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Decline of Anti-Modi Protests

Anti-ModiIndian Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to make waves in world capitals with his charm offensive. In his recent and historic visit to Israel, the first by an Indian Prime Minister, he was given an unprecedented welcome.  Israel has officially designated him as a world leader and accorded appropriate diplomatic protocol. He has been treated on par with the United States President and the Pope. This is a great honor for India and to PM Modi. All these indicate the slow but sure rise of Modi on the world scene.

The rise of India in the eyes of the world is something every Indian should be proud of. But many have not forgotten that India and Indian leaders were never considered to ever significantly impact global affairs. PM Modi, in particular, only attracted scorn and street protests during state visits. He was and continues to be hounded by established global media houses with their acerbic op-eds.

But the recent state visits of PM Modi – particularly to meet President Trump and then to Israel have been remarkable for a different reason. Unlike his previous visits to UK or the US, this time around, there were only symbolic protests in Washington DC and none in Israel. The almost total absence of street protest seems too obvious to ignore. Even the Arab countries did not seem to mind his visit to Israel.

The growing popularity of Modi as a world leader is only partially responsible for the dwindling protests. The sheer number of people at his venues to meet him have been legendary – the Madison Square Garden event is still fresh in memory. The overwhelming support he is able to generate at every venue and the credibility it has spawned, seems to have had an impact on the anti-Modi protesters. But as mentioned, that is only part of the reasons. It is worthwhile to examine some of the other key reasons that have led to a decline in the protest against Modi.

India is an economic power house today. Many nations including the US and the European Union are keen to foster trade and economic ties with India like never before. The global economic scene is at best dismal. China is leading the large economies in one of the darkest recessions the world is likely to witness. The Arab nations, with oil prices tanking to lowest levels in recent memory, are not far behind in riding the misery train to recession. In this scenario, India chugging along at 7% GDP growth rate is a sure savior and the world seems to be eager ally with India.

The Trump administration in the US is surely breaking away from the past and redefining international relations and is determined to create new diplomatic and trade alliances with friends and allies alike. The bedrock of the relationships is unadulterated economic and trade benefits for the US. President Trump is sincere in bringing home jobs for his people. In that context, India is seen as a unique player that could help re-ignite the US economy. It is fully plausible that for its purely selfish reasons the American administration has put a tight leash on the deep state and its notorious non-governmental organizations or NGOs that have been fronts for their agencies to create trouble for recalcitrant world leaders.

Pakistan based agencies that have been central to instigating and funding terror activities as well as protest against Modi have been effectively corralled. It is well known that Pakistani agencies use hawala transactions to move funds for their sinister operations against India. Like Modi’s killer media strategy, the Indian intelligence agencies and diplomatic establishment deserve full credit for quietly working behind the scenes to identify and track these activities. India is reported to developed a comprehensive financial crimes database using state-of-art computer technologies like big data – similar to the one that the US has in place. Any illegal financial / hawala transaction now runs the risk of being viewed as a potential terror funding transaction and could be shared worldwide. Even local politicians using hawala transactions will now be on their radar.

The demonetization in December of last year has had a tremendous impact on hawala transactions that fueled these protests. Not only has this killed the domestic hawala industry, but also provided sophisticated tracking of these transactions originating from key financial centers like Dubai and Singapore.  Unfortunately, the Indian media, in their eagerness to shame Modi, seem to have missed the real story. Instead, they are barking up the wrong tree, trying hard to prove why the demonetization was a big disaster and economic blow to India.

Further the sharing of this database with the US and other Western powers means that a hawala transaction originating in Pakistan or Dubai with recipients in India or the US may automatically invite the simultaneous scrutiny of several intelligence agencies across the world.  Data mining technologies now help agencies to locate problem zones and offending outlets in advance. This has been a big deterrent to hawala operations and the funding for protests is one important collateral damage.

The increasing terror strikes in Europe, specially the UK, has also in a sense been a blessing since these countries are now eager to co-operate with India.

In the last two years India has successfully stitched up good diplomatic relations with Middle east and Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and UAE. The new understanding provides for combating terrorism, regular sharing of intelligence and agreements to extradite prisoners and criminals who have specifically violated foreign exchange regulations. This diplomatic offensive has also brought down the funding for street protests elsewhere in the world.

Further, the political situation in the Middle East is fluid and the emergence of severe tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran has forced a change in their focus. This is evidenced by lack of even symbolic protests from the Arab world to Modi’s historic visit to Israel. With years of tanking oil prices, surplus petro-dollars seem to have vanished. This has greatly impacted the nefarious activities originating from Pakistan.

The anti-Modi protests have been orchestrated by several forces. For now, they seem to be at a disadvantage and are hence lying low. But the acerbic op-eds and distorted reporting by global media houses and their Indian cousins will continue as business as usual. On its part, India has to be vigilant and not let its guard down. There are vital lessons to be learnt in weaving together a diplomatic canvas, aided by technology, to combat illegal terror funding. Sometimes, the collateral benefits are the drying up of street protests against an emerging world leader.

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Posted by on July 6, 2017 in India, Modi, Pakistan, Terrorism

 

India’s Surgical Strike – Calling Pakistan’s nuclear bluff

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A lot has been written about the surgical strike carried out by the Indian army deep inside Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) on September 29th. Media reports have indicated that India is likely to share more details of this daring operation. But first things first. India needs to be congratulated on the planning, flawless execution, post-strike information and media management of a surgical strike that changed everything about India forever. It was a retribution for the attack on the Indian Army Brigade Headquarters at Uri in which 19 soldiers were killed. It was a punishment that a resurgent India handed out that Pakistan will not forget for a long time to come. Experts believe the strikes are only a preface to more such operations that India will impose on Pakistan.

Concern has been raised in the media about Pakistani response. There are justified apprehensions about possible tactical nuclear strikes. While nothing can be taken for granted, there are reasonable grounds to believe that a possible retaliatory nuclear strike would have been factored into India’s strategic calculations. India’s readiness to respond would be a given.

How Pakistan reacts, and suffers the consequences of its response will be seen in the coming days. For now, they clearly seem to have been severely whipped. It has also left the door wide open for future cross border strikes by India.

A central piece to this episode is the message it has delivered. The optics of the strike itself have unambiguously broadcast India’s larger strategic intent to the world – Pakistan in particular and through it, China.

Some analysts have expressed the view that India has turned a new leaf only after the dastardly attack in Uri. A closer observation of available pointers paints a different picture. In fact, the writings were on the wall soon after Prime Minister Modi took office. Many may not even recall that Modi’s first visit outside Delhi in June 2014 was to the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. He also spent Diwali with the Indian troops in the rarefied heights of Siachen Glacier.

Modi’s top priority was to focus on India’s military strengths and vulnerabilities that play a pivotal role in his grand vision to transform India, particularly the economic transformation. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he became painfully aware that any such vision would be susceptible to terror campaigns from across the border.

It was no surprise then that Modi upped defense spending making India the world’s largest defense buyer. The massive arms purchases have yielded important diplomatic dividends – a huge leverage with major powers that came in handy in pursuing India’s regional and global strategic agenda. The recent US smack down of Pakistan, for voicing a nuclear threat against India was no accident. It was a well-deserved end result of two and a half years of dogged diplomacy.

In retrospect, the twin focus – building military competence and refurbishing diplomatic ties with key nations and international institutions – was a deeply thought out strategy that became a keystone to Modi’s pet initiatives.

Many only see Modi’s focus on rapid economic growth and miss the underlying twin focus. But a sufficient and necessary condition for India’s economic transformation is military might and relief from cross border terror.

While the painstaking preparations were afoot over two and a half years, the killing of Indian soldiers on Myanmar border in the east created an opportunity for India to test its new doctrine. The much acclaimed ‘defensive offense’ mandated a new normal involving hot pursuits and strikes on foreign soil. But Pakistan failed to see the writing on the wall and continued to live in a la-la land of bogus nuclear deterrence. They even mocked India retorting that “Pakistan was no Myanmar”.

The Uri attack provided a perfect opportunity for India to execute an already fine-tuned and tested doctrine on its western front. It was ripe and ready for whipping Pakistan and calling its nuclear bluff. However, it has to be mentioned that the Uri brigade camp had shown surprising incompetence in allowing the attack – given that post-Pathankot, there was sufficient intelligence to up the vigil.

On another front, India’s self-imposed taboo on mentioning Balochistan, POK, Gilgit, Pashtun etc. together with the lobby of peaceniks, Aman ki Asha types, et al had succeeded in holding back the country. But Modi’s Independence Day speech on August 15th this year actually broke this shackle. It succeeded in opening the flood gates of discontent in the local population in those areas, encouraging them to rise against an oppressive state. It has provided India a new set of levers against Pakistan.

The optics of the surgical strike referred to earlier, as well as the Independence Day speech, have helped launch the country into a new international orbit. This molting of India has provided three key visuals for Pakistan, China and the West, in that order.

First, India has called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff. Any future terror attacks on the country will invite retribution that will impose high costs on Pakistan. However, there is no guarantee that Pakistan will cease and desist its cross border terror. But there is no doubt that there will be a befitting retaliatory strike deep inside its territory.

Secondly, it had a powerful message for China. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) runs through territory over which India has legitimate claim. China is investing over US $46 billion in the project and has been concerned about the constant security threats from unrest in Balochistan and POK. By raising the Balochistan issue, India has successfully put a spoke in China’s wheel. It has raised serious doubts about the security and hence the very viability of the project. It is a warning for China not to fish in troubled waters. Again, it has opened new bargaining positions for India against China.

Striking deep into enemy or foreign territory is a capability that currently only the US and Israel are known to possess. The surgical strike into POK announced India’s entry into this elite club. India can execute hot pursuits or deep strikes in enemy territory to enforce its regional agenda and achieve strategic objectives.

India’s surgical strike shows a new and assertive paradigm where terror attacks will no longer be business as usual, notwithstanding Pakistan’s nuclear fig leaf. Burying the now dead self-imposed ‘strategic restraint’, India seems determined to act upon safeguard its strategic interests.

 
 
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