The Sri Lankan Curse

ImageWorld No nation needs others resolution at an international forum to protect its human rights. Sri Lanka a cursed island nation for the past four decades can totally devoid the global censure to protect its citizens. Unfortunately the government of Sri Lanka failed to save its precious citizen lives while eliminating separation seeking people. Mercilessly it bulldozed anyone and everyone sighted in front of its tanks and bullet firing choppers in the north and eastern parts of the nation. Now the onus of putting Sri Lanka on the peace and prosperity is entirely on the shoulders of Rajapakse and company


Deccan Chronicle writes on 24 March 2012

There is a specific context to India shedding its traditional inhibition of not supporting country-specific resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council, and going with the American sponsored move in Geneva on Thursday to censure Sri Lanka over its violation of the human rights of its Tamil minority. This derives from a historical change in circumstance. The Sri Lankans can fail to see this at the expense of their own cohesion.

Until the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, India remained solicitous of Colombo’s concerns regarding the preservation of its unity in the face of the LTTE’s efforts at breaking it up. It paid no heed then to domestic voices that sought to fetter the Lankan military in its fight against the LTTE.

Once that objective was attained three years ago, New Delhi returned to the fundamental question in Sri Lanka of attending to the long-festering grievances of the minority community.

It repeatedly urged Colombo through diplomacy to come good on earlier promises to visit the question of the basic human rights of the Tamils in the North and East of the island, and give these provinces constitutional powers, particularly in the area of authority over land and the police.

The commission of inquiry instituted by President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government — the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission — after the LTTE’s destruction also notes in its observations that the “root cause” of the conflict was the grievance of the Tamils. In spite of this, Colombo has remained evasive on basic Tamil issues.

For India, it is this that tipped the scales in favour of voting the way it did at UNHRC. It would be an unhistorical reading of the situation to think that the vote came under pressure of political opinion in Tamil Nadu, as Sri Lankan foreign minister G.L. Peiris has implied in a fit of pique.

(It can safely be assumed that there was zero chance of the DMK withdrawing support to UPA-2, or the government falling even if it did.)

If Colombo is smart, it will recognise that India, in fact, came to its rescue by preventing an intrusive resolution being passed against Sri Lanka. The original resolution would have ensured international advice and support to Sri Lanka in protecting the Tamils’ rights even if Colombo did not desire these.

The UNHRC episode also makes it plain that Colombo cannot any more dangle the China card before India.


Terror Politics

Politics is dreadful. It not even spares the fight against terrorism. Politics which is devoid of collective strength cannot check anti social and terrorist activities. Using this loophole in the Indian politics, international terrorists penetrate into the Indian soil coolly. Apart from the political will the confused governance at the centre and among the states are the big contributing factor in rising terror activities in the country. The recent announcement of National Counter Terrorism Centre and its opposition by the states is an example for India’s lack of political will to fight terrorism.

Shankar Roy Chowdhury writes in The Deccan Chronicle

Elections have just concluded in several states and with general elections to follow in 2014, almost every conceivable issue in the entire country has been emotionally and politically charged to very high voltages.

Personalities on either side of the political divide are attempting to develop controversies on all possible issues to extract whatever mileage can be squeezed out of it. But what is new and disturbing this time around is that even matters pertaining to core issues of national security like the proposed National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) have come into the zone of political crossfire.

India is located in a disturbed and unstable neighbourhood, which is rocked by tremors emanating from a variety of hostile organisations, internal as well as external. The main threat is from the jihadi fundamentalists sponsored by the covert warfare branches of the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and its Indian offshoot, the Indian Mujahideen. Other extremist groups like Naxalites and tribal guerrillas also contribute to the quantum of overall threat.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is the designated nodal agency in India for counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence, but the terrorist invasion of Mumbai on 26/11 graphically highlighted many serious deficiencies in Indian intelligence and security systems. It re-emphasised, once again, the need for refurbishment of the national counter-terrorism effort.

The proposal for creation of such an agency at the national level to collate, analyse, integrate inputs from all intelligence sources at Central as well as state levels and plan coordinated counter-terrorist and counter-espionage operations had been amongst the important recommendations of the Kargil Study Group set up in 2001 to analyse the conflict and draw lessons from it.

The initial steps to improve coordination to counter terrorism was the establishment of a Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), but its logical extension into an integrated NCTC has not been formalised to date. The MAC was created out of existing resources without any additional accretions and is not fully effective because of shortages of resources and personnel. Part of the reason for these deficiencies and delays in implementation are internecine turf battles between various government bureaucracies competing for control of the proposed centre.

The recent proclamation by the Union home minister P. Chidambaram of establishing a fully functional NCTC with effect from March 1, 2012, had perhaps not allowed for the ground realities of politics in the Indian environment, which have now entered the process.

There are misgivings amongst the Opposition parties in Parliament, that the proposed NCTC, like some of its predecessors, might again become an intelligence agency of the government, to spy on domestic political opponents rather than externally supported hostile entities.

Given the history of misuse of the IB and the Research and Analysis Wing by various governments during their time in office, there is substance in such conjectures.

Meanwhile, assorted politicians (particularly chief ministers of states ruled by Opposition parties) have drummed up an agitation against the creation of NCTC, on the grounds that some of its functions would impinge on the federal structure of the country and is therefore unconstitutional. Some amongst them have even questioned the requirement for such a Centre at all. But however it may be viewed from differing perspectives, there should be no doubts that an NCTC is undoubtedly an important operational necessity to preserve the country.

Opposition to the NCTC is illogical and even somewhat ridiculous to the point of absurdity. However, it is not yet clear whether these objections are merely uninformed criticism, or may have darker ulterior motives not expressed as yet, but waiting to emerge subsequently. Nevertheless, the divisive debate on such a vital issue provides yet another instance of the immoral political cynicism, which attempts to exploit every public concern for perceived electoral advantage.

The NCTC proposed as a model for India is based on the American system, which Mr Chidambaram had the opportunity to examine during his four-day visit to the US in September 2009. Much of the organisational and legislative infrastructure required to establish NCTC already exists in India within the MAC, which can be expanded and redesigned as required.

Internecine departmental rivalry amongst intelligence services regarding the sharing of information is a ground-level obstruction in India as also in other countries but if NCTC is to succeed what really requires to be firmly overcome is the prevalent mindset of reluctance towards constructive mutual cooperation.

The NCTC in the US was created in May 2003 in the aftermath of the attack on the WTC on September 11, 2001. In India, the trigger event was the terrorist attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008 by sea-borne terrorists from Pakistan. The attacks resulted in 164 Indian citizens killed and upwards of 308 injured. After the attack, the Maharashtra government instituted a committee of inquiry under Ram Pradhan, a former Union home secretary.

The report drew attention to the inter-agency lapses very similar to those experienced by the US during and after the 9/11 attacks. On his return from the US, Mr Chidambaram had recommended the establishment of an NCTC in India based on the US model. But it will be a non-functional lame duck right ab initio unless it functioned in tandem with a National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), a centralised databank pertaining to all aspects of known or suspected terrorist activity in India as well as worldwide.

Though Natgrid is the backbone system it has already run into major difficulties with many departments outside the home ministry flatly refusing to provide information that they consider confidential. How all this will ultimately play out remains to be seen, but one thing certain is that the security of the nation cannot be dragged into political games any longer.