Inconsistent

contrapunto

This is what the Times of India‘s 26 December edition carried in its Contrapunto (Counterpoint) section. The Times, like nearly ever other Indian news shop is ‘liberal’ with all the baggage that the term brings with it, especially egalitarianism, and the morbid fear of laissez faire capitalism as well as socialism (and therefore the support for the ‘middle path’). At times, it also becomes nationalist – the slew of opinions and articles post ’26/11′ for example. One day, while the edit page had a couple of articles on how to play hardball with Pakistan, the quotes section had a version of the following Cicero quote – “A bad peace is always better than a good war.” Another example – the quota debates. Not only do these editorials on the OBC quotas and the women’s reservation bill contradict each other, they stand in direct opposition to the above Aristotelian idea.

Basically, the Times has made a virtue out of inconsistency. But that’s pragmatism for you, a philosophy – as Rand defined it – that goes by the principle that “truth is that which works”. But why blame just the Times. Its a virus that has spread everywhere.

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Comments

  • Vipin  On December 28, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    I think these ‘middle path’ folks confuse the “physical universe” and the “ideas universe”. In the physical universe there is always a middle point between any two given points. And all three points may well be identical except in their relative position to each other.
    On the contrary, no such middle point(s) may exist in the world of ideas. And to create one may naturally mean inconsistency and worse still loss of any real meaning.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On December 28, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    “no such middle point(s) may exist in the world of ideas.”
    Absolutely right. If you compromise on principles, nothing remains – what needs to happen does not happen, and you lose your morality on the way. Rand puts it very nicely – “There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.”

  • you12  On December 29, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Aren’t we(By “we” I mean most of the first world and some parts of third world) doing the same thing with our “war on terrorism”? We have taken a middle path, we want to kill the extremists but want peace with the moderates. Eventhough both sides belong to the same coin.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that since violence can’t be justified, we just have to decide whether we want to kill or die and drop the pretension that we have some sort of moral high ground.

    Israel has been walking the middle path for sixty years without any achievement. May be it would be better if they just nuked the whole Palestine or allowed the Palestinians to eliminate Israel.

    With the “middle path” we are doomed to fight forever.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On December 29, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Take the recent Mumbai terror attacks – everyone on the Indian side took pains to differentiate between the Pakistani government and the Pakistani army (and the jihadi scum it helped create). But Zardari’s government isn’t the least bit concerned. The moment India talks of limited air strikes, “Pakistan’s borders” become more important to him than catching the terrorists. So much for the differentiation. What does this prove? When push comes to shove, the “moderates” will support the extremists. The answer? We hold all of Pakistan responsible for the terror attack.

    “violence can’t be justified, we just have to decide whether we want to kill or die and drop the pretension that we have some sort of moral high ground.”
    Its not that violence isn’t justified – Gandhian pacifism will get us nowhere – its about knowing ‘when’ to get violent. And we do have a moral high ground in the sense that a petty thief is better than a cold blooded murderer; both are criminals but the murderer is a bigger one and he deserves a harsher punishment. Neither India nor the US nor many other democracies consistently protect individual rights or property rights – they peep into bedrooms a lot and their laws reek of moral policing. But compared to Iran or Saudi Arabia, they are a minor inconvenience. A homosexual or adulterer in a democracy is much safer than in Iran or any other Islamic theocracy with its religious laws. The problem is that since “democracies” practice inconsistency when it comes to rights, they find it hypocritical to lecture the Islamic world about the same.

    “May be it would be better if they just nuked the whole Palestine”
    If it weren’t for the US, Israel would have probably disappeared a long time ago, in spite of their tenacity. Have to appreciate them for that. Perpetual war is no solution – nor is “nuking” Palestine. One of these days some terrorist group will get its hands on an atomic device and we will be in for a very nasty surprise.

  • you12  On January 1, 2009 at 12:41 am

    Take the recent Mumbai terror attacks – everyone on the Indian side took pains to differentiate between the Pakistani government and the Pakistani army (and the jihadi scum it helped create). But Zardari’s government isn’t the least bit concerned. The moment India talks of limited air strikes, “Pakistan’s borders” become more important to him than catching the terrorists. So much for the differentiation. What does this prove? When push comes to shove, the “moderates” will support the extremists. The answer? We hold all of Pakistan responsible for the terror attack.”

    Thats what I am trying to say with the idea of a middle path. Bring all of them down all of them or none.

    Violence can’t be justified.It has nothing to do with Gandhism or pacifism. Violence is an unwanted force on some one else. Now you could say that people like Laden & co. know what they are getting themselves into but that still that doesn’t justify my act of violence on them as I am acting purely for my own self interest. And since I am acting for my self interest why can’t I act for my supreme self-interest?

    The idea of punishment itself is based on the concept of a society trying to preserve its self- interests. It will not have any effects that will help the punished.

    The victor writes the history book. Eugenics was started by USA and Hitler gets blamed for Racism and race inspired genocides.How is Holocaust any different than Hiroshima or Nagasaki.But would the WWII have ended without those two bombings.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 1, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    “Now you could say that people like Laden & co. know what they are getting themselves into but that still that doesn’t justify my act of violence on them as I am acting purely for my own self interest. And since I am acting for my self interest why can’t I act for my supreme self-interest?”
    Am not sure what you are getting at. Retaliation is ‘always’ justified. If someone tries to kill me, I will kill him – there is absolutely nothing wrong in self defense. Gandhi had this strange idea that you should always submit physically – he even told people to stop fighting against the Nazis. His later views – regarding maintaining an army are somewhat different I think, but this is the essence of his position. That’s what I called pacifism – taking a beating without doing anything about it.

    “The idea of punishment itself is based on the concept of a society trying to preserve its self- interests.”
    Punishment cannot be used as a deterrent to others, or as an “eye for an eye” tool – for vendetta. The only justification for punishment is a criminal has to pay for his crime – that is all. Unfortunately though, the modern criminal justice system is fucked up – it helps create more criminals – thats all it ever does. Bentham has had some influence on the subject, and French philosopher Michel Foucault explains how the modern penal system is a means of controlling people.

    “How is Holocaust any different than Hiroshima or Nagasaki”
    The Jews didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor. War and Peace do not operate under the same laws. When it comes to war, the ‘civilians’ of an enemy country are as much an enemy as its military – they support the war efforts through taxation and so on. If a country’s leadership is ‘sane’, it will stop war mongering the moment some of its citizens are killed – like Japan did. If it isn’t – like Hitler wasn’t, and Kim Jong Il isn’t – it will go on till drastic measures are taken.

  • blr_p  On January 5, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    When push comes to shove, the “moderates” will support the extremists. The answer? We hold all of Pakistan responsible for the terror attack.

    Ok then what would you say about a deployment of Indian troops to Afghanistan.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 5, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Afghanistan is an unmitigated disaster as it is. If India goes there, we will have another Sri Lanka-like fiasco – IPKF – on our hands. The Afghan tribes cannot be defeated militarily – the Soviets couldn’t do it, the Americans won’t be able to do it, and India has no chance at all. The problem with war is unless civilian casualties are accepted as collateral damage, every army that goes into alien territory will suffer casualties of its own. So massive aerial bombing campaigns where hundreds of thousands of lives will be lost is the only solution, and that won’t be acceptable to any one.

    About Pakistan, though I say that we hold it responsible for the terror attacks, what next? India is hardly in a position to attack Pakistan – there is always the threat of nuclear conflict. The surround-the-country-militarily strategy makes no sense unless there is some plan of action to take out terrorist networks. I think Israel style assassinations with suitable modifications are a better idea – send agents into Pakistan and Afghanistan, infiltrate terror groups, and then neutralize the top rung; go to Karachi, nab Dawood, stuff him in a sack, and bring him to Bombay. These are the things that help. But our politicians are busy framing draconian laws and saber rattling. They can’t do anything else.

  • blr_p  On January 5, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    If India goes there, we will have another Sri Lanka-like fiasco – IPKF – on our hands.

    We don’t have the same cultural link as with Sri Lanka.

    the Soviets couldn’t do it, the Americans won’t be able to do it

    Soviets out was a proxy war. Americans are down but not yet out.

    India is hardly in a position to attack Pakistan – there is always the threat of nuclear conflict.

    Exactly so how to break the current stalemate ?

    Troops on their weaker western front under cover from the US. Now they have two fronts to worry about :)

    The surround-the-country-militarily strategy makes no sense unless there is some plan of action to take out terrorist networks.

    Currently US pays the Paks to do the job, they then pass it onto the militants not to attack the Pak army. With the odd show here & there. Not effective.

    If India gets into the equation then wil the Paks be forced to deal with the problem. Until they do we won’t see any end to terrorism here.

    I think Israel style assassinations with suitable modifications are a better idea

    How bad would the blowback be if they were foiled ?

    Also we would have to first build back agent levels to pre-IK Gujral times.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 6, 2009 at 3:00 am

    “Troops on their weaker western front under cover from the US. Now they have two fronts to worry about…Until they do we won’t see any end to terrorism here.”
    That’s what I say won’t work if the goal is reducing terrorism; it will irritate them – that is all. Taking on the Pakistani army won’t prevent terrorists from crossing into the country, or help tackle the various sleeper cells. And ‘dialog’ won’t help either.
    The problem is that we have no leverage whatsoever against Pakistan, even considering US help. Another problem is that the terrorists are no longer under the control of the “establishment.” Even if their army acts against terror groups, the effort will be a half-hearted one because of many reasons – they are already suffering huge casualties, and losing control over territories bordering Afghanistan.

    “How bad would the blowback be if they were foiled ?”
    Its not easy, or risk free – infiltration. Could be years before any success can be achieved. Gujral and his crazy doctrine. Destroyed years of effort in one sweep.

  • blr_p  On January 6, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    That’s what I say won’t work if the goal is reducing terrorism

    There’s more to the idea than meets the eye if you think long term :)

    The rumour atm is we are ‘thinking’ about it.

    http://forums.bharat-rakshak.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4600&st=0&sk=t&sd=a

    Ignore the 120k figure, its more the idea and its implications that i’m trying to get my head around.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On January 6, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    the BR article is just a rumour. it was also discussed on IDForum a while back but nobody was able to substantiate the claims. we don’t know if it’s a fact yet.

    check out the discussion on PDF. these bastards finally IP banned me.
    http://www.defence.pk/forums/war-terror/18974-120-000-indian-troops-afghanistan-hot-air.html

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 7, 2009 at 12:42 am

    blr_p,
    How many casualties would the Indians be willing to accept – given that Afghanistan would be a long term operation – part of a “destabilize Pakistan” campaign? 8-10k? This post makes sense-

    Secondly,we are playing right into Uncle Sam’s gameplan,that India must do the dirty work for the US in Asia.How can we let ourselves be fooled into this absurd situation.We are running shit scared-at least this govt. is,of fighting the real enemy Pakistan,but offers troops to fight another man’s war in Afghanistan,the graveyard of invaders over the centuries! The British have tried twice and are losing the second round too,the Russians withdrew,the Pakis too,so is the US and NATO now.Afghanistan is divided all along tribal lines and alliances that change with the seasons.Let the Afghans find their own style of govt.,provided the poppy crop is under strict control.

    Don’t underestimate Afghan tenacity, I say. Unless India is ready to accept massive civilian casualties in Afghanistan while fighting the Taleban, we should stay out of it. I don’t see too many benefits from this move.


    y.a.h.i,
    Tried using anonymouse.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On January 7, 2009 at 1:34 am

    hey, i know all the tricks in the book. i keep getting in with proxies since i post there. but 95% of them are friggin slow. takes like 30 minutes every time to find one that’s fast enough to atleast browse through. but heck, proxies expire or stop working every 12 hours. four of my user ID’s have been banned before which was ok but IP bans suck ass.

  • blr_p  On January 7, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    How many casualties would the Indians be willing to accept – given that Afghanistan would be a long term operation – part of a “destabilize Pakistan” campaign? 8-10k?

    That sounds similar to the number lost in Kashmir.

    If the US remains in Afghanistan for the long term, there is perhaps less need to deploy there in numbers. I think they will as the job isn’t complete yet and there is momentum to find additional supply routes that don’t involve Russia or China, thereby granting a NATO a strategic win over SCO by winning over countries along the route from the Black Sea to Afghanistan.

    But if they leave, then the Paks win.

    As it is we are getting hit regularly, so without the US in the area the attacks will only increase whilst the nuclear blackmail to any response from us remains.

    So its along those lines that one wonders whether no sizeable Indian presence in the area is to our advantage ?

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 7, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    “That sounds similar to the number lost in Kashmir.”
    I want to know what dividends such loss of life will bring – 10k is no joke. What happens if we destabilize Pakistan? It will split into multiple countries, leaving Punjab struggling on its own? Or is this another dream, like some Pakistanis dream about India going the Balkan way?

    “But if they leave, then the Paks win.”
    Consider this – before 9/11, the Taleban ruled Afghanistan, the US was no where in the area, Pakistan was being run by a dictator. How did it affect India’s security?
    The Pakistani Army and the Taleban are not exactly on friendly terms; i.e. Pakistan won’t get a free ride in Afghanistan if the US withdraws and Kabul falls. What is the nature of the Pakistani victory – Talebani help in Kashmir?

    “As it is we are getting hit regularly, so without the US in the area the attacks will only increase”
    As I say above, I don’t find much of a linkage between who controls Afghanistan, and terrorism in India, particularly Kashmir.

  • blr_p  On January 8, 2009 at 2:55 am

    I want to know what dividends such loss of life will bring – 10k is no joke. What happens if we destabilize Pakistan?

    Is Kashmir a better place today than it was in the past ? If so then the loss was worth it.

    I don’t think there is anything to gain by destabilizing Pakistan but the threat of doing so might buy leverage.

    Consider this – before 9/11, the Taleban ruled Afghanistan, the US was no where in the area, Pakistan was being run by a dictator. How did it affect India’s security?

    Made no difference then, would it necessarily be the same now ?

    If we’re perceived as friendly then it stays the same plus we gain leverage over the Paks, however if it’s the opposite then we make more enemies, there is a risk that could happen.

    If we do nothing things go back to how they were in the past PLUS the usual attacks and no leverage, the exact situation we are in right now :(

    We can certainly sponsor terrorism there, as we can pay more but it getting down to their level and further perpetutating the current cycle.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 8, 2009 at 4:53 am

    “Is Kashmir a better place today than it was in the past ? If so then the loss was worth it.”
    Its not the way it was in the ’70s and ’80s. Plus the fact that the pandits are still refugees. Things are better than they were in the ’90s, but I think the price in terms of loss of life was a heavy one.

    “If we do nothing things go back to how they were in the past PLUS the usual attacks and no leverage, the exact situation we are in right now”
    I still don’t get it as to how India surrounding Pakistan will make it give up its terror-as-state-policy strategy. They know just as well as we do that we won’t cross either the LOC or the Afghan-Pak border. They could just as easily man both borders and continue with their strategy. Plus there is always China to worry about. What if it amasses forces in Tibet while we are in Afghanistan?

    “We can certainly sponsor terrorism there, as we can pay more but it getting down to their level and further perpetuating the current cycle.”
    Bad idea – one LTTE is more than enough. Spy networks is the way to go. Terrorists have this nasty habit of biting the hand which feeds them.

  • blr_p  On January 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I still don’t get it as to how India surrounding Pakistan will make it give up its terror-as-state-policy strategy. They know just as well as we do that we won’t cross either the LOC or the Afghan-Pak border. They could just as easily man both borders and continue with their strategy.

    Agreed, their red lines remain unchanged regardless of how many borders we occupy. Breach any and its war. Now that they have nukes does it matter how quickly we occupy them ? No.

    So let’s look at the bigger picture of our interests in Afghanistan — see cpl of the articles here

    http://pragati.nationalinterest.in/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/pragati-issue17-aug2008-communityed.pdf

    – Hold steady in Afghanistan by Shanthie Mariet D’Souza
    – A bigger military presence is essential by Sushant K Singh

    1)India has been a key promoter of Afghanistan’s integration with South Asia as a ‘land bridge’ connecting South Asia with energy-rich Central Asia with $750 million of pledged aid.

    There have been increasing attacks on Indian personnel involved in the many projects there so more protection of investment is required.

    2)An Indian military involvement in Afghanistan will shift the battleground away from Kashmir and the Indian mainland. Targeting the jihadi base will be a huge boost for India’s anti-terrorist operations, especially in Kashmir, both militarily and psychologically.

    Soft power has to be an important component of any successful counter-insurgency operation; but it has to be augmented by hard power – of having military boots on ground. It will also send a strong message to the local Afghan nationals that India is in there for a long haul, putting lives of its soldiers to risk, and not restricting itself to merely throwing some alms at them, through developmental aid or projects.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 8, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Read both pieces.

    My first question is this – why are we providing aid to Afghanistan? Does India believe that the President of Kabul will remain there for the long haul; does it believe in the possibility of sustained “democracy” in Afghanistan? Because I surely don’t. The fact is, in South Asia, except India, all other countries are failed or failing states. That doesn’t mean they will necessarily disintegrate – only that authoritarianism will be the rule rather than the exception. So everything we do in Afghanistan will disappear within a few years, and even sooner, if the US leaves. This unstable form of “credit” is what we are fighting for over there currently, and one reason for an Indian military presence is this aid. Maybe there are diplomatic compulsions involved, but nothing is going to come out of maintaining relations with regimes in either Iran or Afghanistan.

    About D’Souza’s piece – training Afghan forces and all – its easy to say that. But whether these forces will have the capability to take on the Taleban? Doesn’t look like they do. Unless you have complete control over the Afghan government and its policies, such token measures are not going to produce any worthwhile results, and the Indians will need to have a near-permanent presence in Afghanistan if they want continued protection for their assets.

    The other piece; I have to disagree with Singh’s assertion-

    Some defence analysts have argued that India should not commit itself militarily to Afghanistan because Afghanistan will fall, yet again, to the Taliban as US and NATO forces are likely to pull out soon. Well, this argument ignores the fact that unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is related to the terrorist attacks on the American homeland and winning it is about ensuring US national security and pride.

    Every war is about pride, and every war has its price. The Americans withdrew from Vietnam, didn’t they? Its been seven years now, and Afghanistan is still a graveyard for American troops. The Americans were just waiting for Bush to go away, probably thinking that Obama has some kind of solution to this problem too. But there isn’t any. One day, the costs will become unbearable, and Afghanistan will still be the way it was when they first entered the hell hole. And that’s when they will leave; otherwise, when they manage to catch hold of Osama, they will cut a deal with the Taleban and leave. A military victory is not possible in Afghanistan.

    In this context, India will find itself in an untenable position – managing development projects on one hand, and maintaining a military position trying to place a game of chess with Pakistan on an Afghan chessboard. We will be targeted by the Taleban from both sides – from within Afghanistan, and within Pakistan. And if we try to attack their strongholds, civilian casualties will be unavoidable, and we will be blamed for it; not to mention the fact that the Taleban operating from within Pakistan would be out of reach.

    The answer to our security lies within our country – use technology to keep an eye on the entire LOC, and our western coastline, and nab or eliminate the crooks when they try to enter. Then there is the infiltration strategy.

    If we go to Afghanistan, I think we will regret it. Compared to it, IPKF will look like a walk in the park.

  • blr_p  On January 10, 2009 at 12:03 am

    My first question is this – why are we providing aid to Afghanistan? Does India believe that the President of Kabul will remain there for the long haul; does it believe in the possibility of sustained “democracy” in Afghanistan? Because I surely don’t.

    Going by the nature of the current projects, infrastructure, public utilities etc, would it matter who is in charge ?

    If the average Afghan is better off as a result then it makes for an easier sell. If no development happens then Afghanistan goes back to its ‘terroist haven’ of yore. From that perspective development could be seen as an alternative approach to combat militancy.

    I don’t think democracy is the priority, stabilty is the goal.

    So everything we do in Afghanistan will disappear within a few years, and even sooner, if the US leaves. This unstable form of “credit” is what we are fighting for over there currently, and one reason for an Indian military presence is this aid.

    To an extent yes. I’m not sure as to how much we have spent there as yet. The stakes are too high for the west to leave unless a suitable solution is worked out. If Afghanistan falls, instabilty will spread.

    Maybe there are diplomatic compulsions involved, but nothing is going to come out of maintaining relations with regimes in either Iran or Afghanistan
    Oil & Gas :)

    The CAR fields are to come fully online by 2015, everything upto that point is manouvering to get a better position. Also would it be useful to act as mediator between Iran & the US.

    The Americans withdrew from Vietnam, didn’t they?
    Again, a proxy war like the Soviets in the 80s. I’d like to think if the opponent isn’t supported by another super power, that a war is winnable. If the ‘significant’ world picks a side it becomes a certainty.

    The Americans were just waiting for Bush to go away, probably thinking that Obama has some kind of solution to this problem too.
    They will scale back from Iraq but if Obama sticks to what he said whilst campaigning then the focus will be more in Afghanistan & Pakistan than elsewhere.

    they will cut a deal with the Taleban and leave.
    Likely in the event they cannot change the current state. The current state is because they got distracted half way through.

    But the west is buoyed by recent experience in Iraq with the surge. Pre-feb-2007, lots of allied casualties, after the surge, numbers dropped and stayed that way, so is that significant ?

    More troops on the ground *but* lower casualties.

    They think it might work again. We will only know the answer after they try, adapting it to the local situation.

    In this context, India will find itself in an untenable position – managing development projects on one hand, and maintaining a military position trying to place a game of chess with Pakistan on an Afghan chessboard.
    Yes, if you accept the Taliban to be the ultimate winners, but is that certain ?

    In the near future Afghanistan, geographically, stands to win much from transit fees via the several pipelines proposed. This will be a powerful incentive to settle, if they want a share. Whats happening currently is an internal power struggle whose stakes are very high.

    Of course, all changes in the unlikely event that peace gets brokered between Iran & the west, then we can forget the Afghans & the Paks. I feel that might happen next if, as you say, Afghanistan proves to be unwinnable.

    In which case is it important to court the two countries or ignore both ?

    We will be targeted by the Taleban from both sides – from within Afghanistan, and within Pakistan. And if we try to attack their strongholds, civilian casualties will be unavoidable, and we will be blamed for it; not to mention the fact that the Taleban operating from within Pakistan would be out of reach.
    This would be *the* prime Pak objective if we do go there. If attacks increase and the perps run for the border it increases the perception that Pakistan harbours terrorists and pressure mounts on them to deal with it.

    The answer to our security lies within our country – use technology to keep an eye on the entire LOC, and our western coastline, and nab or eliminate the crooks when they try to enter. Then there is the infiltration strategy.
    This is surely the greatest need at the moment. Getting the various branches of state better coordinated, equpped etc, will pay the biggest dividend.

    If we go to Afghanistan, I think we will regret it. Compared to it, IPKF will look like a walk in the park.

    I think the biggest difference between the two scenarios is we do not have any of our ‘persecuted own’ there. Does not influence our choice of picking a side over the other.

    The bigger question in all of this is whether we should try to manage our ‘near abroad’ or just react to it. Is there more to gain with one approach or the other ?

    Unless we understand the ROI + risk its not clear.

    Do we allow China to become the undisputed power in Asia ?..and necessarily bear the consequences.

    At the moment they are ‘trending’ in that direction. If we sit put, then in a decade or two it will be a fact and there will be no way to change reality.

    We have managed to de-hyphentate ourselves from Pakistan. Can we now attempt to hyphenate ourselves with China :)

    The only way is if we think long term.

    The Pakistani Army and the Taleban are not exactly on friendly terms; i.e. Pakistan won’t get a free ride in Afghanistan if the US withdraws and Kabul falls. What is the nature of the Pakistani victory – Talebani help in Kashmir?
    They keep us out of their backyard.

  • blr_p  On January 10, 2009 at 1:58 am

    Since 2001, India has offered $750 million for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, making it the largest regional donor to the country. In August 2008, India pledged an additional $450 million.

    India-Afghanistan Relations

  • Vipin  On January 10, 2009 at 10:13 am

    “I think Israel style assassinations with suitable modifications are a better idea”

    Quite suprised to hear this, and plesantly so. I too suggested this to many friends, and on emailing groups when the war drums were betting high.
    The idea was that one ought to create a principal-agent problem within the terror groups/ISI, the message to the top brass would be that ‘while you are working to further the interest of your group, your also putting your own life in danger’. Also this way ISI can’t evoke war sentiments to get civilians to back’em.

    But I can’t figure why, did’nt get much support on this one

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 10, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Vipin,
    “But I can’t figure why, did’nt get much support on this one”
    One reason I can think of is humans forgo reason when they need it the most, relying on sentiments instead. I know that because I suffer from the same problem, though knowing about it makes it easier to control it.
    The other reason is nationalism – sentiments give rise to it. So if the Taj or the parliament is attacked, its an attack on the collective whole of India, and we need to take revenge. And this means taking a hatchet to Pakistan. When such a sentiment rules, precision targeting seems like some kind of cop out; the same people however won’t dream of using a butcher’s knife – instead of surgical instruments – to perform neurosurgery, which is what the Indo-Pak situation really demands.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 10, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    blr_p,
    “would it matter who is in charge ?”
    The moment the Taleban take over, you can kiss all goodwill goodbye. When India cannot rely on “democracies” that are part of the Nehru-created monster – NAM, or whatever is left of it – in times of need, I wouldn’t rely on groups like the Taleban.

    “If Afghanistan falls, instability will spread.”
    I don’t think so. Islam seems to keep countries stable – as long as people “follow the code.” Tribal warfare will go on, but it always does.

    “The CAR fields are to come fully online by 2015, everything upto that point is manouvering to get a better position.”
    I think you might have read Swami’s article a couple of weeks back on the IPI pipeline-

    The Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline has been discussed for almost a decade, with its proponents arguing that it will promote our energy security. After 26/11, the project is dead. No Indian government can proceed with a deal that will give Pakistan a knife at India’s energy throat. Far from promoting our energy security, it would be a source of immense national insecurity.

    Just suppose the pipeline was complete and functioning today. The pipeline contract would have required Pakistan to ensure the safety of supplies. But Baluch insurgents have been bowing up gas pipelines in Pakistan for ages, so Islamabad could easily connive in the blowing up of the India section of the pipeline, claiming it did not control non-state actors, and indeed is opposed to them. Just as it did after 26/11, Pakistan could claim that it was itself a victim of sabotage, that India must not indulge in finger pointing, and that Islamabad would investigate the incident provided India provided enough evidence!

    While puppet regimes in Afghanistan won’t sink as low as Pakistan often does, any oil projects that rely on Afghanistan are fraught with security risks similar to the ones the IPI faces, at least when it comes to “non-state actors”. Whether you use pipelines or convoys, the security threat will remain. That’s why we need the army there, you might say. But their presence there might only improve the situation “slightly”.

    “Also would it be useful to act as mediator between Iran & the US.”
    We overestimate our influence over Iran. I don’t believe in the “historically have shared close cultural and political ties” (as the article you linked to puts it) theory when it comes to states such as Afghanistan or Iran – a load of cr*p. We should apply Bismark’s theory – “there is no altruism among nations” here. Unless we can stop Iran from irritating Israel, and tell them to become more “democratic”, the US is not going to play ball – regardless of what Obama says. What does Iran gain from a relationship with the US? And what will it have to give up? If India cannot answer that, forget any dreams of playing mediator.

    “I’d like to think if the opponent isn’t supported by another super power, that a war is winnable.”
    There is a difference between wars fought by “democratic” countries, and countries that are not bound by the same rules of engagement. In cases like Afghanistan and Iraq, even though “superpowers” are not supporting the enemy through proxy (some lesser powers are, though), guerrilla tactics and civilians located bang in the middle of the conflict zone means that the enemy can keep things going for years – combatants are not in short supply when it comes to fighting the “infidels.”

    “Yes, if you accept the Taliban to be the ultimate winners, but is that certain ?”
    I do. I have said this before – the culture of “democracy” is not something that every civilization tolerates. Even non-Islamic ones like Thailand. “D” is dying in the West too, if you look closely. I will be very happy if I am proved wrong, but when it comes to authoritarianism, most people simply shrug their shoulders and move on.

    “This will be a powerful incentive to settle, if they want a share. Whats happening currently is an internal power struggle whose stakes are very high.”
    If money is the only thing they wanted, the tribes would have stopped fighting years ago. Its always power + loyalty + religion or some similar cocktail.

    “In which case is it important to court the two countries or ignore both ?”
    Let me put it this way – I don’t foresee a “full” West-Iran patch up within the next decade; Pakistan will go back to the usual army rule within the next five years; and if Obama doesn’t see light, America will still be fighting the Taleban as he enters his second term in office.
    We can continue “courting” Pakistan and Afghanistan, but nothing concrete will come out of it.

    “it increases the perception that Pakistan harbours terrorists and pressure mounts on them to deal with it.”
    Everyone knows that the Pakistani army does not want to fight the Islamists – they have been suffering casualties, cutting deals and so on. Unless the pressure is of the “we are sending the US army into Pakistan kind”, or threat of international sanctions like the ones on Burma and NK, it wouldn’t help.

    “Does not influence our choice of picking a side over the other.”
    It does. India, Islam and egg-shells, remember? India has recently criticized Israel over its Gaza offensive – we never learn. No matter what we do – especially if we land there with 100k troops – we will always be seen as a “Hindu” power.

    “Do we allow China to become the undisputed power in Asia ?..and necessarily bear the consequences.”
    Do you think the Chinese have a better understanding of the complexities of Islam than we do? China and SE Asia work – cultural similarities. China and Pakistan work – the “anti-India” effect. China and Afghanistan/ Iran won’t work, not in all all-weather way.
    As you say, the costs and returns need to be worked out. No sense “investing” a billion dollars in trying to win a diplomatic rat race with China if we don’t know what the outcome will be.

    “They keep us out of their backyard.”
    And then what? Now they have a backyard full of Taleban that are trying to take over Pakistan. Good luck to them.

  • blr_p  On January 11, 2009 at 2:38 am

    I don’t think so. Islam seems to keep countries stable – as long as people “follow the code.” Tribal warfare will go on, but it always does.

    Well turn the clock back to the late 90s and play onwards. Terrorist haven and plots to take over the world. That’s the red line the west won’t accept. The problem isn’t with the Taliban per se so long as Al-Q is not there. It’s possible they will pursue a settlement along those lines. But the west is weak in Afghanistan right now, they prefer to negotiate from a position of strength so expect some military buildup + action from them for a cpl of yrs then negotiate.

    If it turns out the Taleban is the last man standing i agree that might make things harder for us. But if we recently sent another installment of aid then the ppl that get paid to make these decisions expect a nation state of some form that isn’t radical. One that understands what transit fees mean in terms of power, one that looks after their interests meaning we won’t need to send much troops after all. No investment lost and we get access to the energy. If we can’t get leverage in the area militarily, we will have to do it financially, meaning for energy.

    I think you might have read Swami’s article a couple of weeks back on the IPI pipeline-

    I did, and there won’t be one transiting Pakistan, if we have built a road all the way to the Iranian port of Chabahar then i expect that’s where the pipeline will end. It’s up to Iran + the Afghans to secure their end of the deal, loss of revenue otherwise :)

    Whether you use pipelines or convoys, the security threat will remain. That’s why we need the army there, you might say. But their presence there might only improve the situation “slightly”.

    In which case we won’t be the only ones doing the job, everyone that expects to take part in this project will cooperate. I feel you are comparing Afghanistan of the past to the one in the future, the bleak, no hope, no money Afghanistan with one that can earn a decent income in ‘protection money’. Does not seem too far fetched to go from mujahideen to security guard now is it :)

    What does Iran gain from a relationship with the US?

    Iran holds the keys to stability in Iraq and to a lesser extent Afghanistan. Tactically the US did them a favour by removing two regimes they did not get along with. All the rhetoric started when Ahmadinejad got into power, but will he be re-elected ? If someone else more moderate comes up it might change.

    The hard question to answer is will the Iranians settle. In a way they have the advantage at the moment. They want nukes as they think thats the only gurantee they have from an invasion, worked for the Paks after all. Well if the person thats most likely to be invading comes up with a plan that satisfies them then there is lots to win for both sides. NK is already taken care of, just Iran and then no more axis of evil. Mr.O might be the right person for this job compared to previous POTUS.

    I do. I have said this before – the culture of “democracy” is not something that every civilization tolerates.

    I think this should be feasible so long as they don’t provide sanctuary to terrorists. But how does one ensure that ?

    We can continue “courting” Pakistan and Afghanistan, but nothing concrete will come out of it.

    I meant Iran + Afghanistan, not Pakistan.

    Unless the pressure is of the “we are sending the US army into Pakistan kind”, or threat of international sanctions like the ones on Burma and NK, it wouldn’t help.

    Non cooperation will make what you said a reality, its the stick to the carrot of aid of which there will plenty maybe even an increase.

    No matter what we do – especially if we land there with 100k troops – we will always be seen as a “Hindu” power.

    Don’t think there will ever be as many, which is why i said to ignore the figure.

    China and Afghanistan/ Iran won’t work, not in all all-weather way.

    China in a way does not need to deal much with Afghanistan as they have a border with CAR anyway. Their only interest is terrorism does not spread to their muslim areas, so from that perspecitve we can expect them to be supportive.

    With Iran they don’t have a problem, they get what they want, regardless of what regime is in power. They have lots of arms to sell to sweeten any deals.

    So currently, we are actually playing catchup with China

    And then what? Now they have a backyard full of Taleban that are trying to take over Pakistan. Good luck to them.

    The Taleban have spread into the tribal areas, they have made little impact further in the NWFP as yet.

    But if we are kept out or deployed in insignficant numbers then the Paks have less competition to worry about.

    India did sponsor significant covert action in Pakistan in the 80’s to the point they had to come to some sort of agreement on what was or was not acceptable. It appears like plain old terrorism instead of the more surgical hit jobs you were advocating. It’s interesting to see the reasons they kept it low profile and ultiamtely wound it up as they felt it could undermine any moral position in case we were attacked.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 11, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    “One that understands what transit fees mean in terms of power, one that looks after their interests meaning we won’t need to send much troops after all….Does not seem too far fetched to go from mujahideen to security guard now is it “
    Such a “government” will have a problem with Pakistan. One – Pakistan will continue to consider Afghanistan to be its “backyard”, and two – an energy pipeline to India bypassing Pakistan doesn’t serve their strategic interests very well. If such a pipeline has to pass through Iran and then probably use the offshore path that Swami suggests, Pakistan has quite a few opportunities to create mischief.

    “It’s up to Iran + the Afghans to secure their end of the deal, loss of revenue otherwise”
    Even if we believe that the Taleban, or whosoever keeps a “stable” government in Afghanistan running will understand the “economics” of doing business with India, what about Iran? They do have their own gas which they can supply but are not because of “pricing disputes.” Pipelines through unstable countries can be a big problem, and not always a security one. Iran might want to join in, or Afghanistan will want a share of the gas. See what’s happening in the former iron curtain countries – there is always this misplaced sense of nationalism or in Iran’s case – Islamic brotherhood to worry about. Don’t say it will happen, but the possibility does exist, especially if another Texan becomes POTUS.

    “The hard question to answer is will the Iranians settle.”
    What about Israel, and the threat that Iran poses to it? Iran is the common thread in both the West Asia and ME problems.

    “Don’t think there will ever be as many, which is why i said to ignore the figure…But if we are kept out or deployed in insignficant numbers then the Paks have less competition to worry about.”
    Then what – 20-30k? Would it be sufficient to do everything – maintain pressure on Pakistan, and protect our assets? Further, we cannot wish away China in this strategy. Parthasarthy wrote an op-ed a week back in TOI wherein he said the following-

    At the same time, government controlled media organisations in Mainland China and Hong Kong launched an anti-Indian barrage claiming: “The Indian government’s eagerness to declare that the attacks were carried out by foreign forces was an attempt to cover up internal contradictions”. The official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, the `People’s Daily’, proclaimed on December 2 last year that the attack was “a major blow to India’s big power ambitions”.

    Chinese hostility to Indian concerns was voiced even more strongly by ‘scholars’ from two government institutions the China Institute of Strategic Studies (CISS) affiliated to the foreign office and the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) affiliated to the state council. CISS scholars claimed that India was blaming Pakistan to “enhance its control over the disputed Kashmir”. A CISS scholar even stated: “China can support Pakistan in the event of a war.” The scholar asserted that in such circumstances China may have the option of resorting to a “strategic military action in southern Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh) to thoroughly liberate the people there”. The CICIR, in turn, claimed that the terrorists who carried out the attacks in Mumbai came from within India.

    Is this just talk, or is there more to it? Are the continuous tensions over AP over the past year a prelude to military action? Because if China does to India what Russia did to Georgia, I don’t know what India’s reaction will be. The international community won’t proceed beyond mere condemnation though.

  • blr_p  On January 12, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Such a “government” will have a problem with Pakistan.

    Yes it will, the Paks will only support Islamist Sunni Pashtun parties over moderate or secular ones. They seem to have succeeded in creating the perception

    Pakistan + Taliban >> Remaining Afghans + West + India ?

    But isn’t the right side of that equation stronger in terms of money & arms ? ..which can be cut or increased at will.

    The Paks have the very good advantage of geography and the potential threat of proliferation. Is that enough for them to win ?

    The Taliban get their funding from drug running & handouts from the Paks along with arms. The same Paks who were arm twisted into enabling the US to throw the Taliban out of their own country. The Taliban might today control 70% of Afghanistan but the other 30% is what allowed the US entry from the north (the area that borders the CAR) and has good relations with India as well as Iran.

    The Afghans when united have been formidable to any invaders, but when divided it isn’t that clear.

    two – an energy pipeline to India bypassing Pakistan doesn’t serve their strategic interests very well. If such a pipeline has to pass through Iran and then probably use the offshore path that Swami suggests, Pakistan has quite a few opportunities to create mischief.

    Yes, its in direct competition to what they hope to provide. I’m not certain whether there will be a pipeline at all to the Iranian coast, the alternate route was developed as the Paks had no prob allowing goods to flow via them from Afghanistan to us but disagreed with the opposite direction. But does this alone justify $1.2 billion ?

    what about Iran? They do have their own gas which they can supply but are not because of “pricing disputes.

    Sure, no real incentive as they can supply their own to Chabahar, wiki says

    “The advantages that Chabahar has compared to Gwadar are the greater political stability and security of the Iranian hinterland and the hositlity and mistrust that the Pakistani Baluchis hold against the Punjabi dominated Pakistani Federal government. The Chabahar port project is Iran’s chance to end its US sponsored economic isolation and benefit form the resurgent Indian economy.”

    But these are global sanctions imposed on any projects in Iran’s oil sector so am not sure how far this idea will progress. All very good news for the competing project at Gwadar.

    As I read around the subject, seeing less reason to transit anything from CAR through Afghanistan. The Kazakh’s have their own already, going to the west and to China. The other neighbouring states would be hooked to these already.

    So obviously less transit fees for the Afghans. Where is the incentive to settle to come from then ?

    The main issue in the area is stability by everyone concerned. It’s towards this end we established and airbase in Tajikistan. If we were unwilling to participate in the Afghan war then it seems a good part of this presence abroad is geared at Pakistan in any potential future conflict, to snap off any supply route between them & China.

    there is always this misplaced sense of nationalism or in Iran’s case – Islamic brotherhood to worry about.

    I think that ‘brotherhood’ is just a canard, along the lines of the Arab variety. We have seen over time the Arabs are quite open to one upmanship & backstabbing if it suits their interests. Iran’s interest is with the Shia first & foremost. They would like to say that no peace is possible in the area without them. To get that recognition would be significant in a predominantly Sunni neighbourhood.

    What about Israel, and the threat that Iran poses to it? Iran is the common thread in both the West Asia and ME problems.

    Israel will have to be convinced that Iran has mended its ways ie give up any nuke aspirations. The sanctions in place restrict any economic development in Iran so is this leverage enough to get them to negotiate ?

    If NK is any example then it sets a precedent in how to deal with such regimes. If the Iranians shout loud & long enough like dear leader Kim, might they also get something for their trouble :)

    The biggest factor to Iran moderating is if their position weakens in the future. So in comes the nuke bogey and the threat of losing that position, but its not feasible at this time. This stalemate could continue till a solution to bigger problems in the area is found.

    Then what – 20-30k? Would it be sufficient to do everything – maintain pressure on Pakistan, and protect our assets? Further, we cannot wish away China in this strategy.

    It’s still at the consensus building stage. We have gone from not getting involved ‘militarily’ to ‘thinking’ about it. Protection of investments abroad is one viable reason but there needs to be more before the govt. is confident. All eyes are on the incoming POTUS, how will he play the game. He thinks a ‘regional’ solution is best, let’s see.

    Is this just talk, or is there more to it? Are the continuous tensions over AP over the past year a prelude to military action?

    I think it was a veiled but credible warning not to go to war over Mumbai. There have been incidents at the Chinese border for quite some time now but nothing out of the ordinary, just the usual games.

    In the event of a war i think there is a likely possibility of China trying to cause a diversion in the east. Not out of any love for the Paks, they see them as a useful tool to contain us. If we both try to take each other out then China is the last one standing.

    If things came to a pass where war was declared, we could expect the West + Japan to put in a strong word not to escalate matters with China. But the condition would be a small timeframe to conclude matters within as well.

  • blr_p  On January 12, 2009 at 2:01 am

    A Tribal Strategy for Afghanistan

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 12, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    “But isn’t the right side of that equation stronger in terms of money & arms ? ..which can be cut or increased at will…were arm twisted into enabling the US to throw the Taliban out of their own country.”
    It all depends on the US role here. Will the US grab Pakistan by the b*lls, and will Pakistan respond? That’s what needs to be answered. If what has been going on for 25+ years continues even now, forget it. The US has only been looking at its interests all this while. What “concrete” benefit does an alliance with India give it?

    “But does this alone justify $1.2 billion ?”
    That’s the estimated cost of the pipeline? A billion dollar is chicken feed if it eliminates or even reduces the Pakistani threat to a possible future gas supply arrangement.

    “This stalemate could continue till a solution to bigger problems in the area is found.”
    Seems like Israel was planning to attack Iran, again.

    “But these are global sanctions imposed on any projects in Iran’s oil sector so am not sure how far this idea will progress”
    Aren’t the French and the Chinese working in Iran? Don’t the sanctions apply to their oil and gas companies?

    “A Tribal Strategy for Afghanistan”
    For once, America should think fifty years into the future. This funding one group to fight another is what has lead to the present position. While one may assume that funding the tribes to keep the Taleban in check won’t have an impact beyond Afghanistan, didn’t a similar strategy during the Soviet war allow Saudi Arabia to send their Wahabi preachers into Afghanistan and help radicalize the populace? Basically the known enemy is better than the unknown one argument.

  • blr_p  On January 13, 2009 at 1:52 am

    It all depends on the US role here. Will the US grab Pakistan by the b*lls, and will Pakistan respond?

    Friends of Pakistan
    Obama’s Worst Pakistan Nightmare

    What “concrete” benefit does an alliance with India give it?

    If you mean for the US its one more ally for GWOT.

    or what do we get ? pressure on our biggest headache without firing a single shot.

    That’s the estimated cost of the pipeline? A billion dollar is chicken feed if it eliminates or even reduces the Pakistani threat to a possible future gas supply arrangement.

    Not for the pipeline, but money spent to date by us on infrastructure & utilities projects in Afghanistan. I was questioning the amount, why pay so much, as it dawned on me later it seemed unlikely any pipeline will be built transiting Afghanistan until there is peace which could take a while.

    If we look at the base in Tajikistan, its at a very strategic position. Does our investment in Afghanistan grant us similar rights ? Not that we station anyone there but whether it allows the option.

    Seen in that light maybe the Kabul embassy bombing is an indication we are on the right track. A billion well spent, in the event of any future conflict.

    Seems like Israel was planning to attack Iran, again.

    References this article.

    I guess the Israeli’s looked at the future (ie us + our neighbour + nukes + non state actors) and did not like it one bit :)

    Who can blame them. If things coninue as is and the other wars wind down then they might have a go. Will Iran settle just at the last minute ?

    Curious how in Dec 2007 when that NIE report came out saying there was no weaponisation since 2003, but enrichment was continuing nevertheless. At the time it was argued this did not preclude weaponisation in the future but still the bottom line was no ‘weapons’, thereby overruling the Cheney’s rhetoric, delaying things till the bigger problems were sorted out.

    Read the word ‘covert’ action, so maybe they agree with you tho not in Pakistan :P

    Aren’t the French and the Chinese working in Iran? Don’t the sanctions apply to their oil and gas companies?

    French pulled out as a result, don’t know about the Chinese but think it would apply to them too. All part of the isolatoin drive, just as well that IPI pipeline deal fell flat as well, how fortunate.

    For once, America should think fifty years into the future. This funding one group to fight another is what has lead to the present position.

    Here the Taleban are above all this, tribal custom violates sharia so that gives them an edge. Provinces where tribal structures are strongest, have proved most resistant to Taliban encroachment.

    Also electorates do not tolerate much casualties. Allowing the Saudis in was to create an idealogical barrier to communism. Was so effective that we all have to defang it now.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 13, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Friends of Pakistan…Obama’s Worst Pakistan Nightmare
    Information of a similar nature has always been available about Pakistan, and the US have always sat on it. Will have to wait for Obama; see what he does.

    “If you mean for the US its one more ally for GWOT.”
    Yes, I meant the US. But if we are seen to be joining the Grand War Against Islam, isn’t there the danger of us actively falling under the AQ radar, even though AQ is less of a group and more of a philosophy as of now.

  • blr_p  On January 13, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Yes, that is always the danger, so wont happen unless it can be spun as protection of existing investment.

    There are already 500 para’s there for this.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On February 4, 2009 at 12:51 am

    has anyone read the 1999 journal named ASIA 2025 made by DoD.
    http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/reading_room/967.pdf

    flip to “pdf” page 76-77-78-79. better yet, read the whole thing.

    there prophecy of 2010 goes something like this:
    -pakistan near collapse
    -india broad progress
    -afganistan anarchic hotbed
    -iranian moderation
    -strong china
    -US focused on N-E asia

    the prophecy of 2012 is scary:
    -pakistan paralyzed
    -indo-pak face off over kashmir
    -china threatens india; US warns china
    -india uses conventional strikes against pakistan nukes; pakistan retaliatory nuclear strike
    -US conventional strike on remaining pakistan nukes
    -china blinks at US-india collusion

    check out the new india map on page 87.

  • you12  On February 4, 2009 at 1:19 am

    Government predictions are useless so no point worrying about them.But If you want to see how reliable sources can be unreliable just read The Economist predictions for 2008 which was published in 2007.( can be easily “found” on the internet)

    Although with the recent “pressures” on Pakistan, I predict another Coup in five years.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On February 4, 2009 at 4:08 am

    Can’t read the entire thing today; will comment later. But a couple of points-
    * I don’t see Pakistan collapsing; the “Indian Confederation” is a day-dream of the “Akhand Bharat” kind; I am with you12 on this one – a coup is the most probable scenario.
    * The reduced importance of Russia is a bit exaggerated. Yes, China is a bigger power compared to Russia; but Russia has oil, and gas. And I still predict $200/b oil prices in four years time.

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