Browncast Episode 103: Abhijit Iyer-Mitra on Indian Defense, Economics, and History

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) | Twitter

This episode features Omar, Mukunda, and Akshar talking to Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, a defense and policy analyst, about his evolution of political thought with highlights on his former communist affinity, evolving feelings on Modi, and passion for Indian nationalism. We also get into the continued inefficiencies of India and how it has been so detrimental to its development, plus possible reforms to remedy it. The wide-ranging conversation also includes insights into Abhijit’s time in jail, Kashmir, and “Frugal Indian” cooking tips!

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Why Did the EIC Win in India

From Major Amin. A look at some factors that made the EIC so successful militarily. As usual, the Royal Navy gets a lot of credit.

Native troops played a significant role in the East India Company’s conquest of  India. Certain aspects however made the military potential and effectiveness of East India Company’s troops stand out from their other opponents in India. The East India Company employed European officers trained in the European way of war to drill train and command native Indian troops.In addition in almost every battle native troops were grouped around a relatively much smaller nucleus of European troops. Another factor which played an important part in the East India Company’s conquest of India was naval power.Naval power gave flexibility to the operations of the East India Company. This meant that troops from Bengal Army could be swiftly transported from Bengal Presidency to the Madras presidency,thereby reinforcing the Madras troops in case of any serious military reverse. This happened many times during the Mysore Wars. Naval power also played an important role in logistically supporting the operations of land based armies. Three widely separated bases of the English East India Company which were interconnected with each other by sea meant that loss of any one of these could not defeat the company,since troops from one presidency could be switched to another quickly via the sea route. No single Indian power had common borders with all the three presidency and this meant that no single Indian power could destroy the English East India Company. The only way that this could be done was by an alliance of native powers and this was made extremely difficult since no two native powers could agree on anything for a long time. Above all the center of gravity of the English East India Company was naval power and no native power possessed naval potential to challenge British naval mastery. For sometime the French were in a position to do so,but the only opportunity to do so was lost during the Second Mysore War at Cuddalore when all the French squadron under Admiral D’ Orves had to do was to remain in position off the coast of Cuddaiore while the English East India Company’s main army under Sir Eyre Coote facing Hyder Ali of Mysore could have been starved into surrender. (1) Due to some inexplicable reason D ‘ Orves simply sailed away and the French lost their last decisive opportunity to defeat the English East India Company. Continue reading “Why Did the EIC Win in India”

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Causes of the Revolt of 1857

This is a longish piece written by Major Amin. As readers of brownpundits are well aware, major Amin is a military historian (and a very good one) who also has strong (and mostly “not academic”) opinions about history in general. These are his thoughts on the Indian Mutiny (aka “War of independence”). Even those who disagree with particular opinions may find some insights worth reading.. in any case, it will generate interesting comments 🙂

What follows is from Major Amin, unedited and unexpurgated. Continue reading “Causes of the Revolt of 1857”

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Sikh Society: forged in the frontier

Before Samuel Huntington banalised the study of international relations with his Clash of Civilisations thesis, there was Halford Mackinder who attempted (unwittingly of course) to do the same with history – with his Geographical Pivot of History thesis. (I am perhaps being unfair to Mackinder with the comparison – more on this later.)

However, just like Huntington’s thesis despite being a flattening of history (similar to another forgotten intellectual’s attempts at flattening globalisation in its simplification of diversity of experiences – cultural for one, economic for the other) – in Mackinder’s Geographic Pivot there were glimmers of theoretical reasoning. The thesis was imperialist and reductionist but it has value if only in a literary sense. (This would appal Mackinder, since her built his ‘theory’ as a counter to literary historians of ideas.)

Mackinder’s foundational logic was – that geography provides a stage to men, or Man (as he would prefer) which determines the scope of their movements, entries and exits, in the various Acts (eras) in the long drama of History – was the core thesis that civilisations were either broken (and destroyed) by invasion or they were rejuvenated through resistance.

The European civilisational core, Mackinder said, a backwater in the western edge of the Eurasian peninsula after the fall of Rome, was rejuvenated by successive waves of resistance to Saracens (Arabs) and Turks, as raiders from the land, and Vikings, as raiders of the sea. The raiders of the land were especially important for this reading of history, as they came from the Heartland – the grand central steppe lands of Eurasia, riding grounds of the horselords of the World Island – who in successive waves of the turning of the wheel of time fell upon the marginal, or peninsular lands, of the Eurasian megacontinent.

The civilisations of Greece and Rome were shattered by them. China was forever changed, and only the turning of Kublai Khan to a symbiosis of Tengri-ism, Dharma and Sinicisation might have preserved a semblance of the past into posterity. India, too, was shattered by wave after wave of invasions out from the Heartland. India, too, survived. But to what extent? I will not even attempt to answer this!

I will restrict myself to a reading of history I proposed in a previous essay (Sangat and Society: the Sikh Remaking of the North Indian Public Sphere). I discussed how Guru Nanak’s founding of Kartarpur as a model Sikh-Sangatarian society was a response from below to the anarchy from above unleashed by Babur’s invasion of India. Guru Nanak had been eyewitness to the destruction caused by the internecine warfare of Turco-Mongolic Princes in Khurasan, or the wider edges of the Heartland where it transitioned into the Marginal lands (because on the peninsular margins of Eurasia.

Sangatarianism was a civilisational response of North Indian society to waves of invasions from the Heartland. This is, of course, the plainest reading of the Sikh idea of the Sangat. The Sikh Sangat was both a support structure for the unprotected and gradually a bulwark against invasion from ‘outside’ and rejuvenation from within.

These days Sikhs are gaining (well deserved) respect for the community’s response (especially through langar seva) as a civil society support structure in this time of crisis. This should not be surprising for those who know Sikh society was forged in crisis, and one could argue, as a response to it.

Sikhs know how to organise and respond in times such as these. Much of this is due to a spirit of ascendant existentialism (chad-di kala) rather than giving way to nihilism. Sikhs have been through many eras of persecution, but the spirit of ascendant existentialism has prevented the community from falling into chagrin. There is a proverb I will translate loosely, speaking of the persecutions of a Mughal provincial governor who had sanctioned Sikhs and proclaimed a reward of coins on Sikh heads. The persecuted Sikhs of the era, far from being cowed down made a song of this –

Manu is our scythe, we are his crop of wild weed,

The more he chops our heads, the more we grow indeed.

Ascendant Existentialism implies the acceptance of death, cultivating an attitude of readiness for death, but not allowing this to suppress the vital joy of life. This is crucial to the ethos of a frontier society.

Today, in a sense, the entire global community has become a frontier society – living precariously. For some people such as doctors and healthcare workers, even day to day. Maybe cultivating a spirit of ascendant existentialism can do us all some good.

Finally, to end this with my promise to ‘be fair’ to Mackinder. His view that external threat can sometimes revitalise civilisations is a solid proposition. To survive times of crisis, we need to draw on the best of ourselves. And if we do come out on the other side, it is, then, the best of us that survives. Now of course I’m not making some foolish survival of the fittest argument. The fittest is not necessarily the best, and vice versa. What, then, is our, as humanity, ‘best’ – at this stage in our civilisational history? We will find out on the other side, perhaps. Perhaps we already have.

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Interview with a Mujahid: Maj Gen Tajammal Hussain Malik

The late Major General Tajammal Hussain Malik had an illustrious military careere (and a very controversial retirement career). In 1965 his unit played an important role in the defense of Lahore (a battle that the Indian army could have won if led by someone like Sagat Singh, but luckily for Pakistan, their GOC was Niranjan Prasad and Lahore was saved) and in 1971 his brigade was the only major force that the Indian army could not break in its lightning campaign in East Pakistan. Gen Tajammal was also a true believer who dreamed of the standard “Pak army true believer” stuff (abolish provinces, impose shariah law, unite the ummah), but with the interesting twist that he hated the crook Zia ul Haq and actually planned to assasinate him on 23rd March 1980 (his second coup plan, more serious than his first, which had been little more than a vague thought that arose when he was denied a well-deserved promotion). By the way, when Islamophobes think of Pakistan they tend to imagine that the median army officer is as fanatical as Gen Tajammal (though they obviously assign a more negative valence to that fanaticism than Islamophiles do), but as the following interview makes clear, his level of belief is not exactly common in the senior ranks of the army.

Anyway, here is an interview that Major Amin conducted with Gen Tajammal in 2001 (a couple of years before Gen Tajammal passed away). I am posting it here both as an important historical document and as a window into the mind of someone who was NOT the median Pakistani army officer, but is probably representative of what we may call the “PMA ideal”: an officer who combined professional competence with a Nasim Hijazi level view of history, a PMA-level view of Pakistani politics and a naive but intensely sincere faith in what can only be described as the Chakwal version of Islam. Comments welcome. (I put Major Amin’s words in red, the rest is Gen Tajammal speaking)

Postscript: I have added the full text of an article Abdul Majeed Abid wrote about General Tajammal in the Pakistani newspaper “The Nation” at the end of this interview.. it add more detail to the picture of Gen Tajammal.

Major General Tajammul Hussain Malik

Agha H Amins Note:—

This is the man who was praised by Indians and they established a commission to study his masterpiece Battle of Hilli .He was praised by his Indian battle opponent in his book “Indian Sword penetrates East Pakistan” as a singularly brave man .

He was miles above pygmies like Zia , Ayub and Musharraf. When we joined the army, we were inspired by his battalion 3rd Baloch’s attempted coup of 23 March 1980 to wipe out despicable clown Zia and his dirty clique !

We had to wait till glorious 17th August 1988 when that plane finally crashed right into the Hindu Shamshan Ghat on Basti Lal Kamal !

One good thing that General Beg did immediately after that glorious crash in 1988 was to restore Tajammuls complete military honours and privileges. Tajammul was serving a sentence of 14 years RI for planning to liquidate all army generals and Zia on 23 March 1980, a brilliant scheme indeed !

Tajammul has thrown light on Zias shallow personality in this interview !

May God Bless His Soul !

Major Agha H Amin (Retired)

Maj Gen (Retd) Tajammal Hussain Malik

A.H Amin

September 2001

Please tell us something about your early life, parents? Continue reading “Interview with a Mujahid: Maj Gen Tajammal Hussain Malik”

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Nicknames in the British Indian Army

An oldie from Dr Hamid Hussain

Nicknames
Hamid Hussain
 
In British army, officers were sometimes given nick names.  This tradition continued in British Indian army when Indians were commissioned as officers.  The trend continued in present day Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi armies with addition of some native touch.  Some nick names were simply abbreviations of original names.  Lieutenant General B. M. Kaul (5/6 Rajputana Rifles) was nick named ‘Biji’.  His first name was Brij Mohan which was abbreviated to ‘Biji’. Brigadier H. D. Bilimoria was nicknamed ‘Russi’ while some friends called him ‘Billi’ and Major General Iftikhar Khan (7 and 3 Cavalry) was nick named ‘Ifti’.  Some modified abbreviations of original names were also used.  Lieutenant General Altaf Qadir (4/12 Frontier Force Regiment) was called ‘Toffy’ probably transformation of his first name Altaf while Lieutenant General Habibullah Khan Khattak (Baloch Regiment and 1 Bihar Regiment) was called ‘Beebo’.
Many Indian officers had long names that were difficult to pronounce therefore they were given Christian nick names by their fellow officers as it was easy to pronounce.  Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa (1/7 Rajput Regiment)) was nick named ‘Kipper’, General Kodendera Sumaya Thimayya (4/19 Hyderabad Regiment) was called ‘Timmy’, Field Marshal Jemi Hormusji Framji Manekshaw (4/12 Frontier Force Regiment & 2/8 Gorkha Rifles) was called ‘Sam’, Lieutenant General Atiq ur Rahman (4/12 Frontier Force Regiment) was called ‘Turk’, Major General Yusuf Khan (7 Light Cavalry) was called ‘Joe’ and Major General A. A. Rudra (28 Punjabis) was nick named ‘Jick’.
Some nick names originated as a complement of a quality of the officer or some weak point.  Others got weird nick names for different reasons.  Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi (1/14 Punjab Regiment) won his Military Cross (MC) in the killing fields of Burma, pinned by Viceroy Lord Wavell.  He fought well and his superior British officers were impressed and nick named him ‘Tiger’.  He was known in the army as Tiger Niazi.  When he landed in East Pakistan in 1971, he announced that ‘Tiger Niazi’ has arrived.  A Bengali commander Kadar Siddiqi (a non-commissioned officer of 2 East Bengal Regiment) quipped that “there are no tigers in Mianwali (referring to Niazi’s birth place).  Here you are among tigers”.  Kadar fought against Pakistan army and earned for himself the nick name of ‘Tiger’ and later popularly known as ‘Tiger Siddiqi’.

Continue reading “Nicknames in the British Indian Army”

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Why Musa was made C in C Pakistan Army

(via Major Amin)

By Aslam Minhas

In October 1958, Ayub appointed General Mohammed Musa (who rose from the ranks) as the next C-in-C with Lt-Gen Muhammed Habibullah Khan as his Chief of Staff. In doing so, Ayub overlooked Lt-Gen Habibullah Khan, an officer technically and professionally more qualified than Gen Musa. It was an appointment that clearly sent a wave of resentment throughout the senior ranks in the GHQ.”I vividly remember my father who was a Lt-Col serving in GHQ at that time being acutely distressed at Ayub’s preference of Gen Musa over Ali’s (later Lt-Gen Ali Kuli Khan) father, Lt-Gen Habibullah Khan Khattak to command the Army. Till his death my father, who had a strong belief in merit over nepotism, maintained that was the precise moment from where necessity and nepotism started to matter far more than merit in the primary selections of the Armed Forces. Not to say that from time to time people with merit would not slip through.” (Ikram ul-Majeed Sehgal Defence Journal, December 2001, p.7).

In words of late Aslam Khattak, elder brother of late Lt-Gen Habibullah and a respected name and a political heavyweight of Pakistan, Ayub rang up Lt-Gen Habibullah Khan (CoS) and said: “Biboo (General Habibullah’s nickname in the family), I am fed up with Musa (the then C-in-C) and want to get rid of the stupid chap. You please rush to Rawalpindi immediately to take over command. A formal notification will be delivered to you at the GHQ tomorrow morning.” The next day he did receive the letter but only to be told that he stood relieved with immediate effect. (Murtaza Malik The Curtain Rises: Uncovered Conspiracies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Royal Book Company, 2002, p.16).

After a few months, Gen Musa asked Ayub to relieve Habibullah from the army. One of the charges put up by Gen Musa against his CoS, Lt-Gen Habibullah, was that while in London on a trip, he had misbehaved with the maid of his host. Lt-Gen Altaf Qadir had the retirement order for Gen Habibullah with him. The order had to be served at the general’s home. He didn’t have the courage to deliver the letter. Gen Habibullah was capable of shooting the messenger. He asked Maj-Gen (later Lt-Gen) Abrar Hussein, the then military secretary to the GHQ to deliver the news. It would have been embarrassing for a junior officer to deliver the bad news to his senior. In spite of Maj-Gen Abrar’s protestations, he was forced to become the reluctant messenger. When Maj-Gen Abrar Hussein went to the residence of Lt-Gen Habibullah and handed the letter to him, the latter said: “So here it is.” It seemed Gen Habibullah knew what was coming. (Interview with Brig Noor Ahmed Hussein (younger brother of late Lt-Gen Abrar Hussein) on Aug5, 2002, in Rawalpindi). Gen Habibullah was then 46.

In a memo of the US State Department from the US Embassy, quotes its informant in Pakistan, saying that Musa (as C-in-C) neither controlled nor enjoyed any respect in the military (The American Papers 1965-1973 compiled by Roedad Khan OUP p. 120 Dispatch of 18 January, 1966, 12.05am). “Musa’s appointment to the top military job over the head of senior and perhaps better generals was Ayub’s idea of a strong army under a weak command ultimately responsible to him. He (Musa) was often scornfully (though uncharitably) referred to as the ‘mess waiter’.” (Brig A.R. Siddiqi The Military in Pakistan: Image and Reality, Vanguard Books Pvt Ltd, 1996, p. 55). “Musa ran the Army. The most important of Musa’s traits was one of loyalty — straight and simple. If Ayub had mentioned 10,000 yards of front, then the front had to be 10,000 yards, and so on. The framework of defence became more and more mathematical. The importance of imponderables of war was not catered for.” (M. Attiqur Rehman Back to the Pavilion, Ardeshir Cowasjee, Karachi, 1990 p. 133-134). Musa, though described as honourable and honest, “is hardly the stuff of which great generalship is made.” (Brian Cloughley A History of Pakistan Army, Wars and Insurrections, OUP, 2002, p.127).

MUSA’S VERSION: On Dec 30, 1985, when Ziaul Haq lifted martial law, General Musa was appointed Gov Balochistan. Brig Noor Ahmed Hussein (Golf buddy of Musa) visited Quetta during Musa’s governorship. Musa invited Brig Noor for a dinner. It turned out to be a dinner for two. On a full stomach, Brig Hussein asked Musa: “Sir, you were sixth in line. How did you become the C-in-C?”

Musa: “I will tell you the whole story and I have never told it to anyone before. I was a major posted at Quetta in August 1947 when I was transferred as Assistant Adjutant and Quarter Master General, (AA&QMG) Headquarters, 8th Division, Malir, Karachi. The train reached Rohri station at 2 O’ clock. Suddenly, I heard the Station Master shouting on the platform: ‘Maj Musa, telegram for you’. I waved at him from out of the window, and got hold of the telegram. According to the message, my previous Karachi assignment had been cancelled and I was promoted to the rank of Lt-Col and posted as General Staff Officer First Grade (G1) at Lahore 10 Division. I immediately shifted my baggage to the Lahore-bound train. I was to work under an English GOC, Gen Briggs, who said: “I know you lost your appointment at Karachi, but I am sure you will find this one as exciting.” Lo and behold, first day, the first pending file on my table, I open and the title reads: Court of enquiry in respect of temporary Brigadier, Substantive Colonel M. Ayub Khan, Punjab Regiment.

Musa chuckled: “The way I handled that file, the day I became the C-in-C.”

Brig Noor’s words were: “Ayub was accused of accepting cash and jewellery from fleeing Hindus during the days he was in the Boundary Force that lasted for five months in the later half of 1947. The charges were serious enough to warrant a court of enquiry against Ayub.” (Interview with Brig Noor Ahmed Hussein)

 

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Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away with War Crimes

From Amazon Intro:
https://www.amazon.com/Keenie-Meenie-British-Mercenaries-Crimes/dp/0745340784

Keenie Meenie Services – the most powerful mercenary company you’ve never heard of – was involved in war crimes around the world from Sri Lanka to Nicaragua for which its shadowy directors have never been held accountable.

Like its mysterious name, Keenie Meenie Services escaped definition and to this day has evaded sanctions. Now explosive new evidence – only recently declassified – exposes the extent of these war crimes, and the British government’s tacit support for the company’s operations. Including testimonies from SAS veterans, spy chiefs and diplomats, we hear from key figures battle-hardened by the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the Iranian Embassy siege. Investigative journalist Phil Miller asks, who were these mercenaries: heroes, terrorists, freedom fighters or war criminals?

This book presents the first ever comprehensive case against Keenie Meenie Services, providing long overdue evidence on the crimes of the people who make a killing from killing.

Excerpts from Aditi Khanna’s article in Outlook India
https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/india-used-british-pilots-in-fight-against-ltte-book/1727422

British mercenary pilots helped Indian troops in their battle against the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels in Sri Lanka in the 1980s, a new book reveals for the first time.

The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) received air support from these for-hire British pilots despite Indian diplomats publicly condemning the presence of UK mercenaries in Sri Lanka, according to the book, ”Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away With War Crimes”, authored by UK-based investigative journalist Phil Miller.

However, India”s attitudes gradually began to shift and the envoy to Colombo, Jyotindra Nath Dixit, said New Delhi had to publicly deplore the use of UK mercenaries in Sri Lanka but privately he accepted there was “a large pool of ex-military personnel” in Europe and North America who wanted to “market these skills” and if it was not KMS then it would be another “cowboy” outfit involved.

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Eye in the Sky. Pakistan and Cold War Aerial Reconnaissance

From Dr Hamid Hussain. 

In my recent book review, I mentioned about one of my old piece about U-2 surveillance flights from Pakistan; published in September 2010 issue of Defence Journal.  Many asked for the piece and I‘m sending to my list.  Some of you may have already seen it.  It was written almost ten years ago.  It is quite long as I covered many areas.   Read it if you have interest in that chapter of cold war and lot of free time on hand.

Regards,

Hamid Hussain

[email protected]

Eye in the Sky – United States, Pakistan and Reconnaissance during Cold War

Hamid Hussain

Being a friend of the United States is like living on the banks of a great river.  The soil is wonderfully fertile, but every four or eight years the river changes course, and you may find yourself alone in a desert’.  Pakistan’s army chief and President General Muhammad Zia ul Haq to CIA director William Casey, 1983 (1)

 United States and Soviet Union were engaged in a worldwide competition for dominance after the Second World War.  Intelligence gathering was an important part of this power struggle between the two super powers.  In the pre-satellite era, high altitude reconnaissance by special aircraft and signal interception were key components of intelligence gathering.  In 1950s and 60s, these operations were conducted from United States as well as from bases all around the globe.

A variety of equipment was used to gather intelligence including static electronic monitoring facilities on the borders of Soviet Union, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft such as U-2 and RB-57 to collect electronic (ELINT), signals (SIGINT), photos (PHOTOINT), telemetry (TELEINT) and air sampling for detection of radiation emanating from nuclear test sites.  Several agencies including Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Strategic Air Command (SAC) of United States Air Force (USAF), United States Air Force Security Service (USAFSS), United States Army Special Security (USASS) and National Security Agency (NSA) were involved in these wide ranging intelligence activities.

Main focus of these operations was monitoring of missile and nuclear test sites, location of bombers, missile sites and radars and eavesdropping on Soviet communication system.  The general agreement between United States and Pakistan was that in return for Pakistan’s cooperation in such activities, United States would modernize Pakistani armed forces.  Pakistani part of the deal included provision of facilities for U.S. intelligence gathering operations as well as cooperation in some aspects of the operation.  Both parties entered into these agreements looking at their own interests.  United States saw Pakistan as a window through which to peep into Soviet Union’s backyard and Pakistan saw this cooperation as a shortest possible way of modernizing its armed forces. Continue reading “Eye in the Sky. Pakistan and Cold War Aerial Reconnaissance”

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The “Same Page” saga..

Original article by Gen Asad Durrani. Comments in red by Dr Hamid Hussain. Additional comments in blue by Major Amin.

LG Asad Durrani views and my two cents in red.

Regards,

Hamid 

The Same Page Saga

Lt Gen ® Asad Durrani

The Chief of Army Staff in Pakistan is not just another head of service, nor is he, strictly speaking, a “chief of staff”; the designation that the late Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto believed would deny the man on the horseback the clout to take over the Country. His assumption went ruefully wrong when Zia-ul-Haq, his handpicked COAS, not only putsched but also hanged him. In ‘Pakistan Adrift’, an account of my journey through the corridors of power, I have tried to assess the military’s role in the Country’s polity and an army chief’s special status in the power matrix – in which he often played the ultimate arbiter. For people like me therefore the commotion over the present incumbent’s service extension in the last week of November came as no surprise. The following chronicle however is not about any technicalities of the issue at hand, but about the algorithm of this game of thrones. Continue reading “The “Same Page” saga..”

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