SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 2, No. 30, February 9, 2004
assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form
with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal
Political Deadlock to General Elections
Guest Writer: Jehan Perera
Media Director, National Peace Council of Sri Lanka
With President Chandrika Kumaratunga's decision to utilize
her presidential powers to dissolve Parliament on February
8, 2004, Sri Lanka will face its third general election
in less than four years. What is especially remarkable is
that the President reneged on her previous promises, including
a written promise to the Speaker of Parliament, that she
would not dissolve Parliament so long as the Government
continued to enjoy majority support.
To all appearances the present political crisis and general
election are a result of power play, and not the pursuit
of the best interests of the country. The present Government
had been in office for a little less than two years when
the President used her presidential powers to take over
the three key Ministries of Defence, Interior and Media.
For nearly two years she had stayed on the sidelines and
been ignored by the Government. On November 4, 2003, she
struck, citing national security interests to justify the
takeover that brought her back to the centre of the polity.
But her actions after the takeover failed to demonstrate
anything fundamentally different from those of the Government
Ministers she replaced. The Government was crippled and
its credibility eroded.
If public opinion polls and the views of business and religious
leaders and other civil society groups are any indicator,
this is not an election that the people want. Even the left
coalition allies of the President, consisting of the Communist
Party and the Trotskyite Lanka Sama Samaj Party (LSSP),
urged her not to go for elections. With no exception, all
of these groups urged the President and her arch rival,
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, to work together, if
only for a year, to get the country's systems of basic governance
in order. They recognised that, under the Constitution,
the President and Prime Minister enjoyed concurrent mandates,
both obtained from the people, and also constitutional power
that had to be shared for effective governance.
The United National Front (UNF) Government headed by Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe showed repeatedly that it
had the backing of a clear majority in Parliament. But it
failed to govern effectively after the President's take
over of the three Ministries. The political deadlock made
governance of the country a next-to-impossible prospect.
As a result, strikes in the Governmental sector dragged
on without a resolution, with new ones in the offing. Extremist
attacks on Christian places of worship have been taking
place with the police unwilling to prevent them and not
a single arrest and conviction so far, although more than
thirty churches were attacked last month alone. There was
much that the President and Government could have done together.
The independent Election Commission, established over two
years ago, is still not functioning, due to the President's
refusal to approve the nomination of the Constitutional
Council, an independent body that she herself was instrumental
in appointing. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE's)
proposal for an interim self-governing unit for the North
East, made on October 31, 2003, has met with no official
response from the Government, which refused to engage in
peace talks unless the Defence Ministry was restored to
it by the President.
In the past week, however, there seemed to be a narrowing
of the gap that separated the President and Prime Minister
on the issue of power sharing. The Prime Minister, who had
earlier been adamant about getting back the three ministries
taken over by the President, seemed to be relenting under
public and international pressure. The stock market, which
had fallen by about 30 percent since the President's take
over on November 4, 2003, registered a rise on information
that the committee of high officials appointed by the two
sides had reached agreement on the main issues. The President's
rationale in dissolving Parliament at this juncture is difficult
to understand. Either the President did not believe that
the Prime Minister's change of heart was genuine, or she
was finally pushed to take the decision to dissolve Parliament
by members of her party and those of her new alliance partner,
the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Both surmises have
some validity. Leaders of Government and the Opposition
have seldom cooperated with each other, even when the national
interest has been threatened. The President and Prime Minister
have not been part of those earlier periods of governance
when there was such cooperation. But the determining factor
would surely have been pressure from the JVP.
Whatever the overall result of the general election, the
JVP is guaranteed an increase in the number of their seats
in Parliament due to the electoral agreement they have reached
with the President's party, the much larger Sri Lanka Freedom
Party (SLFP). But the JVP had one major concern. This was
that the general elections should come prior to the provincial
elections. The provincial elections would have provided
both sides with a picture of their real strengths. It would
have given the SLFP an opportunity to back out of the alliance
if the results of the provincial polls were not positive
to the new United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA).
Second, the JVP did not wish to become too committed to
its partnership with the SLFP. They are mindful that previous
alliances between left parties and the SLFP have led to
the absorption of the small left parties by the mainstream
SLFP. The JVP did not wish their identity as a 'revolutionary
party' to be diluted with that of the SLFP in any long-term
campaign for the people's vote. For the JVP having a general
election soon after the formation of the UPFA was the main
consideration. They have had their way.
With its new alliance with the JVP, the SLFP can believe
that they too will do well at a general election. The new
alliance would be combining the votes of two parties that
contested separately at the last general election and together
scored more than the ruling party. On the other hand, victory
is not guaranteed for the UPFA. They are taking on a Government
that has two major achievements to its credit during its
two years in office. The first was bringing an end to the
civil war that had developed a momentum of its own, and
that seemed unstoppable, with powerful vested interests
at play. The restoration of conditions of relative peace,
despite all its shortcomings, is the greatest good that
the country enjoys. Except for a few diehard nationalists,
no one advocates a return to war to improve the situation
in the country.
The second achievement of the Government was to resuscitate
the collapsing economy and offer hope to the people that
rapid economic development with international assistance
was a real possibility. While the economic peace dividend
did not reach the majority of Sri Lanka's poor, there still
remained the hope that it would. Economic growth last year
exceeded five percent, which was a marked improvement from
the year 2001 when the Government took office, and the growth
rate was minus one percent. A handsome sum of USD 4.5 billion
had been earmarked by international donors for Sri Lanka
over the next three years, conditional only upon progress
in the peace process.
It is unlikely that the UPFA, with its vague economic policies
that seek to combine the SLFP's acceptance of open market
principles with the JVP's Marxist philosophy of self-reliance
and inward looking development, can inspire popular confidence.
This may also account for the strongly expressed desire
of people and civic groups for the President and Prime Minister
to work together for at least a year rather than go to the
It also creates the danger that the new alliance will resort
to narrow Sinhalese nationalist rhetoric in trying to convince
the voters to elect them. The President and her party used
this method with success at the Presidential election of
November 1999 and the General Election of December 2000.
Already, such a campaign appears to be underway, with SLFP
spokespersons saying that the President dissolved Parliament
to save the country from being divided and becoming a colony
of foreign powers.
However, an effort by the UPFA to utilise the apprehensions
of people regarding the peace process is likely to be a
double-edged sword. An election campaign that targets the
peace process for condemnation, and degenerates into racist
sloganeering, is certain to alienate the ethnic and religious
minorities who account for about 30 per cent of the population.
Already the new alliance is viewed with suspicion by the
Christian minority, with the JVP in particular suspected
of providing support to extremist elements that are attacking
and torching Christian churches. JVP affiliated organisations,
such as the National Bhikku Front, have put up expensive
posters throughout the country linking NGOs and Christians
to an anti-Buddhist conspiracy that 'threatens the unity
of the country'.
The most likely scenario, consequently, is a tightly contested
race in which neither the UNF nor the UPFA is able to form
a Government by itself. Both sides are likely to require
parliamentary support from outside their respective alliances
to form a viable Government. The largest party outside of
the two main blocs is certain to be the grouping of Tamil
parties of the Tamil National Alliance. They are expected
to do particularly strongly in the North East, as they will
have the full backing of the LTTE. There is no doubt that,
along with the JVP, the other great gainer out of these
elections will be the LTTE. The premature elections thus
come as a golden opportunity for the LTTE to gain in legitimacy
as an organisation that has the fullest backing of the elected
Tamil representative of the North East.
The LTTE's position with respect to the conflict between
the President and Prime Minister has been that it is prepared
to negotiate with whoever is able to form a stable Government.
In recent weeks, LTTE political leaders have been saying,
both publicly and privately, that they are prepared to negotiate
with President Chandrika Kumaratunga. These statements,
made in different forms in London, Kilinochchi and Colombo
by top LTTE leaders, constitute a shift in the stance of
the LTTE away from a policy of restricting their dealings
to the Government alone. After the President's party suffered
a defeat at the General Elections of 2001, the LTTE made
no secret of its antipathy to the President, an antipathy
that she reciprocated in full measure.
However, it now appears that the LTTE has seen the disadvantages
of limiting their negotiations to the Government headed
by the Prime Minister. Undoubtedly, it was this Government
that achieved the crucial breakthrough with them, which
led to the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in February
2002. This was a document that required great political
courage to sign and implement. The entry of LTTE cadres
into Government-controlled areas and the opening of the
A9 Highway to Jaffna were radical affirmations of trust
in the peace process, and of the willingness to take risks
But two years after the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement,
the LTTE has reasons for discontent. The LTTE's primary
justification for pulling out of the peace talks in April
2003 was the lack of implementation of promises made during
the six rounds of negotiations that took place between September
2002 and March 2003. The LTTE has felt acutely frustrated
by their inability to gain access to international funding
that would make them benefactors of the Tamil people. The
new institutions of governance that were agreed to be set
up for the interim period in the North East have yet to
be implemented. The political crisis that pitted the President
against the Government stalled any further possibility of
establishing those institutions on the ground. After the
general elections, the LTTE is likely to press the new Government
to deliver on these institutions.
It has been reported that India cautioned the President
against going in for a general election at this time. The
enhanced legitimacy such elections would confer on the LTTE
would make the Indian strategy of containing the LTTE's
international influence, especially on the Indian State
of Tamil Nadu, a more difficult one. The international community,
which has stopped supporting militant organisations following
the war against terrorism, would feel a greater empathy
for an organisation that has performed well at elections,
even if they are not quite free and fair. The fear of the
LTTE looms large in the minds of all Tamil politicians who
are aware of its policy of assassinating 'traitors' who
take a stand different from that of the LTTE and thereby
undermine its status as the 'sole representative' of the
In the event of a victory by the UPFA, the peace process
with the LTTE is likely to come under increasing strain.
Both the SLFP and JVP have been critics of the Norwegian-facilitated
peace process, with the JVP taking a much stronger negative
stand on the issue. Even peace talks with the LTTE are likely
to be difficult, as the SLFP and JVP have taken divergent
stands on the issue of self-determination for the Tamil
people in the North East. While the SLFP has accepted the
devolution of political power to the regions, the JVP's
position is that only administrative decentralisation is
permissible. On the other hand, the LTTE's own proposals
for an interim self-governing authority exceed that of a
normal federal system, making negotiations between the two
sides a daunting prospect.
The situation is not much brighter with respect to prospects
in the event of a victory for the UNF. Even if they score
a convincing victory, the UNF will have to contend with
the President's entrenched constitutional and legal powers,
backed, to all appearances, by a sympathetic Supreme Court.
There will be nothing that the UNF will be able to do to
prevent the President from arrogating to herself the right
to take over several Government Ministries, including the
critical one of Defence. The Supreme Court has, in fact,
ruled that the powers over defence are inherent in the Presidency.
Therefore, a UNF victory will only take the country back
to the same place it was at, prior to the dissolution of
The best hope for the country is that, after all the fighting
is done, and the two sides have battered each other into
stalemate, the two leaders realise that they cannot govern
without the support of the other. That is, if they live
to lead the country. The elections threaten to be violent,
and election campaigns offer much scope for political assassinations.
Civil society and the international community will need
to do their utmost to ensure that the elections are fair
and free of violence.
Dangerous and Unaccountable
Publisher, SAIR; President, Institute for Conflict Management
The very suspicion of the presence of 'weapons of mass destruction'
in Iraq plunged America into a premature war and increasingly
ruinous engagement in Iraq; yet, incontrovertible evidence
of proliferation by Pakistan only attracts an indulgent
'let bygones be bygones', and a reaffirmation of 'faith'
in General Pervez Musharraf's 'leadership'. Has the American
intelligence and South Asia policy community been 'embedded'
in Pakistan for far too long to have retained a sufficient
measure of objectivity? And could the succession of unwarranted
indulgences towards Pakistan compromise stability in South
Asia as well as America's own future security?
The past weeks' events in Pakistan will certainly go down
as one of the most consummate political charades in recent
history, and if they were not so dangerous, they would be
farcical: within weeks of the cover being blown off Pakistan's
nuclear proliferation activities in Libya (following similar
disclosures, first with regard to North Korea, and then
Iran; as well as unconfirmed reports of involvement in the
relocation of Iraq's missing 'nuclear material' from Syria
to Pakistan in October 2002), an 'investigation' was launched
and completed; the 'sole culprit', A.Q. Khan, the 'father'
of Pakistan's 'Islamic bomb', was identified, detained and
'interrogated'; he then appeared on national Television,
abjectly pleading with a 'stern' Musharraf, after which
he made a televised 'confession' of his wrongdoing, taking
the full blame and implicitly exonerating his military masters;
with fitting humility, he also 'apologised to the nation';
it would obviously be churlish, under the circumstances,
not to let 'bygones be bygones', and worse than churlish
to insist that investigations expose all the other culprits
in the proliferation conspiracy - including (heaven forbid!)
the country's present dictator; the Cabinet, consequently,
recommends full clemency for the 'national hero'; and Musharraf,
naturally bound by the collective will of the Cabinet, seals
the amnesty. So, we are to believe, the entire criminal
chapter of over a decade and a half of what CIA director
George Tenet euphemistically describes as 'nuclear profiteering'
by Pakistan, is closed.
All this is also immediately and unhesitatingly endorsed
by the US Administration, which reiterates its faith in
President Musharraf's 'stewardship' of his country. The
UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, also submissively echoes
the American position, sympathising with Musharraf for "the
very difficult situation that he has to deal with - he is
dealing with a national hero."
On the sidelines of the grand sweep of this drama, A.Q.
Khan had implicated Pervez Musharraf and three of his predecessor
army chiefs - Jehangir Karamat, Abdul Waheed Kakkar and
Mirza Aslam Beg - in the country's nuclear transgressions,
and is also believed to have taken out an 'insurance policy'
for himself by way of 'proof' that he sent out of the country
with his daughter, to be released to the world in case a
prosecution was launched against him.
In the meanwhile, Musharraf declares that his country "will
never roll back its nuclear assets", nor would he accept
any "independent investigation" by international agencies.
He announces the test firing of the 1,240 kilometre-range
Shaheen II missile 'within a month' to reiterate the country's
commitment to its strategic nuclear missile programme, and
simultaneously warns the national media against 'further
speculation' on the military's role in peddling nuclear
secrets, as such 'speculation' would be against the 'national
An 'anti-national' Press is not alone in its dissent from
the orchestrated spectacle. In Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei,
the head of the U.N. nuclear agency, warned that Khan's
activities were "the tip of an iceberg" in the international
nuclear black market. Former US Chief Weapons Inspector,
David Kay also declared, "I can think of no one who deserves
less to be pardoned."
It is useful to note here that Musharraf's strategy of response
to the continuous succession of exposures on nuclear proliferation
is identical to the strategy adopted with regard to Pakistan's
sponsorship of terrorism. First, complete denial; when this
becomes unsustainable, denial of state sponsorship or involvement,
and transfer of responsibility to non-state actors and institutions,
or 'renegades', with token 'action' against some of these;
eventually, where even this becomes unsustainable, some
visible action in which some of these actors are 'sacrificed'
to salvage his regime, with promises to the international
community that past activities would be 'permanently wound
down'. Core capacities, however, are never dismantled or
If, within this context, Khan must be 'sacrificed' to maintain
a minimally credible pretence that the Pakistani state and
Army were not directly 'involved' in nuclear proliferation,
so be it. In a few months, he will be restored to his 'normal'
life, as happened earlier with the two Pakistani nuclear
scientists (Sultan Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood and Chaudhri Abdul
Majeed of the Ummah Tameer-e-Nau) who were in contact
with Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, and were believed
to have been trying to help him develop a 'dirty bomb'.
This strategy has generally been referred to as maintaining
'minimal credible deniability' while engaging in a multiplicity
of illegal and perilous international adventures. Crucially,
there are two sides to the 'credible deniability' coin:
the pretence by Pakistan that it is innocent; and the acceptance
of this pretence by the 'international community' despite
overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Generally, America
and the West have ignored evidence of Pakistani involvement
in terrorism and proliferation, either because their interests
have not been threatened, or have sometimes been served,
by such activities; or, especially in the post-9/11 period,
because they feel that Pakistan's and Musharraf's 'stability'
would be threatened by any sudden or harsh sanctions, and
this is considered tactically unacceptable in the present
The fact is, Pakistan's role in nuclear proliferation (as
in its sponsorship of terrorism) has been an 'open secret'
for a long time. Since the late 1980s, Pakistan has been
'marketing' nuclear technologies with little effort at secrecy
- at one point through advertisements published in national
newspapers, as well as through printed brochures that were
widely circulated among potential clients by the AQ Khan
Research Laboratories at Kahuta, and a copy of which was
recently published by The New York Times. It is also
well known that Pakistan had developed and projected its
nuclear programme as an 'Islamic bomb' and had received
enormous financial support from a number of Islamic countries,
including Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia, on an implicit quid
pro quo agreement that would have involved sharing of
technologies with the 'Islamic world'. Pakistan's missiles-for-nuclear-technology
deal with North Korea is also well known, and these transfers
had been documented by intelligence agencies years before
9/11. Indeed, there is not a single security commentator
who would not be aware that virtually every single missile
'developed' by Pakistan was, in fact, nothing more than
a reassembled version of a North Korean 'knock down kit'.
At least some of these various proliferation activities
have demonstrably taken place under the Musharraf regime.
To pretend or believe that any or all of this could be done
without explicit state and military sanction is the most
arrant nonsense. Yet, all this was deliberately ignored
by America and by the West.
This naturally forces the disturbing questions: has America,
or have American agencies, in fact, been complicit in at
least some of these proliferation activities? And have successive
US Administrations deliberately misled the American people?
While the immediate and malevolent shadow of Pakistan's
activities has fallen within the region, particularly on
Afghanistan and India, it is the inescapable truth that
the 'nuclear dagger' is aimed irrevocably at the heart of
the world's 'sole superpower', and the leakage of these
technologies to rogue states and terrorist non-state actors
across the world constitutes the gravest threat to the US.
Peripheral players as well as recipients of the proliferating
technologies have been targeted with the full force of punitive
American and international sanctions, yet the primary proliferator
and central protagonist in the sponsorship of international
Islamist terrorism escapes unscathed, again and again, irrespective
of the enormity of its transgressions. Every US Administration
in the recent past has downplayed Pakistan's role in international
terrorism and nuclear proliferation, and the present Administration
is no exception.
America's 'strategy' for stabilizing Pakistan - indeed,
South Asia - appears to be based on a single premise: unqualified
support to Musharraf, with a combination of rewards and
pressures to urge him to restore control over the jehadi
elements in his country. This exclusive reliance on a single
individual is substantially based on Musharraf's deceptive
persona, his 'westernised' ease of attire and intercourse,
and his apparent servility under US pressure. Apart from
the dangers of operating without viable alternatives, such
an approach is also based on a poor understanding of the
man. Musharraf is, evidently, opportunist par excellence;
his present perceptions tie him closely to the most immediate
US interests. But the current 'global war' is a war of ideologies.
Musharraf's fundamental commitments, and the Islamic Republic
of Pakistan itself, are founded on an ideology in irreducible
conflict with that of America. To fail to recognize this
is to imperil all freedoms everywhere. To fail, equally,
to recognize, behind the veneer of westernisation, the sheer
absence of scruples and the ruthlessness of Musharraf's
character is to create the circumstances for inevitable
betrayal. This is the man who 'hijacked a country'; who
betrayed his own elected prime minister; who has subverted
democracy through a rigged national 'referendum' and a fraudulent
election in which fringe Islamist extremist political formations
were manoeuvred to the centre-stage of national electoral
politics; who planned and executed the Kargil misadventure,
which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of nuclear
confrontation; who has directly supported terrorism, not
only in India, but internationally, through the Al Qaeda-Taliban
combine and its affiliates - openly before 9/11, and covertly
and opportunistically since then; who led a campaign of
pillage and slaughter in 1988 to crush an uprising in Gilgit
in the Northern Areas of occupied Kashmir - a campaign that
earned him the title, 'butcher of Baltistan'. He is a man,
moreover, who constantly shifts stance, and who has blatantly
misled and lied to the international community again and
again, on matters of critical concern. To repose 'faith'
in such a man is to succumb to a dangerous selective blindness.
From the very moment of its creation, Pakistan has been
little more than an organized criminal enterprise masquerading
as a nation-state. For years now, I have been arguing that
Pakistan's nuclear capabilities will have to be shut down.
Countries that cannot control their nuclear establishment
and prevent illegal transfers of technology cannot escape
the ambit of international controls. Countries that actively
promote such illegal proliferation must draw upon themselves
the harshest of international sanctions and inspection regimes.
To fail in this course is to ignore the grave danger that
such rogue states constitute, not only to peace, but to
human survival itself.
Guest Writer: Dr. Thomas Marks
Adjunct Professor, US Joint Special Operations University,
Hurlburt Field, Florida; Political Risk and Personal Security
Nepal finds itself at a turning point in its counterinsurgency,
launched in earnest only with the November 2001 commitment
of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) to the fray. Two-plus years
have brought substantial progress in one sense, substantial
deterioration in another. The result is that a resolution
remains far off, even as the political situation continues
Politically, it would be difficult to imagine a more complex
situation. A three-cornered struggle has resulted in deepening
chaos and a widespread feeling of despair.
Ousted from power by the intercession of the King in October
2002, the major political parties have gradually committed
their time and energy to their present posture, determined
to provoke a confrontation with the Palace. Their own role
in creating the circumstances which led to the summary dismissal
plays little role in their reflections or calculations,
and their current course revolves around a 'stir' that daily
fills the streets with 'student demonstrations' equally
set on a confrontation with the authorities.
For their part, the security forces, after tolerating the
street action for some months, have apparently wearied of
it now that violence (principally damage to private property)
and anti-monarchy utterances (to include questioning the
'future' of the monarchy) have become central pillars of
the campaign. From an impressive reliance on crowd control
techniques that featured minimum repression, the police
have recently begun to apply the lathi (baton) with
Waiting in the wings, of course, is the RNA, the ultimate
guarantor of law and order. Thus far, it has merely observed
the situation but will undoubtedly intervene if the monarchy
is perceived as being directly threatened.
The threat of backing a 'republic' is seen by the political
parties as their trump card, with the use of the term a
surrogate for relegating the King to the status of non-player
in national politics, either as a constitutional monarch
or, through abolition of the institution altogether, as
a private citizen. The parties themselves, due to their
reliance on democratic centralism in their inner workings,
are profoundly undemocratic and have a conception of 'democracy'
that is but a facade for oligarchy - even claiming the right
of their central organs to direct Government actions once
a party is in power. Nevertheless, they have become increasingly
drawn into a campaign against 'regression,' by which they
mean the slide back into direct rule by the Palace.
Much that passes for political discussion in Kathmandu is,
consequently, speculation concerning the motives of the
monarch. His thoughts have recently been bared in a much-discussed
interview with TIME magazine, where he made clear that he
would not be a figurehead and would do all he could, in
the absence of leadership from the parties, to return the
country to a state where parliamentary elections can be
held. The parties distrust his motives, and this spills
out in public invective that is unlikely to bring compromise
any closer. For his part, the King holds his public consul
but is known privately to have been appalled at the personalities
he finds leading the country deeper into the morass.
That the King, as reported in the Nepali press, stepped
in only after no party proved capable of forming a Government
- or willing, in at least one case, to try - has been forgotten
as the blush has gone off what initially was a popular royal
naming of minority party figures to carry out administration.
The demand from the parties remains for 'new elections,'
which most sources feel cannot be fairly held without the
restoration of minimal order. That, though, is where the
King came in.
On the ground, the insurgency is at a stalemate of sorts,
neither able to go forward nor being knocked backwards,
except in local instances. To be sure, the security forces
have made dramatic strides, both in institutional and operational
terms. The RNA, which was essentially a force committed
to service as United Nations gendarmes, has become a more
cohesive, functioning body capable of power projection.
The Armed Police Force (APF), from its shaky beginning,
has quickly gelled into a reasonable facsimile of India's
Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Finally, the Civil
Police (CP), from a posture where they were little more
than (largely) unarmed sitting ducks have become more capable,
not only of survival, but of carrying out of their normal
duties in a situation of internal war.
A 'unified command' concept has begun to take hold, built
around the establishment of four RNA divisions - territorial
entities - that exercise overall command and control. These
answer directly to national headquarters and have deployed
within them the RNA brigades and various APF and CP units.
Re-equipping the entire RNA with 5.56 rifles (though the
US has taken the heat by supplying the M16A2, most weapons
are apparently the INSAS from India) and 5.56 light machineguns
is well underway, which has allowed the SLR to be made available
not only to the APF but some CP elements as well. The latter
is essential, as the onset of nationwide hostilities, which
came only with the November 2001 Maoist general offensive,
found two-thirds of the CP unarmed and the remainder handling
only the 1941, bolt-action Lee Enfield, given in India to
Situations vary in the divisional areas of operation (AO),
which run from west to central to east, with Kathmandu its
own command. Recent focus on the situation in the Eastern
Division, for instance, has seen substantial strides. In
addition to the normal efforts to dominate the ground by
establishing a grid and then engaging in coordinated, continuous
patrolling (with battalions and companies as the C2 elements),
preliminary efforts were made to stand up a local defence
capacity. These were stillborn when international pressure
by NGOs in Kathmandu resulted in orders to back off, but
the concept was both appropriate and implemented in a viable
Specifically, three instances of spontaneous local resistance
to the Maoists were quickly reinforced by provision of training
and some light arms (12-bores). Ex-RNA personnel were prominent
in the militia thus constituted, and each was linked to
a nearby RNA platoon that exercised C2 authority.
That such action should prove controversial is witness to
the polarization that has set in within the Kathmandu political
scene, exacerbated by the involvement of international organizations
determined to push 'conflict mediation' as opposed to stability
operations. From an initial position that sees the present
Government as illegitimate, it is but a logical step to
hold that employment of force by the security forces is
not only illegitimate but directed against insurgents who
have won for themselves a degree of legitimacy.
This view is not merely one of ideological posturing but
is built on growing concerns - voiced not only by NGOs but
by foreign missions - that lack of adequate C2 at the small
unit level is causing, amongst the populace, casualty figures
that in areas exceed those inflicted by the insurgents in
their much more focused - and savage - terror campaign.
A weak Government 'information management' campaign has
caused a confusing situation to spin out of control, with
the result that there are grounds for concern lest friendly
missions be manoeuvred into a position where continued provision
of aid and assistance is no longer possible.
What is at issue is the situation in the 50 per cent of
the country that has largely been given up to the insurgents
by the abandonment of a police presence and the inability
of the security forces to maintain more than short-term
presence. The insurgents - any numbers remain just 'best
guesses' - have steadily expanded from their initial strongholds
in the so-called 'Red Zone' of the Mid-Western hills, especially
the Kham Maggar areas along the Rukkum-Rolpa borders (both
districts of some 200,000-plus people). They now have a
presence nationwide, including urban centres, and make use
of the normal array of 'people's war' techniques.
Their position in villages is gained through a combination
of persuasion and terror, with local circumstances throwing
up willing manpower, particularly among the rootless young
(long identified in all studies as a future source of trouble,
if not incorporated into a more inclusive 'opportunity structure,'
which Nepal, as an economic appendage of India, has been
unable to provide). Most of the affected populace, as peasants
(statistically 80 per cent of the whole), can make its peace
with whatever force holds sway in an area. It is the 10
per cent (nationally) of the population that is rural gentry
who are the targets of Maoist action and terror, and who
have fled in increasing numbers (joined, also in rising
numbers, by members of the peasantry who see continued presence
in the hills as dangerous on all counts). Misguided security
force repression often targets those who are identified
as having assisted the Maoists, but such assistance, widespread
though it is, stems principally from simply rendering unto
Caesar he who in any area is Caesar.
The magnitude of the problem of security force indiscipline
remains highly controversial, with the NGOs claiming it
is rampant, while others are more impressed with the strides
made rather than the errors committed. C2 remains a challenge
of significant dimensions in an AO so topographically rugged
and diverse. The country is divided into 3,913 villages,
legally incorporated as Village Development Committees,
when even South Vietnam had about 2,500. Hence, each hill
valley (speaking of the main zones of conflict) becomes
an isolated war, with the burden placed on a young, largely
untested, junior leadership. Though security forces deny
the worst charges, it is clear that the 'learning curve'
experienced by all other nations forced into counterinsurgency
will be much more difficult in a Nepal existing in an international
That any response by the state must be multifaceted, to
include efforts at negotiation, is a truism that founders
against the inner workings of the 'people's war'. To wit,
no card game can be played when one side is using a marked
deck. Interviews with prisoners, including both brigade
and battalion level cadres, reveals a Communist Party of
Nepal - Maoist (CPN-M) plan, briefed to key personnel in
advance, to use the most recent rounds of several talks
(which collapsed on August 27, 2003) not for negotiation
but for tactical advantage. Conflict mediation, though it
does incorporate an array of 'confidence building' steps,
has yet to grapple the reality of a strategy that good-faith
efforts at conflict resolution as an opportunity for consolidation
of tactical advantages.
That the Maoists have infiltrated the present 'stir' by
the political parties is beyond question, though hotly denied
by them. The real issue is the extent of such penetration.
Thus far, the united front campaign has not been as robust
as one would expect, but in this, too, the Maoists have
been completely logical. Prisoners disclose that the party's
focus remains on armed action, and resource and manpower
mobilization. Dominated areas are being turned into generators
of combat power, particularly through forced draft of the
young. "We will turn the schools into barracks, arm the
young," observed one brigade-level cadre. "This is what
Where the campaign to ape Mao has recently faltered is in
its transition from 'hill tribe revolt' to ideologically
driven insurgency. Cadres remain motivated far more by opposition
than commitment to the Maoist dogma of the upper leadership
(dominated by the 7-8 members of the Standing Committee
of the Politburo); combatants even more so. It is the latter
who have increasingly begun to question precisely what they
have joined, and have thus been surrendering at a higher
rate than previously. Particularly disturbing to some is
the apparently random nature of terror inflicted, with the
settlement of local scores emerging as a driver in the quest
to eliminate 'spies.' Terror actions are carried out by
sections (i.e. squads) and platoons that answer directly
to the district-level cadres, with the main force battalions
largely unaffected; but knowledge of savagery in the villages
has begun to become more widespread within the movement,
and this has had an impact on some.
Such local killing highlights a key analytical point: just
how much control does the leadership exercise over the movement?
Indicators are that the struggle continues to assert party
discipline, but that the same challenges in C2 faced by
the security forces are salient with the CPN(M). What is
of most concern, then, is that the lack of adequate state
presence in local areas cedes authority to the insurgent
counter-state, as implemented by its minimally controlled
cadres. These have made the use of violence in local affairs
routine and pervasive, a reality few sources lay at the
feet of the old-regime, prior to the declaration of people's
Hence, a turning point has been reached. On the one hand,
the actual insurgency has reached the limits of its organizational
capacity within the environment created by security force
responses. This, however, is not altogether good news, because
the dynamic of violent mobilization has taken root and will
be difficult to eliminate, particularly given the commitment
of some international forces to the prevention of stability
operations, especially those which have a local defence
component. Greater discipline within the security forces
and a Government possessing greater legitimacy would go
a long ways in addressing the conundrum. Yet this returns
analysis to our beginning: In the absence of commitment,
by the political parties, to a negotiated, ordered restoration
of democracy, with security systematically restored to areas,
there can be little save the present drift.
Major Conflicts in South Asia
- 8 , 2004
data compiled from English language media sources.
High Court orders deportation of Abu Salem to India: The
Portugal High court has ordered the deportation of underworld
don Abu Salem, a key accused in the 1993-Mumbai serial bomb
blasts, to India. Official sources said that the Portuguese
High Court had pronounced the order on February 3, 2004, and
it had since been conveyed to the Central Bureau of Investigation
(CBI) in India. Salem and his accomplice Monica Bedi have
already been handed jail terms by Portuguese courts for entering
the country on forged documents. Salem was sentenced to four-and-a-half
years' imprisonment on three counts - entering Portugal on
forged documents, causing injury to a policeman performing
his duty and perjury. The two were arrested in the capital
Lisbon on September 18, 2002. Central
Chronicle, February 6, 2004.
Terrorist infrastructure still active in Pakistan, says
Army Chief General N C Vij: Speaking in Kolkata on February
4, 2004, the Indian Army Chief General N.C. Vij expressed
concern over the continuing presence of the terrorist infrastructure
in Pakistan. The General said that even though India's peace
overtures were on, Pakistan had not yet done anything to demolish
the terrorist infrastructure. "Terrorists are still active
in Pakistan and are communicating with other insurgent groups
in Jammu and Kashmir. Our wireless intercepts show that militant
groups are constantly communicating and chatting with each
other across the border," he added. The General also said
that though infiltration was down in Jammu and Kashmir as
"it is always so during the winter months, it is likely to
see a spurt during the summer, especially during May and June."
Excelsior, February 5, 2004.
pardons nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan: : President
Pervez Musharraf has accepted the mercy petition of Dr. Abdul
Qadeer Khan, founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme,
subsequent to the latter's admission of nuclear technology proliferation.
"The hero admitted his guilt about proliferation. I have tried
to shield him but one has to balance between shielding the hero
and the country. Shielding a hero should not damage Pakistan.
There is a very fine line between the two," Musharraf said at
a news conference in Islamabad on February 5, 2004. The President,
while stating that Dr Khan has finally accepted the guilt and
mistakes, added that no coercion was employed on anybody who faced
investigations, because there was documentary evidence available
to show their involvement. Earlier, on February 4, Khan made a
mercy petition to the President after admitting he had proliferated
nuclear technology. After his meeting with President Musharraf,
Dr. Khan read out a statement on Pakistan Television in which
he offered his "deepest regrets" and "unqualified apology" to
the nation for involvement in acts of proliferation. Dr. Khan
also said that there was "never ever any kind of authorisation
for these activities by any government official". Jang,
February 6, 2004; Daily
Times, February 5, 2004.
dissolves Parliament: President Chandrika Kumaratunga, involved
in a power struggle with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,
issued orders for the dissolution of the 225-member Parliament
on February 7, 2004, paving the way for fresh general elections,
to be held on April 2. The date for the new Parliament has been
fixed as April 22, and nominations for elections will be received
between February 17 and 24. Meanwhile, the Premier cancelled his
scheduled official visit to Thailand following the dissolution.
"I can't go to Thailand as a caretaker prime minister," he is
reported to have said. The
Hindu, February 8, 2004.
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