The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

Moving to The Indian National Interest

Blogging (and in the process, learning) about issues that are near and dear to this blogger, and indeed, to the readers of The Filter Coffee over the course of the the past year and a half has been tremendously fulfilling.

The natural progression for this blog, then, is to collaborate and engage with other bloggers with coinciding interests through the medium of a common platform.  As part of that progression, The Filter Coffee is moving to The Indian National Interest.

The Indian National Interest (INI) is a non-partisan community of individuals committed to economic freedom, realism in international relations, an open society, a culture of tolerance and good governance. Its efforts are directed towards increasing public awareness and education on strategic affairs and public policy.

In an October 2009 blogpost I wrote:

The Filter Coffee has long held the position that discussion on the defense of India needs to move away from think tanks and into our living rooms.  It is only then that true accountability can be demanded, both from the system, riddled as it is with bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption, and from the media, who today get a free pass on peddling half-truths and sweeping generalizations on an unsuspecting public.

Indeed, the focus of this blog shall remain dedicated to raising awareness of issues relating to foreign policy, defense, strategic affairs and governance so that India’s citizens can demand the accountability they deserve from their elected representatives on their pursuit of India’s national interests.

I am grateful to all readers whose involvement has encouraged and challenged this blogger to evolve thinking and discourse on issues of vital importance to India.  Please join this blog in its new avatar at The Filter Coffee (INI)

Filed under: Uncategorized

Pakistan’s IPL omission

The mockery should have been avoided.

When the dust settles and the highly charged oratory duels subside, perhaps there will be space for better considered analysis on the recently concluded auction of the third installment of the Indian Premier League (IPL).  Pakistan, whose 11 cricketers led the shortlist for the third IPL auction — the most representation from any one nation — failed to obtain contracts from IPL franchises.

Arguments that the decision not to select Pakistani cricketers was based purely on business and on franchises’ unwillingness to dispense with additional money for Pakistani players’ security are simply disingenuous.  Cricketers from other nations — Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa — receive the kind of security cover in India that can only be upgraded if the players are escorted in armored personnel carriers.  It is laughable that this theory finds credence.

But cricket is an interesting sport.  Unlike several other sports, international cricket — where cricketers represent their country and are contracted to a board that is at least quasi-governmental — is still more popular than league cricket.  In this respect, IPL’s cricketers are mostly selected based on their current status as international cricketers representing their country, their past status as international cricketers or their potential as future international cricketers.

As representatives of a quasi-governmental  board it is also appropriate that these international cricketers be subject to the diktats of the governments they represent.  South African cricket bore the force of government diktat when some countries refused to tour South Africa in the years of apartheid — likewise today, Zimbabwe is ostracized by some boards as an extension of their governments’ foreign policies towards the African country.

Therefore, if following the 26/11 attacks, it was the Indian government’s diktat not to commit to ties with the quasi-governmental Pakistan Cricket Board (whose chairman is still a direct appointee of the President of Pakistan and chief patron of the PCB — Asif Ali Zardari) this is also fair and consistent with India’s intention to not engage with Pakistan.

That being the case, why were Pakistani cricketers placed on the auction in the first place?  If the decision of the quasi-governmental BCCI was to maintain a suspension of ties with the PCB, then how did its subsidiary — the IPL — seemingly overrule this decision?

They say “with great power comes great responsibility”.  Yesterday’s abomination was concoction of a cricket board drunk with power, and a government  that thinks puerile jabs are to way to go when it is unable to force issues on the international political scene.

You don’t want Pakistan to play in India? Fine. You don’t want their cricketers to participate in the IPL? Fine. But this mockery could have been avoided. What was the Indian government trying to prove to Pakistan yesterday? What purpose did it serve? Why the pettiness?

Filed under: 26/11, Foreign Policy, India, Indian Premier League, Pakistan, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By-two Kaapi (Twitter)