23 March 2013

The Spirit of 71

Syncretic Bangladesh challenges Political Islam again 

When the uprising was coalescing at Shahbag Square in Dhaka in early February, demanding stern sentences for war criminals of Bangladesh’s nine-month-long war of independence, I was getting daily reports from a close friend and her daughter. My friend has been a leading light of the country’s feminist movement for almost three decades, and the daughter is finishing college while also working for an NGO. The mother’s reporting, as I expected, was highly political, even as the daughter, who had not participated in any direct political activity in her life, was telling me how her friends’ mothers who’d never get close to any protests were joining the gathering at Shahbag. I heard the same from another journalist friend. Her younger brother, his wife and their friends—all in their late twenties or early thirties—who had no penchant for any kind of political activity during their years of growing up, were present at Shahbag on a daily basis. 

Another artist-cum-photographer friend was regularly posting photos of the gathering on his Facebook page. What caught my attention was the diversity of the crowd: there were old and young people, even children; thousands of women—activists and housewives; the Dhaka elite and madrassa students; small shopkeepers distributing water to protestors; leading feminist figures and women in headscarves; the country’s top artists putting up huge paintings to depict the spirit of the gathering; caricatures of Jamaat leaders on the walls around Shahbag; and famous singers turning up to sing for the crowd. 

The most striking picture was a top shot of a candlelight vigil by a sea of humanity converging on Shahbag Square. Even though I was not present there, it was not difficult to gauge the emotions of the gathering. 

While outsiders—namely, Western critics, including some human rights groups—were debating the question of the ‘death penalty’ and the ‘unfair’ process of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) looking into the horrors of 1971, the gathering was swelling and demanding that the Jamaat-e-Islami and all kinds of religious extremist groups be banned from politics in Bangladesh. 

THESE CONVERSATIONS WITH friends and my scanning of social media and news reports on the emotions of Shahbag reminded me of experiences narrated to me by another close friend, filmmaker Tareque Masud, who died in a tragic road accident in 2011. In the mid-1990s, Tareque and his wife Catherine had just finished their first documentary film on the 1971 war, Muktir Gaan (‘Songs of Freedom’), but its release ran into trouble with the then BNP-led government. The distributor simply reneged on his promise to screen the film. Undaunted by these obstacles, Tareque organised screenings of the film by gathering groups of young students who took the film to small towns and villages. They screened the film through portable projectors by renting local town halls and school auditoria and putting up open- air screens in remote villages. 

Is the Climate the Biggest Threat?

March 21, 2013 

The commander of American forces in the Pacific, Admiral Samuel Locklear, told a Boston Globe reporter last week that the most serious long-term security threat to the Asia-Pacific region is climate change. 

Locklear said in the interview that instability stemming from a warming planet “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.” Apparently having faced some raised eyebrows in previous conversations on the matter, the admiral admitted that “People are surprised sometimes” to hear him say climate change is the biggest threat to peace in the Pacific. 

He’s right on this account: Many would be surprised—or even shocked—to hear our senior warfighter in the Pacific say that. It’s likely that his listeners would expect him to talk about nuclear North Korea or China’s military build-up, cyber or space warfare or even the ongoing sovereignty disputes in the East and South China Seas, which involves some of our allies and friends. 

In fairness to the admiral, there are a lot of possible reasons for his views. First, Locklear could be convinced of what he says or was being cautious with his words so as to not exacerbate existing tensions with the likes of North Korea, whose rhetoric of late has been anything but friendly. 

But the Admiral could also simply be reading from the national-security gospel according to Team Obama, which has highlighted climate change as an emerging security threat. Obama national-security team members—past and present—seem to have the climate-change threat encoded in their DNA, no doubt to the delight of fawning environmentalists. 

It arguably started with the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), where the Pentagon noted that: “While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.” Then former secretary of defense Leon Panetta noted in 2012 before the Environmental Defense Fund: 

In the 21st century, the reality is that there are environmental threats which are threats to our national security. For example, the area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security: rising sea levels, to severe droughts, to the melting of the polar caps, to more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. 

Current secretary of defense Chuck Hagel has an interest in this issue going back to his days in the Senate. Just last fall, he wrote in a report on “The Impact of Climate Change”: 

It’s our boat, our courts

By V. S. Mani 

Based on international conventions, Indian law confers the right to try the crime in the country if the target is a national vessel 

The return to India of two Italian marines charged with the shooting death of two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast has taken the hard edge off the legal-diplomatic war which broke out between Rome and New Delhi in the aftermath of the February 15, 2012 incident. But the questions thrown up by the case will continue to be furiously debated. 

The marines were part of an Italian Navy Vessel Protection Detachment on board the oil tanker Enrica Lexie and the shooting occurred within India’s contiguous zone — which extends 24 nautical miles (NM) into the sea from the coastline. Italy, which contested India’s right to put the men on trial, decided earlier this month to violate the assurance its ambassador provided the Indian Supreme Court by declaring that the marines who had been allowed to return home temporarily to vote would not be sent back to India. On Thursday, however, the Italian government wisely reversed itself. 

The case has visited the Supreme Court at least four times since May 2012, and has had both criminal and civil dimensions before the Kerala High Court. The criminal proceedings have revolved around the jurisdiction of the Indian courts to try the case and I will examine this issue primarily from the vantage point of the Indian law against the background of international law. 

Contiguous zone jurisdiction 

India’s legal claim to jurisdiction over its maritime zones flows from Article 297 of the Constitution of India. It is amazing to note that Article 297 does not (and did never in the past, whether in 1950 or after the amendment of 1963) specifically refer to the “Contiguous Zone” of India, but to “other maritime zones.” This provision, as it stands today, was substituted by the 40th Amendment Act, 1976, in order to take advantage of the third U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea, and was immediately followed by the adoption by Parliament of the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and Other Maritime Zones Act, 1976 (the Maritime Zones Act, for short). This was probably encouraged by the development of new concepts like the EEZ and overwhelming state practice in favour of a 12 nautical mile (NM) territorial sea. Needless to say, the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea stands out for its functionalist approach to law of the sea issues, particularly to issues of state jurisdiction in diverse maritime zones. 

BRICS Baby Steps: The Challenges Ahead

By R N Das
March 22, 2013 

The fifth edition of the BRICS forum is set to be held in Durban, South Africa, on 26 and 27 of March 2013. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to meet the newly elected President of China Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit. This will be their first meeting, although they have earlier had a telephonic conversation and an exchange of communication. 

As BRICS takes its baby steps, mentoring it is quite a challenge. China’s pivotal role in the forum is indisputable given the size of its economy and its weight. But the role and contribution of all the member countries including that of India should also be acknowledged and recognised. Both India and China together played a positive and proactive role in helping the process of recovery following the global financial crisis, though many will debate whether it was a global financial crisis or a western financial crisis. Be that as it may, strategic trust between India and China, two main drivers of the BRICS, is a prerequisite for its success. Much before BRICS came into existence, India and China had elevated their relationship to the strategic level during the visit of Premier Wen Jiabao to India in April 2005. Making a suo motu statement in Parliament, Dr. Manmohan Singh had said at that time that the strategic partnership between India and China was not in the nature of a military pact or alliance, but reflected a congruence of purpose apart from a common perception of world events. In fact, the joint statement issued by the two leaders asserted that the two countries stood for the establishment of a new international political and economic order that was fair, rational, equal, and mutually beneficial and promoted North-South dialogue and South-South cooperation. This spirit permeates the very aims and objectives of BRICS. 

The idea of BRICS was waiting to happen in the cyclic order of the world economy. The arrival of BRICS is a resounding statement of emerging economies. BRICS as a political entity can be said to have germinated from the informal meeting among Russia, India and China, the three core members of the grouping. Its success depends on coordination, synergy and cooperation among all the member countries. BRICS has provided China with an excellent platform to showcase its global leadership. China never had such an exposure except briefly during the Banding Conference when it rallied behind the Afro-Asian resurgence along with India. On that occasion, India, being critical of Western dominance of international order, had a nuanced position with regard to its engagement with the West, while China was acerbic about the capitalist West. Things, of course, are quite different now. China’s mentoring of BRICS coincides with its economic and political ascendance, and in that sense it is a force multiplier. The strategy it has adopted is very simple. It wants to reform the international order, particularly the economic institutions like IMF and World Bank, by being a part of the system and in this exercise it seeks the support and cooperation of other BRICS member countries. As much as China wants to project its peaceful rise through the BRICS, it also wants to be a responsible stake holder in global governance. 

The BRICS dynamism and the musical chemistry for India

22 March 2013

Guess when Mrs Gursharan Kaur, the graceful sari-clad wife of our Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, emitting a characteristically Indian élan, meets the charming and highly popular singer, Mrs Peng Liyuan, wife of the newly elected President of China, Mr Xi Jinping, what musical chemistry may happen. Daily Telegraph of London reported on the new charm offensive Durban might witness: “Mrs Peng is one of China's most prominent singers, topping the bill on the country's gala military concert at Chinese New Year, for decades. But her emergence as a prominent consort for the country's top leader would break the mould in China.” So good luck, Mrs Kaur; we hope India and China both will gain with the charm offensive of the two ancient civilizations working for the good of all BRICS nations.

This charming meet may not be a standardized high brow diplomatic parley to be held at Durban on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, but it certainly symbolizes the deep urge in both the people and their governments to forge a bond that accommodates the Chinese dream and the grand Indian vision.

On 26th and 27th of this month, when the Indian society would be in a colourful mood of the Holi festival, a multicultural diplomatic flow of BRICS would be in its full swing at Durban. Dr Manmohan Singh’s two important meetings with the Russian and Chinese Presidents would steal headlines for the sheer weight they carry. This will be Manmohan Singh’s first meeting with the new Chinese President Xi Jinping, and it is already a matter of discussion in both the capitals. The India focused statement of President Xi has given rise to hopes that a new level of our ties can be seen in near future.

Though neither Singh nor Xi have any illusions of a miracle or finding quick solutions, they will not shy to discuss the boundary issue and also the matter of correcting trade imbalance that heavily favours China.

In a significant reflection on relations with India, the first after his inauguration, President Xi spoke about the five point formula, reminiscent of the old Nehruvian Panchsheel (five characteristics) thus-(India-China must take relations to new heights: Xi Jinping)-“59-year-old Xi, who took over as the head of Communist Party, President and Military Chief, completing a rare triad of power, sent clear signals of boosting bilateral relations with India and expressed his keenness to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh next week on the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) in his first contact with top Indian leadership after his inauguration."

He said China sees its ties with India as “one of the most important bilateral relationships”.
1. “Pending the final settlement of the boundary question the two sides should work together and maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas and prevent the border question from affecting the overall development of bilateral relations,” Xi said in an interview. Xi said that first China and India should maintain strategic communication and keep the bilateral relations on the “right track”.

2. “Second, we should harness each other’s comparative strengths and expand win-win cooperation in infrastructure, mutual investment and other areas”.

3. India and China should strengthen cultural ties and constantly increase the mutually expanding friendship between the two countries.

Evaluating Sonia, the black box leader

Mar 23 2013

Should Sonia Gandhi, ruler of the Congress party, be congratulated for finishing 15 years in Indian politics? It is not a sign of expertise if an heir becomes king. So why should it be different with her? 

What does her political record look like? She formally assumed power in April 1998, but a year earlier (March 31, 1997 to be precise), the Congress party under her leadership (or the formal head Sitaram Kesri?) had withdrawn support to the United Front government. As the table shows, the Congress obtained the same seats as 1996, but 3 percentage points less votes than the P.V. Narasimha Rao 1996 election. The next year, after a full 18 months in power, Sonia's Congress obtained the lowest seats ever, 114, but kept its vote share equal to the 1996 level. 

The same story continues for the next two elections. In 2009, the vote share remained just a notch below the 1996 level, even though the Congress won 206 seats. Note that vote share is an important indicator of a political party's popularity; the seat share an important indicator of coalition politics. Note also the joint vote share of the Congress and the BJP was the lowest in the coalition-era world, post 1984. Thus whatever the causes, it was not Sonia's or the Congress popularity that led to its outsized win in 2009. 

After the 2009 election, it was quite apparent that Sonia and the party were targeting 272 seats on their own. Given that the vote share had stayed broadly constant and below the 1996 level, this belief in the Congress's invincibility is not suggestive of political prowess. Thus, the bottom line is quite straightforward — there is nothing in the record to suggest that Sonia has been a successful politician — except (and this is an important but), the vital fact that she is the glue that keeps the Congress together. 

There is one other aspect of Sonia-politics that deserves emphasis. As is commonly believed, the strongest threat to the Congress's popularity and continuation in power is the threat from the BJP's Narendra Modi. The Congress and Sonia have recognised this threat for several years, which is why, in the 2007 state elections, Sonia coined the phrase "maut ka saudagar", or merchant of death, to describe Modi's alleged involvement in the 2002 Godhra riots. Despite losing the Gujarat election in an overwhelming fashion, the Congress has kept up the pressure on the BJP and Modi. Questions are asked by the press of Modi at every forum — why don't you apologise for the Godhra killings, it happened under your watch as chief minister, so at least admit the responsibility, etc. 

These are legitimate questions and suggest that civil society, the media and the middle class are to be applauded for demanding this minimum from our politicians. But why is this analogous demand not made from the Congress leadership and the Gandhi family that was in power at the time of the 1984 riots? In response to a question about the Sikh riots, and at an election rally on November 19, 1984, Sonia's late husband and then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi stated that "When a big tree falls, the earth shakes". Not exactly an apology. While some of Modi's political colleagues have been arrested and convicted for their involvement in the Godhra riots, some of the alleged Congress officials were rewarded with cabinet posts in several Congress governments, including her own UPA rule. 

CBI Again Under Focus

By B. Raman

1. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Government of Dr. Manmohan Singh have come under criticism for the perceived ham-handedness of the CBI in the investigation of a complaint regarding irregularities in the import of some foreign cars involving suspected evasion in the payment of duty. 

2. In connection with the preliminary enquiry into the complaint, which precedes the registration of a First Information Report (FIR), the CBI allegedly raided the houses of Shri M. K. Stalin and Shri M. K. Alagiri, senior DMK leaders and sons of Shri M. Karunanidhi on the morning of March 21, 2013, while looking for the suspected cars. 

3. Since the raids came a day after Shri Karunanidhi announced the withdrawal of the DMK from the ruling coalition in protest against the Government’s policy on the violation of the human and political rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils by the Sri Lankan Government, there have been allegations that the raids were politically motivated to teach the DMK a lesson for its action. 

4. Dr. Manmohan Singh and some senior Ministers from the Congress (I) have dissociated themselves from any responsibility for the controversial raid and found fault with the CBI action. There has been professional as well as political ham-handedness in the entire affair. 

5. The CBI has the duty and the responsibility to take cognizance of reports of illegalities and investigate them if such investigation falls within its charter, irrespective of the political and other background of the persons against whom complaints have been made. 

6. The timing of the investigation is in the hands of the CBI. Action has to be immediate where heinous offences such as murder or terrorism are involved or where there are reasons to apprehend tampering with the evidence by the wrong-doers if the investigation is delayed. 

7. The investigation in connection with irregularities in the import of foreign cars did not come under any of these categories. It was not a heinous offence. Nor were there grounds to apprehend attempts to tamper with evidence. 

8. The CBI could have chosen its timing keeping in view the possibility of misrepresentations and misprojections to attribute political motives to the raids in order to discredit the CBI as well as the Government. If it had delayed the raids by a few days till the heat of the controversy over the withdrawal of the DMK from the ruling coalition has died down, heavens would not have fallen. This is where sound professional judgment comes in. While one could not fault the CBI for the raids, one could fault its judgment in rushing with them. 

9. There is so far no evidence to believe that the raids were undertaken at the instance of anyone in the Government or the Congress. It would seem that the Prime Minister and some senior Ministers were taken unawares by the raid. There were panic reactions due to a fear that the raids may further complicate the relations of the Congress with the DMK at a time when the Congress had not given up hopes of finding a face-saver that might enable the DMK to at least support the Government from outside. 

Shale gas needs a Delphi exercise

By Ashwani Srivastava 
 March 21, 2013 

This rich emerging source of gas has the potential to transform India's energy economy, but only if policy-making is closely coordinated between the various arms of govt and sector experts 

The ministry of petroleum and natural gas is working on "a positive and forward-looking shale gas policy" that will be presented to the Union Cabinet soon. If the signals are to be believed, India will launch its first auction of shale gas blocks by end-2013.

The ministry has identified six basins for bids: the Cambay Basin in the west, the Assam-Arakan Basin in the northeast, the Gondwana Basin in central India, Krishna Godavari onshore, Cauvery onshore, and the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Shale gas is also believed to be present in the sedimentary basins of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and the Damodar Valley. Though all shale deposits are not ideal for exploration, a substantial potential for gas is expected to be present in these basins.

According to preliminary estimates, India's shale gas reserves may be larger than that of its conventional gas deposits. According to US Energy Information Administration estimates, India has approximately 290 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale reserves, of which nearly 20 per cent is technically/economically recoverable. Currently, India's gas-fuelled power plants total around 18 gigawatt, running at about 40 per cent capacity owing to a shortage of gas. By 2016-17, the demand for gas is expected to reach 122.42 tcf. Unfortunately, even in the best-case scenario, domestic production will only yield about half the total requirement. India will definitely have to look to bridge this gas demand-supply mismatch. Shale gas, considered the "biggest energy innovation of the previous decade" and a "game-changer" by several economists around the world, belongs to the category of unconventional reservoirs that include coalbed methane, tight gas (gas that is difficult to access because of the nature of the surrounding rock and sand), and gas hydrates. It has resulted in a change in the energy dynamics of the US from "one of deficit to surplus" in less than two years.

This vast resource can be developed in stages, which means the pace of development can be controlled - matching production with economic conditions and market demand. Shale gas also has short cycle times between initial investment and first production, and is readily available.

In India, the knowledge base about shale gas and related technologies is still nascent. It needs an effective policy framework for the exploration and exploitation of its shale gas blocks. There has been little development in this segment so far in the country. India has been aiming to import shale gas from the US. US gas, once available in the market, is expected to create a certain degree of moderation of international gas prices.

The US has recently allowed state-owned GAIL (India) to ship shale gas to India, making an exception to its restrictive export policy. GAIL (India) has also allied with French group EDF to jointly scout for natural gas assets in the US. GAIL (India) also acquired a stake in Carrizo's Eagle Ford Shale acreage in south Texas for Rs 500 crore.

India’s ‘rape epidemic’ problem of democracy, says Chinese media

By Ananth Krishnan

“The frequent rape cases cast a shadow on the quality of Indian democracy” 

The increasing number of rape cases reported in recent months in India has been portrayed by China’s state-run media in recent articles as an indicator of the “failure” of India’s democracy to ensure good governance and “the weakness and incompetence of India's democratic system.”

A commentary published on Thursday by Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper wrote that “the frequent rape cases cast a shadow on the quality of Indian democracy.”

Both the gang rape case in New Delhi and the recent attack on a Swiss tourist have received wide media attention in China, both in official media outlets and on microblogs, seen by bloggers as reinforcing widely-held perceptions here that India was an unsafe country for women.

“The Indian rape epidemic has not only shocked the world, but shamed the country which prides itself on being the largest democracy in the world,” said the commentary in the Global Times, which is published by the People’s Daily, Communist Party’s official newspaper. 

“India's rape problem comes from two things. India has a deeply-rooted social discrimination against women. And India’s rule of law is loose and government management is lacking. These two things are closely linked to each other, and directly decide the level of India's social progress and the quality of its democracy,” said the article, authored by senior editor of the People’s Daily Ding Gang.

“Why does India’s democracy fail to bring more effective rule of law, but instead allows the worst facets of traditions to flourish and thus severely restricts India's modernisation to this day? This is, I’m afraid, a question that deserves thought from the Indian elite,” Mr. Ding wrote.

The article said other developing countries had done far more than India – which consistently ranks very low on global indices on the social status of women – in raising women’s social status and ensuring their safety.

That China has fared far better than India on this count has, indeed, been highlighted by several studies. A United Nations Development Programme report in 2010 found China doing better than South Asian countries in improving the social and economic status of women in the past six decades. 

Women's participation in the labour force in China was 70 per cent, compared to 35 per cent in South Asia and the global average of 53 per cent. Life expectancy had risen to 75 years, while female literacy rates were more than double of India’s, the report said.

The Global Times commentary argued that the processes of “dispelling old habits through changing social perceptions and putting in place legal methods... to make new rules and protect women from assaults” were being impeded by India's political system. 

“India's democracy not only enables those deeply-rooted bad habits to survive, but even further fosters them,” the commentary argued. “Many developing countries heading towards modernisation are gradually accomplishing this basic procedure. But this seems especially difficult in India. The reason lies in India's democracy.”

Burma Becomes China-U.S. Chessboard

March 19, 2013

More than one battle is underway in Burma, with policy contortions little understood by the outside world. There's the government's ongoing struggle with an abundance of ethnic resistance armies and then the larger struggle between the West and China for influence.

Foreign intervention in Burma's peace process is becoming a war by proxy, dividing policymakers in every country involved. 

The Burmese government seems intent on a military solution to its troubles with ethnic insurgency. As delegates gathered for March talks with insurgents in the border town of Ruili, hundreds of Burmese army trucks were sending more soldiers and heavy equipment into Kachin State. 

Yet in Europe only a few days earlier, President Thein Sein, ex-general-turned-civilian politician, proclaimed, "There's no more fighting in the country, we have been able to end this kind of armed conflict" between government forces and an abundance of ethnic resistance armies. This despite almost daily attacks against the Kachin Independence Army, KIA in the far north, frequent skirmishes with the Shan State Army in Shan State - a group that has an official ceasefire agreement with central authorities - and more government troops taking up new positions in Karen State in the hills bordering Thailand. 

While western NGOs and think tanks are scrambling to engage in Burma peacemaking, the mighty neighbor to the north is taking charge. On 13 March, former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao admitted that decades-long ethnic conflicts are having a severe impact on cross-border trade, yet China would continue to develop cooperative relations "based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence, including non-interference in each other's internal affairs." 

The fact is that China has a long history of involvement in Burma's internal affairs, dating back to its massive military support for the now-defunct insurgent Communist Party of Burma from 1968 to 1978. Today China has a direct interest in stability in Burma and Kachin State, in particular, where it has large investment in mineral exploration, hydroelectric-power generation, retail trade and agro-industry. 

Chinese methods for promoting peace differ considerably from the "peace-and-reconciliation-through-dialogue" approach of western interlocutors. In Kachin State, China is waving a carrot to the government in Naypyidaw by putting pressure on the KIA and allowing Burmese troops to detour through Chinese territory. China is waving a big stick as well. According to Jane's Intelligence Review, 21 December, China has supplied Burma's most powerful ethnic militia, the United Wa State Army, UWSA, with large quantities of military hardware. Chinese-made armored personnel carriers with machineguns have been spotted in the UWSA's Panghsang headquarters in Burma across the Yunnan frontier. 

A Mutiny Grows in Punjab

February 23, 2011 

U.S. STRATEGY toward Pakistan is focused on trying to get Islamabad to give serious help to Washington’s campaign against the Afghan Taliban. There are two rather large problems with this approach. The first is that it is never going to happen. As U.S. diplomats in Pakistan themselves recognize (and as was made ever so clear by the WikiLeaks dispatches), both Pakistani strategic calculations and the feelings of the country’s population make it impossible for Islamabad to take such a step, except in return for U.S. help against India—which Washington also cannot deliver. 

The second problem is that it gets America’s real priorities in the region back to front. The war in Afghanistan is a temporary U.S. interest, in which the chief concern is not the reality of victory or defeat as such (if only because neither can be clearly defined) but preserving some appearance of success in order to avoid the damage to American military prestige that would result from obvious failure. By contrast, preserving the Pakistani state and containing the terrorist threat to the West from Pakistan is a permanent vital interest not only of the U.S. military and political establishments but of every American citizen. 

And while the prospects for any sort of real success in Afghanistan look gloomy indeed, if saving Pakistan is the real priority, then things do not look so desperate, despite all the bad news from that country. This is because while getting large numbers of Pakistanis to help America is virtually impossible, getting enough Pakistanis to preserve their existing state is much easier. To a great extent, this is for negative reasons: the elites, and indeed many of the masses, have an acute sense of the horrors that would result from the country’s collapse. However, a degree of positive loyalty is also present in one key institution and in one key province: namely the military and the Punjab. 

If Pakistan is to be broken as a state, it will be on the streets of Lahore and other great Punjabi cities, not in the Pashtun mountains. By the same token, the greatest potential terrorist threat to the United States and its Western allies from the region stems not from the illiterate and isolated Pashtuns but from Islamist groups based in urban Punjab, with their far-higher levels of sophistication and their international links, above all to the Pakistani diaspora in the West. 

OF COURSE, the United States and some of its allies are embroiled in a war in Afghanistan, from which they have to try to extract themselves without humiliation. Inevitably, this conflict creates priorities of its own. Indeed, if the war in Afghanistan is to be America’s priority, then present U.S. concentration on the Pashtun areas of Pakistan is logical, since they are adjacent to Afghanistan, and it is there that the Taliban have their bases and from there that they draw much of their support (it is worth remembering that a majority of Pashtuns live in Pakistan, not Afghanistan, and that cross-border ties have always been very close). 

Nonetheless, it is essential that the makers of U.S. strategy also keep in mind the vital long-term interests of the United States and the safety of its citizens, interests which will remain long after the last American soldier has left Afghanistan. I have been struck, both in the United States and in Britain, by the tendency of officers and officials to speak and write as if protecting the lives of troops from Taliban attack is the first duty of the U.S. and British states. In fact, it is the duty of soldiers to risk their lives to protect the civilian populations of their countries, and the only valid reason why the U.S. and British militaries are in Afghanistan at all is to protect their fellow citizens from terrorism. If that equation is reversed, and the needs of the war in Afghanistan are actually worsening the terrorist threat to the U.S. and British homelands, then our campaign there becomes not just strategically but morally ludicrous. 

The Modern King in the Arab Spring

Mar 18 2013

Amid the social and political transformations reshaping the Middle East, can Jordan's Abdullah II, the region's most pro-American Arab leader, liberalize his kingdom, modernize its economy, and save the country from capture by Islamist radicals? 

David Degner 
It is still, on occasion, good to be the king. 

It is not necessarily good to be the king of a Middle Eastern country that is bereft of oil; nor is it necessarily so wonderful to be the king during the turmoil and uncertainty of the Arab Spring. It is certainly not good to be the king when the mystique that once enveloped your throne is evaporating. 

But when a squadron of Black Hawk helicopters is reserved for your use, and when you are the type of king who finds release from the pressures of monarchy by piloting those Black Hawks up and down the length of your sand-covered kingdom—then it is still good to be the king. 

One morning last fall, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, the fourth Hashemite king of Jordan, rolled up to a helipad situated close to the royal office complex in Al Hummar, on the western edge of the capital, Amman. He stepped out of an armored Mercedes—he drove himself, and drove fast, like he was being chased—and hustled to one of his Black Hawks. The king, who as a young prince served as a commander in the Royal Jordanian special forces, climbed into the pilot’s seat, talked for a moment with his co‑pilot, a trusted member of the Royal Squadron, and lifted off, pointing us in the direction of the rough, unhappy city of Karak, about 80 miles to the south. A second Black Hawk, filled with bodyguards, lifted off a moment later. 

The king was flying himself to Karak, which is one of the poorer cities in a distressingly poor country, to have lunch with the leaders of Jordan’s largest tribes, which form the spine of Jordan’s military and political elite. More than half of all Jordanians are of Palestinian origin, with roots on the West Bank of the Jordan River, but the tribal leaders are from the East Bank, and the Hashemite kings have depended on East Bankers to defend the throne since the Hashemites first came to what was then called Transjordan from Mecca almost 100 years ago. This relationship has a coldly transactional quality: in exchange for their support of the royal court, the leaders of the eastern tribes expect the Hashemites to protect their privileges, and to limit the power of the Palestinians. When the Hashemites appear insufficiently attentive, problems inevitably follow. 

Earlier that day, in his private office in Al Hummar, which overlooks the wealthy neighborhoods of West Amman, the king had explained to me the reason for the trip to Karak: he was trying, in advance of parliamentary elections in January, to instruct these tribal leaders on the importance of representative democracy. He wanted, he said, to see Jordanians build political parties that would not simply function as patronage mills but would advance ideas from across a broad ideological spectrum, and thus establish for Jordan a mature political culture. He said he would like to see Palestinians more proportionately represented in parliament. And he would like to do all this, he explained, without allowing the Muslim Brotherhood—a “Masonic cult” (as he describes it) that today controls the most formidable political organization in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front—to hijack the cause of democratic reform in the name of Islam. In other words, the king wants to bring political reform to Jordan, and to cede some of his power to the people—but only to the right people. 

China’s Trade and Investment in Iran Plummets

By Zachary Keck 
March 22, 2013 

China’s investment in Iran declined by nearly 87 percent in 2012 Al Monitor’s Iran Pulse reported last week, citing a statement made by Asadollah Asgaroladi, an influential merchant and the head of the Iran-China Chamber of Commerce and Industries. Elsewhere Asgaroladi was quoted as saying that China-Iran bilateral trade last had declined by 18 percent year-on-year. 

According to Al Monitor report, Asgaroladi told reporters that Chinese investment in Iran dropped from almost U.S. $3 billion in 2011 to just U.S. $400 million last year. The influential merchant also said that Iranian-Chinese trade in 2012 amounted to U.S. $37 billion, down 18 percent from the $45 billion of two-way trade in 2011. The 2012 figure was still higher than the US$30 billion in bilateral trade between Iran and China in 2010, however. 

The merchant attributed the sharp decline in investment to the impact of U.S. and EU sanctions. He also predicted that political infighting in the run-up to Iran country’s presidential election this summer would continue to act as a drag on the economy. 

In recent years Iran-China trade has grown steadily commensurate with China’s growing reliance on foreign energy and Western companies exiting the Iranian market. By 2007 China had replaced the EU as Iran’s largest trading partner and the two sides had pledged to more than double their annual bilateral trade to U.S. $100 billion by 2016. 

China’s energy companies had been particularly aggressive in replacing their Western counterparts in developing Iran’s oil and natural gas. In 2007, Sinopec announced it had signed a U.S. $2 billion deal to develop an Iranian oil field. Two years later, in 2009, China’s Natural Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) inked a U.S. $4.7 billion deal with Iran to replace France’s Total SA in developing phase 11 of Iran’s South Pars gas field. 

This growing trade and investment has not always resulted in more goodwill between the two countries. Ordinary Iranians and media outlets, in particular, often complain bitterly that the influx of cheap Chinese manufacturing goods has undercut domestic industry. The two sides have often been at loggerheads over Iranian charges that China was delaying the development of the oil and natural gas fields it had agreed to develop. 

The “Fracking” Revolution Comes to China

By Elliot Brennan 
March 21, 2013 
With some predicting China will import 79% of its oil by 2030, could domestic shale gas extraction help China meet its energy needs? 

As shale gas fever sweeps through Beijing, analysts are looking at the costs and benefits of extracting what is increasingly a controversial source of energy. But for China, with its growing middle class, the immediate and long-term demand for energy has the potential to spark a revolution in shale gas before sufficient and safe technological know-how and regulations are developed. 

A very vocal debate continues to rage in the U.S. and Europe as to the environmental consequences of shale gas extraction. Meanwhile, China’s National Oil Companies (NOCs) continue to purchase and buy into North American oil and gas companies with specific expertise in shale gas extraction. For better or worse, China’s shale gas revolution looks set to be thrust into the public spotlight, both at home and abroad. 

Extracting shale gas is tricky. Shale, a sedimentary rock that is typically highly porous and has low permeability, traps hydrocarbons as it is formed. To remove the gas, shale formations must be stimulated, most commonly using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The technique involves pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into the shale formation, cracking the rock and allowing the gas to be released to the surface. The 1 to 3 million gallons of water that are pumped into the shale formation must then either be recycled or pumped into water disposal wells in subsurface rock formations. 

In addition to these skill-intensive practices, the extraction process also demands three-dimensional seismic surveying, which evaluates potential subsurface resources, and horizontal drilling technology. Both demand expertise and experience, yet the capability of most companies outside of North America, including China’s National Oil Companies (NOCs), to safely and effectively perform such high-tech extraction is limited

The emergence of shale gas is a game changer. Countries that have traditionally relied on hydrocarbon exports for political clout (the Persian Gulf, Russia, Venezuela) will inevitably lose some of their petro power. Europe could become less energy dependent on Russian supply by importing liquid natural gas (LNG) from North America and by exploiting the potentially significant shale gas deposits in Poland and other countries. Australia, which has significant deposits and much of the pre-existing infrastructure to begin extraction, could see its clout in the energy politics of the region increase– forcing a significant redraft of Canberra’s “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper

In effect, the “shale revolution” signals the end of the peak oil debate. New technology means new resources, which in turn could mean a new geopolitical map. However the mere presence of the resources doesn’t mean that their extraction in the short-term is viable, a problem China knows all too well. 

Trouble in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea

March 20, 2013 

The Coming Dash for Gas 

A small country hemmed in on its land borders by adversaries, Israel has always relied on the Mediterranean to avoid commercial and political isolation. New developments at sea, including the discovery of natural gas deposits and the growth of illicit trade, will only increase the importance of maritime issues for the country. Israel needs a comprehensive maritime strategy.

In recent years, resource disputes in the South China Sea have made headlines across the world. But another body of water -- the Mediterranean -- is rapidly becoming as volatile as its eastern cousin. Exploratory drilling near the coasts of Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey has unearthed vast reserves of natural gas. Competition over the rights to tap those resources is compounding existing tensions over sovereignty and maritime borders. Without more active engagement by outside powers, these disagreements will be difficult to resolve. 

Israel stands to be the main beneficiary of the eastern Mediterranean’s bounty, due mainly to the geographic distribution of recent discoveries. In 2009 and 2010, a pair of U.S.-Israeli consortiums exploring the seabed near Haifa discovered the Tamar and Leviathan fields, which collectively hold an estimated 26 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas. The timing of these discoveries was opportune. Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, Israel has suffered frequent supply interruptions and the eventual termination of its contract with Egypt, which had previously provided 40 percent of the gas Israel consumed, at below-market rates. The Tamar and Leviathan fields, once developed, could satisfy Israel’s electricity needs for the next 30 years and even allow it to become a net energy exporter. 

Lebanon -- with whom Israel has never settled its maritime boundary -- has declared that a portion of the Leviathan field falls into a 330-square-mile area that both countries claim as part of their protected economic zones. This dispute, along with Hezbollah’s threat to attack Israeli gas platforms, has increased the burden on Israel’s small navy. Until recently, the Israeli navy’s primary strategic focus was on coastal defense and maintaining a blockade of Gaza. To equip the fleet for the protection of offshore gas rigs, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz have approved a plan to procure four new warships. Israel has also worked to expand political, military, and economic cooperation with other local stakeholders, particularly Cyprus. 

Special Edition Security Intelligence Report Released - How Socio-economic Factors Affect Regional Malware Rates

6 Feb 2013 

Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to talk to customers and governments all over the world about the threat landscape and the data we publish in the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR). During these conversations regional malware infection rates always garner a lot of discussion. One of the most interesting questions I’m increasingly asked is what factors contribute to the differences in regional malware infection rates? Or what do regions with low malware infection rates do differently than regions with high malware infection rates? Our Special Edition Microsoft Security Intelligence Report: Linking Cybersecurity Policy and Performance released today provides a new body of research that speaks to these questions. 

This study was conducted by Trustworthy Computing’s Global Security Strategy and Diplomacy team and examines the relationships that a number of different socio-economic factors have with regional malware infection rates across 105 countries. The study started with a list of 80 factors that was trimmed down to the 34 factors that had a potential correlation with malware infection rates or computers cleaned per mille(CCM). These factors include such indicators as GDP per capita, broadband penetration, use of mobile devices, Facebook usage, and thirty others. To provide you with an example, Figure 2 illustrates some of the factors examined in the United States. 

Figure 1: some of the socio-economic factors examined in the new study, with values for the United States from the second quarter of 2011 

Some key findings from this Special Edition SIR:
The group of countries in the study with the lowest malware infection rates (the “highest performing” countries), on average had more personal computers in use per capita, higher health expenditure per capita, greater regime stability, and higher broadband penetration. Many locations around the world are included in this group, but the largest concentration of them, 43 percent, were located in Western Europe. This group of countries also had some other interesting characteristics: 
  • These locations had a malware infection rate (CCM) of 5 systems infected with malware per 1,000 scanned, on average, while the worldwide average during the same period was 8.9. i.e. this group of countries had nearly half the malware infection rate of the worldwide average. 
  • The piracy rate (the number of pirated software units divided by the total number of units put into use) for this group of countries, as an average, was 42 percent. 
  • Half of these countries had either signed an international treaty or a voluntary code of conduct related to cybersecurity. 

Rabid Response

MARCH 22, 2013 

Is the Pentagon crazy enough to bring nukes to a cyberfight? 

The latest Bond flick, Skyfall, could well be the most realistic of the entire series. Its villain, disgruntled ex-MI-6 operative and creepy cyber-hacker Raoul Silva, launches massive cyberattacks from his high-tech lair on a deserted island somewhere off of Macau. He threatens to commandeer the infrastructure of entire nations at the speed of light with the mere push of a button, leaving nary a trace. Who needs cyclopytic henchmen or sharks-with-frickin'-laser-beams-attached-to-their-heads when you can invisibly disrupt power grids around the globe by merely hitting the "Enter" key? 

As it turns out, our most senior defense officials and intelligence chiefs, as well as top CEOs, are now grappling with this very issue: What to do about the Raoul Silvas of the world before they wreak cyber-havoc on the nation? The problem is that some in the Pentagon are threatening "deterrence" via kinetic reprisals -- including nuclear counterattacks in the most extreme cases -- that could actually encourage the very cyberattacks the government hopes to prevent. 

In the latest report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), cyberthreats climbed from being the number-three threat last year to the number-one position -- beating even terrorism to claim the top spot. In introducing the Worldwide Threat Assessment to the Senate, DNI James Clapper said that "when it comes to the distinct threat areas, our statement this year leads with cyber.... [I]t's hard to overemphasize its significance." And yet cyberattacks have yet to cause damage in the way a military strike could. A sobering article by Thomas Rid in Foreign Policy points out that not a single fatality has yet been attributed to any cyberattack. 

On the other hand, about $100 billion is believed to be lost annually to cyber-crime, cyber-extortion, cyber-espionage of corporate secrets, and in cleaning-up and addressing those threats. So it certainly makes sense to get out ahead of cyber-insecurities instead of waiting and reacting to a more metastasized crisis in a few years. The question is, when do cyber-intrusions cross the line from being an expensive criminal nuisance to a national-level concern requiring military intervention or military threats? And, relatedly, how should the United States divide the nation's cybersecurity mission between the civilians (at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security) and the military? 

Silicon, Iron, and Shadow

MARCH 19, 2013 

Three wars that will define America's future. 

The wars of the 21st century will be dominated by three overlapping types of conflict: Wars of Silicon, Wars of Iron, and Wars in the Shadows. The United States must design a new readiness and investment strategy in order to effectively deal with all three. Yet today it continues to pour scarce resources chiefly into its sphere of long-held dominance -- Wars of Iron. This is a potentially disastrous mistake, but one that can be corrected if we act now. 

Wars of Silicon represent the most demanding scenarios that the United States could face in the coming decades. These wars represent the "high bar" -- a potential U.S. faceoff against a deadly trifecta of cutting-edge technology, advanced military capabilities, and substantial financial resources. While these wars will be built around cyber-technology, they may well include highly-sophisticated weapons and other evolving forms of mayhem -- from malevolent biological agents to disruptions of critical infrastructure. 

Several states loom as possible Silicon War opponents, the most obvious being China. But the circle of potential enemies grows each year as more adversaries gain access to technology that enables them to strike and harm the United States, even without conventional power projection capabilities. Non-state actors will pose a threat too, as even the smallest group of skilled malcontents can deliver Silicon War effects from their home computers. Immediately attributing certain attacks may prove difficult, complicating both deterrence and counterattack. 

At scale, Silicon Wars may enable powerful state actors to unbalance and unhinge U.S. regional or global objectives by undercutting both its civil and military capabilities. A high-end, economically powerful adversary could deploy sophisticated cyberthreats in combination with large numbers of highly-equipped conventional forces. Combinations of these capabilities could deny U.S. forces access to critical airspace and waterways. Although the United States does not seek such confrontations -- nor see them as inevitable -- it must be prepared for a world in which a new standard is being set for advanced military competition. Unquestionably, some substantial portion of the U.S. military must be designed to counter this growing and most demanding threat. 

America’s AirSea Battle, Arctic Style

By James Holmes
March 23, 2013 

James Holmes on why the Coast Guard and Air Force might become the military's "odd couple" in defending America's Arctic front. 

Call them American strategy's Odd Couple. Working together, the U.S. Coast Guard and Air Force could be the best defenders of U.S. policy in the Arctic Ocean, a theater that will expand and contract each year and where threats will — cross your fingers — remain modest in scope. Light combat forces patrolling the sea under the protective umbrella of land-based fighter cover may well be enough to manage events in northern waters. Ergo, it's worth thinking ahead about the material and human adaptations necessary to help such an Odd Couple fight together. 

Think about it. One partner is an aviation force, the other a sea service. One operates under Pentagon jurisdiction, the other under the Department of Homeland Security. One is a combat arm designed to break things and kill people, the other a constabulary agency meant primarily to execute U.S. law in offshore waters and skies and render aid and comfort following natural disasters. 

Getting unlike institutions to work together smoothly is invariably an arduous chore involving not just hardware fixes but cultural transformation. The officers who would superintend such an unconventional joint force are now entering the service. Acquainting them with the brave new world they may face seems only prudent — and will help instill the right habits of mind. Gradual generational change will equip the services to manage unfamiliar challenges. 

You guessed it: ever faithless, the Naval Diplomat has been stepping out again. This time, I hold forth on maritime strategy for a fully navigable Arctic. This isn't a strategic question that demands an answer today, but it is an important one. A former U.S. Navy chief oceanographer, Rear Admiral David Titley, projects that the polar sea could be ice-free for a month each year by 2035. That's a mere tick of the clock in historical time. 

The euro-zone crisis

Bailing out Cyprus was always going to be tricky. But it didn’t have to be like this Mar 23rd 2013 

EVEN by the standards of European policymaking, the past week has been a disaster. In the early hours of March 16th, nine months after Cyprus first requested a bail-out, euro-zone finance ministers, led by the Germans, offered a €10 billion ($13 billion) deal, well short of the €17 billion needed. Who ordered whom to do precisely what is not clear, but the Cypriots then said they would raise a further €5.8 billion by imposing a levy on depositors—of 9.9% on savings above the €100,000 insurance-guarantee limit, and 6.75% for deposits below it. Chaos ensued, not least among the many Russians (reputable or not) who have parked their money in the lightly regulated island. On March 19th, with crowds in the streets and all the banks firmly shut, the Cypriot parliament rejected the bail-out package (see article). As The Economist went to press, the scene had shifted to Moscow, where the Cypriots were trying to persuade Vladimir Putin and his cronies to contribute some money in exchange, perhaps, for future gas revenues. 

Cyprus is a Mediterranean midget, with a GDP of only $23 billion. But this crisis could have poisonous long-term consequences. Eight months after the European Central Bank appeared to have restored stability by promising to do whatever it took to save the currency, the risk of a euro member being thrown out has returned. It has increased the chances of deposit runs (if Cyprus can grab your money, why not Italy or Spain?). And it has revealed the lack of progress towards a durable solution to the euro’s troubles. Ideally, all this will prompt the Europeans to push ahead with reforms, but with a German election in the autumn that seems unlikely. 

Towards Cyprussia? 

Cyprus is broke. Its debt, if it took on its banks’ liabilities, would hit 145% of GDP. This newspaper suggested recapitalising Cypriot banks, on a case-by-case basis, directly through the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), thus breaking the vicious circle where weak sovereigns bail out weak banks. We also argued for depositors and senior bondholders to be spared—not out of any particular love for rich Russians, but because of the fear of bank runs in larger weak euro economies. The Europeans instead decided to lend the money directly to the Cypriot government; and the Cypriots, perhaps bullied by some creditors, then decided to clobber all the banks’ depositors, even the insured ones. 

This was ingeniously loopy. Cyprus is odd, because virtually all its banks’ liabilities are deposits (as opposed to longer-term bonds). Yet, of the 147 banking crises since 1970 tracked by the IMF, none inflicted losses on all depositors, irrespective of the amounts they held and the banks they were with. Now depositors in weak banks in weak countries have every reason to worry about sudden raids on their savings. Depositors in places like Italy have not panicked yet. But they will if the euro zone tries to “rescue” them too.