Monday 28 September 2009

Nuclear Weapons: To Test or Not To Test? (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — At precisely the moment that U.S. President Barack Obama is returning to the road travelled by Bill Clinton – trying to "persuade" India that nuclear weapons would make the country less, rather than more, secure – top scientists within the country have stated publicly that India’s 1998 nuclear test was a dud, and that the declared yields were false.
The assertion is not surprising – it dates back to the day of the test – but what is surprising is that this important question remains unresolved 11 years after the event.

The majority view among India's nuclear scientists has always been that the 1998 nuclear test was unsuccessful. Only a single scientist and his superiors in the Prime Minister's Office believed then – and still do – that it was a "great success." Understandably, the Manmohan Singh government is reluctant to conduct a serious peer review, preferring instead to rely on the opinions of a few in-house scientists on a matter critical to national security.

The "success camp," led by that determined scientist, R. Chidambaram, insists that the “yield” – or destructive capacity – was satisfactory. It relies on statements published in journals by the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, which made the bomb, to prove its point.

Its primary source is the internal BARC newsletter, which has no peer review process, is circulated only within the BARC/Department of Atomic Energy family, and has been known to publish practically anything that carries any senior BARC functionary’s name on it. In the case of the 1998 explosion results, the "proof" is the printed view of Chidambaram himself, as then director of BARC.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

President Karzai Gets Hit by "Friendly Fire" (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — If the Taliban are gaining ground in Afghanistan, the reason lies less in their prowess than the daily errors made by their presumed foes – like NATO, an organization that clearly swears on the altar of “rule by committee.”

From think-tankers and journalists to retired diplomats and serving military personnel, there is an abundant pool of "expertise" in NATO that gets together to form policy. Within each subset the most extreme views prevail, as do such views in the same individual at different points in time.

In times past, those conducting operations in the field would get to decide on tactics rather than be “remote-controlled.” But these days, NATO's field administrators as well as managers need to conform to the dictates of superiors who come to Afghanistan for less than a day at a time and spend most of it in a conference room. In the process, they pull out dozens of individuals from their work, and then most simply gaze out the window while the drone of talk continues.

What is NATO’s objective in Afghanistan? Judging by their tactics, the inference is inescapable that it is primarily to look good to their own people rather than working out an effective response to the Taliban.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

More Troops not the Answer in Afghanistan (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — During the 1960s, the United States had a president who did more for the underclass than most of his predecessors put together. Lyndon Johnson introduced healthcare, civil rights and other measures designed to provide a level playing field for people of different classes and colors among the citizenry.

Instead of acclaim, what he got was unpopularity, forcing him to surrender office after just one term. The reason was an unpopular war, fought the wrong way – through the insertion of greater and greater numbers of troops.

U.S. soldiers marauding through their land converted several hundred thousand South Vietnamese into Viet Cong. As a recent editorial on Afghanistan in the New York Times put it, Americans too would be tempted to violence were a strange-looking bunch of aliens to invade and occupy Oregon.

Those who seek conventional military solutions to problems within other countries forget that the world is very different from what it was during the peak years of European colonialism. Then, mass killings were acceptable. But now, were NATO to repeat in Afghanistan the tactics of European colonial powers in South America, Africa and Asia, their own populations would halt such slaughter.

In the age of worldwide cable television, significant "collateral damage" is unacceptable. This is not a situation that would have endeared itself to Winston Churchill, the wartime British prime minister who once favored the bombing of undefended villages in the Middle East, and looked the other way when more than 6 million Indians died in 1944 of starvation in the single British-ruled province of Bengal.

Monday 7 September 2009

The Inconvenient Truth about Kashmir (

M.D. Nalapat

When floods hit the largely Buddhist enclave of Leh in Kashmir recently, the chief minister Omar Abdullah, representatives of state government and the Indian army were out providing relief. Absent, however, was the presence of Kashmiris from the rest of the state, notably the normally vocal Valley Kashmiris, in expressing support for their fellow co-habitants. They seemed unconcerned about the tragedy.
This went by unnoticed by the national and international media. But it was not lost on the majority of Kashmiris, confirming their views that those in charge of the state see themselves as being responsible only to one of the six major groups that form Kashmir: the Valley Sunnis, the Shia, the Buddhists, the Sikhs, the Hindus and the Gujjars. That single-pointed attention has kept wider Kashmiri interests unattended, but kept the Valley of Kashmir in the global spotlight.
Today, Kashmir is very much part of the cauldron that is "Af-Pak", the storm that is raging across the Pashtun belt in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As in Af-Pak, the base for the jihad that is being waged in Kashmir mainly comprises a small fringe of a single community – the Valley Wahabi Sunnis, who are 1 million of the total 6.7 million Kashmiri Muslim population.
In the case of Af-Pak, the indigenous Taliban fighters are almost entirely Pashtun, and from those human pools nurtured by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Saudi Secret Service during the 1980s to fight against the USSR. In the case of Kashmir, those involved in the current intifada are Sunnis - mostly Wahabis - from the Kashmir Valley who have financial and other links with the military in Pakistan and the numerous Wahabi religious trusts and foundations in Saudi Arabia that work at exporting their 300-year old faith across the world.