, a process which requires considerable technical skill. Similar sets have been seized by the NDS in Afghanistan and President Ashraf Ghani has openly accused the ISI and LeT of engineering terrorist attacks in Kabul.5
Red Corner Notices and a USD 10 million bounty on his head notwithstanding, LeT’s Hafiz Saeed is one of Pakistan’s designated ‘good’ terrorists who enjoys state privileges comparable to a serving minister. He has been permitted to file a preposterous public interest litigation in the Lahore High Court on August 12, seeking directives for Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet to agitate the Kashmir issue at the Security Council in order to exert pressure on India to follow the Security Council’s resolution passed in April 1948. The designated international terrorist was allowed to hold a public rally on Pakistan’s Independence Day in Lahore, when he urged the Army Chief Rahil Sharif to send troops into India to teach it a lesson in order “to avenge the brutalities of Indian forces on Kashmiris.”6
Similarly, Syed Salahuddin, alias Mohammad Yusuf Shah, of the Hizb ul Mujahedeen, in an interview to the Times of India on September 4 warned that he will turn Kashmir into a “graveyard” for the Indian armed forces and unleash an army of fidayeen because the region has been turned into a “concentration camp”. Salahuddin, who normally resides in Pakistan, has five sons who are being supported in various ways by the Indian government – one son serves in Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Medical College, another is a research scholar in the University of Agricultural Sciences, and a third is doing his M Tech.7
It can be safely presumed that none of his five sons will join the proposed fidayeen army, and Salahuddin will continue to enjoy the patronage of Islamabad and encourage minor children to stand in the line of fire during riots, many of which are being nurtured and fed from across the border.
Meanwhile, on August 7, the Lashkar-e-Islam, a relatively unknown Salafist group headed by one Abdul Qayoom Najar, who was originally a Hizbul militant, has issued posters in Pulwama threatening Kashmiri Pandits and asking them to leave the Valley or be ready to face the consequences. Given below is a copy of the letter.
Earlier, in May 2015, Lashkar-e-Islam posters appeared in Sopore asking telecom operators to shut shop in North Kashmir, and subsequently some telecom operators were killed by the LeI.8 Stymying Indian telecom operators appears to be yet another attempt to distance the Kashmiri public from the Indian state.
Radicalisation in the Valley
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who often decried the lack of dialogue with New Delhi, refused to meet a small group of Opposition members of parliament headed by Sitaram Yechury on September 4 on the grounds that there was no basis for talks. Hurriyat leaders have made it clear that Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s objective of holding talks in Srinagar with “individuals & groups who want peace & normalcy in Kashmir,”9 cut no ice with them, as it did not address any Pakistani claim or separatist agenda. Meanwhile, there are now three threads of narratives within Kashmir – pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi, and pro-Salafist Islam – with calls for Nizam-e Mustafa, and Khalifat-e Rashida gaining considerable currency. Pakistan-sponsored terrorists have fed a toxic narrative into the valley, espousing a recidivist Takfiri form of Islam, which is far removed from the original Sufi ideology of Mir Syed Ali bin Shahab-ud-Din Hamadani, Hazrat Khwaja Naqshband Sahib, Hazrat Noorud Din, and others, which characterised Kashmir. While Pakistan has used the rabid Islam card to try and distance the Kashmiri public from the Indian state, it has planted seeds of Islamic extremism that could prove far more dangerous in the long term than clarion cries of Azadi, which the protestors and the sponsors are both aware will not come to pass.
Finance for the Protests
Illegal money flows into the Valley through Pakistan-sponsored agents have given impetus to both armed protests and radicalism. Large transfers of money from Pakistan have been traced by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is tracking some 22 bank accounts in south Kashmir that received money from unaccounted sources and had the same withdrawn during the time of the current unrest. A case in point is that of JKART (Jammu Kashmir Affectees Relief Trust), a Pakistan-based front outfit of Hizbul Mujahedeen. The trust, which was floated in 1999 by Syed Salahuddin in Rawalpindi and sponsored by the ISI, was regularly raising funds in Pakistan and sending it to India through both regular banking channels as well as Hawala networks. According to the NIA, around Rs. 80 crore was routed through JKART to India over eight years and distributed to various accounts some of which functioned only to facilitate transfers and then shut down.10
Witnesses in Kashmir have spoken about payments being given to protestors by the Hurriyat and Hizbul Mujahideen elements to throw stones and attack convoys. Sustained efforts have been made to ensure that minor children are the first line against security forces, and thus become victims of pellet guns and lathi charges, which leave crippling injuries. There is cynical disregard for human life in the quest for emotionally charging the local population with visuals of child victims, and to broadcast Kashmir’s disconnect with the Indian state. The current round of conflict has been concentrated in southern Kashmir, the main constituency of the PDP, to demonstrate to Kashmiris and the rest of the world that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has lost her political relevance and that the PDP’s coalition with the BJP has no real mandate in the state.
Modi’s References to Baluchistan and PoK
Nawaz Sharif’s government, which was hoping to cash in on the current Kashmir conflict in the UNGA, has been rattled by Prime Minister Modi’s reference to human rights violations in Baluchistan, Gilgit and Baltistan, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in his Independence Day address to the nation. The chief minister of Balochistan, Sanaullah Zehri, decrying Modi’s comments, castigated Brahamdagh Bugti, the grandson of the late Baluch leader Akbar Bugti and leader of the outlawed Baloch Republican Army (BRA), for supporting Modi. Anti-Indian demonstrations were held at Quetta, Harnai, Khuzdar, Mustang, Noshki, Sui and Dera Bugti, apart from a shutter down strike in Bolan and Dhadar.11 And Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafizur Rehman has stated that Modi raised the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan, PoK and Baluchistan because he is feeling beleaguered both by the Kashmir protests and the growing cooperation between China and Pakistan on CPEC.12
The way forward
The Government of India, and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in particular, are in a quandary about suitable crowd control mechanisms in Kashmir. According to officers in the CRPF, security forces use force in a calibrated manner, with warnings on the loudspeaker, followed by teargas/lathis and then only pellet guns, which were considered to be less lethal than rubber bullets. Several of the protestors are not locals, as has been revealed in the statements of Bahadhur Ali and Mohammad Naved, cited above. The damage caused by pellet guns, especially on children, are of course horrific, but the onus of responsibility needs to be suitably apportioned to elements across the border who sponsor the riots, and the misguided youth who have been fed a deceitful narrative without concern for their welfare or future. The MHA has now decided that a total suspension of pellet guns would not be possible, given the imperative of the security of the personnel of the CRPF and J&K police. However, it has resolved that a greater reliance would be placed on PAVA shells which contain Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide, an organic compound found in chilli pepper. It derives its name from the compound, which is also known as Nonivamide, and causes extreme irritation and temporary paralysis. The Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Lucknow, has been working on the shells for over a year now and the Tear Smoke Unit of the Border Security Force in Gwalior will be producing 50,000 PAVA shells for immediate use.13
However, the Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) of Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital has expressed concern about the Government’s decision to use PAVA shells as capsaicin, the active chemical in the compound, could cause Periorbital Edema/Erythema, Ophthalmodynia, Blepharospasm, and respiratory failure, which could be fatal.14
Any adverse publicity on this matter will act as an adrenalin shot for Nawaz Sharif, who wants to build up his anti-India arsenal for the UNGA session. Given this, the dialogue process has little chance of proceeding within the contours of the Indian constitution. Emphasis needs to be put on Modi’s call for ‘vikas’ and ‘vishwas’. The finance minister of J&K, Haseeb Drabu, who is the ideologue of the PDP, has also emphasised development, revival of the Kashmiri crafts industry, and government-sponsored skill development programmes. Innovative confidence building measures need to be considered expeditiously. India has failed the Valley by not countering the false narratives of Pakistan’s false lexicon on Kashmir. There is a need to revive the Sufi tradition of Kashmir, and counter the imported Salafi/Wahhabi tenets that are being used by Pakistan as a vehicle to cause dissonance. India needs to re-claim its Kashmiris.

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