2 March 2013

A Country Unto Itself

MARCH 1, 2013 

There’s no place like India. Which is precisely why its politics and economy are such a contradictory, beautiful mess.

NEW DELHI — India does not reconcile contradictions so much as inhabit them. Is there one god? Three? Gods? Without number? Yes, yes, and yes. Visitors are instructed to leave their Cartesian logic at passport control. This is contrary to my all-too-binary nature. But after two weeks in Delhi talking to people about the wrinkled, lumbering, battle-scarred pachyderm that is the Congress Party, I have begun to accept that it may be precisely Congress's capacity to live blithely with contradiction that accounts for its astonishing persistence (that, and the Gandhi family name). 

The other day, I went to speak to Meenakshi Natarajan, a parliamentarian and one of the party's bright young stars. Congress, she explained to me, had lost its way when it embraced economic liberalism in the 1990s but now had reached the right balance: growth-oriented policies to generate surplus to spend on massive schemes for the poor. Now, this makes no sense: A paternalistic welfare state, unless it sits on an ocean of oil, will eventually stop generating the growth that funds its generous outlays. And yet this is pretty much what the Congress has done since gaining power in 2004. If Congress has any prospect of winning the elections next year, it will be thanks to what the party calls "inclusive growth." 

The budget speech which P. Chidambaram, the deft finance minister ("Harvard-educated," as the papers here like to note), gave earlier this week would have fit right in at, say, the 1984 Democratic convention, when U.S. liberals were beholden to its various special interests. He began by talking about the projected 12.5 percent increase in spending over the last year on Scheduled Castes -- or untouchables, as they used to be stigmatized -- and so-called Scheduled Tribes. Then the minister detailed new spending on women, on children and minorities, including a new bank for women. He had, he said, set aside $2 billion for a program to distribute food to the poor -- a plan which even some party officials thought might better be put off in the name of fiscal discipline. Chidambaram had goodies for every one of India's needy groups. The speech took almost two hours, in part because he had so many gifts to distribute. 

A nation of five Indias

Mar 2, 2013

We think that India lives in one time zone, from Jalandhar in the west to Jorhat in the east, five and a half hours ahead of London. But in fact Indians live in at least five world historical time zones if we go by the social, economic, political and technological features of different parts of the country. This is why understanding India and governing it are so difficult. 

The first world historical time zone is to be found in two frontiers - in the mountains along the borderlands and in the dense forests of central India where the Naxalites flourish. In these two spaces, life is lived more or less as it was 500 years ago. The pace of life, the role of climatic seasons in determining the nature of existence, the relationship of individuals to each other and to the government, and the technologies at hand - all these are not very different from what they were in the 16th century. 

The second time zone is to be found in rural, predominantly agricultural India, from the great northern plains to peninsular India, including the coastal areas from Gujarat at one end and Bengal at the other. Here, life is not very different than it was 100 years ago, in the early 20th century. There are some modern technologies available - new seeds, tractors and consumer goods including cars - but mostly for the rich feudalistic farmers. 

Rural India 100 years ago was a fairly terrible place, somewhat like Europe of the dark ages and middle ages. It has not changed that much in terms of the seasonality of life, the attachment to the land, the terrible ignorance of ordinary people about the nature of the world we live in (indeed, the India we inhabit), the tight control over individuals by their communities and clans, and the power exerted on ordinary people by local landlords and upper castes. 

The third time zone exists in the second- and third-tier towns of India. Life in these towns is perhaps like the major cities of India 50-60 years ago. The rhythm of life, the influence of the small local elite, the availability of consumer goods and modern home devices including communication and media devices, economic surpluses sufficient to allow people to travel within India quite extensively and to imagine the country as a nation to which they belong and which they can shape, the growing sense of individuality and agency that even ordinary people possess in relation to their communities and government - in short, something like modern citizenship exists here. 

Gwadar – A Chinese Outpost in the Gulf?

ByAlok Bansal
March 1, 2013

On 18 February 2013, Pakistan government signed an agreement with the China Overseas Port Holding Authority (COPHA), whereby the operations of Gwadar Deep Sea Port were taken over from Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) and handed over to the Chinese. The COPHA is expected to invest $ 750 million immediately to improve the infrastructure and provide boost to the economic activity in and around the much hyped port, which has been an economic disaster till now. PSA has been accused of not taking enough interest to develop the necessary infrastructure to connect the port with hinterland through road and railway network, even though the operations were handed over to PSA in preference to Dubai Ports, which had offered better terms. 

The port, whose construction began in November 2002, was completed in March 2007 and was declared to be fully functional, when a ship carrying fertilizers from Qatar anchored there on 21 December 2008. The then Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Nabil Ahmed Gabol and Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani had attended the ceremony to mark the opening of the port and had proclaimed that it would trigger all round economic development in the region. Gwadar Port has eliminated Pakistan’s critical dependence on Karachi-Bin Qasim complex for maritime trade, as they were quite vulnerable to any blockade or disaster. However, Gwadar has failed to live up to the expectations of being an energy corridor for Central Asia, Middle East, South Asia and parts of West Asia. Some sceptics have been questioning the port’s economic viability. 

The port was set up after the Asian Development Bank’s Ports Master Plan studies considered Gwadar to be the ideal location for handling mother ships and large oil tankers, to capture trans-shipment trade of the region and to emerge as an alternative to the Persian Gulf Ports. Besides it provided the shortest opening to the sea for the countries of the Central Asia. Even China has expressed its interest to link Gwadar to Xinjiang, thereby ending its energy dependence on the smooth flow of traffic through the choke points of South East Asia. China can use this port to supply energy to its hinterland without having to worry about its oil supplies being choked in the straits of South East Asia. China has plans to develop a two lane highway from Gwadar to Gilgit with oil and gas pipe lines and optical fibre running all along. Plans are also afoot for a rail link between Pakistan and China by extending the railroad from Tibet to facilitate a faster movement of cargo and tourists between the two countries. Situated at the cusp of the Strait of Hormuz through which almost 40 percent of the world’s oil flows, there are also plans to set up an oil refinery at Gwadar. The port built with Chinese assistance has been touted as the largest infrastructural project undertaken in Pakistan. 

Here Come…China’s Drones

By Trefor Moss
March 01, 2013

China is developing its own drone technology -- for its own military and for sale around the world. 

Unmanned systems have become the legal and ethical problem child of the global defense industry and the governments they supply, rewriting the rules of military engagement in ways that many find disturbing. And this sense of unease about where we’re headed is hardly unfamiliar. Much like the emergence of drone technology, the rise of China and its reshaping of the geopolitical landscape has stirred up a sometimes understandable, sometimes irrational, fear of the unknown. 

It’s safe to say, then, that Chinese drones conjure up a particularly intense sense of alarm that the media has begun to embrace as a license to panic. China is indeed developing a range of unmanned aerial vehicles/systems (UAVs/UASs) at a time when relations with Japan are tense, and when those with the U.S. are delicate. But that hardly justifies claims that “drones have taken center stage in an escalating arms race between China and Japan,” or that the “China drone threat highlights [a] new global arms race,” as some observers would have it. This hyperbole was perhaps fed by a 2012 U.S. Department of Defense reportwhich described China’s development of UAVs as "alarming." 

That’s quite unreasonable. All of the world’s advanced militaries are adopting drones, not just the PLA. That isn’t an arms race, or a reason to fear China, it’s just the direction in which defense technology is naturally progressing. Secondly, while China may be demonstrating impressive advances, Israel and the U.S. retain a substantial lead in the UAV field, with China—alongside Europe, India and Russia— still in the second tier. And thirdly, China is modernizing in all areas of military technology – unmanned systems being no exception. 

5 Ways to Build a Stable U.S.-China Strategic Relationship

By Lewis A. Dunn, Ralph Cossa, and Li Hong 
March 1, 2013

The relationship between the United States and China, one country an established power, the other a rising power, will decisively shape the 21st century world. Of the many aspects of this relationship, one of the most important is the strategic relationship, with “strategic” meaning the many ways that the two countries’ plans, doctrines, capabilities, postures, and actions interact across the nuclear offensive and defensive, outer space, and cyber realms. 

Building a stable and cooperative “win-win” strategic relationship serves the interests of both the United States and China. It would contribute to both countries’ security interests, not least by avoiding dangerous military competition, confrontation, or even conflict between our two countries in the years ahead. A cooperative strategic relationship would also provide a foundation for action to address global political, security, and economic challenges. It would allow scarce leadership attention, political capital, and economic resources in both countries to be used to address pressing domestic, economic, social, and other priorities. 

The tough challenges that our countries’ leaders need to address in pursuing greater strategic cooperation are well known. They range from the long-standing political disagreements over Taiwan to mutual uncertainties about each other’s military intentions, plans, programs, and activities – both at the strategic level and in Asia. But there are also important foundations for building greater cooperation, including the economic interdependence between the two countries and the recognition by both countries’ leaderships of the importance of this relationship. 

Has the Bell Begun to Toll for China?

By Pat Buchanan 
March 1, 2013 

"Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and convictions wavered," China's new leader, Xi Jinping, told a closed meeting of party elite in Guangdong province. 

"Finally all it took was one quiet word from Gorbachev to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Communist Party, and a great party was gone," said Xi, according to notes obtained by The New York Times. 

"Everyone is talking about reform, but in fact everyone has a fear of reform," said Chinese historian Ma Jong. "The question is: Can society be kept under control while you go forward? That is the test." That is indeed the test. 

What is it that gives a party its legitimacy, its right to rule? What holds a nation together when its cradle faith, its founding ideology, has been abandoned by both elites and the people? That is China's coming crisis. 

With victory in the civil war with the Nationalists in 1949, Mao claimed to have liberated China from both Japanese imperialists and Western colonialists, and restored her dignity. "China has stood up!" he said. 

His party's claim to absolute power was rooted in what it had done, and also what it must do. Only a party with total power could lead a world revolution. Only an all-powerful party could abolish inequality in a way that made the French Revolution look like a rebellion at Berkeley. 

Xi Jinping's problem? The Cold War is over. China is herself in the capitalist camp, a member of the G-8, and inequality in the People's Republic resembles that of America in the Gilded Age. 

How does the Chinese Communist Party justify control of all of China's institutions today -- economic, political, military and cultural? 

If Marxism is mocked behind closed doors by a new economic elite and tens of millions of Chinese young, what can cause the nation to continue to respect and obey a Communist Party and its leaders, besides the gun? 

How to Win a Cyberwar with China

FEBRUARY 28, 2013 

It's time for the Obama administration to start playing offense, or it might soon have a real war on its hands.
The Internet is now a battlefield. China is not only militarizing cyberspace -- it is also deploying its cyberwarriors against the United States and other countries to conduct corporate espionage, hackthink tanks, and engage in retaliatory harassment of news organizations. 

These attacks are another dimension of the ongoing strategic competition between the United States and China -- a competition playing out in the waters of the East and South China seas, in Iran and Syria, across the Taiwan Strait, and in outer space. With a number of recent high-profile attacks in cyberspace traced to the Chinese government, the cybercompetition seems particularly pressing. It is time for Washington to develop a clear, concerted strategy to deter cyberwar, theft of intellectual property, espionage, and digital harassment. Simply put, the United States must make China pay for conducting these activities, in addition to defending cybernetworks and critical infrastructure such as power stations and cell towers. The U.S. government needs to go on the offensive and enact a set of diplomatic, security, and legal measures designed to impose serious costs on China for its flagrant violations of the law and to deter a conflict in the cybersphere. 

Fashioning an adequate response to this challenge requires understanding that China places clear value on the cyber military capability. During the wars of the last two decades, China was terrified by the U.S. military's joint, highly networked capabilities. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) began paying attention to the role of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) assets in the conduct of war. But the PLA also concluded that the seeds of weakness were planted within this new way of war that allowed the United States to find, fix, and kill targets quickly and precisely -- an overdependence on information networks. 

In Bangladesh, the flawed path to accountability

02 Mar 2013

REASONS FOR CONCERN: Though there is much in the protests to support, the extreme demands being made do not fit in. 

Instead of the death penalty, the protesters at Shahbag should be demanding fair trials for those accused of war crimes in 1971

A peaceful mass secular protest involving people from all walks of life, spearheaded by a tech savvy young generation, apparently independent from political parties, seeking accountability for war crimes committed in 1971. 

This has been Shahbag, a square in the centre of Dhaka, Bangladesh, an (almost) non-stop protest since February 5.

The positive aspects are obvious to all those interested in a secular Bangladesh, who support accountability for the terrible atrocities committed during the nine-month-long war.

Hundreds of thousands are estimated to have died in the war, many allegedly with the assistance of pro-Pakistani militias whose members are said to have included Jamaat-e-Islami party members and leaders at the time.

Four decades later the Jamaat is the country’s fourth largest party and a key ally of the main Opposition party with many of its leaders and activists powerful social actors wielding significant influence in a country, much of which still remains overwhelmingly conservative. 

The focus of the Shahbag protests, on accountability for 1971 war crimes and a secular politics, has understandably received significant positive media coverage both nationally and internationally. 

However there are also reasons for concerns.

These start from the protesters’ central demand to hang Abdul Quader Mollah, a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami recently sentenced to life imprisonment following conviction for five offences involving crimes against humanity, as well as nine other leaders of the party who are being prosecuted for similar offences. 

This demand is however being made with little consideration to the fairness of the trials which are taking place in two locally established courts called the International Crimes Tribunals. 

Spending cuts create challenges for Army

\By Ernesto Londoño

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — For the past decade, the uncertainty of war hovered over this garrison town like an ominous cloud, with units shipping off and returning home every few weeks from intense combat tours.

The end of that whirlwind deployment tempo, which flushed America’s Army with cash and adulation, is bringing a new anxiety to Fort Bragg and military bases nationwide as commanders scramble to slash billions from their budgets. 

The automatic across-the-board cuts in federal spending scheduled to begin Friday have become the subject of a heated political fight in Washington, where the White House and Republicans have traded blame as the Pentagon warns that the fiscal uncertainty is threatening the world’s largest military. 

The extent to which such warnings from defense leaders are exaggerated remains in dispute. But there is no doubt that the budget crunch represents a sea change for an Army that swelled quickly and became used to being generously bankrolled after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. 

Look no further than the 82nd Airborne Division, the Army’s first line of defense for any new major conflict. Like their peers across the country, the division’s commanders have had to make difficult choices in recent weeks, sharply curtailing training and forgoing repairs for some equipment. Commanders say that if the shortfalls persist for months, they worry about how deftly soldiers would perform if the Army were called on to secure Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons or defend Americans if another diplomatic post was attacked. 

“There will be a higher level of risk and much greater potential for casualties,” said Maj. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the division’s commander. “We’d be faced with new conditions we haven’t encountered before: tanks, artillery, chemical weapons. These are conditions we would normally train for intensively.” 

As brigades geared up for deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, most participated in costly, comprehensive training exercises that taught them how the military’s vast array of aircraft, vehicles, communication equipment and weapons work in tandem in combat. In a hurry to save money, the Army sharply pared down the training modules it devised for the post-war era. For Nicholson, that means many of his soldiers will get to hone their skills only in small units here at Fort Bragg. 

Lessons from the British Empire

By Jordan Michael Smith 
February 28, 2013 

Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain John Darwin $35.00, Bloomsbury, 478 pp. 

Around the time the Iraq War commenced, the word "empire" was frequently employed. Niall Ferguson’s 2003 work Empire was the bestselling book on the subject. But there was also his sequel, Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire, as well as Charles Maier’s Among Empires, Cullen Murphy’sAre We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America and Andrew Bacevich’sAmerican Empire, among others. In fact, in 2003, the publishing house Henry Holt createdThe American Empire Project, an entire line of books looking at the matter of empire. 

Now that the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are dissolving, discussions of empire seem to have receded from view. But the United States possessed more than 1,000 military installations outside of the United States as of 2012, according to an estimate by American University professor David Vine. American troops are deployed in about 150 countries. Approximately $250 billion is spent annually to burnish these assets. If the United States was an empire in 2003, it remains one today. 

Oxford University historian John Darwin’s erudite new book on the British Empire shows the continuing relevance of imperialism to our foreign-policy dilemmas. Darwin is probably the world’s senior expert on Britain’s empire, the author of several well-regarded books on the subject. In Unfinished Empire, he provides an overview of arguably the most influential empire in world history. “No less than one quarter of today’s sovereign states were hewn from its fabric,” writes Darwin. 

Unfinished Empire is categorized thematically. Chapters are devoted to, among other aspects of the British Imperium, first encounters with indigenous peoples, methods used to counter rebellions, and trading policies. Darwin’s decision against a chronological telling of the empire makes for a less exciting book than could have existed, but it does serve as a method of reinforcing his theme that Britain created a constantly shifting, improvisational collection of lands. “From its earliest beginnings, it was an uneasy and sometimes contradictory amalgam of territorial ambition, administrative practice, legal procedure and cultural pretentions,” readsUnfinished Empire. 

Tunisia's Relative Blessings

By Robert Kaplan
01 Mar 2013

Geography, as is the case with every other country, teaches much about Tunisia.

It is the Arab country closest to the heart of Europe, jutting out toward Sicily at the central Mediterranean's narrowest point. The slow-moving car ferry from La Goulette, east of Tunis, to Trapani in northwestern Sicily takes roughly seven hours. You can fly the distance in about an hour or so. Because of Tunisia's proximity to Italy, trade and politics between this part of North Africa and Sicily were often intermingled. In the medieval era, Christian merchants dominated the souks of Tunisia, even as Sicilian politicians in Palermo hatched plans for the conquest of Tunis. From the 9th until the 11th centuries, Sicily was ruled by Arab dynasties from Tunisia such as the Aghlabids. The divide between these two intimate neighbors on both sides of the Mediterranean hardened only with the Industrial Revolution and the invention of movable type, which created formalized states and different linguistic communities. 

Tunisia was the breadbasket of the Roman Empire; the road network of the northern third of Tunisia today was in many places originally laid by the Romans. Tunisia was essentially Greater Carthage: an age-old cluster of civilization. And yet, as I've written previously, the occupying Romans made a geographic distinction that has lasted until today, and sheds light on the Arab Spring. 

After the Roman General Scipio defeated the Carthaginian forces of Hannibal in 202 B.C. outside of Tunis, he dug a demarcation ditch that marked the extent of civilized territory. Still visible in places, it runs from Tabarka on Tunisia's northwestern coast southward and turns directly eastward to Sfax, another Mediterranean port. The towns beyond that line have fewer Roman remains and today tend to be poorer and less developed, with historically higher rates of unemployment. The town of Sidi Bouzid, where the Arab Spring started in December 2010, when a vendor of fruits and vegetables set himself on fire as an act of protest, lies beyond Scipio's line. We can say, therefore, that the Arab Spring began in the most European of Arab countries, yet in a part of that country that was relatively underdeveloped. 

In one sense, geography argues for Tunisia's cultural and political unity. Tunisia is not vast in the way of its neighbors, Algeria and Libya. Its topography is not riven to a great extent by mountains. There are no substantial sectarian or ethnic divides, all of which makes Tunisia relatively easy to govern. In fact, Tunisia, with its Roman-originated road system, is an authentic state, with real bureaucratic institutions and a real identity. Tunisia was the first place in the Arab world that came into contact with post-Enlightenment European thought during the 19th century when Ottoman officials based in Tunis such as Rifa'a al-Tahtawi went to study at the Sorbonne and brought back Western ideas. 

This geographical and historical tendency was further buttressed by the dynamism of its post-World War II political leader, Habib Bourguiba. Bourguiba led Tunisians in a peaceful struggle for independence from the French in 1956 and created a strong secular identity for the new polity, allowing him to be compared with Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.