30 May 2013

India Poll 2013: Views from the Subcontinent

By Pratyush
May 29, 2013 


The link between public perceptions and foreign policy in India has increasingly come under scrutiny in recent years. Long the preserve of the prime minister’s office and the External Affairs Ministry, foreign policy under the governing United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has to a large degree been decentralized, due in part to the pressures of coalition politics. 

One prominent example came in March, when India’s UPA government voted against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council. The UPA took this stance in a bid to allay the concerns of its then ally from Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party, over Sri Lanka’s human rights record. 

But do Indians consider foreign policy a key determinant of their voting choices? The assumption has been that foreign policy is the domain of elites. This perception stems from the belief that issues pertaining to foreign powers are too remote to matter in the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. 

A recent report called India Poll 2013 produced jointly by the Lowy Institute for International Policy and the Australia India Institute offers rich insights into what Indians think about the world. The “nationally representative” opinion poll surveys 1233 Indian adults on their attitudes towards subjects from democracy to the economy and perceptions on potential security threats. 

A recent article in The Diplomat by the poll’s author, Rory Medcalf, has already presented some of the results, but it is worth making a few additional points. First, an overwhelming 70 percent of Indians believe in democracy, while only 21 percent view it as an impediment to progress. Looking deeper, an astounding 95 percent support the right to a fair trial, the right to vote and the right to free expression, while 87 percent support a free press. All of this suggests that Indians hold tightly to their democratic traditions. 

Further, despite a sharp deceleration of the Indian economy in fiscal 2012 (ended March 31) from the previous year’s 6.2 percent to 5 percent, 74 percent of Indians are optimistic about the country’s future economic prospects. Indeed, despite a flagging economy, 56 percent of people said they were better off economically than five years ago, while only 18 percent said they were worse off. 

In terms of security threats, chronic shortage of food and water, as well as climate change were viewed as the biggest dangers to the country by 80 to 85 percent of those surveyed. Other prominent security threats rated include potential war with Pakistan (77 percent), homegrown terrorism and foreign jihadist attacks (74 percent), possible war with China (73 percent) and Maoist insurgency (71 percent). 

Shifting its gaze abroad, the report reveals that, despite a strong culture of strategic autonomy in Indian foreign policy, almost 72 percent of Indians prefer having strong countries – particularly Pakistan and the United States – as partners. The U.S. tops the most favored list of countries, followed by Singapore, Japan and Australia. 

More than a security failure, a social failure

May 30 2013, 


Stark questions about the state remain unasked, as we mythologise Maoists without understanding them 

After this newspaper interviewed a Maoist leader last year, a top English news channel called the reporter for a possible "live" with the rebel. When explained the absurdity of this request, he switched to "some visuals" of the comrade, or at least a "phono" of the reporter. This illiterate editorial response towards the Red insurgency is at complete variance with the authoritative tweets from these editors now. 

No prominent English news channel has a correspondent in Chhattisgarh, the capital of the Maoist insurgency. After a major incident, their crew flies in to put together a few primetime packages. The Naxal comrades become a story only when an attack creates a "peg". No media, print or electronic, has a Naxal beat. 

In Chhattisgarh, the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress have never deliberated the issue. They respond only after an attack, when the chief minister takes oaths about handling the crisis with resolve. How he will do that is never spelt out. The prime minister called Maoists the "biggest internal security threat" several years ago, but he never visited their zone. The Congress vice president did not even use the M word during his emotional midnight address to partymen in Raipur, hours after the attack in Darbha valley. The state Congress now generates conspiracy theories instead of asking why a political convoy needs to be accompanied by a 1,000-plus security persons. Raipur rallies don't need paramilitary troops every hundred metres, why should Bastar? The Congress never asks the CM what continues to make Bastar a near-liberated zone, where elected representatives cannot even step in, or why the government has abandoned over two-thirds of south and western Bastar, where the administration has had no presence for the last seven or eight years. 

A majority of India does not understand the Maoists, and also lacks the desire and dedication to grapple with their reality. Op-eds and TV shows feature people who have, most likely, never met a rebel. The popular perception of Maoists is largely divided into a quadrangular formulation — pastoral guerrillas, corrective forces of history, extortionist butchers and disillusioned youths. Choose the Maoist that suits you. 

Enjoy this ignorance, but despite local variations, the Red movement in India is still based on a social, economic and political ideology, and many cadres, though illiterate, would swiftly spell out a few sermons on Naxalbaad. Of his total curriculum, violence or armed insurrection is just one aspect, which, due to its obvious newsworthiness and our collective interest in gore, mistakenly dominates the discourse. Remain hypnotised by their violence, and miss the complex matrix they weave to continue operating: attack the enemy, awaken the masses, attract the intellectual. 

Don't be fooled into thinking that the Darbha attack was the tipping point, or the "first such attack". It may be to compare death counts, but 24 is not even one-third of chhiyattar (76), the Tadmetla figure now part of Maoist lore. It was the fourth in this very year. "In a first" headlines accompanied news of an IED planted in a cop's body (Latehar, January), a journalist's murder (Sukma, February), an attack on a Doordarshan centre (April, Jagdalpur). The Sukma collector's abduction sparked outrage last year, but a year before that, the Malkangiri collector had been taken hostage, and six IAS officers had been abducted three decades ago. 

Innovation is a guerrilla's character, his necessity. He may use a passenger bus to attack a police camp, or don a school uniform to eliminate the target. Having fixed the final goal, he changes tactics routinely to ensure survival in hostile terrain. A mobile creature, he is always on the move. If he stagnates, he will perish. He may condemn democracy, but will forge a clandestine pact with a "bourgeois politician", an informal zone-sharing. He may hate capitalism and oppose mining for destroying tribal life, but may still take crores to allow that same miner to operate. 

South China Sea: Indian Navy Operational Cruise

By Dr Subhash Kapila

The Indian Navy has sent 0n May 2013 a four ship naval flotilla comprising of the following ships to the South China Sea on an operational cruise: 
  • INS SATPURA -Stealth Frigate 
  • INS RANVIJAY - Rajput Class Destroyer
  • INS KIRCH -Kora Class Corvette 
  • INS SHAKTI - Fleet Tanker
On the way to the South China Sea, the Indian Navy ships are carrying out a naval exercise with the Singapore Navy in the Straits of Malacca. 

While on this operational cruise, the Indian Navy ships will be calling at the following ports: 
  • Malaysia -Kelang 
  • Vietnam - Da Nang
  • Philippines - Manila 
Last year also a similar operational cruise was carried out 


Indian Navy ships for some years now have been carrying out operational cruises and exercises with Navies of the Western Pacific and the South East Asian region. 

The cruise in 2013 carries significant symbolic value in that it is confined to three of the four countries that are involved in a territorial and sovereignty disputes with China in the South China Sea. 

Also symbolic is the fact that this Indian Navy cruise to South China Sea comes soon after Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang visit to New Delhi. 

In an another coincidence, the Indian Navy ships cruising through the South China Sea coincides with the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Japan where the highlights are going to be increased defence cooperation with Japan. 

It needs to be noted that Japan and China are intensely locked in confrontation over the Japanese Senkaku Islands to which China has now laid claims. 

Media reports indicate that in the Joint Statement on May 20 2013 by the Indian and Chinese Prime Ministers it was stated: “Asia Pacific plays an important role in global affairs. The current priority is to establish an open, transparent, equal, and inclusive framework of security and cooperation based on the observance of the basic principles of international law” 

Intended or not, this reference carries a lot of weight when viewed in the context of China’s aggressive brinkmanship in the South China Sea disputes with Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. 

India is a significant stakeholder in the South China Sea and in the context of China’s aggressive military brinkmanship extending from the South China Sea to the Himalayan heights of Ladakh, India needs to stand strategically tall with other countries so affected and subjected to Chinese political and military coercion.

A New Opportunity for Indo-Pakistan Relations?

By Nitin A. Gokhale 
May 29, 2013 


The recent election of Nawaz Sharif raises hopes, but hardliners in both countries remain a hurdle.

In January this year, U.S. think tank the New America Foundation played host to 30-odd Indians and Pakistanis in Dubai. The idea was to share knowledge and ideas, understand prevailing challenges and issues, identify common points of collaboration, and collectively suggest the next steps for policy, strategy, research, and action. 

Delegates to the closed-door conference included representatives from the military, public and private institutes, think tanks, media, and non-profit organizations. 

The conversations covered issues of common interest to the two countries, including trade, business, microfinance, IT, water, energy, climate change, public health, security, and media. This writer was part of the conference as a delegate from India. 

Hosted by well-known authors and journalists Steve Coll and Peter Bergen, the two-day conference came up with the following key recommendations: 

· Facilitate cross-border exchange visits, both academic and person-to-person. 

· In terms of academia, organize trans-border inter-collegiate exchange programs. 

· Geographically, foster interaction across cities in the border states. 

· Provide a platform for collaborative research between various actors in Pakistan and India. This may involve a joint think tank or cross-border research on issues such as energy, trade, and microfinance. 

Five months later, Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's Prime Minister-in-waiting, after winning the landmark elections held on 11 May, is speaking along similar lines. He wants to increase bilateral trade with India to improve Pakistan's own economy, push for more people to people contacts and is in favor of a more liberalized visa regime. 

Nawaz Sharif also wants lasting peace with India, reprising an effort he made in 1999. In fact, in one of the first media interactions after his election victory, Sharif told reporters: "“We will pick up the threads from where we left in 1999… That is the roadmap that I have for improvement of relations between Pakistan and India.” 

In interview after interview with Indian journalists, Nawaz's central theme was his wish and plan for normal relations with India. Indian media and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government also hailed Nawaz Sharif's victory. Singh has made peace with Pakistan one of his “core” themes during his nine years in office, despite a brazen attack by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiyba (LeT) terrorists on the commercial city of Mumbai in November 2008 that left over 160 people dead. Singh immediately sent Sharif a message congratulating him on the election win: "… “(people of India) welcome your publicly articulated commitment to a relationship between India and Pakistan that is defined by peace, friendship and cooperation.” 

Both Singh and Sharif will, however, have to contend with hardliners back home before they can make any moves to reduce the existing trust deficit between the two countries. 

In Pakistan, in particular, no civilian leader has been able to practice an India policy independent of the country's powerful military. Last time, in 1999, Nawaz Sharif tried to break new ground by initiating a friendship bus that travelled from Delhi to Lahore. A new era, it seemed, was about to begin. 

Within months, however, Pakistan Army then led by Gen Pervez Musharraf, sabotaged the initiative by sending troops into Indian-held Kashmir, which led to the Kargil conflict. Musharraf’s ploy of dressing up Pakistan Army regulars as Mujahideens (Freedom fighters) was exposed once the Indian Army began to push back the intruders. US President Bill Clinton summoned Sharif to Washington and asked to withdraw the Pakistani Army troops from Kargil even as the Indians gained the upper hand. A humiliated Sharif returned home only to be ousted through a bloodless coup by Musharraf. The Saudis negotiated Sharif’s exile. 

The Pakistani Godfather: The Inter-Services Intelligence and the Afghan Taliban 1994-2010

April 2, 2013 



Alongside the Americans, Pakistan plays a key role in the "war against terrorism" and against the insurgents in Afghanistan. The country receives huge financial and military aid. Nevertheless, this support could not improve the situation in Afghanistan. Quite to the contrary. nine years after the American invasion, the Taliban are stronger than ever. At any time, they can strike almost anywhere in Afghanistan. Therefore, the question is whether the money just evaporates ineffectively in a mire of corruption and inefficient administration, or whether Pakistan is playing a double game with its allies, thereby systematically aggravating the instability in its neighbouring state in order to protect its own interests.

The aim of the present study is to gather facts and disclose links that demonstrate the kind of game the Pakistani government is playing with the West, with its intelligence service supporting the Taliban on a grand scale. It also demonstrates the naivety of a superpower that allows an alleged ally to receive billions of dollars, with which Pakistan amongst other things financed groups that kill American soldiers almost on a daily basis. It also uses the money to expand its control over the insurgents in Afghanistan and undermines initiatives for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

After a historical summary highlighting the close connection between the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI with the Taliban since their emergence in the mid-90s, the arrest of an influential Taliban leader is used as an example to demonstrate the effrontery with which the Pakistanis are playing their game. The rivalry with its neighbour, India, and the consequent desire for strategic depth as well as the absolute will to control the Pashtun tribal areas emerge as constant strategic guidelines.

The Taliban: From Their Emergence to Their Coming Into Power In Kabul (1994-1996)

When the Taliban first arrived to Southern Afghanistan in November 1994, their ideology fell on fertile soil. More than 15 years of war had left their mark on the country. The constant interference of foreign powers proved to be particularly fatal. Specifically, the unequal treatment during the resistance against the Soviet occupation (1979-1989) had increased the mistrust among the tribes and ethnic groups. The United States and Saudi Arabia, amongst others, had given around ten billion dollars of subsidies to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. These funds were distributed with the help of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)[1]. The ISI preferred the Pashtun tribes around Peshawar. They were therefore systematically given preferential treatment in the distribution of weapons and money by the Americans. Conversely, Pakistan regarded the south of Afghanistan around Kandahar as backward and the Durrani Pashtuns dominating the area at the time as untrustworthy.[2]

The clashes between various factions and warlords in late 1994 had led to the disappearance of the old and more moderate leadership, and thus left room for the Taliban extremists.[3] The whole country was divided among various warlords, forming and dissolving alliances as they pleased. In order to finance their war, the warlords exploited the population, cut down almost all forests and sold anything that wasn't nailed down. The on-going insecurity in turn called the truck mafia into action, which was operating from the Pakistani city of Quetta and from Kandahar. The fragmentation of the southern Afghan territory by many local warlords led to a serious restriction of their activities.[4]

Although the exact origin of the Taliban movement is controversial and shrouded in myth, we can be certain that the above-mentioned situation - lawlessness and lack of leadership - has paved the way for this radical movement. The Taliban still had to manage without the support of the ISI, which at that time was backing Hekmatyar's Hizb-i Islami. However, in 1994, the defeat and the loss of prestige of Hekmatyar was becoming apparent, and Pakistan began to look for a new deputy. Then there was the desire of the new Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, to open a trade route to Central Asia as quickly as possible. Because of the fighting around the capital, the northern route via Kabul to Mazar-i-Sharif and on to Uzbekistan was impassable. Therefore, the idea to open ​​the route via the southern part of the ring road from Quetta via Kandahar to Herat and on to Ashgabat established itself. The plan aroused the suspicions of the local princes, who feared Pakistan might be preparing a military invasion of the eastern neighbours.[5]

The first battle between Taliban and Hekmatyar fighters began in mid-October 1994. At Spin Baldak on the Afghan-Pakistani border, the Taliban overran a garrison of Hekmatyar. With the consent of Pakistan they then conquered a vast weapons and ammunition depot, built by the ISI.[6] Consequently, the Taliban were able to continue fighting for quite some time. In addition, the Pakistanis had the opportunity to hide their support for the Taliban.[7] This action can still be viewed as tolerated by Pakistan, but anything that happened after November 3rd must be considered active help. On this day, Taliban marched out at the request of the Pakistani to free a convoy detained by southern Afghan warlords. Shortly thereafter, they went on to take Kandahar. Already at that time, foreign diplomats were speculating that the Taliban were operating with the covert support of Pakistan.[8] At the same time, the Pakistani Interior Minister Babar boasted the success of "his boys".[9] However, the Taliban continued to try to demonstrate their independence and to resist the Pakistani influence.

While to many the origins of the Taliban still appeared mysterious, by the end of year, some sources were "concerned that the GOP [Government of Pakistan] (ISI) is deeply involved in the Taliban takeover in Kandahar and Qalat."[10] The same source also expressed concern that the influence of the unpopular Pakistanis in the south could further destabilise the country and sooner or later lead to an Afghan-Pakistani conflict. Meanwhile, the Taliban continued their conquest of Afghanistan and marched north.

China Is Winning the Cyber War Because They Hacked U.S. Plans for Real War

MAY 28, 2013


Ballistic-missile defenses, joint-strike fighters, Black Hawks, and more — Chinese hackers have their hands on plans for these and more of the Pentagon's most sophisticated weapons systems, just the latest sign that the culture of hacking in China continues to put America on the defensive ahead of a tense meeting between President Obama and Xi Jinping, a summit bound to be tense with cyberwarfare diplomacy. 

The Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima reports in Tuesday's paper that Chinese cyberthieves have "compromised" mockups that form the "backbone" of some of the U.S. military's most important and high-tech defense technology, and that it could signal a copycat advancement of China's arms, while aiming to "weaken the U.S. military advantage" down the road. The Chinese government, as usual with these attacks — even when they seem connected directly to the People's Liberation Army — are distancing themselves from the pervasive, and this time very internationally unsound, hacking. "The Defense Science Board, a senior advisory group made up of government and civilian experts, did not accuse the Chinese of stealing the designs. But senior military and industry officials with knowledge of the breaches said the vast majority were part of a widening Chinese campaign of espionage against U.S. defense contractors and government agencies," the Post reports. 

The new breach comes as a newly disclosed part of a classified Defense Science Board report. Back in January, the board released a public version of the report, warning of possible attacks on U.S. defense systems as well as the Defense Department's lack of preparation and protection. And if you look back in 2005, the same group warned U.S. defense officials against buying microchips from China because of trojan horses and spyware — advice the Pentagon eventually took, cutting off Chinese supply in 2011. But in just the last few months, Chinese hackers have gotten to major U.S. news organizations and government agencies. How have the Pentagon's own cybersecurity experts been so far ahead of the Pentagon's actual cybersecurity if China is stealing our war plans — or at least our warplanes? And is there any way to stop it? 

Obama has said that the U.S. military would focus on Asia and the Pacific in the coming year — he called it a "vast and complex undertaking" in his big foreign-policy speech on Thursday. "We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy," Obama said in his State of the Union address this year. Except it may be too late for wonder and speeches; Nakashima reports the Chinese cyberspies already have the basic outlines for the following: 

The designs included those for the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an Army system for shooting down ballistic missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; and the Navy's Aegis ballistic-missile defense system. 

Also identified in the report are vital combat aircraft and ships, including the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship, which is designed to patrol waters close to shore. Also on the list is the most expensive weapons system ever built — the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is on track to cost about $1.4 trillion. 

China’s Evolving ASAT Capabilities: Implications for India

China has carried out a ground-launched anti-satellite missile test on May 13 which according to reports was disguised as space exploration rocket firing. China’s National Space Science Center claimed that a sounding rocket was used in a high-altitude scientific exploration test. The missile fired from Xichang Space Launch center has been identified as Dong Ning-2 ASAT missile. However, in this case apparently there was no target to be engaged like the disused Chinese weather satellite in low-earth orbit in the first Chinese ASAT test of January 2007, the debris of which is still causing problems. It was the very same Xichang Space Launch center from where ASAT test of 2007 was carried out. Apparently, the existence of this new ASAT missile was discovered sometime in October last year. The Chinese spokesman, however, did not directly confirm or deny the conduct of such a test. 

The DN-2 is a high-earth orbit attack missile which is part of PLA’s plans to build asymmetric warfare capabilities that could be used against the US and regional competitors. According to some reports China possesses an arsenal of at least a dozen ASAT missiles. Such a counter space capability which is being viewed seriously by the US would also pose a threat India’s communication and soon to be placed Global Positioning Satellites besides a wide variety of critical civilian infrastructure that is dependent on communication and navigation satellites. Possibilities of ‘Unrestricted Warfare’ scenarios outlined by two senior colonels of PLA in their book published in 1999 cannot be ruled out. 

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has plans to launch first of a series of seven satellites of Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) starting from June 2013; the system will provide positioning timing and navigation facilities. All the satellites are expected to be in place by 2015. The satellites will provide facilities to both authorized civilian and military users with inbuilt secrecy devices. 

In addition, a dedicated military communications satellite GSAT-7/INSAT-4F is expected to be launched in August and GSAT-7A for use of the Indian Air Force is scheduled to be launched next year. Further, CARTOSAT-3 series of satellites that will give image resolution of .25 meters will replace the earlier ones have their slots for launch between 2016 and 2018. Further, Indian space programme is also very ambitious with plans to launch a variety of satellites in the coming years for collecting data, intelligence and for carrying out detection, reconnaissance and surveillance activities. All such space assets would be vulnerable to an adversary’s ASAT capabilities. 

Therefore, the moot point is how can India protect its increasing number of assets in the space? India’s rising ballistic missile warfare capabilities including its ballistic missile defence would be of no use without concomitant support from a variety of space based assets. Thus, a deterrence capability in space becomes a necessary condition for our long range precision strike of a strategic nature. In addition the entire structure of C4ISR is largely dependent on space-based assets. It can be easily surmised that we need an ASAT capability. 

Last year in April after the successful test of Agni V, DRDO Chief VK Sraswat claimed that "Today, we have developed all the building blocks for an anti-satellite (ASAT) capability". In fact, China’s ASAT test of 2007 had given impetus for undertaking such a project as India’s space infrastructure (worth over 12 billion US dollars) had become vulnerable. Agni V's launch in addition to substantively strengthening our strategic deterrence has spin off benefits as the ASAT weapon would largely be based on Agni V's propulsion system with the AD-2 interceptor missile becoming the kill-vehicle that is being developed as part of India’s ballistic missile defence system. As the military satellites operate in Low Earth Orbit (up to 2000 km) such a capability would deter any adversary that seeks to neutralise our satellites. According to DRDO projections the development of an ASAT capability is expected to be completed by end 2014. DRDO says that there are no plans to carry out an actual test; only simulation tests to verify the effectiveness of the ASAT weapon system are likely to be carried out. 

China’s Amphibious Game Changer?

By J. Michael Cole
May 29, 2013 


Amid simmering tensions in East Asia over a series of sovereignty disputes at sea, where new, unpredictable bouts of escalation are always around the corner, China has continued to build up the capabilities it will need should it one day decide to use force. 

The latest addition to its growing arsenal — the world’s largest Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vehicle — reached Guangzhou earlier this month, and could enter service soon. 

The vehicle in question, a Ukraine-built “Zubr” amphibious hovercraft (also known as the “European bison”), is part of a US$315 million deal signed between China and the state-owned Ukroboronprom defense conglomerate in 2009. Under the agreement, two LCACs, developed by the Ukrainian Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau, are to be built by the Ukraine-based Feodosia Shipbuilding Company, and two more by Chinese shipyards, under the supervision of Ukrainian engineers. 

The first vehicle, which was handed over to the PLAN during a ceremony last month, arrived in Guangzhou — likely at Guangzhou-Huangpu Shipbuilding Co — where it was presumably fitted with additional electronics and weapons systems on May 24. A second one is currently under construction at Feodosia. 

Nearly four-stories-high, the 555-ton LCAC could be a game-changer in amphibious operations within the region. The data sheet speaks for itself. According to various sources, the Zubr has a range of 380 nautical miles (480 km), can remain at sea for five days before replenishment, and can travel at up to 60 knots (55 knots for sustained cruising). Its payload capacity, at approximately 150 tons, is more than twice that of the LCACs in service in the U.S. and Japanese military, meaning that it can carry the equivalent of three main battle tanks (e.g., Type-80); 10 armored vehicles (e.g., BMP-2); 10 armored personnel carriers (e.g., BTR-70); or eight amphibious tanks. Meanwhile, its four compartments can accommodate 140 troops, or over 350 without armor. 

Furthermore, compared with U.S. or other equivalents, the Zubr is armed to the teeth. Its standard configuration includes two MS-227 launchers for 140 mm unguided rockets, two AK-630 30 mm close-in weapons systems (CIWS), Igla-1M air-defense systems, as well as mine-laying capability (between 20 and 80 mines, depending on the configuration). Such firepower means that aside from carrying out over-the-beach landing of troops and combat materiel, the Zubr can also provide fire support during operations ashore. 

While defense analysts speculate that the LCAC could play an important role in amphibious operations against Taiwan’s outlying islands, such as Kinmen and Matsu, a more immediate concern involves contingencies in the South China Sea, where China is embroiled in various disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and Taiwan. 

It is not yet known whether all four LCACs will join the PLAN’s Southern Fleet, or whether China intends to acquire or build more. But the South China Sea is where the Zubr would be at its most effective, given that regional navies (with the exception of Taiwan) are ill equipped to deal effectively with it, not to mention the fact that the area provides an environment that is suitable for this type of hovering vehicle. 

LCACs can usually navigate over 70 percent of coastal landing environments — including marshes and beaches — against only 15 percent for traditional landing craft.

Chinese Lead World in Economic Optimism

By Zachary Keck
May 30, 2013 


Even as expert opinion sours on China’s economy, Chinese themselves remain highly optimistic about the state of their economy. 

A new poll by Pew’s Global Attitudes Project found that 88 percent of Chinese citizens say their national economy is doing good, more than in any of the other 38 countries Pew surveyed. 

80 percent of Chinese also believe their national economy will improve in the next year, which was again the highest percentage in all the countries included in the poll. Only 2 percent said they believe their economy will grow worse in the next twelve months, far less than any other country. 

China also topped the list in terms of the percentage of respondents saying their country is headed in the right direction, with 85 percent of Chinese expressing this sentiment. 

Less optimistically, 53 percent of Chinese said the government should first address rising prices, a larger percentage than in any other country except Pakistan, where 66 percent said the same. Over one-quarter of Chinese said that the government’s top priority should be to address the widening inequality between rich and poor. This was higher than in any other country included in the poll. 

The general optimism of the Chinese people contrasts sharply with the growing pessimistic of economists and other experts. As Reuters recently reported, “In the space of five months, analysts have swung from confidently predicting a modest pick-up in the world's second-biggest economy to pondering the chance that China will miss its own 7.5 percent growth target this year.” 

Similarly, long-time China watcher Bill Bishop notes, “The prospects for China’s economy look so challenging for the remainder of 2013 that increasing numbers of usually cheerleading investment bank economists are cutting their rosy growth forecast for China.” 

They aren’t alone. Earlier this week the International Monetary Fund reduced its own growth estimate for the Chinese economy this year by 0.25 percent, from 8.0 percent to 7.75 percent. In making its slightly reduced outlook, the IMF said the expansion of credit to local governments, environmental issues, and income inequality were particular concerns. That being said, the IMF said the Chinese economy remained relatively strong and noted that the new Chinese government was pursuing an aggressive reform agenda to address the major challenges the country faces. 

Misconceptions About China’s Growth in Military Spending

By Xiao Tiefeng
MAY 28, 2013 



Western critics tend to exaggerate the size and threat of China’s military expenditure and to misunderstand the reasons for China’s increased spending.

Every year when China unveils its annual military budget, it elicits a great deal of international commentary, with no lack of accusations from Western countries. For example, on March 6, in his speech before the Japanese Diet, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated: “China is increasing its military power, which lacks transparency; in the view of this region’s countries, including Japan, this merits concern.”(1) Further, on May 5, the United States released the newest version of its annual report on China’s military power. In this report, the U.S. Department of Defense pointed out that because China lacks transparency, its actual military expenditure estimates are much greater than the official amounts released. 

In response to such accusations, it is necessary to undertake a serious analysis based on objective reality and international comparison. Doing so reveals that Western critics have exaggerated the size and threat of China’s military expenditure and have misunderstood the peaceful purposes behind China’s increased spending.(2) 


The most frequent criticism of China’s military expenditure is that the country has seen double-digit increases in its defense budget for twenty consecutive years beginning in 1989. Related is the assertion that in the past ten years, China’s defense budget has rapidly risen in the international ranking to reach the level of number two in the world. However, these accusations ignore several basic facts. 

First, China’s military spending growth rate is a nominal growth rate. This means that if inflation is removed as a factor, the actual rate of growth is not high. For example, China’s defense budget for 1994 was renminbi (RMB) 55.071 billion, an increase of 29.34 percent from the previous year. However, if adjusted for commodity price inflation (here, the consumer price index, CPI, is used to measure commodity price, and the CPI for 1994 was 24.1 percent), the defense budget for that year only grew by 5.24 percent. 

As another example, in 2012 China published a defense budget of RMB 670.274 billion, with an increase from 2011 of RMB 67.604 billion and a growth rate of 11.2 percent. However, if adjusted for commodity price inflation (in 2012 China’s CPI was 2.6 percent), the real growth rate was only 9.6 percent.(3) 

Second, the RMB’s appreciation in value affects the growth rate. When China’s military spending is compared internationally, the rate of growth is relatively fast. But when calculated in domestic currency, the growth rate is rather slow. In 2004, China’s defense budget was RMB 247.496 billion, approximately $26.580 billion (at that time, the exchange rate was RMB 8.2768 to $1). In 2012, China’s defense budget was RMB 670.274 billion, approximately $106.182 billion (at that time, the exchange rate was RMB 6.3125 to $1). Calculated in U.S. dollars, China’s defense budget from 2004 to 2012 increased 2.99 times. Its proportion of U.S. military expenditure increased from 5.6 percent to 15.8 percent, and its proportion of Japan’s defense expenditure increased from 58.7 percent to 179.7 percent. However, if recalculated in RMB, China’s defense expenditure only rose 1.7 times, and the growth rate of its military spending slowed greatly. 

Third, China’s military spending growth is driven by its economic development, as is the case for other countries. When these other countries have undergone periods of rapid growth, their military expenditures have also risen accordingly. In the case of Japan, its defense expenditure grew from 183 billion to 2,250 billion Japanese yen from 1961 to 1980, with an average annual growth rate of 14 percent (except for 1965, 1976, 1978, and 1983, all years in this range had double-digit growth rates). Even after deducting commodity price inflation, the actual growth rate was as high as 7 percent. The root cause for growth during this period was Japan’s rapid economic growth. 

Following China’s reforms and opening up, and particularly its rapid economic rise since the 1990s, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) has risen from occupying eleventh place in global rankings to its current position of second place. Given its soaring overall economy, China’s military expenditure will naturally increase.

Additionally, of the categories of China’s fiscal expenditure, military spending is growing more slowly than spending on social services such as medical care, education, and social security, among others. For example, from 2006 to 2011, expenditure on medical care and healthcare grew from RMB 132 billion to RMB 643 billion, an increase of 3.87 times; education expenditure grew from RMB 546.4 billion to RMB 1649.7 billion, an increase of 2.01 times; and social security and employment expenditure grew from RMB 439.4 billion to RMB 1110.9 billion, an increase of 1.53 times. During the same period, the national defense budget grew from RMB 283.8 billion to RMB 601.1 billion, an increase of only 1.11 times. 


Some in the West have argued that China’s military expenditure is too high for a developing country, noting that it ranks second in the world and is almost twice that of third-ranked Russia. Such a view, however, ignores several key facts.

First, China’s military spending does not constitute a large share of either Chinese GDP or fiscal expenditure, and it has been on an overall declining trend. In the sixty years since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the highest level of military expenditure as a proportion of GDP and fiscal spending occurred in 1953, when these numbers were 9.1 percent and 35.21 percent, respectively. Thereafter, in particular since 1980, with improvements in the international environment and shifts in the domestic work focus, military expenditure began to trend downward and has in recent years stabilized. In 2012, China’s national defense budget amounted to 1.29 percent of its GDP and 5.72 percent of its fiscal spending. 

Opportunities and Challenges Confronting Russian Oil

By Deborah Gordon, Yevgen Sautin
MAY 28, 2013 



Russia has diverse oil resources, but current policies encourage the extraction of the dirtiest fuels. A more economically and environmentally sound approach is needed.

A massive amount of unconventional oil is locked up in Russia’s territory, some resources dirtier and more challenging to extract and process than others. How this oil wealth is developed—from resource selection to environmental controls—will impact Russia and the world. 

Unfortunately, current Russian oil policies provide higher subsidies for and impose lower taxes on the most difficult-to-extract oils and the dirtiest fuels. Those policies are steering the nation in precisely the wrong direction. Flooding the market in this way with the most damaging oil resources could tip the carbon scales toward climate overload. If Russia were to instead rank its oils, subsidize development of less carbon-intensive fuels, and promote economy-wide energy efficiency, it would be on the road to providing higher-quality commodities to its primary customers in the EU and Asia and to becoming a leader in more sustainable oil development.


The history of Russian oil has been shaped by unlikely personalities, seemingly insurmountable setbacks, and improbable triumphs. Today, the Russian oil industry—Rosneft, Gazprom, Lukoil, and others—rivals the major global oil companies, including ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell in resource holdings and profitability. They are the crown jewels of Putin’s Russia: bringing in billions in state revenue, serving as the lifeblood of Siberian company towns, and standing at the helm of the Kremlin modernization effort. 

Throughout the czarist, Soviet, and now modern periods, there have been sensational booms and catastrophic busts. Since 1960, Russian production of conventional crude oil has fluctuated markedly (see figure 1).

At its peak in 1987, Soviet oil output stood at a world high of 11.4 million barrels a day. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, oil production dwindled to a low of 6 million barrels a day in 1996. With plummeting production stemming from the widespread economic disarray of the 1990s compounded by falling international oil prices, major Russian oil companies—Rosneft, Lukoil, TNK-BP, Surgutneftegas—had little incentive for oil exploration. As a result, most of the current operational Russian oil fields were discovered before 1970 in Western Siberia. 

At the start of the new century, the industry rebounded. Production was increased simply by restoring existing capacity to levels near their Soviet-era peaks. Over the past decade, Russian oil production has continued to migrate upward. 

Today, Russia vies with Saudi Arabia for the title of world’s largest oil producer. But Russia’s current proven reserves do not contain nearly as much oil as Saudi Arabia’s or even North America’s. Moreover, unlike Saudi Arabia, Russia is producing oil full bore without spare capacity. As such, many perceive the Russian oil sector to be, once again, on the precipice of a major decline. Production costs are increasing, and production volumes from Soviet-era conventional oil plays (also known as brown fields) is stagnating. 

Russia also has an array of untapped resources, including oils in remote new green fields that contain plentiful reserves but are expensive to develop and distant from existing infrastructure. The former Soviet Union took great interest in developing early-generation technologies to produce these oils, going as far as to fracture shale rocks using underground nuclear blasts in the Timan-Pechora Basin in the 1960s. Geologists identified these difficult-to-recover unconventional oils but left them in the ground for future generations to manage. And that is the challenge Russia now faces. 

Asia-Pacific: A Strategic Assessment

Authored by Dr. David Lai
May 28, 2013
Type: Monograph 
113 Pages
Download Format: PDF

Brief Synopsis

Dr. David Lai provides a timely assessment of the geostrategic significance of Asia-Pacific. His monograph is also a thought-provoking analysis of the U.S. strategic shift toward the region and its implications. Dr. Lai judiciously offers the following key points. First, Asia-Pacific, which covers China, Northeast Asia, and Southeast Asia, is a region with complex currents. On the one hand, there is an unabated region-wide drive for economic development that has been pushing Asia-Pacific forward for decades. On the other, this region is troubled with, aside from many other conflicts, unsettled maritime disputes that have the potential to trigger wars between and among Asia-Pacific nations. Second, on top of these mixed currents, China and the United States compete intensely over a wide range of vital interests in this region. For better or for worse, the U.S.-China relationship is becoming a defining factor in the relations among the Asia-Pacific nations. Third, the U.S. strategic shift toward Asia-Pacific is, as President Obama puts it, not a choice but a necessity. Although conflicts elsewhere, especially the ones in the Middle East, continue to draw U.S. attention and consume U.S. foreign policy resources, the United States is turning its focus toward China and Asia-Pacific. Fourth, in the mid-2000s, the United States and China made an unprecedented strategic goodwill exchange and agreed to blaze a new path out of the tragedy that often attends great power transition. Fifth, at this time of U.S. strategic reorientation and military rebalancing toward Asia-Pacific, the most dangerous consideration is that Asia-Pacific nations having disputes with China can misread U.S. strategic intentions and overplay the “U.S. card” to pursue their territorial interests and challenge China. Finally, territorial dispute is becoming an urgent issue in the Asia-Pacific.

Distorted Stats: Europe's Youth Unemployment Fallacy


Students in Madrid protest government austerity measures in early May. 

The oft-cited statistic that half of young Spaniards are unemployed is wrong. In reality, about one-fifth of those under 25 are looking for work. Nevertheless, outreach programs created by Germany focus on young people alone, though critics say other groups desperately need help too. 

In recent days, it seemed as though the entire German cabinet had discovered youth unemployment as its new pet issue. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced there would be a job summit for Europe's young people, while her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, promised a loan program for Portuguese firms who train jobless youth. Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen traveled to Madrid to take on the issue, which Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the "most urgent of tasks." Von der Leyen carried with her plans for a training program that would place 5,000 young Spaniards with German firms over the next four years. On Tuesday, the busy minister will also present a "New Deal" for European young people at a conference. 


The concentrated efforts of these prominent German politicians on behalf of Southern Europe's youth appears to be necessary, given data that shows unemployment has reached shocking levels there as the euro crisis wears on. Eurostat, the European Union's statistics office, reported at the end of last year that it had reached 57.9 percent in Greece and 55.2 percent in Spain. 

But is every other young Greek or Spaniard really out of work? A closer look at Eurostat's statistics outline reveals that these rates do "not necessarily mean that the group of unemployed persons aged between 15 and 24 is large." That's because many in this group are full-time students and are "neither working nor looking for a job." Students are therefore omitted, though they account for more than half of those under 25. 

A More Realistic Assessment 

There are other indications that the classic youth unemployment rate creates a distorted view of reality. For example, the proportion of underqualified young people who are actually on the job market is far greater than it is in the entire population of 15- to 24-year-olds that includes students. Anyone who drops out of school at 14 gets statistically grouped into the workforce -- and they are likely to be unemployed. 

Meanwhile, the best students often pursue their educations the longest, during which time they remain left out of the data. Those who go on to earn a master's degree or Ph.D. often don't enter the labor force until they are past 25, which means they never even appear in the youth employment statistics. Thus, Eurostat has also made an alternative calculation that accounts for the entire under-24 population, including students. This ratio shows that while the situation for young Southern Europeans still isn't great, it's also far from catastrophic. According to this calculation, Spain still led in youth unemployment for 2012 -- but at a ratio of 20 percent, compared to the frequently mentioned rate of 55.2 percent. Greece was at 16 percent, while 10 percent of Italy's young people were out of work. 

So, in reality, it's not half of Spain's young people who are unemployed, but rather one-fifth -- though this remains a high level that obscures an even more distressing problem. Many students are choosing to extend their studies because they fear the hopelessness and stigma that come with unemployment. What's more, those who do work are often paid low wages. 

The Bomb Didn't Beat Japan... Stalin Did

Have 70 years of nuclear policy been based on a lie? 

MAY 29, 2013 


The U.S. use of nuclear weapons against Japan during World War II has long been a subject of emotional debate. Initially, few questioned President Truman's decision to drop two atomic bombs, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, in 1965, historian Gar Alperovitz argued that, although the bombs did force an immediate end to the war, Japan's leaders had wanted to surrender anyway and likely would have done so before the American invasion planned for November 1. Their use was, therefore, unnecessary. Obviously, if the bombings weren't necessary to win the war, then bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wrong. In the 48 years since, many others have joined the fray: some echoing Alperovitz and denouncing the bombings, others rejoining hotly that the bombings were moral, necessary, and life-saving. 

Both schools of thought, however, assume that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with new, more powerful weapons did coerce Japan into surrendering on August 9. They fail to question the utility of the bombing in the first place -- to ask, in essence, did it work? The orthodox view is that, yes, of course, it worked. The United States bombed Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, when the Japanese finally succumbed to the threat of further nuclear bombardment and surrendered. The support for this narrative runs deep. But there are three major problems with it, and, taken together, they significantly undermine the traditional interpretation of the Japanese surrender. 


The first problem with the traditional interpretation is timing. And it is a serious problem. The traditional interpretation has a simple timeline: The U.S. Air Force bombs Hiroshima with a nuclear weapon on August 6, three days later they bomb Nagasaki with another, and on the next day the Japanese signal their intention to surrender. One can hardly blame American newspapers for running headlines like: "Peace in the Pacific: Our Bomb Did It!" 

When the story of Hiroshima is told in most American histories, the day of the bombing -- August 6 -- serves as the narrative climax. All the elements of the story point forward to that moment: the decision to build a bomb, the secret research at Los Alamos, the first impressive test, and the final culmination at Hiroshima. It is told, in other words, as a story about the Bomb. But you can't analyze Japan's decision to surrender objectively in the context of the story of the Bomb. Casting it as "the story of the Bomb" already presumes that the Bomb's role is central. 

Viewed from the Japanese perspective, the most important day in that second week of August wasn't August 6 but August 9. That was the day that the Supreme Council met -- for the first time in the war -- to discuss unconditional surrender. The Supreme Council was a group of six top members of the government -- a sort of inner cabinet -- that effectively ruled Japan in 1945. Japan's leaders had not seriously considered surrendering prior to that day. Unconditional surrender (what the Allies were demanding) was a bitter pill to swallow. The United States and Great Britain were already convening war crimes trials in Europe. What if they decided to put the emperor -- who was believed to be divine -- on trial? What if they got rid of the emperor and changed the form of government entirely? Even though the situation was bad in the summer of 1945, the leaders of Japan were not willing to consider giving up their traditions, their beliefs, or their way of life. Until August 9. What could have happened that caused them to so suddenly and decisively change their minds? What made them sit down to seriously discuss surrender for the first time after 14 years of war? 

It could not have been Nagasaki. The bombing of Nagasaki occurred in the late morning of August 9, after the Supreme Council had already begun meeting to discuss surrender, and word of the bombing only reached Japan's leaders in the early afternoon -- after the meeting of the Supreme Council had been adjourned in deadlock and the full cabinet had been called to take up the discussion. Based on timing alone, Nagasaki can't have been what motivated them. 

Hiroshima isn't a very good candidate either. It came 74 hours -- more than three days -- earlier. What kind of crisis takes three days to unfold? The hallmark of a crisis is a sense of impending disaster and the overwhelming desire to take action now. How could Japan's leaders have felt that Hiroshima touched off a crisis and yet not meet to talk about the problem for three days?