Showing posts with label ISI. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ISI. Show all posts

Friday, March 21, 2014

Asymmetric Warfare

Book Review

Someshwar, Manreet Sodhi. (2013). The Hunt For Kohinoor. Westland Ltd. Chennai. Pages: 425.  Price Rs. 295/-

In the aftermath of the event which has come to be known as 9/11 since then, the phrase ‘asymmetric warfare’ was popular and in vogue for about a decade. If for Carl von Clausewitz warfare was an extension of politics by ‘other means’, for the terrorist, asymmetric warfare was the policy. But there is a difference. For von Clausewitz politics was for national interest and nation building. For the terrorist, asymmetric warfare was a means to achieve an ill-defined cause, religion for example.  

Other nations like Israel, and India had been victims of terror. But till 9/11, the US has been oblivious to the threat and convinced of its own invincibility might have been a tad patronizing to the victims of terror. By the time the US woke up to realize it was not immune to the terror threat after all, India had had several bouts of it, including separatist insurgencies in the northeastern states, Naxalite insurgency in the east-central corridor, the Khalistani movement and lastly the violence in Kashmir that forced 500000 Hindus into ‘internal exile’. In most cases the insurgencies were externally engineered and fuelled by exploiting internal fault lines but Kashmir was different.

Montgomery Meigs, a retired General of the US Army, reviewing ten centuries of jehadi terrorism, wrote in 2003 that “Actually, al Qaeda’s overall strategy is not new. … Today, only the mechanism of attack has changed. The mechanism of attack has indeed changed. It is to deliver a spectacular blow to the perceived common enemy designated as the kaffir (infidel). The destruction of the World Trade Centre in 2001 falls in the category.

Saudi Arabia, home to the most radicalized form of Islam, known as Wahabism is generally known to be the financier of international terrorism, and Pakistan the supplier of operatives. However the nineteen member team that brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in 2001 was drawn from nine nations.

When Frederick Forsyth wrote The Afghan (2006), a second spectacular strike (after 9/11) was only in the realm of speculation. But it did take place, not in the west as everyone supposed it might be attempted, but on India. The attack on Mumbai, India’s financial capital in 2008 was achieved with the help of a number of ‘sleeper modules’.

Youngsters are indoctrinated to such an extreme degree of hatred (of the infidel) that they not only perpetrate mass murder without the slightest of qualms but are willing to self-destruct themselves in the process. These youngsters are infiltrated into the unsuspecting enemy nation where they merge into the mosaic of society so unobtrusively that it is impossible to detect. They lay in wait like a snake ready to strike when called to so. In intelligence parlance, they are known as sleeper modules. In his The Kill List (2013) Forsyth portrayed the indoctrination of ‘waiting snakes’ and how they were deployed to cause havoc among unsuspecting societies.  

It is not even whispered due to a skewed sense of political correctness, but Indian intelligence agencies are aware of the sleeper cells that exist in India and the availability of potential candidates to carry out terror operations.  

Apart from the international terror matrix that bedevils the world, there is an India specific threat that resides in its neighbourhood and engineered by its sworn enemy, Pakistan. The threat is ever present. It has been ‘bleeding India through a thousand cuts’. Deciding that it cannot wrest Kashmir through warfare, Pakistan has resorted to the more insidious mode of asymmetric warfare. The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the deadly India-specific terrorist organisation is a creation of its intelligence agency, the ISI. However, as Hillary Clinton, the American Secretary of State advised Pakistan, she could not harbour a snake hoping it would bite only her enemies. While the asymmetric warfare unleashed against India is denting the economic progress of Jammu & Kashmir, which Pakistan, ostensibly professes to rescue, it is bleeding itself out.

It was in the reign of Atal Behari Vajpayee that an attempt to bring about a rapprochment between India and Pakistan was mooted. His opposite number in Pakistan at the time was General Musharaf. The aborted Agra summit (2001) between Vajpayee and Musharaf is too well-known.

In her novel, Manreet Sodhi Someshwar sets the summit in Kargil instead of in Agra. It was the culmination of ‘Operation Karakoram’ a series of high level talks designed to find a solution to the vexed, decades-old problem. As proof of his bona fides Gen. Zaidi, the Pakistani President was to hand over secret documents (which he codenamed Kohinoor) that would help the Indian Prime Minister avert the next big terror attack on India. However the summit was sabotaged from the Pakistani side and the general assassinated as he descended from his helicopter. In the attack, an ace Indian Intelligence agent, Harinder Singh Khosa, popularly known as Harry was seriously wounded.

Harry, an undercover agent of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was tasked to halt ISI patronage to Khalistani terrorists. As head of the CIT-Z (counter intelligence team Z, where ‘Z’ means Zamzama the large bore cannon mentioned by Rudyard Kipling in his Kim) team, he brilliantly carried out the operation forcing the ISI to call for a meeting with RAW. A little after the operation, as Harry was in a joint operation with the Afghan intelligence agency KHAD, he was wounded in the head by a rock splintered and dislodged by a mortar shell. The knock made him unconscious for several days, but when he woke up, he lost a part of his memory. He forgot about his family of wife and daughter. Harry regained the memory when he was wounded in the head for a second time at the sabotaged summit meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani President Gen. Zaidi. Although he regained his memory, he was critically wounded and in no fit condition to travel for a while and undertake a mission.

Jag Misra, head of the Pakistan desk in RAW and Harry’s boss recruits his daughter Mehrunnisa, an art historian by profession to stand in to finish the mission. Mehrunnisa born to a Sikh husband and his Iranian Muslim wife has drop-dead looks and is fluent in several languages. Eventually, consumed as much by patriotic zeal as he was by fatherly love, Harry overcomes the anguish of a pain-wracked body to join the ‘hunt for Kohinoor’. What follows is, as the blurb says ‘a spine-chilling ninety-six hour hunt through the world’s most dangerous terrain’.

The Hunt For Kohinoor portrays a diabolical plot that is far more deadly in its sweep than the WTC bombing or even the 2008 attack on Mumbai.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Have political ploys made the law an ass?

Is the law an ass?’ asks a character in Charles Dickens’ famous novel, Oliver Twist. Several incidences over the last few days make ordinary folk wonder whether the law is really an ass?

ITALIAN MARINES CASE The first of these concerns the Italian marines’ case, which raises several questions. Why had the Indian Supreme Court exhibited unseemly generosity in permitting the Italian marines – undergoing trial for first degree murder - to return home first to celebrate Christmas and then to vote in an election?

The Italian marines were undoubtedly undergoing trial for first degree murder as they shot to kill. Their claim that they thought that a pirate ship was closing in and they shot in self-defence does not wash. For, as trained naval officers, could they not distinguish between a pirate ship and a fishing boat? Were the naval officers so scared of a small fishing boat, that they thought that it was closing in to hijack their vessel? If so why did they not fire warning shots to dissuade the boat even assuming that it was closing in, which appears far-fetched?

Could an Indian citizen undergoing trial for first degree murder expect the same treatment from the Indian courts? Had an Indian Court ever permitted a prisoner, undergoing trial for first degree murder, to go home to celebrate Diwali? It would never have occurred to an ordinary citizen in judicial custody, undergoing trial for first degree murder to even pray for such leave. Therefore an ordinary citizen should not be faulted if he wonders why, even for the Indian Supreme Court Italian citizens are more equal than Indian citizens’. On many occasions in the last thirty years, the Indian establishment has demonstrated that for it, Italian citizens are indeed more equal than Indian citizens. The reason for the establishment to bend backwards being the Italian connection of India’s ruling party is quite obvious. But does it matter to the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body and the last arbiter for the ordinary citizen without any clout?

Having blundered twice, the Indian Supreme Court sought to make amends by taking a tough stance in restricting the movements of the Italian ambassador. This put the Indian establishment – especially with its Italian connection – in a quandary. After days of huffing and hawing about Italian perfidy (by the primary and proxy protagonists of the government), the External Affairs Minister grandiosely announced (not without a hint of self-congratulatory glee) that diplomacy succeeded in making the Italians see reason. His tall claims notwithstanding, there are several questions that require answers: 

Why did the Indian government sign a treaty with the Italian government in a hurry while the murder trial was under way? Was it not to benefit the two marines? Do sovereign nations sign bilateral treaties to solve instant crises? 

How would the Italian government have reacted if two Indian naval officers killed two Italian fishermen and were undergoing trial in an Italian court? Would it have been as generous as the Indian government?   

Did the Indian government make a clandestine deal with the Italians to satisfy the Supreme Court and bring back the marines? If this is not so, how could Salman Khurshid assert that the marines ‘will not be awarded death penalty as theirs is not a rarest of rare cases’? If it does not fall in the ‘rarest of the rare cases’ category are Indian fishermen routinely fired at and killed by foreign marines? 

Who should decide which case falls under the ‘rarest of the rare cases’ category or not? Is it the judiciary or the External Affairs Ministry?

The upshot of the deal - which the Minister denies was done - is, the marines will not be taken into judicial custody during the course of the trial; they will stay in their embassy; they will not be awarded death penalty as their case is not in the ‘rarest of rare cases’ category; and if awarded a prison sentence, they will serve it in their own country.

SANJAY DUTT CASE The second case is even more bizarre. It is about the sentence the Supreme Court awarded to Sanjay Dutt, famous film personality, son of a famous film personality and former Congress MP and bother of a sitting Congress MP. The four qualifiers deserve to be stressed to put the case in perspective. The 1993 Bombay blasts (in eleven locations) killed 257 people and severely injured 700 people. According to some sources, the number of injured was 1400.

[Sharad Pawar, Chief Minister of Maharashtra (at the time) later confessed that he deliberately misled people by adding Muslim dominated Masjid Bunder to the list blast locations to pacify communal tensions. See: To keep the peace, I misled people on 1993 blasts: Pawar. This secular balancing of terror has been going on since 1993. Pawar’s confession puts the pronouncements of P. Chidambaram, Sushil Kumar Shinde et al., Rahul Gandhi’s whispering to the American ambassador about Hindu Terror and the NIA ‘investigations’ in certain cases, all in perspective. To grab and retain power, secular politicians would go to any extent to appease the minorities, principally the Muslims. The invention of a phantom Hindu terror is part of the game.]  

The Supreme Court verdict in the case confirms the role of the ISI and several underworld dons. Sanjay Dutt’s role in the blasts has been known almost since the beginning. He had been known to confer with the dons, converse with them over phone and collect and store arms for the attack. His pedigree and the power of his political connections helped in almost getting him off the hook. 

If the CBI could be used to discipline wayward coalition partners to fall in line, it could also be used to save loyal allies. In Sanjay Dutt’s case the CBI did all it could to help him evade the long arm of law. It did not matter to India’s premier investigation agency that it was indeed obstructing the course of justice. It delayed investigation to help Sanjay Dutt destroy evidence, did not pursue leads, presented a weak case in the trial court and did not appeal against the trial court verdict. The CBI did not work for the people, who are its paymasters. It worked against them, and for an individual who declared a clandestine war on the people. Just as in the marines’ case, in Sanjay Dutt’s case too, it has been kinship with the high and mighty that carried the day.

One can understand the clamour of the film fraternity to obtain state pardon for Sanjay Dutt. It has been known for long that the same forces that supplied Sanjay Dutt with prohibited arms and ammunition to wage a war on the Indian state also control the film industry. But why would a retired judge of the Supreme Court and Chairman of the Press Council want to interfere with the administration of justice? That is the sad part.

The highest court in the country has delivered its verdict unambiguously pronouncing Dutt guilty. The Supreme Court has also been magnanimous in awarding the least possible sentence according to law. If in spite of this, as the Law Minister averred, an appeal for pardon is favourably considered, it would amount to subverting the justice system.