The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

What General Deepak Kapoor really said

Oh! What a tangled web they weave!

Pakistani’s media and strategic community have been in fits over news reports of comments made by Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor, on India’s war doctrine.

Reports in Pakistan’s media on Gen Kapoor’s alleged comments resulted in sharp rebukes from Pakistan’s government and army.  Pakistan’s CoAS Parvez Kayani said that India was charting an “adventurous and dangerous path…,” while Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that Gen Kapoor’s remarks “betray a hostile intent as well as a hegemonic and jingoistic mindset.”

Pity no one in Pakistan bothered to actually read what Gen Kapoor said.

The news report first broke on that venerable bastion of free and fair news reporting, The Times of India.  Insofar as the now contentious sections of the statement are concerned, the following was said:

The plan now is to launch self-contained and highly-mobile `battle groups’…adequately backed by air cover and artillery fire assaults, for rapid thrusts into enemy territory within 96 hours.

This was picked up by sections of the Pakistani media, who surreptitiously morphed the text to say:

The latest statement by the Indian Army Chief, General Kapoor, that India could fight a two-front war with Pakistan and China at the same time and end it successfully within 96 hours is highly debateable and contentious.

By any stretch of the imagination, the phrase “rapid thrusts…within 96 hours” does not equal “end it successfully within 96 hours.” But while many could be forgiven for being glib in the ways of military and strategic affairs, similar excuses cannot be offered for a former Director General, Institute of Strategic Studies.

There are several points that require clarification, with regard to Gen Kapoor’s statement:

  • Gen Kapoor’s statement was a reference the Indian Army’s “Cold Start” doctrine, which was born out of perceived inefficiencies in troop mobilization and response during Operation Parakram in 2001;
  • The process of formulating the new doctrine occurred during the leadership of Gen Padmanbhan in 2002;
  • “Cold Start” envisions eight “integrated” battle-groups making rapid thrusts into enemy territory, acting as a leverage as much against Pakistan as against possible diplomatic intervention by the international community;
  • “Cold Start” is still very much work-in-progress; there are significant imponderables that need resolution, not the least of which is an unambiguous rejection of the strategy by a key actor — the Indian Air Force.

Putting the above in context brings to light the true nature of “Cold Start” — it is a work-in-progress, contingency plan, formulated by the Indian Army, pending approval from other services and civilian leadership.

As far as talk of a two-pronged war is concerned,  India has a history of military tensions with Pakistan and China — two countries that have acted in concert to undermine India, strategically. No country would willingly pine for simultaneous wars against two nuclear-armed adversaries, but does that mean that they shouldn’t even plan for such a contingency?

Lest we forget, China deployed troops along its border with India at the behest of Yahya Khan and Henry Kissinger during India’s 1971 war with Pakistan. Therefore, the possibility of a two-pronged war isn’t quite far-fetched.

Of course, none of this is new information. To begin with, Gen Kapoor’s statements were willfully misrepresented by several Pakistani media houses. Having firstly misrepresented the General’s statements, they then indulged in a pooh-pooh campaign, calling the altered statements “dangerous”, and an exercise in brinkmanship.  A talk show on Dawn TV had the host repeatedly questioning the credibility of civilian supremacy in India’s military command-and-control!

Such campaigns serve two purposes:  inflate the threat of the adversary, and divert attention from domestic issues.  Amidst the scoffing, the self-righteous indignation and the testosterone charged rhetoric, no one thought to examine what was said by Deepak Kapoor or corroborate initial reports in Pakistan. Because that would have been self-defeating.

If Gen Kapoor went over the heads of his superiors and leaked sensitive information into public domain, he must be hauled up. If he articulated positions that were inconsistent with those held by India, he must be made to answer for them. He did neither. What Gen Kapoor did was to refer to an eight year old contingency plan, that, broadly speaking, everyone, including the Pakistanis have been aware of. So why the brouhaha now?

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Filed under: America, China, Foreign Policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Pakistan, pakistan army, Politics, World, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Kaiga Incident

What happened in Kaiga shouldn’t stay in Kaiga

More than 90 workers of the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Uttara Kannada district, Karnataka were poisoned as a result of their water cooler being contaminated with radioactive tritium.  Nuclear Power Corporation’s investigators suspect foul play, which was also corroborated by AEC chairman, Anil Kakodkar.

As with all forms of exposure to radiation, the effects of tritium exposure include mutation of cells, loss of brain weight and genetic abnormalities in future generations.  It is unclear how often the workers are checked for traces of radiation, but the presence of tritium in the 90 Kaiga APS employees was identified on November 24.

Since 99% of tritium is eliminated from the body within 10 days of ingestion, the actual incident could have occurred any time between mid-November and Nov 24.

As word of the incident got out, Manmohan Singh attempted to allay fears by saying, “I’ve been briefed about it, it is a small matter of contamination and is not linked to any leak”. Yes, a small matter of radioactive heavy water contaminating our drinking water.  That Manmohan Singh acted to appeal for calm is one thing, but to do so in such a  bizarre, over enthusiastically dismissive manner sends a poor message to citizens and to domestic and international observers.

As if on key, the media bailed on covering the incident, leaving us at the mercy of the inane, often contradictory explanations being given by the DAE and the AEC, if and when the AEC felt disposed to provide any information at all.

There is little that we know about the incident — the identities of those exposed, the date of exposure, the amount of radiation recorded, or indeed, if all those exposed to tritium as a result of drinking water from the cooler have been accounted for.

The Deccan Herald ran an article which indicated that APS employed over a 1,000 workers and  5,000 contractors, all of whom had access to both the area that stored the tritium as well as the dispenser.  Sadly, this is the kind of flippancy that has typified our approach to nuclear safety.

This isn’t the first radioactive leek or safety breech at an APS in India, nor will it be the last if this sort of trivialization of the safety of workers and those in the immediate neighborhood persists.  In the Kalpakkam APS alone, there were three major instances of heavy water leeks in 2003, 1999, 1988.

If the Prime Minister is really serious about delivering on his promise of “good governance” after the victory in the general election this past May, he should constitute a review not only of the Kaiga incident but also all aspects of APS operation and management, including safety and handling procedures, physical security, isolation and access control, recruitment and background checks.

The usual dismissive, dubious attestations of the DAE simply won’t do anymore.

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Filed under: Congress I, Energy, India, Nuclear Energy, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

26/11 and India’s response

It’s politics as usual in New Delhi, and no one seems to care

A year has gone by after the carnage in Mumbai that left over 190 people dead and hundreds injured.  In the immediate aftermath of 26/11, articles were written about the gaping holes in India’s internal security preparedness.

Recommendations put forth to the Indian government are all in public domain –  a tougher anti-terrorism law, a separate ministry for internal security, police reform, increasing NSG headcount and footprint, and enhancing India’s covert ops capabilityThe Filter Coffee also presented recommendations in the wake of the 26/11 attacks.

Of the recommendations made, Manmohan Singh’s government chose to make the establishment of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) central to its response to the holes in India’s internal security preparedness.  To be sure, the establishment of the NIA was an important move, because it addressed Centre-State jurisdiction issues that hitherto plagued the CBI.

However, the NIA’s mandate notwithstanding, nothing in public domain indicates any significant activity in the NIA, until 11 months and two weeks after November 26, 2008, when the NIA belatedly sprung into action, based on inputs from the FBI on David Headley and Tahawwur Rana.

In addition, by virtue of design, the NIA mostly addresses post-incident investigation and forensics.  Manmohan Singh’s government articulated little by way of detective and preventive enhancements to India’s internal security preparedness.

The bigger picture that needs to be examined on the first anniversary of 26/11 isn’t necessarily about specific structural and organizational changes, but about the government’s willingness (confidence?) to make public aberrations in its response to the terror attacks and how these can be addressed.

In the year following the World Trade Center attacks in the US, the Bush Administration constituted the 9/11 Commission to examine aspects of US’s response to the attacks as they unfolded, and make recommendations on how the US should proceed, going forward.  The US Department of Homeland Security was born out of these recommendations.

India deserved its 26/11 commission with a limitless mandate to examine our response to the attacks in Mumbai. Key aspects of the events of 26/11 require independent review.

These include incident-specific issues relating to governance and leadership such as  (a) How long it took to notify key stakeholders, such as the Prime Minister, NSA, intelligence services and ministers of Home Affairs and Defense, (b) The time it took for the relevant stakeholders to coordinate and assess the situation, (c) How long it took to authorize deployment of anti-terror units to the scene, and (d) Crisis management — who was coordinating what aspect of India’s responses.

The second aspect of the commission’s review should have entailed structural and organizational changes and enhancements, including those previously discussed.  Sadly, this government does not have the gumption to constitute such a comprehensive review of its responses to the 26/11 attacks.  This isn’t an assailment of the the UPA administration, it is an indictment of India’s petty political environment.

There are critical aspects of the attack that require further analysis — aspects that India is still uncovering, including the roles of Headley and Rana — and questions that no one seems to be able to answer, such as how a bunch of semi-literate people alien to Mumbai, were able to negotiate their way through the city’s conspicuous and inconspicuous landmarks, without local assistance.

This cannot be accomplished by adhocism or through token responses, such as establishing the NIA and deploying the NSG in some cities. One would have thought that the time was ripe for such a bold response, faced as the UPA is, with an ineffectual, embattled Opposition. Sadly, barring a few cosmetic rearrangements, not much has changed in India, and no one, least of all Mumbaikars seem to care.

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Filed under: 26/11, commandos, India, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Mumbai, Mumbai Terrorist Attack, National Security Advisor, National Security Guard, NIA, Politics, POTA, south mumbai, Terrorism, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By-two Kaapi (Twitter)

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