21 March 2013

BRICS and premature obituaries

Shyam Saran 
March 19, 2013

The Durban summit should lay out a new set of recipient-friendly norms for international development co-operation

The fifth BRICS summit will be held in Durban, South Africa, on March 26-27, 2013. Despite the fact that the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - account for 25 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and 17 per cent of global trade, the grouping has little to show by way of any substantive achievement so far. Its focus has been on consultative engagement on issues of shared concern, but these have not led to collaborative initiatives.

The one significant proposal that could grab international attention is the establishment of a BRICS development bank. This could break the monopoly of Western-dominated international financial institutions as a source of development finance. This proposal was initially advanced by India and one hopes it is pursued with vigour at the Durban summit. In order to be credible, the proposed bank must be seeded with adequate capital. The proposed amount of $50 billion is too modest. It is also reported that China has been pitching for a larger share of the equity, hence voting power, in order to determine the bank's lending policies. This must be resisted. We should not end up creating a mere clone of the World Bank, where smaller shareholders are just bystanders.

Since the inception of BRICS, the grouping's leaders have been consistent in their calls for the restructuring of the global economic and financial order and a greater say for emerging economies in global governance. However, in their national approaches at the G20, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the United Nations (UN), the group's members often go their separate ways on issues on which their interests diverge. This is unlikely to change, given the considerable asymmetries among the member states and their differing political status and aspirations. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, neither Russia nor China is enthusiastic about the entry of Brazil, India or South Africa into the inner sanctum. Both Brazil and India are wary of China's mercantilist trade policies; while in Africa, India and China are often in competition for the same resources. Nevertheless, given the economic weight of the grouping, BRICS will remain a useful pressure group to nudge change in the increasingly outdated and dysfunctional global economic and financial architecture. It is also a convenient platform for some anti-West flag-waving on issues related to Iran and Syria.

The summit will see the debut of China's new leader, Xi Jinping. Russia's Vladimir Putin, too, is attending the event for the first time. It is possible that these two leaders may introduce a new dynamic into the grouping. We should know soon enough.

Global trade arrangements are experiencing far-reaching developments that could significantly impact the economic prospects of the BRICS countries. These changes could provide the trigger for their closer co-operation. A transatlantic free trade zone with the US and the European Union is already under negotiation; if successful, this would create an economic zone encompassing virtually half the world's GDP and trade flows. On the other side of the world, the trans-Pacific partnership is steadily making headway (Japan is virtually certain to join), creating another parallel and powerful trading bloc. None of the BRICS nations finds place in these emerging giant trade conglomerations. The US has championed both projects with China's relentless economic ascendance in mind, but other BRICS members will suffer heavy collateral damage as a result of their exclusion. The new groupings will set norms and standards for economic exchange with little or no input from emerging countries. They will inevitably evolve into non-tariff barriers. The serious implications of these developments should drive the BRICS nations to consider effective coping strategies. Reviving the multilateral WTO process could be one such collective response.

Jawans pay the price as our netas dither

Author: Ashok K Mehta 

Ever since the first peace talks took place between India and Pakistan, the idea of converting the LoC into an International Border has been the most consistent formula for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute 

Can there ever be peace in Kashmir? This is the weary question that has to be asked, as once again, the State of Jammu & Kashmir is on the boil. The ostensible reason — as if an excuse was needed — is, what the people of Kashmir see as the unjust hanging of Afzal Guru. But the real reason is that India doesn’t have enough proponents of peace while Pakistan seems to have an unending stream of protagonists of war, starting with Hafiz Saeed and ending with Rehman (or Farooq, or Wasim, call him what you like), the desperately poor victims of circumstance who, like Ajmal Kasab, willingly embrace brainwashing and suicide terrorism. 

Take the latest incident: Personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force were hit by a fidayeen attack at Bemina in Srinagar at about 11 am on March 13 when about 50 of them were at the Police Public School grounds to be assigned duties. Right next to the school is the headquarters of the 73rd Battalion. Some boys were playing cricket in the grounds. The militants, dressed in civilian clothes squeezed through the fence carrying arms, ammunition and grenades hidden in their bags, entered the play ground, mingled with the cricket-playing boys and then threw the grenades. Five CRPF jawans died. A tube of Betnovate, a skin ointment, found at the spot gave the game away: The tube was manufactured by Glaxo Smithkline Pak Ltd, at 35 Dockyard, Karachi. The numbers mentioned in the diaries, recovered from the scene, were Pakistani, and the bodies were shaved and hairless — a normal practice for suicide bombers. 

So infiltrators were at work again. Since 2003 — and don’t believe anything anyone says to the contrary — infiltration levels have declined. This is largely because of the efforts of Chief of Army Staff General NC Vij between 2003 and 2004. He had brushed aside internal and Pakistani objections, revived the idea of fencing astride the Line of Control and had it ready in a record nine months, using Army engineers. Smartly, the Union Ministry of Defence was informed only after a quarter of the 740 km LoC had been fenced. 

Fencing is an obstacle system integral to the new anti-infiltration grid. In 10 years, its effectiveness has been proven beyond doubt. Coupled with the ceasefire, the fencing has shrunk the space for infiltration. 

But the fact is, both India and Pakistan have to work to get peace. It isn’t that peace efforts have not been attempted. The first window of opportunity on Kashmir opened after the 1962 Sino-Indian war. Moscow’s open support for China came as a shock to India, that had had a traditional strategic partnership with the USSR, and heightened India’s sense of isolation. At that moment the US and the UK Governments presented a joint initiative to resolve the Kashmir conflict. A mission led by American politician and diplomat W Averell Harriman and British politician Duncan Sandys created conditions for six rounds of bilateral talks on Kashmir between Foreign Ministers Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Swaran Singh between December 1962 and May 1963. US President John F Kennedy himself guided the two sides and the agenda of the talks. The US strategy was to get Pakistan to consider the possibility of “an international boundary running through Kashmir,” that is, making the existing LoC into an International Border. 

A 360 degree education

Mar 21 2013

A recent announcement from the HRD minister to the effect that the National Cadet Corps will be made an elective course is welcome. I remember my college days of 1962-65, when the NCC was compulsory for all students. I served in the NCC Corps of Signals for the first year, Infantry for the second, and Engineers for the third. That was immediately after the conflict with China, and hence all of us had to serve in the NCC. Even though it was compulsory, we enjoyed the weekly parades and the milk and snack supplements afterwards. We also enjoyed the yearly week-long camps. It added spice to our college life and we grew up as conscientious citizens, with some familiarity with military life and national security. I was sad when I heard that one of the IITs had scrapped the NCC. 

The Indian education system in general, and the higher education system in particular, has evolved from an egalitarian system to a competitive one. In the process, education has shrunk from 360 degrees to 120. Unitary systems like the IITs, IIMs, IISERs and IIITs are most sought after as students and parents consider these places where one gets not simply degrees but an assurance of better jobs and careers. Unfortunately, knowledge is not unidimensional. Besides formal education inside the classroom, which is only 120 degrees, there are two important elements. First, the development of personality through activities like sport, culture and schemes like the NCC and the National Social Service. Second, the development of communication skills and social involvement through the activities of hostels, gymkhanas, festivals, clubs etc. 

India, as a society, is passing through a period of stress. Economic prosperity has brought social and familial ambitions to the fore. Young boys and girls are subjected to a rigorous coaching culture when they should be developing capabilities as per their aptitudes. The stress of a career is taking its toll on families as well as young individuals. What matters is the total marks in PCM. It is difficult to understand why only physics, chemistry and mathematics should matter. Such a skewed value system has produced many maladies in our higher education. 

While arguing about the NCC's importance, one would like to point out some other issues as well. Whenever a new NCC commanding officer came to IIT, I used to invite him for a cup of tea. The discussions were always cordial. However, I tried to emphasise that, with the times, the NCC needed to change its approach to training. The brute-force training imparted to cadets creates lot of dissatisfaction. College authorities have to sometimes armtwist students to enrol. That should not happen. What is needed is a platform for educationists, NCC officers and students to debate such issues and evolve a new model of training. The NCC has some unique attractions even today. The para-gliding event attracts a lot of students and even nearby residents. The treks in the Himalayas are a big draw. The rock-climbing training is very popular. So much so that one IIT has built a wall for rock-climbing. Students are hungry for learning life skills and the NCC is a suitable platform for imparting such skills. It should, however, be done with a modern approach. 

India must not allow EU to distance itself from Italy's mala fide act


In recent months, Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign affairs chief, has found it in her line of responsibility to criticise the execution of Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab on account of the EU's opposition to the death penalty. She also welcomed the Kerala High Court's decision to allow the two Italian marines facing murder charges to return home for two weeks to celebrate Christmas. So her silence on Italy's refusal to send the two marines back to India for trial is conspicuous.

For an entity ever ready to comment on India's domestic matters, it is remarkable that the EU's foreign affairs chief has nothing to say when one of its constituents brazenly reneges on a commitment it made to India's apex court. (Also, curiously, while the EU issued a statement welcoming the Kerala High Court's pre-Christmas decision, it remained silent on the Supreme Court's even more generous order allowing the marines to go home for four weeks ostensibly for the purpose of casting their vote.)

Italian newspapers reported that the EU's reaction to Rome's sovereign default on its commitment to the Indian Supreme Court was a "no comment". On March 15, Gazzetta del Sud quoted a spokesperson for Ms Ashton as saying, "The EU is taking note of the disputes between India and Italy and continues to hope that a common solution can be reached through negotiation."

Brussels appears to want to wash its hands of the matter, but New Delhi must not allow the EU and its member states to distance themselves from Italy's mala fide act. If the spokesperson's statement is the EU's policy, then New Delhi must make it abundantly clear to Brussels, Berlin, Paris and London that India will see no difference between Italy's stand and the EU's.

Why drag the EU into what appears to be a bilateral matter between India and Italy? Well, because Italy is part of the EU, and under the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon, the Union arrogated to itself a foreign-policy role. If one of its members conducts itself in a manner that is grossly inconsistent with the norms of international behaviour, then it should concern the EU and its member states.

Weak and clueless

S N Chary, March 20, 2013

Setting a foreign policy needs a statesman-like long term perspective and focus which have been singularly lacking.

How naïve and slothful can one get? It can happen only in this ‘incredible’ India. When the two Italian marines killed the Indian fishermen in our waters, the Indian government was dithering to take any action until a strong protest by the local Keralites and other citizens forced it to arrest them several days after the incident. While in custody, they were given better facilities than any other person under similar charges would. Then, they were allowed to go celebrate Christmas in their home country.

As any fraudulent person would, they returned back to India to the not-so-harsh custody so as to let the Indian government’s guard down. So, they were allowed by the Indians to visit their home country once more; this time ostensibly for voting. The two men did not return. The Italian government has backed them and said it will not send them back to India for the trials. It is a copy-book case of deception. There is anger in the Indian circles. But, it is the anger of the clueless with no sign of any tangible action on the part of either the executive or the judiciary. 

With the cream of India’s citizens vying for a position in the Indian foreign service, one would have expected a much better scenario in this not so complex a case to begin with. However, the way it has unfolded till now is quite pitiable. The ministry of external affairs has shown once again that its political bosses have no thoughts on foreign policy and are slothful about any issue that has no bearing on the expediency of elections. There is no fabric of foreign policy, not even a thread running through this country’s knee-jerk external affairs. A country of 1.2 billion – perhaps a little more – is tricked by two marines. This paints a shoddy picture of our country in the international circles. But when were we not taken by ‘surprise’? When former president of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, ran to our embassy in Male and sought shelter as he was to be arrested, we were surprised. It may be recalled that it was India that had backed former president Nasheed during the time he was elected; he was the first elected president of that island nation during 2008. The deposing and attempt to arrest Nasheed under some apparently trumped up charge is a slap on our face. We are as yet witless about dealing with that humiliation. 

Maldives is a tiny country, but it is strategically important because of its prime location in the Indian Ocean. Remember that the US has its base in the Diego Garcia islands in the same ocean and not very far from us. China has been making inroads into Maldives, for balancing the US presence and for threatening India. Our foreign policy with respect to Maldives has been that of a ‘big brother’; we thought the younger brother was going to respect us anyway. It is sad that we do not have a foreign policy and if ever there was one it is not made with eyes wide open. Our external affairs ministry seems to be living in a world of self-delusion. 

Siachen: Possible New International Moves for ‘Mediation’

March 20, 2013

The back channel parleys over Siachen sponsored by some international think tanks were in the news a few months back. A wide section of India’s strategic community took exception to what was purportedly agreed to by Indian participants in these parleys. These confabulations, held under the aegis of the Atlantic Council and other US/NATO linked think tanks, gave an impression to many to be promoting a demilitarization of the glacier and the adjoining ridges without settling the issue of territorial jurisdiction or proper and adequate authentication of the current position of the Indian and Pakistani troops in the region. In addition, no measures appeared to be on the table to ensure confidence building and an honest implementation of the proposed agreement. Since then, however, the din and the dust raised by these Indo-Pakistani contacts have subsided and on the surface things seem to be back to square one again. Or, are they really? 

There are indications that some US think tanks, believed to be close to the US Administration, are working assiduously behind the scenes to revive India-Pakistan contacts on Siachen, both at the official as well as non-governmental levels. The US Administration’s interest in this seems to be driven by the desire to continue to engage Pakistan, as also to use the expectations of a US sponsored ‘settlement’ on Siachen as one of the levers to manipulate Pakistan in the period leading to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and thereafter. In September 2012, when the US made overtures to Pakistan to mend ties frayed by the raid on Osama bin-Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad earlier that year, the US Sate Department prepared a package of “various acts of goodwill” for Pakistan. One of those “acts of goodwill” was stated to be an offer to encourage mediation between India and Pakistan through US NGOs like the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD), a State Department supported entity given to researching and promoting the negotiated resolution of various international disputes. Other US NGOs linked with the project are the US National Laboratory at Sandia, linked with the US Department for Energy, and the Atlantic Council. These organisations have been studying the issue of mediation on Siachen for quite some time. IMTD is not an entirely new player in Indo-Pak relations; it claims to have conceptually developed the proposal to start the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service and has been working behind the scenes to promote Indo-Pakistani relations in other fields. 

The key argument developed by IMTD and its associate institutions to pressure India, and Pakistan, through an international campaign if necessary, is the impact of the military conflict in the Siachen region on the ecology of the glacier. The military presence, it is propounded, is maximizing the impact of global warming on the glacier, which is fast shrinking. This would affect the flow of water in the Indus river with its potentially devastating implications for South Asia’s increasing population. Starting from Siachen, IMTD seeks to increase awareness about the protection of the entire Himalayan ecosystem – its forests, wet lands, biodiversity and cryosphere – as a means to ensure the availability of adequate water in the long term. Dealing with this looming crisis would require combined efforts by all the nations in the Himalayan basin, the US NGO contends. 

Neelam Deo | Pakistan: A civil-military rebalancing?

First Published: Tue, Mar 19 2013

Whether or not the civil-military equation is really changing will be revealed as the campaign for elections scheduled for May proceeds 

In an increasingly impoverished Pakistan reeling under daily power cuts, the armed forces were still able to appropriate almost $6.5 billion, or 3% of the gross domestic product. Photo: Reuters 

Every first is important—especially when the first concerns an elected civilian government completing a full term in office in a Pakistan that is more troubled than it has ever been in its 65-year history. 

Is this happenstance or has the civil-military equation begun to tilt in favour of civilians? If it is the latter, then is this a strategic shift by a military thus far obsessed with a search for parity with India? 

Is it sign of a recognition by the armed forces that the people of Pakistan would reject a direct military coup? Or is it simply the uncertainty over how an international community, led by the US—on which Pakistan is so dependent for financial handouts—would respond to a coup? 
It is likely a combination of all three that has made the Pakistani military more circumspect about overt interference. Internally, the social fabric of Pakistan is torn by increasingly violent Islamist terrorist groups indiscriminately lashing out against minorities: be they Shias, Christians, Hindus, Balouch, schoolgirls, journalists or just “liberals”. 

Regionally too, the situation is roiling. Afghanistan is bracing itself for the departure of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops next year in the midst of violence generated by the Pakistani surrogate Taliban which is positioning itself for a bargained or forceful return to power—if not in Kabul, then at least in its old Pashtun strongholds along Pakistan’s restive western border. 

Pakistan’s 2013 elections: Next Steps and Implications for the United States

By Sadika Hameed, Andrew Halterman 
MAR 20, 2013 

Pakistan reached a democratic milestone this week, with a democratically-elected government competing its full term for the first time in Pakistani history. The general elections on May 11, 2013 will determine the composition of the National Assembly, which is the larger, lower house of parliament. Together, the National Assembly and the Senate, which is appointed by the provincial assemblies, will elect the prime minister. Both houses of parliament and the provincial assemblies will vote to elect the president. 

Going forward, questions remain as to how the elections will be handled and the implications of the various combinations of parties in the next government. With the United States heavily invested in the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, the next Pakistani government will be vital to upholding U.S. interests in the region. For Pakistan itself, the next government will have to take difficult steps to stabilize Pakistan and solve its internal issues of energy, security, corruption, and finances. 

Until the May 11 elections, Pakistan will be under the control of a caretaker government, which will be appointed in the next several days according to the provisions of 20thamendment to Pakistan’s constitution. Passed in February 2012, the amendment aimed to ensure an independent election commission and a neutral caretaker government. The selection process for the caretaker prime minister has three phases. First, the outgoing prime minister and head of the opposition attempt to find a mutually-agreeable, neutral candidate. Failing that, the outgoing prime minister and head of the opposition each submit two names to a committee composed of eight members of the outgoing parliament, drawn equally from the ruling coalition and opposition. If that committee cannot agree on a caretaker prime minister within three days, the question is put to the election commission which must decide within two days. 

Q1: What obstacles will the elections need to overcome? 

A1: The two greatest challenges that these elections face are low voter turnout that will result in an illegitimate government and the ability to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections. 

Historically, voter turnout has been low in Pakistan, with only 44 percent turnout in 2008. New players like Imran Khan and popular discontent over domestic policies have driven people to ask for change and could increase turnout. However, given the current trends of violence in Pakistan and threats by the Taliban, voter turnout could be low due to fear of attacks. Furthermore, the month of May is one of the hottest months in Pakistan and could keep people away from the polls. 

Though the Election Commission has been reformed and rules and regulations have been put into place for polling stations, many Pakistanis remain skeptical of the elections being free and fair, especially given the levels of corruption in Pakistan and the lack of experience in holding transparent elections. 

Q2: Could the election threaten U.S. interests in Pakistan and the region? 

A2: Observers worry that the election and its lead-up could be violent and disorderly which would lead to greater instability in the coming months. For the United States government, fraudulent elections that delegitimize the resulting government with which it must partner will frustrate U.S. efforts to stabilize Pakistan and withdraw from Afghanistan in an orderly manner. 

The Arab Churning and Implications

March 20, 2013

At the recent security conclave held by IDSA, political strategists, Arab affairs observers, Islamic cerebrals and policy practitioners scrupulously dissected the most compelling factors including the cast of international players contributing to the festering ‘Arab Spring’ and its implications. 

The uprisings were a natural upshot of failings of the regimes. In reality, none including the Israeli intelligence could predict the spurt; blamed mostly for the delusion that the Arab rulers were immune to revolts and the pattern appeared fixed for the foreseeable future. But experts now believe that regime illegitimacy, social inequality and injustices were sustained only by external support and were not tenable. 

Ambiguity persists over the consequences and analysis of this complex but imagery nature of Arab events; to wonder whether the surge was a revolution, reawakening, renaissance, turmoil or simply Arabism. An ‘awakening’ signified a higher Arab political acuity but the centre point in the protesting power implied the end of the ‘fear’ factor, thus a ‘renaissance’. Whether or not such assessments indicated any real Arab renaissance, there was no doubting the optimistic view about the Arab’s positive march towards democracy and its presumed benefits to the people. The hope is that the processes at work remain transformational and hence an ‘Arab churning’ would entail streamlining of Arab societies, after decades of stagnation, into the new global political culture. 

But the region still remains fraught with problems and uncertainty. The Syrian crisis conceals as much as it reveals. The Islamists who captured power in Egypt and Tunisia are turning the spring of hope into a winter of despair, hence ‘Arab Winter’. Their commitment to democracy is suspect – making analysts wonder whether it is aspirational or simply a means to capture power. 

Libya’s radical change without an alternative is pushing it into uncertainty. Post-Assad Syria is going to be anarchic. In Yemen the transition has been smooth, but in Bahrain the uprising was aborted with outside intervention. The oil-rich Gulf monarchs have so far proved adept at controlling power through elementary reforms. Therefore, to judge it from either the democratic or Islamic angles remains a premature viewpoint, especially when misgivings endure about what motivated the protesters who came from a wide civilian spectrum; no commonality of views or ideologies existed. 

The trend is visibly towards changing the status quo, with Islam playing the central role although no case for a ‘caliphate’ exists. But the scenario is built for Islamism and democracy becoming an interdependent force in future. The Muslim Brotherhood is proving, in democratic guise, its political and electoral legitimacy. Soon it will acquire experience of governance. Hope is that the complex process of competing for popular support will have a conditioning effect on the Islamists, thus there is no cause for alarm now. One hopes that the exercise of political power will be negotiated among different stake holders. 

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 magazine Hurun 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. 

The wealthy who are moving to America most often use the EB-5 visa, which goes to foreigners willing to invest at least half a million dollars in a business that offers new jobs for at least ten Americans. The Chinese call that “investment migration.” And the China Merchants Bank, along with global consulting firm Bain & Company, concluded in a joint report that it’s “quickly increasing.” 

The two companies said investment migration from China to the US “grew at a compounded annual rate of seventy-three percent over the past five years.” The companies also surveyed wealthy Chinese (one of several organizations to do so) and found that almost sixty percent of them “have either completed investment immigration, applied for investment immigration or are considering it.” 

The Department of Homeland Security reported that seventy-eight percent of the EB-5 applicants last year were Chinese. 

CHINESE DREAM' WILL HAUNT THE NEW WORLD

By Manoj Joshi 
18 March 2013 

On Saturday, China completed the process of its once in- a-decade leadership transition. It has been one of the smoothest transitions of leadership in recent decades. 

Xi Jinping, who was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chairman of its Central Military Commission in November, has taken over as the President of the country, along with a new prime minister Li Keqiang and a council of ministers. 

In taking over the three offices in such quick time, he has emerged as the most powerful Communist party boss since Deng Xiaoping. 

He has wasted little time in consolidating his authority. No doubt circumstances, notably the Bo Xilai affair and other corruption scandals have aided the process. 

Though his first tour to the southern, economically vibrant zones, including Shenzhen was aimed at signaling his commitment to economic growth and reform, his most significant actions so far seem to have been in stamping his authority over the crucial pillar of the CPC - the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the country's national security policy. 

It was in this tour that he delivered a speech to senior PLA brass and party officials, where he stressed the need for "absolute loyalty" of the PLA to the CPC. Many western analysts have been pointing to the signs of the growing importance of the PLA and the role that it has played in the factional politics of the Chinese leadership. 

In the four months that Xi has been in power, he has undertaken a largescale reshuffle of the top leaders of the PLA general staff departments, as well as the seven military regions. 

Last month, the military authorities issued "Ten Regulations on improving the Work Style of the Army", aimed at checking corruption and high living among the mid and senior level officers. 

Among its more draconian prescriptions is the banning of liquor from public functions. Senior officers have been asked not to talk out of turn, and get clearance from the Central Military Commission General Office before commenting on sensitive issues to the media. 

Of greater significance, perhaps, was Xi's January visit to the Guangzhou Military Region - the one that fronts the South China Sea. According to observers, it was significant that the Chinese media described it as the Guangzhou "war theatre" rather than the "military region" that it is. 

It was during this visit that the new General Secretary emphasised his requirements of the PLA, "We must ensure that our troops are ready when called upon, that they are fully capable of fighting, and that they must win every war". 

This has rung alarm bells across the region because it breaks away from the anodyne statements that leaders make about the need for "readiness" in the armed forces, or their duty to "defend national interests." 

All this has generated unease and indeed fear, among China's neighbours, particularly Japan. In recent months, China has stepped up pressure on the Senkaku islands, which it claims. 

There has been an increase in Chinese air and sea activity in the seas around the islands, which are currently under Japanese control. Japan is a useful target for Chinese nationalism. 

China and the Cyber Great Game

March 20, 2013

Last month, the private cybersecurity firm Mandiant issued a report claiming to directly link the Chinese military to cyber espionage against American and other western economic targets. The detailed report alleges that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Unit 61398 is stealing business and technological secrets in support of China’s twelfth five-year plan for economic development, but also suggested Unit 61398 is only one of many units engaged in the theft of sensitive U.S. economic data. 

If true, these allegations would confirm the long-held suspicion among many analysts that the Chinese government is involvemed in economic cyber espionage. 

Although significant in its own right, the PLA’s apparent involvement in cyber espionage has broader implications. In particular, the allegations against Unit 61398 and other recent developments highlight the emerging great game in cyberspace across the Asia-Pacific—as well as the growing link between competition in cyberspace and traditional geopolitics. 

The interconnected nature of the Internet has allowed cyber espionage to impose economic costs that are historically unique, creating enormous pressures for states and other organizations to respond. In the case of the United States, gauging the cost of cyber espionage to the economy is difficult. Although intelligence reviews point out that estimates range from $2 billion to $400 billion each year, NSA Director General Keith Alexander has said that cyber theft of economic information represents “the greatest transfer of wealth in human history.” 

Moreover, these economic cybersecurity challenges originate disproportionately from the Asia-Pacific, the emerging global power center and increasing focal point of American security policy. A 2012 report by the Internet firm Akamai alleges that 51 percent of cybersecurity breaches worldwide originate in the Asia-Pacific, with one third of global totals originating from China. 

While verifying such claims is inherently difficult, these figures roughly correspond to other reporting efforts. For example, the Department of Defense claims that the Asia-Pacific accounted for 43 percent of attempts to illegally access sensitive information in the defense industry. Additionally, an unclassified 2011 intelligence report characterized the Chinese as the “the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage.” 

But the emerging great game in cyberspace for access to sensitive data stretches across both sides of the Pacific. China in particular is feeling increased pressure. In response to the Mandiant report, the Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesman Gang Yenshang claimed that of attempts to hack PLA military websites, nearly 63 percent originated from the United States. 

The Transition of Power in China


In a remarkable bloodless leadership transition for a communist country, China’s new leader, 59 years old Xi Jinping is set to take over the reins of power in March next year along with Li Kegiong who is 57. Xi Jinping will then become the supreme leader – Head of State, Secretary General of Chinese Communist Party and most important – Head of the Central Military Commission (CMC). 

A few points that need to be noted are: –
  • There has been more transparency in selection of the leaders and the Politbureau members. A meeting was convened in May and all appointments finalised; these were formalised in the party congress in October. 
  • Politbureau Standing Committee strength has been reduced from seven to five in order to speed up decision making.
  • Although Xi is 59 years old and Li is 57, the other five members of Politbureau Standing Committee are into their late sixties. So there is a mix of old and the young. 

Background of Xi Jinping
  • He is known as a Princeling – son of Mao era revolutionary Xi Zhongxnh who was also Mao’s propaganda chief. 
  • Notwithstanding the above, his father was purged during cultural revolution from 1966 to 1976 and young Xi was sent to a village commune in rural China. That perhaps may be the reason that he did not refer to Mao in his acceptance speech 
  • He joined the communist party in 1974, and graduated in chemical engineering from Beijing’s prestigious Tringhna University. Later, he was Fulbright scholar in the US.
  • He has been party secretary in Fujian and Shanghai and later Head of Tibet Work Force in 2011. The latter post has helped him understand the Tibet problem. 
  • He is married to popular folk singer and a national celebrity Peng Liyuch.
  • His daughter lives in anonymity in US.

Likely Domestic Policy
  • The domestic policy is likely to be one of continuity with change as indicated by Xi Jinping’s acceptance speech wherein he stated …“Our responsibility now is to rally and lead the party and the people of all ethnic groups in China and in making continuous efforts to achieve the great renewal of the Chinese nation and make with greater contribution to mankind”. 
  • The most important test for Xi will be to pilot political and economic reforms through the all-powerful Politbureau Standing Committee which has four members known for their strong conservative views. 
  • In his acceptance speech, Xi also touched on the serious problems of corruption and bribery among the leadership and vowed to eradicate it.
  • He also emphasised that formalities and bureaucratic delays will be cut out and there will be greater interaction within the party cadres. 
  • Dealing with turbulence in Tibet will be a key area. 

Rising nationalism casts shadow on China’s border disputes

Ananth Krishnan 

China’s influential online community calls for Beijing to take harder position with New Delhi 

On Monday, China’s new President Xi Jinping acknowledged that solving the border dispute with India “will not be easy.” Mr. Xi’s comment was hardly surprising: 15 rounds of talks have made little headway in moving the long-running and complex boundary question towards resolution. As Mr. Xi takes over, however, an already difficult dispute is facing further complications: recent months have seen an increasing number of comments from China’s increasingly influential — and nationalistic — online community, calling for China to take a harder position with India and to “take back” its territory. 

The comments have coincided with renewed attention in China over a territorial spat with Japan and Mr. Xi’s increasingly frequent invocations of “a Chinese dream” centred around the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

In a microblog post written to coincide with the Chinese Parliament session that concluded on Sunday, Du Dacai, a scholar at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, wrote that “solving the problem of our territory of South Tibet [as China refers to Arunachal Pradesh]” should be China’s fourth pressing priority “to realise the Chinese dream and China’s unification.”

Top three priorities

The first three priorities, according to him, were: restoring Taiwan to China, regaining the Diaoyu or Senkaku islands from Japan; and “taking back sovereignty of the South China Sea,” which is disputed by more than 10 countries.

China claims around 90,000 sq km of land in Arunachal Pradesh – referred to by Chinese State media and bloggers as “south Tibet” – and a further 38,000 sq km in the western sector in Aksai Chin, which is currently under Chinese control and disputed by India.

Another article written this week by a graduate of Nanchang University said the people “living in South Tibet belong to China’s 56 ethnic groups.” “My motherland,” he wrote, “your wandering son wants to go home after 50 years of separation.”

The sentiments underscore the rising tide of nationalism among younger Chinese, which was recently on display in mass anti-Japanese protests that broke out in several cities last year over the disputed Diaoyu or Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. Tens of thousands gathered chanting anti-Japanese slogans. Many protesters were also seen carrying portraits of Mao Zedong – seen as an indirect rebuke to the current leadership, which has been criticised as being too “weak” in enforcing China’s territorial claims.

Mr. Xi begins his first overseas visit as President to Moscow on Friday, the Chinese government is also facing surprising criticism for what is being perceived as a weak stance on territorial disputes with Russia.

“Most important partner”

Only on Monday, Mr. Xi described Russia as China’s “major and most important” strategic partner. He pointed out that both countries had “solid” political ties, citing the fact that they had achieved the difficult feat of “completely settling the boundary issue.” Yet in the past couple of days leading up to Mr. Xi’s departure to Russia, hundreds of comments online “demanding the return of territories” inundated the Russian Embassy in Beijing’s official microblog on Sina Weibo, a Twitter equivalent used by 500 million Chinese.

“We want our land back, take away your Marxism-Leninism ideology!,” said one comment among more than 1,300 posted to the Russian Embassy, reported the South China Morning Post. China’s settlement of its boundary with Russia is seen by many in China as a deal that favoured Russian claims.

One Chinese scholar at the University of Agriculture wrote in a post last week to his 85,000 followers on Weibo that Russia was “the country that occupies the largest territory of China.” “The second is India,” he said, “and then it is Kazakhstan. We only give attention to Japan because of political factors, and that is the easiest way to annoy the angry youth. But when we speak of Russia, all the patriots suddenly go silent.”

China-Sri Lanka space cooperation worries India

Concern is growing in Indian security establishments over increasing Chinese footprints in Sri Lanka’s strategic sectors. The National Security Council Secretariat has called an inter-ministerial consultation next week to decide on “possible approaches” to protect “Indian interests” in its neighbourhood.

The latest to cause alarm are reports of Chinese-Sri Lankan collaboration in the area of space. A Sri Lankan firm is likely to launch its first communication satellite with Chinese help in 2015. In mid-2012, the National Security Adviser (NSA) had discussed this issue and the Department of Space was asked to “provide assessment of the security implications” on India due to Sri Lanka’s space programme.

Notably, a Sri Lankan company, Supreme SAT (Pvt.) Ltd. signed an agreement with the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka in May 2012 to launch the telecommunication satellite at a cost of $320 million in partnership with China Great Wall Industry Corporation, a state-owned Chinese company. Subsequently, it was also decided to set up a space academy-cum satellite ground station at Kandy.

The Indian authorities have been looking into possible options to counter any security threat. In its suggestions, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had said India should offer to build and launch satellites for Colombo. 

“A mutually beneficial cooperation arrangement for building satellites and operating them with increased coverage areas over India can be worked out so that capabilities on satellites can be used by both the countries,” it had said.

Now, the inter-ministerial meeting under the leadership of Deputy NSA on March 25 would discuss the issue threadbare. Government sources said India was likely to initiate discussions with Sri Lankan authorities on bilateral cooperation in space-related activities, including building, launching and operating satellites. And if Sri Lanka refused to budge, India would request its neighbour to regulate footprints of satellite coverage within its land and maritime boundary to minimise Chinese interference, if any.

It is also learnt that India was likely to raise objections at an international level when the issues of orbital slot, frequency coordination and downlinking of foreign channels would come up to safeguard its national security and commercial interests, they noted.

Stop Dragging Bangladesh back to 1971

Paper No. 5429 Dated 20-Mar-2013

Bangladesh is a country poised to take off economically. True, there are serious issues of corruption, governance, shortage of power and law and order situation. None of these things are new. It will take time and patience to rectify these challenges. But if any one demands an ideal situation he is surely going to be disappointed. But these have to be addressed urgently also. It calls for realism also. 

On March 26, Bangladesh will celebrate its 42nd Independence Day. The 1971 generation belong broadly to two distinct ideological and political streams. One group fought in the war of liberation, lost family and friends, but achieved their goal. The other group threw their lot with the Pakistani army fought against their brethren, killing men, women and children in bloody rampages. 

These comprised the rightist Islamic forces of the Jamaat who formed their killing brigades called Razakars, Al Badars and Al Shams. Among the second group were some who were more sophisticated and cunning, pretending to be liberation warriors, but actually owing allegiance to Pakistan and revealed their true colours later. 

The Father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, an emotional and forgiving person, pardoned may of the butchers of Bangladesh. But the key conspirator, Prof. Ghulam Azam, the Amir of the Jamaat at that time, was denied Bangladeshi citizenship, and his organization banned. Sk. Mujib was assassinated on August 15, 1975 along with his family members. His daughters, Sk. Hasina and Sk. Rehana survived because they were abroad. The assassination was a huge conspiracy spanning countries. 

Sk. Mujibur Rahman’s assassination had more than one dimension. It was revenge for Pakistan and pro-Pakistanis embattled in Bangladesh. For the US, (read Henry Kissinger) it was a blow to India for having supported the liberation war which turned into an India-Pakistan war in which Pakistan was roundly defeated. Pakistan was a close ally of the US, and staged the secret Kissinger visit to China to establish US-China relations. The cold war entered South Asia. A new rearrangement of forces followed: an US-Pakistan-China axis, and a perceived Soviet Union-India axis. 

Liberation was almost overturned when Gen. Zia-ur-Rehman a Bangali Major in the Pakistani army, a ”freedom fighter “of convenience assassinated and executed opponents to become president in 1987-88. Zia formed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and legitimatised the Jamaat. He almost took Bangladesh back to Pakistan. 

Zia lived by assassination and died by the gun. He was killed by Maj. Gen. Manzoor, a pro-liberation officer and GOC Chittagong Division, in Chittagong, in 1981. Manzoor, in turn, was betrayed by Lt. Gen. H.M. Ershad, and killed. Ershad assumed the position of Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) and President. Ershad, however, did not change Zia’s direction. He amended the constitution, and Bangladesh changed from a secular country to an Islamic Republic. His martial law administration was finally toppled in joint political action in 1992. 

Tumultuous politics in Bangladesh followed, with the country’s worst ever period between 2001-2006, when the BNP-JEI was in power. The BNP-JEI partnership along with two other smaller allies formed what is known as the four-party alliance. 

The rule of the four party alliance was remarkable for its misdeeds. Right wing religious extremist terrorism was co-opted as a political factor. The most notable figures was Bangla Bhai and his Jamatul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB), and Pakistan’s ISI linked HUJI. These groups were used to terrorize the people. The JMB exploded bombs in a synchronised action in 63 out of 64 districts of Bangladesh in August 2005, the day BNP chairperson and Prime Minister Khaleda Zia left for her China visit. 

Revolution in Nepal: Bolshevik-style?

March 20, 2013

Thabang is a small village cloistered on the mid-western hills of Nepal, but it began to steal the limelight after the Maoists declared their Protracted People’s War in the spring of 1996 in an apparent bid to establish a communist regime in the Himalayan kingdom. This remote village in Rolpa district, which is home to some 300 households, most of them from the ethnic Kham Magar community indoctrinated in the radical communist ideology, became the nerve centre of the Maoist insurgency, and a hideout for the rebel leaders during the bloody war that claimed the lives of over 15,000 people before it formally came to an end in 2006. Thabang is regarded as the Mecca for radical communists and a source of inspiration for them. 

And this explains why Ram Bahadur Thapa “Badal”, the general secretary of the breakaway Maoist party CPN-M led by Mohan Baidya “Kiran”, visited Thabang on February 13, 2013 to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the People’s War and reiterated his party’s commitment to “revolution”, even though, according to him, Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, chairman of the mother party UCPN (Maoist), and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, vice-chairman and Maoist ideologue, “betrayed” the causes of the revolution. After all, it was Badal, one of the key military strategists of the People’s War, who had played a major role in laying the foundation of the Maoist insurgency in the mid-western hills through the so-called “rural class struggle” even before the insurgency began in 1996. 

The political document initiated by Baidya, which was endorsed by the party’s recently held general convention, stresses the need for ‘state capture’ to liberate the “dispossessed and oppressed” in Nepal. But while the party’s tactical line, as mentioned in the document presented by Kiran in the general convention, is vague at best, the leaders close to him state that the party is preparing for an “urban insurrection” using the achievements of the People’s War as a springboard and floating the issue of “national sovereignty” as its main agenda to garner the support of the hoi polloi. These leaders allege that former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who stepped down recently, is “pro-India” and that India had upped its ante in Nepal ever since his election to the helm some 18 months ago. 

There is also widespread perception in Kathmandu that the formation of the current election government led by Chief Justice Khilaraj Regmi was an “Indian design”, and Baidya believes that the Nepalis, who are “too sensitive” on the issue of nationalism, will join hands with him and take to the streets to overthrow the government. Not surprisingly, then, Baidya, backed by 21 other fringe parties and members of civil society, held protest programmes on the day Regmi was sworn in by President Ram Baran Yadav, saying Regmi is heading the election government as per the “design of the external powers”. The party has also stated that the principal contradiction today is between the common Nepali people and the “domestic comprador-bourgeoisie and feudal lords protected and mobilized by India.” 

Then, what are the strategies of the radical party for state capture?

The Baidya-driven radicals want to adopt the party line of the Second National Conference in 2001 when they had decided to supplement their Chinese model of revolution (protracted people’s war) with the Russian model (armed urban insurrection). In 2010, the Maoists had even bussed in thousands of people from across the country to Kathmandu for “an insurrection”, but failed to achieve their goal due mainly to the strong opposition from the Kathmandu middle class and the state mechanism that has remained intact. The Baidya faction however thinks that the plan failed mainly due to the reluctance of Prachanda and Bhattarai. While the objective condition for a communist revolution, Baidya has argued, is already there, the revolutionaries are not yet mentally prepared to effect such a revolution. Baidya argues that it is high time that they prepared for a revolution mentally, though many commentators, given his organizational strength and mass support, doubt his to ability to lead an insurrection. 

India, China and Bangladesh: The Contentious Politics of the Brahmaputra River

Roomana Hukil
Research Officer
IReS, IPCS

The Brahmaputra River is one of the most significant confidence-building measures between India, China, and Bangladesh. Despite a well-functioned relationship between India and China in recent decades, the Brahmaputra River may pose new challenges to the continued supply of fresh water for both countries in the future. In addition, China’s announcement, last month, of its plans to construct three hydropower dams – Dagu, Jiacha, and Jiexy along the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra basin, has raged anxiety in India and Bangladesh in terms of erosion, flood protective measures, and the potential ecological damage to the downstream regions.

The article delves into a strategic-techno analysis of the issues festering around the proposed dam construction projects that may open a new front of contentious politics amongst the neighbours. It examines whether ‘water rationality’ will continue to govern the riparian relationship, and also reasons that in spite of no water sharing agreement between India and China, vis-à-vis only one water treaty between India and Bangladesh; coupled with the enormous potential of sharing the benefits, it is unlikely to envision the three countries agreeing to sign a portioned water resource development treaty in the near future.

Fresh Strategic Insights: Issues and Steps

The Brahmaputra River consolidated the water rights between all the riparian states pertaining to their water usage, and requirements in the growing region. In spite of there having being no official water sharing accord between India and China, the two countries manifest a paradigm to maintaining cordial water diplomacy in the present international scenario of water conflicts. Hitherto, the dilemma over future water supply regulations, amidst the issue of ecological upkeep, persists for both India and Bangladesh.

China's vigorous push in favour of the hydropower base construction on the Brahmaputra or Yarlung Zangbo River (as known in China) is foreseen as an attempt to harm the downstream interests, particularly of Northeast India. The construction of the 100m Zangmu dam (510 MW project) in the TAR in 2010, is an approximate case in point. The current proposed construction of the 124m Dagu dam, which has a 640 MW capacity, triggers a maximum impact on the downstream flows in India. Post the ‘flurry of dam-building’, China has tried to leverage its hydropower requirements in the north and central regions; however, India’s Northeast, and neighbouring Bangladesh could face an undeniably reduced water supply, if not for acute water shortage. This is reasoned since the watercourse feeds on seven rivulets originating from the glaciers in the Tibetan plateau, hence damming the river upstream could result in the lower riparian regions facing an intense water division from these snow-fed rivulets during the summer months.

While the run-of-the-river projects are, primarily, meant to store large volumes of water for generating power, fresh concerns were raised regarding the need for a scientifically designed drainage system all over the downstream region, complemented by extensive soil conservation, afforestation, and watershed management in the hilly areas of the Northeast region.

An in-depth study of the climatic changes that cause erratic flooding patterns is urged so that proper ameliorative measures may be adopted. This, combined with regional flood early warning systems and flood moderation measures, along with well-planned erosion management, should encourage inter-state and regional cooperation. An earnest step would be for the international community and water boards to thwart any measures that are detrimental to the sustainability of the Brahmaputra. It is imperative to maintain the flow of water in the Brahmaputra River so that it can sustain the environment and water balance in India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, before dispersing into the Bay of Bengal.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Chinese Statistics

Who’s cooking Beijing’s books? 
BY TOM ORLIK | MARCH 20, 2013 


On Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew met with China's Premier Li Keqiang, a crucial first meeting between new representatives of the world's two biggest economic powers. Lew's interlocutor sits at the top of the world's second-largest economy -- a country whose GDP reached approximately $8.3 trillion in 2012. But how accurate are the statistics that illuminate China's growth? Even Li himself has said (as quoted in a U.S. State Department cable published by WikiLeaks) that China's GDP figures are "man-made" and therefore unreliable. In this excerpt from his book, Understanding China's Economic Indicators, Wall Street Journal China reporter Tom Orlik explains how to get to grips with China's data. 

Americans seem to think that the production of China's economic data is a crude political farce: the controlling hand of the Communist Party intervening arbitrarily to direct the level of key indicators before they are published. In the past, that image was not too far from reality. 

In the 1958-1961 Great Leap Forward, Chairman Mao's disastrous attempt to shift a backward agrarian economy to a modern industrial powerhouse, the failure of the statistical system contributed to catastrophe on a grand scale. Mao's plan, such as it was, required producing an agricultural surplus that could be sold to fund investment in a modern industrial base. Whipped into a patriotic frenzy, and knowing that their future depended on meeting unrealistic targets for the production of grain, local officials engaged in rampant exaggeration of output. 

But reality was distorted at a cost. The higher the production figures, the greater the tax owed to the central government. In some areas, the exaggerated claims were so great that the entire harvest had to be handed over as tax, used to fund investments and extravagances that China could ill afford. In some parts of the country, the only crops left behind were grown by villagers in secret locations, away from the acquisitive eye of the local production teams. But such success stories were few and far between. Tens of millions died in history's greatest man-made famine. 

Some things have stayed the same in the last 50 years, but a lot has changed. At its root, the cause of over-reporting output during the Great Leap Forward was the divided loyalties of local officials, torn between the reality of stubbornly unchanging grain yield and career ambitions that depended on meeting unrealistic targets for output. 

That conflict of interest was slow to be resolved. The biggest reform-era controversy over China's economic data, a GDP growth figure for 1998 that many experts regard as grossly inflated, has been laid at the door of the exaggerated claims made by local officials. But the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) -- the arm of the government that manages China's data system -- no longer relies on the unreliable inputs it receives from local bureaus. Across the range of key industrial output, fixed asset investment, and retail sales data, the largest enterprises in the country report directly to the NBS in Beijing.