1 January 2013

Bedrock of Airpower: A Sound National Aerospace Policy

Issue Courtesy: The Telegraph | Date : 01 Jan , 2013 


It is typical of the Indian security system, that only in times of security crises, does the nation wake up to gross weaknesses in re equipping of the armed forces. Recall the Kargil conflict, when the army Chief was obliged to lament at a press conference that the army would fight with what they had! 

A leadership that is willing to discard old ideas, philosophies and prejudices and look at innovative solutions to new technological challenges. 

As the post-Mumbai terrorist attack security scenario worsened, the rapidly depleting combat force strength of the IAF and its inadequate assets of air defence radars, on which even the Auditor General’s report has been less that flattering, was highlighted. It was left to an erstwhile Air Chief to pour cold water over brave talk of coercive diplomacy when he said ‘When your defences are weak, what are you going to coerce with?’ 

In a nut shell this has been India’s historical track record of defence preparedness rooted primarily in its archaic higher defence management system where responsibility and accountability are far removed. 

Aviation and Space are the most significant technological influences of our times. Technological changes are altering the face of conventional warfare so completely that weapon systems, forces and budgets that were relevant to old military planning and doctrines are rapidly becoming obsolete. The resulting revolution in military affairs demands not an evolutionary change, but a well-conceived transformation of how security is managed, organized and executed. 

Managing these complexities needs leadership at every level that is informed about these issues, is accountable for results and is committed to transformation. A leadership that is willing to discard old ideas, philosophies and prejudices and look at innovative solutions to new technological challenges. In short, our archaic bureaucratic approach to managing national defence research and production must make way for a corporate type mission oriented model. 

India’s Pakistan Policy: A SAGA of Flawed Approaches

Paper No. 5344 Dated 01-Jan-2013 

By Dr Subhash Kapila 

“Delhi’s Pakistan policy has all the emotional intensity of a battered wife with a karmic commitment to marriage. Justice must surrender to appeasement in the pursuit of some higher purpose” 

“He (Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik who recently visited India) is neither unique in Pakistan’s governing elite, nor a maverick; he is dangerous only because he is blunt. He knows the truth about the narrative rife within the cantonment and those caustic by-lanes along the main street which distrust India, despise its secularism and invest in conflict”--------M.J.Akbar, Reputed Indian Columnist in his Column ‘OUT OF TURN’, Times of India, December 23, 2012. 

Introductory Observations 

India’s Pakistan policy has consistently been flawed ever since1947, simply because its apex political leadership and their advisory policy establishments have all along failed to read the mind-sets of Pakistani Establishment. The excerpts quoted above from Mr M J Akbar’s remarkable political analysis along with some more to be quoted below encapsulate all that is wrong with India’s Pakistan appeasement policy. 

Foreign policy analysts like us have constantly highlighted this flaw but it was not taken note of because the Indian policy establishment treated them as voices in the wilderness. But when a reputed policy analyst and eminent media personality like Mr M J Akbar arrives at similar conclusions then it is time for officialdom to take a serious note. India’s national security cannot be made a pawn for personal predilections of the apex level. 

In the first decade of the 21st Century, even after Indian Armed Forces had to fight-of Pakistan-inflicted aggressive wars and two decades of Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism, the Indian policy establishment of both political dispensations persisted with the obsessive mind-sets of peace and peace-dialogues with Pakistan at any cost. 

Lies we tell ourselves - 5 Misconceptions Information Security needs to change

Wh1t3Rabbit| May 25, 2012 

In spite of the state of disarray in the Information Security world where budgets are growing, and CISO's are receiving amandate from senior management - there is still an uneasy misunderstanding of what security is really about even amongst those who practice it.  1.  "Secure" is achievable - I think by now this is one of those myths about security that is fading quickly. I've seen way to many pitches (from vendors, from peers, even internally) that have said "If you (business) gives us (security) X, we will "make you secure". That idea was mental at best, or as the post here is called, an outright lie to ourselves which we passed on to others. The problem with this mindset is this - not only is this mythical state of secure not achievable, but it's also unsustainable, and financially unquantifiable as a finite spend. The prevailing feeling over the last couple of years is that it is possible to reach a state of equilibrium where technical risks are equal to or less than the financial cost to put us in that state. The 'state' is on a continuum and every organization is comfortable with a different place on that continuum... and that's OK.
2.  "Enforcement" is possible - Many CISOs, mostly due to the train wrecks that have taken over the IT news, have gotten power, through mandate. I can probably count on one hand the number of CISOs I directly know who understand that a mandate doesn't necessarily mean you "win", or that anyone that you have dominion over will do anything more than the bare minimum while you're watching them, but ignore you once you walk away. Enforcement is not a way to secure an enterprise ... I've been quoted as saying (in a security context) "You can bring a horse to water, you may even drown it in the pond, but if it doesn't want to drink, it won't" ... which is true. You can't force security onto a business staffed withpeople who have their own agendas, goals and objectives. Sure, you may care about 'security' but odds are developers, project/program managers, operations staff, and other simply are not. Their goals are business-driven objectives including "keep the business operational", "deliver faster" and things like that... all things you may be hindering with your 'mandate'. So while you can attract bees with honey, trying to force them to fly your way probably won't work.

Mint, Cracked, Dog-Eared...

BOOKS 2012 

Personages from across the spectrum tell Outlook about the books in 2012 that helped pass time, or enriched its passage 

Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister 
The World in Our Time By Tapan Raychaudhuri 
First Draft By B.G. Verghese 
Monsoon By Robert Kaplan 
Draft Twelfth Five Year Plan—Planning Commission 


Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) polit bureau member 

“It is always difficult to categorise the best book because there are many good books that you read throughout the year. But the book that impressed me most this year was Confluences, jointly written by Ranjit Hoskote and Ilija Trojanow. It’s a brilliant analysis of connected histories and how different cultures, through confluences, connect us.” 


K. Chandrasekhara Rao, TRS president 

“I enjoyed Alvin Toffler’s novels—Second Wave, Third Wave and Future Shock. I share his belief that ‘tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn’. An extremely interesting book this year is the Urdu translation of the the late deputy chief minister K.V. Ranga Reddy’s biography, by Razaq Farooqi. A line from this that so eloquently signifies our struggle for Telangana: ‘Ghulami ki zindagi se maut achhi hai’. A piece of fiction I am reading is the Srikrishna Committee report.” 


The 12 best* Android apps of the year

*At least according to Google
By Chris Gayomali | December 28, 2012

Google says Evernote allows you to turn your Android device "into an extension of your brain."

Perhaps you were lucky enough to activate one of the the mind-blowingly large number of new Androids and iOs devices — 17.4 million to be exact — on Christmas Day, easily eclipsing the 6.8 million tablets and smartphones activated at the same time last year. We've already covered a few iOS apps to help get you started with your new iPad. But what about new Android owners? If you unwrapped a glitzy new Nexus 7 on Christmas, here, in no particular order, are Google's favorite apps of the year:

1. Zappos
The mobile version of the popular shoe-shopping service is even better than its web counterpart, thanks to an elegant, easy-to-browse user interface. Consider your credit card warned. (Free)

2. Evernote
The popular note-taking app was given a dramatic overhaul this year, making it more usable than ever. Clipping photos, notes, memos, and more has never been this easy. (Free)

3. Pinterest
Pin Grandma's pie recipe for all your followers without ever having to open your laptop. Then give The Week a follow while you're at it. (Free)

The Year of Law

Pratap Bhanu Mehta : Tue Jan 01 2013

If one were to hazard a summary characterisation of the year gone by, and the promise of the year to come, it would be this: India’s citizens are waking up to claim possession of that vital idea, the rule of law. India has been an anomaly: A republic without the rule of law. In a republic, the rule of law is not founded just on populism, the need for deterrence, or some vague idea of the welfare of the people. It is meant to give full expression to the idea that we are free and equal as citizens, that law protects each of us as individuals, grants us the respect and secures our dignity. But this is one experience our republic did not give us. What should have been the site of our liberation became the symbol of our subjugation; the source of our safety became a source of insecurity, and the protector of our dignity often a source of humiliation. 

The law, even in the best of circumstances, carries an aura of theological mystery, of the kind Kafka depicted. Or worse, it can represent the corrupt and manipulable system still so resonantly portrayed in Dickens’ Bleak House. But Indian law did not even aspire to fulfil its republican promise. Instead, it took a structure crafted by a colonial state to reproduce the very arbitrariness that colonial law was designed to secure. Despite some reform in areas ranging from police to land, from personal laws to criminal procedure, a we have not been able to shake off the overweening colonial shadow cast on us. In the colonial state, this structure was held together by a unity of purpose and superb formalist legal craft. The democratic state, in its use of the police, for example, simply wielded that instrument as a tool for subjugation and manipulation. But more insidiously, its practice enshrined all the inequalities that rule of law was meant to overcome. 

The state deliberately made sure that law remained a scarce resource, since its scarcity was itself a source of discretionary power. Protecting rights is not cheap, and a republic unwilling to pay up will suffer. Second, while there has been enormous progressive reform in the law, the sediments of caste, patriarchy, hierarchy and political deference to inherited social structure continue to deeply inflect the daily life of law. As many scholars have shown, these practices silenced and marginalised victims rather than protected them. Third, in the legal culture, the rule of law was replaced by all kinds of inchoate functions: from grandstanding populism to conflict management. What got lost in these legal innovations was the idea that law secures our liberty and equality by being a norm grounded in public reason; it is undermined if it is tethered to the capacious whims of judges who devoted enormous energies to problems they could not solve while ignoring ones they could. Fourth, there was differential access to justice. In the field of criminal law in particular, the disproportionate burden of the legal system fell on the poor. In some ways, India’s elites protected themselves or worked outside the ambit of law. 

Moving forward to go back

Published: January 1, 2013
Chinmaya R. Gharekhan 

The roadmap from Paris explicitly states that the Taliban will be included in Afghanistan’s power structure and given non-elective positions at different levels 

Persistent efforts by multiple western players finally paid off. The Taliban and the Kabul government met officially in Chantilly, a suburb of Paris, on December 20 and 21 under the aegis of a French think tank called the Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique. The Taliban was represented by senior leaders Shahabuddin Dilawar, former Taliban ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Naeem Wardak — both based in Doha. 

The government side was represented by the Higher Peace Council chairman Salahuddin Rabbani. Also participating were Yunus Qanuni, the ideologue of the opposition National Coalition of Afghanistan led by Abdulla Abdulla, Ahmad Zia Massoud, brother of the legendary Tajik commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, as well as representatives of the hardline Hizb-ul-Islam of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar. In all, there were about 20 delegates participating in the talks. 

For an understanding 

It is noteworthy that the Kabul delegation included a sprinkling of non-Pashtun tribes — Massoud, a Tajik, Mohaqqeq, a Hazara leader, and Faizullah Zaki, an Uzbek. Mr. Massoud said there was a new generation which did not believe in war and sought an understanding with the Taliban. The Taliban, for its part, clarified in no uncertain terms that no negotiations with anyone were involved and that the Taliban “wants the world community to listen to our goals;” in other words, the Taliban approached the Paris talks as a platform to air its ideology and demands. 

A few weeks prior to the Chantilly meeting, Kabul had disclosed a ‘Peace Process Roadmap’ consisting of five steps, which sought to outline a vision in which, by 2015, the Taliban, the Hizb-e-Islami and other armed groups will have given up armed opposition. There is reason to believe that this ‘roadmap 2015’ is a joint Afghan-Pakistan draft, prepared in close consultation with the United States. The ‘roadmap’ assumes that all the armed insurgencies will have transformed themselves into political groups and will actively participate in the political and constitutional process, including national elections. The first step focuses on securing Pakistan’s collaboration which would include Pakistan releasing specific Taliban detainees. Pakistan has already repatriated several mid-level Taliban prisoners and might release Mullah Baradar. The second step envisages direct talks with the Taliban, which Pakistan should facilitate, in Saudi Arabia in the first half of 2013. Step three calls for ceasefire and transformation of the Taliban into a political party. The final steps include securing peaceful end to the conflict during the first half of 2014 and moves to sustain the long-term stability of Afghanistan and the region. Lip service is paid in the ‘roadmap’ to the principles of respect for the Afghan constitution and renunciation of ties with al-Qaeda. 

China and India – Challenges Ahead

Posted:Dec 28, 2012 

Kalyan K. Mitra, IPS (Retd.)

1. The 50th Anniversary of the China - India war was marked by a spate of articles in the print media and debates in the prime time TV Channels recalling bitter memories of the military debacle. One wonders if there is a really any point in going on with this exercise of revisiting the past endlessly and for ever. We seem to forget that global and regional politics have undergone fundamental changes during last fifty years. Both China & India have move forward since then. Indeed this is the time to take stock of the current ground realties and look forward to see what lies ahead in the future rather than indulge in self-pity and bemoan the unfortunate events of 1962.

2. China & India are two rising powers of Asia with a combined population of two and a half billion. Both will undoubtedly play much greater role in Asia and the Indian ocean region in the years to come. The economies of both these countries are estimated to grow despite global slowdown. China has done considerably better than India having begun its economic reforms much earlier in 1979 and has displaced Japan as the second largest economy in the World. China’s military modernization has kept pace with its spectacular economic progress. Growing economic strength and military might have shaped the strategic thinking and world view of China’s current leadership and the new fifth generation of leaders who have just assumed power during the 18th CCP Congress in November 2012.

3. The crucial question for sinologists today is that of the future of ideology. The appeal of the communist ideology had already begun to lessen during the Deng era. His successors are facing growing signs of instability and slackening of the party’s grip. The economic reforms have brought about major changes in people’s attitude towards the party and the government. The ever widening economic disparities, rampant corruption, unfulfilled expectations of higher living standards and a host of other factors have given rise to public cynicism. If China fails to reverse this trend by ensuring that the fruits of economic reform are distributed evenly, the legitimacy of the rigid one party system and the relevance of the ruling Communist Party will diminish further. The emergence of a civil society consisting of professionals and private entrepreneurs in major cities and coastal areas have led to visibly weaker presence of the party and the state in many sections of society today. Powerful local stalwarts are often able to lobby effectively and defy central directives. As the ideological appeal of the party declines, the new generation of leaders will be more and more discouraged from experimenting with political reforms. The experience of Gorbachev’s Soviet Union and the former East European states have demonstrated to the ruling elite in China the dangers of toying with political pluralism because it has great potential for destabilizing the polity. The mantra for the new generation of leadership led by Xi Jingping therefore will be tight political control over dissident activities along with gradual, incremental pluralism in social and economic spheres. There are already signs of greater tolerance of diversity and liberal social climate in urban China very different from the past.

Pranab: Narasimha Rao led nation at a critical juncture

Published: January 1, 2013
Special Correspondent 

PTI President Pranab Mukherjee pays tributes to the former Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, in Hyderabad on Monday. 

President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday paid glowing tributes to the former Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and said history would remember him for providing leadership to the nation at a very critical juncture. 

Delivering the inaugural ‘P.V. Narasimha Rao Memorial Lecture’ organised by Hyderabad Media House here, Mr. Mukherjee said the former Prime Minister showed the courage of conviction in leading the nation on the right path of reforms against the heaviest odds. He was one of the few leaders who attracted admirers of different political hues. 

Political sagacity 

Lauding Rao’s political sagacity and far-sightedness, the President described him as the father of the second generation economic reforms. Describing as a “marvellous selection” Rao’s appointment of Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister at a crucial time, Mr. Mukherjee pointed out that he departed from the usual practice of choosing political heavyweights for the post. The two together took the nation on a path that made India an economic powerhouse which the world admired. Recalling the precarious economic situation in 1991, Mr. Mukherjee said the forex reserves were just sufficient to meet two weeks imports. 

He credited Rao with giving a new turn to India’s foreign policy, and said the ‘Look East policy’ launched then paid rich dividends in the economic sphere. 

Rao gave importance to strengthening relationship with ASEAN as an entity. From a sectoral dialogue partner and a full dialogue partner, India’s engagement culminated in Summit-level partnership with ASEAN. 

Rao brought peace to Punjab and held elections, and a popular government under Beant Singh was installed. 

As Congress president, Rao introduced elections for Congress Working Committee members although the All-India Congress Committee was ready to pass a resolution allowing him to nominate them. Describing him as a multifaceted personality, the President said Rao had command over many languages. 

Andhra Pradesh Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan, Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah and Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy paid rich tributes to Rao. Vani Devi, daughter of the former Prime Minister, and K. Ramachandra Murthy, chief editor, The Hans India, an English daily, spoke.

India-Pakistan: Parity by Any Other Name

For those of us who study South Asia, the new year appears to bring cheer with an improvement in trade relations, as well as a step forward with respect to visa related issues. However, for these policies to lead to fruition there is a need for a change in the world view of Pakistan's security establishment. 

Pakistan's weak civilian government, facing a battering in every arena, deserves credit for the efforts it has made in the last few years to improve ties with India. Ironically, a similar hope for improvement in India-Pakistan ties was there even in 1988, led by the same political party, but under a different civilian government. What this demonstrates is that by and large there is a civilian consensus in Pakistan on the need for better ties with India.

Aparna Pande Pakistan

However, if one wishes to know how inflexible Pakistan's security establishment is, one need only read the views expressed by some of their sympathizers and intellectuals. These regime apologists argue that for peace and stability to flourish in the region there must first be "strategic restraint" on the part of India. What this translates into is what I refer to in my book as Pakistan's eternal drive for parity with India. 

According to this argument, since Pakistan has found it impossible to achieve conventional military parity with India, the latter must agree to restrict its conventional capability so that the two reach a happy medium. Further, while Pakistan will not stop building its nuclear weapons, if India restricts its arsenal Pakistan will stop when the two reach equilibrium. It is not clear whether the irony of such an argument is visible to everyone, but it is akin to Mexico asking the U.S. to tailor its forces to achieve a balance between the two. 

Pakistan's desire for parity with India is not new and dates back to its Independence in 1947. Pakistan's founding elites and later leaders drew a parallel between Hindus and Muslims being India's two leading communities, put Pakistan's old Muslim League on par with the Indian National Congress and later argued that Pakistan and India were, in fact, equal. However, while Pakistan has sovereign equality vis-à-vis India (and other countries in the world), there is a difference between sovereign equality and parity. 

Cash Transfers and UID

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 Unique Identification Authority (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).

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

(3) Cash transfers should not substitute for public services.

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

(5) No UID enrolment without a legal framework.

(6) UID applications should be voluntary, not compulsory. 

(7) UID should be kept out of the PDS, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and other essential entitlement programmes for the time being as essential services are not a suitable field of experimentation. 

Many of us have been part of struggles to expand social security pensions and improve their delivery. We 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”. 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 what not. 

We are also firmly opposed to the introduction of cash transfers in lieu of food and other commodities supplied through the PDS, for many reasons. One, subsidised food from the 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. 

Understanding FDI in Retail

What Can Economic Principles Teach Us?

Vol - XLVIII No. 01, January 05, 2013

The recent debate on the acceptability of foreign direct investment in the retail sector in India has been mostly political. It is necessary to look into the pros and cons of FDI in retail from a purely economic point of view. This article identifi es the safeguards that should be undertaken before allowing giant multinationals to function in the country. 

Abhirup Sarkar (abhirup@isical.ac.in) is with the Indian Statistical Institute Calcutta, Kolkata. 

The recent policy of allowing 51% foreign direct investment (FDI) in multibrand retail has generated political feuds rather than proper economic debates. Politicians seldom speak with ifs and buts; their arguments are rarely burdened with caveats, warnings and qualifications. They take one­dimensional positions and avoid complicated reasoning with a view to be specific and not confuse their audience. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that the political parties which are advocating FDI in retail refuse to accept that there is any dark side to it while those who are opposing the policy see none of its positive aspects. But the proposed policy is primarily an economic one and like many such policies it is likely to affect different groups of people differently. It is, therefore, both necessary and desirable to understand the possible effects of the policy on the overall economy and on the groups and fragments of people lying within it. In short, the economic truth, lying somewhere in between the two extreme positions politicians have taken, needs to be carefully located. 

Before we get into such an endeavour, the salient features of the proposed FDI policy in multibrand retail may be collected. The policy, which was cleared by the union cabinet on 24 November 2011, allows up to 51% foreign equity in a retail company, provided the total investment by foreigners in the company is at least $100 million. Of this foreign ­investment, onehalf is to be invested in backend infrastructure including cold chains, refrigeration, transportation, packing, sorting and processing. These investments will be allowed only in ­cities with a population of more than one million. According to the 2011 Census, there are 53 such cities out of a total of 7,935 cities and towns in the country. Finally, the retail company receiving the FDI is required to source at least 30% of its ware from Indian micro and small enterprises which have capital investment of not more than $1 million. 

Maldives moving away from India, tilting towards China?

Posted:Dec 31, 2012 

N. Sathiya Moorthy

As 2012 draws to a close, the question uppermost in the minds of Maldives watchers is if the country was moving away from the strategic sphere of Indian influence, and has begun tilting towards China, as is often suspected in the case of other nations in the Indian Ocean neighbourhood, near and afar. There are no ready answers that are convincing, but there is nothing to suggest that a ministerial visit here or a bilateral issue of commercial consequences for India there has the potential to effect that change, that too overnight.

There are not as many Maldives watchers the world over as there are international tourists. And most tourists are apolitical holidayers who enjoy the quiet and the sun and sand for which they return year after year, when their pockets are full. When back-home economy is stifling for no fault of theirs but that of their governments, holidaying in Maldives faces the axe. It is a terrible thing for the archipelago-nation’s economy, which found new sustenance in resort-tourism decades ago, and is unable to – or unwilling to – diversify. The scope and options are also limited.

Thus, the arrival of Chinese budget-tourists to Maldives also makes news in strategic circles. They have accounted for 25 percent of all arrivals these past years, but their spending-style does not encourage high-cost resort-tourism; yet, it keeps the sector going in troubled years. But it is bilateral visits by political and military leaders from one country to the other that makes for greater news for the strategic community. How it could be different from any such visit between leaders of Maldives and other countries, barring the immediate Indian neighbour and Sri Lanka, too, is the unasked – and hence, unanswered – question, though.

India has had a relatively longer strategic and security ties with Maldives in the contemporary era, compared to China and other extra-territorial players, barring the U.K. As a British Protectorate, as different from a British colony that India and Sri Lanka were, Maldives prides itself at having the Royal Air Force (RAF) quit at their bidding in 1965.

Independence for Maldives was triggered, incidentally, by a row over extending the runway of the Male airport, connecting the national capital to the rest of the world, mostly through Colombo, Sri Lanka. This was followed by the RAF exit from the Gan Airport in the southernmost extreme, where it had a refuelling base since the Second World War. Until Indian armed forces intervened at the behest of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – and left promptly afterward – to quell a coup-bid, there has not been any foreign military presence in the way it is understood.

Nepal: the constitutional Holy Grail

Posted:Dec 28, 2012 

by Sheel Kant Sharma

As the year draws to a close, an end to uncertainty in Nepal seems elusive. While the government of Maoist Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has been busy claiming accomplishments of the past year in terms of governance and reforms undertaken, the political parties are generally indifferent to governance issues.

The year saw the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly after the lapse of the May 27 deadline for drafting a Constitution by consensus. Nonetheless, the government has continued on a presidential decree and by grudging acceptance of all parties subject to multiple demands, conditions and deadlines; all aimed at fresh elections for the Constituent Assembly next spring. Before embarking on a five-day visit to India on December 24, President Rambaran Yadav met all parties and set the sixth deadline, December 29, for them to forge consensus on a national unity government for holding of elections.

The main political parties remain divided as to who should lead such a government, as also about the conditions for the elections. The Nepalese Congress, the UML, and the UpendraYadav group of Madhesi politics are opposed to Bhattarai continuing as PM and are supporting NC leading it. Pushpa Dahal ‘Prachanda’, as leader of the Maoist party, UCPN(M), is also ready to accept NC’s Koirala as PM if the NC agrees on a package deal, comprising agreement on amendments to electoral laws, appointments to constitutional posts as also the date for the elections in April/May 2013. At the last UCPN (M) meeting he appeared sanguine about the package getting all parties’ support.

On the other hand, PM Bhattarai leads a UCPN (M) faction unwilling to cede power to NC and wants the present government transformed in to a national unity government for elections.In this intra-party divide, Dahal has support of Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Bogati in the UCPN (M) office bearers’ committee duly authorized for engaging opposition parties on the Dahal package. An important group of Madhesi parties, the UDMF, which is part of ruling coalition, has indicated willingness to let present government continue and has generally opposed a national unity government led by National Congress’s Koirala. Madhesi groups are also driven by aspirations of a genuinely inclusive federal constitution and insist on commitments to the same by all parties.

The Madhesi Morcha, which is part of ruling coalition, has articulated demands for deciding who should lead the government for the elections in April-May 2013 by a nine-point package, which scarcely allows a NC led national unity government. Neither Dahal nor Bhattarai were able to forge consensus till reports last came in. 

A Middle East Islamicized, or balkanized?


We see in the “Arab Spring” (or “Winter”) that elections have not been accompanied by minorities’ rights being protected, a central feature of real democracies.  
Two decades ago, Yugoslavia, a third larger than Syria, broke into multiple political entities: Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.

As a state it had existed in several forms since the First World War. Its peoples used two alphabets, hosted several religions, spoke four languages, comprised two major races and included several nationalities.

For decades it has been commonplace to describe the Middle East as “Arab-Muslim,” as though it belongs to them exclusively. In reality, the region’s multitude of minorities considered together may be a majority.

Populations may be categorized by religion, ethnicity, language, race, nationality and perhaps other variables. For example, people of Syria define themselves not only as Syrian but also Alawite, Sunni, Shi’ite, Druse, Kurd and Christian.

Consider further major population identities.

Iranians are mostly Persian, not Arab.

Iran is home to Shi’ite Islam (as compared to Sunni Islam, the center of gravity of which is Saudi Arabia) and also home to the Zoroastrian and Baha’i religions. Its people speak Farsi, not Arabic.

What 2012 has meant for Afghanistan

30 December 2012

After nearly a year of tense relations between all the major players in Afghanistan, there was at the end of 2012 a flurry of diplomatic activity that once again raised expectations for peace, writes journalist and author Ahmed Rashid. 

The renewed hope centred around a dramatic shift by Pakistan's military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which for the first time implemented measures which could prod the Taliban to open a dialogue with Kabul. 

The ISI had spent the year jailing up to 100 Taliban leaders and fighters for daring to talk to the Kabul regime, the Americans or the UN. 

But by December the ISI had freed 19 of them and promised to free all the rest, including the Taliban No 2, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. 

The ISI now promised to urge every Talib it freed to encourage their leaders to enter into talks with Kabul that could lead to a ceasefire as early as next year, allowing the US and Nato to peacefully exit the country in 2014 and leave hope that a civil war would not automatically follow. 

In the second half of the year, important meetings of the core group of countries looking for a settlement - the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan - were hosted by Turkey, Britain and in Central Asian capitals. The Taliban met Afghans from the Northern Alliance who oppose them, first in Kyoto, Japan in June and then in Paris in December. Acute divisions 

Nevertheless, the year started poorly. The hoped-for breakthrough in the secret talks between the US, Germany and the Taliban that took place in Qatar in 2011 and early 2012 failed to come about. 

The first confidence-building measure, intended to be the release by the US of five Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for the Taliban freeing US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, broke down. 

Pakistan: The most dangerous country in the world

Issue Courtesy: Uday India | Date : 28 Dec , 2012

Attack on NATO supllies

The subcontinent of South Asia has inexorably been developing into a cauldron of violence ever since the origins of Islam in Arabia and its steady expansion to the east. Here it clashed with Hinduism a religion that was an antithesis of Islam and over the centuries this unhappy mix has been smoldering and has now reached a point where there is likely to be a furious conflagration. During the course of the history of this subcontinent there have been many watersheds, ever since the advent of Islam into this region. The first serious clashes took place in the hot plains of North India when the Muslim armies clashed with the Hindu Rajput rulers. After some fierce battles, the Hindu peoples settled under the kings of the Muslim Sultanates of the earlier dynasties of the Slave kings, until the Mughals stabilized a Caliphate in North India. The Mughals after Aurangzeb declined and the dynasty petered out. 

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, thought that since the road to Jammu from Amritsar would have to pass through Gurudaspur district, Jammu and Kashmir would automatically fall into Pakistan’s hands.

When the British East India Company was ruling the country, there was a second watershed between Hindu and Muslim cultures. This was the Sepoy Mutiny, when the rigid Wahabi philosophy was brought to India by Muslims who went for the annual Haj pilgrimage. While Hindu and Muslim sepoys were involved in the Mutiny against the British, the Sikhs and the Gurkhas did not side with the mutineers. The revolt was crushed and the British Government then took over the reins of the Government. The medium of administration was Urdu during the reign of the Mughals. After the British Government took over the reins of government after the Sepoy Mutiny, they changed the medium of administration to English. This had a major impact on the domination of the Muslims in administration. It was the Hindus who took to English education and who also took advantage of the hundreds of Catholic Convents and Protestant Mission schools that were set up by the Proselytising Christian missionaries both Protestant and Catholic. In a couple of years, the Muslim community had declined in Government. 

A CIA reading list

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks
December 31, 2012

As you compile your resolutions for the new year, Best Defense is offering three different reading lists to help you. Here is a list from CIA veteran Hayden Peake. One reason I don't write much about intelligence is that I don't know much about it -- as this list reminds me -- I haven't read any of them. But he does

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance: Acquisitions, Policies and Defense Oversight, by Johanna A. Montgomery (ed.). 

The Dictionary of Espionage: Spyspeak into English, by Joseph C. Goulden. 

Black Ops Vietnam: The Operational History of MACVSOG, by Robert M. Gillespie. 

Classical Spies: American Archaeologists with the OSS in World War II Greece, by Susan Heuck Allen. 

Dealing With the Devil: Anglo-Soviet Intelligence Cooperation During the Second World War, by Dónal O'Sullivan. 

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies, by Ben Macintyre 

Enemies: A History of the FBI, by Tim Weiner. 

Franco's Friends: How British Intelligence Helped Bring Franco To Power In Spain, by Peter Day. 

Gentleman Spymaster: How Lt. Col. Tommy 'Tar' Robertson Double-crossed the Nazis, by Geoffrey Elliott. 

The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War, by Joshua Kurlantzick. 

Joe Rochefort's War: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway, by Elliot Carlson, with a foreword by RAdm. Donald "Mac" Showers, USN (Ret.). 

Malayan Spymaster: Memoirs of a Rubber Planter Bandit Fighter and Spy, by Boris Hembry. 

Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence, by I.C. Smith and Nigel West. 

Israel's Silent Defender: An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Israeli Intelligence, by Amos Gilboa and Ephraim Lapid (eds.). 

Learning from the Secret Past: Cases in British Intelligence History, by Robert Dover and Michael S. Goodman (eds.). 

Main Intelligence Outfits of Pakistan, by P.C. Joshi. 

The Politics of Counterterrorism in India: Strategic Intelligence and National Security in South Asia, by Prem Mahadevan. 

Stalin's Man in Canada: Fred Rose and Soviet Espionage, by David Levy. 

Stasi Decorations and Memorabilia: Volume II, by Ralph Pickard, with a foreword by Ambassador Hugh Montgomery.

The Navy’s new reading list

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks 
December 31, 2012

You can have personal reading lists and professional reading lists. Here is the Navy's official compilation. It is quite different from Admiral Kirby's, but both are useful and interesting. Explanations and additional info here

1812: The Navy's War 

Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security

SEAL of Honor 

Wake of the Wahoo 

Shield and Sword 

The Gamble 


Crisis of Islam 

Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal 

Red Star Over the Pacific 

Execute Against Japan 

The Man from Pakistan 

Time Management from the Inside Out 

The Morality of War 

In the Shadow of Greatness 

Wired for War 

A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy 

Navigating the Seven Seas 

An admiral’s surprising reading list

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks 
December 31, 2012

By Rear Adm. John Kirby 
Chief of Naval Information 

Here are 15 books that have made an enormous impact on me, personally and professionally. Indeed, I can honestly say that each of these has affected not only the way I do my job, but the way I think about the way I do my job. 

These are books I have read and re-read several times and often give as gifts. 

It's not an all-inclusive list by any stretch. I love to read lots of different stuff. There are no works of fiction on it, for example, and there are no works of naval history -- both of which I enjoy immensely. I chose, rather, specific books that have helped me make sense of the world around me and shaped the ways in which I try to communicate for the institution. 

I claim no particular expertise in public relations. I've never received any formal education in the field. These books, then, have largely served as my reference library for a career built through "on-the-job" training. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. 

1. On Writing Well, by William Zinsser 

This is THE definitive book on how to write powerfully and clearly, everything from memoirs and travel pieces to science and technology articles. Right in the opening pages -- on page five in fact -- he talks about the unspoken transaction between a writer and his readers: "Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from paragraph to the next, and it's not a question of gimmicks to ‘personalize.' It's a question of using the English language in a way that will achieve the greatest clarity and strength." If you want to write with clarity and strength -- and we should ALL want to do that -- this is the book you need to read. Then pick it up a few months later and read it again. 

2. Brave Men, by Ernie Pyle 

War is messy and ugly, cruel and destructive. But it is also a STORY, a story of drama and skill and pain and suffering. It is tragedy and comedy all rolled into one, the exclamation point at the end of the human sentence. Nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- tells that story better or more simply than Ernie Pyle did. Brave Men, first published in 1943, is a collection of his syndicated columns from the time he landed with our troops at Sicily until the liberation of Paris. He writes about World War II from the perspective of the troops, from the average Joe. There isn't a lot of strategy in this book, but there is an awful lot of heart. 

The Global Linguistic Revolution

The world's fastest growing language is no language at all. 

The Observer, where I work, is housed in a flashy modern glass cube in central London, overlooking Regent's Canal. The crystal cliff face of the newsroom reflects sky and water, jet travel and chugging barges. The English language my co-workers and I use also reflects a duality: Part of it is grounded in dictionaries and traditional grammar, while another, more modern part reflects a global dialect energized by the digital revolution. 

A sign of the times, not so very long ago, was a memo the Observer's staff received from our editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger. His note contained 10 propositions about the implications of a global readership: "There is no such thing as Abroad," it began. "Most of our readers are ‘foreign'." Alluding to the 50 million visitors who access our website from across the globe each day, the memo also issued a declaration fraught with significance for the deployment of language across the world today. "No economy is an island," declared Rusbridger. "Technology is global." 

We're not just seeing a revolution in the newspaper business -- we're seeing a linguistic revolution. English is running riot across the globe, becoming, in the words of anthropologist Benedict Anderson, "a kind of global-hegemonic post-clerical Latin." From my British perspective, this Olympic year has exposed variants of our language to a global audience of billions. The ups-and-downs of the U.S. presidential race, the dramas of Kate's pregnancy, the plot twists of Downtown Abbey: These political and cultural landmarks are now being retailed to a world audience.