Myth of South Waziristan Broken: Gen. Kayani


ISLAMABAD: Sitting under a portrait of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, with a huge blazing red calligraphy on his left and an impressive piece of framed Chinese embroidery on his right, recalling the deaths at the Parade Lane of four young sons of his officers who were Hufaz-e-Quran, COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani emerged as the first Army chief to resort to speak to the Americans and their Western allies in words and images that they cannot fail to understand.

One of the last few senior generals to have undertaken military training in the US until the Pressler Amendment was slapped on Pakistan, the US and its allies are now not only listening but also understanding as the COAS uses the symbols of American legendary golfer Tiger Woods on his power point display and comparing full bases at a baseball game to some of the war situations on the Pak-Afghan border.

In a meeting at the GHQ, with analysts and retired senior generals, some under whose command he had served, the COAS opened up his mind and heart to dwell on the dangers facing Pakistan militarily, and the region, and ways and means that the military leadership thinks are the solutions to ensure that at the end of the war, Pakistan does not find itself in the ‘wrong corner of the room’. The interaction continued for nearly three hours.

Speaking on and off therecord, the COAS shared with the participants the presentation that he had made at Nato headquarters in Brussels, where generals from 45 countries heard him, and which many Western military analysts told The News, was a “make and break” presentation, which got the Western military leadership not only ‘educated’, but confess amongst themselves “all” that they were doing “wrong” inside Afghanistan.

One of the direct results of this Brussels presentation, which even the Foreign Office agrees, resulted in the final push which made India coming reluctantly to the negotiating table. The COAS had convinced Nato and others why it was important for him to have his eastern border peaceful.

The proudest moment for any Pakistani was to hear and readily believe that the ‘myth’ of South Waziristan had been broken and the military operations before that in Swat and Malakand in the words of the Army chief, “We did it with no help from the United States. Daily I would receive calls if we needed any help and we replied we needed nothing”.

He was very clear about what was best for Pakistan in these days of turmoil. “Partnership (with the US) does not mean you desire and I start doing it,” said the COAS. He said with the US military aid still in the pipeline, “In many cases I have eaten into my reserves.” While acknowledging he said there has to be a balance for a military budget and one for development as well.

The fear was, said Kayani, even if his military had accepted 5%, it would have been blown up to 50%. The COAS earlier had met General Stanley A McChrystal, Commander International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan, at a time when everyone in the region was still waiting for the US to explain in detail the policies that will take them up to the time that they are ready to leave the region.

“I told McChrystal that the acid test of a policy is that options should increase,” he said, adding that he believed that the only way to measure success inside Afghanistan was to gauge the public support and not the number of people you kill.

“Today, this is McCrystal’s policy inside Afghanistan, where they talk of a political process and reconciliation. Finally, there is realisation today,” added the chief. Looking at the US Afghan strategy, Kayani says he has clearly told the US that raising an Afghan Army in the stipulated time is not possible, and weaning away of the Taliban will only happen if the US is seen willing inside Afghanistan.

“This has not happened and the perception has not been formed. Only when you win over 70%, you are really winning,” he added. He also does not shy away from telling his US visitors that the bulk of Nato supplies are still going through Pakistan and they will continue to do so, and threats of looking for alternative routes do not impress him.

South Waziristan “We had a history of mismanaged operations in South Waziristan and there was a myth that no-one has ever come here and controlled the area. If we had turned back, we would have destroyed the credibility of the military”.

The victory in South Waziristan, the chief said, was because of motivation of the troops, changed tactics of engaging the adversaries from the dangerous ridges of mountains instead of the customary land routes which also resulted in fewer casualties.

Swat operation The COAS said there was no example in history of what the Pakistan military accomplished in the Swat operation and which successfully changed the public opinion. It was the largest heliborne operation.

“So when we send foreign defence chiefs to Swat, we have a story to tell. When I accompanied Admiral Mike Mullen and showed him how we had done the operation, including showing him the gorges there, his response was, “I will send General McChrystal to see this”.

The last visitor was US National Security Advisor James Jones, who heard for himself from educated locals how unpopular the Americans were.

India-centric

Kayani says he did not mince his words when he told Nato that he was India-centric and there was logic behind this. There was no way he could relax on his eastern border to concentrate fully on the west.

“We have unresolved issues, a history of conflict and now the Cold Start doctrine. Help us resolve these issues. We want peaceful co-existence with India. India has the capability and intentions can change overnight,” Kayani had told his audience in Brussels.

Nato is also realising why it is important for Pakistan to help train the Afghan Army because Pakistan could strategically simply not tolerate an Afghan Army trained by the Indians and having an Indian mindset.

Pak-Nato ratio

It is not easy for any commander to count his dead when the killing fields are still alive. But Kayani told Nato how Pakistan in 2009, lost 2,273 soldiers with another 6,512 being wounded.

“Pakistan as one nation lost 2,273 soldiers while US/Nato in the same period lost 1,582. We have 10,000 troops on UN missions,” recalled the COAS. Pakistan has contributed 147,000 troops to its “silent surge” while 43 nations in Afghanistan have sent a mere 100,000.

Pakistan mans 82 posts at the Pak-Afghan border while the coalition and Afghan Army have only 112. “Pakistan’s operations have decreased cross border movements, there is control of areas, squeezing of spaces, and continuous flow of logistic flow,” pointed the COAS. For a man of “few words” when he was DG ISI, today Kayani is saying a lot more. All of which has to be heard loud and clear by the people of Pakistan.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-9R

India sidelined at London Conference on Afghanistan


NEW DELHI: Finding the US not overly helpful on arming it with drones and drone technology, Pakistan has now made overtures to the Turkish army

During his recent visit to Islamabad, US defence secretary Robert Gates promised the gift of 12 drones for surveillance. But the 12 RQ-7 Shadow drones cannot send in Reaper or Hellfire missiles which would make them truly lethal and would have provoked an immediate outcry from India. However, experts believe this is dangerous stuff anyway, and it will not take much for Pakistan to reverse engineer them or tailor them for needs other than spying on the Taliban, in other words, to target India.

Needless to add, Pakistan was less than overwhelmed by the offer. Therefore, Indian sources said, Pakistan is now approaching their its friends in the Turkish army for this technology. The Turks were given drones, both attack and surveillance ones, by the Israelis as they battle the Kurds. Whether they are persuaded to part with these for the Pakistanis is another matter, and likely to involve a lot of pre-emptive Indian diplomacy.

India is finding less and less to be positive about in the Pakistan-Afghanistan theatre.

Apart from gifting surveillance drones to Pakistan, the US may be winking at a more robust reconciliation policy with the Taliban in Afghanistan. This will include a greater Pakistani role in the mediation process, which means the ISI will be able to give them greater say in what kind of Taliban gets to be in power in Kabul. This, Indian officials argue, will happen despite US and British “oversight” on Pakistani efforts.

“Their knowledge is pretty flawed, and they remain beholden to the ISI. This is likely to influence their decisions,” said sources. The Pakistani presence in the negotiations comes despite Afghan evidence that attacks like the one in Kabul last week was done by the ISI-friendly Haqqani network.

The reconciliation programme has acquired urgency in the backdrop of President Barack Obama’s withdrawal strategy for 2011. This is of greater concern to India, because it could put a huge question on India’s own participation and future in Afghanistan. Ahead of the London conference on Afghanistan starting on Thursday, foreign minister S M Krishna will try and get a sense from other leaders about the US-led western presence in Afghanistan.

A glimpse of how things may turn out was given by US general David Petraeus when he said, “The concept of reconciliation, of talks between senior Afghan officials and senior Taliban or other insurgent leaders, perhaps involving some Pakistani officials as well, is another possibility.”

Gen Stanley McCrystal, in an interview to Financial Times, said he hoped increased troop levels would weaken the Taliban enough for its leaders to accept a peace deal.

India is increasingly coming round to accepting the reality that some sort of a peace deal could be made. In recent statements, Indian officials have admitted the possibility that people who renounce violence and the Taliban as well as disarm, could be accommodated into Afghanistan’s establishment.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-9u

Pakistan to US are you with us or against us?


The tide has shifted dramatically in recent years. Resurgent Afghan Taliban, better armed, trained, and deadly effective, now have control over 80% of Afghan territory. There has been a significant increase in offensive targetting of US and NATO bases and Afghan government officials and buildings in the last couple of years, with even Kabul coming under increasing pressure.

On the other side of the border, the CIA and Indian supported TTP has been getting a hiding at the hands of Pakistan’s armed forces with even the US and NATO stunned at the efficiency and success of the army operations against TTP militants in Swat and South Waziristan. For the first time in 8 years, Pakistan now has the upper hand and has started to dictate terms to the US, starting last week with the rejection of US request to extend the operation to North Waziristan where Jalaluddin Haqqani’s faction allegedly operates from. Anticipating an imminent turnaround in Pakistan’s Afghan policy and fearing the US supply lines into Afghanistan may come under pressure, the US immediately sought to pacify the Pakistan Armed Forces with promises to deliver 12 ‘unarmed’ shadow drones – which hasn’t worked.

The White House and Pentagon are in shock, as this turnaround by the Pakistan Army couldn’t have come at a worse time for them – with the recent attacks on CIA’s Chapman outpost in Khost, a failed civilian government incharge, an incompetent Afghan army, and with 30,000 US troops on their way to what many now realise is a lost cause.

And now the New York Times reveals an interesting conversation between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and an unnamed senior Pakistan Army official that took place last week. The biggest sign yet of the reversal of fortunes comes with a simple but symbolic ‘Are you with us or against us?’ from the Pakistan Army to the United States. The NYT article follows:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Nobody else in the Obama administration has been mired in Pakistan for as long as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. So on a trip here this past week to try to soothe the country’s growing rancor toward the United States, he served as a punching bag tested over a quarter-century.

“Are you with us or against us?” a senior military officer demanded of Mr. Gates at Pakistan’s National Defense University, according to a Pentagon official who recounted the remark made during a closed-door session after Mr. Gates gave a speech at the school on Friday. Mr. Gates, who could hardly miss that the officer was mimicking former President George W. Bush’s warning to nations harboring militants, simply replied, “Of course we’re with you.”

That was the essence of Mr. Gates’s message over two days to the Pakistanis, who are angry about the Central Intelligence Agency’s surge in missile strikes from drone aircraft on militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, among other grievances, and showed no signs of feeling any love.

The trip, Mr. Gates’s first to Pakistan in three years, proved that dysfunctional relationships span multiple administrations and that the history of American foreign policy is full of unintended consequences.

As the No. 2 official at the C.I.A. in the 1980s, Mr. Gates helped channel Reagan-era covert aid and weapons through Pakistan’s spy agency to the American allies at the time: Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. Many of those fundamentalists regrouped as the Taliban, who gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and now threaten Pakistan.

In meetings on Thursday, Pakistani leaders repeatedly asked Mr. Gates to give them their own armed drones to go after the militants, not just a dozen smaller, unarmed ones that Mr. Gates announced as gifts meant to placate Pakistan and induce its cooperation.

Pakistani journalists asked Mr. Gates if the United States had plans to take over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons (Mr. Gates said no) and whether the United States would expand the drone strikes farther south into Baluchistan, as is under discussion. Mr. Gates did not answer.

At the same time, the Pakistani Army’s chief spokesman told American reporters at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday that the military had no immediate plans to launch an offensive against extremists in the tribal region of North Waziristan, as American officials have repeatedly urged.

And the spokesman, Maj. Gen Athar Abbas, rejected Mr. Gates’s assertion that Al Qaeda had links to militant groups on Pakistan’s border. Asked why the United States would have such a view, the spokesman, General Abbas, curtly replied, “Ask the United States.”

General Abbas’s comments, made only hours after Mr. Gates arrived in Islamabad, were an affront to an American ally that gave Pakistan $3 billion in military aid last year. But American officials, trying to put a positive face on the general’s remarks and laying out what they described as military reality, said that the Pakistani Army was stretched thin from offensives against militants in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan and probably did not have the troops.

“They don’t have the ability to go into North Waziristan at the moment,” an American military official in Pakistan told reporters. “Now, they may be able to generate the ability. They could certainly accept risk in certain places and relocate some of their forces, but obviously that then creates a potential hole elsewhere that could suffer from Taliban re-encroachment.”

Mr. Gates’s advisers cast him as a good cop on a mission to encourage the Pakistanis rather than berate them. And he was characteristically low-key during most his visit here, including during a session with Pakistani journalists on Friday morning at the home of the American ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson.

But Mr. Gates perked up when he was brought some coffee, and he soon began to push back against General Abbas. American officials say that the real reason Pakistanis distinguish between the groups is that they are reluctant to go after those that they see as a future proxy against Indian interests in Afghanistan when the Americans leave. India is Pakistan’s archrival in the region.

“Dividing these individual extremist groups into individual pockets if you will is in my view a mistaken way to look at the challenge we all face,” Mr. Gates said, then ticked off the collection on the border.

“Al Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Tariki Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani network – this is a syndicate of terrorists that work together,” he said. “And when one succeeds they all benefit, and they share ideas, they share planning. They don’t operationally coordinate their activities, as best I can tell. But they are in very close contact. They take inspiration from one another, they take ideas from one another.”

Mr. Gates, who repeatedly told the Pakistanis that he regretted their country’s “trust deficit” with the United States and that Americans had made a grave mistake in abandoning Pakistan after the Russians left Afghanistan, promised the military officers that the United States would do better.

His final message delivered, he relaxed on the 14-hour trip home by watching “Seven Days in May,” the cold war-era film about an attempted military coup in the United States.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-9i

Pakistan warns India against hegemonic mindset


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan warned India on Wednesday against its relentless pursuit of military preponderance and said it would have severe consequences for peace and security in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.

The National Command Authority, which met here under Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, took serious note of recent Indian statements about conducting conventional military strikes under a nuclear umbrella and said such irresponsible statements reflected a hegemonic mindset, oblivious of dangerous implications of adventurism in a nuclearised context.

The NCA also took note of the developments detrimental to the objectives of strategic stability in the region. It observed that instead of responding positively to Pakistan’s proposal for a strategic restraint regime in South Asia, India continued to pursue an ambitious militarisation programme and offensive military doctrines.

“Massive inductions of advanced weapon systems, including installation of ABMs (anti-ballistic missiles), build-up of nuclear arsenal and delivery systems through ongoing and new programmes, assisted by some external quarters, offensive doctrines like ‘Cold Start’ and similar accumulations in the conventional realm, tend to destabilise the regional balance,” the meeting noted.

A statement issued by the PM House said: “Pakistan cannot be oblivious to these developments.” It was the first meeting of the NCA after President Asif Ali Zardari promulgated the National Command Authority Ordinance and divested himself of the powers of its chairman in November last year.

The meeting expressed satisfaction over the safety and security of Pakistan’s strategic assets and effectiveness of its strategic deterrence. It emphasised the importance of Pakistan’s policy of credible minimum deterrence and maintaining strategic stability in South Asia.

The authority reaffirmed Pakistan’s policy of restraint and responsibility and its resolve to continue efforts to promote peace and stability in South Asia. It underscored the need for preventing conflict and avoiding nuclear and conventional arms race in the region.

The NCA noted that the India-specific exemption made by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and subsequent nuclear fuel supply agreements with several countries would enable New Delhi to produce substantial quantities of fissile material for nuclear weapons by freeing up its domestic resources.

It reiterated that while continuing to act with responsibility and avoiding an arms race, Pakistan would not compromise on its security interests and the imperative of maintaining a credible minimum deterrence.

The meeting reviewed plans for generation of nuclear power under IAEA safeguards as part of national energy security strategy to ensure sustained economic growth and welcomed the renewed international interest in nuclear power generation to meet the challenge of climate change.

As a country with advanced fuel cycle capability, it said, Pakistan was in a position to provide nuclear fuel cycle services under IAEA safeguards, and participate in any non-discriminatory nuclear fuel supply assurance mechanism.
The NCA expressed satisfaction at steps taken by Pakistan at the national level for nuclear safety and security, which would continue to be important considerations in the context of national nuclear power development plans.

N-disarmament

It reaffirmed that as a nuclear weapon state Pakistan was committed to working as an equal partner in international efforts for general and complete nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. In this regard, the NCA stressed the need for non-discriminatory policies and accommodation of the reality of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon status for promoting global non-proliferation goals.

The meeting emphasised that promotion of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament objectives in South Asia were linked with regional security dynamics and the need to address existing asymmetries and resolution of outstanding disputes.

The NCA stressed that as the sole disarmament negotiating forum the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva should play its due role in global nuclear disarmament. As far as a Fissile Material Treaty at the CD was concerned, Pakistan’s position would be determined by its national security interests and the objectives of strategic stability in South Asia, it said.

“Selective and discriminatory measures that perpetuate regional instability, in any form and manner, derogate from the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and, therefore, cannot be accepted or endorsed. Pakistan will not support any approach or measure that is prejudicial to its legitimate national security interests.”

An official told Dawn after the meeting that India’s ‘Cold Start’ strategy was a threat to strategic stability of South Asia. India’s growing military prowess, capabilities and aggressive designs implied war-provoking intent by practical manifestation of the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine.

He said the hit and mobilise concept would further squeeze space for diplomacy and political manoeuvres for avoiding a conflict. This strategy was likely to increase the threat in an unpredictable manner at various rungs of the escalation ladder, he added.

He said it was inherently flawed to further engage nuclear South Asia in an arms race rather than diverting efforts and resources to alleviate social needs of poor segments of society. Strategic equilibrium prevalent in the subcontinent would be impacted with negative repercussions, he said.

Explaining the concept of the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine, a defence analyst said it envisaged applying linear ground forces for multiple thrusts, backed by massive fire power well before Pakistan completed its mobilisation and international community could intervene.

He said the doctrine laid stress on offensive strike, but without giving battle indicators of mobilisation to maintain chances of strategic surprise while remaining below nuclear threshold. Political decision for war would be taken at the outset.

Talking about the broad contours, he said traditional operational art of maintaining distinction between strike and defensive formations would be done away with. The war was planned to be fought by integrated battle groups (IBGs) synergised and supported by Indian Air Force and Navy.

Since the IBGs would be pre-positioned closer to international border and the Line of control, these would commence operations with least build-up and preparation and would thus achieve surprise under the doctrine, he added.

Shaping the battlefield through new concept of war, incorporating all available technical-driven assets and fire power platforms would remain the hallmark of an Indian offensive.

Analysts observed that in Indian military planners’ view there was space available for a short notice, short-duration war with curtailed objectives despite the nuclear factor. Nuclear capability has added to Pakistan’s security by impinging upon India’s liberty of action under the nuclear overhang.

As the efficacy of all-out conventional war within the nuclear environment became questionable, India started studying the possibility of a limited conflict with curtailed application of military instrument and objectives.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-92

Turkish Foreign Minister: No Dialogue With Israel Until it Ends the Occupation and Stops Killings


By Mehmet Nedim Aslan | Middle East Monitor

Turkish Ambassador made to sit in a lower seat and Turkish flag removed in front of Israeli media.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, has made his strongest criticism yet of Israel and its policies. After talks with his British counterpart David Miliband at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, the two ministers held a joint press conference during which Mr Davutoğlu answered questions about his country’s lukewarm relations with Israel. Asked whether Turkey’s criticism of Israel was attributed to a policy of “Islamisation”, Mr. Davutoğlu denied the existence of any such policy and said that Turkey had worked actively for regional peace; indeed, until 2008 Turkey had had very good relations with Israel, even to the point of bringing it to the same table with Syria. The war in Gaza a year ago changed this, said Mr. Davutoğlu. “By attacking Palestinians in Gaza, Israel ruined our peace efforts and we cannot tolerate this. Attacking children and women is unacceptable,” he added.

Davutoğlu emphasised that his country’s relations would not be normalised as long as Israel is occupying and attacking Palestine. “If Israel ends its occupation and unacceptable treatment of Palestinians, then we will be ready the next day for normalised and good relations,” he said. “Turkey’s foreign policy is based on equality both with its neighbouring countries and others. A Jewish kid is not superior to a Palestinian kid. Both should be treated as equal. This is our vision for the region.”

Later, Mr. Davutoğlu gave a speech at London University’s King’s College on the topic “Converging Interests of Turkey and the UK in an enlarged EU and beyond”. Answering questions from the audience afterwards the Foreign Minister was asked why Turkey has close relations with “extremists such as Iran and HAMAS”. Emphasising again his country’s commitment to regional and global peace, Mr. Davutoğlu pointed out that HAMAS had been elected by the popular vote and those in the West who lecture the rest of the world on democracy should respect the Palestinians’ choice. He added, “The Palestinian election was the most democratic and transparent election held in the region and the Palestinians elected HAMAS. There is no such thing as ‘moderates and extremists’. When you occupy a land and kill its people you leave them no choice but hopelessness. One cannot call a country moderate which kills Palestinian children and women every day.”

Mr. Davutoğlu also criticised the US former President George Bush’s Middle East policy that labelled Iran and Syria members of the ‘axis of evil’. “We don’t want a Cold War in our region. We don’t believe that the use of military force and a policy of isolating countries will bring peace. The only way to bring peace to the region and the world is to be inclusive, not exclusive, and this is what Turkey has been working on. That’s why Turkey has good relations both with HAMAS and Iran. Anything that happens on our doorstep affects us, so our vision is to minimise tension and bring countries together politically, socially and economically.”

There is a common belief in the Muslim world that US foreign policy is biased towards Israel thanks to the Israel-Jewish lobby. Ever since the foundation of the state of Israel on Palestinian land in 1948, all US administrations have been ardent in their support of Israel, both politically and economically. In a practical sense, therefore, there appears to be very solid evidence for such a belief; indeed, some would say that the influence exerted by the Israel-Jewish lobby and the resultant Israel-bias by successive US administrations is, quite simply, a fact.

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by American professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt makes it very clear, in an objective way, how the Israel-Jewish Lobby goes about its work in this respect. In Britain, a Channel 4 documentary film, Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby, showed how Britain has been kept on a short rein in terms of its relationship with Israel. The situation in the UK is not as serious as in the USA, but it was still shocking to see how some British politicians are bankrolled by the Israel lobby to support Israeli interests at the expense of the Palestinians. One of many important points raised in the programme was the very subtle ‘threat’ to the Guardian newspaper for its report on ‘Israeli crimes against Palestinians’.

Israel maintains a formidable “hasbara” (propaganda) campaign worldwide to develop good relations within the media so that empathic coverage of the conflict caused by the Israeli occupation of Palestine favours Israel and ignores, covers-up or seeks to justify Israeli crimes against Palestinians. The hasbara campaign to lobby politicians and the media does not exist only in the west. Surprisingly, the Israel lobby also operates in Muslim countries to such an extent that in some places it influences the policy-making process. One of those countries, without doubt, is Turkey. It is true that the AK Party in government has, unlike previous governments in Turkey, demonstrated its opposition to Israeli policies, cancelling a military exercise with Israel, for example, and PM Erdogan’s public condemnation of the assault on Gaza 12 months ago. This is countered, of course, by the fact that Turkey was the first country with a majority Muslim population to recognise Israel.

The unofficial but very strong Israel lobby in Turkey has always been a hot topic of discussion among Turkish politicians, intellectuals, media and ordinary people who follow political affairs. As in many other countries, when the subject of Israel is debated, the ultra-secular mainstream media in Turkey has condemned critics of the Zionist state as being biased against Jews or Israel, and try to downplay the severity of the Israeli occupation and killing of Palestinians. Conversely, when rockets are fired into southern Israel from Gaza, the news in the mainstream media focuses on the suffering of Israelis at the hands of Palestinians without mentioning the historical and political context that Palestinians are resisting Israel’s illegal occupation, as they are legally entitled to do.

On the first day of the Gaza attack last year, when Israel bombarded the police academy compound in Gaza, Hurriyet (which is similar to Egypt’s semi-official Al-Ahram newspaper in terms of its connection with the state’s ideology and is the most influential Turkish newspaper) commented: “After 200 rockets fired by Hamas into Israel, Israeli forces have fought back.” This gave a clear message to its readers that Israel was “forced” to resort to violence, but ignored the fact that a Hamas-Israel truce had been broken by Israel in November 2008, prompting a Hamas response, to which Israel’s murderous assault was the response.

When huge rallies were held in Turkey to protest against the deliberate targeting and killing of Palestinian civilians by Israel’s war machine, in Hurriyet and its sister newspaper Milliyet, Posta and Radikal there was little coverage. Hurriyet’s editor-in chief, Ertuğrul Özkök, once called ‘the most influential journalist’ in Turkey, wrote in his daily column that he feared these protests might result in arousing anti-Jewish sentiments.

Anyone who does not know Turkey well may find this surprising, even shocking, but it is a reality that the most influential media organs in Turkey are indifferent to the plight of the Palestinians but very enthusiastic about Israel. This enthusiasm for Israel among Turkey’s ultra-secular establishment is rooted in their campaign against Islam, which they see as an obstacle to the hegemony of the country’s founding Kemalist ideology. Israel is, in their eyes, a natural ally in the fight against their common enemy.

Because the foundation of modern Turkey was based on the removal of religion from public life – by coercion or ‘coerced consent’ if necessary – while anything connected with Islam was rejected as backward and an obstacle to the development of the state and society, this ultra-secular ideology used very subtle methods so that its indoctrination was not counter-productive. Hence, the word ‘Islam’ was not used in their campaign of secularisation. Instead, they used the terms Arabs, Sheikhs, Sherif Hussain, and Mullahs to indicate where the blame for what happened to the Ottoman Empire should be lodged; they overlooked the fact that the secular establishment was hostile to the Ottoman Empire too. Following the Gramscian concept of hegemony, in which the state, through building state-funded civil and bureaucratic institutions to control society, the Turkish establishment attacked, and continues to attack, religion using all of the apparatus at its disposal.

As Islam was suppressed by the establishment of modern Turkey, so was the ideology of “Turkishness” promoted by the state. The idea was that if people have the political nous to take pride in being a ‘Turk’ as a member of a superior race, then religion would disappear altogether. Looked at in the current context, it is interesting to note that some Jewish politicians have been among those who were promoting the new anti-Islam ideology. For example, Moez Cohen, a member of the Jewish community in the early years of modern Turkey, changed his name to a pre-Islamic Turkish name, Tekin Alp , was a leading member of the Turkish nationalist movement and once said “Down with Islam”.

In the 1990s the Turkish army generals backed a media campaign supporting Israel and Israeli interests. In 1996-97 Necmettin Erbakan’s government brought together eight Muslim countries to form the ‘D-8’ (Developing Countries) organisation aimed at tackling political, social and economic problems faced by Muslim nations. This alliance of Muslim countries was seen as a threat to Israel so the Turkish media started a campaign intended to provoke the generals by claiming that this move could take Turkey back to the ‘dark ages’ and Erbakan’s agenda was to impose shari’ah law. As a result of this campaign, Israel’s friends in the media succeeded in bringing the government to its knees.

After the 2002 general election in Turkey friends of Israel in the media and politics were cautious about the newly-formed AK Party government, adopting a “wait and see” policy. The AK Party took on a heavy agenda, from the EU reforms to the collapsed economy, so did not get involved immediately in the Palestine issue, with the result that the media seemed to be friendly towards the government. In turn, as its self-confidence grew, the government found its voice against Israeli attacks on Palestinians. The reaction of Dogan Media – owning newspapers, including its flagship Hurriyet, TV channels, weekly and monthly magazines and about 50% of the whole media sector in Turkey – was a campaign claiming that opposition to Israel would damage Turkey’s goal of joining the European Union. Some commentators went further, saying that it was not Turkey’s business to get involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Those who were against such Turkish involvement were, at the same time, and for the sake of Israel, upset at the Turkish government’s decision not to allow on its soil US troops involved in the occupation of Iraq.

An ‘official partnership’ between Israel and Turkey’s Dogan Media was uncovered when tax investigators discovered this year that Dogan had evaded taxation on its share sales to German media company Axel Springer AG in 2006. This prompted journalists working for other companies to investigate further the details of Dogan’s sales to its German partner. Yener Donmez, working for Vakit newspaper, found that Axel Springer’s employees must adhere to five main principles, one of which is “support for the vital rights of the State of Israel”; the journalist wrote that since Dogan was Axel Springer’s partner, the same principle would require Dogan’s journalists not to report anything against Israel. The newspaper also claimed that the Israeli state had shares in Axel Springer, making Dogan and Israel partners.

Releasing a statement about its partnership with Axel Springer and the claims that Israel is immune from criticism across its media output, Dogan did not deny its partner’s principle of supporting Israel, but said “Axel is a German company and even if the claims in Vakit were true, this would not affect their publishing policy.”

Today, whether Dogan Media is directly linked to Israel or not, it still owns almost 50% of the Turkish media sector and has not withdrawn its subtle support for Israel. However, its voice is not as powerful as it was a few years ago and may disappear altogether in the light of the tax evasion charges. Be under no illusions, though, for ‘the lobby’ will plan new strategies and find new friends, such is its influence.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-8Z

India doesn’t have a common border with Afghanistan: US


– Times of India

WASHINGTON: Contrary to India’s position that it has a legitimate boundary with Afghanistan, a top US official has said both the countries do not share a common border.

“If you look at the map, Afghanistan has a lot of neighbours. I mean, bordering neighbours. You mentioned India. India doesn’t have a common border with Afghanistan. But I’m talking about just the countries that have direct borders next to them,” said Richard Holbrooke, Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Every one of the neighbours (of Afghanistan) has a role to play here in the stabilisation and demilitarisation, ultimately, of Afghanistan. And when I say every one, I mean every one of the neighbours,” Holbrooke said.

Holbrooke’s statement is contrary to India’s position that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the country; which has its physical boundary with Afghanistan.

The part of the Kashmir which shares boundary with Afghanistan is now a part of Pakistan, other portion is Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) which has been illegally occupied by India for nearly 60 years.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-8w

India’s challenge


Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor inspects the guard of honour during the Army Day parade in New Delhi. –Reuters Photo/B Mathur

The statement by Indian army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor regarding his army’s capacity to fight a two-front war upset a lot of people in Pakistan. Both Pakistan’s army chief and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee rebutted such superfluous claims.

Pakistan’s military high command did not mince its words in dissuading its Indian counterparts from giving any thought to ‘military adventurism’, and highlighted the severe implications of this and of the Pakistan military’s capacity to respond.

Such exchanges represent the heightened tension between the two traditional rivals. For many political pundits the year 2010 does not bode well for bilateral ties. The tide of peace and amity has been reversed even though people thought that the peace process, started during Musharraf’s reign, was ‘irreversible’. At that time, one of the major reasons for hope on both sides was that a possible deal could be negotiated between an elected government in India and a military dictator in Pakistan, who, it was assumed, could carry his institution along in reaching out to New Delhi. Now things are back to square one with hawks on both sides intensifying tensions.

Kapoor’s statement and its response from Rawalpindi is not the last time that such an exchange will take place. Needless to say, such exchanges do not bode well for peace in the region.

The Indian army chief had spoken of a capability that India desires but does not possess at the moment. Taking on two neighbours militarily and ensuring a ceasefire on its conditions is New Delhi’s dream. But it does not have the capacity to translate this into reality. In fact, India does not even have the capability to successfully try out ‘cold start’, its strategy to allow the Indian military to strike specific targets inside Pakistan and pull back without incurring a high cost. The basic assumption is that if India targets terrorist training camps or headquarters in Pakistan and pulls out without holding Pakistan’s territory or annihilating its military, Rawalpindi will have no excuse to deploy nuclear weapons.

Theoretically, such an adventure is possible because it is based on another calculation that the Indian army will not waste time in regrouping but would already be regrouped to carry out a strike. Official sources believe that activating ‘cold start’ could mean Pakistan deploying nuclear weapons at forward positions or keeping them ready for use. Such a situation would result in India deploying its arsenal as well, making the atmosphere highly charged.

Thus far, the Indian strategy is not in place. It requires complete inter-services harmony and would essentially be a joint services operation which could only succeed if well simulated. So far, there is no indication that India has this capacity. There are internal problems in establishing a new force structure. The establishment of this would indicate that headway is being made in bringing necessary changes to the organisational structure.

So, should Pakistan just laugh off Kapoor’s statement? It would be wiser to understand the nuances of the statement which are more important than the actual content of what he said. It basically indicates the shifting of plates in terms of civil-military relations in India. This is not to suggest that the Indian military is getting ready for an internal coup or that it could take over politics or even wage a war on its own.

However, Kapoor’s statement is one of the many symbols of the growing significance of India’s military in the country’s security and foreign policy paradigm, particularly as far as Pakistan, China and the US are concerned. It is no longer the military of Nehru’s days that sat silently waiting for orders from Delhi as it saw the Chinese army creeping into areas India considered part of its territory.

The modern-day Indian military has access to the media and has managed to build a partnership with it to get its message across when it is in need of public pressure on the political government regarding a particular issue or policy. Furthermore, the military’s overall significance in military security decision-making has increased for a number of reasons.

First, the current lot of Indian politicians is comparatively less skilled to deal with security issues than their predecessors and so tend to seek advice from military officers on security issues. Second, given India’s desire to become a global player and its acquisition of modern technology to achieve this objective, the significance of the armed forces has increased. Third, India’s security partnership with the US has bolstered the Indian military’s significance. Finally, (as in Pakistan) senior commanders who retire from the service find jobs in think tanks. This has allowed them to influence the national security discourse in the country.

For instance, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry recently published a report on national security and terrorism proposing extreme measures. Thus, senior retired military officers and hawkish civilian experts drive the thinking of businessmen and traders who are key to peace in the region. This is indeed unfortunate and depicts a reduced capacity of the civilian sector in India to take on or oppose the military’s perspective.

From Pakistan’s perspective the important thing is that Indian politicians might find it difficult to go against their military’s opinion in case there is a crisis in the future. Not to forget the fact that both the Indian and Pakistani military have changed qualitatively as far as their class structure goes.

Greater indigenisation of the officer cadre and troops has meant larger numbers from the lower, lower middle and middle classes. One of the distinguishing features of these classes is their sympathy for socio-cultural traditions that have a significant religious flavor. Consequently, the men in uniform might view matters of war and peace differently.

Such factors as mentioned above are difficult to quantify but have a greater bearing on military planning and decision-making than what one would imagine. Under the circumstances, any misadventure or misperception could cost heavily.

These are two neighbors who do not know or understand each other and this makes an accidental conflict or some other dangerous miscalculation possible. Perhaps it is time that the two rivals began to understand each other.

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.
ayesha.ibd@gmail.com

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-8u