India and the West: Profiles in the Politics of War

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 10 months ago

In Miliband Encourages Terrorism we covered the recent visit to India, the connection drawn by Miliband between the Mumbai attacks and the solution to Kashmir, and the hardening of the Indian world view as a result of this political pressure.

Continuing with but expanding on this same theme, Professor M.D. Nalapat of Manipal University gives us a raw reaction to the Miliband visit and the message he brought.

Someone forgot to tell Britain’s foreign secretary and would-be prime minister, David Miliband, that the Union Jack no longer flies over New Delhi’s Viceregal Palace, now renamed “Rashtrapati Bhavan,” or “Head of the Nation House.” During his visit to India last month, his hosts found Miliband’s conduct and views so offensive that a relatively junior official from the External Affairs Ministry was trotted out to insist that India did not need “unsolicited” advice.

The official was referring to Miliband’s motif during the visit – that New Delhi ought to make concessions on Kashmir so the Pakistan army would assist NATO with more sincerity and efficacy than it has since the 2001 NATO-Taliban war started in Afghanistan.

Clearly, Miliband is unaware of the dynamics of decision making in a democracy. He appears to view India in the same league as China, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, in each of which a single institution – the Communist Party, the army and the monarchy, respectively – calls the shots.

Were Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to follow Miliband’s peremptory advice – enabling the Pakistan army to gain through diplomacy concessions that they have thus far been unable to wrest by jihad – not only would domestic politics in India be inflamed to Bangladeshi proportions, but the Wahabbis that control the Pakistan army would be able to recover some of the ground they have lost with regard to public opinion and moderate civil society.

As for Afghanistan, Miliband has fallen into the same delusion as did former U.S. President George W. Bush in 2001 – that the Pakistan army is interested in the defeat of the Taliban. In reality, so dense are the linkages between the army and the Taliban that the lower ranks would sabotage any order from the generals to seriously do battle with the jihadists, should any of the top brass give such a command …

It is ironic that elements in so many NATO states would like to see India punished in Kashmir for achieving precisely what the alliance has itself failed to do in Afghanistan, which is to beat back the jihadists. In 2001, this writer suggested to friends in the U.S. administration that it was India rather than Pakistan that would be the more desirable ally in the War on Terror. But George W. Bush chose Pakistan. Fortunately for him, he will be on perhaps the second volume of his memoirs before the consequences of this error of judgment become evident in his country.

The Captain’s Journal has discussed the Pakistani duplicity before too, and it’s time to update this perspective with more recent observations, but first we’ll briefly rehearse some background.  In Joint Ingelligence Centers, we warned against the use of isolated joint intelligence centers due to the difficulty of force protection.  But we assumed that these centers would actually be conducting aggressive and meaningful intelligence gathering.  As it turns out, this assumption may be false, and thus far these centers have not been successful due to the Pakistani forces.

Some U.S. military officers say mistrust among the staff of a new intelligence outpost in Afghanistan’s remote Khyber Pass is limiting its effectiveness.

While officers remain hopeful about the Khyber Border Coordination Center, the security situation along the critical supply lines in the area remains dicey, the Washington Post reported Monday.

NATO, Afghan and Pakistani troops man the center with the goal of reducing Taliban activity and keeping trade and military supplies moving.

Along with language and logistical issues still being worked out, there has been some grumbling that the Pakistani contingent has been less than enthusiastic about cracking down on guerrillas and local bandits.

“There’s a hell of a lot of lip service,” said one U.S. officer who remained anonymous. “The Pakistanis talk a good game but don’t play a good game.”

This perspective of Pakistani intentions isn’t dissimilar to that of Professor Nalapat.  In fact, it’s a fairly safe bet that India’s current administration is not only confirmed in its intention to combat terror within its own borders, but that it’s message to Miliband was only a warmup for the same thing for the U.S. administration.

India has warned US President Barack Obama that he risks “barking up the wrong tree” if he seeks to broker a settlement between Pakistan and India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

MK Narayanan, India’s national security advisor, said that the new US administration was in danger of dredging up out of date Clinton administration-era strategies in a bid to bring about improved ties between the two nuclear armed neighbours.

“I do think that we could make President Obama understand, if he does nurse any such view, that he is barking up the wrong tree. I think Kashmir today has become one of the quieter and safer places in this part of the world,” Mr Narayanan said in an interview with CNBC TV18.

“It’s possible that at this time there are elements, perhaps in the administration who are harking back to the pre-2000 era.”

The message is consistent, whether from the administration in India or Professor Nalapat.  Kashmir is a success for India.  Jihad has been beaten back, and to suggest that it be placed on the bargaining block is a reversion to the politics of previous administrations.  It simply won’t be acceptable.

A one final note, as a favor to Medvedev who recently pledged two billion in financial aid, the only remaining air base in central Asia, Manas in Kyrgyzstan, is soon to close, making air supplies to Afghanistan much more difficult.  Yet consider a map of Jammu and Kashmir, and the possibility of sea transit of supplies to India, truck transport to Indian-administered Kashmir, and then overflights to Afghanistan.

India may indeed be a far better and more productive partner in the global counterinsurgency in which we are engaged than Pakistan.


  1. On February 6, 2009 at 2:04 pm, armchairanalyst said:

    Glad to see someone else is keeping on eye on this. After all the talk about the U.S., India, Pakistan and Kashmir in mid-November through Mumbai and into December it seems to have dropped off the radar…

    I am particulalry interested in your last comment about the proximity of J+K to Afghanistan and the potential for India to play an intermediate role in the NATO supply chain. However desirable I find closer U.S. India relations I think there are major obstacles to involving Delhi further in Afghanistan.

    First, given the political complications it seems highly unlikely that the U.S., NATO and India would ever cooperate on such an endeavor. This kind of cooperation would severely damage India-Pakistan relations and push Islamabad to increase their support for the Taliban. Additionally, India’s tradition of “non-alignment,” customarily cool relations with the U.S., difficult domestic political environemnt, and extreme sensativity to foreign domination and the protection of national sovereignty, India would never agree to such a deal.

    Second, even if the political dispensation was more favorable for this kind of arrangement the technical obstacles seem too great? Flying supplies from J+K sounds equally if not more daunting than flying them from somewhere in Pakistan (which we are presumably not already doing becuase flying in that volume just isn’t cost effective or logistically feasible).

    Now, if Pakistan didn’t happen to control the portion of Kashmir that it does than an overland route between India and the Wakhan corridor would be technicallly possible if equally improbable (but hey, if you can build the Karakoram highway from China to Pakistan, one could imagine a road from Srinagar or Leh to Afghanistan–use your imagination).

    Several equally challanging though I suspect more likely alternatives might be available.

    First and most obviously are the much discussed “Northern” and “Western” routes through Russia and the Central Asian Republic’s. A second less talked about route (we’ll see what happens if anything at Munich) is to use the recently completed Indian constructed Zaranj-Delaram spur from Iran to Afghanistan. This would of course require some “understanding” on Afghanistan (among other issues) between the U.S., NATO and Iran.

    Now Captain, I know you don’t share my views on the potential for Iran’s cooperation in Operation Enduring Freedom as we have already discussed. But what do you make of these proposals? I agree from a larger perspective that India makes a far better partner in the WOT than Pakistan, and while I suspect that we’ll see growing coordination between the U.S. and India behind the scenes, I think the kind of overt cooperation you are positing (while desirable) is highly unlikely.

    A second option that recently came to my attention is the possibility that the U.S. might evacuate the Manas base and move next door to Tajikistan, an option that would be far more promisnig given that road links between Tajikistan and Afghanistan are far better (i.e. actually exist) than between either India or Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.

    Your thoughts Captain?

  2. On February 6, 2009 at 3:31 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Your comments are interesting. I, too, have thought about the potential unintended consequences of courting India v. Pakistan for logistical routes. Steve Shippert (of Threats Watch) and I have discussed this at length. True enough, there would be convulsions throughout the region if we took this approach. But would there be? Suppose the U.S. quietly began to ship supplies to ports in India, truck them to India-controlled Kashmir, and then used overfly routes to get to Kabul? Suppose that this was done in lieu of Manas, not in lieu of trucking routes through Khyber? What, exactly, would the Pakistani objection be, and why should we listen to it?

    Obviously, we get most of our supplies to ‘Stan by shipping / trucking, but some comes via air. With Manas closed, we must find an alternative via air. I am proposing India as our partner in this.

    As for overland routes, I have also come out strongly in favor of completely bypassing Russia and going through the Caspian region to do this (look back in the Logistics archives for this). What we don’t want to do is empower Russia with our choice of logistics. Both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan empower Russia, while the Black Sea / Georgia / Azerbaijan / Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan / Afghanistan route removes Russia from the equation. Expensive? Surely. Is it worth it? Maybe.

    As for Iran, it might be that some of the NATO countries work with them to move supplies. If the U.S. continues down the Chamberlainesque pathway we are on, we might even move supplies via Iran.

    Of course, Persia will go nuclear on the watch of the Obama administration, setting off nuclear proliferation throughout the Arab world as a counterbalance to their hegemony.

  3. On February 21, 2009 at 12:46 pm, FieldMarshal said:

    It definately makes sense to get India into the scene as compared to Pakistan. It is a country with a stable democracy, has itself faqced terrorist attacks and hence would be willing to fight the terrorist (and remove them from their roots) as they are a threat to them too .. On the other hand Pakistan has been playing a game for long time now and its not sincere with its appraoch. Its trying to please both NATO as well as the terrorist .. but Congress party in India might have its own domastic compulsion (minority muslim votes being one of them) …

  4. On February 23, 2009 at 3:18 pm, Warbucks said:


    Would you link me to your soon to be given feedback on the so-called Taliban Truce Reuters announced about 2 or 3 hours ago. Thanks Capitan.


  5. On February 23, 2009 at 3:27 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    More of the same, my friend. We’ve seen this game played ever since Musharraf was first in power. Go after the Taliban, demure, call a truce, the Taliban call a truce, ask for more money from the U.S., ignore the Taliban advances throughout Pakistan, fight some more, demure, call a truce …..

    Nothing new under the sun. Pakistan is in mortal danger, but continues to pine away after a fight with India. Strange people, they are.

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You are currently reading "India and the West: Profiles in the Politics of War", entry #2070 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,India,Joint Intelligence Centers,Pakistan and was published February 4th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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