8 January 2013

Ajai Shukla: None so blind as those who will not see

Even jihadis infiltrating across the Line of Control into J&K have been found to have better night vision devices than the lavishly funded Indian Army

Ajai Shukla / Jan 08, 2013

Thanks to the defence ministry’s (MoD’s) outdated belief that it must fill the order book of Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), India’s military remains handicapped in night-fighting against all its likely adversaries. Even jihadis infiltrating across the Line of Control into J&K have been found to have better night vision devices (NVDs) than the lavishly funded Indian Army that is tasked to intercept them. Worryingly, this disadvantage could continue. The reason: the MoD is set to tailor its future requirements of NVDs to what BEL can supply, rather than to what the army badly needs.

In a proposed MoD tender for 45,000 NVDs, an initial buy that would expand into contracts worth thousands of crores of rupees, BEL is asking MoD officials to water down the specifications of the “third-generation” NVDs that the army badly wants. While the army wants NVDs with a “Figure of Merit” (or FOM) rating of 1700 plus, BEL wants the specifications set at FOM 1400 plus. That is because BEL does not have the ability to deliver FOM 1700 plus NVDs in the quantities that the army wants.Peering through an NVD with FOM 1400 plus, a soldier can see clearly at dusk or dawn, and enjoy acceptable vision with a quarter moon or brighter. FOM 1600 plus permits clear vision even in starlight, that is, on a clear night with no moon. But the army wants FOM 1700 plus, which would allow soldiers to see clearly in pitch darkness, like on heavily clouded, moonless nights, or at night in a thick jungle. These, the army rightly points out, are the conditions that it often operates in.

In response to this demand, two Indian companies – BEL and Tata Power’s Strategic Electronics Division ( Tata Power SED) – confirmed to the MoD’s Services Capital Acquisition Plan Categorisation Committee ( SCAPCC) that they could supply the army with NVDs with a rating of FOM 1700 plus. On BEL’s part that was apparently a bluff — because now, with procurement being finalised, MoD officials are getting quiet requests from BEL to dilute the specifications so that it can remain in the race.

BEL’s apparent inability to supply NVDs with FOM 1700 plus comes despite the MoD having twice splashed taxpayer money on foreign night vision technology for the Bangalore-headquartered defence public sector undertaking (DPSU). In the 1990s, Dutch company Delft provided “second-generation” technology, setting up a joint venture with BEL before walking out of it. As recently as 2010-11, the MoD handed more than Rs 100 crore to French company Photonis to give BEL “supergen” technology rated at FOM 1250 plus. Once again BEL failed to absorb this technology; it did not enhance its own technological capabilities in night vision; and it did not evolve the received technology into more advanced versions.

None so blind as those who will not see

By Ajai Shukla 
Business Standard, 8th Jan 13 

Thanks to the defence ministry’s (MoD’s) outdated belief that it must fill the order book of Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), India’s military remains handicapped in night fighting against all its likely adversaries. Even jehadis infiltrating across the Line of Control into J&K have been found to have better night vision devices (NVDs) than the lavishly funded Indian Army that is tasked to intercept them. Worryingly, this disadvantage could continue. The reason: the MoD is set to tailor its future requirements of NVDs to what BEL can supply, rather than to what the army badly needs. 

In a proposed MoD tender for 45,000 NVDs, an initial buy that would expand into contracts worth thousands of crore rupees, BEL is asking MoD officials to water down the specifications of the “third generation” NVDs that the army badly wants. While the army wants NVDs with a “Figure of Merit” (or FOM) rating of 1700 plus, BEL wants the specifications set at FOM 1400 plus. That is because BEL does not have the ability to deliver FOM 1700 plus NVDs in the quantities that the army wants. 

Peering through an NVD with FOM 1400 plus, a soldier can see clearly at dusk or dawn, and enjoy acceptable vision with a quarter moon or brighter. FOM 1600 plus permits clear vision even in starlight, i.e. on a clear night with no moon. But the army wants FOM 1700 plus, which would allow soldiers to see clearly in pitch darkness, like on heavily clouded, moonless nights, or at night in a thick jungle. This, the army rightly points out, are the conditions that it often operates in. 

In response to this demand, two Indian companies --- BEL and Tata Power’s Strategic Electronics Division (Tata Power SED) --- both confirmed to the MoD’s Services Capital Acquisition Plan Categorisation Committee (SCAPCC) that they could supply the army with NVDs with a rating of FOM 1700 plus. On BEL’s part that was apparently a bluff because now, with procurement being finalised, MoD officials are getting quiet requests from BEL to dilute the specifications so that it can remain in the race. 


The challenges to Indian foreign policy in 2013 will be largely those of 2012, as the year that has ended neither substantially added to nor subtracted from the gamut of issues facing the country. 

The India-US relationship has entered the less exciting phase of implementing the voluminous cooperation agenda covering more than a score of political and economic dialogues on counter-terrorism, Afghanistan, China, global commons, energy, agriculture, science and technology, IT, health, education and the like. The two sides will remain occupied with this ambitious agenda in 2013. 


To create an enabling environment for increased economic exchanges, the US will continue to advocate more economic reforms, increased liberalization of the financial sector, improved regulatory framework and a more predictable tax code. Progress on these issues, of interest to all our economic partners and not the US alone, will be determined largely by the dynamics of our domestic debate, not external expectations, and will therefore be slow. With president Obama’s re-election India’s concerns about outsourcing and the hike in fees for H1B and L1 visas for its professionals will persist in 2013. 

In the larger backdrop of the stalled recovery of the US economy, the Eurozone crisis and lower growth rates in India itself, India’s image, which lost lustre in 2012, will not recover it in 2013 either. For India to play a role in reforming the global economic and financial architecture, geting back to the trajectory of 8 to 9% growth is required, but this is unlikely to be achieved soon. 

This has a bearing on foreign policy as India has gathered external strength from its high growth rates and the rising attractiveness of its market. While the medium to longer term outlook on India remains positive, in the shorter term declining growth rates, coupled with poor governance, affect India’s image as an investment destination and weakens its hand in international dealings. 

Costs of lowering our guard

Author: Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

There is lack of vision and financial management on the part of the Defence Ministry and the Armed Forces. As a result, the country ends up squandering most of its defence budget on wasteful peacockery and so-called big-ticket reforms

There are several way of looking at the recently announced five per cent cut in the defence allocation for this budgetary year amounting to some Rs10,000 crore. The negatives are obvious — most of the cuts will be to the capital account. This means most acquisitions will be the most hard hit. Indications are that the Rafale deal for the Air Force, the light helicopter deal for the Army and the raising of the mountain strike corps, will be severely affected. Besides this cut, the additional Rs40,000 crore reportedly being sought for modernisation will also in all probability not be had. Consequently the three services have reportedly been asked to prioritise their acquisitions.

As the saying goes, history repeats itself usually as a tragedy. Historically the militarily relevant period here, when defence was starved of funds, dates back to the China war of 1962 for much the same reasons. Then, as now, reckless spending on ill-conceived socialist projects saw to it that defence never really got what it wanted in terms of finances. Historians give Jawaharlal Nehru a clean chit for this, claiming quite rightly that then Union Minister for Finance Morarji Desai did not give what then Union Minister for Defence Krishna Menon asked for. All this conveniently ignores the fact that the precarious economic situation was precisely one of Nehru’s making. Then, as now, tainted Ministers — and Krishna Menon was seriously tainted due to his involvement in the purchase of defective Army jeeps — survived merely because of their loyalty to the dynasty, despite their proven incompetence.

This, however, is one side of the story. The other side is the lack of proper vision or financial management on the part of the Defence Ministry and Armed Forces themselves, which means that India squanders most of its defence budget on wasteful peacockery and big-ticket items.

A lot of this has to do with the complete lack of a strategic vision. Notably, self-defeating obstinacy usually masquerading under the guise of ‘strategic autonomy’ would be the main culprit. In the narrowest sense, strategic autonomy would mean the ability to hit Pakistan with US weapons free from US reproach or the threat of sanctions. In the broadest sense, this could mean that India should be able to mount an independent invasion of Lichtenstein hidden high in the Alps. The problem of course is that a generalist bureaucracy guiding a generalist Minister simply cannot narrow down the scope of strategic autonomy to something tangible and workable.

What this means is that the Armed Forces are required to spread their resources very thin over a broad spectrum of threats. What this results in is that India chooses by its own volition to be a jack of all trades and master of none. The jack-of-all-trades state comes about largely because of inter-Service rivalry — jockeying for scarce resources. Given that we trumpet civilian supremacy in this country, it falls to the civilian bureaucrats and their civilian Minister to then prioritise acquisition. The problem here is that defence — specifically the nature of modern warfare and the complexity of the acquisition process — is a heavily technical subject requiring knowledge of the industry, technology and its processes and of war. One just needs to look at the service directory to see that none of the ‘civvies’ in the Ministry have any such experience. Prioritisation, therefore, falls prey to a substandard debate based on half-baked facts and half-baked knowledge.

A 'Zero Option' for Afghanistan

Yes, President Karzai, we might pull out completely. 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit this week to Washington marks one of the final big decision points in America's 11-year Afghanistan war. This week's meetings are likely to determine the final U.S. footprint in Afghanistan after 2014, when all international combat operations are slated to end. And that residual number of U.S. forces could well be zero. 

Recent reports suggest that the White House is looking at troop options ranging from 3,000 to as many as 15,000 stay-behind troops. Many think that the final figure will be well under 10,000. These numbers are much diminished from proposals seriously considered even 12 to 24 months ago of a long-term presence in the range of 20,000 to 35,000 troops. The realities of shrinking budgets and crumpled public support for the war have dramatically trimmed those expectations. In recent weeks, vigorous debate has been under way inside the administration in advance of Karzai's visit to sort out a minimalist approach that will protect long-term U.S. interests in the region, but do so with the absolute leanest outlay of dollars and troops. 

Karzai comes to this week's discussions convinced that the United States desperately needs long-term military bases in Afghanistan. He sees an America without other viable options to maintain its regional influence, cajole Pakistan, threaten Iran, or launch raids against nearby terrorists. Because of this, Karzai thinks that he holds all the cards in the upcoming negotiations. He is absolutely convinced that the United States has no workable strategic choice but to station substantial U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014. 

But Karzai has it wrong. There is strong sentiment in the United States to look at all the options. Here are five reasons why: 

Gilgit-Baltistan in limbo

by Syed A Hussein 

The author highlights the pathetic state of those living in Gilgit-Baltistan. Hope show the Paki Govt shows as much concern for these people as it does for the residents of J&K.

In spite of efforts to integrate with Pakistan, the people of the region have been repeatedly ignored and deprived of their fundamental rights such as the right to vote, representation in the National Assembly and Senate etc.

Until the pronouncement of the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946, Dogra Raj prevailed in Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir. When the princely states were given the autonomy to accede to either Pakistan or India, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, after liberation from Dogra oppression, acceded to the nascent Pakistani state. In recognition of this, constitutional recognition by the Pakistani state was promised, which remains a pipedream.

The Foreign Office decisively linked the then Northern Areas with Kashmir to win the support of the people in case of a plebiscite on Kashmir. The people of the region have since been bearing the brunt of this flawed policy and resultantly, the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan has been in limbo.

In 1949, the Karachi Agreement was signed between the Government of Pakistan and representatives of Azad Kashmir and the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference to ratify administrative control of Pakistan over Gilgit-Baltistan without the consent of any representative body from the area. Such forces, in connivance with the establishment, have been actively touting Gilgit-Baltistan as a part of Kashmir, which is wrong.

The only thing common between the two is that both remained under Dogra Raj for a period. It, therefore, seems illogical to link the fate of the people of Gilgit-Balistan with the Kashmir issue. Veteran Indian politician Dr Karan Singh — son of the former maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir — publicly apologised to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan for the forcible occupation of the region by his ancestors. He said that the governments of Pakistan, India and Kashmir must acknowledge that Gilgit-Baltistan is not part of Kashmir and their reunification is not possible.

Bench Press

It doesn't matter that Chuck Hagel is a Republican -- or even a defense expert. 

With President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense, some analysts and many Democrats will bemoan the fact that a Democratic president once again needs to rely on a Republican to fill a top national security position. According to this view, the Democratic national security bench is much thinner than the Republicans'. But, since the end of World War II, presidents have often appointed members of the other party (as well as career civil servants) to key posts. 

Yes, President Clinton appointed a Republican senator, William Cohen, to succeed Democratic defense intellectual William Perry as secretary of defense late in his second term. But George W. Bush kept on Clinton appointee George Tenet as his first CIA director. Likewise, right after his election, Richard Nixon offered the post of secretary of defense to Democratic Senator Henry Jackson, and the man who was eventually confirmed as secretary, Melvin Laird, kept on many Democrats, including Paul Warnke, when he took over the Pentagon. Reagan appointed former Jackson staffer Richard Perle, former Carter Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz, and Democratic heavyweight Paul Nitze to key posts on his national security team. 

President Obama did keep a Bush appointee, Robert Gates, on as his secretary of defense, but Gates is a career CIA officer who, as he noted repeatedly, had served under seven presidents from both parties throughout his four decades in government. Moreover, George W. Bush's first secretary of state, General Colin Powell, was a career military officer who had served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bill Clinton and who had actually been offered the post of secretary of state by Clinton. And Reagan appointed career Foreign Service Officer Frank Carlucci, who had served as deputy CIA director in the Carter administration, to be both deputy secretary and then secretary of defense. 

Not only have presidents often gone outside their own parties to fill key national security posts, they've often gone outside the national security establishment altogether. George Shultz, Reagan's secretary of state, is an economist who served in the Nixon administration as labor secretary, as head of the Office of Management and Budget, and then as treasury secretary. Reagan's secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, had also run OMB and was secretary of health, education, and welfare in the Nixon administration. In addition, one of his national security advisors, William Clark, was a judge in California. 

Reinventing China, Again

China made it big by saving money. Now it needs to spend it. 

Note: This article is an abridged version of an in-depth country study produced as part of the Prosperity Index project of the Legatum Institute. Complete versions of all 12 are available on the Institute website. 

For much of the five centuries in which China has showed its face to the West, foreigners have been preoccupied with how to make money in the Middle Kingdom. The dream seems especially vivid right now, as China hints that it is reinventing itself as a consumer economy. 

But that transition won't be easy. First, to move the economy into the big leagues, it will need to build supporting institutions ranging from comprehensive pension and health care systems to far more sophisticated financial markets. Second, China will need to change from a dazzlingly successful export machine to a balanced economy that both meets the needs of domestic consumers and plays a stabilizing role in the global economy. Third, it must manage its growing geopolitical power and hunger for raw materials carefully in order to preserve the benefits of global economic integration. 

FIRST PHASE: 1978 - 1989 

Post-revolutionary China first strayed from its ideological redoubt in 1978 -- the year Deng Xiaoping cautiously led his impoverished nation away from 29 years of central economic planning and state ownership. Back then, state enterprises made up 78 percent of the China's productive capacity, and collectives owned the rest. One billion Chinese lived (and sometimes starved) on collective farms. Per capita income was around $500 a year in today's purchasing power. 

Chuck Hagel's Biggest Task

Obama's new defense secretary will first and foremost need to get the Asia pivot right. 

Chuck Hagel may be a former grunt, but his most important task as America's next secretary of defense -- should his nomination pass the Senate -- could be a trying job for a landlubber: executing the military component of the Obama administration's pivot to Asia. It's a mission that will require an appreciation for the finer points of maritime strategy, a deft diplomatic touch, and an expansive worldview. 

But first, Hagel must understand what the pivot is, while viewing it against the grand sweep of U.S. diplomatic history. A historically and geostrategically minded secretary will stand a good chance of configuring the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard prudently -- and of arranging sea-service forces on the map to accomplish America's goals. 

What is a foreign-policy pivot? Metaphors have their uses, but they can distort meaning if deployed cavalierly. A pivot is a central shaft, axle, or pin around which machinery rotates. The engineering metaphor encourages practitioners and commentators to interpret the administration's initiative in physical, geospatial terms. In these literal terms, Washington, D.C. is presumably the axle around which U.S. foreign policy revolves. Hence many observers' lament that the United States is turning its back on perennial theaters like the Atlantic community to oversee events in East and South Asia. There's a degree of truth to this, but applying the pivot metaphor implies an about-face. Seldom are things that pat. 

I define a pivot as a foreign-policy enterprise that combines elements of geography, strategy, and diplomacy to mount a sustained presence in some distant and potentially contested overseas theater. In military terms, pivoting means building up preponderant armed might in East and South Asia in concert with friends and allies to accomplish strategic and political goals. Pivoting is a matter of strategic mass, strategic maneuver, and alliance relations. It also means setting priorities. American leaders must be prepared to relegate secondary theaters to secondary status, lest they scatter finite resources hither and yon. Dispersal thins out military power at any spot on the map, perhaps leaving U.S. commanders at a local disadvantage against weaker foes. Armed forces that try to do everything, everywhere, at the same time end up doing little anywhere. 

Chinese Armoured Regiment Exercises in Xinjiang Area

Paper No. 4351 Dated 08-Jan-2013 

By B. Raman 

Citing chinamil.com, the “People’s Daily” of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has reported as follows on January 8, 2013: 

1. “Recently, an armored regiment under the Xinjiang Military Area Command (MAC) of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) organized dozens of armored vehicles to conduct drill on snow-capped plateau, in a bid to temper troops' combat capability under extreme cold condition. (chinamil.com.cn/Liu Yong)” 

2. The report also carried two photographs of the exercise by the PLA Armoured Regiment. No other details are available. The report does not give the exact location of the exercise area. 

3. The exercise raises the following questions of significance: 
Was the exercise connected with the internal security situation in the Xinjiang province which has been facing an anti-Beijing revolt by sections of the Uighurs, some of them allegedly belonging to the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan which has bases in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (FATA)?
Was the exercise also connected with the recently-reported deployment of some Chinese security guards in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan to provide security to Chinese construction teams working on various projects in the GB area, including the upgradation of the Karakoram Highway?
Were the exercises carried out in co-ordination with Pakistan?

4. These are questions which need probing by the Indian intelligence.

The top risks of 2013

Posted By Ian Bremmer 
January 7, 2013

Today, The Call presents our top risks for 2013. Click HERE for Eurasia Group's complete report. 

1. Emerging markets -- The era of emerging market abundance is finished. As the United States and Europe slowly regain their economic footing, the political risk focus will return to the emerging market world, where differences among the largest players will become more obvious. Slower growth and rising expectations from larger and more demanding middle classes will create public pressure on governments, meaning that emerging markets -- including the increasingly suspect BRICs -- should no longer be treated as an asset class for outsized growth. Consideration instead should shift toward which developing country governments have enough political capital to remain on track to a more advanced stage of development.

2. China vs. information -- China's new leadership faces many challenges in 2013, most importantly the state's growing inability to control the flow of ideas and information across borders and within the country. Until now Beijing has been largely effective in isolating online discourse to focus on discrete issues without culminating in real challenges to the government's decision-making or policy. But every corruption scandal and example of official malfeasance makes the next event more difficult to navigate, and the risk is that a broad-based social movement for change will gain momentum in China in 2013, distracting the government from its domestic and foreign policy priorities and potentially weakening investor confidence in the stability of the mainland market.

3. Arab Summer -- We are far beyond the Arab Spring, and an Arab Winter, where dictators rebound and consolidate power, has not materialized. Instead we are approaching an Arab Summer, whereby the region will witness radicalized movements -- both sectarian and Islamist -- playing a much more important role. As outside powers look to avoid direct involvement in the region's risks, local powers -- Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others -- will compete for influence and play out their rivalries. At the center of this lies Syria, whose civil war now has implications that extend far beyond the humanitarian. Syria has become a proxy conflict for Shiite and Sunni powers, as well as a magnet for jihadists, increasing the geopolitical risk overall and sparking further insecurity throughout the region, most notably in Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey.

The New Monopolies

Have America's big Internet companies become too powerful? 

Twenty-nine years ago, on Jan. 1, 1984, the Bell Telephone Company ceased to exist, having been broken up into smaller firms by the U.S. government. Bell had controlled the American telephone network since its inception, and this control gave it an unfair advantage in selling a variety of goods and services used for communication. Fast-forward to today: If the same were true for a global Internet giant like Facebook or eBay, could consumers still be protected? 

Only a few Internet companies have reached a scale that raises questions about competition, but each has at least 100 million customers. So far, legal authorities in the United States and elsewhere have scrutinized them mainly when they have pushed into markets on the fringes of their own business, as in Facebook's attempt to prevent other software from complementing its own system or Google's use of its search engine to influence consumers' purchasing decisions. Last week, the United States decided that Google's behavior did not discourage competition

But Google is different from Facebook and eBay. The usefulness of Google's search engine depends only indirectly on how many other people are using it; for Facebook and eBay, the network of other users is of central importance and can guarantee customers' loyalty, even when they feel mistreated. Despite this potential drag on competition, however, the companies' market shares in their core lines of business have not come into question. 

That's unusual, since they have been completely dominating their markets. Depending on how you measure, Facebook may account for as much as 95 percent of the time Americans spend using online social networks. As of a few years back, eBay had 90 percent of the online auction markets in the United States and Europe. With that market locked up, it's now competing with Amazon for regular retail sales. 

How Andrew Marshall has shaped our world.


There is no category in the Guinness Book of World Records for "longest serving strategist" -- but there ought to be. Andrew Marshall, who has directed the Pentagon's Dickensian-sounding Office of Net Assessment for the past 40 years, would surely hold this record. And he adds to it every day, still active in body and insightful of mind at 91. Richard Nixon appointed him, and he has served every president since. Indeed, Barack Obama's strategic "pivot to the Pacific" -- right or wrong -- almost certainly derives from ideas that Mr. Marshall has been advancing for years about the need to respond to the rise of China as a world power. 

But long before President Obama began to ponder Marshall's ideas, Ronald Reagan was briefed by him about the possibility of winning the Cold War by bankrupting the Soviet Union. Marshall, an economist by training, had grown convinced that the Soviet Union was spending a much greater share of its gross domestic product on the military than even the most detailed intelligence estimates allowed. He, his team, and a few Pentagon colleagues dug deeply into the data and came away convinced that the Russians were spending a quarter, a third, perhaps even more of their annual economic output on their national security. 

Reagan's own intuitions about Soviet inefficiency were borne out by the group's insights, and he decided to act on Marshall's notion of pursuing a "cost-imposing" strategy on the Russians. This soon became the Reagan Doctrine of helping others to fight against Moscow-aligned regimes, the most notable success -- in the near term, at least -- coming in Afghanistan. For a very modest investment in putting some Stinger missiles into the hands of the mujahideen, it became possible to run the Soviet intervention there right off the rails. That we completely walked away from Afghanistan after the Russians left in 1989 is no fault of the cost-imposing strategy. 

The Pentagon is expanding its smartphone for spies program

Posted By John Reed
January 7, 2013

While the rest of the DC press corps is talking about Chuck Hagel's qualifications to be the next defense secretary, Killer Apps is lucky enough to be writing about smart phones. Secret smart phones, that is. That's right, the National Security Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) are set to expand the program that gives government officials Android-based smart phones and tablets capable of handling classified information. 

"The Fishbowl pilot is continuing. There is a small number of devices that have been issued primarily to organizations like the White House Communications Agency so they can evaluate them as potential devices for national leaders," David Mihelcic, DISA's chief technology officer, told Killer Apps after a speech in Arlington, Va. "But really Fishbowl is going to cease to exist, and it will be subsumed by [a program called] Commercial for Classified Solutions." 

DISA is working to improve on technology developed for the Fishbowl project -- which Killer Apps reported on in September -- meant to provide everyone from senior government officials to spies with commercially based smart phones and tablets capable of handling supersensitive information. 

"Initially, you're going to see Android-based [devices] because it is essentially extending the Fishbowl" effort, said Mihelcic. "But the goal moving forward is to be vendor-agnostic and operating system-agnostic, but the vendors and the OS's have to meet NSA's security requirements." 

Once DISA finds vendors that can meet the NSA's requirements for handling classified info, DISA will push the devices to a trial group of 50 to 100 DOD personnel in the third quarter of fiscal year 2013 with the ultimate goal of replacing the roughly 5,000 very expensive DOD cell phones that are specially designed to handle secrets. 

"We say nominally that we need to be able to support that number, but if this scales, you could see the number going into the hundreds of thousands," said Mihelcic. 

Moving to these commercially based devices will allow DOD to field them faster and give users improved ability to use a number of apps "with a rich user experience" for handling classified information, according to Mihelcic.

US to become 'net energy exporter'

Shale gas boom rewrites geopolitical rules, as US is set to produce more petroleum than Saudi Arabia within a decade. 

Last Modified: 07 Jan 2013

The US is set to become the world's biggest oil producer in 2017, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia [AFP] 

Some industry veterans believe it's the biggest development in the energy game since 1859, when the first US oil well gushed from beneath the earth in Titusville, Pennsylvania. 

In changes that would have been unthinkable just five years ago, the US is set to become a net energy exporter in the next few years, thanks to the controversial process of fracking that is re-wiring geopolitics and the world of energy. 

The practice of shooting steam and chemicals into shale rock formations to unlock energy sources previously considered marginal has "changed the world", according to one lawyer with more than 40 years of experience negotiating natural gas contracts. 

"We are talking about increases [in natural gas production] of 15 to 20 percent per year," George Washington University law professor Richard Pierce told Al Jazeera. "The US is now 100 percent independent in natural gas and within the next half a dozen years [North America] will be independent in oil. It will become a global supplier, rather than a demander, in a hurry." 

'Once-in-a-lifetime experience' 

New technologies to access hard-to-reach fuels mean that, in 2012, the United States experienced its largest rise in annual oil output since the middle of the 19th century, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) released in December. Shale gas is a fossil fuel trapped inside formations of shale rock. Some of these formations also contain oil. 

The expected 760,000 barrel-per-day increase in US crude oil production in 2012 is the largest rise in annual output since the beginning of US commercial oil extraction in 1859, an EIA official said in a statement. 

Marine captain: It may seem like business as usual to you, but it feels to me like our junior officer ranks ‘are being gutted’

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks
January 7, 2013

By Capt. Lindsay L. Rodman, USMC 
Best Defense office of company-grade issues 

I have been thinking a lot lately about whether to leave the Marine Corps at the five-year mark. In response to "We're Getting Out of the Marines" -- I hope I can contextualize what many company grade officers (or "junior officers") are facing. 

The problem with anecdotal observation is that we all only have our own experiences to draw from. If the lieutenant who wrote "We're Getting Out of the Marines" is coming face-to-face with incompetence, in a short four or five year career, how does he get a sense of whether that problem is systemic? Or how thoroughly it pervades? One's experience is 100 percent of their exposure, regardless of whether it represents the bottom X percent. 

I am career designated and my commitment is up. I am taking note of every bad leader and every good leader I come across. Everyone is an input into the final decision. I know that other top company grades/JOs are doing the same thing (if they have not already decided to get out). 

Anecdotally again, and I understand that this is flawed analysis, it really feels like my most qualified and competent peers are getting out. I look at the lists of who is still in (at five years), and the glaring holes are the most intelligent and self-possessed of my cohort. That is not true for everyone, but the percentage of those who are still in is dwarfed by the number of those that have left -- and that number continues to rise. 

I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't really want to be anything other than a Marine, so for the time being, unless something crazy happens, I'll stay. But I also fear what the future brings, when our current ranks feel like they are being gutted. 

Army officer: I think I know why those departing Marine LTs wrote anonymously

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks 
January 7, 2013

By Lt. Roxanne Bras, US Army 
Best Defense office of JO issues 

Speaking authoritatively for a cohort is difficult and dangerous, but what's been said in the two Marine JO's blog posts resonates with much of what my peers say daily. That's not to say that their ideas are correct; perhaps junior officers always feel marginalized and hostile to the senior officer promotion system. But I'd argue that the spirit of the posts is accurate, both as perceived by JOs and as demonstrated by the military's HR system. 

But first, to the anonymity and its ensuing controversy, I'll bet that the Marines didn't use their real names for precisely the same reason that I hesitated to write this. Instead of engaging with an idea on its own merits, many quickly look to the author to discredit him. Detractors love any evidence of inexperience as an excuse to ignore the substance. The chorus of critics cry, "He only served like 6 months. Never saw real combat." Or "he's not infantry/isn't tabbed." Or "he's such a self-promoter and only wrote that for attention." The ideas are forgotten and what remains is slander. So why attach your name to something if it will only detract from the argument? Until the military community becomes more idea and less individual/ORB/ribbons focused, people will hesitate to participate in open forums. 

Opportunities Unbound: Sustaining the Transformation in U.S.-Indian Relations

Ashley J. Tellis Report, January 2013 

The evolving U.S.-Indian strategic partnership holds great potential for both countries. India’s economic growth and its ties to the United States can assist its global rise, which contributes to keeping the peace in Asia, provided New Delhi and Washington sustain concerted cooperation. And India’s emerging markets promise to be the key instrument for enlarging India’s power while remaining a rich opportunity for U.S. businesses. 

Senior Associate
South Asia Program More from Tellis... 

The 2008 U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement did away with the biggest obstacle in the relationship—India’s murky status in the global nonproliferation regime. Both sides must now take steps to make the partnership fruitful.

Recommendations for India 

Expand the basis for collaboration. Indian policymakers should appreciate that the best way to deepen the U.S. commitment to the partnership is to work concertedly with Washington.

Undertake planned second-generation economic reforms. India should do away with archaic protectionist policies and openly embrace economic reforms.

Encourage foreign direct investment (FDI). New Delhi should open those sectors where FDI is currently not permitted and increase the caps on FDI in those areas where it is currently allowed.

Improve defense cooperation with key states. India ought to take advantage of the wealth of technologies available only to Washington’s closest partners and establish greater operational ties with the United States to boost its military effectiveness without forfeiting strategic autonomy.

Influence Iranian calculations. As one of Iran’s biggest trading partners, New Delhi should quietly urge Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons program in order to avert a conflict that threatens important Indian interests. 

AFSPA in J and K

Selective withdrawal may be harmful
by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd) 

Speaking to the Press on December 21, 2012, Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of J and K, once again demanded selective withdrwal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain districts in the state where insurgent activity is minuscule. He has been persistent in this demand because in his reckoning the situation in the state has vastly improved. Surely, the Chief Minister is well placed to assess the ground reality and the prevailing environment. If he feels confident that in areas from where the AFSPA is removed and military withdrawn, the situation can be handled by the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF,) then why not accept his demand!

However, both the military and the Central government have been opposing this demand, which, in the face of it, appears to be reasonable. There are a number of reasons for Delhi and the military to continue with the application of the AFSPA and deployment of military across the state. For one, Pakistan has not shut down terrorists’ training camps nor has it changed its stance towards the export of terrorist activity in J and K. The military authorities are of the view that the infiltration of terrorists into J and K has not substantially decreased. More importantly, selective lifting of the AFSPA and withdrawal of the military from areas where there is minimal terrorist activity will make the insurgents move into these very areas. After all, insurgents are not tethered to only specific areas of the state.

Once the military moves out from an area and insurgents move in there, the first step they would take is to eliminate all the suspected sources of military intelligence. Even those who were cooperating with the military or even sympathetic to it could be targeted. Insurgents, under normal circumstances, draw sympathy and support from the local population through coercion and terrorising people by resorting to selected killings. But in the case of J and K there exist elements within the state that are perennially in support of the insurgents. Some others work towards perpetuating the uncertainty of the future of the state.

The Indian Army has been engaged in counter-insurgency operations for over six decades. There is no other army in the world which has this range and depth of experience in this field. So, when the military opposes the withdrawal of the AFSPA from certain proposed areas in J and K, the stance rests on this vast experience, gained over a long period of time. On deployment in the insurgency environment, it takes the military considerable time and effort to establish what is called “counter-insurgency grid”: get to know the people, terrain and build intelligence sources. It is this grid and intelligence sources that insurgents invariably target: once the military moves out and they move in. Often, the period of truce or the withdrawal of the security forces is used to regroup themselves. 

The AFSPA itself has been under fire. The provocation for a move to abrogate the AFSPA is due to alleged serious violations of human rights by the security forces. Counter-insurgency operations are complex in nature and are carried out under difficult and trying circumstances. Often it is a situation where you kill or get killed. In many encounters, collateral damage in the form of casualties to innocent civilians takes place. During such encounters, invariably it is the insurgents who target innocent civilians knowing full well that it is the security forces who will be blamed. In a virulent insurgency, security forces just cannot operate without the cover of the AFSPA. Without it, there would be much hesitation and caution which would work to the advantage of insurgents. 

Was Vivekananda a turning point in modern history of India and world?

Published: January 6, 2013
Indrani Dutta 

Swami Vivekananda 

Was Swami Vivekananda a turning point in the modern history of India and the world, and did he trigger a new spiritual wave? This is the point of reflection of a commemorative volume that studies how 30 years after his birth in 1893, the monk had taken the Western world by storm with his ground-breaking ideas on religion and philosophy. 

The tome, prepared to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, says that the nationwide celebration of the iconic figure’s birth anniversary this year should become a second turning point, expediting the process of change that he initiated over a century ago. 

Foreword by President, PM 

A glimpse into the book, which has a foreword by the President of India, the Prime Minister, and the President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, reveals a rich trove of thoughts from scholars across the world, as well as monks and nuns of the order. The book will be formally released in mid-January. It includes a poem, titled ‘Hold on yet a while braveheart,’ written by Swami Vivekananda. 

Several sections of the book, which deals with the monk’s teachings and sayings, show how prescient he was. An article on him and the ideal woman of the future refers to the portion where an observation made by Vivekananda over 100 years ago is to the fore again now. “In India there are two great evils — trampling on women and grinding of the poor... There is no hope for the rise of that family or nation where there is no estimation of women or where they live in sadness,” he wrote. 

One of the most endearing parts of the 645-page book would perhaps be the letters of J.J. Goodwin, Swami Vivekananda’s stenographer, which gives an idea of the man. 

Rousing reception in Jaffna 

A letter written by Goodwin to Sara Bull in January 1987 narrates how Vivekananda received a rousing reception in Colombo and at Jaffna, where there was a procession of about 20,000 people. Goodwin says that his work in the West had caused a tremendous spiritual revival. Visits were also made to Anuradhapuram. According to eyewitnesses, the Swami enjoyed a following wherever he went within the country and outside. 

While the book is divided into five sections, the ones on his personality and his teachings may just as well turn out to be the most avidly read. The book published by the Advaita Ashrama will be available from all outlets of the Ramakrishna Mission at a discount.

Historian who stood his ground, always

Author: pioneer 

Vivekanand Jha will be remembered for his foundational contributions to early Indian social history. He was not shy of asking questions, writes Vishwa Mohan Jha 

Despite Bhimrao Ambedkar, Marxist and ‘post-Marxist' histories, contemporary caste studies, and rise of Dalit politics, untouchability remains among the darkest aspects of India's social history. Much of what we know of the history of untouchability in ancient India is the result of the labours of Vivekanand Jha, who passed away on November 30 last. 

Historians have either been evasive about the issue or we've had apologias. Thus, in the brief chapter on untouchability in the second volume of PV Kane's masterly History of Dharmasastra, all that he discussed was that inequities such as untouchability were not unique to India, but a fairly widespread phenomena. That it was not to be found in our glorious Vedic period; and how it has been misrepresented and its evils exaggerated. 

Ambedkar sought to fill the void and provide a corrective. In his Untouchables: Who they were? And why they became untouchables? (1948), he historicised the issue by drawing the crucial distinction between impurity and untouchability, and located the origins of the latter in the beef-eating of the downtrodden. 

The gauntlet that Ambedkar threw down before the specialists was to be picked up by Jha in his doctoral dissertation Untouchables in Early Indian History (1972). Jha meticulously collected and vetted an impressive range of evidence and arguments, marshalling them into a systematic account of the origin and development of untouchability in early India. 

In the process, numerous ideas (beginning with the pet Brahminical idea that untouchability proceeded from the ‘mixture' of castes) were critiqued and set aside. A different chronology of advent of untouchability, than the one suggested by Ambedkar was worked out, thus sundering the causal connection between beef-eating and untouchability postulated by him. 

It is revealing that leather-work, that was to become a surest sign of untouchability in medieval times, was not considered polluting not just during the Vedic period, but for centuries thereafter. For instance, a record dating early first millennium AD refers to a pious donor named Vidhika as a Chamar (Chammakara), the son of an Upajhaya (a teacher, Prakrit form of Sanskrit Upadhyaya. Incidentally, the surname ‘Jha' is supposed to derive from Upajhaya). 

Although the question of caste with its injustices and contemporary relevance did not leave Jha till the end, it was to the study of the Bhagavad Gita that he devoted most of his attention. With his studies on the Gita he became part of an age-old tradition of commentaries on the text that shows no signs of abatement. He made his mark with extraordinary scholarship and precise, frankly stated arguments. 

In retrospect, the researches of Viveka babu did not just provide answers but raised questions and doubts as well. As a historian, he will be remembered for his foundational contributions to early Indian social history. And he would be joining us — such is the dialectic of knowledge — each time we choose to join issue with him! 

Did the Gita stand against the caste system, as Jha would have it, or for it, as Ambedkar argued in his work on revolution and counter-revolution in ancient India? Must ‘reason' play second fiddle to ‘prejudice’ in these scholarly undertakings? It was impossible for Brahmin scholars to be even-handed on questions of caste, says one scholar. According to another, Ambedkar's deep involvement (with a raging ear and a caustic pen) could not but have precluded any objective analysis. 

Both the damnations are invalidated by Jha's own example. As one who belonged — not once but in different ways — to a Brahmin family, and to a tradition of historical writing (Marxist) the political commitment of which parallels the Ambedkarites. 

Jha exemplifies the ideal that Ambedkar the political activist, had set for himself in his historical tract: The historian's duty, Goethe said, is to separate the true from the false, the certain from the uncertain, and the doubtful from that which cannot be accepted... Every investigator must before all things look upon himself as one who is summoned to serve on a jury. He has only to consider how far the statement of the case is complete and clearly set forth by the evidence. Then he draws his conclusion and gives his vote, whether his opinion coincides with that of the foreman or not.

Doubting Delhi

C. Raja Mohan : Tue Jan 08 2013, 01:27 hrs 

Washington is discussing whether India is ready for a serious relationship 

As Barack Obama readies for the second term of his presidency, many key decision-makers in his administration who promoted the bilateral relationship with India in the last four years are about to depart. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who enthusiastically led the Obama administration’s engagement with India, will step down soon. Her designated successor, Senator John Kerry, unfortunately, has been dubbed by some analysts as being less than warm towards India and “soft on Pakistan”. 

Such preemptive labelling is not of much help in the conduct of India’s diplomacy. Yet, there is no denying the concerns in Delhi that America might offer too many concessions to the Pakistan army and the Taliban as it prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan by 2014. 

Within the State Department, India has had a very supportive South Asia bureau led by Assistant Secretary Robert Blake, who might be moving on. Blake and many of the deputies had served in Delhi earlier, understood India’s concerns and rooted for a strong partnership. 

Kurt Campbell, currently assistant secretary of state for East Asia, was at the forefront of a bold effort to compel the US establishment to see Delhi from the perspective of Asian balance of power rather than India’s quarrels with Pakistan. Campbell too is said to be leaving the administration. 

There will also be a change of guard at the Pentagon, where the current Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta and his deputy Ash Carter have sought to lift the current US restrictions on defence collaboration with India. 

In both Washington and Delhi, personnel are often policy. While Delhi should prepare itself for the current round of changes in the US government, its real concern should be about an argument that has gained some traction in Washington’s policy community. Put simply, the proposition is that the prospects for a partnership with India were “oversold” in Washington by the Bush administration. The argument has four parts. 

First, the civil nuclear initiative, which the US launched at “great cost” to the nonproliferation regime, has not produced the promised “rewards” for Washington. India is nowhere close to buying nuclear reactors from the United States. 

For an India-led security architecture in South Asia

Published: January 8, 2013
N. Sathiya Moorthy 

The Hindu Vijay Diwas, marking India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, being observed at Pangode Army Station in Thiruvananthapuram. File photo 

None of the region’s smaller countries has the capacity to ward off extra-territorial military interventions 

India’s neighbours often cite the ‘Bangladesh War’ and the IPKF involvement in Sri Lanka to justify their apprehensions about Indian strategic interests and military reach in the region. 

In this, they do not acknowledge that it was not Indian plotting that caused the Bangladesh War, but Pakistan’s own failings; and that the IPKF went to Sri Lanka at the request of President J.R. Jayewardene, to be withdrawn equally fast, again at the express wish of his successor President Ranasinghe Premadasa. 

But India’s smaller neighbours are not as concerned about the reach, if any, of outside powers in the region. In this sense, the neighbourhood’s concerns about India are distinct from India’s own concerns. 

For India, the disputes with China — and Pakistan, too — are real, and not just theoretical. In this context, there is some substance in the demand by the Indian strategic community that smaller neighbours should share their security arrangement details with it, particularly if these involved powers from outside the region. 

Ultimately, it is India that has to face these arrangements, if it came to that. Indian concerns on this score, at the official level in particular, are clearly independent of New Delhi’s recognition of the sovereign right of individual nations in the neighbourhood to do business of their choosing with partners of their choosing. 

None of India’s smaller neighbours has the capacity to ward off extra-territorial security/military intervention. India alone is capable of this.