7 May 2013

The Case for Slow War *

History shows that wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am rarely works out for the best.


Military maxims often emphasize the need to seize fleeting opportunities swiftly and maintain momentum, but there can also be great value in studied slowness. In major military campaigns, however, the primary focus has almost always been and remains aimed at having a capacity for extremely fast-paced maneuvers, like the armored "thunder run" to Baghdad 10 years ago -- itself a distant echo of Hitler's blitzkrieg. Yet, in this case, the effects of the speedy advance soon faded in the face of a nettlesome Iraqi insurgency that was only countered, after years of hard going, by the patient, thoughtful creation of a network of small outposts and an information strategy designed to convince insurgents to switch sides. In many respects, the "outpost and outreach" approach that turned the tide in Iraq resembled the most effective aspects of some British counterinsurgent campaigns of the past half-century -- most notably in Northern Ireland, where an outpost network (with some positions sited atop high-rise buildings) along with skillful negotiations brought a peaceful, equitable end to the decades-long "Troubles."

challenge posed by many of Britain's irregular conflicts in the modern era, it is notable that a tendency to conduct conventional campaigns at a moderate tempo has been a consistent feature of British strategic culture for centuries. Perhaps the most deliberate, unhurried campaigner of them all was Jeffrey Amherst -- for whom the American college is named -- who brought an end to the French empire in North America with his three-pronged march on Montreal in 1760. Yes, James Wolfe had won the battle for Quebec the previous year, but that hardly ended the war. The odds were still fairly even when Amherst set out and, as historian Lynn Montross put it in his classic book, War Through the Ages, "an offensive distinguished more for precision than thrills...laid the cornerstone of the world's greatest empire since the fall of Rome."

And when, half a century later, this great empire found itself engaged against swift-moving French forces in Iberia -- early on led in the field by Napoleon, later by some of his best marshals -- the answer once again was to operate with great deliberation, at a pace that was, most of the time, achingly slow. This time, it was the Duke of Wellington who operated with the same kind of stately precision that had been Amherst's hallmark. Wellington's special talent was to march his army to a threatening position that forced a French response, then stand on the tactical defensive so as to decimate the attackers. He won victory after victory in this way, even occasionally following up his successes with retreats. The French, shackled to their doctrine of mounting rapid pursuits, exhausted themselves and were harried by Spanish partisans. Wellington followed this pattern for a few years, eventually going over to a sustained, war-winning offensive that took him all the way across Spain and into France.

Fast-forward 125 years, and history repeats itself. The most famous British soldier of World War II was Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, a man almost never to be hurried. His forte was the set-piece battle in which, after much lengthy preparation, he regularly inflicted far greater damage on enemy forces than were suffered by his own troops. Much fun was made of him in the great war film, Patton, but the fact remains that he used his meticulous methods to rout one of the very best German generals, Erwin Rommel, at El Alamein in North Africa, then inflicted mortal damage a second time against forces "the Desert Fox" led in Normandy. Montgomery's only stumble came as his troops neared Germany, when he, uncharacteristically, drafted a bold, swift plan to use airborne troops and an armored blitz to seize a series of bridges leading to and over the Rhine. He lost this "bridge too far" battle, then reverted to his slow, steady style -- which was emulated by Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight Eisenhower -- and the war was won. More slowly, but also more surely.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given America's strategic culture, this "English patience" at war got only brief traction with the U.S. military. Just five years after the end of World War II, Gen. Douglas MacArthur tried to win a quick knockout on the Korean Peninsula with a bold amphibious left hook followed by rapid armored advances. He ended up being swamped by a Chinese counteroffensive, and the war ground on to an indecisive truce in 1953. A few years later, when nuclear weapons were becoming more plentiful, a so-called New Look -- championed by then-President Eisenhower -- enticed the Army to think in terms of swift victory with fast-moving tanks backed by atom bombs. The idea collapsed of its own weight, as Gen. Maxwell Taylor predicted it would in his critique, The Uncertain Trumpet -- when the Russians made it known that they could irradiate battlefields, too. And when the helicopter came into its own the following decade, the big idea of the day was to use it to "vertically envelop" Vietnamese insurgents from the air -- the brainchild of Gen. William Westmoreland, what historian Michael Maclear called "Westy's way of war." Needless to say, thousands of Bell-Hueys didn't garner a swift victory; indeed, thousands were shot down. U.S. leaders grew weary of the long slog that ensued and simply abandoned the war.

It is this sort of aversion to protracted conflicts that bedevils American military strategy today. It is a turn of mind clearly seen in the willingness to leave Iraq to its fate, despite the massive investment in blood and treasure made there. Antipathy toward long, slow warfighting has also put the pressure on to leave Afghanistan. But in this case, it seems that at least some senior military leaders like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno see the virtue of "slow persistence," which is manifesting itself in the call to keep a small, highly-skilled force in place for an indefinite period.

Thus the plan for the emerging Afghan endgame emanating from the White House, which calls for about 10,000 troops to remain indefinitely, appears a bit like the patient approach the British have employed in Northern Ireland. As to Britain's own experience in Afghanistan, it should be noted that Englishmen fought long and hard there during the 19th century, eventually reversing the effects of terrible early defeats with deliberate, ever more skillful tactics. A bit of this sort of English patience would go a long way today, in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the long twilight struggle now unfolding around the world against networks affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda.

Proceeding slowly, mind you, is not always preferable to rapid, decisive operations -- but history shows that this method's overall track record is far better than that of flashy, fast-paced blitzkriegs. This should be kept in mind as the international community considers deeper involvement in the Syrian civil war. We live in a new age of conflict, where technology and firepower allow for quick, stealthy, and relatively bloodless incursions. But, likewise, our adversaries expect and are prepared to counter rapid, decisive operations, perhaps even to "pull a Wellington" of their own, attacking briefly, then retreating time and again. Defeating them will require a willingness and an ability to fight slowly, skillfully, and for the duration.

Louisa May Alcott may have said it best when she noted that, to achieve a worthy goal, "it takes a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together before some of us even get our feet set in the right way."

Amendments to DPP-2011: An Analytical Overview

May 6, 2013

Executive Summary

On April 20th, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) of the Ministry of Defence announced 15 major amendments to the defence procurement and production policies, with the hope to incentivise indigenous defence manufacturing while promoting transparency and efficiency in the procurement process. Among others, amendments have been brought in to articulate, for the first time, the order of priority of various procurement categories; bring out a public version of the armed forces’ latest long-term plan; abolish the power of Department of Defence Production (DDP) to nominate its production agencies for receiving maintenance technology; expedite projects worth Rs 1200 billion under ‘Make’ and ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ categories; define defence items, and indigenous content of home-grown products; and provide fiscal and financial measures to incentive small and medium enterprises (SMEs) engaged in defence manufacturing. At the same time, changes have also been made in the process leading to and post grant of Acceptance of Necessity (AoN), and in the powers enjoyed by the defence minster and the service chiefs.

This Issue Brief provides an analytical overview of the amendments announced by the DAC. It observes that while some of the amendments are genuine reform measures and, if pursued to their logical conclusion, are likely to achieve the intended objectives, some others are mere cosmetic changes. In particular, the decisions to expedite ‘Make’ and ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ projects, create a level playing field for the private sector, and provide fiscal and financial measures for SMEs - are likely to benefits India’s defence industrialisation process. On the flip side, the decision to prioritise various procurement categories without any change in existing institutional set up may not induce more contracts for the domestic industry. Similarly, freezing of tender conditions before the AoN and reducing the latter’s validity may not necessarily expedite procurement, as some of the root causes of procurement delays are still remain unaddressed.


On April 20, 2013, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the highest decision making body of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), gave its thumb of approval to 15 major amendments to the defence procurement and production policies. The amendments, the highlights of which were announced in the form of a press release, will be formally included in the revised Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), which is expected to be announced shortly. Pending the finer details in the amended DPP, the changes suggested in the press release seek to strengthen India’s defence manufacturing base while achieving efficiency and transparency in the procurement process. This Issue Brief provides an analytical overview of the latest changes brought out in the MoD’s April 20th Press Release.

Changes to DPP-2011: Analytical Overview

Prioritisation of Procurement Categories

The first major change brought in through the recent amendment is the priority accorded to procurement categories the number of which has increased over the years to count four broad categories in the latest Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP): 1. ‘Buy’ (which is further subdivided into ‘Buy (Indian)’ and ‘Buy Global)’, 2. ‘Buy and Make with Transfer of Technology (ToT)’, 3. ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’, and 4. ‘Make’ (see Table for various aspects of India’s defence procurement categories). Setting the priority for the first time, the DAC has given an order of preference with the first priority being accorded to ‘Buy (Indian)’, followed by ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’, ‘Make’, ‘Buy and Make with (ToT)’, and lastly ‘Buy (Global)’. The inherent rationale behind according the priority is to compel the procurement authorities to exhaust all the higher preferred options for an indigenous solution, before resorting to procurement from foreign sources, which not only affects Indian self-reliance drive but could lead to some unpleasant situation for the government as is seen from the recent controversy over the Agusta Westland deal.

The biggest message behind the prioritised list is however the subtle shift of onus onto the armed forces, who, as the first movers or sponsors of procurement proposals, are now required not to look at foreign-source procurement / lower preferred category as a ‘default option’. This is a marked departure from the previous practice, where the onus for any change of category into a higher one was on other stakeholders. To ensure that the order of preference is followed while processing a procurement proposal, the amendment requires the sponsors of a procurement proposal to mention the “reasons for excluding the higher preferred category/categories.” In some way, the amendment tacitly recognises hitherto an unreported gap in the existing procurement set up that sometimes tend to overlook an indigenous offer for a foreign made product.

But the larger question is whether a mere extra step by way of compelling the authorities to articulate the reasons of excluding higher preferred category/categories would significantly pave the way for larger number of contracts for domestic industry, which would in turn lead to higher self-reliance. The answer to the above question is ironically ‘no’. A deeper reading of the DPP’s provisions would reveal that the mere extra step that the recent amendment talks of is really a cosmetic change and does not really upset the existing practice. In the present scheme of things, while a procurement proposal is processed it goes through a number of agencies for on-file comments before a decision in favour of a particular category is taken in a meeting sponsored by the Head Quarters Integrated Defence staff (HQ IDS) and attended by various stakeholders including the officials from the armed forces, the Department of Defence Production (DDP), Department of Defence (Finance), and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The same reasons of why a particular category is preferred can always be used to justify why a higher category is ignored. In other words, by compelling authorities to write down the reasons for exclusion does not amount to a big change the decision making in favour of higher preferred category or categories.


Rana Divyank Chaudhary
Research Intern, CRP, IPCS 

Beijing's recent manoeuvres on its land borders with India reveal a deeper malaise in the heart of Chinese decision-making. The more China imposes the ‘hide your strength-bide your time' maxim on itself, the more anxious it grows to assert its clout before an opportunity is gone. Veteran strategist Edward Luttwak has famously pitted this modus operandi against what he calls the ‘logic of strategy' and concluded that China's rise will hobble grievously in the long term on account of antagonising powerful neighbours through cultivating fear and eliciting waves of strategic counterattacks.

Is China bent on foregoing the potential of a meaningful partnership with India, a rising yet status-quo power, in return for snatching strips of land on the shared frontiers? What does this behaviour imply for the prospects of a coherent Chinese grand strategy for the jigsaw of regions which surround it, carrying immense political and ‘eco-strategic' weight in the international system?

Missing the forest for the trees

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) setting up a camp across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, on territory over which India claims sovereignty, completely threw off New Delhi. The government of India has in the recent years been increasingly optimistic about relations with China. India's National Security Advisor and the Ambassador to Beijing are both known to be sophisticated China hands, instrumental in pushing forth the case for better institutionalised dispute management and greater cooperation.

But even as these initiatives take course and mature, at precisely a juncture when high level political leadership is to visit each other's capitals, things seem to be going horribly awry. Flag meetings between the army commanders from both sides have come to naught as China has demanded freezing of certain Indian border construction projects and has been non-committal on withdrawing or even accepting responsibility for the alleged transgression. If this is not a radically innovative posture, the usual Chinese rationale is to stage an incident and stall till the counterpart is ‘persuaded’ to come to the negotiating table.

It should go without saying that the act of intruding and squatting on claims which have remained dormant for over forty years is an attempt to unacceptably raise the stakes for India and subsequently propose ‘generous' and ‘agreeable' terms so that New Delhi can save face. However, it is going to end up exactly the way the border incident in 1962 did. Should India respond to the impasse by either military action or strong diplomacy with accompanying economic riders, all prospects of a resolution would stand quashed for years if not decades to come. Furthermore, since neither side has planned for a full-blown war, the odds of clinching a limited exchange are in India's favour this time around. If it imposes quarantine on the PLA encampment while keeping diplomatic channels open, the onus of response will fall on China. There should not be a doubt that wars are won before they begin and therefore it is critical to show one's resolve to win if one wishes to broker peace without fighting.

The Indian political leadership is currently running a tight ship and the economic morale is suffering from prevailing slow rates of growth. It might well be turned into an opportunity for rallying popular opinion around re-assertive diplomacy to refuse compromise till the Chinese troops are pulled back from this specific deployment. For sure, the visit of the Indian minister of external affairs to Beijing is impossible without hurtling the present state of surprise and confusion towards greater humiliation. On the other hand, China’s economic opulence is permitting a social behaviour which riles up historical anger and discontent and pushes for outwardly expressing it causing foreign policy aberrations. What China stands to turn against itself completely and perhaps irreversibly, is the willingness of India to remain committed to ‘tranquility’ and cooperation in the face of unresolved issues and simmering tensions.

White Papers, Red Flags

Irrespective of how the present scenario plays out, the hyperactive and uncoordinated cogs in Chinese government, bureaucracy, and military command structure would come to haunt time and again. The government in Beijing pledging ignorance of the border incursion and now denying that it is an incursion harks back to the fairly routine incidents in the East and South China Seas. With the local maritime surveillance patrols and military regions said to be acting without prior sanction from political bosses and constantly asking for more muscle, there is little choice left but to go with the nationalist sentiment thus manufactured in varying degrees.

Border breach sets up Indian turf war

Army, home vie for ITBP

A soldier guards the Srinagar-Leh highway in Zojila. The pass connects Kashmir with the Ladakh region. File picture

New Delhi, May 6: The Chinese army exploited “glaring deficiencies” in the pattern of deployment by Indian forces in eastern Ladakh to get inside Indian territory and set up a camp before dismantling it yesterday, according to a post-mortem in the defence establishment.

The turf war between the army — which wants control of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) on the China frontier — and the home ministry is now set to escalate after the Raki Nala incident. The cabinet committee on security (CCS), headed by the Prime Minister, is to decide on the subject.

The deficiencies were in an area that was the primary responsibility of one of two ITBP battalions in sub-sector north (SSN), as the Daulat Beg Oldi region is known in military parlance. The ITBP post at Burstse or Bush Area was the closest to Raki Nala. The nearest army post was at Track Junction.

The defence ministry has written to the national security adviser and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on the matter. Before the Chinese “incursion”, defence minister A.K. Antony too had written to the PMO in February asking for the two ITBP battalions to be placed under the army’s 14 Corps.

The subject has now been referred to a special policy group under the CCS. The matter had been pending with successive governments since a group of ministers formed after the Kargil war (1999) had recommended in 2001 that the army should be in charge of all unsettled borders.

A special defence and security committee headed by Naresh Chandra that submitted its recommendations last year too had proposed that the army be given charge of the entire frontier with China. The CCS is tentatively scheduled to decide on the matter by August/September.

The army has pointed out that apart from the ITBP, forces in eastern Ladakh comprise armoured, mechanised infantry and mountain infantry units — elements that will be the mainstay in a confrontational situation. All these units are under the army.

Besides, the main assets for surveillance — aerial platforms like pilot-less aircraft — too are with the military. The ITBP was neither equipped nor trained for the role, the defence ministry has argued.

PTI reported from Beijing today that China had tacitly admitted the withdrawal of its troops and said the “stand-off incident” with India had been resolved through “fruitful consultations”, keeping the larger interests of bilateral relations in mind.

A source in the Indian defence establishment said the national security adviser and the PMO had been told in several notes that although the ITBP, which is under the home ministry, is notionally in charge of the China frontier, in the Ladakh sector the army’s formations were ahead of the central paramilitary force.

The army has brigade headquarters in Chusul and Hanle, apart from the 102 Siachen Brigade in Ladakh. But the battalion headquarters of the ITBP’s two units are well behind in Leh. Besides, the ITBP was not conditioned for a “tripwire” — meaning a situation that could rapidly degenerate into an escalatory skirmish.

But the home ministry has staunchly opposed this and said the ITBP should remain in charge under the “one-border-one-force” principle. Also, it has argued, this is in tune with the international norm of having central police forces on the border. The Chinese border guard too, it has pointed out, is a police force.

Milquetoast Doctrine

May 05, 2013

In its essence, the craft of politics is about winning space for manoeuvre. Sometimes the space for manoeuvre arises organically. For instance, a war-time leader who leads his country to a military victory has the political capital to then negotiate a lasting peace. Sometimes the space for manoeuvre is manufactured by artifice. If the finance minister wants to raise taxes by 10 per cent, he announces a hike of 15 per cent and then — following public protests — agrees to a concession.

These are crude examples but realistic ones, seen in everyday life across political cultures and democracies. Given this, it is worth analysing the response of the Indian government and, particularly, Salman Khurshid, the minister of external affairs, to the Chinese incursions in Ladakh. India was taken by surprise by the movement of Chinese troops 19 km into Indian territory — or territory in the control of India as per the Line of Actual Control (LoAC). As it assessed the situation, the UPA government had (or should have had) two motivations.

The first was to prevent an undue escalation and rush headlong into an armed conflict. The second was to assuage public opinion. It would stand to reason — any textbook political practitioner would recommend this — that Indian ministers would begin with making loud, angry noises. They would assure the people that the interests of India and its territory would be safeguarded and the Chinese would not be allowed to get away. There would be consequences, including cancellation of visits and the odd bilateral trade commission talks or perhaps even a cultural show, if China did not move back 19 km.

What would this achieve? It would calm public opinion to some degree and, much more important, win the government space and time to embark on a well-thought-out rather than impulsive course. Do recall that as foreign minister in 2008, Pranab Mukherjee was making harsh and cutting remarks against Pakistan, and practically threatening it, every day after the 26/11 attacks. This is not to compare the Chinese incursions to the Mumbai terror assault — the two are very different transgressions. It is merely to point out that Mr Mukherjee recognised the public wanted its government to “do something”. Since war was not feasible, he did the next best thing and articulated Indian impatience and anger.

How did Mr Khurshid react to the China crisis? At the commencement, both he and his Prime Minister sought to describe it as a “localised” problem and were at pains to sequester it from the larger India-China equation. Mr Khurshid stressed India would not jeopardise other aspects of the Beijing-New Delhi relationship by focusing on the Ladakh incursion, which he rather bizarrely described as “acne”. Next he insisted he was “not here to satisfy people’s jingoism”. Finally, of course, he came up with the astounding formulation that India was like Mohammed Ali and its foreign policy borrowed from the great boxer’s “rope-a-dope” tactics, which involved tiring an opponent before knocking him out.

At various points in the past week, it has been unclear whether Mr Khurshid was addressing the United Nations, the St. Stephen’s College Debating Society, or reaching out to the people of India. It would appear he has learnt nothing from experience. In January 2013, when the bodies of two Indian soldiers, beheaded by Pakistani troops, came home, Mr Khurshid’s first statement was to insist he wouldn’t be “pressurised by wild calls for revenge”. In the next few days, his government swung to a ridiculous extreme and threw out the Pakistani women’s hockey team.

Sino-Indian Relationship: New Paradigm

India has trapped itself into an anti-Chinese matrix set in place by the United States. This has led to a situation where the military is increasing its say in foreign and domestic policy and pushing aggressive postures on to the civilian government. Unless India abandons its aspirations to great power status and pursues a foreign policy which builds on Asian strengths and cooperation, it will continue to become cannon-fodder for Western strategic aims.

Atul Bhardwaj (atul.beret@gmail.com) is a research scholar at the School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi. He blogs at http://purpleberets.blogspot.in/

This article was commissioned before the news of the withdrawal of Chinese troops from the Daulatabagh Oldie sector was announced.

The second decade of the 21st century offers an opportune moment to reassert Asian independence. The declining dollar has restricted the American promethean spirit and praetorian urges. There is space available to recast Asian relations away from the usual balance of power concept. However, an Asia, free of western hegemony remains a pipedream.

China is “the country driving the United States' military and diplomatic "pivot" to Asia.”1The two major economies, India and Japan feel threatened by Chinese growth and are convinced that America as an “offshore balancer” is a must for security in the region. The Indians and Japanese have entered into a tri-lateral dialogue to assist Washington's encirclement strategy of China. The third round of dialogue was held in New Delhi in November 2012.2Commenting on the Chinese white paper titled The Diversified Employment of China's Armed Forces, the Director General of IDSA, Arvind Gupta, reiterates India’s tilt by stating, “Tensions between China and the United States and between China and Japan can be expected to increase. Both Japan and the United States are India’s strategic partners. 3

The western strategy gurus, advise both India and Japan to jettison their military-lethargy and become “great” and “normal” powers respectively.4 The result is that both the countries are now doing extensive studies on the “use of force” in international relations. Both, New Delhi and Tokyo have active territorial disputes with China and the two are building their military capabilities with the Chinese threat in mind.

The Sour Spring

Incidentally, this year in the third week of April, when India and China were embroiled in a near-military confrontation on their unsettled border in Ladhak, Japan too was engaged in sea-skirmishes in the Diaoyus islands in the East China Sea.

On the night of 15 April, a Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) platoon consisting of 50 soldiers came about 19 kms inside the Indian claimed territory at Burthe in Daulatabagh Oldie (DBO) sector. This intrusion is considered to be different because for the first time, instead of doing an “about-turn” after walking up to a point, the PLA patrol halted and pitched tents. India set up its own camp just 500 meters away. Putting the entire blame on China for the escalation, Defence Minister AK Antony said that the situation in eastern Ladakh is “not one of our creation.”5

On 23 April the Chinese sent about eight naval ships around Diaoyus islands to monitor the Japanese activity in the area. Their aggressive intent was played up by the media, while the Japanese act of provocation was hardly highlighted. On 21 April Japan’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, visited the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo. The shrine is believed to house the spirits of most dreaded Japanese war criminals. The Chinese and the South Koreans see it as a symbol of Japanese wartime atrocities. According to a bi-lateral norm between Beijing and Tokyo, Japanese high ranking government ministers are expected to refrain from visiting the shrine, in order to keep the relationship between the two countries on an even keel. However, by digressing from the norm, the Japanese announced their intent to upset the applecart.6

India-China Relations: A New Paradigm

R N Das

IDSA Monograph Series No. 19

India-China relations may not be ideal in the narrative of a bilateral relationship between the countries. But given the complexity of the engagement and interaction between the two countries and taking into account the divergent political systems, the unresolved territorial issues, compulsions of geo-politics, the quest for resources and markets, and aspirations of the two countries for global influence and power, the relations between the two countries are certainly a matter of reassurance and optimism. In spite of the occasional hiccups, the two countries have shown a certain degree of resilience and have learnt to live together.

About the Author

Dr Rup Narayan Das is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), on deputation from the Lok Sabha Secretariat, where he is Director in the Research Division. He holds a Ph.D from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Incredibly shrinking India

Under UPA-II, India's world stature has diminished

It appeared, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, that India had a seat at the global high table for the asking. It was a valued member of the G20, which had apparently taken on an especially powerful role in response to the crisis. The economy appeared resilient, protected from the worst effects of the crisis, and seemed poised to keep producing high growth numbers even as the rest of the world slowed. The civil nuclear agreement with the United States had, in effect, welcomed India into the small group of nuclear-armed nations. It was on its way to better relations with its smaller neighbours - and even with Pakistan, the Indian government's admirable restraint after 26/11 won it points.

Recent events have shown how much of that has changed. The manner in which Pakistan defied Indian public and governmental opinion about Sarabjit Singh, the man who was convicted of spying by the Pakistan supreme court and murdered in prison last week, was just the latest indication of how little India's stature has in fact grown. China's People's Liberation Army, too, felt emboldened enough to try to set up advance camps in an area of the Line of Actual Control that has traditionally seen no permanent military camps. Any "Chindia" bonhomie of the past decade was punctured by one platoon of 55 Chinese troopers. China's other maritime and land neighbours, worried about the People's Republic's aggressiveness, find it tough to look to a confused, weakened and slowing India for leadership - but, as the reported Chinese retreat following the Japanese deputy prime minister's strong speech in Delhi and Manmohan Singh's decision to extend the length of his coming trip to Japan shows, the only hope of containing Chinese aggressiveness is through strong alliances. Meanwhile, the United States has its most anti-Indian state department under John Kerry in over a decade, and India's stakes in a peaceful Afghanistan after the withdrawal in 2014 are being largely ignored. Even India's smaller neighbours like Sri Lanka and the Maldives have felt no need to acquiesce to Indian national interests of late, so little does Indian power and potential impress the world these days.

While much of the blame must accrue to diplomatic mis-steps, perhaps the biggest reason why India stands diminished in the world's eyes is that any reputation it had for economic management has been comprehensively destroyed by this government. Deficits have increased while manufacturing has stalled; external vulnerability has grown while growth has collapsed - and, worst of all, international observers are forced to conclude from New Delhi's continually optimistic statements that the government has chosen to ignore the problems' seriousness. In the midst of all this, the government has also developed a reputation for corruption and impunity, which is hardly going to help the country's stature. The 10 years after 1998 saw two governments, one under the Bharatiya Janata Party and one under the Congress, raise India's global profile to levels unreached since the 1950s. But the five years since, under the second United Progressive Alliance, have seen India head firmly in the other direction. This matters to many Indians. The UPA is likely to pay heavily for this in the next election.

Hit the enemy where it hurts the most

Tuesday, 07 May 2013 

New Delhi has hidden behind the excuse that the border with the dragon is undemarcated. That is no reason for not defining its version of what the border is or should be, and fiercely protecting the frontier on that basis

A Defence Minister who cannot read a hospital register recording the date of birth of his Chief of Army Staff, can hardly be expected to read a map and discern Chinese inroads to the extent of an admitted 19 km (some say 30 km). So it was no surprise that Mr AK Antony remained near-invisible after Beijing’s latest land grab became public, though protection of our borders is his foremost duty.

A look at the map shows that the strategic Siachen Glacier is virtually all that separates China-grabbed Aksai Chin (which Jawaharlal Nehru yielded lamely) and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (which Nehru surrendered by taking the issue to the United Nations).

This suggests that all Track II diplomacy to de-militarise the glacier could have had a hidden China hand, with Beijing rather than Islamabad likely to grab the strategic heights to link up with PoK via the Shaksgam valley illegally ceded by Pakistan, and deny India access to the only terrain from which it can monitor PoK, the Karakoram Highway, and Aksai Chin.

The pincer is clearly in place. Hence, it stands to reason that Beijing’s May 5 decision to fold its tents and recall troops to pre-April 15 position is dictated only by the concern that new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang should not lose face by being made to postpone/cancel his India visit on May 20. That trip would have to be called off if public anger forced Union Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid to cancel his May 9 visit to Beijing, which he was desperate not to compromise.

Hence, the nation’s legitimate concern is to know what demands India ceded to clinch the withdrawal. Could a Minister signing Memorandums of Understanding in Tehran have seriously convinced the Chinese to retreat? Why has India withdrawn troops from its own area? Why is India hiding the specifics of concessions made; wasn’t it in the larger national interest to cancel the Khurshid-Keqiang visits, take Opposition parties into confidence, and out-stare the intruders?

China has moved methodically in the pursuit of its territorial agenda. In 1955, it built a road through Aksai Chin to connect its garrisons in Xinjiang to Tibet. Despite warnings from Intelligence Bureau director BN Mullick and others, India did not protest until 1958, and it was dismissed with contempt. In 1962, Beijing occupied Aksai Chin and enhanced its infrastructure there. Since then, it has been nibbling at Indian territory in various sectors.

Regardless of whether the danger emanates from Beijing or Islamabad, it is shameful that New Delhi devoted decades discussing the strategic Siachen Glacier at all. Hopefully, all talk on this issue will now end. Perhaps Washington, DC, apprehensive of a rampaging imperialist dragon, will stop pushing New Delhi in this regard.

Afghanistan's Troubled Waters

“To ensure food security for the ever increasing population, poverty alleviation, employment, and national security, it is necessary to develop the current irrigable land from current 1.9 million hectares to that of 5 million hectares through development of water critical infrastructure… it is essential to upgrade the traditional irrigation systems including the introduction of modern irrigation methods”

The above declaration adopted at the second ‘National Conference on Water Resources Development & Management of Afghanistan’, held in Kabul in December 2010, called on the Afghan government and its international partners to expedite investment and up gradation of the country’s water infrastructure. The seminal importance attached to utilisation of water resources as part of the reconstruction efforts can be gauged from the fact that rivers and streams provide the pre-dominant source of supply for drinking water, maintenance of eco-systems and for agriculture. Any attempt to improve the country’s health indicators as well as rehabilitation of the agricultural sector which uses bulk of the water pre-dominantly from rivers and streams; provides employment to 80 per cent of the populace and contributes to an estimated 50 per cent of the country’s licit GDP, cannot be achieved without critical up gradation and modernisation of the country’s water management infrastructure.

Given that an estimated 80 per cent of the country’s water sources originating from Hindu Kush Mountains are snow fed, seasonal fluctuations in precipitation levels have left the populace vulnerable to environmental fluctuations, subjecting them to floods and droughts. Since 2001, the Afghan government has attempted to rectify the situation by undertaking a slew of projects aimed at revitalisation of existing irrigation and hydro-electric power projects and initiate a series of new ones.

The Salma Dam being constructed on the Hari Rud River by India at a revised cost of Rs 1457 crore; Machalgo Dam on Kunar River in Paktia province; the Kama irrigation project and the Sarobi dam project are some of the major initiatives underway in this direction. These projects are expected to help realise the full potential of irrigable agricultural land in the country which has contracted by one-third over the last three decades owing to water shortages. Better management of water resources is also expected to boost per capita availability of water and enhance water storage capacity - amongst the lowest in the world - mitigating impact of floods and droughts.

However inspite of these potential positive spin offs, Afghanistan’s neighbours remain far less enthusiastic of its ambitions to assert control over its water resources. Three decades of conflict ensured much of the country’s water flowed freely into neighbouring Pakistan and Iran and the Amu Darya basin shared with the Central Asian Republics. The challenge at hand is accentuated by the fact that Afghanistan lacks any trans-national framework with its neighbours to manage its water resources. The 1973 water sharing treaty for sharing Hari Rud waters with Iran was never ratified in Afghanistan, while the CAR’s following independence too adopted a unilateral approach towards development of Amu Darya waters.

The minimal draw of water by Afghanistan in the early 20th Century and the political anarchy, which ensued in the early 1990’s rendered consultations on the issue unfeasible. However, as efforts have gotten underway since 2001 to resuscitate the economy, coupled with crippling droughts in 1999 and 2008, water resources have increasingly emerged as a source of contestation.

The issue thrown into sharp relief is the long delays and resultant cost over-runs for the Salma dam project that is expected to irrigate 75,000 hectares of land and generate 42 MW power in Chest-i-Sharif, Herat. Iran has been accused of orchestrating attacks and creating logistical hurdles for timely completion of the projects, which it is argued would reduce levels of water flow into Iran and be seen as a step to wean Afghanistan away from overt energy dependence on Iran. Furthermore, Iran and Turkmenistan have both been accused of constructing water storage facilities on Hari Rud River without consulting Afghanistan.

Pakistan shares the Kabul river basin which originates in Afghanistan and irrigates its agricultural lands. Islamabad has been expressing concern over the construction of as many as 12 dams on Kabul River, many with Indian aid. The geo-politics of the region have convinced Pakistan on its part of Indian designs to control water resources of the region flowing into Pakistan through aiding construction of dams in Afghanistan. The Afghans on their part remain firm in their belief of what they regard as malicious intentions of both their neighbours to sabotage the water infrastructure projects.

Geopolitics of Dam Design on the Indus

Vol - XLVIII No. 19, May 11, 2013

The legal geopolitics of the Baglihar and Kishenganga hydroelectric power projects, whose legitimacy under the Indus Waters Treaty has been contested by Pakistan, demonstrates the political nature of technology and the governance of technology need not remain out-of-bounds for non-engineers. In attempting an understanding, this article seeks to step outside the conventional nationalist mode of geopolitical analysis.

Majed Akhter (majed.akhter@gmail.com) is to shortly take up a position as Assistant Professor of Geography at Indiana University – Bloomington, the United States.

The legal geopolitics of the Baglihar and Kishenganga hydroelectric power projects, whose legitimacy under the Indus Waters Treaty has been contested by Pakistan, demonstrates the political nature of technology and the governance of technology need not remain out-of-bounds for non-engineers. In attempting an understanding, this article seeks to step outside the conventional nationalist mode of geopolitical analysis.

It is widely accepted that the world is fast approaching or already in the midst of a “water crisis”. Perhaps nowhere has this diagnosis quickened pulses and inflamed passions more than in the Indus Basin in Pakistan and northwest India. Planners, politicians and scholars in both countries tend to advocate technological solutions to water problems – dams, telemetry, use of metering, drip-irrigation, lined canals, etc. At first, it is difficult to imagine a more reasonable way to proceed. Surely, listening closely to engineers is the only rational way to tackle technical problems like water supply?

Scholars of science and technology have, however, long argued that treating technological artefacts as apolitical is not tenable (Winner 1980). To illustrate this point, I discuss two river control projects whose legitimacy under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) has recently been contested.

The IWT is a unique water treaty, partly because it allocates the Indus by geography, not volume of water. The IWT divides the waters of the Indus and its five eastern tributaries into three “Western Rivers”, allocated to Pakistan, and three “Eastern Rivers”, allocated to India. Important exceptions to this general separation are highlighted in the appendices of the IWT and include India’s qualified rights to use the waters of the Western Rivers. This qualified right is at the heart of the two contentious projects analysed below: the Baglihar and Kishenganga hydroelectric power projects.

Baglihar and the Neutral Expert

The Baglihar project is located on the main stem of the Chenab, roughly 110 kilometres east of the Pakistani border. On 15 January 2005, Pakistan invoked its right under the IWT to determine the legality of some features of the design of the dam by a “Neutral Expert” appointed by the World Bank. The World Bank appointed Raymond Lafitte, a Swiss professor of civil engineering, to serve as the Neutral Expert.

On 12 February 2007, after two years of deliberation, Lafitte delivered his decision on the Baglihar case. Lafitte’s interpretative efforts focused on Paragraph 8 of Annexure D of the Treaty. Annexure D presents conditions for the generation of hydroelectric power on the Western Rivers by India, and Paragraph 8 is broken into eight sections that specify design constraints for any new run-of-the-river hydroelectric plant. “Run- of-the-river” is a term with a specific meaning in the IWT, but we can think of it as referring to a dam whose primary purpose is not storage. The Baglihar decision consisted of six separate determinations concerning Pakistan’s objections to design features regarding storage capacity, power-intake tunnels, and design and height of spillways. I focus the analysis on the question of spillway height; specifically on the sluice spillways designed for controlling sediment and managing large flood events.


J Jeganaathan
Research Fellow, IreS, IPCS 

India and China recently held a bilateral meeting on Afghanistan, for the first time in Beijing, to chart out a joint plan to secure their multi-billion dollar investments in the war ravaged country whose future remains uncertain post US withdrawal in 2014. This cooperative mechanism raises three important questions: What are the prerequisites for such a bilateral mechanism to be more effective and sustainable? Will the Sino-Indian strategic partnership on Afghanistan assuage Pakistan’s security concerns, and if yes, then to what extent? Whether it is a stand-alone approach or part of a grand strategy towards Afghanistan is also a moot question.

Although this bilateral dialogue can be considered as a part of similar bilateral and multilateral endeavours by others including the US, UK, France, Germany, Turkey, India, and Pakistan, it has two unique features. First, it brings together India and China, which are the two great powers of Asia in terms of military capability and politico-economic stability. Second, they hold the largest investment projects in Afghanistan, particularly in the mining sectors. (So far, India had pledged USD 2bn for Afghanistan, whereas China has invested USD 3bn on various mining projects). Thus, it is no surprise that both share common interests as well as concerns in Afghanistan.

During the dialogue, both sides agreed that the Afghan issue raises concerns for regional security, stability, and peace, and also acknowledged the need for regional cooperation and consultation to help Afghanistan achieve independence, peace, and stability. However, the exact outcome of the meeting has not been officially disclosed to the media. Or, it is possible that it might have been overshadowed by the latest Sino-Indian border tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region?

Nevertheless, it is passionately argued, especially by South block, that India should enhance its bilateral relationship with China to focus particularly on Afghanistan since both share common interests, and to secure their large scale investments. By doing so, India will be able to assuage Pakistan’s concerns over India’s increasing role and presence in Afghanistan, and also secure its men and materials placed in Afghanistan from Pakistan-backed militias.

Security Concerns Entwine Strategic Interests

In a media briefing, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying stated, “The two sides agreed that the Afghan issue concerns regional security and stability.” It signifies that common ground pushed these two powers to cooperate. Primarily, China’s security concerns in Afghanistan are two-fold: to secure its investments in Afghanistan after 2014, and to prevent the threat of jihadi spill over from Afghanistan to its western Xinjiang province which has a predominant Uyghur (Muslim) population.

However, China has not yet categorically emphasised its security concerns since it can handle such concerns very well within the scope of its strong bilateral cooperation with Pakistan, an all-weather friend and inevitable factor in Afghanistan affairs, or multilateral frameworks such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). For China, its grand strategic interests are more important than immediate security concerns in Afghanistan. Once viewed as a ‘graveyard of empires’, China has started to see Afghanistan as a ‘gateway to Central Asia’ which will help it to harness energy resources and ensure supply through land routes for the benefit of its economy.

Water Sector in Pakistan: Policy, Politics, Management

IDSA Monograph Series No. 18

This monograph undertakes a descriptive analysis of the water sector in Pakistan and underlines issues related to Pakistan’s water policies, politics and management practices. While the thematic focus is on developing linkages between the British colonial legacy - the creation of canal colonies in west Punjab, the impact of partition on the Indus Water Treaty and Pakistan’s water sector, the study explains why Pakistan followed a technocratic paradigm to manage its water resources. As societal norms play an influential role in water distribution and allocation, the monograph highlights the interface between policy and politics. It argues that domestic water management is perhaps one of the key areas which requires urgent attention in Pakistan.

About the Author

Dr Medha Bisht is Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations, South Asian University, New Delhi. Before joining SAU, she was Associate Fellow at IDSA, with the South Asia Cluster. She studied International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University and holds a doctorate from the Diplomatic and Disarmament Studies Division, JNU, New Delhi. Her area of interests are South Asian Politics, particularly Bhutan, international negotiations, political and strategic thought, state-society interface and strategic dimensions of non-traditional security issues. She has widely published and presented papers at national and international fora. Some of her recent publications include: Bhutan-India Power Cooperation: Benefits Beyond Bilateralism,Strategic Analysis, 36 (5), September 2012, Routledge and Bhutan and Climate Change: Identifying Strategic Implications, Contemporary South Asia, 2013 (forthcoming), Routledge.

Pakistan’s Tipping Point

Project Syndicate
Shahid Javed Burki

3 May 2013-- Lahore – Pakistan’s moment of political truth is fast approaching. On May 11, some 40-50 million voters will elect a new national assembly. The outcome, preceded by a spike in extremist violence, is likely to reverberate far and wide. Pakistan’s homegrown terrorist groups know that the country is at a tipping point, and are attacking candidates and voters who favor a secular state. Hundreds of people have already been killed, and more will undoubtedly die before Election Day, targeted because, if these groups prevail, they would push what is sometimes called the “idea of Pakistan” to its logical – and extreme – conclusion.

Some 70 years ago, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father, launched the movement to create an independent state for the Muslims of British India. The British colonial administration finally acquiesced, creating a country out of Muslim-majority areas. The population of what is now Pakistan was about two-thirds Muslim; the remainder were mostly Hindus and Sikhs. That composition changed dramatically with the partition of the new states of India and Pakistan in 1947, when 14 million people moved across the newly drawn border. Eight million Muslim refugees fled India and entered Pakistan, and six million Hindus and Sikhs moved in the opposite direction. By the time this “ethnic cleansing” was over, Pakistan’s population was 95% Muslim.

Over time, an increasing proportion of this population began to demand the creation of an Islamic state in the areas that were now Pakistan. The upcoming election will determine how far the country will go along this route. Pakistan is not the only Muslim country seeking to redefine its political and economic future. Similar processes are playing out in other large countries in the western part of the Islamic world. By contrast, other large Muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia have succeeded in establishing political orders that serve all segments of highly diverse populations reasonably well. That may eventually happen in the western Islamic world as well, but only after a struggle of the type occurring now in Pakistan.

The large countries in this part of the Islamic world – most notably Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey – are attempting to address four problems, the most challenging of which is to define Islam’s role in the political system. Turkey seems to have found an answer, prodded in part by its wish to join the European Union. A conservative ruling party with deep religious roots is content to leave religion to private observance, with no direct influence on public policy. The issue remains less settled in Egypt, while in Pakistan a small but highly motivated part of the population has embraced extreme violence as a form of political expression.

The role of the military in politics also needs to be resolved. Once again, Turkey has taken the lead; in both Egypt and Pakistan, the men in uniform have returned to their barracks, but they have not lost influence over public policy.

Then there is sectarianism, particularly the growing strife between Sunni and Shia Muslims. This conflict may be exacerbated by the outcome in Syria. If Sunnis triumph there, they may become more assertive in countries that have large Shia populations. It is not often recognized that Pakistan has the world’s second-largest Shia population, after Iran, with roughly 50 million adherents. They have been mercilessly attacked in Karachi and Quetta in recent years, with more than 400 killed.

China Reaches Out to India on Afghanistan

May 13, 2013

For the first time, India and China have met to discuss the future of Afghanistan, in light of the impending departure of Western forces from the nation. In this Issue Perspective, Dr. Harsh Pant discusses China’s new interest in developing a regional approach, after years of relying on a “hands-off policy.”

As President Obama’s 2014 deadline to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan approaches, India and China both recognize that they also have much at stake. In this regard, as Dr. Pant notes, a dialogue between Asia’s two rising powers on this subject is certainly “worth pursuing.”

China Reaches Out to India on Afghanistan


May 05, 2013


1. According to the Xinhua news agency, the Xinjiang authorities have arrested 11 more suspected terrorists in connection with the investigation of a violent incident on April 23,2013, in a town in Kashgar'sBachu county, 1200 kms south-west of Urumqi, in which 21 persons allegedly belonging to different communities were killed.

2. Since the clash, 19 arrests have been made by the police from the Kashgar Prefecture, the Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture of Bayingolin and Urumqi.

3. The Xinjiang Police have blamed the clash on a new terrorist group headed by one QasimMuhammat, which, according to them, was founded in September 2012.

4. The Police have alleged that since early December 2012, the members of this groupused to gather at the house of oneMuhanmetemin Barat, to undergo training with the help of video clips.

5. The Police further alleged that in March, they fabricated explosive devices and tested them.The clash occurred when the Police and some members of the local community co-operating with the police tried to arrest them.

6. The World Uighur Congress (WUC) based in Munich and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples' Organisation (UNPO) based in Holland have strongly questioned the police version and called upon the European Parliament to urge an international enquiry into the incident.

7.The Chinese authorities are worried that despite frequent occurrence of violent incidents in different parts of Xinjiang, they have not been able to convince the international community that these incidents are due to terrorism sponsored from outside.

8. In an article contributed to the "Global Times" of the Communist Party of China,an associate research fellow of the Sociology Institute with the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences has stated: "The Bachuincident reflects the severe social conflicts within Xinjiang. In recent years, Xinjiang has achieved substantial progress in terms of economic development, the social insurance system and people's livelihoods. However, the social conflicts in Xinjiang remain complicated.

"While the policies made by local authorities are mainly to improve the economy, they are still inadequate in fully and timely responding to the political demands of ethnic groups. Social conflicts have been accumulating rather than being resolved.

"The Bachu incident has aroused international attention, and external observers mainly cast doubt on whether this violent attack was really terrorism.

"The nature of terrorist attacks in China is not very different with that in Western countries. They are, cruelly and inhumanely, targeted randomly at innocent civilians.

"What's different is that the terrorist attacks in Western countries can be traced to external input, while those in Xinjiang have shown a tendency to come from inside.

"There have been terrorist activities in Xinjiang, but so far there hasn't been enough evidence to show a concrete terrorist organization exists.

"A terrorist organization needs an explicit political doctrine, leading figures and a set of organizational bodies to raise funds, train its staff, purchase arms and support logistics. Judging from this, there is no terrorist organization in Xinjiang.

"The terrorist activities are committed mainly under the influence of terrorist thought and partly because of dissatisfaction with local governments and the Han people.

China’s India Land Grab by Brahma C.


Stoking tensions with Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines over islands in the South and East China Seas has not prevented an increasingly assertive China from opening yet another front by staging a military incursion across the disputed, forbidding Himalayan frontier. On the night of April 15, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) platoon stealthily intruded near the China-India-Pakistan tri-junction, established a camp 19 kilometers (12 miles) inside Indian-controlled territory, and presented India’s government with the potential loss of a strategically vital 750-square-kilometer high-altitude plateau.

A stunned India, already reeling under a crippling domestic political crisis, has groped for an effective response to China’s land-grab — the largest and most strategic real estate China has seized since it began pursuing a more muscular policy toward its neighbors. Whether China intends to stay put by building permanent structures for its troops on the plateau’s icy heights, or plans to withdraw after having extracted humiliating military concessions from India, remains an open – and in some ways a moot – question.

The fact is that, with its “peaceful rise” giving way to an increasingly sharp-elbowed approach to its neighbors, China has broadened its “core interests” – which brook no compromise – and territorial claims, while showing a growing readiness to take risks to achieve its goals. For example, China has not only escalated its challenge to Japan’s decades-old control of the Senkaku Islands, but is also facing off against the Philippines since taking effective control of Scarborough Shoal last year.

What makes the Himalayan incursion a powerful symbol of China’s aggressive new stance in Asia is that its intruding troops have set up camp in an area that extends beyond the “line of actual control” (LAC) that China itself unilaterally drew when it defeated India in the 1962 Chinese-initiated border war. While China’s navy and a part of its air force focus on supporting revanchist territorial and maritime claims in the South and East China seas, its army has been active in the mountainous borderlands with India, trying to alter the LAC bit by bit.

One of the novel methods that the PLA has employed is to bring ethnic Han pastoralists to the valleys along the LAC and give them cover to range across it, in the process driving Indian herdsmen from their traditional pasturelands. But the latest crisis was sparked by China’s use of direct military means in a strategic border area close to the Karakoram Pass linking China to Pakistan.

Because the LAC has not been mutually clarified – China reneged on a 2001 promise to exchange maps with India – China claims that PLA troops are merely camping on “Chinese land.” Yet, in a replay of its old strategy of furtively encroaching on disputed land and then presenting itself as the conciliator, China now counsels “patience” and “negotiations” to help resolve the latest “issue.”

China is clearly seeking to exploit India’s political disarray to alter the reality on the ground. A paralyzed and rudderless Indian government initially blacked out reporting on the incursion, lest it come under public pressure to mount a robust response. Its first public statement came only after China issued a bland denial of the intrusion in response to Indian media reports quoting army sources.