2 May 2013

America Can't End Syria's Civil War *


The civil war in Syria, one of the few lasting legacies of the Arab Spring, has been under way for more than two years. There has been substantial outside intervention in the war. The Iranians in particular, and the Russians to a lesser extent, have supported the Alawites under Bashar al Assad. The Saudis and some of the Gulf States have supported the Sunni insurgents in various ways. The Americans, Europeans and Israelis, however, have for the most part avoided involvement.

Last week the possibility of intervention increased. The Americans and Europeans have had no appetite for intervention after their experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. At the same time, they have not wanted to be in a position where intervention was simply ruled out. Therefore, they identified a redline that, if crossed, would force them to reconsider intervention: the use of chemical weapons.

There were two reasons for this particular boundary. The first was that the United States and European states have a systemic aversion to the possession and usage of weapons of mass destruction in other countries. They see this ultimately as a threat to them, particularly if such weapons are in the hands of non-state users. But there was a more particular reason in Syria. No one thought that al Assad was reckless enough to use chemical weapons because they felt that his entire strategy depended on avoiding U.S. and European intervention, and that therefore he would never cross the redline. This was comforting to the Americans and Europeans because it allowed them to appear decisive while avoiding the risk of having to do anything.

However, in recent weeks, first the United Kingdom and France and then Israel and the United States asserted that the al Assad regime had used chemical weapons. No one could point to an incidence of massive deaths in Syria, and the evidence of usage was vague enough that no one was required to act immediately.

In Iraq, it turned out there was not a nuclear program or the clandestine chemical and biological weapons programs that intelligence had indicated. Had there been, the U.S. invasion might have had more international support, but it is doubtful it would have had a better outcome. The United States would have still forced the Sunnis into a desperate position, the Iranians would have still supported Shiite militias and the Kurds would have still tried to use the chaos to build an autonomous Kurdish region. The conflict would have still been fought and its final outcome would not have looked very different from how it does now.

What the United States learned in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is that it is relatively easy for a conventional force to destroy a government. It is much harder -- if not impossible -- to use the same force to impose a new type of government. The government that follows might be in some moral sense better than what preceded it -- it is difficult to imagine a more vile regime than Saddam Hussein's -- but the regime that replaces it will first be called chaos, followed by another regime that survives to the extent that it holds the United States at arm's length. Therefore, redline or not, few want to get involved in another intervention pivoting on weapons of mass destruction.

Interventionist Arguments and Illusions

However, there are those who want to intervene for moral reasons. In Syria, there is the same moral issue that there was in Iraq. The existing regime is corrupt and vicious. It should not be forgotten that the al Assad regime conducted a massacre in the city of Hama in 1982 in which tens of thousands of Sunnis were killed for opposing the regime. The regime carried out constant violations of human rights and endless brutality. There was nothing new in this, and the world was able to act fairly indifferent to the events, since it was still possible to create media blackouts in those days. Syria's patron, the Soviet Union, protected it, and challenging the Syrian regime would be a challenge to the Soviet Union. It was a fight that few wanted to wage because the risks were seen as too high.

The situation is different today. Syria's major patron is Iran, which had (until its reversal in Syria) been moving toward a reshaping of the balance of power in the region. Thus, from the point of view of the American right, an intervention is morally required to confront evil regimes. There are those on the left who also want intervention. In the 1980s, the primary concern of the left was the threat of nuclear war, and they saw any intervention as destabilizing a precarious balance. That concern is gone, and advocacy for military intervention to protect human rights is a significant if not universal theme on the left.

India and China square off

High stakes
Apr 30th 2013
by A.R. | DELHI

SO FAR it is a matter of a few military tents, a handful of shivering soldiers and a disagreement over a remote and never-demarcated line in the Himalayas. Yet a lengthening stand-off between Chinese and Indian soldiers in a disputed part of Ladakh reflects a profound problem: already it ranks as the most serious confrontation between the Asian giants since the late 1980s.

India accuses its neighbour to the north-east of sending troops some 19km past a line of actual control (LAC), in the Despang area of Ladakh, a part of Jammu & Kashmir state that is wedged between Tibet proper and the vale of Kashmir. They have reportedly been there for more than two weeks. Now a small number of Indian soldiers have set up camp within a stone’s throw of their Chinese counterparts. Though there is no sign yet of escalation—and would seem to be little prospect of it—nor have the sides found a way to walk back.

The confrontation is taking place in an unpopulated district, but one that matters symbolically. Some 4,000km of the boundary between China and India remains unsettled, so tests in any particular spot along its course carry immense significance. Speculative reports suggest the area may also be rich in uranium. It is also, from the Chinese perspective, close to the Tibetan Autonomous Region and so significant for the government in Beijing as it tries to assert full political and military control over a troubled patch of its sovereign territory.

Inside India the predominant explanation for the stand-off—among bloggers, retired generals, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), television commentators and newspaper columnists—is that China is entirely to blame. The incursion is seen simply as China putting pressure on militarily weaker India, presumably to extract concessions such as a freeze on the number of troops it deploys along the border, or some block on India’s development of bunkers, roads or other structures on its own side of the frontier. Any such freeze would leave Chinese forces, which are established on a plateau, in a much stronger position. They already enjoy the benefit of all-weather roads, railway lines and other structures that connect them to the rest of China.

Some in this predominant Indian camp speculate that the cross-border incursion could have been led initially by an adventurous, lowish-ranking member of the People’s Liberation Army, to which China’s new political leadership subsequently acquiesced. Others in the commentariat prefer to emphasise that Indian weakness, including the feebleness of its road and military infrastructure in the Himalayas, practically invite regular Chinese assertiveness.

It has been widely noted that leaks about the incursion came from India’s defence forces, while its diplomats appeared to try to hush it all up. One reliably hawkish Indian commentator, Brahma Chellaney,lashes out at India’s mild-mannered leaders as being unable to speak up themselves with any strength. Hawks, by and large, want India to retaliate by making remarks about China’s behaviour inside Tibet, essentially raising questions about the legitimacy of Chinese rule there. By contrast the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and his foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, are playing down the dispute in Ladakh (and stay entirely mum on Tibet). Mr Khurshid has compared the Chinese incursion to a pimple on an otherwise unblemished face.

Intrusion in Ladakh: Warning from China

Jayadeva Ranade
Member of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) & 
Distinguished Fellow, IPCS

The 19-kilometres deep intrusion by an armed patrol of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into the strategically sensitive area around Daulet Beg Oldi in the Aksai Chin region, and detected on 16 April 2013, has been unprovoked.

It is necessary at the outset to dispel any notions that the ongoing over two week long stand-off between armed patrols of the PLA and the Indian Army in the barren, but strategically important, area around Daulet Beg Oldi (DBO) is an isolated or unplanned incident. Similar incidents of armed eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation have occurred with increased frequency, especially since 2008, along the entire length of our 4,057 kilometres border. On this occasion, Beijing seems to have a specific motive. Interestingly, the intrusion coincided with the release of China’s latest Defence White Paper and PLA Navy Day.

The attributes of this stand-off, which has dragged on in the full glare of India’s print and visual media for over twelve days, are different. Pertinent is that Beijing remains transparently unmoved by the adverse media publicity and damage it has caused to India-China relations. It has neither moved to resolve the situation despite three flag meetings at the level of local army commanders and communications from New Delhi requesting resolution. Beijing has thus made it abundantly clear that it will defuse the situation only at a time of its choosing. Beijing’s stance confirms too that the stand-off is not a local incident provoked by the action of a local commander, but one initiated with the full knowledge of China’s senior leadership.

The timing of this intrusion points to a specific motive. It comes just weeks before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan and is a warning against India expressing support to Japan. The backdrop is the steadily escalating tension between China and Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands.

In the context of China’s national interests, China’s top echelon leaders strongly apprehend that the US is putting together an alliance comprising India, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Australia to contain China’s rise. Articles in China’s official media, including signed articles by Minister-level Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cadres, have candidly stated this. China’s latest Defence White Paper released on 16 April 2013, in a thinly veiled comment declared that “Some country has strengthened its Asia-Pacific military alliances, expanded its military presence in the region, and frequently makes the situation there tenser.” The reference to the US is implicit.

Tension between China and Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands has risen since 2010. China has been adamant in asserting its maritime territorial claims over the Senkakus (Diaoyu). Two specific developments highlight the extent of this tension and Beijing’s determination not to yield concessions. The Defence White Paper released on April 16, specifically named Japan as one among “some neighbouring countries” that are taking actions to exacerbate the situation. It accused Japan of “making trouble over the issue of the Diaoyu islands”.

More significant is the statement of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson. Speaking at the regular Foreign Ministry briefing in Beijing on April 26, 2013, she repeatedly, and for the first time publicly, referred to the Diaoyu Islands as a matter of “core interest” for China. The statement raises the level of the dispute significantly and clarifies that Beijing does not consider the matter open for negotiation.

There have been warning indicators earlier that Beijing views the growing warmth in relations between India and US and between India and Japan with suspicion. In the days following the largest ever US-ROK joint military exercises in July 2010, a Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing newspaper observed: “the issue of China’s territorial disputes with neighbouring countries will ignite the flames of war sooner or later. If a country must be chosen for sacrifice, India will be the first choice…India’s long term occupation of southern Tibet is indeed worrying…If armed force is used to resolve border disputes, China must pick a country to target first, and it will definitely pick a big country, which means choosing between Japan and India…”. Other references stated that China’s relationship with India and Japan had limits imposed by history. With this Beijing dragged India into the South China Sea dispute.

China’s latest action needs to be viewed in the backdrop of the People’s Republic of China’s readiness to employ military force on issues of national interest relating to its security, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Beijing is adept at using a blend of threats and promise of military retaliation to deter an adversary from taking actions contrary to Beijing’s interests. India needs to calibrate and time its response. For a start it could withhold reiteration during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s upcoming visit of the formulation that the Tibet Autonomous Region is a part of China.

Sarabjit attack: no action on jail officials so far

Reports about the suspension of several Pakistani jail officials after the brutal assault on Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh last week have turned out to be eyewash as authorities are yet to take action against anyone in Kot Lakhpat Jail.

Immediately after the assault on Sarabjit by other prisoners, officials had told the media that three or four prison officials, including the assistant superintendent, had been suspended.

However, official sources told PTI that not a single official of the prison has been suspended from service so far.

The caretaker government of Punjab province has only issued notices to seven Kot Lakhpat Jail officials, including Superintendent Mohsin Rafiq and Additional Superintendents Ishtiaq Ahmed Gill and Sawar Sumera, to explain why action should not be taken against them for failing to protect Sarabjit.

To the surprise of many, an inquiry into the incident by Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Prisons) Malik Mubashir pinpointed several security lapses but did not fix responsibility on any one.

Punjab’s caretaker Chief Minister Najam Sethi and his administration have been tight-lipped about the incident and no formal statement on the assault has been issued by anyone in the provincial government.

Mr. Sethi has neither condemned the incident nor taken action against Inspector-General of Prisons Farooq Nazir for failing to provide protection to Sarabjit.

Instead, the provincial government barred officials in the prison and Jinnah Hospital, where Sarabjit has been admitted, from speaking to the media on the issue. 

India And The Tejas Tragedy

April 30, 2013

Despite enormous political pressure in India to get the locally made LCA (Light Combat Aircraft or "Tejas") jet fighter into production, the government has quietly delayed that for at least two more years. Production was supposed to begin at the end of 2012, but the number of technical problems with the LCA was too great to clear up in time for production to start then. Many essential electronic items are not functioning properly or reliably. The prototypes that are flying are maintenance nightmares, and after each test flight it takes several days to get the aircraft in shape to fly again. The managers of this government financed project tried to keep the problems quiet while they were quickly and quietly fixed but failed at both these tasks.

This was not the first major failure for the LCA. Earlier this year India admitted defeat and dropped plans to use the locally developed Kaveri engine in the LCA. After 24 years and over $600 million the Kaveri was unable to achieve the necessary performance or reliability goals required. The government plans to see if the Kaveri can be used in a combat UAV that is being developed locally but that aircraft is not expected to fly for another five years or more.

The LCA developers saw this coming and several years ago ordered 99 American F414 jet engines for $8.1 million each. These were to be used for the first LCAs being mass produced. At that point it was still believed that eventually most of the LCAs were to be powered by the Kaveri engine, which has been in development hell for over two decades. The F414s were to substitute only until the Kaveri was ready.

The failure of the Kaveri project is just one of many examples of how the Indian defense procurement bureaucracy misfires. Efforts to fix the mess even led to calling in foreign experts (from the U.S., Israel, and other Western nations). For example, three years ago India made arrangements with French engine manufacturer Snecma to provide technical assistance for the Kaveri design and manufacturing problems. Critics in the Indian air force asserted that help from Snecma would not save the ill-fated Kaveri program. But the government apparently believed that it was necessary for India to acquire the ability to design and build world class jet engines, whatever the cost. Only a few nations can do this and India wants to be one of them, soon, no matter what obstacles are encountered. Despite decades of effort, the Kaveri never quite made it to mass production. Now the government will continue funding development of jet engine design and manufacturing capability, but with some unspecified changes.

There is much to be learned from the Kaveri debacle. When work began on the Kaveri, in the mid-1980s, it was believed that the LCA would be ready for flight testing by 1990. A long list of technical delays put off that first flight until 2001. Corners had to be cut to make this happen, for the LCA was originally designed to use the Indian built Kaveri engine and the engine was never ready.

For all this, India only plans to buy 200-300 LCAs, mainly to replace its aging MiG-21s, plus more if the navy finds the LCA works on carriers. Export prospects are dim, given all the competition out there (especially for cheap, second-hand F-16s). The delays have led the air force to look around for a hundred or so new aircraft (or even used F-16s) to fill the gap between elderly MiG-21s falling apart and the arrival of the new LCAs. However, two decades down the road the replacement for the LCA will probably be a more competitive and timely aircraft.

Over 2,000 fewer farmers every day

P. Sainath

The mistaken notion that the 53 per cent of India's population dependent on agriculture are all farmers lead many to dismiss the country’s massive farmers’ suicides as trivial. 
The Hindu

The mistaken notion that the 53 per cent of India’s population ‘dependent on agriculture’ are all ‘farmers’ leads many to dismiss the massive farmers’ suicides as trivial


There are nearly 15 million farmers (‘Main’ cultivators) fewer than there were in 1991. Over 7.7 million less since 2001, as the latest Census data show. On average, that’s about 2,035 farmers losing ‘Main Cultivator’ status every single day for the last 20 years. And in a time of jobless growth, they’ve had few places to go beyond the lowest, menial ends of the service sector.

A December 2012 report of the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR) — a part of the Planning Commission — puts it this way: “employment in total and in non-agricultural sectors has not been growing. This jobless growth in recent years has been accompanied by growth in casualization and informalization.” It speaks of an “an absolute shift in workers from agriculture of 15 million to services and industry.” But many within the sector also likely moved from farmer to agricultural labourer status. Swelling the agrarian underclass.

So how many farmers do we have?

Census 2011 tells us we now have 95.8 million cultivators for whom farming is their main occupation. That’s less than 8 per cent of the population. (Down from 103 million in 2001 and 110 million in 1991). Include all marginal cultivators (22.8 million) and that is still less than 10 per cent of the population.

Even if you count together all cultivators and agricultural labourers, the number would be around 263 million or 22 per cent of the population. (Interestingly, this reduced figure comes after a few big states have actually reported a rise in the total number of cultivators. Since 85 per cent of all marginal workers reported more than a 100 days work, this could possibly reflect the reverse pull of MNREGA, among other factors).

Between 1981 and 1991, the number of cultivators (main workers), actually went up from 92 million to 110 million. So the huge decline comes post-1991.

Hold on: aren’t 53 per cent of the population farmers?

No. That’s a common fallacy. The over 600 million Indians dependent on agriculture are not all farmers. They are deployed in an array of related activities — including fisheries. This confusion is widespread and innocent.

Yet, there are also a few whose colossal ignorance leads them to dismiss the country’s massive farmers’ suicides as trivial. For instance: “at least half of the Indian workforce is engaged in farming. This fact points to a much lower suicide rate per 100,000 individuals for farmers than in the general population.” Note how easily those ‘engaged in farming’ become ‘farmers!’

IMF’s new prescriptions

Charan Singh , Arvind Virmani : Wed May 01 2013

It has begun to realise that wisdom can also be gleaned from the experience of emerging economies

The IMF has spoken. In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF forecasts that the advanced countries will continue to be in a difficult situation, with a grim fiscal position and vulnerable financial markets. In contrast, emerging markets have done well on the fiscal front and are expected to continue with a neutral fiscal policy in the medium term. There were lessons to be learnt from the emerging economies that, if shared earlier, could have saved the global economy from this unprecedented recession.

The IMF has come a long way in providing policy advice to its member countries. It has begun to realise that economic wisdom could also be gleaned from the macro-management experience of emerging economies. The view on capital flows has changed and is far more pragmatic and experience-based now, having evolved through an extensive, two-year consultative process with member countries. The emerging markets have been advised to stay alert to the risks stemming from increased cross-border capital flows, as low interest rates and a high risk appetite in advanced countries could result in a situation where too much money could be chasing too few emerging market assets. At last, the IMF has recognised what was being advocated by India and other emerging economies for more than a decade: easy monetary policy in advanced countries spills over to the emerging countries and causes disruptions in the smooth functioning of the markets.

Another interesting case is inflation targeting, being discussed by the IMF in the context of a flatter Phillips curve (which represents a historical inverse relation between inflation and unemployment). which is certain to gladden the hearts of many policymakers and central bank governors in leading emerging markets, including India. Indeed, policymakers from India had been in the forefront of arguing that given the status of financial markets, twin deficits and the economy, inflation targeting is not the appropriate regime for India. The researchers in the IMF are only now beginning to realise that suggesting inflation targeting to all countries and in all circumstances was probably not the best policy advice.

There is yet another case of change in policy advice. The IMF has now begun to question the impact of debt on economic growth, in the current context of deficient global aggregate demand and has offered research yielding mixed results on the effect of debt on growth. Historically, the IMF's advice was based on the premise that debt overhang has growth retarding implications on the economy through various channels like reduced public and private investment. In traditional literature, debt "overhang threshold" levels were discussed, which gave broadly similar results. In contrast, according to the IMF, recent studies to understand debt restructuring channels and its distributional effects across different sectors of the economy indicate a reverse result. Earlier, despite the celebrated 1944 article by Evsey Domar in American Economic Review, where two variables matter, the real interest rates and the growth rate of the economy — the IMF would not consider the arguments of the emerging markets. Further, in 1992, after the Maastricht Treaty sanctified the two ratios of fiscal deficit and debt-to-GDP at 3 per cent and 60 per cent respectively, advocacy by the IMF became shriller. And Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff raised the threshold level of debt ratio to 90 per cent before it negatively impacts growth in 2010. It now turns out that this number was based on an excel error. There was, and still is, no theoretical literature to justify these ratios, but the IMF assigned them a biblical status and applied it rigorously to all countries.

The IMF, five years after the onset of the crisis, is now advising select central banks on exit policy and the use of the macro-prudential toolkit to mitigate risks and strengthen supervision of the financial sector during the exit phase. The strategy and policy advice by the IMF seems familiar to many regulators and supervisors in emerging markets, especially India, who continue to believe that precaution is better than cure.

Another change is the recognition of the need to reflect emerging markets and developing countries in the governance and power structures in the IMF, which requires a reform of the quota formula and shares to reflect the changing structure of the global economy. With implementation of the 2008 reforms still pending and the formula reform deadline of January 2013 ignored, emerging markets wonder about the nature of the next quota revision promised by 2014 in the spring meeting communique.

With the growing integration of the global economy, the need for distilling and sharing lessons from the experiences of both developed and emerging countries is a necessity. An institution like the IMF should have been in the forefront of the two-way cross-pollination of such knowledge. Better late than never, the reversal in many policy stances by the IMF since the global financial crises in 2008, and particularly in the past three years, is expected to strengthen relationships and the path to recovery and growth. The strategy and vision of the Indian policymakers is increasingly recognised by the world and international institutions — a matter of national pride for all of us.

Virmani is former executive director, IMF and Singh is RBI Chair professor of economics at IIM, Bangalore.Views are personal

A New Plan for a New Afghanistan

May 01, 2013
By Ahmad Zia Massoud and Christian H. Cooper

Securing the future of Afghanistan is not just about troop counts after 2014. Sustainable economic development may just be the key.

Afghanistan's future will not be determined by the thousands of lives tragically lost, the billions spent, or the number of international troops that will remain after 2014. The number of troops on the ground — whether foreign or Afghan — will not decide our future. We can only secure Afghanistan’s success if we first secure sustainable economic development at home.

We are confronting a unique set of economic challenges at a time when the West is confronting their own. Demographic shifts and an unsustainable debt burden will fundamentally change the calculus of aid and intervention; we must come up with our own solutions. Our success as a nation will rest largely on our capacity to create economic growth, stimulate job creation, and use financial innovation to create and sustain entrepreneurs and functioning markets as well as increase our access to global capital through our natural resources.

Much has been written about the immense wealth that lies in the ground as well as the immense difficulty of extracting it. To meet its unusual challenges, Afghanistan needs a novel plan to reverse the trend that typically befalls nations struggling through extreme poverty while possessing vast mineral wealth. The solution I propose includes the establishment of transparent and accountable trusts first, then pledging a fraction of Afghanistan's mineral wealth to those trusts, and thirdly issuing bonds backed by the trust's value to fund agricultural, water, and industrial development projects first, not last. As mining tenders are accepted, a portion of those proceeds should be earmarked to pay down the trust and service the capital

In order to move beyond failed state status, we must pay for long-term economic development first because that is what will sustain us when the mining companies are gone and resources are depleted. Only if the pace of broader sustainable development exceeds the jobs created solely to support mining operations will we have a chance of succeeding as a nation. Make no mistake, we need our mining and hydrocarbon partners around the world; but how we secure the future of Afghanistan is far more important that the short-termism that historically has driven nations to sacrifice their future on the promise of natural resource extraction. Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, while potentially immense, can only support the creation of a fraction of the number ofjobs we need, plus they require literacy, technical skill, and mobility; many of which are traits a significant portion of our population simply does not have. Securing the needs of the rural farmer, preserving their stability and supporting their capacity to feed their families are the factors most likely to determine if we will be writing about a failed state in 2018 or the bright future I see now.

The key to progress in Afghanistan is making the future returns on mining pay for current improvements in agriculture and food security, housing and education, and infrastructure. A trust program that requires making social investments today as part of the process of contracting mineral rights can ensure that Afghanistan’s mineral wealth benefits all Afghanistan, not just foreign investors and a sliver of the Afghan population.

Can This Alliance Be Saved? Salvaging the U.S.-Pakistan Relationship

April 30, 2013

As the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan looms ever nearer, opponents of “abandoningAfghanistan” continue to rehearse the ostensible lessons from the U.S. exeunt from the region in 1990.

They warn that the U.S. failure to stay the course and rebuild Afghanistan led inexorably to the rise of the Taliban, and the ready safe-haven that Afghanistan became for global terrorists like al Qaeda and a host of regional Islamist terror organizations with roots in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Despite the rising American tempers and exhaustion with Pakistan’s duplicity, romantics who recall better days caution against sanctioning Pakistan, noting the abject failures of sanctions during the 1990. Having mobilized these well-worn scenarios, they impetuously demand that the United States “stay the course” in Afghanistan and Pakistan, without articulating what that surely treacherous course should be.

This is a pernicious argument in part because the proponents of the longest war narrate a complex fantasy, which must be addressed:

– First, there is no counterfactual analysis that can support the claim that had the United States “stayed” the course, Afghanistan would have developed into a functional state rather than a terrorist sanctuary.

– Second, concluding that U.S. sanctions applied in 1990 failed and thus all punitive measures are destined to fail is a logical fallacy. The U.S. efforts to retard Pakistan’s nuclear program failed because first the Carter administration chose to let it fail as early as summer of 1979, when it began reversing enrichment-related sanctions first applied to Pakistan in April of 1979.

The Reagan Administration flatly surrendered American efforts to deny Pakistan a nuclear capability to Cold War-centered goals in Afghanistan and elsewhere. With the Soviets’ advance, the United States jettisoned is nonproliferation goals as it reworked its nonproliferation regime to facilitate arming Pakistan under the rubric of defeating the Soviets while also possessing full knowledge that Pakistan was continuing to advance its nuclear weapons program. By 1984, Pakistan had a crude, large nuclear weapon that could be delivered by C-130 if need be. By the time sanctions came into force in 1990, Pakistan had already acquired the bomb.

– Third, acquiescing to Pakistan’s preferred strategy that the conflict in Afghanistan be waged in the guise of a “jihad” to be waged by rugged, Afghan mujahedeen was a mistake.

Many Pakistanis continue to believe that this was an American strategy: it was not.

Pakistan began instrumentalizing Islamist leaders and militants alike first under the regime of Z.A. Bhutto and later under Zia ul Haq. By the time the Soviets crossed the Amu Darya on Christmas Day 1979, Pakistan had already assembled most of the militant groups that would become the “mujahideen.” It is true that with U.S. and Saudi money, they became much more lethal. But it is also true that lineaments of the “jihad” strategy has already been mapped out and resourced by Pakistan before the first American dime entered the clandestine battlefield.

While the United States was focusing upon Afghanistan, it was losing the prize: a stable Pakistan that is capable of living at peace with itself and with its neighbors. Indeed by the time the United States withdrew from South Asia in 1990, Pakistan’s dangerous contours were in full clarity. It was a nuclear armed state, locked in an intractable security competition with India, and emboldened to employ an array of non-state actors in India and in Afghanistan with impunity under its expanding nuclear umbrella.

Pakistan was beset with sectarian fissures, a bloody legacy of a menacing quartet that included the Iranian revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, the anti-Soviet “jihad,” and Pakistan’s own pursuit of Islamizing Pakistan in the guise of a Sunni state. Equally vexing, Pakistan’s vast state-sponsored nuclear and missile proliferation efforts, which began in the 1970s for acquisition goals, were repurposed for exporting nuclear and missile technology.

Taking Home the Booby Prize?

As 2014 looms, the United States should recognize that some meager prospects for a peaceful Pakistan may be the prize rather than a functional Afghanistan. If that cannot be secured, then the United States should at least aim for the “booby prize” of helping to ensure that Pakistan does not become a South Asian North Korea.

Unfortunately, during the last 11 years, Washington and its allies have persistently pursued a policy—howsoever inept and ill-conceived—that prioritized Afghanistan. Unable to forge a tandem policy to manage the twinned threats inhering in and from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the international community had a semblance of an Afghanistan strategy while never formulating a Pakistan strategy at all. A simple perusal of the March 2009 White House paper, titled “New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan,” belies the ruse of a policy for Pakistan.

China's Militant Nationalism

April 29, 2013

Last April, China's ships surrounded Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. By July, the Chinese had erected a barrier to the reef's entrance, denying access to all but their own vessels. The swift action was taken despite mutual promises by Beijing and Manila to leave the area, which up until then had been controlled by the Philippines. Chinese state media gloated over the deception.

After gobbling up Scarborough, Chinese vessels and aircraft stepped up their intrusion into Japanese territorial waters and airspace around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, in an effort to wrest them from Tokyo. In a display of massive force, eight Chinese ships entered the waters around the uninhabited outcroppings on the 23rd of this month. On Friday, China's Foreign Ministry said the islands were a "core interest," meaning that Beijing will not stop until it has taken control of them. Some analysts think China will try to land forces on the Senkakus soon.

Gordon Chang China

Beijing's aggression on the seas is being matched by its aggression on land. During the night of April 15, a Chinese platoon-strength force advanced 10 kilometers south of the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border between China and India in the Himalayas, and established a tented camp in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector of eastern Ladakh. In recent days, Chinese troops advanced another 10 kilometers into India, one more bold attempt to take ground from a neighboring country.

China is a belligerent state that seeks to seize territory from an arc of nations: from India in the south, to South Korea in the north. At the same time, we are hearing war talk from the Chinese capital-from civilians, such as new leader Xi Jinping, to China's senior military officers. Washington has yet to understand the fundamental challenge China's militant nationalism poses to America and to the international community.

At one time, it seemed that Beijing, for its own reasons, wanted to work with the U.S. Washington, in turn responded to Chinese overtures. Since Nixon's trip to Beijing in 1972, the U.S. "engaged" the Chinese to bring them into the international community. The concept was that our generous policies would avoid the devastation that Germany and Japan precipitated last century. The American approach proved durable, despite tumultuous change over the course of four decades, precisely because it was consistent with our conception of our global role as the ultimate guarantor of peace and stability. The policy of engagement of China was enlightened, far-sighted, and generous.

It was also a mistake. Beijing prospered because of America's engagement, and while the Chinese required help, they seemed to accept the world as it was. Now, however, they believe they no longer need others and are therefore trying to change the world for the worse. China is not only claiming territories of others but also trying to close off international waters and airspace; proliferating nuclear weapons technology to Iran; supplying equipment to North Korea's ballistic missile program; supporting rogue elements around the globe; launching cyberattacks on free societies; undermining human rights norms, and engaging in predatory trade tactics that helped tip the global economy over the edge in 2008.

China is plundering the planet’s seas—and it’s doing it 12.5 times more than it’s telling anybody

April 30, 2013

Some top-shelf shark fins. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

China might be cracking down on luxury spending in watches, cars, banquets and really foul liquor. But the market for pricey fish parts continues relatively unabated. US border officials recently busted a ring smuggling bladders of an endangered fish used for medicinal Chinese soups (here are some images of these prized bladders). The amount of bladders they seized could have sold for more than $3.6 million, said prosecutors. And there are many other smuggling rings out there.

The totoaba, which is native to the Gulf of California, can grow to six feet long and live up to 25 years. Chinese medicine prizes a tubular organ that regulates the totoabas’ buoyancy; the bladder, of sorts, is thought to help promote fertility. According to one report, a similar fish native to Chinese waters called a bahaba, which is also coveted for its bladder, has been known to fetch as much as 3 million yuan ($487,000) per fish —and there’s plenty of evidence of a thriving black market even though it’s nearly extinct and listed by the Chinese government as a “protected species” (links in Chinese).
China’s appetite for “medicinal” fish parts is driving a global market.

The delicacy that comes from shark fins is far better known than totoaba-bladder soup. And though shark fins are now synonymous with luxury—shark-fin soup can cost around $100 a pop—they too are thought to help stimulate blood flow and cure cancer, among other things. As a result of this trade, nearly 100 million sharks are killed each year, say scientists. That’s 6.4% to 7.9% of the shark population each year—which means they’re being killed faster than the rate at which they reproduce. Below are all the countries that export shark fins to Hong Kong (pdf), which imported some 10.3 million kilograms of shark fins in 2011:


Spain tops the list, followed by Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, via Pew Environment Group

Is China Carelessly Overextending Itself?

By Robert Farley
May 1, 2013 

Over the past two weeks, Indian media has reported several border incursions along the two states’ disputed Himalayan border . While the Indian government has downplayed the incidents, Indian strategic commentators have suggested that China is moving to leverage its logistical advantages in the region.

At nearly the same time, China has upped the ante with respect to the Senkaku/Diaoyus, deploying additional maritime and aerial patrols to the area and declaring the islands a “core interest” of Chinese foreign policy.

In both situations, China has a plausible case for legitimacy. In the East China Sea, China is responding to provocative statements by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe . Border issues with India remain complex, but it is not immediately obvious that China is in the wrong by pressing its territorial claims.

Nevertheless, it is not clear why China has determined to assertively pursue both of these disputes at the same time. Historically, states with wide-ranging security problems are best advised to resolve those problems one at a time, hopefully in isolation with one another. In this case, it’s not completely clear that the same people are making decisions on policy in both the Himalayas and the East China Sea; the Chinese foreign and military policy-making process is sufficiently complicated that local authorities have some influence over border policy. However, it hardly makes sense for China to antagonize both of its powerful neighbors at once, even if it is in the right in both cases.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the strategic logic of a strong India-Japan relationship. Tokyo and New Delhi have each other on speed dial, and in any case Washington is surely eager to connect the call . Some Indian commentators have already called for more robust responses, including calibrating Indian support for China’s maritime disputants in accordance to the situation on the border. Japan’s moves to negotiate its long-running border disputes with Russia put the Chinese problem into stark relief. Whether or not Japan and Russia manage to finally secure a peace treaty, the effort indicates that Tokyo takes seriously the need to make its international crises manageable.

China is one of a very few countries for which “regional security” entails managing conflicts in widely dispersed parts of the globe. While a Japan-India axis may form absent any direct Chinese provocation, Beijing is best advised to ensure that efforts to win local disputes don’t end up creating global problems. 

China struggles to tap its shale gas


By Steven Mufson, Published: May 1

BEIJING — In a remote corner of Sichuan with lush, terraced hillsides, oil exploration teams have been scaling cliffs to lay seismic charges and struggling to move heavy equipment along winding mountain roads.

That is where China hopes to find vast stores of natural gas trapped in shale rock. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated that China’s technically recoverable shale gas resources could be 50 percent bigger than those in the United States, where shale has transformed the energy sector.

That has sparked hopes that unlocking those resources could help meet China’s relentlessly growing energy demand and ease its reliance on heavily polluting coal-fired power plants.

But progress on China’s shale frontier has been slow. About 60 shale exploration wells have been drilled over the past two years, according to the consulting firm IHS CERA, about as many as are drilled in North Dakota every 10 days. And there has been no Chinese shale production.

China’s shale gas deposits may be large, but they are remote, and in most places, there is not enough water to provide for the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technique used to create cracks that unlock gas trapped in the rock.

‘Above-the-ground factors’

More important, oil experts say, burrowing through China’s regulatory layers is no small feat. In the United States, independent oil companies bought mineral rights owned by private individuals, then pushed ahead with drilling and production. In China, lumbering state companies dominate the landscape, and mineral rights are owned by the state — although which state bureaucracy is in charge of regulation has been a matter of dispute.

“It’s not about the resource,” said an executive from one international oil company that has considered investing here, speaking on the condition of anonymity to preserve relationships with the Chinese government. “It’s about the above-the-ground factors.” An executive from another international oil company, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, called the Chinese National Energy Administration’s goal of producing 230 billion cubic feet of shale gas a year by 2015 and 3.5 trillion cubic feet a year by 2020 “absolute fantasy.”

“There's a lot of fantasy right now about the speed at which shale in China will scale. Almost none of the factors that allowed for ready expansion of shale in the U.S. are present in China — except, perhaps, the geology,” David Victor, director of the University of California at San Diego’s international law and regulation program, said in an e-mail. “It is the ‘above ground’ factors that matter often much more than geological factors below ground.”

China has never been a major natural gas producer or consumer. Natural gas provides just 4 percent of China’s total energy, compared with more than 25 percent in the United States according to the Energy Information Administration.

Much of that gas is supplied to major cities such as Beijing, where it helps ease pollution by burning more cleanly than coal. With rapid urbanization expected to last another decade or more, demand for natural gas is heading higher.

An acne which can disfigure the face

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 

The Line of Actual Control is really a China-dictated notion. The two LACs in the region are widely believed to represent where Chinese troops advanced first in 1960, and later, the line to which they withdrew post-1962

It is the 16th day with no signs that the 19-km deep Chinese intrusion into the Debsang Plateau of Eastern Ladakh will be vacated anytime soon. This is the first time that the Chinese have penetrated in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector, just 30 km away from the refurbished advanced landing ground and established a tented camp which is stocked to support the incursion force for a couple of months. Couched in smart words, Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid said the Chinese are where “we don’t want them to be, but we don’t have to lose sleep over it.” Union Minister for Defence AK Antony mumbled something that was deciphered as: “We are taking all necessary precautions.” A full two weeks after the event, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh joined in: “We do not want to accentuate the situation…we do believe that it is possible to resolve this localised problem”, and added, “I think talks are going on”.

If after 14 days the Prime Minister of India ‘thinks’ talks are going on and that he has a plan, so be it. Because the rest of India is quite confused and amazed at the brazenness of Chinese behaviour. Union Minister for Home Affairs Sushil Kumar Shinde became an accomplice to Chinese claims when he said the area was ‘no man’s land’. But what took the cake was Mr Khurshid’s comparison of the intrusion to an acne — apply an ointment and it will disappear. Both inside and outside Parliament, the principal Opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Samajwadi Party have been urging Mr Khurshid to call off his ill-timed trip to Beijing on May 9 to work out the details for new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s subsequent visit to India unless the People’s Liberation Army withdrew by then.

By all accounts, the joint mechanism for boundary issues, the latest CBM, has still not been activated. Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, Gautam Bambawale is likely to travel to Beijing to try and kick-start the joint mechanism. As in the past, it is invariably India and its leaders that are reacting to the Chinese misdemeanour in the face of countless CBMs and tranquility treaties, which in the main, are China-dictated.

On the Chinese side, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying has been doing the talking — from ‘China has not crossed LAC’ to ‘India and China had the capacity and wisdom to defuse the stand-off’ to ‘the email acknowledging Prime Minister Singh’s statement’, and it is rounded off with 200 words of inanities. The Chinese have created a situation which they say they are willing to help resolve, but on their terms. Before this transgression is vacated the new Chinese leadership will have tested to what extent India can be pushed.

China: Contextualising the Anti-Access Area-Denial Strategy

Teshu Singh
Research Officer, CRP 

The Eighteenth Party Congress Work Report has, for the first time, defined China as a “maritime power” that will “firmly uphold its maritime rights and interests.” The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is embarking on a massive modernization program and transition to a blue-water naval power. Its objective is to become a new world class Pacific power in the twenty-first century. Perhaps PLAN is looking for an expansive role in the Indo-Pacific maritime space. Apparently, the Indo-Pacific Sea lanes will be pertinent for China to secure its energy resources moving east. 

Notably, China is building the Anti Access Area Denial strategy (A2AD) to counter the US power projection into the Western Pacific and the process has intensified with the US ‘pivot’ to Asia. The article contextualises the A2AD vis-a-vis China’s military modernisation. Further, the article delves into the application of strategy to the Indian Ocean Region. 

Context for the Anti-Access Area-Denial Strategy

The term can be understood in the following way: whilst a state cannot defeat the US in a conventional conflict, it can invest in other alternatives that restrict the ability of the US to deploy its advantages. China is using this concept to rationalise its increasing defence acquisitions and port facilities in the Indian Ocean Region. Conversely, it is not a war winning capability; the US still retains maritime superiority. It is not a recent strategy either. Indeed, its genesis can be traced back to post Cold War era; during the 1991 Gulf war and the 2003 Afghanistan war. The US was successful because of its ability to deploy forces in the region easily.

This strategy has since come into the limelight as China and other nations are deploying diverse weapon systems intended to counter the capability of a technological advanced power to gain access to a conflict zone or contested area during times of hostility.

Tools for an Anti-Access Area-Denial Strategy

China’s military modernisation is focussed on increasing its ability to engage in Anti Access Area Denial. Chinese anti-access capacity includes a large ballistic missile force intended to hit targets, such as air bases and naval facilities. Chinese area denial capabilities consist of advanced counter-maritime and counter-air systems. Further, it possesses the short and medium range ballistic missile (SRBM/MRBM). China’s counter-maritime capabilities include an array of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missile (ASBM/ASCM) that can be launched from the air, land and sea. The submarine fleet is yet another credible A2AD threat. The recent acquisition of China Dong Feng 21 D (carrier killer); the world’s most developed anti-ship missile further adds to the country’s increasing military capabilities. The Second Artillery Corps, considered to be the repository of China’s nuclear deterrent, is also speculated to have been delegated the task of Anti Area Access Denial strategy. It is capable of striking against ship and shore targets with conventionally armed missiles. 

Thus China has the capability to strike throughout the SCS and the Bay of Bengal. But the use of weapons means waging war and currently it does not want to antagonise the US. Therefore to safeguard its energy interests, China is building port facilities in South Asia especially in the Indian Ocean Region.

Anti-Access Area-Denial Strategy and the Indian Ocean Region

China’s goal is to acquire energy without relying much on any single source, which could be disrupted by an unexpected bilateral crisis. Thus energy security has compelled Beijing to cast anxious eyes on the sea lines of communication (SLOC). It is mitigating the process of securing SLOC also through the ‘Access Denial strategy’. It is not a South Asian power, but has been seeking to build up for itself a strong South Asian presence which could cater to its strategic needs in the long term. It is fostering good neighbourly relations with countries and has built deep-water ports in Pakistan (Gwadar), Sri Lanka (Hambantota), Myanmar (Sittwe) and Bangladesh (Chittagong) because it recognises that four fifths of its oil imports pass through the 1100 kilometre long Strait of Malacca which is a complete chokepoint.

Operational Part

With the current acquisitions China can very well operate in the Western Pacific theatre. It can have an effect on the balance of power in the SCS and the Western Pacific through its A2AD strategy. More significantly, during times of hostility, these infrastructural facilities in the Indian Ocean Region will place China in an advantageous position for the operation of its A2AD in the Indo-Pacific maritime space. Thus the overall advantage of the A2AD strategy during operational warfare is the time factor. Nevertheless, the entire development in the region has led to subtle geopolitical contestations in the region.

Beyond the Last War: Balancing Ground Forces and Future Challenges Risk in USCENTCOM and USPACOM

Apr 30, 2013


By Nathan FreierStephanie Sanok, Jacquelyn Guy, Curtis Buzzard, Sam Eaton , and Megan Loney

A storm is brewing inside the Pentagon on the future demands for ground forces. The Defense Department’s internal challenges, from budget cuts, sequestration, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are stifling deliberate consideration of where, how, and under what circumstances senior policymakers may employ significant U.S. ground forces (i.e., Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations) abroad. Resources follow priorities; currently, future ground force capabilities are not high on the list.

As policymakers look to embrace leaner, stand-off approaches to future conflicts, the CSIS study, Beyond the Last War: Balancing Ground Forces and Future Challenges Risk in USCENTCOM and USPACOM, peers into an uncertain national security future to identify the most likely, most dangerous, and most disruptive archetypal ground force requirements. Given regional trends and U.S. interests, the report identifies illustrative ground force pacing demands and qualitatively assesses capabilities to meet these demands over the next two decades.

The report couldn’t be timelier. As DoD concludes its Strategic Choices Management Review and heads into the next Quadrennial Defense Review, it faces a range of complex security challenges whose potential ground force implications are both manifest and diverse.

Q1: What does the future ground force operating environment look like?

A1: The future operating environment will commonly be disordered. U.S. adversaries will use asymmetric capabilities and methods. Given finite forces, expansive theaters of operation, and, in many cases, viral instability, future ground operations will also tend to be more distributed and less decisive.

No single current events-snapshot can adequately illustrate potential demands. However, the last few months have been instructive. Since the beginning of the year, a disruptive domestic terrorist attack occurred with roots in foreign extremism. Civil conflict in Syria entered a new, darker chapter with the alleged use of chemical weapons. Iraq’s fragile political arrangement may collapse into renewed civil war. Uncertainty about the stability of two acknowledged nuclear powers—Pakistan and North Korea—lingers. At the same time, North Korea demonstrates both new military capability and increased bellicosity.

In the Asia-Pacific region, territorial disputes are increasingly militarized, raising the prospect for sudden conflict escalation among important states. Asia also faces the constant threat of natural disaster and potential public health emergencies. Uncertainty colors the security backdrop of the greater Middle East as well, given that region’s unpredictable political transformations and attendant transnational instability. Throughout, a recalcitrant Iran threatens to foment, exploit, or “free-ride” on the region’s endemic challenges.

These scenarios all have unique ground force implications. Demands could range from establishing security of at-risk populations, geography, infrastructure, and dangerous weapons to potential future confrontations with fractured adversary military forces. Contrary to an emerging DoD consensus that focuses on combating unfavorable regional order wrought by adversary states, Beyond the Last War concludes that disorder marked by failures of responsible authority present equally troublesome future prospects. Indeed, Beyond the Last War argues that U.S. ground forces are more likely to respond to instances of foreign disorder, catastrophe, and third-party conflict than they are to overt cross-border military aggression.

Q2: How should U.S. ground forces prepare to meet the environment’s new challenges?

A2: Beyond the Last War suggests that five pacing archetypes capture future large-scale ground force demands in USCENTCOM and USPACOM: humanitarian response, distributed security, enable &
support actions, peace operations, and limited conventional campaigns. In the context of the report, “large-scale” includes force commitments exceeding in size only those of an Army division, the ground combat element of a Marine Expeditionary Force, or an equivalent combination of Army, Marine, and special operations forces. Of the two principal “warfighting” demands—distributed security and limited conventional campaigns—the former is more likely and thus an ideal benchmark for future force optimization.