9 December 2012

Siachen Unmasked

Issue Net Edition | Date : 08 Dec , 2012 

Much water has flown under the bridge since 2nd October 2012 when Atlantic Council of Ottawa put out the news bulletin titled “India-Pakistan experts agree on confidence-building measures at Lahore meeting”. The bulletin stated that since November 2011, militaries of both India and Pakistan held several rounds to boost confidence building measures, these meetings having been held in Dubai (20-21 November 2011), Bangkok (23-25 February 2012) and Lahore (23-25 September 2012) and that additionally, working group meetings took place in Chiang Mai (21 April 2012) and Palo Alto (30-31 July 2012). 

With respect to Siachen, the bulletin said, “….as a part of the comprehensive resolution of the Siachen dispute, and notwithstanding the claims of each country, both sides should agree to withdraw from the conflict area while retaining the option of punitive action should the other side renege on the commitments”. 

Notwithstanding the fact that above means withdrawing from Indian Territory and in effect acquiescing to the absurd Pakistani demand for the LC be to drawn from NJ9842 directly to KK Pass, inclusion of the following paragraphs too are ridiculous to say the least: 
  • What is the logic (read wisdom) of this when Indian posts dominate the crest-line of the Saltoro Range and Pakistanis are sitting much below to the West? 
  • “Withdrawal from Indian and Pakistani posts within line of sight of each other is to be coordinated so each side can observe the activities of the other”. What is the logic (read wisdom) of this when Indian posts dominate the crest-line of the Saltoro Range and Pakistanis are sitting much below to the West? 
  • “Both sides should agree not to interfere with the other’s national technical means”. Are we naïve enough to believe that Pakistan would own up if she does indulge in such acts? Has she owned up to 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks beyond recent signals that it was the handiwork of LeT? What about Ajmal Qasab’s statement of having received training from Pakistani Navy? Does Pakistan acknowledge cyber attacks by the Pakistan Hackers Club (PHC) and the G Force under tutelage of the ISI? Has Pakistan owned responsibility for unleashing viruses like ‘Sea Brain’ 
  • “Small-scale intrusions are neither significant nor sustainable”. But what about opening the floodgates for infiltration into Ladakh and unlimited opportunities of establishing staging posts? Has our thinking gone so awry that we can now only think of intrusions of the scale that Pakistan made in Kargil during 1998-1999? 

The Atlantic Council of Ottawa bulletin listed out all the names of both sides experts groups (incidentally Pakistan refers it as good as Track 1), chaired by the following: 
  • General Jehangir Karamat (Pakistan Army, retired) jehangir.karamat@gmail.com 
  • Air Chief Marshal Shashi Tyagi (Indian Air Force, retired) sptyagi2001@yahoo.com 
  • While the government remained in the background, a panel consisting of two members of the Track II Team under a former Ambassador made efforts to justify withdrawal from Siachen 

Egypt in Crisis: Learning the Hard Lessons of Democracy

IDSA COMMENT 


December 8, 2012 

Only a fortnight ago Egypt was being hailed as a resurgent power in the Arab world when it successfully negotiated a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel on November 21. Time magazine even included President Morsi as a candidate for the “Person of the Year” contest among 40 short listed prominent personalities in the world.1 Things, however, suddenly changed when Morsi announced on November 22 a decree giving himself sweeping powers and immunity from legal oversight. Under the new decree, described as temporary until the new constitution is drawn up – a process that has been extended by two months – the president is "authorised to take any measures he sees fit in order to preserve the revolution, to preserve national unity or to safeguard national security."2 Morsi argues that these powers are temporary and that they are necessary to safeguard the democratization process and to ensure that the Constituent Assembly charged with drafting the new constitution is not dissolved and overthrown by the courts. 

The decree has sparked off protests reminiscent of those in January 2011 that led to the ouster of Mubarak. What started as ‘Go Mubarak, go’ in January 2011 is now turning into ‘Go Morsi, go’. The opposition has charged Morsi of taking the first steps towards becoming a dictator. Mohammed ElBaradei, who has emerged as the opposition's new leader, said Morsi bore "full responsibility" for the violence and added that "A regime that is not able to protect its people and is siding with his own sect and thugs is a regime that lost its legitimacy and is leading Egypt into violence and bloodshed.”3

The unfolding situation has given rise to several questions that Egypt has to find answers for: 
  • What has led to this sudden change of situation in Egypt? 
  • Could it lead to Morsi surrendering his recently acquired powers and thereafter the Supreme Court ordering another Constituent Assembly? 
  • Does it mean that Morsi will have to resign and thereby take the process of democratization back to where it started in February 2011 post the ouster of Mubarak? 
  • With the current developments, what would be the future discourse of politics and governance in Egypt? Could it prompt the Armed forces to take control of the country akin to what the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) did after the ouster of Mubarak? 

The Constituent Assembly and New Draft Constitution 

The Constituent Assembly and the newly drafted constitution are at the core of the current turmoil in Egypt. Ever since it was constituted, the Constituent Assembly has been a bone of contention, debate and disagreement. The opposition and the minorities allege that it is dominated by Islamists and is therefore forging ahead an Islamic agenda. It has already been dissolved once in April 20124 by the courts when it was dominated by the Islamists. It also had many parliamentarians, which was contrary to the provisions of the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration prohibiting the presence of MPs in the Constituent Assembly.5 Even in its second avatar, the Constituent Assembly has faced strong protests and opposition mainly because of the presence of 60 Islamists out of a total of 100 members.6 This has given credence to the charge that the Islamists could hijack the constitution since 67 votes in favour are required to pass each article of the constitution. Also, the opposition argues that the Constituent Assembly was formed on 14 July well after the dissolution on 14 June of the Parliament Assembly7 which had formed it, thus rendering it illegitimate. 

Our nuclear liability regime is unbalanced: G R Srinivasan

 
December 09, 2012 

India's civil nuclear liability regime has raised serious questions about the country's capacity addition programme. In an interview with Sanjay Jog, G R Srinivasan, former vice-chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and currently principal associate-nuclear power business in GMR Energy Ltd, says the regime is tremendously unbalanced and may adversely affect the nuclear capacity addition programme.

Why has there been much noise over India [ Images ]'s nuclear liability regime?

India's civil nuclear liability regime is victim-friendly and offers adequate, fast compensation, without any discrimination, to victims. However, it's tremendously unbalanced and unworkable and a deterrent to the nuclear industry's growth.

No other country has the right to recourse from suppliers unless it's mentioned in the contract. No other industry has a similar regime.

If other industries are also covered by such a liability regime, it will lead to zero growth. Nuclear power is the safest energy source. Polluter should pay the principle. That's agreed. But who is the polluter? The Liability Act and the Rules strike an optimum balance between a satisfactory compensation to victims, implementability and the continuation of nuclear programme.

What are the implementation problems?

The Indian model for imported reactors will not be turn-key models, where there is a single designer, equipment supplier and an erection commissioning agency.

There could be many designers and engineering, procurement and construction contractors. How logical, rational and legal it will be to hold a single agency responsible?

India has got more than 3,000 suppliers with contract values ranging from a few lakhs to many crores. Now, each of them has to take insurance for Rs 1,500 crore or more. 

Even with respect to imported nuclear power plants, considerable indigenisation will be undertaken due to the policy of the country and to reduce cost. 

Maldives: Loss of Traditional Goodwill

Paper No. 5320 Dated 9-Dec-2012 

By B.Raman 

1. The unfortunate cancellation by the Government of Mohammad Waheed of the Maldives of the contract given to a consortium led by the GMR, an Indian company, for the running of the Ibrahim Nassir International Airport highlights our loss of tradional goodwill with a section of the Maldivian political class due to perceptions that India was trying to take sides in the political dispute between former President Mohammed Nasheed, who resigned under controversial circumstances in the beginning of this year, and his opponents led by Mr.Mohammad Waheed in order to facilitate his return to power. 

2.So long as the Maldivian authorities were sensitive to our national security interests, we followed a policy of benign non-involvement in internal political issues. Our national security interests in the Maldives had primacy over our economic and commercial interests. The Government of India carefully avoided creating any impression of backing any Indian business company operating in the Maldives. 

3.The traditional goodwill enjoyed by us for nearly three decades in the Maldives since 1979 when the Government of India responded positively to a request from Male for assistance in revamping their national security set-up started dissipating when our perceived backing for the democracy movement of Mr.Nasheed and the jettisoning of the policy of benign non-involvement in internal political matters after Mr.Nasheed became the President created perceptions of Indian political favourites. As a result of our open and enthusiastic embrace of Mr.Nasheed, he came to be perceived as India’s prop in Male. Many of his decisions in commercial and national security matters, which were favourable to India, were projected by his opponents and detractors as quid pro quo for India’s support to him. 

4. After his exit from power, elements associated with the successor Government have targeted his decisions which they viewed as his quid pro quo to India.We have already lost considerable goodwill in political circles in the Maldives.The relations between the two countries have got mixed up with local partisan politics. 

5. To stop a further erosion of the goodwill, it is important to make a mid-course correction in our Maldivian policy based on a reversion to the past policy of benign non-involvement in internal political matters, maintaining cordial relations with all political forces without any political favourites, avoidance of undue interest in promoting the interests of any Indian business house and restoration of primacy to national security matters. 

6.Maldives is also a lesson that we should avoid moralizing political postures like promoting democracy. 

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi,

Pakistan on the Edge




Author 
2012 

Publisher: Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA)
Price: Rs 399/- [Download E-Book
About the Report 

The Pakistan Project of IDSA has come up with a second report titled Pakistan on the Edge. This Report takes into account various political developments in Pakistan focusing more on the events of the last two years and analyses its impact on the nation’s nascent democracy. The Report takes a broad view of the politics, emerging political alliances, economy, foreign policy, India-Pakistan relations and civil-military relations. Two chapters of this report focus on Pakistan’s English and Urdu language print media and how it looks at the critical issues of domestic and foreign policy. 
Contents 

Foreword 
Abbreviations 

Introduction 

Chapter I - Political Scenario: The Emerging Trends
-- Amit Julka, Ashok Behuria and Sushant Sareen 
Chapter II - Provinces: A Strained Federation
-- Sushant Sareen and Ashok K Behuria 
Chapter III - Militant Groups in Pakistan: New Coalition Old Politics
-- Amit Julka and Shamshad Ahmad Khan 
Chapter IV - Continuing Religious Radicalism and Widening Sectarian Divide
-- P.K.Upadhaya 
Chapter V - The Economy: Crisis Continues
-- Sumita Kumar 
Chapter VI - Pakistan’s Foreign Policy
-- Sumita Kumar 
Chapter VII - India-Pakistan Relations: Sign of Recovery or False Restart?
-- Ashok K Behuria 
Chapter VIII - Civil-Military Relations
-- Smruti S Pattanaik 
Chapter IX - Counter Insurgency Operations: An Assessment
-- Smruti S Pattanaik, Sushant Sareen and Ashok K Behuria 
Chapter-X - Reflections from the English Language Press
-- Babjee Pothuraju and Medha Bisht 
Chapter-XI - Reflections from the Urdu Language Press
-- Shamshad Ahmed Khan 

Conclusion 

Appendices
Appendix I: English Langauges Press
Appendix II: Urdu Dailies
Appendix III: Pakistan Economic Outlook
Appendix IV: Economic Data 
Contributors 
  • Smruti S Pattanaik is a Research Fellow and Coordinator of Pakistan Project of IDSA 
  • Ashok K Behuria is a Research Fellow and Coordinator, South Asia Centre of IDSA 
  • Sumita Kumar is a Senior Research Associate at IDSA 
  • Sushant Sareen is a Consultant with the Pakistan Project 
  • P.K. Upadhayay is a Consultant with the Pakistan Project 
  • Medha Bisht is currently Assistant Professor at the South Asian University 
  • Shamshad Ahmed Khan is a Researcher at IDSA 
  • Babjee Pothuraju is a Researcher at IDSA 
  • Amit Julka is an Intern at IDSA 
  • Ms Anwesha Ray Choudhury is a Researcher at IDSA

Afghanistan considering peace plan that would increase Pakistan's role

Saturday Dec 08, 2012

WASHINGTON _ The Afghan government is pursuing an ambitious new peace initiative in which Pakistan would replace the United States in arranging direct talks between the warring sides and the Taliban would be granted government posts that effectively could cede to them political control of their southern and eastern strongholds.

If implemented, the plan would diminish the role of the United States in the peace process, but would still leave Washington with input on a number of critical issues, including the terms for initiating negotiations. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Great Britain also would be involved.

The plan envisions ending the war by 2015 through a ceasefire and negotiations in the second half of next year, most likely in Saudi Arabia. Pakistan would help select the leaders of the Taliban and other rebel groups who would take part in the negotiations with the Afghan government. The effort, the plan says, should be conducted "through one consistent and coherent channel," a measure that would secure a role for Afghan President Hamid Karzai after the end of his term following April 2014 elections.

Another provision would give the insurgents a voice on "issues related . . . to the withdrawal" of the U.S.-led NATO force by the end of 2014.

The plan foresees the United States working with Kabul and Islamabad in determining which insurgent leaders would participate. The United States also would be critical to approving the removal of the insurgent negotiators from the U.N.'s list of terrorists.

Titled "Peace Process Roadmap to 2015," the blueprint represents a decision by Karzai _ in close coordination with Pakistan _ to assume the lead in peace-making efforts following the collapse earlier this year of an Obama administration bid to persuade the Taliban to participate in direct talks with Kabul.

The new initiative comes amid persistent distrust between Karzai and the Obama administration and deep insecurity in Kabul over future U.S. support. Those concerns and the U.S. failure to arrange peace talks appear to have pushed Karzai closer to Pakistan, whose army and main intelligence service are widely believed to exercise significant influence over Taliban and other militant leaders based in Pakistan's border areas with Afghanistan.

The plan also comes as the ongoing U.S. combat troop pullout and cuts in U.S. financial aid to Afghanistan are fueling fears in both countries that violence and instability could worsen, spurring them to take matters into their own hands.

The Long Reach of Islamic Fundamentalism

Issue Courtesy: Aakrosh | Date : 07 Dec , 2012 


Since the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot by Taliban gunmen on her way to school, the pressure has been mounting both in Pakistan and Afghanistan to bring those behind the crime to justice, but this momentary uproar is not likely to have any effect on the Wahhabist movement either in Pakistan or in Afghanistan; in fact, their influence is spreading in the entire region; as the U.S. and allied forces are carrying out a gradual withdrawal of their combat troops from Afghanistan, even a diminished al-Qaeda is staging a comeback. Islamic fundamentalism, which is on the march in South Asia, is the main engine of kick-starting terrorism. 

There is extraordinary international focus on South Asia because of the aspirations of radical Islamic groups to impose their version of Islam by force in all Muslim pockets in this region; uncontrolled use of bombs, explosives and guns by fundamentalist groups in Pakistan has not only created total confusion and chaos in that country but also endangered the stability and security of the neighbouring countries. 

Terrorists found their main state-supported safe haven in Pakistan because the Pakistan army considered them as strategic assets. 

The origin of contemporary Muslim militancy in the region can be traced back to the resistance groups raised by the United States during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The tribesmen were recruited not as “Afghan patriots” but as “jihadists” to harass and attack the infidels. Later, the United States, with help of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, recruited tribal groups of several Muslim regions to fight a proxy war against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan was the centre of their indoctrination and military training; Pakistan has been the epicentre of international terrorism since then. Pakistan army created and helped the Taliban seize power in Afghanistan and this facilitated the spread of fundamentalists in South Asian countries. Al-Qaeda and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) trained volunteers from various Muslim countries across the globe spread out to train and organise jihadist warriors in various regions of the world after the war. 

Militants from the Arabian Peninsula, Africa and many other regions who were indoctrinated and well trained in guerrilla tactics became entrenched in several regions of the world and operated in at least 60 different countries. Radical Islam now took roots in many countries previously unaffected by Islamic fundamentalism. 

Rise of the Robots



DECEMBER 8, 2012

Catherine Rampell and Nick Wingfield write about the growing evidence for "reshoring" of manufacturing to the United States. They cite several reasons: rising wages in Asia; lower energy costs here; higher transportation costs. In a followup piece, however, Rampell cites another factor: robots.

The most valuable part of each computer, a motherboard loaded with microprocessors and memory, is already largely made with robots, according to my colleague Quentin Hardy. People do things like fitting in batteries and snapping on screens.

As more robots are built, largely by other robots, "assembly can be done here as well as anywhere else," said Rob Enderle, an analyst based in San Jose, Calif., who has been following the computer electronics industry for a quarter-century. "That will replace most of the workers, though you will need a few people to manage the robots."

Robots mean that labor costs don't matter much, so you might as well locate in advanced countries with large markets and good infrastructure (which may soon not include us, but that's another issue). On the other hand, it's not good news for workers!

This is an old concern in economics; it's "capital-biased technological change", which tends to shift the distribution of income away from workers to the owners of capital.

Twenty years ago, when I was writing about globalization and inequality, capital bias didn't look like a big issue; the major changes in income distribution had been among workers (when you include hedge fund managers and CEOs among the workers), rather than between labor and capital. So the academic literature focused almost exclusively on "skill bias", supposedly explaining the rising college premium.

But the college premium hasn't risen for a while. What has happened, on the other hand, is a notable shift in income away from labor:

If this is the wave of the future, it makes nonsense of just about all the conventional wisdom on reducing inequality. Better education won't do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an "opportunity society", or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won't do much if the most important asset you can have in life is, well, lots of assets inherited from your parents. And so on.

I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn't seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism -- which shouldn't be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.

But I think we'd better start paying attention to those implications.

A few thoughts on Chemical Warfare

December 8, 2012 | Posted by dtrombly

Since the beginning of Syria’s roughly 20-month-long civil war, the question of whether or when the regime would turn to chemical warfare to ensure its survival has loomed large for Syrians and the wider world alike. Damascus maintains, by most estimates, prodigious stocks of blister agents and even advanced nerve agents that could inflict horrific results on civilians and soldiers alike. The recent military gains by rebels in the neighborhoods of Damascus and their increasingly potent air defense capabilities all speak to plausible motive. U.S. officials report preliminary steps towards readying, and exhortations to begin employing, chemical weapons as well.

We know relatively little about the regime’s mindset, or its military’s logistical or ethical readiness to follow out such horrific orders. Nevertheless, it is wrong to suggest Syria is the first regime to face an endgame with chemical weapons in its arsenal. If Assad’s regime’s death spiral involves poison gas, it would in fact be the first incident of its kind.

One of the first – if not the first – regimes to collapse with chemical weapons was Tsarist Russia. Even in its death throes, it did not deploy them, although Tukachevsky inflicted chemical warfare against the Tambov Rebellion before the end of the Russian Civil War. The Russian Revolution and Civil War demonstrated a recurrent pattern, although one with a very small sample size.

Embattled regimes, on their last legs, do not deploy their chemical arms. Germany, despite highly advanced CW capabilities, used them during the Holocaust but not on the battlefield, even as vastly superior Soviet forces were crushing the Third Reich. Nor did Japan, a country which used gas and biological weapons frequently against the Chinese early in the war, and whose soldiers frequently displayed suicidal levels of loyalty and commitment, employ gas against the Americans.

Rather than a last resort, CW is most frequently used when the side employing it appears to control the escalation ladder (though with such a small sample size, the exact causality here is murky). Iraq used CW from the very beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, and it could do so with relative confidence. It had the Soviet Union as its patron and there was no chance the U.S. would decisively crush the bulwark against Iranian power. Saddam also used CW to massacre weaker opponents and civilians, as the Anfal campaign horrifically demonstrated.

So why do dictators appear to forgo chemical warfare in their most desperate hours, particularly when they are willing to use them in less immediately dangerous circumstances? A major explanation is the increased danger of escalation or reciprocity. The Allies, too, had major chemical weapons stocks in WWII, and were prepared to use them if the Axis deployed them. Japan was well aware of this:

Defense bill would require contractors to notify DoD of cyber intrusions

Posted By John Reed 
December 7, 2012

In case you missed it, buried inside the 2013 defense authorization bill is a clause that would require defense contractors to notify the Pentagon any time they have suffered a "successful penetration."

Section 936 of the bill requires that the Pentagon "establish a process" for defense contractors that have classified information on their networks to quickly report any successful cyber attacks against them to the Defense Department. Contractors must include a description of the "technique or method used in the penetration," and include samples of the "malicious software, if discovered and isolated by the contractor," reads the bill.

The bill would also require contractors to give DoD access to "equipment or information" to determine if any classified "information created by or for" the DoD had been stolen. It prohibits the Pentagon from distributing this information outside of DoD without the victim's approval.

(While a limitied number of contractors already participating in DoD's cyber security program known as the DIB CS/IA already tell the Pentagon about such breaches, this law would cover all defense contractors, explained a Pentagon spokesman.)

Krugman discovers the Robot Revolution!

9 DECEMBER 2012


Summary: One of the great challenges of the 21st century will be managing the next wave of automation. This rise in productivity can make us richer, create feudal-like inequality, or spark massive social conflict. The result depends on our decisions. The first step, as always is problem recognition. Today we took another small step forward.

An increase in the productivity of labour means nothing more than that the same capital creates the same value with less labour, or that less labour creates the same product with more capital.
— Karl Marx, Notebook IV of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1857/58)

Slowly more people become aware of the coming Robot Revolution, the next wave of automation. Now it’s Paul Krugman’s turn: “Rise of the Robots“, New York Times, 8 December 2012:

On the other hand, it’s not good news for workers! This is an old concern in economics; it’s “capital-biased technological change”, which tends to shift the distribution of income away from workers to the owners of capital.

Twenty years ago, when I was writing about globalization and inequality, capital bias didn’t look like a big issue; the major changes in income distribution had been among workers (when you include hedge fund managers and CEOs among the workers), rather than between labor and capital. So the academic literature focused almost exclusively on “skill bias”, supposedly explaining the rising college premium.

But the college premium hasn’t risen for a while. What has happened, on the other hand, is a notable shift in income away from labor:

Krugman, NYT, 8 Dec 2012

If this is the wave of the future, it makes nonsense of just about all the conventional wisdom on reducing inequality. Better education won’t do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an “opportunity society”, or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won’t do much if the most important asset you can have in life is … assets inherited from your parents. And so on.

I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.

But I think we’d better start paying attention to those implications.

About the Robot Revolution

Marx described it. His vision was muddled. He was wrong about the results of industrialization, as most societies found ways to distribute their fruits without civil war. But now the same challenge returns as the flow of national income shifts from workers to those who own the means of production. Krugman’s graph above shows one side of the coin; here is the other: Corporate Profits as a fraction of GDP:


What can we do?


“Choice. The problem is choice.”
— Neo, The Matrix Reloaded

This is a large challenge, only one of those facing us in the 21st century. Changes in the family structure and society’s demographics. Climate. Depletion of resources. Loss of hegemony as the world evolves to a multi-polar system. Today complacency is our enemy, encouraging us to waste our most valuable resources: time.

Marx describes the challenge of the robot revolution, and points to the solution. We can organize our society to meet this challenge, as we have re-imagined society so many times before to meet past challenges.


“Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.”
–- Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx (1859)


(4) Other posts about the coming Robot Revolution
7 August 2010
The coming Robotic Nation, 28 August 2010

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Burns and McCain square off on Syria and the Asia 'pivot'

Posted By Josh Rogin 
December 8, 2012

MANAMA - Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) argued in public Saturday over whether the United States is still exerting leadership in Syria and around the Middle East region.

"For all the logical focus on pivots in other directions, the fact remains that the United States cannot afford to neglect what's at stake in the Middle East, a region in the midst of transformations every bit as profound and consequential as the changes that swept over Europe and Eurasia two decades ago," said Burns, the leader of the U.S. government delegation to the 2012 IISS Manama Security Dialogue.

Burns told the assembled audience of officials and experts from 28 countries that the Obama administration's "pivot" or "rebalancing" toward Asia was not a zero-sum game and he said that American attention to the Middle East and the Gulf has not and will not diminish.

"It's a region today that is full of both threat and promise. It's a region that demands American leadership despite the pull of other challenges and the natural policy fatigue that comes after a decade in which our national security strategy was dominated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

Making the break

Britain and Europe 
How Britain could fall out of the European Union, and what it would mean 

Dec 8th 2012


BRITAIN has never been too keen on tying the knot with Europe. It sat aside in the 1950s as Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries forged a single market in coal and steel, which became a broader common market. It eventually joined, in 1973, largely because Europe seemed to be where the money was. Britons still think of their relationship with Europe as a transaction. But their feelings about the costs and benefits of membership have changed utterly. 

Europe is no longer the thriving economic club that Britain joined 40 years ago. The euro-zone crisis has exposed the lack of dynamism in much of Europe (though Britain itself is hardly booming) and the British also feel sidelined, as countries that use the single currency are pulled more tightly together. Britons have come to associate the EU with the uncontrolled immigration of Poles and other east Europeans, seemingly to every village. Although many political leaders are determined to stop it happening, a British exit from Europe is coming to seem ever more possible. 

If Britain falls out of the EU, it may find itself completely outside the single market. It might try to stay in the European Economic Area (EEA), a free-trade club that also includes Iceland and Norway. Or it could leave both the EU and the single market, but attempt to recreate a free-trade relationship through bilateral agreements. In this article we explain what each would mean for British business and the economy. But, first, how could an exit happen? 

Almost by accident 

The likeliest trigger is a referendum. David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, is under enormous pressure to call one from his own Conservative Party, which dominates Britain’s coalition government. Last year 81 Tory MPs voted for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. “It’s moved very fast,” says John Redwood, a veteran critic of the EU. “People used to call me an extreme Eurosceptic. Now I’m a moderate.” 

Truly fervent Eurosceptics seek a referendum because they want to quit the EU. Other Tories want one to spike the guns of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which campaigns for an exit. UKIP, a once-minor party that came second to Labour in two by-elections on November 29th, takes votes from all parties but most terrifies Conservative MPs. If the party does well in the next European Parliament elections, due in 2014, the pressure on Mr Cameron will increase. 

He is already bending. In September the prime minister hinted that Britons might have an opportunity to give “fresh consent” to their country’s place in a looser union—a rather fuzzy suggestion that is unlikely to dampen calls for a starker question. Some Tory cabinet ministers now expect the party to include a promise of an “In-Out” referendum on Europe in its 2015 general-election manifesto. 

That might persuade Labour to follow suit—which is the second referendum scenario. Although the party is broadly pro-European, some Labour strategists have been urging Ed Miliband, its leader, to promise a referendum all the same, chiefly to pile pressure on Mr Cameron but also to stay on the right side of public opinion. “Whatever our position on Europe, we cannot be seen as the anti-referendum party,” a senior Labour figure says. 

The third scenario is already in play, thanks to the 2011 European Union Act. Passed by the coalition, this dictates that a referendum must be held on any new EU treaty that shifts power from Westminster to Brussels. The EU is acutely aware of this obstacle, so where treaty change is envisaged, it is trying to focus it as narrowly as possible on the euro zone, of which Britain is not a member. But the EU’s creeping claim on its constituents’ sovereign powers suggests that this “referendum lock” could be activated. The next treaty change, which could take place in 2015 or 2016, will be the moment for Mr Cameron (if he is re-elected) to try to repatriate some powers from Brussels in the “new settlement” he seeks with Europe. If Britons voted to reject the revised treaty there would be redoubled pressure for a second referendum, on their membership of the European club. 

There is a fourth scenario: simple diplomatic miscalculation. A year ago, at a summit where they agreed on a fiscal compact, almost all other EU leaders banded together to sidestep a British veto. If that were to happen again on an issue that Britons care more deeply about, Mr Cameron may face irresistible pressure to call an early referendum. 

The early signs are that Britons would opt to push off. YouGov’s latest poll on the issue suggests that 49% would vote to leave, whereas only 32% would choose to stay (the rest are unsure). One senior Tory, who wants Britain to stay in, says blankly that it would be impossible to win a referendum at the moment. 

The leaders of all three main parties, backed by business and trade unions, could try to woo Britons to Europe. But they would have plenty of opposition, and not just from other MPs. When Britain last voted on Europe, in 1975, every national newspaper except the Morning Star campaigned for an “In” vote. That will not be repeated. Britain’s two biggest-selling dailies, the Daily Mail and the Sun—combined circulation, 4.5m—are deeply Eurosceptic. 

What would make the vote unpredictable is that Britons cannot have what they really want. If offered a “detached relationship that is little more than a free-trade agreement”, according to the same YouGov poll, only 26% would still opt for the exit. The biggest group of respondents, 46%, would accept those looser terms. But continental leaders are unwilling to grant Britain full access to the single market without the costly bits. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, says she dearly wants to keep Britain in the EU—but “as a good partner”. In the run-up to a promised referendum, Mr Cameron could win only trifling concessions. That might convince some Britons that life outside the EU would be difficult; but it might equally inflame Eurosceptic opinion and make an “out” vote more likely. 


India’s Predicaments and its Grand Strategy

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


December 3, 2012 -- On the eve of India’s founding, no one could have imagined how successfully it would come to navigate the international system. At that time, there were legions of skeptics who believed that the half-life of this new country would be measured in years, perhaps decades at most. The question of when India would split apart was one of the staples of public discussion going back to Churchill’s celebrated remark, “India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator.” Since then, legions of commentators believed that it would be a miracle if India survived.

Today, however, India’s unity is taken for granted. In one of the greatest feats of modern history, India has built a cohesive nation despite incredible poverty and diversity. India has done just as well in regard to its territorial integrity.Yes, it lost one major war and it has lost bits and pieces of territory, but India as a unified territorial entity has survived despite being located in an extremely contested and unsettled regional environment. And, to everyone’s surprise, India has managed, despite great material weakness, to protect its political autonomy.

No one who has had the pleasure of negotiating with Indian colleagues on the other side of the table will conclude that this is a country that is incapable of protecting its interests. When I was working on the civil nuclear negotiations, my team was often accused of being unable to protect American interests, and of course there were a few Indians who made the same complaints about their team. But there were no Americans who walked away from that conversation believing that India is incapable of holding its own!

So today, sixty-five years out, the dominant view of India among international elites is that of a rising power. That single phrase echoes and re-echoes in American thinking about South Asia. It has found its way into the most important American national security strategy documents and it has influenced major portions of American foreign policy. Yet India’s view of itself is quite different. Understanding that perspective is critical to understanding the future of the U.S.-India relationship.

India sees itself, first and foremost, as a developing society, with a host of challenges yet to be overcome. When Indians think about themselves and their role in the world, their first question is not about how they can shape the universe but rather how they might cope with it. Therefore it is no surprise that, from the foundation of the republic, India’s grand strategy has always been introspective, even though its rhetoric in the early post-Independence years gave the opposite impression.

The reason why many outsiders invariably end up complaining about India being reactive is precisely because Indians have held onto the view – with good reason – that success in navigating the world derives principally from success in political, economic, and social management at home. Three constants, all in varying degrees of transformation now, have characterized the way New Delhi has thought about its relationship to the world.

Bureaucrats, Corruption and few more things


Uddipan Mukherjee 

In the last week of October, all the government departments were celebrating the Vigilance Awareness Week - not merely supposed to be a protocol observed for the last fourteen years or so - but a harsh reminder to all the corrupt 'insiders' as well as potential and would-be corrupt outsiders plus the malicious 'intruders'. It was in 1998-9, when Mr Vithal, then Chief Vigilance Commissioner started off the campaign in right earnest. A cursory peep into Wikipedia would let us know that Shri Vithal was an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1960 batch. 

At the same time, celebrating the week was a way to recharge the batteries of the Vigilance system - to examine the various nuances of the structure and devise plugs for the holes, if any. The basic theme of deliberation was to inspect whether the existing mechanism of public procurement had enough charge in it or needed to be re-charged. Period. 

Julio Ribeiro – who has carved a niche for himself in the art and science of counterinsurgency, through durable results achieved against the Khalistan movement; did walk along the corridors of power, and that too for a considerable period. A former draftee in the Indian Police Service (IPS), he has served in a number of high offices. Well, somehow, he could maintain both the sanctity of those offices and along with that, his personal dignity. Inspite of meandering inside the labyrinth of jobbery for around three decades, he came out unsullied and at the moment is busy wielding the sword against the powerful swindlers of the day. 

It is probably hard to digest these facts about bureaucrats. We have reached the infinite limit of skepticism. Thus, at times, we must be thwarted in a stentorian tone that the Indian nation still and yes, still, boasts of upright human beings who possess a non-breakable spinal cord with a nutritional cerebrospinal fluid at full throttle – and those [wo]men could still be bureaucrats ! 

Coming back to the point in contention; once in his column at The Asian Age, this is what, inter alia, Mr Ribeiro disclosed: 

"In Maharashtra, the bureaucrats and politicians sold their flats which were given to them at concessional rates by the government. A flat of 3.5 lakhs was sold at 3.5 crores" 

Let us try to analyse Mr. Ribeiro’s revelations. A civil "servant" commits a most uncivil act of corruption and pockets hundred rupees for an investment of one rupee. A politician though, is probably expected to act in this brazen manner anyway. 

On Friday, that is, on November 16, after progressing beside the countably finite potholes of my beloved city Kolkata, when I arrived at the infamous junction near our sole Airport, I saw something. The junction is famous for its traffic jams, if not for anything else. I saw a police personnel, in attire, in glaring daylight, was hanging, yes hanging, and believe me; he was hanging while holding the door of a lorry in motion. What an acrobat he was! You wonder, and contemplate his purpose. 

India's growing interest in the South China Sea


December 07, 2012

At a time when China's bullying behaviour has been evident in its actions and pronouncements, India is signalling that it is ready to emerge as a serious balancer in East Asia and Southeast Asia, says Harsh V Pant.

Indian Naval Chief Admiral D K Joshi has staked India's claims in the waters of South China Sea much more powerfully than the government by suggesting that with the security of nation's economic assets at stake in South China Sea, "we (the Indian Navy) will be required to be there and we are prepared for that." 

He made it clear that the Indian Navy had been exercising for such an eventuality even though governmental approval would be needed if the navy is to provide protection to India's economic assets in the South China Sea. 

His remarks come at a time when China is escalating tensions in the region with its decision to empower the police in the Hainan province to mount foreign ships and seize vessels in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. The rules will come into effect from January 1 and the police cane take necessary measures to stop ships or "to force them into changing or reversing course." It is in Hainan province that India's ONGC [ Get Quote ] Videsh [ Images ] Ltd has been given the oil block number 128 by Vietnam for joint exploration. 

The conflict between India and China over the South China Sea has been building for more than a year. India signed an agreement with Vietnam in October 2011 to expand and promote oil exploration in South China Sea and then reconfirmed its decision to carry on despite the Chinese challenge to the legality of Indian presence. 

By accepting the Vietnamese invitation to explore oil and gas in Blocks 127 and 128, India's state-owned oil company ONGC Videsh Ltd, or OVL, not only expressed New Delhi's [ Images ] desire to deepen its friendship with Vietnam, but ignore China's warning to stay away. 

After asking countries "outside the region" to stay away from the South China Sea, China issued a demarche to India in November 2011, underlining that Beijing's [ Images ] permission should be sought for exploration in Blocks 127 and 128 and, without it, OVL's activities would be considered illegal. Vietnam, meanwhile had underlined the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to claim its sovereign rights over the two blocks being explored. 

How India brought down the US’ supersonic man

Chuck Yeager is an American icon and will go down in history as the first man to break the sound barrier. But during the 1971 India-Pakistan War, when an Indian pilot shot his personal aircraft, the air ace lost his cool, and demanded retaliation against India. Mercifully, his antics were ignored by then US President Richard Nixon. 

The 1971 India-Pakistan war didn’t turn out very well from the US' point of view. For one particular American it went particularly bad. Chuck Yeager, the legendary test pilot and the first man to break the sound barrier, was dispatched by the US government to train Pakistani air force pilots but ended up as target practice for the Indian Air Force, and in the process kicked up a diplomatic storm in a war situation. 

Yeager’s presence in Pakistan was one of the surprises of the Cold War. In an article titled, "The Right Stuff in the Wrong Place,” by Edward C Ingraham, a former US diplomat in Pakistan, recalls how Yeager was called to Islamabad in 1971 to head the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) – a rather fanciful name for a bunch of thugs teaching other thugs how to fight. It wasn’t a terribly exciting job: “All that the chief of the advisory group had to do was to teach Pakistanis how to use American military equipment without killing themselves in the process,” writes Ingraham. 

Among the perks Yeager enjoyed was a twin-engine Beechcraft, an airplane supplied by the Pentagon. It was his pride and joy and he often used the aircraft for transporting the US ambassador on fishing expeditions in Pakistan’s northwest mountains. 

Yeager: Loyal Pakistani! 

Yeager may have been a celebrated American icon, but here’s what Ingraham says about his nonchalant attitude. “We at the embassy were increasingly preoccupied with the deepening crisis (the Pakistan Army murdered more than 3,000,000 civilians in then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh). Meetings became more frequent and more tense. We were troubled by the complex questions that the conflict raised. No such doubts seemed to cross the mind of Chuck Yeager. I remember one occasion on which the ambassador asked Yeager for his assessment of how long the Pakistani forces in the East could withstand an all-out attack by India. "We could hold them off for maybe a month," he replied, "but beyond that we wouldn't have a chance without help from outside." It took the rest of us a moment to fathom what he was saying, not realising at first that "we" was West Pakistan, not the United States." 

Clearly, Yeager appeared blithely indifferent to the Pakistani killing machine which was mowing down around 10,000 Bengalis daily from 1970 to 1971. After the meeting, Ingraham requested Yeager to be be a little more even-handed in his comments. Yeager gave him a withering glance. "Goddamn it, we're assigned to Pakistan,” he said. "What's wrong with being loyal?!” 

US’s pluralistic attributes make me proud to remain an Indian citizen

November 11, 2012 

The following article originally appeared in the Economic Times on Sunday, November 11. 

BOSTON--On Tuesday, I accompanied my wife to the electoral precinct near our home to observe American democracy firsthand. The makeshift polling station was on a basketball court at a former middle school, where elderly volunteers steered voters through the process. There were nine choices on the ballot — for US president, US senator, US representative, state senator, state representative, governor's council, court clerk, deed register and sheriff — as well as five referendum questions, related to such things as the legalisation of medical marijuana and the prescription of euthanasia-inducing drugs.

Two girls stood outside selling homemade cookies to raise money for their school. The location and the ballot itself contributed to the parochial trappings of the enterprise: it may have been a national election, but it consisted of locals voting locally on local issues. That's not necessarily what the rest of the world imagines.

Perception vs Reality 

America has long suffered for the discordance between foreign perceptions and ground realities. Although my family lived in the United States during my early childhood — a comfortable suburban existence that gleamed on the fringes of my consciousness — I spent my formative years observing America from afar. Like countless others around the world, I grew up associating this powerful nation with boorish, unintelligent people, social inequity and an absence of real history or culture.

Living in Delhi in the early 1990s, during the pinnacle of US unipolarity, I shared in the widespread resentment of the US acting as the world's self-anointed policeman. The occasional grating encounter with US expatriates, often in sheltered foreign outposts of Americana, contributed to these prejudices. None of this, curiously enough, impinged upon my voracious appetite for American films, television, music, fast food, or my desire to attend an American college.