Pictured while speaking at the launch of Farooq Bajwa’s book ‘From Kutch to Tashkent’ in London in November 2013.
My wife, Margaret, and I live in France, in the small village of Voutenay sur Cure in Burgundy, two hours south east of Paris.
I have studied South Asian affairs for over thirty years and am South Asia defence analyst for IHS/Jane’s Sentinel, covering Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, updating material regularly. Other evaluations include updating of nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological developments in the region for IHS. I have a weekly column in Pakistan’s News newspaper (News) and contribute opinion pieces elsewhere.
Articles in HIS/Jane’s publications have included examination of Pakistan’s operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and of nuclear security in Fission Fears. Frontier Fracture describes the tensions along the Sino-Indian border and Friends Disunited which examines the intricacies of the US-Pakistan relationship in the light of their commitment to the future of Afghanistan.
Durham University’s Pakistan Security and Research Unit has published five papers, including a discussion of US-Pakistan relations and an analysis of India-Pakistan problems in the Siachen Glacier area:
Pakistan Security Research Unit
Briefing Paper 66
The Siachen Glacier and Independent Arbitration
The success of India and Pakistan in reaching and subsequently observing the Rann of Kutch agreement in 1968 provides not only an important illustration of the value of negotiation over violence but also offers important insight into how a similar agreement to resolve the dispute over the Siachen Glacier might be reached to the benefit of both India and Pakistan.
This briefing tracks the efforts of the two countries to resolve the Siachen dispute, and looks at the linkage of the dispute to other issues of contestation between India and Pakistan. The author tracks the development of his own thinking on the issue and suggests a face-saving way out for both parties based on demilitarisation and independent arbitration. (Siachen)
It was also published in India’s South Asia Defence and Strategic Yearbook for 2013.
I contributed a section on Pakistan for the 2014 edition of The Strategic Balance, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and was asked for observations on the book Warriors after War: Indian and Pakistani retired military leaders reflect on relations between the two countries, past, present and future by Professor Richard Bonney and two distinguished colleagues, published by Peter Lang. It is a fascinating collection of interviews concerning which the editors were grateful for “invaluable advice and assistance.”
Then there is
War, Coups and Terror, which describes the Pakistan Army from 1972 to 2009 and was published by Skyhorse Publishing (New York). The blurb has it that “Brian Cloughley explores the underbelly of Pakistan's military and its controversial role within the Pakistani government since Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came to power in 1971. An insider with links to Pakistan's past and present senior officers, Cloughley provides a unique insight into the Army's influence and position as a force in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as an account of operations against the 2003-2004 tribal uprising. His coverage of military-political relations will fascinate those who seek a closer understanding of this enigmatic and complex country, its ambitions, affiliations, and loyalties.”
And I much enjoyed researching and writing Trumpeters.
I was encouraged to write the book by Lieutenant Colonel Tony Taylor, MBE, who enlisted as a Boy Trumpeter in 1938 and rose in rank and distinction and with whom I had the pleasure to serve in Germany. He became an Alzheimer’s sufferer, but was looked after with devoted care in St Vincent’s Hospice in London until his death in January 2013. The eulogy at his funeral was given by General Sir John Learmont, the most distinguished Artillery officer of his generation, and I added a few words of personal reminiscence. One of the last of the Trumpeters . . .
This history of the Royal Artillery’s boy trumpeters covers not only the 1920s and 30s — when some of 3,000 of them were trained at the Grand Depot at Woolwich in London and various Depots in India until the 1940s — but is also the tale of the trumpeters who were so much a part of the British Army over the centuries.
One of these teenage Trumpeters, Boy Richard Samson, was a born writer. He loved his horse, Tess, and in 1938, aged 16, when mechanisation was about to dispense with horses he asked to see his commanding officer to see if anything could be done so that he could keep his beloved steed:
And Colonel Fairclough was a real gentleman who took a special interest in the unit’s trumpeters. He explained that it was absolutely necessary that the unit be mechanised and that the horses must go. He would hate it as much as I would . . .
The day came when Tess and all the other beautiful horses were sold. I last saw her being led out of the gate, and to this day I often think of her. I went back to barracks, a barracks that seemed so still and silent, a barracks that had lost its heart. I walked through the stable door and stood by her stall. Her nose-bag still hung on the hook. I touched it, then, ‘goodbye Tess.’ And walked briskly away. Soldiers don’t cry, do they?
Trumpeters is published by Woodfield. (trumpeters)
I happened to notice on Amazon in November 2013 that “The book was presented to all the 2013 Trumpeters of 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery on completion of the trumpeter training course.” (RHA) How nice — and how much dear Tony would have liked that . . .
Also published by Woodfield is Letters of a Kashmir Memsahib, by Margaret, a collection of letters she wrote to her mother while in Kashmir when I was deputy head of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan in 1980-82.
I was sitting in the drawing room in our house in the Mission compound in Srinagar when I heard a crash in the kitchen, followed by a series of thumps. Grabbing a poker, I went through, and gingerly opened the kitchen door, expecting an intruder. There was a very large rat caught in the trap, but very much alive, and protesting violently. There was no way I could bring myself to despatch it, so I called the guard, three of whom rushed in with bayonets fixed on their rifles. None of them was any more anxious to deal with the situation than I was, but I gave instructions and fled. The three armed soldiers thrashing around in that confined space, must have been quite a sight, but eventually all was calm so obviously the enemy was subdued.
Politically, things are a little tense here at the moment. The spark this time was the incident where 'someone' put a pig in a mosque in a town somewhere south of Delhi. The subsequent riots resulted in the deaths of 108 people, and the unrest spread like wildfire throughout the subcontinent. For a country with 75% illiteracy, it is amazing just how fast news spreads around a vast area. Here in Srinagar, trouble breaks out with amazing speed in pockets around the city and there are an average of 3 dead per night, in spite of a curfew and the prohibition of people gathering in groups of more than four.
The Amazon write-up is that “Margaret's evocative letters succeed in painting an entertaining and often very amusing picture of her life as a latter-day 'memsahib', a term she uses ironically, given the decidedly unglamorous circumstances in which she and her spouse found themselves in this remote but fascinating Himalayan territory.” (memsahib)
The last edition of A History of the Pakistan Army, in 2006 (Amazon) was described in the Times Literary Supplement as being “elegantly written” — although the reviewer didn’t agree with a lot of what I wrote. In another review it was noted as having “well-sourced commentary” concerning the most ill-advised (and illegal) attack in Indian-administered Kashmir in the Kargil Sector by Pakistan in 1999, and about the widely-welcomed coup by General Musharraf (‘a first-rate officer’ as I described him in a diplomatic despatch in 1994, when he was Director General Military Operations). It would have been better for Pakistan, however, had the brilliant and charismatic Lieutenant General Ali Kuli Khan Khattak been selected as Chief of the Army Staff, rather than Musharraf.
It was intended that a fourth edition would appear in April 2013, but we had a few problems with editing because the person who did it inserted his own opinions and modified some of mine (it was quite funny, in a way, in spite of being a trifle upsetting), so we had to start over, and publication date was deferred to 20 December 2013 (but this did enable content to be updated to May) with this cover and blurb:
A HISTORY OF THE PAKISTAN ARMY
Wars and Insurrections
The scope of this in-depth study of the Pakistan Army is wide as the army has played a major part in the country’s history. The author describes Pakistan’s violent internal politics and erratic international relations with deep knowledge gained through long association with the country and its armed force. Pakistan’s wars with India are covered vividly, drawing on unpublished material and details from India as well as Pakistani sources. The country’s resurrection under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is described, as is the decade of dictatorship that followed his period in power. The story of its aftermath, when Pakistan grappled with unaccustomed democracy and verged on anarchy, is told with the aid of personal knowledge of many of the senior players.
The fourth edition incorporates new chapters covering the Musharraf years, the effects on Pakistan of the war in Afghanistan and operations in the border region, the nuclear programme, relations with the US, and discussion of the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence.
The fourth edition was written because I received much new information about the 1965 and 1971 wars and there was a great deal to record about more recent events: ten new chapters, indeed, including one on the Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence (‘Intelligence Rules’) written six months before the Snowden revelations about the intriguing machinations of the US National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, describing some curious incidents, including this about the listeners:
In 2006 General Kayani lamented to the author that he had the capacity to monitor only about 100 telephone calls at any one time. Western nations were loath to provide such advanced technology to Pakistan, or even share with it their own even sanitised intercept intelligence, although this has taken place on occasions. The capabilities of the US, UK and Australia in regard to interception of electronic transmissions are astounding. Provision of real-time actionable intelligence to western and some Asian governments concerning impending action by terrorist groups has prevented at least two major atrocities; probably many more.
Sometimes, however, there can be hiccups. In one case an Australian diplomat in a foreign capital realised, because of a tongue-slip by an American colleague, that the US had knowledge of the contents of an Australian diplomatic communication; a comparatively minor item of information referred to by the American in casual conversation could only have been learned through intercept. There was simply no other way through which he would have known it, given the level of protection it had been given by the Australian and his Mission. No direct inquiry was conducted, but a discreet feeler went out to the British, who assured the Australians that there was no “intra-intercept” (as it was put), but the suspicion lingered. It was, after all, the British who planted listening devices in the offices of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the US which intercepted calls made by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad ElBaradei, who had upset Washington by refusing to endorse the contention that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons.
In fact, I was that ‘Australian diplomat’, and what happened was this:
German friends wrote to us in Islamabad to suggest that as their daughter had just graduated she might benefit from a visit to Pakistan, and, as she was (and is) both delightful and most intelligent we said she would be welcome to stay for as long as she liked, and she could work in the local Hospice (which she very nearly took over; it has never been so well-run). So before she arrived I looked round town for suitable young men who might be acceptable escorts in her off-duty moments. Among them was a tall, amusing and very good-looking Third Secretary in the US embassy whom we invited to dinner a couple of times to check him out before her arrival.
One evening, in casual conversation about the country, he mentioned a matter that was quite impossible for him to know unless he had had access to the content of a cable I had sent some days before. As one does in such cases, I moved the conversation to other things, then dropped a fly on the water. It was taken, and our young friend indicated that he knew of a matter that had been revealed to me by the DG ISI in a very private conversation. I had told only the high commissioner, and nobody else could have known about it unless they had read the cable. The very words he used were indicative of the source.
Next day I told the high commissioner of this, and we sought advice from Canberra, in writing by slow-moving but secure hand-carried Diplomatic Bag. The reply was anodyne but gave permission for mention of suspicion to the Brits whose head of station I knew well and promptly contacted. He later told me that he had spoken with his American counterpart who assured him that he was shocked — shocked! — about such an allegation, and that of course nothing of the sort went on between friends and allies.
With this we had to be satisfied.
But we never saw the charming young Third Secretary, ever again . . .
During my last visit to Pakistan I met many senior officers and visited Peshawar, Swat, Mangla, Lahore, Mohmand Tribal Agency, Heavy Industries Taxila, Pakistan Ordnance Factories, and the National Defence University, where I spoke to the international affairs faculty. In Mohmand I had briefings from the commander 77 Brigade and spoke with soldiers in the field and visited their wounded comrades in military hospitals. Following the US cross-border attack on 77 Brigade on 26 November that killed 24 soldiers and wounded 13 others, some grievously, I wrote in an article for the Pakistan Army’s magazine, Hilal, that
I was in Mohmand at the beginning of November, visiting 77 Brigade, whose officers and soldiers of 7 AK [7th Battalion the Azad Kashmir Regiment] were slaughtered by US aircraft, and I know exactly where Pakistan’s border posts are located. And so do American forces, because they were informed of the precise coordinates of all them. There can be no refutation by the US of the statement to me by a senior officer that “No plans of any patrols or operations being conducted [at the time of the Mohmand airstrikes] were shared [with Pakistan, by US forces].” And nobody can deny that the posts are well inside Pakistan’s territory, although US and UK newspapers have been fed the line that “the border is ill-defined.” Given all the satellite imagery and hi-tech location devices available to US forces, this simply does not wash.
I write regularly for Hilal, and in June 2013 it carried a piece about aerial warfare in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier, a short version of a 6,000 word analysis to be published by Helios in 2014 in the book ‘From Fabric Wings . . . A History of Military Aviation on both sides of the Northwest Frontier’. When engaged on that paper I was asked to contribute to the Order of Australia Newsletter in the UK, and wrote:
The request for a few words for the Newsletter came while I was in the middle of writing a piece titled ‘Airpower in the Frontier’ about air operations in the region along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan since they began in 1916. It is a chapter in a book to be published next year, and I have found the research to be engrossing, as is usual when submerged in the archives of such places as the Imperial War Museum or the Australian War Memorial. In fact there is temptation to be drawn away from the main subject, such are the charms of wandering down beckoning byways of most interesting but totally irrelevant detail. Irrelevant, that is, to the main work in progress — but sometimes there are snippets that, while indubitably away off at a tangent, open one’s eyes about other matters that are just as important as the main topic, and sometimes even more so.
I came across one such item when reading about an Indian Officer, Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee, a splendid man who had flown in the Frontier and became chief of his country’s air force in 1954. He had been in the first batch of six Indian cadets to graduate from the Royal Air Force Academy at Cranwell in 1932, and in the absorbing story of his life one small paragraph leapt out of the pages at me. It was a letter to his mother in the following year when serving in an RAF Squadron along with some twenty Indian trainee technicians : “My dear Mother, I wonder if you could send some of our old books over as we have decided to make a library for the Indian Airmen, as they are not allowed to take books from the RAF Library. Yours Affectionately, Subroto.”
This reference to an example of appalling racial discrimination made me think about
the attitudes of that period, and indeed over the following years until quite recently, and made me thankful that such casual bigotry is no longer prevalent. But it does still exist, not least in the attitude of some people concerning our own original population in Australia, and we must be ever vigilant to ensure that the purveyors of intolerance can never again be influential.
I served in the British and Australian armies and, early in my time, following the agreement that ended the fighting during the wonderfully-named ‘Emergency’ in Cyprus, commanded the troop of guns that fired a salute for President Makarios, who had been transformed in a few easy motions from reviled rebel to revered Head of State. (The fading British Empire was good at this : from Nehru onwards the former freedom-fighter’s most envied national honour was to have spent a few months in a British colonial jail.)
In the 1960s I saw active service in what Indonesia called ‘Confrontation’ with Malaysia. As a Forward Observer in 6 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, in Borneo, I was fortunate enough to be attached to 42 Commando, Royal Marines; 1st Battalion Sarawak Rangers, of the Royal Malaysian Army; and 4th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR), following which connection I was asked to join the Australian Army, which I did in January 1970.
During my years in Cyprus I was able to travel extensively in northern Libya and had an attachment with the Jordan Desert Police Force (then patrolling by camel, intercepting salt smugglers from Syria to Saudi Arabia), which was most interesting, as were later tours as Reconnaissance and Survey Officer in 39 [nuclear] Missile Regiment in Germany, and fascinating but futile involvement in psychological operations in Vietnam.
Later postings included being Senior Staff Officer (Force Structure), in Australian Army HQ, during which time I was appointed to the Order of Australia; Director of Protocol for the Australian Defence Force; and, lastly, Australian Defence Attaché in Pakistan from 1988 to 1994. In that agreeable appointment I visited almost every part of the country, including the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies in which intruders – including citizens of Pakistan – are rarely welcome but where I was greeted with warmth, possibly as a result of earlier visits at the invitation of President (General) Zia ul Haq when I travelled widely in North West Frontier Province and Balochistan.
In the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP – reporting on the ‘quantum of forces’ in Kashmir, and trying to stop firing across the Line of Control dividing the disputed territory) in 1981 there happened to be a particularly delightful and civilised bunch of people – and we became a family (see Margaret’s book). We have annual reunions, and are now joined by the children and grandchildren of Mission members.
Living conditions in these days were somewhat basic in Srinagar and Rawalpindi (and even more so in the Field Stations along the Line of Control), and here are two of the children of dear friends, then in Srinagar and later in Denmark, and no longer children . . .
The 2010 gathering was in Falsterbo, at the southern tip of Sweden, to which we drove via Germany and Denmark, staying with charming friends en route. Here is the closing of that reunion, with the organiser, Colonel Peter Wetterberg, on the right.
You will of course be aware that Maanpuolustuskorkeakoulo in Finnish means National Defence University. It’s one of these Finnish words that rolls off the tongue, like ‘Kippis’, which means Good Health! – I will now drink you under the table, which remains the only word I remember in that astonishingly unfriendly language. (I wonder why?) But the Finns themselves are marvellous and hospitable, and it was the Finnish contingent of the Blue Berets of Kashmir 1981 who organised the next reunion, attended by fifty of us at the Maanpu . . . . . the National Defence University campus near Helsinki.
A fine body of men, even if most of us are twice the girth we were, thirty years ago . . . . .
In July 2013 we were in Falsterbo again, courtesy of Peter Wetterberg, and it was most enjoyable, of course, but I won’t put in any more photographs. In 2014 we meet in Bornholm Island, which should be fun. Watch this space.
My paper Doing Business in Pakistan was produced in 2007 but unfortunately, given unrest in the country, my consultancy directed to creation of leisure centres has collapsed. (An entrepreneur in the Gulf wished to develop, among other places, the Swat Valley as a tourist attraction, and, through me, was seeking Pakistani partners and advisers.) Dreadful natural disasters and the grim internal security situation have altered almost every facet of life in Pakistan, but in spite of the problems there are still long-term investment opportunities that could benefit the country as a whole.
Back to writing . . .
Editing the diaries and letters of Lieutenant General (retd) Ali Aurakzai, an outstanding officer who was Corps Commander in Pakistan’s North West Province from 2001-2004 and Governor from 2006 to 2008, has been a great pleasure. The diaries were originally a hand-written 445,000 words (all typed by Margaret), and I edited them down to 180,000. There are also many superb photographs, but unfortunately publication was forbidden on grounds of national security. Fortunately there was then official recognition that the memoirs in their edited form do not contain anything that would compromise the security of Pakistan, although there remain definitive and most telling descriptions of military deficiencies and social and political problems. Of considerable interest, there are accounts of military operations, political developments, and domestic and international discussions that have not before been recorded. General Aurakzai’s briefing of President George W Bush is notable. My personal observation is that if President Bush had paid attention to the advice of General Aurakzai, then there might have been avoidance of a few problems.
So he and I are working on completing his memoirs, which have been accepted for publication by Helion and should appear in mid-2014.
Another project is the editing for publication of the 1882-85 and 1902 diaries and letters of Captain Reginald Hunter Blair of the Gordon Highlanders
at the request of his great-grandson, Alister HB, a former Royal Navy officer.
These cover the British army’s campaign in Egypt and include descriptions of the battle of Tel el Kebir and the amazing small boat journey up the Nile to the Sudan. I have also received from an old friend, retired Australian General Simon Willis, who has a long and distinguished family history, the diaries and letters of his ancestor Lieutenant Colonel Robert Coveny of the Black Watch, who, as a Captain, took part in the same events as Hunter Blair. It should be an interesting book – at least for enthusiasts – when it eventually appears. It has also added a tiny bit to the History of the Black Watch, being written by the brilliant author Victoria Schofield. (Volume 1 is fascinating.) Excerpts from both officers’ diaries describing the Battle of Tel el Kebir in Egypt in 1882 are illuminating:
Here is Reginald:
Here our programme rather broke down – the noise of the rifles and guns of the enemy drowned every bugle that could be sounded. However we raised a tremendous cheer and charged up the hill. The noise of bullets was wonderful, just swishing over our heads – luckily as usual the fire was too high so we escaped without much loss up that hill, tho’ poor Brooks was shot in five places and killed on the spot.
And Robert, over on the right flank:
Suddenly we saw some bright flashes about 100 yards in front of us. Puff! Puff! – we could just see, as it was now the break of dawn. ‘Fix bayonets’, quietly went down our line now. The bayonets had no sooner been fixed than the whole of the Egyptian line, about 100 yards in our front, seemed like a city suddenly lighted up with a continuous row of gas-jets; a deafening of the Gordon Highlanders rattle of musketry – and a shower of Remington bullets hailed around us. Some of our men were hit; but the Highland blood was up; in less than I have time to write from that last full stop we joined in the attacking lines, and, with one yell, we went at those fellows with the bayonet. It was a regular company-officers’ and soldiers’ battle. Just as we got to the first entrenchment, and as we were storming it, I got a bullet in my left shoulder; but I simply despised it, and jumped down with lots of my brave chappies bayoneting right and left around me.
Reginald Hunter Blair’s diary for 1902 has been discovered, and has been a pleasure to edit. It describes his life in Kashmir, which is interesting even if almost the entire period is given over to polo, shooting, golf and bridge. The photograph album is fascinating.
His son Alister stands beside his father on the right of this photograph, and one of the saddest things is the record that
1st May. Srinagar. We all went by boat to the Nasim Bagh in Dahl Lake, about 1½ hours paddle. Took lunch and had a jolly picnic under the splendid Chinar trees. The Buists joined us. E [his wife, Emily] and I rode home with them afterwards. It was Alister’s birthday treat and a jolly day . . .
It is sad because in the First World War, a week after his nineteenth birthday, Alister was killed. His body was never found, and his memorial in France reads
Which tends to make one think about the grief, tragedy and futility of war.