Volume 1 Issue 1 (2004)

Challenging Transitions

(Volume 1(1) October 2004)


  • Challenging Transitions


    Cold be heart and hand and bone. And cold be travelers far from home.

    They do not see what lies ahead when sun has failed and moon is dead.” - Gollum, Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers

    The Afghanistan elections bring with them a turning point in the region.  In the past 3 years Afghanistan has witnessed a dramatic change from the reversal of the Taliban, burst of optimism to the recent resurgence of the Taliban and the ebbing of jubilation.  Over the past few months, law and order has become an alarmingly serious problem with violence spreading to the Northern and Western regions of the country.  President Karzai has a narrow support base even among Pashtuns and competes with the resurgent Taliban.  Outside of Pashtun regions Karzai’s policies seem to evoke anger, such as the destruction reeked on the UN compound in Herat because of the dismissal of Ismail Khan and anger among the Tajiks for not picking former Defense Minister Fahim as his running mate and leading to the candidacy of his main challenger Younus Qanooni. (more).

  • A Revolution in the Indian Mindset

    Capt. (r) Bharat Verma

    The annual conclave of Army Commanders slated for end-October at Delhi will adopt a new war-fighting doctrine called “Cold Start”. It calls for rapid deployment of Integrated Battle Groups to conduct high-intensity offensive operations. Entirely dependent on Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) to achieve limited political objectives against an adversary, the doctrine fails to answer how the generals propose to overcome the inherent weakness in our politico-military decision making apparatus that is riddled with defensive and timid mindset. It is incapable of such audacious employment of military power. (more)
  • US and Iran at loggerheads: India's role in rapprochement

    Harsh V. Pant

    Iran is once again at the center of the American foreign policy debate. The final report of the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks unearthed evidence regarding the longstanding relationship between Al Qaeda and Iran, especially the fact that Iran allowed at least eight of the nineteen hijackers to cross over from Afghanistan the year before 9/11 attacks without putting a stamp on their passports. Though the CIA has made it clear that there is no conclusive proof of a connection between Iran and 9/11 attacks, pressure is mounting on the Bush Administration to clearly enunciate an Iran policy. Many conservatives are calling for a more aggressive policy of trying to bring about a regime change in Tehran; a recent report from the highly influential Council on Foreign Relations argues that it is in the interest of the US to undertake a “selective political engagement” with the current regime in Iran rather than waiting for its downfall. (more)

  • Indicators of Terrorist Attacks

    Anoop Chengara

    Terrorist attacks in the world over the past five years have become more organized, widespread, more frequent and deadly. Their impact on society is so severe that it has become imperative to predict and disrupt terrorist strikes. Successful terrorist strikes share several common features – meticulous long-term planning, careful target selection, access to means of destruction, and efficient logistics support. Evidence of such preparations should alert law enforcement to an impending event. At Bharat Rakshak Forum, a thread was dedicated to listing possible indicators of a terrorist attack. (more)

    (Executive Summary, ContentsReferences and Footnotes, PDF)

  • Dispatch From Afghanistan

    Laxman Bahroo

    The Loya Jirga and the subsequent ratification of the Afghan constitution heralded the promise of nationhood. However, the events of the past year have changed the glimmer of hope to despair. The political, regional and ethnic divide has widened due to the actions of the Taliban and the government. Violence has made further inroads into Pashtun areas and the Northern regions of the country. Afghanistan lurches from one violent event to another. Newspaper articles are replete with talks of broken promises, betrayal and helplessness. (more)

    (Executive Summary, ContentsReferences and Footnotes, PDF)

  • The Incredible Legend of Al Qaida

    Narayanan Komerath

    “The perpetrator of the September 11 attacks was not a nation-state but an organization not formally affiliated with any particular country and whose members were mostly non-Americans”.

    This basic assumption sets the context for a 400-page report. prepared by an august panel of US technology leaders on “Making the Nation Safer – The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism”. Most public writings in the U.S. and Britain go further in identifying this perpetrator as “Al Qaeda” (a/k/a Al Qaida). An exploration of these assumptions is an essential prelude to examining the models of the terrorist threat, which derive thence. The choice of model appears to be as significant to the planning to counter terrorism, as the consequences of guessing wrong are catastrophic. (more)

    (Executive Summary,Contents, References and Footnotes, PDF)

  • Converting Myth into History; Foggy Bottom Style

    Dr. M. D. Nalapat


    ENGAGING INDIA: Diplomacy,Democracy and the Bomb( Strobe Talbott. Brookings Institution Press)


    During the eight years when William Jefferson Clinton was President of the United States, both Communist China as well as the Wahabbist extremism stereotyped by Osama bin Laden grew exponentially in power. If in 1989 the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) was in the doghouse thanks to its suppression of the democracy movement, just a few weeks into his term, Bill Clinton was signaling to Beijing that he was eager to co-opt the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as a strategic partner. At the same time, the Wahabbi establishment that controls Saudi Arabia was cosseted, even being given the right to decide on who among the Muslim community would be selected as chaplains in the US armed forces. From Kosovo to Kashmir, "freedom fighters" were viewed with sympathy and were often given help, sometimes material, or at the least," moral". (more)

  • Was late medieval India ready for a revolution in military affairs? 

    Airavat Singh

    In 1683 the Ottoman Turks laid siege to the European city of Vienna. Their defeat there began a process that finally unraveled the massive empire straddling West Asia and South-East Europe. While the European powers had completely overhauled their military formations over the past century, the Ottomans still relied on cavalry and imported their advanced weaponry from Europe. The steady improvements in infantry were showcased later on by the terrible line-attack of Frederick of Prussia, and still later by the invincible infantry columns of Napoleon. Why didn’t things change in the Indian sub-continent in this same period? After all, firearms had been known to Indians right about the same time as they were to the rest of the civilized world. Moreover large parts of India were not breeding grounds for horses; it is reasonable to assume that people inhabiting those regions would be proficient in infantry warfare. The regions east of the River Ganga and south of the River Krishna are marked by excessive humidity and thick growth of forests—they lack the vast open grasslands that sustained horse-breeding in the medieval era. The inhabitants of these lands—whether Telegus, Berads, or Purbias—did impact the evolution of infantry warfare; but only as willing recruits to battalions organized and led by European officers. Why was it so? Did the superiority of organized infantry over cavalry only become apparent when Europeans were at the head? Were there no occasions in the past when indigenous bodies of infantry had fought off or even defeated superior cavalry forces? (more

    (Executive Summary, Contents, References and Footnotes, PDF)

  • Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

    Gayatri Srinivasan

    The peaceful warrior who redefined Islam, Pakhtoonwa and Non violence and built a foundation with these three pillars. This is the story of a warrior who lived true to his principles till the day he died. I hope to tell  you about the gentleness and patience of Pathans, who chose to follow Islam in the peaceful way preached by Prophet. Yes, you read it right. In this age, it might seem a paradox, at the very least, an oxymoron to many.  But  it will be proved true from the life of this towering personality and the people who followed him through colonial rule and after. Our independence is much more than non violent protests, that gave us  gradual victory. What happened, in actuality to the people, spanning entire undivided India? Not every region got freedom, liberty and justice. (more)
  • “Catalyst for peace, harmony and tranquility…”

    Capt. (r) Bharat Verma

    In an exclusive interview, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Arun Prakash, PVSM, AVSM, VrC, VSM, ADC, shared his perceptions about the Indian Navy with Bharat Verma, Editor, Indian Defence Review. (more)

  • Central Asia Snapshots

    Laxman Bahroo and J. L. Khayyam Coelho

    Central Asia, the perennial penumbra of empires, has once again gained importance and captured world headlines.  The land of war-like Turcomans, ancient cultural centers, the lucrative Silk Road, and the Great Game briefly fell into obscurity as world wars and ideological struggle preoccupied global consciousness.  In the post Cold War era, and especially the post 9-11 era, Central Asia has reacquired its lost pre-eminence.  Strategically bordering the major regions of Asia, the Russian Federation, China, Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East, it has become the destination of choice for regional and global powers seeking to expand their influence. (more)