BBC News – Viewpoint: How far might India go to ‘punish’ Pakistan?

The Siachen glacier is disputed territory

New Delhi – India, 15 February 2019. A suicide attack killed more than 40 members of the Indian security forces in restive Indian-administered Kashmir on 14 February.

Threats from Indian leaders, who face a tricky general election before May, raise the spectre of Indian military retaliation against Pakistan for alleged “state-sponsored terrorism”, writes Indian defence analyst Ajai Shukla.

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi has pledged to give security forces free rein to respond to the militant attack, the deadliest in the region in three decades.

“Terrorist organisations and their backers”, he said, will pay a “heavy price”. Home Minister Rajnath Singh blamed Pakistan for the attack and threatened a “strong reply”. Influential Indian television networks are baying for revenge.

The car bombing has been claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which numerous countries, and the United Nations, have designated a terrorist group. Its leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, was captured and imprisoned in the 1990s by Indian forces.

He was later released as part of a hostage exchange after an Indian airliner headed to Delhi was hijacked to Kabul in 1999. Delhi has always held Pakistan responsible for that hijacking.

For several years now, India has been pressuring the UN to designate Azhar a “global terrorist”, but China, a close ally of Pakistan, has repeatedly blocked that move.

The involvement of JeM in the car bombing directly links Pakistan to the attack. In 2001, a Jaish suicide squad attacked the Indian parliament, killing nine security personnel and triggering an Indian military mobilisation against Pakistan that kept the two countries on the brink of war for months.

In 2016, Jaish attacks on Indian military facilities in Pathankot and Uri resulted in the Indian army launching “surgical strikes” on Pakistani military targets and terrorist camps across the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border.

This time, the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government could feel pressured to do more. The 2016 strikes were deliberately limited in time and choice of targets, allowing Pakistan to deny that they took place at all.

The Indian military has acknowledged contingency plans exist for punishing Pakistan more severely in the event of a damaging terrorist attack. But all such plans carry the danger of retaliation and uncontrolled escalation.

This fear is exacerbated by the fact that both countries possess nuclear weapons. Pakistan has repeatedly signalled it would not hesitate to use them.

For now, Pakistan’s foreign office has tweeted its “grave concern” and rejected “any insinuation by elements in Indian government and media circles that seek to link the attack to State of Pakistan without investigations”.

However, given that JeM has claimed credit for the car bomb attack and Masood Azhar roams free in Pakistan, Indian public opinion is unlikely to demand much more by way of proof.

Pakistan’s central intelligence agency, the army-controlled Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), faces a conundrum with regard to the Jaish. Unlike the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which unquestioningly follows the politically dominant Pakistan army’s orders, the Jaish has not shrunk from attacking Pakistani military targets.

The group even carried out two deadly bomb attacks on the country’s former military leader Pervez Musharraf in 2003.

Given the Jaish’s utility in keeping the Kashmir pot bubbling, Pakistan’s army has turned a blind eye towards it so far. It remains to be seen whether serious pressure from India, and possibly from China, which might believe it has gone far enough in sheltering Azhar, could result in the group being shut down.

Away from the geo-politics, there is also an important local dynamic to the car bombing. Over the last year, Indian security forces have killed almost 300 Kashmir militants, with most of them from the south Kashmir pocket where the car bombing took place.

The militant groups, therefore, faced a pressing need to reassert their presence with a high-visibility attack. The predominant group in the area, the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, regards suicide attacks as anti-Islamic. That left the onus on the Jaish and the LeT.

For India’s security establishment, this was an unalloyed intelligence disaster.

The police and intelligence agencies face questions over how the Jaish managed to stage such an attack on a huge Indian convoy, which would have involved rigging up a car with a large amount of explosives, carrying out reconnaissance, rehearsals and penetrating several layers of security.

For now, the Indian establishment is weighing its options. Economic moves, including removing Pakistan’s Most Favoured Nations trade benefits, have already been decided. The Indian government is also talking about diplomatic isolation. But in the absence of any Pakistani action against the Jaish, there will be more to come.

The Tribune – Banned by British, Nanak Singh’s scathing critique of the Raj to be launched in English

New Delhi – India, 19 February 2019. Nanak Singh, widely regarded as the father of the Punjabi novel, was present at the Jallianwala Bagh on April 13, 1919 , when the massacre took place and to mark the centenary of the bloody event, his lost manuscript, “Khooni Vaisakhi”, translated for the first time into English, will be released.

It will be published by Harper Collins India on April 12. The publisher said that Singh was 22 years old at that time.
“As the British troops opened fire on the unarmed gathering protesting against the Rowlatt Act, killing hundreds, Nanak Singh fainted and his unconscious body was piled up among the corpses.

“After going through the traumatic experience, he proceeded to write ‘Khooni Vaisakhi’, a long poem that narrates the political events in the run-up to the massacre and its immediate aftermath.

“The poem was a scathing critique of the British Raj and was banned soon after its publication in May 1920,” said the publisher.

After six decades, the poem was rediscovered and it has now been translated into English by the author’s grandson, Navdeep Suri, an Indian diplomat, who is currently India’s High Commissioner to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The book will carry both the original as well as the translated texts, along with some essays.

Gentbrugge: Viadukaduk

Gentbrugge – Viadukaduk
E17 viaduct
25 January 2019

It was kind of dark ….

The dog also thought something should be done about our ailing viaduct

Gentbrugge – Viadukaduk
Fenced off area underneath the E17 viaduct
26 January 2019

No parking for De Lijn buses or commuters

‘Betonrot’ – bits of concrete are falling off the viaduct

Even the Land van Rodelaan is not safe

The viaduct – Land van Rodelaan – The fence

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Wire – Archeologist who observed dig says no evidence of temple under Babri Masjid

“Underneath the Babri Masjid, there are actually older mosques.”

New Delhi – India, 06 December 2018. The Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI’s) 2003 claim that there is evidence of a temple under the Babri Masjid doesn’t enjoy consensus, even among members of the group that conducted the dig.

The ASI submitted its 574-page report on the matter to the Allahabad high court in August 2003, saying proof had been found of a massive structure just below the demolished Babri Masjid. The Sunni Waqf Board, a party to the Ayodhya title dispute case, had said then that the ASI’s report was “vague and self-contradictory”.

Two archaeologists, Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon, had observed the ASI’s excavations on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board. In 2010, they wrote a paper in the Economic and Political Weekly detailing why they had objected to the ASI’s results, and the subsequent Allahabad high court judgment in September 2010.

According to the article, the duo had objected to various practices the ASI was following during its dig, which made “it clear that there was already a preconceived idea in the minds of ASI archaeologists”.

The authors argued that the ASI’s report had gone largely unchallenged because of the power it holds over researchers in the country. “Any archaeologist in India or from outside who wants to explore or excavate sites has to obtain a licence from the ASI. So no field archaeologist is willing to speak out against it or its outdated methods.”

It has now been 26 years since kar sevaks demolished the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Hindutva right-wing is pressing for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site, even before the Supreme Court has given its verdict.

Varma, a professor of archaeology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, spoke to Huffington Post about why she thinks the ASI reached the results it did and the procedural lapses she observed.

She argues that, “even today, there is no archeological evidence that there was a temple under the Babri Masjid.” According to her, “Underneath the Babri Masjid, there are actually older mosques.”

Varma has also told Huffington Post that the ASI used three pieces of evidence, all questionable, to say that a temple had existed at the site.

A western wall: “The western wall is a feature of a mosque. It is a wall in front of which you say namaaz. It is not the feature of a temple. Temple has a very different plan.”

Fifty pillar bases: “These are completely fabricated and we filed many complaints to the court about it. Our argument is that if you look at what they are claiming to be pillar bases, these are pieces of broken bricks and they have mud inside them.”

Architectural fragments: “Of these 12 [most important architectural fragments], none of these were found during the excavation. These were recovered from the debris lying above the lime floor of the masjid. A temple, a stone temple, supposedly this is a stone temple, has much more sculptured material than what they have found.”

Previous excavations

Varma also spoke about older excavations around the Babri Masjid area. The first was in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham, the first director-general of the ASI. He had, she claimed, mentioned three mounds in Ayodhya, two with some sort of Buddhist stupas and one with a vihara.

While he banked on oral narratives that indicated some temples in the area had been destroyed, Varma says there was no mention of that in his report.

The second excavation was conducted in 1969 by the Department of Archaeology of the Banaras Hindu University, in the vicinity of Babri Masjid. Though few records from this excavation have survived to this day, they apparently concluded that the area had been inhabited in the early historic and the medieval periods.

Between 1975 and 1980, B B Lal, the then director-general of the ASI, revived the project. Lal’s work is significant in the history of the area, even though his initial report did not add much to previous work.

So what makes his project stand out? According to Varma (lightly edited for clarity),

By 1988, the [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] had picked up this whole issue of temples having been demolished at three sites, Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi.

In [that year], B B Lal took a photograph of pillar bases, which he said was taken and excavated at Ayodhya between 1975 and 1978, and published it in Manthan, which is the [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] journal.

He also presented the photograph at the World Archeological Congress in Croatia, saying that if excavations were to be carried out, they would find evidence of a temple.

Lal’s assertions helped the BJP create a large-scale political movement out of the Babri Masjid monument, and in 1992, the mosque was demolished. In 1999, after the National Democratic Alliance assumed power, the topic of excavation became big again, according to Varma, and the Allahabad high court ordered the ASI dig in 2002.

A questionable ASI report

The ASI, according to Varma, left much to be desired in its final report. While the initial sections read normally, the conclusion stands out. She told Huffington Post:

If you read the entire report, there is no mention of any temple. It is a standard report. What is missing is a chapter on bones and human skeletal remains. That is what they also found but they never published it.

What you will also find is that the names of the people who wrote those [other] chapters is mentioned. But in the conclusion, there is no name mentioned.

And in the conclusion, in the last paragraph of the report, they say that given the evidence of this western wall, and pillar bases, and some architectural fragments, there was a temple underneath the Babri Masjid.

It is literally written in three lines. Otherwise, nowhere in the discussion, is there any talk of a temple being found. With the same evidence, we have interpreted that there were actually two or three phases of smaller mosques underneath the Babri Masjid.

Dawn – Pakistan will address actionable evidence if shared by Delhi, PM Khan tells India after Pulwama attack

Islamabad Federal Territory – Pakistan, 19 February 2019. In a video message, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said Islamabad will take action if Delhi shares any actionable evidence concerning last week’s suicide bombing in occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama area which had targeted Indian paramilitary soldiers.

While offering cooperation and another chance at a dialogue over the Kashmir issue, the premier also warned India against any act of aggression, saying Pakistan will not hesitate in retaliating to a provocation.

However, he made it clear that he hopes better sense will prevail.

The premier explained he had wanted to respond to the attack right away because Delhi had accused Pakistan of having a hand in the attack, “but we had a very important visit from the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, we had an investment conference happening that we had been preparing for for a long time,” he explained.

“Therefore, I decided not to respond then, because the attention would have been diverted away from the visit and onto this issue.”

“This is why I am responding [now], now that the crown prince has left. And this [message] is for the Indian government,” he said.

“First of all, you accused Pakistan. There was no evidence. You never thought: ‘What would be in it for Pakistan?’,” he said. “Would even a fool do such a thing to sabotage his own conference? And even if he the crown prince had not been visiting, what benefit would Pakistan get from it [the Pulwama attack]?”

“Why would Pakistan, at this stage, when it is moving towards stability, we have fought a war against terrorism for 15 years, 70,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives, terrorism is receding, peace and stability are returning, what benefit would we get from it [the Pulwama attack]?” he asked.

“You wish to remain stuck in the past, and each time something happens in Kashmir, you want to hold Pakistan responsible. Instead of trying to resolve the Kashmir issue, start a dialogue or move forward, you want to make Islamabad your whipping boy again and again,” the prime minister said, addressing Delhi.

“I am telling you clearly, this is naya Pakistan. It is a new mindset, a new way of thinking. We believe that it is in our interest that our soil is not used for carrying out terrorist attacks in other countries, nor do we want outsiders to come and carry out terror attacks here. We desire stability,” he asserted.

“Today, I would like to make the Indian government an offer. Any sort of investigation you wish carried out regarding this incident about the involvement of any Pakistani, we are ready [for it].

“If you have any actionable intelligence that a Pakistani is involved, give it to us. I guarantee you that we will take action, not because we are under pressure, but because they [any individuals found involved] are acting as enemies of Pakistan.”

“If someone is using Pakistan’s soil [to carry out terror attacks elsewhere], it is [akin to] enmity with us. It is against our interests.”

The prime minister added that whenever Pakistan tries to initiate dialogue with India, Delhi’s precondition is that terrorism must be talked about.

“We are ready to talk about terrorism. Terrorism is a regional issue […] We want terrorism in the region to end,” he stated. “Pakistan has been the worst affected by terrorism […] Therefore, we are ready to talk with you.”

“[However,] in India, there needs to be a new way of thinking, some introspection: what is the reason these Kashmiri youths have gotten to the point where they have no fear of death anymore? There must be some reason,” he said.

“Do you think that this one-dimensional oppression, cruelty, using military to cause issues, if they haven’t been successful till today, do you think they will be successful in the future?” the prime minister asked, referring to the oppressive tactics used by the Indian government to suppress the local population in occupied Kashmir.

“If today in Afghanistan, after 17 years, the entire world has accepted that there is no military solution and that the issue can only be resolved through dialogue, shouldn’t there be discussion about this in India?” he asked.

“We are hearing the voices in India that say ‘Pakistan must be taught a lesson’, ‘Revenge must be taken from Pakistan’, ‘There should be a strike’ … First of all, what law gives any country to become judge, jury and executioner?” he asked. “What sort of [sense of] justice is this?”

“Secondly, you are facing an election year. And we believe that during the election, [you think] you will get a big boost if you ‘teach Pakistan a lesson’,” he said.

“If you think that if you can carry out any kind of attack on Pakistan, Pakistan will not just think about retaliating, we will retaliate. There will be no way to respond other than to retaliate,” the prime minister warned.

“And after that, where does the matter go? We all know that starting a war is easy. [But] starting a war may be in our hands, ending it won’t be. Where it [the tide of war] will go, God knows. That’s why I hope that better sense will prevail.”

“This issue will only be resolved through dialogue and talks,” he concluded.