15 April 2013

The Geopolitics of the Yangtze River: Developing the Interior

April 1, 2013 


Editor's Note: This is the first piece in a three-part series on the geopolitical implications of China's move to transform the Yangtze River into a major internal economic corridor. Part one provides a broad overview of the geography and history of the Yangtze River region and its role in shaping Chinese politics and statecraft. Part two examines the strategic river city of Wuhan, and part three considers the political economy of Beijing's push to develop the Yangtze River corridor. 

As the competitive advantage of low-cost, export-oriented manufacturing in China's coastal industrial hubs wanes, Beijing will rely more heavily on the cities along the western and central stretches of the Yangtze River to drive the development of a supplemental industrial base throughout the country's interior. Managing the migration of industrial activity from the coast to the interior -- and the social, political and economic strains that migration will create -- is a necessary precondition for the Communist Party's long-term goal of rebalancing toward a more stable and sustainable growth model based on higher domestic consumption. In other words, it is critical to ensuring long-term regime security.

The concept of developing the interior is rooted in the dynastic struggle to establish and maintain China as a unified power against internal forces of regional competition and disintegration. Those forces arise from and reflect a simple fact: China is in many ways as geographically, culturally, ethnically and economically diverse as Europe. That regional diversity, which breeds inequality and in turn competition, makes unified China an inherently fragile entity. It must constantly balance between the interests of the center and those of regions with distinct and often contradictory economic and political interests.

Currently, the Party's stated intent is eventually to achieve greater socio-economic parity between coastal and inland regions, as well as between cities and the rural hinterland. But Beijing also recognizes that underlying broad categories like "inland," "central" and "western" China is a complex patchwork of regional differences and inequality. Mitigating these differences will require more varied and nuanced policies.

Against this backdrop, the central government has targeted the Yangtze River economic corridor -- the urban industrial zones lining the Yangtze River from Chongqing to Shanghai -- as a key area for investment, development and urbanization in the coming years. Ultimately, the Party hopes to transform the Yangtze's main 2,800-kilometer-long (1,700-mile-long) navigable channel into a central superhighway for goods and people, better connecting China's less developed interior provinces to the coast and to each other by way of water -- a significantly cheaper form of transport than road or railway. By positioning this "second coastline" to become one of the nation's new economic cores, Beijing seeks to build what no previous dynasty could: a truly unified Chinese economy.

The Yangtze as a Core

The Yangtze River is the key geographic, ecological, cultural and economic feature of China. Stretching 6,418 kilometers from its source in the Tibetan Plateau to its terminus in the East China Sea, the river both divides and connects the country. To its north lie the wheat fields and coal mines of the North China Plain and Loess Plateau, which unified China's traditional political cores. Along its banks and to the south are the riverine wetlands and terraced mountain faces that historically supplied China with rice, tea, cotton and timber. The river passes through the highlands of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, the fertile Sichuan Basin, the lakes and marshes of the Middle Yangtze and on to the trade hubs of the Yangtze River Delta. Its watershed touches 19 provinces and is central to the economic life of more people than the populations of Russia and the United States combined. The river's dozens of tributaries reach from Xian, in the southern Shaanxi province, to northern Guangdong -- a complex of capillaries without which China likely would never have coalesced into a single political entity.

Mattis interview: Syria would fall without Iran's help

Jim Michaels
April 12, 2013

Story Highlights

Outspoken commander says he gave unvarnished advice

Mattis led troops in Iraq and Afghanistan

Friends call Mattis a Marine Corps icon

WASHINGTON — The increasingly isolated regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad would fall quickly without the tons of weapons and other military assistance it is getting from Iran, said Marine Gen. James Mattis, who recently stepped down as commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East.

"Absent Iran's help, I don't believe Assad would have been in power the last six months," Mattis said Monday in a wide-ranging interview in his Pentagon office as he prepares to retire from the Marine Corps.

The remarks come as the Obama administration is considering increasing the amount of non-lethal aid to opposition forces battling the Assad regime. The administration has opted not to arm the fighters.

The Obama administration has long criticized Iran for its support of the Assad regime, but Mattis' remarks reflect how dependent the Syrian leader has become on Iranian help.

Mattis said Iran is providing weapons, advisers, money and other supplies to help the Assad regime battle a growing insurgency. Mattis said the longer the fighting goes on, the greater likelihood Syria will fracture, which will make reassembling the war-torn nation even more difficult.


Mattis recently stepped down as head of Central Command, which oversaw wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was responsible for a region that includes Syria, Iran, Yemen and other flashpoints.

News of his retirement prompted reports that the White House had squeezed him out of the job early over policy differences. The White House has denied it.

Asked about those reports, Mattis would say only that he gave unvarnished military advice to his civilian bosses.

"The idea that you should moderate it before you give it to them is not showing respect to your civilian leadership," Mattis said.

Analysts and observers say it is unclear whether Mattis departed earlier than anticipated but said the general was very direct about his views on the threat Iran posed and the commitment required to counter it.

"Mattis was looking at Iran as the No. 1 threat in his (region)," said Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Hunter, R-Calif., said Mattis made it clear that any military conflict involving Iran would not be simple or quick.

Mattis said Iran's influence in the region is based on its military posture.

"No one gives a damn what Iran thinks on any significant issue," Mattis said. "The only reason Iran is at the big boys' table is because of their nuclear weapons program."

Michael O'Hanlon, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, said Mattis' tour may have been cut a little short of the typical four-year tour, but largely because of timing. His replacement, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, was available at the time.

In this nuclear standoff, it's the US that's the rogue state

Tuesday 9 April 2013 

The use of threats and isolation against Iran and North Korea is a bizarre, perilous way to conduct foreign relations 

'The alleged crises over North Korea and Iran are just not serious enough to warrant the classroom language of ­shunning and punishment.' Illustration by Belle Mellor

By coincidence two clashes over nuclear issues are hitting the headlines together. North Korea and Iran have both had sanctions imposed by foreign governments, and when they refuse to "behave properly" they are submitted to "isolation" and put in the corner until they are ready to say sorry and change their conduct. If not, corporal punishment will be administered, since they have been given fair warning by the enforcers that "all options are on the table".

It's a bizarre way to run international relations, one we continue to follow at our peril. For one thing, it is riddled with hypocrisy, and not just because states that have hundreds of nuclear weapons are bullying states that have few or none. The hypocrisy is worse than that. If it is offensive for North Korea to talk of launching a nuclear strike at the United States (a threat that is empty because the country has no system to deliver the few nuclear weapons that it has), how is it less offensive for the US to warn Iran that it will be bombed if it fails to stop its nuclear research?

Both states would be resorting to force when dialogue is a long way from being exhausted. They would also be acting against international law. That is patently clear if North Korea ever managed to launch a nuclear strike against South Korea or the US, but the same is true of an altogether more feasible attack on Iran. There is no conceivable scenario under which the United Nations security council would authorise the United States, let alone Israel, to take military action, even if Iran were to tear up its long-standing statement that nuclear bombs are un-Islamic and produce one. So why does Washington go on with its illegal threats?

The underlying cause of most international tension is the unwillingness of powerful states to recognise that we live in a multipolar world. The idea of hegemony, often sanitised as "leadership", is unacceptable. In a post-colonial era there are multiple centres of authority, international influence and soft power, and we should rejoice when new or old states, individually or collectively, have the courage and ability to challenge another state's ambition to be a superpower. States will always make common cause or "coalitions of the willing" on specific issues, but interests fluctuate and priorities change – and we should junk the cold war-style system of military alliances and ideological or sectarian camps.

Let us go further and drop the figment of an "international community", at least in its current western definition as "the United States and its friends". By the same token, let's correct the myopia around isolation. When the leaders of 120 nations travelled to Tehran to ratify Iran's presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement last August, it was risible to hear US officials still talking of Iran being "a rogue state".

In Washington and Whitehall it may seem self-evident that the international community should arm the opposition to Syria's President Assad, but that is not the view of the world's largest democracy, India, or of the most democratic African and Latin American states, South Africa and Brazil. When their leaders convened with Russia and China (in the new Brics coalition) in Durban last month, they "re-affirmed our opposition to any further militarisation of the conflict" and called for a political settlement.

How Pakistan's Best and Brightest Flock to Terror

Imagine a terrorist group that recruits tens of thousands of young men from the same neighborhoods and social networks as the Pakistani military. A group whose well-educated recruits defy the idea that poverty and ignorance breed extremism. A group whose fighters include relatives of a politician, a senior Army officer and a director of Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission.

That is the disconcerting reality of Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the world's most dangerous militant organizations, according to a study released today by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. The report helps explain why Pakistan has resisted international pressure to crack down on Lashkar after it killed 166 people in Mumbai 2014 six U.S. citizens included 2014 and came close to sparking conflict between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India.

The findings, which draw on 917 biographies of Lashkar fighters killed in combat, illuminate "Lashkar's integration into Pakistani society, how embedded they are," said co-author Don Rassler, the director of a research program at the center that studies primary source materials. "They have become an institution."

The three-day slaughter in 2008 drew global attention because it targeted Westerners as well as Indians and implicated Pakistan's spy agency. The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) continues to protect the masterminds, according to Western and Indian counterterror officials. U.S. prosecutors indicted an ISI major in the deaths of the Americans: He allegedly provided funds, training and direction and served as the handler of David Coleman Headley, an U.S. reconnaissance operative now serving 35 years in a federal prison.

The 56-page West Point report is titled "The Fighters of Lashkar-e-Taiba: Recruitment, Training, Deployment and Death." Though it refrains from policy suggestions, there are implications for U.S. counterterror strategy. Lashkar's popularity and clout defy conventional approaches to fighting extremism, said co-author Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University.

"When you have an organization that enjoys such a degree of open support, there are no options for U.S. policy other than counterintelligence, law enforcement and counter-terrorism targeting," Fair said in an interview.

Lashkar was founded in 1989 by Hafiz Saeed, its spiritual chief today, and other ideologues. The ISI deployed Lashkar as a proxy force against India, especially in the disputed Kashmir region. Although banned by Pakistan in 2002, the group still functions unmolested, the ISI provides funds, military training and arms, and ISI officers serve as handlers for Lashkar chiefs, according to Western and Indian investigations. The U.S. officially declared Laskhar a terror group in 2001.

The West Point researchers said they used "massive amounts of material that the group produces about itself" to analyze the trajectories of Lashkar fighters who were killed between 1989 and 2008. The researchers translated from Urdu the 917 biographies that appeared in four extremist publications, including one written by mothers of fallen militants.

Recruits often become holy warriors with the help of their families, which admire Lashkar's military exploits in India and Afghanistan and its nationalism and social service activities at home, the study says. Unlike other terrorist groups, Lashkar does not attack the Pakistani state.

The group's vast training camps have churned out fighters at an alarming rate. The study gives an estimate of between 100,000 and 300,000 total trainees. By comparison, a U.S. counterterror official told ProPublica he has seen figures as high as 200,000, though he put the number in the tens of thousands.

Most recruits examined in the study joined at about age 17 and died at about 21, generally in India or Afghanistan. Their backgrounds contradict "a lingering belief in the policy community that Islamist terrorists are the product of low or no education or are produced in Pakistan's madrassas," the report says.

The Enabler

The only way to stop Pyongyang's cycle of brinkmanship and extortion is to address the real problem -- South Korea.


Perhaps it is because I first went to school in Palermo, Sicily, that I have always found North Korea's conduct entirely logical and wholly transparent. In both places, extortion by intimidation is routinely practiced, though much more subtly in Sicily.

The transparency is not due to anything revealed by North Korea's string of rulers, from whom it is pointless to expect any change of policy -- just because the previous one liked Japanese food and film stars, or because the current Kim spent time in a Swiss boarding school. The regime, past and present, continues to exceed even Stalin's Soviet Union in its pervasive secrecy, but what remains in full public view is more than enough to explain its frenetically aggressive stance.

Even visitors closely escorted between North Korea's very few approved sites cannot miss the vital clues. Take the Pyongyang No. 1 Duck Barbecue Restaurant, the Pyongyang Number One Boat Restaurant, Pyulmori (a "Swiss" cafe), or the Austrian Helmut Sachers Kaffee -- among the few foreign-style eateries in the entire country besides Jilin-Chinese canteens in the border area. That one can eat palatable food in Pyulmori is phenomenal, but what is much more revealing is that both cafes serve authentic coffee actually extracted from real coffee beans.

All of North Korea's varied and extreme economic dysfunctions converge in its crippling shortage of foreign currency. Once the bulk of it is used to import military components, supplies, and subsystems from China (including the erector launcher vehicles for its ballistic missiles), very little foreign exchange is left. There is virtually none to import machinery to relaunch the country's hopelessly antiquated manufacturing industry, which totters on with decades-old Soviet machine tools and even some Japanese equipment from the 1930s. There is no foreign currency to import contemporary medicines for the population, which must make do with North Korean knockoffs of Chinese knockoffs of Western generics. There is no foreign currency to import even the cheapest forms of starch -- maize, sorghum, low-grade wheat -- when crops fail, so deadly famines are recurrent.

Yet there is enough foreign currency to import the coffee beans distilled at Pyulmori and Helmut Sachers Kaffee. The few half-starved cows sometimes seen browsing in harvested fields explain the unappealing bulgogi offered in the fancy restaurants, though North Korean waters do better in supplying the octopus, squid, and fish offered at the floating seafood house. But to procure a good espresso, the officials who allocate foreign currency -- automatically the supreme power in the land -- clearly found it necessary to set aside other priorities to import good roasted beans. Of course, none of this would explain anything if these were primarily tourist establishments operated to earn foreign currency. Stalin's body was hardly cold when communist regimes opened up for business with hard-currency shops, hotels, restaurants, and bars (not lacking in hard-currency companionship), which today still comprise Cuba's only successful industry.

But Pyongyang's ultraprime eateries are not that. A few foreign tourists end up dining there by way of relief from grim hotel canteens, along with a handful of humanity-loving NGO workers (who never miss out on luxuries and thus frequent these places), but both groups are simply too small to matter. Most customers are North Koreans who fall into two entirely distinct classes. First: anxious, pinched, and pallid men (rarely women) in standard blue North Korean suits, visibly excited by the heady foreign luxuries on offer -- members of midranking delegations from near or far that have wrangled or won access. The second class is the much better-dressed, better-fed singles and couples nonchalantly eating and drinking as if real coffee were an everyday pleasure for them. These are the likely parents of the children seen enjoying Pyongyang's splendidly polychrome merry-go-round expensively imported from Italy. (And this being the land of the portly Kim Jong Un, these children of the rich and privileged are apple-cheeked and distinctly chubby in a land where most children are visibly underweight.) No, these nonchalant eaters are not the winners of the capitalist free-for-all, entrepreneurs, top corporate professionals, or sports stars; they're high-ranking officials or military officers and their families, who support the Kim dynasty and win the perks of his favor.

Tibet: The CIA’s Cancelled War

Lhamo Tsering Collection

Resistance fighters on the Tibetan border during the early years of the CIA's Tibet program

For much of the past century, US relations with Tibet have been characterized by kowtowing to the Chinese and hollow good wishes for the Dalai Lama. As early as 1908, William Rockhill, a US diplomat, advised the Thirteenth Dalai Lama that “close and friendly relations with China are absolutely necessary, for Tibet is and must remain a portion of the Ta Ts’ing [Manchu] Empire for its own good.” Not much has changed with the Fourteenth Dalai Lama one hundred years later. After a meeting in 2011 with President Obama in the White House Map Room—the Oval Office being too official—the Dalai Lama was ushered out the back door, past the garbage cans. All this, of course, is intended to avoid condemnation from Beijing, which regards even the mildest criticism of its Tibet policy as “interference.”

However there was one dramatic departure from the minimalist approach. For nearly two decades after the 1950 Chinese takeover of Tibet, the CIA ran a covert operation designed to train Tibetan insurgents and gather intelligence about the Chinese, as part of its efforts to contain the spread of communism around the world. Though little known today, the program produced at least one spectacular intelligence coup and provided a source of support for the Dalai Lama. On the eve of Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 meeting with Mao, the program was abruptly cancelled, thus returning the US to its traditional arms-length policy toward Tibet. But this did not end the long legacy of mistrust that continues to color Chinese-American relations. Not only was the Chinese government aware of the CIA program; in 1992 it published a white paper on the subject. The paper included information drawn from reliable Western sources about the agency’s activities, but laid the primary blame for the insurgency on the “Dalai Lama clique,” a phrase Beijing still uses today.

The insurgency began after the People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet following its defeat of the Nationalists, and after Beijing forced the Dalai Lama’s government to recognize Chinese administration over the region. In 1955, a group of local Tibetan leaders secretly plotted an armed uprising, and rebellion broke out a year later, with the rebels besieging local government institutions and killing hundreds of government staff as well as Han Chinese people. In May 1957, a rebel organization and a rebel fighting force were founded, and began killing communist officials, disrupting communication lines, and attacking institutions and Chinese army troops stationed in the region.

By that point, the rebellion had gained American backing. In the early 1950s, the CIA began to explore ways to aid the Tibetans as part of its growing campaign to contain Communist China. By the second half of the decade, “Project Circus” had been formally launched, Tibetan resistance fighters were being flown abroad for training, and weapons and ammunition were being airdropped at strategic locations inside Tibet. In 1959, the agency opened a secret facility to train Tibetan recruits at Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado, partly because the location, more than 10,000 feet above sea level, might approximate the terrain of the Himalayas. According to one account, some 170 “Kamba guerrillas” passed through the Colorado program.

While the CIA effort never produced a mass uprising against the Chinese occupiers, it did provide one of the greatest intelligence successes of the Cold War, in the form of a vast trove of Chinese army documents captured by Tibetan fighters and turned over to the CIA in 1961. These revealed the loss of morale among Chinese soldiers, who had learned of the vast famine that was wracking China during The Great Leap Forward. Over the next decade, however, there was growing disagreement in Washington over the CIA’s activities in Tibet, and in 1971, as Henry Kissinger prepared for Nixon’s meeting with Mao, the program was wound down.

India Needs More Democracy, Not Less

OP-ED APRIL 11, 2013


Effective, long-term solutions to India's governance woes will require a more accurate diagnosis of the problems and remedies that enhance the democratic elements of the Indian system.

More than ever, Indians believe that their government is not keeping pace with their expectations. In the last two years, India has seen two groundswells of popular protest in which crowds largely composed of middle-class urbanites have taken to the streets to demand a more accountable and responsive government. Beginning in the summer of 2011, tens of thousands of citizens joined in anticorruption demonstrations led by Anna Hazare, the social activist who agitated for reform after a series of high-profile scandals implicated ruling politicians and their cronies in taking billions of dollars of graft. More recently, thousands assembled to mourn a 23-year-old woman who died after being brutally gang-raped and to demand greater government protection of citizens’ safety.

The moral outrage is entirely justified, and the factors linked to India’s governance woes are well known -- a rise in corruption, cronyism, and criminalism among the ranks of elected officials, and a crushing government bureaucracy. However, the root causes mostly go unexplored. For starters, the apparent increase in corruption and criminalism in India is, in part, the product of two positive developments: increased transparency and rapid economic growth. In addition, the proliferation of elected politicians with criminal records, although deplorable, is a direct response to rational voter choices -- voters select the politicians who they believe can work India’s ineffectual state to their advantage.

In turn, the remedies to these problems are somewhat counterintuitive. Although India is often accused of having too much democracy (a billion and a quarter clamoring voices makes policymaking difficult), it could actually use more: a more engaged citizenry, more institution building, and a better-staffed bureaucracy.THE BEST DISINFECTANT

In part, Indians feel corruption now more than ever because of improved transparency: dirt is more visible where there is sunlight. Recently, agencies designed to increase government accountability, namely the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), have started to assert their independence. The CAG has eagerly brought to light scandals ranging from sweetheart deals for 2G telecommunications spectrum licenses to the murky distribution of coal mining licenses (leading to the scandal known as Coalgate). These institutions, and the vibrant and growing news media, have made it very difficult for the government to conduct its business as usual.

But it is also true that the scope for corruption is on the rise. As the political scientist Samuel Huntington recognized more than four decades ago, corruption is an inevitable byproduct of economic modernization. In India, increased economic productivity triggered by liberalization provided elites with new opportunities to self-deal. Sustained rapid growth, for instance, created a huge demand for energy. Increased demand, coupled with rising commodity prices, made rent seeking in the natural resource sector all the more lucrative. And unlike other industries, which have been reformed over the years, the public sector in India retains control over the “commanding heights,” or the critical sectors that dominate economic activity, such as power, mining, and petrochemicals. Government agents have thus been able to easily collude with extractive industries and reap windfall gains. And federalism, in turn, has multiplied the number of actors with their hands in the till.


January 28, 2013: 

The Indian Army wants $3.5 billion, in order to create three more brigades (two infantry and one armored) to defend the Chinese border. Actually, this new force is in addition to the new mountain corps (of 80,000 troops) nearing approval (at a cost of $11.5 billion). The mountain corps is to be complete in four years. The three proposed brigades would be ready in 4-5 years. By the end of the decade India will have spent nearly five billion dollars on new roads, rail lines, and air fields near the 4,057 kilometer long Chinese border.

The Indian Army currently has 37 Divisions, including 4 RAPID (Reorganised Army Plains Infantry Divisions) Action Divisions, 18 Infantry Divisions, 10 Mountain Divisions, 3 Armored Divisions, and 2 Artillery Divisions. There are also 12 independent combat brigades (five armor and seven mechanized infantry). Most of the army has been organized and trained to fight the Pakistani army in flat terrain. The Chinese border is largely mountainous.

Three years ago India quietly built and put into service an airfield for transports in the north (Uttarakhand) near their border with China. While the airfield can also be used to bring in urgently needed supplies for local civilians during those months when snow blocks the few roads, it is mainly there for military purposes in case China invades again. Uttarakhand is near Kashmir and a 38,000 square kilometer chunk of land that China seized after a brief war with India in 1962. This airfield and several similar projects along the Chinese border are all about growing fears of continued Chinese claims on Indian territory. India is alarmed at increasing strident Chinese insistence that is owns northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. This has led to an increased movement of Indian military forces to that remote area.

India quickly discovered that a buildup in these remote areas is easier said than done. Moreover, the Indians found that they were far behind Chinese efforts. When they took a closer look three years ago, Indian staff officers discovered that China had improved its road network along most of their 4,000 kilometer common border. Indian military planners calculated that, as a result of this network, Chinese military units could move 400 kilometers a day on hard surfaced roads, while Indian units could only move half as fast, while suffering more vehicle damage because of the many unpaved roads. Building more roads will take years. The roads are essential to support Indian plans to build more airfields near the border and stationing modern fighters there. Once the terrain was surveyed and calculations completed, it was found that it would take a lot more time, because of the need to build maintenance facilities, roads to move in fuel and supplies, and housing for military families.

All these border disputes have been around for centuries but became more immediate when India and China fought a short war, up in these mountains, in 1962. The Indians lost and are determined not to lose a rematch. But so far, the Indians have been falling farther behind China. This situation developed because India, decades ago, decided that one way to deal with a Chinese invasion was to make it difficult for them to move forward. Thus, for decades, the Indians built few roads on their side of the border. But that also made it more difficult for Indian forces to get into the disputed areas.

Indian-Israeli Defence Cooperation: The Elusive Strategic Partnership – Analysis

By Richard A. Bitzinger (April 11, 2013)

Indian-Israeli defence cooperation is mainly based on Israeli arms sales to India, which are increasingly critical, in military and economic terms, to both countries. However much Israel might like to expand this cooperation into a larger strategic partnership, India appears content with keeping this relationship limited and tactical.

DEFENCE COOPERATION has always been a low-key but essential element in relations between Israel and India. While most of this cooperation has taken place below the radar of international affairs, it has nonetheless been critical to the expansion of ties between these two countries since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations in 1992.

At issue – particularly for Israel – is whether growing military ties can cement a broader “strategic partnership” between Tel Aviv and New Delhi.

A symbiotic relationship?

Most of this cooperation has taken the shape of Israeli arms sales to India. Israel has become India’s second largest arms supplier, after Russia, and in particular niches, it is perhaps the leading provider of advanced armaments and military technology to the Indian military. During the first decade of the 21st century, Israel has transferred an estimated US$10 billion worth of military equipment to India. These deals include unmanned aerial vehicles and armed drones, missiles, and targeting pods. Of particular note, Israel has supplied India with radar systems for airborne early warning and missile defence.

In many ways, Israeli arms transfers to India have been a mutually beneficial, almost symbiotic relationship. Israeli technology fills critical gaps in India’s woefully deficient defence industrial base. After more than 50 years of effort, India’s defence industry has been unable to deliver the vast bulk of advanced military equipment its military demands, leaving it dependent on foreign suppliers.

Israel is often a ready, no-strings-attached arms supplier. Moreover, it has been willing to transfer technology and manufacturing know-how to help improve India’s defence industry.

At the same time, India is a critical market for an Israeli arms industry that desperately needs arms exports in order to survive. Fully 75 percent of Israel’s defence sales are to overseas buyers. Those revenues provide necessary income to underwrite military R&D programmes that in turn aid Israel’s own defence, such as the Iron Dome short-range missile defence system.

Expanding cooperation beyond arms sales

While arms sales constitute the largest chunk of Indo-Israeli defence cooperation, other forms of collaboration have emerged. In particular, Tel Aviv and New Delhi recognise that terror is a threat common to both countries (particularly after the 2008 Mumbai attack), and Israel has offered to cooperate with India in fighting terrorism, including intelligence-sharing, counter-terrorist training, and joint exercises.

Both countries have also exchanged military visits in an effort to expand military-to-military ties. Finally, Israel and India have expanded their cooperation in outer space, with India launching two Israeli surveillance satellites. Co-development of earth-observation satellites – an area where Israel has considerable expertise – is also a possibility.

Indo-Israeli defence cooperation: tactical or strategic?

One can perceive the Indo-Israeli defence relationship in two ways. First, it is at present mainly a buyer-supplier relationship, that is, a simple case of a motivated customer (the Indian military) and an equally motivated seller (the Israeli defence industry) securing a mutually beneficial but limited relationship. In other words, Israel sells weapons to India, India buys them, and that’s that.

On the other hand, there may be some – particularly in Israel – who like to build upon this basic supply-and-demand relationship and turn it into something bigger. A true “strategic partnership” between Tel Aviv and New Delhi would particularly bring benefits to Israel.

Such a strategic partnership would help Israel in a number of ways. It could, for example, induce New Delhi to use its position as a leading player within the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) to soften or mitigate the NAM’s anti-Israeli policies. It could also provide Israel with an important partner in the struggle against Islamist terrorism, given their common challenges.

Slain Indian armymen in South Sudan were outnumbered

By Rohit Bansal
IANS India Private Limited 
Fri 12 Apr, 2013

Juba, April 12 (IANS) The killers in the tragic ambush of UN peacekeepers in South Sudan that claimed the lives of five Indian Army personnel Tuesday not only outnumbered their target six times over but were also armed with sophisticated weapons, eyewitnesses said.

In comparison, the convoy of 35 UN peacekeepers from India was bogged down by some heavy boring equipment and unarmed technical personnel, numbering around a dozen, even as the soldiers did manage to push back their adversaries, the eyewitnesses added.

The convoy of 11 vehicles was returning from Bor, the capital of Jonglei state in the world's newest country - and Africa's 54th nation - after experts from Ruaha Drilling, an Indian infrastructure company, were being escorted back after spending a month executing a borewell in the difficult swampy conditions.

Ruaha is owned by Manohar Reddy Manda and Bose Reddy, entrepreneurs from Andhra Pradesh.

Besides UN-owned vehicles, four Ruaha vehicles in the middle of the convoy had been badly damaged, a company senior told this IANS columnist, requesting not to be named, as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Those killed included two UN civilians, four Kenyans affiliated to the contractor and one South Sudanese. Two others, both Indians construction staff, have been wounded too.

Eyewitnesses accessed by this IANS columnist, whose consulting work brings him to South Sudan fairly regularly, said that the Indian peacekeepers had progressed about 40 km from their emanating point.

At around 9 a.m., some 200 armed men waylaid them from one side of the road. Outnumbered and taken by surprise, the men managed to push back even though the attackers had within minutes covered the entire convoy with weapons like anti-tank guns.

Their valour has been appreciated by force commander Major General Dalai Johnson Sakyi, a two-star officer from Ghana, who flew in with Brigadier A. Mistry to the Indian camp, and Hilde F. Johnson, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and head of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

(IANS New Delhi bureau adds: the bodies of the five peacekeepers - Lt. Col. Mahipal Singh, Naib Subedar Shiv Kumar Pal, Lance Naik Nand Kishore Joshi, Havaldar Bharat Sasmal and Havaldar Hira Lal - were brought to the Indian capital early Thursday).

In South Sudan, while UN vehicles have often been spared, a major exception being a helicopter shot down in December killing four Russian peacekeepers, ambushes of convoys carrying South Sudan's local forces is common because the road network is minimal.

Top Five Reasons Why Africa Should Be a Priority for the United States

For over a decade now, the continent of Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, has undergone a major transformation. In 2000, The Economist referred to Africa as the “Hopeless Continent.” This nickname was based on an evaluation of the many disadvantages that characterized the continent: poverty and disease, cycles of conflict, military and dictatorial one-party states, etc. Despite large endowments of natural resources, the continent’s economic performance was dismal as a result of poor macroeconomic management and a hostile environment for doing business.

In 2011, The Economist referred to Africa as the “Rising Continent” and a March 2013 issue of the magazine contained a special report referring to Africa as the “Hopeful Continent.” These days, Africa is variously referred to in positive terms such as emerging, rising and hopeful. This positive view of Africa is justified—sub-Saharan Africa is the host of some of the fastest growing economies in the world. This growth is not just due to rising commodity prices but is also driven by a more vibrant private sector supported by an improved business climate. There have also been dramatic improvements in governance and economic management. The region has seen major improvements in various sectors of the economy, especially in services. The information technology revolution has become an important aspect of the new Africa, particularly in terms of mobile technologies. As a result of these developments, Africa’s middle class is now growing rapidly, and the continent has become a major market for consumer goods. While sub-Saharan Africa still faces many development challenges, it is a far cry from the one described by The Economist in 2000. Africa is indeed on the path to claiming the 21st century.

Has Pakistan Changed Its Tune Toward Afghanistan?

Has Pakistan really shifted its policy towards neighbouring Afghanistan and, if so, what lies behind the change? Reports of a policy reversal in Islamabad surfaced in November 2012, when Pakistan agreed to release around a dozen Afghan Taliban members who, it was hoped, would play a role in a negotiated peace with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government. A further gesture of goodwill was its January 2013 announcement that it would free all of its Afghan Taliban detainees. Before this, Pakistan had maintained a position of strategic ambiguity regarding the arrangements for Afghanistan's future after the NATO/ISAF withdrawal in 2014. Its lack of enthusiasm for peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and Kabul even extended to jailing Taliban leaders in favour of such initiatives, such as Mullah Ghani Baradar.

But Western diplomats have been pleasantly surprised to be on the receiving end of this Pakistani charm offensive, emphasising the need to cooperate on finding a durable political solution that will outlast the NATO/ISAF drawdown. In addition to releasing Taliban detainees and guaranteeing safe passage for those involved in peace talks, Pakistan has promised to ask for United Nations sanctions on Afghan Taliban leaders to be lifted. In November 2012, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani travelled to Kabul to sign an agreement to improve border security. In December, Kayani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar flew to Brussels, where Khar met United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss Afghanistan's future and joint counter-terrorism efforts in the region. On 5 February this year, Islamabad and Kabul agreed to a 'structured interaction', establishing a hotline between their respective militaries and intelligence wings. Pakistan also said that it would finally support and facilitate talks with the Taliban via an office in Doha. All of these moves have been seen in the West as positive developments for Afghanistan's post-2014 future.

History of mistrust

Although denied by Pakistan, for decades its military adhered to a singular interpretation of the doctrine of 'strategic depth', in which it saw Afghanistan as a counterweight to ongoing tensions with India and sought leverage over its northwestern neighbour for its own political purposes. One of its greatest fears was being sandwiched between arch-rival India and a strong, possibly hostile Afghanistan. Unlike India, Pakistan recognised and even supported the Taliban regime. Since that regime was ejected from Kabul in 2001, Pakistan has also harboured doubts about the feasibility of Western governments' strategy in Afghanistan and their willingness to see it through. A further complicating factor is Pakistan's long-standing desire to minimise calls for a separate state for the Pashtun population straddling the Durand Line, its contested border with Afghanistan. Pashtun nationalism and separatism are considered by Pakistan to be a threat to its territorial integrity.

It is these anxieties about Afghanistan's future that have contributed to Islamabad's strategic ambiguity towards its neighbour. On the one hand, Pakistan agreed to act as an ally in the US-led campaign against al-Qaeda and to serve as a logistics conduit for NATO/ISAF operations (albeit with periods of interruption). On the other, militants based on its soil acted as spoilers in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban leadership that fled US operations in Afghanistan in 2001 found sanctuary in Pakistan, and exploited both ethnic Pashtun links and Taliban insurgents as a means of exerting influence in Afghanistan. The Taliban and other Pakistani extremist groups, such as the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Tayiba, have been able to engage in cross-border attacks and terrorist operations in Kabul, including attacks on the Indian embassy and the Serena Hotel. The September 2011 assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Afghan government's negotiator with the Taliban, was reported to have been planned in the Pakistani city of Quetta. Accusations that elements of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency have provided funding and training to the Afghan Taliban have been firmly denied.

Washington and other Western capitals came to believe that Pakistan was 'playing a double game', straining relations with the US in particular. These reached a low point in 2011. First, there was a diplomatic row over the January arrest and subsequent release of CIA contractor Raymond Davies for the fatal shooting of two men in Lahore during what he claimed was an attempted robbery. (The US claimed Davies had diplomatic immunity, while local protesters and media called for his conviction.) Islamabad was angered not to have been consulted beforehand on the US special-forces raid on a compound in Abbottabad in May, in which al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed. Meanwhile, the fact that bin Laden had resided for so long in a Pakistani military town apparently without being detected raised Washington's suspicions.

March: China’s Month of Mistakes

By Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson

March was a tough month for China’s foreign policymakers, with four high-profile foreign policy fumbles, two of which significantly helped to raise the risk of tension and crisis in East Asia. While all but one of these incidents apparently stemmed from deliberate actions approved by Chinese decision-makers at some level, and hence do not constitute errors in execution per se, the negative repercussions they engender may ultimately come back to harm China’s own interests.

At the recently concluded Bo’ao Forum on the southern island province of Hainan, President Xi Jinping was eager to position China as a force for peace in the region.

“For Asia, development is still the top question, development is still crucial for solving many problems and conflicts,” he told attendees. “Without peace, there is no need to talk about development.” Yet China’s actions in March suggest that in pursuing its aims Beijing is all too willing to act at odds with these welcome words.

Associated PressNorth Korean military officers sail along the Yalu River, the China-North Korea border river, in April.

China has couched its more assertive stance in the region in terms of a natural desire to protect its national interests. All nations pursue their own interests, and one would expect China to desire to project its growing power in service of that goal. The real issue is whether China can project its power in ways that are compatible enough with the interests of others to reduce the potential for outright conflict.

The most serious threat to regional stability at present is North Korea’s latest ramping up of provocations—a process that Beijing abetted in early March by perpetuating the false notion that all parties bear equal responsibility for the situation. Encouraged by the knowledge that Beijing is unwilling to abandon it, Pyongyang lashed out at the sanctions imposed by the United Nations after its February nuclear test, spewing threat after bellicose threat.

Although China joined the U.S. in supporting the U.N. sanctions, it remained meek in the face of North Korean saber rattling. Beijing worries that by removing its support for Pyongyang, it risks hastening regime collapse in North Korea and reunification of the Korean peninsula under non-Chinese terms. Those concerns are understandable. But by aiding and abetting a bad actor that so flagrantly defies international norms and threatens regional stability, while simultaneously suggesting that the problem lies with others, China put its parochial interests above the regional peace and development that it publicly champions.

A similar disregard for others’ interests was in evidence in an incident on March 20, when Chinese patrol boats confronted a Vietnamese fishing boat near the disputed Paracel Islands. According to the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, two Chinese patrol vessels (hulls 262 and 263 from China Marine Surveillance) chased and fired on a Vietnamese fishing boat named QNg96382, causing a fire that destroyed the boat’s cabin. Chinese reporting on the incident acknowledged that the Chinese vessels had fired, but called the discharges “warning shots.”

The official PLA Daily said another patrol vessel, China Marine Surveillance 786, fired two red flares into the air to warn four Vietnamese fishing vessels to leave waters around the islands. While it remains unclear precisely who did what, photos showing China Marine Surveillance 786 with a cloud of smoke near it and a Vietnamese boat with a burned-out cabin that looks very much like earlier photos of an intact QNg96382 suggest that Chinese boats did indeed set the Vietnamese boat on fire, whether they intended to or not.

Previously reported incidents, such as the cutting by Chinese vessels of a Vietnamese oil exploration vessel’s cables in 2012, make this appear to be part of a larger pattern of Chinese pressure and raise questions about China’s willingness to err on the side of threatening and using force in pushing its claims in disputed waters. The incident also raises questions about how much control China’s State Oceanic Administration has over vessel captains operating under the paramilitary Marine Surveillance agency.

In projecting power around the region, China has demonstrated a certain degree of hypocrisy. This became evident on March 22, two days after the confrontation near the Paracels, when a 4-vessel PLA Navy flotilla led by the amphibious landing ship Jinggangshan moved into waters near the disputed James Shoal—only 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Malaysia —and began a combined arms amphibious exercise.

Pyongyang declares a new state of war

Nayan Chanda 
Apr 13, 2013

Against the backdrop of Pyongyang issuing daily warnings about nuclear Armageddon, Chinese leader Xi Jinping's indirect apparent rebuke of North Korea soothed the world's frayed nerves. Encouraged, the US urged China to do more to nudge North Korea off its belligerent course. That effort seems to have failed: North Korea did not budge from the intention to test-fire a medium-range rocket.

The latest episode provides further evidence that China's ability to impose behavioural change on its wayward neighbour is limited at best. Beijing's embarrassment at North Korea's recalcitrance is, however, insignificant in comparison to an alternative outcome of Chinese pressure - the collapse of a neighbouring socialist state. Indeed, close neighbour Burma's flirtation with the US is an irritant but the arrival of US ally South Korea onto China's border would be unacceptable. 

Speaking at a China-sponsored international forum, China's president and party secretary Xi Jinping issued a veiled admonition that was interpreted by the western media as aimed at North Korea. No country, he said, "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain". Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi was a bit more direct in spelling out China's stake: "We oppose provocative words and actions from any party in the region and do not allow troublemaking on China's doorstep." The media commentators applauded China for rapping North Korea's knuckles. 

Chinese official media made it clear, however, that the western media misread the official statements. Indeed, despite bad behavior by North Korea, the official Chinese press has explained that the main troublemaker in the region is none other than the US. A commentary in People's Daily referred to an unnamed country, which for "selfish" reasons had interfered in the South China Sea (in 2010, then secretary of state Hillary Clinton had angered China by publicly asking China to peacefully resolve the dispute over South China Sea islands). 

The People's Daily quoted Huang Youfu, a university professor of Korean Studies, as saying that the Chinese officials' remarks "send a clear signal to other parties to refrain from fanning flames and get back to talks", spelling out that "Washington and Tokyo have taken the stoking of tension as an excuse to deploy cutting-edge weapons in northeastern Asia." Perhaps to reassure North Korea that China would not allow the press criticism to go too far - more than a month after Deng Yuwen, assistant editor of the Central Party School's journal Study Times, wrote a critical opinion piece on North Korea in the Financial Times, he was removed from his job. 

In recent years, ever since the collapse of the Six-Party Talks hosted by China to wean North Korea away from its nuclear weapons programme, China has sent subtle hints about its discomfort with Pyong-yang's policies. It has not taken kindly, for example, to North Korea publicly rejecting China's request not to conduct its third nuclear test. China demonstrated its displeasure by joining hands with the US (for the first time) in drafting a tough sanctions resolution. China's unhappiness has been expressed in some newspaper commentaries. But the limits of a Beijing Spring on North Korea coverage was evident when one of the more strident commentators, Deng Yuwen, was sacked. In the Financial Times essay entitled 'China Should Abandon North Korea', he had argued that "Basing China's strategic security on North Korea's value as a geopolitical ally is outdated." 

Clearly that is not how the Chinese Communist Party views the value of North Korea, a regime kept afloat by Chinese aid of up to 4,00,000 tonnes of food and 5,00,000 tonnes of crude oil a year. Cutting off that lifeline would risk the collapse of the Hermit Kingdom and an uncontrolled flow of refugees into China. Dismantling a socialist state on its border would bring South Korea and its US allies right up to the Yalu river, not only discrediting the socialist system, but also posing a massive security challenge. It was to prevent such an outcome that Mao Zedong had dispatched hundreds of thousands Chinese soldiers across the Yalu in 1951. 

China's security is joined at the hip with that of North Korea and that knowledge at times emboldens young Kim Jong-un to defy Beijing. Beijing will "continue to play a constructive role", Xi assured, "and facilitate talks to properly handle issues."

Dempsey: Taliban Likely to Be Long-Term Threat

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) -- The United States accepts that a diminished but resilient Taliban is likely to remain a military threat in some parts of Afghanistan long after U.S. troops complete their combat mission next year, the top U.S. military officer says.

In an Associated Press interview at this air field north of Kabul, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday he is cautiously optimistic that the Afghan army will hold its own against the insurgency as Western troops pull back and Afghans assume the lead combat role. He said that by May or June, the Afghans will be in the lead throughout the country.

Asked whether some parts of the country will remain contested by the Taliban, he replied, "Yes, of course there will be."

"And if we were having this conversation 10 years from now, I suspect there would (still) be contested areas because the history of Afghanistan suggests that there will always be contested areas," he said.

He and other U.S. commanders have said that ultimately the Afghans must reach some sort of political accommodation with the insurgents, and that a reconciliation process needs to be led by Afghans, not Americans. Thus the No. 1 priority for the U.S. military in its final months of combat in Afghanistan is to do all that is possible to boost the strength and confidence of Afghan forces.

Shortly after Dempsey arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday, the Taliban demonstrated its ability to strike.

It claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed five Americans - three soldiers and two civilians, including Anne Smedinghoff, a foreign service officer and the first American diplomat killed overseas since the terrorist attack Sept. 11 in Benghazi, Libya.

A fierce battle between U.S.-backed Afghan forces and Taliban militants in a remote corner of eastern Afghanistan left nearly 20 people dead, including 11 Afghan children killed in an airstrike, Afghan officials said Sunday.

There are now about 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That number is to drop to about 32,000 by February 2014, and the combat mission is to end in December 2014. Whether some number - perhaps 9,000 or 10,000 - remain into 2015 as military trainers and counterinsurgents is yet to be decided.

Dempsey spent two days talking to senior Afghan officials, including his counterpart, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, as well as top U.S. and allied commanders.

He also visited a U.S. base in the volatile eastern province of Paktika for an update on how U.S. troops are balancing the twin missions of advising Afghan forces and withdrawing tons of U.S. equipment as the war effort winds down.

Paktika is an example of a sector of Afghanistan that is likely to face Taliban resistance for years to come.

Bordering areas of Pakistan that provide haven for the Taliban and its affiliated Haqqani network, Paktika has been among the more important insurgent avenues into the Afghan interior.

While the province has a functioning government, Taliban influence remains significant in less populated areas, as it has since U.S. forces first invaded the country more than 11 years ago.

"There will be contested areas, and it will be the Afghans' choice whether to allow those contested areas to persist, or, when necessary, take action to exert themselves into those contested area," he said.

Dempsey said he is encouraged by the recent development of coordination centers, including one in Paktika, where a wide range of Afghan government agencies work together on security issues. He called it a "quilt" of government structures that links Kabul, the capital, to ordinary Afghans in distant villages.

In some parts of the country, Afghan villagers have shown their dissatisfaction with Taliban influence by taking up arms against the insurgents, even without being pushed by the U.S. or by Kabul. This has happened in recent weeks in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province, a traditional stronghold of the Taliban. The Andar district of Ghazni province has seen a similar uprising.

"We should encourage it, but we shouldn't be seen as hijacking" these local movements, he said.