Sanjha Morcha

Army fully prepared: Jaitley Says defence budget will never be compromised

Army fully prepared: Jaitley
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley with Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov in New Delhi. courtesy: Mod

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 17

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley today said the Indian Army was fully prepared to meet any challenges and assured the Lok Sabha that defence budget will never be compromised.Intervening in the discussion on the outlays for the defence sector in LS today, Jaitley said 147 new contracts valued at Rs2,957.66 crore, for enhancing defence preparedness, had been concluded.”Rockets, radars, missiles will be supplied under these contracts. These include 155 mm ultralight Howitzer, Brahmos missile, ballistic helmets, Donear helicopters, Rafale fighter aircraft, Apache attack helicopters among other equipment,” Jaitley said after Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia accused the government of inadequate defence budgeting.Scindia rued that the defence budget had for the first time since 1962 fallen below 1.5 per cent of the GDP. The Congress and earlier the Trinamool Congress also expressed concerns over an aggressive China on India’s eastern border and an incorrigible Pakistan on the western sector.”There are concerns around preparedness of the Army in the event of a two-front war, especially with China and Pakistan working in tandem,” Scindia said, flagging inadequate war wastage reserve levels recently noted by CAG.Jaitley allayed opposition’s fears admonishing them against giving an impression that the Army lacked preparedness. “The Army is fully prepared,” he said, rejecting the Congress of inadequate self reliance in defence production despite the PM promising to reduce imports. He said 134 cases of procurement had been approved and of these 100 pertained to buy and make in India.

India, Russia sign pact to maintain Sukhoi-30

  • India and Russia on Friday signed a key agreement for long-term maintenance support of the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets of the IAF, which has around 230 of the Sukhoi-30 jets of Russian origin that are now licence produced in India by HAL
  • Russian companies United Aircraft Corporation and the United Engine Corporation will provide long-term supply of spares and technical assistance for five years

Manpreet tipped to get Finance, Sidhu Local Bodies

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15

With Capt Amarinder Singh all set to take oath as the next Chief Minister along with his nine ministers, portfolios have also been reportedly decided by the CM-designate, it’s learnt.The list of portfolios was being sent to the Punjab Governor for final approval and the formal notification is expected after the oath-taking ceremony.Though senior party leaders denied having decided the portfolios, it is learnt that Capt Amarinder Singh is expected to retain some prominent department like Home, Personnel, Housing and Urban Development.Former Finance Minister Manpreet Badal is expected to get the Finance and Excise and Taxation portfolio as he played an important role in drafting the party manifesto. Crickter-turned -politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, is expected to get Local Bodies Department. Others departments such as Health and Family Welfare, Agriculture, Social Welfare and Education are expected to be given to Brahm Mohindra, Rana Gurjit, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, and Chaaranjit Singh Channi, respectively.However, there could be certain changes in case Sidhu is given other prominent departments, said sources.

Thermal imagers with poor battery life hamper army ops

Poor battery life of hand-held thermal imagers (HHTI) is restricting the army’s ability to conduct night operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Smoke billows out of a building during a gunbattle at Chadoora in Badgam district on Tuesday AP

Reduced battery life of HHTI was hampering operations during poor visibility conditions and affecting the morale of soldiers, a new army report has revealed.

“Also, as most of the infiltrations along the Line of Control take place during night/ poor visibility conditions, limited life of HHTI hampers the operations,” said a report prepared by the Army Design Bureau (ADB), headed by deputy army chief Lieutenant General Subrata Saha. The report has highlighted 28 problems that the army wants to fix swiftly with the help of the private sector.

The report said the battery was supposed to last three to four hours but had a life of barely 20 minutes due to extensive use by soldiers.

“The problem is further compounded due to extreme climatic conditions, it said. The men rely heavily on H HT I for carrying out operations in poor visibility conditions and night.

The report said soldiers were forced to carry additional batteries during operations, adding to their load and reducing efficiency.The army is looking at finding indigenous solution stoat least 78 problem areas – 28 listed in the new report and another 50 spelt out in an earlier volume.

Improving the situational awareness of tank commanders during night has also been identified at a priority in the report. “While manoeuvring on the battlefield, veryoften, tankshaveto move with their cupolas closed down.

Under such conditions and especially at night, the tank commander find sit very difficult to observe all around and can lose orientation rapidly,” the report said. It highlighted the need to provide commanders with 360degree panoramic viewing devices for improved situational awareness.

Fighting BJP’s tsunami Bring back secularism by S Nihal Singh

Fighting BJP's tsunami
The RSS has warned Mr Modi he cannot replay Gujarat at the national level.

There is a sub-text to the surprise elevation of the hardline Hindutva icon, Yogi Adityanath, to the post of Chief Minister of UP after the BJP’s sweep in the assembly election. The RSS, the party’s mentor, is spreading its wings in the country on the strength of it providing the sinews in the shape of foot soldiers in the mechanics of winning elections.So far, it has planted RSS men first in Haryana and now in Uttarakhand and UP in chief ministerial posts. If PM Narendra Modi seeks to follow pragmatic policies in achieving his objectives, he has had to accept defeat. Of course, we must not forget that the Union Cabinet is full of RSS men and Mr Modi himself was baptised in the RSS. The difference between him and the Sangh is the pace at which the country is to be Hinduised. The verdict thus far is what he could achieve by sidelining the RSS in Gujarat he cannot repeat at the national level.What is clear beyond doubt is that the BJP will fight the 2019 general election by playing the Hindu card in the country’s most populous state in 2019, as elsewhere in the country. If Mr Modi had planned to Hinduise and saffronise the country at a slower pace, he has been overruled by the RSS leadership. It must however be said for the record that the PM made his contribution to keep the communal pot boiling by references to providing a place for Hindu death rituals as well as graveyards for Muslims and asking for adequate electricity supplies for Diwali as for Ramzan. Whatever the veracity of his claims, he was at the same time hitting at the alleged pro-Muslim bias of the state’s ruling Samajwadi Party.How the BJP won UP is now for psephologists and historians to decipher. The important point is how it will determine Mr Modi’s rule in the remaining two years of his present term and the stresses and travails of governing a country of great diversity and substantial minorities. His administration can gain a few brownie points in taking up the case of two Muslim clerics gone missing in Pakistan with the authorities there, but Muslims in particular are living nervously as they await new assaults on their religious-affiliated lives.Assuming that Mr Modi has lost out if he thought differently about the pace of Hinduising the country, where does he draw the line to convince the RSS to slow down its zeal for saffronisation? There are good grounds for pragmatism in setting aside RSS myths for governance. Is the PM gathering his forces to live to fight another day because it is not in his nature to accept defeat early?There is one factor helping the rightward swing in India combined with religious fervour: the turmoil in the West exemplified by the rise of populism in Europe and the election of Mr Donald Trump as US President. In Europe, prosperity having given way to recession for a time, there is widespread attack on multiculturalism with an overlay of Islamophobia and in the US Mr Trump is seeking to abandon its post-World War II role as the protector of liberal values to emphasising “America First”.Mr Modi cannot get rid of the country’s Muslim population, the second largest in the world, even if he would want to, but he must find comfort in Mr Trump’s Muslim-bashing philosophy because to a certain extent the two are sailing in the same boat. The RSS has warned him that he cannot repeat the Gujarat tactic at the national level because the stakes are simply too high and the RSS leadership feels that creating the India of its dreams is suddenly within its grasp.The RSS has been laying the groundwork for some time, in particular since the BJP’s 2014 general election victory. It has placed key men in historical and research organisations because the organisation sets much store on its version of history and therefore feels the compulsion to rewrite history, a habit even adopted by the PM in his early days in office. The ridicule his flights of fancy invited forced him to take down a portion of a speech he gave in opening a hospital wing in Mumbai and he has refrained from repeating the RSS version of history since then.So what can we expect from Mr Modi and his government in the next two years? There will be much talk of development with shades of Hindutva, continuation of pro-poor programmes taking the mantra of Indira Gandhi in new and varied forms. The Hindu motif will be dominant with its symbols and although Mr Modi will on occasion give solace to Muslims, the RSS will continue to hold the key.The Opposition parties are still trying to figure out how to respond to the BJP tsunami. The former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid must be complimented for making a brave attempt to put a gloss on his leader Rajiv Gandhi’s humiliating UP defeat, but apart from Punjab, Goa and Manipur, the Congress is a minor player in national politics and it would be up to other parties to take the baton.The Opposition, of course, is not in the pink of health. Tamil Nadu is still embroiled in succession politics after the death of Jayalalithaa. Ms Mamata Banerjee is vociferously fighting from her corner but lacks national appeal and Bihar’s Nitish Kumar has lost some of his sheen in the state’s present coalition arrangement. Uttar Pradesh’s Akhilesh Yadav has youth and dynamism on his side but remains handicapped by a difficult father and an ambitious uncle in the party’s less than salutary clan politics.The Opposition will to an extent go along with seeking Hindu votes but must evolve an appealing version of secularism for young voters. Clearly, the RSS goal is to bury Nehru’s secularism. The young do not know what it really was. It is the Opposition’s task to make it come alive.

The Chinese way

The Chinese way
Self-service: Only Chinese investors would be allowed in SEZ under the CPEC.

PRESIDENT Mahinda Rajapakse of Sri Lanka evidently believed that China was a 21st century incarnation of Santa Claus. He turned to China to convert his constituency into a ‘South Asian Singapore’ by encouraging the Chinese to invest heavily in projects ranging from the Hambantota Port to a power plant, an airport, a cricket stadium, and a sports complex, while later demanding land for an industrial park. As things turned out, hardly any ships visited Hambantota. Hardly any aircraft landed at the airport. The stadium and sports complex remained unused. There were hardly any consumers for the power generated. The Sri Lankan government also faced riots while seeking to acquire land for a Chinese industrial park to produce Chinese products for export!Unable to repay its debts to China, Sri Lanka is handing over the power plant, Hambantota Port and possibly the airport to Chinese control in a debt/equity swap. China would then achieve a major objective in its One-Belt One-Road project, of having a strategic presence on Sri Lankan soil, through its professions of offering ‘economic aid’ with no strings attached. Thanks largely to such Chinese ‘aid’, Sri Lanka now spends 90 per cent of all government revenues to service debts. If Sri Lanka was ecstatic about the prospects for future prosperity when the Hambantota Port project was announced, Pakistan’s two centres of power — the army and the government — have created euphoria and great expectations of accelerated growth and prosperity through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).The CPEC is to be undertaken exclusively by Chinese companies and banks, with an estimated investment of $55 billion. The plan is to construct Chinese-funded infrastructure projects including the Gwadar Port, road and rail communications networks, energy, industrial and military projects designed to showcase Beijing’s commitment to long-term economic and strategic engagement with Pakistan. The CPEC has a definite military component. A secure fibre-optic link connecting Kashgar in the Xinjiang/Uighur Autonomous Region with the Pakistan army’s GHQ in Rawalpindi is being laid at a cost of $44 million. The CPEC simultaneously seeks to economically and strategically bind Pakistan to China. Power generation, transport, commerce, R&D and the defence of Pakistan, all will be increasingly tied to Chinese investment, supplies and interests. The Pakistan army has raised a 10,000-strong division for the security of Chinese personnel working on the project. The entire project is premised on the belief that the Chinese-built Gwadar Port on the Makran Coast of Balochistan will emerge as a major industrial hub and naval base. Given the realities in and surrounding Pakistan, Gwadar will almost exclusively be a strategic naval base for China and Pakistan astride the Straits of Hormuz, with limited prospects of commercial use. The initial euphoria in Pakistan created by the armed forces was because they see the project as setting the stage for receiving more missiles, fighter aircraft, submarines and frigates. The besieged Nawaz Sharif government saw the project as a political godsend. It claimed that it would lead Pakistan to immediate progress and prosperity. This is now leading to doubts about the project, with a total lack of transparency and realism about the terms and conditions. Inter-provincial rivalries have also risen, with concerns that the prime beneficiary of the project will be the dominant Punjab province, with little or no economic benefit for the already alienated people of Balochistan.Studies by Pakistani analysts have led to some startling conclusions. With a substantial portion of the Chinese investments focused on power projects, the viability has been examined based on interest rates charged by China Development Bank and China EXIM Bank. Official documents have revealed that with an estimated debt-equity ratio of 75-25 per cent, the cost of borrowings could surge to 13 per cent by including insurance costs, as the China Export and Credit Organisation charges 7 per cent fee on insurance for power projects. Interestingly, China is providing concessional finance for only 3-5 per cent of the project. The entire Chinese approach, as always, is crassly mercantilist. Pakistan government sources from its Planning Commission, which oversees CPEC projects, have averred that only Chinese investors would be allowed to invest in special economic zones under the CPEC. There is no provision to protect Pakistani business interests. Moreover, there are no assurances that the Chinese would utilise Pakistani labour in any meaningful manner in these projects. The chairman of the Pakistan senate’s committee on the CPEC, Senator Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, has observed that he is not clear what benefits Pakistan derives from the CPEC, adding: ‘China is our brother but business is business.’ Referring to the absence of clarity on benefits for Pakistani labour and business, he noted: ‘Where will the benefit be for Pakistan? Will the Chinese give us some share of the profit? We are informed that Chinese banks charge us more interest than any other international bank.’India has already made its objections to the CPEC clear. It is a project that enters Pakistan through the PoK, disregarding the fact that New Delhi considers this as part of its territory. One has, however, to analyse China’s economic compulsions in building such a vast road, rail and maritime network across the Eurasian landmass. Over the past four decades, China has undertaken construction activities of buildings, roads, rail lines, bridges, ports and dams, at a pace unprecedented in history. That activity is now slowing down, resulting in the country being left with a surplus labour force and unusable machinery. What better way to use these surplus capacities in a commercially viable manner than undertaking projects like Silk Road Economic Belt that links China with Central Asia, PoK, Persian Gulf States, Russia and the Baltic states. Moreover, Beijing’s 21st century Maritime Silk Route, in turn, extends from China’s coast to Europe, through the Indian Ocean. China is simultaneously building ports across the Indian Ocean, in Asia and Africa.Despite these developments, Pakistani friends one met recently appeared convinced that given its strategic compulsions, China would agree to write off Pakistan’s debts. What impact such a write-off would have on similar Chinese loans elsewhere remains to be seen.

Radical Islam : The Geo Political Effects of its Errant Violent Ways

The causative factors underlying the emergence of a violent and virulent streak of Islam manifested in the Daesh
Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM (Retd)
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
For over two decades now the world’s geopolitics and geostrategic affairs have been largely held hostage by the confrontation of the violent and radical strain of Islam, with the rest of the world. The adoption of violent extremism by this strain, to spread its influence and extend its hold, has created universal abhorrence towards it. Unfortunately, it has also progressively led to the labeling of one and a half billion other followers of Islam as supporters of this ideology. Through this millennium the attempts to neutralize the radical and violent Islamic strain have witnessed different approaches. Mostly these harped on targeting those involved in violence. There were rare attempts to make the entire Islamic community the object of the ire against violent extremism. However, with the passage of time and increasing threats from violent extremism the counter measures to contain its spread are becoming more generically aimed at the entire followers of Islam. This is evident from the actions being undertaken by the Trump Administration and the general transformation of post-Cold War ideologies of Europe to greater isolationist and right wing belief.
General Observations
If any attempt has to be made to assess the future course of events a few imperatives of the past must be known. The root causes for today’s confrontation lie in a complex set of confrontations of the past. These will also dictate the discourse towards the future.
It is obvious that Islam is in ferment, uneasy with itself.  The discomfort comes from its spread beyond the shores of the original land where it took birth and shape. Faiths adapt to situations and to people, settling into comfort positions, especially if there is no ecclesiastical authority to force issues as per a single order. Islam’s spread was rapid and its adaptation to regional and local environment gave it acceptance. There was also confrontation, as there inevitably is when a faith attempts to expand its scope and ambit of reach. For almost ten centuries it thrived by absorbing what came at it socially and ideologically, also dominating the ideological narratives but learning to adjust. However, a counter movement is as much inevitable in such a situation. It came in the 19th Century; that is the time when the attempt to recapture the original faith commenced; an unnatural campaign and confrontational in mode. Regress is not what faiths are designed for but it was regress that the counter movement sought. Later, the 20th Century saw a series of geopolitical events; the two World Wars and the Cold War effectively bottled up the ambitions of the regressive and radical stream within Islam. Its political strength emerged once the importance of energy increased in 1973 and money came into the hands of nations which looked towards recapturing the importance of the Arabized form of Islam. The attempt and tendency to keep Islam emotionally rooted to the region of the Arabian Desert has been strong; even though very large segments of followers of the faith reside in faraway lands in Asia, Europe and Africa.
Today’s confrontation of and within Islam has manifold dimensions. First is the battle between the major sects of Islam; the Shia and the Sunni. Second is the conflict between the radical strain with most others within Islam; a sort of extremists versus moderates contest. Third is the virtual state of war between those who do not follow the faith but rather advocate aggressive targeting of Islam, and Islam’s followers; a civilizational confrontation seen in Muslim versus non-Muslim terms.  Between these three trends Islam is being squeezed as never before. It helps in demonizing the faith on one hand and blurring the contours in ways which makes decipherment of any direction that Islam is actually moving in, extremely difficult. The regional dynamics appear clearer but the moment the issues are trans-regional and more universal it becomes extremely difficult to analyze events and predict any movement towards the future.
The broad regions into which one can divide the dynamics of the Islamic faith in the modern world are as follows:-
• The Americas
•  Western Europe
• Turkey and West Asia
• Af-Pak and South Asia
• South East Asia
This essay examines the first three in some detail and peripherally analyzes the emerging environment in Af-Pak, South and South East Asia. It does not examine Africa although it needs to be remembered that Islam has a large presence in Africa and African Muslims form a significant part of the vulnerable segments of Muslims who are being subjected to the influence of radical Islam.
The Americas 
The US and West Europe have been considered the natural adversaries of those who advocate and seek a more puritanical form of Islam. It is the larger Western Christian Capitalist system and the strides that it has made which irks the radical Islamic strain.
It was the US which had thus far handled it adroitly. Confrontation with Islam primarily in the military dimension was kept far from the shores of the mainland in an attempt to wither it down, prevent expansion and disallow it strategic space. Of course no one would classify the US involvement in unwinnable conflict situations in Afghanistan and Iraq as the most pragmatic of policies. Afghanistan helped to contain but Iraq only added to the fire leading to an adverse   situation; setting up more adversaries than before and giving them opportunity to resist US hard power. Internally, even after a tumultuous event such as 9/11 the US managed the fallout rather well with internal security tightened but yet not as obtrusive as to cause dismay and divisiveness.
Coming to the context of the current times,  ISIS (Daesh) has followed a two track strategy to limit US options. It has made direct military confrontation in West Asia cost prohibitive for the US, betting on the fatigue of the US public. The US has opted to adopt a strategy of military confrontation through its proxies, the Iraqi Army and the Syrian rebels. Both have complex set ups with the Iraqi Army remaining unsure of its own Shia Sunni integration problems. The Free Syrian Army has as allies groups such as Al Nusra which are essentially Al Qaeda surrogates. This makes battle lines unclear and fuzzy and the only ones thriving in these incongruities remain the radicals. The second track of Daesh strategy has been the planning and execution of terror attacks of different kinds on US homeland; the aim is to enhance the antipathy against followers of Islam in the US, bring schisms in an otherwise progressive society, force the adoption of draconian laws and thus allow the standoff to drift into US civil society in the form of a problem even with immigrants and term workers. The old values of US soft power, based upon its self-interests no doubt but also adhering to larger interests of the democratic and secular world, now appear to be waning. This is a phenomenon which may well see the US either much more isolationist and therefore unable to influence and steer the course of international affairs; or more confrontationist to protect its interests in other areas. As the original exponent of globalization the current US stance militates against it. The US international stature slightly diluted will continue its long standing policy against Iran and could seek a renegotiation of the 15 Jul 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. This will upset many equations if it does. At the same time US ability to effectively intervene in disputes in West Asia has also been adversely affected.
An interesting dynamic among the fallouts of the emerging situation in West Asia is the inability of the US, Iran and Iraq to be on the same page. Iran and Iraq are both Shia majority nations but with Iraq having thrown its lot with the US and given the long-term antipathy between the US and Iran, it is difficult to visualize this alignment moving towards anything positive.
Western Europe
The trend of clubbing West Europe with the US in terms of interests and strategy appears to be diluting. With regard to the strategy towards handling radical Islamic extremism the first factor which needs to be taken into account is the relative ease with which the radicals have been able to target West European cities employing a slew of methods; lone wolf, organized attacks with external linkages and similar ones with internal moorings. The wars in Syria and Iraq and the general unstable conditions in North Africa, from the Maghreb to Egypt, are producing a mass of human migration towards Europe. There are major problems of integration of immigrants making the dynamics of politics decidedly right wing. This is aided by the run of terrorist related incidents. Put together, this is going to ensure that commonality of economic and security interests of West European nations is no longer going to be easy to collectively manage. This is having an impact on the future course, in two areas. First, electoral politics all over Europe and more specifically West Europe are veering decidedly towards the ideology of the Right. Secondly, the already tottering concept of collective security, economics and governance so boldly put together by Europe is going to be hugely challenged with no guarantee of its eventual survival.
Turkey and West Asia
Much of what happens in West Asia and Turkey will have a profound effect on the rest of the world. The complexities are just too intricate but to make any sense of them, the broad areas which need to be examined are :-
• Turkey’s Proclivity towards Islamism and its Effect.
• The Situation in Syria and Iraq  and Future of Daesh
• Saudi Arabia’s Situation Post Waning US Support
• Iran and the Shia Alignment
Turkey’s Proclivity for Islamism and its Effect
There is no doubt Turkey is geo-strategically one of the most important nations. Apart from being the land bridge between Asia and Europe it has in many other ways been the link between the West and the East. For a century it has related itself to Europeanism keeping itself tightly away from West Asian politics. It was NATO’s frontline state during the Cold War, continues to be a part of it but for all its European links has not been able to gain entry to the exclusive European Union. It could not keep itself away from the rising influence of Islamism the one idea Mustafa Kemal abhorred; he who gave the Islamic world the perfect secular Islamic model.
Turkey today is torn between Gulcenism, the ideology of Fethullah Gulcen, the cleric who lives in  the US and promotes a syncretic Islam, much like Mustafa Kemal, on one hand. On the other hand is the counter revolution against secular Islam under President Recep Taiyyip Erdogan, the Turkish strongman of over a decade and a onetime partner of Gulcen who believes in a soft form of Islamism. Erdoganism is of course being incorrectly projected by many. It does promote a less progressive Islam but does not promote violence as a means to secure Islam’s interests. The failed coup of 2016 was a defining moment in Turkey’s future as much as it’s deteriorating relationship with Russia in the geopolitics of the region. It wishes to promote cooperation with Russia to defeat Daesh and also prevent the Kurds from playing a major role in that. The Turkish Kurds (PKK) have been fighting a long lasting insurgency against the Turkish government in the eastern and southern regions. Erdoganism promotes a soft Sunni radical line and clashes with the Shiaite line of Iran and other players who seek a Shia dominance of the crucial region of the Levant.
The Situation in Syria and Iraq : Future of Daesh.  On the battles raging for the cities of Mosul in Northern Iraq and for Raqqa and Aleppo in Syria depend the future of Daesh and the other unrelated radical groups such as Al Nusra and the Free Syrian Army. Militarily they will be defeated sooner than later, with the strong Russian commitment. Yet, there is conflict of interests with Turkey battling Daesh and promoting the Free Syrian Army.
The common perception that Daesh minus its funding from oil and taxes may lose its sting does not take into account the professionalism of its networks, its capability of outreach and the influence it can garner. It had the advantage of territory for the last three years but perhaps has anticipated and developed its capabilities to exist dispersed. Al Qaida has similarly been building networks and perhaps is now emerging to a higher level of capability. While its operations will continue in East, North and West Africa, the real area of Daesh concentration appears to be North Western Afghanistan. Terror strikes in Pakistan on Sufi and Shia shrines send home the larger message of its intent to keep its radical followers motivated.
The other scenario is the feasibility of Daesh morphing into smaller groups and attempting to establish control in some of the areas neighboring Syria and Iraq where military control is not of the magnitude currently present against it in the current main battle lines. Jordan and the Sinai bear significance in such an option and should be under surveillance.
The world will not see the end of Daesh with its impending defeat in North Iraq or Syria; these will be symbolic defeats. The real defeats have to be of the minds which control and motivate the idea of a violent and extremist Caliphate. The demise of Daesh in Syria and Iraq may give an impetus to Al Qaida which has by and large been out of the cross wires for some time.
Saudi Arabia’s Situation, Post Waning US Support.  The other developing narrative is that of Saudi Arabia. With a compulsive commitment from the Royal Court towards the clergy to promote Wahabi ideology Saudi Arabia finds itself the target in a complex strategic environment. The radical elements perceive the Saudis not doing enough for the Wahabi cause. The Saudis appear determined to live up to their commitment and yet project a moderate face. The other Saudi compulsion is to prevent the rising influence of Shia Iran. With its own importance diluted in US eyes due to reduced US energy dependence, Saudi Arabia is seeking an independent trajectory in securing its strategic interests. It has to somehow find an exit strategy to withdraw from Yemen where it is embroiled in an unwinnable war against the Shia Houthis who remain proxies of Iran. Economically already weakened the Saudis are on a two-pronged strategy which could well alter the strategic environment of West Asia. Firstly it is going to professionalize the local Saudi population and project a face of reason and openness. Secondly it has also embarked on an ambitious program of outreach into South East Asia to both promote its brand of Islam and economic cooperation for its future needs. The proximity to Israel that it has established gives it much greater acceptance in western circles but the depth of the relationship is yet to be tested.
Iran and the Shia Sunni Conflict.  Since the radical and violent strain of Islam is essentially Sunni, Iran with its Shia population is assumed to be comparatively less radical. It’s a truism that the Shia sect does not have universal ambitions about creation of a caliphate. However, Iran as the core Shia state and with the revolution of 1979 having given it a renewed vigor, was perceived to have ambitions to become the unofficial flag bearer of Islam. The Shia Sunni standoff has since then taken a more volatile turn. The containment of Iranian ambitions was due to the US-Saudi link up as it suited their common strategic interests. With the rising Sunni Wahabi tide turning against the US and the West it was not an automatic choice for the US to switch to supporting the Shia strain, which displays no ambitions of spreading ideology through violent extremist practices. This was more due to the US-Iran inability to bring any convergence of interests. The Shia Sunni conflict is reflected in the political environment through the Iran-Saudi clash of interests and is one of the enduring conflicts of West Asia which has no solution. While both may have no real intent to see a conventional show of arms it is the hybrid variety of conflict which will continue as a part of the political ambitions of both countries to be the dominant force in Islam. The change of leadership in the US appears to be looking at placing greater pressure on Iran on the issue of its nuclear program. With Russia and Iran in alliance in Syria review of the Iran Nuclear Deal is highly unlikely.
Another consideration which cannot be far from focus, remains the Shia Sunni conflict in Iraq which has yet to fully stabilize. A victory for Iraq’s Army opens up the potential for return to such a conflict unless post Daesh configuration takes into account the Sunni minority’s position. The Iraqi Army comprises mainly Shia elements whose attitude towards the Sunni(s) has never been completely friendly.
Areas of the New Great Game –South West Asia, South Asia and Central Asia
The situation in Afghanistan is well known. The Taliban remains unconquered and unrepentant. The US presence is now at a little less than 10,000 troops and it is mainly the Afghan National Army (ANA) which is in battle against the Taliban. The Taliban continues to receive support from Pakistan and the Saudis both of which are also allies of the US. With negotiations unproductive the military situation can take a turn only if there is a major realignment. That seems likely only if there is a US surge under the military oriented US top leadership or if Daesh makes a serious effort in establishing itself. After all, the original Jihad of the late 20th Century did commence from Afghanistan. Since then the region has gone from bad to worse. At the core centre of it is Pakistan’s ambitious plan of retaining its influence and power in Afghanistan to extend its imaginary strategic depth, a notion it has spin doctored for long. It also employs radical Islam as a strategic asset to influence and calibrate the situation in J&K.
Pakistan’s strategy of battling the radicals for its internal security and promoting them for garnering influence on both flanks is dichotomous and can only spell disaster. The Trump Administration is expected to overcome the initial hiccups of targeting one of its oldest strategic partners and potentially look at it as the core centre from where radicalism emanates. With indicators of some serious action to control the activities of the strategic friendly assets (read LeT and JeM), the upcoming national elections of 2018 and a supposedly more pragmatic Army Chief in place, can Pakistan change its outlook.
The real threat to South Asia appears to be emerging from Daesh. The Daesh’s Khorasan province, called Islamic State – Khorasan (IS-K) is led by a core of former Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan commanders from Orakzai and Khyber Agencies of Pakistan; the majority of mid-level commanders are former Taliban from Nangarhar, with the rank and file a mixture of local Afghans, Pakistanis, and foreign jihadists mostly from Central Asia. The recruitment strategy in these areas is face-to-face outreach, education and preaching (dawah), and intelligence gathering—the same tactics the Islamic State used to expand into northern Syria from 2012 onward and that IS-K deployed during its first six months in Nangarhar. The danger lies in the claims of Daesh in its operations in Kabul, Sindh and Lahore. This coupled with actions in Bangladesh and confirmed Daesh assisted modules in Northern and Central India spells the challenges in the region which comprises 500 million Muslims. It may sound flippant to treat Daesh threats in India with lesser emphasis than elsewhere in the world. However, the resisting approach of Indian Muslims towards the faith being apparently thrust upon them spells a positive turn.
Central Asia’s vulnerability lies in the temptation for Daesh and its surrogates to find solace in targeting some of the weak structures and governments in the region. With resources of gas in abundance and emerging trade and energy corridors there is ample scope for money which these groups will need aplenty to establish themselves and spread and control their networks. The narcotics and illicit arms trade also offers opportunities. This apparently worries Russia no end; it is concerned about the effect on its 11 percent Muslim population in Chechnya and Dagestan. The desire of Russia to join with Pakistan and China on managing the Afghan conflict emerges from this perception.
China, a nation usually not considered in the issues relating to radical extremism appears to be now realizing the threats to its interests. Its own 18 million population of Muslim Uyghur in Xinjiang is more restive than many minority Muslim populations elsewhere. China appears to feel that the threats can be managed through hard power internally and prevention of external linkages and influence. However, this is dangerous in a networked world.
The last aspect on South Asia relates to Bangladesh and its concern about the threat of the Rohingyas in Myanmar with the potential of the conflict, involving the 1.1 million strong Muslim community, becoming the latest ethnic group to provide cannon fodder for worldwide Jihad. The ethnic group which has found its members being forced into Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh and even parts of India, has reportedly formed its first terrorist entity in the form of Harakah al Yakin with its origins apparently in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
South East (SE) Asia
For far too long have security experts tended to ignore SE  Asia’s large Muslim population in the scheme of things for promotion of amity and goodwill to resolve the inter faith problems of the world. The physical distance of the region from the land mass of the Arab desert where Islam is emotionally rooted tends to lead to ignorance of the SE Asian factor. The huge populations of Indonesia and Malaysia as also the sprinkling of Islamic people in other countries as minorities, makes the region strategically important. The Straits of Malacca with transit of 70 percent of the world’s container traffic and China’s huge energy traffic makes the region and the population even more strategically important. While terror related to radical extremism has been present in security threats ever since the turn of the millennium it does not appear to have yet crossed a threshold level. It has been largely thanks to some effective cooperation, in terms of intelligence sharing and counter-radicalization programs, between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Saudi interests have been rising in this region and this is natural given Saudi Arabian search for greater economic cooperation in the future after its economy appeared to flag. The flow of finances must not adversely affect the cultural nature of Islam which has acquired a very regional character here. This is what SE Asia has to guard against.

AA Position: A lineman, taxi driver, and other ‘outsiders’

CHANDIGARH : A taxi driver who defeated an Akali heavyweight, a photographer, an art teacher who turned to social work, a sacked lineman, and a former news reporter — they are among the aam aadmis (common people) elected to power in the Punjab assembly elections that saw a third front, Aam Aadmi Party, emerge as the principal opposi- tion.


Amarjit Singh Sandoa, 39, who defeated Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) heavyweight Daljit Singh Cheema, who was an incumbent minister, from Rupnagar, says he had never dreamt of joining politics, leave alone becoming an MLA, when he was driving a taxi in Delhi on a meagre monthly salary of Rs 2,800 in 1998. “I simply wanted to work hard, and earn an honest living.” That he certainly did, buying his first taxi on loan in 2003. Today he owns a fleet.

When Anna Hazare started his movement in 2011, he was quick to join it. “That was the time I was drawn to Arvind Kejriwal and his team,” recalls Sandoa, who laid the foundations of the AAP in Rupnagar and was among the first to get the party ticket. Illegal mining, he says, is the biggest issue in his constituency besides unemployment. And he plans to tackle both.


Unemployment is the prime issue that drove Pirmal Singh Dhaula, 36, to victory from Bhadaur. The tawny-eyed youngster, who has been heading an agitation of electricity linemen for jobs, defeated Balvir Singh Ghunas, two-time Akali MLA, by over 20,000 votes. “I remember staging a dharna in front of Capt Amarinder Singh’s palace in 2003, and getting lathicharged,” he smiles. Amarinder is the chief minister in the Congress regime.

The SAD-BJP government gave him a lineman’s job in 2011 only to fire him on charges of provoking protests. Jailed five times, he is now looking forward to his stint in the assembly. “Pehlan main road te bolda si, hun Vidhan Sabha vich bolunga (I used to speak on the road; now I will speak in the legislative assembly).


Jai Krishan Singh Rodi, 33, the AAP winner from Garhshankar, who defeated two-time Congress MLA Luv Kumar Goldy among others, is also eagerly awaiting the assembly session so that he can raise the traffic issue. “Politics was never on my agenda,” says Rodi, a photographer who set up his studio at the age of 17. “Growing up, I just wanted to become financially independent. Since government jobs were scarce, I learnt photography,” he recalls. The AAP gave him a platform to mobilise the youth and the seat was his.

Rodi says today his conscience-keeper is his son Sukh Dilman Singh, a Class-2 student, who was also his star campaigner. “It’s a heavy responsibility,” he smiles.


Manjit Singh, 40, a journalistturned-politician from Nihalsinghwala who defeated the sitting Congress MLA by over 27,000 votes, agrees. He says he was always a keen commentator on social evils besides being a member of a dozen social welfare clubs. “But over time I realised that writings don’t change things.”

Newly-minted AAP leaders spoke his language of social reform. Manjit, who was working with the Punjabi daily Ajit, clandestinely helped the party for a while until he got an ultimatum from his employers in May 2016. “I decided to throw my lot with the AAP,” says Manjit, who has no reasons to regret his decision. He is not worried about being in opposition. “So what? Assi poora raula pawange (we will create enough noise), will create awareness among people,” says Manjit, who rues that there are hardly any teachers or doctors in his constituency.


Jagtar Singh Jagga Hissowal, 42, who wrested Raikot, once the stronghold of the Talwandi family, also complains about bad roads and poor bus service to villages. The seat is a dream come true for this former art teacher, who is also a part-time painter and film actor besides being a fulltime social worker. Hissowal, who was with the Sehajdhari Sikh Federation, says he joined the AAP because he saw a future with the party.

Though in opposition, these winners say their party has already made an impact. Dhaula points to the simple swearing-in ceremony. “The CM is also talking of doing away with the VIP culture,” he says. So, no hooters or gunmen for these MLAs? “I am a simple taxi driver, and that is how I intend to remain,” Sandoa signs off.

Don’t dilute the Army’s identity

If generals espouse partisan stances and political parties embrace them, civil­military relations will be grievously harmed

Among the many interesting outcomes of the recent elections was the rout of General (retired) JJ Singh, who contested on an Akali Dal ticket in Punjab. The former army chief’s decision to take on Amarinder Singh was a reckless move—spurred perhaps by the brusque superiority with which most generals tend to regard captains. On the campaign trail, JJ Singh courted controversy owing to his graceless and abusive references to his opponent. The general has got his comeuppance and lost his deposit. With the election out of the way, it is time to consider the pernicious consequences of senior military officers entering politics.

BHARAT BHUSHAN /HTShiromani Akali Dal candidate from Patiala (Urban) General (Retd) JJ Singh filing his nomination papers, Patiala, January 17

At the outset, it bears emphasising that the problem is with senior officers, especially former chiefs, in politics. While we have always had some politicians with military backgrounds—Amarinder Singh himself is a case in point— the trend of senior retired officers entering politics is more recent. And it is deeply problematic.

The suggestion that former generals should steer clear of politics tends to invite a series of retorts. As citizens don’t they have the right to contest elections? When retired senior bureaucrats and judges can enter politics why should we ask former military officers to stay away? If retired senior officers feel that they have more to contribute to their country why should they be stopped?

Underlying this cluster of questions is a lack of recognition of the military’s peculiar institutional place in a democratic polity. If the State is supposed to exercise a monopoly over the legitimate use of force, then the military is the ultimate instrument through which this monopoly is asserted. The extraordinary coercive power invested in this institution leads to the problem of how to guard ourselves against the guardians. There is no comparable challenge with the bureaucracy, the police or the judiciary.

To ensure democratic control of the military, states rely on a range of institutional mechanisms: systems of monitoring and accountability, reward and punishment, checks and balances, and above all, norms and values. The last is particularly important because the inculcation and reinforcement of norms and values such as professionalism and constitutional patriotism creates a distinct institutional identity for the military: As a sterile instrument of the State. Politicisation of the military is problematic because it dilutes this identity and turns it into a less reliable instrument of the State.

The military is a community with close ties between serving and retired soldiers. Politicisation of the latter will inevitably affect the former. Over the past few years, we have seen politicisation of the military taking place in both directions. The BJP’s 2014 campaign was notable for its attempt to co-opt groups of ex-servicemen with the promise of one-rank one-pension. Further, the party gave a ticket to a former Army chief, General VK Singh, who had openly taken on the previous government and also rewarded him a ministerial berth.

The military should reflect on the consequences of this trend. The OROP episode amply underscored the danger of the military being treated as a special interest group by politicians. The coddling of the military by any political party will invariably lead others to follow suit or to look at it with suspicion. This will also colour public perceptions of the military as an institution.

Politicians too should ponder its implications. If generals start espousing partisan stances and if political parties embrace them for that reason, then our institutional set-up of civil-military relations will be grievously harmed. It won’t be long before senior military officers are promoted on the basis on political affiliation rather than professional standing. Which prime minister would want to be advised by a military chief who may end up denouncing his government in public a couple of years down the line? Conversely, if a service chief is interested in a post-retirement political career will he really be non-partisan in office?

While senior military officers have a right to run for office they are under no obligation to exercise that right: Quite the contrary. Just because former chief election commissioners or chief justices have been ministers or members of Parliament, it doesn’t follow that service chiefs should aim to follow suit. The military is very different from other institutions and the costs of its politicisation will be very high. Our politics is lamentably peopled with many unsavoury characters, but it is not for soldiers to try and reform it. And if senior military officers feel they have more service left in them, they should deploy their talents outside of politics.

Now that the generals have been called out of retirement, perhaps it is naïve to hope that they will stay out. Still, let’s hope JJ Singh’s disastrous foray will serve as a deterrent to any general, air marshal or admiral eyeing politics.

Army hospital performs rare heart surgery on 55-day-old

Army hospital performs rare heart surgery on 55-day-old
The 55-day-old baby underwent a rare heart disorder surgery at Command Hospital in Chandimandir. Tribune Photo

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14

The Command Hospital, Chandimandir, has undertaken a rare surgical procedure, successfully operating on a 55-day-old extreme preterm and low weight male baby, who was affected by patent ductus arteriosus (PDA).The PDA is a heart condition where a key blood vessel does not close soon after birth as required, resulting in irregular transmission of blood, increased breathing effort and poor weight gain.The procedure was performed in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) under the guidance of a team, led by the hospital commandant, Maj Gen Mukti Sharma, herself an eminent paediatric cardiologist.The baby has made an excellent recovery and has started gaining weight, according to a statement issued here today. The baby had been on ventilator.The PDA is present in all babies before birth and the mother’s placenta provides oxygen to a baby. After birth, lungs expand and the PDA closes spontaneously in the first few days of life in most babies.Most babies with a hemodynamically significant PDA are managed medically, with surgery reserved for those that fail medical management.