4 June 2013

The War We Are Losing

30 May 2013 

Why Maoists carried out their deadly attack in Chhattisgarh and why such attacks will not stop 

Maoist guerillas at a camp in Gadchiroli division of which Eiatu is the commander 

Darbha Valley in southern Chhattisgarh is flanked by the Kanger forest on its north and the Balimela forest on its east, bordering Odisha. This is an area that the Communist Party of India (Maoist) brought under its newly-formed Chhattisgarh-Orissa Border Committee last year. At about 4 pm on 25 May, a convoy of cars carrying senior Congress leaders and others was to pass through the area.

The Congress, in opposition in the state, was hoping for big gains in the Assembly polls later this year in the Bastar region. In the last elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won 11 of the region’s 12 seats, leading the party to power in Raipur. The Congress had set itself the goal of making a similar sweep in the forthcoming polls with its Parivartan Yatra, which was announced with much fanfare on 11 April.

Travelling from a political rally in Sukma towards Jagdalpur on the single carriageway of National Highway 221, the convoy was about to cross a sharp curve with a milestone that read ‘Jagdalpur, 43’. The first car in the convoy had just crossed the milestone when the vehicle behind it, a Bolero, was thrown several metres in the air. It was a landmine blast. The impact was so powerful that several people in other vehicles were seriously injured. Within seconds, the survivors found themselves surrounded by Maoist guerillas, many of them carrying wireless sets, who were walking slowly and firing at the cars.

It was one of India’s most audacious ambushes ever. Shouting slogans and expletives, the guerillas closed in and asked for two senior Congress leaders to be identified: Mahendra Karma and Nand Kumar Patel.

There had been no single interview of a Maoist leader or press release issued by the Communist Party of India (Maoist) for seven years that did not mention Karma. Since 2006, Karma had led an anti-Maoist militia called the Salwa Judum that killed more innocent civilians than Maoists, apart from indulging in an orgy of loot, rape and plunder that resulted in the displacement of over 150,000 people. Patel had not been on the Maoist hit list at all. On 25 May, when Karma turned himself over to the ambushers along with Patel and others, Karma was first beaten up, and then shot many times in his head. Then Patel and his son were taken into the surrounding forest along with a few others. While the rest were let off—some were even administered pain killers for their injuries by Maoists—Patel and his son were shot in cold blood. Their bodies were recovered the next morning by security forces combing the area.

Two days later, the CPI (Maoist) issued a statement hailing its guerillas for killing Karma and ‘other reactionary Congress top leaders’. The Maoist spokesperson Gudsa Usendi said Patel was killed because of his ‘history of suppressing the people’. While Usendi regretted the killing of innocents, he offered no explanation for why Patel’s son was killed too.


CONSPIRACY THEORIES ABOUND, with unconfirmed reports of how the convoy’s route was changed at the last minute, or how some leaders were let off, even as a slew of politicians, retired security personnel and human rights activists wrestle it out on TV channels, offering their take on the situation. But the crater left on that road in Darbha valley and the remains of the dead—25 were killed in the ambush—strewn all over the place made it clear that it was a brutal, premeditated attack on the Indian Government. Of course, in the past few months, Maoists had been on the defensive, prompting the Union Minister of Home Affairs to claim in front of a Parliamentary Standing Committee that there has been an “absolute turnaround in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand”. But after this brazen attack in Chhattisgarh, such claims have fizzled out.

Naxal Violence: What should be Done to Counter?

By N Manoharan

The Maoists’ ruthless attack on a convoy of Congress leaders and workers in Chhattisgarh in May 2013 has once again highlighted the nature and intensity of the problem. The convoy was an ideal target for the Indian Maoists, who have been looking for chances to attack. It was a perfect target because of the presence of many high-profile leaders in one place, and that too with less security cover, passing through a most vulnerable area. It is not enough to just assess the incident and move on; the important question should be: What should be done to counter the left-wing extremism?

Despite being dubbed as “India’s greatest internal security threat”, the threat assessment of Left-wing Extremism has not been realistic. The nature of LWE has substantially transformed. From an ideologically driven movement, it has transformed itself into a guerrilla force with its own army, sophisticated arms, weapons manufacturing capabilities, funding sources – internal and external – rigid organisational structure, fertile recruiting base, ideal terrain to hide and thousands of sympathisers across India and even among civil society. What is more worrying is their need-based linkage with both state and non-state actors within and without India. Rapid economic development and improvement of transport and communication infrastructure have added new dimensions to the threat. 

However, the present anti-Maoist strategy of ‘Clear-Hold-Develop’ has not taken the real gravity and dynamics of the menace into consideration. LWE is no more a “public order” issue, and falls well within the innermost circle of what Justice Hidayatullah calls “three concentric circles” of threats. Given the inter-State and global nature of the threat, the Union Government is duty bound under Article 355 to “protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance.”

What is required, at the outset, is a political desire, if not the political will, to deal with the entire gamut of the threat. All political parties have to rise above narrow electoral consideration to fight the Naxals. As long as the political consensus on the issue is not achieved, a long-lasting solution to the problem will remain evasive. Leading national parties, along with the concerned State political parties have to take the lead in arriving at a common understanding on the causes, consequences of and counter-measures to left-wing extremism. It should also be noted that the rise of LWE can also be attributed to the failure of moderate political parties in articulating the rising expectations and grievances of the people at the right time in an adequate manner. 

The parties, therefore, have to get on to their primary task of ‘interest aggregation’.

It is important to develop a strong participatory mechanism. Grassroots democracy would ultimately prove to be the ideal foil to militancy. They give enough space – for mainstream and regional political parties, civil society groups, or even dissidents – for political action. Provisions under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act that mandates tribal advisory councils to oversee tribal affairs and empowers Governors of each State to intervene in matters where they see tribal autonomy being compromised are hardly used. The PESA not only accepted the validity of “customary law, social and religious practices, and traditional management practices of community resources”, but also directed the state governments not to make any law which is inconsistent with these. Accepting a clear-cut role for the community, it gave wide-ranging powers to Gram Sabhas to approve plans, programmes for social and economic development, identify beneficiaries under poverty alleviation programmes, certify utilisation of funds by gram Panchayats, protect natural resources, including minor forest produce and be consulted prior to land acquisition. The full-fledged implementation of PESA Act would empower the marginalised tribals and, in turn, would deal a bigger blow to the Maoists.

He grants that Indian policies are born out of its unique cultural and historical experience

His entire foreign policy sensibility was geared to the balance of power ethos and there was hardly any room for private morality. Robert Kaplan recently wrote about how it worked: 'Realism is about the ultimate moral ambition in foreign policy: The avoidance of war through a favourable balance of power.'

Of course, in later years Kissinger expressed public regret over his anti-India comments. He admitted slyly, 'The fact we (the US and India) were at cross purposes at that time was inherent in the situation but she (Indira Gandhi) was a great leader who did great things for her country.'

He politely explained that the caustic things he said about Indira Gandhi and the Indians did not form part of a 'formal conversation' and was 'Nixon language.'

But the sense of humiliation remains in the Indian mind and the remarks still rankle -- 'The Indians are bastards anyway. They are starting a war there (in East Pakistan).'

And, honestly, how far Kissinger meant his regret is also difficult to tell. What matters, perhaps, is what he thinks of present-day 'emerging' India.

Evidently, his enthusiasm for India some six or seven years ago following the visit by President George W Bush to India and the promise of an unprecedented level of US-Indian cooperation and interdependence has dissipated. 

However, he is much more tolerant in his understanding of Indian policies. He is willing to grant that Indian policies are born out of the country's unique cultural and historical experience.

Why Indians won't trust Henry Kissinger

June 3, 2013 

Henry Kissinger's perspectives on India have changed over the years. So how does India take to the mellowed Dr Kissinger?

India's elites may have dropped their earlier allergy toward Kissinger, who turned 90 last week, but they are on guard still, feels Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar.

Anyone who worked as a diplomat in the latter half of the 20th century would have his private story to tell regarding Henry Kissinger.

So let me begin with mine, circa February 1972 in a cavernous room of the Union Public Services Commission in Delhi, while seated awkwardly across a big table facing a phalanx of hostile-looking elderly gentlemen who were to judge my credentials to become a diplomat.

I had expected a fair portion of the interview to be on a famous American, Tennessee Williams, on whom I did my PhD work. But Kissinger who had just returned from the secret visit to China hijacked the interview.

To my great relief the interview went very well since a congenial atmosphere easily formed with a consensus opinion that Kissinger was not at all a good thing for India.

For me it was easy to be emotional, because as a leftist student activist I saw Kissinger anyway as the ogre of Vietnam. The intellectual understanding that led to profound admiration followed in later years.

The Indian elites never really got to like Kissinger. The Kissinger saga predates his China visit. During the South Asia crisis of 1971 Kissinger regarded India as a 'Soviet stooge' and he refused to accept the Indian accounts of genocide in the then East Pakistan.

We never forgave him. And to add insult to injury, he sent the USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal to intimidate India. We felt outraged and there is nothing worse than passive outrage.

But then, there was nothing personal in all that on Kissinger's part. He also brushed aside the cables from the American diplomats based in Dacca (now Dhaka) on the 'reign of terror' let loose by the Pakistani army, because human rights issues never bothered him.

This was a consistent streak in Kissinger's outlook -- his very lack of idealism and his conviction that there could be only one immutable principle in foreign policy, namely a country's self-interest.

It is not that he entirely lacked liberal instincts. But 'liberalism' was only one principle among many and it could only be a general principle at that, and taking into account the stubborn realities of the world, often it required some bending.

Kissinger was appalled that such a phoney person could get away with threatening the status quo

All this is documented history. Kissinger played the key role in micromanaging the US moves. To my mind, clearly, he wasn't punishing India.

His calculus had two angles: a. The US' Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union and his apprehension of a collapse of the 'balance of power', and B. The anxiety to keep the US' nascent Chinese arm.

We Indians mistook this as his 'tilt' to Pakistan, but neither Pakistan nor India figured except collaterally in Kissinger's scheme of things -- as minor instruments that could spoil the big symphony.

But the Indians somehow convinced themselves that Kissinger had an entrenched, visceral hatred toward their country. His irritation with India at that point in time was that 

Indira Gandhi was upsetting the preservation of the worldwide balance of power. This had everything to do with Kissinger's conception of foreign policy. Kissinger remained steady in his refusal to confuse foreign policy with theology.

He saw no scope for moral condemnation in foreign policy. The Indians, on the other hand, insisted on playing on both sides.

Self-interest guided Indian foreign policy most of time and moral condemnation never perturbed India or hindered it from doing things that were in its self-interest, but India also reserved the right to resort to moral condemnation of the US's behaviour.

Kissinger thought this was rank hypocrisy. His vituperative remarks about India and Indira Gandhi can be seen almost entirely in this light.

He judged that while on the one hand India proclaimed non-alignment as the moral equivalent of the two sides that straddled the Cold War crises, on most issues it ended up tilting toward the Soviet position or where it was not patently possible, ended up remaining aloof rather be supportive of the US.

Kissinger felt irritated by India's day-to-day tactics. He was unmoved by the ideals of the shared affinities the two countries lavishly proclaimed, being democracies and so on.

What mattered to him were the political choices that India was prepared to make.

Kissinger remained genuinely unconvinced that Indira Gandhi's anguish over the repression in East Pakistan was anything but a pretext and it led him to think of her and the country's policies at that point as driven by aggressive intentions.

Kissinger was appalled that such a phoney person could get away with threatening the status quo in the world order.

In those uncertain times in the early 1970s, the preservation of the status quo subsumed all other considerations on Kissinger's mind.

Kissinger rejects the notion of India being a counterweight to China in US policy

Kissinger has written that Indian involvement in international affairs will manifest at different levels. In its South Asian neighbourhood, the attempt is to maintain Indian hegemony.

Kissinger sees India's China problem as of a great power confronted by a comparable rival, but he estimates that so far the preoccupation has been to create a security belt against military pressure while neither power has got engaged in a diplomatic or security contest over pre-eminence in the heartland of Asia.

And he sees no change in the foreseeable future also because both India and China realise that they have too much to lose from a general confrontation.

Kissinger rejects the notion of India being a counterweight to China in US policy. He sees there is no scope for a US-India condominium against China because both countries are interested in maintaining a constructive relationship with China and while the US' global strategy to build a new world order could gain from India's cooperation, India will not only refuse to serve as America's foil with China, but will resent any attempts to use it that way.

At the same time, he sees that India's 'Look East' policy works in harmony with the US' regional policies in Southeast Asia insofar as both countries are interested in an inclusive regional architecture that also includes China, Japan, ASEAN and themselves too.

On the whole, Kissinger sees that globalisation has reinforced the incentives for both the US and India for cooperation. Both the major political groupings in India are advocates of India's integration with the world economy. And a 'geopolitical confluence of interests' has also emerged with the end of the Cold War.

Interestingly Kissinger has been a staunch supporter of the 2008 US-India nuclear deal. He opposed the US sanctions against India following the nuclear tests in 1998 and espoused that India should be treated as a nuclear country whose capabilities in the nuclear field are irreversible.

Evidently, Kissinger's perspectives on India have changed over the years. Much of this is to be understood in terms of the post-Cold War setting, while his panache for realism and the primacy he attaches to the 'balance of power' have not withered away.

Arguably, his continuing role as the flag carrier of US-China cooperation and interdependency can be explained this way.

How does India take to the mellowed Kissinger? India's elites have also dropped their earlier allergy toward Kissinger, although they are on guard still.

His advocacy of China's harmonious rise doesn't go down well with the Indian pundit. Besides, there is a credibility problem, since it is virtually impossible to fathom what is really going on in Kissinger's seamless mind.

Guns and roses in good measure

04 June 2013 

What is needed is hope, and the tangible manifestation of hope is weapons and funds from India to Kabul. If India loses hope and fails to deliver, then Afghanistan will turn into our Czechoslovakia. That’s a scary thought, any which way we look at

Afghanistan is about hope, not practicality. Here it seems the West and India are stuck on two opposite poles, and like the blind men of Hindoostan, both are partly in the right but wholly in the wrong.

As Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai wrapped up his India visit, his repeated request for weapons, it seems, was again going to get bogged down in the corridors of that visual monstrosity that South Block is.

Basically for all intents and purposes, India seems to have given up in Afghanistan when it has no reason to. The request for weapons was dissected in terms of logistical feasibility, not wanting to sour relations with Pakistan and every other angle, but the underlying assumption at least in the media seems to be that it would be throwing good money into a lost cause.

Historically and strategically, this is far from true. Unlike Pakistan, Afghanistan has always had a sense of cohesion. A very simple example of this is the period between 1989 and 1991. Despite the Soviet’s withdrawal and Western predictions of the Najibullah Government’s collapse “within weeks”, the Government slogged it out for a full two years, in some cases actually gaining ground. This was undone when the Soviet Union collapsed and the last sources of finance and logistics dried up. This was not a collapse of Afghan morale or Afghan fighting ability, but rather the collapse of tangibles that supported that fighting ability.

Again and again, despite the motivated propaganda, the Afghan Army has proven itself a competent fighting force. This is not to say it has been without its fair share of problems. But in analysing what the Afghan Army can do, we also need to look at how bad the military situation for the Taliban is — and it has in fact been dire for quite some time now. The key to success lies in finding the tipping point — at what levels and for how long does the Afghan National Army’s competence have to be sustained to exploit the deep divisions, lack of morale and battle fatigue within the Taliban.

When we talk of supplying weapons to Afghanistan we need to keep in mind the calibre, impact and logistics. The International Security Assistance Force that remain (and we now know that at least 6,000 troops will stay back) will stave off any high-level threat from Pakistan. This means Pakistan’s hopes of using its Air Force and artillery like it did in aiding the Taliban in the late 90s, is a non-starter. It cannot afford to take on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on a conventional battlefield in the open. What Afghan forces need are middle-level capabilities to sustain the current level of counter-insurgency operations, and, this is exactly what President Karzai had sought.

India has two options: Either fight the Taliban in Afghanistan or end up fighting them in India, because once the Taliban pacify Afghanistan they will invariably turn their cultural imperialism outwards. Keeping these militants bogged down in Afghanistan is an imperative, and losing hope is an extraordinarily dangerous policy for India at this stage.

New Delhi must actually measure these arms supply against the non-existent ‘goodwill’ of Pakistan? As the saying goes: Possession is nine-tenths of the law. If Pakistan ‘possesses’ Afghanistan, no amount of goodwill will prevent the forces of fundamentalism unleashed there from being directed against India. Capability, after all is a tangible; goodwill is not. This was very much the same argument that the too-smart-by-half mandarins made when Tibet was abandoned. The extent of Chinese goodwill it brought India became evident in 1962. Yielding to bullies can be justified in a thousand different ways, but bullies remain bullies and appeasement simply does not work.

One myth that has been propagated is that somehow it is the Pakistani Army that supported and propped up the Taliban and that the civilian Government of Pakistan did not share this enthusiasm. Yet, very cogent evidence points to the fact that it was Benazir Bhutto’s then Interior Minister Naseerullah Babar (a retired Army officer before he joined the Pakistan Peoples Party) who came up with the Taliban strategy as a way of diverting internal fundamentalism outwards.

Democratic Values and Support for Militant Politics: Evidence from a National Survey of Pakistan

Additional Authors: 
C. Christine Fair, Neil Malhorta


A longstanding research tradition on political culture argues that greater support for core liberal values leads to a rejection of destructive political activities and reduced support for violent politics. In this vein, many contemporary analysts of security policy contend that a lack of democratic values in the Middle East promotes the development of violent political organizations. Unfortunately, there have been few direct tests of the hypothesis that an individual’s rejection of democratic values correlates with support for militant groups. We conduct such a test in Pakistan using an original 6,000-person provincially-representative survey. We find that strong supporters of democratic values are actually more supportive of militant groups and that this relationship is strongest among those who believe that Muslim rights and sovereignty are being violated in Kashmir. This is consistent with the context of Pakistani politics, where many militant groups use the principle of azadi (i.e. freedom and self-determination) to justify their actions. These results challenge the conventional wisdom about the roots of militancy and underscore the importance of understanding how local context mediates the influence of civic culture on political stability and violence. 

Pakistan Overview

Country Lead: Jacob N. Shapiro

Analysis of the various conflicts in Pakistan is directly relevant for the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan and can provide insights about the role of radical Islamism in the production of terrorism. Pakistan has used militant groups as proxies to execute its foreign policies in Afghanistan, Kashmir and the rest of India for decades. The militant landscape in Pakistan is extremely complex and populated by groups that vary in their sectarian commitments, targeting choices, theatre of operations, ethnicity of operatives, and political objectives. Since January 2009 alone, violent political organizations have killed more than 2,000 Pakistani civilians and injured at least 5,000 more. Political violence is clearly a massive problem for Pakistan, yet no reliable data exist on it before 2004. 

With a diversity of insurgent and terrorist groups across different regions of the country, ESOC research on Pakistan has used public opinion surveys (with embedded experiments) to examine the variation in political support for militant groups. Results indicate that support is correlated with militant groups’ provision of social services and popular beliefs in the ideologies espoused by such groups and that violence under certain conditions has helped achieve these groups’ goals. ESOC data on Pakistan include public opinion survey data and efforts are underway to begin coding micro-level conflict data based on English and local language press sources. This latter project is a collaborative effort among researchers in Pakistan and the United States to develop a dataset on incidents of political violence in Pakistan since 1988. The data will be used to develop academic papers focusing on relationships between communities’ economic and development status and levels of terrorist activity. 

Nixon and Kissinger did not want to displease Pakistan's Yahya Khan

Plainly put, the Richard Nixon administration did not want to displease Pakistani dictator Yahya Khan who was providing a secret communication link for the US's quest for rapprochement with China.

Besides, the US wanted to show to Beijing that it would support its allies in Pakistan come what may. 

The Cold War dimension was unquestionably there, too. For one thing, there was the possibility that the crisis could mutate into a China-Soviet conflict and/or a US-Soviet confrontation.

A controversial CIA report added fuel to the fire, by leading Kissinger and Nixon to believe that India's intention was not only to dismember Pakistan, but also to destroy the Pakistani armed forces.

The CIA input prompted the US to transfer planes to Pakistan and to tell the Chinese that 'if you are ever going to move this is the time.' 

On the same fateful day -- December 8, 1971 -- Nixon and Kissinger decided to send the USS Enterprise and other naval forces into the Bay of Bengal so that a 'Soviet stooge, supported by Soviet arms' would be stopped in its tracks from over-running Pakistan.

Two days later, Nixon sent a 'hotline' message to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to 'restrain' India, while also nudging China to move against India and guaranteeing that the US would support Beijing if the Soviets retaliated. 

Strangely, Kissinger really believed that China was 'going to move. No question, they're going to move.' But Nixon wasn't so sure that Beijing and Moscow were about to go to war. 

Kissinger can be inscrutable. Did he exaggerate with a definite purpose?

At any rate, by then the Soviets had assured the White House that the Indians had no intentions to attack West Pakistan and that they were working with Indira Gandhi to arrange a ceasefire, which of course took effect on December 16 following the surrender of the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan.

China’s Economic Empire

June 1, 2013 


HONG KONG — THE combination of a strong, rising China and economic stagnation in Europe and America is making the West increasingly uncomfortable. While China is not taking over the world militarily, it seems to be steadily taking it over commercially. In just the past week, Chinese companies and investors have sought to buy two iconic Western companies, Smithfield Foods, the American pork producer, and Club Med, the French resort company. 

Europeans and Americans tend to fret over Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, its territorial disputes with Japan, and cyberattacks on Western firms, but all of this is much less important than a phenomenon that is less visible but more disturbing: the aggressive worldwide push of Chinese state capitalism. 

By buying companies, exploiting natural resources, building infrastructure and giving loans all over the world, China is pursuing a soft but unstoppable form of economic domination. Beijing’s essentially unlimited financial resources allow the country to be a game-changing force in both the developed and developing world, one that threatens to obliterate the competitive edge of Western firms, kill jobs in Europe and America and blunt criticism of human rights abuses in China. 

Ultimately, thanks to the deposits of over a billion Chinese savers, China Inc. has been able to acquire strategic assets worldwide. This is possible because those deposits are financially repressed — savers receive negative returns because of interest rates below the inflation rate and strict capital controls that prevent savers from investing their money in more profitable investments abroad. Consequently, the Chinese government now controls oiland gas pipelines from Turkmenistan to China and from South Sudan to the Red Sea. 

Another pipeline, from the Indian Ocean to the Chinese city of Kunming, running through Myanmar, is scheduled to be completed soon, and yet another, from Siberia to northern China, has already been built. China has also invested heavily in building infrastructure, undertaking huge hydroelectric projects like the Merowe Dam on the Nile in Sudan — the biggest Chinese engineering project in Africa — and Ecuador’s $2.3 billion Coca Codo Sinclair Dam. And China is currently involved in the building of more than 200 other dams across the planet, according to International Rivers, a nonprofit environmental organization. 

China has become the world’s leading exporter; it also surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest trading nation in 2012. In the span of just a few years, China has become the leading trading partner of countries like Australia, Brazil and Chile as it seeks resources like iron ore, soybeans and copper. Lower tariffs and China’s booming economy explain this exponential growth. By buying mainly natural resources and food, China is ensuring that two of the country’s economic engines — urbanization and the export sector — are securely supplied with the needed resources. 

In Europe and North America, China’s arrival on the scene has been more recent but the figures clearly show a growing trend: annual investment from China to the European Union grew from less than $1 billion annually before 2008 to more than $10 billion in the past two years. And in the United States, investment surged from less than $1 billion in 2008 to a record high of $6.7 billion in 2012, according to the Rhodium Group, an economic research firm. Last year, Europe was the destination for 33 percent of China’s foreign direct investment. 

Government support, through hidden subsidies and cheap financing, gives Chinese state-owned firms a major advantage over competitors. Since 2008, the West’s economic downturn has allowed them to gain broad access to Western markets to hunt for technology, know-how and deals that weren’t previously available to them. Western assets that weren’t on sale in the past now are, and Chinese investments have provided desperately needed liquidity. 

This trend will only increase in the future, as China’s foreign direct investment skyrockets in the coming years. It is projected to reach as much as $1 trillion to $2 trillion by 2020, according to the Rhodium Group. This means that Chinese state-owned companies that enjoy a monopolistic position at home can now pursue ambitious international expansions and compete with global corporate giants. The unfairness of this situation is clearest in the steel and solar- panel industries, where China has gone from a net importer to the world’s largest producer and exporter in only a few years. It has been able to flood the market with products well below market price — and consequently destroy industries and employment in the West and elsewhere. 

China’s Missed Opportunity at the Shangri-La Dialogue

Jun 3, 2013 

The Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), launched by the Institute of International Strategic Studies (IISS) in 2002, brings together Asia-Pacific defense ministers and experts from around the world to discuss regional security challenges and opportunities for cooperation. The 12th SLD convened in Singapore from May 31-June 2. IISS Director General and Chief Executive John Chipman noted in his opening remarks that the meeting took place “after a year of heightened tensions in the Asia-Pacific, recognizing that defense diplomacy is needed to contain disputes, limit provocations and inspire conflict prevention.” For a vast number of the attendees, much of the instability in the region can be traced to China’s assertive defense of its expansive sovereignty claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea. 

What Germany’s Iron Chancellor Can Show Red China

Jun 3, 2013  


More than a century and a half after it was published, Alexis de Tocqueville’s “The Old Regime and the Revolution” has become an unlikely best-seller in China

Wang Qishan, China’s anti-corruption czar, is reportedly among the senior leaders obsessed with what he sees as the book’s cautionary message: that increasing prosperity and piecemeal political reform didn’t protect France’s pre-revolutionary regime from violent overthrow. 

The mass energies unleashed by large-scale industrialization and urbanization have exposed China’s existing political institutions as weak and inadequate. In Wang’s reading of Tocqueville, Chinese leaders must prepare for more upheaval ahead. 

It is easy to see in Tocqueville’s subtle opinions, which can’t be pigeonholed in the contemporary way as “left-wing” or “right-wing,” what you want to see. John Stuart Mill claimed to be inspired by his writings. British conservatives in the 19th century also deployed his criticisms of American democracy to argue against the extension of adult franchise. 
Unlikely Gurus

Understandably, Chinese leaders are eager to learn from European thinkers and Europe’s early and immense experience of socioeconomic change. Visiting India two weeks ago, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang quoted both Max Weber and Georg Hegel. 

But Tocqueville, an aristocrat, seems an unlikely guru for Chinese leaders, even the “princelings” among them, who may find that 19th-century German philosophers and economists offer more practical instruction than French or English ones. 

Germany under Otto von Bismarck came relatively late to industrialization; its leaders were determined to avoid the traumas and upheavals of England and France. The country’s influential economists, mostly opposed to Adam Smith’s laissez-faire individualism, enshrined a major role for the state in running and regulating the modern economy; the state was also supposed to alleviate the class antagonisms and hardships that the great shift from agrarian to industrial societies made inevitable. 

Accordingly, Bismarck’s Germany pioneered social welfare guarantees of health insurance, disability and old age pensions; it was also ahead of European nations in enacting legislation aimed at protecting the laboring classes from exploitation and degraded working conditions. 

People in other late industrializing societies, including the U.S., took careful note. As the historian Daniel T. Rodgers showed in his study of the Germanic roots of American progressivism, the experience of studying economics in Germany in the 1890s “knocked the provincial blinkers off a cadre of young Americans,” liberating them from “the tightly, syllogistically packaged intellectual paradigms of laissez-faire.” 

The American economy has gone through many refinements since the age of robber barons. We no longer remember well “the disordered, violent camping expedition that was the U.S.,” in its early phase of industrialization in the late 19th century. 

It was, as Rodgers wrote, “a country on the run, too busy with its private affairs to bother knitting its pieces together, tossing its cast-off goods wherever they might land, scamping public life in its drive to release individual energy.” It was the German-educated Americans who “brought back an acute sense of a missing ‘social’ strand in American politics and a new sense, as unnerving as it was attractive, of the social possibilities of the state.” 

China And The Biggest Territory Grab Since World War II


Filipinos protest in front of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, as part of a global protest over an escalating territorial row in the South China Sea. The territorial row centres on Scarborough Shoal, a tiny rocky outcrop in the South China Sea which the Philippines says is part of its territory because it falls within its exclusive economic zone. China, however, claims virtually all of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop huge oil and gas reserves, as its historical territory, even waters close to the coasts of other Asian countries. (Image credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife) 

Yesterday, the New York Timesreported that China’s mapping authority, Sinomaps Press, issued a new map of the country showing 80% of the South China Sea as internal Chinese water. 

What’s at issue? Each year, more than half of the world’s annual merchant tonnage passes through the South China Sea as well as a third of the global trade in crude oil and over half of LNG trade. 

Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty over that body of water does not necessarily mean it will close the South China Sea off to international commerce. Yet that would be the next step. Given its extremely broad view of its right to regulate coastal traffic, Beijing will undoubtedly define the concept of “innocent passage” narrowly and require vessels entering that sea to obtain its permission beforehand and similarly require aircraft flying over it to do the same. The South China Sea, bordered by eight nations, has long been considered international water. 

The New York Times noted Asian diplomats have seen the map with the stunning claim. Its release, the Times article states, was delayed from late 2012 “so that it could be formally authorized by the Chinese senior leadership.” The map is not yet publicly available. 

Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China in 1947 issued maps with dashes at the edge of the South China Sea. The ambiguous markings led to the term “cow’s tongue” because of the shape of the area defined by the dashes. Mao Zedong’s victorious People’s Republic in 1949 adopted as its own Chiang’s expansive South China Sea claims.

Hopeful analysts had long maintained that the dashes—nine or ten of them depending on the map—signified China’s claim to only the islands inside the cow’s tongue. Those islands are subject to competing claims by other shoreline nations, specifically, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and Taiwan. Moreover, there was great optimism when China ratified the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea in June 1996. That multilateral treaty includes detailed rules on the calculation of territorial waters—generally limiting territorial claims to waters no further than 12 nautical miles from shore—and those rules were inconsistent with Beijing’s general assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea. Accordingly, analysts naturally thought—hoped, actually—that China had abandoned its expansive 1947-based claim.

Yet Beijing, despite treaty obligations, had long been laying the groundwork to close off the South China Sea to other nations. For instance, in August 2011 the official Xinhua News Agency issued a report stating China had “three million square kilometers of territorial waters.” It was impossible for the country to get to that figure without including its claim to most of the 2.6 million square kilometers of the South China Sea. 

China’s intransigence

Strategic concern influenced its actions

By Air Marshal R.S. Bedi (retd) 

Chinese do not act in haste or, for that matter, impulsively. Their every action is pre-meditated and well thought out. Their 19-km-deep incursion across the LAC in the Daulat Beg Oldie sector last month was neither incidental nor a local affair. This was also not the first time that Chinese troops had transgressed beyond the LAC in this area. It may as well not be the last one either. Although they never questioned India’s sovereignty over this region and their maps too show it as Indian territory, their actions are, however, contrary to it. Obviously, these are rooted in some tactical and strategic logic.

It was on April 15, prior to the visit of the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, on May 19 that the crisis erupted suddenly. China instigated the crisis and took India by surprise. For days Delhi remained clueless about how to respond. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid continued to downplay the incident unconvincingly, calling it acne-like. The PM too brushed it aside as a localised incident. In nutshell, India failed to respond in time. The least India could have done was to deploy troops immediately to convey its intent clearly. Hesitant to avoid direct action, India always tends to back off. Whether China or Pakistan, this has always been the pattern of Indian response to our adversary’s offensives.

It took 21 days for India to get intransigent China to agree to pull back on May 5. At long last, India had to harden its stand by threatening to cancel External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s upcoming visit to China which would have cast a shadow on the all-important Chinese Premier’s visit to India. China could ill-afford to take such a risk at this juncture unless there was some cost benefit rationale in favour of it. Both countries had been cooperating all along on various issues like Afghanistan, the WTO, trade, economic affairs, BRICS and military exercises.

Only if the Indian leadership had handled the crisis more firmly and resolutely right from the outset, it would perhaps have not reached this critical stage. Political leadership was indecisive and hesitant. 

No doubt, the military is to be guided by political hierarchy. For this, an enlightened political leadership is essential which is sadly missing in our case. Political leaders in this country have no interest in matters military. Except for 1971, when Indira Gandhi displayed tremendous acumen and trust of her military leadership, India’s political class has seldom exhibited such attributes.

The Chinese are aware of this. They know the weak and indecisive nature of the Indian political class. They perhaps expected it to cave in quickly. But the hysteria whipped up by the nation and the media forced the government to pick up the gauntlet reluctantly. Notwithstanding this, the government still tried to underplay the significance of the incident with its usual placatory statements and appeasement of China.

Chris Zambelis. Jamestown Foundation
Alicia J. Campi. Jamestown Foundation
Peter Mattis. Jamestown Foundation
Dennis J. Blasko. Jamestown Foundation
Willy Lam. Jamestown Foundation
Sajjad Malik. Islamabad Policy Research Institute

Chinese Premier's Visit: Ambiguity prevails

May 31, 2013 

It is said that the new Chinese PM Li Keqiang is a very personable, polite and a charming interlocutor; almost the shades of his illustrious predecessor Zhou Enlai. He smiles a lot and this was very evident in his public engagements in India. Whether he did so in his official and private interactions with PM Manmohan Singh, is not in the public domain. Nevertheless, what did his visit achieve and what were the results; particularly from the Indian point of view? 

In the context of Sino-Indian relations, shorn of all verbiage, there are three issues that are vital and form the core of concerns for India. These are: 
  • The boundary issue
  • Trade and commercial relations and 
  • Strategic issues such as Sino-Pak relations and the emerging scenario in the Indo-Pacific region. 
Therefore it is a matter of considerable significance for India to know the latest Chinese position on each of these issues and importantly did Li bring any new formulations to the table? 

On the boundary issue there seems to be no further movement at all. The joint statement says that the two PMs ‘encouraged’ the two Special Representatives to ‘push forward the process [emphasis added]of negotiation and seek a framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement in accordance with the agreement on political parameters and guiding principles.’ Of note is the fact that only the process is to be pushed forward and a reading of the joint statement indicates that it contains nothing new, yet the phrases are all very unexceptional. But what is missing is that there is no commitment by China for a demarcation of the LAC, in order to eliminate incursions of the type that we saw recently at the Depsang plains. All that China was willing to concede was that various border mechanisms be ‘improved.’ 

Let us take the second issue. There is no doubt that Sino-Indian trade volumes have grown exponentially over the years, but so has the trade imbalance. The trade deficit from a mere US$1.08 billion in the year 2001-02, has burgeoned alarmingly to US $ 40.77 billion in the year 2012-13. The present day Sino-Indian trade relations are a fine example of trade during colonial times. India exports raw materials and China floods the Indian market with finished goods; thus sharply circumcising India’s manufacturing capacity. It is not for nothing that the growth of new jobs in India is tardy. But what did Li offer? 

Li offered ‘co-operation’ on pharmaceutical supervision including regulations, stronger ‘links’ between Chinese entrepreneurs and the Indian IT industry and ‘completion’ of photo- sanitary regulations in agro products. Missing was any indication that the Chinese had agreed to open their markets for Indian products. A CEOs Forum was also set up to be headed by Anil Ambani and Chen Yuan, Chairman of the China Development Bank from the Chinese side. It is the same Chen Yuan who approved the US $ 1 billion loan for the Sasan Power project. It is hoped that the CEOs Forum would be to suggest measures for reducing the overwhelming trade deficit. Later the People’s Daily averred that ‘China is seeking a mutually beneficial resolution.’1

Iraq: the New Strategic Pivot in the Middle East

Jun 3, 2013 

It is hard to determine why Iraq receives so little U.S. attention as it drifts towards sectarian conflict, civil war, and alignment with Iran. Tensions in Iraq have been rising for well over a year, and the UN warned on June 1, 2013 that “1,045 Iraqis were killed and another 2,397 were wounded in acts of terrorism and acts of violence in May. The number of civilians killed was 963 (including 181 civilian police), and the number of civilians injured was 2,191 (including 359 civilian police). A further 82 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed and 206 were injured.” 

This neglect may be a matter of war fatigue; the result of a conflict the United States “won” at a tactical level but seems to have lost at a strategic level. It may be the result of the fact the civil war in Syria is more intensive, produces more human suffering, and is more open to the media. The end result, however, is that that the United States is just beginning to see how much of a strategic pivot Iraq has become. 

The strategic map of the region is changing and Iraq’s role in that change is critical. It used to be possible to largely separate the Gulf and the Levant. One set of tensions focused on the Arab-Israel conflict versus tensions focused on the Gulf. Iraq stood between them. It sometimes became a crisis on its own but always acted as a strategic buffer between two major subregions in the Middle East. 

However, it has become clear over the last year that the upheavals in the Islamic and Arab world have become a clash within a civilization rather than a clash between civilizations. The Sunni vs. Alewite civil war in Syria is increasingly interacting with the Sunni versus Shi’ite tensions in the Gulf that are edging Iraq back towards civil war. They also interact with the Sunni-Shi’ite, Maronite, and other confessional struggles in Lebanon. 

The “Kurdish problem” now spreads from Syria to Iraq to Turkey to Iran. The question of Arab identity versus Sunni or Shi’ite sectarian identity divides Iraq from the Arab Gulf states and pushes it towards Iran. Instead of terrorism we have counterinsurgency, instability, and religious and ethnic conflict. 

For all the current attention to Syria, Iraq is the larger and more important state. Iraq is a nation of 31.9 million and Syria is a nation of 22.5 million. Iraq has the larger economy: Iraq has a GDP of $155.4 billion, and Syria had a GDP of $107.6 billion in 2011, the last year for which there are useful data. Most important, Iraq is a critical petroleum state and Syria is a cypher. Iraq has some 143 billion barrels worth of oil reserves (9 percent of world reserves) and Syria has 2.5 billion (0.2 percent). Iraq has 126.7 has trillion cubic meters of gas, and Syria has 10.1. Iraq has a major impact on the overall security of the Gulf, and some 20 percent of the world oil and LNG exports go through the Gulf. 

This does not mean the conflict in Syria is not tragic or that it is not important. But from a practical strategic viewpoint, Iraq divided Iran from the Arab Gulf states. Iraqi-Iranian tensions acted as a strategic buffer between Iran and the rest of the Middle East for half a century between the 1950s and 2003. Today, Iraq has s Shi’ite government with close links to Iran and is a military vacuum. Iraq’s Shi’ite leaders treat its Sunnis and Kurds more as a threat than as countrymen. Its Arab neighbors treat Iraq’s regime more as a threat than an ally, and the growing Sunni-Shi’ite tension in the rest of the region make things steadily worse in Iraq and drive it towards Iran. 

If Iraq moves towards active civil war, its Shi’ites will be driven further towards Iran and Syria. If Assad survives and the Arab Gulf states continue to isolate Iraq, the largely token U.S. presence in Iraq is likely to become irrelevant and Iraq is likely to become part of a “Shi’ite” axis going from Lebanon to Iran. If Assad falls, and U.S. and Gulf Arab tensions with Iran continue to rise, Iran seems likely to do everything it can to replace its ties to Syria with influence in Iraq. 

One big step towards peace

By Chinmaya R. Gharekhan 
04 Jun 2013

Secretary John Kerry has demonstrated courage and wisdom in abandoning his predecessor’s insistence on President Bashar al-Assad’s departure as a precondition to talks for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, thereby bringing the American position closer to that of Russia and many others, including India. He has to go a step further and drop objection to Iran’s participation in the Geneva II conference. Iran has more than convincingly established its potential to prolong the conflict; it should be given an opportunity to play a constructive role.

When the Arab Spring sprouted some shoots in Syria in the spring of 2011, it was immediately seized upon by Israel, the United States and Syria’s Sunni neighbours to get rid of the Assad regime — the first set of countries to break the Tehran-Damascus axis and the neighbours to replace a Shia dispensation in Damascus by a Sunni one, however fundamentalist. There was thus ‘congruence’ — a term much in use these days — of interests among regional and extra-regional players.

Israel & Iran

For Israel, the ouster of the regime in Damascus would be of immense benefit. It would greatly weaken Iran’s clout in the region. Anything that debilitates Iran is of enormous importance to Israel, given the portrayal of Iran as posing an existential threat to the Jewish state. Hizbullah, with its massive arsenal of missiles and rockets which can reach Tel Aviv, will have its lifeline disrupted, if not irreparably breached; one of the main reasons for Israel’s restraint in dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat is the capability of Hizbullah to inflict considerable damage to Israel in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran.

For Syria’s neighbours, it was an opportunity, not to be missed, to tilt the regional sectarian balance decisively against the Shias. The loss of the Alawite regime would be a huge psychological blow to Shias and an equal boost to Sunnis everywhere. For that very reason, the two Shia regimes in the region, Iran and Iraq, were always expected to do their utmost to send succour to the Assad regime. The Hizbullah, which has everything to lose in the event of Mr. Assad’s fall has, unsurprisingly, decided to jump into the fray. The Shia-Sunni sectarian divide, ever present but significantly reignited since the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003, has attained a level of intensity which will be extremely difficult to contain in the years ahead. All of Syria’s neighbours, including Israel, have become involved, and not necessarily against their wishes.

These developments, including the very real possibility of hard line Islamist groups gaining power in Damascus in the post-Assad scenario, were easily anticipatable, and were anticipated by this writer and many others. But the temptation to get rid of Mr. Assad was so great that any price was worth it, including the contingency of having to live with an Islamist government in Damascus. No doubt, the West likewise knew how events would unfold, though now it would like us to believe that things have not turned out as per its calculations. The most inexcusable mistake the western countries made was to assume that the Assad regime would fall within weeks of the beginning of the protests. Was this wishful thinking? Or, were they victims of their own propaganda?