Tuesday March 26, 2019
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France needs to rework its foreign policy in the aftermath of Paris attacks

Photo: http://www.nytimes.com

Paris: French foreign policy is under severe pressure following the 13/11 Paris terror attacks.

Barely had the impact of Friday’s attacks sunk in, when a number of leaders, arrayed over the entire spectrum of French politics – ranging from the extreme left to the extreme right – began calling for France to dramatically alter the course of its foreign policy.

On Saturday morning, even as he was chairing the meeting of the Defense Committee, a grouping of key ministers and aides, President Fraancios Hollande found himself bombarded with suggestions, remarks and criticism that the French foreign policy had become too twisted and complex and was not really serving the real French interests anymore.

There were demands from various political leaders that France should rebuild its relationship with not only Russian President Vladimir Putin, but also with beleaguered Syrian President Basahar Al Assad, whom the French have been trying so hard to dislodge since at least 2010.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy met Hollande and asked his successor to urgently repair the relations with Russia, which have hit a historic low in the last two years. Not only do Russia and France find themselves on the opposing sides in Syria and Iraq, but France has been harshly critical of the Russian position in the Ukraine and the Crimea as well. A few months ago, the French unilaterally cancelled the purchase by Russia of two Mistrals, technologically the most advanced ships in the French navy.

For the past many months, there had been already been calls for a realignment of the French foreign policy and a reality check on it. But the 13/11 attacks have brought the issue to the fore.

Sarkozy had recently visited Moscow and met Putin, a leader with whom he had enjoyed warm relations when he was in office between 2007 and 2012. “We need everyone and especially the Russians, in order to exterminate the ISIS,” he told Hollande.

Sarkozy’s party member and Member of Parliament Jacques Myard echoed his boss and went further. “It is time that France reviewed its foreign policy, notably in Syria. I think we have been following a wrong policy. Today, the one who has been fighting the jihadists and the ISIS is the one in Damascus (Bashar Al Assad), with the help of Iran and Russia. Even if Assad is not a saint and has blood on his hands, we must choose between the two evils. The enemy today is not Mr. Assad, but the Islamists, the ISIS, the Al Qaeda,” said Myard, who ignored the French foreign ministry’s advice and recently visited Damascus and met Assad.

Some other French deputies are more vocal. “These criticisms of French diplomacy are not premature, because, unfortunately, the current French diplomacy does not produce any results. The Islamic State continues its development in Syria. As President Hollande says, we are at war, and one of the things that needs to be done in this war is to revise our alliances. We need to come closer to those who are combatting terrorism on a daily basis,” said Jean Frederic Poisson, of the center-right Christian Democrats party.

Poisson also criticized the heavy reliance of French diplomacy in the Middle East of Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. “It is clear now that these countries and notably Saudi Arabia finance numerous cells, especially of the Wahabbis. These countries have to come out of the ambiguity of their position on terror. I don’t know whether we should cut off our ties with them or apply sanctions, but at the very least we should ask them for a clarification,” Poisson said. This view found strong support from a powerful member of the parliament, Bruno Le Maire, who also called for review of French ties with the GCC nations and an immediate patch up with Russia and Syria.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the extreme right wing, le Front National (FN) and who is currently leading the opinion polls for the 2017 presidential elections, also said clearly that the French diplomacy sounded outdated and useless. “France needs to determine who the real allies and enemies are. French enemies are those countries which have friendly relations with radical Islam and these are also the countries who are very ambiguous on their relations with the terrorist organizations. All those who are fighting the terror groups are the allies of France and have to be treated as such,” Le Pen said in a brief intervention after the 13/11 attacks.

The GCC nations, mainly Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are amongst the largest buyers of French defense and other products and services and also some of the biggest investors in France.

For many years now, France has been following a foreign policy that has supported the Qatari and Saudi Arabian positions on the situation in the Middle East.

“It had begun to look like the French foreign policy was more aimed at protecting the interests of the GCC nations like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, rather than serving the real interests of France,” is how a French security expert based in Paris presented the issue.

(Ranvir Nayar, IANS)

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Paris reminds Mumbai to revisit terror-proof security protocols

source: jantakareporter.com

Soon after the Paris attacks on November 13 this year, Coast Guard teams launched a mock attack on Mumbai by approaching the city and surrounding through the coast lines, just like the Mumbai attackers had done in 2008. Sadly, the exercise was successful in showing how  security protocols still fail to scan incoming dangers as several of the Coast Guard teams succeeded in slipping through.

Officials stated that the test was not a complete disaster, but exposed India’s continuing vulnerability to outside attacks.

“There was a mixed result,” said a navy spokesman in Mumbai. “We do find weaknesses, but over the years the number of people who can go through (our defenses) is much less,” he added.

In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, in which 10 gunmen infiltrated the city after landing on the shores by boat, and proceeded to attack high profile sites, the city took certain steps in defense. A National Security Guard (NSG) unit was deployed to the financial capital, the Mumbai police received better equipment, and knowledge about the sea-borne threat was imparted to the fishermen population, while giving them a helpline to call on in case of suspected threat.

‘Force One’—a counter-terrorism police force, was also set up in Maharashtra.

However, security experts reported that the initial defensive rush faded fast.

“A lot of effort goes in at first. But over time, people lose interest. Momentum is lost. There is no leadership continuity,” said Govind Sisodia, who was a senior NSG commander at the time of the Mumbai attacks.

The immediately reporting police personnel during the attacks were too poorly trained and equipped to deter the heavily armed gunmen attacking multiple spots simultaneously.

Sisodia said that even after 12 hours after the Mumbai attacks started, the elite force wasn’t able to leave their New Delhi headquarters as no plane was available.

Though seven years have passed since the attack, Force One still hasn’t moved into its proposed headquarters and shares a fourth floor office with the police academy in a shabby Mumbai building.

“From every incident, we take a lesson, we revise our protocols,” inspector general of police running the unit, Sanjay Saxena, said on the Paris attacks.

Saxena said little on how the squad operated, including his plans to deal with the city’s high traffic which seriously hinders the journey time of any military personnel to reach the venue.

Security experts cite the evolving military tactics of terror forces as a major source of concern.

The Paris attacked were quite similar to the ones in Mumbai, but they differed in their use of suicide belts, which ruled out capture while maximizing casualties.

“Mumbai ushered in a new era,” said GK Pillai, India’s home secretary after the Mumbai attacks. “This is a new type of terrorism: multiple, very well-trained teams striking a variety of targets.

“The lesson was that in cities you need to have a few hundred of these elite commandos available within 10-15 minutes, whether it is Paris or London,” he said.

India’s main security focus is on containing Kashmir’s separatist tendencies, and as such the country has little force to spare for other regions. Militants crossing in from neighboring Pakistan, who usually target urban settings, is the major source of worry. Apart from the Mumbai attacks, this was also evident in the police station raid in Punjab in July.

“Any urban area remains a target,” said Home Minister P Chidambaram, who took over just after the Mumbai attack. “In a city anyone can burrow themselves and remain invisible for weeks, months, even a year.”

Intelligence sources don’t have adequate information on the tens of thousands of Indians working in Gulf countries. Iraq, which is partly under IS control, houses around 18,000 Indians, according to the government, though the actual number might be a lot higher.

“Our data (on labourers) working abroad, especially in the Gulf, who are usually targeted for joining IS, is woefully inadequate,” said Vappala Balachandran, a senior foreign intelligence specialist who had led an inquiry into the Mumbai attacks.

Islamic State had recruited 23 Indians, according to a recent Indian intelligence report. However, they were considered “inferior fighters” by the terror group.

With incoming threats from terror groups, India has to work fast in gathering any and all loose ends to terror-proof the nation.