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Thoothukudi to Kanpur: The police are in the dock. Reforms must start with the political system

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Prakash Singh
Retd. IPS Officer & Patron-GCTC

 
 

Police was in the news for the right reasons till yesterday — for its humanitarian role during the pandemic. It was lauded as “the frontline of the frontline” and even the prime minister said that “the human and sensitive side of policing has touched our hearts”. Unfortunately, the pendulum has very soon swung to the other extreme.
The brutal treatment of a father and son in Sathankulam police station of Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu, resulting in their death, exposed the ugly face of the police. It showed that the police are still relying on medieval methods in their day to day working and that custodial torture continues to be an area of serious concern. What was worse, the supervisory officers abdicated their responsibility and failed in their primary duty of registering a case against the delinquent police personnel and getting them arrested. It is a great pity that the high court had to step in and the case had to be handed over to the CBI. The situation could have been easily defused if the officers had risen to the occasion and ensured action under the law. We are now faced with the embarrassment of the UN Secretary General wanting the incident to be investigated.
On top of that, we have an encounter in Kanpur where a criminal wanted for the murder of eight policemen was killed by UP Police under circumstances which have raised uncomfortable questions. These would hopefully be answered by a proper inquiry into the matter in due course. However, we need to go to the root of the problem.
As far back as 1993, the Vohra Committee had submitted a report on the nexus between the criminals, politicians and government functionaries. The DIB, in his report to the Committee, clearly stated that “the network of the mafia is virtually running a parallel government, pushing the state apparatus to irrelevance”, and suggested that an institution be set up to effectively deal with the menace. There were heated discussions in parliament, but the matter ended there. There was hardly any follow-up action.
And it was futile to expect any decisive action. Politics in the country was gradually entering a murky phase. The mafiosi, who were hitherto supporting the politicians from outside, had decided to enter the fray. They started contesting elections on party tickets. It is a sad reflection on our democracy that the number of members of parliament with criminal background has been going up with every successive election. It was, according to the Association of Democratic Reforms, 30 per cent in 2009, 34 per cent in 2014 and 43 per cent in 2019. The present UP Assembly has 36 per cent or 143 MLAs with criminal cases against them. What do we expect from them in their constituencies except that the administration should turn a blind eye to, if not support their depredations and also of their henchmen? The nexus has proliferated and grown in strength down the years. It creates an environment where the criminals who are part of the nexus are able to dodge the due processes of law. After all, Vikas Dubey had 62 FIRs against him, including seven of murder and eight of attempt to murder, and yet he was roaming free.
What is the way out? The nexus will have to be broken and reforms must start with the political system. We must have a law which debars persons with serious criminal cases from entering the assemblies and the Parliament. Secondly, the criminal justice system must be revamped as recommended by the Malimath Committee. Thirdly, the Supreme Court’s directions on police reforms must be implemented. Fourthly, an institution comprising representatives of the police/CBI/NIA, Intelligence Bureau, Income Tax department, Revenue Intelligence and Enforcement Directorate should be set up to monitor the activities of the mafia and criminal syndicates in the country and ensure stringent action against them. Fifthly, a Central act on the lines of MCOCA should be enacted to curb the activities of organised criminal gangs. Sixthly, the concept of federal crime, as recommended by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, should be accepted and offences which have all-India ramifications or are trans-national in character, like those of terrorism and organised crimes, should be brought within its ambit. It may sound like asking for too much, but we have been discussing the need for such measures for a long time. Is it not time to take up these reforms in right earnest? The journey of a thousand miles, they say, begins with the first step. Let that step be taken at least.
The aftermath of George Floyd being choked to death by a white policeman in the US has lessons for us. There were countrywide protests and demonstrations. The Democrats in Washington even drafted a Bill called the Justice in Policing Act for police reforms. President Donald Trump, responding to the widespread demand for police reforms, signed an executive order on June 16 to establish a database which would track police officers with excessive use of force complaints in their records. It would, besides, give the police department a financial incentive to adopt best practices and encourage co-responder programmes in which social workers would join the police when they respond to non-violent calls involving mental health, addiction and homeless issues. In India, has any member of parliament even spoken of the need for police reforms?
Our leaders should see the writing on the wall. Any spark of police misconduct of the kind that happened in Thoothukudi could tomorrow lead to a prairie fire of popular indignation and protests across the country. We must, without further delay, build an environment where police becomes an instrument of service to the people, where monsters like Dubey do not thrive and become a menace to society.
 

Naga Accord: Challenges Remain

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Prakash Singh
Retd. IPS Officer & Patron-GCTC

 
“Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem, but the beginning of a new future.” Thus spake the Prime Minister on August 3, after the Naga Peace Accord was signed in New Delhi. The terms of agreement were not released – only the framework was outlined. According to Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home, it may take about three months to finalize the exact terms of the agreement. Nevertheless, according to sources, the accord seeks a “lasting solution” to the Naga problem.
It is worth recalling that a suspension of operations agreement was signed with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Issac-Muivah group) as far back as 1997. About eighty rounds of talks were held during the intervening period at different places which included Bangkok, Paris, Zurich and Geneva. There were prolonged negotiations because the Naga rebel leaders insisted on recognition of their sovereignty and demanded integration of the contiguous Naga-inhabited areas of the adjoining states into what they called Nagalim (Greater Nagaland). The Government of India could not agree to the concept of Naga sovereignty as different from sovereignty of Indian people, and it was not prepared to redraw the geographical boundaries because of the intense opposition by the neighbouring states, particularly Manipur. And so, the talks went on and on. Some of our interlocutors, like Padmanabhaiah, also never showed any sense of urgency with the result that the talks meandered. R.N Ravi, a thorough professional, insisted on and managed to clinch the issue. The agreement is no doubt historic, but we have to keep our fingers crossed until such time as the details are worked out and those are also endorsed by both the sides.
We have to remember that there have already been three agreements with the Nagas during the last about sixty years that the insurgency has been going on. The first Naga People’s Convention held in 1957 demanded that the Naga Hills district of Assam and the Tuensang Frontier division of North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) be merged into a single unit. The demanded was conceded and Naga Hills Tuensang Area (NHTA) was formed the same year. The third Nagas People’s convention held in 1959, demanded the creation of a new state of Nagaland. This was also conceded, and the state of Nagaland was carved out on December 1, 1963. Peace, however, continued to elude the Hills.
There was yet another agreement in 1975 – the Shilong Accord. The representatives of Naga underground organizations conveyed their decision “of their own volition, to accept, without condition, the Constitution of India.” The underground leaders also agreed to deposit their weapons at “appointed places”. Another group of Naga leaders, which included Issac, Muivah and Khaplang, however refused to abide by the agreement and they formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 1980, which has since been spearheading insurgency in the state.
The Accord signed on August 3, 2015 would be the fourth agreement in the series. Will it work? It should, by all the available indications. Government has shown extraordinary sensitivity to Naga sentiments. “The Government of India recognized the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations.” The NSCN leaders have also shown great sagacity by not making an issue of adjoining Naga-inhabited areas being integrated with Nagaland. “The NSCN understood and appreciated the Indian political system and governance.”
There are nevertheless grey areas which would have to be taken care of. Firstly, Khaplang group of the NSCN is not part of the agreement and it is quite formidable. Its attitude would need to be watched. Secondly, there are other groups also who may have reservations. Muivah is a Tangkhul Naga of Manipur, and not all Nagas of Nagaland like him for that reason. Discordant voices are already being heard. Naga National Council has come out with a statement saying, “Nagas are not Indians and Nagaland is not part of India”. The NSCN (Khole-Kitovi) has also said that it has “nothing to do with the Naga peace accord”. Government would have to address their concerns.
The permanence of the agreement would depend to a very large extent on the Naga rebels surrendering their weapons. The two sides have agreed to set up a mechanism for decommissioning of arms. However, if that does not happen or if that happens very partially, the future would remain uncertain. Presently, the NSCN (IM) is running virtually a parallel government, collecting taxes, recruiting people, and issuing ahzas (orders) on various matters. They will have to stop all these illegal activities and join the democratic mainstream.
Muivah struck a note of cautious optimism. He promised that the Nagas would honour the accord, but went on to add that “challenges still remain”. These challenges or the hard realities would have to be faced. The Nagas will have to understand that their sovereignty is part of the broader Indian sovereignty and that in the kind of plural society that we have, people of diverse ethnic groups live not only in certain compact areas but also in areas having majority with a different background. As Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, then President of India, said while inaugurating the state of Nagaland, “Indian society has always been a multi-lingual, multi-racial and multi-religious one having a variety of racial ethnic groups” and that these groups, though diverse in origin, were united by a common purpose.

KPS Gill: Tribute to a Supercop

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Prakash Singh
Retd. IPS Officer & Patron-GCTC

 
 
 
Kanwar Pal Singh Gill has been hailed as one of the most successful fighters against terrorism. He vanquished what was one of the most lethal and one of the most devastating terrorist movements in the history of the world. He has also been criticized as a terrible violator of human rights, a man who had no respect for life and was very brutal in his methods. What was the truth? To arrive at that, it would be necessary to understand the situation that prevailed in the Punjab those days.

Siddharth Shankar Ray, then Governor of Punjab, in a report dated 11 May 1987 to the President of India, said that “ever since the new fundamentalist movement commenced…the situation began getting out of hand to such an extent that from about the middle of April 1987 there was not only a parallel authority working in the state by the fundamentalists and/or the extremists in the temple and the gurudwaras.. but terror stalked the land and fear abided in almost every heart.” The Governor went on the say that the state government’s writ has “ceased running in large areas of the state, particularly in almost all rural areas”. The terrorist movement took a qualitative leap in the late eighties with the acquisition of Kalashnikov rifles by the terrorists, thanks to Pakistan fishing in the troubled waters. There were political assassinations and brazen attacks on security forces. The Indian Army was not spared; there was a daring attack on an Army convoy in Taran on 23 October 1990. The civil administration was paralysed. Judiciary was overawed. Terrorists prescribed school uniform for boys and girls: boys were to wear black trousers, white shirt and kesari turban and the girls were to wear black salwar, white shirt and kesari dupatta. The singing of national anthem was banned and so was the teaching of Hindi in schools. “In today’s Punjab the militant’s word is law”, bemoaned a writer.

It was against this background that KPS Gill, an IPS officer of Assam cadre, was asked to head the Punjab Police. It was a frightening scenario. Gill rose to the occasion and gave a stellar account of himself. Soon after taking charge as Director General of Punjab Police, he was called upon to lead the Operation Black Thunder in May 1988. The Golden Temple was cleared of terrorists in a clean operation under the full glare of media. In all, 30 terrorists were killed and 199 surrendered. The National Security Guard, which spearheaded the operation or the Punjab Police did not suffer any casualties.

Gill went hammer and tongs against terrorists in the hinterland. It must be mentioned here that his work was facilitated by JF Ribeiro, his predecessor, who had done a lot to restore the confidence of the Punjab Police. Gill’s methods were different. Ribeiro generally followed the letter of the law. At one stage, he is reported to have talked of “bullet for bullet”, though later on he denied having said so. Gill’s methods were unconventional. He perhaps looked upon the terrorists as asuras who had to be destroyed in the best tradition of good prevailing over evil. No quarters were given, no quarters were asked for. Terrorist violence was matched by fierce police onslaught. Human shields were used at several places with supporters or sympathisers of terrorists being asked to accompany security forces personnel in their vehicles. At one stage, when the terrorists started attacking the families of policemen, the Punjab Police gave them a taste of their own medicine. Operation Night Dominance was a unique concept. Normally, security forces dominate during day while terrorists rule by night. During this Operation, the Punjab Police fanned out during night time and established its authority from sunset to sunrise also. The tactics worked. The terrorists loved to hate Gill.

Not that others’ contribution was insignificant. The Border Security Force raised fencing across the border and made any infiltration or exfiltration across the border an extremely hazardous proposition. The CRPF lent valuable assistance to the Punjab Police. The Indian Army made its significant contribution. General OP Malhotra, as Governor, did extremely well. Political support, particularly when Beant Singh was Chief Minister, contributed in no small measure to the success of the anti-terror operations.

KPS Gill, however, stood out as the one man who symbolised the might of the Indian State. But for his relentless campaigns and his success in breaking the backbone of the terrorist movement, the history of India might have taken an adverse turn. The terrorist movement, aided and fuelled by Pakistan, was comprehensively defeated.

It is true that Gill and his men technically violated human rights. After peace was restored in the state, about 2,500 writ petitions were filed in the Supreme Court and the Punjab and Haryana High Courts against Punjab Police officers by individuals and human right organizations. About 120 police officers including six Superintendents of Police faced prosecution. Shekhar Gupta raised some pertinent questions in the Indian Express of 20 August 1996 in this context:

It is perfectly valid to question the methods used by the security forces, but isn’t it more important to ask who is ordering them to do so? It is incredibly and shamefully low of us to ask our armed forces to put their lives on the line, do the dirty work and then, when all is back to normal and the debris of war is cremated or buried, to hark back to the ‘law is supreme in a civil society’ mode..”

The Punjab crisis saw five Prime Ministers and as many Internal Security Ministers. The political class and all the senior bureaucrats in Delhi knew what was happening in Punjab. In fact, the methods being used by the Punjab Police had their tacit approval. It would be unfair, under the circumstances, to fault the police only for the way terrorism was fought. Arun Shourie also deplored the “double standards” of the human rights organisations and the courts and wondered “why should anyone risk his life the next time the country is in peril when this is what he is to get in return?”

Gill had a multi-faceted personality. He was fond of English literature and loved Urdu poetry. Post-retirement, his services were utilised by Gujarat and Chhattisgarh governments as security Advisor.

It is a great pity that KPS Gill was given Padmashri only. Paper tigers and pen-pushers have managed to get much higher awards. Here was a man who challenged Death, risked his life day after day and yet his work and contribution were not adequately recognised. A minor incident of misdemeanour was blown out of proportions to shut the door for higher opportunities and honour to a lion-hearted son of India.

 

India and North Korea: Future Directions

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Anil Wadhwa
Indian Foreign Service & GCTC Executive Board Member

 
 

India has always maintained a good working relationship with North Korea. Our bilateral trade, in recent years at best has been in the range of US$ 200-250 million but North Korea has always valued Indian food aid which was made available at regular intervals until recently. For the past few years, this aid has not materialised due to North Korea’s nuclear and missile related activities and due to sanctions imposed through the UN which were pushed by the US. Our agricultural cooperation has been of use to North Korea, both in terms of training of experts and collaboration between institutes. India also used to train north Korean space scientists at Isro’s Dehradun facility – Centre for Space Science and Technology in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP) under the collaborative programme with UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUS) but the US put pressure on the UN COPUS to stop selecting North Korean scientists for this training around 2015, citing the risk of them working on North Korean ballistic missile programmes.
At the East Asia Summit meetings, at least at the official level, there have been regular contacts between the Indian and North Korean delegations. Missile technology and hardware collaboration between Pakistan and North Korea – more actively under the Prime Ministership of Benazir Bhutto – has always concerned India, but North Korea has never lost an appropriate occasion to remind India since then to reassure India that this was a thing of the past. Indian cultural troupes have been performing regularly in North Korea on a commercial basis. Many North Koreans have found India a good country to engage in higher studies and obtain doctorates. Lately, however, there have been reports that some North Koreans studying in India in the Information Technology (IT) field have also been engaged in hacking sites abroad. This analysis has emerged in a yearly US cyber security report on the origin of hackers around the world.
North Korea has been under UN and US sanctions over the past few years, given the ramp up of its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. Consequently, India also upped its criticism of North Korea, and its bilateral trade with the North fell from US$ 209 million in 2015-16 to US$ 130 in 2016-17. There was no high level contact with North Korea since Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong visited India in 2015. In line with UN sanctions, India also imposed sanctions in March 2017 and banned all trade except food and medicine. Implementing all UN decisions since 2006, all trade of exports of defence, space and technological materials, and training of the Democratic People’s republic of Korea (DPRK) officials was banned and a travel ban was imposed on official suspected to be involved in nuclear proliferation activities. India also restricted bank accounts of DPRK diplomats in India and put strictures on procurement of coal, minerals and other materials from North Korea. However, India continued with its diplomatic presence in Pyongyang, and conveyed to the US that it was good to maintain contact with Pyongyang.
A thaw in diplomatic relations between North Korea and South Korea, as well as hopes of the summit meeting between the leaders of North Korea and USA, which has been fixed for June 12 in Singapore, saw world opinion shift, as countries around North Korea and the world saw hope in pronouncements from North Korean leaders that de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was a distinct possibility. While the conditions under which this will happen were still unclear, the visit of General VK Singh, Minister of State, to North Korea on May 15-16, 2018 was timely. This was the first ministerial visit from India to North Korea since 1998, and Gen Singh met with the Vice President of the Presidium of Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Yong-dae, Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, Culture Minister Pak Chung-nam and Vice Foreign Minister Choe Hui-chol. They agreed to strengthen people-to-people contact through cultural exchanges. They agreed to cooperate in vocational education, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, promotion of Yoga and traditional medicine. They also held discussions on regional and international issues, the recent peace initiative of the North with South Korea, and the proposed talks with the US. Expectedly, the issue of Pakistan’s nuclear link with North Korea was raised, and according to an official press release, “the DPRK side emphasised that as a friendly country, DPRK will not allow any action that would create concerns for India’s security”.
On the eve of the visit, North Korea’s First Vice Minister, Kim Gye-gwan issued a statement, and threatened to call off the talks if the Trump administration continued to press for de-nuclearization as a pre-condition. North Korea has made it clear that any “Libya style” de-nuclearization was out of the question. Even as the proposed official level talks with South Korea have been suspended by the North over the issue of military exercises between South Korea and US, this has been followed by reassurance by President Trump himself that the US was not looking at regime change in North Korea.
In a world which is going through a reset phase, and as North Korea will look to pay attention to its dismal domestic economy following a decision to de-nuclearize – which in its understanding should be a phased and simultaneous process on the basis or reciprocal steps undertaken by the US and South Korea – it will look at undertaking a domestic economic reform programme. Sooner or later, the dialogue process between North Korea, US and South Korea will resume. India can play a major role in this process. India can easily ramp up its exports to North Korea to the previous levels. Despite many offers of investment in North Korea, especially in the mining sector, Indian public and private sector entities have been averse to venture into this field in North Korea. Trading is easier, with incremental payments of the basis of multiple letters of credit alleviating or mitigating the risks. India was among the largest trading partners of North Korea before the sanctions and can play an important role in the economic sphere in the North, along with China and South Korea.
India should continue to be engaged with North Korean leadership, support the de-nuclearization process in the Korean Peninsula and ensure that the North Korean missile technology advances are limited as much as possible. Peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula is in the interest of India and the Indo-Pacific. Equally important for India is to ensure that the missile technology and nuclear linkages between Pakistan and North Korea are not allowed to regerminate under any circumstances.
 

The Trump-Kim Summit: A Mixed Bag

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Anil Wadhwa
Indian Foreign Service & GCTC Executive Board Member

 
 

The fact that the much talked about Summit meeting between President Trump and Chairman Kim happened on June 12 in Singapore is an achievement by itself. The world would have been on edge without it. The short document signed, even though shorn of crucial details after the Summit, raises hopes for the future of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
The United States (US) has attempted many peace deals in the past in order to halt the nuclear and missile capabilities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or North Korea, but the latter has continued with these programmes in order to offer a credible deterrent and prevent regime change. In 1994, an Agreed Framework between the US and North Korea sought to keep North Korea within the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), and at the same time, though supply of two reactors, turn the North Korean nuclear programme in a peaceful direction. When the Bush administration included North Korea in the “Axis of Evil” country list, North Korea withdrew from the NPT and the arrangement had to be given up in 2002. The six-party talks which replaced this arrangement came close to an agreement in 2005 with a package which included denuclearisation, a peace treaty to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement and security guarantees for the North Korean regime. North Korea conducted a nuclear test in 2006, and the six-party talks came to an abrupt end.
North Korean nuclear and missile capabilities have grown manifold since then. Today, North Korea has completed six nuclear tests, has claimed that it has tested a thermo-nuclear device and has attempted nuclear miniaturisation for accurate delivery through an accelerated missile programme. In 2017, when North Korea tested a missile with a range of 13000 km, it raised alarm bells in the US, Japan South Korea and even China and the rest of the world. It is amazing that things have been allowed to drift to such an extent by the international community, and the sanctions by Trump and by the United Nations were only imposed after these far reaching developments.
This has created a ring of invincibility around Kim Jong-un, who at a young age of 34 has shown tremendous maturity and has also travelled to China twice before arriving for this Summit with President Trump in Singapore. Successive US administrations have made the mistake of a maximalist approach in negotiations around the world. This is perhaps due to the peculiar inter-agency process in the US, where every entity tries to improve a negotiating stance, thus moving the US position away from reality. If the North Korean regime has been seen as unreliable and dangerous, The US has also come to be known as an unreliable partner – a change in administrations can result in reversals of policies and positions and promises made to countries have been broken. When the US continued with its military exercises with the South Koreans and National Security Advisor John Bolton spoke about a “Libya model” for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, Kim Jong-un threatened to pull out of the talks. It was largely a South Korean effort which then restored the Summit. Clearly, the situation is changed to such an extent that the US sees no option but to talk directly to the North Koreans, which by itself is no mean achievement for the “hermit kingdom”.
The Summit in Singapore has resulted in a signed document reaffirming the “firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” by Kim Jong-un on April 27, at Panmunjom. President Trump, in turn, committed to provide “security guarantees” to North Korea which have not been spelt out. Follow up meetings are important and will be arranged “at the earliest possible date to implement the outcomes of the Singapore Summit” – speaking at the follow up press conference, Trump said this will happen as early as next week. US and North Korea agreed to recover the remains of more than 6000 prisoners of war and those missing in action. This is an emotional issue in the US, and President Trump highlighted this agreement as fulfilment of a promise he made during his election campaign. In his press conference, Trump also claimed that North Korea has also agreed to shut down its missile engine testing site. He described the meeting as “honest, direct and productive” and “better than expected” while Kim stated, “We had a historic meeting and we have decided to leave the past behind. The world will see a major change.”
The North Korean press has highlighted the importance President Trump accorded to Chairman Kim as an equal negotiator and hailed its leaders’ desire for peace. Also highlighted was the suspension of US-South Korea military exercises which is not in the document but which President Trump announced at the subsequent press conference. The Chinese will be pleased that their advocacy of continuing dialogue resulting in reciprocal suspension of nuclear and missile tests by DPRK and military exercises by the US with South Korea seems to have been adopted by the interlocutors at the Summit. Trump also conveyed that future talks on a possible peace treaty to replace the 1953 Armistice will involve South Korea and China besides US and North Korea, which accords China a central place in the unfolding events of the Korean Peninsula.
The results of the Summit have been welcomed across the world. China has praised the results and has called for easing of sanctions on North Korea. There are reports that it has already resumed some trade, and initiated petroleum shipments. The document is unclear about the fate of sanctions. President Trump, answering questions at the press conference stated that the US will not ease pressure of sanctions unless the goal of “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation” is reached (although he qualified this by saying that once the process of denuclearisation has started, it is pretty much irreversible and that he would like to take off the sanctions at some stage). This seems to be also a variance with the version put out by the North Korean press which has alluded to a step by step and reciprocal process involving steps towards denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and the lifting of sanctions. The revelation that the US delegation showed a video to the North Korean delegation about what an economically transformed North Korea would look like (presumably the discussions were about US economic aid to North Korea for improving its economy) alludes to the fact that a discussion has also taken place on the likely timetable for the easing of sanctions.
Japanese PM Abe called the Summit “a step towards the comprehensive resolution of various issues concerning North Korea”. However, Trump seems to have received no positive response in respect of the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 70s and 80s. The abductions are one of the most important issues for the Abe administration. Japanese have stated that this issue will have to be resolved by themselves bilaterally. There are reports that the Japanese foreign ministry will be in touch with the North Korean delegation at the ongoing Ulan Bataar dialogue. President Abe plans to pursue a dialogue with the North Koreans through the intelligence agencies and if progress is possible on the abduction issue, a Japan-North Korea summit meeting before the September Presidential elections of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which Abe heads, will be sought.
India has welcomed the ‘positive development’ and has expressed the hope that the outcomes will be implemented. Alluding to Pakistan–North Korea clandestine links, India has also expressed the hope that the resolution of the Korean Peninsula issue would take into account and address Indian concerns about proliferation linkages extending to India’s neighbourhood. India has been demanding a probe by the United Nations of these linkages for many years. India has already tried to get back into the center of things in North Korea, by sending General VK Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs, to Pyongyang in mid-May to revive the traditional areas of cooperation. Trade, which is complimentary, can be easily ramped up to the levels before the sanctions when India was among the top three trading partners of North Korea.
Trump seems to have surprised the South Koreans and Japanese by conceding that the military exercises with South Korea will be “given up”. He went on to say that these war games were expensive, and “very provocative”. This is terminology used by North Korea for these exercises. It is uncertain if this concession was thought of during the Summit talks.
Trump himself has admitted that verification of denuclearisation “scientifically and mechanically” will take time but once begun, the process will become irreversible at some point in time. He conveyed that this exercise will be carried out by the US and other unspecified entities/countries, and asserted that Japan and South Korea will pay for the process. Australia has already offered its expertise but added that it will step-in if required, once the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is seized of the matter. The issue of financial burden sharing may also not have been discussed and agreed beforehand. Secretary of State Pompeo went to Seoul to mitigate South Korean and Japanese concerns before briefing the Chinese leadership.
The next steps will be watched carefully. Bilateral normalisation between the two Koreas will now move forward, and negotiations on security guarantees, and a possible Peace Treaty, could move apace with North Korea continuing to take steps towards denuclearization – although the timetable of verification with the involvement of IAEA, US and other countries will need to be worked out in Vienna and the capitals involved. The fact the denuclearisation is an expensive process will create its own challenges. If the North Korean freeze on nuclear and missile testing continues and progress is made towards the stated goals in the document signed – that itself will be the most successful outcome of this Summit. The pitfalls of the past must be avoided; history will provide adequate lessons.
 

How North Korea was Armed

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Prabha Rao

IPS (Retd.) 

The enfant terrible of international politics, North Korean President Kim Jong-un, has a talent for generating war clouds and intercontinental nightmares. The Kim dynasty, which has tenaciously held on to power in the face of international condemnation, has two major foreign policy narratives — ‘Juche’ (self-reliance), and secure independence. These narratives have led the country into aggressive nuclear and missile sabre-rattling. Such sabre-rattling has intensified since Kim Jong-un assumed power in 2011. While North Korea carried out 15 missile tests under Kim Il-sung and 16 under Kim Jong-Il, it has, as of mid-September 2017, conducted 85 tests under Kim Jong-un.1
But the most significant development has been North Korea’s development of thermonuclear capability. On January 3, 2016, it carried out a hydrogen bomb test, its fourth nuclear test overall. It has been alleged that Pakistan had assisted North Korea in the development of this capability, which can be discerned from the similarities between the instrumentation bunkers at Punggye-ri and Pakistan’s RasKoh nuclear testing complex.2
This was followed by Kim Jong-un’s claim in March 2016 that his country has miniaturised nuclear warheads for fitting onto ballistic missiles. On September 10, 2016, North Korea detonated a nuclear warhead, which the South Korean Meteorological Administration estimated had a yield of 10 kilotons.
While alternately accusing the United States of driving the Korean peninsula towards a nuclear war and threatening a nuclear strike on the ‘heart of the US’, North Korea detonated an advanced, two-stage, hydrogen bomb on September 3, 2017 (the sixth nuclear test since 2006) with an yield of over 120 kilotons at a test site in Sungjibaegam, close to the previous testing site at Punggye-ri. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) warned that the test was of a multi-functional thermonuclear weapon which could be detonated at high altitudes to generate a potent Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) that would wipe out electrical grids from Japan to the US.3
The latest test has renewed fears about North Korea’s claimed cache of around 60 nuclear weapons and the considerable progress that it has made towards their miniaturization.
According to a database maintained by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, North Korea tested 26 missiles in 2016; 16 of those tests were successful and 10 were failures. There have been 19 tests in 2017 so far, with 13 successes.4
The 68 per cent success rate would be commendable in any country. The frequency of the tests suggests that North Korea is confident of its supply of missiles and has the necessary resources and capabilities to make them at will. Such an achievement is not just improbable, but impossible without sustained outside help, indicating thereby that UN sanctions and embargoes against Pyongyang have been violated in fact, spirit and intent.
Missile Programme on a Very Fast Track
North Korea’s missile programme has made unprecedented advances since Kim Jong-un’s ascendance to power. It has progressed from short-range missiles like the Nu-Dong (some of which were bought with hard cash by Pakistan according to former President Pervez Musharraf and were rechristened as the Ghauri missiles), to the intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) Musudan(which repeatedly failed flight tests) and the Hwasong-12, and ultimately, the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14. The latter two missiles use a powerful liquid-propellant engine (LPE).5
On May 14, 2017, North Korea launched the Hwasong-12, which flew on a steep trajectory, reaching a peak altitude of over 2,000 kilometres. If the Hwasong-12 had used a normal flight path, it would have travelled between 4,000 and 4,500 kilometres, thus placing Guam (3,400 kilometres away) within range. On July 4, to coincide with the US Independence Day, the two-stage Hwasong-14 was launched, reaching an apogee of 2,700 kilometres. A second Hwasong-14 was tested on July 28 reaching an apogee of about 3,800 kilometres.6 Had these missiles been flown on trajectories, which privileged distance rather than height, they would have reached about 7,000 kilometres and 9,000 kilometres, respectively, well above the 5,500 kilometres minimum distance for a system to be categorised as an ICBM. At these distances, major US cities fall within range of these missiles.
On August 28, 2017, North Korea launched a second Hwasong 12 from close to the Sunan Airport in Pyongyang. The missile overflew Cape Erimo in Hokkaido, Japan, before impacting in the Pacific Ocean. Significantly, three different objects splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.7
A Hwasong 14 missile was test-fired on September 14, 2017, which again traversed Japanese airspace and caused multiple splashes in the Pacific. It was clear from the multiple splashes during these tests that theHwasongs are capable of carrying multiple payloads, that is, they could carry multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs).
The Smuggling Network
How did Pyongyang get a LPE? There is no evidence to suggest indigenous production. A study of the missile’s structure, which has two stages with a lift-off mass of about 75 tonnes and special fuel — Kerosene and AK 27 (a mixture of Red Fuming Nitric Acid and Nitrogen Tetroxide)8 — has led to the conclusion that the Hwasong engines are a variant of the RD-250 turbo pump, which is manufactured at Russia’s Energomashconcern and Ukraine’s KB Yuzhnoye. The original RD-250 has a dual combustion chamber, which has been modified into a single chamber in the Hwasong. The needle of suspicion points towards KB Yuzhnoye as, according to witnesses, a single chamber RD-50 model was on display at KB Yuzhnoye in 2016.9
How was the RD 250 proto-type engines transported from Ukraine, when stringent international sanctions were in place? The answer lies with smuggling networks in China and Pakistan, which have with impunity violated non-proliferation rules and regimes. A total of 5233 Chinese companies have traded (including in dual-use technology) with North Korea between 2013 and 2016. One example of an actual smuggling initiative is the case of the Chinese company Dandong Dongyuan Industrial Co. Ltd., which exported US $28.5 million worth of material to North Korea during 2013-2016, including a shipment of $790,000 worth of ‘radio navigational aid apparatus’ in June 2016. According to experts at the James Martin Centre for Non-proliferation Studies, the goods probably included guidance devices for ballistic missiles. The Hong Kong business registry states that the firm’s owner is Sun Sidong, a Chinese national. A ship that was owned by Sun Sidong — Jie Shun — was seized last year by Egyptian authorities. It was carrying 30,000 North Korean-made rocket propelled grenades concealed under a cargo of iron ore.10 It was found that the ownership of the vessel had recently changed and the present registered owner was one Sun Sihong, who listed her residential address as an apartment in the same complex as Sun Sidong!
China has also supplied six transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) trucks, which are designed to move and fire ballistic missiles. Such a mobile system makes satellite surveillance difficult. The trucks were made by China’s Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle Company, which is a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, a state-owned company that makes the Shenzhou rocket as well as missiles.11
When questioned about the sale, China mendaciously gave a written submission to the UN with a copy of the end-user certificate provided by North Korea that the vehicles had been imported for the purpose of transporting timber! This year, North Korea has used another Chinese truck model, made by Sinotruk, to tow a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).12
North Korea-Pakistan Nexus
A cause for serious disquiet is that the bi-conic warhead design of the Hwasong missiles appears similar to the warhead on Pakistan’s Ababeel missile, which has MIRV compatibility. The warhead has reportedly been made with Chinese help, and designs or the warhead itself has been supplied to Pyongyang from Pakistan.13
Cooperation between Pakistan and North Korea is long standing, and there is evidence that Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, visited Pyongyang in 1993 and procured several computer disks containing blueprints for the No-Dong missile, which she delivered to A.Q. Khan.14
This missile, which was smuggled to Iran, re-appeared as Shabab-3 and in Pakistan as Hatf-V. North Korean design features are also visible in the Hatf-IX missiles, which are being used by Pakistan as tactical weapons to be deployed along the Indian border (especially in Gujranwala).
Missile-related developments in Pakistan are especially worrying but not as worrying as the illicit nuclear network between Pyongyang and Islamabad, with Beijing serving as the pivot. Galaxy Corporation Pvt Ltd, a Pakistani front company affiliated with the Pakistan Energy Commission (PAEC), has supplied to North Korea two specialised nickel-alloy metals — Inconel and Monel – which are corrosion-resistant and have applications in uranium enrichment and chemical weapons production. Another questionable export is that of vacuum induction melting (VIM) furnaces used in forging uranium or plutonium metal into hemispheres for the fissile pit and is hence controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) due to their utility for nuclear weapons manufacturing.
These had been procured from Suntech Technologies, a Beijing-based company, which is a primary producer of these items. A complaint lodged by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was officially received (June 2016) by the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) on this matter. Galaxy Corporation’s imports from other Chinese companies include thyratrons (used as triggering devices in nuclear weapons) and radiation monitors with the end-user certificate being shown as PAEC. These items are an integral part of the hydrogen bomb test conducted by Pyongyang on September 3, 2017.15
Further, two North Korean diplomats, Kim Yong Choi and Jang Yong Son, posted in the North Korean Embassy in Tehran till 2016, and affiliated to Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) — a UN Security Council-designated North Korean weapons trading firm – were frequent visitors to Pakistan between 2012 and 2015. They met with Pakistani officers involved in the country’s nuclear programme.16
According to international observers, the North Korea-Pakistan nexus is being sustained by transportation networks, using cargo ships in the ports of Dalian in China, Wonsan in North Korea and Qasim in Pakistan. Indian intelligence also has satellite imagery to show that the Karakoram Highway has been used to supply illicit nuclear material and dual-use items for missiles.
This brings us to India’s threat perceptions regarding Pakistan’s nuclear capability. Recently, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi claimed that his country has short-range nuclear weapons to counter the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine ‘adopted’ by the Indian Army. This would indicate that Rawalpindi has successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads. This needs to be assessed in tandem with Kim Jong–Un’s claims that North Korea has miniaturized nuclear warheads, and also has adequate knowledge of programming and controlling thermonuclear/hydrogen fission bombs. This is a matter for serious disquiet, given Pakistan’s long-standing nuclear and missile-related trade with North Korea.
Should Pyongyang be Worried?
North Korea has learnt to weather multilateral UNSC as well as unilateral US sanctions. President Trump has come out with a new set of sanctions with the objective of denying access to the US financial system to any country that trades with or finances trade with North Korea. China has promised both at the UN Security Council and General Assembly to give effect to the sanctions against North Korea. Beijing claims to have stopped the import of textiles and condensate hydrocarbons — measures which can pinch but certainly not cause the collapse of the Kim regime. Beijing has not as yet made any significant attempts to rein in Pyongyang, which would necessitate a clampdown on several Chinese nationals and entities engendering illicit trade.
China’s links with North Korea go beyond the standard parameters of global commerce. The most apposite illustration in this regard is the case of Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co (DHID), which became a front for the Korea Kwangson Banking Corp, a North Korean financial institution sanctioned in 2009 for its role in financing North Korea’s weapons proliferation. DHID used layers of obfuscation with a complex network of front companies based in the British Virgin Islands, the Seychelles, England, Wales and Hong Kong, apart from mainland China, to establish an intricate shipping network involving over 147 ships, 167 individuals, and 248 corporate entities.17
To give an example, the ship, MV Light (IMO: 8415433) was formerly owned by a DHID subsidiary, Korea Buyon Shipping, a North Korea-based entity which had been designated under Executive Order 13722 by the US Department of the Treasury on March 16, 2016. The ship changed its name to Victory 3 after UNSC sanctions, though its IMO number remains the same. The USS McCampbell intercepted MV Light, moving from North Korea to Myanmar carrying missile components for alleged re-export to Pakistan. A Chinese company, Dalian Sea Glory Shipping, owned the above ship and, according to the UN Panel of Experts’ report of March 2016, the company’s directors were Chinese nationals Lu Tiehe, Fan Mintian and Dong Changqing. These individuals owned several shipping companies, including V Star Company based in Hong Kong. This company owned another ship ‘Chong Chon Gang’, which was seized in 2015 for smuggling weapons for a North Korean company, Ocean Maritime Management (OMM). Lu Tiehe is the sole shareholder and director of the Hong Kong-based company Sea Star Ship Co Ltd, which owns the ship Baoshan Rich (IMO: 9128843), which has been involved in smuggling weapons, and had come to adverse notice for sailing from Dalian (PRC) to DPRK to Iraq and UAE18 with weapons for Syria and Iraq.
The DHID came under the purview of US sanctions in October 2016, but its role has been seamlessly taken over by its subsidiary, the Liaoning Hongxiang trading conglomerate, which is headed by Chinese national Ma Xiaohong. This conglomerate is North Korea’s largest trading partner and claims to be a bridge between North Korea and the world. The conglomerate works out of Dandong, a small city in the north eastern province of Liaoning, and has a number of verticals, including trading houses, shipping lines, currency exchanges, etc.19 It is, however, yet to come under US sanctions. Unsurprisingly, the Liaoning Hongxiang Group inaugurated the newest China-North Korea shipping route, from Longkou to Nampo, in late September 2015. This route has seen significant traffic despite existing international sanctions against North Korea.
The Liaoning Haongxiang Group also has significant connections with Myanmar. The conglomerate’s vice president is a Myanmarese business tycoon TayZa, who has been designated by the US Treasury Department as “an arms and narcotics dealer”.20
He has extensive interests around Myanmar, especially in the areas of aviation, military equipment, and fuel. He also owns a football club, one of Myanmar’s largest banks, and a company responsible for cargo clearing in the country’s international airports. He is reported to have been instrumental in organizing nuclear contracts with Russia and North Korea.
Given the above backdrop, North Korea is expected to be able to withstand the sanctions, as help from China and Chinese conglomerates is unlikely to be shut down. North Korea has been and will be a strategic asset for China. The Chinese leadership has traditionally felt that a unified Korea with American troops in the Korean peninsula, close to the Chinese border, is a major security concern. The US, on its part, cannot afford to take an excessively belligerent stance with China, which could affect its US $ 650 billion trade with the country, notwithstanding Trump’s claim that “all options are on the table”.21
During a recent trip to China, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claimed that Washington had “direct channels of communication” with North Korea, and was exploring the possibilities of a dialogue with Pyongyang. Despite Tillerson’s differences with Trump over dialogue with North Korea, it is likely that back channels have been activated.22
This would not be a surprising development as North Korea has demonstrated that it has in its arsenal nuclear-capable ICBMs. Hence, Washington, despite sending B-1B long range bombers and F-15 jets close to North Korea’s east coast, is unlikely to up the ante by initiating actual hostilities, given Pyongyang’s demonstrated nuclear prowess.
On his part, Ring Yo-ho, North Korea’s Foreign Minister, sounded suitably bellicose about US threats. Although he warned that US jets could be shot down, no action was taken when they actually overflew North Korean airspace.23
There is an uneasy equilibrium, which indicates that negotiations with Beijing over myriad issues are underway, including possibly the issue of the presence of theatre high altitude area defence (THAAD) missiles in South Korea. The burgeoning US-China rivalry will ensure that the current standoff in the Korean peninsula will not be resolved anytime soon. Kim Jong-Un will continue to exploit the current situation in the region to consolidate his regime’s political power.
While India is a bystander on this issue, it needs to be on the alert. Pakistan’s links with North Korea are evident, and nuclear shadow boxing by Islamabad is only to be expected. The potential and overwhelming danger it presents cannot be underestimated. Continued caution to prevent any adventurist attempt by the Pakistan military needs to be at the top of India’s agenda.

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1. Debra Killalea, “North Korea: How many missiles has Kim Jong-un launched?,” September 19, 2017,http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/north-korea-how-many-missil…
2. “North Korea claims to have tested hydrogen bomb,” The Hindu, January 6, 2016,http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/North-Korea-claims-to-have-te…
3. “North Korea Threatens To Blackout Mainland US w/Nuclear Electro-Magnetic Pulse Weapon,” September 6, 2017, https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/north-korea-threat…
4. Nuclear Threat Initiative, “North Korea,” (last updated September 2017),http://www.nti.org/learn/countries/north-korea/
5. Michael Elleman, “The secret to North Korea’s ICBM success,” IISS Voices, August 14, 2017,http://www.iiss.org/en/iiss%20voices/blogsections/iiss-voices-2017-adeb/…
6. Ibid.
7. “North Korea: ballistic missile launched over Japan – as it happened,” The Guardian, September 16, 2017,https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2017/sep/15/north-korea-launches-…
8. S. Chandrashekar, Rajaram Nagappa, N. Ramani, “The Hwasong 12– A MIRV Missile to Counter US BMD Systems,” September 2017, http://isssp.in/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/The-Hwasong-12%E2%80%93-A-MIR…
9. Ibid, n. 5.
10. Reuters, “North Korea’s Complex Sanctions-Evading Network Could Be Defeated by ‘Targeting a Few Chinese Firms’,”Fortune, June 13, 2017, http://fortune.com/2017/06/13/north-korea-sanctions-evasion-china-trade/
11. Anders Corr, “Chinese Involvement In North Korea’s Nuclear Missile Program: From Trucks To Warheads,” Forbes, July 5, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/anderscorr/2017/07/05/chinese-involvement-i…
12. Ibid.
13. Bill Gertz, “North Korea’s ICBM warhead,” Washington Times, July 5, 2017,http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jul/5/inside-the-ring-north-korea…
14. Douglas Frantz, Catherine Collins, “A tale of two Bhuttos,” Foreign Policy, November 19, 2007,http://foreignpolicy.com/2007/11/19/a-tale-of-two-bhuttos/
15. Stephen Blancke, “Examining allegations that Pakistan diverted Chinese-origin goods to the DPRK,” Proliferation Case Study Series, August 2, 2016, http://projectalpha.eu/wp-content/uploads/sites/21/2016/11/20160803_-_DP…
16. United Nations Security Council, “Report of the Panel of Experts established pursuant to resolution 1874 (2009),” February 24, 2016, http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-C…
17. Bill Powell, “Will Trump Stop the 10 Chinese Companies Supplying North Korea’s Nuclear Program?,” Newsweek, July 13, 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/2017/07/21/trump-stop-chinese-companies-supplyin…
18. In China’s Shadow: Exposing North Korean Overseas Networks (The Asian Institute of Policy Studies, C4ADS, August 2016), https://static1.squarespace.com/static/566ef8b4d8af107232d5358a/t/57dfe7…
19. David Thompson, “Risky Business: A System-Level Analysis of the North Korean Proliferation Financing System,”c4ads.org/risky-business/
20. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesasia/2014/07/23/burmese-tycoon-tay-za…
21. http://www.defenseone.com/threats/2017/04/what-are-americas-options-nort…
22. “Jim Mattis plays down split between Trump, Tillerson on North Korea,” Japan Times, October 4, 2017,https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/10/04/asia-pacific/mattis-plays-s…
23. Jared Ferrie, “Burmese Tycoon Tay Za Under Scrutiny,” Forbes, July 23, 2014,https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesasia/2014/07/23/burmese-tycoon-tay-za…

Barcelona Attacks: India has Cause for Disquiet

0
Prabha Rao

IPS (Retd.)

Mohammad Adnani, the erstwhile spokesman of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Tunisian cleric Abu Muqatil, one of the main ISIS ideologues, were killed in 2014 and 2016 respectively. The reach of their ideology however has stretched across continents to influence jihadi attacks across the globe. Adnani’s call to the jihadis issued in May 2014, ‘If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be’, has been re-tweeted over half a million times.1
This message was initially given through the ISIS mouthpiece Dabiq, and was followed up with a quotation from the ‘Verse of the Sword’ (‘Ayat as Sayf’) calling for violence against the Kufr (unbeliever).2
Adnani coupled this with the last verse that was spoken by Prophet Muhammad before he died — ‘Fear the day when you shall be returned to Allah, then each soul shall pay what it has earned’. These statements were oft repeated in sermons by Abu Muqatil, who headed the ISIS unit training suicide bombers and captive children in Mosul. His discourses in the ISIS e-magazine Dabiq3 has had considerable reach, and are a recurring theme in the magazine’s successor, the Rumiyah. In the second edition of the Rumaiyah, under the title ‘Just Terror Tactics’, the ideologue advised cadres to ‘choose a target … like hunting prey’, adding that Kufr could be killed on beaches, sidewalks, nightclubs etc. The message was accompanied by graphic images, including of child assassins.
Also, there are now frequently coordinated messages by the ISIS and the al Qaeda on the issue of targeting the Kufr, an example being the message sent out by Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama bin Laden, the upcoming youth star of the group. He exhorted his followers (’the faithful’) in May 2017 thus: ‘Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him’.4
Hamza further claimed to have a network of affiliates around the world which includes the Taliban, the al Qaida in the Indian Sub-Continent and ex-Hizbul Mujahideen, Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Musa’s new group ‘Ansar Ghazwatul Hind’.6 The ideology of the Ghazwatul Hind goes beyond separatism and calls for the primacy of Islam, and concerted action with international Islamic extremist movements. Separatist leaders and local political parties in Kashmir are claiming that Zakir Musa’s call has had little resonance in the valley; a claim which is however open to question. The Salafi/Jihadi content in Ghazwatul Hind’s messages have influenced Friday sermons and Qutbahs in the valley which are getting increasingly recidivist. They are swerving away from the traditional Sufi culture into expositions on the absolute supremacy of the Quran and the need for violent initiatives to establish the same.
Such sermons, in tandem with powerful images of carnage perpetrated by terrorists in Europe, are contributing dangerously towards radicalising the youth. A concurrent trend can be seen even with young women, when school girls and college students get involved in anti-government activities, and messages by Asiya Andrabi, the head of the ‘Dukhtaran e-Millat’, which espouses extreme Salafism, and violent Islam, has a cognisable fan following in the valley.7 This is an emerging problem not just in Kashmir, but in several vulnerable pockets of the country.
Another aspect that is finding mention in sermons in Kashmir, and other areas in India, as also in Western mosques, is the concept of ‘Gheerah’ — which can be literally translated as protective jealousy8, which requires Muslims to protect Prophet Muhammad from blasphemy and diluting his pre-eminent position. The Gheerah concept was codified by a hard-line Salafi Saudi Arabian scholar Mohammad Saalih al Munajjid, 25 years ago, and has been used as the theological justification for a score of terrorist acts, ranging from the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, to various instances of carnage in the name of blasphemy. Incidentally Munajjid was also responsible for advising Muslims not to befriend (Awliya) or have any business relations with the Kufr, as this was specifically forbidden by Allah.9 This perception is often repeated in Islamic texts in Saudi Arabia/Pakistan and unfortunately in the main Tanzeems of India.
The Barcelona attack on August 17, 2017, used the above backdrop for ostensible theological legitimacy. Though similar in modus operandi to the attacks in Nice (July 14, 2016 during Bastille Day celebrations), Berlin (December 19, 2016, in a popular Christmas fair), and Westminster (March 22, 2017) near the British Parliament, the Barcelona attack has discernible, important differences. The intention to create panic by mowing vehicles through popular promenades, as directed by the ISIS, was indeed a common thread. However, while the earlier attacks were more in the nature of ‘lone wolf’ initiatives, the Barcelona attack was conducted by a twelve member cell, and bears considerable resemblance to the Paris attacks (Charlie Hebdo, January 7, 2015; Paris, November 13, 2015), and Brussels (March 22, 2016). All these attacks had been meticulously planned through a network of brothers, close friends from their areas of residence, and most importantly, motivated by the local Mullah.
The Kouachi brothers who spearheaded the Charlie Hebdo attack had been influenced by Abu Hamza, a preacher in the Finsbury Mosque, United Kingdom, who had radicalised many jihadis to join the Al Qaeda in Iraq. Similarly, the perpetrators of the attacks in Paris and Brussels, brothers Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui, and their close friend Salah Abdeslam,10 were mainly from the town of Molenbeek, in Belgium, which has a large section of highly radicalised Muslim youth. They were radicalised by Tarik Chadilioui, who has now been arrested, and a radical network called ‘Sharia4Belgium’.
The Barcelona gang — Youssef Aallaa and Said Aallaa, Houssaine Abouyaaqoub, and Younes Abouyaaqoub, Mohammad Hychami and Omar Hychami, Moussa Oukanir and Driss Oukabir, had come under the influence of a Moroccan Preacher Abdel Baki EsSatty, who had earlier been jailed for drug smuggling. The role of the local mosque and the Imam/Mullah in the radicalisation process, leading to extremism, is well delineated in the above cases. At home, we have seen that the most effective jihadist networks have family linkages — be they Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal and relative Yasin Bhatkal, who are with the Al Qaeda/Indian Mujahideen, or Sultan and Shafi Armar(also from Bhatkal) who were with the ISIS, or Burhan Wani’s close network of friends from Tral/Pulwama.
In these coordinated actions, online radicalisation, which is the current bugbear of the intelligence community, has a subsidiary role to the physical contact — be it through a mullah, or radicalisation in prison; an occurrence which is altogether too frequent, and has not been contained in Europe/US or India. It would be pertinent, at this juncture, to refer to the Indian tele preacher Dr. Zakir Naik, who has been active in cleverly couching his sermons to support Jihad.
Complaints had been received about his activities by the Indian Government, from not only local law enforcing agencies, but also from the Government of Bangladesh, after it was found that the perpetrators of the horrific Holey Artisan Café had been radicalised by him11, and the Government of Maldives after Bilad al Sham Media (BASM) run by Maldivians in Syria/Iraq, praised him for his inputs. Dr. Naik was closely affiliated to Pakistani preacher Anjem Choudhary, who is in England, and has now been incarcerated by UK authorities for supporting/encouraging terrorism. 12
Many of the perpetrators of the above acts had done their ‘pilgrimage’ to Syria/Iraq, or Afghanistan/Yemen. The attacks had been planned and directed by the ISIS intelligence wing (Emni aka Amn al Khariji), through its foreign espionage cell, which was led by the spokesperson Muhammad al Adnani, before his death, and operationalised by Abu Suleyman al Firansi (who was originally from France) along with his Moroccan-Belgian assistant Oussama Atar and Algerian virtual scenario plotter Rachid Qassim.13
It is interesting to note that Indian Mujahideen Subahani Haji Mohiuddin, from Kerala, in his interrogation after his return from Syria, stated that he had worked with Abdel Hameed Abdalooud (killed by Paris Police) and Abdelslam (currently in custody) who had been identified and trained by Firansi.
Europol has stated that around 15,000 jihadis have returned to Europe, and they are a cause of potential danger, for both importing terrorist activities and methods from war zones into Europe and acting as nodes to engender radicalisation.14 With the fall of Mosul, and eventually Raqqa, the subsequent shrinking of the ISIS’s space, is going to generate a re-migration of jihadis into the Af-Pak region, with security implications for India. Hence, Zakir Musa’s call in Kashmir for a movement beyond nationalism is a matter of disquiet. Musa’s group, currently dismissed by the Jammu & Kashmir authorities as being marginal, is likely to get heft from this development, and is further gaining traction with the unemployed youth.
The common thread for radicalisation, as happened in Barcelona, are the areas from where the jihadis get radicalised and operate. The Barcelona jihadis were all from Catalonia, which has an independence struggle against the central authority at Madrid. The jihadis came from a town called Rippon in Catalonia, which has a Muslim majority population, with rampant unemployment, much like Molenbeek in Belgium (from where the Paris/Brussels attackers hailed), which has been termed the ‘decaying heart of Europe’.
While we are given to patting ourselves on the back for containing ISIS in India, we cannot ignore the real dangers that still exist. Families have been our first line of defence against radicalisation, but the existence of family/friends-centric radicalised gangs is emerging as a reality. The jihadi environment is intensifying, and fractious areas, like south Kashmir need close circuit monitoring. In this context, the government needs to take a call on monitoring Qutbahs.
This suggestion would predictably draw gasps of horror, on the grounds that it is a hit on our secular fabric. To those, I would say that at present there is some value in adapting a more utilitarian/Benthamite approach in politics. This is what is being done in the United Arab Emirates, which monitors all Friday prayers, and has been able to successfully contain terror attacks. Internet penetration in India is growing exponentially. The threat of online radicalisation, coupled with extremist Qutbahs, is a noxious brew we can do without.
Our vulnerabilities are myriad. Processions for the Ganesha Visarjan have just been completed all over India, and were celebrated with special fervour in cities like Mumbai. For police forces like those in mega cities like Mumbai, hard pressed as they are, had to deal with high threat levels due to persistent extremist messaging and continue to be wary of the extremists adopting tactics such as those witnessed in Europe. Further, the city is expected to witness mega events like the performance by the Dream Theatre group of the US at the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), on October 8. Such events are bound to draw huge crowds, raising fears of an attack like the one perpetrated on Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester (May22, 2017). A major attack would do far greater damage to the fabric of our society that regularising Friday sermons. Pro-active intervention would help prevent vulnerable individuals from getting further radicalised. It is time to bite the bullet on this issue.

St. Petersburg Metro Bombing: Al Qaeda Redux

0
Prabha Rao

IPS (Retd.) 

The bomb blast which ripped through the metro line in St. Petersburg on April 3, 2017, claimed 16 lives, including that of the suicide bomber, and seriously injured over 50 people. One of the bombs blew up in a tunnel just off the Technological Institute, and another, which did not go off, was placed in a fire extinguisher at the Sennaya Ploshchad station.1 The targeted area is in the centre of St. Petersburg, and the bombs, which were improvised explosive devices (IEDs) made with ammonium nitrate and shrapnel, created considerable damage. The bombing coincided with President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the city, and was obviously a message threatening him and Russia for anti-terrorism policies.
The responsibility for the attack has been fixed on Akbarzhon Jalilov, an ethnic Uzbek from Osh in south Kyrgyzstan holding a Russian passport. He has been identified through both CCTV coverage and DNA traces found on the bombs.2
Who was Jalilov?
Jalilov was born in Osh in 1995 and moved to St. Petersburg with his father in early 2000, where he did his schooling. Peers from his school said that he was quiet and well adjusted. While his parents returned to Osh in 2011, Jalilov remained in Russia to study, and procured Russian citizenship. His VKontackte (the Facebook equivalent in Russia) has the usual feeds on pop music, martial arts, etc. But the divergent notes were a website on Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, links to a website in Russian called ‘I love Islam’ which features quotations from the Quran, and another called IslamHouse.com.4
ISIS applauds but does not accept responsibility
The attack was certainly well planned, and seemed similar to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) inspired lone wolf attacks like those committed by Omar Mateen in the US at a night club in Orlando, and by Khaled Massoud in Westminster, London, among others. A subsequent raid on Jalilov’s flat showed remnants of explosives, metal bits and casings, and Jihadi literature, including recordings of the late Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) leader Anwar al-Awlakki’s lectures, which appear to be a staple for istishhadi/suicide Jihadis. Cadres and supporters of ISIS sent exultant messages on social media, sharing images of people killed and injured by the blast. The attack came just after a propaganda video, titled ‘We will burn Russia’, showing a fallen Kremlin and Putin with bullet holes in his head, was circulated through the ‘Amaq’ media channel used by the ISIS.
The ISIS, on its part, did not take responsibility for the attack and its public statement on the incident merely supported all jihadi action against Russia, with no reference to the above mentioned video. Intelligence officials in Russia and Europe were quick to hold ISIS culpable, and Jalilov’s linkages to the group’s Chechen network were examined.
The Al Qaeda connection
However, three weeks after the incident, the ‘Nouakchott News Agency’, which is based in Mauritania and is used by West and North African Jihadis, especially the Al Qaeda in Maghrib and the Al Murabitun, carried a report that the Katibe al-Imam Shamil (The Imam Shamil Battalion), a little known Caucasian terrorist outfit affiliated to the Al Qaeda, had carried out the attack.5 The statement from the Imam Shamil Battalion was couched in the usual Jihadi rhetoric”
To the Russian government, which apparently has not taken a lesson from its defeat in Afghanistan, we say: This operation is only the beginning, and what is to come will make you forget it, Allah permitting’.
The statement warned of more attacks in the future and claimed that the St. Petersburg attack was a message of retaliation to Russia for its violence in Syria and Libya as well as in the Russian republic of Chechnya. It is pertinent to note that Iraq was not mentioned in the message, even though the US role there is more prominent. Importantly, the message stated that the bomber acted on instructions from Al Qaeda Emir Ayman al-Zawahiri.6
The import of the message was against Russian support for Bashar al Assad’s Alawite/Shia regime in Syria. Russian involvement in targeting terrorist outfits affiliated with Al Qaeda such as the Jabhat ul-Nusra in Aleppo, the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham which has incorporated elements of the Free Syrian Army, and the Ahrar al-Sham, has seriously degraded these groups in Syria. These developments have given a fresh lease of life to Bashar Assad’s presidency, which Saudi Arabia and Qatar were trying to overthrow.
Caucasian Jihad
There are an estimated 2500 Caucasians fighting as part of various groups in Syria/Iraq. They migrated from Russia through the Pankisi gorge route in Georgia to Turkey and from there onto Syria and Iraq after Russia cracked down on militancy employing Draconian measures during the ‘second Chechen War’, which lasted from August 1999 to January 2009. Most of them joined Al Qaeda in Iraq and set up an affiliate of the Caucasus Emirate/Imarat Kavkaz (initially from Dagestan and Chechnya) there. Migration to the Syria/ Iraq theatre increased since 2014, after the ISIS gained prominence and monetary heft.
Online radicalisation also gained momentum, and both ISIS and Al Qaeda/Jabhat ul-Nusra had set up recruitment cells with Russian publications and chat groups. Caucasian fighters, who had battled the Russian armed forces in the Chechen War, and those who had fought with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) in Central Asia, were prized fighters. Jihadis from the Caucasus can be divided into those with ISIS, those affiliated with Al Qaeda in groups like the Kavkaz Emirate, and Jabhat ul-Nusra and others who created their own ‘independent’ groups.7 The Caucasian groups who comprised Chechens, Daghestanis, Ingushetians, and Jihadis from the Central Asian republics and Azerbaijan, came into prominence in the Syria/Iraq region in 2012, with the formation of the Jaysh al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar which was composed of foreign ‘mujahideen’.
Notable victories of the Jaysh al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, which helped Al Qaeda control territories in Idlib, Hama and north Latakia and Aleppo in Syria, included the capture of Menagh Air Base, which was a major defeat for Assad. Epitaphs for Assad’s rule were being signalled by the jihadis until the Russian intervention in September 2015 bolstered his legitimacy and resilience. However, the Russian Government paid dearly for its intervention when a Russian passenger plane was downed in Egypt on November 1, 2015. Putin’s reaction to this incident was fierce and unequivocal. A meme about his statement (see picture below) after the attack went viral on the internet, and is often quoted by Jihadis – both from ISIS and Al Qaeda.8
Apart from the Jaysh al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, other important Caucasian groups include: the Jaysh al-Usrah set up by a breakaway faction of the Imarat Kavkaz, Junud al-Sham affiliated with the Ansar ul-Sham, Jisr al-Shugurun established by Uighurs with Central Asians from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Jamaat Ahad un-Ahad (Group of The One and Only) run by veterans of the Afghan war, and Nogai Jamaat, a group formed in November 2016 and working within the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham/Hayaat Tahrir al-Sham which was politically supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
It is important to note that the Nogai Jamaat in the Caucasus was named after the Nogai Battalion which was created during the first Chechen War by Shamil Basayev, a Chechen from Nogais, and incorporated all Central Asian Jihadis in it.9 Links between the Nogai Jammat and the Imam Shamil Battalion, which latter has claimed responsibility for the St. Petersburg attack, are now under investigation. Investigating authorities in Russia have not yet disclosed the connection, if any, between Jalilov and the Shamil Battalion. However, the FSB has warned of more terrorist actions in Russia and Europe, and has cautioned local authorities to be on a state of high alert.
The FSB’s cautionary note was well founded, as just 10 hours after the blast on the St. Petersburg metro, on April 4, two traffic policemen were killed in Astrakhan, a city 800 miles southeast of Moscow. The Astrakhan Region’s governor Alexander Zhilkin claimed that the attack was perpetrated by Islamic terrorists. Four individuals who were reportedly involved in the crime were killed two days later. Earlier, on March 24, 2017, six Russian soldiers were killed in a military base at Naurskaya, north-west of Grozny, the Chechen capital, when terrorists infiltrated a poorly guarded perimeter, reminiscent of the Pathankot and Uri attacks in India.
Over the past two decades, Russia has witnessed horrific terrorist attacks by Chechen/Inghushetian and Daghestani terrorists who want to establish a Sunni emirate with its capital in Grozny. These attacks include: the seizure of a crowded Dubrovka theatre in Moscow (October 23, 2002) by 40 to 50 armed Chechens in which over 170 people died, a bombing on the Moscow-to-St. Petersburg train on November 27, 2009 that left 26 dead and some 100 injured, and a double suicide bombing by female Jihadis in the Moscow subway in March 2010 which killed 40 people and wounded more than 100.
Prior to 2010, Chechen terrorists, from Musayevich Dudayev to Shamil Basayev to Doku Umarov, agitated for the establishment of an independent ‘Republic’ that would be Islamic in nature. The initial call from Dudayev was for an independent Republic of Ichkeria, with the emphasis being on a democratic and self-governed area for Muslims. Though several thousand Central Asian and Russian cadres had joined the IMU in Afghanistan and were fighting alongside Osama bin Laden and Arab Jihadis, the call for an independent Imarati Kavkaz, which was to be run on the basis of the Sharia and not democratic norms, gained in intensity only after the security clampdown post the second Chechen War. As mentioned above, the crackdown led to a wave of migration into Syria and Iraq via Georgia and Azerbaijan, with Jihadis joining up with the Al Qaeda, ISIS and other radical factions, and generating in its wake dangerous recidivist Islamic ideology.
The Kremlin reportedly took innovative measures to control the spread of Islamic extremism in Russia. According to an article in the Russian daily Novaya Gazeta, the FSB covertly established a ‘green corridor’ to facilitate the travel of extremists from Chechnya and neighbouring Dagestan to Syria via Turkey, with the overall goal of reducing potential violence in Russia’s North Caucasus region. This led to a steep increase in the number of foreign fighters travelling from the North Caucasus and corresponded with a significant decrease in domestic terrorist activities, but only until the Russian intervention in the Syria/Iraq conflict.10
Assessment
There are an estimated 2,500 people from Russia/North Caucus fighting in the Middle East now. Analysts have opined that a serious deterioration of the security situation in the region is in the offing after the militants start returning to the region. There is an underlying fear that this re-migration could have a larger impact on South and Central Asian stability as well. Russian support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, on the ground that it is less of a danger than ISIS, has led to a resurgence of the Taliban’s reach and contributed to its military victories against the Afghan Security Forces.
Afghanistan’s security is much more fragile currently than it was in 2014, when Barack Obama initiated a drawdown of US/ NATO forces. ISIS has established a credible presence there, which also continues to be the home of the Al Qaeda senior leadership. According to some analysts, Russia will use its well-equipped interior ministry to initiate repressive measures for controlling returning Jihadis in Russia and Central Asia. This could, in turn, induce a number of Caucasian militants to go to the Af-Pak region rather than return to their homelands. However, it is unlikely that Russia will be safe from the militants’ ire. The face of militancy in the region has now become progressively recidivist and the transition from an insurgency that sought independence into Islamic terrorism has gained momentum. Al Qaeda and its affiliates, which include the Taliban and the ISIS, also follow this trend — their differences are not so much theological as political.11
Unfortunately, this trend seems to be having an impact on India as well. Unrest in Kashmir is showing signs of shifting from sponsored calls for Azaadi to refusing to live in a secular India and wanting to set up an Islamic caliphate. Zakir Musa, the Hizb ul-Mujahideen Commander, who took over the mantle from Burhan Wani after the latter’s death in July 2016, stated in a video that he supported Al-Qaeda which had expressed support for Shariah (Islamic rule) in Kashmir in its online Pushto magazine Nawahi Afghan.
Musa claimed that he was against nationalism and would only work for establishing the rule of Islam — Dar ul-Islam.12 Unfortunately, the video has gained some traction in the Kashmir valley, despite the Hizbul Mujahideen leadership and the Hurriyat leaders distancing themselves from Musa’s views and expelling him from the party. The example of the Chechen agitation morphing from territorial insurgency into Islamic terrorism is there before us. Necessary steps, even if somewhat draconian, are the need of the hour — both for the sake of the Kashmiri people and to prevent this kind of noxious ideology gaining a foothold in the rest of India.

Elections in PoK and Protests in Kashmir Valley: The Linkage

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Prabha Rao

IPS (Retd.)

Burhan Wani’s death on July 8 occurred just before the elections in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Expectedly, election rhetoric from all concerned political parties, including the ruling Pakistan Muslim League ­Nawaz (PML­N), and the opposition, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and others, contained passionate eulogies for the ‘martyr’ Burhan Wani, and re­runs of the usual Pakistani litany of Indian atrocities and human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a cabinet meeting on July 15 in which he declared Pakistan’s unstinting support for the Kashmiris’ “just struggle for self-determination.”1
Interestingly, he announced Islamabad’s intention to observe July 19 as a “Black Day”, which was swiftly postponed to July 21, to coincide with elections in PoK. In a campaign speech in Islamabad, he asserted that Pakistan was and will continue to be a stakeholder in Kashmir, which could not be considered India’s internal matter. Nawaz Sharif was echoed by the Pakistani establishment. Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary 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” of Kashmiri Muslims in the Valley.2
Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaz Aziz stated on July 25, in reply to Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement that Burhan Wani was considered to be a terrorist by India, thus: “Let us not forget, that not long ago the British labelled Indian freedom fighters as traitors and terrorists because at that time India was considered an integral part of the British Empire.”3 While the intention to rile India, especially in international fora, is always an objective with Pakistan, the political mileage that Nawaz Sharif and the PML­N has extracted from this situation in the past two weeks needs to be evaluated and factored.
PML­N swept the polls in PoK, winning 31 of the 41 seats. In his victory speech in Muzaffarabad on July 22, Nawaz Sharif grandiloquently stated that “We await the day of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan.”4 And he added that he was as much a Kashmiri as a Pakistani and promised to work extensively for establishing schools and universities in Azad Kashmir. 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 under threat from a section of the armed forces and public obliquely supporting Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, took the opportunity to proclaim his political relevance and resilience. He and his party adroitly used the media hype generated by the current crisis in Kashmir to portray himself as an indefatigable activist for Kashmiri rights. Consequently, the PPP, which had formed the government in PoK in 2011, managed to get only two seats, with the Muslim Congress getting three seats, the PTI one, the Jammu Kashmir Peoples’ Party (JKPP) one, and another being won by an independent who has affiliated himself with the PML-N.5
Chairman of the PPP, Bilawal Bhutto, had made visits to all the districts of PoK, along with the outgoing Prime Minister of PoK, Choudhary Abdul Majed, but the anti-incumbency factor kicked in to his disadvantage. The dominance of national parties in PoK, as against the hold of regional political parties in the Kashmir Valley in India, has been touted as evidence of the integration of Kashmiris within the Pakistani state.
The Muslim Congress, the oldest party in PoK, has been steadily losing ground. The PML¬-N encouraged factional rifts within the Muslim Conference, which caused a vertical split in the party. As a result of this split, the former PoK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider established a PML-N chapter in PoK. This move divided the vote bank and severely weakened the Muslim Conference. The remains of the party, led by another ex-Prime Minister, Sardar Atteque Ahamad, had formed a coalition with Imran Khan’s PTI, which latter had also fielded a former PoK Prime Minister, Barrister Sultan Mehmood.6
The significant lack of public response to the PTI, which resulted in a loss even for Barrister Sultan Mehmood, is symptomatic of the party’s and Imran Khan’s waning popularity, which is also evident in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Also, the PPP’s substantial downslide is indicative of its fast diminishing role as an opposition. The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), which had managed to get two nominees elected in the previous elections, drew a blank in the latest round. This is significant as the number of Kashmiri voters residing in Pakistan is 438,884, mainly in Karachi.7 MQM’s defeat here reveals not only its declining fortunes but also its inability to control the street in Karachi.
It is noteworthy that in the run up to the elections, media bans on the Lashkar-e Taiba/Jama’at ud Dawa were quietly kept in abeyance. JuD Emir, Hafiz Saeed, who has been listed as a terrorist by the UN Security Council’s Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee and has an Interpol Red Corner Notice against him, was permitted to organise a ‘Kashmir Caravan,’ comprising several trucks and buses from Lahore to Islamabad. The ‘Caravan’ passed through the towns of Gujranwala, Jhelum and Gujrat, and organised major rallies that were well attended by federal ministers and religious leaders, garnering a fair amount of coverage in print and airspace. Islamabad’s, and Nawaz Sharif’s, high degree of tolerance for extremist invective can be gauged from Hafiz Sayeed’s claim on July 22 that he had received a call from Asiya Andrabi, the founder of the Dukhtaran-e-Millat, begging for his help to resolve the “crisis” on the Indian side of Kashmir. With his characteristic dramatic flourishes, Saeed told the cheering mob “I am telling my sister Asiya – my sister, we are coming. This act of violence will come to end and nobody can stop Kashmir from becoming independent.” Saeed further emphasised that he had received a call from Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in early July, when the latter reportedly told him over phone that it was his desire to talk to the JuD emir, and that then he could face martyrdom! Hafiz Saeed’s statements make it evident that Burhan Wani was in touch with hard-core terrorist elements like the LeT and had established contacts across the border, diminishing his chocolate-box, romantic, image of an idealistic separatist. Hafiz Syed used these rallies to reiterate his and Pakistan’s support for Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s four-point formula on Kashmir and to call for withdrawal of security forces from the Valley8
Earlier, Nawaz Sharif had held a meeting with the Pakistan Parliament Special Committee Chairman and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) President Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Lahore, during which Rehman apprised him about his recent talks with separatist leaders over “human rights violations” by the Indian military and paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir. According to Rehman, the separatist leadership in Kashmir was looking towards Pakistan for guidance and succour.5 Like Hafiz Saeed, and other Pakistani leaders, Rehman urged immediate implementation of Syed Geelani’s four point formula on Kashmir.9
The Pakistani leadership, both mainstream and extremist, takes recourse to recommending Geelani’s proposals as they are aware that there will be no meeting point with New Delhi on this issue, and, despite no forward movement in actually ameliorating the situation, Islamabad is able to generate sound bites for the Kashmiri and international consumption. The leader of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Geelani, has written a letter on July 18 to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and its permanent members – US, UK, China, France and Russia – as well as to the EU, OIC, SAARC countries and ASEAN, apart from separate missives to the heads of Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, China and Iran outlining his proposal. The proposal, which was a near verbatim rehash of previous demands, proposed that the “controversial status of the Indian-held Kashmir and Kashmiris’ self-determination right should be accepted,” Indian troops from heavily populated areas should be withdrawn, AFSPA and other draconian laws repealed, and political prisoners released. He further demanded that the UN and all international human rights and humanitarian organisations should be allowed to enter and work in the region.10
Geelani, while proactively using the issue of Burhan Wani’s death to whip up anti-India sentiments, has earlier tried to underplay the role that Wani and his band of boys had in instigating and mobilising the youth in Kashmir. He has asserted that his Tehreek-e-Hurriyat was the most representative party in Kashmir, with a clear stand on the freedom struggle of Kashmir. On gauging the reach of the social media-led Hizbul Mujahidin (HM) campaign, Syed Ali Geelani issued special directions to the central as well as district officials of his party to use the first fifteen days of April for a concerted recruitment drive to induct more people, especially youth into the cadre.11
Factors which are being conveniently kept out of the Hurriyat/other separatists’ narrative are the inflexible laws Pakistan has regarding PoK. Pakistan brought out the AJ&K Interim Constitution Act, 1974, which continues to be interim till date. Under Section 4(7) (2) of this Act, “No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan.” Even the oath of PoK’s Prime Minister reads: “As Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, I will be loyal to the country (Pakistan) and the cause of accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan.” Political activists who denounce this constitutional gag attract hostile attention and often face prosecution. Using the interim constitution, the political parties of Pakistan extended their reach into PoK, with their baggage of political enmity, and tribal leaders – from Suddhan, Gujjar, Jat and Rajput clans –have been cultivated by them as representative satraps. The Kashmir Council, which was set up as a nodal body under this act, is headed by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, who is termed the chief executive and is more powerful than the legislative assembly, or the Prime Minister (equivalent to a Chief Minister) of PoK. The Chief Secretary reports directly to Islamabad, and political power in Muzaffarabad is illusory.12
Some debates on India’s national television, and in some print media outlets, have focussed on the various shortcomings of the security forces, the advisability of using pellets, the possible use of excess force and concurrent human rights violations in Kashmir. The stark images of injured children need to be seen, not just against the backdrop of khaki, but keeping in view the cynical manipulations of Pakistan. The political reality in PoK is that ‘azadi’ is a chimera, and substantive control of the area is shared between terrorist organisations such as the LeT and HM and the political elite of Islamabad. However, a narrative has been fed in the Kashmir Valley that Pakistan is a more favourable option than India. The victim of this mendacious narrative has been the average Kashmiri.

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1. Shashank Shantanu, “Pakistan announces “black day “over Kashmir, “don’t interfere in our issue” India hits back,” India Today, July 15, 2016
2.Pakistan briefs OIC, EU on ‘rights abuses’ in Valley,” Greater Kashmir, July 14, 2016
3.Verdict on Future of Kashmir Only By Kashmiri People: Sartaj Aziz,” NDTV, July 25, 2016
4.Success in politics comes through performance: PM to opponents,” GEO News, July 22, 2016
5. Tariq Naqash, “PML-N set to form govt in AJK,” July 22, 2016
6. Maqsood Muntazer, “Overview of Azad Jammu and Kashmir 2016 Elections,” The Kashmir Walla, June 18, 2016
7.Polling Underway for Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly,” The News, July 21, 2016
8.Hafiz Saeed assures help to ‘sister’ Asiya Andrabi,” WIO News, July 22, 2016
9. Prime Minister’s Office, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, “Chairman Special Committee of the Parliament on Kashmir and President JUI-F Maulana Fazlur Rehman called on PM,” July 13, 2016
10.Geelani urges UN and world to intervene Kashmir conflict,” ARY News, July18, 2016
11.Tehreek-e-Hurriyat was formed to counter Musharaf Formula,” Only Kashmir, March 28, 2016
12. Nayyar N. Khan, “Vote for Azad Jammu and Kashmir or Pakistan?,” The Kashmir Walla, June18, 2016

Geo-strategic Outlook for the Indo-Pacific in 2019

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The primary geopolitical challenges in 2019 in the Indo-Pacific will arise due to the changing relations between the USA and China. India, Japan, Australia, Islamic republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation will all contribute their bit into the evolving security matrix in the region. The US is likely escalating its strategic offensive against China through tariffs, sanctions, regulatory buffers around emerging technologies, stronger backing for Taiwan and a more assertive posture in the South China Sea. For this, it will rely on countries like Japan, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan to erect stronger barriers to Chinese investment.
An issue still under the radar, which could emerge forcefully between USA and China, is Tibet. In the first months of 2019 USA and China will have to find an adjustment with reference to the effects of the “Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act” (signed by President Trump at the end of 2018) that promotes the access to Tibet of US diplomats, journalists and citizens and denies US visas to Chinese officials considered responsible for blocking access to Tibet. China will push its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects, and try to find new partners and export markets through the initiative. China will try to temper potential partner’s concerns regarding financial stability, political influence, and national security threats by attracting third party investors. It will also try to undermine US efforts by working with countries like Japan, European Union and India, and will consolidate its relations with Islamic republic of Iran and the Russian Federation. The trade tensions between USA and China are not just commercial but strategic. It is a battle for technological supremacy, which will play out in various countries and regions of the world, but especially in the Indo-Pacific. China will feel the heat, but has the determination and is canny enough to accelerate its efforts for reaching parity with the USA.
In order to give effect to its declared policy of pursuing open sea lines of communication in the South China Sea through which 50 percent of the world trade passes, and its open airways, the US is likely to continue to take appropriate actions in 2019. Accordingly, the USA will bolster its naval presence in the South China Sea and Taiwan strait, and further challenge the ‘One China’ principle by elevating the status of Taiwan at international meetings, and regularizing arms sales, naval patrols, and high-level visits.
On December 31, 2018, President Trump signed a law which refers to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between US, Australia, India and Japan, calling it “vital to address pressing security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region in order to promote a rules-based order, respect for international law, and a free and open Indo-Pacific.” In response, one can expect China to strengthen its naval and air presence to assert its territorial claims, increasing chances of accidents involving the US defence forces. A US naval port call in Taiwan would trigger a more direct Chinese response. In a speech on 2 January 2019 to mark the 40th anniversary of a call from Beijing to end military confrontation across the Taiwan Strait, the Chinese President Xi Jinping said that unification was key to “national rejuvenation”. He went on to say that ‘the political division across the Strait cannot be passed on from generation to generation’, signaling his determination to end the separation between Taiwan and mainland China. Xi also said that “Taiwanese independence should not be tolerated and representatives from both sides should start in-depth democratic consultations for a cross Strait relationship and the future of the Chinese nation”, and reach transitional arrangements for the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties. Japan, India and Australia will increase security cooperation with USA, but are likely to refrain from joining US Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea or patrols in the Taiwan strait. The US will push for an enhancement of its military exercises with ASEAN and Vietnam, in order to limit growing Chinese influence in the region.
The China–US confrontation is likely to continue in the future even though interim compromises may be reached on the trade issues. This will open up opportunities for other countries like India. It will, therefore, be India’s endeavor to manage its relationship with China. Even as India manages its tensions with China at the tactical level, its strategic competition with Beijing for naval berthing and basing rights, infrastructure projects and defense partnerships will play out across the Indian Ocean. To bolster its position in the Indo-Pacific, India will move to strengthen relations not only with the US but also with Japan and Australia using a bilateral, rather than a multilateral approach, with emphasis on building its relationship with Japan. To maximize its strategic autonomy, India will safeguard its relationship with Russia. India will focus on technology transfers from key weapons suppliers, especially from USA and Russian Federation. New governments in Bhutan, the Maldives and Bangladesh, and a restored government in Sri Lanka, all of which have subscribed to China’s BRI will lead India to renew and redouble its engagement with them. China’s expansion into South Asia under its BRI will continue to make India seek to safeguard its supply routes that form the lifeblood of its trade.
In Afghanistan, the US will use a mix of military pressure on the ground and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the table. Pakistan, Russia and Iran will use the threat of Islamic State to strengthen their security partnership. The US is likely to run out of pressure tactics such as cutting of funds, Pakistani officers’ training and limiting defence sales. It is then likely to impose harsher measures such as revoking Pakistan’s non-NATO major ally status unless it delivers. In this context, Pakistan’s role will gain in importance.
The Afghan army is not strong enough to handle security on its own, but the US is likely to pull out partially from Afghanistan before the elections which have already been postponed once. In Pakistan, Imran Khan will remain dependent on the army, which can engineer defections if he resists, bringing about a collapse of the government. It is unlikely that any new initiative for rapprochement will be undertaken before the elections by India since the issue of Pakistani abetment of cross-border terrorism remains a sore point. India will also wait till the elections are over before concluding a deal on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), since it has a trade deficit with 10 of the 16 countries in RCEP, and since its deficit with China is the largest, and growing.
The two Koreas have always dreamt of cooperation and physical linkages. Road and rail connections, joint management of fisheries, fostering tourism linkages, reopening of Kaesong industrial zone, and building a trans-Korean pipeline from Russia are projects which will be pursued. Efforts to make headway in the face of US led sanctions will continue in 2019. USA will follow up on the initiatives launched in 2018 with Pyongyang for further normalization of relations based on North Korean denuclearization and dismantling of its missile programme. This will not be easy, because the interests of US and China do not coincide on this issue. The US is intent on extracting tangible concessions from North Korea in 2019, but North Korea will also hope that it could squeeze out economic concessions from the Trump administration. Given the high stakes, neither side is likely to scuttle the dialogue, but North Korea will expect tangible economic concessions or a peace agreement before it takes concrete action on its pledges towards disarmament. The United States will hesitate to extend an economic lifeline to North Korea by lifting sanctions, but time is on the side of North Korea as the international consensus on maintaining sanctions is likely to unravel if many months pass by without much action. The US will likely threaten the transgressors with secondary sanctions. Inter-Korean rapprochement also will not be able to progress beyond a point without exceptions from sanctions – which the US will only approve after careful consideration. This will leave room for China to extend its influence on the Korean peninsula. Overall, North Korea will still maintain control of many elements of its nuclear programme at the end of 2019.
Although Russia and Japan will continue to negotiate over the disputed Kurile Islands, a larger stand-off between Russia and the West will make it unlikely to reach a deal with Japan. As it tries to chip away at the US regional alliance structure, China will continue it conciliatory outreach to Japan, India and the ASEAN, through efforts at dispute resolution and economic partnerships while also making overtures to Australia, where the April 2019 elections could foster some rapprochement.
The US still influences geopolitical and geostrategic dynamics in the Middle East to a large extent, but it will feel the influence of the Russian Federation and Iran. Frictions between Iran and USA will escalate, and a common agenda opposing Iran will help in preserving and insulating the strategic, high level ties between USA and Saudi Arabia despite rumblings within the royal family and other governments over Saudi Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s leadership. The US actions towards Iran, and how the nuclear Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is handled, will determine a number of trends in the volatile region of the middle east. Even the United States will need to tread carefully, given the rising influence of the Russian federation in the region.
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