Monday, January 14, 2019

My problem with the "Ancient India was Sooooo Advanced" bullshit

So some jackass decided to go up and present nonsense about ancient Indians knowing about "Stem Cells" because in the Mahabharat there is a description of what sounds similar to a modern cloning experiment.

I'll admit it - I think it is hugely entertaining to spout this kind of nonsense to set off idiots but there is a major problem with this narrative. This is why I don't go around using this line of discussion to troll the immensely stupid*.

Let's assume that that whole "ancient India was AWESOME" story is somehow real. That the Mahabharat and Ramayana were stories of a very real, very fratricidal and very genocidal war. Under that line of thought, there idea of a lost world of technology gains ground.

One might make the case in that limit - that India was once a technological superpower but then regressed (technologically and sociologically) due to a war that wiped out significant portions of socially forward and technologically innovative communities.

So far so good. In fact it all sounds highly believable (how many times have we seen this same tape played over and over in Modern Europe over the last 200 years?)

Then it all goes bad.

The immediate question that comes to mind is - so why is it that in the intervening thousands of years - has India not been able to claim it lost prowess back?

Yes Yes Yes - I know "EVILLL MOOSSLIMS" etc... you might say but that is bullshit. Clearly Chandragupta Maurya was a Hindu emperor who ruled all of India several hundred years before Islam came into being. So why is there no mention of cellphones in the Maurya empire? did Chanakya have email address that I don't know about? - Did Ashoka learn about Buddhism on the internet? .. No ... so clearly Muslim rule have nothing to do with India's continued state of technological regression.

And of course as with all things only Brahmins are the custodians of true knowledge of all matters (And being one myself - I should know a thing or two also) but then why did Brahmins emphasize rote memorization over the rediscovery and rejuvenation of Indian science and technology?

Why was there no Indian renaissance led by Brahmins who sought to rediscover "Ancient Indian" technological secrets?

Or did they rediscover them after the age of the epics and never thought it worth their while to share them outside a few guilds who served their interests?

What was done with the wealth earned from such rediscovery? - stashed away in "Gupt Dhan" under the myriad tunnels that run below major Indian temples?

Dear readers - do you get my drift?

Stating India was an "Ancient Technological Superpower" is path to extremely uncomfortable questions about why and how India remains so underdeveloped today and why there are so many temples with secret basements full of gold!

I get it - your friend feels depressed about his/her science experiments and you tell them a story about ancient India's glory so that they feel better - but this is best left a bedtime story.

Unless you want to answer the questions I have raised above - you might want to stop with this "Ancient India Technological" nonsense.

* the only exception to the above is making up this kind of rubbish to get the fanatically foolish to part with legitimate research funds. If that is what the unnamed jackass was doing, I withdraw my opposition completely - good work my friend!!

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Don't worry I am sure he will declare an Emergency next week or the week after or sometime soon.

Like so many people I was disappointed that Trump didn't declare an emergency and just go full Palpatine in his address to the nation yesterday.

This was a political failure on his part. Now people are saying he is just doing these press events to grift for his campaign. Yesterday his campaign sent out emails asking for contributions to help him build his wall but then in the actual address he totally chickened out of declaring an emergency to build the wall.

This is not good PR. This is bad PR - it will damage his support base badly. They will publicly look like major idiots if he can't get this going.  The whole point of the base continuing support to Trump in the face of major hardships like lost jobs, lost healthcare, and tariffs - is that the base is spared the humiliation of having to admit they were wrong about Trump (and everything else).

What he did yesterday basically rubbed their faces in his turds at a time when they already had their mouths open.

That is bad.

He can't keep doing that. I mean his approval rating will plummet even in the polls he routinely rigs.

So he is going to have to reschedule another TV address and then declare an actual emergency and use the emergency powers to kill the Mueller inquiry and pardon all his collaborators in the "collusion - which is not a crime".

And he will also have to anoint Don Jr as his successor as Emperor of the United States because that is what Don Jr expects and he is very close to flipping on Trump with Mueller. Not a day goes by when Don Jr doesn't go to town telling people he expects to be charged with some crime or the other any time soon.

And there is Ivanka and Jared. They will have to be given a kingdom of their own - otherwise they will not be happy with Don Jr's elevation. So maybe after Trump declares himself Emperor of the US, Don Jr. can be made Crown Prince of the United States and Jared and Ivanka can be given the Grand Duchy of New York City as a consolation.

Also we should all look forward to seeing the White House renamed as the Grand Trump Palace and Stephen Miller will be appointed as Grand Vazir of the Holy Trumpen Emperor.

The stars on our flag will be replaced by circles representing Trump's testicles. Each state will get one Trump testicle to incorporate on its flag.

The FBI, CIA and NSA will be renamed the TrumpBI, TrumpIA and the TrumpSA. That way they will be properly loyal to their political masters and of course the Supreme Court will be superseded by Trump Grand Council of Unique Justice.

There is so much to look forward to.

Surely he will declare an emergency soon.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Trump's desire for "Emergency Powers"

Apparently the White House Counsel is attempting to determine if it is possible to give Trump the "Emergency Powers" he desires at this time. Handing over these powers is being justified by projecting the "border crises" due to "illegal immigrants bringing drugs" etc... etc....

Obviously this is a ruse to seize control of powers to suspend Congress and the Senate and rule by decree. Quite obviously the main aim is to shut down the Mueller inquiry and prevent the Congressional committees from issuing arrest warrants for perjury. 

And again quite naturally the socially dominant castes in the US are supportive of this idea as they fear the political rise of vengeful under-castes. 

Will Trump's attempt at declaring himself emperor succeed? Yes it will.

Why? - because the dominant caste males are too embarrassed to admit they fucked up with Trump. They will go to great lengths to avoid having to face that failure. So they will support his assumption of extraordinary powers in the hope that he will use those powers to physically eliminate their enemies. (C.f Q Anon ideas about mass arrests etc...)

Will it work? Will this create enough momentum to allow the dominant social castes to retain power? 

Difficult to say - the central problem is debt. This dominant social group is trying to skive off old debts that is where this sudden desire to set aside three hundred years of work is coming from. 

Unfortunately debts can only be wiped out by death. Not by seizing power and tearing up the paperwork. 

Let's gather around and watch the death of the World's Greatest Democracy. 

Watch as the United States is finally reduced to the Amerikka Oblast of the Russian Union. 

Rafale Deal - Why is a Hindu RW PM making it easier for Pakistan?

I am sure you have all heard everything about the Rafale Deal and you are heartily sick of it. While the political consequences of this Rafale Deal/Scam are obvious i.e. Sangh Parivar is no less corrupt than the Gandhi Parivar - there are a few things on the strategic side I would like to point out.

My understanding of the original Rafale deal was setup to fill the coffers of those who are more receptive to INC's electoral prospects. When Modiji came to power, he renegotiated the deal to make it more attractive to people who want to see BJP win the next elections. Disappointing as it is to some - this is just business as usual. If you thought Modi was going to be different - you are just an idiot.

Without an emergent threat to the country - politicians everywhere try to maximize the "return" on any such transaction. If Modiji had not gone to town talking about how clean he was and how dirty the Gandhi Family was - the INC might not have complained about his "renegotiation". But then not only did he overdo the whole "anti-corruption" marketing - he actually physically attacked INC slush funds with his demonetization scheme and literally transferred money stashed there into BJP slush funds. When you get that aggressive with your political opponents - they will strike back at you*.   I mean seriously - put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what would you do?

So with that out of the way - the biggest unfortunate consequence of this kind of "renegotiation" is yet another delay in getting the IAF the airplanes it needs. This is the part I worry about the most.

The IAF has been running at way below it's ideal strength of 42 squadrons. While this old idea of a 42 squadron IAF might not be appropriate for the present time as current multi-role fighters are much more capable and have longer MBTF (Mean Time Between Failure) than older airplanes - we still have to take into account that in any crisis situation the key to air dominance is a high sortie rate.

To keep up a high sortie rate and to dissuade enemy forces from even getting off the ground - you need good airplanes and pilots. Even if you have the best aircraft in the world, you still need highly trained pilots to stay in the air and keep a high alert. If you keep using the same pilots - you will lose them to fatigue and lose aircraft to pilot errors. And this is where IMHO the aircraft shortage hits the IAF the most. With fewer squadrons, it is simply not training enough pilots or retaining a critical mass of senior experienced pilots.

All this wouldn't be an issue if the situation around India was static, but if you look at the PAF and PLAAF - both of them have vastly improved their situation. The PAF has been able to bring its squadron strengths up with the JF-17 and the thanks to the renewed spares - their F16 pilots can train more. The PLAAF for its part has built massive airbases in Outer Tibet and is now stationing Su-27/J-11 variants there. Both nations have built up their AWACS and aerial refueling capabilities.

I think this is a bad situation for the IAF.

The big idea that everyone latched on to during Gen. Padmanabhan's tenure was that the Indian army would maximally dissuade the Pakistanis on the western front and deter PLA shenanigans on the eastern front. The IAF for its part would service both air superiority over Indian Army IABGs in the west and keep India's mountain divisions supplied with air cover along the LoAC. Now I feel this is not viable.

The Pakistanis for their part have an idea that in the event of an India-Pakistan shooting war their conventional forces will be able to hold of India's forces for a few days (this is sometimes referred to as the "conventional pause"). This pause will allow Pakistan to seek international aid to de-escalate the situation while simultaneously marshaling its nuclear forces into a state of high readiness.

Whatever else happens on the political scene, I think degrading the IAF's strength like this will only increase Pakistan's ability to achieve a conventional pause. **

I don't understand why a Hindu RW PM would want that to happen. There is something here that I am struggling to get my head around but this may not be the usual accident of stupidity that we see.

* After this demonetization based robbery of the INC's slush funds by Modiji, the jury is out whether Gandhi Parivar will every rise to political prominence in India but on their way out they will make it abundantly to clear to all that the Sangh Parivar is no cleaner than they are. Perhaps that is not such a bad thing. I for one grow weary of the millenarism that surrounds the Sangh Parivar. I don't understand how so many people can continue to believe that there is some magic bullet solution to the problems facing the world.  In the US - so many educated evangelical people believe that Christ is going to come down from heaven and save them from a Climate Change apocalypse and in India similarly religious folks think the Sangh is going ride out on unicorns to the save them. Stupidity must grow on trees somewhere.

** No amount of M77s howitzers, Arjun MBTs or Attack helos are going to change this. There will be no point in even putting those assets out in the FEBA without sufficient air cover. You will simply repeat the mistakes of the PA Commander at the Battle of Longewaal.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

The current escalation along the LOC - some comments

I keep hearing about an escalation along the LoC last week. I am trying to figure out what led to this situation but I seem to end up clutching broken threads.

There is one story being put out by AKD friendly TV channels and RW social media. This story goes something like this -

1) There was a sniping attack on Indian Army positions in the southern side of the LoC and it became a big media talking point. And then there was an Indian Army riposte in the Leepa Valley where a brigadier of the Pakistan Army was injured and subsequently killed.

2) As a result of this death, the Pakistan Army launched a SSG led BAT attack on border posts in the Baramulla area on Dec 30th 2018. The attack was likely a lead to a repeat of the "Uri" attack and that was foiled.

3) This a "major disaster" averted thanks to timely action by security forces under leadership of Modiji and Super(Hanu)Man AKD.

As far as I can tell - this narrative has its roots in a conversation between Gen. Ata Hasnain and Gaurav Sawant where Gen. Hasnain claims that the Indian Army sniped at some PA brigade level officers in the Leepa Valley and then Gaurav claims that a brigadier was injured and eventually succumbed.

There is confusion in the narrative on the RW social media channels in India. The IT-Cell guys keep saying Neelum Valley but AFAIK no one referrers to the Leepa Valley as the "Neelum Valley". I have only seen the "Neelum Valley" term used to address the MSR (so called Neelum Valley Road) running north of Athmuqam to Kel (and thence to 80 Inf Bde Hq at Minimarg near Burzil La).

I cannot be certain that the RW social media channels are actually talking about the same incident but if they are then it looks like they are confusing Leepa Valley with Neelum Valley.

This brings me to another problem with this narrative.

Any PA flag officer who dies rates an official funeral and a prayer meeting (Fateha) is held a few days after officer has passed. This meeting is usually attended by the COAS and it is covered by the press.

In the decades past the PA may have been embarrassed about admitting to losses but over the last decade - the Pakistan Army has lost several high ranking people including Generals in the war against the TTP and Baloch separatists. They now use public disclosure of these losses to generate public awareness of the risks that Army people take to keep Pakistan safe.

And that is where my problem is.

I cannot find any news of a brigadier's funeral. There is nothing in the news of COAS visits which are profiled on the ISPR site.

I feel if the narrative above is correct - then the PA would have gone to town to show how the IA had viciously sniped and killed its flag officer. They haven't done that. The only news item I could find was in August 2018 where they reported a teenage boy was killed.

Additionally some RW posters around going around claiming that IA has carried out some kind of salami slicing operation opposite Mandhole.

Again it is very easy to understand why this might happen in Mandhole - the LoC runs along a ridge line and it should be possible to position a reverse slope defense there - but we can't verify any of this.

The Indian RW is very adept at turning routine military activities into political marketing for its brand. I caution against accepting anything you hear from these people until there is reliable verification of the information.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Stories of days gone by - the end of Op Woodrose in 1992 or Op Rakshak II (Punjab)

After Op Bluestar in 1983, the militancy in Punjab was put on the back foot. This forced the extremists to come out of the proverbial woodwork and the cycle of violence escalated in the immediate aftermath of Op Bluestar especially after that business by the river. Op Woodrose was launched to stabilize the situation.

Op Woodrose has been the subject of much criticism even by renowned experts like DGP KPS Gill, but one can pragmatically note that if nothing else watching the Army trample like a wild elephant over Punjab made the Punjab Police get their act together. (Yes I realize how this sounds - but c'mon we all know this is true.)

The Punjab Police (like the Indian Army at the time) had problems with infiltration. The core of Jarnail Singh Bhindran's message had resonated with a lot of Sikh men. Again this made complete sense - Sikh men are brought up from day one to fight oppression and corruption. Jarnail Singh Bhindran had successfully appropriated the teaching of the Sikh Gurus towards his own political ends and people can easily be misled by charismatic leaders.

The bulk of the effort in the case of Punjab Police was increasing its effectiveness through a process of weeding out extremists and carefully re-arming and retraining the force. It was very hard to do this while the militancy was raging and police officer families were being targeted on a daily basis. While DGP Julio Ribero put in the idea of "Bullet for Bullet" - it took many years to get that worked out in detail.

As the Punjab Armed Police came online - the Army began to take a back seat. Govt. of India signaled it's view in the matter by pushing back on demands to extend the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). This offered a framework that allowed the Army to disengage from the Op Woodrose theater on acceptable terms - i.e. secure in the knowledge that it would not be abandoning the region to anti-national forces.  This is what became known as Op Rakshak II (Punjab).

This exact same process was started by the MMS Government in Kashmir and continued largely into 2013. I do NOT understand why this disengagement process stalled in 2014 and why it is so hard to restart this.

I get that Op Rakshak (yes I know the names are confusing but this is the Kashmiri end of Op Rakshak*) had to longer given the Pakistani efforts to encourage separatism in Kashmir were more intense than they were in Punjab, but I don't understand why the path of progress made from 2006-2013 was abandoned in 2014.

Please don't give me nonsense about "reunification" and "bye bye Art 370" - those are fantasies. None of that is achievable without credible commitments to peace in region. Pushing those ideas merely turns the Army into a political prop in a completely useless drama.

I do not deny that there are people in the Army who want to increase the coercion levels in the Op Rakshak theatre, but there is no evidence to support that this will lead to the desired disengagement. The key to disengagement remains bringing the JKAP to a point where they can take over from the Army units and the Army can go back to securing the LOC.

Scribbling RW fantasies on top of real Nat Sec debates does not help resolve the core debates. This needs to stop as it is immensely distracting. In an ideal world the Army would complete the disengagement form the region and revert the CIF's back to regular Army divisions and the J&K Police would take on the appropriate roles.  Continually spouting nonsense about "Akhand Bharat" etc... DOES NOT HELP.

* "Rakshak" was the name given to all this COIN ops where the Army felt serious amounts of money would be spent. There were many parts to Op Rakshak but crudely they are divided into Kashmir and Punjab commitments and phase I, II & III. It is quite difficult to attribute specific operations to each of these especially if you try to do it from analyzing the medal citations (which most of us use as a quick guide to what is going on).

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Neelam Plan - a trip down memory lane.

You may recall the Neelam Plan, I was one of the people who helped develop that idea that Arindam wrote up.

The background was simple - Gen. Musharraf and his guys kept pushing the Chenab Plan. At its core it looked like they wanted a free transit for Pakistanis in this region. Given the past experience of visiting SSG/LeT/JeM/Al Badr delegations, some of us on the BR Forum were not keen on Gen Musharraf's idea. In particular I felt that Burzil La was a gaping hole that only bring suffering in all future conflicts.

I was very keen to see the Pakistani end of the Kashmir conflict sealed. I strongly believed it would bring violence levels down and reduce the number of weapons caches in the valley. Based on several interactions I sensed a kind of war fatigue in Kashmiris. I hope to exploit this and prevent the place from turning into "another Afghanistan" (as I told a Kashmiri visitor). With the flow of munitions shut, I thought perhaps HM OGWs could be brought back into the fold completely - the entire HM UGW presence cleared out.

I felt the AIOS would be up and running in the south in a few years and so there would progressively less to worry about there. I also felt that a similar arrangement would be needed in the north - specifically in the Neelam River valley. I felt any Pakistani movement there was undesirable and cutting off the Neelum Valley road would keep the 80 Inf Bde at Minimarg from getting too active. This was desirable as I didn't know if I could trust Gen Musharraf to keep his promise of not interfering in the 1-Alpha. They had too many guns in positions where the temptation to interfere would be great. So ceding the Neelam Valley to India would make a more enduring contribution in my opinion.

At the time there were discussions on the possibility of a large Indian industrial conglomerate opening a natural gas fired plant and stabilizing the problematic northern grids. This would provide a much needed relief in the region and allow for a significant improvement in the quality of life of hundreds of millions of Indians.

Obviously I supported that idea. As the actual natural gas could only come from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan and Pakistan, I looked forward to going to these places and working with key stakeholders and making it work*.

In my mind with Pakistan - despite hostile feelings - the sense of common good would hold and a meaningful exchange could occur. The Pakistanis would emerge as partners in India's progress and India would be able to avoid putting dams on the Northern rivers and appearing to interfere in Pakistan's lifeline. I knew Pakistan too was deficient in electricity but there was no way they would able to secure the funding needed for the complex hydel projects that would be needed to overcome that. That had more to do with the internals of the Pakistani debt market and I didn't feel there was anything India could have done about that.

Anyway all this turned out to be a pipe dream. The PA acted like the Neelam Plan didn't exists and so did GoI (in its infinite wisdom). Instead they chose to accept Gen. Musharraf's promises and then for reasons no one wants to talk about relentlessly shelled the Neelam River Valley road. This posted significant collateral damage and I guess it achieved what was proposed in the plan but at a cost that no one was really keen to go into. I watched in horror as respected Army people openly shared that distaste for what was going on and I felt like asking then "then why are you doing this?" - but out of fear of their disapproval I kept quiet. I was young and afraid to speak my mind. The last thing I wanted to was to have a friend of my family chew me out over this. So like an idiot I kept my mouth shut figuring that perhaps some good will come of it.

The plan to open TAP pipeline also failed - the Pakistanis kept asking for giant sums of money and there was no leverage to get them to back down. And India had to turn to boosting coal imports and open hydroelectric options in Kashmir. That has created lots of problems which I am sure you are all familiar with.

* That didn't work out for reasons that are too long to detail here.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Pulwama - the extremely high cost of stupidity

Tragically - in the India I grew up in - moral compromises in the context of COIN were inevitable. Soldiers who had taken an oath to defend the country and it's people were asked to perform dirty, disgusting work of murdering unarmed civilians and children in the hope of stamping out the contagion of ultra-violent extremism in many parts of the country. I still don't know if it really worked.

Too often I swallowed my guilt for supporting ideas of COIN that didn't make sense in the broader sense of what India was - a secular, democratic order with a government that at least in theory was working for the benefit of its people.  Too long did I turn a deaf ear to the sufferings of the Kashmiris, the various people of the North East and to the "Naxals" of East India. Too far I went in searching for an evil Pakistani hand behind all anti-state violence in India.

How could I not support extreme measures? How could I not back the Army and the MHA? Everyone was aligned - the Jihadis were blowing up bridges on a weekly basis, they were murdering IC operatives in broad daylight, the Pandits had been ethnically cleansed and police officer families targeted? and those Assamese separatists - Lord if the people found out the things they had done. And these Naxals - they were hindering India from exploiting vital domestic mineral reserves that could provide a massive buffer against import of Uranium and other energetic materials.

But that time went away. The deal made with Musharraf in 2002 has held (full disclosure I was opposed to the deal - I wanted to see the PA vacate the Neelum Valley but you get what you can and frankly they got what they asked for!).  Barring the occasional eruption at the LOC - the situation in Kashmir has improved significantly.

Then in 2014 came the great election of the Most Exalted One with the 56 Million Foot Chest. And all the stupid ideas that had been buried along with thousands of Kashmiris in mass graves - resurfaced. "Take back POK", "Akhand Bharat", "End Art 370" etc... etc...

People like me who were carefully pushing ideas to remove all knowable arms caches in the valley were thrown completely off balance. The core idea during Sri. Manmohan Singh's time - to improve the logistical position in the region to keep up with Chinese posture changes to the East while assuring Kashmiris that no harm to their ethnic uniqueness was intended went out the window. Gone was the picture of building hydel resources in the region so as to provide a generation ballast to the failing northern portion of PGCILs operations. The Bhakt Brigade scrawled "Kill all Kashmiris" and "Mere Purkhon ki Zameen" (My Ancestral Lands) on everything. Every last word was poisoned!

A decade of work was basically burned to the ground. People were appointed in positions of power and these people brought out the worst in everyone. Kashmiris groaned at the prospect of another three decades of war and the *real* Nat Sec crowd in Delhi threw up their hands in despair. And the Army defaulted to the last set of ideas it knows worked in the context of the situation.

Violence started afresh. The Pakistanis feeling already threatened by the overly aggressive posturing of the Most Brilliant NSA since God - felt it was time to do their due diligence in Kashmir. After all if He who is Most Holier than Allah Himself, was going around giving public lectures on donations to anti-Pakistan groups - then surely they could be expected to counter that forcefully? Why would they react positively to the idea of India doing hydel power production in the region when they facing declining water flow in Mangla and Tarbela? They reacted as any rational person would have expected.

So where are we now you ask?

Well delicately put - the situation is completely fucked. Everything has been thrown under the bus for a grand plan of securing Bhakt votes in some imaginary election.

I don't know if it can unfucked - I hope it can - but the Army is left with no recourse to go back to old models of using the heaviest hand possible. And let me spell that out in plain text for you - that means going way beyond the genteel "No Dadhiwalla Left Alive" stance, this means reacting to situations like they *are* Convoy Challenges. This kind of thing has only existed in the past in a specific context, now with flaccid enforcement of codes of conduct (see that Maj. Gogoi situation) and a complete disregard for framing meaningful ROEs - one is heading down a hell hole incredibly fast. 

Why is the Army going along with this? - because what else will they do? They have to keep their troops alive and end this on terms they feel comfortable with. Everyone in business knows that you can't use the Army to end the situation. The more you use the Army - the more it will inflame the situation. But they have orders and they will carry them out - however vaguely those orders are worded or regardless of what the cost in personal moral and psychological terms is. It is their job to follow order and die if needed. Most of them will privately acknowledge that this kind of thing will bring with it a moral corrosion and breakdown of discipline. (Incidents like that business in Leh with the Arty unit will become more commonplace - but hey its not like anyone in South Block gives a shit!)

The people who give the orders are the problem. The culture of permissiveness on misapplied force is where the rubber is hitting the road. That culture needs to go.

Can that be done with a group of people like this at the helm? Is democracy possible with people who perpetually worship dictatorial behavior and reject facts about being robbed blind? I don't think so - but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

I am tired. I am sick of watching innocents killed pointlessly in the name of Nat Sec. I can't make up stupid excuses for why that happened. I am disgusted after decades of watching some of most talented, smart and physically fit people India has to offer be turned into common murderers and hitmen. Call me names if you life - but I am fucking done with this shit.

But it is your India - you decide what you want to do with it. I cannot and will not defend the misuse of resources like this.