31 December 2012

Asia Pacific- The Great Game and India


What the Pivot Means 

Before the heat of US elections and Chinese transition of power cooled off, the well times East Asia Summit and the ASEAN meet at Phnom Phen has focused world attention on SE Asia. With President Obama, Prime Minister Wen Zia Bao and Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh participating in the conference, the great game in Asia-Pacific is entering an interesting stage of global geopolitics, especially in view of America’s ‘Pivot’ to the East. Combined with India’s “Look East” Policy the three major players in this game US, China and India are jostling for influence in the region. What happens now? 

As per security analysts, this Obama initiative is a part of US strategy of containing China in Asia-Pacific while China is keen to exert its influence in its soft under belly by retaining its strategic hold over ASEAN countries. India, which has great stakes in both expanding ASEAN and using its geographical leverage in Indo – Pacific (Indian and Pacific Oceans) to contain China’s hagemonistic rise in the region is being wooed strongly by the US to become its strategic partner. As per Chidanand Rajghatta, in an opinion piece in the Times of India of Nov 17, titled “With one eye on Beijing, US signals “ full embrace of Delhi”, leaving little doubt that the US sees India as a counter weight to China regardless of what China, India itself and the rest of the world thinks of the idea and their response to it. President Obama’s visits to Myanmar (also called Burma) Thailand and Cambodia are part of this larger game to make new allies in the region. Monika Chansoria of CLAWS, quotes US State Department official, William Burns as stating that “A healthy US – China relationship is central to the future of the Asia-Pacific region and the global economy”. As per her, the sentiment notwithstanding the conflict and cooperation between their relations cannot be considered as mutually exclusive. Chinese state media has for some time now viewed ‘security rebalancing’ as inimical to Chinese interests in the region and have opined that “China has become a firm strategic target of the US”. Chinese media is also weary of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a new economic and trade model in Asia pacific marginalising China. As per Kaplan, “Unquestionably, there is deep strategic mistrust between the two countries. China’s rapid economic growth, steady military modernization, and relentless nationalistic propaganda at home are shaping Chinese public expectations and limiting possibilities for compromise with other powers”. 

Time for India Inc. to Look-East


(The 20-22 Dec 2012 visit and interaction of President Thein Sein with the CII at Mumbai , if steered correctly would not only serve the industrial growth interests of Myanmar but also give an opportunity for bolstering strategic ties and development of India’s eastern states bordering Myanmar. For this, apart from the CII, the government too must plan the investment and cooperation gateways strategically.) 

Myanmar occupies a critical geo-strategic position in South and South East Asia. Its importance to both India and China in many ways cannot be gainsaid. Seeing its strategic importance China made its moves early and during the period (1990 and beyond) when most world powers had isolated Myanmar on grounds of Human Rights abuse, China not only recognised the military regime but also helped it economically and militarily. With the support of a strong regional power and investments coming in, the military regime was able to strengthen and consolidate its position and keep the democratic forces at bay. In late nineties, once the military regime stabilised, India too realised its importance and in spite of the West’s hard stand, began engaging the Government of Myanmar and offered cooperation in all sectors, especially trade and commerce. Though China continued to have its first mover advantage and having proven its affability during the period of Myanmar’s isolation it left no stone unturned to assert its will on the projects like Myitsone and Shwe-Yunnan Gas pipeline which were in its own vital interests. 

Through the Look–East policy of late nineties India extended its cooperation on all fronts but was unable to compete with the Chinese presence and investments in the region. After the 2010 elections in Myanmar and installation of a democratic government (albeit under a military regime), Indo-Myanmar relations saw a new turn. Shortly after the elections owing to the wide agitations by the hilly ethnic groups, the work on $3.6 billion mega Myitsone Project was suspended. Also, in spite the chagrin of the Chinese regime, the work on the gas pipeline too has been delayed and marred with regular protests by ethnic groups. The April 2012 historic visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Myanmar gave further impetus to the growing warmth in relations between the two countries. This was followed by the subtle acceptance of the new regime by other countries especially USA who softened its sanctions to allow the leaders of Myanmar to visit USA. Visit of Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar’s President Thein Sein to USA earlier this year came to be seen as a watershed in the history of the military regime. This was followed by a short but significant visit by US President Barak Obama to Myanmar. A number of positive steps taken by Thein Sein’s democratic regime prior and after this visit have been cautiously lauded by the closely watching world. India too made its gestures clear by regular visits of dignitaries, the most recent being by India’s Foreign Minister. 

There is enormous sexual frustration in India's underclass which has been left out of the liberalisation process


PUBLISHED:  30 December 2012

We know what happened. A brutal rape. A tragic death.

Ask a person on the street and she will have a ready opinion about what caused this rape and what could have been done to prevent it. 

Below are four of the silliest explanations and suggestions that I have heard in the last week.


An Indian policeman stands guard in front of India Gate 

The first is to hang the culprits. 

An eye for an eye. Make the penalty more stringent and the problem will go away. 

We already have laws and penalties in place for a range of crimes and misdemeanours, but, as experience has taught us, they rarely act as deterrents. 

We have laws for everything, from drunken driving and cutting trees to calling someone a ‘ ch****’ to killing a woman for dowry.

But BMWs continue to run people over, unscrupulous builders chop orchards at will, caste massacres still happen in our villages, and dowry deaths continue unabated.

The second suggestion is the most innocent that I’ve heard. 

What It Will Take to Secure Afghanistan

Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 23 

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press 
Release Date June 2012 

Afghanistan is approaching a major inflection point in its long and turbulent history. In 2014 most of the foreign military forces are due to pull out. With them will go the bulk of foreign financing that has accounted for almost all of the state's budget. Twenty fourteen is also the year that Afghanistan is due to hold presidential elections. Hamid Karzai, the only president the country has known since the fall of the Taliban, has said he will not seek another term in office. Thus Afghanistan is likely to have a new president to lead it into a new era. This era will be shaped by many factors, principally decisions made by Afghans themselves, but the United States has the ability to affect the outcome if it makes a sustained commitment to maintain security, improve the political process, and reduce Pakistani interference so as to build on the tenuous gains achieved by the U.S. troop surge since 2010. 

The Problem 

The signing of a U.S.-Afghan Security Partnership Accord in April 2012 and the Chicago Summit Declaration in May alleviated some of the uncertainty about the post-2014 period—but only some. President Barack Obama and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) heads of state agreed to remain committed in Afghanistan after 2014. However, the nature and extent of that commitment remain opaque. 

At times Obama has depicted the U.S. mission in Afghanistan in fairly narrow terms—designed, as he said in announcing the troop surge on December 1, 2009, to "deny al-Qaeda a safe haven," deny the Taliban "the ability to overthrow the government," and "strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government." The Chicago Declaration commits the United States to the more ambitious goals of helping craft "a democratic society, based on rule of law and good governance." However attractive the maximalist position, it would require an increased deployment of foreign troops and political advisers, and changes in Afghanistan's political culture, that are unlikely to occur. Yet even the minimalist objective, designed to prevent a return to power by the Taliban (which has consistently refused to renounce its long-standing ties with al-Qaeda and other transnational terrorist groups based in Pakistan and would be likely to provide them a safe haven in Afghanistan), will be impossible to achieve absent a substantial commitment. 

What Is the Fiscal Cliff?

Author: Jonathan Masters, Online Editor/Writer
Updated: December 12, 2012 

Introduction 

The "fiscal cliff" is a term used describe a bundle of momentous U.S. federal tax increases and spending cuts that are due to take effect at the end of 2012 and early 2013. In total, the measures are set to automatically slash the federal budget deficit by $503 billion between FY 2012 and FY 2013, according to the most recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections (PDF). If these numbers are converted to calendar year 2013, however, this contraction would be substantially higher, close to 4 percent of GDP. The abrupt onset of such significant budget austerity in the midst of a still-fragile economic recovery has led most economists to warn of a double-dip recession and rising unemployment in 2013 if Washington fails to intervene in a timely fashion.


But many analysts question what action, if any, will be taken either in the lame duck session of the 112th Congress or in the early days of 2013. While legislative inaction could have deleterious economic effects in the short term, analysts say putting off or cancelling all of the measures without a longer-term deficit deal in place would be equally dangerous for the U.S. economy. 

What are the components of the fiscal cliff? 

The following set of revenue and spending measures are set to expire or take effect at year's end, representing an acute fiscal consolidation that could be further intensified by a potential showdown over the debt ceiling. 

Pentagon Looks to Fix ‘Pervasive Vulnerability’ in Drones

12.31.12

An MQ-9 Reaper drone at Creech Air Force Base, NV. Photo: USAF 

Drones may be at the center of the U.S. campaign to take out extremists around the globe. But there’s a “pervasive vulnerability” in the robotic aircraft, according to the Pentagon’s premier science and technology division — a weakness the drones share with just about every car, medical device and power plant on the planet. 

The control algorithms for these crucial machines are written in a fundamentally insecure manner, says Dr. Kathleen Fisher, a Tufts University computer scientist and a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. There’s simply no systematic way for programmers to check for vulnerabilities as they put together the software that runs our drones, our trucks or our pacemakers. 

In our homes and our offices, this weakness is only a medium-sized deal: developers can release a patched version of Safari or Microsoft Word whenever they find a hole; anti-virus and intrusion-detection systems can handle many other threats. But updating the control software on a drone means practically re-certifying the entire aircraft. And those security programs often introduce all sorts of new vulnerabilities. “The traditional approaches to security won’t work,” Fisher tells Danger Room. 

Fisher is spearheading a far-flung, $60 million, four-year effort to try to develop a new, secure way of coding — and then run that software on a series of drones and ground robots. It’s called High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems, or HACMS

Military Must Prep Now for ‘Mutant’ Future, Researchers Warn

12.31.12
Lockheed Martin tests its Human Universal Load Carrier exoskeleton. Photo: Lockheed Martin 

The U.S. military is already using, or fast developing, a wide range of technologies meant to give troops what California Polytechnic State University researcher Patrick Lin calls “mutant powers.” Greater strength and endurance. Superior cognition. Better teamwork. Fearlessness. 

But the risk, ethics and policy issues arising out of these so-called “military human enhancements” — including drugs, special nutrition, electroshock, gene therapy and robotic implants and prostheses — are poorly understood, Lin and his colleagues Maxwell Mehlman and Keith Abney posit in a new report for The Greenwall Foundation (.pdf), scheduled for wide release tomorrow. In other words, we better think long and hard before we unleash our army of super soldiers. 

If we don’t, we could find ourselves in big trouble down the road. Among the nightmare scenarios: Botched enhancements could harm the very soldiers they’re meant to help and spawn pricey lawsuits. Tweaked troopers could run afoul of international law, potentially sparking a diplomatic crisis every time the U.S. deploys troops overseas. And poorly planned enhancements could provoke disproportionate responses by America’s enemies, resulting in a potentially devastating arms race. 

“With military enhancements and other technologies, the genie’s already out of the bottle: the benefits are too irresistible, and the military-industrial complex still has too much momentum,” Lin says in an e-mail. “The best we can do now is to help develop policies in advance to prepare for these new technologies, not post hoc or after the fact (as we’re seeing with drones and cyberweapons).” 

Case in point: On April 18, 2002, a pair of Air Force F-16 fighter pilots returning from a 10-hour mission over Afghanistan saw flashes on the ground 18,000 below them. Thinking he and his wingman were under fire by insurgents, Maj. Harry Schmidt dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb. 

CHINA’s WEIQI PEARLS VS INDIA’s CHESS IN THE IOR. IS INDIA LOSING ITS IRON GRIP ?

By IDU Analysis on December 30, 2012 

The moot question before Maritime India. 

Is China’s strategy of ‘String of Pearls’ based on Weiqi versus ‘India’s Iron curtain’ based on Chess that IDU wrote about in Naval Review UK in relation to the Indian Ocean Region(IOR), now succeeding? Looks like it. But no one is discussing it. Has India’s Maldives policy misfired? Is Mauritius DTAA lost after Vodopone case and has Seychelles has given OTA to PLA(N) and tilted to China. See Pic EEZ in IOR. 

Today, both China and India are in ascendancy to regain their past eminence. Both nations are increasing their maritime reach and strength, with increasing economic clout and stirring ambitions. China dubs its nationalism as ‘Love For The Country’(Weibao) and are fired by a desire to regain their lost ‘Yellow Glory’, in a professed ‘peaceful harmonious rise’, and they mean it, harking back to advice of their philosophers - Confucius (Culture), Sun Tzu (Art of War) and Lou Tzu(Taoism) to remove the century of humiliation. 


EEZ INDIAN OCEAN

The Chinese play a board game of patience called ‘weiqi’ pronounced ‘weychee’ (igo in Japanese, baduk in Korean). Weiqi is a board game with small ‘stones’ that is rich in long term strategy, and the game ends when the ‘opponents stones’ are surrounded and the result is mathematically declared. During one of Henry Kissinger’s visit to India few years ago, IDU briefly discussed Weiqi in connection with an article China’s String of Pearls based on Weiqi vs India’s Iron Curtain in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) based on India’s love for Chess and Check mate. Kissinger confirms it in his tome ON CHINA. 

Standing Up









Mon, 31 Dec 2012

Even as social networking websites went viral with outrage over the gangrape incident following the death of the girl in Singapore, an old soldier has started an initiative to stand up and make a change. Lt Gen H S Panag, who retired as the Central Army Commander, has started a movement by publicly giving out his mobile number on social networking website Twitter with the promise that he would personally come or arrange for help for any girl or woman in trouble. The ‘Standup movement’, promoted by his daughter Gul Panag as well as son Sherbir, has already enrolled close to 700 people in different cities and towns that have pledged their phone numbers with the promise of coming to the help of women in distress, whenever called. 

POWER PLAY 

IN a bid to involve and co-opt public representatives in implementing ambitious programmes of the UPA government in power sector, Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has written to over 400 MPs giving them specific constituency-wise status report of the implementation of central schemes like Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) and Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (RAPDRP). He has designed a ‘monitoring matrix’ for them to capture at a glance component-wise status of the project and exhorted the MPs to ask local representative of the implementing agency concerned to furnish progress information in this format on a regular basis for their appraisal. Scindia has even got the Rural Development Ministry to include RGGVY as an agenda item at district level vigilance and monitoring committee so as to review the progress of the scheme in the presence of public representatives and district level officers using the same matrix. The young minister can only hope that his colleagues in Parliament see the importance of his initiatives in their ‘electoral matrix’. 

CHANGING EQUATION 

IT was not just Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, but Arvind Kejriwal as well who was booed by the protesters at Jantar Mantar on Saturday. When Kejriwal and his colleague Manish Sisodia of the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party reached the place that has been their stage for many of their own shows, sections of the crowd were of the opinion that now that they are politicians, they should be given the same treatment as the CM. Though the duo managed to stay there for much longer than the CM, the earlier adulation was clearly missing. 

Helping hand 

AMIDST all the arrangements that were made urgently to shift the rape victim to Singapore last week, when the question of finding an accommodation for the girl’s family came up, India’s High Commissioner to Singapore T C A Raghavan offered his own residence instead of putting them up in some hotel. The first night, though, was spent in the hospital itself. It was only after the girl lost her battle for life, when formalities were being completed and arrangements made to fly her back to India, that the family went to the High Commissioner’s residence to get some rest and catch up on some sleep. 

Support from far off 

THE ordeal of the 23-year-old rape victim who died in a Singapore hospital on Saturday has found resonance with women in far off countries as well. Susan Rice, once an advisor to US President Barack Obama and now the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations, has expressed solidarity with the girl and people who have come out in support of her. “To our friends in #India: we share your outrage over an act of unimaginable cruelty against one of our sisters,” Rice, who was all set to succeed Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State in Obama’s second term before pulling out, said on the social networking website Twitter. 

MISSING DEADLINE 

COME January 1, the government will roll out the ambitious direct cash transfer scheme on a pilot basis in 51 select districts. But it is becoming clear that non-availability of Aadhaar numbers will hamper the switch for many of the schemes. For instance, the Minority Ministry, whose three schemes have been included in the list of schemes, will not be able to make the switch as sources say majority of its beneficiaries still do not have Aadhaar numbers. The schemes of the ministry include two of its popular scholarship programmes and Maulana Azad fellowship.

Parliament and patriarchyRamachandra Guha


Published: December 31, 2012

Taking its cue from an earlier generation of lawmakers who gave women the vote, abolished untouchability and reformed personal laws, Parliament must pass the Women’s Reservation Bill

The Hindu ends its moving front-page editorial on the 23-year-old rape victim with this pointed and very pertinent plea: “The Congress and the Opposition should forget about playing to the gallery. If they are serious about the rights of women, they should quickly pass the Women’s Reservation Bill. Let the presence of at least 181 female MPs in the next Lok Sabha — and the political mobilisation of women this will slowly catalyse — be Parliament’s way of honouring the death of the Unknown Citizen.” (“No turning back now,” December 30, 2012)

Although widely used, “tragic” is too tame a word to describe an event that has shaken a nation. “Horrific” and “barbaric” may be more accurate. As the anger and the outrage slowly stirs an apathetic citizenry — and a still more apathetic political class — and as we understand how the barbarism and brutality that manifested itself on that Delhi bus on a single evening is reproduced daily in hundreds of locations across the country, The Hindu has done well to offer a concrete solution. How best might we take it forward?

Past attempts

We might begin with looking backwards, at past political attempts to undo or at least undermine the patriarchal biases of Indian society and civilisation.

The first such attempt was through the Constituent Assembly, a largely male body that met between December 1946 and December 1949 to draft a new Constitution for the nation. One conservative member complained that the document finally adopted gave them the “music of the English band,” when what they had hoped for instead was “the music of [the] Veena or Sitar.”

In fact, in at least two fundamental respects, the Constitution departed most radically from both western and Indian models.

The first was the provision of affirmative action for disadvantaged groups, through the 15 per cent of all legislative seats and government jobs reserved for Dalits, and the 7.5 per cent reserved for tribals. The second was the granting of the right to vote to all women who turned 21.

A pared down version to avoid the cliff likely



U.S. lawmakers convened on Sunday to strike a year-end deal that avoids huge tax hikes and possibly spending cuts — the fiscal cliff — set to kick in January 1.

The $500-billion in fiscal pain due to hit when the new year starts would stifle U.S.’ economic recovery and send it back into recession, spelling bad news for the global economy as well.


Deadline

According to The Washington Post , Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have set a deadline of about 20:00 GMT on Sunday, when they plan to convene caucus meetings of their respective members to brief them on their agreement and determine support for it before putting it to vote.

If there is support, the Senate will hold a vote by midday on Monday, giving the Republican-controlled House of Representatives the rest of New Year’s Eve. Amid the tense negotiations, President Barack Obama pressed lawmakers to clinch a deal, even if they must reach a compromise.

Mr. Obama, sensing a mandate from his re-election last month, wants to raise taxes on the rich.

Republicans want only to close tax loopholes to raise revenue and demand significant spending cuts in return, notably to federal benefit programs like Social Security.

But if nothing is done by the deadline, all taxpayers will see an increase.

Any agreement would have to pass the House, where there is doubt that an Obama-backed deal would win favour with Republican conservatives.

A pared down version dealing mainly with taxes was within reach, said lawmakers.

Citing unnamed people briefed on the talks, The Post said one version under consideration would protect nearly 30 million taxpayers from paying the higher, alternative minimum tax rate for the first time and maintain unemployment benefits for two million people.

It also would halt a steep cut in Medicare reimbursements for doctors and preserve popular tax breaks for both businesses and individuals, such as those for research and college tuition.

At odds

But the two sides were still at odds over where to set the limits of wealthy — at $250,000 or $400,000 of annual income — and on taxes on inherited estates.

Mr. Obama warned that if an agreement was not reached, he would ask the Senate to hold an up-or-down vote on a package that protected the middle class from a hike. — AFP

The shale revolution’s shifting geopoliticsAlan Riley




Published: December 31, 2012

It strengthens the United States, reduces China’s energy dependence, and generates a major global stimulus, while potentially destabilising both the Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia

The shale energy revolution is likely to shift the tectonic plates of global power in ways that are largely beneficial to the West and reinforce U.S. power and influence during the first half of this century. Yet most public discussion of shale’s potential either focuses on the alleged environmental dangers of fracking or on how shale will affect the market price of natural gas. Both discussions blind policymakers to the true scale of the shale revolution.

The real impact stems from its effect on the oil market. Shale gas offers the means to vastly increase the supply of fossil fuels for transportation, which will cut into the rising demand for oil — fuelled in part by China’s economic growth — that has dominated energy policymaking over the last decade.



Same technology

There are two major factors in play here. First, the same shale extraction technology of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing can be employed whether the rocks are oil-bearing or gas-bearing. We have already seen over half a million barrels of oil a day flowing from the Bakken field in North Dakota. The recent Harvard-based Belfer Center report — “Oil: The Next Revolution” — suggests that shale oil could be providing America with as much as six million barrels a day by 2020. The United States imported only 11 million barrels of crude oil a day in 2011. Given the potential for offshore and conventional domestic oil production, this would suggest that by 2020, America could be near energy independence in oil.

However, many supporters of energy independence miss a key point: The major geopolitical impact of shale extraction technology lies less in the fact that America will be more energy self-sufficient than in the consequent displacement of world oil markets by a sharp reduction in U.S. imports. This is likely to be reinforced by the development of shale oil resources in China, Argentina, Ukraine and other places, which will put additional pressure on global oil prices.

Explanatory note: why we oppose the rush to cash transfers and UID


Published: December 31, 2012

We support cash transfers such as old age pensions, widow pensions, maternity entitlements and scholarships. In fact, many of us have been part of struggles to expand social security pensions and improve their delivery. We also support appropriate, people-friendly uses of modern technology for this purpose.

However, we have serious reservations about the government’s rush to link these cash transfers to “Aadhaar,” the unique identity (UID) number. This is because the linking of these schemes can cause huge disruption — think of an old man who is currently getting his pension from the local post office, but will now have to run around getting his “UID-enabled” bank account activated and then may find his pension held up by fingerprint problems, connectivity issues, power failures, truant “business correspondents,” and the rest.

We are also firmly opposed to the introduction of cash transfers in lieu of food and other commodities supplied through the Public Distribution System, for many reasons. One, subsidised food from the Public Distribution System (PDS) is a source of food and economic security for millions of poor families. In 2009-10, implicit transfers from the PDS wiped out about one-fifth of the “poverty gap” at the national level, and close to one-half of it in States like Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh. Recent experience also shows that it is possible to further revamp and reform the PDS without delay.

Two, the banking system in rural areas is not ready to handle large volumes of small transfers. Banks are often far and overcrowded. The alleged solution, banking correspondents, is fraught with problems. Post offices could possibly be converted into useful payment agencies, but this will take time.

Three, rural markets are often poorly developed. Dismantling the PDS would disrupt the flow of food across the country and put many people at the mercy of local traders and middlemen.

Four, there are concerns of special groups such as single women, disabled persons and the elderly who cannot easily move around to withdraw their cash and buy food from distant markets.

A note of dissent on cash transfers and UID


Published: December 31, 2012

The following is the text of a note released by 208 scholars, activists and concerned citizens on the United Progressive Alliance government’s plan to introduce cash transfers linked to the Aadhaar (UID) numbers of beneficiaries:

We support cash transfers such as old age pensions, widow pensions, maternity entitlements and scholarships. However, we oppose the government’s plan for accelerated mass conversion of welfare schemes to UID-driven cash transfers. This plan could cause havoc and massive social exclusion. We demand the following:

1. No replacement of food with cash under the Public Distribution System (PDS).

The PDS is a vital source of economic security and nutrition support for millions of people. It should be expanded and consolidated, not dismantled.

2. Immediate enactment of a comprehensive National Food Security Act, including universal PDS.

Instead of diverting the public’s attention with promises of mass cash transfers before the 2014 elections, the government should redeem its promise to enact a National Food Security Act (NFSA).

3. Cash transfers should not be a substitute for public services.

While some cash transfer schemes are useful, they should complement, not be a substitute for the provision of public services such as health care, school education, water supply, basic amenities, and the PDS. These services remain grossly underfunded.

4. Expand and improve appropriate cash transfers without waiting for UID.

There is no need to wait for UID to expand and improve positive cash transfer schemes such as pensions, scholarships and maternity entitlements. For instance, social security pensions should be increased and universalised.

5. No UID enrolment without a legal framework.

Millions of people are being enrolled for UID without any legal safeguards. The UIDAI’s draft bill has been rejected by a parliamentary standing committee. UID enrolment should be halted until a sound legal framework is in place.

Russian nod for India’s bid to link south with central Asia

By Indrani Bagchi, TNN | Dec 30, 2012


NEW DELHI: India's pet project to link south with central Asia got support from Russian president Vladimir Putin. During their talks in New Delhi last week, Singh and Putin agreed to unfreeze the north-south corridor through Iran within the next year. India has taken the lead role in pushing for the completion of this project. 

Indian officials said they would push for the completion of the corridor and were willing to step in, if Iran found it difficult to accomplish the task. The corridor is, by and large complete, they said, except for a section inside Iran between Qazvin-Rasht-Astara. The corridor is useless unless the Iranian section is completed. Although the agreement was inked by India, Iran, Russia and Oman in 2001, Tehran has dragged its feet on the project. 

Now, the urgency for completion of the project is due to the imminent drawdown of NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014. New Delhi figures that this project will be a game-changer for its trade and open Indian economy to the rising economies in central Asia, by connecting India with Afghanistan and beyond, bypassing Pakistan. 

India's aims in the region is coalescing with Russia, which is paying greater attention to it's "near abroad". Russia is concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in its southern periphery and one of the ways of countering this is to open these landlocked nations to trade and connectivity with India. 

Another reason for both Russia and India to concentrate on central Asia is the growing influence and presence of China in this region, which has raised concerns in Moscow and New Delhi. China is far ahead of both Russia and India in establishing connectivity with the central Asian countries — China's aims being to stabilize its own western periphery, with the restive province of Xinjiang as the focus. Beijing has already built an intricate set of oil and gas pipelines to Kazakhstan, and a Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China gas pipeline. In 2011, the trade turnover between China and the five central Asian countries reached $16.98 billion. Beijing is currently working on a rail link to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. China's progress, frankly, puts India's sluggish initiatives in the shade. 

India has recently received help from other quarters. Turkey has stepped in, offering itself as a more viable transit route for the corridor, given its already-developed connections with central Asian nations and Russia. On the other hand, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have both asked Indian leaders to consider connecting them to the corridor. 

No change in Pak hostility

Malik’s utterances provide proof
by T.V. Rajeswar 

During his recent three-day visit, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik made several controversial and highly objectionable statements which go to confirm the view that Pakistan's hostility towards India remains unabated. 

Malik had nothing substantial to say regarding action taken by Pakistan against the accused in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. He said that Pakistan's court had not found evidence against Hafiz Saeed acceptable. He went on to add that the case against Saeed and others was not a simple one like that of Kasab's case in India where he was found guilty and awarded death sentence. 

Malik started a fresh controversy by alleging that Abu Jundal Ansari was an agent of Indian intelligence. He expressed the view that the Mumbai terrorist attack was due to the failure of intelligence agencies of both Pakistan and India. According to Malik, Abu Jundal worked for both countries and then "went rogue". From the records, it is seen that Ansari never said that he was working as a source for an Indian intelligence agency. Abu Jundal was working with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) on Pakistan soil, and when the Mumbai terror attack was carried out, he was in Pakistan and was sent to Saudi Arabia on a Pakistani passport. India was able to get him deported from Saudi Arabia after considerable pressure. The fact that the 26/11 attack was conceived, planned and directed from Pakistan has been fully established from Abu Jundal's evidence. The Home Secretary, R.K. Singh, reacted strongly to Rehman Malik's statement that (LeT) terrorist Abu Jundal was an operative of an elite Indian intelligence agency. He described it as a ridiculous remark. Jundal was working with LeT in Pakistan soil when the Mumbai terror attack was carried out. Reacting to Malik's remarks that Indian agencies could have prevented the Mumbai terrorist killings, the Home Secretary said the main issue was that the attack was conceived, planned and directed from the soil of Pakistan. Pakistan did not take action against these terrorist elements when the plan was being conceived and put into effect. 

Among the various ramblings of Malik, the most objectionable one was his reference to the Babri Masjid demolition. His mention of Babri Masjid created a furore. The BJP's Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley said that the Indian government was so weak that Malik came to India and stated that the 26/11 attack was similar to the Babri Masjid demolition. Arun Jaitley went on to say that the Babri Masjid demolition was an internal matter and the Indian government should have asked the visiting delegation to say sorry for his comments. 

How Bullying Creates Suicide Bombers

Dec 30, 2012

Three years ago when a Jordanian suicide bomber killed 7 U.S. intelligence officers, jihadists praised his bravery and the CIA blamed his ideology, but bullying explains his treachery. Adam Lankford on how we misunderstand the psychology of suicide bombers. 

Bullying led 11-year-old Thomas Thompson to intentionally overdose on pills. It led 15-year-old Amanda Todd to post a heartbreaking YouTube farewell and then hang herself at home. And, although no one has recognized it until now, bullying led to the deadliest attack on the Central Intelligence Agency in more than two decades. And worse yet, it could have been predicted.

Foto Bureau Nz Limited 

The suicide bomber who struck three years ago today (Dec. 30), killing seven American intelligence officers outside Khost, Afghanistan, was lauded by his wife as a brave martyr and praised by jihadists as the man who outsmarted the CIA. But the truth is that Humam al-Balawi’s actions were driven by the same forces that lead countless teenage boys and girls to kill themselves in less sensational ways each year. 

Like millions of similarly minded people, the 31-year-old Jordanian pediatrician had a fervent interest in Islamic fundamentalism, but no history of violent behavior. However, even before Balawi’s world fell apart, his vulnerabilities were easy to predict. He was 5-foot-7, with a narrow waist and delicate skin. He was scolded by his mother for avoiding social occasions, and his wife worried that he did not go out enough. He became a computer nerd—obsessed with Internet chat rooms and blogs, where he could hide safely behind his keyboard, spread terrorist propaganda, and pretend to be a bigger man. 


Building a Navy That Won’t Sink the Economy

Posted By William S. Lind 
On December 21, 2011 
In Economics,War


America is by geography a maritime state. Even with a vastly shrunken defense budget [1], we must remain a naval power. 

Fortunately, we can. The first reason is that that we face no serious naval challengers. Only Russia and, prospectively, China, have fleets that could contest with ours beyond coastal waters. Russia is not an enemy, and strategy dictates that we not let China become one. 

Second, the end of the Cold War made many of the ships in the U.S. Navy obsolete—including some under construction. Heading the list are cruisers and destroyers armed primarily with the Aegis anti-aircraft system. Third World air forces pose little threat to our ships. A handful of Aegis ships would suffice, especially since the effectiveness of Aegis has never been demonstrated in honest testing. 

Our twelve big aircraft carriers are worth retaining, because big floating boxes with flat tops are useful in a variety of roles, not just to transport aircraft. The same goes for our carrier-like amphibious ships. 

The Navy’s 14 ballistic missile submarines should be retained, because our strategic nuclear forces not only deter other nuclear powers, they also make large-scale conventional warfare unlikely. That saves a lot of money. 

Attack submarines are the modern capital ship, in that they determine command of the sea. The current number of 53 is about right, but new nuclear attack subs should be smaller and cheaper—and we need some non-nuclear boats as well, especially for coastal waters. 

At this point, we find ourselves wanting to keep a lot more ships than we could afford on a $100 billion defense budget. The key to retaining an adequate Navy with much less money is a revival of the centuries-old practice that diminished in the 19th century and disappeared in the 20th. In peacetime, few of the Navy’s ships should be in commission. Most would be in reserve or, to use the 18th-century term, “in ordinary.” 

Drones for South Korea

December 29, 2012 

Less than a month after North Korea’s latest missile test, the Obama administration has offered to sell South Korea advanced spy drones so it can keep a closer eye on its northern adversary. The decision raises some concerns, and Congress would be wise to ask a lot of questions before going along, including whether the deal is part of a comprehensive strategy or just a way to penalize North Korea. 

The proposed $1.2 billion sale of four Global Hawks made by Northrop Grumman was first requested by South Korea several years ago. The drones, remotely piloted aircraft with enhanced surveillance technology, would expand South Korea’s intelligence-gathering capabilities when it takes over wartime control of its troops from the United States in 2015, as previously agreed. The United States has held wartime command since the Korean War; the Seoul government regained peacetime control of its military in 1994. 

South Korea has serious concerns about the North’s nuclear and missile capabilities. But the drones deal would weaken a 34-nation arms agreement called the Missile Technology Control Regime. That agreement was created in 1987 to discourage the export of ballistic missiles and other unmanned systems with a range of at least 300 kilometers, or 186 miles, and a payload of more than half a ton that could include nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Under the agreement’s guidelines, there is a strong presumption that requests to buy these systems should be denied. 

The agreement has already taken one blow this year, when the administration agreed to let South Korea develop longer-range ballistic missiles. Is the proposed deal important enough to make another exception? The burden is on the administration to explain why selling Global Hawks to South Korea does not undermine President Obama’s arms control goals and give cover for Russia, China and others to also sell systems that exceed the guidelines. 

While the drones are intended for intelligence gathering, they could be modified to carry a weapon. If the United States proceeds with the sale, it should include a commitment that South Korea will not arm the drones. 

A General Battles His Own Army

NYT-Books 

THE INSURGENTS 
David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War 
By Fred Kaplan 

December 26, 2012 -- According to Fred Kaplan’s new book about Gen. David H. Petraeus and his attempt to re-envision American military strategy, the general had a philosophy about publicity. “I have a ‘Front Page of The Washington Post’ rule,” he told attendees at a counterinsurgency field manual workshop in 2006. “If you don’t want to see something on the front page of The Washington Post, then don’t do it, don’t say it.” But as Mr. Petraeus would learn in 2012, when he made front-page news with an embarrassing personal transgression, not even the best-made rules cover all conceivable challenges. That point is central to “The Insurgents,” a very readable, thoroughly reported account of how, in American military circles, “counterinsurgency” became a policy instead of a dirty word. 

In 2004 during the Iraq war, counterinsurgency “was still a frowned-upon term inside the Bush administration.” That kind of warfare — what were once called “irregular wars,” “asymmetric wars” or “low-intensity conflicts” — was also overlooked at West Point, Mr. Petraeus’s alma mater. But Mr. Petraeus, who would develop a reputation “as a schemer, a self-promoter and, worst of all, an intellectual,” took an autodidact’s approach to a subject that fascinated him. He learned from “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” by the British Army officer T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), and “Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice,” by David Galula, both dated texts that had uncanny relevance to the Vietnam War and the post-Vietnam era. 

The title of “The Insurgents” is a clever reference to the rebellious, Petraeus-led faction within the American military, not to the guerrilla fighters American soldiers fought abroad. And it is a painstaking, step-by-step account of how these insurgents’ ideas bubbled up into the mainstream. Among the 100-plus interviewees from whom Mr. Kaplan drew information, each became aware of the inadequacy of then-current combat tactics in different ways. The book begins with an epiphany for John A. Nagl, a West Point-educated Army officer turned counterinsurgency theorist who, while driving a tank across southern Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, discovered that the tank-on-tank fighting for which he had trained was all but irrelevant. And yet he had not been trained for less hidebound forms of combat; he cites with approval one cadet’s idea of a new motto for West Point, “Two Hundred Years of Tradition, Unhindered by Progress.” While this book is by no means a valentine to Mr. Petraeus and his fellow innovators, it does acknowledge that innovative military thinking was badly needed after the Sept. 11 attacks. 

Mr. Nagl went on to write a book, “Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife,” which took its title and many precepts from Lawrence of Arabia’s lessons about desert fighting. This book became influential to Mr. Petraeus, as he came to realize that American soldiers were being taught no exit strategy, no peacetime plan. By the time he was a major general in 2003, leading the 101st Airborne to Mosul in Iraq, Mr. Petraeus was ready to implement some of his thinking about how to conduct a counterinsurgency, which the military referred to as COIN. His plans relied on rebuilding, not on breaking down doors in the middle of the night, and it seemed to be succeeding. But Mr. Petraeus was rotated out of Mosul before his effort could achieve results.