18 April 2013

India airlifts military hospital to Tajikistan to strengthen geo-strategic footprint in Central Asia

Rajat Pandit, TNN | Apr 18, 2013

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon's visit to India last August, during which the long-standing bilateral partnership was elevated to a strategic partnership, had then laid the groundwork for the new hospital.

NEW DELHI: India has quietly airlifted a military hospital, with doctors, paramedics and equipment, to Tajikistan as part of the deepening "strategic partnership" with the energy-rich central Asian country that shares borders with Afghanistan, China, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

India already has over 100 Indian military personnel stationed at the Ayni airbase in Tajikistan, a country that also shares close proximity to Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK), as a kind of a "military outpost". The new hospital will serve to further strengthen India's geo-strategic footprint in the crucial Central Asian region.

Defence ministry sources say two of the newly-acquired C-130J "Super Hercules" aircraft of the IAF airlifted medical stores, equipment and 55 personnel over the last month to establish the "India-Tajik Friendship Hospital" in southern Tajikistan.

"The 50-bed hospital will treat both military as well as civilian people," said a source. The setting up of the hospital comes at a time when vice-president Hamid Ansari is on a visit to the landlocked country to further cement the bilateral strategic partnership and well as expand its "ConnectCentral Asia Policy" to build stronger linkages with the five Central Asian countries.

This is not the first time that India has established a hospital in Tajikistan, which shares a 1,400-km with Afghanistan. In the 1990s, India had run a famous field hospital at Farkor on the Tajik-Afghan border to treat wounded fighters from the then Northern Alliance that was battling the Talibanregime in Afghanistan.

It was at the very same hospital that the Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Masood was pronounced dead after being assassinated just two days before the 9/11 terror strikes in 2001. But around a decade ago, India had inexplicably shut down the hospital.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon's visit to India last August, during which the long-standing bilateral partnership was elevated to a strategic partnership, had then laid the groundwork for the new hospital.

With a broad convergence of views on security matters and cross-border terrorism, the close equation with Tajikistan becomes even more important for India now in the backdrop of the drawdown of US-led international forces from Afghanistan by 2014.

The Indian "military outpost" at the Ayni airbase, around 15 km from Tajik capital Dushanbe, also helps New Delhi keep tabs on its economic and strategic interests in Central Asia as well as "any anti-Indian activity" in the terrorism-infested Af-Pak region.

Indian Army, IAF and Border Roads Organisation personnel had worked hard to upgrade the airbase, which includes extension of the runway and construction of three aircraft hangars, an air-control tower and perimeter fencing around the base, at a cost of over Rs 100 crore.


Posted on 01 February 2013 
by admin

The aviation component of the Indian Army came into existence in 1986, after a great deal of procrastination and considerable opposition from the Indian Air Force (IAF). It continues to be a force that is unable to provide comprehensive aviation support to the army, as its current capabilities are severely limited.

The biggest reason for this is the opposition bordering on paranoia from the IAF.

Army aviation is a force multiplier, on account of its ability to quickly engage, disengage and regroup in the battle zone. Integral aviation assets enable field commanders to exploit fleeting opportunities. This is also true for sub-conventional operations.

Emerging challenges require major restructuring and redefining of the roles and the manner of functioning of this extremely important arm. This needs to be formalised in the context of the likely threats to the nation, keeping in view the changing nature of war and conflicts, and the impact of technology.

The Historical Context

Indian Army pilots had been flying both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters for air observation post duties since 1942. These were Air Force units manned and maintained by Air Force personnel except for pilots who were artillery officers.

The need to have its own aviation arm was apparent soon after the 1947-48 War in J & K, but in the 1950’s it was only flagged in-house within the army. Even though the IAF was not employed during the 1962 war with China, the need for an air arm for the army was acutely felt. Soon after the 1962 War, the proposal for an aviation corps for the army was mooted in 1963. However, it was only in 1986, after 23 years, that it saw the light of the day, after considerable opposition and great reluctance from the IAF. At that time, only light helicopters, already being flown by army pilots, were transferred to the army, while attack and utility helicopters remained with the IAF. Thereafter, the growth of army aviation has been slow and tardy.

Current Status 

In the 27 years of its existence, army aviation is still stuck in a changeless groove. As presently structured, it has a number of limitations in aerial platforms, manpower and organisational structures. It continues to be a force that is unable to provide comprehensive aviation support to the army, as its capabilities are severely limited.

The army wants its aviation component to grow but it has not displayed adequate vigour in pushing for a decision on account of a self-imposed policy of ‘staying of its hands’, being the senior and the bigger service! This false sense of not ruffling the feathers of smaller services even when it costs an arm and a leg has served the army badly, not only in ensuring the legitimate growth of army aviation but also in other important spheres!

The IAF is the biggest stumbling block in the growth of army aviation. Its obduracy and opposition are a meaningless and repetitious litany of excuses. The last player the MoD, is unconcerned and is blasé about the army’s requirements! A great pity indeed!

Presently, army aviation flies predominantly light helicopters. It has only about a dozen squadrons and less than 50 Reconnaissance and Observation (R&O) flights, equipped with about 200 Chetak and Cheetah helicopters of 1960 and 1970 vintages, as well as a few utility flights, equipped with the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). The few armed light helicopters (Ranjit and Lancer) are now defunct, though plans exist to arm some ALH (Dhruv) with weapons. The irony is that the attack helicopters currently held have been paid from the army budget, but continue to be with the IAF, despite strong objections from the army. Army aviation does not have its own pilot’s cadre and the existing 460 officer pilots are all seconded from other arms/corps.

The Army Aviation Corps (AAC) needs to perform a variety of roles to be called a complete force, but the present structure of the AAC inhibits it from performing them. The roles it must perform are attack; combat fire support; electronic and visual surveillance; as well as aerial photography; tactical lift; logistical functions; communications; casualty evacuation; provision of airborne command posts; electronic warfare; and monitoring of the nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) environment. However, its present structure and aviation platforms inhibit it from performing all roles.

India, Long the Home of Outsourcing, Now Wants to Make Its Own Chips

Published: April 15, 2013

NEW DELHI — The government of India, home to many of the world’s leading software outsourcing companies, wants to replicate that success by creating a homegrown industry for computer hardware. But unlike software, which requires little infrastructure, building electronics is a far more demanding business. Chip makers need vast quantities of clean water and reliable electricity. Computer and tablet assemblers depend on economies of scale and easy access to cheap parts, which China has spent many years building up.

Dell computers at a plant in the state of Tamil Nadu. Dell assembles products in India, but does not make components there.

So the Indian government is trying a new, carrot-and-stick approach.

In October, it quietly began mandating that at least half of all laptops, computers, tablets and dot-matrix printers procured by government agencies come from domestic sources, according to Dr. Ajay Kumar, joint secretary of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, which devised the policy.

At the same time, it is dangling as much as $2.75 billion in incentives in front of chip makers to entice them to build India’s first semiconductor manufacturing plant, an important step in building a domestic hardware industry.

But like so much of India’s economic policy, it’s doubtful that either initiative will have the impact the government is intending.

“Nobody disputes India’s need to build up manufacturing. Not doing so would be fiscally irresponsible,” said Gaurav Verma, who heads the New York office of the U.S.-India Business Council. But Mr. Verma said that India’s efforts to force international companies to manufacture in the country are futile. “The government needs to not mandate this, but create an ecosystem.”

The domestic purchasing mandate, known as the “preferential market access” policy, seeks to address a real problem: imports of electronics are growing so fast that by 2020, they are projected to eclipse oil as the developing country’s largest import expense.

India’s import bill for semiconductors alone was $8.2 billion in 2012, according to Gartner, a research firm. And demand is growing at around 20 percent a year, according to the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.

For all electronics, India’s foreign currency bill is projected to grow from around $70 billion in 2012 to $300 billion by 2020, according to a government task force.

“The problem we are facing is that the demand is growing so much that it is reaching nonsustainable levels,” said Dr. Ajay Kumar, joint secretary of the agency.

Dot-matrix printers, outdated in most of the world, are one of the few electronic products that India manufactures. Around 400,000 dot-matrix printers were sold in India in the year ended March 31, an increase of 2 percent from the year before, according to the Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology, a computer industry trade group in India.

The government accounts for about 40 percent of the country’s electronics purchases, according to PVG Menon, president of the Indian Electronics and Semiconductor Manufacturing Association.

Officials hope to use that purchasing power to jump-start manufacturing of other computer goods. However, the government has adopted a broad definition of what it considers locally made, since so few electronics are currently manufactured here.

If at least 30 percent of a computer’s components are made in India, then it would qualify. The policy also allows prospective suppliers to show “value addition” in lieu of actually manufacturing the goods in India, said Dr. Kumar. For example, India does not manufacture hard drives, but it assembles and tests them. Under the policy, a hard drive that is assembled in India would be considered to be made there.

Computer makers contacted for this article declined to discuss how the new policy would affect their sales.

The big fish the government would like to land is a factory to produce microprocessors for computers.

Indian Military: Hampered By Its Own Minister

14 APRIL 2013

In March 2012, a letter written by then Indian Army Chief Gen VK Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh listing out major deficiencies in the Army found its way in the media creating a flutter in the establishment and showing up starkly, the ‘hollowness’ that existed in the Army.

“The state of the major (fighting) arms i.e. mechanised forces, artillery, air defence, infantry and special forces, as well as the engineers and signals, is indeed alarming,” DNA newspaper reported the General writing to the Prime Minister. The army’s entire tank fleet is “devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks,” while the air defence system is “97% obsolete,” he wrote. The infantry is crippled with “deficiencies,” while the elite forces are “woefully short” of “essential weapons.”

What Gen VK Singh did not write was this: the Army’s light helicopters are more than 40 years old; it has not bought new artillery guns since 1987; it is also short of nearly 600,000 hand grenades. The list is endless.

Members of Parliament, media and military observers, all were naturally alarmed. Deficiencies are however not the Army’s problem alone. The Indian Navy too is short of conventional submarines. Its fleet of diesel-powered submarines is down to a single digit. Its lone aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, formerly HMS Hermes of the Royal British Navy, and commissioned half a century ago, is on an extended lease of life, after two successive refits. Another aircraft carrier, being built in Russia, is five years behind schedule but is likely to join service at the end of 2013.

The Indian Air Force, which celebrated its 80th birthday, last October, is down to 33 Squadrons of fighter jets against the required strength of 39 squadrons. Its six year old plan to purchase 126 new combat jets is yet to fructify although a contract negotiating committee is currently talking to French manufacturer Dassault Aviation and hopes to ink a mammoth 15 billion dollar deal by end of 2013.

A combination of bureaucratic lethargy, cumbersome systems and bad planning has combined to bring the Indian military to such a sorry state.

But the biggest factor holding back the Indian military’s quest for rapid modernisation is the country’s defence minister AK Antony. As a politician concerned solely with preserving his squeaky clean image, Antony is even ready to sacrifice the interest of the armed forces.

His record as India’s longest serving Defence minister (October 2006 till date) is a clear testimony to this. During his tenure, Mr Antony has already barred four major international defence firms at the first hint of wrong doing and bribery. They are:
  • Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK)
  • Rheinmettal Air Defence
  • Israel Military Industry and
  • Denel

The ban on STK has meant India’s Rs 20,000 crore artillery upgrade process had to be restarted, causing a delay of at least four years in the acquisition programme. Similarly by barring Rheinmettal, Indian Army’s plan to modernising its anti-aircraft guns inventory has been pushed back considerably. 

It is no body’s case that errant firms should not be dealt with strictly. Experts however say it is better to first establish the degree of wrong-doing and penalise the firms or recover losses from their contract money rather than imposing a blanket ban on them thus limiting India’s options.

Events of the past six years have also proved that blacklisting companies from as diverse countries as Singapore, Switzerland, Israel and South Africa does not end corruption. In February this year, yet another deal—this time to buy 12 VVIP helicopters from Italian firm Finmeccanica at over Rs 3,000 crore-- has come under a cloud following revelations in Italy of bribes being paid in India and possibly to Indians among others. A thoroughly shaken Antony’s first instinct was to almost cancel the contract but so far (April 11) procedure and prudence has prevented him from doing that.

Indian Universities: Who's the next Harvard in waiting?

Last updated on: April 17, 2013

A perceptible shift is seen in the way the young breed of edupreneurs look at the universities they have inherited. Is it for the better?

Close your eyes and think of great universities of the world.

Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, Stanford, MIT, UC, LSE are some of the names that will immediately come to your mind.

And all of them are in the private sector.

Now close your eyes and think about great universities in India.

The IITs, JNU, Delhi University, AIIMS, National Law School University, Bangalore and others come to your mind.

All of them are in the public sector.

Quiz Dr Venkat Rangan, VC of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham on this dichotomy, pat comes the reply: "Think about India 25 years back. The top 10 companies were in the public sector. Think about 2012 and seven out of ten are in the private sector".

Will the story repeat in the education domain?

The numbers as on date are fuzzy.

While some private players like Amity, Amrita and Jamia Hamdard have been front runners, their publication record leaves a lot to be desired.

And unlike the public sector companies, the public sector universities, at least in the top order show no signs of slowing down.

So what would it take the private institutions to crack the code?

Please click NEXT to continue reading...

Can great universities be made on purpose?
Last updated on: April 17, 2013

Great universities are not created ab initio asserts UGC Chairman Dr Ved Prakash in a detailed interview.

World over great universities have evolved over time, may be centuries with periods of peaks and troughs.

The old grandees like the Oxford and Cambridge have nearly eight to ten centuries behind them.

Even new kids like the Stanford and MIT are a century and half young.

However, examples of ab initio, like the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology comes to mind immediately.

Set up in 1991 with substantial funding, the university raced to excellence within a short period of ten years.

The National University of Singapore and TSinghua are other names, though both are of older vintage.

Prof VV Krishna, Senior Academic at Jawaharlal Nehru University is much more emphatic.

"India needs at least 10 such universities in the coming decades and they can be created at 1/3rd of the global cost," he asserts.

Concurs Prof. Venkat Rangan, "I would argue that India needs about 20 such universities to be set up across the country and they can be set up at a cost of say 20,000 crore rupees."

It is eminently doable, he says. The question is will the new breed of private universities, that have the critical mass, make the transition?

Why Armies Do Not Trust Air Forces

April 15, 2013

The Indian Defense Ministry turned down an army protest of the air force refusal to give up control of its AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships. An earlier decision gave the army control of helicopters, but the air force insisted that the AH-64s were different and were crucial for certain air combat missions (attacking air defense radars and other helicopters). The army generals were furious and demanded that the government set the air force straight. The army was particularly anxious to get the 22 Indian AH-64s as soon as possible, as these are generally recognized as the best gunships currently in service anywhere and are very rarely used for attacks on anti-aircraft defenses or other helicopters. The army generals probably won’t let this decision alone because losing control of the AH-64s puts soldiers in combat at greater risk.

Last October the Indian Army thought it had won a major victory over the Air Force, when the government agreed to transfer most attack helicopters from the air force to the army. That was supposed to mean the army gets control of over 270 armed helicopters (22 AH-64s, 179 light combat models, and 76 armed Indian made transports). The air force would continue to operate a dozen or so elderly Mi-25 and Mi-35 helicopter gunships, until they retire by the end of the decade. These are export versions of the Russian Mi-24. The air force was not happy about this and spent a lot of time and effort to change minds at the Defense Ministry about who would control the AH-64s. Inside the air force there is unhappiness about this army effort to create its own “air force” and determination to halt this sort of thing.

The army has long complained that air force control of the armed helicopters, which were designed to support army operations, are sometimes difficult to get in a timely manner. Another aspect of this deal is a new agreement by the air force to station some transport helicopters at army bases in Kashmir, so that there will not be a delay when transport is needed for an emergency.

This sort of problem between the army and air force is not unique to India and is actually quite common. It all started back in the 1920s, a decade after aircraft became a major military asset. For example, at the start of World War I (1914-18), the British Royal Navy had more aircraft than the Royal Flying Corps (which belonged to the army). But at the end of World War I, it was decided to put all aircraft under the control of the new Royal Air Force (the former Royal Flying Corps). The navy was not happy with this and just before World War II broke out, the admirals got back control of their aircraft, at least the ones that operated from ships (especially aircraft carriers).

The British army expanded its Army Air Corps during World War II, to gain control over artillery spotter aircraft, gliders (for parachute divisions), and a few other transports for supporting commando operations. After World War II the Army Air Corps mainly controlled the growing fleet of transport and attack helicopters. The Indian Air Force has always refused to allow the Indian Army to do the same thing after modern India was created in 1947.

Air forces tend to keep at it. British Royal Air Force generals still demand control of everything that flies, believing that this is more efficient. The army and navy, not to mention the experience of many other nations, say otherwise. At the very least the army needs to control its helicopters and some small transports. In Russia the army always controlled ground attack aircraft, as well as some fighters. In the United States the Marine Corps controlled its own fighters, light bombers, and helicopters. It made a difference, especially to the marines on the ground, that the marine aircraft were being flown by marines.

Another problem with a unified air force is that it becomes, quite naturally, air force centric. This is understandable and the air force proceeds to develop strategies, and tactics, that emphasize looking at military matters from an air force viewpoint. Before World War II this led to the doctrine of strategic bombardment. This was supposed to be a decisive weapon but it wasn't. When nuclear weapons came along the air force believed that it finally had a way to make strategic bombardment decisive. But it didn't, as ballistic missiles (another form of artillery) became the key delivery system for nukes. Nuclear weapons were so destructive that they became more of a threat than a weapon that you could use (and they have not been used again, since the first two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945). The fact of the matter is that wars are still ultimately won by the ground forces. As the army likes to point out, the ultimate air superiority weapon is your infantry occupying the enemy air bases. Everyone else (the navy and air force) is there to support the infantry in actually winning the war.

India, China could find common ground in Afghanistan

Sandeep Dikshit

The first is their shared interest in investing huge amounts in Afghanistan to extract mineral resources.

When India and China sit across the table in Beijing on Thursday for their first-ever focussed dialogue on Afghanistan, they will find two major points of commonality.

The first is their shared interest in investing huge amounts in Afghanistan to extract mineral resources.

The second is their influence on Afghanistan — direct in case of India and indirect for China via Pakistan — that could enable both put their economic plans in motion.

The environment before the talks is conducive. While back-to-back visits by the two Prime Ministers is not on the cards, both sides are working on a series of interactions between the senior leaderships.

The India-China border remains tranquil and misplaced reports about Chinese intrusions, especially in the Ladakh area, have now ebbed after New Delhi traced the source.

On the Brahmaputra, the Ninth Inter-Ministerial Expert Group report broadly mirrored the previous one — that no instance of water diversion has occurred from the main course of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries.

Doubts remain especially over construction activity at three places on the river and a road passing through the Great Bend area which is being continuously upgraded. In his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought a joint monitoring group to allay Indian fears about dams that would impede the Brahmaputra’s flow.

China has not replied so far and India will continue to press them on this. But New Delhi’s strategic fears have so far been assuaged. The Indian assessment after last month’s maiden Manmohan-Xi meeting in Durban was that Beijing wished to add to measures being taken to keep the border incident-free, expand economic engagement to address India’s complaints of a ballooning balance of trade deficit and enlarge areas of bilateral consultations on global and security issues.

It is against this backdrop that India and China will seek to know each other’s plans in Afghanistan. The first prerequisite for stable investment environment will be to minimise the possibility of violence. India has bagged a large chunk of the Hajigak iron ore mine while China had won tenders for a copper mine and has now been allocated oil blocks in the Amu Darya basin in northern Afghanistan.

Politically, India is fairly well placed in Kabul. It does not expect Kabul-Delhi equations to change after the 2014 presidential elections though the picture about candidates in the fray is yet to become clear. India’s capacity building programmes have done well. China has started off with some of its own in the medical field but would be unable to match India’s core expertise in this area.

Where China scores over India is its ability to influence the behaviour of violence-prone groups through its close ally Pakistan. As the copper and iron ore mines are located in areas where the ability of these groups to conduct hit-and-run operations is high, China could be in a better position than India to reign in these forces while Kabul tried to resolve their grievances.

The new Chinese leadership has taken over in a situation which was different when the previous change occurred 10 years ago. The new leadership is aware that China today is much more in the limelight by virtue of its global standing. The present leadership would therefore be taking steps to correct impressions about passivity in Afghanistan. The two countries thus not only have common grounds to check instability in Afghanistan but share concerns about the country turning into a militant hub with implications for the security situation in Kashmir as well as Xinjiang.

But much will also depend on the many irons in the fire in Afghanistan. One indication is the speeding up of the number of trilaterals and multilateral conferences, overt and secret. India itself has two trilaterals on hand — two rounds held with the U.S. and Afghanistan and the first one in the offing with Russia and China. China, Russia and Pakistan too have held a meeting that saw high-level participation while Islamabad has held parleys with Kabul and Washington.

With several factors in play, Thursday will see a limited exercise of India and China for the first time gauging their interests in Afghanistan, especially in discussing disruption-free linkages in trade and communications between them and Afghanistan.

Special Operations Missions to Require New Doctrine

May 2013 
By Stew Magnuson 

U.S. Navy SEALs talk to local Afghans while conducting a mission in the Jaji Mountains

Whether it is called “soft power,” or the latest buzzword, “the seventh warfighting function,” special operations forces are entering a new chapter in their storied history, senior SOF leaders said. 

The “dead of night” direct-action operations will be fewer in number, while the more touchy-feely missions “by, through and with” partner nations will increase, Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said recently.

“Their missions are not secretive. They are not sexy. Nor do they involve low flying black helicopters in the dead of night.” Afghanistan is winding down. This “will give us an opportunity to do more in places we have neglected,” McRaven said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference in Washington, D.C. 

The question is whether all of the command’s components are ready to take on these missions that have more to do with breaking down cultural barriers in a village than breaking down an insurgent’s door. Each of the four services contributes personnel to SOCOM. Each comes with its own skill sets, doctrine and history, said Gordon Potter, president of Practical Defense Training, and a 15-year veteran of Army Special Forces.

For example, Navy Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) teams historically have not conducted foreign internal defense missions, whereas Army special operators have done so for years.

Special operations forces are serving in about 70 countries and very few deployments involve commando missions. Most are supporting U.S. embassies, training foreign forces or strengthening bonds with allied militaries.

The ultimate goal is to prevent conflict before it happens or to nip terrorism in the bud before it spreads. 

“It is hard, slow and methodical work that does not lend itself to a quick win,” McRaven said. 

Potter until 2012 served as a military adviser in Afghanistan, where he worked on socio-cultural, village stability and psychological operations programs. 

He witnessed first hand a SEAL unit’s ham-handed attempt to engage in a village stability operation. Untrained in how to work in the complex cultural environment, the team picked a man whom they believed should be the police chief. The choice caused a great deal of discord in the area, and the man and his brother were assassinated, Potter said in an interview.

“It’s not their fault,” he said of the SEAL team. “They should have never been tasked with that because they don’t have the doctrine.

“How many Navy SEALs have worked with [military information support operations] or psy-ops elements?” he asked. “Not many. Usually they are door-kickers.”

Army Special Forces, meanwhile, have been doing these operations since it was established six decades ago.

“They have a much more comprehensive approach because they have the doctrine to support it,” Potter said. The problem is that there aren’t enough of them. Army Special Forces are spread thin, and the other three services are lagging when it comes to “indirect action” skills, he added.

William Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low intensity conflict, said there will always be the need for direct activities.

Indian Military in Afghanistan

Date : 17 Apr , 2013

A study released by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, USA on 14 Jan 2013 has totaled the direct spending by the US on the war in Afghanistan for the period FY2001 to FY2013 as $641.7 billion. Of this, $198.2 billion (over 30 per cent) will be spent in FY2012 and FY2013.Bulk of the total spending and aid has been allocated since FY2009 – after insurgency reached high levels – clear case of too much, too late.

…sending Indian troops to Afghanistan when Karzai seeks the removal of all foreign troops is certainly not an option. India should however provide militarily assistance to Afghanistan.

More significantly, it states that vast majority of aid went to the ANSF and ‘not’ on development. This indicates a US priority weighted on military expenditure and not on economic development. The emerging overall US doctrine implies US will not take primary responsibility for events but allow regional crises to play out until a new regional balance is reached.

However, US will continue controlled engagement in accordance with its national interests. This is how the game will play out in Afghanistan, Syria and other conflict areas including Asia-Pacific. This matches Obama’s January 2013 speech of “a decade of war having ended and time having come for reviving economy”. Barry Cooper, Senior Fellow, Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, wrote thus on 8th January 2013 in Calgary Herald…“Most important are our own interests: we are willing to let Pakistan (and even Iran) establish spheres of influence in Afghanistan because at the end of the day, we really don’t care how Afghans govern themselves”.

A run up to future instability and chaos in Afghanistan has already commenced. John M Gillete wrote in Small Wars Journal on 05 Feb, 2013, “ANSF has committed extraordinary assets to road clearing/ security… over large parts of the country offensive operations have ceased entirely and, in cases even resulted in a withdrawal of security forces from key terrain… without adequate supplies and effective communications large portions of the east, south and west are effectively isolated from Kabul… abandonment of key terrain have caused increasing numbers of security force personnel to become disillusioned and normally high attrition rates have swelled to epidemic levels that greatly exceed the rate at which new recruits are being added.”

Earlier, in December 2012, John Glaser writing in AntiWar.com had reported that around 50,000 Afghan soldiers (about 26 per cent) quit the army annually, so do eight per cent of Afghan police officers every year quite contrary to the “rosy picture” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and top US military officials have been painting.

As per Chris Sands (Global Post, Kabul – 20 Feb 2013), parts of Afghanistan have already descended into ethnic violence and civil conflict. In the southern province of Urugzan, a militia headed by a Hazara (ostensibly backed by US) is accused of deliberately destroying houses, raping women and murdering dozens of civilians. Up north, Northern Alliance is remobilising in case internationally supported talks with the Taliban see them return to power. Then there also have been reports of extremists from CAR, particularly from Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Rafia Zakaria: The Tragedies of Other Places

April 17, 2013
By Rafia Zakaria

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, a columnist for Pakistan’s largest English newspaper reflects on why violent attacks leave a more lasting impression if they happen on American soil.

As a weekly columnist for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, I’ve become adept at writing about bombings. Pakistan suffered 652 of these last year; terrorist attacks took down everything from girls’ schools to apartment buildings and felled members of Parliament, singers, and school children—each person sentenced by coincidence to be at a given location in the moment it became a bomber’s target. Through my columns, I have offered up fumbled expressions of grief and comfort to Pakistani readers whose stores of empathy are bled daily without any promise of replenishment. I believe that these rituals of caring, made so repetitious in Pakistan by the sheer frequency of terror attacks, are crucial; in preventing the normalization of violence and senseless evil, they keep a society human.

The bombings in Boston on April 15, 2013 pose their own conundrum to those like me who are in the habit of writing about bloodier conflicts with more frequent conflagrations. There is an inherent cruelty in every terror attack—an undeniable reverberation of evil in the destruction of an ordinary moment and the forced marriage of that moment to sudden violence. Boston is no different, no more or less tragic than the bombings that have razed the marketplaces ofKarachi, the school in Khost, the mosque in Karbala.

American tragedies somehow seem to occur in a more poignant version of reality… within minutes American victims are lifted from the nameless to the remembered.

And yet it seems so. Attacks in America are far more indelible in the world’s memory than attacks in any other country. There may be fewer victims and less blood, but American tragedies somehow seem to occur in a more poignant version of reality, in a way that evokes a more sympathetic response. Within minutes American victims are lifted from the nameless to the remembered; their individual tragedies and the ugly unfairness of their ends are presented in a way that cannot but cause the watching world to cry, to consider them intimates, and to stand in their bloody shoes. Death is always unexpected in America and death by a terrorist attack more so than in any other place.

It is this greater poignancy of attacks in America that begs the question of whether the world’s allocations of sympathy are determined not by the magnitude of a tragedy—the numbers dead and injured—but by the contrast between a society’s normal and the cruel aftermath of a terrorist event. It is in America that the difference between the two is the greatest; the American normal is one of a near-perfect security that is unimaginable in many places, especially in countries at war. The very popularity of the Boston Marathon could be considered an expression of just this. America is so secure and free from suffering that people have the luxury of indulging in deliberate suffering in the form of excruciating physical exertion; this suffering in turn produces well-earned exhilaration, a singular sense of physical achievement and mental fortitude. The act of running a marathon is supposed to be simple, individual—a victory of the will over the body, celebrated by all and untouched by the complicated questions of who in the world can choose to suffer and who only bears suffering.

The innocence of marathon runners and their expectations of a finish line, a well-earned victory, are markers of an America that still believes in an uncomplicated morality even while it is at war.

When terror hits the site of such faith in human fortitude, the impact is large. The innocence of marathon runners and their expectations of a finish line, a well-earned victory, are markers of an America that still believes in an uncomplicated morality even while it is at war. The runner runs, sweats, suffers, and deserves the prize; the messiness of the world has no place in that vacuum of earned achievement where victory is straightforward in a way that it can never be in actual life. The rest of the world is a more complicated place; its people are forced to digest more complicated truths whose vast gray areas rob every tragedy of the pathos available to Americans living and mourning in a universe of black and white.

Rafia Zakaria is a columnist for DAWN, Pakistan’s largest English newspaper. She is a writer and PhD candidate in political philosophy. Her work and views have been featured in the New York Times, Dissent, The Progressive, Guernica, and on Al Jazeera English, the BBC, The Hindu, and National Public Radio. She is the author of The Upstairs Wife: An intimate history of Pakistan, forthcoming from Beacon Press.

Sour notes at the nuclear high table

Seema Sirohi Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

The reactions from Pakistan and Brazil make it clear that as India seeks to enter the export control regimes it must reckon with the aspirations of many countries

India appears to have successfully climbed into the category of a nuclear “have,” overcoming the divisions enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and enforced fervently by its adherents. Although not publicly acknowledged, India’s entry is the de facto reality and irreversible.

Nowhere was this more evident than at the recent Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference (April 8-9, 2013, at the Ronald Reagan Building International Trade Center, Washington D.C.) attended by more than 800 experts from around the world. Being the premier event of all things nuclear, the forum has long been the bastion of what Indian policymakers like to call the “nuclear ayatollahs” — those who obsessively pursue the NPT’s non-proliferation goals to the exclusion of almost everything else, especially disarmament.

The global nuclear community now treats India as one of the established nuclear weapons powers — however grudgingly — for matters of policy and debate. What little academic and intellectual opposition remains is largely normative. The debate has moved from the wisdom of granting India an exception via the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement to whether India should be included in the four nuclear export control regimes where it wants membership.

But India’s acceptance in the established nuclear order has also triggered resentment — chiefly in Pakistan but more curiously in Brazil, India’s south-south partner in the new game-changing alignments such as BRICS and IBSA.

The old paradigms used to single out India — the sharp focus on proliferation — are still in vogue but were rarely invoked against New Delhi. They were applied exclusively to North Korea and Iran. Pyongyang’s daily threats, ratcheting up tensions in the peninsula ensured rapt attention at the conference. North Korea managed to obscure even Iran at times, which was generally seen as a rational actor eliciting various levels of sympathy.

This is not to say that India avoided criticism. But it largely had to do with the way India’s exceptional status had been accepted. Many felt that India had pulled a fast one on the U.S. but that things had now gone too far to retreat. Most of the talk was on how to make India accept its new role as a nuclear “have” more decisively and shed its current schizophrenic behaviour of acting like a “have not.”

Western analysts find India’s attitude self-defeating. India votes against Iran and with the West at the International Atomic Energy Agency but grudgingly. Yet it expects to get into the four regimes that control nuclear exports — the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement. India’s reluctance on the Iranian case gives the impression that it doesn’t want to keep errant countries out. These impressions can easily be whipped into campaigns by nuclear hardliners.

Pakistan’s case

Unsurprisingly, India’s new status rankles Pakistan no end. Its team of more than 20 official and quasi official spokespersons raised objections against India in almost every panel at the conference. They demanded parity and a nuclear deal similar to the one the U.S. pushed through for India. Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani Ambassador, said if Pakistan doesn’t get “equal treatment,” it would continue building nuclear stockpiles — a move that already has the nuclear community on edge.

Pakistan’s gripe is understandable — to a degree. Like India, it never signed the NPT and technically breached no undertaking by going nuclear. But its record on non-proliferation has been bad. The A.Q. Khan affair and his nuclear supply lines are and will remain a blot. So when Pakistani delegates tried to find analogies between their dilemma and every extant nuclear problem, they got a polite silence.

When M.J. Chung, a prominent member of South Korea’s National Assembly, provocatively advocated his country’s right to leave the NPT and build bombs in response to North Korean threats, a Pakistani delegate promptly equated India’s behaviour with North Korea’s. She demanded to know why South Korea wasn’t sympathetic to Pakistan’s case since her country had also tested the nuclear bomb in reaction to India.

China’s Dream World

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Ruling elites almost everywhere – whether in democracies or in authoritarian regimes – believe that clever sloganeering can inspire their people and legitimize their power. There are, of course, crucial differences. In functioning democracies, government leaders can be held accountable for their promises: the press can scrutinize their policies, opposition parties are motivated to show that the party in power lies and cheats. As a result, incumbents are frequently forced to carry out at least some of their promises.Illustration by Barrie Maguire

Autocratic rulers, by contrast, face no such pressures. Press censorship, repression of dissent, and the absence of organized opposition allow rulers the luxury of promising whatever they want, with no political consequences for failing to deliver. The result is government of the sloganeers, by the sloganeers, and for the sloganeers.

China appears to have perfected this form of government over the last decade. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in response to rising public demand for social justice, has devised numerous slogans, such as “governing for the people,” “building a harmonious society,” “balanced development,” “scientific development,” and so on.

Whenever the top leadership in Beijing uttered such slogans, they became the rallying cry of the bureaucracy. The party’s massive propaganda machine went into overdrive and blanketed the country with a publicity blitz that would make the most extravagant Madison Avenue advertising campaign look like child’s play.

But government by slogan, whether in China or in other autocracies, seldom achieves its declared goals. In the last decade, GDP growth soared, but most indices of social justice, governance performance, and public welfare deteriorated. Macroeconomic imbalances worsened as economic growth became excessively dependent on investment and exports. Inequality worsened. Official corruption escalated. Social mobility declined. Environmental degradation reached a crisis point.

Today, it is the responsibility of China’s new leadership, headed by President Xi Jinping, to avert another decade of missed opportunities. Without missing a beat, Xi, like his predecessors, rolled out a new slogan to inspire popular confidence in his leadership. As a catchphrase for his administration’s objective, “the great renaissance of the Chinese nation” is bit long, but it has lately morphed into the simpler “China Dream.”

The substance of the China Dream remains difficult to determine. When Xi first unveiled his slogan after being selected as the CCP’s new general secretary, he defined it in simple, accessible, but nonetheless generic terms: The “Chinese people dream of living the same good life as all other people in the world.”

Xi has said little about the China Dream since – and his silence has caused considerable trouble. China’s ever-zealous propaganda officials, evidently fearful of not demonstrating sufficient loyalty and respect for the new party chief, quickly hijacked the slogan; the China Dream has replaced the “China Model” in official political branding. Whatever the new administration does is touted as part of its ambitious effort to make the “China Dream” come true.

Unfortunately, China propagandists, who double as censors, have a perverse ability to discredit anything that they try to brand. The China Dream is no exception. So far, public reaction has ranged from puzzlement to derision. After a decade of government by slogan, the Chinese public wants substance.

This presents Xi with a real challenge. He has risen to the top by winning friends and allies inside the CCP. Now that he is the leader of a dynamic, diverse, and increasingly demanding society, he must gain popular support and confidence to maintain his credibility and become an effective politician.

The first thing that Xi should do is to articulate a clearer, more specific, and inspiring version of the China Dream, and stop letting the CCP’s propaganda officials define it for him. The China Dream may include all of the economic benefits and material comfort that ordinary Chinese desire, but it will not be complete without the human rights and dignity that citizens in civilized societies take for granted.

The second thing that Xi and his colleagues need to do is to follow up with specific policies and actions that can bolster the credibility of their declared goals. Political slogans, however high-sounding, become stale when their purveyors fail to make good on their promises.

Xi may still be enjoying a honeymoon with the Chinese public, but it is likely to be a short one. His predecessors had ten years to carry out real reforms and accomplished little, leaving the Chinese in no mood to endure another decade of government by shibboleth.

China sees the best and worst of America in Boston bombing

Posted by Max Fisher on April 16, 2013

A Boston police officer stands near the scene of a twin bombing at the Boston Marathon. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

China’s many Web users tend to watch U.S. events closely, so it was no surprise to see the Monday bombings at the Boston Marathon become the top trending topic on Weibo, China’s massive social media service. Some of this conversation turned around often-debated questions of the relative merits of the Chinese and American systems. The comments are revealing, both for what they say about how the U.S. and its values are perceived in China and for how Chinese compare the U.S. to their own country.

For all the American obsession with security and safety, it’s the U.S.’s show of transparency, of coming together in common cause, that seems to be stirring jealously and even reverence in far-away China.

Chinese Web users seemed to draw two general conclusions: that China would be more effective at preventing a Boston-style attack, but that the U.S. is better equipped to respond to and cope such an event. They portrayed China as a formidable security state that privileges safety and secrecy, but the U.S. as a place where officials, police and citizens work together in harmony and cooperation.

It’s a somewhat rosy perspective of the U.S., one discussed jealously, even reverently. Many Chinese commenters seemed to treat this American trade-off – less security for greater transparency – as not only preferable but something from which their own country should learn.

“I’m not saying that the US is much better than China,” one Weibo user wrote in a comment aggregated by the site Offbeat China. “But in the face of a bombing attack, they have absolute information transparency and absolute freedom of speech. There is no ban on reporting or block of information. All media are allowed to report, which will never happen in our country.”

Here’s another, widely shared Weibo comment that drew a sharp comparison between the U.S. response and China’s typical secrecy.

Three hours after the Boston bombing, news websites and TV channels are streaming live news – there is no ban on news reporting. Local police held a press conference immediately – quick reaction plus transparent information and thus there is no rumor or panic. Google released Person Finder; the public offered help for those runners who are from outside of Boston or the country; thousands of people left their contact information. In the face of a severe situation, the government, the media, companies and individuals all work together smoothly. It’s something we ought to learn.

Some Weibo users suggested that a similar attack would have been far more difficult to carry out in major Chinese cities, where police surveillance is famously rigorous. One argued that, even if someone did succeed in setting off bombs in China, “With no immediate press conference and all information blocked, the terrorists would have no proof that they indeed attacked. There will be no impact at all.”

Addressing China’s Energy Insecurity

Zha Daojiong 

Energy security in China can be improved by diversifying away from highly polluting coal and by freeing up the country’s energy import and export market.

If Chinese leaders and energy policymakers have any trouble identifying an issue in urgent need of action, they should simply look to the smog that has blanketed Beijing since the beginning of 2013. The smog, rooted in China’s overwhelming reliance on coal for energy consumption and the rapid motorization of the urban population, underscores a broader challenge Beijing faces: how to transform its approach to energy security and minimize the environmental issues it faces by changing its energy mix. 

For decades, discussions about energy security in China have been driven by nearly exclusive concerns about adequate supply, the cost of energy as an industrial input, and average household prices. 

It is true that the fast and sustained growth of the Chinese economy for the past three decades would not have been possible without adequate supply to meet consumption needs. But one result has been a reliance on cheap but not necessarily environmentally friendly coal.

And as energy demand increased, another problem also cropped up. China became more reliant on imports to fulfill its energy needs. A new priority was added to Chinese energy policy: securing supply from abroad.

In terms of total primary energy consumption, China’s foreign dependence rate is still lower than 10 percent because of its heavy use of domestic coal. But foreign sources of oil accounted for 58 percent of China’s consumption in 2012, which raised concerns about China’s energy insecurity.

Contrary to popular belief, China’s increasing reliance on foreign oil is not dangerous in and of itself. The real problem lies with the government’s stance that state-owned enterprises must control the import of oil and other energy commodities into China. The monopoly these state-owned enterprises have on the import process produces no winners.

The government has to subsidize oil importers and refiners, who then, at the government’s request, sell low-priced final products to meet consumer demand. The result is that efforts to upgrade the quality of fuels cannot be fully financed by passing on the costs to consumer.

But worsening air quality and other environmental ills make the continuation of existing energy-policy thinking socially and politically unjustifiable. As the public is calling for cleaner air to breathe, the leadership faces a new imperative for identifying priority areas in energy policy to deliver tangible progress. This will require a new conceptualization of China’s energy insecurity that prioritizes tackling the associated costs—environmental and societal—over ensuring adequate supply and low cost.

Beijing should be a standard-setter and oversee an increase in the level of cleaner energy consumption. To do so necessitates opening up the country’s energy consumption market to foreign suppliers. Both Chinese and foreign energy supplies should be able to compete to meet and surpass the Chinese government’s energy-technology standards. The power of consumption in the Chinese market is the most effective driver of energy flow into China. Deeper foreign participation in China’s energy supply market is in China’s interest to safeguard supply security. The truth of the matter is that should geopolitical uncertainty rise to a point to negatively impact Chinese access to international energy supply, China will be at greater risk if foreign energy companies do not have a significant stake in supplying the Chinese market.

To hedge against prospects of deliberate disruption of the stable flow of energy resources and to help improve the quality of its energy supply over the long run, China should deepen its market integration and open its energy import market, power-generation sector, and end-user sales to foreign participation. China can break down barriers to market integration by encouraging direct investment. With the exception of critical energy infrastructure such as electric power lines and oil and gas pipelines, the greater degree of foreign investment in the production and sales phases of the Chinese energy economy, the higher the degree of security of supply China will enjoy. Breaking down barriers in this way can externalize a good deal of potential costs associated with geopolitical uncertainties, as international suppliers have a self-interest in resisting political and diplomatic interference to maximize their returns on their holdings.