The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

Lalgarh and beyond

Since returning to power earlier this year, the UPA has been painting the Maoists as India’s greatest internal security threat.  What started out in Lalgarh as a protest movement against police excesses morphed into an armed popular uprising, thanks to the machinations of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) and the CPI (Maoist).  The frontier regions of West Mindapore district were engulfed in a state of virtual People’s War; the Maoists wouldn’t have it any other way.  The Chairman would have been proud.

The glare of national media, as well as rumblings in New Delhi resulted in the ensuing counterinsurgency operation, which effectively began on June 18.  Lalgarh was retaken by local police, with the aid of the BSF, CPRF and paramilitary units by the end of day 3 of the operation. That the Maoists were able to exert control over Lalgarh in the first place is an indictment of the flippant, almost collusive approach to the problem by the ruling CPI(M).

This should come as no surprise: the CPI(M) is an ideologically bankrupt entity that has driven the two states where it has held power — Kerala and West Bengal — into virtual economic bankruptcy.  Prakash Karat and his ilk do an excellent job at effusively marketing their non-ideology, and taking potshots at other political parties, but when it comes to brass tacks, there is a virtual paralysis in decision making.

However, singling out the CPI(M) for the mess would be unfair.  Other prolific actors, such as the Trinamool Congress (TC) have played a very significant part in perpetuating the Maoist menace in the hinterland.  Ajai Sahni writes of a law and order/moral vacuum that provided an ideal festering ground for Maoist indoctrination and expansion:

Other players have, of course, been critical — the (TC) principal among the veritable armies of ‘useful idiots’ who have been taken along. The backdrop of this increasing ‘joint front activity’ has been augmenting violence and a consolidation of the Maoist presence across West Bengal — something the Communist Party of India — Marxist (CPI-M) state government has sought consistently to deny, underplay and cover up.

CPI(M)’s wishy-washiness when it came to declaring the Maoists as a “terrorist” organization makes one question whether or not they capable of acting in good faith with the interests of the nation at heart.  The need to declare the Maoists “terrorists” was dismissed with the excuse that they (the Maoists) needed to be countered “administratively”.  That’s rich, coming from a party that has left behind a trail of unmitigated administrative disasters in West Bengal and Kerala.

What the UPA must do upon the cessation of military operations is to ensure that there is a mechanism to redress the grievances of the local tribes.  Police excesses and human rights violations must be investigated, and those guilty of excesses must be brought to book.  A distinction must be made between the adivasis and the Maoists, who, for all intents and purposes had no stake in the anti-police agitation but the desire to indoctrinate and recruit tribals for their cause.

The law and order vacuum that allowed the Maoists to establish control over the 17 villages must be plugged.  The capabilities of security forces in the area need to be significantly enhanced, if only to act as a deterrent against any future contemplations of armed popular uprisings in the area.  B. Raman cautions that in doing so, the UPA needs to formulate strategies baring in mind the differences between Maoist terrorism and jihadi terrorism:

Firstly, the Maoist terrorism is an almost totally rural phenomenon, whereas jihadi terrorism is a largely urban phenomenon. Secondly, Maoist terrorism is a totally indigenous phenomenon motivated by domestic grievances and a domestic political agenda….Jihadi terrorism is a cross border threat to national security. Maoist terrorism is not.

The jihadis increasingly attack soft targets. The Maoists don’t. They mainly attack police stations, police lines, camps and arms storage depots of para-military forces in order to demoralise the security forces and capture their arms and ammunition. The repeated success of the Maoists in mounting large-scale surprise attacks on such hard targets speaks of the poor state of rural policing and intelligence set-up and the equally poor state of physical security.

Filed under: Communist Party of India (Maoist), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Defense Forces of India, India, Lalgarh, Politics, Politics in India, Trinamool Congress, West Bengal, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where do we go from here?

The people of India have spoken.  A clear mandate for the UPA government has been given.  While this blogger doesn’t consider the verdict to be optimal (considering UPA’s unforgivable lapses in security and foreign affairs), the decisiveness of the victory is pleasing because it allows a less fractious Central government to go about its business.  The mandate against the BJP is very clear — the people don’t want any part of their divisive politics.  A campaign that was overshadowed by the venom spewing bigotry of Varun Gandhi was only bound for failure.  Uttar Pradesh has told Mayawati what it thinks of her self glorifying statues in Lucknow.   And Prakash Karat stands amidst the shattered pieces of his non-ideology.

Where does India go from here?  The Filter Coffee has repeatedly drawn attention to the dilapidated state of our local law enforcement forces, and national and border defense mechanisms.  They need addressing immediately.  When Chidambaram took over as Home Minister, he instituted a few changes, come cosmetic, some concrete.

The Congress must stop pretending that it is tied at the hip to the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act and work with the Opposition to construct a meaningful anti-terror law for the nation.  Our local law enforcement agencies need money, equipment and training.  Our national forces face severe shortages in equipment, which can only be addressed by correcting India’s defense procurement mechanism.  The shackles need to be loosened from our intelligence agencies.

India faces two immediate threats with regard to terrorism, from the Maoists and Jihadi groups.  With regard to external Jihadi threats, there are some elements that India can control and some that it can’t.  However, the Maoist menace is well within India’s realm and decisive action is needed to eliminate this plague that has consumed a third of India.

On the foreign affairs side, the Subcontinent is on fire.  Sri Lanka has found itself an effective counterweight to India in China, and its dismissal of India’s pleas was the most telling aspect of this relationship as war against the LTTE drew to a close.  Similarly, India lost the plot in Nepal during the UPA administration and as tensions continue to rise between the army and the Chinese backed Maoist government, India has a great opportunity to play the honest broker and demonstrate to that nation that India wants peace and stability in Nepal.

The United States is blowing a sigh of relief that the month long elections in India are at an end.  Obama’s immediate concern is to get India to focus on the Af-Pak issue.  The repeated calls for India to reduce troop levels along the western border are as absurd as they are misplaced and the UPA would do well not to wilt under American pressure as they have so often done in the past.

With Pakistan, India must continue to use every tool at its disposal to pressure that country to dismantle not just “terror” infrastructure, but specifically the Punjabi-terror outfits that target India.  The Pakistanis must be pressed to ensure that those responsible for 26/11 are brought to justice.  Pakistan’s “investigation”, as farcical as it was, is now a casualty of all the attention to the existential threat that country faces today.  Above all, the UPA must impress upon Islamabad that for India to show any interest in rekindling the “peace process”, there needs to be very credible action from Pakistan on both dismantling terror infrastructure armed at India, and bringing to justice those that were responsible for 26/11.

The mandate for the Congress is conclusive.  Manmohan Singh can either show the country that he can act convincingly to address the challenges that face us, as he did in 1991, or he can falter and stumble from one embarrassing embroilment to another as he has done over the past five years.  The ball is in his court.  What’s it going to be, Mr. Prime Minister?

Filed under: 2009 Indian General Elections, Af-Pak, Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, India, Politics in India, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bouquets and Brickbats: 2008 in Review

We’re fast approaching the end of 2008, and it is customary to a look back at the year. 2008 was the year of rebates and debates, of bailouts and sellouts. In 2008, pigs accessorized with lipstick, surges worked, several people participated in waterboarding (some albeit involuntarily), and the fundamentals of our economy were deemed to be strong. Natural disasters claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Cuba, China and Myanmar. Businesses around the world collapsed and unemployment rates in industrialized nations crossed 6% for the first time in decades. In India, the lady from Rome did little the ease the miseries of the common man, and the Home Minister, like Nero, played the fiddle while the country burned.

Thankfully, there were the few welcome moments that diverted everyone’s attention from the forgettable events that have consumed us in 2008. The Beijing games were one of the better Olympics in recent memory; that China was able to undertake and successfully execute such a massive project should be an inspiration to other developing nations. Barack Obama’s election in the United States means that there will be responsible leadership at home, and consensus driven decision making when it comes to America’s foreign policies.

But without further ado, here now are the “bouquets”….

Bouquets

Hemant Karkare, Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan, other martyers who laid down their lives to defend India in the face of a series of unprecedented assaults. The “Do Nothing” government did, well, nothing to provide the equipment, training and funding necessary to counter the enemy. If the National Security Guards were able to flush out the terrorists in three days, it wasn’t because of the government’s involvement, it was despite the government’s involvement. This UPA administration has the blood of 160 citizens on its hands.

Somnath Chatterjee for standing up to the despicable tactics of Prakash Karat and his band of merry Commies and executing his duties as Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The scheming Left has shown yet again that it puts Party diktat and anti-Americanism over the rule of law and the country’s democratic process. With the nail firmly entrenched in the coffin of relevance, the CPI(M) can go back to being the trivial jokers they always were, and the nation will be better for it.

The Faceless, Nameless Gulf Laborer who is sandwiched between several devils and deep seas, but continues to toil for his family in conditions of virtual slavery. His day involves at least 12 hours of finger to bone work building extravagant skyscrapers and artificial islands, under the wrath of an unsparing sun. He is a victim of immoral agents in the subcontinent, construction companies in the Gulf, and their patrons in the palaces of Dubai, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Doha. He lives in total squalor, shares accommodation with several other construction workers, and remits 60% of his income back to his family in Nizamabad or Haripur, if he should be so lucky as to be paid his wages once in seven months.

The Fab Four of Indian Cricket — Ganguly and Kumble hung up their spurs in 2008, each a true champion in his own right. Ganguly will be remembered as the man who gave Indian cricket its swagger, and Kumble as the workhorse who ground many an opponent to the dust. Although a forgettable year for Rahul Dravid, felicitations are due for becoming only the third Indian batsman to have aggregated 10,000 runs in Test cricket. Speaking of great aggregators, a tip of the hat to Sachin Tendulkar as well, who, by becoming the highest run scorer in Test cricket history, owns just about every batting record there is in Test and One Day cricket.

Sam Manekshaw and Baba Amte, RIP This year’s Vijay Divas (December 16) had special meaning as India lost a true Son of the Soil in Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw. Thirty seven years ago, this bahadur orchestrated the dismemberment of the Pakistan Army and liberated Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) from the clutches of cowards who engaged in state sponsored genocide against Bengalis. Another great Son of Bharata was laid to rest this year — Baba Amte, whose social service and fight against leprosy lead to the establishment of several rehabilitation ashrams in the country, at a time when those afflicted with the disease were ostracized by society.

Madhavan Nair, Mylaswamy Annadurai, and ISRO Thirty-three years after Aryabhata, and twenty-four years after Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian to travel in space, ISRO successfully launched India’s first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, on a shoe string budget ($80 million).

Other honorable mentions: Indian Premier League (I know purists called it a farce and a bastardization of cricket, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite being a fan of the Bangalore Royal Challengers); Muntadar al-Zaidi (of “Shoegate” fame — say what you will, Peyton Manning couldn’t have thrown better spirals); Katie Couric (for flat out owning the train wreck that is and was Sarah Palin).

Brickbats

And now for the not-so-fabulous. This year has been very ordinary, by every standard, so shortlisting the most truly repugnant characters was not an easy task.

Corporate Executives, Investment Banks, Realtors, Richard Fuld, Bernie Madoff, et al: How the mighty have fallen…and have dragged us down with them in the process. As I write this, B-Mad, who swindled the world off of $50 billion, is cooling it at his crib — yes, he’s under “house arrest”. That seems a little extreme…why don’t they just give him $100 billion from the bail-out money and send him on an all expenses paid vacation to Maui. It’ll do him some good…help him take his mind off the little “pickle” he’s in.

Prakash Karat and the Red Army Prakash Karat is the kind of guy who could give the Bush Administration lessons on being incompetent. The CPI(M) has never done anything, couldn’t do anything even if it wanted to, and has never been right on anything. Yet, the chest thumping campaign since 2005 would have you believe that they lead the UPA coalition. Brinda Karat is so annoying, her bindi looks like bullseye. Two states that they do have power in — Kerala and West Bengal — are suffering from chronic mismanagement. Kerala’s State Domestic Product relies mostly on remittances from NRIs in the Middle East, while trade unionism has run Kolkata’s once strong public sector economy to the ground.

United Progressive Alliance Where do I begin? From the veritable Dick Cheney-like Party leader, to a comatose Prime Minister, to five years of vision and leadership deficit, to pandering to the Communist agenda, to a fundamental mismanagement of the nation’s security apparatus, this UPA government has run my country to the ditch. No one cares about India any more. It’s always about brown-nosing to some community or the other, or some regional political party or the other. Why can’t a nation of one billion produce leaders that have better scruples than Sonia Gandhi, Advani and Mayawati?

Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga Unfortunately, moral bankruptcy among leaders in the developing world isn’t the exception, its the norm. When Kibaki and Odinga tussled, the political vacuum created a free-for-all in Kenya that resulted in about 2,000 deaths and the displacement of about 250,000 people. Human Rights Watch blamed Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party for targeting Kikuyus in the Rift Valley, including killing 30 unarmed civilians at a church. With the power-sharing agreement, which made Odinga the Prime Minister of Kenya, and Kibaki the President, all seems to be well in Nairobi. Things aren’t so well though for the hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who still remain without shelter or food.

Indian Media: Just how the Indian media manages to churn out third rate programming day after day is beyond me. In between the 10 minute commercial breaks, the twenty seconds of actual “news” programming is fraught with newscasters who can’t read or speak English. Why every news report must sound like a trailer for The Matrix, I don’t know. The sensationalism, the shrill pitches, the purposeful misrepresentation of facts, the chest-thumping nationalist rhetoric…the media claims it’s watching over India’s politicians…but who’s watching over the media? The Sardesais, the Goswamis, the Dutts, India’s media universe is replete with a satanic herd of yellow journalists. They are “newsmakers” in the most literal sense — the just make stuff up as they go along.

Arundhati Roy This storybook writer fancies her ability to break down and analyze “root causes” of many of India’s problems. In the wake of the Gujarat riots, she extended a heartrending apology, that wasn’t hers to tender, to “victims” who hadn’t actually been victimized. And now she wrote this swill, a 5,300 word blathering piece of an essay, where she blames everyone and anyone for the Mumbai attacks, except of course, the 10 terrorists and their sponsors in Pakistan. She even takes issue with everyone’s favorite (“news anchor”, “journalist”; insert noun here, I’m not quite sure what he does on Times Now) Arnab Goswami, for calling her “disgusting” on air. She calls this an “incitement” and a “threat”. Of course, Arundhati is not one to personally attack anyone herself. She wouldn’t have, for example, called Ramachandra Guha a “stalker” for merely pointing out that her analysis of the Sardar Sarovar dam issue was unoriginal. Would she? In 1997, Roy said “I had two options — writing or madness”. Well, Arundhati, this 5,300-word equestrian excrement of an article may have spared your sanity, but you haven’t made any such accommodation for the poor bastards that are subjected to it.

Rapid Fire: Raj Thackeray and his ilk (where were you when your city needed you most?); Russia (military interference in Georgia, economic muscle flexing against Ukraine…Big Red is back); AR Antulay (what a waste of space); and Robert Mugabe (who won’t be satisfied until he squeezes every last pumping drop of life out of the Zimbabweans) .

Filed under: 11/25/2008, anil kumble, Barack Obama, black cat, bouquets and brickbats, Congress I, India, isro, Mumbai Terrorist Attack, National Security Guard, saurav ganguly, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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