Tag Archives: D Suba Chandran

Fighting Daesh: regional counter strategy

Daily Times, March 30, 2017

D. Suba Chandran is Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru.

Recent terrorist attacks in Kabul, Sehwan and Dhaka have been claimed by Daesh or more commonly known as the Islamic State (IS). The region cannot be a mute witness to the emergence of the IS in South Asia, for it would lead to its further consolidation and subsequent expansion. An early counter strategy is imperative with the region coming together and chalking out a strategy.

A Modi March

The Friday Times, March 17, 2017

D. Suba Chandran is Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru.

It is not easy to analyse election results of five different States (Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur) in different parts of India (North, Central, Western and Northeast). The election results (with a thumping majority for the Congress in Punjab, the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and none having a majority in Goa and Manipur) are varied; it would be tough to weave a common narrative at the national level. Yet there are few trends, one could observe cutting across the electoral results from different parts of India.

The Husain Huqqani Revelation: Did the Civilians keep the Military in dark on OBL?

ISSSP Reflections No. 50, March 14, 2017

Author: D Suba Chandran

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Did the civilian administration of Pakistan during Zardari’s tenure gave intelligence information to the US on Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country, leading to the latter’s killing? Was the Pakistani military establishment kept out of picture in this Islamabad-Washington collusion? Did Husain Huqqani, then the Pakistani Ambassador to US facilitate this?

In his recent commentary published in the Washington Post, Husain Huqqani former Pakistani Ambassador to the US during 2008-11 (Obama-Zardari period) has touched a raw nerve that is likely to echo within Pakistan and in the policy circles elsewhere in the next few weeks.

There is nothing astonishing in his claim that he forged a relationship during Obama’s campaign itself (Huqqani was at the Hudson Institute in Washington and teaching at Boston before he was appointed as Pakistani Ambassador) helping him to build a closer cooperation between Pakistan and US. But what follows is a chocker; he claims, “These connections eventually enabled the United States to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military, which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamist militants.” (emphasis added) According to Huqqani, the US and the civilian administration in Pakistan could manage tracking OBL without the help of the ISI or the military, through the stationing of “US Special Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan.”

Huqqani also reveals that the US kept Pakistan “officially out of the loop about the operation…when Obama decided to send in Navy SEAL Team 6 without notifying Pakistan.” If the above is true, then one can conclude the military operation against the OBL was owned and executed by the US without the knowledge of the civilian and military establishments of Pakistan. But it also underlines another important point: the civilian administration may not be aware of the OBL operation, but was well aware of the hunt for Osama. According to Huqqani, the civilian administration in Pakistan in fact helped it, by facilitating the presence of the Special Operations and intelligence personnel of the US in Pakistan.

The above facilitation leads to another interesting question – if the civilian administration in Pakistan and its Ambassador to the US had worked closely with the Americans in finding Osama, why blame only Dr Shakil Afridi, who is now in prison for doing the same? (Dr Afridi is now in prison for helping the CIA to locate OBL through a vaccine programme)

Why did Zardari and Huqqani decide to work closely with the US? And why did they keep military outside the loop?

For Huqqani, the need to work with the US was crystal clear. According to him, he was appointed by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who had “wanted to end Pakistan’s support for the Taliban, improve relations with India and Afghanistan, and limit the role of Pakistan’s military intelligence service in defining the country’s foreign policy”. (Emphasis added) In return, “they sought generous US aid to improve the ailing Pakistani economy.”

The above pursuit of the PPP government clearly underlines its original objectives, intended road map and possible threats. More than ending the support for the Taliban and improving relations with Kabul and New Delhi, for Islamabad the primary objective then should have been to restart the US civilian aid to Pakistan. Perhaps, this should have led Zardari, Gilani and Huqqani to work closely with the US. President Obama was willing to open the civilian aid, provided Pakistan addressed American concerns – action against the Taliban, improved relations with India and Afghanistan, and intelligence against the al Qaeda leadership, especially Osama bin Laden.

It was no coincidence that the drone programme led by the CIA, peaked during this period. The drones were effectively used by the US in the FATA region targeting and neutralizing militants belonging to the Taliban and al Qaeda during Zardari-Obama tenure. Though the drones were in operation even during Bush-Musharraf period, it peaked subsequently under the Obama administration.

The crucial question in this context – if what Huqqani claims is true, why did the Zardari team decide to work with the US, keeping Gen Kayani outside the loop? There could be two explanations; first, the Zardari team did not trust the military and its ISI in reshaping Pakistan’s support to the Taliban and al Qaeda. Second, perhaps the PPP government wanted to use the opportunity to undermine the role of military in Pakistan’s decision making process.

To be fair to Pakistan’s military, it did help the CIA in pursuing militant leaders within Pakistan – especially belonging to the al Qaeda and its affiliates. Raids did take place all over Pakistan and numerous al Qaeda leaders were either nabbed or killed in those operations. However, this was more a tactical move, than a strategic shift in Pakistani military’s approach towards Taliban and al Qaeda. While they were willing to work with the US, it was a limited cooperation; on the other hand, the US expected a complete turnaround in Pakistan’s approach towards these groups.

The larger reason for the Zardari team’s attempt to build a strategic link with the US administration should have been internal political equation within Pakistan. The military establishment and its ISI never trusted the PPP; certainly not Zardari. The latter was a shrewd politician to be aware of this and realize that the long term challenge for the PPP will always come from the khakis. However, to undermine or even limit the role of military in decision making – there is neither political consensus with other major parties, nor a public support against military intervention in politics. Zardari would have wanted to use the American support to keep the military away from crucial decision making process.

Perhaps such a thought process got further strengthened in the immediate aftermath of Osama’s killing in Abbotabad. Zardari and Huqqani would have calculated that Osama’s presence close to a military installation and the American raid deep into Pakistani territory would have shamed and undermined the predominant role of Pakistan’s military and the public perception towards it. The “Memogate” episode (where Huqqani was supposed to have authored a memo for the Americans to support the political process in Pakistan by undermining the military) post OBL killing underlines the above.

Unfortunately for Zardari and Huqqani, the public perception did not go fully against the military. The latter did not get “shamed” as was expected with OBL’s presence and the American raid. Rather, the ghairat brigade in Pakistan went after the Americans for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty. Huqqani was subsequently made the villain and was forced to resign for colluding with the Americans.

So, what has changed?

Of course, much has changed since then. There is a new Prime Minister in Islamabad and the government is led by the PML-N and not the PPP. There is a new Army Chief in Pakistan; Gen Bajwa has replaced Gen Sharif who had earlier succeeded Gen Kayani. There is a new Pakistani Ambassador to the US; Huqqani had to resign following the “Memogate” though he is continuing in the US as an academic and is persona non grata in Pakistan. More importantly, there is a new President in the White House.

But, do these changes mean anything substantial to the ground relations and issues? Though there would be a new foreign secretary in Pakistan, the foreign policy vis-à-vis India and Afghanistan will be shaped more by the GHQ. There has been an emphasis within Pakistan to reshape its approach towards Afghanistan and militancy; it did not take place during Gen Sharif’s period and is too soon judge on how Gen Bajwa would respond.

The military is well entrenched in political decision making; if the civilian establishment has to consider taming the military through external support it would be a futile approach, as Huqqani would have realised by now. Neither can the Parliament bulldoze the military through political strength, as Nawaz Sharif attempted in the late 1990s. The media is vibrant and so is the civil society; if the liberal and democratic section is getting stronger, the other side is also equally active and politically powerful, especially on the streets.

The military is unlikely to give up its predominant position. The political parties should attempt to strengthen themselves, by expanding their popular support and the interactions between them both in the Parliament and outside it, through a democratic culture. The jalsa politics, especially led by Imran Khan is disruptive and is unlikely to strengthen the position of political parties and the Parliament. The Panama politics now and the Islamabad agitations in 2014 would reveal that the problem lies elsewhere. And it cannot be addressed by getting the American support.

The civil-military relations in Pakistan will have to evolve from within. The military may have an edge to take outside support, or use external environment to strengthen its position. The civilian institutions will have to look inwards to strengthen their position. For the political parties, support and strength come from their people; that is where they should aim at.


About the Author

Dr. D. Suba Chandran is Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru. He can be reached at <subachandran@gmail.com>

The Raddul Fasaad Fallouts: Will it succeed where Zarb-e-Azb failed?

The Raddul Fasaad Fallouts: Will it succeed where Zarb-e-Azb failed?

NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 13 | Author: D Suba Chandran | March 2017

To read the complete report click here

To cite: D Suba Chandran. “The Raddul Fasaad Fallouts: Will it succeed where Zarb-e-Azb failed?,” NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 13. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, March 2017.


February 2017 was perhaps one of the worst months in Pakistan’s recent history. A major suicide attack on a rally in Lahore in Punjab was followed by a bigger attack on a Sufi shrine (Qalandar) in Sehwan in Sindh. In between, there were suicide attacks on a court premises in Charsadda in KP. The second major attack, on 16 February 2017, also by a suicide bomber took place in Sehwan in rural Sindh (around 200 kms north of Karachi) was in a Sufi shrine (of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar); the attack was owned by the Islamic State in Pakistan. After a spate of horrific terror attacks, Pakistan has launched a new counter-terrorism offensive – Raddul Fasaad. The scope of the new military operation is larger than Zarb-e-Azb.

Will Raddul Fasaad succeed where Zarb-e-Azb failed? Or, will Raddul Fasaad create more problems and have unintended fallouts for Pakistan, given the current political support (or the lack of it) and the absence of long term political objective to military operations?

Tehmina Janjua: Internal Challenges for the New Foreign Secretary

ISSSP Reflections No. 49, February 27, 2017

Author: D Suba Chandran

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Tehmina Janjua, when she takes over the Foreign Secretary in March 2017, will become Pakistan’s first woman Foreign Secretary. Her challenges are numerous – both within Pakistan (especially vis-a-vis foreign policy decision making structure) and outside – especially with big powers such as the US and immediate neighbours – India, Afghanistan and Iran. Besides the above, she will also have to face rest of the international community – in addressing Pakistan’s negative image.

There seems to be an extra focus (though unfair) in the media on she being the first “woman” foreign secretary. Perhaps, it may have played a role in the decision making, as an image building exercise at the international level. There is likely to be a series of changes in the next few weeks. Pakistan’s serving foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry will be replacing the present Ambassador to the US. Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s High Commissioner was expected to replace Aizaz, but the Prime Minister seem to have opted for Tehmina Janjua.

Tehmina’s track record is substantial; she is a highly experienced diplomat with so much understanding at the international levels. She has worked extensively with the United Nations and currently she has been Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. She was earlier the spokesperson for the external ministry and has served as Ambassador to Italy from December 2011 to October 2015.

There have been women diplomats in Pakistan, highly decorated, efficient and successful, for example Maleeha Lodhi. Maleeha, though not a career diplomat, is currently Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York; earlier she has served as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK and Ambassador to the US.

Tehmina may not have served as an Ambassador in the region, but has enough international experience. The real issues however, for Tehmina will not be related to whether she has served in the neighbourhood or not. There are serious domestic and international challenges that she would be inheriting. Especially the domestic challenges that would restrict her functioning, is the focus of this short commentary.

It is not easy to be a Foreign Secretary in South Asia in the first place. Given the political decision making process, role and actual position of the Prime Minister/President and bilateral relations with the neighbours and big powers – the position of foreign secretary in the region has always been challenging. In India, the situation has been improving since the 1998 nuclear tests; starting from Shyam Saran, there have been a series of Foreign Secretaries, who have been able to discharge the functions expected of the external ministry.

In Pakistan, there are additional challenges to the Foreign Secretary. First and foremost is the decision making process and the actors involved in it. Though in a democracy, Parliament and elected representatives led by the Prime Minister is expected to play a predominant role in shaping country’s foreign policy, this has not been the case in Pakistan. The military has been playing a powerful role not only in foreign policy decision making, but also on Pakistan’s strategic assets and their developments. Shaping the relations with the neighbourhood and the big powers – especially the US and China has remained more with the GHQ than with the Parliament and External Ministry.

Second, the GHQ would prefer complete control over foreign policy especially vis-a-vis Pakistan’s immediate neighbourhood. Perhaps, that could be a reason also to choose Tehmina, as she has enormous international exposure, than any substantial experience in the immediate neighbourhood. For Tehmina, the above would be the biggest challenge, which her predecessors also inherited.

Third, added to the above restriction is the absence of a full time foreign minister. Nawaz Sharif for reasons best known to him has not appointed a full time foreign minister and has been running the external relations through Special Advisors, in this case Sartaj Aziz.

Though Sartaz Aziz is extremely capable, he is not the “Foreign Minister” chosen from one of the elected representatives of the Parliament. Special Advisor may enjoy a cabinet position, but it is not equivalent to being a Foreign Minister. The protocol conscious diplomatic community should be well aware of the difference.

One could also argue, foreign minister in Pakistan is more symbolic. Hina Rabbani was the last foreign minister of Pakistan and the media, especially social media was highly critical of her.

Finally, the biggest domestic challenge with huge international ramification – militancy and militant groups. While the foreign ministry in Pakistan may have no access, leverage or control over the militant groups within Pakistan, the diplomats will be at the receiving end at the international level – both fire fighting and image building. Even for the Pakistani Ambassador to China, with whom they share an “all weather relationship” that is “higher than the Himalayas” and “deeper than the Oceans” (and now “sweeter than honey”), it would not be an easy task to defend Pakistan’s image and policies relating to militancy.

Worse, for the foreign ministry of Pakistan, they would not be privy to the larger interaction between the political leadership, military and ISI on the use and abuse of militant groups as a strategic asset on Pakistan’s eastern and western borders. As a result, their envoys serving in New Delhi, Kabul and Tehran may not be fully aware of the larger calculations behind actual developments along the borders. The foreign secretary, at times may know about the border developments and Pakistan’s response from his or her envoys in the neighbouring countries than from his or her own Parliament!

All the best Tehmina Janjua. Given the inherent limitations, we sincerely wish, you take proactive measures to stabilise the LoC, strengthen it further with pursuing the earlier agreements between two parts of J&K, and normalise Pakistan’s relationship with India. Hope you bring a new perspective and a change as well across the Wagah.


 About the Author

Dr. D. Suba Chandran is Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru. He can be reached at <subachandran[at]gmail.com>

“LoC, J&K and New Delhi:New Pak COAS & Likely Challenges for India”

“LoC, J&K and New Delhi:New Pak COAS & Likely Challenges for India”

NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 11 | Author: D Suba Chandran | December 2016

To read the complete report click here

To cite: D Suba Chandran. “LoC, J&K and New Delhi: New Pak COAS & Likely Challenges for India,” NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 11. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, December 2016, available at


Pakistan has a new Chief of Army Staff. Gen Bajwa has been appointed as the new COAS in November 2016, following the retirement of Gen Sharif. After taking charge, Gen Bajwa has made reshuffle within the organization; there is a new Chief of the ISI and also a new Chief of General Staff. In short, there is a new team at the helms of Pakistan’s military and its ISI. From an Indian perspective, it is important to analyse and even forecast, Gen Bajwa’s likely India strategy. The Indo-Pak trend that was set by Musharraf on Indo-Pak relations, especially related to LoC and Kashmir, and pursued by Gen Kayani was broken during the end of Gen Sharif’s tenure.

Given the recent trend in India’s posture towards Pakistan, one could expect an assertive strategy towards Pakistan. What is likely to be Gen Bajwa’s response and road map vis-a-vis India?

The “Not Now, Not Ever” Lady: Amb. Arundhati Ghose R.I.P

ISSSP Reflections No. 49, August 01, 2016

Author: D. Suba Chandran 

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Arundhati GhoseThe last time I spoke with Ambassador Arundhati Ghose was in April 2016. A team from the ISSSP at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) including Prof. Rajaram Nagappa and Prof. S. Chandrashekar were to visit New Delhi to discuss few projects with the government and think tanks in Delhi. Amb. Ghose, being a part of the NIAS, we approached her to be a part of the ISSSP delegation. She responded with a short note informing about her cancer.  After reaching Delhi I called her to enquire about her health without realizing that it would be my last correspondence with an Institution.

An Institution – she was. Those who worked with her in the MEA and other senior scholars who interacted with her in the various seminar circuits would vouch for it. And more importantly, for those young scholars, who had the opportunity to know her, listen to her and interact with her. I was one of those fortunate ones.

While she was known for her “Not Now, Not Ever” crisp remark about India not signing the CTBT and her strong diplomatic projection of India’s interests, she was also a great human being, scholar and a mentor.

I met her first, when I was a part of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS); I had the privilege of working closely with her. She took part in the seminars and conferences that I organised on nuclear issues, was a regular part of the workshops especially for young scholars, and also the track-II dialogues we held.

She was thorough and very methodical in her approach. She would always come prepared for her lectures, with a detailed and elaborate written note. In advance, she would check how much time she would have for her presentation – and ensure that she sticks to the time allotted – whether 8-10 minutes as a part of a panel, or a full length lecture in 20-30 minutes. She would be precise and ensure she covers her ground.

If only she had picked up a teaching assignment after her retirement, she would have become a great teacher and mentor to many young scholars. However, she compensated for it by taking time to be with them, whenever we organised workshops for young scholars. She was a regular faculty for those 3-5 days nuclear workshops we organised; she ensured that she spent enough time with the young scholars. One could see the students and scholars surrounding her during tea and lunch/dinner. Her lunch and dinner tables will always be crowded with the young scholars during those workshops and the only thing that would distract her would be her urge to smoke.

Many of us wished and even spoke about her smoking. She would give us a pat on our shoulders, wink at us and pretend that the question was never put to her. Or, she would change the subject. Diplomat, wasn’t she?

There were few occasions that we had to request her to be a discussant for the draft essays of young scholars, including an intern. She would always be willing and spend the same amount of time, which she would otherwise spend with the seniors. She would take every work seriously; who has authored it – junior or senior would not matter. A thorough professional.

More than that, she was a great human being. Inside the conference/meeting halls, there would be a serious debate and disagreement, but she would never let those academic differences affect her personal relationships. Outside the conference table, she would be friendly and smiling, of course politely telling that she did not agree.

She was also fond of her pets. She would not let me referring “them” to dogs or cats. It is always a “he” or a “she”, and would refer they by the name. She would even be willing to skip the lunch, if she has to take her pets to the veterinarian.

We all will miss you. Ma’am.


About the Author

Dr. D. Suba Chandran is Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru. He can be reached at <subachandran[at]gmail[dot]com>

The shifting sands in Afghanistan

The Hindu, May 24, 2016

D. Suba Chandran, Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

The HinduThree major developments during the last 10 days are likely to have significant implications on the future of the Afghan peace process — the unsuccessful conclusion of the Afghan Quadrilateral Coordination Group’s (QCG) talks in Islamabad, the U.S. Congress’s conditions on Pakistan to do more on Afghanistan to receive any further American aid, and the killing of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Balochistan by an American drone.

Did one development cause the other? Or did they take place simultaneously, and is the sequencing just a coincidence? Either way, they have serious implications for the Afghan peace process. A fourth development, though not totally outside the above three, is a formal understanding between the Afghan government and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. This agreement, though more likely to strengthen the internal peace process within Afghanistan, would have its own repercussions on the QCG dialogue.

To read the complete article read here

To buy or not to buy: F-16, Pak, US & India

The Tribune, May 19, 2016

D. Suba Chandran, Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

TribuneF-16 fighter aircraft have become the latest bone of contention in the volatile Pakistan-US relations. During the last month, there have been a series of statements, demands, counter demands, threats and carrots, both from the US and Pakistan.  

The sale of eight American F-16s to Pakistan has been plaguing the relations between the countries, primarily due to American demands on Pakistan “to do more in Afghanistan”, differences within the US between the State Department, White House and the Congress, and (more importantly) who would foot the bill for the sale. 

To read the complete article read here

IPL lessons

The Dawn, February 19, 2016

D. Suba Chandran, Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

DawnAfter a long wait, the Pakistan Super League is finally on. Given the passion associated with cricket not only in Pakistan, but all over the region one would want PSL to succeed. Though the Indian Premier League has taken a giant leap in South Asia, other countries, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (SLPL) have also made attempts to have their own leagues with varying degrees of success.

To read the complete article read here

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