In the early 1960s, visitors waiting for a boat at Kiamari basin would toss a coin into the clear sea and young boys from nearby localities would dive and recover it from the bottom in no time. It was both fun and a small source of earning for the lads in less inflationary times. Those pristine environments have long been devastated as the amount of unmanaged plastic waste into the sea, commonly known as plastic waste leakage, has reached crisis proportion and already caused significant economic and environmental damage. Normally, environmental degradation is a trade-off with growth and prosperity, but in our case much degradation has taken place without corresponding benefits in terms of economic prosperity. We have faced a situation where for years consumer demand for disposable plastic products has been growing far more rapidly than corresponding enactment of waste management infrastructure. The sluggish growth of this infrastructure has spawned two problems – scale of waste collection which has not shown an upward trend and disposal of collected waste within the system.
The oceans cover three fourth of the planet Earth which means that for every living person on land, there is approximately five hectares of ocean. This ratio leads mankind to a flawed assumption that oceans offer unlimited capacity for waste dumping. In the past, damage to economy and environments was caused from such sources as storm water, inadequate waste management systems of processing chemicals in industrial zones and nutrient run-off from agriculture, but now-a-days, plastic pollution is emerging as a serious threat due to sheer volume, ubiquity and extra-ordinarily long life of plastic products. While plastic products themselves have short useful lives, the longevity of plastic molecule enables it to travel across territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.
Researchers are of the view that some plastic products retain their original recognizable form even after 400 years from the time it was dumped into the sea. Last year, ‘Science’ – a highly respected peer-reviewed journal, warned that unless steps are taken soon to deal with this threat, oceans would contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025. Over 80% of land based discarded and not well managed plastic ends up in sea while 20% of leakage originates from ocean based mercantile marine sources.
This is a dreadful scenario in view of increasing evidence that micro plastics can affect physiology of a host of organism and potentially compromise their health. Studies have established a linkage between plastic waste in oceans with liver cancer, and endocrine dysfunction in fish. Plastic ingestion can also affect fertility in female and reproductive tissues in male fish. Other reports suggest that plastic even affects
lugworms, amphipods and other organisms at the very bottom of ocean food chain. The complex toxicology of plastic substances is a problem, not only for marine life but also for global fish industry, which provides nearly 15% of world’s dietary protein, employs 55 million people and is valued at approximately USD 220 billion.
More developed western economies have developed waste management systems commensurate with their growth patterns and controlled movement of plastic from land to oceans. Such measures and strategies, however, are non-existent or are in rudimentary form in less developed countries like Pakistan. Our problem is compounded further by lack of public awareness and relegated priorities of health issues in the public sector. There is a dire need to push up collection of discarded plastics to higher levels and improve post-collection treatment and stoppage of leakage into the ocean.
There are many areas in which public interest can be generated to stop plastic and other waste from entering the oceans. These include mass media programmes in electronic and print media to highlight negative impact of waste dumping on economy, health, dilution of aesthetic and environmental value of coastal areas and harms to overall productivity of ocean. Taken singly and in isolation, these reasons might not provide sufficient impetus for concerted action but since sea is inherently connected and integrated, a collective perspective can serve as a strong catalyst for collaborative approach.
Interestingly, perfect plastic material has not been produced so far though scientist community is aware that any solutions today must be path-dependent for the future. Large-scale use of waste-to-energy technologies like gasification, pyrolysis (thermo chemical decomposition of organic material at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen) and incineration (with energy recovery) might solve existing pollution problems to an extent but it could decelerate long term prospects of development of plastics which offers higher-residual-values at the end of their life cycles.
Threat from plastic pollution cannot be wished away since it is extensively used in modern economies and moves through supply and demand chains to support global enterprises. The user benefits of plastics are wide-ranging and will continue to drive economic and industrial growth both in developed and emerging economies. Worldwide plastic production is projected to increase from its current quantum of 250 million metric tons to approximately 380 metric tons in the next decade.
This increase is due to accumulative effect of population and economic growth, upward resource intensity and unprecedented dominance of plastics as the multi-purpose material for economies across regions. Inevitably, higher production of plastics and its greater use also means more leakage of its waste into the oceans. Its residual life and value depends on how the plastic is used which is one of several criteria in plastic industry. This makes it difficult for any single user in value chain to determine full-life-cycle benchmarks and subsequent degradation/destruction strategies. Some estimates suggest that by year 2025, double the quantity of plastic will reach the sea than what is being dumped at present. It therefore makes sense to adopt both a local and a regional approach for the effort to be effective and result orientated.
There are two aspects of the problem – one which deals with what is to be done with plastic already dumped into the sea and the other how to stop transportation of plastic waste from land to sea. While Pakistan may not have the capacity to do much about plastic in the oceans, we can certainly focus on land-based solutions to prevent its leakage into the ocean. In our context, stopping plastic products from ending up in the sea would be a better and cost effective solution rather than the expensive option of treating it after it has been dumped into the sea.
An effective strategy should include knowledge about origins of ocean plastic debris and how it reaches into the sea – and any significant difference in pattern of our coast along warranting different solutions and approaches. Also under consideration should come various ‘leakage – reduction’ solutions and their cost benefit curves. We need to analyze what can be done to trigger implementation of leakage-reduction measures in the short, medium and long term as well as ponder over cornerstones of concerted regional programmes to address the issue.
This effort will obviously require funding which should be possible through typical project-financing mechanisms involving public, private and multinational sectors. In many countries private sector has played an important role in catalyzing public and private investment by strategically reducing capital costs and investment risks. Such models of cost effective waste management can be examined to see if they are replicable in our context.
Adopting an appropriate financing approach along with the need for political commitment, location specific data and analysis, and civil society pressures like recent ‘light on capital’ individual efforts in Karachi at garbage collection should yield some result underpinned by a strong understanding of possible solutions to handling uncontained waste management near waterfronts and their economics.
Such drives should serve to accelerate existing initiatives, exploring new possibilities and increased private sector commitment on ‘ocean smart’ measures geared totally towards reducing leakage of plastic into the ocean. Viable and immediately implementable solutions should be embraced as soon as possible as evidence of environmental and economic damage is mounting and any further loss of time will only aggravate the situation.
When one thinks about the regional impact of the Afghan issue after 2014, the consequences for Pakistan come first to mind. And it is something natural: the historical, human and geopolitical links are of great importance between the two countries. Pakistan and Afghanistan are, indeed, at least through the Pashtun population, “conjoined twins”, for better or worse, to quote Hamid Karzai. No other country than Pakistan will be more affected by any problem in Afghanistan, and no other state can better help Kabul stabilize in the future. This is something Pakistani diplomats should never get tired to remind to other states after 2014, as Western powers sometimes forget this basic and well-known fact. In the region, only Iran can pretend to have an importance close to the one Pakistan can rightfully claim to have on Afghanistan's future. This fact is actually so important that it could bring analysts in South-West Asia (Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan) to forget that post-Soviet Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan) is also, as a region, a direct neighbour of Afghanistan. And those neighbours are very concerned by what happens after 2014. It should be kept in mind that, contrary to Iran and Pakistan, Central Asian connections with Afghanistan are not that strong. Both of these countries have to take care of a large number of Afghan refugees, and have cultural and linguistic links with them. There had been, indeed, human links between Central Asia and Afghanistan in the past. There are, after all, Turkmen, Tajik, and Uzbek minorities in Afghanistan. And until the beginning of the 20th century, the Central Asians could look to the South to find a political refuge or, to some extent, for religious guidance. But the rise of the USSR changed that. During the whole Soviet period, Central Asians have been disconnected from their Southern neighbours, and from the rest of the Muslim world. Independent approach towards religion was banned, however, Islam has been able to survive in that period.
Moscow's repression in these times had been particularly strong against Sufism. After all, this form of Islam was key to Islamize Central Asia, and to protect its culture against foreign aggressions. The time under the Soviet Union changed Central Asia in a way that makes this part of the Muslim world radically different from its Southern neighbours. Secularism and a de facto westernization of the vision of societal issues was imposed through force by the Soviet state, but is now very natural for the average Central Asian citizen. Of course, there are differences between the different countries of this region: Tajikistan is, for example, influenced by Persian language and inheritance, and Kazakhstan has still an important Russian minority, and is in many ways closer to Russia, Europe, and now China rather than South Asia or the Middle East. But what they share together is a history that keeps them historically and intellectually disconnected from their Southern neighbourhood. Such situation makes the Central Asian policy-makers and average citizens even more worried about the Afghan issue. The lack of deep links and knowledge about Afghanistan, the ongoing security problems, and expected security issues of Afghanistan after 2014, explain the concerns of Tashkent, Dushanbe, and other Central Asian capitals.
But this fear is also related to history. The years following independence from Moscow have not been easy for the post-Soviet region. Tajikistan has seen a terrible civil war between 1992 and 1997. During this period, it was said that “Islamists” or “Islamo-Democrats” (the Islamist opposition associated with democratic parties) fought “governmental forces”. But in fact, it had nothing to do with ideology and all to do with state weakness: there was no strong man controlling the country and the army that was deeply divided by regional groups. The war was indeed a fight for access to power between different regional groups. A fight that has been actually so violent that some Tajiks preferred to become refugees in Afghanistan rather than to stay in their own country – at a time when Afghanistan itself was torn apart by its own civil war. At the beginning of the 1990s, Uzbekistan met the same fate as the Uzbek part of the Fergana Valley (the historical and demographic heart of the whole region), revolted against the central state, mostly under the influence of non-state actors inspired by political Islamism. Two important personalities emerged at this period: Juma Namangani and Tahir Yuldashev, who would become the leaders of the main Central Asian terrorist groups, i.e. the “Islamic” Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Tashkent crushed the rebellion before it could become a nation-wide phenomenon, but Namangani and Yuldashev, and part of their followers were able to escape overseas.
During 1990s, political actors and fighters from Afghanistan helped forces of subversion in Central Asia. In Tajikistan, some Afghans and Arab veterans from the war against the Soviets came on the side of the “Islamists” during the Afghan civil war; later on the Taliban did not accept to see Tajik “Islamist” turning as political realities. But it was for Uzbek jihadists that Afghanistan and the Taliban have been the greatest help. At the end of the 1990s in particular, the IMU was strongly aligned to the Taliban, and had begun to create strong links with another terrorist group in exile, using Afghanistan as a safe haven – Al Qaeda. The Afghan links helped the IMU to become a dangerous force in Uzbekistan, as it got associated with the drug trafficking from Afghanistan to Central Asia, making it independent from financial point of view. It explains how, between 1999 and 2001, the IMU was able to organize military and carry out terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is during this period that all the Central Asian nations learned through the hard way that Afghanistan could be, by itself, a threat for their stability.
The American campaign against the Taliban at the end of 2001 helped to attenuate the threat, but only temporarily. First, because Afghanistan was only a safe haven, not the source of all problems linked to terrorism in Central Asia. Second, because the IMU and other Central Asian terrorists who associated themselves to Taliban did not disappear because of a military campaign, but had lost their terrorist camps in Northern Afghanistan, and their military leader, Juma Namangani, had been killed. But the ones who survived followed their allies and protectors, and switched from Afghanistan to the FATA. After being welcomed by naive Pashtuns, who took them to be only mujahedeen fighting for religious rights in their own homes. But the visitors soon tried to impose themselves on local communities, trying to acquire wealth and influence through force.
It was especially in the case of IMU, which, led by Yuldashev, soon allied itself with TTP, and it became a source of trouble not for the local Pashtun communities (using terror tactics against them, in particular killing numerous tribal elders) but also for Pakistan Army. They became an important terrorist tool for the TTP, and Yuldashev became an ideological mentor for Baitullah Mehsud. But at this time, part of the IMU, influenced by the time spent in Afghanistan under Taliban and Al Qaeda, had decided to secede to create a group closer to Bin Laden's transnational ideology – the IJU (Islamic Jihad Union). This group was involved in terrorist attacks in Central Asia after 9/11. For example, it claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings in Tashkent and Bukhara during March-April 2004, and in Tashkent in July the same year.
The IJU showed that it was indeed becoming, more and more, the Central Asian Al Qaeda when it planned a terrorist attack in Germany in 2007 at the Frankfurt International Airport and other places in the country. The CIA and the German intelligence service stopped them in time, but it showed clearly a link between hardcore Central Asian terrorists based in Afghanistan, and cells overseas. Even Kazakhstan, which seems so far away from those terrorist problems, has had the experience of such reality. In May 2011, its Parliament had accepted the idea of sending troops to Afghanistan. Quickly the Taliban reacted, threatening Kazakhstan. And a few days later, suicide bombers attacked the local Security Services' Headquarters in Aktobe (in the north west of the country). 2011 was a year when the Kazakhs had to suffer from terrorist attacks on their own territory, organized by local cells connected with Jund al-Khilafah, a group fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
From 2009/2010 onward, it appears that Central Asian extremists are now back in northern Afghanistan with the support of the Taliban. There has been proven infiltrations from Afghanistan to Central Asia, using political tensions in the region to their advantage. What should be of concern is that after having been part of a regional fight linked to the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan and its regional environment, part of the Central Asian rebels are now fully integrated in the fight in Syria, on the side of the most extremist of rebels and foreign terrorists. It is proof that after going through the Afghan “school”, some Central Asians have now “graduated” in jihadism, and can be seen as professional non-state actors. After 2014, if some decide to come back to Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Central Asia, they could be a significant help for any local terrorist group.
As usual, after having this situation in mind, one may ask, how Pakistan is affected by this? First, it is important for Pakistan, broadly speaking, to follow Central Asian issues, because Afghan and Central Asian affairs are intertwined. In many ways stability in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia are connected. Afghanistan is a weak state struggling not to become a failed once again, after 2014. And of course, whatever happens in Afghanistan can have an impact on Pakistan. But fact of the matter is that Central Asian states are also weak ones; at least some of them. Not as weak as Afghanistan, of course, but weak enough to be a source of concern for the future. And because of geography, when one Central Asian state suffers from terrorist violence and instability, others can feel the negative ripple effect. Kazakhstan is in a different situation as its oil and gas make it richer than the rest of the region. As we have discussed above, it does not make it immune from a terrorist threat because of instability in Afghanistan. More importantly; the situation of the states closer to Afghanistan, especially Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (the countries of the Fergana Valley) are more vulnerable, because of the geographic “curse”. In more than one way, the countries of the Fergana Valley, and Pakistan, have both been suffering due to their geographical proximity with Afghanistan that has been a pawn for foreign powers and a playground for terrorist and criminal groups. The Afghan issue connects Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such fact has partly been understood in Washington D.C. It explains the vision of Fred Starr, the Chairman of the Central Asia and Caucasus Institute, when he talked about a “Greater Central Asia” integrating Central Asia and the Middle East. His analysis influenced the State Department in creating the “Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs”, understanding the links between the two areas: the possible positive links (in terms of energy) but also the negative ones (linked to security). Pakistan should also adopt such approach as it reflects a regional reality in terms of terrorism and counter terrorism.
Besides, such approach could also be a strategic opportunity. Indeed, the post-2014 situation could be an opportunity for Islamabad to build strong links with the Central Asian countries. In the last two decades, India has taken an edge over Pakistan in the “war for hearts and minds” in Central Asia. The people of Central Asia do not feel a particular attraction for South Asia, and do not know enough about it. Their leaders have felt a connection with India because of its status of being a potential power, its growing importance economically and because its secular vision is closer to their Soviet past. Besides, the Central Asian nations, especially the ones sharing the Fergana Valley, have been influenced in the past by their fear of the Taliban who were the main protectors of local terrorists, as reminded earlier. Hence when looking for somebody to blame, they followed the simplistic approach like others, taking Pakistan as a scapegoat for a much more complex Afghan issue.
Time has come to change such an approach. Clearly nowadays it appears that more and more policy-makers in Central Asia understand the importance of Pakistani friendship to exchange information about terrorist groups operating at the regional and “Greater Central Asian” level. Uzbek and Kazakh diplomats in particular seem to have worked during the last few years to build a deeper relationship with Islamabad, at least on security-related issues. Such a situation should be used by Pakistan to its full potential: Pakistani intelligence services should do their best to be as helpful to the Central Asians as they have been for China's security over the years, to send a clear message: true friends of Pakistan can count on full Pakistani support against any kind of threat. Pakistan and Central Asian nations could also work together against criminal groups that are making themselves stronger through drug trafficking coming from Afghanistan. Of course, over time, Pakistani links with this part of the world should not be based only on counter-terrorism issues: cultural events, language classes, exchanges between universities should carry image of Pakistan much more positively than seen nowadays through Western and Russian media.
Last but not the least, it is also important for Pakistan to protect its international image that has already been damaged by simplistic visions of the Afghan issue in the West. Hence Islamabad should help the Central Asian nations to protect themselves against the little minority abusing the name of Islam to follow criminal and terrorist activities but it should always remind that Pakistan can only be an auxiliary on this matter. The fact that Central Asian “jihadists” have been fighting in Afghanistan, and now more and more in Syria, cannot be blamed on Pakistan. Too often in the past, Pakistan has been blamed for the security issues of others, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Some Western analysts have sometimes used Pakistan as a scapegoat in their writings to explain how NATO has been unable to stabilize Afghanistan after all these years. Such approach, coming from American sources in particular, could have a bad influence in Central Asia and elsewhere; hence it is of great importance for Pakistani diplomats to counter it with a rational, no-nonsense narrative. Such narrative should remind that Pakistani intelligence services can assist only on security related matters at regional level, as the internal issues of those states need to be dealt by them locally.
There is a need for a regional Central Asian cooperation, and the need also for each Central Asian nation to deal with its particular set of issues. This is something that is actually well understood in Central Asia itself. One can remember, for example, the analysis of the Kazakhstani political expert Rassul Zhymaly to a video uploaded by the “Site Intel Group” in summer 2013, showing a militant calling for jihad in Syria in the Kazakh language – it is not only a question of better law-enforcement actions or a better understanding of religion. Like anywhere else, fighting terrorism and extremism must be linked to social and economic issues. Education and employment are often good preventive tools against organizations trying to manipulate people in difficult situations. A foreign country can only assist in the fight against terrorism, nothing more. At the end of the day, each state is responsible of its own “War on Terror”.
The writer is a Visiting Research Fellow at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). He is in charge of the Programme on Iran and South Asia at IPSE (Institute for Prospective and Security in Europe).
Most war accounts that appeared soon afterwards were predictably subjective. Little credible information had been released to public view from either side. In China, understandably, no analytical accounts could be expected. In India, however, with her claims to be the world's largest democracy, the deafening silence was incomprehensible. A stunned nation felt cheated and awaited explanation. Nehru's personal stature being at stake the clampdown seemed to be officially sponsored. Of the Indian accounts that hit the book stalls later, B.M. Kaul's The Untold Story, J.P. Dalvi's Himalayan Blunder, B.N. Mullick's My Years with Nehru, and D.K. Palit's War in the High Himalayas are essentially memoirs based on personal memory devoid of authentic evidence like a war diary. These are primarily aimed at self-redemption crying foul of all else. The much hyped Henderson Brooks Bhagat Report, the only official inquiry ordered in 1963 still remains under wraps. Some of its extracts have been recently leaked as we shall see in a while.
The two non-Indian works extensively quoted are Dorothy Woodman's Himalayan Frontiers and Neville Maxwell's, India's China War. Maxwell's book was initially banned by the Indian government. Natwar Singh, a former senior bureaucrat who worked in Indira Gandhi's PM secretariat when the book was published in 1970 confesses in a recent article dated March 19, 2014, “The ministries of external affairs, home and law had all suggested that the book be banned”. Later, when pirated versions became freely available the ban was relaxed by the government. Indeed, Maxwell himself faced arrest upon entry in India for breach of India's Official Secret Act and was duly warned by the British government to keep out of Indian shores. He did exactly so for eight years “until Morarji Desai as prime minister annulled the charges enabling me to return.”
Maxwell studied Nehru closely from 1959 through the mid-1960s during his tenure as Times correspondent in Delhi. He served twice as the head of the foreign correspondents association which brought him in personal contact with Nehru. He had frequent briefings personally from Nehru and was “charmed by the Nehru charisma”. By Maxwell's own account given to Indian media recently, for his conversion from a liberal anti-Communist to a frank admirer of Maoist China, he “may well be accused of serial amblyopia. The Indian government was highly successful at disguising its actions during the emergence and development of the border dispute with China.... During the 2 or 3 years between my arrival in India in late August 1959 and the mid-60s, I was one of those multitudes totally taken in by the casuistry and dishonesty and successful deceptions of the Nehru government.” His dispatches to London Times at the time had been so one-sided that he became a marked man in Beijing. Talking to South China Morning Post's Debashish Roy Chowdhury on March 31, 2014, he added, “They (the Chinese) said the Times correspondent must be either stupid or hired. I wasn't either but I was blinded by ideology... liberal anti-communism. You'll see the same affecting many journalists today... As American policy continues the Cold War.”
“When the penny began to drop and I saw how we had been misled, I saw it as my responsibility and guilty obligation to set the record straight.” The book did exactly that, challenging the entrenched “aggressive China” notion. It was well received by serious readership around the world. Kissinger read the book in 1971 and, Maxwell believes, it helped change his thinking on China. “While Kissinger was in Beijing, Chou Enlai sent me a personal message... that Kissinger had said to him, “Reading that book showed me I could do business with you people.” Later, in his historic meeting with President Nixon and Dr Henry Kissinger in Beijing on February 23, 1972, Premier Chou surprised his visitors by disclosing that the Panchsheel the famous five principles “were actually put forward by us and Nehru agreed but later on he didn't implement them.” Maxwell recalls a state banquet in Beijing in 1972 by Chou Enlai for President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan. Holding the Pakistani President's hand Premier Chou introduced Maxwell to his honoured guest and thanking him for a fair and objective vindication of China's position, he said, “Your book did a service to truth which benefited China.”
The Henderson Brooks Bhagat Report, the official inquiry into the debacle, remains a mystery. As the government was repeatedly grilled in the Parliament, even by the treasury benches, the new defence minister, Y.B. Chavan, proposed an inquiry by a committee of two serving army officers rather than a judicial probe or a public enquiry as expected by the Parliament. This was an ingenious move to confine the inquiry to matters military thus keeping the person of Nehru and his role in the debacle out of its purview. Further, instead of the defence minister appointing a committee, he asked the Chief of the Army Staff to set-up one. Accordingly, a two-man committee with Lieutenant General Henderson Brooks and Brigadier PS Bhagat was formed. Both were career officers with an impeccable record of service. Henderson Brooks, an Australian national, had opted to serve the Indian army after Partition while Prem Bhagat was the first Indian officer to be conferred the Victoria Cross for bravery during World War II. Their report was presented by the COAS General J.N. Chaudhury to Chavan on July 2, 1963. The report contained a great deal of information of an operational nature, formations and deployment of the Indian army. Only two copies of the highly classified report were made and kept under top security in the defence ministry. Commenting on the report in Indian Defence Review, January/March, 2011, Claude Arpi writes,” Between 1962 and 1965 R.D. Pradhan was the private secretary to Y.B. Chavan who took over as Defence Minister from the disgraced Krishna Menon after the debacle of October 1962. Pradhan's memoirs give great insight into the motives of Chavan. For Chavan the main challenge in the first years was to establish a relationship of trust between himself and the Prime Minister. He succeeded in doing so by his deft handling of the Henderson Brooks Bhagat Report of Inquiry into the NEFA reverses.”
Successive governments, Congress, BJP or coalition, have kept a tight lid on Henderson Brooks Bhagat Report under the pretext of security of national interests, never mind if each clamoured for its declassification while in opposition. Though demands for the report's publication have surfaced frequently, the government has remained unyielding, offering only an occasional dispassionate riposte. The Manmohan Singh government has been no exception. When some excerpts of the report were leaked in the Indian media on the eve of the golden jubilee of the debacle in October 2012 there was an uproar in the parliament and the media. Even noted senior military veterans including General VP Malik, former COAS, lent their robust voice to the popular demand for publication rubbishing the national security phantasy. The government didn't buckle under nonetheless. "Based on an internal study by the Indian army, the contents are not only extremely sensitive but are of current operational value," Defence Minister A.K. Antony told the lower house of Parliament in a written reply. However, what "operational value" the document may still have after the lapse of 52 years – and how it may threaten national security – continues to boggle the minds of contemporary strategic thinkers and policy pundits. More so, as the other official report, the 'Official History of the Conflict with China (1962)' prepared by the same Defence Ministry, details the famous 'operations' in 474 foolscap pages. The 'official' report discussed, inter alia, the real issue relating to national security. “No major threat other than from Pakistan was perceived. And the armed forces were regarded adequate to meet Pakistan's threat. Hence very little effort and resources were put in for immediate strengthening of the security of the borders”. Nobody had even thought of China!
Commenting on Antony's statement, Maxwell remarked, “Those reasons are completely untrue and quite nonsensical... there is nothing in it concerning tactics or strategy or military action that has any relevance to today's strategic situation.” Disillusioned with Indian government's inertia he concludes, “Even if the founder of the post-independence dynasty, Jawaharlal Nehru may have emerged in bad light in the Henderson Brooks report, why put a blanket on the entire archives? Are we living in a modern democracy?...If one day a stable, confident and relaxed government in New Delhi should, miraculously appear and decide to clear out the cupboard and publish it, the text would be largely incomprehensible... "The reasons for the long-term withholding of the report must be political, indeed probably partisan, perhaps even familial," he added – a reference to Nehru, the patriarch of the ruling Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has dominated India's political matrix for over a century.
Maxwell does not deny his knowledge of the contents of the mystery report. Indeed, he openly accepts having benefited from the document in compiling his 1970 treatise. He has been sporadically accused of 'stealing' classified official information or being the prophet of India's dissolution, an indefatigable stalker of Jawaharlal Nehru's shade or an evangelizing crusader for Mao Zedong's social engineering 'gifts', et al. On his part, Maxwell quietly continued to lobby for the report to be made public in India's larger national interest. Maxwell, now 88 and living in Australia, finally made his Snowden-like release of the report on his blog in March 2014. In his forthright talk to South China Morning Post, quoted above, he recounts his frustration at not seeing the report declassified after more than half a century. Says he,” I had been trying for years to get the report on to the public record. In 2012, I'd made the text available to several newspapers in India…. Well, they agreed it should be made public, but they thought that had to be done by the government. If the press did it, the result, they said, would be a fierce row; accusations of betrayal of national interest, fierce attacks on the journalists who had leaked… In short, nothing good, a lot bad….So it had begun to look as if the report might never be published, and I thought that would be dreadful, wasting all the efforts of the authors, denying historians access to a crucial aspect of that unnecessary but hugely consequential border war so I decided to do it myself.” BG Verghese, an eminent and respected journalist who covered the debacle from close quarters at Tezpur, comments in his piece 'The War we Lost' in Tehelka.Com of October 13, 2012, “The report brings out the political and military naiveté, muddle, contradictions and in-fighting that prevailed and failures of planning and command. There is no military secret to protect in the Henderson-Brooks Report; only political and military ego and folly to hide. But unless the country knows, the appropriate lessons will not be learnt”.
As to his motives in leaking the report on his blog, Maxwell says,” I hope to achieve what I had been trying to do for nearly 50 years! To rid Indian opinion of the induced delusion that in 1962 India was the victim of an unprovoked surprise Chinese aggression, to make people in India see that the truth was that were mistakes by the Indian government, specifically Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, that forced the war on China. (Emphasis added). My putting the report online now deprives the government of India the excuse they've used to keep it secret; the false claim that it was to preserve national security. It's clear to anyone who reads the report that it has no current military or strategic significance. So there is no good reason for the government to persist in refusing to declassify the whole report, including Volume Two, which I never saw. Of his close relations with Nehru, he says,” That access and friendliness shows, to my shame, in my reporting of the dispute with China as that developed – throughout I took the Indian side, never seeing what should have been obvious, that China was not aggressive but was consistently trying for a settlement on mutually beneficial terms”.
“The government reacted predictably, and foolishly”, writes Natwar Singh. He opines, “By blocking it, the government lent the blog huge popularity that Maxwell wanted.” The blog and attendant leaks are now talk of the town. He adds, “What was needed was to find out how the author obtained top secret documents. This was clearly a breach of law. No one was hauled up. The names were not a secret”. He laments,” No such action was taken….as far as I remember.”
The report is particularly scathing of Nehru's policy which contributed to India's defeat. "We acted," says the report, "on a militarily unsound basis of not relying on our strength but rather on believed lack of reaction from the Chinese.” It gives a blow-by-blow account of India's flawed military plans, uninspiring army leadership and the disastrous implementation of the "forward policy" of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's government that climaxed in the fateful debacle.
Avoiding fierce criticism of political and military leadership, the Henderson Brooks Report records, “So far effort has been made to keep individual personalities out of this review. General Kaul, however, must be made an exception, as, from now on, he becomes the central figure in the operations, and important signals and orders from him are on a person-to-person basis, both to higher as well as lower formation commanders. Military strategy and planning were thrown overboard and General Kaul issued orders on personal whims shifting platoons from one location to another unmindful of rudimentary considerations of time and space in an inhospitable mountainous environment.”
Was the Indian government, and more so the Indian army, prepared for war with China?
We have seen above how Nehru had been consistently fed with lies. Imaginary conquests were filed back intermittently from the battlefront duly padded at each echelon along the way. The Indian side was confident that war would not be triggered and made little preparations. India had only two divisions of troops in the region of the conflict. In August 1962, Brigadier D. K. Palit, Director Military Operations, claimed that a war with China in the near future could be ruled out. Even in September 1962, when Indian troops were ordered to "expel the Chinese" from Thag La, Maj. General J. S. Dhillon expressed the opinion that "experience in Ladakh had shown that a few rounds fired at the Chinese would cause them to run away." Because of this, the Indian army was completely unprepared when the attack at Yumtso La occurred.
In a section titled 'Fictionalization of the Army', Maxwell is probably closer to the truth in his assessment. He traces in punishing detail, the poor professional standing of Lieutenant General B.M. Kaul and the negative role played by him. He says, “At the time of independence Kaul appeared to be a failed officer, if not disgraced. Although Sandhurst-trained officer for infantry service, he had eased through the (Second World) war without serving on any frontline and ended it in a humble and obscure post in public relations. But his courtier wiles, irrelevant or damning until then, were to serve him brilliantly in the new order that independence brought. After he came to the notice of Nehru, a fellow Kashmiri Brahmin and a distant kinsman, there was no holding back”. Boosted by the Prime Minister's steady favouritism, Kaul rocketed up through the army structure to emerge in 1961 at the very summit of army headquarters. Not only did he rise to hold the key appointment of chief of the general staff (CGS) supplanting more capable and senior officers, but worse, he behaved like the de-facto chief of army staff (COAS). Worse still, as several Indian writers concur with Maxwell, senior Generals out-did each other to keep him in good humour so as to win Nehru's favour. General Kaul was already having a glad eye on the top military post in New Delhi. His 'close relations' with Nehru, folklore in the army and political circles at the time, are a part of history. BG Verghese recounts two events from the Goa operation at the end of 1960 showing an ambitious Kaul in poor light. “The new Chief of General Staff (CGS), Lt Gen BM Kaul, marched alongside one of the columns of the 17th Division under Gen KP Candeth that was tasked to enter Goa. Thereafter he and, separately, the Defence Minister, Krishna Menon, declared “war” or the commencement of operations at two different times – one at midnight and the other at first light the next morning. In any other situation such flamboyant showmanship could have been disastrous. However, Goa was a cakewalk and evoked the mistaken impression, among gifted amateurs in high places that an unprepared Indian Army could take on China.” Kaul had also inquiries made into the conduct of senior colleagues like Thorat, SD Verma and then Maj Gen Sam Manekshaw, Commandant of the Staff College in Wellington.”
In 1962, at his bidding Kaul was appointed as the General Officer Commanding (GOC) IV Corps. With no experience of commanding an infantry formation in peace or war, Kaul was to head the newly raised IV Corps at Tezpur, He started directing minor actions on the frontline right from his chair of CGS in Delhi. When John Dalvi, Commander 7 Brigade, requested for artillery Kaul's famous words, "Determined infantry do not need artillery," resonated the Indian rank and file for several years. During his first visit to the front line, he was so exhausted that he had to be man-lifted by a soldier. After fussily instructing the brigade commander to move a platoon here and a platoon there, he uttered another of the Indian Army's 'Famous Last Words' when he told the brigade commander before leaving the front:“It's your battle now.” 7 Brigade was routed at Namkachu.
When war came, Jawaharlal Nehru for the first time in his life faced a situation he could not handle. His letters to Kennedy are, in the words of B.K. Nehru, "pathetic".
He could hardly contain his sorrow or shame. The next "telegram was so humiliating that I found it difficult to prevent myself from weeping." Nehru was broken and bewildered. His letter to John F Kennedy seeking US military assistance after the fall of Bomdila was abject and pathetic. He feared that unless the tide was stemmed the Chinese would overrun the entire Northeast. The Chinese, he said, were massing troops in the Chumbi Valley and he apprehended another “invasion” from there. If Chushul was overrun, there was nothing to stop the Chinese before Leh. The IAF had not been used as India lacked air defence for its population centres. He, therefore, requested immediate air support by 12 squadrons of all-weather supersonic fighters with radar cover, all operated by US personnel. But US aircraft were not to intrude into Chinese air space. One does not know what inputs went into drafting Nehru's letter to Kennedy. Almost in elegy, Verghese makes a pithy comment, “Non-alignment was certainly in tatters.” He adds, “Pakistan had been urged by Iran and the US not to use India's predicament to further its own cause (in Kashmir) and kept its word. But it developed a new relationship with China thereafter and went on to amicably conclude a border alignment with her along the Karakorums in the north. The aftermath of the war consumed Nehru from within; he died within two years.
Much of Neville Maxwell's fresh evidence is based on the Indian record which was previously classified and unavailable. First person accounts have lent weight to India's own 'dirty laundry'. Maxwell's verdict is categorical; it sets the record straight, “India's China war was a unilateral act of passive-aggressive folly by Jawaharlal Nehru's government. China is the aggrieved party. With the 'forward policy' India became the aggressor in 1962.”
India's forward policy opened flood gates of American military aid but tore into shreds India's – and Nehru's – high priest role in the Non-Aligned Movement and world politics. Nehru's intransigence nearly plunged the region – indeed the world, into an inferno as history now reveals. As Premier Chou told President Nixon in 1972, he had sent three personal telegrams to Nehru before the outbreak of hostilities to agree to resume talks but to no avail. He asserted that China did not try to expel Indian troops from south of the McMahon line and insisted on a negotiated settlement. On October 14, an editorial in People's Daily had issued China's final warning to India: "So it seems that Mr. Nehru has made up his mind to attack the Chinese frontier guards on an even bigger scale.... The heroic Chinese troops, with the glorious tradition of resisting foreign aggression, can never be cleared by anyone from their own territory... History will pronounce its inexorable verdict... At this critical moment...we still want to appeal once more to Mr. Nehru: better rein in at the edge of the precipice and do not use the lives of Indian troops as stakes in your gamble."
Emboldened by massive supplies flown in by the United States Air Force through October-November, Nehru rejected talks with characteristic disdain. In
Washington, Defence Secretary Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor were no less bellicose: they advised President Kennedy to use nuclear weapons should the US intervene. As the leader of a non-aligned country having good relations with both parties, Mrs. Bandaranaike offered to mediate in the dispute. Her offer was readily accepted by Chou Enlai. Nehru, under the influence of his 'hegemonic megalomania' rejected it out of hand. What made the Chinese accept the Sri Lankan offer, besides its fairness, was her decade-old relationship as a trade partner, a country which had withstood US pressure including sanctions under the Kem Amendment of 1950 and the Battle Act of 1951, and recognition of the fact that there was dissatisfaction in the island over the hegemonic treatment by India over the issue of Indians in Sri Lanka. The very night Chou Enlai received Mrs. Bandaranaike's letter, China announced a ceasefire on the border. US Ambassador John Galbraith advised Nehru to accept the ceasefire offer though the latter had declared that India would fight back however arduous the task was, however long it might take. India's pride was shaken if not shattered altogether. After the humiliation India was looking for friends in the neighbourhood to support her. Sri Lanka was much in view for her rising international stature. Prime Minister Sirimao Bandaranaike was in no mood to denounce the Chinese action. Whether or not she was influenced by growing evidence that India herself was to blame for the Chinese military response is not clear. But such views on India's responsibility were expressed by people like US Ambassador John K. Galbraith and even by K.M. Panikkar who was India's Ambassador to Moscow and later her Defence Secretary.
Mercifully, however, the world was saved from the edge of the precipice, thanks to the sagacity of China's leadership. Premier Chou Enlai declared a unilateral ceasefire, effective midnight November 21, ordering withdrawal twenty kilometres back from the line of contact. As Chou told Nixon later, Chairman Mao ordered the troops to return to show good faith.
China's good faith remains to be reciprocated.
The writer is a visiting faculty at NDU, Islamabad, a former DG ISPR and a former diplomat.
The Durand Line is an international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan that was drawn under an agreement which was signed by The Foreign Secretary of the British Colonial Government of India, Sir Mortimer Durand and Amir of Afghanistan, Abdur Rehman in return for the financial support. The agreement included few provisions decided between the British and Afghan governments of the time. According to Article-II of this agreement, the Afghan government agreed not to interfere in the areas those then formed part of the Indian territory (now Pakistan), and also lost control on a number of small territories historically administered by Amirs. Similarly, the British government also agreed to accept Afghan hegemony over the areas falling within Afghanistan.
The Durand Line divided the Pashtun tribes living in the area and gave the British, control of regions that later became Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), now Kyhber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), and Balochistan. When Afghanistan became fully independent in 1919, it accepted the Line as its border with British India. But Kabul disowned its own decision and started objecting to the Line's legitimacy when Pakistan came into existence in 1947. Afghanistan objection was based on unification of tribes living on both sides of the border. Afghan leaders also argued from time to time that the various agreements between British India and Afghanistan, including the Durand Line, lost validity when the British left South Asia. However, Pakistan has always maintained the legitimate stance that Durand Line constitutes its recognized international border with Afghanistan.
Because Pashtuns had been the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan since the mid-eighteenth century, Afghan Amirs often took pride in portraying themselves as the historic leaders of all Pashtuns despite the fact that they did not rule over them. Indeed, the terms 'Afghan' and 'Pashtun' tended to be used interchangeably during the nineteenth century. These both terms are geographical in nature as the people on Afghan side of the border like to call themselves 'Afghans', whereas people on the Pakistani side of the border call themselves ‘Pashtuns’. The Durand Line runs through a rough, rocky and waterless mountainous region populated by farmers living in scattered villages who grow subsistence crops for livelihood. People cross the border at their will and do not treat and consider it as a boundary. This is not surprising at all since the Durand Line is poorly demarcated in most places, and not demarcated at the rest.
The deployment of international troops in Afghanistan led by the U.S. in 2001 brought new challenges for Pakistan to deal with. With American troops based in Afghanistan's side of border, the question of where the border was and Pakistan's responsibilities for maintaining peace, law and order in its own territories acquired international attention. The extremists and terrorists were hiding on both sides of the borders and were entering Pakistan through this porous border.
The Durand Line has been more problematic because of the nature of the frontier between Afghanistan and the British Raj at the time it was drawn. Unlike Afghanistan's international boundaries with Russia in the north or Iran in the west, which were officially recognized as such by all parties at the time, she is not ready to accept her own earlier accepted stance on Durand Line. There is a clear difference between a boundary and a frontier. An international boundary marks a clear separation (natural or artificial) between two neighbouring states. A frontier is the portion of a territory that faces the border of another country, including both the boundary line itself and the land adjacent to it.
Some elements from the locals on both sides of the border are pleased to see the unresolved border issue because it makes it easier for them to reject state authority of all types. Such ungoverned territories have played a pivotal role in attracting foreign ‘Islamist’ radicals who need a safe haven where they can base themselves beyond the reach of state authorities in order to carry out their nefarious agendas. As far as the international community is concerned, it has accepted the existing border between Pakistan and Afghanistan as international border. It sees the ongoing dispute between Pakistan and Afghanistan as a fruitless and aimless struggle which is acting as an impediment in bringing stability to the region.
For the people who live along it, the Durand Line has never constituted an international border. They usually act as if it does not exist, crossing freely from one side to another. There are villages located in Pakistan that have their farmland in Afghanistan and vice versa. Pakistan maintains more than 100,000 regular troops on its borders with Afghanistan, with about 800 posts. Every day, at least 15,000 Pakistanis and Afghans on both sides cross two international border points – Torkham and Chaman, most of them carrying simple ID cards issued to the communities living on either side of the border. Taliban militants, particularly members of these communities also slip across the Durand Line using the same ID cards, disguising themselves as tribesmen, wanting to see friends and family or pursuing business.
To control the cross border movement of terrorists and to keep a check on illegal movement, Pakistan proposed to fence the border in 2006 which was vehemently opposed by Afghanistan’s President Karzai. He said that the fence would create distances among, what he called, brotherly people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. But to keep a check on terrorists and extremists, fencing of this border is very vital. Pakistan takes responsibility for its territory and extends the socio-economic reforms for economic development and education in the FATA region. This is quite difficult because the security situation is currently poor due to cross-border movement from Afghan side, which makes the launching of large development projects very difficult.
Pakistan's economy has already suffered badly from 13 years' long war against terrorism, and the situation is worse for Pakistan in particular due to losses of billions of dollars from goods smuggling through this border. The drug trade is also very common in the FATA region. An agreement to fence the border and to establish a proper mechanism for the checks and balances on both sides can be an effective step to control this problem. It would be in the interests of both countries to co-operate and to expel foreign elements from their territories who have threatened the security of both countries.
It would be impossible to effectively monitor a largely unmarked frontier that stretches 2,560 Km from snow-covered mountains in the north to remote deserts on the border with Iran in the south. Pakistan should fence it to stop illegal cross border movement and could use the landmines only in areas where it is impossible to lay wires in order to restrict the movement of militants into its territory. Fencing of the border will also facilitate to considerably reduce the infiltration of militants. The plan to fence the border with Afghanistan was twice considered in the past, 2007 and 2009, but this proposal faced a severe opposition from Afghan government.
Pakistan is not a signatory to the Anti-landmines Geneva Convention and other international agreements that restrict building of fences along international borders and thus does not require permission from its neighbours for the construction of fence along the border. As a sovereign nation, Pakistan has every right to take effective and concrete measures for its own defence, especially under present circumstances when cross border infiltration by the militants has become the norm of the day. There is no writ of the Afghan government along its most border villages which has made this region even more precarious and beyond government's reach. Pakistan should use every means to stop local and foreign militants using its soil for terrorist acts.
The Afghans' opposition to the fencing is also rooted in history; and this is not any new phenomenon for Islamabad. Pashtuns are the majority ethnic community in Afghanistan and also inhabit vast stretches on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line as well. It is interesting to mention that Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai time and again has been accusing Pakistan for destabilising his government by providing Taliban militants with sanctuary and funding in the semi-autonomous border region but he spurned the fencing proposal. When it comes to take some effective measures to control the cross border infiltration of militants, he has even shown his desire to finish the borders and check-posts, rather than adding to the hurdles in the way of free movement of Pashtuns living across the border…a suggestion which has raised serious concern and questions over Afghan government's credibility and seriousness to root out militancy and terrorism as a coalition partner in war against terrorism. India has also fenced its entire border with Pakistan so there should not be any international concern if Pakistan proposes the same with Afghanistan. The southern border of the U.S. is shared with Mexico and spans almost 2,000 miles. To address the smuggling issues and cross border movement, fencing of the border was done and barriers were placed.
Afghanistan is a land locked country surrounded by mountains which needs Pakistan for trading with the outside world. Similarly a stable and peaceful Afghanistan can play a vital role in giving Pakistan access to the Central Asian Republics (CARs). It is in the interest of both, Afghanistan and Pakistan, to reduce the current tensions, fence the border and legalize the trade. A successful solution can only be acceptable if the tribal people who actually live in the border areas show their willingness to any such mutual agreement in weeding out terrorism and growing militancy in the region.