26 December 2012

Fifth Generation Fighters and the IAF

Date : 26 Dec , 2012 

SU-30 MK-1 Formation 

The capability of any modern fighter is usually way ahead of its predecessors, especially so if it is replacing decades-old planes such as the MiG-21 and the MiG-27. This is even more applicable to the leader of the pack of six of the world’s best fighter jets. Other air forces in the neighbourhood are also acquiring combat aircraft of similar capability, thus nullifying the IAF’s advantage. But the true game changer for the IAF, something that may give its potential adversaries many sleepless nights in the years ahead, is the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). 

These are exciting times for the Indian Air Force (IAF). After years of helplessly watching its combat assets dwindle or fade into obsolescence, the service is finally shifting into top gear and inducting an impressive range of modern equipment that should enable its transformation into a potent strategic force. Combat aircraft constitute the sharp end of air power, so the procurement of large numbers of Su-30 MKI air dominance fighters and the impending final operational clearance of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, possibly by the end of the year, are reason enough for cheer. And no other recent item has captured the public imagination like the high-stakes contest for the IAF’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) that recently threw up the Dassault Rafale as the winner. Yet these aircraft, important as they are, will not make a dramatic difference. 

All fifth generation fighters use a high percentage of composite materials in airframe construction. 

The capability of any modern fighter is usually way ahead of its predecessors, especially so if it is replacing decades-old planes such as the MiG-21 and the MiG-27. This is even more applicable to the leader of the pack of six of the world’s best fighter jets. Other air forces in the neighbourhood are also acquiring combat aircraft of similar capability, thus nullifying the IAF’s advantage. But the true game changer for the IAF, something that may give its potential adversaries many sleepless nights in the years ahead, is the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). 

A window into the Taliban

New Delhi is groping in the dark about the Taliban's intentions. They need to know what it is thinking 

by Ajai Shukla 
Business Standard, 25th Dec 12 

What is behind the Taliban’s new flexibility? Has the fundamentalist Afghan group (and its backer, Pakistan) really performed a strategic somersault with its professed new willingness to share power in post-2014 Afghanistan? Is the Islamist group really willing to engage in electoral politics? Why did the Taliban show up last week for talks in Paris even though victory for its dogged anti-occupation resistance was just two years away? This is the Taliban that has taunted America with: You have the clocks, but we have the time! 

So what made Shahabuddin Delawar and Muhammad Naim, the Taliban’s emissaries in Paris, offer to co-exist with their Afghan blood enemies, i.e. the Northern Alliance and the Afghan National Security Force? Is the Taliban really willing, as The New York Times reports, to allow girls to go to school in “an Islamic way”? Or is this all just tactical, a soothing smokescreen to facilitate, even hasten, the 2014 pullout? 

From New Delhi’s wary viewpoint, the Taliban’s new reasonableness is just Pakistani trickery, aimed at recreating leverage on an Afghan playfield where Islamabad’s stock had hit rock bottom. Civilian deaths caused by cross-border shelling from Pakistani posts on the Durand Line had fanned bitter anger in Afghanistan. A livid President Hamid Karzai, frustrated at Islamabad’s bullying, was poised to negotiate with the US a Bilateral Security Agreement --- the framework under which a residual American “train, advise and assist” mission would remain in Afghanistan after 2014. 

Armed Forces Special Powers Act: The Debate



There has been a renewed debate over Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA Annexure I), in the recent months. The course of this debate has witnessed the hardening of positions on the part of the state government in Jammu and Kashmir(J&K), human rights activists, certain non governmental organisations (NGOs) active in J&K and Manipur; and those who support its retention, including political parties, ministry of defence (MoD) and the army. The government has been holding consultations with various stake holders, but a final decision on the issue is still pending. 
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Russia-India Strategic Partnership 2012: Contextual Imperatives for Enhancement

Paper No. 5340 Dated 26-Dec-2012 

By Dr. Subhash Kapila 

“India is one of our strategic privileged partner…..and speaking from the point of view of geographical representation……India is number one”. -------President Putin, December 2004 

“The Declaration of Strategic Partnership between India and Russia signed in October 2000 became a truly historic step. The developments of the first decade of the 21st Century confirmed that it was a particularly significant and timely step."------President Putin December 23, 2012 

President Putin’s visit to New Delhi for the Annual Summit on December 22, 2012 provides the appropriate moment for a review of the contextual strategic imperatives for enhancement of this vital relationship. Moreso, when in recent times some hairline cracks seem to have crept-in on both sides in terms of future perspectives on this strategic partnership. 

The Indian policy establishment flush with the heady excitement of the decade-old US-India Strategic Partnership, though still evolving, perceptively seems to be overlooking the time-tested and six decades of strategic value- added Russia-India Strategic Partnership. 

President Putin was not only the architect of Russia’s strategic resurgence in the first decade of the 21st Century but also the architect of the reclamation of the Russia-India Strategic Partnership which had drifted during the 1990s under President Yeltsin, under American pressures. 

To set the contextual perspectives right, it needs to be pointed out that the Russian Constitution amended in 2008 provides for two terms of six years each. This means that President Putin can be in office till 2024. This should be significant for India in that it provides extended continuity in Russian policies under the stewardship of President Putin who in the first decade of his Century invested strongly in building the Russia-India Strategic Partnership. 

Capital Acquisition Budget: Factors Affecting its Utilization


December 26, 2012 

As the year draws to a close, the familiar spectre of underutilization of the capital acquisition budget has started raising its head. At the end of November 2012, the compiled expenditure on capital acquisition was INR 33,379.11 crore against the allocated budget of INR 66,032.24 crore, which works out to 50.55 per cent of the allocation at an average of 6.32 per cent every month. Going by this average, the expenditure at the end of the FY 2013 would be around 76 per cent, resulting in underutilization to the extent of approximately 16,850 crore. This could be highly embarrassing for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Fortunately, the expenditure does not get incurred at an even pace throughout the year and there is substantial bunching of expenditure towards the end of the year, despite the MoD cautioning the ministries and departments against such bunching. The underutilization will, therefore, be much less than what the extrapolation based on the averages suggests. In fact, the Ministry of Finance would, in all probability, reduce the allocation to a level that would be closer to what the MoD is likely to spend by the end of the financial year. The actual expenditure would thus appear to be quite satisfactory with reference to the revised estimates. This is a perennial phenomenon. But why does it happen year after year? It is almost customary to blame it on defective planning, apathy of the civilian bureaucracy and procedural complexities. This view, however, does not take into account many factors that have a bearing on utilization of the fund allotted for capital acquisition. 

The capital acquisition budget, which is a sub-set of the capital outlay for defence, normally comprises of two notional categories: the funds set aside for meeting the committed liabilities on account of the contracts signed in the previous years and the funds meant for making payment in respect of new acquisitions for which the contracts are signed during the current year. Since in most cases the delivery schedule of capital assets spans several years, only an advance payment (normally 15 per cent of the contract value) is made in the year in which the contract is signed and the payment of the remaining amount is linked with pre-defined milestones or stages. If, however, the delivery is scheduled to be completed during the year in which the contract is signed, the full amount is paid out of the notional allocation for new schemes. These categories are notional in that these are not separate budgetary heads and it is always possible to alter the allocation under these categories without any parliamentary approval. 

LDP “Take(s) Back Japan”: The creation of a national military is on Abe’s agenda

December 26, 2012 


The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is back in the saddle with a land slide victory and has ousted the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the general election held on December 16. This was a snap election that took place almost three years after the DPJ dethroned the LDP in August 2009 and was necessitated by circumstances created by the opposition parties. The opposition parties, which hold a combine majority in the Upper House of the Diet, had blocked various measures taken by Prime Minister Noda including the consumption tax. In a bargain with the LDP to help pass the consumption tax hike bill, Noda has agreed to call a fresh poll.1

Apart from political gridlock, the DPJ had been facing various challenges on the domestic front including the situation arising from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which crippled the Fukushima nuclear power plants. The party has failed to come up to the public expectation as the reconstruction work in the devastated area was slow and more than 100,000 people evacuated from Fukushima could not be rehabilitated and have been living in temporary shelters. 

On the foreign policy front, Japan has been facing territorial assertions from China and South Korea over Senkaku and Takeshima, respectively, which surfaced in quick succession and soured ties with Beijing and Seoul. The Japanese people viewed the DPJ’s response to Chinese and South Korean territorial assertions as “weak-kneed” as a result of which the Noda cabinet’s public approval plummeted. North Korea’s rocket launch on December 12 (which also meant a demonstration of its ability to launch a long range missile) and Chinese air intrusion into Japanese airspace on December 13, which came a few days before the December 16 election, also provided an opportunity for the opposition parties to criticize the weak DPJ government. The public also perceived that their country is under increasing threat from belligerent neighbours. 

Sensing the public mood, the main opposition LDP announced a number of pledges including revival of the Japanese economy, revision of the Constitution and dealing with China strongly. The “swing voters” and nationalists found these pronouncements appealing. Thus the public dissatisfaction with the DPJ and manifestations of external threat helped the LDP wrest power. 

Would Bangladesh Politics End in Chaos?

Paper No. 5338 Dated 26-Dec-2012 

Guest Column- By Kazi Anwarul Masud 

Situation in Bangladesh is moving towards an explosion due in part to violence let loose by the Jamaat-e-Islami demanding the release of their leaders now being tried for crimes against humanity committed during the liberation war in 1971 in collaboration with the occupying Pakistani army. 

While the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party(BNP) publicly does not oppose the trial of collaborators they have raised questions about the way the trial is being conducted though distinct from the Nuremberg to the trials at The Hague the accused if convicted in Bangladesh would have recourse to appeal against convictions. 

BNP’s main agitation’s focus is the demand for reinstitution of caretaker government for holding the next general election in 2013. It may be recalled that the caretaker system had been declared illegal by the Supreme Court and abolished by the Parliament through an amendment to the Constitution. BNP’s agitation has been violent as were the government’s actions to maintain law and order during the agitations. BNP maintains that governmental police actions have infringed on their fundamental right to protest. 

This unending struggle between the two factions is adding to the general public’s discomfiture and proving costly to the business community affecting trade and export of the country. Though the World Bank in its latest report has praised Bangladesh for registering 6% growth despite global economic downturn structural problems remain arresting socio-economic development of the country. In Global Competitive Index for 2012-2013 published by the World Economic Forum Bangladesh has been placed at 118 out of 144 countries surveyed mainly due to inadequate infrastructure, corruption and lack of access to finance. If the situation does not improve chances of foreign direct investment, essential for economic development of cash strapped country would be difficult to attract. 

Added is the strained owner-worker relationship currently being displayed in the country’s Ready Made Garment Sector, a remarkable area contributing to growth of GDP and a significant foreign exchange earner. The trust deficit people have in the administration has been demonstrated by The Rule of Law Index for 2012 of the World Justice Project that has put Bangladesh at 87th position in limited government powers, 89th in absence of corruption, 72nd in order and security, 87th in fundamental rights, 89th in open government, 90th in regulatory enforcement, 97th in civil justice and 83rd in criminal justice. 

A Network of Dictators

There's a fight brewing for the future of the Internet. 

The Internet came very close to being kidnapped last week. Russia and China used the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to push for government control of the Internet and restrictions on access to information. WCIT was supposed to update an obscure U.N. treaty on international telecommunications, but instead a longstanding fight over control of the Internet to reduce the risks it poses to authoritarian regimes came to a head. This was not entirely a surprise. In 2011, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia's WCIT goal was "establishing international control over the Internet using the monitoring and supervisory capabilities of the International Telecommunication Union" (the U.N. body responsible for telecommunications and the WCIT). 

The WCIT saw national sovereignty return with a vengeance. Blocs of states competed for power. This is not a bipolar contest, with the West on the side of righteousness. Our righteousness has been dented and there are many more players. Governments as diverse as Malaysia, Vietnam, and India want their values and their national laws to have precedence in cyberspace. If the overworked term "globalization" means a borderless world, where American culture and values dominate, and if the Internet is the primary vehicle for delivering this, other nations want greater control of the car. The Russians cleverly used discontent with the status quo to win support for repressive ideas, including international endorsement for blocking access to troubling websites. 

Detained Linguist Released Under Supervision

December 20th, 2012
by Steven Aftergood 

Yesterday former Navy contract linguist James Hitselberger, who has been charged under the Espionage Act with mishandling classified records, was ordered released under supervision while awaiting trial. 

Mr. Hitselberger is a multi-lingual translator and collector of rare documents, including records that are now housed in a dedicated collection at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Unfortunately for him, the government says that his collection activity extends to some documents that are currently classified. (Document Collector Charged Under Espionage Statute, Secrecy News, November 7, 2012). 

Prosecutors had opposed his pre-trial release, arguing that he had fled from law enforcement by traveling for months through Europe, and that he posed a flight risk. But Mr. Hitselberger’s public defender argued effectively that could not have “fled” since he had not been charged with anything until recently, that he had traveled openly under his own name, that he remained in contact with his former employer, and that he voluntarily returned to a U.S. Army facility in Kuwait to recover his possessions. 

“As far as he knew, Mr. Hitselberger was free to travel–which he did,” Judge Rudolph Contreras summarized in a memorandum opinion issued today. “And as he traveled, he kept in regular contact with many people through many means, openly used his United States passport, and was willing to go to a military base, which no reasonable fugitive would be likely to do.” 

Therefore Judge Contreras ruled for the defense and granted his release, albeit under “high intensity supervision” and with “Global Positioning System monitoring” of his whereabouts. Moreover, “he is expressly prohibited… from entering or being in the immediate vicinity of Union Station, any other bus or train station that provides service outside of the Washington metropolitan area, or any airport….” (See related coverage in Politico.) 

Mr. Hitselberger has no record of criminal activity, no predisposition to violent behavior, and even prosecutors admit that he was not engaged in espionage on behalf of a foreign power. There is also no indication that even the mildest adverse consequence arose from his alleged conduct. And yet the government has opted to charge him with two felony counts under the Espionage Act, which seems like an extraordinary overreaction given the circumstances. 

In a different policy environment, loss of job and loss of clearance — which Mr. Hitselberger has already suffered — would have been deemed a fully satisfactory response to an offense of this type and magnitude. 

The Army hopes to have 'physically enhanced' super troops by 2030

Posted By John Reed 
December 17, 2012

While the military may seem to be embracing killer robots from the skies and seas, some futurists in the U.S. Army aren't so sure that there will be platoons of armed robots guarding the perimeters of U.S. combat bases. Instead, enemies of the United States may find themselves squaring off against "superempowered" or "enhanced" troops. 

As the need for soldiers with greater levels of technological sophistication and brainpower increases, the Army may try to recruit troops with the promises of turning them into the "Lance Armstrong, if you will, of a soldier," said Col. Kevin Felix, chief of the Future Warfare Division at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, during a Dec. 14 interview. Felix was discussing one of the main themes to emerge from the Army's Strategic Trends Seminar that took place last week in Virginia: super soldiers. 

The Strategic Trends Seminar is conference that brings together everyone from soldiers and spies to academics and even science fiction writers to predict what the Army needs to do to prepare itself to fight in 2030. (Strategic Trends is part of the service's ongoing larger effort, Unified Quest, aimed at predicting as much as possible about the future. These predictions help guide the Army's super long range planning.) 

This Scientist Wants Tomorrow’s Troops to Be Mutant-Powered

Andrew Herr in Mongolia. Photo: via Andrew Herr

Greater strength and endurance. Enhanced thinking. Better teamwork. New classes of genetic weaponry, able to subvert DNA. Not long from now, the technology could exist to routinely enhance — and undermine — people’s minds and bodies using a wide range of chemical, neurological, genetic and behavioral techniques. 

It’s warfare waged at the evolutionary level. And it’s coming sooner than many people think. According to the futurists at the U.S. National Intelligence Council, by 2030, “neuro-enhancements could provide superior memory recall or speed of thought. Brain-machine interfaces could provide ‘superhuman‘ abilities, enhancing strength and speed, as well as providing functions not previously available.” 

Qualities that today must be honed by years of training and education could be installed in a relative instant by, say, an injection or a targeted burst of electricity to the brain. Rapid advancements in neurology, pharmacology and genetics could soon make such installations fairly easy. 

These modifications could give rise to new breeds of biologically enhanced troops possessing what one expert in the field calls “mutant powers.” But those troops may not American. So far, the U.S. military has been extremely reluctant to embrace human biological modification, or “biomods.” And that could result in a veritable mutant gap. In this new form of biological warfare, the U.S. could find itself outgunned. 

A deadend street

Published on The Asian Age (http://dc.asianage.com
By editor 
Created 26 Dec 2012

Little or nothing will be accomplished until the Pakistan military concludes that it is in its self-interest to end its intractable hostility towards India 

Yet another attempt to thaw Indo-Pakistani relations has failed to generate any warmth. Though Rehman Malik’s visit to New Delhi produced much heat, it did little to promote any amity, the more relaxed visa regime notwithstanding. 

On the critical question of arresting and bringing Hafiz Saeed, the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks mastermind, Mr Malik resorted to the most disingenuous and specious reasoning; namely, that India has failed to provide adequate evidence to bring him to book. If any proof of the lack of seriousness, if not rank inability, of the Pakistani civilian government to assert itself against the purveyors of terror was necessary, this baseless statement amply underscored the matter. Now that the year is drawing to a close it may well be worth facing a painful but unavoidable truth: little or nothing will be accomplished in this bilateral relationship until the Pakistani military establishment concludes that it is in its self-interest to end its intractable hostility towards India.

Many of the advocates of improved Indo-Pakistani relations will, no doubt, disagree with this blunt assessment. They will underscore the newly liberalised visa arrangements, Pakistan’s fitful granting of the “most favoured nation” status to India and the prospect of increased people to people ties. There is little question that all these developments are positive. Yet they don’t mean much as not a single one amounts to what international relations scholars refer to as “costly signals”. They do not involve any real price for the men in mufti. More to the point, at this time the military order desperately needs a bit of breathing space for a number of compelling reasons.

First, the Pakistani economy is in hock. Were it not for the infusions, albeit declining, of coalition support funds, the country could barely stay economically afloat. Second, in a related vein, the military is perforce looking Westwards as it ponders its next moves as the drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan in 2014 approaches. Third, the security forces are also dealing with the consequences of their years of support to a range of jihadi forces that now stalk the land. Some of them have turned against the very masters who had spawned them and are wreaking havoc on domestic order. Under the circumstances it is in the interests of the military not to provoke a new quarrel with India.

Putin's visit to Delhi: No big-ticket buys but Indo-Russia defence relations deepen

Indian defence gains muscle from the Russian partnership but, contrary to the breathless reporting, no new contracts were signed yesterday

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th Dec 12

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s sixth visit to India on Monday has been his most barren yet in terms of defence contracts signed between the two countries. An earlier Indian order, placed in Feb 2010, for 59 Mi-17V5 medium lift helicopters was increased marginally to 71 helicopters. And a protocol signed last year for the purchase of 42 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters led to the signing of a contract for 42 kits for licensed manufacture in HAL.

Never having had to compete for defence contracts in India, Russia faces increasing difficulties in competitive contracting, which is now mandated by the Defence Procurement Policy of the Indian defence ministry (MoD). But Moscow remains India’s largest weapons supplier, by virtue of transitioning up the procurement chain. A step ahead of the competition, Russia has offered defence equipment first as arms sales, then licensed production, then joint development, and the growing supply of what is euphemistically known as “sub-strategic” systems.

One such system, the nuclear-propelled attack submarine, INS Chakra, joined the Indian Navy in April on a ten-year lease for US $920 million. Defence Minister AK Antony has confirmed that there is a proposal to lease a second submarine. Russia’s ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, terms the Chakra “a shining example of the very confidential strategic cooperation between India and Russia.” Off camera, Kadakin flatly --- and factually --- states that no other country would transfer such a system.

India pays a price for this privilege. When Russia raised the price of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya from $947 million to $2.3 billion, India quietly acquiesced. And when the delivery of the vessel --- which was originally scheduled for 2008 and then delayed to 2012 --- was pushed back by another year after a major engine failure during pre-delivery trials in September, India acquiesced again.

The matter was raised during President Putin’s visit today. It had been raised more strongly by Antony with his counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, when the former defence minister had visited India in October.

But Russia repeatedly compensates in the “sub-strategic” segment that remains below the radar. The indigenous nuclear ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant, continues to benefit from significant Russian technological advice.

Another strategic programme being negotiated is for the “precision code” of Russia’s GLONASS satellite navigation system, an alternative to the US Global Positioning System (GPS). This would provide Indian aircraft and weapon systems with a navigational accuracy of one metre, something that only US and Russian systems currently enjoy. MoD sources tell Business Standard that the matter remains “under discussion” but will eventually yield results.

Russian officials also cite the joint development programmes that characterize Indo-Russian defence cooperation. The Brahmos joint venture has yielded a sophisticated supersonic cruise missile that is now being developed into a hypersonic missile that will travel at above Mach 6 (4,300 kilometres per hour). The supersonic Brahmos, meanwhile is being adapted to be fired from a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter.

Next year, design and development will begin on the $6 billion Indo-Russian programme to jointly develop a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). No other countries are collaborating on such an advanced aircraft, which involves sensitive technologies like stealth. Another Indo-Russian JV, Multirole Transport Aircraft Ltd (MTA Ltd), began work this month on a military transport plane for both air forces.

Given the strategic relationship, New Delhi considers Russian sensitivities. After the Russian MiG-35 was rejected in Apr 2011 in the Indian contest for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), the MoD ordered 42 additional Sukhoi-30MKI fighter, without any tendering or competition.

For Moscow, New Delhi is an increasingly crucial partner, and not only because India buys 30% of all Russian arms exports. Joint development with India reduces development costs and risk at a time when Russia is spending heavily on modernising its forces. Its State Armament Programme will spend almost $650 billion to increase the proportion of modern weaponry in the Russian military to 30% by 2015, and 70% by 2020.

Russian analysts close to the Kremlin are urging Moscow to deepen “an emerging common defence market” between the two countries. They are recommending the co-development of a fifth-generation medium fighter program in addition to the FGFA (which is a heavy fighter); and an advanced battle tank based on the Russian Armata.

Beatles, Bangla Desh and a sitar maestro

Dec 26, 2012 

Even as the nation mourned sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar’s death, and the Indian Army observed “Vijay Diwas” on December 16 — the day of victory in Bangladesh — many may not be aware of the maestro’s contribution the cause of Bangladesh freedom struggle in 1971. 

Although the Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won a 167-seat majority in the 313-member house in the 1970 Pakistan elections, President Gen. Yahya Khan was reluctant to allow him to become the Prime Minister for his views on autonomy for the eastern wing. When the political deadlock continued, Sheikh Mujib decided to take the issue to the people.

On March 7, 1971, Mujib, at a public meeting in Dhaka, called for an independence struggle. His memorable words — “The struggle now is the struggle for our emancipation; the struggle now is the struggle for our independence. Joy Bangla!” — triggered a massive disobedience movement in what was then East Pakistan.

Yahya Khan declared Martial Law, banned the Awami League and arrested hundreds of protesters. On the night of March 25, 1971, Mujib was arrested and air lifted to West Pakistan. Awami League’s key leaders fled to India, to live in exile. The Army started disarming Bengali soldiers and paramilitary personnel. However, Maj. Ziaur Rahman, belonging to the East Bengal Regiment in Chittagong, took over the battalion and declared the independence of Bangladesh on behalf of Mujib. Other East Bengal regiments and paramilitary forces also rebelled and the troops fled to India to swell the ranks of the Mukti Bahini which was being formed by the Awami League leaders in exile.

I remember, on a pleasant March morning, debriefing Zia’s Punjabi commanding officer who had crossed the border at Agartala to seek our protection. Even under such adverse circumstances, he had only contempt for “low grade” Bengali troops. This reflected the superior attitude the Punjabi-dominated Army elite generally had towards Bengalis and that’s why they failed to gauge the real power of Bengali nationalism that led to the creation of Bangladesh.


Published: December 26, 2012
Old adversaries in new face-off 
Chander Suta Dogra 

The Hindu QUESTION TIME: With each acquittal or dismissal of appeal, the role of the judiciary is coming under scrutiny. In this June 2011 picture, police prevent pro-Khalistan marchers demanding the release of a convicted militant from entering Chandigarh. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar 

As prominent trials against policemen and Khalistan militants move towards culmination, the acrimony between the Punjab police and the judiciary is increasing 

In 1997, K.P.S. Gill stunned the nation when, in a letter to the then Prime Minister, I.K. Gujral, he wrote, “The conduct of the judiciary throughout the years of terror in Punjab has completely escaped examination …. What is to be said of judges who failed to administer justice according to the laws of the land for over a decade in terrorist related cases?” 

He was writing in anguish after attending the funeral of Ajith Singh Sandhu, Taran Taran’s Senior Superintendent of police, who, frustrated with a case of extrajudicial killing against him and his colleagues, that caused him to spend several ignominious days in jail, committed suicide by throwing himself before a train. 

More than a decade later, the acrimony between the Punjab police and judiciary has not lessened, because many prominent trials against policemen and the Khalistan militants are culminating in the courts only now. And, with each acquittal or dismissal of appeal, that deepens the adversarial divide, the role of the judges is coming under scrutiny. As is that of the top brass of the police, feeding into a gaining perception that old scores are being settled. 

The temptation of anarchy

Published: December 26, 2012
 Harish Khare 

There is a heady feeling in the air that we have a licence to defy and disrupt, and force our rulers to make concessions on our terms 

On Monday, a new reality impinged on our minds: because of the three-day long confrontation between the police and the angry citizens in the very heart of sarkari New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was forced to shift the venue of his talks with the visiting Russian President, Vladimir Putin, from the grand Hyderabad House to his modest residence on Race Course Road. There could not have been a greater symbolic triumph for the vendors of street power. 

Yet let us make no mistake about this. The ugly and unpleasant standoff between the police and the largely spontaneous protesters over the weekend is only a precursor of things to come. Collectively, we seem to have unthinkingly bought into a narrative of empowered indignation in which “anger” against “authority” is deemed to be just and justifiable and any means to vent that “anger” is rationalised as socially acceptable and politically correct. 

‘Connoisseurs of chaos’ 

The gruesome brutalisation and rape of a 23-year-old woman suddenly stirred us out of our complacency. What is more noteworthy is that the protests, at least in the first two days, saw an unprecedented and voluntary participation by upper middle classes, citizens, men and women. Interestingly, there were no leaders, no organisers, no professional crowd managers; and, at first glance, it seemed this participation was facilitated by the new tools of social media as well as by the promise of a summons to a non-political gathering. Access to new technology-induced connectivity has imparted to its users and consumers a new sense of democratic entitlement. The confrontation at Rajpath between the police and the citizens has alerted the traditional guardians of order as also the new “connoisseurs of chaos” (to borrow poet Wallace Stevens’ title) to the possibilities of mischief inherent in the new technology. And this potential should be both fascinating and frightening. 

Pak minister’s spoiling visit

Extremists could not have asked for more
by Kuldip Nayar 

When I received the Mother Teresa award this year for working towards improvement of relations between India and Pakistan, I was happy to believe that there must have been a tangible evidence of that to get the recognition. Indeed, there has been a steady increase in the flow of traffic — doctors, lawyers, academicians, businessmen and sportspersons visiting each other’s country.

I recalled how 20 years ago there were only 15 people when I lighted candles for the first time on the Wagah border to celebrate the birth of India and Pakistan on the night of August 14-15. This year it was a sea of humanity on this side of the border and some 10,000 on the Pakistan side which began reciprocating three years ago. People-to-people contact was improving and trade started making rapid strides. The relationship was looking up.

Then comes Rahman Malik from Pakistan and nearly breaks everything like a bull in a China shop would do. Islamabad’s Minister of Interior, Malik has done everything possible to spoil relations through his statements and remarks. He stayed in the Capital only for three days but reignited the fires of suspicion, bias and hatred. The extremists in both countries would not have asked for more.

First, he compares the Babri Masjid demolition with the terrorist attacks on Mumbai to suggest that the demolition was the job of Hindus and the 26/11 attacks of Muslims, renewing the memory of the holocaust during Partition and reiterating the two-nation theory which even the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, dropped after Independence. And then Malik brushed aside the agony of captain Saurabh Kalia’s father who received his son’s body, mutilated and with all the organs cut after 20 days of the Kargil war. The Pakistani army has denied the inhuman act but it could have at least held an inquiry to allay India’s doubts on Kalia’s case.

Looking West

Wed Dec 26 2012, 02:02 hrs

The gathering of southeast Asian leaders last week at a summit in Delhi was a celebration of India’s Look East policy. Could we imagine a similar “Look West” strategy towards the Arabian Peninsula? 

Delhi has often mused about Looking West, but there has never been a serious political effort to initiate one. Like southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula is linked tightly to India through history, culture and commerce. Just as the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations emerged as a major partner for India over the last two decades, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) has become a critical region for our economy. 

If India did $80 billion worth of trade with ASEAN this year, its annual commerce with the GCC is now close to $120 billion. The GCC countries provide more than 40 per cent of India’s rapidly growing petroleum imports and host nearly six million migrant workers. The GCC is India’s largest trading partner and together with ASEAN, the GCC accounts for more than a quarter of India’s annual two-way trade in goods. But the GCC is a long way from acquiring an ASEAN-like profile in Delhi. 

India’s political leaders travel less frequently to the Gulf. ASEAN’s expansive institutional processes have compelled Delhi to sustain a relentless interaction at all levels. The GCC’s institutions are yet to mature and Delhi is under less compulsion for a sustained whole of the government engagement with the Arab states of the Gulf. That could be changing as the GCC seeks a more credible regional identity. 

Gulf Union 

Faced with growing external and internal threats to the future of the political order in the Gulf, its leaders have sought to deepen their economic and political integration. Although they have talked the talk of customs union, free trade area, common monetary policy and defence integration, the members of the GCC have found it hard to walk the talk. 

At the annual year-end GCC summit last year, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asked the region “to move from a stage of cooperation to a stage of union into a single entity”. The ambitious Saudi call for a Gulf union came in the wake of the political disturbances in Bahrain and the collective GCC military intervention there in March 2011. 

Will Saudi Arabia Ever Change?

James Hill

Portraits of King Abdullah when he was crown prince (left) and the late Prince Sultan (center), who was heir apparent when he died last year, on the outskirts of Riyadh, September 2003 
It’s a funny place, Jeddah. Nobody knows the half of what goes on.

—Hilary Mantel, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street 

On September 25, 2011, the aging ruler of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, gave a remarkable speech to the Majlis al-Shura, the formal advisory body to the Saudi monarchy in Riyadh. Beginning in 2013, the king said, women would be allowed to serve on the 150- member body; and beginning in 2015, they would also be permitted to vote and run for office in municipal council elections.

To most outside observers, these moves were hardly worth noting. In 2011, popular revolts were toppling autocratic regimes across the Middle East; even fellow monarchies like Morocco and Jordan were amending or changing their constitutions to show they would be more accountable to the people. By contrast, the Saudi king’s speech conceded no new authority to the Majlis al-Shura, an unelected body with limited powers of consultation only, and Saudis have shown little interest in the largely symbolic local councils, only half of whose members are elected. Moreover, Abdullah’s innovations, such as they were, would only happen in the future: the 2011 municipal elections, which took place a few days after the speech, were, as in the past, open to men only.

Afghanistan in 2013: A unified nation at stake?

This is the latest in a series of entries looking at what we can expect in 2013. Each weekday, a guest analyst will look at the key challenges facing a selected country – and what next year might hold in store. 

By Juan Cole, Special to CNN 

Editor’s note: Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan. He maintains the popular blog, Informed Comment

What does 2013 have in store for Afghanistan? As NATO and U.S. forces begin leaving in the thousands, and as their combat mission ends this coming year, can the green Afghanistan National Army take up the slack? With violence now higher than in 2009 when the Obama administration’s troop escalation was decided on, can any progress be made on political reconciliation? Will President Hamid Karzai resign and hold early elections for his successor, as he has suggested? Is there any hope for a more robust economy and a semblance of good governance, as financial scandals continue to rock Kabul? How will regional powers such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, India and Russia position themselves as Afghanistan moves out of the North Atlantic sphere of influence? 

The Obama administration will certainly withdraw some of the 68,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan throughout 2013, though the timetable and the number to be pulled out have still not been decided. Gen. John Allen, outgoing commander of U.S. forces and of the International Security Assistance Forces in country reportedly wants to delay any further withdrawals until fall of next year. (Some 34,000 troops came out in 2012). Allen’s hand was presumably weakened in November, however, when he was reportedly investigated over inappropriate communications with Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, as part of the fallout of an FBI investigation of CIA director, David Petraeus. He will be succeeded in 2013 by another Marine, Gen. Joseph “Fighting Joe” Dunford, who spent 22 months in the Iraq War. 

Hacking the President’s DNA

The U.S. government is surreptitiously collecting the DNA of world leaders, and is reportedly protecting that of Barack Obama. Decoded, these genetic blueprints could provide compromising information. In the not-too-distant future, they may provide something more as well—the basis for the creation of personalized bioweapons that could take down a president and leave no trace. 

By Andrew Hessel, Marc Goodman and Steven Kotler 

This is how the future arrived. It began innocuously, in the early 2000s, when businesses started to realize that highly skilled jobs formerly performed in-house, by a single employee, could more efficiently be crowd-sourced to a larger group of people via the Internet. Initially, we crowd-sourced the design of T‑shirts (Threadless.com) and the writing of encyclopedias (Wikipedia.com), but before long the trend started making inroads into the harder sciences. Pretty soon, the hunt for extraterrestrial life, the development of self-driving cars, and the folding of enzymes into novel proteins were being done this way. With the fundamental tools of genetic manipulation—tools that had cost millions of dollars not 10 years earlier—dropping precipitously in price, the crowd-sourced design of biological agents was just the next logical step. 

In 2008, casual DNA-design competitions with small prizes arose; then in 2011, with the launch of GE’s $100 million breast-cancer challenge, the field moved on to serious contests. By early 2015, as personalized gene therapies for end-stage cancer became medicine’s cutting edge, virus-design Web sites began appearing, where people could upload information about their disease and virologists could post designs for a customized cure. Medically speaking, it all made perfect sense: Nature had done eons of excellent design work on viruses. With some retooling, they were ideal vehicles for gene delivery. 

Soon enough, these sites were flooded with requests that went far beyond cancer. Diagnostic agents, vaccines, antimicrobials, even designer psychoactive drugs—all appeared on the menu. What people did with these bio-designs was anybody’s guess. No international body had yet been created to watch over them. 

Time for Strategic Learning

December 24, 2012 

British Field Marshall Viscount Alanbrooke of Brookeborough, one of World War II’s most accomplished and distinguished generals, regularly complained about the lack of American strategic thinking. In Alanbrooke’s view (and Churchill’s too), this lacuna, he believed, was apparent in Washington’s zeal to open a second front on the continent when its forces were woefully unprepared for the superior Nazi army. Hence, the assault against Festung Europa began at the peripheries in North Africa, Sicily and Italy before Operation Overlord landed on the Normandy beaches Normandy in June 1944. 
This absence of American strategic thinking was not limited to World War II. During the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur’s amphibious landing at Inchon was a brilliant though reckless effort to outflank the North Koreans and permit the breakout from the Pusan perimeter on the peninsula’s southeast tip. The recklessness was in the operation’s location. The allies could have avoided the huge and dangerous tidal changes at Inchon by landing at a much safer location thirty miles to the south. MacArthur later undermined his victory by dismissing signals of a Chinese cross-border attack into North Korea. By racing to the Yalu River, MacArthur triggered a Chinese offensive that drove UN forces back to the 38th parallel and created a military standoff that still divides Korea today. 

In Vietnam, “escalation,” “search and destroy” and the use of “body counts” to measure success were sound bites, not strategies. In Afghanistan and Iraq four decades later, tactical victory was lost by strategic blindness in ignoring the question of “what next?” and then failing to create a post-war strategy. Most recently, the so-called “strategic pivot” to Asia allowed rhetoric to overcome reason and alienate or frighten friends and allies in the Pacific, as well as Europe and the Middle East. 

A provocative question hovering over America’s war experiences is whether Americans generally lack the strategic genome in their DNA. There are exceptions. President Dwight Eisenhower clearly understood the broader strategic issues. Other strategic minds since World War II included President Richard Nixon and his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger; Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser; and President George H.W. Bush and his adviser, Brent Scowcroft. 

The Challenge for Nepal’s Migrant Workers

December 26, 2012 

By Nandita Baruah & Shareen Tuladhar 

Nepalese citizens are increasingly moving abroad -- particularly to Gulf countries -- to find work. Will their rights be protected?
Last week countries around the world marked International Migrants Day in recognition of the 214 million international migrants on the move across the globe in search of better economic opportunity. Nowhere is this recognition more important than in Nepal, where foreign employment has become a viable livelihood option for millions who are unable to find work within the country. In recent years, though, sobering cases of labor exploitation and labor trafficking have been reported by Nepali labor migrants, who are increasingly calling for stronger government policies to protect the rights of migrant workers. 

Qatar, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait are the top five labor destination countries with the highest number of Nepali migrant workers. According to the Department of Foreign Employment, from January to December 2012, about half a million Nepali citizens (women and men) migrated abroad for work. Along with demand for low-skilled labor due to economic growth in the destination countries, Nepalis also seek work overseas as a result of poverty, unemployment, slow economic growth, and political instability at home. Most male Nepali migrant workers are employed in low-skilled sectors, such as construction and manufacturing, whereas the majority of female migrants work in the informal sector, either as caregivers or housemaids. While this might look promising in terms of employment opportunities, the plight of the migrants is far from ideal in terms of securing acceptable labor standards and safeguarding their basic labor rights such as formal contracts that specify minimum wage, timely payments, acceptable labor conditions, and health benefits. 

From March 2012 to December 2012, The Asia Foundation, in partnership with local research institutes in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, initiated a research project to examine the challenges of labor migration by focusing on the aspects of migration process of documented and undocumented migrant workers. 

EU promotes potato to replace rice in Asia

Published: December 26, 2012
Gargi Parsai 

Seed potatoes come for inspection at NAK in Emmeloord, Netherlands. 

The potato has a 12,000-year-old history but an even brighter future as a crop that is set to replace rice as a staple in the Asian rice-consuming countries. It requires less amount of water compared to other basic food products, without compromising the nutrition value. Potato, therefore, is increasingly being promoted, in the genetically modified organism-free European Union (EU), as the foremost solution for meeting the increased food demand for an estimated 6 billion world population by 2030. 

Dutch researchers from the famous Wageningen University — dedicated to bio-based economy in food, feed and chemicals produced from renewable resources — told a visiting press delegation that if prepared in a healthy manner and consumed in the right proportion (balanced reduction of calories), consumers can benefit from the many nutrients and dietary fibres in the tuber. 

The advantages of potato over other staples were discussed at the “Potato Potential Conference”, which was followed by a vibrant food exposition organised by the Enterprise Europe Network and Food Valley that facilitated networking of global companies in the potato business. The EU’s focus is now on Eastern Europe and China for processed food markets. The visiting journalists were told that China is already moving towards experiments with replacing rice with potato. 

The diverse advantage of potato — the fourth largest consumed food in the world after maize, rice and wheat — is emphasised by studies that have shown potato containing less calories than pasta, rice and bread. The tuber consumes about 30 per cent less water to grow than rice and is being projected as a crop that can contribute to weight loss “if prepared and consumed healthily.” 

Researchers and scientists are working towards facilitating higher and sustainable crop yields per hectare that are free from disease and pests. 

Malik’s tirade against India

A pre-meditated stunt? 

PAKISTAN Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, who was in India on an official visit ostensibly to operationalise a new visa regime as a Confidence Building Measure (CBM) did exactly the opposite – created more mistrust in India about Pakistan’s intentions. He displayed extreme insensitivity on issues like cross-border terrorism, 26/11 attack on Mumbai and equating it with demolition of disputed structure – issues that are critical to our territorial integrity, security and national pride. He went berserk even in the presence of Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde yet the latter failed to refute Malik’s outrageous comments to nation’s great discomfiture. 

Pak Minister’s tirade against India on Indian soil reminds one of equally provocative remarks made by the then President Pervez Musharraf at his televised address to the editors of media outlets during the infamous Agra Summit. The summit collapsed and the dictator had to return home empty handed. Malik too ended up poisoning Indo-Pak relations. He tricked India to secure an invite and exploited the opportunity to spread canards that immensely pleased jihadists back home. It is by now obvious that he came here with a malicious intent and his verbal attacks were pre-meditated. Irked by his conduct, New Delhi cancelled a joint press conference and declined to issue a joint statement on the conclusion of the visit to minimise the damage caused to India’ interests by our Home Minister’s lack-luster performance. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s observation that if he were present, he would have snubbed the visiting minister is an apt comment on Home Minister’s skills. 

One of Malik’s most outrageous observations was that India had no reason to blame Hafiz Saeed and his terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba for 26/11 on the spurious argument that the terror group had been banned in Pakistan and was not in existence. He blamed Indian intelligence for its failure to prevent the attack and said India had not provided “convincing evidence” of Saeed’s involvement in Mumbai attack. Another white lie he dished out was that the mastermind of 26/11 was arrested more than once on this count but was released by courts for lack of evidence. Indian officials later discovered that the documents passed on to them by Pakistan showed that the terrorist had been detained not for his involvement in the Mumbai attack but on charges that had nothing to do with it. Malik was not misinformed, as our Home Minister told Parliament but indulged in sophistry. He needs to be exposed as a trickster. His claim that that there was on infiltration from Pakistan only migration of people is more outrageous. Terrorists trained by ISI in terror camps in PoK and armed to the teeth with sophisticated weapons crossing over to India in hordes over decades can by no stretch of imagination be called migrants. They cross over with the help of Pakistani forces and occasionally get killed by Indian army. Most of them are jehadhis from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East. Extremely offensive and insensitive is the Minister’s remark that Capt Saurbh Kalia might have been killed by harsh weather. Our brave army officer and four other soldiers were brutally tortured while in Pak army’s custody for 20 long days during the Kargil conflict. Supreme Court of India is seized of a petition seeking a directive to the Government to drag Pakistan to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for war crimes. What a shame that the Government neither took the matter to the ICJ nor it took up the war crime issue during talks with Pakistani delegation.