14 March 2013

It’s no longer Christmas time

By T. P. Sreenivasan
13 Mar 2013

IDES OF MARCH: In diplomacy and international law, India has a major grievance against Italy, which will have an adverse impact on bilateral relations. File photo shows Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre, left, and Salvatore Girone walking to enter the main premises of the central prison in Thiruvananthapuram. 
The Hindu Activists of the Kerala Swathandra Malsya Thozhilali Union and National Fish Workers Forum protest against Italian marines, in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. 

Italy stands guilty not only of causing the death of innocent people, but also of violating a solemn promise given in the name of a sovereign state 

The tremors of an act of Italian perfidy instantly reached the shores of Kerala on Monday night, where some impoverished fisherfolk have been waiting for justice for more than a year. The Italians, ranging from consular officials to the Foreign Minister of Italy, who visited the relatives of the victims of the shooting in February last year, had appeared reasonable and sympathetic. In fact, there was even appreciation for the extent to which the Italian Government was ready to go to rescue their marines. Its decision not to send the marines back to India to stand trial by revoking the solemn guarantee given by the Italian Government to the Supreme Court of India came as a rude shock. At a moment when the believers are focused on Italy because of the papal election, the country’s reputation and credibility have hit an all-time low. 

Setting up confrontation

For most Europeans, to whom “Italian Justice” refers to the many failings of the judicial system in the country, the action may not come as a surprise. There is barely any iconic case in Italy that has given confidence to the people that justice has been done. Even after verdicts have been given, “conspiracy theorizing” is known to be a national pastime. A country with such a reputation for a cavalier attitude to law was not worthy of the trust bestowed on it by the Supreme Court of India. The defiance of the Supreme Court on the one hand and violation of basic diplomatic norms on the other have brought Italy to an unprecedented confrontation with India. 

Bengal's Waters

Mar 13, 2013

The Bay of Bengal, India thinks, is its backwaters. It should think again; for Beijing is all set to transform the geo-economics of the Bay of Bengal. The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is about to complete the construction of the natural gas pipeline from Myanmar's Rakhine coast to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan in south-western China. 

The pipeline traverses nearly 800 km north-east from the island of Kyaukpyu (pronounced "Tchapru") to enter Yunnan. It is designed to carry nearly 12 billion cubic metres of gas per year, nearly a third of current Chinese imports of natural gas. A small portion of the gas will be consumed along the way in Myanmar. 

Myanmar and China announced the project in 2008 after Yangon failed to secure an agreement with New Delhi and Dhaka on a trilateral pipeline project that was endlessly debated but could not be moved forward.

Work began on the project after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Myanmar in 2010. That it took barely three years to complete it underlines China's purposeful implementation of major cross-border projects. 

Despite the recent setbacks to Chinese investments in Myanmar, Beijing's economic presence in the country will continue to grow. While Myanmar looks for more commercial partners, China is likely to remain its most important one. 

In 2011, Myanmar ordered the suspension of work on the Myitsone hydel project that was being developed by China Power Investment Corporation, creating a big flutter in the relations between Yangon and Beijing.

Lack of a credible assessment of environmental impact, the massive displacement of people and the plans to ship most of the electricity to Yunnan saw largescale protests by the local population, compelling Yangon to act. 

More recently, protests have enveloped a major project by China's Norinco Company to develop one of the world's largest copper deposits in Myanmar. Meanwhile, Beijing's ambitious infrastructure projects are connecting China to the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar. 

Myanmar and its troubled borders

by G. Parthasarathy

India losing an opportunity

WITH a population of 60 million and a ruling elite and military made up primarily of Bamars (Burmese), who constitute approximately 68 per cent of its population, Myanmar today is perhaps the most seriously insurgency-affected country in the world. Richly endowed with natural resources ranging from oil to rubies and perhaps the most fertile land in Asia, Myanmar has constantly confronted troubles along its borders with its eastern neighbours --- Thailand and China. The country has 135 distinct ethnic groups ranging from Christian Karen and Kachin on its borders with Thailand and China, to Muslim Rohingyas on its borders with Bangladesh. 

Ethnic insurgencies have torn the country apart ever since its birth. The Christian Karens took objection to Myanmar proclaiming itself a Buddhist state shortly after independence in 1948. They were the favourites of the British and the best armed group in the country. They came close to overrunning the capital Rangoon in 1949. Prime Minister U Nu and his government survived largely because of shiploads of military equipment from India. Ethnic insurgency amidst political infighting led to Prime Minister U Ba Swe asking the army chief Ne Win to take over the government in 1958 and later impose military rule in 1962. The Ne Win period was marked by continuing ethnic insurgences, exacerbated by China’s assistance till the 1980s, to the Burmese Communist Party, mainly operating through the Shan state and the Kachin state, straddling Burma’s borders with India and China. While the military regime’s General Khin Nyunt negotiated ceasefire agreements with most ethnic armed groups, ethnic conflicts have got revived in the recent past. 

Shortly after Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters entered Parliament, ethnic tensions between the Muslim Rohingyas and the Bamar Buddhist majority revived in Rakhine (Arakan) province bordering Bangladesh. Over 115,000 people, mostly Muslim Rohingyas, were displaced. The Myanmar government permitted visits by independent observers from foreign governments and international organizations, after the army moved in and restored order. Myanmar’s influential Buddhist clergy was fully supportive of the violence perpetrated on those they believed were “outsiders” from Bangladesh. Quite evidently recognizing public sentiment, Aung San Suu Kyi chose to remain silent. Myanmar officials openly say that while India is a secular country which can absorb demographic changes along its borders, Buddhist Myanmar is a small country which is in no position to do so. Strangely enough, there was a violent agitation in Mumbai against the Myanmar Government for alleged violence against Muslims. One wonders whether a similar demonstration would be organized against the killings of thousands of Shias and Sunni Barelvis in Pakistan. 

The long and short of open defecation

March 14, 2013

There is statistical data to show that the height of Indian children is correlated to their and their neighbourhood’s access to toilets 

You can learn a lot from measuring children’s height. How tall a child has grown by the time she is a few years old is one of the most important indicators of her well-being. This is not because height is important in itself, but because height reflects a child’s early-life health, absorbed nutrition and experience of disease. 

Because health problems that prevent children from growing tall also prevent them from growing into healthy, productive, smart adults, height predicts adult mortality, economic outcomes and cognitive achievement. The first few years of life have critical life-long consequences. Physical or cognitive development that does not happen in these first years is unlikely to be made up later. 

So it is entirely appropriate that news reports in India frequently mention child stunting or malnutrition. Indian children are among the shortest in the world. Such widespread stunting is both an emergency for human welfare and a puzzle. 

Why are Indian children so short? Stunting is often considered an indicator of “malnutrition,” which sometimes suggests that the problem is that children don’t have enough food. Although it is surely a tragedy that so many people in India are hungry, and it is certainly the case that many families follow poor infant feeding practices, food appears to be unable to explain away the puzzle of Indian stunting. 

The last hope of the common man

Mar 13, 2013 

In the US, judges are appointed for life. There are no post-retirement carrots for them. This ensures complete impartiality of the judiciary. 

Despite bleeding the Indian economy throughout their rule, the British left behind sound institutions of governance. An independent judiciary was one of them. The Hindu legal code, based on Manu’s caste philosophy, was highly discriminatory against the depressed castes while the Islamic legal code discriminated against non-believers. 

But Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence provided equality for all. An accused was not guilty till proved otherwise. Criminal law now applied to everyone in the country irrespective of his/her religion. The judicial system introduced by the British was based on total impartiality. Civil law varied for different religious communities. The Directive Principles of our Constitution enjoin a common civil code, but for political reasons this has not been implemented.

Indians were given high appointments in the judiciary from the early period of British rule. The bulk of Indian officers joining the Indian Civil Services were diverted to the judicial stream and only a few taken in the executive branch. The first Indian high court judge was Sambhunath Pandit, appointed in 1863. Indians were debarred from top civil appointments in the beginning but later limited numbers were inducted. In the absence of a suitable career outside the government services, most of our English educated and talented youth took to legal or medical professions. We had some brilliant Indian lawyers who gained great distinction. The last British Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, referring to Indian political leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, once said that in India he was up against a battery of barristers.

Some instances to show how the judiciary functioned in the British era are noteworthy. During the 1857 Uprising, the military held what was called “drum head court martials”, with little regard for impartiality and justice. To strike terror among the people, innocent Indians were hung from trees along the road. When peace was restored, the civil judicial system asserted itself.

In Ahmedabad, A British judge broke protocol and stood up to honour Mahatma Gandhi when he appeared as an accused in his court. The Mahatma pleaded guilty and the judge convicted him, awarding a sentence of imprisonment. While doing so, he stated that never before had he had the honour of trying such a great man nor was he likely to have that honour again. He added that no one would be happier than him if the sentence awarded by him was remitted or reduced by the higher authorities. 

Pakistan Will Rise Again

March 13, 2013

Pakistan will rise again. It certainly seems improbable right now. But our people are too strong and too full of heart to let this country crumble. I believe in Pakistan and in Pakistanis. 

Still, with each act of violence on this soil which destroys the futures of innocent children, women and men, my hope wanes a little and my optimism recedes. 

I imagine a young boy sitting in his family’s apartment in Abbas Town on the evening of March 3. His father has gone to the mosque to pray and he is putting the finishing touches on his homework while his mother prepares dinner. 

Imagine his face, the surprise when that blast came out of nowhere and took his future away. Imagine his mother’s shock. Imagine the father who found everything he lived for literally blown up. One imagined face and life, and the heart shrinks. 

Thinking of all those who died in Abbas Town, as well as the hundreds of Hazaras in Quetta this January and February, is almost unbearable.

Pakistan’s homegrown militants get more brazen by the day, striking marketplaces in Quetta during the evening rush hour and homes in the heart of the country’s most populous city. They attack where citizens are supposed to feel safest. But where are Pakistan’s leaders? Do they grieve each child, each man and each woman lost to this senseless violence? 

They do not visit the affected areas until days after the attacks, if then. Do they look at each victim’s picture, not the one with blood and missing body parts, but at the picture of the happy eight-year-old, the face full of life? Do they bother to learn his or her name and what made the child special? 

Does the thought that it could have been one of their own cross their minds? They must know it probably couldn’t, given the amount of security they receive. So, they remove themselves from the situation and hide behind aggregate casualty numbers and impassive condemnations of the attacks. 

It is impossible that any well-meaning state can be this inept at protecting its own. As long as innocent citizens continue to be killed under its watch, the government’s condemnations mean nothing. A state’s foremost responsibility is protecting the lives of its citizens. How can cars get loaded with explosives and travel through the country’s largest city, through narrow streets, to arrive successfully at their target? 

The Pakistani Military's New Coup Playbook

March 14, 2013

Democracy Is Still on a Leash in Islamabad

Will Democracy Survive? Protests in Islamabad, 2013. (Zohra Bensemra / Courtesy Reuters) 

Pakistan is on the verge of an historic moment: This spring, for the first time, a current elected administration will hand off power to another one after serving out its term. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government, which came into power in 2008 following reasonably free and fair elections, holds a number of dubious distinctions -- its massive corruption, its refusal to expand Pakistan’s miniscule tax base by imposing industrial and agricultural taxes on parliamentarians and their patronage networks, its inability to address the colossal power and gas shortages that have plagued the country, its weakness in addressing Pakistan’s pervasive security problems, and its inability to stem intolerance against religious and ethnic minorities. But despite the litany of shortcomings, the PPP’s achievements are remarkable. 

For one, the serving parliament has passed more legislation than any other in Pakistan’s history. The government has also gone a long way toward institutionalizing democracy, including making considerable efforts to take responsibility for foreign and defense policy-making, which are typically the bailiwick of the powerful army. Although the parliament has carefully managed this process so that it does not fundamentally challenge the army, the Pakistani people have nevertheless grown accustomed to seeing politicians weighing in on such hefty issues. Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari is the first sitting Pakistani president to have ever devolved extensive presidential powers to the prime minister, no small accomplishment in a country where the president has often enjoyed more power than the prime minister or parliament. Zardari has also made unprecedented strides to pass power to the provinces, in order to mitigate the long-standing grievances of those in Balochistan, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the North-West Frontier Province), as well as the tribal areas. The government has even seriously flirted with reforming how the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are governed. The current codes date back to the colonial era and are ill-suited to a modern democracy. 

This does not mean, of course, that Pakistan’s democracy is in the free and clear. There are numerous and daunting tasks ahead for the next government. It must consolidate democratic institutionalization, strengthen civilian control over the military, forge consensus among whatever restive coalition partners eventually form the government, resist political infighting and military interference, and bravely seek economic reforms against the wishes of their constituents and their own economic interests. This may prove too herculean an agenda. Although the government has moved forward by leaps and bounds in the last few years, progress might be slower in the ones ahead. 

Pakistan's Nuclear Past as Prologue

By Frank Klotz  
March 12, 2013 

Feroz Hassan Khan, Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb. 520 pp., $28.46. 

The rivalry between India and Pakistan continues to be cause for serious concern. Since partition in 1947, the two countries have fought one another in three major wars and clashed in a number of more limited military engagements. Disputes over territory and a host of other issues persist. Earlier this year, skirmishes on the “line of control” in Kashmir reportedly left three Pakistani and two Indian soldiers dead. Political leaders in both New Delhi and Islamabad predictably responded with angry rhetoric. It is after all an election year in Pakistan—and campaigning is practically a year-round activity in India’s huge federal system. 

Because both India and Pakistan are nuclear-armed states, the stakes of any armed conflict between the two countries are potentially enormous. Scholars disagree on the extent to whichthe very existence of nuclear weapons on the subcontinent may have lowered the prospects for all-out war during the past decade or so. Yet, even if nuclear weapons have had a deterrent effect, the potential for interstate violence nevertheless remains—and, with it, the ever-present possibility that some future crisis could escalate out of control regardless of what national leaders might actually intend. The consequences could be horrific not only for the region, but for the entire world. 

Both India and Pakistan espouse a policy of “minimum deterrence”—though neither side has precisely defined what this actually means. Today, they each possess a stockpile of roughly one hundred nuclear weapons—with Pakistan having slightly more than its neighbor. While these are relatively modest numbers compared to those of the United States and Russia, the two countries are currently expanding their respective nuclear capabilities beyond their existing nuclear-capable fighter aircraft and medium-range land-based missiles. India is now conducting sea trials for its first indigenously produced nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine (theArihant). Less than a year ago, it also tested a ballistic missile (the Agni V) capable of reaching Beijing. For its part, Pakistan is said to be developing tactical nuclear warheads to mount atop a new, sixty kilometer-range mobile missile, the Nasr. Both sides are also reportedly taking steps to expand their capabilities to produce fissile materials. 

Breaking Up Is Not Hard to Do

Why the U.S.-Pakistani Alliance Isn't Worth the Trouble

Coming to America: Bogra, October 1954. (Getty) 

Washington has not had an easy time managing the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, to put it mildly. For decades, the United States has sought to change Pakistan's strategic focus from competing with India and seeking more influence in Afghanistan to protecting its own internal stability and economic development. But even though Pakistan has continued to depend on U.S. military and economic support, it has not changed its behavior much. Each country accuses the other of being a terrible ally -- and perhaps both are right. 

Pakistanis tend to think of the United States as a bully. In their view, Washington provides desperately needed aid intermittently, yanking it away whenever U.S. officials want to force policy changes. Pakistanis believe that Washington has never been grateful for the sacrifice of the thousands of Pakistani military and security officials who have died fighting terrorists in recent decades, nor mourned the tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians whom those terrorists have killed. Many in the country, including President Asif Ali Zardari and General Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, recognize that Pakistan has at times gone off the American script, but they argue that the country would be a better ally if only the United States showed more sensitivity to Islamabad's regional concerns. 

On the other side, Americans see Pakistan as the ungrateful recipient of almost $40 billion in economic and military assistance since 1947, $23 billion of it for fighting terrorism over the last decade alone. In their view, Pakistan has taken American dollars with a smile, even as it covertly developed nuclear weapons in the 1980s, passed nuclear secrets to others in the 1990s, and supported Islamist militant groups more recently. No matter what Washington does, according to a growing cadre of U.S. senators, members of Congress, and editorial writers, it can't count on Pakistan as a reliable ally. Meanwhile, large amounts of U.S. aid have simply failed to invigorate Pakistan's economy. 
From birth, Pakistan was saddled with a huge army it could not pay for and plenty of monsters to destroy.

The May 2011 U.S. covert operation in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden brought the relationship to an unusually low point, making it harder than ever to maintain the illusion of friendship. At this point, instead of continuing to fight so constantly for so little benefit -- money for Pakistan, limited intelligence cooperation for the United States, and a few tactical military gains for both sides -- the two countries should acknowledge that their interests simply do not converge enough to make them strong partners. By coming to terms with this reality, Washington would be freer to explore new ways of pressuring Pakistan and achieving its own goals in the region. Islamabad, meanwhile, could finally pursue its regional ambitions, which would either succeed once and for all or, more likely, teach Pakistani officials the limitations of their country's power. 

The Battle For Bangladesh

March 13, 2013 

Who Defines Bengali Identity?

Protestors in Shahbag. 

With daytime temperatures hovering in the low nineties and merciless humidity and air pollution bearing down, it takes a lot these days to draw residents of Dhaka, Bangladesh, out into the streets. And that makes the recent demonstrations in the city's Shahbag neighborhood all the more remarkable. For the past several weeks, thousands have rallied in this nondescript area around a single issue: bringing to justice the collaborators who, in early 1971, helped the Pakistani military put down the Bengali nationalist movement in the country's eastern half. That unrest eventually resulted in the late 1971 civil war that led to Bangladesh's establishment as an independent state. 

The collaborators were complicit in the genocide of at least one million East Pakistanis, the demonstrators say, and should be tried in court. Many of them belonged to the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, which dates back to when the British ruled the subcontinent and which has always advocated for an Islamic state. During the 1971 war, it cooperated with the Pakistani military regime because its members deemed that the bonds of Islamic solidarity should trump any Bengali nationalist feeling. 

The protesters' timing might seem strange, since the demands for justice and a formal ban on the Jamaat are coming well over four decades after the tragic events. But they are part of a struggle over Bangladesh's identity that has raged for decades. The most recent chapter in the story, the trial and sentencing of several Jamaat leaders, began in 2010. That year, Bangladesh's ruling party, the Awami League, set up an International Crimes Tribunal to address 1970s-era war crimes -- a fulfillment of an earlier campaign promise. The tribunal delivered its first verdict in January. Abul Kalam Azad, one leader, was sentenced to death for murder, rape, and arson. Two others, Delawar Hossain Sayedee and Abdul Quader Mollah, were convicted for mass murder. Sayedee received a death sentence and Mollah got life imprisonment. 

Burma's Glass Half-Full

March 14, 2013 

After decades of repression, reform has come to Burma. But much remains to be done. This week the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will debate Burma’s progress, and particularly whether to drop its designation of Burma, or Myanmar, as a “country of concern.” 

For years Burma competed for the world title of worst government. North Korea usually took home the crown, but Burma’s leaders in the capital city of Naypyidaw never gave up trying. The long-lived military junta waged war on the Burmese people, suppressed democratic freedoms, and locked the nation into grinding poverty. 

But now change is underway. The military has formally stepped back, though the institution retains enormous influence if not effective control of the government. Political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, have been freed. Controls over opposition parties and independent journalists have been relaxed. Peace agreements have been reached with many ethnic groups seeking autonomy. The government also has begun distancing Burma from China, the country’s assertive northern neighbor. 

Western nations have responded by lifting sanctions and offering assistance. President Barack Obama visited the country last November. 

Nevertheless, the reform glass, while half full, also is half empty. Conflict continues with the ethnic Kachin, and the Muslim Rohingya continue to suffer from sometimes violent discrimination. Political prisoners remain and no one knows if the military is prepared to yield power when national elections are held in two years. 

In preparation for the UNHRC debate, Tomas Ojea Quintana, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, issued his latest report, which finds much progress, along with the need for additional reforms before Burma will have fully escaped a half-century of military dictatorship. 

China Might Negotiate Cybersecurity

March 14, 2013

Instead of responding to its offer to limit cyberattacks, the Obama Administration has chosen to berate China. 

The BBC reports that in a recent television interview, President Obama “upbraids” China, telling George Stephanopoulos that the United States will have “some pretty tough talk” with the Chinese over their failure to abide by international norms in cyberspace. Washington has strong reasons to protest China’s widespread industrial espionage and penetration of our civilian and military networks, including even those that govern U.S. infrastructure. 

But calling on China—in March 2013—to help formulate and enforce new rules of international conduct in cyberspace, without even acknowledging that China provided a detailed and surprisingly reasonable proposal for exactly that in 2011, is astonishing. It seems that the White House and the peripatetic new secretary of state—who seems out to collect even more frequent-flier miles than Secretary Clinton—are left without time to work out a China policy and did not even do their homework. Or the White House is playing to the home galleries rather than paying mind to China’s sensibilities and, in this case, ignoring the valid contributions China has made to the much-needed international dialogue on cybersecurity. 

This week the Obama Administration increased its rhetoric against China over the issue of cyberattacks, stating that American corporations are increasingly voicing, “serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale.” National Security Advisor Tom Donilon called for military-to-military dialogue and stronger economic ties with China, but noted that both were undermined by mistrust in the realm of cybersecurity. He called on China to recognize “the urgency and scope of this problem and the risk it poses”; take “steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities”; and “engage with us in a constructive direct dialogue to establish acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace.” 

Donilon made no mention of the “International Code of Conduct for Information Security,” a draft resolution introduced by China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the UN General Assembly in September 2011. The following excerpts illustrate that if one did not know which nations submitted this proposal, one could easily assume that 95 percent of the draft code was composed by Western nations led by the United States. The preamble “[recognizes] the need to prevent the potential use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for purposes that are inconsistent with the objectives of maintaining international stability and security, and may adversely affect the integrity of the infrastructure within States, to the detriment of their security.” It suggests the following code. 

The Saudi Oil War on Iran

March 13, 2013 

When Prince Turki al-Faisal suggested last year that the House of Saud would join in the U.S.-led sanctions against Iranian oil, by seeking to displace Tehran’s oil exports from the global economy, he was not referring to a novel idea. Indeed, Saudi Arabia has led two prior oil wars against Iran. 

As detailed in Andrew Scott Cooper’s The Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East, the first Saudi oil war against Iran was intended to weaken the Shah’s modernization programs. The Saudis feared Iran’s rise as a regional power, and wanted to carve out space for independent decision-making in OPEC, which at the time was dominated by Iran. 

As the Shah was extremely dependent on high oil prices for his ambitious goals, the Saudis grasped that dissipation of oil prices via increased global supply would be Iran’s Achilles’ heel. As Cooper chronicles, the Saudis ultimately convinced Washington to go along with their plans, facilitated by the U.S. domestic concern about high oil prices. Near the end of the Nixon administration, the Saudis started to flood the market. 

The second oil war transpired in the waning months of the Iran-Iraq war, which ended in 1988. As the eight-year conflict threatened Persian Gulf oil exports, Saudis and Americans gradually started to fear the possibility of an Iranian victory by attrition. In a declassified 1984 State Department document entitled “Iran-Iraq War: Elements of U.S. Diplomatic Strategy and Plans,” a main pillar of Washington’s approach was to “take steps to help Iraq avoid defeat by preserving a strategic balance, while maintaining US neutrality.” Yet as the conflict became the “Tanker War,” severely curtailing Persian Gulf shipping transit, its cessation became paramount. 

While the United States was attempting to force countries to halt weapons trade with Iran, and even engaged in hostilities with the Iranian Navy, the Saudis once again flooded the market, aiming to dry up Iranian funding for the war. According to OPEC data, Saudi Arabia expanded output from 3.9 billion barrels per day in 1987 to 5.1 in 1988, to 6.4 in 1990. Though this decision had little economic rationality to it, as oil prices had dramatically declined from the Oil shock of 1979-1980, the Saudis understood that the same formula of vulnerability that affected the preceding Pahlavi dynasty was still extant with Revolutionary Iran. 

Fatal Thaws

13 March 2013

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union, and in a milder way the United States, imposed external limits on the activities of states and societies, causing longstanding conflicts among smaller countries to be "frozen." Following the Soviet Union's collapse in the 1990s, those conflicts began to "unfreeze." 

With interethnic tensions already on the rise, Yugoslavia was the first country to dissolve into conflict. Soon after, war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, followed by fighting in Transdnestr and Chechnya. Some conflicts were addressed: The West finally intervened militarily in the former Yugoslavia, and Russia fought in Chechnya for almost a decade and imposed peace in Transdnestr. But others, such as that between Armenia and Azerbaijan, were simply frozen again. 

Fortunately, not all potential conflicts erupted. The Soviet Union did not dissolve into violence, as most other empires have, an outcome for which no explanation short of divine intervention or sheer luck seems to suffice. Despite rising nationalist sentiments and mutual suspicions, Central and Eastern European countries also managed to avoid conflict, thanks to their rapid acceptance into NATO and the European Union. 

At that point, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief. But in the early 2000s, globalization triggered the "second unfreezing" by facilitating rapid economic growth in Asian countries that, for two centuries, had been constrained by Western dominance, Cold War rules and institutions and rampant poverty. 

With thriving economies came increased strategic clout, leading to the rise of regional geopolitics shaped by national interests and fears, rather than by external forces. The West's failures in Iraq and Afghanistan was followed by the global economic crisis, which exposed severe structural weaknesses in the U.S. and the EU. 

As a result, Europe has practically abandoned its global geopolitical role with virtually no evidence of its presence, aside from trade, remaining in East Asia. Although the U.S. has retained considerable influence, the combination of structural economic problems, a divided elite and two de facto military defeats has impeded its ability to exercise that power. 

The Rise of Global Civilization

March 13, 2013 

TNI editor Robert W. Merry recently sat down with Kishore Mahbubani, author of The Great Convergence: Asia, the West and the Logic of One World. Mahbubani argues that the dominance of the West is coming to an end, and that the United States must recognize its interest in creating rules of the road for the coming multilateral world. As a public-policy scholar based in Singapore—a place integrated with the West but no longer governed by it—Mahbubani brings a unique perspective on the long-term challenges facing U.S. foreign policy. 

RWM: Kishore Mahbubani, an underlying thesis of your book is that globalization and technology are transforming the world—the nation-state is in decline, the one world sensibility is on the rise, a kind of new global civilization, as you call it, is on the rise. This is powerful change, big change. What makes you so sure and confident that it won’t unleash major global disruption? 

KM: Well I, as you know, this book is very optimistic and I give tremendous and many reasons for the optimism. But the fundamental changes I speak about, about how we have created a new world order—I describe through the use of something I call the boat metaphor. 

I say that before the contemporary era of globalization, when humanity lived in a multitude of separate countries, it was as though we were living on separate boats with captains and crews taking care of each boat and rules to make sure that the boats didn’t collide in their passage. But today, as a result of the world having shrunk, we no longer live in separate boats—we live in separate cabins on the same boat. But the problem now is that you have captains and crews taking care of their own cabins, but no one taking care of the boat as a whole. 

So the greatest challenge I see for humanity today is that this is why we need to strengthen institutions of global governance, and it can be done, as I explain in the book, quite easily. Of course, there will be challenges, there will be disruptions. History now moves in a strange line, there will be ups and downs and so on and so forth. 

But at the end of the day, the reason why I am optimistic, as I say, is that we are creating a new civilized global order. Of course, the number of people who have been educated in the world, who have been exposed to modern science and technology and reason and logic, is the largest it has ever been. The global middle class is exploding. So this new, and in a sense more intelligent, global community will, I think, converge on a more reasonable world order. 

Could Germany spark another war? I fear it's all too possible

12 March 2013

The world is at a crossroads in history. Vast, untameable economic forces are remaking the landscape of international affairs. 

In Britain, a dithering Prime Minister is buffeted by crisis after crisis. Abroad, from the heart of Europe to the fringes of Asia, economic powers are rising. And there is talk of a new German empire, bigger and more powerful than ever. 

Ever more citizens in the Mediterranean countries of the eurozone in particular argue that for the third time in less than 100 years Germany is trying to take control of Europe

It sounds like something ripped from today’s newspapers. But this was the state of the planet in 1913, 100 years ago.

At first glance, the Britain of 1913 appears impossibly different from the Britain of today. Our imperial dominion stretched across the globe, while our bankers and manufacturers were widely regarded as the best in the world.

And in a society rigidly divided by class, the Tories were in the wilderness, Labour was merely a minority third party and the Liberals — led by Herbert Asquith — were entering their eighth successive year of government.

Problem of Naxalism in India: Ground Realities and Strategic Challenges Towards Conflict Resolution *

* A report on Joint USI - Amity University Panel Discussion held on 26 July 2012 at Amity University Campus, Noida.


A joint USI-Amity Panel Discussion on the subject ‘The Problem of Naxalism in India’ was conducted on 26 July 2012 at the Amity University Campus for the convenience of nearly 600 USI members residing in NOIDA. Approximately 175 USI members and 100 eminent Amity invitees attended the event. The panel discussion began with welcome remarks by Lieutenant General PK Singh, PVSM, AVSM (Retd), Director USI and Major General K Jai Singh (Retd), Group Vice Chancellor, Amity Universities Group and Executive Senior Vice President, Ritnand Balved Education Foundation (RBEF); and some thoughts by Dr Ashok K Chauhan, Founder President, RBEF and Amity Group of Universities and Institutions. 

Director USI, in his welcome remarks stressed, “It is beyond doubt that Naxalism is the most serious internal security threat that the Country is facing today; it is expanding with increasing evidence of external linkages and if left unchecked, it will sooner than later threaten India’s cohesion, stability and economic growth and that the challenge has to be faced squarely”. He highlighted the great personal experience and expertise of the panelists to discuss this problem in its entirety. He thanked Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar, MP, Rajya Sabha for having agreed to deliver the Special Address and Lieutenant General KM Seth, former Governor of Tripura and Chattisgarh to Chair the event. The following were the panelists :- 

(a) Shri EN Rammohan, IPS (Retd), former DG, BSF
(b) Lieutenant General VK Ahluwalia, PVSM, AVSM**, YSM, VSM (Retd), former GOC-in-C Central Command
(c) Ms Shoma Chaudhury, Managing Editor, Tehelka 

Special Address by Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Let me begin by narrating a story – how the Americans got rid of a large number of alligators (crocodiles) that inhabited Florida swamps by ‘draining the swamps’ to settle human beings there. We must draw a lesson from this episode to get rid of Naxalism in India. Simply killing them would not result in an enduring solution. Even if we succeed, as through Operation Greyhound in Andhra Pradesh; those Naxalites that were not disposed by the Police, took refuge in the neighbouring states of Chhattisgarh and Odisha. Similarly, if we were ever to succeed in driving them out of the jungles of Dandakaranya, we would find them surfacing in Mumbai, Kolkata and New Delhi. 

A few years ago, a Ministry of Home Affairs report indicated that one third of the Indian districts were either partially or very severely affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE). The current figure of 78 LWE districts is bogus because of a plan under which money is made available for them. To access that money, politicians have started claiming with considerable pride that they have LWE districts in their constituencies. At the same time, there are districts which ought to be declared LWE affected; but are not included in that category because they are voiceless. Without quarrelling over the specific figure, we ought to recognise, as the Prime Minister indicated a few years ago, that “LWE constitutes the single most important internal security problem that this Country faces”. Over the years many ad hoc solutions have been attempted, however, none have succeeded. 

Coping with the Aftermath of Transgressions in the VVIP Helicopter Deal

March 13, 2013 

It has been reported that the government is all set to remove software and consultancy services from the list of eligible products and services through which the offset obligation could be discharged.1 The report says that the government is also finalizing a massive overhaul of defence procurement procedure, providing first opportunity in all contracts to Indian companies, including the private sector, while placing procurement from foreign suppliers as the last option. 

The removal of software and consultancy services from the list of eligible products and services is reportedly being done because the Italian investigators have found that the money was routed by the middlemen in the VVIP helicopter deal through phoney software contracts. Any move that prevents such transgressions in future should be welcome. However, it raises a few questions. 

The new defence offset guidelines were announced in August 2012 after extensive deliberations within the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The products and services eligible for offsets are clubbed under four categories in Annexure VI to Appendix D of these guidelines. Software development appears as a distinct entry under the category of ‘services (related to eligible products)’. But in addition to this, software development is also included in one form or the other in many other products listed under the remaining three categories of the eligible products: ‘defence products’, ‘products for inland/coastal security’ and ‘civil aerospace products’. For example, one of the entries under the category of ‘defence products’ is ‘vessels of war, special naval systems, equipment and accessories’. The guidelines say that this will include ‘software specially designed, developed and modified for design of all types of warships, submarines and auxiliaries or their hull forms’. 

It will, therefore, not be wrong to assume that software development was included in the list of products and services eligible for offsets only because it was considered necessary for achieving the objectives of the offset policy. By now making software development ineligible for discharge of offsets we might be depriving ourselves of what was considered necessary only a couple of months ago. This could also prove to be a setback for the Indian software industry. The question is whether it would not be better to tighten the monitoring system to prevent frauds from being committed rather than blocking the entire gamut of software development activities. If, on the other hand, this proposed deletion is not going to make any difference, there was no need to include it in the list in the first place. 

Adrift Without A Strategic Culture

12 Mar , 2013 

Does India have a strategic culture? If strategic culture is defined narrowly in the context of the nuclear age alone, then India, as a recent entrant to the nuclear club and still in the process of acquiring minimum nuclear deterrence, evidently lacks one. If the meaning of strategic culture is broadened to include a country’s approach to national security in general, then the question can be debated. 

Strategic culture has to be distinguished from state craft or strategic thought and decisions. 

The pre-requisites for the existence of a strategic culture in this sense are sovereignty over territory and decision making on national security issues over a long period of time. It means direct experience of defending frontiers, building national military strength, advancing economic and commercial interests abroad, understanding geo-political strengths and vulnerabilities and accordingly leveraging or neutralizing them through diplomacy. 


Strategic culture has to be distinguished from state craft or strategic thought and decisions. All sovereign authorities are expected to deal with the outside world in a manner that serves the country’s interest best. They have to deal with longer term opportunities and challenges and take strategic decisions accordingly. Global developments have to be studied, projections about the future made and the rapport of forces assessed in the years to come. All this is part of governance, though individuals and institutions can and do contribute much to strategic thought in a country. 

Thus, strategic culture would be a product of a country’s thinking and actions on security matters over a long period, to the point that it marks and reflects its personality and its reflexes while dealing with them. Strategic culture in this sense is part of a country’s deeply embedded tradition. Naturally, a country’s national culture contributes to its strategic culture. 


By Brijesh D. Jayal

A single person cannot subvert the procurement system

A report by prosecutors filed in Italy in connection with the arrest of the chief executive officer of Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, has alleged that the then Indian air force chief was instrumental in swinging the Indian VVIP helicopter deal and was paid a certain amount of money, not yet quantified, through intermediaries. The report claimed that technical requirements were tweaked by the then air chief to enable the Italian helicopter to qualify and he also named three of his relatives as intermediaries.

Not surprisingly, this news spread like wildfire and the media, especially electronic, went wild. For a few days, the face of the erstwhile chief accompanied every bit of news on the subject. In the eyes of the nation, he was already damned. Like everything else in our volatile political climate, the debate soon took on political overtones and a partisan blame game began. 

Without necessarily having to give the chief a clean chit, the ministry of defence did not choose to assure the people unequivocally that our defence procurement systems are robust enough not to be influenced by any one individual, irrespective of rank or status. The lone voice of sanity was that of Jaswant Singh, when he counselled, “We should not make wild allegations against a former Air Chief. It is not in the interest of both the Air Force and the country. The probe is on. Let’s wait.” Having been both a distinguished soldier and a defence and a foreign minister, he understood more than any other the destruction such media hype was causing to the very fabric of our armed forces. Even this wise counsel was soon drowned in political one-upmanship. 

It is not this writer’s case to defend the erstwhile chief or his actions in the absence of being in possession of the full facts of the case, which in any case is the subject of an investigation. But having served for nearly a decade in various capacities in the planning and procurement side of the air force headquarters, one can say with some confidence that one individual cannot subvert the procurement system. It can only happen when compromises are made at multiple levels, both military and civil, through patronage, persuasion or pelf or a combination of these. 

Dependence on foreign suppliers for military hardware is harming national security

By Arun Prakash
Mar 14, 2013

The latest episode of alleged corruption in a deal to purchase Italian helicopters for the IAF's VIP Squadron constitutes yet another blow to India's national security. The most detrimental consequence of the ongoing probe into wrongdoing — the CBI has registered a case yesterday— is the harm that it will cause to the morale, cohesion and self-esteem of the armed forces.

No matter what the final outcome of enquiries by the investigating agencies — and past precedent shows that they rarely come to any definitive conclusion — serious damage has already been done to this esteemed institution.

However, a deeper malaise and far more toxic threat to national security, of which this incident is yet one more symptom, is India's abject dependence on foreign sources for military hardware. It is no secret that the Indian armed forces are equipped, overwhelmingly, with platforms and systems acquired from Russia, Israel, the UK, France, Italy and the US, amongst others. Even when we claim that a tank, ship, submarine or aircraft is 'indigenously built', the fact that seldom emerges is that 70%-80% of the electronics, weaponry and other vital systems that go into it are imported.

India's past experience has clearly demonstrated the multiple penalties that we pay for this external dependence. The Comptroller and Auditor General, in his annual report to Parliament, regularly highlights the proportion of our imported tanks, artillery, submarines, fighters and radars that are out of action, thus degrading the combat-readiness of our forces.

There does not seem to be any appreciation of the stark fact that every piece of hardware that the Indian armed forces acquire from abroad places them at the mercy of the seller nation for 30-40 years thereafter. The nonchalance with which we continue to import huge quantities of arms not only undermines our security but renders all talk of 'strategic autonomy' meaningless.

India is fortunate to have a vast defence technology and industrial base (DTIB) which would be the envy of developed nations. This base comprises thousands of talented scientists working in a network of sophisticated DRDO laboratories backed by the advanced production facilities of the ordinance factories and defence public sector units (DPSUs).

And yet, India's DTIB has rendered our armed forces hollow by failing to deliver, for six decades, capabilities they direly need. A willing and capable private sector has been kept out of defence production while the DPSUs have hoodwinked the nation with spurious claims of 'technology transfer' and 'indigenisation'.

The Iran-Pakistan Pipeline: Pressler 2.0?

March 12, 2013 

Almost as though he is thumbing his nose at the United States, Pakistan’s President Asif Zardari has ignored all warnings about crippling US and UN sanctions being imposed on his country and jointly inaugurated the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. While many analysts even in Pakistan are deeply sceptical about the project, speculation is rife over what Asif Zardari is playing at. Is this an act of ‘strategic defiance’, economic desperation, political gamesmanship on the eve of elections, or simply some old-fashioned diplomatic brinkmanship to gain more economic assistance from the United States and its European and Middle-Eastern allies? Given Zardari’s style of operation, he could well be trying to kill all these birds with one stone. 

Just as likely is the possibility that Pakistan might once again be making a miscalculation for which it will pay a very heavy price, as it has done in the past by ignoring US red lines. Pakistanis often accuse the Americans of perfidy and quote the arms embargo after the 1965 war, the US failure to intervene on Pakistan’s side in 1971, and the nuclear sanctions imposed under the Pressler Amendment in the 1990s to complain that they have been ‘the most sanctioned ally’ of the United States. These instances have been played up inside Pakistan to a point where anti-Americanism has almost become part of the belief system and suspicion and distrust of the United States is deeply embedded in the Pakistani psyche. 

Of course, very conveniently the Pakistanis ignore the fact that they never lived up to their side of the bargain in each of these instances. The US arms supply to Pakistan pre-1965 was under the express condition that these weapons would not be used against India. Having violated that condition, Pakistan was really in no position to complain against the embargo that was subsequently imposed. In 1971, the United States did intervene on Pakistan's behalf – remember the threat of the 7th Fleet to India? In fact, short of intervening militarily, the United States tried to help Pakistan. Only it was such a hopeless situation both diplomatically and militarily, that the Americans were in no position to do anything more than ensuring that West Pakistan remained intact. 

The Pressler Amendment was passed in the US Congress with the full knowledge and agreement of the Pakistanis who never tired of assuring the Americans (wrongly as it turns out) that they had no nuclear weapon. Once the Pakistanis crossed the nuclear threshold (and declared they had done so – AQ Khan interview in 1987) it was only a matter of time before the Pressler sanctions would kick in. Clearly, the US president was no longer in a position to continue certifying that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear weapon. True, the United States chose the timing of the imposition of the sanctions keeping in mind its own interests and let the axe fall after the Afghan war against Soviet occupation had come to an end. But isn’t that entirely understandable? 

Once again, the Pakistanis have decided to cock a snook at the United States on the issue of the IP pipeline, knowing full well that the project could lead to severe economic sanctions. The Americans have been consistently warning the Pakistanis against the project. And yet, if the Pakistanis go ahead with it, then surely they are doing it keeping in mind the consequences that could follow. Part of the problem, of course, is that the Pakistanis tend to blithely ignore the US red lines, and when the consequences of their actions manifest themselves they resort to cries of betrayal. This is precisely what is happening on the IP pipeline. 

Islamic Extremism in Bangladesh: A Set-Back, But Not Yet A Defeat

By B Raman 

1. 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. 

2. 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. 

3. 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. 

4. 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. 

5. 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. 

6. While traditional liberal forces in Bangladesh and in the international community, including India, have reasons to be gratified by the mass movement spearheaded by the enlightened youth of Dhaka against Islamic extremism and for justice to those who were butchered by these elements in pre-1971 East Pakistan, it is still uncertain how the movement will evolve and where it will ultimately lead Bangladesh to. 

7. While wishing success to the movement, one should avoid wishful-thinking that the movement will finally bury the JEI and other Islamic extremist forces which have managed to survive 1971. It is still largely a Dhaka movement confined to the intellectuals and the working class. The JEI never enjoyed much popularity among these elements.