24 May 2013

India-China 'Two Civilizational Neighbours'

'We tasked our Special Representatives to consider further measures that may be needed to maintain peace and tranquillity along the border' 

Media Statement by Prime Minister during the State Visit of Chinese Premier H.E. Li Keqiang to India

Your Excellency Premier Li,

Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,

It is an honour for me to welcome Premier Li on his first official visit to India. It has been an immense pleasure to get to know him personally. I sincerely appreciate his reaching out to me on his first day in office and his choosing India as his first foreign destination as Premier.

Starting yesterday evening, Premier Li and I have had wide-ranging and candid discussions covering all matters of mutual interest and concern. I am delighted that there are so many areas of convergence between us and on which there is a great deal of meeting of minds. Most importantly, we agreed that the relationship between our two countries is of growing significance and essential for our peaceful development and sustained economic growth, as well as for stability and prosperity in our region and the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

India and China are two civilizational neighbours and have lived in peace through the ages. We have had our differences in more recent times, but over the last 25 years, we have steadily built a mutually beneficial relationship. The basis for continued growth and expansion of our ties is peace and tranquillity on our borders. While seeking an early resolution of the boundary question, Premier Li and I agreed that this must continue to be preserved.

We also took stock of lessons learnt from the recent incident in the Western Sector, when existing mechanisms proved their worth. We tasked our Special Representatives to consider further measures that may be needed to maintain peace and tranquillity along the border. We agreed that our Special Representatives will meet soon to continue discussions, seeking early agreement on a framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable boundary settlement.

I also reiterated to Premier Li India’s concerns about the effects on lower riparians of activities in the upper reaches of our shared rivers. It would be useful for the mandate of our Expert Level Mechanism to be expanded to include information sharing on upstream development projects on these rivers. I am glad that we have agreed to expand cooperation on trans-border rivers. It would also be useful for India and China to collaborate on a better understanding of the stresses on our shared Himalayan ecosystem.

I shared with Premier Li my view that the rise of China and India is good for the world and that the world has enough space to accommodate the growth aspirations of both our peoples. To make this a reality, it is important to build understanding between our two peoples. We agreed that both sides must work to strengthen greater trust and confidence, which, in turn, will permit much larger co-operation.

India and NSG: Approaches to Indian membership

May 23, 2013 

India’s membership is one of the important issues facing NSG in the immediate future. There is, of course, also the issue of further expansion of the NSG in the coming years, which needs to be looked into by the NSG members. Factors that need to be considered by the NSG Participating Governments (PGs) while considering admission of new States were last finalized by the NSG members during their 2001 Aspen Plenary. These were: 

“A new Participating Government should: 
  • be able to supply items1 covered by the Annexes to Parts 1 and 2 of the Guidelines; 
  • adhere to and act in accordance with the Guidelines; 
  • have in force a legally-based domestic export control system which gives effect to the commitment to act in accordance with the Guidelines; 
  • be a party to the NPT, the Treaties of Pelindaba, Rarotonga, Tlatelolco or Bangkok or an equivalent international nuclear non-proliferation agreement, and in full compliance with the obligations of such agreement(s), and, as appropriate, have in force a full-scope safeguards agreement with the IAEA; 
  • be supportive of international efforts towards non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of their delivery vehicles.” 
There are three ways in which a new State’s admission to NSG can be approached. 

First, the Applicant State feels that it fulfills all the factors considered by NSG members and indicates a desire to become a member according to the procedure laid in the NSG Procedural arrangement i.e. “indicate its desire to do so to the current NSG Chair directly or through the Point of Contact.” 

If, however, a State feels that it does not fulfill all the factors or does not make a formal application for membership, it is quite in order for a PG to recommend a State for admission. 

There are basically two ways that the admission of the recommended State to the NSG could be accomplished. The first is to "evolve the criteria for admission," i.e. to revise the "Factors to be Considered" as set forth in the Procedural Arrangement, in a manner that would accurately describe that State’s situation. The second is to recognize/consider that the factors "should be considered by Participating Governments" and are not mandatory criteria that must be met by any proposed candidate for NSG membership. The Procedural Arrangement does not require that a candidate meet all of the stated criteria. For that reason, NSG PGs could simply take a decision by consensus to admit the State based on that State's support for the nuclear nonproliferation regime and its nonproliferation behavior. This was the procedure recommended by the US when it forwarded to NSG members India’s case for admission to NSG membership because it was felt in some quarters that India did not fulfill one of the “factors” that were to be considered, namely, “be a party to the NPT”. (It shall be argued in the second part of this article that India does fulfill all the factors, including Factor No.4. 

While most of NSG members are in favour of admitting India as a member via the second route proposed by US, i.e., admit “India based on India's support for the nuclear nonproliferation regime and its nonproliferation behavior”, there are few NSG members who are not enthusiastic about India’s admission as a member. Since NSG works on consensus principle, all members should be in favour of the proposal to admit that State (at least no one should oppose it). 

Objection to admitting India seems to be based on two counts: 

Time for serious talks with China

By editor 
23 May 2013 

Mr Li’s statements are clearly strategic mush when not accompanied by some clarity on crucial issues like Chinese infrastructure building in PoK, etc 

Mr Li’s statements are clearly strategic mush when not accompanied by some clarity on crucial issues like Chinese infrastructure building in PoK, etc

While Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang was here, charming his way through official New Delhi (unlike most Chinese leaders whose outstanding attribute is a dour uniformity), an opinion poll of the Lowy Institute and Australia-India Institute found wide publicity in the country. 

It suggested that 83 per cent Indian adults perceived China as a threat. This made headlines, while the aspect of the poll that indicated that about 65 per cent of Indians wanted enhanced cooperation with China lay buried in the story.

The survey did seem to have a propaganda angle somewhat as only 1,233 adult individuals were polled in a vast country such as ours, but the Chinese may be making a mistake if they emphasise only the propaganda feature. Chances are that a much larger sample may return somewhat similar results. We are a dichotomous lot. This facet was overlooked in the pronouncements of Mr Li, who mostly spoke in high octaves of the benefits that will accrue to both countries if they cooperated.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did some straight talking when he said all bets would be off if tranquillity could not be maintained on the disputed Line of Actual Control pending a resolution of the dispute. This was a reference to the Depsang incident where a platoon of Chinese soldiers inexplicably marched into Indian territory last month, pitched tents and stayed put there for three weeks, before just as inexplicably moving out. India could have officially sought an explanation if not a mea culpa expostulation instead of merely agreeing to state that existing mechanisms to keep the border calm had served their purpose when they had plainly not.

Himalayan blunder to Himalayan handshake

23 May 2013

India should demand concrete gestures from China. Then we shall see whether Beijing is ready to match its words with deeds, and agrees to exchange the border maps pertaining to the Eastern and the Western sectors 

I am confused. Is Mr Li Keqiang, the new Chinese Premier, a sincere person or is he, like his illustrious predecessor Zhou Enlai, only a smooth-talker? Indeed, he speaks sweetly. In an Op-Ed in a national newspaper, he says: “China and India are destined to be together. They should work hand in hand if Asia is to become the anchor of world peace”. That sounds great. He also says: “We live in an age of change, but there are always certain things that are enduring, forever refreshing and attractive. India is such a nation, at once old and young. …[India and China] represent the two pillars of the civilisation of the East.” But when he states: “Today, the handshake across the Himalayas is even stronger”, is it really true after the border incident in Ladakh? 

For Mr Li, the present problems are left-overs from ‘history’. One can’t deny this; for centuries the towering Himalayas, as the Chinese Premier calls the border, were ruled by the Dalai Lamas in Lhasa, and the Emperors of the Middle Kingdom had, except for very short periods, little say on the Roof of the World. For India, the ‘left-over of history’ is the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950. 

Stranger is when Mr Li speaks philosophy to stress the importance of making friends with neighbours: “Do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you”, he says. Then why did he order his troops to plant their tents on Indian territory? Was he expecting India to do the same to China? Who is the real Mr Li? The one who nostalgically speaks of his student days when he visited India? Or the powerful leader of an authoritarian regime which has disputes with most of its neighbours? 

Assuming that China had some grievances against India, why could these not be taken up at one of the scheduled bilateral meetings (External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to Beijing or Mr Li’s present trip to India)? Visits to China by the Union Minister for Defence and the Indian Prime Minister are also planned for later this year. There were at least four occasions to solve pending issues, so why take the extreme step of setting up a camp on Indian territory, creating bitterness and distrust? The strangest thing is that Mr Li did not mention any serious grievance against India (at least publicly) during his stay in India. 

Stop appeasing the dragon

23 May 2013 

The biggest shortcoming of all treaties signed with China since 1976 has been the absence of military advice in border policy-making. Even during the recent Ladakh crisis, the Army Chief was called only on the 19th day to give a briefing 

That the Chinese gamble had paid off could be the reason for Premier Li Keqiang’s broad smile which flashed in all photographs during his recent meetings with Indian leaders. Less than a month before Mr Li was to leave for his first destination abroad (India), Chinese border guards intruded 19 km deep inside Indian territory in Ladakh, held New Delhi on tenterhooks, got what they wanted, and sauntered away. What lay shattered was India’s national dignity; yet Union Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid did not consider it necessary to ask the Chinese why they upped the stakes. 

China, however, thought it important to explain its action. Two days before Mr Li’s arrival, Qin Gang, Director General, External Publicity, in the Chinese Embassy in Delhi, gave two take-aways from the Ladakh tension: First, China was pleased that India did not let the incursion affect overall bilateral relations; and second, there was a need for quieter border. To be sure, these two issues set the agenda for Indian talks with the Chinese leader. 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the visiting Premier that peace on the border (quieter border is how China had put it) is essential for growing bilateral relations. The mechanism to accomplish this was handed over by China in its Border Defence Cooperation Agreement; India was earlier hesitant to consider the BDCA which had been on the table for some time, and could well be the reason why Chinese troops decided on the Ladakh adventure. The BDCA is not another means to resolve territorial transgressions or even incursions. 

It instead argues that both sides should have minimal troops and equipment on the border, as enunciated in the September 1993 border peace and tranquillity agreement, for a quieter border. When implemented, this will place India in a militarily disadvantageous position to defend its territorial integrity. China, to be sure, has awesome land and air means to transport troops and equipment quickly for a border war, something that India cannot match. 

It is agreed that the BDCA will be discussed during Union Minister for Defence AK Antony’s visit to China and the two special representatives will work fast to bring the BDCA into force. While the border may become quieter, India would remain devoid of the military muscle to implement an effective China policy. Worse, there are indications on the ground to suggest that the Indian military build-up plans and patrolling in sensitive areas by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and regular troops have been temporarily halted pending agreement on the BDCA. 

India seems to have compromised on the border issue, which is its core-interest area, defined as something at the heart of a nation’s dignity, sovereignty and independence. For China, Tibet is a core-interest area; Beijing will go to war on this issue. Having agreed to talks on the BDCA, which is China’s agenda, India must ensure that it does not restrict its military capability on the border to remain below the threshold of military activism, so that Chinese troops’ incursion go unchallenged yet again in the future. 

Experience suggests that this will be a tall order for the Manmohan Singh Government. More to the point, all dispensations in New Delhi since then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s 1988 China visit, have in varying measures sought not to displease China. This contrasts with a famous Chinese saying that emotions should not play a role in policy-making. To make this happen, two corrective measures at the strategic level need to be taken. 

Mending India-China ties Outcome of talks with Li 'positive'

By Inder Malhotra 

THINGS do change sometimes. Hardly a fortnight after the three-week India-China "face-off" over China's intrusion into Indian territory in the Depsang valley in Ladakh, Asia's two largest and fastest-growing countries have once again smoothened their relationship as a result of the visit of China's Prime Minister, Li Keqiang. After intense talks with his host, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — first at a "restricted session" where very few aides were present and then at a delegation-level meeting — both sides declared the outcome of the visit “positive” and “useful”.

This assertion is not without basis. India has been able to drive home to China the message that the border issue remains vital and that if peace along the border areas is disturbed, the entire relationship would be impacted. The distinction between the styles of Dr Singh and Mr Li could not have been greater.

At a joint Press conference at the end of the delegation-level talks, Dr Singh stated that having "learnt the lessons of the recent incident in Ladakh" the two sides had asked their Special Representatives — National Security Advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon of India and former Foreign Minister, Yang Jichie of China — to meet soon and find ways of strengthening the mechanism for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) over which there is no agreement because the Chinese reneged on their commitment to “confirm” and “clarify” the LAC. From the Indian side the clear message to the Special Representatives is that must find ways to ensure that incidents like Depsang intrusion are never repeated.

Although 15 meetings between the SRs over the years have produced little result, a significant mandate to them, emanating from the Delhi talks, is that they should try and settle the boundary question speedily. This is easier said than done.

While responding to Dr Singh's remarks on the utmost importance of peace and tranquillity along the border, Mr Li conspicuously refrained from acknowledging any “incident”, recent or remote. This is entirely in keeping with the standard Chinese policy of total denial of Chinese presence on Indian soil and of the Chinese troops ever violating any treaty between the two countries.

However, he admitted that though the two countries had much in common and shared many interests, there are “problems also between them”, especially over the border issue “left behind by history”. Therefore, the agreement between the two to tell their Special Representatives to expedite their efforts to achieve the goal assigned to them.

One fear on this score is that the Chinese side might use the quest for peace along the border to discuss India's attempts to improve and add to its dangerously inadequate infrastructure on the Himalayan border. Defence Minister A. K. Antony's public statements on this issue should be a warning.

Dr Singh's “tough talk” and “plain speaking” to his Chinese counterpart were in sharp contrast to the Indian government's squeamish and namby-pamby policy during the Ladakh crisis. What is the most important problem, according to the Prime Minister, was dismissed by the Foreign Minister, Salman Khurshid, then as no more than “acne” that could be easily cured by “ointment”.

After the latest talks at the level of prime ministers, the Indian strategic community has expressed satisfaction that the irate public opinion had at last produced the desired result. Yet, some are still angry that Dr Singh should call the Chinese violation of Indian sovereignty a mere “incident”.

Next only to the issue of peace along the border, the two other major concerns Dr Singh emphasised were the question of Bramhaputra and other cross-border rivers and that of great imbalance in the burgeoning bilateral trade (China is already India's largest trading partner and the India-China trade is expected to exceed $ 100 billion by 2015) almost entirely in China's favour.

As for river waters, the Chinese still refuse to accept the Indian suggestion of having a “joint mechanism” of experts like the one that exists between India and Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty. But they have belatedly agreed to share hydrological data denied to India so far. Mr Li also spoke reassuringly of China's respect for the rights of the lower riparian states. This, Indian officials concede, is a “movement forward” but no one can say to what extent.

Pulp Liberation Army

Welcome to the strange -- and terrifying -- underground world of Chinese military fantasy novels. 

MAY 23, 2013 

It is the year 2049. China's economic development has so disturbed the world's other major powers that the United States, Japan, and Russia form an alliance and invade China. Fierce battles break out on the plains of northeast China, where Japanese troops and U.S. fighter jets besiege Chinese infantry. Caught by surprise, China's army nonetheless stages a glorious counterattack by deploying levitating tanks, and employing a strategy based on lessons learned from the Anti-Japanese War and the Resist America War (better known in the West as WWII and the Korean War, respectively). 

Such is the plot of The Last Counterattack, a serial novel published on Blood and Iron Reading, a Chinese military literature website. In one of the latest installments, published on May 2, U.S. government-sponsored hackers have infiltrated the Chinese military's network and accidently launched a Chinese nuclear missile directed at the United States. The anonymous author's online profile says he is a former colonel in the People's Liberation Army and currently a staff officer in charge of operations and reconnaissance in the 12th Armored Division at China's 21st Army Group. Going by the online pseudonym "the Old Staff Officer," he told FP in an interview conducted over the Chinese messaging service QQ that he "enjoys the feeling of letting [his] imagination fly." But Li, as I'll call him, believes that what he's writing may actually come to pass. In an April blog post, he explained his thinking for the book: "The world besieges China and attacks it from all sides. Is this possible? Yes!" 

There are thousands of Chinese war fantasy novels on the Internet -- too sensitive to be published in book form, they circulate on blogs, and websites like Blood and Iron Reading. Most languish, but the more popular ones get read millions of times. As a rising China struggles to define its military aspirations, and as the country's vast propaganda apparatus encourages citizens to define their version of President Xi Jinping's vague slogan "Chinese Dream," these military fantasy novels provide insight into what Chinese people's war dreams look like. 

The novels follow one of two distinctive patterns. Most take place in the past, often during periods when China suffered a series of traumatic invasions. "In China, science fiction demonstrates people's hope to transcend reality, and the reality is that China often loses," says Wu Yan, an education professor at Beijing Normal University and a scholar of Chinese science fiction. (Military fantasy novels fit into this genre, though compared with other science fiction, tend to focus more on international relations and less on technology.) Some of the novels feature modern characters that travel back in time to defend China from humiliation. In 1894: China Rises, an unsuccessful businessman finds himself hurled back to 1883, the beginning of the Sino-French War, where he becomes an army general and defeats the invading French forces. Another novel, Resist Japan and Expel the Japanese Pirates, tells of an army major who returns to the Anti-Japanese War, and, armed with today's technology, drives the Japanese forces out of Manchuria. Other novels, like The Last Counterattack, project into the near future, when China's growth in economic and military strength prompts other major world powers to contain it through warfare. China always vanquishes these threats, however, through ingenious military strategies and advanced weaponry, and eventually gains the respect and prestige it deserves on the world stage. 

Li declined to go into further detail about his thought process, saying he "doesn't need fame," but he did mention his admiration for Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan's secretary of defense, and his book The Next War. Published in 1997, it imagines a series of regional conflicts arising out of the United States' "very deep cuts" in military capability, including one in which a nuclear war breaks on the Korean Peninsula and China seizes the opportunity to conquer Taiwan. "Anybody who studies war should remember Weinberger," Li says. 

Military fantasies are only a subset of a broader, thriving market in military books. Unlike in the United States, where Tom Clancy can imagine a scenario where Washington attacks Beijing, Chinese censorship precludes their publishing in book form. "I was told by publishers that any novel that describes wars among different countries are strictly off-limits," says Zheng Jun, a Chongqing-based science fiction writer and an independent sci-fi literary agent who helps publishes close to 100 science fiction books each year. China "can only fight aliens or a fictional country," he says. The Golden Bullet Series, the last major Chinese military fantasy novels allowed to be published in book form, in 2003, accordingly focuses on conflicts between human beings and aliens or unidentified terrorists. 

What next vis-a-vis China and Pakistan

D Suba Chandran
Director, IPCS

The elections are over in Pakistan, and the political scenario in terms of the next government is clear. Nawaz Sharif is the new Prime Minister, and he has adequate support in the Parliament and is not heading an unstable coalition. The Prime Minister of the other big neighbour - China, with whom there was a tension along the borders during the last two months, also visited New Delhi few days earlier.

For India, China and Pakistan are extremely important neighbours. No doubt, every neighbour in the region is important for India, however, China and Pakistan are special neighbours. Both countries are not only nuclear weapon powers, with whom India has fought wars and has unresolved border disputes, but also important from a domestic perspective. No other countries in the region is so much debated within India; equally important, the Indian polity and multiple ministries are not so deeply divided with other countries, as they are vis-a-vis China and Pakistan.

The Chinese Prime Minister came to New Delhi, fully prepared to face the questions on what happened in Ladakh in terms of the Chinese troops intruding deep into the Indian territory. Though he deliberately underplayed the incident, he did not attempt to scuttle the issue. More importantly, he did not try to be jingoistic over the issue. It appears, he was well briefed for the questions, and certainly came well prepared. Not only on the border question, but he came well prepared and briefed on the question of water sharing between the two countries.

It clearly appears, China is more keen to expand the economic ties with India, and down play the border conflict. It also appears the Indian polity is also equally divided in terms of what should be the primary focus during the Chinese Prime Minister visit. While a section within India, especially led by the Defence ministry and Home ministry, along with most of the strategic community in India expected the Prime Minster to act tough on the border question. Clearly, there is a pro-China group within the strategic community, which wants India to underplay the border tension and expand the economic ties with China. In fact, the Prime Minister himself seems to be in this section, trying to focus more on the economic ties.

Interaction with China should not be either - or strategy in terms of whether India should work with China, or pursue a conflicting relationship. As the political status, economy and strategic interests grow, both India and China are likely to compete with each other in many spheres. But, this competition need not necessarily be a conflicting one. On the other hand, given India’s growing relationship with the US, and expanding interests in the Asia-Pacific, both countries are likely to pursue a conflicting path.

The global strategic interests of China and India, and their regional aspirations in the Asia-Pacific is likely to impact on India-China border conflict, and also increase tension in the China-Pakistan-India triangle. While India cannot afford to be totally pacifist and avoid any strong response, especially on its vital interests within in its border, or elsewhere, India cannot also afford to be jingoistic. India’s response has to be strong, but not war mongering.

Vis-a-vis Pakistan, it is also time that New Delhi decides what it wants to do with Pakistan, in terms of bilateral relationship. However, the unfortunate truth is “New Delhi” is not monolithic in terms of what it wants to do. The Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs are deeply divided over a policy towards Pakistan. While the policymakers in these ministries try to hide behind “public opinion” or “lack of consensus” in the Parliament, the hard truth is our political elite in Delhi is deeply divided over how we see Pakistan, and what we want to develop, in terms of a long term relationship.

Chickens can come home to roost

24 May 2013 

Nawaz Sharif has a propensity for supporting Islamist causes within Pakistan and beyond its borders. His handpicked ISI chief had organised the 1993 Mumbai blasts in collusion with Dawood Ibrahim 

I first met Nawaz Sharif personally in 1982 when he hosted, what he had earlier said, was to be a “small lunch” for the visiting Indian cricket team. There were an estimated 2,000 guests at his ‘small’ lunch in his palatial mansion in Raiwind near Lahore. Mr Sharif, the son of an industrial magnate, was then the Finance Minister of Punjab. He belonged to a group of young politicians being groomed by the country’s military ruler, General Zia-ul-Haq, to give a civilian façade to military rule and confront Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party. Mr Sharif showed early promise as a political organiser and able administrator, to rise to the higher rungs of the Army-backed Pakistan Muslim League. He became Prime Minister in 1990, after the Army destabilised the Government led by Benazir Bhutto. 

Mr Sharif’s honeymoon with the Army was short-lived. The Army acted to remove two of its erstwhile protégés in 1993 — then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Mr Sharif — after mutual bickering between the President and Prime Minister paralysed the Government. Returning to power with a massive mandate in 1997, Mr Sharif gained immense popularity when he matched India’s nuclear tests in 1998. But, there was an authoritarian streak in Mr Sharif, which led to an ugly confrontation with the Supreme Court and his efforts to introduce Sharia’h law in Pakistan, undermining the democratic foundations of the country. Given his fondness for high living and Bollywood music and films of the 1950s, Mr Sharif could not, by any stretch of imagination, be labelled a religious fundamentalist or a bigot. He has also been an ardent cricket fan and played club-level cricket quite proficiently. 

Despite these attributes, Mr Sharif has a propensity for supporting Islamist causes within Pakistan and beyond its borders. He is deeply distrusted in the US. He was reluctant to meet US demands to act against the Taliban and the Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, prompting the US to launch Cruise missile strikes on Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in 1998, after US diplomatic missions had been targeted in Kenya and Tanzania and a US naval vessel attacked in Yemen, by the Al Qaeda, operating from Afghan soil. It is well known that Mr Sharif was in the loop when his handpicked ISI Chief Lt General Javed Nasir organised the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts in collusion with Dawood Ibrahim. Within Pakistan, Mr Sharif bought insurance from being targeted while campaigning during the recent elections, from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, by colluding with Taliban-affiliated groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. He enjoys a close familial relationship with Lashkar-e-Tayyeba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. It is doubtful if the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai terrorist outrage will be brought to justice, despite the glib talk of a ‘joint investigation.’ 

It will be difficult for Mr Sharif’s party and for him personally to discard their erstwhile jihadi assets, which they have patronised for years. A factor playing on their minds could well be that if they discard assets like Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, they could well drive erstwhile allies and assets into the arms of the military establishment and political rivals, like the Army-backed Imran Khan. Mr Sharif knows that, while the Indian border will remain tension-free if he halts cross-border terrorist attacks on India, the same cannot be said of Pakistan’s porous western borders with Afghanistan. 

Tehran’s Designs on Afghanistan

May 23, 2013 

Evidence from Herat and elsewhere suggests a growing – and at times deadly – Iranian influence over its eastern neighbor. 

The bullet mark on the left side of Ali Asghar Yaghobi’s chest is still very fresh, the wound not yet fully healed. The doctors at the local medical center in Herat have removed the bandages, but shrapnel remains etched in his neck. It was only luck that saved Yaghobi; the Herat Hospital is the largest medical center in the city but is not equipped to perform complicated surgery. Fortunately, the bullet just missed vital organs and Yaghobi survived the attack, which apparently involved a gun with a suppressor. 

The attack occurred in the afternoon of February 22, when the 30-year-old journalist was on his way to Mojhda radio station in Herat, where he has presented a daily evening show for the last four years. Yaghobi used the program, called “Tazyana” (meaning “a whip to arouse the conscience of the people”), to question certain conservative Shia practices and the rising influence of Iran in Herat society. He was also associated with a foreign crew documenting the cultural and political influence of Iran in Afghanistan. 

Afghan Journalist Centre writes that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Yaghobi has told The Diplomat that the “modus operandi used by the attackers is not employed by the Taliban, but is the handiwork of Iranian intelligence active in Herat through fundamentalist Shia groups.” His claim was supported by local intelligence officials, who demanded anonymity. Yaghobi says that past attacks on creative people and journalists have been carried out by these local groups. 

Because of its geographical proximity and religious bonding, Shia Iran’s influence is visible throughout western Afghanistan. The overarching presence of the large neighbor is evident not only in the goods on sale in Herat, Farah and other provinces, but also in the religious and cultural spheres. 

“It’s very suffocating the way Iran controls your life in Herat,” says Yaghobi. “For the outside world it's the Taliban that is disrupting Afghanistan, but the fact of the matter is that Iran is also playing a very negative role in destabilizing Afghanistan, in radicalizing Shia society and using that to serve its narrow political interests.” 

President Karzai’s visit to India: Leveraging Strategic Partnership


May 23, 2013 

The Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited India from 20th to 22nd May 2013. While the visit was ostensibly for conferment of an honorary doctorate on him by the Jalandhar based Lovely University, he held four hour long discussions with the Indian counterparts on the next step in India-Afghanistan relations. President Karzai met with President Pranab Mukherjee, BJP Leader Lal Krishna Advani and a group of Indian CEOs, senior journalists and heads of major think tanks. During the visit, President Karzai gave a “wish list” of equipment that Afghanistan has requested India to supply within the framework of India-Afghanistan strategic partnership of 2011. The ball is now in India’s court for a decision on what all can India give to Afghanistan to strengthen its security in post-2014 situation. 

Addressing think tanks and media at a briefing session prior to his departure for Kabul, President Karzai spoke extensively on Afghanistan’s evolving relations with India, Pakistan, China, Iran and the West. He also fielded questions on the ongoing “peace process” with Taliban, the presidential elections and his relations with the West. 

The President said that he did not discuss the likelihood of Indian troops in Afghanistan after 2014. He was categorical that Indian troops are “not needed”. What Afghanistan requires is Indian assistance in training and equipment of the Afghan security forces. He was highly appreciative of India’s $2 billion worth of assistance in the last few years, pointing out that Indian assistance had been totally focused on implementing projects which had been assigned by Afghanistan. He also hoped that at some stage, Indian trainers would join US and British trainers in Kabul to train Afghan forces at a Sandhurst type of military academy being set up in Kabul. 

The President put Afghanistan’s relations with India and those with Pakistan in a prospective. He said that Afghanistan, as a sovereign country, had the “right to choose its friends”. He described Pakistan as a “close neighbour” and India, as a “traditional friend and ally”. Afghanistan’s relations with India were not at the expense of its relations with Pakistan. The reverse is equally true. 

President Karzai admitted that the “peace process” with Taliban would not succeed without Pakistan’s cooperation. He said he was totally committed to the “peace process” and had kept the Indian side informed. He admitted that India was concerned that the “peace process” might lead to “flourishing of terrorism and radicalism”. He had sought to allay Indian fears that the “peace process” would be within the framework of the Afghan Constitution. 

President Karzai was highly critical on the role of the US and NATO forces. He said that for the past several years, he had had differences with the US on the conduct of war and terrorism for the last seven years. These differences had become public now. He had conveyed to the US and NATO that they were fighting their war on terrorism at a “wrong place”. The war was not to be fought in Afghan homes but in sanctuaries and training locations. Many innocent Afghan civilians lost their lives in the war on terrorism. He also felt that the withdrawal of foreign troops would bring stability in Afghanistan and Afghans would be able to do their fighting on their own more effectively. 

Afghanistan's Economic Hope

May 23, 2013 

The key to Afghanistan’s long-term stability is economic prosperity and development anchored in a secure and sound society. Sitting at the heart of the Eurasian continent, its prospects are important to the UK, China and India. Harnessing a common interest in Afghanistan’s economic future into an agenda could provide the foundations for a long-term solution to that nation’s intractable problems. 

Fellow BRICS members China and India do not see eye to eye on a number of issues. Longstanding border disputes plague the relationship and both have different views of Islamabad as a partner. Nevertheless, both share concerns about Afghanistan’s future and recognize the importance of stability in the country for broader regional peace. As a NATO power exiting militarily alongside the United States, the United Kingdom is eager to continue its aid program and other work with regional partners to develop a stable structure that guarantees Afghanistan does not return to its former state as a haven for terrorism and extremism. 

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Afghanistan may be sitting on mineral wealth worth around $1 trillion. Its potential lithium deposits have been described as having the potential to turn the country into the ‘Saudi Arabia of lithium’ while it is estimated to have some $421 billion’s worth of iron ore, and a further $273 billion in copper. In the north, Afghanistan sits atop the lower end of the hydrocarbon rich Amu Darya basin. But the ongoing security and governance problems mean that this untapped prosperity remains stuck underground. 

The threat of attack and uncertainty about post-2014 have meant that companies have been hesitant to proceed with investments. Security issues aside, problems with a lack of local-government capacity and a difficult business environment mean that while it is easy to get into Afghanistan, setting up shop is only the first hurdle. The result is an Afghanistan that cries out for investment and is unable to profit from its natural wealth. It is here that China and India could play a greater role. 

As regional powers with booming economies hungry for raw materials, they are exactly the consumer that would benefit from this mineral wealth. Currently, foreign direct investment into Afghanistan is dominated by Chinese and Indian state-owned enterprises (SOEs). There is MCC, Jiangxi Copper (owners of the Mes Aynak copper mine) and CNPC (responsible for an oil project in Amu Darya), all Chinese SOEs, and SAIL-AFISCO (majority owner of the Hajigak iron ore mine), an Indian firm. 

As SOEs, the firms are better able to take on large projects: governments have greater ability to influence company direction and harness it for Afghanistan’s long-term benefit. The key is to get firms to invest in both the project and the country. 

This can happen in a number of ways. First, there is the tool of providing jobs for locals around the sites. But projects should also aim to develop infrastructure around the site to connect the mines with the rest of the country and region, efforts that should be prioritized and coordinated in future bids. An additional benefit could be created if firms investing in the country were to assume responsibility for training local engineers and mining professionals. This training could take place at the sites or abroad. One possibility is for Chinese and Indian firms to offer scholarships to Afghan students to attend top universities in China or India to learn skills that could then be deployed on the mining sites. It is here also that the United Kingdom could play a role. British foreign policy has a long history of facilitating training programs, and some of the lessons learned may be helpful to China and India. 

Bonding with Kabul

24 May 2013

India must strengthen Afghanistan militarily 

During the course of his three-day visit to India that ended on Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai handed New Delhi a veritable wish-list of military equipment. India must consider it favourably. The list is short and not particularly ambitious, but it has enormous potential to further strengthen New Delhi-Kabul ties. Apart from some bridge-laying equipment and a few trucks, it includes hand-me-down A2.A18 105 mm howitzers, which are tried and tested guns that India is now phasing out. Mr Karzai also wants assistance to get his fleet of An.32 medium-lift aircraft back in the air. While none of these is a military game-changer, together they can give the Afghan National Security Forces the teeth it so desperately needs. 

The ANSF, which includes the military and the police, is essentially a rag-tag bunch that neither has the training nor the equipment needed to protect the interests of a country as vulnerable and war-ravaged as Afghanistan. India is already doing its bit to remedy the situation by training Afghan security personnel. But that is far from enough. The ANSF needs weapons and Mr Karzai is asking India to help out with that. More specifically, the Afghan President is looking to New Delhi to deliver on the promise it made back in October 2012, when the two signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement that says in no uncertain terms that India will assist in the “training, equipping and capacity building programmes” for the ANSF. Mr Karzai's demand for military assistance is the first test of that agreement. 

With less than a year to go for the withdrawal of American troops and a general election around the corner, the transition process in Afghanistan is underway. Having already invested in that country's post-war reconstruction process, India must go the full length now if it wishes to emerge as an influential Afghan partner post-2014. The way things are at the moment, there is a definite possibility that either the Taliban will take back Kabul or that the country will collapse into a lawless mess or both. And, the only thing that stands between Talibani anarchy and a somewhat democratic Afghanistan is the ANSF. 

Yet, New Delhi has been reluctant to buttress the Forces. One of the reasons is its worry that the security forces may fall apart given the deep ethnic faultlines these agencies are forever battling. The second concern is that there is great uncertainty about the Government that will come to power after the general election. Having already served two terms, Mr Karzai, who is a friend of India, is not even in the running. A new pro-Pakistan administration is as much of a possibility as any. Finally, and most importantly, India is apprehensive about how Pakistan will respond to New Delhi offering direct military aid to Afghanistan. Islamabad has already expressed its displeasure and New Delhi fears that supplying arms to Kabul would cause irretrievable damage to the India-Pakistan peace dialogue. Such fears need to be summarily dismissed because the dialogue has already run into rough weather for other reasons. On the other hand, there is much strategic depth to be gained from assisting Afghanistan. India must remember that five years ago, when it refused to supply Sri Lanka with lethal aid, Colombo turned to Pakistan and China.

After Half a Century, a Myanmar President Visits Washington

By Murray Hiebert, and Kathleen Rustici 

May 22, 2013 

Thein Sein traveled to Washington on May 19 for a three day visit, the first of its kind by a president of Myanmar in 47 years. On May 20, he met with President Barack Obama, who had visited Myanmar in November. The reciprocal visits signal that the United States is investing in the geopolitical importance of Myanmar, which connects South and East Asia, and understands the necessity to carefully support what appears to be transitional political and economic reform in the country. 

Obama commended Thein Sein, who came to power in 2011, on his leadership in guiding Myanmar’s reform process. But he also cautioned that the United States is deeply concerned about sectarian violence and ethnic conflict in Myanmar. 

Q1: What is the significance of Thein Sein’s visit to the United States? 

A1: Thein Sein’s visit demonstrates growing cooperation between the United States and Myanmar as the latter continues to reform. Myanmar’s government is moving from a military dictatorship to a civilian-led democracy based on a 2008 constitution that ultimately brought Thein Sein to power. Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi have, in many ways, worked together to lead Myanmar’s reform process. Thein Sein’s efforts have included releasing political prisoners, allowing opposition parties to run for seats in parliament, removing restrictions on free speech and press, and launching economic reforms. In response, the United States, the European Union, and others have eased sanctions during the past year, opening up the resource-rich country to new investment and economic opportunities. 

Establishing diplomatic relations with Myanmar allowed the United States to fully engage ASEAN. This is a core element of U.S. strategy in Asia and encourages countries to collectively develop rules and play by them. 

Myanmar’s reforms face many challenges. Years of economic mismanagement have left the country impoverished, with weak infrastructure, poor health and education services, and massive economic disparity. Sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims, and ethnic conflict between the central government and Myanmar’s numerous ethnic minorities continue to threaten stability. In order for reforms to reach their full potential, Myanmar’s leaders will need to coordinate substantial assistance, both financial and technical, from donor countries while combating systemic issues such as corruption. The United States is strategically supporting the reforms’ momentum, understanding that both Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi are aligned in that effort. The hope is that reform and its outcomes will help drive political settlements for ethnic conflicts, address human rights violations, and resolve religious tensions. 

Q2: What were the outcomes of the visit? 

A2: Thein Sein’s visit included an array of initiatives designed to build Myanmar’s technical capacity, encourage people-to-people ties, and assist the country with investment and economic engagement. One key deliverable was a much-anticipated Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), signed on May 21 by acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis and Myanmar’s deputy commerce minister Pwint San. The TIFA establishes a platform for ongoing dialogue on trade, and spells out the importance of responsible investment on both sides, citing International Labor Organization rights and standards. 

Private Retaliation in Cyberspace

May 22, 2013 

There has been a resounding chorus of voices in Washington calling for the United States to give companies the right to retaliate against cyber attackers in China with counterstrikes of their own, the most recent being a report that concludes that if other measures to get China to change its behavior fails , the United States should consider giving companies the right to retaliate against cyber attackers with counterstrikes of their own.” This is a remarkably bad idea that would harm the national interest. Our goal is to make cyberspace more stable and secure, not less. Endorsing retaliation works against that goal in many ways, all damaging. 

The United States plays a leading role in an international effort to build a secure and stable cyberspace. A central part of that effort is to get all nations to agree that international law applies to cyberspace, that states have the same responsibilities in cyberspace as they do in other areas, and that nations should cooperate in security and law enforcement. There is an emerging international consensus that international norms and principles apply to cybersecurity. Part of this consensus, and a central point for our diplomatic efforts, is that in cyberspace as in the physical world, states are responsible for the actions of those resident on their territory and must take action against cybercrime. 

The United States is also a leading proponent of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, to which we and many other countries are signatories. Under this convention, private retaliation would be a crime. The victim could reasonably ask the United States to assist in an investigation and extradite those found guilty. They could then bring suit against the perpetrators in U.S. courts. Russia and China strongly oppose the convention because they make use of “proxies,” civilians who engage in cybercrime at the behest of the state or with its tolerance. The United States and other nations have been pressing Russia and China to take responsibility for these proxies and reign in their actions. Private retaliation by U.S. companies would completely undercut the effort to hold Russia and China accountable for actions by their citizens. In a contest over who can go further in violating the law, despite the bluster of some in the high-tech community, private citizens are no match for the Russian mafia, the Russian Federal Security Service, or the People’s Liberation Army in China. This is not a contest American companies can win. 

What if the Chinese police ask for help in investigating the crime? If the United States says no, it justifies their refusal to cooperate with us. If the United States says yes, it will find itself in the awkward position of having to arrest American citizens for hacking in China (don’t assume that retaliation will be anonymous). If China puts out a warrant through Interpol for American executives, many nations will choose to serve it. Anyone who engages in retaliation probably should avoid international trips. One of our goals has been to build greater law enforcement cooperation in combating cybercrime. In countries that respect the law, this has been very successful. We have been able to build support in the international community for law enforcement cooperation against cybercrime, but retaliation could undo this progress. 

There is also considerable risk that amateur cyber warriors will lack the skills or the judgment to avoid collateral damage. A careless attack could put more than the intended target at risk. A nation has sovereign privileges in the use of force. Companies do not. Ask corporate general counsels if they advise intentional violation of U.S. and international law. We assume that China or Russia will know that a damaging attack by a private American is not an official act. They may not believe this, since they use proxies, control their own companies, and are paranoically suspicious. Do we send China a diplomatic note saying that the attack wasn’t us, that it was just some frustrated citizens? How do we prevent escalation of a retaliatory incident into a larger conflict without admitting culpability? 

With New Mini-Satellites, Special Ops Takes Its Manhunts Into Space


A U.S. soldier participates in a night-raid training mission during Emerald Warrior 2012, an exercise put together by U.S. Special Operations Command. Photo: USAF

In September, the U.S. government will fire into orbit a two-stage rocket from a Virginia launchpad. Officially, the mission is a scientific one, designed to improve America’s ability to send small satellites into space quickly and cheaply. But the launch will also have a second purpose: to help the elite forces of U.S. Special Operations Command hunt down people considered to be dangerous to the United States and its interests. 

For years, special operators have used tiny “tags” to clandestinely mark their prey — and satellites to relay information from those beacons. But there are areas of the world where the satellite coverage is thin, and there aren’t enough cell towers to provide an alternative. That’s why SOCOM is putting eight miniature communications satellites, each about the size of a water jug, on top of the Minotaur rocket that’s getting ready to launch from Wallops Island, Virginia. They’ll sit more than 300 miles above the earth and provide a new way for the beacons to call back to their masters. 

The officers in charge of SOCOM say their forces will soon do less manhunting, and more training of foreign troops. Perhaps so. But with senior Pentagon officials predicting “at least another 10 to 20 years” of combat with al-Qaida, these special operations forces will continue with their mission of “tagging, tracking, and locating” suspected militants. In this fiscal year alone, SOCOM will spend $88 million on new tagging gear. 

This isn’t SOCOM’s first mini-satellite. In December of 2010, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket put into orbit a $25,000 special operations spacecraft small enough to fit into the palm of a hand. The satellite stayed more than 170 miles up for about a month. But that first flight was mostly a proof of concept that something so cheap and small could have any military value at all. (“Just to test the theory that we could do it,” Douglas Richardson, SOCOM’s executive in charge of Special Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Exploitation Technologies, explained in 2011.) 

The Operationally Responsive Space-3 mission (.pptx) will carry eight satellites for SOCOM (plus another 20 for other government agencies). This array of configurable “cubesats” is designed to stay aloft for three years or more. Yes, it will serve as further research project. But “operators are going to use it,” Richardson promised an industry conference in Tampa last week. His presentation showed a cubesat under the heading “tagging, tracking, and locating.” 

Special operators are already using a dizzying panoply of equipment in order to perform “TTL,” as it’s called within the military. Last fiscal year, SOCOM put into the field 7,000 TTL kits, Jennifer Powers, the project manager in charge of tags, tells Danger Room. Those kits are individually tailored to the environment – jungle or desert, urban or rural — and can be filled with a mix of 190 different pieces of gear. While SOCOM funds mid-term research to make the beacons more compact and less power-hungry, new gear can also be fielded in as little as three days. 

Obama’s 20 Steps to Counterterrorism

Unpacking the president's hour-long (with heckling) speech on drones, Gitmo, and everything in between. 

May 23, 2013 


The sun rises over the Guantanamo detention facility at dawn, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. 

In his first major counterterrorism address of his second term, President Obama outlined several steps that his administration will take to fight terrorism both at home and abroad. 

“From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making now will define the type of nation and world that we leave to our children,” Obama said at National Defense University on Thursday. 

Here is how the president plans to address this complicated issue: 

1. End the war in Afghanistan 

For over a decade, the U.S. has fought a war against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan. On Thursday, the president committed once more to the idea that the U.S. will end its combat operations by 2014 and start transferring security responsibility to Afghan forces. 

“Our troops will come home. Our combat mission will come to an end. And we will work with the Afghan government to train security forces, and sustain a counter-terrorism force which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe-haven to launch attacks against us or our allies,” Obama said. 

2. Stop fighting a “global war on terror” 

The president often objects to the term “war on terror,” and has instead committed the U.S. to a fight against al-Qaida and its affiliates. 

“Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” 

This involves partnerships with nations like Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, which helps the apprehension and prosecution of terrorists. The partnerships also involve the process of gathering and sharing intelligence.