25 November 2012

Finding the patriot

Saturday, 24 November 2012
 
In his latest book, Ramachandra Guha says that a patriot can be a partisan and so one needs to get rid of the habit of seeing things in black and white. The author in conversation with Rinku Ghosh

Can a patriot be a partisan and vice versa?

Of course, they can be. So I did not use the word versus in putting them together. I wanted to demolish the obsession of labelling things in black and white. For me the real issue is between patriotism and nationalism. A patriot loves his country, a nationalist prefixes his love with hatred for another country. Nationalism itself is often faith-based like a Jewish Israel or an Islamic Pakistan, or language-based like the use of French defined Europe or Sinhalese changed the political contours of Sri Lanka, fuelling Tamil separatism.

The beauty of Indian nationalism is that it does not privilege a single language or a single religion but is all-inclusive. Pakistan’s identity veers round the anti-India axis but the real India is not like a jungle full of hawks. In that sense, this book tries to show you can be a patriot and love other countries. You can be a Hindi speaker and yet admire the linguistic diversity of Bengali and Tamil. Time has come for a more inclusive, tolerant view of what it means to be India. The book is a collection of essays on specific subjects explored in some depth. So it is a historian’s document, not ideological.

There are interesting anecdotes in the book, like the example of the pickle seller from Rajasthan setting up shop in Kochi or the fact that Premchand structured Godaan in English, then wrote in Hindi. For how long have you been penning these observations?

This book is based on four decades of travelling around India and three decades of meeting people. When I wrote the essay on the bilingual intellectual, I sent a draft to some friends. The Godaan reference was given to me by a great scholar of Hindi literature called Rupert Snell. Then Alok Rai helped me see how the decline of the bilingual intellectual was connected to the decline of the qasbah.

While everyday pursuits have increased between smaller towns and cities because of connectivity, the intellectual traditions have just diverged. Take the case of Burdwan, which had its own intellectual tradition, writers and professors at the university, distinct from those in Kolkata. Now the pursuit of knowledge is Kolkata-centric. Local colleges have declined. In my home state of Karnataka, excellent colleges like Dharwad, St John’s and the Maharaja produced such creative work at one time. There is much more traffic between cities than cultural mileage.

There is a separation of discourses; language television has been a huge success but there is no conversation. There was a time when Hindi writers like Nirmal Verma and Harivansh Rai Bachchan wrote in English. If you go to Spain, people talk in Spanish and English at the same time depending on which audience they are speaking to. In effect, we just have a rarefied elite.

An inclusive view of India is very difficult to sell although there are larger platforms of communication, be it social media or television. Is a book enough for the liberal democrat?

What you said about the electronic and social media is right, given their penchant to take positions and dispense with everything in a moment. This is not true of the ordinary Indian. He knows our problems are complex, is very capacious and articulate. Unfortunately, it’s the speakers on television who attract attention and survive on running each other down than forging a solution. Currently, the tussle over FDI is the microcosm of a larger debate. Pink papers only see the good part while the Left-wing papers only see the bad parts in a very simplistic way. The market has a place to generate entrepreneurship and growth but still needs time. The media only takes note of what hits the market or what a CII representative says can solve all problems. There has to be nuancing of possibilities.

A country as diverse, complicated and divided like India cannot be run by authoritarian principles, partisan ideologies and exclusive way of functioning. Compromise is the way the Indian republic has been. That is the rationale of Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar and this book tries to articulate that through concrete examples. I remember the Raj Thackeray-Nitish Kumar spat over the issue of migrant workers not being good enough for Marathi manoos. Unleashing the tirade against settler workers, the MNS chief said, “Bihar alone is the victim” but Nitish Kumar did not spit venom. He said Maharashtra is the ultimate India and even welcomed Maharashtrians to work in his state. I’m glad he said that because clearly it should have come from a leader of the Central Government. Sadly, our Prime Minister doesn’t open his mouth when a crisis demands it. He is the constitutional head of a country. Those who get drawn to the personality cult should know that neither Nehru nor Indira Gandhi would have allowed this rubbish. Every Indian has the right of movement as long as they don’t practise violence.

Can the main stream Right be credible minus its ultra components?

You need a Congress minus the industry, a BJP minus the RSS and a modern outlook for India. Of course, we need a party that stands for family values, tradition, that is sympathetic to small entrepreneurs which the BJP could be if it was not tied to the RSS. And if you take out the xenophobic mentality, it has a space to fill, that of the right of Centre. Again I will take up the posturing and rhetoric over the FDI issue as an example. Instead of asking “how many jobs will go to Italian businessmen,” you should demand specifics on how will farmers benefit or not. You can be a Right-wing critic or a bottom-up critic but you cannot say something in poor taste. There are people in the BJP like Arun Jaitley and Yashwant Sinha who have recognised that the growing, successful, urban middle class is disenchanted with socialism, believes in creative entrepreneurship but doesn’t like minority-bashing. So there is room for a Right-of-Centre party that doesn’t have a culturally chauvinistic approach.

But you cannot deny that the NaMo phenomenon is winning the war of perception.

That’s not true. The more Modi consolidates the Gujarati Hercules, the less he will appeal to the outside despite the fact that he is a good administrator. As for Time magazine covers, they even once glorified Chandrababu Naidu as the CEO of India.

Don’t you think intolerance in society is increasing by the day?

I do not think social intolerance is growing or that India is becoming more violent or sectarian. What is failing is the will of the police and the political class to impose the rule of law. Earlier leaders would be more inclined to stop things, now they let them go. It goes back to the point that I started with. The followers of fanatics shout louder and seem to occupy more space and social power than the actual leader.

What should, therefore, be the rules of engagement?

You need an informed political balance. The political parties have become family firms and need reform. And make sagacious moves. I remember writing a column when Rushdie could not come to India and MF Husain was in Dubai, suggesting both be honoured by the Government for their artistic contribution to society. The RSS would go wild for honouring Husain just as the mullahs would shout down the award to Rushdie. You strike at both hawks equally while reaffirming India’s pluralist ideas.

Then corporates must be seen as doing something for society rather than building towers in Mumbai or visiting Tirupati. Only Infosys founder Narayan Murthy seems to me a serious philanthropist. The others seem to buy pages of CSR in the Press.

And what of civil society?

I think the gross mistake has been playing to the media, which is good at highlighting problems and not solutions. I think Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare and Prashant Bhushan should have stopped talking to the media once the Government began negotiations. That’s not the Gandhian way. Once conversation is in progress, each must compromise and reach a solution.

If Pakistan provokes, India will hit back

Author: G Parthasarathy

Islamabad should be left in no doubt that even a ‘neo-Gandhian’ Indian leadership would not sit by idly, in the event of a repeat of a 26/11-style terrorist attack

Pakistan remains the focus of international attention today, primarily because of fears of its pernicious role in international terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Pakistan’s propensity for international terrorism lay exposed when Osama bin Laden was found to be living comfortably with his three wives and several children and grandchildren at the heart of the Abbotabad Cantonment. Its readiness to even resort to nuclear terrorism was earlier exposed when nuclear scientists like Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood and Chaudhri Abdul Majeed, with known links with Osama bin Laden, were detained after the 9/11 terrorist strikes and charged with helping Al Qaeda to acquire nuclear and biological weapons. Shortly thereafter, the redoubtable AQ Khan’s role in transferring nuclear weapons designs and knowhow to Iran, Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia became public, though the Americans deliberately avoided implicating Khan’s bosses in the Pakistan Army.

While concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists remain, international attention is now focused on the fact that with an arsenal of over 100 nuclear weapons, Pakistan today has the fastest growing nuclear weapons programme in the world, heading towards developing the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. It is not however, any Pakistani General who has displayed an ability to explain why and how all this is happening. This responsibility has been left to Pakistan’s most savvy and hardnosed lady journalist-turned-diplomat Maleeha Lodi, well known for her close links with the Pakistan military establishment. Drawing attention to why Pakistan is rejecting international calls for concluding a “Fissile Material Cut off Treaty”, Ms Lodi avers that Pakistan has been seriously concerned by India’s conventional and strategic military build up. Predictably, she refers to the India-US nuclear deal and the subsequent waiver of NSG sanctions on India, as contributing to Pakistan’s accelerated development of nuclear weapons and missile capabilities.

INDIA’S DEFENCE RELATIONS: IMPERATIVES OF BALANCING


Rahul Bhonsle

Wooed by the world after decades of neglect, India is faced with a major dilemma in structuring defence relations given the strategic landscape in which the country is placed today. China’s aggressive posturing in East and South East Asia and US shift to Asia Pacific with a curious admixture of global and regional balancing defines the challenge for countries in the region to choose between the two main poles in a multi-polar global order. This has come about even as India’s North West including Af-Pak and West Asia are in a flux where state and non state actors are engaged in fratricidal conflicts which are slow burning with occasional flash points as seen in Gaza recently. This state is unlikely to change in the near future.

Against this back drop recognizing India’s strategic location, versatile military and foundationally strong foreign policy establishment, the country is being wooed through defence engagement alluring it to make a commitment towards a US led alliance the ostensible purpose of which is to keep the emerging challenger China under check. Recommendations of a recent abbreviated report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington is another in the series of such documents by Dr S Amer Latif under the guidance of Karl F Inderfurth both with considerable experience of South Asia.

NATIONAL DISINTEGRATION –THE THREAT FROM WITHIN – A TICKING TIME BOMB



Brig R S Chhikara

A nation’s security paradigm has two distinct dimensions namely the external and the internal . The first is reasonably well understood ,widely debated and anylized . The second-the internal dimension of our security and integrity are neither clearly understood nor debated with the degree of gravity they represent.

We have China and Pakistan as our adversaries with a disturbing history of conflicts. Our relationship with other immediate neighbours is none too stable. The increasing talibanisation of Pakistan,the accute instability in Afghanistan and increasing Chinese interest in the region add another sinister dimension to our external security paradigm .The defence forces are begining to take baby steps towards coping with the possibility of a two front war. The Government of India,its security, diplomatic, economic and energy agencies etc are hopefully ceized of the external security challenges and are making efforts to cope.

But, on the internal front, the situation is indeed worrysome with Pakistan and China actively fanning flames of saparatism in Kashmir and the North East. Proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir accompanied by the political cacaphony seeking abolition of AFSPA, terrorist cells spread throughout the country and the withdrawl of MCOCA,the ever expanding foot print of Moism in more than one third of the country and Lack of maningful control over illegal immigration in Assam leading to social conflict throuhghout the North East are serious existing threats to national unity and integrity.

Israel Remains Careless In Gaza's Fourth-Generation Warfare

Nov 21

 
Israel's fresh bombardment of Gaza and its political aftershocks have reinforced a maddening status quo: Hamas's armed resistance cannot reverse Israel's statehood, IDF operations cannot physically destroy Hamas's resistance, and involved foreign powers lack a concrete plan to advance an equitable two-state solution.

Hamas and those Palestinian leaders that fail to offer an alternative deserve their share of responsibility for bringing Gaza to boil. Fatah's inability to move a peaceful solution forward, albeit within a biased system of international mediation, has given Hamas ample room to grow and kept Israel's leadership focused on military action. However the blunt reality of asymmetric warfare does not place the burden of responsibility on non-state actors, but on the state actors theoretically beholden to international standards. Non-state actors attract popular support by offering modest improvements over a tyrannical, corrupt government. For this reason (and others, of course), Hamas's behavior is partially or fully accepted by Palestinians and Muslims who view Israel's behavior as incomparably monstrous.
 
Advanced states can make fourth-generation warfare (4GW) look flawless and futile at the same time.

4GW is named for its placement after 3GW, a phase that technologically evolved the tactical and strategic concepts developed in the 20th century. A major difference between 3GW and 4GW stems from the balance of power; while 3GW conflicts generally occur between states, 4GW develops between state and non-state actors. Firepower becomes less important in this type of warfare as the conflict blurs deeper into the local civilian population, placing a premium on the non-military factors - political, economic and social - that govern a territory. This strategy addresses the need to protect an area's natural and human resources instead of destroying them, along with the tasks of cooperating with international organizations and keeping battlefield blunders out of the international news cycle.

Although amplified by technology, 4GW is designed to confound superior militaries and their technological advantages. Accordingly, retired Marine Colonel Thomas X. Hammes advises America's leadership against believing that technology can overcome non-military sources of conflict and their political manifestations. Having monitored Washington's delusional expeditions in Afghanistan, Iraq and the "War on Terror," Hammes holds this error above all others in asymmetric warfare.

"We continue to focus on technological solutions at the tactical and operational levels without a serious discussion of the strategic imperatives of the nature of the war we are fighting," he writes in The Sling and The Stone, an authoritative study of 4GW.

Israeli leadership and the soldiers under their command are similarly geared towards urban warfare rather than the totality of 4GW. Israel's objectives remain military-oriented: eliminate a key Hamas strategist, destroy his long-range weapons, stop Gazan rockets from falling on southern Israel, and ultimately impose a ceasefire that demands the elimination of Egypt's smuggling tunnels into Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political objective is domestic in nature, or else aimed at the Palestinians' upcoming recognition bid at the United Nations. Settling the conflict's non-military grievances has been noticeably absent from Netanyahu's agenda throughout his four-year term.

Israel certainly enjoys an abundance of political power and media influence, strong-arming Western governments with ease by dangling a ground invasion beneath a massive air raid. Netanyahu has reportedly told President Barack Obama that he will only launch a ground operation if Hamas continues firing rockets into Israel. Naturally Gaza's bombardment becomes more palatable in the face of a bloodier alternative, a comparison that helps maintain the West's green light for as long as possible. Furthermore, Netanyahu is attempting to portray himself as a tough but wise statesman (think Iran) ahead of January 22nd's election.

"Before deciding on a ground invasion, the prime minister intends to exhaust the diplomatic move in order to see if a long-term ceasefire can be achieved," a senior Israeli official said after Monday night's cabinet meeting.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has now arrived in the region to broker a truce "in the days ahead," allowing Israel to continue bombing every last target and giving Hamas little incentive to comply. Except this Western reservoir of diplomatic power cannot fully overcome the power attributed to world opinion, and steamrolling over all objections to the disproportionate force being applied in Gaza generates more enemies - civilian and militant alike - than Israel can eliminate.

Israel's government has grown dangerously accustomed to winning Gaza's tactical battles and losing the conflict's wider political narrative. Its military and intelligence agencies, among the world's elite, skillfully locate arms caches, intercept rockets and track Hamas officials with a Skynet-like grid of technology. Over 1,350 air strikes were counted by Monday, a growing number of them launched from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Many of Hamas's Fajr-5 rockets, considered a "tie-breaker," were wiped out in the moments after Ahmed Jabari's assassination. The Israeli military just Tweeted that it "surgically targeted a Hamas intelligence operations centre" on the seventh floor of a media building.

Meanwhile Carmela Avner, Israel's chief information officer, boasts that Israel can fight a war on three technological fronts: "The first is physical, the second is on the world of social networks and the third is cyber."

All of these capabilities, as Hammes warns, gives Israel's leadership a false sense of control over Gaza's military and non-military battlefields. There will always be more rockets to intercept from the political status quo. New Hamas leaders will inevitably replace the fallen and Israel's own websites are being hacked by supporters of the Palestinians. Worse still, the false sense of security inspired by the Iron Dome emboldens Israel to strike with minimal consequence, producing more hostilities instead of reducing them. "Precision" air strikes, far from precise, contribute to the eventual stalemate imposed by the international community's frantic jockeying to savage credibility with their own populations.

Israel is a master of war - disproportionate warfare. Over 150 Palestinians have been killed (at least 50 of them civilians) and over 840 wounded, including 225 children, since Operation Pillar of Defense began on November 14th. Israelis have suffered five fatalities and an estimated 250 injuries from Gaza's rockets, underscoring the conflict's fundamentally disproportionate nature. The faces of dead Palestinian children will outweigh anything Israel has to say to the world at large, and the government is losing minds and hearts at an unsustainable pace. Contrary to resolving any sources of conflict, disproportionate force and the resulting spectacle functions as a main driver of 4GW.

Israel's government argues that Hamas's stockpile has essentially been reset, but the same breathing room failed to yield any progress towards a two-state solution following Gaza's last war. Netanyahu will emerge wrapped in victorious rhetoric, ignoring 4GW and dooming the cycle to repeat again.

And if his government doesn't care what the world thinks, why should the world treat Israel with special care?

One Size Does Not Fit All: The Limits of Iron Dome


November 24, 2012

By David Patrikarakos

Despite the recent success of the Iron Dome defense system against Hamas, Iranian missiles would prove a much tougher challenge.


If Israel eventually makes good on its years of threats and strikes Iran’s nuclear facilities the Iranians have promised to “respond with everything they have.” One means of retaliation available to Iran is launching missile attacks against Israel both directly and through proxy groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

How Israel is likely to cope with this depends in large part on its new missile defense system, which includes “Iron Dome,” the latest jewel in Israel’s opulent military crown. Iron Dome is seen as a panacea for a country perpetually targeted by missiles: it is a $210 million, mobile all-weather air defense system developed by Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (with additional funding from the U.S.), working jointly with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of up to 70 km away, it is, so Israel’s leaders say, the future of the country’s defense.

Rivals China, India in escalating war of words

China offered to help India's archrival, Pakistan, develop a territory claimed by India. India invited the Dalai Lama, a top irritant to China, to visit a state claimed by China.


Activists of Shiv Sena, a Hindu hardline group, shout slogans as they burn an effigy of China's President Hu Jintao during a protest against the Chinese government in New Delhi October 5.
(Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

By Peter Ford, Staff writer
posted October 20, 2009 at 12:00 am EDT
Beijing

China and India have taken a vituperative war of words and diplomatic barbs to an unusual level of tension in recent days, prompting fears that the traditional rivalry between the two Asian giants could spin out of control.

"The most urgent present job for both sides is crisis management," says Han Hua, an expert on South Asia at Peking University. "I don't think either government wants the situation to go further downhill."

The recent angry exchanges were prompted by a decades-old border dispute over which the two countries went to war in 1962, and which has proved impervious to 13 rounds of negotiations since.

Are NSA InfoSec Efforts Enough to Defend America in Cyber Warfare?


The battlegrounds of tomorrow are already here.

These areas are not found on foreign soil or even outer space. The new frontier of warfare is Cyber Space.

The methods and technologies used in this new virtual warfare are advancing on a daily basis.

These advancements are being made so quickly that the government is still in the process of implementing new programs and developing new bases so that the country does not fall behind in the new cyber race.

New $1.2 Billion NSA InfoSec Facility

The most recent development is the construction of a $1.2 billion, 1 million-square-foot cybersecurity center near Salt Lake City.

The center is expected to be completed in 2014 and will be used by The NSA, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to help identify cyber threats and protect national IT security networks.

China to Escalate Cyberwar War Capabilities





“The danger is pronounced,’ warns Charles Viar, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Intelligence Studies. ‘In my view, no one is really doing enough to deal with the Chinese threat. It is too large, and by Western standards, too unconventional[1].”

On November 9th, before leaving his post, China’s Hu Jintao announced that China is speeding up its full military Internet technology IT applications and development, including new weapons and equipment.

With China being the world’s worst perpetrator of cyber-espionage and theft, this is a worrying prospect.

All nations have the right to protect themselves in all spheres of engagement, but the Chinese have taken it too far. They are recognized as the worst perpetrators of cyber-theft, and present the biggest threat to US national security. Hu Jintao’s pronouncement should be a concern for all Western nations.

“Irrespective of sophistication, the volume of exploitation attempts yielded enough successful breaches to make China the most threatening actor in cyberspace, [2]” -US Congressional Report on China

Comparing Chinese Naval Power to the Soviet Navy


By James R. HolmesNovember 23, 2012
If you’re struck by China’s rise to nautical prominence, get a load of Soviet naval history. Though disparaged today, Soviet seafarers were worthy adversaries. Indeed, contemporary Russia occasionally makes noises about reclaiming their legacy, and has moved to reestablish its influence in such expanses as the Sea of Okhotsk.

Moscow long coveted naval might. Josef Stalin flirted with a Mahanian battle fleet in the interwar years, to little avail. Soviet industry proved unequal to the challenge of manufacturing battleships and other heavy combatants. In the 1960s Moscow rededicated itself to sea power under the tutelage of Fleet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, the father of the Soviet Navy. By the late Cold War the Soviet Navy had fused naval power with land-based implements of sea power—American tacticians forever worried about Backfire bomber raids venturing out to smite us—to erect a dense “blue belt of defense” off Soviet shores. Moscow practiced anti-access long before the term was coined.

UNDERSTANDING THE TRAGEDY OF TIBET


By Norzin Dickyi

A nation that has stood tall for more than two thousand years with a thriving civilization and significant cultural and political influence over large parts of Asia has suddenly come under an assault, which from all counts is tragic. When countries around the world, especially in Asia at the end of the Second World War were gaining independence as a result of the process of decolonization, shadows of dark clouds were looming large over the roof of the world – Tibet. No sooner did the Mao’s revolutionary forces declared victory and China became a communist nation in 1949, Eastern parts of Tibet started coming under siege. As the world rejoiced freedom of many countries, the country at the roof of the world silently mourned its invasion by foreign forces. Not only is the nature and consequences of this invasion tragic but also how easily Tibet fell prey to the changing geo-political situations of the time.

It was certainly a most deplorable act of humiliation inflicted by a country which claims to have suffered a century of humiliation. But what was more deplorable was the unpreparedness of the Tibetan leadership of the time to face and challenge such situations. His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama’s realization of the importance of modernization saw the establishment of Tibet’s first post office, introduction of currency notes and coins and, more importantly dispatching Tibetans to study abroad in England. As the importance of military strength was most dramatically realized, moves were made to strengthen the military as well. Though late, significant progress was nevertheless in the making but soon Tibet was engulfed into the misfortune of His Holiness’ demise in 1933. For more than three centuries, the Dalai Lamas have provided both the political and spiritual leadership to the Tibetans. The Dalai Lamas reincarnate and are not elected and hence, there was more or less a political vacuum after the demise of the previous and the full maturity of the next. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was born in the year 1935. It is appalling to think how in those testing times, China took the unpreparedness of the Tibetan leadership to their advantage and rendered Tibetans victims of its expansionist policy. It is also appalling to know that while small neighboring countries like Nepal were acquiring membership of the newly established the United Nations Organization, Tibetan leadership had failed to do so. Tibetan tragedy is indeed scripted with misfortune of the Tibetans, naivety of their leadership and China’s thirst for power.

CHINA’S CHALLENGE TO THE LIBERAL ORDER, INDIA’S ATTRACTION TO IT, AND THE POSSIBILITIES FOR WESTERN REVITALIZATION IN LIGHT OF THE GLOBAL EMBRACE OF DEMOCRATIC NORMS



By Stephen Szabo

The rise of the rest has to be to more clearly classified as that part of the non-West which is democratic and that which is not. India and Brazil fall into the first category with China and Russia clearly in the second. This distinction is an important one as values matter in foreign policy. The West is not simply a geopolitical alliance based on interests, for if it was it would have disintegrated with the end of the Soviet threat. The fact is that the West does exist and continues to do so based on its shared values in open political systems and its shared vision of a broader liberal international order.

As Vaclav Havel reminded the West during the Cold War, the nature of the domestic political system of a state has important consequences for its foreign policy; the prospect of the replacement of a democratic hegemon by one based on state capitalism and authoritarianism has important international consequences. The hegemony of the West which characterized the Cold War and immediate Cold War period is now over. The West is facing a serious challenge to its economic and political predominance and it is possible the Western moment in human history will come to an end in this century.

The growing role of China is clearly the most significant challenge to the liberal international order to emerge since the shaping of the Bretton Woods institutions. China is a deeper and more serious challenge to the liberal order than was the Soviet Union. The West cannot contain the PRC as easily as it did the USSR, because the military dimension is not the only dimension of Chinese power and its economic success has enveloped and divided the West. As its economic power grows (it is growing more rapidly than the NIC in its earlier studies anticipated), its political and soft power will grow with it. It stands a good chance of offering an alternative to the liberal international model of the West.

America’s Trouble with China






Harold Brown

Harold Brown was US Secretary of Defense under President Jimmy Carter and is a member of the Defense Policy Board, which advises current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. He is an emeritus trustee… WASHINGTON, DC – Xi Jinping, China’s newly anointed president, made his first visit to the United States in May 1980. He was a 27-year-old junior officer accompanying Geng Biao, then a vice premier and China’s leading military official. Geng had been my host the previous January, when I was the first US defense secretary to visit China, acting as an interlocutor for President Jimmy Carter’s administration. 
Illustration by Paul Lachine

Americans had little reason to notice Xi back then, but his superiors clearly saw his potential. In the ensuing 32 years, Xi’s stature rose, along with China’s economic and military strength. His cohort’s ascent to the summit of power marks the retirement of the last generation of leaders designated by Deng Xiaoping (though they retain influence).

Despite China’s greater weight in world affairs, Xi faces internal strains that make China more fragile than is generally understood. China’s export-led economic model has reached its limits, and the transition to domestic-led growth is intensifying internal frictions. Managing unrest through repression is more difficult than in the past, as rapid urbanization, economic reform, and social change roils a country of 1.3 billion people. Ethnic conflicts in outlying regions will also test Xi’s political control.

50 years after 1962



by BG Verghese — October 17, 2012 1:18 pm

A personal memoir of the Sino-Indian conflict 

The 1962 Sino-Indian conflict is half a century old, but to understand what happened one needs to go further back to Indian independence and the PRC’s establishment and absorption of Tibet. Perhaps one should go back even earlier to the tripartite Simla Convention of 1914 at which the Government of India, Tibet and China were party and drew the McMahon Line. The Chinese representative initialled the Agreement but did not sign it on account of differences over the definitions of Inner and Outer Tibet.

Fast forward to March 1947 when Nehru’s Interim Government hosted an Asian Relations Conference in Delhi to which Tibet and China (then represented by the KMT) were invited. Both attended. India recognised the PRC as soon as it was established in 1949 and adopted a One-China policy thereafter.

Benefitting from borders


by Sujeev Shakya — November 23, 2012 

Nepal and India: People, borders, politics and future

In Nepal, India remains a destination for education, medical treatment, religious rites, tourism and, of course, functions as a punching bag for anything that is not satisfactory within the country. In Nepal, nationalism has for many decades been equated with being “anti-India” and this sentiment is whipped up regularly by all politicians, whether Right Wing or Left, in order to secure maximum electoral weight. However, the same politicians also believe that their longevity – in or out of power – is decided by New Delhi.

In Delhi, Nepal has never been a priority and it remains a subject for retired officials who spend their latter years writing and speaking about it. The same two-dozen people continue to share the perspectives that they have always shared; perhaps since the days they frequented Nepal on assignments. In Nepal, where politicians graduate from being youth leaders only on reaching the age of sixty, these politicians share a long lived, love-hate relationship with their Indian commentators. It is these elderly groups that determine the fate of the relationship between the two countries where 70 percent of the citizens are under 35 years of age. India is yet to see Nepal as anything other than a neighbouring country that can be harbour ISI folks or produce fake currency. Many Indians do not realise that Nepalis play a vital role in the Indian security apparatus, whether in the Indian Army or the private security services.

Aung San Suu Kyi's Visit to India: Some Observations from a Burmese Exile


Paper No. 5309 Dated 23-Nov-2012 

Guest Colum by Dr. Tint Swe 

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s India visit was essentially an impetus for the next phase of developing India-Burma relations. The relation is diplomatically termed excellent by both governments of two nations. But Indian media did not fail to make headlines such as “I was saddened that India had moved away from us: Suu Kyi.” 

Nonetheless one major newspaper lamented that it was not fair to make such remarks. But Daw Suu made clarification on the issue in the much-watched TV interviews. She has right to say so and did not conceal her justifiable emotion and at the same time she also said she has buried the past hoping for better and brighter Burma-India relations. 

Her central message during the 6-day India visit was that democracy was not yet restored in Burma and it could be the final phase which might be more difficult and if not managed appropriately it might go wrong. For that Aung San Suu Kyi, at least twice, appealed to India to stand by the people of Burma at this complicated point of time. Her people are eager to see India’s assurance in response to her appeal. 

Gaza: Winners and Losers?


November 23, 2012 | Posted by aelkus 

The Internet is abuzz with theorizing about who won and lost the short Israel-Hamas duel in Gaza. Unfortunately, the standards by which victory and defeat is tallied are fairly impressionistic. How else to explain the fact that so many actors have both won and lost in different areas? The problem is that victory and defeat are difficult, if not impossible, to objectively determine above the level of tactics. Certainly this is not always the case. It can be said beyond a doubt that the Confederacy was defeated in the American Civil War, for example. Southern armies were broken and their civic masters ceased to exist as political entities. Yet this is not helpful to us because the vast majority of wars do not end with one side's total erasure. It is more useful to observe that wars can decide political issues, sometimes to neither actor's optimal preference. The Korean War decided that the Korean nation would remain divided for the forseeable future. This was not optimal for the United States, the South Koreans, or the North Koreans, all of whom wanted reunification on their own terms. But it was certainly acceptable enough to justify ceasing combat for all three. China of course placed a higher value on avoiding a pro-Western unified Korea than any other objective. Hence it would be better to focus on the political issue being decided through violence and the nature of Hamas and Israel's violent relationship. 

Beyond the affair



by Mark Safranski — November 23, 2012 4:59 pm

Why the Petraeus affair really matters

Initially, as Washington, D.C. scandals go, the one enmeshing former CIA Director, General David Petraeus could not have been more impeccably timed or skillfully managed. Despite many months of secret investigation by the FBI, the scandal involving the iconic general, who was also a key administration figure, conveniently did not come to light during the heat of the presidential election. General Petraeus abruptly resigned November 9th, stepping down admitting to an affair, allegedly with his biographer and former military intelligence officer, Paula Broadwell, who for many days skillfully eluded efforts by reporters to discover her whereabouts during the height of the media storm. It seemed possible that the fall-out of the affair would be confined to the reputational damage done to the Petraeus and Broadwell households and official Washington would move on to speculation regarding who the President might nominate to be Petraeus’ successor as CIA Director.