Thursday, April 14, 2016

Resolving communication issues between India and Pakistan.

We all know that there are differences of opinion between India and Pakistan. We all know that these differences need to be communicated properly to avoid misunderstandings.

In the age of the internet - communications are not limited to diplomatic channels alone. Everyone in India can communicate with everyone in Pakistan and vice versa. So whatever discretion is normally exercised in diplomatic contacts, needs to be internalized in communications between private parties in India and Pakistan.

We live in a world of glass, and people need to be very careful about what they say. Cleaning up the internet discourse may hold the key to a lasting peace.

I am laying what is helpful when it comes to communication issues between India and Pakistan.

1) No talk of open-ended conflicts - People in India and Pakistan talk about open ended conflicts. Whether it is "aar-paar ki ladhai" or "a thousand year Jihad", that kind of talk simply serves to increase tension and creates distrust. For there to be progress, this needs to stop asap.

2) Do not say the first thing that comes to you mouth - A lot of people in India and Pakistan seem to shoot their mouths off on platforms like Twitter. It is especially damaging when Tweetias (i.e. chootiyas who tweet) say things they have no business saying. The thing is both the ISI and RAW are smart enough to have AIs that mine twitter feed from each other's country and there is at least one trend analysis unit that keeps a steady record of the kinds of linguistic patterns that appear in the tweets. The tweetias simply add noise to that measurement and it makes it impossible for ISI or RAW to do their job properly. So the tweetias need to go away and find something else to bullshit about.

3) Do respect the "internal" v/s "external" divide - It is never a good idea to comment on what a country does inside it's borders. Bloggers, tweeters, and forumites need to respect that. A certain element of interest in each other's internal affairs and curiosity is understandable, especially in the India Pakistan context, but there is no need for this curiosity to become hostile. It is perfectly okay for Indians to talk about Balochistan or Shias or Gilgit Baltistan, and it is perfectly fine for Pakistanis to talk about Kashmir, Dalits etc... there is no need for Indians and Pakistanis to attack each other on the internet for such comments. Commenting on external relations between nation is also perfectly acceptable. It is okay for Pakistanis and Indians to agree to disagree.

4) Never speak about sponsoring terrorism in each other's lands - Terrorism is increasingly seen as an unacceptable form of national expression. If people insist on talking about sponsoring violence in each other's lands - there can be no hope for peace. There is always a criminal incentive - some trans-border narco traffickers will see an opportunity to broaden/diversify their operations and what is idle talk on the internet will translate into a terrible carnage. No sensible person will want to be a part of that - it is best if people realize that and avoid discussing terrorism sponsorship as tool of national security policy.

5) NO WMD/NUCLEAR THREATS EVER - People in India and Pakistan see a lot of violence. It is very common after an act of violence people feel anger. This anger is compounded by the slow pace of judicial retribution and the weak nature of rule of law in these countries. However angry you may feel, and however tough you think you are  - you do not have the capacity to withstand nuclear warfare. Talk of nuclear warfare is not an acceptable reaction to violence. Anyone doing this on the Internet needs to stop right now.

All the stuff discussed above should help clean up the cesspool of bad information parading through the Internet and make it easier for national intelligence systems to create relatively noise-free public opinion and trend analysis codes. This kind of opinion trend analysis is key to providing a lasting sense of security in a region where the threat of accidental nuclear escalation is now extremely high.

Friday, April 01, 2016

L'Affaire Kulbhushan Jadhav

ISPR has released a very long video of a confession by Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav.

The video contains numerous oddities which suggest an operation that is outside the traditional parameters of external intelligence activities in India. A detailed summary of these oddities may be found in this article.

Apart from relatively minor trade-craft issues that seem to have cropped up, the major discrepancy in this affair is that it is well known that India follows the global intelligence community norm of not using serving military officers in an offensive intelligence gathering capability in foreign lands.

Democratic nations typically rigidly enforce this norm especially when operating in hostile nations. For example, when the CIA sends someone over to Moscow - they go to great lengths to "civlianize" them and detach them from an past military associations. This is necessary to avoid triggering the impression in Moscow that the US is keen on a military confrontation.

Very few nations like Pakistan do not follow this global norm. ISI officials are deputed from the Pakistani Armed Forces and retain their ranks and privileges in their parent cadre. Publications by serving and retired personnel celebrate the use of regular troops in "irregular" or "extra-regimental" duties. This kind of behavior goes back to the early days of Pakistan when the Pakistani COAS sent regular forces alongside tribal lashkars into the valley to seize large parts of the kingdom for Pakistan.

One of the major issues that India has complained about regularly is that serving Pakistani army people were directly involved in terrorist operations inside India. The Pakistani Army website occasionally lists its people as having been martyred in terrorist acts in India.

Whatever else the Pakistanis hope to achieve by publicizing the confession of Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav, it is implicitly seeking to legitimize its dissonance with the global norm. By saying that "India does it too" - Pakistan hopes to create a way of deflecting criticism for its own behavior.

I have been asked several questions, I list them here for completeness

Could Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav have been part of some ill conceived and poorly executed operation from New Delhi?

I suppose anything is possible. Normally I would have said - no it is not likely - but after hearing DCP Kamalkar's story - I can't honestly say that stupid things aren't attempted by people who seem to be marching entirely to their own tune. A normal person might think that launching a subconventional operation with serving military personnel in a nuclear armed adversary's land is stupid - but then that sort of stupidity is not in short supply anywhere in the world. 

Could it be that he worked for the DIA?

The time frame provided by his testimony suggests that he may have been inducted into the nascent DIA under Gen. Davar but again there is no evidence that the DIA ever attempted offensive operations in an area that exceeded the original DGMI remit of "close to the border" and "along the LoC". At sea, the border translates into the maritime border per conventions.

Is it possible that he was keeping an eye on Pasni, Jiwani, Gwadur and Ormara for the Navy?

That seems possible - as the IN is heavily invested in the northern Arabian sea in various international security operations - it needs to know what Pakistan is doing with China at those ports. Specifically are Chinese submarines being based there. Can they dock? or are the supplied via a tender at high seas? etc... etc...  

Could he have been providing transshipment services to India's infrastructure projects in Afghanistan via Chahbahar?

Also seems plausible. Given the volume of Indian activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan's reluctance to let anything go through its landmass, India had to setup a footprint in Chahbahar. 

At this point there is nothing for anyone to do here.

This farce will drag on  in the press for a few months as the Pakistanis seem intent on maximizing the publicity they get out of Commander Jadhav, after they are done with this - they will under take negotiations to exchange him for some Pakistani in India's jails.