Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts: Media Issues

Some thoughts after another round of discussions.

1) In the old days, Indian corporate groups owned the media houses. The main interest was to ensure a vehicle for advertizing and publicity for their products. These media houses made a show of courting political opinion as this would attract customers, but eventually the advertizing and publicity function took precedence. Occasionally the Indian corporate world would support a particular political choice and the media houses would be used to conduct a psy-ops campaign on the Indian voters. The media largely took its editorial guidance from the corporate groups that owned it. The corporate group was mostly in agreement with the Govt.'s protective trade practices and thus the media followed a straight and narrow path.

2) The government held a monopoly on media means. It controlled the price of newsprint, it controlled access to the airwaves and it controlled the licencing and import of all media
technology. In major decisions the Government actively courted the editors of major media outlets and the state controlled media conducted an aggressive pre-publicity campaign that
brought people into line. All these incentivized an atmosphere of cooperation with the government. The peneration of the population was low and the circulations of major media houses was also poor. There was little capital available for autonomous media to arise. A relatively small source of capital existed in the country among members of the traditional banking community who felt that the government's investment strategy - involving huge long term investments did not provide enough of a return. The traditional banking community was lso denied access to the same kind of markets they had earlier and they did occasionally finance news media and subvert editors in the hope of conducting psy-ops of their own, but the sheer size of the government's presence in the media obscured their efforts. The result was an extremely controlled media environment. This drove them towards the unorganized sector - low credibility tabloids and movies. Most of these businesses had ties to the Mumbai Mafia.

3) As the population of the country grew, the number of people that had something to say about something grew. The Mumbai Mafia played a great role in this, its aggressive management of investments in Bollywood and this strengthened the popularity and penetration of audio-visual media. This success drew a number of people from the traditional banking sector, and the Mumbai Mafias promised a good return on investment by promising access to non-resident markets in the Gulf and the West. As more capital became availble to fund the creation of private electronic media houses and the Mumbai Mafia ensured access to the means of dissemination. The population which long felt repressed by the control over the media by the Government readily flew into the Mafia's arms little realizing the price it would pay on sunny friday morning in the March of 1993.

4) The "liberalization period" of the 90s saw the emergence of private news houses and channels built up with funds from foreign investors. Due to a relaxation of import curbs, these private channels were able to field superior production technology and seize a very important chunk of the market with their round-the-clock coverage. So intense and aggressive was the attitude of the channels that several retired Indian intelligence officers began to voice their concern that the news channels were fast replacing the Intelligence Bureau as the Government's primary source of information. These retired officials opined that the seductive presentation style with its emphasis on graphic imagery was more attractive to most viewers even those within government and especially among the political class and this left them vulnerable to foreign psy-ops. The large media presence in the corridors of power also made it possible for people posing as journalists to talent spot politicians and bureaucrats - vastly increasing the vulnerability of the entire operation of government. Additionally several media groups extensively invested in psychological monitoring operations which carefully studied the population and identified psychological vulnerablities. This careful targetting yeilded fruit in the form of improved psephological models in the private sector. Prior to this, the activity was solely the preserve of the intelligence community in India. Awareness of these facts remained low among the general population - viewing the media as some form of entertainment, most failed to understand that the media was no different from the intelligence community it sought to replace - with the exception of the fact that unlike the intelligence officers of the Government of India - the media was completely unaccountable.

5) By the late 90s it was clear that the news media had access to raw news from the location but they had not developed a good analytical component. To fill in this gap retired government officers stepped in to project the government's point of view without prejudicing the policy structure itself. This helped damp out most of the information management problems. However with the entry of new media into the country after Kargil, channels began to compete for analysis space. Today we see a flood experts and talking heads. In many cases there is no real expertise in the matter at hand. A case study of this kind of behavior may be obtained by viewing Barkha Dutt's show on NDTV. By 2002 it was clear that there was "expert-proliferation" and this was limiting the Government's ability to convey its views in the media.

6) The internet access in the country has grown. This has contributed to the proliferation of website that cater to an Indian audience. Most internet surfers do not pay attention to a site's credentials or do bother to find out who owns the site and posts the information. A distrubing trend noticed among younger reporters is a tendency to lift material off the internet and plaster it into mainstream media items. Also a number of journalists and editors have attended institutions in the West and tend to make editorial judgements based on what their instructors in the West deem accurate information. This is at its heart no different from using what some Mullah in Madina has to say about an event to guide your judgement and sensibility. Ofcourse in the West too Mullahs are accorded high degrees and sit inside "educational" establishments. A direct representation of this is the extent to which people like Steven Philip Cohen influence the editorial slant in certain media houses.

7) Most Indians associate media control with the USSR and other dictatorial regimes. Most Indians especially netizens, tend to react very strongly to any attempt to curtain news media
activity. As an elite the Indians seem to lack an awareness of the damaging potential of information. Most Indians are still under the lure of highly successful Western psy-ops which exploited the so-called Indian "Middle Class"'s problem with the Govt. of India's economic policies. What most of these people do not realize is that the United States itself has practiced a very rigid and brutal form of media control. It may be worthwhile to examine the US approach and understand how it is possible to hide a propaganda machinery in plain sight.

8) During the Cold War the US found itself locked into a battle for ideological space with the Soviet Union. The first battleground for this activity was post-war Europe. In order to systematize the process of ideological warfare (or "cultural war") the US government initially set up the Psychological Strategy Board. This entity was comprised of the highest ranking and most influential voices in government and industry. The PSB had two sub-entities, the Office of Program Management (OPM) and the Information Control Department (ICD). Both of these reported to highly senior government officials. The PSB drew on an essentially limitless supply of funds for its operations. The funds came partly from CIA budgets and from private groups who raised funds in a variety of ways. With the help of these funds the PSB and its sub-division carefully targeted every link the information management chain, from the reporter, to the viewer and devised a series of ingenious ways to carry out perception management. Some say that the PSB outlived the Cold War and still functions as a part of government, albeit under a different name, others claim that it is no longer beholden to the US government at all and functions in the twilight zone between the government and the corporate sector in the US. The existance of the PSB itself was a closely guarded secret which emerged only in the late 90s whe the Clinton adminstration found itself locked in a media war with conservative groups. You may recall that in this period the Clinton presidency was subject to barrage of publicty surrounding President Clinton's sexual lifestyle and but other startling revalations about the participation of high ranking US officials in the drug trade never made it to the mainstream media.

9) In conclusion I would like to point out that despite the anger and negative opinion gathering in the halls about the poor behavior of the press, a strategy to control the press will likely require an extremely large amount of investment and manpower as the problem being managed is very diverse and complicated. There is considerable focus on the way in which the media irresponsibly relayed information directly from the blast sites. I just want to say this is not necessarily a bad thing, it seems that the journalists are very keen to get into the heat of the situation to get a few images. So they are not confined by same sense of caution that a trained police officer might be prone to. Bearing in mind that TV news crews are expendible and police officers are not, one cannot take an excessively negative view of the live-coverage teams.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts: The First Arrests and Some Observations

The following arrests have been made in connection with the blasts investigation.

1) The arrest of Abdul Karim Tunda in Kenya. He is now in Mombassa for questioning. There is a growing suspicion among certain people that the key to understanding the events of Mumbai may lie in Africa.

2) The arrest of Kamal Ahmad Mohammed Vakil Ansari (32), Khalid Aziz Raunaq Sheikh (24) both arrested in Bihar and Mumtaz Maqbul Ahmed Choudhary (38) arrested in Trombay.

3) Gulam Hussein Cheema and Atta Muhaddin Siddiqi, from Hotel Everest in Kathmandu. Two others were also arrested. These men were operating under the cover Sachel Engineering Works, an organization suspected to be a front for the ISI.

Some observations:

1) It is now open season on SIMI and Islamic far right groups that are believed to be involved in this. As you are already aware an extremely large number of people - mostly Muslims - and *mostly* innocent have been taken into custody for screening purposes. A vast majority of these people will released, and a small number may be booked on unrelated offenses. However there is considerable apprehension among the community and that is why mainstream Muslim leaders are going to make a number of strong statements in public to reassure the community that their interests will be protected. It is important to see these statements for what they are - defensive utterances aimed at showing a sense of bravado before the community.

2) The SP which is close to SIMI leadership and generally close to a number criminal enterprises that operate along the UP-Nepal border is under political pressure. This was visible in the form of Amar Singh's attack on NSA M. K. Narayanan. In my opinion this was an exceptionally poor choice on the part of Amar Singh. More generally targeting the NSA in a bid to preserve your image with the people who are indirectly or worse directly responsible for this mess is an extremely unwise move and will only succeed in attracting the ire of the community of security professionals as a whole. In the late 90s, on the instructions of someone in another country, a number of so called NGOs began a campaign to target Punjab Police officers for their role in alleged human rights abuses. A few adventurous politicians attempted to capitalize on this trend and exploit the public resentment against the police. An old friend of mine on hearing of this remarked,

"Perhaps these people do not realize that the politicians cannot randomly dump responsibility for terrible events on the security forces, especially when the politicians' own conduct leaves them culpable. In public eye the average politician is viewed in a poorer light than the average police officer. "

I think my friend's words may have much relevance today.

3) I understand that General Musharraf has asked for proof of Lashkar Taiba's involvement. Once the proof is presented, I expect that General Musharraf will publicly make a show of dismissing it. This is likely to boost his image among Pakistanis who think the General should put on a public show of "defying India". Once again I wish to point out to Pakistani opinion makers that supporting this kind of public behavior will only serve to enrage the Indian public and once this couples to a wider political spectrum - India will most certainly start demanding things that Pakistan cannot give - and unlike before (2002) - India will not stop. A certain Pakistani official has given an interview to a Western newspaper where he claimed that if General Musharraf acts against the Lashkar Taiba - there will be bomb blasts all over India. This kind of talk does not help calm India's nerves and the Pakistani government should now move towards contains the barrage of bullshit that normally leaves the various orfices in GHQ. Irrespective of what General Musharraf does - India's proof will stick to Pakistan's reputation - and I mean we will make it stick. And you may think there is no way to make Pakistan's reputation worse but trust me there are many ways of doing things - so tread lightly back there in Pakistan, as I am sure your friends in India have told you - the Indian people are no longer in a mood to listen to rubbish.

4) I welcome the visitor from the Red Squad.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts: An Update

Some recent developments

1) Recent studies suggest that there is palpable anger in the general population and this is translating into pressure on the government to act publicly. Public theatrics are not political fashion in India - a public display of your alleged strength is seen as a sign of weakness. Strength is silent action. Call it Gandhian or give Gautam Buddha or Adi Samkara the credit if you feel it is deserved, but that is the way we are. Sorry to disappoint you all - the axe will only fall silently.

2) As the investigations get closer to whoever is actually responsible - the prospect of more strikes will increase. The cornered rat will put up a fight and he knows we are coming. A misguided sense of anger will prevail among the persons responsible, they will labor under the belief that we might be disuaded from a pursuit if there are more terrorist attacks. The fools may even believe that they will be able to hold out the threat of a terrorist attack as a negotiating tool. In order to mitigate this threat - there will be a ramp up in public security.

3) The inability to control the editorial slant introduced by major media houses has resulted in a build up of fear among muslims. We are now seeing typically defensive statements emerging. A common theme in these statements is that Hindu-Right wing groups were responsible for the blasts. This statement comes from two sources, the first group are mainstream Muslim politicians in India who want to ensure that they still have a moral fig leaf to attract Muslim voters. One must remember - a majority of India's Muslims have no part in the blasts and will not support someone who cannot actively canvas their innocence. A second source for this are western psy-ops groups in the Indian media that are keen on enraging mainstream Hindu opinion. Either way we think about this - we are back to my friend-who-reads-newspapers's viewpoint - things are out of control in the media. I am now hearing shocking rumors of news editors refusing to take phone calls from Cabinet Ministers. Junta - this looks bad and this is not going to end well.

4) It may be best if the guilty parties admit to their actions.

5) I was unaffected by the internet blockage initially but then they must have got to my service provider too. I am now using the well known work-around.

ps. I brought up the media reports of a blocking of blogspot in front of a guest who came for dinner and she said,

"I really don't see what the fuss is about. You would think that after the Mumbai blasts - people might be a little less self-centered about something as stupid as the e-journal of their latest rants. I am sure they must need this blogspot pulpit to preach about the need to be more patriotic citizens or something like that but the police have a job to do."

Needless to say I did not pursue the discussion any further.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts: Dealing with Pakistani Attitude Problems

The main problem in dealing with the Pakistanis is that a great many of their number take it upon themselves to speak out of turn. Most of these people today are going to great lengths to talk sheer rubbish about the links between the Mumbai blasts and everything else under the sun. This is typical Pakistani behavior - talk without thought to the consequences. Whether you are Marianna Babar or Hamid Mir - every Pakistani is driven by a desire to project himself or herself as a superior defender of all forms of terrorism. And after someone points this out they all collectively whine about being "tarred with a broad brush as being bad Muslims" and "the problems of Pakistan's Jihadist image".

Somehow Pakistanis take great pride in allowing themselves to be held publicly accountable for the actions of murderers and rapists. This is their prevailing idea of national pride. All this nonsense of tit-for-tat, grating on India's "RAW nerves". It makes for good amusement. It is this attitude that has made Pakistan and its great army something that everyone in the world uses to wipe their ass with.

The problem in Pakistani society is that there is genuine lack of understanding about relevance and status. A great many misguided egos go around believing that they are important to the conduct of their country. And every chance they get they go around talking aloud using their media pulpits to show the world how they are protecting Pakistani interests - when in fact all they are doing is showing how terribly out of touch they are with reality. It is important to understand that this venting of control fantasies in the media is a very big part of Pakistani society. Every society needs clowns to amuse it - and in Pakistan - the clowns have to look like they are ready to go to Jihad at any moment. Like everywhere else - the clowns have to compete with each other and in Pakistan each clown has to look more Jihad-ready than the next one.

India knows this idiotic game they play well and under normal circumstances, we would have been very happy to let the Pakistanis bullshit on endlessly but unfortunately the Indian people are asking questions and we have to give them the right answers. The Indian people know that Pakistan was involved in this event. With that in the background the questions before them are:

1) Was this an ISI operation ordered by Musharraf to prolong his stay in power?

2) Was this an ISI operation ordered by someone to drive Musharraf out of power?

3) Was this an operation conducted by the ISI - independently of Musharraf for say -- private profit?

If the Pakistanis choose to deny us the answers out of a misplaced sense of national loyalty, then we will be forced to be unpleasant in the way we seek the answers. Once Pakistanis have given us the answers we need, I can't imagine any reason why we will care what they go around pretending.

The needs of peace and harmony can be met at the specific cost to the egos of a few misguided fools but at the present time that is really not our intention. I feel we are only concerned with the progress of our investigation.

Ofcourse if you are an intelligent Pakistani, you will soon realize that making open-ended and belligerent statements in the media will only spike the curiousity of Indian people who already see Pakistan as a criminal entity. The Indian people will then try to satisfy their curiousity with more questions and that means Government of India will have to give more answers. If Government of India is to give more answers - Pakistan will have to answer more questions. The more questions Pakistan has to answer - the more cans of worms it will have to open. The more cans it is forced to open - the more the troubles of Pakistan grow. If you are a very intelligent Pakistani - then you will understand that the parade of clowns in Pakistan has to stop to avoid bringing about an outcome that unravels the Pakistani state.

The Mumbai Blasts: Recently Available Information

It is almost a week since the event and we have the following information

1) The explosives used in the blasts were ANFO triggered with RDX. The ANFO was packed into a metal box (sometimes described as a tiffin box in the media). The packing improves ANFO's explosive characteristics. The RDX generated a shock-wave needed to detonate the ANFO. The RDX itself was detonated in a controlled fashion using pencil timers. This is a complicated four step explosive device. The chemical timer is the low explosive trigger, a blasting cap in the timer is the primary high explosive, RDX is the secondary high explosive and acts as a booster, the ANFO is the tertiary high explosive. Investigations are underway to identify the origin of the explosives and the timers. There is still debate over how exactly the sequence was initiated.

2) There are a number of financial trails leading off from the event. Aside of nodes in the Middle East, the trail appears to lead to London. As India has friendly ties to Britian, I expect that our investigations will proceed unhindered in any fashion. I am certain that the UK wants no part of the blame for these events.

3) There is sufficient cause to detain any number of SIMI and Sa-Pa related figures. The investigation of these persons will take time but early leads are pointing to known infiltration channels along the Bangladesh and Nepal borders. A line of enquiry into involvement of the LeT's sub units and factions is also being pursued aggresively. I anticipate that a week or so from now a Special Investigation Team will be appointed to prosecute the matter. I expect that ATS and Crime Branch which have been at the forefront of this will get some relief.

4) There is little doubt in the minds of Indians - both the politicians and the public - that the Pakistanis had a hand in this. However there is a desire to understand which Pakistanis were specificially responsible for this act. Unless this question is answered quickly, the mild diplomatic posturing over the Indo-Pak talks will give way to other forms of communication.
India wants good ties with Pakistan, it is up to Pakistan to clean up its act. I note Mr. Kasuri has changed his tone - but that does little to change the fact that his views are being seen now as being complete irrelevant - he can jump naked off the top of Kawish Crowne Plaza if he wants - no one in India cares. BTW is Pervez Musharraf still the COAS? - what is the point of calling him COAS when no one pays attention to what he is saying?

5) As regards other international actors, how India will behave with them in the future will be determined by how they are seen as reacting to India's call for public support. Today India is calm and reasoned in its approach to a crisis of extremely serious proportions and failure to respond positively to this will send a signal of unmistakable hostility. For example, if India's call for a joint resolution condemning Pakistan's support for terrorism in India is not answered - India will interpret that some nations in the G-8 seek to harm India's security by being ambivalent towards Pakistan's support. I don't think Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be very happy if the G-8 does not publicly and unanimously support his resolution.

This is not the first or the last terrorist act in the world. Only fools believe that the terrorists that they support in another land will not someday bite the hand that feeds.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts: My Thoughts on a Response

I see a number of replies to my posts, I am going to hold off on replying to those. I had another meeting with a friend last night and we talked for longer than I expected and I want to get this off my chest really quickly.

1) We are still in the initial stages of the investigation. There are some early leads pointing to the involvement of some local groups. The media is sensationalizing the minority angle and all major public communication channels are choking up with hype - this behavior on part of the media is really not helping. We need the cooperation of the minorties (and the majority) in prosecuting early leads in the investigation and scaring the shit out of them isn't going to work to our favor - this kind of thing really hampers our investigations.

2) Once our investigation is complete, I feel that we will be kind and compassionate to those who have been cooperative irrespective of what their religion, caste or languages may be. I also venture that those who lead to the arrest of the perpetrators wherever they may be will be amply rewarded for their services. I also point out that innocents will not be harmed by our desire to bring the guilty to justice.

3) With respect to Pakistan, we have made several gains after Op Parakram. The peace process which everyone loves to hate - will in my opinion - have to go on but the foundation of the peace process, the promise by President Musharraf - that he will do his utmost to undermine anti-India terrorism from Pakistani soil is in jeopardy. It is contingent on President Pervez Musharraf to correct this situation if the peace process is to continue to its logical conclusion.

4) With regards to other states, in the region and in the Gulf. We are well aware of the limitations of the regimes in these places, and we respect their soverignity. I propose we conduct ourselves in a fashion that does not polarize our ties with these states.

5) With regards to Western states, as you all know a great many Indian troublemakers are given shelter in their lands. Some of you probably know that SIMI recieves funding from a group in Chicago. All of you know who supplied pencil timers to the Pakistanis and what was the fate of the last pencil timer that was sent to a certain western country for "investigation". Given that background I do not anticipate India asking for technical assistance from western states, and should any entity seek to use this event as a platform to leverage other issues, I feel their efforts will not bear fruit.

6) The Gujuratis were not the target of the attacks. If someone wants to kill Gujarati speaking traders they do not hit the Western Railway trains, they have a completely different list of targets. The first class compartment was most likely chosen for reasons of technical convenience. Western Railway was chosen also for a completely different set of reasons. I suspect that the attacks took about a month or so to set into action. There does not appear to be a specific threat to the Gujuratis in Bombay.

7) This is not over - not by a long shot. There are more of these things in the works and people are just going to have to stay alert until the investigation comes up with some more detailed answers about the exact precipitating factors for such events. The PM said that we have "macro" level answers - what he didn't say is that we need "micro" level answers and until we do there is not point in jumping around - just stay alert. As we do not yet know what the various targetting options available are - they could easily change MO and we'll be left staring at another mess.

8) Whatever the motivations (religious, economic etc... whatever), this is a criminal act against Indian citizens - the full might of the Indian state will likely be brought to a pin-point focus against the specific individuals who are responsible for this act regardless of where they are and who they are. This is not going to be like 1993, we had an economy to restructure at the time and we were barely able to hold our heads above the water in Punjab and Kashmir - now the country is an economic powerhouse and we stand united. Those who planned this action perhaps did not take that into account.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts: A Meeting With An Old Friend

I went for a stroll with an old friend yesterday and we went for a walk on the beach. There is something very odd that mumbaikar feels when he realizes that the beach is free from debris - it is very odd - hard to describe - almost weird. Somehow my friend never serves me anything more than tea and a few biscuits - most other places a veritable wazwaan is laid out but here it is always just tea and biscuits. I was prepared for the disappointment, I know its not personal.

From our conversations, I gather that Jabbi (or Zabbi) is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty more where he came from. The SIMI boys are a bunch of village idiots and the Sa-Pa people are just their girlfriends. The LeT was the hand and the Rawalpindi people were the brain. The question one has to answer now is "why?".

A way to think about SIMI is to think of a corporate human resources division. They simply go out and recruit, they head hunt or just keep an eye out on things. It is not their job to think or ask you to do anything - they simply sort out the particulars of your hiring. Occasionally they ask you to do a small job here and there but nothing serious. A fellow who joins SIMI today can end up in Kashmir, Iraq, Israel, US .... pretty much anywhere - and most importantly the guys that hired in SIMI have no clue what happens after they pick him up. He is quite literally in Allah's hands.

Beyond this is the company's operational level. At this level once you are recruited you are tasked to a specific role. People like Zabbi are from this level. They are responsible for the day to day operations. Experts sometimes call the structures at this level "cells". Each "cell" is compartmented from the other. Usually for purposes of organization we label individuals at this level as being part of both the recruitment apparatus and of the tanzeem. So Zabbi is labelled both SIMI and LeT.

Aside of this are the local political groups that provide cover for the recuiting agency. There is usually a strong economic relationship between the political group and the recuiting agency. The parent organization of the recruiting agency usually runs a certain number of purely economic operations. These operations generate money. In our case the economic activity is drug and arms trafficing. Some argue that the tanzeems are merely set up to protect the underlying economic interests. This view has dominated several generations of Indian thinkers.

At the very top of this corporate like chain is the brain - the CEOs of the company and the board of directors. Unless the brain gives the order, the hand does not move. Unless the hand moves the SIMI and Sa-Pa people stay very still. The brain gives the order only when it percieves a definete gain from this sort of activity. Yes, I know you are all saying - "they are so irrational" - I am sorry you have fallen for their political theatre - they are perfectly rational. It is difficult to construct a rational explanation for this kind of behavior on their part. Projecting irrationality in the public domain is fine - but irrationality in private is unacceptable - that carries a very high price.

Now is a time to for some talks to resolve misunderstandings.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts: Some Recent Discussions

I went to meet a few friends yesterday, and over a cup of tea and a few plates of dahi misal we talked about things.

A friend who would have probably preferred to have a vadapao with his tea said that there was no warning of this event. Despite the successes last year in catching the Manmad stockpile and in compromising the Hawala unit at Haj house there wasn't a real decrease in the threat perception but there was no specific information leading to this. This was not like 1993 where several people had heard that something was afoot. This time around there was no information.

Another friend who reads a lot of newspapers and surfs the web complained that in the West especially the US - the entire incident was being spun as either being linked to Hindu-Muslim tension or being related to India-Pakistan-Kashmir. There was no attempt to describe it as a senseless attack on the world's largest democracy - there was no sense of outrage. The sense of shock and anger that followed the London or Madrid blasts is absent in the Western media. Utter nonsense about Kashmir or Babri Masjid is being paraded by media groups in the US and their media-"chelas" in India. In his view the media was now thoroughly penetrated and any subsequent response to the event would have to come up with a way of managing the media's unhealthy behavior. I can't quite describe how angry he was at the media's conduct and the ease with which Indian media houses were being led by their American counterparts. He said that the Indian media was too scoop-hungry for its own good and severe punitive measures against errant media houses would have to be taken to contain the situation if people that matter in the media do not come to their senses. I want to reproduce some of his words verbatim - as I feel they are very important

"You are standing in a room with your head bleeding - you don't know who has hit you - but one person - and only one person - is repeatedly pointing at others in the room and blaming them - at the very least you should wonder why he is doing that."

(Later in an email he sent me this link and he said this information was being deliberately released to provoke a specific reaction. Look up the antecedents of the source before you rush to accept anything it says. I asked him about the Great One and his recent oracular insight into the linkage between Kashmir and the blasts, and he replied that the Great One doesn't want to admit to himself that he has overstayed his welcome, this state of denial feeds his public madness.)

A visitor from Delhi was also there, and he said that a trail of evidence did point to local extremists but only as support staff not perpetrators. The complexity of the scheme and the devices pointed to a more professional entity. The money trail led somewhere completely different and the even if one were to accept that the LeT was responsible, one still had to answer the question "why".

A friend of a friend also from Delhi asked a simple question, "If this was hatched in Pakistan, why didn't the Americans with all their surveillance catch it? We actually welcomed the US presence in Pakistan because we felt that it would deter Pakistan from attempting stupid and ungodly things, but was our sense of trust misplaced?"

A recently retired person who thought that dahi misal would give him a heart attack mused "see how smug the Pakistanis are - they know they are going to get the "credit" and bragging rights for this murderous rampage and they know that the Americans are going to protect them from our retribution... kitney khush hain yeh log - dekho."

We talked for a few hours and left satisfied with the misal and our discussions. On my way home I stopped off to get a drink and as I passed through the lobby of a five star hotel, I saw the nigerian sitting in the corner, the darwan tells me he is back in business, so I guess Mumbai is back to normal.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts: A Perspective

Firstly I am okay - and so is the family - thanks all for asking. Everyone I know seems to be fine but I don't think my fellow mumbaikars are quite so lucky. My condolences and prayers go out to them.

Some other thoughts on recent events

1) It is too early to speculate about the perpertators of the attacks, there has to be an emphasis on restoring public security. An analysis of the modus operandi or operational complexity etc... are only the tip of the iceberg - it doesn't imply a firm conclusion about the perpetrators. Our agencies have a lot of experience in this sort of thing, and we have all the capabilities needed to manage large emergencies, so I have nothing to say about that issue.

2) Over the past few months we have recieved several indications of the existance of a large arms and narcotics smuggling networks in certain parts of the state. We are also aware that a number of penetrations exist within media houses in city. The continued presence of these is harmful to public security and this threat must be managed effectively.

3) A certain level of communal tension is always present in the city. The Raza Academy and the Shiv Sena have been at each others throats for a long time. They need to put a stop to this for now. I am not saying that the events at Bhiwandi and the blasts are linked but we need to avoid unnecessary hurdles in the investigation. A wider communal conflagration is not in our interests.

4) The Americans have long flogged the idea that making concessions to Musharraf on Kashmir will enable him to marginalize anti-India activity in Pakistan. This is part of the America's
"Musharraf-is-the-saviour" solution to all the problems in the world. I find this linkage curious, as no Govt. of India official has publicly named Pakistan or Pakistan based groups as being responsible for these acts. I can understand if some idiot like Kasuri says it - Kasuri probably knows why we might think that Pakistan is responsible. If Kasuri wants to talk - I am sure we are willing to listen, but if we are not blaming Pakistan for these acts, why do American academics feel compelled to tell us that we need to give Pakistan anything in Kashmir? It seems like regardless of how many Indians are killed in terrorist incidents - the Americans will simply ask India to give Musharraf Kashmir. So why this desperation? - the way the Americans are acting - you could be forgiven for thinking that it was Musharraf (not al Qaida) that had a his finger on the button of a nuclear bomb secretly placed in some American city.

5) After the POK earthquake the Lashkar and other groups in POK suffered immeasurably. Their ability to operate in J&K eroded. Some feel this incentivized Lashkar and HuM's expansion into the rest of India. The rest of India was ripe for the picking as Indian Muslims were already facing a sense of unease on account of India's engagement with the US and many Indian Muslims were feeling marginalized in the new economies spurred by industrial growth. The expansion of the ammo dumps and the Islamist cells was interpreted as a direct reflection of the desire to exploit this angst in India's Muslim community buy employing Indian muslims as runners in the drug and arms trade. Yet events like Tuesday do not happen solely because someone sets up a network - the network only acts when a "go-code" is given. The job of the investigators is to determine who exactly gave the "go-code". It is said that in 1993 - the Memon mafia was instructed by Brig.(r) Aslam Bodla of the ISI to initiate the attacks. Bodla himself was instructed by his boss, Gen. Javed Nasir. Right now - we do not have an answer to the question - who exactly ordered this.

7) Until we know that there is no point talking about a response structure.

That is all I have to say for now.

I see this mostly as a time to sit and listen.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Paul's Awesome Blog!!

I think this is one of the most informative blogs on the internet.

Paul Devis is doing us all a great service - Well Done Paul!

Paul if you read this please email me.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Agni III and the GSLV failed launches.

A friend of mine asked me about the failure of the Agni III and I said to him "what would DRDO have done if the launch had been successful?... test some more right?.. or did you think that the Army was going to deploy the missile after just one test?... remember this is India - not Pakistan.. we don't simply have to translate the Chinese manuals and repaint stuff - we have to do real tests."

Then my friend asked me if there was something more at work - he pointed out that the GSLV had failed in a similar fashion as the Agni III. He speculated that perhaps the Americans had somehow carried out a boost phase intercept of both launchers. I said anything is possible in the world - American defence R&D is highly protected and we really don't know the full extent of their capabilities. They could very well have something that knocks a rocket out the sky, but it is also possible that someone at DRDO or ISRO made the same kind of mistake. Yes ISRO has had a number GSLV launches and DRDO has had a number of Agni launches - we are building on existing technology but if there is a protocol common to both - then that could be responsible for both the crashes. The protocol may have failed to due to sabotage or due to a more complicated cause. It is difficult to say at this point what made the rockets crash.

However it is possible to say that rocketry despite all the advances made in the last 50 years is still a very difficult activity. Every nation has had to take a hit now and then on this account so now its India's turn. Look on the bright side - no astronauts were killed. Now if you understand that - you can understand my lack of enthusiasm to rely on land based ballistic missiles as a nuclear delivery system. This proves my assertion (in response to Henry Solokski's PSLV == ICBM tirade).

Ofcourse in this fertile media environment - our old friend Rajat Pandit had jumped in with some nonsense about the Armed Forces wanting a nuclear tipped LACM. This is something he and his associate editor cooked up - no one in the armed forces gives these kinds of interviews. Then our equally great friend George Hype ... err.. I am sorry Iype came up with a sugar coated diss-DRDO piece. I would personally endorse any move by DRDO or ISRO to strap either of these two gentlemen to the next rocket they fire into the sky. That way these two outstanding reporters can get a first hand understanding of key issues in rocketry.

Vishnu, who is a dear friend of a friend said recently,

"Someone commented that this has been the worst year for Indian defence ...

Its true and its not because of the Agni failure or the GSLV thing ... its because of the Navy War Room leak ... and no one here ... to the best of my knowledge ... wants to get into a debate on this ... The Navy War room leak is very very unfortunate ... and as the full extent of the leak becomes evident ... the whole thing seems to be going from bad to worse. But, we on this website ... jingos hat we are ... will continue to look the other way. "

Well.. I don't know abotu the GSLV and the AIII but we all know who is responsible for the Navy War Room leak.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Downplaying the Chashma Nuclear Reactor

What do we really know about the nuclear research at Chashma?

How many nuclear power plants are there?

The Pakistanis say there are two power plants - both Pressurized Water Reactors - Chashnupp-1 and Chashnupp-2. Chashnupp-1 is rated for 325 MW and Chashnupp-2 is due to deliver about 325 MW by 2011. The Pakistanis even talk about building a Chashnupp-3 and 4.

The NPAs Zia Mian and A H Nayyar wrote that Chashnupp-1 is a Qinshan-1 reactor from China. The first plans for Chashnupp-1 projected at 1000MWe output. They allege that the chief designer of the Qinshan-1 is Ouyang Yu was also the man responsible for the creation of China's first military - i.e. fissile-material-for-bombs production reactor. They also provide a map of planned nuclear sites in Pakistan and on page 63 - they provide a comparison of the Qinshan-1 and the Chashnupp-1 reactors. Most of the entries in the Chashnupp column are empty. This report is dated 1999 - today it is 2006.

The French had offered to build a Plutonium reprocessing facility at Chashma. and then backed out after Pakistan refused to sign the NPT but the Federation of American Scientists site helpfully tells us that "US experts downplayed Pakistan's reprocessing capabilities, suggesting that the reprocessing plant at Chasma as "an empty shell"" The FAS website also notes that "but after the tests sources claimed that know-how which had been provided to Pakistan was "very considerable."" This was in 1998.

So which is it?

Are the PUREX facilities at Chashma "an empty shell" or are the "very considerable"?
or is this just not important for the Non-Proliferation Community? Clearly Google Earth doesn't think so. Google Earth has only this 15-m resolution image of Chashma. They have images from later 2005 - why aren't these up yet? It took them all of 30 seconds to put up images of BARC and Rashtrapati Bhavan in India - so why it taking so gosh-darn long to put up 1-m resolution photos of Chashma?

My friend's house in Gurukripa Housing Society in Sindhi Colony in Chembur Mumbai is featured in 50 cm resolution - why is Chashma still in 15m resolution? what are they waiting for Allah to give them permission?

There has been some talk of problems with the Chashnupp-1 pressure vessel and there were reports of an accident. Some of you might recall that 9 Pakistani scientists working at Chashma left their jobs to pursue "better paying jobs" abroad. This is *after* 9-11! and yet there is not one article by the Non-Proliferation community which talks about the problems of the Pakistani Chinese cooperation at Chashma. You may also recall that two PAEC scientists, both believed to have knowledge of Plutonium refining were believed to be in contact with Bin Laden before 9/11.

The same people that wave the NPT in India's face when we say that we want to buy American reactors - are very quiet about what China and Pakistan do in Chashma. There is even a "grandfather clause" which allows the Chinese to circumvent their NSG regulations on supplying only IAEA safeguarded reactors. Apparently due to the "grandfather clause" the Chinese are allowed to supply unsafeguarded reactors to Chashma. Isn't that just convenient?

David Albright and Susan Basu have all this time in the world to go through all the tenders issued by the DAE and write huge articles about RMP Rattehalli and FAS can put up all the map coordinates that you need to know and SpaceImaging will happily provide us high resolution images of Rattehalli - but where are the photos and analysis of Chashma? The only thing the NPA have said so far about the Chashma reactor is that it is a white elephant, i.e. the amount of money being spent on it is not commensurate with the apparent gain in terms of electrical power - to me this is a straightforward sign that money is being used for something else in Chashma and yet the NPA don't seem to want to come out and say that.

Why does the NPA community insist on pretending that Chashma is not a security threat or a proliferation problem?

Why this absence of a focus on Chashma?

Are the NPA incompetent or have the NPA made a deal with China that says - "China agrees to overtly accept the norms of the NPT and the NSG and the Non-Proliferation Community agrees to keep its mouth shut about China's proliferation activities" ?

If so is this a rational security calculus?

Add to this the absurd errorbars that the NPAs like Albright assign to the number of nuclear weapons the Pakistanis have (eg. 55-95) - and one wonders how any rational security calculation is possible such a complete absence of information.

Are the NPA and their friends in the American national security services completely reliant on Chinese support to contain Pakistan related proliferation?

Is that what this is all about?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The (deliberately?) misleading cover of George Perkovich's Book

George Perkovich wrote a very detailed account of India's nuclear program. This account drew upon all sorts of sources - Indian and foreign to pull together what some feel is a comprehensive look at India's nuclear program.

Most Indians only read George's account with a sense of weariness. The Cohenesque (as in like Steve 'Pakistan' Cohen) "holier than thou" attitude that pervades the book makes most sensible Indians turn away from the book altogether. The few Indians that do manage to read it the book often dismiss it as a rehash of two older books written by Indians - who reads what Indians' write anyway :).

I love GP's book. I think it is a masterpiece in psyops and perception management- something like Steve Cohen's Pakistan Army book (now I hear Steve's gone off and published something called "The Idea of Pakistan"... you know.. in Urdu that translates as "Nazariya Pakistan" - sound familiar?).

Coming back to GPs book.. the psyops and perception management stuff starts right on the cover.

The image shows a cloud of dust rising at Pokharan and the figure credit on the back of the book says that these clouds were produced by the Indian nuclear tests.

Fantastic as that sounds - that is simple false.

The images are from a conventional airpower demonstration by the IAF at the Pokharan firing range - a good odd 100 Km west of the nuclear test site.

Yes yes I know .. American Express.. err I mean Indian Express screwed up.. they gave the wrong photo with the wrong caption etc... etc... etc.... I mean there is no way that GP simply made that up - right? .. ofcourse not.

Ofcourse since George hasn't bothered to correct the credit in subsequent rewritings of the book - I can only assume that he simply doesn't know that there was no atmospheric release from the site or perhaps he simply doesn't give a crap about what really happened in Pokharan anyway...

And surely enough the fiction that India conducted an overground testat Pokharan grows more credible with each reprint.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Pok-1(1974) was a PNE - thats all!

I am sick of hearing people like S. Valkan who think they know what they are talking about make claims about the 1974 nuclear test at Pokharan.

The POK-1(1974) device was a Peaceful Nuclear Explosion - a non-weaponized device that allowed Indian scientists to examine first hand the nature of nuclear fission.

In June of 1971 - Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had clarified the difference between between the PNE and a weapons program. In September of that year - Vikram Sarabhai, Chairman AEC told the Fourth International Conference on the Public Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva that Indian scientists were working on a PNE.

On 18 May 1974 Madame Gandhi told a press conference that "there's nothing to get excited about. This is our normal research and study. But we are firmly committed to only peaceful uses of atomic energy."

In June of 1974 the US shipped an installment of uranium fuel for the TAPS BWR. The US decided that the PNE test did not violate any agreement with the United States and that Washington was bound by the 1963 nuclear cooperation agreement and the 1966 contract, to supply LEU for TAPS.

The crater morphology of the 1974 event is identical to the craters at other non-Indian PNE tests. Even the NPA site accepts ...

The bomb was certainly an experimental test device, not a weapon in deployable form.

The only statements that have come from any kind of Indian officials about this have come from

1) Raja Ramanna

The Pokhran test was a bomb, I can tell you now... An explosion is an explosion, a gun is a gun, whether you shoot at someone or shoot at the ground... I just want to make clear that the test was not all that peaceful.

This statement is paraded about by conspiracy theorists as a way to suggest that India was secretly pursuing a weapons option. That is complete nonsense - the Ramanna statement was quoted out of context by the TOI reporter. The statement was made in the context of a recesssed deterrence scheme. In such a scheme - the state parades the ability to make nuclear devices - as opposed to parading its desire to field weaponized configurations. The two things are very different - the first simply says - Look I can make the thing I need to defend myself - the latter says I have a bomb - gee- I wonder who I can blow to bits with it.

2) Madam Indira Gandhi - there is a statement that Madam Gandhi made on the floor of the parliament in response to a question after the 1974 test. In the statement she used the word "bomb". This is taken by some conspiracy theorists and NPA to signal what they call her "true intentions". There is another similar utterance attributed to R. Chidambaram something like "this is how good our bomb" was. This is complete blithering nonsense - in both cases the speakers were merely using the colloquial term for "explosive".

India did not begin weapons development until 1981-2. It was in this period that we determined that Pakistan was now relentlessly pursuing weaponization with Chinese assistance. It was only then that the first gentle steps were taken towards weaponization and it was only then that the first nuclear CBMs were discussed and initiated with Pakistan.

All these people who are talking crap about the PNE being a weapon are simply victims of NPA propaganda. In their desire to see a "Strong India" they are making up a history which simply does not exist.

The greatest strength of a nation lies in the ability of its people to stomach the truth. These people who constantly need to cling to lies about the Pokharan 1974 PNE simply can't handle the truth.

Before 1998 - it made some sense to talk about the PNE and make suggestions about India's capabilities. After 1998 it simply does not make sense to do this.

Continously harping on the idea that the 1974 PNE was a weapon produces two highly undesirable outcomes -

1) It gives the mistaken impression that India has been stockpiling nuclear weapons since 1974. That leads to a misperception of India's strength. Post 1998 - this is highly unhealthy.

2) It perpetuates the impression that the Government of India has lied to the public and to the international community. This would be fine - if it were true. It simply isn't and that kind of media perception only really helps the Non-Proliferation yahoos make the case that India is not to be trusted on the international arena.

If your patriotism needs an outlet - find something else to do. You aren't doing anyone in India a favor by pretending that the 1974 PNE was a weapon - so just shut up or talk about something else you actually know something about!