25 April 2013

Indian Army matches China man-for-man on the border

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 23rd Apr 13

As the army’s Military Intelligence (MI) and Military Operations (MO) Directorates study the Chinese troop incursion into Indian territory at Daulat Beg Oldi, below the towering Karakoram Pass in Ladakh, military analysts are also scanning a newly-released Chinese document for information that might be of help.

Issued on Apr 16 by the State Council Information Office, the defence White Paper entitled "The Diversified Employment of China's Armed Forces" (hereafter “China’s Armed Forces”) provides an unusually clear look into the structures and missions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The PLA includes China’s ground, air and naval forces, and the Second Artillery Corps that operates the country’s strategic arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles, including those that carry nuclear payloads.

The document “China’s Armed Forces” has surprised Indian analysts by revealing that the PLA land forces (long regarded as the largest standing army in the world) are actually just half the size that intelligence agencies worldwide had estimated. India has always estimated that the PLA Army (PLAA) numbers 16 lakh soldiers; but the White Paper says the PLAA is just 8.5 lakh strong.

If the White Paper’s figures are authentic the Indian Army, with 12 lakh soldiers, is 50 per cent larger than the PLAA.

The PLAA’s numbers do not include the People's Armed Police Force (PAPF) and the militia, both of which operate behind the frontlines. The Indian Army too gets assistance from central police organization (CPOs) like the Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP), the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).

According to the White Paper, 4 lakh airmen man the PLA Air Force (PLAAF), while the PLA Navy (PLAN) has 2.35 lakh sailors.

Indian military planners who prepare for eventualities like the current PLA incursion spiraling out of control, perhaps even into actual fighting, focus less on total numbers than on the units and formations that can quickly come into action. The White Paper fully corroborates the army’s estimates of Chinese formations on the Sino-Indian border.

MI has long known that two out of China’s seven Military Area Commands (MACs) --- Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu --- are responsible for the Indian border. The Lanzhou MAC, which includes the 21st and 47th Combined Corps (earlier known as Group Armies), is responsible for operations on the Ladakh border. The Chengdu MAC, which includes the 13th and 14th Combined Corps, is responsible for the Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh borders.

Between them, these four Chinese combined corps muster up nine divisions and five mechanized brigades. The Indian Army matches that with nine divisions on the Sino-Indian border --- one in Ladakh, three in Sikkim, four in Arunachal and two in Nagaland and Manipur. In addition, India plans to raise a mountain strike corps during the 12th Defence Plan (2012-2017), which will add two more divisions. These will be stationed in the Brahmaputra Valley for launching offensive operations into Tibet.

India not just matches the PLAA division-for-division but, given the PLAA’s revised overall numbers, China’s formations could have significantly less troops than what had been earlier anticipated. That means numerical superiority on the Sino-Indian border quite clearly lies with India.

That ’62 feeling

Apr 25, 2013

While China prepares its defence forces to match its redefined global role, India debates defence purchase bribes

The Chinese ambassador to India, Wei Wei, was not the only Chinese envoy summoned by a foreign ministry in the past week. On April 23, as eight Chinese surveillance vessels neared the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea — the 41st Chinese incursion since the islands’ nationalisation by Japan — the Chinese ambassador to Tokyo was asked to explain.

The problem thus is not specific to India and Japan — Chinese assertiveness runs across their maritime periphery, both in the East and South China Seas, as indeed their continental boundaries.

For instance, the Chinese sequestration of the Scarborough Shoal, only 124 nautical miles from the Philippines coast, denies the latter’s fishermen traditional access to a fish-rich resource. Vietnam is contending with Chinese attempts to extend sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly islands, reportedly an area rich in oil and gas. Separately, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have their own maritime disputes over Chinese claims. Last year this proclivity to assert maximalist territorial claims, based on dubious historical data rather than extant laws of the seas, was attributed to the 10-yearly transition of power in Beijing to a younger and, for the first time, post-revolution generation. Now, the economic slowdown, dead pigs in rivers, avian flu, deteriorating air quality in cities and a real estate bubble may be causing a recourse to hyper-nationalism.

Lt. Gen. H.S. Panag, former Northern Army commander, explained in tweets that there are nine mutually accepted areas of differing perception of the LAC (Line of Actual Control), where the two sides — India and China — patrol up to their own perceived periphery, with overlapping limits. Since 1986 this gamesmanship has proceeded without major incident. This time, however, the Chinese have not only exceeded their accepted outer limit by a few kilometres but actually camped there. In effect, the Chinese have changed the rules of the game. The ministry of external affairs dubs it a “face-to-face” situation.

The mechanisms for border stabilisation, established by the Special Representatives (SRs) for border settlement, have failed to deal with the latest Chinese infraction. Even last year, despite a 2005 agreement on the political parameters and guiding principles on the settlement of the border issue, the Chinese were dragging their feet at the 15th SRs meeting. The 2008 US banking crisis, followed by the eurozone credit mess, apparently led the Chinese to assume that their moment of global dominance had arrived. Interestingly, the current fracas occurs weeks before the arrival of the new Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, in India much as the Chinese ambassador’s provocative remarks on Arunachal Pradesh in 2006 were made on the eve of the visit of then President Hu Jintao. Is there method in this madness?

India was right in not espousing a US-led neo-containment approach to China as the US may well leverage it for its own interests. However, India need not have played second fiddle to China at the recently held Brics summit, which was clearly dominated by China, first having closed ranks with Russia following President Xi Jinping’s Moscow visit. Then came two significant signals: China assuming control of the crucial Pakistani Gwadar Port and the gifting of another 1,000 MW nuclear reactor to the same country, in transgression of the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Whatever influence China has lost in Burma after the US and its allies opened their doors to that isolated but strategic member of the Asean, it is making up by pivoting towards Pakistan and Iran.

Intrude, violate, and then offer to discuss

Thursday, 25 April 2013

What can India do in the face of Beijing’s brazenness? One way out would be to postpone Premier Li Keqiang's visit to India. But New Delhi will probably prefer to ‘engage' China. We have been doing this for decades

Would you call it an intrusion, incursion, transgression or violation? It does not matter, as it is ‘perceptional’!

Let us look at the facts: For centuries, the Great Himalayas were an incident-free customary natural border between Tibet and India. Then in 1950, the Chinese invaded the Roof of the World. Progressively, the People’s Liberation Army spread over the Tibetan plateau, building roads, airstrips and setting up garrisons. The border became the Line of Actual Control. Now, the LAC has become ‘perceptional’. This is a convenient appellation for the Chinese as they can enter at will places they perceive as ‘theirs’, plant their tents or send their yaks to graze.

The Times of India reported that New Delhi “has recorded well over 600 ‘transgressions’ — the Government’s euphemism for cross-border intrusions — all along the unresolved 4,057 km Line of Actual Control by the People’s Liberation Army”. And this, over the last three years alone. The latest Chinese ‘perceptional’ land- grabbing, marks a new leap forward; this time, the Chinese have come much deeper into India’s territory and in a larger number. According to media reports, a large group of Chinese soldiers set up a camp some 10 km inside the Indian territory in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector of Ladakh on April 15. To make things worse, two helicopters apparently provided logistic support to the Chinese troops.

India asserted its own ‘perception’ two days later, sending a battalion of Ladakh Scouts to camp some 500 metres from the Chinese position. An officer told The Times of India: “Our soldiers are conducting ‘banner drills’ (waving banners and placards at the Chinese troops to show it is Indian territory) through the day.” Reuters quotes another official: “Ladakh in particular…is being targeted. Though Chinese troops usually go back after marking their presence, they are increasingly coming deeper and deeper into our territory with the aim to stake claim to disputed areas.” The Indian Government says one should not worry, that many mechanisms are in place: “The two countries are in touch with each other to resolve the row.” It is true that an Agreement on the Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs was signed on January 17, 2012, but it is clear that the Chinese use these mechanisms (including the 1993 and 1996 border agreements) to do what they please.

A question should be asked: Why is the LAC still not defined? What was the point of successive National Security Advisers meeting their Chinese counterparts 15 times since 2003 if they are unable to define an ‘actual’ line? The blame is usually put on the ‘insincerity’ of the Chinese side which is not ready for the slightest compromise, but it is also a fact that instinctively the Indian leadership prefers to hide behind a ‘mechanism’, to not ‘hurt’ our Chinese neighbours’ feelings or ‘makes things worse’, especially when the Chinese Premier is expected in New Delhi.

All talk, all the time

Shailaja Bajpai : Thu Apr 25 2013

TV news offers solutions to all problems, from rape to the India-China border dispute

Major General G.D. Bakshi (Retd) was so very angry, his military moustache stiffened in combat readiness. He took aim and fired: "civilian defence analysts talk of appeasement", when the need of the hour on the India-China border is action — "military steps", he yelled, ready for battle. They think, he added, grinding his teeth, that "jaw, jaw, jaw" would solve all our problems (Headlines Today).

Unwittingly, Maj Gen Bakshi had identified a great truth about TV news. Everyone goes "jaw, jaw, jaw", all the time, offering solutions to rape, to the coal scam, to 2G and the India-China border dispute. Alternatively, they try to make things happen according to their thought for the day. So, on Tuesday, after the evening talkathon, you'd have gone to bed convinced India should be at war with China. According to the TV script, "Delhi's timidity" (Rahul Shivshankar, Headlines Today) was costing India its territorial integrity as China laid claim to the Depsang area, saying, "this is our land" (Arnab Goswami, Times Now).

You'd have also believed that by Wednesday morning, Manmohan Singh would have, should have, resigned as PM, either over the 2G or coal scandals. From Hindi news channels like NDTV India to their English counterparts like CNN-IBN, the question was: should the PM resign?

As for rape, the majority on TV clamoured for the death penalty in child rape cases. Even the wife of Manoj, accused of raping a five-year old girl in Delhi said, "Usko phaansi milni chahiye (he should be hanged)," if he was guilty (Zee News, Saturday). Later, she would retract but she reflected the mood of the country on television, if not the country as a whole. The doctor who first treated "gudiya", after clinically detailing her condition (Zee News warned that his views might be shocking), said that the rapist should be given the death sentence. Tuesday's discussion on Face the Nation (CNN-IBN) was somewhat more thoughtful, although no less shocking, with horrific statistics on child abuse. But the panellists reminded us that there was no comfort in the arrest of Manoj or his accomplice: most child abuse occurs within the family or is committed by friends and acquaintances.

Kiran Bedi (NDTV 24x7) argued that Delhi's police commissioner was at fault for the increase in crimes against women and the police brutality that we saw in video clips of a policeman slapping a young woman who had been protesting against police inaction. This, along with clips of the police beating women in Ludhiana, played on all news channels during the weekend. Bedi said Neeraj Kumar needed to go out amongst his men and sensitise them.

Just a thought: why don't our popular sports and film personalities launch a media campaign on such issues? We saw moving tweets by Amitabh Bachchan and co but they do advertisements, don't they, so how about some public service advertising? And why don't TV channels put out regular advisories on police helplines, on how to file complaints in such cases and spell out the law? If we must "jaw, jaw, jaw" , why not in a worthwhile cause?

Defence companies welcome "pathbreaking" policy

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 21st Apr 13

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the apex decision-making body of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), has revised the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) that details the process for buying defence equipment for the military. The MoD announced today that the new policy, DPP-2013, has the twin objectives of “infusing greater efficiency in the procurement process and strengthening the defence manufacturing base in the country.”

DPP-2013 goes beyond the earlier DPPs of 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2011 in explicitly backing indigenous defence industry. It stipulates that Indian defence companies will get access to the military’s long-term equipment roadmap, providing them with the time needed for developing the equipment that the military needs in the future; provides a level playing field between the defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) and the private defence companies; simplifies the “Buy & Make (Indian)" procedure to benefit Indian industry; and defines ambiguous terms in the DPP like “indigenous content.”

As Business Standard has reported (Apr 13, “Ministry's initiative to push indigenous development”) DPP-2013 stipulates that the “categorization” of each procurement case should favour indigenization, with equipment being bought internationally only if developing and building it in India proves impossible. “Categorization” is a key decision in each acquisition project, in which the MoD decides whether the equipment should be developed and built in India (“Buy Indian” and “Make” categories); or built in India by an indigenous consortium (“Buy & Make Indian”); or built in India with transfer of technology (“Buy & Make with ToT”); or bought over-the-counter from a foreign vendor (“Buy Global”).

The MoD announcement says that DPP-2013 “provides for a preferred order of categorisation, with global cases being a choice of last resort. The order of preference, in decreasing order, shall be: (1) ‘Buy (Indian)’; (2) ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’; (3) ‘Make’; (4) ‘Buy & Make with ToT’; and (5) ‘Buy (Global)’. Any proposal to select a particular category must now state reasons for excluding the higher preferred category/ categories.”

The MoD has also granted a longstanding request by private defence companies for access to the military’s 15-year Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), so that they have the lead time needed to meet future equipment needs. Today the MoD stated, “The DAC has approved the release of a public version of its 15-year perspective document (LTIPP), outlining the “Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap” (TPCR) against LTIPP 2012-2027. The TPCR will provide useful guidance to the Indian Defence Industry for boosting its infrastructural capabilities and directing its R&D and technology investments.”

An advantage that DPSUs and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) have enjoyed over private defence companies has been the MoD’s nomination of selected DPSUs as the recipients of Maintenance Transfer of Technology (MToT) from foreign vendors in major acquisitions. For example, in aircraft purchases (Jaguar, Sukhoi-30, Hawk, etc) Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has been nominated by the MoD as the MToT partner, entitling it to receive the technology and infrastructure needed to maintain, service, overhaul and upgrade the aircraft through its service life. Now, levelling the playing field between DPSUs and private industry, the MoD says, “MToT has been hitherto reserved largely for OFB and DPSUs through the nomination process. A DPP amendment has been approved that does away with nomination by Department of Defence Production and facilitates selection of MToT partners by Indian bidders. This measure is expected to have a positive impact on private sector participation in maintenance, repairs and overhaul work.

A king mulls over two strategies

Suvojit Bagchi

The Hindu Bastar king Kamal Chandra Bhanj Deo. Photo: Suvojit Bagchi

The young king of Bastar, Kamal Chandra Bhanj Deo, is in two minds about the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections towards the end of the year — to opt for the royal strategy of 1957 or of 1962.

In 1957, Mr. Deo’s grand uncle, the legendary Pravir Chandra Bhanj Deo, supported the Congress and in 1962, he hand-picked tribal people as independent candidates, who defeated the Congress in nine of 10 the seatsin Bastar.

Whether the present king would support a coalition or put up his own independent candidates is being debated both in the palace and in villages. Whatever the strategy is, the Bhanj Deos will be participating in the elections after 51 years.

Bastar, or south Chhattisgarh, has seven districts and 12 Assembly constituencies. In the last two elections, the only two after the formation of Chhattisgarh, the region conclusively voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party — in 2008, the party won 11 12 seats and in 2003, it captured 10.

In the rest of the State, on both occasions, the BJP and the Congress almost had an equal share of seats. “If we get a tiny percentage of votes, we may play a role,” said the 28-year-old U.K.-bred Kamal Chandra. Lack of money and machinery to match political adversaries has compelled the family to rely solely upon “people’s love”, the king confessed.

His electoral ambition is disquieting for the Congress and the BJP and both are keen to woo him. He has been offered a ticket by both, say informed sources. While most of the politicians in Bastar are tight-lipped about the king’s political prospects, veteran politician Ajit Jogi delivered a guarded warning: “[The] Former ruling family has some support in backward areas, whether it could convert into votes or not is uncertain.” There is a second opinion as well. “The third generation after Independence — the dominant voters — gives a damn to royals, their time is over,” said Pratap Agrawal, a septuagenarian lawyer from Jagdalpur.

In 1966, Pravir Chandra, whose ancestors — the Kakatiyas — came to Bastar from Warangal in Andhra Pradesh some 600 years ago, was shot dead by the police for allegedly leading a tribal mob against the state. A year before, in his autobiography I Pravir — The Adivasi God, the king dismissed the Congress as a party of colonisers. “… this government’s [of the Congress] planning is modernisation and industrialisation plus contractors welfare. This conspiracy [against tribal people] must end … the Congress has failed miserably to usher in an equitable and egalitarian order and should be done away with lock, stock and barrel,” he wrote.

There are government and press reports to suggest that he declared a “war against the state” along with tribal people and thus “needed to be disciplined”.

“The enigmatic king was the ancestor of today’s Telugu-speaking Maoists,” said a retired bureaucrat.

The support for Pravir Chandra among the tribal people was unmistakable. The Dandakaranya Samachar, a six-decade-old newspaper, wrote just before the king’s assassination that though “… stripped [by the government] of all privileges of a ruler, he is acknowledged still as their Raja [king] … loved as their own, whose words are their law.”

At the time of this death on March 26 1966, Pravir Chandra was preparing for the 1967 election. The Dandakaranya Samachar quoted the then district magistrate of Bastar a day after the king’s death as saying that armed adivasis of the palace attacked the police and the police had to open fire presumably in self defence. “… 12 dead bodies of adivasis … sent for post-mortem … unconfirmed report states, it [the casualty figure) is a bigger number.” The tradition seems to be continuing in Bastar.

Army has to face the reality

Thursday, 25 April 2013 

Rhetoric will not do. Political parties must ask the Government the hard question: Is the 13 lakh strong Indian Army, which gets the lion's share of the $49 billion annual defence budget, adequately equipped and prepared to fight a war?

One year on is a good time to review the outcome of the confidential letter written by the then Chief of Army Staff, General VK Singh, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in April 2012, saying that the Army is unprepared for war. To be sure, he was referring to a war with Pakistan. Within weeks of assuming office in May same year, the new COAS, General Bikram Singh, informed the nation that the Army was prepared for all eventualities, implying military threats from both Pakistan and China. Union Minister for Defence AK Antony has since availed all opportunities, including the recently-concluded Army Commanders conference, to emphasise that modernisation is on track. While achieving so much in so little time is a miracle in itself, what was the fuss about General VK Singh’s confidential letter that was leaked to the media?

The letter had said it all. The mission reliability of mechanised vehicles is poor, the artillery is obsolete and inadequate, air defence is antiquated, armour is unreliable due to regular barrel accidents caused by mismatch between indigenous barrels and ammunition, night-fighting devices are insufficient, aviation corps helicopters need urgent replacements, and holdings of all types of missiles, anti-tank and specialised ammunition is critically low to last three to five days of war: This is what Gen Singh had written to the Prime Minister.

Following this, the Defence Minister asked Army Headquarters to fast-track acquisitions; the list of essentials was prepared overnight and sent. Unfortunately, the situation has deteriorated further in the last one year. On the one hand, nothing has come so far. On the other hand, missiles and specialised ammunition holdings which have a shelf-life, have dipped further. At present, the Army does not have reserve stocks called War Wastage Reserves for most ammunition categories. It is mandatory for the Army to have WWR for 40 days of intense war for long-shelf life category, and 21 days of intense fighting for short shelf-life category like anti-tank, rocket artillery and missiles.

If this was not enough, Gen Bikram Singh has recently sought freezing of the 197 helicopters’ deal meant to replace the aged Cheetah/Chetak helicopters of the seventies vintage, which are the life-line for troops that live on Siachen Glacier at heights between 12,000 feet and 21,000 feet. He has also asked for the cancellation of Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missiles urgently needed to hit Pakistani/terrorists hideouts in high altitude areas of Kashmir and Ladakh. Both critical procurement processes have been going on since over a decade, and the Army has little to do with any wrongdoing, if indeed wrongdoings have happened. In the case of the 197 helicopters, the finalists after extensive field trials are the Russian Ka-226T and the Eurocopter’s AS 550 C3 Fennec. However, in an unrelated case of 12 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters sold to India for VVIP use, an Italian probe has mentioned the name of Indian Brigadier VS Saini apparently asking for money to manipulate the same company’s AW119 helicopter to win the 197 helicopter bid. Considering that AW119 was out of the trials at an early stage, why has the Army chief denied replacements of obsolete helicopters by saying that the deal should be placed on hold till Brigadier Saini is cleared by the CBI?

Pakistan’s poll scene

Marked by violence, constitutional provisions
by G Parthasarathy

PAKISTAN is being torn apart by sectarian and communal violence in which hundreds of Shias have perished and the Christian and Hindu minorities terrorised by extremist Sunni groups, ranging from the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The port city of Karachi, always a hotbed of violence, saw new dimensions to sectarian and ethnic violence as the TTP took control of the Pashtun-dominated areas in the city from the moderate Awami National Party (ANP). The arrival of the Taliban in Karachi has produced continued bloodletting between Taliban-oriented Pashtuns and Muhajirs, pledging loyalty to Altaf Hussain’s MQM.

In Punjab, the extremist Sunni Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which enjoys the patronage of Rana Sanaullah, a senior leader of Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N) party, has mercilessly targeted Shias, Ahmedis and Barelvis. Its arrested cadres reportedly enjoy benign judicial protection from no less than the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, said to be a cousin of Rana Sanaullah. The situation is more tense in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, where the TTP is targeting candidates of the secular ANP, whose leader Asfandyar Wali Khan has been unable to campaign even in his hometown Charsadda, near Peshawar. In Baluchistan, the Army continues its brutal operations against the Baluchi tribal resistance with reports of emergence of bodies of Baluchi militants being mutilated by the army.

Pakistanis now appear to have become inured to such violence. Candidates are busy electioneering. The election process has been complicated by constitutional provisions introduced by General Zia-ul-Haq. All candidates are required to have “adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practices and obligatory duties prescribed by Islam”. The Constitution also requires rejection of those “opposed to the ideology of Pakistan”. It requires candidates to be “sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and ameen”.

These provisions have led to returning officers initially rejecting the candidature of former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and General Musharraf, who now faces court proceedings. Pakistan is paying a high price for its Sharia laws, designed to promote Salafi extremism. The “Blasphemy Law” in the country, also enacted during the rule of General Zia, results in religious minorities being intimidated, arbitrarily arrested and subjected to threats of death penalties.

A recent public opinion poll in Pakistan gave a clear indication of the mood of the youth, which is going to play an important role in the forthcoming elections. Around 94 per cent of the youth thought the country was going in a wrong direction. Society at large is becoming more religiously conservative. Sixty-four per cent of the male youth and 75 per cent of women are religiously conservative. There is little optimism about prospects of employment for the youth. Islamic “tanzims” are drawing more and more disenchanted youth.

The survey revealed that only 29 per cent of young Pakistanis support democracy, 32 per cent favour military rule and 38 per cent favour the imposition of Islamic Sharia. Such attitudes are significantly prevalent in Pashtun-dominated Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in Punjab and in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

With the exception of President Zardari’s PPP, Asfandyar Wali Khan’s ANP and Altaf Hussain’s MQM, virtually all other parties are resorting to anti-American sloganeering. India finds little mention in election rhetoric. There are virtually no references to Kashmir. Many Pakistanis evidently realise that they will first have to set their own house in order before pontificating on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Imran Khan’s Tehriq-e-Insaf acknowledges that armed jihadi groups in the country include “Kashmiri militants”.

Despite spiralling inflation, endemic power shortages, rising unemployment and falling growth rates, economic issues find very little mention in public debate. The economic manifesto of President Zardari’s PPP sounds like a booklet of India’s populist National Advisory Council. The manifesto focuses scant attention on measures to enhance savings and investment and accelerate economic growth. It dwells predominantly on “people’s schemes” that target youth and others apart from “direct subsidies” for “working masses” and other sections of society. The PML (N) manifesto, however, is akin to what Indian business chambers advocate. It substantially endorses recommendations of the Pakistan Business Council, pledging to revive privatisation, restoring the confidence of investors and advocating measures to deal with short and long-term economic issues.

Who Rules Pakistan ?

April 21, 2013 

Pakistan is approaching the 10th general elections. It is, therefore, pertinent to ask who rules this country. 

There is no brief and single answer to this question. If we focus on the elections, we can argue that the people are the ultimate rulers of Pakistan. From another angle, a small group of civilian elite, top bureaucrats and the top brass of the military rule this country. They are tied to each other by shared power interest or by family, tribal, ethnic linkages. The third perspective is that the military rules this country with the help of the bureaucracy. Civilian political elements may be coopted to create a semblance of civilian political order. The actual and operational power is exercised by the top brass of the military. There are people in Pakistan who argue with much conviction that key policy decisions for Pakistan are made in Washington. The United States government, the IMF and the World Bank often force their political and economic preferences on Pakistan.

Looking at the judicial activism on the part of the Supreme Court and the high courts and their periodic attempts to micromanage administrative and political affairs, it may be appropriate to argue that the judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts rule this country. The elected civilian government at the federal level has often found itself under pressure from these courts. One prime minister was removed from office and the other managed to survive. Now, after the end of the PPP rule, two of its ex-prime ministers have been taken to task by the Supreme Court for some of their decisions. Should the state institutions respect each other’s autonomy or should one institution set-right all other state institutions? 

The issue of who rules Pakistan becomes more ambiguous when we examine how trans-national militant Islamic movements have used violence and terror to establish their exclusive domains of authority at the expense of the Pakistani state. The Taliban and other militant groups have become so entrenched that they virtually rule parts of the tribal areas and the adjoining districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Islamic-sectarian and other militant groups based in mainland Pakistan are linked with the Taliban and facilitate violent activities in addition to pursuing their partisan narrow and dogmatic religious agendas. There are dissident and separatist groups in addition to Islamic-sectarian groups in Balochistan that pursue violence and killing of people as an instrument for asserting their primacy in Balochistan. Karachi is another example of how the state appears helpless in front of various armed gangs, hardline religious outfits, violent political workers, drug mafia and real estate grabbers.

As the Islamabad High Court has taken the initiative to nail down former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, most civilian political leaders are happy and blame him for Pakistan’s political ailments. The Senate passed a resolution on April 19 asking for initiation of legal proceedings against him on the charge of high treason that carries the death sentence. Some of the civilian leaders want Musharraf to be tried as a common criminal so as to show that everybody is equal before law.

It is interesting to note two ironies of history. First, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has never delegitimised a military ruler when he was in power. Yahya Khan was declared usurper in April 1972, four months after he was forced out of office. General Pervez Musharraf was declared to have acted in violation of the Constitution in November 2007 by imposing what he described as an emergency, in a Supreme Court judgment delivered July 2009, only 11 months after he lost power. Second, whereas Musharraf who demonstrated the arrogance of power while in office is now down and under, the key issue is to maintain a distinction between justice and revenge on the part of the political forces who suffered during the Musharraf years. There is a long tradition in Pakistan for seeking ‘exemplary punishment’ or death sentence for former rulers. 

China: Hum Dekh Rahe Hain – We Are Watching

 by Lt Gen Prakash Katoch in IDR 24/4/2013. SEE LINKS BELOW.

Commenting on the latest Chinese intrusion in Ladakh, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid echoed former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s famous cliché “Hum Dekh Rahen Hain, Hamen Dekhna Hoga, Hum Dekhenge”. Translated simply, it implies “we have been watching, we will have to watch, we will watch”. That in essence has been our foreign policy supported by an absent national security strategy kept in limbo and reinforced by an impotent defence industrial base ensured by AK Anthony as the longest serving Defence Minister. Whether the utterances of Salman Khursid were advertent or inadvertent is a matter of speculation though the former is most likely considering you can merrily twiddle your thumbs idly and keep the population guessing about the ‘Emperor’s Clothes”; do nothing, avoid accountability and in case of China, remain petrified behind a mask of bravery.

Chinese occupation of Aksai Chin was a strategic move looking into future requirements of resources, as was her taking control of Shaksgam Valley in exchange of nuclear assistance to Pakistan and now strategic footprints into Gilgit-Baltistan region.

The next moves of the Chinaman should not be difficult to gauge considering previous patterns. The amused Chinese will watch briefly as our hierarchy will go for the so called ‘diplomatic offensive’ despite depraved evidence of similar diplomatic offensives against our much smaller neighbours. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has already said that there is no transgression, even as they can be expected to bring a dozer to the area of the pitched tent. Next, the Chinese will start constructing a road linking the area with the illegally occupied Aksai Chin while Sonia-Manmohan and Co will debate whether another Chow Mein shop in Ladakh would upset the stomachs of Indian voters or this can be laced by a digestive that Chinese have different perceptions of the LAC and the issue will be resolved ‘amicably’ when the border dispute is ‘eventually resolved’.

As in previous occasions, the Army Chief will be asked to give a statement to this effect, after which all connected reporting will be effectively blacked out. Flag meetings will continue and noodles and rosogollas savoured and shared. So what, if the Chinese set up shop selling biang-biang noodles in the tent until barrack(s) come up and defence works are constructed. That would just about sum up AK Antony’s recent statement, “India will take every step to protect its interests.” After all, the issue is to be resolved at the time of the eventual final settlement of the border dispute. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Salman Khurshid will be commended for amicably ‘resolving’ the dispute and this stupendous diplomatic dexterity (or shall we say ‘victory’) will be used as a plus point by the Congress to sell to the hapless voters who in any case would not know the ground situation and cannot visit the area. An enterprising reporter may well get a shock of his life were he to investigate if anything like this had happened in the past but then such an account can always be dismissed as ‘notional’ loss or brushed off as planted Opposition gibberish in view of forthcoming elections. That would just about sum up AK Antony’s recent statement, “India will take every step to protect its interests.”

Chinese occupation of Aksai Chin was a strategic move looking into future requirements of resources, as was her taking control of Shaksgam Valley in exchange of nuclear assistance to Pakistan and now strategic footprints into Gilgit-Baltistan region. For the same reason, China literally invested Myanmar and Nepal, claims Doklam Plateau in Bhutan and is practicing economic hegemony in Afghanistan, Central Asia and Africa, besides employing water as a weapon against India, blatantly ignoring water sharing norms.

In fact, against India it is no holds barred hostility : deep intrusionbehind the façade of border management under a peace and tranquility agreement; economic war through a grossly imbalanced bilateral trade; supporting and arming insurgencies within India; cyber attacks; lacing Chinese ‘string of peals’ with Islamic radicalism in conjunction Pakistan and Pakistan’s proxies (terrorist organizations) and the like. It may be recalled that China which was hitherto laying claims only to Tawang, suddenly staked its claim to entire Arunachal Pradesh despite Nehru sacrificing India’s UNSC seat in China’s favour and India supporting the ‘one China policy’ and having given China Tibet virtually on a plate.

At least 21 killed in violence in China’s Xinjiang region

Ananth Krishnan

‘Mobsters’ were planning terror attack, say state media

At least 21 people have been killed in violence in China’s far western Xinjiang region in Kashgar, a prefecture which borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and has been the site of intermittent bomb attacks and ethnic unrest.

Fifteen people, including police officers and community workers, were killed in violence on Tuesday afternoon, State media reported. Six others, described by the authorities as “mobsters” who were planning a terror attack, had been shot dead by police, while eight suspects had been arrested.

The attacks took place in the Bachu county of Kashgar, a county in the far-western “autonomous region” which is predominantly inhabited by Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic Turkic group and one of China’s 55 minorities.

State media said the violence was triggered by community workers discovering “suspicious” persons armed with knives. After they reported the group to police, they were taken hostage.

The workers and 12 police officers were killed in ensuing violence. State media said “six mobsters were shot to death during the fighting and eight were captured after local police managed to control the situation”.

Among the 15 killed were 10 Uighurs, three Han Chinese – China’s majority ethnic group – and two ethnic Mongolians, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

State media reports said “preliminary investigations” suggested the gang was “planning to launch terrorist activities”.

China has in the past blamed Uighur groups in Xinjiang, some with ties to groups based in Pakistan, for carrying out violent attacks in Kashgar and Hotan, southern cities which are close to the border with PoK.

Asked if any foreign forces were involved, Ms. Hua told a regular press briefing that investigations were on-going.

“This case is a case of violence and terrorism, and further developments should be verified,” she said. “Currently the situation in Xinjiang is mainly stable, but some people are trying to make troubles to interrupt the peace and tranquillity of Xinjiang. Their schemes are doomed to failure.”

Many Uighur groups, however, say much of the violence in Xinjiang is rooted in ethnic tensions and disparities between Uighurs and the increasing number of majority Han Chinese migrants. Many Uighur scholars and activists have also accused the government of inflating the terrorism threat to clamp down on religious activities and dissent.

Countering such criticism, Ms. Hua said “cracking down on crimes and protecting safety of people and property is the sacred duty of the judicial authorities”.

Last month, courts in Xinjiang convicted 20 people alleged to have “promoted terrorism and separatism” through the Internet, issuing sentences ranging from five years to life imprisonment. The cases were criticised by rights groups, who pointed to a lack of transparency in the proceedings. Rights groups have also noted that criticism aimed at government policies has, in the past, been labelled as “splittism” in Xinjiang and punished with heavy sentences.

Bold and brazen China

25 April 2013 

PLA soldiers make base in Indian territory

India's pitiably feeble response to what is possibly China's most brazen military incursion in recent times is grossly inadequate and destined to further embolden a belligerent Beijing. Instead of sending out a strong message that military misadventures across the Line of Actual Control will not be tolerated, New Delhi has chosen to plead before Beijing with folded hands and bended knees. Expectedly, Beijing has thumbed its nose at New Delhi. Chinese officials on the ground have told the Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel to “go back and not return”; nothing has come of the two flag meetings held in the past week; and the Indian Foreign Secretary summoning the Chinese Ambassador to register protest has not even made a symbolic impact. New Delhi has stationed its troops 500 metres away from the Chinese camp but the Indian soldiers do not have orders for forward movement. Meanwhile, the Chinese continue to dig their heels deep into Indian soil as the Indian Government twiddles its thumb, hiding behind the diplomatic jargon of ‘border dispute redressal mechanisms’ and ‘bilateral agreements’, and ultimately ties itself up in knots. For example, New Delhi sought to underplay this unacceptable violation as a “perceptional” problem — and in the process, played right into Beijing's hands. A ‘perceptional' problem is exactly what Beijing wants it to be — and its spokesperson has even said as much.

Yet, the fact remains that, regardless of the differing perceptions, New Delhi and Beijing already have a mutual understanding to uphold the status quo on the ground. By now violating that understanding, and that too in such an unabashed manner, Beijing has clearly upped the ante. On April 15, 30-odd soldiers crossed over the Line of Actual Control and moved 10 km into Daulat Beg Oldi sector in Ladakh. They received air cover from two helicopters as they raised a tent and deliberately squatted on Indian territory. That the Chinese soldiers did not just mark their presence and return to their side of the LAC, as they usually do when patrolling a disputed border, is evidence enough that this is not the typical ‘incursion’. Given the logistical support that preceded the incursion, it is amply clear that the military operation had been cleared at the highest levels in China. Shocking as this may be, Beijing’s action is not entirely surprising and indeed in keeping with their past conduct. 

Pushing the envelope as far as possible and then a little more, so as to effectively gauge the other side's response, is consistent with Chinese strategy across the world. Beijing has tested the waters in this manner, quite literally in fact, against Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and, earlier, even with Russia. But in each case, it has met with strong resistance — except against India which has always preferred to pussyfoot around the issue, ever since the 1950s when such incursions were more common. It is no wonder that China waged war against India over a territorial dispute. As for the April 15 misadventure, it will eventually sort itself out, with India lending a helping hand by once again being virtually submissive. While there is no doubt that New Delhi’s relationship with China has grown tremendously in recent years, the long-festering border dispute between the two countries can undo the gains of the recent past.

What the Chinese gameplan against India is

April 24, 2013
Gurmeet Kanwal

The military gap between India and China is growing steadily. Clearly, China's negotiating strategy is to resolve the dispute when the Chinese are in a much stronger position in terms of comprehensive national strength so that they can dictate terms, says Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd).

A 50-strong Chinese patrol crossed the Line of Actual Control in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector of Ladakh last week and pitched tents 10 km inside Indian territory.

Attempts made by the government to get the area vacated through the mechanism for confidence building have so far been unsuccessful. It has been reported that there have been 600 border violations by China since 2010.

Illegal Occupation of Indian Territory

China has been in illegal occupation of large areas of Indian territory since the mid-1950s.

In Aksai Chin, which is part of Ladakh, China is in physical possession of approximately 38,000 square kilometres (sq km) of Indian territory. In addition, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in the Shaksgam Valley of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, north-west of the Siachen Glacier, to China in 1963 under a boundary agreement that India does not recognise.

Through this area, China built the Karakoram highway that now provides a strategic land link between Xingjian and Pakistan. There is now talk of Pakistan leasing the Northern Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan to China for development and the exploitation of natural resources.

China continues to stake its claim to about 96,000 sq km of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh, which it calls Southern Tibet. The then Chinese ambassador Sun Yuxi in New Delhi had reiterated this claim before President Hu Jintao's visit in November 2006.

Since then, Chinese interlocutors have claimed several times that the Tawang Tract is part of Tibet. It has been implied that the merger of this area with Tibet is non-negotiable.

China has often stated official position is that the reunification of Chinese territories is a sacred duty. At the last Communist Party of China party congress, four resolutions mention the unification of China's lost territories.

More new projects have been sanctioned by China's Central Military Commission after the party congress for an enhanced military build-up in case of any hostility.

China has already amassed a large number of troops in Tibet and constructed the metalled Western Express Highway as well as the world's highest railway line which will enable faster mobilisation of troops from Gansu and Qinghai region in case of war.

The PLA has constructed two major missile bases in Tibet and deployed missiles that can reach major targets in India.

Demarcation of the Line of Actual Control

It is not so well known that the Line of Actual Control between India and Tibet, implying de facto control after the 1962 war, is yet to be physically demarcated on the ground and delineated on military maps.

The LAC is quite different from the disputed 4,056 km-long boundary between India and Tibet. The un-delineated LAC is a major destabilising factor as incidents such as the Nathu La clash of 1967 and the Wang Dung stand-off of 1986 can recur.

The only positive development has been that after over a dozen meetings of the Joint Working Group and the Experts Group, maps showing the respective versions of the two armies have been exchanged for the least contentious Central Sector of the LAC, that is, the Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh borders with Tibet, where no fighting had taken place in 1962. It clearly shows how intractable the challenge is.

Early in 2005, India and China had agreed to identify 'guiding principles and parameters' for a political solution to the decades-old dispute. Many foreign policy analysts had hailed it as a great leap forward.

Beijing’s moves along the disputed border are aimed at achieving India’s strategic encirclement

Pravin Sawhney | Apr 24, 2013, 

A Chinese border guards' platoon (40 soldiers) has pitched tents ten kilometres inside Indian territory overlooking Daulet Beg Oldie (DBO) in Ladakh in the Western sector. The last time they did a similar thing was in 1986 in Sumdorong Chu in the Eastern sector (Arunachal Pradesh). Both times, the Chinese forces had blessings from the highest quarters: then supremo Deng Xiaoping and now the President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi Jinping.

Then, the Chinese were not a risen power and the occupation of Sumdorong Chu, of little tactical significance, was meant to test Indian gumption after the passing away of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who Deng admired for being a strong and determined leader. The Chinese finally left Sumdorong Chu of their own accord in 1995, with India calling it a historic win-win situation. This time around, the Chinese forces are unlikely to withdraw because as a risen power, the occupation is a well-crafted act of an unfolding grand strategy.

According to the Chinese, they are technically correct in insisting that the present occupation does not transgress the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This is not all. India, according to China, has done more transgressions into the Eastern sector than the other way round. China further says that it has refrained from making noises because it wants good neighbourly relations, but it will act in self-defence if the need arises.

India, on the other hand, says that differing perceptions about the LAC are responsible for numerous transgressions as well as the present stand-off in the Western sector. Meanwhile, treating it as a military matter, the Indian army has reportedly pitched its own tents facing the Chinese. What is the truth in this game?

The Chinese position on the disputed border is rather simple: it is merely 2,000 km long and not 4,056 km as India would have its people believe. The Chinese said this publicly on the eve of their Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to India in December 2010.

What is the 2,000 km long disputed border that the Chinese are talking about? This is the total of the Middle sector (554 km), Sikkim (198 km), and the Eastern sector (1,226 km), which comes to 1,978 km or 2,000 km when rounded off. According to China, they do not have a border with India in the Western sector or the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Now, if the Chinese do not have a disputed border with India in Ladakh (J&K), the LAC there becomes meaningless. By definition, a LAC is a military-held line which can be shifted by either side by force. Thus, the present Chinese tent pitched close to DBO is on friendly Pakistani territory.

How did China, who all these years was talking of border resolution in all three sectors, namely, Western, Middle and Eastern, decide to unilaterally shrink the border? This was done in four choreographed moves. In 2006, the Chinese ambassador in India claimed the entire 90,000 sq km Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh (Eastern sector) as its territory, calling it, for the first time, as Zang Nan or South Tibet.

Following Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's 2003 visit to China when India formally accepted Tibet as a part of China, the Chinese started hinting at the Indian army presence in South Tibet as intrusions in their territory. It is obvious as the Indian army increases its numbers by raising a new strike corps that the PLA will react in what they call self-defence.

The second Chinese move was in 2009 when they started issuing stapled visas to Kashmiris visiting China. Beijing refused a visa to Lt General B S Jaswal, head of the Indian army's northern command responsible for J&K, in July 2010. When I asked Colonel Guo Hongtao, staff officer of the Asian Affairs Bureau, Foreign Affairs Office, Ministry of National Defence, why this was done, he said, "The general was posted in Kashmir (disputed area with Pakistan) and we had to keep Pakistan's sensitivity in mind. We offered a compromise to India that Jaswal should be made a member instead of the head of delegation but the Indian side refused."

The third Chinese move was in December 2010 when they publicly announced that the disputed border was a mere 2,000 km. This made the need for stapled visas for Kashmiris unnecessary; India immediately claimed to have resolved the visas issue amicably. Moreover, the Chinese announcement ended the need for further Special Representatives talks; once a side discloses its position openly, the give-and-take option for resolution is not possible. For this reason, during the 15th round of talks, it was decided that the Special Representatives need not work on border resolution. Instead, they will devise and execute a 'Mechanism on Coordination and Consultation on Border Affairs'.

Goodbye to All That

Published: April 23, 2013 

On April 13, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority resigned. It was an easy development to miss, but not one to be ignored. It was very bad news, because Salam Fayyad was the “Arab Spring” before there was an Arab Spring. That is, he was what the Arab Spring was supposed to lead to: a new generation of decent Arab leaders whose primary focus would be the human development of their own people, not the enrichment of their family, tribe, sect or party. That Fayyad’s brand of noncorrupt, institution-focused leadership was not sufficiently supported by other Palestinian leaders, the Arab states, Israel and America is really depressing. It does not bode well for the revolutions in Egypt, Syria or Tunisia — none of which have a Fayyad-quality leader at the helm.

Thomas L. Friedman

Who is Salam Fayyad? A former economist at the International Monetary Fund, he first came to prominence when he was named finance minister of the Palestinian Authority in 2002, after donors got fed up seeing their contributions diverted for corruption. Shortly after he became prime minister in 2007, I coined the term “Fayyadism” — the all-too-rare notion that an Arab leader’s legitimacy should be based not on slogans or resistance to Israel and the West or on personality cults or security services, but on delivering decent, transparent, accountable governance.

Fayyad “dried up all slush accounts and went against Yasir Arafat’s orders by insisting on paying all security officials by direct bank account (rather than with cash given to their commanders based on a questionable list of personnel),” wrote Daoud Kuttab, a prominent Palestinian journalist, in The Jewish Daily Forward. “Fayyad also became the first Arab government official to publish his government’s entire budget online, ushering a new transparency not seen in the entire Arab region.”

Fayyad also played the leading role in rebuilding the Palestinian security services in the West Bank, which even the Israeli military grew to respect, and in trying to build Palestinian institutions, on the argument that the more Palestinians built their institutions — finance, police, social services — the more Israel’s denial of them of a state will be unsustainable.

“Fayyad’s embrace of economic transparency, which included U.S.-led audits, was instrumental in attracting increased international aid,” noted David Makovsky, director of the project on the Middle East peace process at The Washington Institute. “Despite a deep worldwide recession, the I.M.F. reported 9 percent growth for the West Bank between 2008 and 2010. ... As late as the second half of 2011, public support for Fayyad’s government was at 53 percent, 19 points ahead of the Hamas government in Gaza.”

Hamas hated Fayyad, and many Palestinian Authority officials were jealous of him, but success protected him until 2011. President Mahmoud Abbas, frustrated by the right-wing Israeli government’s refusal to strike a land-for-peace deal, decided to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. The United States retaliated by cutting off aid, and Israel did so by withholding Palestinian tax receipts. I thought it foolish for Abbas to go to the U.N., but I thought it irresponsible for America’s Congress to cut off aid to the Palestinians for doing so — when we’ve never retaliated for the even more obstructionist building of settlements by Israel.

OPEC fracked

The days when OPEC could hold the West to political ransom are gone

Watching the collapse of OPEC?

Since its inception in 1960, OPEC has never been shy in flexing its energy-fuelled power over the West. But those days are done. To put it bluntly, you could say that OPEC power has been well and truly fracked. And it’s not just the US and Israeli shale gas and oil revolutions which threatens OPEC’s decline. OPEC is already grappling with a whole bunch of serious energy problems that are colluding to hasten its demise.

Let’s just focus on the OPEC kingpin and world’s leading oil producer, Saudi Arabia. Even as the Saudis and other OPEC leaders have played down the nascent impact of US shale development on global production (especially America’s growing self-sufficiency), the signs are that the Saudis are increasingly desperate to keep their world number one ranking in oil production. But the runes are not falling their way.

In the last decade OPEC has seen a net increase in its total oil production: in 2002 it was 28.97 million barrels per day (mbpd), by 2012 that had risen to 36.64 mbpd. This year OPEC production had been expected to remain stagnant. But a Dow Jones Newswire survey in October 2012 revealed that OPEC production had actually fallen to 31.32 mbpd, and by January 2013 was down to 30.34mbpd. While the Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects production to rise in the coming year, it anticipates the level will remain below that reported in 2011 and well below the high of 2002.

But the troubles for the Saudis are only just starting. Chief among them is the meteoric rise of US production and the boom in associated technological developments driving it. This includes hydraulic fracturing – ‘fracking’ – and other enhanced oil recovery techniques (EOR) making more and more formerly non-recoverable oil accessible. As if that weren’t enough, domestic oil demand in Saudi continues to rise threatening Saudi export revenues.

According to a Citigroup report in February 2013, the record surge in US oil production – in the first ten months of 2012 US domestic production met 84 percent of its energy needs – now threatens the very existence of OPEC. The EIA reports that US oil production expanded by a record 790,000 barrels a day last year. According to the Citigroup report, by the middle of 2013 the US Gulf Coast will be supplied with oil from much closer to home – from North Dakota and Texas, displacing imports from Saudi, Iraq and Kuwait.

OPEC itself has been forced to downgrade its economic prospects. OPEC’s World Oil Outlook anticipates a decline in global demand for its oil to 2016 with production falling to 29.7 mpbd. That’s a drop of 1.6 mbpd from the forecast just a year ago. For the moment, much of the consequent fall in demand from the West is likely to be offset by a rise in demand from Asia, especially China and India. But the real fear for the Saudis and for OPEC’s members generally is what would happen to OPEC once US shale fracking technologies are exported worldwide.

China’s domestic shale gas and oil reserves may potentially far outstrip even those of the United States. So why import from the Middle East when a bonanza of oil and gas is right under your own feet? All the signs are that both China and India intend to invest heavily in shale development at home.

Weren’t Buddhists Supposed to Be Pacifists?

Their religion may stress peace, but some Buddhists are showing that they’re entirely capable of violence in the name of faith.


The man's body lies on a blanket striped in white and blue. He's wearing a dark brown tank top and a dark blue flowered sarong. Someone has tied his hands behind his back with rope. There are deep red gashes on his head and shoulders -- some of them presumably the wounds that ended his life. 

The man in the photo is a Muslim. The people who killed him were almost certainly Buddhists. He was a victim in last fall's sectarian bloodshed in western Burma, which pitted members of the two religions against each other. The image comes from a new report by Human Rights Watch that carefully documents the violence that took some 200 lives and resulted in the forced displacement of some 125,000 people. (A more recent wave of violence within the past few weeks has taken some 40 additional lives and triggered another surge of refugees.) The report argues persuasively that state institutions, including the police, often stood by while Buddhist rioters went after their Muslim neighbors -- and in some cases may have even helped to organize the attacks. A mere 4 percent of Burma's population of Burma is Muslim, while well over 90 percent are Buddhists. Perhaps the fact that the government sided with the majority probably shouldn't have come as a surprise. (The allegations didn't stop the International Crisis Group, a leading western humanitarian organization, from giving an award to President Thein Sein earlier this week.) 

But wait: Isn't Buddhism a religion that places respect for life and the embrace of peace at the very center of its worldview? The Buddha himself placed compassion at the root of his teachings, and in Burma itself, it was Buddhist monks who set the rigorously non-violent tone of the massive anti-government demonstrations back in 2007. The chants of the saffron-robed protestors were powerfully moving: "May all beings living to the East be free; all beings in the universe be free, free from fear, free from all distress!" 

It turns out, sadly, that some Buddhist monks don't see this as a binding ethical imperative. Monks have been prominent among those inciting the recent bloodshed. The most notable is U Wirathu, a monk at a prominent monastery who's made a name for himself lately as an apologist for anti-Muslim sentiment and the organizer of the "969" movement, which has been issuing stickers and signs emblazoned with that number (which has symbolic significance for Burmese Buddhists) to identify businesses that refuse to serve Muslims -- exactly the kind of policy the monk is aiming to promote. He's said to have referred to himself as "the Buddhist Osama bin Laden." How can this sort of bigotry possibly be reconciled with the teachings of the Enlightened One?