The Indian embassy in Kabul has been targeted for bomb attack for a second time in the past 15 months. A least 17 people were killed in Thursday's attack, when a car loaded with explosives rammed into the embassy's compound wall.
The Indian chancery is not far from the presidential palace and, ironically enough, just across the road from the Afghan interior ministry. Needless to say, the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack, have shown they have the capacity to hit anywhere, any time - a message that is already understood.
However, since the target is the Indian embassy, there also has to be a political message. In Delhi, the inclination is to suspect the hand of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The security agencies have their own strange codes to communicate signals, and Thursday's attack does seem to convey some complicated signal, which needs to be deciphered. Conceivably, the message is that should back off from any enterprise to expand its presence in .
Pakistan has not hidden its deep disquiet that India still maintains consulates in two key locations close to border regions - Jalalabad and Kandahar. It suspects that India uses these outposts with an agenda of subverting Pakistan's stability and somehow laying its hands on Pakistan's nuclear assets.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi publicly warned on Monday while on a visit to States that Indians "have to justify their interest" in Kabul. He told that India's "level of engagement [in Kabul] has to be commensurate with [the fact that] they do not share a border with Afghanistan, whereas we do ... If there is no massive reconstruction [in Afghanistan], if there are not long queues in waiting for visas to travel to Kabul, why do you have such a large [Indian] presence in Afghanistan? At times, it concerns us."
Indeed, the top United States commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal underscored in his report last month to US President that India was "exacerbating regional tensions" via its activities in Afghanistan. He anticipated that Pakistan would take "counter-measures".
To compound matters, Indian officials have been needlessly stressing the country's "soft power" in Afghanistan. Sure, India is a major donor country, having committed to spend $1.2 billion as assistance in Afghanistan. Delhi's aid program spans diverse fields such as education, health, power, telecommunications, road-building and other areas and has gone a long way in boosting India's profile and influence in Kabul.
Pakistan views the hyperactive Indian aid program in zero-sum terms as essentially aimed at undercutting its influence. India is also not helping matters. The discourse in Delhi is that India has deep and historical ties of friendship with the Afghan people and in any case, who are these Pakistanis to dictate what India should or shouldn't do?
India point blank refuses to concede that Pakistan has any "special interests" in Afghanistan similar or anywhere near to what India claims to have in Nepal or Sri Lanka. On the contrary, Indian commentators insist that Delhi has a right and an obligation to be assertive in Afghanistan, considering the overall stakes in the fight against terrorism and India's "burden" as a regional power. The argument is flawless although the hubris is highly offensive.
A turning point is coming in the Afghan war. All eyes are trained on Obama's new strategy. The discussion focuses on US troop levels, but it overlooks that enormous tension has been building up in Pakistan in the recent weeks. The Pakistani military seems to apprehend that Washington may be intensifying the drone attacks on top Taliban leadership.
Washington's assassination campaign has lately met with stunning success. High-value terrorist targets are getting killed. The campaign has been extended from the tribal areas to the North-West Frontier Province. The American ambassador in Islamabad recently hinted that the drones might soon come looking for the Taliban shura (council) headed by Mullah Omar, who is believed to be hiding in Balochistan.
The Americans seem to have developed intelligence resources for mounting the drone attacks. While there is collusion between the CIA and the Pakistani security agencies, the US also has intelligence-sharing with other countries, including India.
Certainly, at some point in the conceivable future, the drone may get the top Taliban leadership in its crosshairs. If that happens, Pakistan's so-called "strategic asset" in the Hindu Kush will get destroyed and Islamabad's capacity to project power into Afghanistan will drastically diminish.
Against such a backdrop, the ISI remains extremely wary of any Indian intelligence penetration in the southern and southeastern regions of Afghanistan. Glancing through the Pakistani media on any single day, it becomes obvious there is virtual paranoia that the US is secretly colluding with India. There is suspicion that the US is needlessly increasing its physical in Pakistan. The corps commanders meting in the GHQ in Rawalpindi on Wednesday took the unusual step of publicly airing the army's "concerns" over the implications for "national security" of the conditionalities attached by the Kerry-Lugar bill which the US Congress legislated recently for channeling vastly increased American aid of US$1.5 billion annually to Pakistan.
"Warlords" to hunt down Taliban ...
Interestingly, Pakistani commentators with links to the Pakistani military establishment have concluded that India had a hand in drafting the Kerry-Lugar bill.
At the present moment, what really worries the Pakistani military is that despite previous assurances to the contrary, Washington may finally accept the new line-up taking shape in Kabul under President Hamid Karzai that includes prominent Northern Alliance "warlords" who had worked closely with India in the latter half of the 1990s and right until the US ousted the Taliban regime in 2001.
Arguably, these "warlords" could play a useful role for the US in stabilizing Afghanistan and in the "Afghanization" of the war in a very near term in a way that will significantly ease the pressure on North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops. Actually, this could be an Afghan variant of the Sunni "Awakening" that the US implemented with considerable success within a short timeframe in Iraq. Obama is indeed looking for ways of quickly retrieving the security situation in Afghanistan and is working within a tight timeframe.
The Pakistani military worries about any proximity developing between the US and the Northern Alliance "warlords". Needless to say, India's influence in Afghanistan will take a quantum jump if the "warlords" are resurrected by the US and put in charge of the Afghan security for battling a tenacious Taliban. As longtime opponents of the Taliban, the "warlords" advocate a tough line against the insurgency. As Mohammed Fahim, who is likely to be the vice-president in Karzai's new government told , "My belief is the time for peace is when we are strong and the Taliban are weak. Now would not be a good time for Afghanistan to make peace."
Fahim said the government and coalition forces should hit Taliban bases inside Pakistan and in southern Afghanistan. "The method of fighting should be studied very carefully; there should be a new strategy," Fahim added. He is not opposed to the continued foreign troop presence in Afghanistan, maintaining that it is a "reality".
In short, if "warlords" are put in the driving seat of anti-Taliban operations, the ISI may be compelled to suffer the ultimate humiliation of passively witnessing the "warlords" systematically ravaging the Taliban cadres - as only local Afghan militia can effectively do - and reducing them to a useless rabble or, worse still, force the residual elements to flee to their mentors across the border in Pakistan for protection.
…with Indian help?
India, of course, can do a lot to help the US and NATO in such a scenario by training the militia operating under the "warlords" and also providing them with weapons. In sum, without in Afghanistan, Delhi has the capacity to play a decisive role in crushing the Taliban insurgency, which is what makes the Pakistani military establishment extremely anxious in the developing political scenario on the Afghan chessboard.
No wonder, the Pakistani military is watching with great anxiety any signs of new thinking in Washington in the direction of co-opting the Northern Alliance "warlords" in the fight against the Taliban. It is a close call. Opinion is divided in Washington. The general perception of Afghan realities through Western eyes makes the "warlords" appear a highly disagreeable constituency to serve even as collaborators in the current desperate situation. There is a serious mental block that needs to be overcome in the West in comprehending the Afghan realities. Pakistan counts on that.
Secondly, Pakistan expects the Obama administration to be sensitive to its concerns vis-a-vis an Indian presence in Afghanistan. Indeed, Washington needs to walk a fine line by not annoying the Pakistani military even while tapping into any help India can render. NATO has just urged Moscow to be a partner in the "Afghanization" of the war despite the backlog of Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. India, on the contrary, would be regarded as a benign friendly power in Afghanistan. Yet, Washington has to make a choice in favor of optimally getting the Pakistani military's help, which is crucial, rather than co-opting an Indian sideshow.
All in all, taking into account the distinct possibility that a friendly Karzai-led government will be in power in Kabul for the next five years, the mood in Delhi is increasingly that India should adopt a "forward policy" toward terrorism in the region rather than allow itself to be bled periodically by Pakistan-based terrorists.
Influential sections of Indian opinion are stridently calling for an outright Indian intervention in Afghanistan without awaiting the niceties of an American invitation letter. The fact of the matter is that there is tremendous frustration that Pakistan has neither moved against the perpetrators of the terrorist strikes on Mumbai last November nor folded up the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistani soil. Islamabad's alibi that "non-state actors" are responsible does not convince Delhi, either.
Interestingly, even as these maneuverings are edging their way to a climax in the coming weeks, Delhi just hosted an international conference titled "Peace and Stability in Afghanistan", which was attended by among others Lieutenant General David W Barno, who heads the National Defense University in Washington.
Barno, an expert consultant on counter-insurgency, had a 19-month tour of Afghanistan from October 2003 commanding the US and Coalition Forces. It so happens Barno's tenure in Afghanistan was also the period the Northern Alliance "warlords" look back with nostalgia as their halcyon days in the power structure in Kabul.
The two-day conference in Delhi, which was addressed by top officials of the Indian foreign ministry and the Prime Minister's Office, ended on Wednesday. The Taliban struck at the Indian embassy in Kabul on Thursday. Maybe it is mere coincidence, maybe it is not. In the world of John le Carre's spymaster George Smiley, you can never tell...
And in the USA - "In the debate surrounding Barack Obamas decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, one detail has slipped through without much attention: Barack Obama was the top recipient of military industry money in the 2008 election cycle." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-vFV-NhUhg)
Headley served as an American spy
And who is trying to weaken India as an economic power?
David Headley, an American, is a suspect in the Mumbai hotel bombings of 2008.
Reportedly he is in the custody of the FBI.
According to the New York Times, Headley went to Pakistan to conduct undercover surveillance operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). (An Accused Plotter With Feet in East and West / Is Headley an American agent ? )
David Coleman Headley 'was probably used by US intelligence to infiltrate Lashar-E-Toiba'. (Headley: Undercover agent?)
"The tantalising possibility that David Coleman Headley may have been a US undercover agent ... is vexing many here as American authorities keep the US-based Lashkar jihadi out of the reach of Indian investigators." (Is Headley an American agent? )
According to The Times of India, Headley, while in India, 'frequently introduced himself as a CIA agent'. (Is Headley an American agent? )
Headley used to visit a Mumbai golf course where he spent hours chatting to western diplomats. (Headley struck rapport with diplomats over golf )
Headley's father, Sayed Salim Gilani, a Pakistani diplomat and former Director General of Radio Pakistan, traced his ancestry to the same Gilani family to which the Pakistan prime minister belongs.
Headley's step brother Danyal Gilani was working in the office of Pakistan Prime Minister as his Public Relations Officer, sources have said. (Is Headley distantly related to Pak PM?)
FBI officials have alleged that David Coleman Headley was involved in the 26/11 hotel attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
David headley's mother is an American called Serril Headley. (David Coleman Headley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Serril was a well known night spot owner in Philadelphia.
Serril got custody of David in 1977.
In 1997 David headley was jailed for 15 months for heroin smuggling. (David Coleman Headley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Around this time he may have been taken over by the CIA?
David Headley is suspected of traveling to India to scout locations for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
He reportedly posed as a Jew to scout the Nariman House synagogue.
He made multiple visits to India before and after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
David Headley was born Daood Gilani.
His father was a prominent Pakistani diplomat.
David Headley is accused of reporting to Ilyas Kashmiri, a former Pakistani military officer associated with Al Qaeda (the CIA) (David Coleman Headley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
David Headley is described by the New York Times as An Accused Plotter With Feet in East and West
According to the New York Times:
David Headley was born in Washington.
David Headley, at the age of 17, went to live with his American mother, a former socialite who ran a bar.
Today, David Headley's wife and children live in Chicago.
According to a relative, and friends, David Headley has an American girlfriend, a makeup artist in New York.
The FBI report that Headley has had contacts with Al Qaeda and with officials in the Pakistani government and military.
David Headley's father was a diplomat at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.
When David Headley's parents moved to Pakistan, David attended a military school in Pakistan.
David Headley's parents divorced some years after the move to Pakistan.
According to family friends, David Headley's mother was involved in heavy drinking and multiple sexual relationships, and David Headley engaging in the same behavior.
According to Jay Wilson, "Those were the days when girls, weed and whatever were readily available. Daood was not immune to the pleasures of American adolescence."
In 1998, David Headley, then 38, was convicted of conspiring to smuggle heroin into the USA from Pakistan.
He was sentenced to less than two years in jail.
Later he went to Pakistan to conduct undercover surveillance operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The US will continue to be a pre-eminent power of the world. Despite its growing economic and military strength, China will not be able to challenge the pre-eminence of the US. The pre-eminence of a nation is not derived only from its GDP growth rate, foreign trade and military modernization. It is also derived from its intellectual, technological, moral and cultural strength and its ability to constantly innovate and evolve. China is nowhere near the US in respect of these factors. It is unlikely to be in the short and medium terms.
2. The biggest asset of the US is not its armed forces. It is its educational system---its schools, colleges and universities of excellence. It is its democratic system, its multi-cultural ambiance and its ability to harmonize and profit from cultural influences from different parts of the world. China is yet to build for itself a comparable educational system. Its one-party State is not conducive to a robust intellectual debate without which the intellectual prowess of a State and civil society will remain stunted.
3. Stalin and his successors built up the USSR into what they thought was the equal of the US as a super power. Large parts of the world looked upon the USSR as the equal of the US. Nikita Khrushchev even talked of the USSR overtaking the US and “burying the US capitalist system.” Look at what happened to the USSR and who was buried. The US had the last laugh.
4. India is the only country in Asia, which can evolve into a power comparable to the USA. Its democratic and educational systems, its pluralistic civil society and its pervasive cultural influence are strong foundations for its emergence as a power to be reckoned with not only economically and militarily, but also intellectually and culturally. India’s growing hard power as measured by its economic and military strength still lags behind that of China, but its soft power from which arises the ability to influence the hearts and minds of people is far ahead of that of China.
5. China is a distrusted power. Even its perceived allies do not feel quite comfortable in its embrace. There is hardly any distrust of India across the world--- except in Pakistan.
6.Whether one likes it or not, the US influence will continue to count in the years to come. Its economy will recover faster than one imagines. Its military strength and stamina will remain intact whatever be the outcome of its “war” against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Af-Pak region. There can be no meaningful challenge to its political influence. The stamp of its political influence will be found in all major developments of the world, whatever be the region. To talk of a world without US influence or even with a reduced US influence will be illusory.
7. India has two options---- either continue to be inhibited in its policies towards the US because of the negative experiences of the past or get out of the stranglehold of these negative memories and work for a new relationship with the US, which will be mutually beneficial. The negative experiences and memories are still strong and many. One can mention as examples the US attempt to intimidate India during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, its building-up the military strength of Pakistan, its closing its eyes to Pakistan’s misuse of this military strength given for fighting communism for fighting India and to Pakistan’s use of terrorism as a weapon against India, its encouragement of the Pakistani machinations on Kashmir , its refusal to sell modern technologies to India, its placing India for nearly three decades in a nuclear dog house after the Indian nuclear test of 1974 etc etc .
8.An attempt to get out of these negative experiences was made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and Barack Obama’s predecessor George Bush. The credit for visualizing India’s potential as an emerging power of Asia capable of considerable benign influence across Asia should go to Bush and his Secretary of State Condolleezza Rice. They were impressed by the strength of India’s pluralism which had kept Al CIA-da out of its Muslim community, the second largest in the world after that of Indonesia. They were equally impressed by the strength of India’s democracy and its soft power. They wanted India to emerge as a pole of attraction for the rest of Asia to counter the influence of China.
9. The foundations for a new strategic relationship between India and the US were laid even during the presidency of Bill Clinton. During his visit to India in 2000, Clinton and Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Indian Prime Minister, agreed on a new vision document to govern bilateral relations. The first six years of the Clinton Presidency (1993 to 1999) were wasted years so far as Indo-US relations were concerned. India’s nuclear tests of May 1998, and the strong US reactions to them and its joining hands with China during Clinton’s visit to China shortly after the tests in opposing India’s legitimate nuclear aspirations added to India’s negative vibrations towards the US. The Clinton Administration’s support to India during India’s Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999 saw a turning point in the US policy-formulation towards India. Clinton’s successful visit to India in 2000 gave a further momentum to the attempted move of the relations in a positive direction, but in the few months left before he completed his term of office, Clinton could not give concrete shape to the new vision.
10. The first four years of the Bush Presidency too were wasted years in Indo-US relations. The preoccupation of the Bush Administration with the war against Al CIA-da and the Taliban in the Af-Pak region and with the war in Iraq and its dependence on the regime of Gen.Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan came in the way of any vigorous thinking on the US relations towards India. The first signs of a new thinking in Washington DC on the importance of encouraging and helping India to take up its place as a pre-eminent power of Asia, on par with China, came during the visit of Rice to India in March 2005 and the subsequent visit of Manmohan Singh to the US in July 2005.
11. The Indo-US agreement on civilian nuclear co-operation signed during Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US in July 2005 marked the beginning of the process of discarding the past and moving to the future which was beckoning the two countries. India was taken out of the nuclear dog house. The promises made by the Clinton Administration to transfer dual-use technologies to India on a case-by-case basis, which had remained unfulfilled, were taken up once again with greater seriousness of purpose. Indian policy-makers were in a mood to consider weapon purchases from the US, ridding themselves of past fears that the US would be an undependable supplier of spare parts which could be stopped for political reasons. Fears of US undependability remained strong, but there was a realization that these fears should not be allowed to come in the way for considering new options for the future. For the first time in two decades, an attempt was made by the Bush Administration in its second term to reduce the trust deficit between India and the US and increase the mutual comfort level.
12. The one year of Barack Obama as the President has unfortunately not been a totally positive experience for India. There were hopes and dupes. What was seen as the Obama Administration’s courting of China resulted in a diminution of the importance of India as a counter to China. US economic difficulties partly accounted for this courting. There were other reasons too. The Obama Administration did not see China as a likely threat to the US influences in Asia in the same manner as the Bush Administration did. There was a feeling that the US and China could live and let live in Asia without stepping on each other’s toes.
13. The unmistakable anxiety of the Obama Administration to be attentive to China’s concerns and sensitivities resulted in the discarding of the Bush Administration’s ideas such as a democracy quadrilateral involving the US, India, Japan and Australia and the five-power naval exercises in the waters of South-East Asia involving the Navies of the US, India, Singapore, Japan and Australia.
14.India was no longer seen as a power, which should be encouraged and helped to reach an equality of status with China. The tacit US decision to recognize China’s pre-eminence in Asia was evident in the decision of Obama to legitimize a Chinese role as a benign influence in South Asia during his visit to China in November,2009. This action of the Obama Administration, more than anything else, surprised India and was strongly criticized by many Indian analysts.
15.The failure of Manmohan Singh’s talks with Obama during his State visit to Washington later in November,2009, to give a push forward to the implementation of the civilian nuclear deal added to India’s disappointments. The delay in the implementation has been attributed to the Obama Administration’s reluctance to transfer to India uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Despite the flurry of spins by the advisers of Manmohan Singh it is obvious that the no-changers in the US in respect of nuclear co-operation, who are believed in India to be close to Obama, are once again influencing policy and Obama is disinclined to overrule them.
16. On Pakistan too, the past is back to haunt India. India’s hopes that Obama will take a strong line towards Pakistan and will stop the past pampering of Pakistan by different Administrations have been belied. India has been noting with unease the repeated comments from Obama and others about the need for a regional approach----whether in relation to the restoration of normalcy in Afghanistan or the fight against jihadi terrorism emanating from the Pakistani territory.
17.Pakistani analysts such as Ahmed Rashid have been able to sell the idea to the advisers of Obama that a regional approach would have to address the concerns of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment over what they view as the increasing Indian presence in Afghanistan. This presence is viewed by the military-intelligence establishment as detrimental to Pakistan's historic interests in Afghanistan and its internal security, particularly in Balochistan. Till 2004, the Bush Administration was attentive to Pakistani concerns and sought to discourage an increase in the Indian presence in Afghanistan. Its policy changed thereafter due to the belief that greater interactions between India and Afghanistan could contribute to the strengthening of democracy and governance in Afghanistan.
18. Similarly, analysts such as Ahmed Rashid have been trying to convince Obama and his advisers that without a more active role by the US in facilitating a search for a solution to the Kashmir issue, there will be no incentive for Pakistan to act sincerely and effectively against the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. The Bush Administration was disinclined to follow an activist policy on Kashmir and accepted India's stand that it was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan in which others should have no role. Obama and his advisers seem prepared to revisit this policy, if not immediately, at least at a later date.
19. The revived drag of the past has fortunately not reversed the move towards the future. The credit for this should largely go to Manmohan Singh, who seems convinced more than any other Indian leader that periodic disappointments and misperceptions, which are inevitable in the relations between the two biggest democracies and pluralist societies of the world, should not be allowed to damage their joint vision for the future. They should keep moving forward despite such disappointments and misperceptions. That is what India has been doing.
20. All major political formations in India barring the communists and large sections of its people want closer relations with the US and the forward momentum to be maintained. The large community of Indian origin in the US, which has been in the forefront of the intellectual and managerial class of the US, are an important driving force in this regard. So too, their relatives in India. Young Indians continue to look upon the US with fascination. They have no memories of the past. They have no time and patience for the political and politicized arguments of the no-changers in India. They welcomed the changes brought about by Manmohan Singh in our perceptions of the US and want these changes to continue.
21. The forward movement, therefore, continues----with varying velocity. And it will continue. But disappointments will continue to take place too. Such disappointments will be as much due to India as they would be due to the US. No thinking has ever been done in India as to what it expects out of a long-term strategic relationship with the US. It is often the US which decides what it will give to India and it is New Delhi which accepts. India's expectations from the US in the past were limited to US pressure on Pakistan to stop using terrorism against India, removal of restrictions on the supply of modern dual-use technologies to India and US support for India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council. They remain the same. Any strategic relationship has to be a quid pro quo relationship. Since the US has hardly any dependence on India in any matter, there is no scope for any quid pro quo.
22.India visualizes itself as an Asian power on par with China. Beijing does not see it this way. China views India as a sub-regional Asian power and wants to keep its influence restricted to its immediate neighborhood. Obama's visit to China has uncomfortably brought out to India that there is a convergence of perceptions between China and the Obama Administration on the limited regional role of India. China's pre-eminence has been recognized by Obama. He has re-hyphenated India-Pakistan relations and quietly relegated India to the role of a sub-regional power whose aspirations of having a status on par with China are unrealistic.
23.In geopolitical matters, there is no futuristic thinking in India. The quality of Indian thinking and analysis----strategic and tactical----is poor. What passes for analysis in India is often wishful-thinking. Nobody in India has realized and brought out that for the first time the US, Japan and Australia have a leadership which does not rate highly India's potential as an emerging power. There is less and less talk of Chindia.
24. Someone once said that power and influence are not given. They are taken. China has shown how to take it. India does not have the political will and courage to fight for it and take it. It is hoping that the US will give it. Bush and Condolleezza Rice seemed inclined to bestow on India the status of an Asian power on par with China. The Obama Administration does not seem to be so inclined.
25. Policy changes in India are rarely preceded by a debate in depth on the implications of the contemplated changes. The change of policy towards the US was brought about by Manmohan Singh without a national debate in public or in the Parliament on the wisdom of the change. Whatever debate was there in the Parliament with reference to the nuclear deal tended to be more an exchange of rhetoric than an analysis of facts and figures. There is hardly any effort to bring about a national consensus on foreign policy. When changes are driven by a determined individual and not by a national debate and consensus, there is a danger of the policy being jettisoned if the disappointments continue.
23. Can that happen to the Indo-US strategic relationship? Unlikely. The large public and particularly youth support for a forward-moving Indo-US relationship is a guarantee that the forward movement will continue....