Comrade Prashad battles the (Gir) Lion

Makes a well reasoned (non hysterical) appeal in the name of India’s tradition of secularism and helps underline the role of the Left in keeping the forces of darkness at bay. 

He is correct in noting that the choice is not between leaders, but fails to emphasize that the choice is more conceptual:  if you want growth vote for Modi, if you want harmony vote for someone else. 

That IMO is an improper choice as well because of the dubious nature of claims on both sides- Modi has no magic wand for the economy and the so-called secular parties have (in recent times) an even poorer record of preserving communal harmony than the BJP.

Prof Prashad should have done the right thing and confessed that he and other fellow travelers of the left seriously f**ked up matters by not joining hands with the Indians Against Corruption folks (now morphed into Aam Aadmi Party) and channelizing the popular anger into a broad-based movement when they had their chance 2 years ago. That would have given them exactly what they wanted: a secular, third Front with the urban middle-class on board (and prevent the false choice above from gaining ground, it can be argued that corruption harms the economy as well).

The IAC movement was boycotted by the left for supposedly having right-wing connections. More to the point the left just cant stand nationalists like Anna Hazare (who in turn has abandoned AAP and is now promoting Mamata Banerjee because he has ego issues with Arvind Kejriwal).

The failure of the left (always has been) is short-sightedness and arrogance, and now the entire house of cards (third front) has fallen apart in Tamil Nadu and everywhere else. Could not happen to a nicer bunch of people.

What will save India from the Modi juggernaut is that it doesn’t have
a presidential system. The people will elect 543 new members of
parliament. The winning bloc will have to secure half the seats, not
easy for the Congress (206 seats in the last parliament) or the BJP (117
seats). Since 1967, the Indian government has been formed out of
alliances that include regional parties with deep roots in the Indian
states. The old days of a single party ruling the roost are gone;
regional parties are now able to dictate terms for the coalition. It is
what moderates the extremism of the BJP – but only out of necessity.
Modi’s toxicity has turned off core allies, leaving the BJP with the
confidence of a lion but the alliances of a skunk. To complicate
matters, a new anti-corruption party – the Aam Aadmi Party
– promises to directly challenge the Congress and the BJP in their
north Indian heartlands. If they are able to do so, it will strengthen
the hand of the Third Front.

Third Front, under various names, has made an appearance in each
election since 1967. It brings together regional parties and the Left
Front, which is often its backbone. They are united by their antipathy
to both the Congress and the BJP, and their commitment to secularism and
social justice. No easy common programme can be produced, largely
because the parties in the Front differ hugely in their assessment of
how the country should develop. Nevertheless, one of its contributions
has been to move India in a federal direction to empower the states
(Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has a population of 200
million, larger than most countries in the world).

In a country of
India’s scale, federalism is a pathway to democracy. In a fractured
parliament the Third Front could broker a government committed to social
justice and secularism – as it did in 2004 when the Congress was pushed
to create social welfare schemes such as the National Rural Employment
Guarantee Act. When the Left broke with the Congress in 2009, the
alliance that remained – the UPA – departed from any commitment to
relief. Only when the Left is a vital part of the Third Front has this
alliance been able to push for reforms to rebuild the hopes and lives of
hundreds of millions of Indians who live below any given standard of a
poverty line. Only when the Left and its allies are stronger yet will
they be able to chart an alternative direction for India.



Thailand is Paradise (for passport fraud)

Be careful while visiting Thailand. Apart from the fact that your passport may be (mis)used for serious crimes (and terrorism) simple identity fraud is a big concern.

On 30 November 2010, a 39-year-old Pakistani national named Muhammed Ather
“Tony” Butt was detained with his Thai girlfriend, Sirikalya
Kitbamrung, as they were crossing into Laos from the north-eastern Thai
province of Nong Khai. Later that same day, officers from Thailand’s Department of Special
Investigations arrested a second Pakistani, Zezan Azzan Butt, 27, in the Rat
Burana district of Bangkok. At about the same time, on the other side of the
globe, Spanish police were swooping on a series of addresses in Barcelona,
arresting six Pakistanis and one Nigerian.

The raids were the culmination of a major joint operation, codenamed
Alpha, between Thai and Spanish investigators, prompted by the discovery that a
suspected member of the al-Qaida-inspired terror cell responsible for several
attacks in Madrid – including the 2004 M-11 train bombings, which killed 191
people and left 1,800 injured – was traveling on a false passport.

Information from that suspect would lead, several years later, to the arrest
in September 2009 of an Iranian-born Briton, Ahboor Rambarak Fath, at Bangkok’s
Suvarnabhumi airport – and, eventually, to Tony Butt. Stopped as he got off a
flight from Spain, Fath was carrying a bag of 103 stolen European, Canadian and
Israeli passports destined, he confessed, for the veritable “small forgery
factory” that police found at Butt’s apartment in the hours after his

In one room of the flat, an unnamed DSI agent told the Bangkok Post,
officers discovered computers, a high-definition scanner and printer, and more
than 1,000 stolen passports, photographs and counterfeit data pages for EU,
Canadian, Chinese and Israeli passports, plus assorted sets of US and Schengen visa stickers and stamps.

The gangs have targeted Thailand mainly because of the very large numbers of
European, US and Australian holidaymakers who travel there every year.
But the
Bangkok Post’s interview with an unnamed DSI agent quoted him as saying the
country was also attractive because it is relatively easy to enter and leave;
“you can negotiate with some law enforcement people”; and –
importantly – some local officials have not tended to see the forgery of
foreign (as opposed to Thai) passports as a particularly serious offence.

He said an undoctored stolen passport…
typically sells for between $1,500 and $3,000, depending on its condition,
nationality, and the number of years it has left to run. Italian, British,
Spanish and other European passports fetch about $1,000, Tinawut said, while
Israeli passports cost $1,500-$2,000 and Canadian can go for up to $3,000.

International border control authorities were last reminded to tighten up
procedures in 2010, when an Air India Express flight crashed on landing in
Mangalore and it transpired that 10 of the 158 passengers and crew on board –
all of whom were killed – had been traveling on forged or stolen documents,
leading to serious concerns about security checks in Dubai,
where the flight



(21st century) jobs for women

For Indian society to progress we need more and more women to be liberated from domestic slavery and provide both men and women the ability to shift from back-breaking, tedious jobs to 21st century jobs (in part by incorporating technology and upgrading work practices, see article excerpt below).

Armal Ali lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India.
The family of 11 occupy a breeze-block shack with no windows. Ali works
all day at a hand loom, sitting cross-legged on the ground, making
embroidered saris that are highly prized across the subcontinent. But
local residents know too well that such work wrecks eyesight and causes
chronic backache.

Ali hopes that his daughter Ousma, 9, will lead a
different life. “Nothing special,” he says, “but at least sitting at a
desk, for instance, with plenty of light around her.” He would also like
her to speak English, like “the people in suits who talk about money
all day on television”.

When you are lacking in “good jobs” women can progress only at the expense of men. Fortunately, the private sector already values women as employees and is responding strongly. Unfortunately, violence aimed at women is causing immense harm by restricting employment hours, especially the peak hours during evenings/nights when clients/teams in the west are available for interaction.

The formal/organized sector is the benchmark for middle class gender
It is here that employment is stable; compensation is adequate
and working conditions bearable. It is not as if nothing has changed
since 1947.  

Formal employment has increased, albeit marginally, and
today is around 29 million or just 5% of total employment. Whilst women
have benefited disproportionately, their share in formal employment
increased inadequately from a low 15% in 1995 to a miserable 20% today.

The private sector which has lower institutional and
labour market rigidities, is already responding, on a strictly “value
for money” basis to enlarge women employment. Since 1995 the formal
private sector added 2.8 million jobs, of which 39% (1.1 million) went
to women.
Their share has increased from 20% in 1995 to 24% today. 

It is in public sector formal employment that more needs to be done.
Public sector formal employment shrank by 2 million jobs since 1995 to
17.5 million today. Despite the shrinking pie of government jobs, jobs
for women increased by 0.6 million to 3.3 million or 18% of total public
sector employment:
way behind their share in the private sector.

It will hurt men directly but government must reserve 50% of entry
level positions for women across the board in the civilian cadres of
government, including within the existing quotas for scheduled caste,
scheduled tribe, other backward caste, and minorities (a few states).
Income based “brownie points” in selection and a “one-time quota
benefit, not transferable to children” can serve to churn the ensuing
benefit better. 

The average Indian woman looks for succour from just four public
horrors; (1) the lack of public safety in the street and often also at
home; (2) informal gender bars for education; (3) biased job recruitment
and assessment and (4) rigid work environments,
which do not recognizes
their multiple roles as bread winner; home stabilizer and comforter.
Their effective participation in the public space needs to fit in within
this framework. 

….technology is the biggest gender bender but the government
does not use it strategically.  

Monitoring outcomes effectively and
improving access to services are two sorely neglected areas.

Policing in
India continues to be a low tech, “danda” swinging profession.
cannot an FIR be filed electronically, with a phone number attached for
authentication, thereby putting the onus on the police to follow up with
the complainant? Why are mixed gender police patrols, armed with smart
phone access, to record and report crime and access the crime database,
not visible to citizens? 

Why are blood samples not collected at home in
rural areas by mobile agents of laboratories and reports sent
electronically to users? Why are interactive phone based health and
education counselling services, on the Tamil Nadu pattern, not scaled up
nationally? Why do development babus still not have specific household
specific, annual targets for the multiple social benefit schemes of
government? Why do they have the discretion to fish for beneficiaries?



The (new) Kerala Kings

The prelude: When Pakistan was born one man was requested to reflect on the whole deal and how it specifically helps or hurts muslims. He memorably noted that muslims will be winners everywhere in South Asia, as kings in Pakistan and (permanent) king-makers in India.

To an (admittedly biased) outsider, it appears (perhaps incorrectly) that Pakistan has not quite lived up to the vision of its founders (promised land for all SAsian muslims). What seems to have happened is that the definition of a (righteous) Muslim has kept on changing (and shrinking). So it was that over time Ahmadis, Bengalis, Shias, Balochistanis, miscellaneous tribals et al. have come to be defined as (de facto, de jure) non-muslims (by the state and/or by powerful non-state actors) and as such deemed non-eligible to be inhabitants of an (Sunni) Islamic state.

How about India? Muslims have been a reliable and powerful vote bank, first for the Congress and then for local caste-first parties led by (Mullah) Mulayam Yadav and Lalu Yadav. It should be noted that Mulayam Yadav came to power in UP specifically due to the red-card issued by muslims against the Congress for having primary responsibility (as they saw it) for the c.1992 state-sponsored act(s) of terror (SSAT). Even now as we have people shouting from roof-tops about how BJP is the devil incarnate, they forget that it was Rajiv Gandhi (who unlocked the Ram Mandir gates) and Narasimha Rao (who was closeted in a puja ceremony during the entire episode) who were the principals in charge. Thing is the muslims knew exactly what the Congress was doing, and they will (justifiably) never forgive, nor forget.  

A bit of elaboration as to why R.G. and N.R. acted in such a sinister manner. Briefly, Rajiv wanted to cancel out the favor he did to the mullahs by terrorizing an indigent (muslim) widow, and Rao was playing a long game- he calculated that BJP’s actions would cause them to be finished politically. It is indeed sweet justice that Congress will NEVER come to power in UP again (though this does not help the riot victims then and now). This should also serve as a warning to those (liberal) enthusiasts about the pitfalls of encouraging backwardness (and discouraging women) through unfair application of personal civil codes.

The above approach is referred to as the soft Hindutva, it is perhaps more appropriate to see it as a blatantly opportunistic approach for voting gain by dividing communities. The British were past masters at this game and Congress as the inheritor has (unfortunately) learned the lessons too well.

With all that said and as India has moved into the 21st century, Jinnah’s prophecy does not seem to hold true any more. India is a Shudra nation now and forever. Over-time the disparate Shudra blocks are likely to team up at a pan India level (just like royalty in Europe). Unless India switches over to some version of proportional representation (from the present first-past-the-post format), the Shudras will remain the permanent kings of India and the king-maker profession will be no more.  

In Kerala the new royal caste has a name. They are the Ezhavas.

The point: The political map in Kerala is well settled and has been for some time. There is the Ezhava-controlled CPI and CPI(M), the Christian controlled Kerala Congress, and the Muslim controlled Muslim League.  Is there a path for the BJP to unsettle this settled fact? As noted before here on BP, the BJP can rise only at the expense of the Left. How likely is that?

 The Left is splintering slowly but its decline (unlike in Bengal) is still far off. The BJP got 10% (+) vote in 2004 (but no seats) so it will be important to see what is the Modi effect, if any (still unlikely to win).
The Congress in Kerala will admit
the Revolutionary Socialist Party as a new ally of the United Democratic
Front (UDF) for the Lok Sabha polls. The RSP had snapped its
34-year-long ties with CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) over
denial of Kollam seat to contest in the Lok Sabha polls.
RSP, which has two MLAs, would help the ruling Congress increase its
numbers in the Legislative Assembly, but the Congress will have to cede
Kollam seat…. to the RSP.

The UDF has three other Left rebel groups Communist Marxist Party
(CMP), Janathipathya Samrakshana Samithi and RSP(B), which has announced
plans to merge with RSP.

At the end of the day it will be the Ezhavas that will determine if the BJP has any chance and the saffrons know this and are pulling out all the stops to make it happen.

Kerala has always had a saffron bone. RSS
has the most number of shakhas in India in Kerala—4,000.

In the 2011
assembly elections, BJP had a vote share of 6.03% but it could not win a
seat. But Muslim League with 7.92% vote share won 20 seats and Kerala
Congress (Mani) won nine seats with 4.9% vote share.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, BJP had a better vote share — 6.31%,
but could not win any seat. In 2004 despite having its highest vote
share — 10.39% — the party failed to win any seat.

In Kerala, the saffron project has always been to wean away the
powerful Ezhava community from CPM’s fold. Ezhavas, who belong to other
backward class (OBC) in Kerala, is the second largest identity group in
the state (22.91%), behind Muslims who constitute 24.7% of the
So far, the project has not succeeded. With CPM and CPI
largely being Ezhava parties, BJP should try harder. 

It would not be
ignored that Modi went to Sivagiri mutt in Varkala to attend Sree
Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sangham meeting in 2013. The state BJP has
succeeded in wooing Vellappally Natesan, president of SNDP Yogam.
Vellapally has endorsed Modi for PM but he is far from a political
influencer in Kerala.

BJP is also wooing dalits (18.82%) with Modi addressing a gathering
of Pulaya Maha Sabha in Kochi on February 9. Dalits, so far, have
rallied behind CPM and Congress.

Far more interesting is BJP’s agenda to get cosy with the Church. Two
bishops of the influential Syrian Orthodox church had met Modi in Kochi
and welcomed Modi becoming the PM.
BJP is trying to exploit the
Jacobite-Orthodox schism in Kerala. The Catholic Church, too, is hedging
its bets over the delayed notification on Dr Kastrirangan panel
recommendations but it is unlikely that it will desert Sonia Gandhi,
Oommen Chandy and UDF, despite the grand posturing of  Kerala Congress.



Fun fact of the day

I knew that Prince William had some Indian ancestry through Princess Diana but I had no idea that it was his direct maternal ancestor who was Indian (mother’s mother etc). Eliza Kewark was alleged to have been Armenian but it seems at the very least she was half Indian so it’s interesting to note that the 2nd in line to the throne is not only a descendant of George the 1st (not since Queen Anne in the early 18th century, Act of Union time), the descendant of George the 2nd (which is a first ever) and now is a direct descendant of an Indian on his mother’s side while his direct paternal lineage goes back to the House of Oldenberg (even though he is de jure a member of the House of Windsor). It’s interesting to see how Monarchy in Europe seems to be particularly Germanic (most of the Dynasties seemed to have stemmed from Germanic ancestors maybe because of Charlemagne) but it’s nice to know the future King is in some way Gujarati, albeit a very long way off (but in a very substantial way as his Mitochondrial DNA is basically Indian).

‘As the third son of a Scottish landowner, Forbes needed to make his fortune elsewhere and like many ambitious young men, he went to India to do just that. 
‘When Forbes arrived in the Bombay Presidency he employed a housekeeper, Eliza Kewark. They had three children, one of whom, Catherine or Kitty, was the ancestress of Princess Diana.’
With the full article it shows just how serendipitous it that Eliza’s daughters go on that in this rising Asian age the British King will have a substantial Asian link.

Revealed: William’s Indian ancestry. DNA tests show future monarch has clear genetic line to the former ‘Jewel in the Crown’ from Diana’s side

Ironically the current Jacobite heir at the moment (who genealogically have a better claim to the British throne than the current British Royal family) is the Second in Line to the Throne of Lichtenstein. It seems Europe’s Royal Families and Aristocracies are mind-numbingly inter-linked.

Saudi worse than Modi

The act of ex-communication (of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Saudis) in its sinfulness quotient ranks even higher than genocide (of muslims). This is the considered opinion of one of the top-most ranked Ulemas in the world.

Is there any method in this madness? Is it truly the case that an insult to the faith (and the faithful) is more significant than the taking of (innocent) lives? It is indeed fortunate that we have now Thane Richard to guide us past these treacherous moral sinkholes.

As an aside, this reinforces my point about Indian muslims (only elites count in such discussions) sharing
the same world-view as their brothers in the Ummah. Now that the I-M management has taken the lead in such an emphatic fashion, the opinion makers elsewhere will surely follow.  

The king is dead, long live the Caliph (Sheikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi to give him a name) !!!


Describing the government of Saudi Arabia as more ‘zalim’ (cruel) than Narendra Modi, Nadwatul Ulema
in Lucknow cancelled its March 16 appointment with a delegation from
the Islamic kingdom as a mark of protest against its decision to declare
Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

The institute
has compared Saudi Arabia’s move to tag Muslim Brotherhood as an act
“more cruel than the genocide of hundreds of Muslims in 2002 that was
allegedly led by then chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi”.

Official reason assigned for the cancellation of this trip was
described as a move in line with the institute’s commitment towards the
religion, community and reformative ideology. Nadwatul Ulema happens to
be one of the most renowned Islamic University in Asia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had on
March 7 designated Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as a terrorist group.
kingdom had also downgraded diplomatic ties with Qatar as a mark of
protest against their support towards MB. On Sunday, the United Arab
Emirates also lined up behind Saudi Arabia and its decision to recognize
MB as a terror outfit.

Saudi Arabia listed the 86-year-old
Brotherhood with al-Qaida and its affiliates which are categorized as
terrorist organizations and as per the Saudi Arabian law, anyone who
joins or supports these banned groups could face imprisonment ranging
from five to 30 years under the new Saudi Arabian government policy.



Gulaab Madhuri (close but no Smita)

Imagine for a moment that you have two ladies in your life (god forbid) and one was a  non-vegetarian and the other vegetarian, how will things work out? As Soumik Sen explains things will be fine if the ladies are being kind (as they normally are) but from time to time when the dam of anger and frustration breaks and the inner goddess (Durga) marches out to slay the monsters….beware of the gulaab gang.  


That said Mirch Masala (and Smita Patil,Naseeruddin Shah, Deepti Naval and Om Puri) is an all time classic and cant be

File:Mirch Masala.jpg 

How did you become a filmmaker? I was born
and brought up in Kolkata. After studying at St Xavier’s, I did my masters
in Economics from Delhi School of Economics. I did a brief stint at the World
Bank, after which I became a business journalist and produced a business show
on television, where I was required to research, write and interview people for
the programme.
I disliked Delhi as a city and after five years of being a
journalist, I took a transfer to Mumbai, as I wanted to write films. I met Raj
Kaushal, who was a friend’s friend and told him that I wanted to write films.
He gave me my first film to write Anthony Kaun Hai, which Raj himself directed.
I then wrote the Kishore Kumar biopic and spoke to Ranbir Kapoor. This is
before Barfi. And then Anurag came on board to direct it. In the meantime, I
wrote Gulaab Gang and have directed it. My next film will be a biopic based on
the life of PC Sorcar, which I have written and will be directing too.  
did Gulaab Gang happen?
I actually wanted to do a ‘Western’ which is a big
film experience on the big screen. Anurag Basu and Sanjay Leela Bhansali give
their audiences that. Sholay would be the best Indian example of a Western.
Every Western has a protagonist and antagonist. And the underdog will take down
the really powerful guy. Also, Mirch Masala was a massive influence. I
believe that men are not big enough to empower women. And actually, if women are
financially independent, men become redundant in their lives. So we wanted to
create a masala film, where men are almost irrelevant. I have always been a
massive Madhuri fan. I presented the film to her completely avoiding eye
contact with her. I had written this film keeping only Madhuri in mind and she
said yes. If Madhuri had not said yes, this film would not have happened.

How different are Madhuri and Juhi to work with? Madhuri is somebody I can watch the Gunda video with. Gunda is a cult
classic starring Mithun Chakraborty and it is so bad that it is so good. It is
a D-grade film, but Madhuri gets it and loves it. I introduced her to it while
shooting. Juhi is far more prim and proper. She
is fun, but in a formal way. Madhuri is much more spontaneous than Juhi. Juhi
is a lot more studied, conscious and puts in a lot more thought.   Madhuri
is incredibly professional. She will be there for a 5 am shot at 4.45 am with
her makeup on. We had no stunt doubles or body doubles for any of the shots. Madhuri
is non-vegetarian, Juhi is vegetarian.
I remember when my associate
director came to meet me for the interview, I asked him only one question, ‘Are
you vegetarian?’ He said no. I said, ‘You are in.’
But I am way too
grateful to Juhi to allow me to break her mould.

Who are you most attached to? My mother. She is a very strangely crazy
person and I am a lot like her. She is extremely loving and gets into these
fits of this tempestuous anger, has a giving heart and likes to keep everybody
happy. She also has a very discerning eye for music, art and cinema and she is
a no-nonsense person when it comes to her telling you what she likes or doesn’t
like….She came here and I made her meet Madhuri who immediately touched
her feet. My mom immediately said, ‘See her upbringing.’

Are Bengali women dominating? I like dominating women as they are more



Looking for Mr Ali

So this is what we know. (2) people boarded with false passports. (5) people checked in but did not board the flight (their luggages were removed). The tickets for the mysterious (2) passengers were paid for by cash on the request of a Mr Ali, however the actual payment was by a friend (of Mr Ali).

Originally the (2) passengers were supposed to transit via Amsterdam. Since those tickets lapsed the request was for the cheapest, one-way ticket to Beijing.

IMO the whole thing sucks. If they were refugees trying to escape, they should have taken a flight to Europe. Why fly to China- they may even hang you for your pains.

This brings forward the million dollar question: who is Mr Ali?
A Thai travel agent who booked the men with stolen passports onto the missing plane, has told the FT that the tickets were arranged with an “Iranian contact” on behalf of clients looking for cheap tickets to Europe. 

Krutnait, owner of the Grand Horizon travel agency in Pattaya,
Thailand, said the Iranian, a long-term business contact who she knew
only as “Mr Ali”, first asked her to book cheap tickets to Europe for
the two men on March 1.
Ms Benjaporn initially reserved one of the men
on a Qatar Airways flight and the other on Etihad

But the
tickets expired when Ms Benjaporn did not hear back from Mr Ali. When he
contacted her again on Thursday, she rebooked the men on the Malaysia Airlines
flight through Beijing because it was the cheapest available.
Benjaporn booked the tickets through China Southern Airlines via a code
share arrangement.

 A friend of Mr Ali paid Ms Benjaporn cash for
the tickets,
she said, adding that it was quite common for people to
book tickets in Pattaya through middle men such as Mr Ali, who then take
a commission.



Globo-cops: omni-(p, s, p)

Some amount of sensationalism but all-in-all quite believable- the leanest, meanest, global (secret) fighting machine ever.

Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran (in
which eight U.S. service members died), U.S. Special Operations Command
was established in 1987.  Made up of units from all the service
branches, SOCOM is tasked with carrying out Washington’s most
specialized and secret missions, including assassinations,
counter-terrorist raids, special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare,
psychological operations, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass
destruction counter-proliferation operations.

In the post-9/11 era, the command has grown steadily.  With about 33,000 personnel in 2001, it is reportedly on
track to reach 72,000 in 2014.  (About half this number are called, in
the jargon of the trade, “badged operators” — SEALs, Rangers, Special
Operations Aviators, Green Berets — while the rest are support
personnel.)  Funding for the command has also jumped exponentially as
SOCOM’s baseline budget tripled from $2.3 billion to $6.9 billion
between 2001 and 2013.  If you add in supplemental funding, it had
actually more than quadrupled to $10.4 billion.

Not surprisingly, personnel deployments abroad skyrocketed from 4,900
“man-years” — as the command puts it — in 2001 to 11,500 in 2013. 
About 11,000 special operators are now working abroad at any one time and on any given day they are in 70 to 80 countries, though the New York Timesreported that, according to statistics provided to them by SOCOM, during one week in March 2013 that number reached 92.

Last year, Admiral McRaven, who previously headed the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC –
a clandestine sub-command that specializes in tracking and killing
suspected terrorists — touted his vision for special ops globalization. 
In a statement to the House Armed Services Committee, he said: “USSOCOM
is enhancing its global network of SOF to support our interagency and
international partners in order to gain expanded situational awareness
of emerging threats and opportunities. The network enables small,
persistent presence in critical locations, and facilitates engagement
where necessary or appropriate…”

 In translation this means that SOCOM is weaving a complex web of
alliances with government agencies at home and militaries abroad to
ensure that it’s at the center of every conceivable global hotspot and
power center.  In fact, Special Operations Command has turned the planet
into a giant battlefield, divided into many discrete fronts: the
self-explanatory SOCAFRICA; the sub-unified command of U.S. Central
Command in the Middle East SOCCENT; the European contingent SOCEUR;
SOCKOR, which is devoted strictly to Korea; SOCPAC, which covers the
rest of the Asia-Pacific region; and SOCSOUTH, which conducts special
ops missions in Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as
the globe-trotting JSOC.

Since 2002, SOCOM has also been
authorized to create its own Joint Task Forces, a prerogative normally
limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM.  These include Joint
Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, 500-600 personnel dedicated
to supporting counter-terrorist operations by Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Abu Sayyaf.

SOCOM’s reach and global ambitions go further still.  TomDispatch’s
analysis of McRaven’s first two full years in command reveals a
tremendous number of overseas operations.  In places like Somalia and Libya, elite troops have carried out clandestine commando raids.  In others, they have used airpower to hunt, target, and kill suspected militants.  Elsewhere, they have waged an information war using online propaganda. 
And almost everywhere they have been at work building up and forging
ever-tighter ties with foreign militaries through training missions and

“A lot of what we will do as we go forward in this force is build partner capacity,” McRaven said at
the Ronald Reagan Library in November, noting that NATO partners as
well as allies in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America  “are
absolutely essential to how we’re doing business.”

In March 2013, for example, Navy SEALs conducted joint training exercises with
Indonesian frogmen.  In April and May, U.S. Special Operations
personnel joined members of the Malawi Defense Forces for Exercise Epic
Guardian.  Over three weeks, 1,000 troops engaged in marksmanship, small
unit tactics, close quarters combat training, and other activities
across three countries — Djibouti, Malawi, and the Seychelles.

In May, American special operators took part in
Spring Storm, the Estonian military’s largest annual training
exercise.  That same month, members of the Peruvian and U.S. special
operations forces engaged in joint training missions aimed at trading
tactics and improving their ability to conduct joint operations.  In
July, Green Berets from the Army’s 20th Special Forces Group spent
several weeks in Trinidad and Tobago working with members of that tiny
nation’s Special Naval Unit and Special Forces Operation Detachment. 
That Joint Combined Exchange Training exercise, conducted as part of
SOCSOUTH’s Theater Security Cooperation program, saw the Americans and
their local counterparts take part in pistol and rifle instruction and
small unit tactical exercises.

In September, according to
media reports, U.S. Special Operations forces joined elite troops from
the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries —
Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei,
Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia — as well as their
counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China,
India, and Russia for a US-Indonesian joint-funded coun­terterrorism
exercise held at a training center in Sentul, West Java.

Tactical training was, however, just part of the story.  In March
2013, for example, experts from the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special
Warfare Center and School hosted a week-long working group with top
planners from the Centro de Adiestramiento de las Fuerzas Especiales —
Mexico’s Special Warfare Center — to aid them in developing their own
special forces doctrine.

In October, members of the Norwegian
Special Operations Forces traveled to SOCOM’s state-of-the-art Wargame
Center at its headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base in Florida to
refine crisis response procedures for hostage rescue operations. 
“NORSOF and Norwegian civilian leadership regularly participate in
national field training exercises focused on a scenario like this,” said
Norwegian Lieutenant Colonel Petter Hellesen. “What was unique about
this exercise was that we were able to gather so many of the Norwegian
senior leadership and action officers, civilian and military, in one
room with their U.S counterparts.”

MacDill is, in fact, fast becoming a worldwide special ops hub, according to a report by the Tampa Tribune. 
This past fall, SOCOM quietly started up an International Special
Operations Forces Coordination Center that provides long-term
residencies for senior-level black ops liaisons from around the world. 
Already, representatives from 10 nations had joined the command with
around 24 more slated to come on board in the next 12-18 months, per
McRaven’s global vision.



“The sole survivor”

The shadow wars waged between Pakistan and India in Afghanistan as recounted by William Dalrymple.

As I have noted before, the wars will end when the elites decide that enough is enough. Let us hope that they have the wisdom to step up to the plate (together) sooner rather than later.

At six o’clock in the morning of February
26, 2010, Major Mitali Madhumita was awakened by the ringing of her
mobile phone. Mitali, a 35-year-old Indian army officer from Orissa, had
been in Kabul less than a year. Fluent in Dari, the most widely spoken
language in Afghanistan, she was there to teach English to the first
women officer cadets to be recruited to the Afghan National Army.

It was a sensitive posting, not so much because of gender issues as
political ones: India’s regional rival, Pakistan, was extremely touchy
about India providing military assistance to the government in
Afghanistan and had made it very clear that it regarded the presence of
any Indian troops or military trainers there as an unacceptable
provocation. For this reason everyone on the small Indian army English
Language Training Team, including Mitali, and all the Indian army
doctors and nurses staffing the new Indira Gandhi Kabul Children’s
Hospital, had been sent to Afghanistan unarmed, and in civilian dress.
They were being put up not in an army barracks, or at the Indian
Embassy, but in a series of small, discreet guest houses dotted around
the city’s diplomatic quarter.  

The phone call was from a girlfriend of Mitali’s who
worked for Air India at Kabul airport. Breathless, she said she had just
heard that two of the Indian guest houses, the Park and the Hamid, were
under attack by militants. 
As the only woman on her team, Mitali had
been staying in separate lodgings about two miles away from the rest of
her colleagues, who were all in the Hamid. Within seconds, Mitali was
pulling on her clothes, along with the hijab she was required to wear,
and running, alone and unarmed, through the empty morning streets of
Kabul toward the Hamid. 
“I just thought they might need my help,” she told me recently in New Delhi. 
As she dashed past the Indian Embassy, Mitali was
recognized by one of the guards from diplomatic security who shouted to
her to stop. The area around the guest houses was mayhem, he told her.
She should not go on alone. She must return immediately to her lodgings
and stay there.
“I don’t require your permission to rescue my
colleagues,” Mitali shouted back, and kept on running. When she passed
the presidential compound, she was stopped again, this time at gunpoint,
by an Afghan army security check post. Five minutes later she had
charmed one of the guards into giving her a lift in his jeep. Soon they
could hear bursts of automatic weapons, single shots from rifles and
loud grenade blasts. 
 “As we neared the area under attack I jumped out of the jeep and ran
straight into the ruins of what had been the Hamid guesthouse. It was
first light, but because of all the dust and smoke, visibility was very
low and it was difficult to see anything. The front portion of the
guesthouse was completely destroyed—there was just a huge crater.
Everything had been reduced to rubble.
A car bomb had rammed the front
gate and leveled the front of the compound. Three militants then
appeared and began firing at anyone still alive. I just said, ‘Oh my
God,’ and ran inside. 
“I found my way in the smoke to the area at the back
where my colleagues had been staying. Here the walls were standing but
it was open to the sky—the blast had completely removed the roof, which
was lying in chunks all over the floor. There was cross-firing going on
all around me, and the militants were throwing Chinese incendiary
grenades. Afghan troops had taken up positions at the top of the Park
Residence across the road and were firing back. I couldn’t see the
militants, but they were hiding somewhere around me.
“As quietly as I could, I called for my
colleagues and went to where their rooms had been, but I couldn’t find
them anywhere. I searched through the debris and before long started
pulling out bodies. A man loomed out of the gloom and I shouted to him
to identify himself. But he wasn’t a terrorist—he was the information
officer from our embassy and he began helping me. Together we managed to
get several injured people out of the rubble and into safety. 
“Then we heard a terrible blast. We later learned
that Major Jyotin Singh had tackled a suicide bomber, and by holding him
from behind had prevented him entering the Park Residence. The bomber
was forced to blow himself up outside. Jyotin had saved the lives of all
the medical team inside.
“But the only one of my colleagues who hadn’t been killed on the spot,
Major Nitesh Roy, died of his 40% burns in hospital three days later. I
was the only one of my team who came back alive.”