8 March 2013

Employing india : Guaranteeing Jobs for the Rural Poor


on august 25, 2005, the Indian parliament enacted a law guaranteeing the right of rural households to a minimum of 100 days of work; this important piece of legislation was later renamed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.1 In many ways, the act represents a milestone in social policy and employment creation. Its rights-based approach, social inclusion features, reliance on local self-government, and focus on livelihood security make it a very important public endeavor. Its size has no precedent nationally or internationally, posing important design and management challenges. 

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UPA anti-terror ‘strategy’: When doing nothing looks like success

By Ajai Sahni
Mar 7, 2013 

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (www.satp.org) database, terrorism and insurgency-related fatalities in India have fallen from a peak of 5,839 in 2001 to 804 in 2012. Indeed, the decline has been sustained in each year since 2001, with a significant reversal of the trend only in 2005, and a marginal reversal in 2008.

The most dramatic drop has, of course, been in Jammu and Kashmir, for long the country's worst insurgency, which witnessed a collapse from 4,507 fatalities in 2001 to 117 in 2012 (down from 183 in 2011, and 375 in 2010).

For a while, it appeared that a rampaging Maoist rebellion would escalate to fill up the gap, as fatalities surged from 675 in 2005 to 1,180 in 2010. Worse, the Maoists appeared to be expanding their theatres of operation at an unprecedented pace, confronting India with the most widespread insurgency of its Independent history. By 2010, 223 districts (out of a total of 636) in 20 states were thought to be affected by varying levels of Maoist ‘activity', though only some 65 of these witnessed any recurrent violence. But the Maoist insurgency also appears to be in retreat. Total fatalities in Maoist violence dropped to 367 in 2012, even as the number of afflicted districts shrank to 173.

]There has been no new policy drawn up to take on terrorism. PTI The broad trends in the chronically-troubled North-east have also been salubrious, with total fatalities declining from a recent peak of 1,051 in 2005 to 317 in 2012. Disturbing proclivities, however, do persist. The Maoists have extended their presence into this unstable region and are creating new partnerships with its fractious and collapsing insurgencies.

Some states, most prominently including Manipur, see a cyclical trend in violence. So, while fatalities were down to 190 in 2002, they rose almost steadily thereafter, to 485 in 2008, dropping to just 65 in 2011, and rising, again, to 111 in 2012. Fratricidal turf wars between various rebel Naga factions have also seen a spike in killings in this state, from 15 in 2011, to 65 in 2012.

Attacks by Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorists across India recorded a remarkable decline, with just one incident in 2012 outside J&K - a low intensity blast in Pune. 2011 had registered three such attacks outside J&K, with at least 42 killed. 2008, of course, saw such incidents peaking, with seven attacks, and 364 fatalities, of which 195 (166 civilians, 20 SF personnel and nine terrorists) were accounted for by the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack alone.

Kumbh Mela: Consuming the Greatest Show on Earth

By Jonathan DeHart 
March 7, 2013 

India’s Kumbh Mela (literally, “Pitcher Festival”) is mind-boggling in scale. The largest gathering of humans in one time and place, the event is held every three years, roving between four locations across India. While all four of the events are “mega” in scope, the Maha Kumbh Mela, held on the twelfth year in Allahabad at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers, is the granddaddy of them all. 

“The Maha Kumbh Mela is above all an extraordinary spectacle,” Namit Arora, a documentary filmmaker who attended the 2013 Kumbh Mela, told The Diplomat. “Some of its locations, such as the bathing areas and the camps of the Naga ascetics, are full of intense human drama and sociological complexities.” 

So great is the size of the gathering that the crowds can purportedly be seen from space. The Maha Kumbh happened to fall in 2013, starting from January 14, and goes until Sunday. On February 10 alone (the main bathing day) an estimated 30 million people, from ash-covered holy men to earnest pilgrims, filed into the Ganges River to take a dip in its frigid waters in the hope that the act would wash away their sins. Photos of this immense bathing ritual can be seen here, while some of the diverse characters populating the event can be seen here

In his introduction to River of Faith, a documentary he produced from his time at the Maha Kumbh Mela this year, Arora wrote that “ascetics, sadhus, saints, gurus, yogis, sunyasis, bairagis, virakts, fakes, misfits, and crooks of various sects of Hinduism… camp out in tents on the riverbank, lecture and debate, drink milky-syrupy chai, smoke ganja and hashish, and are visited by pilgrims seeking spiritual renewal.” 

The dedication earnest pilgrims need to reach the sacred spot is not to be taken lightly. In an academic essay titled Seeing, Being Seen, and Not Being Seen: Pilgrimage, Tourism, and Layers of Looking at the Kumbh Mela, Dr. Kama Maclean, associate professor of South Asian and world history at the University of New South Wales, cites a litany of problems and dangers that may befall visitors to the Kumbh Mela, as originally proposed by British sociologist John Urry. 

Deliberations of a Working Group on Military and Diplomacy

Publisher: Magnum Books Pvt Ltd
ISBN: 978-93-82512-01-1
Price: Rs. 195 [Download][Buy Now

About the Report

The Indian defence establishment is confronted today with what is probably its greatest challenge since Independence. Besides being prepared to wage conventional war on possibly two fronts simultaneously, our Armed Forces need to be geared to undertake this under a nuclear overhang and within a technological environment that encompasses cyber- and space-based threats. At the same time, our forces will continue to be committed in dealing with the proxy war imposed on us, insurgencies and separatist movements, and possibly in due course, with the growing phenomenon of left wing extremism. 

There is therefore an imperative requirement for change that would enable us to adapt to the emerging situation. The archaic organisations and processes put in place on achieving Independence must undergo radical overhaul. 


Section I: Restructuring the Ministry of Defence

Section II: Deputation of Armed Forces Officers to MEA

Section III: Pursuance of a Sound Defence Industrial Policy 

Section IV: Defence Cooperation


Annexure I

The Military and Diplomacy
Composition of the Working Group

Chairman Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (Retd)
Ambassador Satish Chandra
Vice Admiral P S Das (Retd)
Dr Arvind Gupta, DG IDSA
Air Marshal Satish Inamdar (Retd)
Lt Gen Prakash Menon (Retd)
Dr C Raja Mohan
Shri G K Pillai
Ambassador Leela Ponappa
Ambassador Ronen Sen
Ambassador Rajiv Sikri
Lt Gen Aditya Singh (Retd)
Shri Ajay Vikram Singh
Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi (Retd)
Brig Rumel Dahiya (Retd)
Col Vivek Chadha (Retd)
Dr Anit Mukherjee
Dr S Kalyanaraman

Successful PSLV-C20/SARAL Mission: India’s French “Space” Connect

March 7, 2013

On February 25, 2013 India successfully launched its PSLV-C20/SARAL mission and delivered a ‘packet’ of seven satellites in space. This was the 23rd mission of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), an indigenous rocket developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). And, this was the 22nd continuously successful mission of this rocket, which clearly demonstrates its “ruggedness”. In 2009 ISRO had demonstrated its ability to launch multiple satellites in a single mission when PSLV-C9 delivered 10 satellites in one shot. Now, with this launch, it has reconfirmed its multiple launch capability by putting various small satellites (the biggest satellite weighed 409 kg while the smallest is only 3 kg) in the desired orbits. 

PSLV is a unique rocket. In its standard configuration, it is capable of lifting approximately a 2 ton payload. In the ‘core-alone’ mode, it can deliver less than a one ton payload in a sun-synchronous polar orbit, and with some additional modifications in a geo-synchronous transfer orbit. The 25 February launch was a core alone mission; the combined weight of the seven satellites was 668.5 kg and the satellites were placed in orbit at an altitude amid 789 to 794 km above the earth’s radius. The key satellite in this mission is an Indo-French satellite while the other satellites are from Canada, Austria, Demark and the United Kingdom. For Austria this mission is of great significance because this is the first time an Austrian satellite has been put into space. 

The main payload of this mission is the 409-kg satellite SARAL (Satellite for Argos-3 and Altika). SARAL is meant to study the circulation of currents in the oceans and measure the sea surface heights for which it has an altimeter on board. This information is important to predict the development of weather in the short term and climate in the long term. SARAL has two independent payloads (developed by the French space agency CNES): Argos-3 for data collection and Altika meter for measuring the height of the sea surface. These payloads have been integrated into a satellite bus from India and the entire satellite was built in India. 

The data received from the SARAL would also be dovetailed into the French programme of operational oceanography development. The data collected would also be contributing to the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE), the first international operational oceanography experiment. SARAL would be one of the very few such ocean-centric satellites specifically developed for studying sea surface heights. It would be somewhat similar to ISRO’s Oceansat-2, a satellite launched in September 2009 to study surface winds and ocean surface strata. The inputs provided by Oceansat-2 assisted NASA in monitoring Hurricane ‘Sandy’ in October 2012. 

Countering IEDs: Training remains the Key

By Dhruv Katoch
06 Mar 2013

On 22 February, eight persons, including six policemen, were killed in a landmine blast triggered by Maoists at Majhauliya village in Bihar's Gaya district. This marked the first major land mine blast in 2013 by the Maoists resulting in large scale casualties, but it most certainly will not be the last. The blast was powerful, completely destroying the police jeep and killing its occupants on the spot. The Maoists also made off with the weapons being carried by the police party. 

Landmine blasts carried out through improvised explosive devices (IED) present one of the severest challenges to the security forces. Anti-mine vehicles or mine protected vehicles (MPV) are not the answer as all such vehicles are designed to withstand a blast of specific magnitude. As such parameters are known, it is a simple matter to defeat the system by upping the quantum of explosive used in the blast. A low cost option can thus easily defeat the huge sums of money spent on buying such vehicles, making the latter redundant as soon as they are purchased. This was amply proved in the Indian Army’s operations in Sri Lanka where Tamil militants had no difficulty in blasting even armoured personal carriers pressed into service to counter the IEDs. MPVs procured by the Bihar police have earlier been destroyed by the Maoists when in October 2012, a MPV was blown up killing six CRPF personnel and injuring another eight in the Chakarbandha Forest in Gaya District. 

Technology can be used to some extent to defeat the IED but in the final analysis, protection can only be afforded if the road is sanitised. Such an effort across the length and breadth of areas affected by Maoist violence requires tremendous resources in manpower and is difficult to sustain. It can hence only be resorted to on specific occasions. How then should this challenge be addressed? The previous year has seen a number of IED blasts and this trend is likely to increase. In 2012, in the Garhwa district of Jharkhand, Maoists blew up a MPV killing 13 police personnel and taking away their weapons. Such blasts have also taken place in Odisha, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh causing heavy loss of life to security forces. 

While there are no easy answers, casualties can be minimised by following basic movement drills. The first rule to be followed is to avoid cramming of police personnel into one vehicle. Ideally, movement should take place in three or more vehicles, with vehicles being spaced about 100 meters from each other. All personnel inside the vehicle should be in a position to fire their weapons. To make this feasible, a light vehicle should not have more than four occupants including the driver. The co-driver and the two passengers travelling behind should have their weapons on the ready, and should be able to respond immediately to any crisis. In the event of any vehicle getting hit by an IED, the other two should immediately come into action, assisting the survivors and preventing the insurgents from making off with the weapons. This would require high standards of training and motivation. 

To Fight India, We Fought Ourselves

February 21, 2013

ON Monday, my mother’s and sister’s eye doctor was assassinated. He was a Shiite. He was shot six times while driving to drop his son off at school. His son, age 12, was executed with a single shot to the head. 

Tuesday, I attended a protest in front of the Governor’s House in Lahore demanding that more be done to protect Pakistan’s Shiites from sectarian extremists. These extremists are responsible for increasingly frequent attacks, including bombings this year that killed more than 200 people, most of them Hazara Shiites, in the city of Quetta. 

As I stood in the anguished crowd in Lahore, similar protests were being held throughout Pakistan. Roads were shut. Demonstrators blocked access to airports. My father was trapped in one for the evening, yet he said most of his fellow travelers bore the delay without anger. They sympathized with the protesters’ objectives. 

Minority persecution is a common notion around the world, bringing to mind the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, for example, or Arab immigrants in Europe. In Pakistan, though, the situation is more unusual: those persecuted as minorities collectively constitute a vast majority. 

A filmmaker I know who has relatives in the Ahmadi sect told me that her family’s graves in Lahore had been defaced, because Ahmadis are regarded as apostates. A Baluch friend said it was difficult to take Punjabi visitors with him to Baluchistan, because there is so much local anger there at violence toward the Baluch. An acquaintance of mine, a Pakistani Hindu, once got angry when I answered the question “how are things?” with the word “fine” — because things so obviously aren’t. And Pakistani Christians have borne the brunt of arrests under the country’s blasphemy law; a governor of my province was assassinated for trying to repeal it. 

What then is the status of the country’s majority? In Pakistan, there is no such thing. Punjab is the most populous province, but its roughly 100 million people are divided by language, religious sect, outlook and gender. Sunni Muslims represent Pakistan’s most populous faith, but it’s dangerous to be the wrong kind of Sunni. Sunnis are regularly killed for being open to the new ways of the West, or for adhering to the old traditions of the Indian subcontinent, for being liberal, for being mystical, for being in politics, the army or the police, or for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

At the heart of Pakistan’s troubles is the celebration of the militant. Whether fighting in Afghanistan, or Kashmir, or at home, this deadly figure has been elevated to heroic status: willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, able to win the ultimate victory, selfless, noble. Yet as tens of thousands of Pakistanis die at the hands of such heroes, as tens of millions of Pakistanis go about their lives in daily fear of them, a recalibration is being demanded. The need of the hour, of the year, of the generation, is peace. 

'After 1999 coup, Musharraf claimed Kargil was a victory'

Mar 08 2013

Gen Pervez Musharraf launched the Kargil operations with the military objective to cut off supplies for Siachen and bargain a settlement, but months later, after his coup to become Pakistan's President, he spun a new story before his corps commanders, telling them Kargil was a "victory" because it had refocused global attention on Kashmir. 

This is revealed by Lt Gen (retd) Shahid Aziz in his Urdu book Yeh Khamoshi Kahan Tak. Aziz headed the ISI's analysis wing during Kargil and went on to become the Director General of Military Operations. It was Aziz — Musharraf calls him his "relative" in his autobiography In the Line of Fire — who ordered the Rawalpindi-based 111 Brigade to overthrow the Nawaz Sharif government in 1999 after it announced Musharraf's replacement. 

But in his book, Aziz does not spare Musharraf. He recalls that when a corps commander described Kargil as a "debacle" at a conference after the Army had assumed power, Musharraf "exploded in anger" and said: "Debacle! What debacle? You know what the Kashmir cause has gained from it? Due to Kargil, the world focused its attention on it. Now, they know to what extent we can go for Kashmir. It is our victory." 

This contradicted the briefing during Kargil by Maj Gen Tauqir Zia, DGMO, who told all senior general officers in early-May 1999 that Pakistani regulars were on the frontline. 

"He (Zia) mentioned that the Northern Light Infantry (NLI) and units of the regular army had occupied hilltops which were vacant. On some of them the Indian Army used to deploy in the summer and vacate in the winter," according to a translated version of Aziz's book. 

"The rest of the area was vacant and unoccupied. Now our army has reached far ahead and beyond these places and the Drass-Kargil road was in the range of fire of our small weapons. The road has been closed. Now the supply line of Siachen sector has been cut off, and the dumping/storage of provisions for the winter couldn't be completed. They would have to leave Siachen," Aziz has quoted Zia as saying. 

To ensure that the involvement of Pakistani troops was not detected, recorded tapes were played on the wireless. "The message recorded on tape in Pushto were being regularly relayed on wireless so that it could be portrayed that these were mujahideen," Aziz has written. 

Measuring Army Deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan

In October 2008, Army leadership asked the RAND Arroyo Center to assess the demands placed upon the Army by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The resulting analysis (documented in Army Deployments to OIF and OEF, DB-587-A) found that the Army had provided over 1 million troop-years to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). In addition, most active-duty soldiers deploying to these operations were on their second or third tour. 

This report serves as an update to the original documented briefing. The Army has now provided more than 1.5 million troop-years to OEF and OIF/Operation New Dawn. There have also been two noteworthy trends since the original study: From December 2008 to December 2011, the cumulative amount of time that a soldier has spent deployed has increased (on average) by 28 percent, and the fraction of active-duty soldiers who have not yet deployed has decreased, from 33 percent to 27 percent. 

The dragon gets a bear hug

By Vladimir Radyuhin  
March 8, 2013  

The Hindu Russia supplying China with weapon platforms more powerful than Russian-built systems India has in its arsenals reverses what was the rule in the past. 

Russia and China are revitalising defence ties at a time when relations of both with the U.S. have run into rough waters 

Russia is resuming the supply of advanced weapon platforms to China in a move that may have implications for India.

At the end of last year, Russia concluded a framework agreement with China for the sale of four Amur-1650 diesel submarines. In January it signed another intergovernmental agreement for the supply of Russia’s latest Su-35 long-range fighter planes.

If the deals go through, it will be for the first time in a decade that Russia has delivered offensive weapons to China.

It will also mark the first time that Russia has supplied China with more powerful weapon platforms compared with Russian-built systems India has in its arsenals. In the past, the opposite was the rule.

For example, the Su-30MKK jet fighters Russia sold to China were no match for the Su-30MKIs supplied to India at about the same time. The Chinese planes had an inferior radar and without the thrust vectoring engines the Indian version had.

This time the situation looks reversed. The Amur-1650 submarine is far more silent and powerful than the Kilo-class submarines the Indian Navy has in its inventory. India’s Su-30MKI will be no match for China’s Su-35 which is powered by a higher thrust engine and boasts a more sophisticated radar, avionics and weapons, according to a leading Russian military expert, Konstantin Makienko.

China’s acquisition of the Su-35 will also question the wisdom of India’s plan to buy the French Rafale, the expert said.

Arms Race: 21st Century Style

By Robert Farley
March 7, 2013 

Professor Till’s recent article on the potential for an arms race in East Asia made me think about how we traditionally conceive of an “arms race,” in what ways modern arms races might diverge from that definition, and what behavior we might see that could look like an arms race but that’s not motivated by traditional arms race logic. Appreciating the logic of arms racing may help us identify when such races are happening, and what effects they can have. 

Till identifies the most famous examples of arms races; the U.S.-UK-Germany dreadnought race of the 1910s, and the U.S.-Soviet nuclear delivery system race in the Cold War. The traditional logic of the arms race is bound up in the security dilemma; what makes one state more secure makes its adversaries less secure. Even defensive measures such as a wall (or a missile defense system) can render potential foes insecure by neutralizing their offensive deterrent. 

In large part because of the examples of the World War I naval spring and the Cold War nuclear buildup, we’re primed to expect symmetrical arms races, where one side purchases some number of X system, the other side attempts to build X+1, and hijinks ensue. Perhaps more commonly, differences in national interest and national capability produce asymmetrical races, in which the competitors try to counter each other through dissimilar means (air defense systems vs. bombers, for example). These races are potentially less destabilizing than symmetrical races, although much depends on the geopolitical context. 

Of course, asymmetric arms races make arms control more difficult, in part because the sides have difficulty agreeing on the relative merit of weapon systems. A dreadnought is a dreadnought and an ICBM is an ICBM, but what combination of submarines and DF-21s makes for an aircraft carrier? To the extent that the public pays attention to arms races (and its attention surely waxes and wanes), it seems to focus on numeric comparisons; do we have more battleships than the Germans, or more bombers than the Russians? Then again, few have seriously proposed arms control as a solution to the East Asian-maybe-an-arms-race. 

It’s worth mentioning that some incentive for expending national treasure on arms comes from motives that have little to do with international security. Advanced weapons can buy influence abroad and prestige at home. Political leaders often relish the opportunity to toss some money at key contractors and constituents, and defense spending can act as (clumsy) stimulus in uncertain economic climates. Even if China’s growth slows, there is no guarantee that Chinese military spending will slow. 

Given all this, one final possibility is that an arms race could, inadvertently, have salutary global effects. If states build ships for prestige as much as for security, and if they build more because their neighbors build more, and if (as the Cooperative Strategy suggests) maritime power can be understood in positive sum terms, then naval arms races could make management of the global commons easier. The next maritime catastrophe of similar magnitude to the 2004 tsunami will, in all likelihood, witness the co-participation of Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Australian, and New Zealander amphibious ships in relief and rescue operations. If this happens, the people in jeopardy probably won’t worry too much about the wicked dynamics of the security dilemma.

What to Make of China’s Defense Spending Increase

By James R. Holmes
March 7, 2013 

On Tuesday outgoing Chinese premier Wen Jiabao opened the annual meeting of the National People's Congress with a report announcing, among other things, that defense spending will expand by 10.7 percent this year, reaching an official figure of $115.7 billion. Wise China-watchers attach a mental asterisk to economic and budgetary figures issuing from Beijing, which has every incentive and every opportunity to fudge such numbers for political reasons. Last year, for instance, the Pentagon estimated Chinese defense spending at $120-180 billion, against the official total of $106 billion. Its 2012 report on Chinese military power ascribed the disparity to such factors as "poor accounting transparency," the nation's "still incomplete transition from a command economy," and the absence of major expenditures such as foreign weapons purchases from the defense budget. In all likelihood the Pentagon's is a conservative estimate, compiled by U.S. defense officials worried about standing accused of peddling the "China threat theory," pursuing nouveau containment, and the rest of the usual sins. 

Communist Party spokesmen drew a contrast between the Chinese and U.S. military budgets, pointing out that the Chinese figure remains a fraction of the American one. That's true, but it disguises as much as it reveals about the state of the U.S.-China competition. 

Two comments, one about arithmetic and one about geostrategy. My amphibian buddy Commander Salamander points out that under the Rule of 72, the PLA budget will double in less than seven years if it increases at 10.7 percent each year. That casts new light on the soothing Chinese talking point that it will take China thirty years to catch up with the United States. Let's suppose the Pentagon bumps up its estimate of Beijing's actual spending to $130-190 billion for this year. Take the midpoint of that range, $160 billion. If the double-digit increases of the past two decades persist, doubling the defense budget around every seven years, then China may exceed U.S. spending long before three decades elapse. It will do so even using the official CCP numbers, albeit a tad more slowly. (The Pentagon budget stands at around $600 billion this year.) Call it Beijing's Thirty-Year Rule, a bizarro version of Great Britain's Ten-Year Rule. The interwar Royal Navy, that is, assumed there would be no war for the coming decade. For Britain the Ten-Year Rule mutated into an excuse not to spend scarce funds on modernizing the fleet; for China a Thirty-Year Rule provides a breathing space to get ready. 

The geostrategic point is the one I made on Monday, namely that side-by-side comparisons of defense figures mislead. For China the theater is the Asian seas, primarily the waters and skies landward of the first island chain. That's a relatively compact, manageable space. For the United States the theater is the world. Getting into most parts of that theater demands long voyages or flights through potentially contested thoroughfares. Projecting power across transoceanic distances is a daunting — and disproportionately expensive — enterprise. Apply a physics metaphor. Energy diminishes by the square of the distance from the energy source, not in linear fashion. It plunges. Much the same holds true for military power. The PLA has the luxury of concentrating its efforts, and its budget, on the fraction of the earth's surface that is maritime Asia. The U.S. military remains dispersed, and it must invest lavishly in bases, logistics, and large platforms capable of traversing vast distances, just to reach faraway scenes of action. 

In short, the amounts the two competitors invest in usable firepower are closer than raw spending figures indicate. Let's refuse to be lied to by statistics.

A Player, but No Superpower

MARCH 7, 2013 

Why China's military shouldn't scare the United States. 

On March 5, at the opening of the National People's Congress, Beijing announced its official 2013 defense budget: roughly $114.3 billion, a 10.7 percent increase over the previous year and, in nominal terms, nearly four times the official budget a decade ago. This level of spending is enough to make China a force in its neighborhood, but not one to engage in combat overseas. 

Beijing has long faced a much more problematic geostrategic position than Washington has. The United States borders two friendly neighbors and is buffered by massive oceans to its east and west. It enjoys abundant natural resources and the most allies in the world. China, by contrast, borders 14 countries (including four states with nuclear weapons) and has ongoing disputes with all its maritime neighbors, including its powerful rival, Japan. 

Since the early 1990s, China has been surprisingly forthright about the reasons it is strengthening its military: to catch up with other powers, to construct a more capable and modern military force in order to assert its outstanding territorial and maritime claims, and to secure its development on its own terms. It also wants to acquire prestige as a full-fledged "military great power" -- a status its leaders appear to increasingly see as necessary to enhance China's international standing. Despite technological inferiority through most of the last two decades, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) utilized its geographical proximity to potential hot spots in what it calls the "Near Seas" (the Yellow, East China, and South China seas) to develop deterrents based on asymmetric technologies aimed at exploiting the vulnerabilities in potential adversaries' expensive military technologies. China's ballistic and cruise missiles, for example, are cheaper to produce, deploy, and use to attack enemy surface ships than the defensive systems necessary to protect would-be targets. In short, China is increasing the potential cost for the United States to intervene in the Near Seas. 

Beijing is still spending well within its means. Its defense budget is the world's second-largest, but so is its economy. China's military-spending growth is roughly consistent with its rising GDP and is actually outpaced by Beijing's rapid increase in state financial expenditures. China is no Soviet Union, whose military spending ultimately stunted its economy, reaching unsustainable levels -- far higher proportionally than that of China today, even when compared with high-end estimates of Beijing's actual spending. 

China, the Abnormal Great Power

MARCH 5, 2013 


China is criticized for becoming more assertive, aggressive, and bullying, but in reality it should be seen as too reactive.

China’s rising economic influence has leaders around the world on the edge of their seats. But Beijing is an abnormal great power. Its international potential is constrained by significant domestic economic vulnerabilities, and the inward-looking Chinese leadership has yet to craft a nimble and constructive international posture. And as the Chinese economy normalizes, its growing pains are laid bare. All this has the effect of elevating risks and aggravating insecurities in China’s neighborhood and beyond. 

 This is not the path many hoped Beijing would follow. As China became a global economic power, expectations were raised that it would act as a responsible stakeholder, as Robert Zoellick put it when he was U.S. deputy secretary of state. Beijing, it was hoped, would help shape the international agenda—consistent with norms largely established by the West—rather than continue to adhere to long-established national interests. And indeed, Beijing seemed headed that way.

As far back as April 1974, the Chinese leadership was avowing its peaceful intentions. Deng Xiaoping, in a special address to the UN General Assembly, declared that “China is not a superpower, nor will she ever seek to be one. If one day China should change her color and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should identify her as social-imperialism, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.” In 2003, the Communist Party’s theorist Zheng Bijian echoed the sentiment, explaining that China’s economic ascendancy should be seen as a “peaceful development” that posed little threat to its neighbors but offered many benefits to the world at large. 

But expectations were clearly unrealistic. China’s remarkable economic progress has encouraged Beijing to become more rather than less confrontational. Most observers see a diminished likelihood of China playing a positive role in global affairs. The discussion is now about how rising nationalism and related security interests have hardened China’s foreign policy positions. This has created the impression—arguably unfair at times—that Beijing is more inclined to use its economic clout to advance core interests than to strengthen political relationships. 

While the country is criticized for becoming more assertive, aggressive, and bullying, in reality it should be seen as being too reactive.

China’s Looming Crisis: Daunting Troubles Mount


China’s in deep, deep trouble, and its new leaders know it. The growth of the nation’s GDP has continued to slow every quarter since late 2010—though it did tick up slightly in the state’s latest quarterly report, published in January. But that’s just one of many problems. In the simple words of D&B Country RiskLine Reports’ year-end assessment of China, “Trend: deteriorating.” 

Xi Jinping, the nation’s new Communist Party leader, assumes the presidency this March, and the country is hoping, albeit with considerable trepidation, that he will bring positive change. But China’s troubles—economic, political, social—are daunting. And as the full government transition approaches, these problems seem to be converging. One significant symptom: Money is flowing out of the state at an alarming rate, a sign that wealthy Chinese have lost faith in the country. 

Of course, China does not make public any figures of this capital flight. But reliable estimates from several journalists and economists published late last year estimate that between $225 billion and $300 billion has left the country in the past year, three to four percent of China’s economic output for that period. And this has happened even though moving significant amounts out of the country is strictly illegal. The outflow is growing larger every year, just as the GDP continues to fall—not a coincidence. 

Russia and China—either (or both) could collapse soon. Yet neither the president nor his challenger seem alert to, or prepared for, such a possibility. 

In fact, wealthy and successful Chinese aren’t just moving their money. Many are making plans to leave for the West along with their money, with America being the primary destination. Last year, the Chinese magazineHurun Report, which chronicles the lives and foibles of the wealthy, published that finding after interviewing nine hundred people in eighteen cities. 

The sample was clearly not scientific, but it was given added credibility when many thousands of people responding to the article on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, said they would leave, too—if only they had enough money. 

Shahbag Square goes to Bangabandhu Mujib

08 Mar 2013

Shahbag demonstrators at the rally on Thursday at Suhrawardy Udyan — formerly Race Course Maidan — to mark the 42nd anniversary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s historic speech of March 7, 1971. The hoarding on the left features Mujibur Rahman. The smaller one on the right shows Pakistan Lt Gen. A.A.K. Niazi signing the instrument of surrender in the presence of Lt Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora, then commander of the Indian and Bangladeshi forces in the eastern theatre 

Dhaka, March 7: Bodies bend at the waist and hands fling out in unison as they shout slogans; voices that recite poetry go hoarse and crack as they reach a crescendo because of the breath they take away. 

Towering over the crowds is a photograph of the Bangabandhu taken at the moment he delivered the speech “rokto jokhon diyechi, rokto aaro debo...” (if we have sacrificed blood, we are willing to give more...) and ending with “this time our fight is for our liberation, this time it is for our Independence”. 

Just behind it is a smaller hoarding of Pakistan’s Lt Gen. A.A.K Niazi signing the instrument of surrender to Lt Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora, commander of Indian and Bangladesh forces in the eastern theatre on December 16, 1971. 

The photograph marks the spot that is the Indian military’s finest moment. When Shahbag went to Suhrawardy Udyan today, the dust raised by many feet at Bangladesh’s National Memorial settled an argument: Shahbag is passionately political, there is nothing apolitical about it. 

It has turned every symbol of Bangladesh’s nationalism into a political statement, using the 42nd anniversary of founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s March 7, 1971, clarion call that led to the Liberation War as a tool against the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) that had called for a hartal. 

In the sheer energy of the throngs that marched to Suhrawardy Udyan, formerly the Ramna Race Course Ground, the main Opposition BNP is in danger of seceding from the narrative of the creation of Bangladesh. Shahbag is achieving this despite the BNP’s founder and late President, Zia Ur Rahman, who broadcast on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur the Independence of Bangladesh. 

A set-back to Islamic extremism in Bangladesh

07 Mar , 2013 

The Shabag movement of Dhaka, which is also referred to as Bangladesh Spring, has been like the Tahrir Square movement of Egypt (2010), a spontaneous uprising of the youth of Dhaka demanding the death penalty for leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of Bangladesh presently under trial before an international criminal tribunal for their role in opposing the liberation movement of Bangladesh in 1971, collaborating with Pakistan and carrying out the massacre of a large number of civilians, including well-known intellectuals, for supporting the liberation. 

The mainstream political parties had totally underestimated the depth of the hatred of the youth of Dhaka for the Islamic extremists.

Like the Tahrir Square movement, the Shabag movement, named after a locality in Dhaka where it started on February 5,2013, is an iconless movement triggered off by spontaneous public (mainly the youth) anger and outrage over the non-award of the death penalty to a prominent leader of the JEI and imparted momentum through social media networks. But, whereas the Tahrir Square movement was against the dictatorial rule of the Hosni Mubarak Government and not against Islamic extremism, the Shabag movement has been against the JEI and other Islamic extremist groups, which tried to impose their stamp on the liberal society of Bangladesh. 

Whereas the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt has been an ultimate political beneficiary of the Tahrir Square movement, if the Shabag movement maintains its momentum and succeeds, it could mark the triumph of liberal political forces in Bangladesh over the Islamic extremist elements with close links with Pakistan. 

Even the mainstream political parties of Bangladesh, including the Awami League of Sheikh Hasina, which has been a relentless opponent of the JEI, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Begum Khalida Zia, which has been a political ally of the JEI, were taken by surprise by the spontaneous Shabag movement and the demand of the youth not only for death penalty to the war criminals of the JEI, but even for a ban on the JEI and other Islamic extremist groups. 

The mainstream political parties had totally underestimated the depth of the hatred of the youth of Dhaka for the Islamic extremists. Their ill-concealed attempts to take advantage of the mass uprising for their political benefit have been rebuffed by the youth, who are not prepared to be co-opted by any of these parties. 

Dhaka needs focussed approach

By Harsh V. Pant 
08 Mar 2013

India can’t afford to ignore it

EXTERNAL Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s recent visit to Bangladesh laid the groundwork for the visit of the President, Pranab Mukherjee, to Dhaka. New Delhi has not been a great partner to Dhaka so far and by not signing the deals that matter most to Bangladesh is alienating pro-India forces in that country. Yet both visits have underscored the importance that India attaches to its relations with Bangladesh.

Mukherjee had visited Dhaka in 2010 as the then Finance Minister to mark the signing of a $1 billion loan deal, the largest line of credit received by Bangladesh under a single agreement. India’s Exim Bank had signed this line of credit agreement with Bangladesh’s economic relations division and the loan was be used to develop railways and communications infrastructure there. This deal carried 1.75 per cent annual interest and would be repayable in 20 years, including a five-year grace period. It was offered during Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in January 2010. This was followed by the two countries signing a 35-year electricity transmission deal under which India will be exporting up to 500 mw of power to Bangladesh.

Dhaka has also signed a $1.7 billion pact with the National Thermal Power Corporation for the construction of two coal-fired plants in southern Bangladesh. Despite these initiatives India failed to build on the momentum provided by Hasina’s visit with its failure to implement two major bilateral agreemebnts — finalisation of land boundary demarcation and the sharing of the waters of the Teesta river.

Bangladesh is rightly upset at the slow pace in the implementation of these. Hasina has taken great political risk to put momentum back into bilateral ties. But there has been no serious attempt on India’s part to settle outstanding issues. 

Bureaucratic inertia and lack of political will has prevented many of the deals from getting followed through. Dhaka is seeking response to its demand for the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers on Bangladeshi products. India has failed to reciprocate Hasina’s overtures. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has used the India-Bangladesh bonhomie under Hasina to attack the government for toeing India’s line. India-Bangladesh ties had reached their lowest ebb during the 2001-2006 tenure of the BNP government. 

India has failed to capitalise on the propitious political circumstances in Bangladesh, damaging its credibility even further. New Delhi’s window of opportunity will not exist forever. Anti-Indian sentiments can be marginalised if India allows Bangladesh to harness its economic growth and present it with greater opportunities. Yet India remains obsessed with “AfPak” and has failed to give due attention to Bangladesh. 

Protect Bangladeshi Hindus, says Amnesty

By Haroon Habib 
March 7, 2013 

Amnesty International has made an urgent appeal to the Bangladesh government to provide its minority better protection.

“The Hindu community in Bangladesh is at extreme risk, in particular at such a tense time in the country. It is shocking that they appear to be targeted simply for their religion. The authorities must ensure that they receive the protection they need,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty’s Researcher.

Survivors told Amnesty that the attackers were from the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir. 

In the report, ‘Bangladesh: Wave of Violent Attacks Against Hindu Minority’, Amnesty gave the country’s war crimes trial as the context to the violence against the minority. 

The report said attacks on Hindus and other minorities were often reported from Bangladesh, especially from the far-flung areas. The latest attack took place on March 6 at Daudkandi in Comilla, where a Hindu temple was vandalised and burnt down. It said on Feb 28 a minority village of Rajganj Bazar in Noakhali was set on fire by the Jamaat supporters. According to Amnesty, Bangladesh’s Hindu minority constitutes only eight per cent of the population and has historically been at risk of violence. They suffered heavily during the 1971 liberation war and again after the 2001 parliamentary elections, when BNP-Jamaat coalition came to power.

The rights body urged all political parties to condemn such violence against the Hindu community.

The burden of truth

Mar 08, 2013 

The ongoing trials can be described as the resumption of a quest for justice that was short-circuited. Supporters feel that only by confronting its grim past can Bangladesh’s democratic future be secured.

The escalating violence in Bangladesh triggered by the opponents of the war crimes trials raises important questions about the country’s past as well as its future. The trial aims to bring to justice individuals who actively collaborated with the Pakistan Army in its brutal efforts to quash the movement for an independent Bangladesh in 1971. 

These efforts at “pacification” resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the rape of thousands of women, and the forcible eviction and displacement of millions. Many of these collaborators had been associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami (which opposed independence for Bangladesh) and its affiliates, the student body called the Islami Chhatra Sangh and the paramilitary outfits, Al-Badr, Al-Shams and the Razakar.

The Jamaat’s political fortunes have since revived. In 2001, it was invited to join a coalition government led by Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP). Unsurprisingly, supporters of the BNP and the Jamaat have challenged the legitimacy of the trials. Following the sentencing to death of its leader, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, the Jamaat unleashed a wave of violence that has claimed several lives. The Jamaat insists that the trial is nothing but political vendetta and that this verdict was delivered in response to the popular (but peaceful) protests against the life sentence handed to other leaders. Besides, the Jamaat has launched an orchestrated campaign to undermine the trials by mass circulation of propaganda through email and social media. Indeed, anyone who has ever written anything about Bangladesh seems to be on the Jamaat’s list server these days.

The Jamaat attempts to establish innocence by dissociation. Had there been specific allegations, it argues, there would have been trials in the past 38 years. The mere fact that these did not occur is proof of the innocence of Jamaat cadres who are being victimised in these trials. More plausibly, the Jamaat underlines the evidence that has surfaced in recent months about unfair procedures adopted by one of the judges.

Both these issues merit closer examination. Why was there a delay in holding these trials? Initially, the war crimes trials were supposed to include Pakistani soldiers (in the joint custody of Bangladesh and India) as well as their collaborators.

On January 1, 1972, the interim government of Bangladesh resolved to establish a “Genocide Investigation Commission”. The Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman repeatedly proclaimed its intention to bring to justice all individuals culpable of these crimes. Under the Collaborators (Special Tribunal) Order of 1972, over 37,000 individuals were arrested and the trial of 2,842 was completed. Mujib proclaimed a general amnesty in November 1973 — largely as a step towards fostering national reconciliation. This acquitted those accused of petty crimes, but specifically excluded collaborators who were charged with serious offences such as rape, murder and arson.

Questions you never thought to ask: What would a nuclear war in South Asia mean for U.S. soybean production?

March 6, 2013 

Mutlu Ozdogan and Christopher Kucharik of the University of Wisconsin and Alan Robock of Rutgers say an India-Pakistan nuclear war would have a devastating impact on U.S. agriculture: 

Crop production would decline in the Midwestern United States from climate change following a regional nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan. Using Agro-IBIS, a dynamic agroecosystem model, we simulated the response of maize and soybeans to cooler, drier, and darker conditions from war-related smoke. We combined observed climate conditions for the states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri with output from a general circulation climate model simulation that injected 5 Tg of elemental carbon into the upper troposphere. Both maize and soybeans showed notable yield reductions for a decade after the event. Maize yields declined 10-40 % while soybean yields dropped 2-20 %. A 2007 study by ecologists at Rutgers found that even after post-Cold War nuclear weapons reductions, a superpower vs. superpower nuclear war could still produce enough smoke to generate the agricultural catastrophe and mass famine known as "nuclear win

The Real Winners Of The Global Economy: The Material Boys


Something strange happened on the road to our much-celebrated post-industrial utopia. The real winners of the global economy have turned out to be not the creative types or the data junkies, but the material boys: countries, states and companies that have perfected the art of physical production in agriculture, energy and, remarkably, manufacturing. 

The strongest economies of the high-income world (Norway, Canada, Australia, some Persian Gulf countries) produce oil and gas, coal, industrial minerals or food for the expanding global marketplace. The greatest success story, China, has based its rise largely on manufacturing. Brazil has been powered by a trifecta of higher energy production, a strong industrial sector and the highest volume of agricultural exports after the United States. 

Things are really looking up for the material boys here in North America. Over the past decade, the strongest regional economies (as measured by GDP, job and wage growth) have overwhelmingly been those that produces material goods. This includes large swaths of the Great Plains, the Gulf Coast and the Intermountain West, three regions that, as I point out in a recent Manhattan Institute study, have withstood the great recession far better than the rest of the country. 

Today virtually all the “material boy” states now boast unemployment well below the national average; the lowest are the Dakotas, Wyoming and Nebraska. Texas, the biggest of the U.S. material boys, boasts an unemployment rate around 6%, well below California (nearly 10%) and New York (8%). One key reason: While Texas has created over 180,000 generally well-paid energy jobs over the past decade, California, with abundant energy reserves, has generated barely one-tenth as many. New York, despite ample potential in impoverished upstate areas, largely has disdained developing its energy sector

These realities contrast greatly with the conventional wisdom that with the rise of the information age, the application of “brains” to abstract concepts, images and media would come to trump the “brawn” of producers, a thesis advanced influentially in 1973 by Daniel Bell in The Coming of Post Industrial Society. More recently Thomas Friedman has cited the East Asian countries such as Taiwan and Japan as suggesting that a lack of natural resources actually sparks innovation and economic health, while too great a concentration generally hinders progress. 

So how is it that the rubes, with their grease-stained hands, reeking of the smell of manure or chemical fertilizers, have outperformed the darlings of the information age? The answer lies largely in the forces that are reshaping the world. This includes, most portentously, rising demand for fuel, food and fiber in developing countries, notably in East Asia and Latin America