Cyber-Security Requires Urgent Upgrades

In the past three years, critical infrastructure the world over—from transportation systems,  power production facilities, communications equipment, along with commercial and military assets have come under unprecedented cyber-attacks from increasingly sophisticated elements.  In 2010 satellites controlled by India’s Space Research Organization (ISRO), large scale power projects in Gujarat, offshore oil platforms, and an Army command operations center in Assam were all taken offline as a direct result of cyber-attacks.

Given increasing evidence that many hacks against India are emanating from units within the Chinese MSS, who have been known to target American defense and IP assets, these revelations should be of equal concern to the United States.  India has attempted to create a nodal agency to set up an IT defense infrastructure similar to the US-Computer Emergency Readiness Team, but lacks expertise in implementing a management ecosystem to deal with modern cyber-warfare, as well as suitable manpower possessing the specific skillsets and experience to deal with military grade cyber-attacks.

The United States and its strategic defense partners including Great Britain and Israel however have much greater depth in implementing  critical control protocols, crisis management infrastructure, and proactive monitoring systems at civilian and military levels.  The Department of Homeland Security signed a memorandum of understanding with India last year to promote closer cooperation and timely exchange of information regarding cyber-warfare threats, however there has been little by way of follow up.

India has been on an acquisition spree of late to improve its strategic defense assets, and there is tremendous opportunity at the government-to-government level and for foreign civilian suppliers of military and IT security technology.  Both strategic and financial incentives indicate that the United States and its partners should urgently initiate a meeting between USCYBERCOM and the Indian National Security Council to facilitate a credible cyber-warfare deterrent and address mutual electronic security threats in the region.

Santorum’s Rise: the Republicans’ Fall

Statistics from the recent Iowa GOP caucus revealed Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum to be in the lead, with a disparity of a mere eight votes separating the first and second place candidates. But statistics are but numbers and do not reveal the true victor of the GOP contenders’ cage-fight debates. The true GOP victor is not the newly ‘reborn’ Rick Santorum; it is not former President Bill Clinton’s congressional adversary, Newt Gingrich; it is not the neo-John Winthrop of contemporary Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, either.

The true victor? Obama. Indeed, the view from the White House looks electorally fortuitous. Despite a low approval rating surfing around 42% (, Obama may have the upper-hand in the 2012 presidential elections as the beneficiary of a split right-wing vote. Two decades ago, when the senior George W. Bush attempted his reelection as president, Ross Perot’s conservative independent candidacy divided the right-wing vote, subsequently allowing Democratic Bill Clinton to break the successful conservative legacy created by Ronald Reagan. Even with talks of the hitherto declining and ‘forgetful’ Rick Perry running as an independent candidate, proclaiming a literally divided vote as in 1992 seems far-stretched. More likely, however, may be an out-of-touch, overly radical Republican candidate as a whole.

But how? For one, many analysts and individuals like to focus in on the main ‘anchors’ of the GOP presidential contenders, namely Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich – the already well established and usually well (poll-wise) performing candidates. But the Iowa caucus has proven one significant plus for Obama: the GOP’s nomination is still up for grabs, an impetus for further competition. Rick Santorum was relatively a nobody, trailing behind the main anchors of the GOP with poll ratings not even in the double digits. For him to come second, and by a paltry eight votes too, shows that even for the underdogs, the coveted Republican nomination is up for grabs; the ‘anchors’ of the GOP may not individually hold the political muscle they are thought to have.

Thus far, the competition has unleashed devastating effects for many of the candidates, and as one candidate after another gets slammed, the others recoup to reclaim their shot. Newt Gingrich’s brief rise was followed by negative ad campaigns and questioning over past consulting work. Herman Cain’s lead over even Romney was followed by a crippling affair scandal (although Cain has since then suspended his bid). With each case, former supporters of one candidate swing over with little hesitation, rousing up competitors’ optimism. This newfound determination and hope adds fire to an already hot GOP contest. Santorum’s near-victory in Iowa surged nearly two million dollars in fundraising in two days (, indicating that there is newfound trust and belief behind the neophyte senator.
Ultimately, no matter how much rhetoric comes to pass in support of Santorum, his bid is still up in the air; the Republican Party has tended to favor its more experienced comrades in the past, and Santorum’s two million dollars is petty-change compared to Romney’s $32.2 million (ABCnews.go). But Santorum’s new stardom will bring about even more negative inter-GOP rhetoric for the nomination, it will bring out or create more scandals, and, more importantly on the long run, it will push the candidates further right to woo their party for the nomination.

On the faithful day when the smoke clears for a clear GOP presidential candidate, it may be too late to for the Republicans to center up and get the American people’s moderate vote.
Indeed, score one, Obama.

Stand by democracy in Pakistan, Mrs. Clinton!

If the U.S. is floundering in a region hosting some of the world’s most dangerous religious extremists, a leading cause is the tribe of “South-Asia experts” nestling comfortably in think tanks, government agencies, and university departments across the U.S. Almost all of them have been apologists for the Pakistan army, as even a cursory reading of their published works during the previous three decades would testify. For years, these analysts and scholars have fed off the disinformation abundant in the ISI trough. Even after 9/11, when the BJP-led government then ruling New Delhi offered Washington an alliance against Wahabbi terror, these “experts” ensured that the offer got spurned, and that once again, the Pakistan army was entrusted with the job of guarding the chicken coop. Unfortunately for U.S. interests, the Clintons’ share with the Bushes’ and the Cheneys’  enormous faith in the “South-Asia” experts who evolved from the crucible of the Cold War, when India leant towards the USSR while the Pakistan army was an alliance partner, albeit on its own terms.

 What those in charge of the formulation of policy towards Pakistan have consistently failed to factor in is the contradiction between a stable Pakistan and a strong military.”South-Asia” experts in the U.S. have been voluble in their claim that it is the military that is imparting stability to Pakistan, and have been dismissive of the few who have pointed out that the reverse is the case. That instability in Pakistan is caused by the bloated power of the military, principally the army, which controls domestic and foreign policy within Pakistan to the same degree as the junta in Myanmar did before the last election.

It is the irredentist adventurism of the Pakistan military and its nurturing of terrorism as a strategy of war that has combined with its Wahabbi outlook and its huge demands on the economy to steadily bring Pakistan to the edge of collapse. Although the “experts” favored by successive U.S. administrations may not be aware of this, the reality is that the Pakistan army is involved in a host of criminal activities, including the transport and refining of narcotics, counterfeiting of currency, and the training of extremist groups. Sadly, all this has been facilitated by the U.S. policy of (effectively) unconditional support for the Pakistan army.

 This is not the occasion to recite a litany of the policy errors made by the Clinton administration in South Asia, except to point out to a grievous error of judgment made by the Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2009, when she secretly joined hands with the Chief of Army Staff Parvez Ashfaq Kayani in forcing the Zardari-Gilani civilian government in Pakistan to reinstate the dismissed Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Choudhury. At that time, this columnist had warned that this move would neuter the efforts of the Zardari-Gilani duo to establish civilian supremacy over the military. And unless this is done, there is zero prospect of a “stable” Pakistan. The military is the wild card in the pack that has ceaselessly fomented a jihadist mentality within Pakistan society, and has created conditions that have led to contempt for democracy within the establishment in that country.

 Secretary of State Clinton has not hidden her antipathy for the President of Pakistan, nor her backing of the Chief of Army Staff.

Perhaps the “South-Asia experts” she relies on for guidance have not told her that General Kayani comes from a fundamentalist background: one that is almost completely Wahabbi. Or that throughout his career he has been a votary of the Zia Doctrine of the unity of jihadis with the Pakistan army. In contrast, while President Zardari shares with Bill Clinton a propensity for making overtures towards seductive females, he comes from a Sufi background, one where there is zero space for religious extremism. Indeed, the ethos of the Zardari family is even more moderate than that of the Bhuttos, whose apparent lack of fundamentalist beliefs cloaks a vacuum in religious attitude that was filled by a pseudo-western lifestyle. The Zardaris are religious, but in the Sufi rather than the Tablighi tradition favored by Kayani

This being the case, Asif Ali Zardari has from the start shown his willingness to take on the Pakistan military and cleanse it of extremists and their sympathizers. Instead of assisting him in this task, the Obama administration drove a dagger into its heart by conniving at the re-instatement of Iftikhar Choudhury as Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) in 2009. While there has been a much effusive comment about the “corruption-fighting” credentials of the CJP, what the U.S. “South-Asia experts” have failed to mention is the fact that Choudhury has not a word to say against an institution that is among the most corrupt in South Asia, which is the Pakistan army. The generals, as also lower-level staff, wallow in graft, to be met by a Nelson’s eye from the Chief Justice, who is equally indulgent towards Mian Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League, whose family leapfrogged from poverty to plenty within a generation by use of methods that defy characterization as ethical or legal. The U.S.-facilitated re-instatement of Choudhury has turned out to be a disaster for democracy in Pakistan, because of the CJP’s obsession with ensuring the dismissal of the elected PPP-led civilian government in Pakistan. Once Kayani got his man in as Chief Justice, and forced through an extension to his tenure as COAS (again with help from Washington), he became even more open in implementing the policy that has been his signature tune since the time he took over as chief of the army.

 This is to do to NATO in Afghanistan what the Pakistan army did to the USSR during the 1980s, ensure defeat. It is no secret that China has entered the Great Game as a major player, or that Beijing is adopting the same strategy in Afghanistan that the U.S. followed two decades ago, which is to use the Pakistan army to ensure the defeat of rival militaries active in the Afghan theater. In 1998, this columnist first mentioned that China was more influential among the senior levels of the Pakistan military than the U.S. This and pointing out the Punjabi domination of the army earned him an effort from Pervez Musharraf to block him from writing in the Times of India. The Pakistan strongman complained to the former Times of India Editorial Director Dileep Padgaonkar about the unflattering comments (though accurate) being made about the Pakistan army and asked why “such writing was being tolerated by the newspaper”. Today, the most recent Kayani visit to Beijing, and his long meetings with Xi Jinping, Wen Jiabao, and other top Communist Party leaders have made clear that Beijing supports the brass in Pakistan in its struggle with the civilian establishment. After all, it is the Pakistan army that is expected to ensure that NATO leave Afghanistan in disgrace by 2014.

 This is the precise reason why President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton need to avoid repeating their 2009 mistake (of backing Kayani over Zardari), and instead support the civilian establishment in Pakistan. If President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani are given backing from the U.S. and the rest of NATO, they can resume the task that was aborted in 2009, which is to de-radicalize the Pakistan army and make it a professional force that would battle terror groups rather than nourish them.

Pakistan’s internal turmoil

Despairing at the role played by the Pakistan army in meddling in the country’s politics and governance in the context of the ‘memogate’ scandal, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called the army a ‘state within a state’. A few days later he termed the army Chief and DG ISI’s replies sent to the Supreme Court unconstitutional and dismissed Lt Gen Khalid Naeem Lodhi (Retd), the Defence Secretary. The army retaliated and Pakistan is again in full blown political and constitutional crisis – even as the internal security situation continues to deteriorate.

The history of civil-military relations in Pakistan is not very encouraging. The military jackboot has ridden roughshod over Pakistan’s polity for most of the country’s history since its independence. While Generals Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia ul Haq and Musharraf ruled directly as Presidents or Chief Martial Law Administrators, the other army chiefs achieved perfection in the fine art of backseat driving. The army repeatedly took over the reins of administration under the guise of the ‘doctrine of necessity’ and, in complete disregard of international norms of jurisprudence, Pakistan’s Supreme Court merrily played along.

The army ensured that Pakistan’s fledgling democracy was never allowed to flourish. The roots of authoritarianism in Pakistan can be traced back to Ayub Khan who promoted the idea of ‘guided’ or ‘controlled’ democracy. The concept of the ‘Troika’ soon emerged as a power sharing arrangement between the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). The ‘political militarism’ of the Pakistan army imposed structural constraints on the institutionalisation of democratic norms in the civil society.

Some key national policies have always been dictated by the army. Only the army can determine Pakistan’s national security threats and challenges and decide how to deal with them. Pakistan’s policy on Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir is guided by the army and the rapprochement process with India cannot proceed without its concurrence. The army controls Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme. The civilian government has no role to play in deciding the doctrine, force structures, targeting policies and command and control. The army Chief controls the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and decides the annual defence expenditure.

The politico-military standoff within Pakistan following the ‘memogate’ scandal threatens the continuation in office of the weak civilian government. To cap it all, the economy is in a serious mess – the funds are low, the debts are high, exports have dwindled to a trickle and the rupee has fallen to all time low of 90 rupees to a dollar. Pakistan has become a rentier state that is dependent on U.S. largesse to meet its obligations for the repayment of its burgeoning debt.

The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Pakistan is headed towards a dangerous denouement.  The likelihood of a military coup is being openly discussed again despite Kayani’s unequivocal denial of any such plans. Pakistan cannot survive as a coherent nation state unless the army gives up its agenda of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan, attempting to destabilise India through its nefarious proxy war and stopping its meddling in politics. The army must pull itself up by the bootstraps and substantively enhance its capacity to conduct effective counter-insurgency operations.

The Pakistan army has let down Pakistan and must make amends. In the national interest, the army must give up being a state within a state and accept civilian control, even if it does so with bad grace.

Turning Up The Heat

In 2010 India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled the Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission with the aim of raising India’s solar power output from 170 megawatts to 20,000MW by 2022. While the project will be a major initiative to help safeguard India’s energy security and international climate commitments, the Solar Mission has been set up to help formulate policy and logistical conditions which will enable the streamlining of renewable technology penetration in India at both the state and local levels.  To this end, the government has mandated that photovoltaic cells and modules must be sourced domestically, and that at least 30% of advanced power systems be made by domestic manufacturers.

This caveat has been received with some disfavor by the present American administration.  In the 1960s and 1970s during the heyday of the state protection Raj India missed out on the global boom in semiconductor manufacturing, which reaped vast rewards for Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea as engines to building a high-skilled domestic manufacturing base.  Yet with forward five year GDP growth forecasted at over 6% per annum, and a national electricity deficit of over 10% of daily demand, there will be vast opportunities for both domestic and foreign solar module makers over the next ten years for projects both covered and not covered by the mission.  India’s latest budget has also encouraged foreign solar companies by lowering customs duty on solar panels by 5% and exempting excise duty on solar photovoltaic panels.

India has available sunlight capacity of over 300 days per year, a significant geographical base for technological deployment, the world’s largest consumer base and one of the world’s largest aggregate growth rates for the perceivable future.  State governments in Gujarat, Karnataka, and Rajasthan are already planning deployment of new energy resources with a mix of conventional and renewable projects in mind, with developers free to source material and technology from wherever they choose.  With prices of photovoltaic panels falling globally, American technology providers should look to India to soak up excess capacity.