22 June 2013

The 2013 U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

By Persis Khambatta, Guruamrit Khalsa, Samir Nair 
Jun 21, 2013 

This year’s U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue will be held in New Delhi on June 24, and will be led by Secretary of State John Kerry and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid of India. Secretary Kerry will be leading a “whole of government delegation” which will include Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Samuel Locklear, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and the White House’s Director of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, among others.

Q1: What is the purpose of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue?

A1: The U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue (SD) was launched in 2010 by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krishna. It serves as the capstone dialogue between the two countries. It is the highest level regularly scheduled dialogue between the two governments, as evidenced by the leadership of both delegations. The United States and India have over 20 other ongoing dialogues between corresponding departments on subjects ranging from higher education to trade, agriculture and homeland security. The SD takes into account the progress being made within all of these more specific policy areas and directs their focus into the broader framework of U.S.-Indian relations. It reflects a commitment between both nations to capitalize on areas of strategic convergence, intensify their levels of cooperation, and to resolve issues that inevitably arise in the relationship.

Q2: What happened at the last U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue?

A2: The last Strategic Dialogue was held in Washington in June 2012. The delegations were led by Clinton and Krishna. The joint statement issued afterwards emphasized the broadly shared interests of the two nations, particularly in the fields of counterterrorism, regional security, energy, climate change and trade, among many others. However, since the last dialogue, there have been some troubling economic policy developments affecting tax policy, foreign investment, and local content requirements, which might be addressed at the June 24 meeting. 

Q3: What are some of the key issues that will be discussed at this year’s Strategic Dialogue?

A3: This year’s SD is set against a backdrop of a rapidly changing strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific. India is particularly concerned about the scheduled U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. The United States and India will discuss their continued engagement with Afghanistan, both in terms of security and economic development, and recent developments including possible talks with the Taliban.

Social Media and Our Responsibility: Individual and Collective

By D Suba ChandranDirector, IPCS

Social media, especially the Facebook, Twitter and their multiple avatars, undoubtedly is a great revolution today. Perhaps, one of the greatest that humankind has witnessed. While we are yet to comprehend the impact of this media, the strides it has taken so far has been enormous – both on positive and negative aspects.

Social media is not like any other media – print and electronic. It is unique and has revolutionised the inter-personal relationship and communication. Cutting across all boundaries – natural and manmade, the Social media today is in a different league, not affected by any of the limitations of print and electronic media.

In fact, the evolution of technology in the recent decades, and the easy use of it by everyone is absolutely mind boggling. Consider the last three decades – perhaps from the early 1990s till this day. The introduction of mobile phones in the early 1990s and its subsequent wide use reduced the gap between us. Gone are those days when we patiently waited in STD/ISD shops, or the Post Office to make a phone call and speak to the other – either officially or personally.

The growth of mobile phone and its reach is so much, that the telegrams today have become totally irrelevant and outdated. After being in use since the 1850s, the BSNL in India has officially decided to close down its telegram operations; those who would like to get nostalgic about sending and receiving telegrams, please try one last telegram before 14 July. Remember those days - sending telegrams on the arrival of new ones in our families, or the departure of older ones; marriage wishes; a happy note getting new job or promotion; intimation to our bosses of late returning to the work from our native village after being on leave and related multiple stories?

Of course, we can’t blame the BSNL for closing it down. According to an estimate, today there are only 5000 telegrams sent all over the country every day, when compared to six million in 1985! Obviously, we have other means to reach out – to convey our personal and professional messages. From birth to death, from “I love you” to “Sorry, this will not work”, from “punctured tyre; will be coming late to office,” to “seriously unwell. Give me leave”, the SMS has transformed our communication – both personal and official.

Next came the internet, again in the 1990s, yet another communication revolution. It has thoroughly broken all the barriers of communication. Do we remember reading a news paper from neighbouring country or the region, on real time before the 1990s? Remember our personal letters and official communication before the 1990s? Remember our first leave letter, or the love letter? Remember our inland letter or the postcard to our father, asking for five hundred or thousand rupees extra for the month? Remember the long letters from our grandparents? Remember waiting for the postman?

Today, the keyboards have taken over our handwriting skills; and never worry about your vocabulary or spelling; all you have to do is a right click! Today, we do not even have to remember our residential address. Emails and SMS will do the necessary communication. It has drastically revolutionised the way we communicate – in real time. A daughter can skype (communicate on Skype) from any part of the world to her parents, with less or no cost. And parents witness the marriage of their children in Canada or Australia online!

Kashmiri Pandits: The Forgotten Refugees

20 June 2013

Kashmiri Pandits are refugees who have been subjected to genocide and ethnic cleansing but have been ignored by their own country.

The Mughal Emperor Jahangir is purported to have said: “If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here.” For Kashmiri Pandits, the original inhabitants of the valley, Kashmir has been anything but heaven in recent years. Persecuted by extreme Islamists and deserted by their own countrymen, they have fled Kashmir and live in squalor elsewhere in the country.
Step Back in Time

The Kashmir valley was first inhabited around 2000 BC. Its first inhabitants were followers of the Shaivite branch of Hinduism. They were masterful architects with an eye for beauty. Francis Younghusband’s description of the ruins of the Martanda temple sums up the architectural achievements of the Kashmiris: “The temple is built on the most sublime site occupied by any building in the world — finer than the site of Parthenon, or of the Taj or of St. Peters. It is second only to the Egyptians in massiveness and strength and to the Greeks in elegance and grace.”

The initial blow to Kashmir’s tranquility was struck in 1320 as the Mongol hordes pillaged the valley, which in the words of Jonaraja, “became like a region before creation.”Then Islam arrived in the form of Sultan Sikandar (1389-1413 A.D), whose penchant for destroying temples and idols earned him the name But-Shikhan (the destroyer of idols). Sikandar imposed Jizya, the religious tax on non-Muslims, and mercilessly converted Hindus to Islam.

Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s (1618-1707 AD) fanaticism was a throwback to the days of Sultan Sikandar. The forced conversion of the Kashmiri Pandits compelled them to approach the ninth Sikh Guru, Tegh Bahadur for succor. Tegh Bahadur advised them to inform the emperor that the Pandits would embrace Islam voluntarily, if he could convert the Guru. Aurangzeb failed to do so despite torturing Tegh Bahadur who chose martyrdom over conversion to Islam.

Islam did not come to Kashmir via the sword. Mystical Sufis with their simplicity, austerity and piety did more to spread Islam in the valley than the fanatics. The Sufi order was spread by the preachers who came from Persia and Central Asia. They combined their Sufi traditions with local traditions of the Rishi order. The syncretism of the mystical Sufis along with the existing Shaivite influence gave Kashmir its uniquely pluralistic character.

It was the religious pluralism which made Kashmir a trophy for newly formed India and Pakistan after the bloody partition of British India in 1947. For India, apart from its geostrategic importance, Kashmir held the allure of disproving Jinnah’s "two nation" theory. The merger of a Muslim dominated Kashmir into India would have belied Jinnah’s claim of being the sole savior of Muslims. Pakistan desired the control of Kashmir to confirm Jinnah’s ideology of the Muslims being victims of persecution in a Hindu dominated India.

Maharaja Hari Singh, the Dogra ruler of Kashmir, was at the same time flirting with the idea of independence. Pakistan sent its troops disguised as tribals accompanied by the Afridi and Mahsud tribesmen into Kashmir. The ferocity of the attack compelled the Maharaja to accede to India on October 26, 1947. The Indian troops managed to drive back the Pakistani forces despite being outnumbered.

Blunders by Nehru

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru then made the first in a series of historic blunders. Instead of militarily reclaiming the land illegally occupied by Pakistan, Nehru, deceived by British chicanery, took the matter to the United Nations on January 1, 1948. The matter got enmeshed in the Cold War politics and became a permanent item on the agenda of the UN. What was achieved after great sacrifices of Indian soldiers was lost on the checkerboard of international politics. India and Pakistan have since fought three more wars over the issue. A "jihad" industry has flourished in Pakistan with the multitude of state sponsored jihadists vowing to liberate Kashmir from the Indian "infidel." Pakistan itself has fallen prey to terrorism in its futile bid to promote the "good terrorist" who fought for the cause of Kashmir.

Nehru's biggest blunder was incorporating a temporary provision of Article 370 in the Constitution of India. Strangely, the provision was not a condition put forth by the Maharaja when he signed the Instrument of Accession. It was incorporated into the constitution on the insistence of the Government of India, which desired that the article cater to the interim period till the Instrument of Accession was ratified by the Constituent Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). Article 370 provides that in addition to defense, foreign affairs and communication, the parliament can make law applicable to the state, only with the concurrence of the state government.

All the princely states which acceded to India after independence signed the same Instrument of Accession. Ironically, none was given this special facility. Consequently, J&K has a separate constitution, which no other state in India has. A majority of the laws in the country are therefore not applicable in J&K. The constitution of the state does not permit Indian citizens who are not residents of the state to settle down or purchase property there.

Article 370, which was created as a temporary provision in the constitution has become a permanent fixture, with no political party gathering the will to handle the political hot cake. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been a strident critic of this Article, kept the issue on the backburner as a compulsion of coalition politics. Incidentally, the political establishment has deliberately ignored the fact that the Constituent Assembly of J&K ratified the accession of the state in 1956, making the provision in fructuous. As is the wont with politicians, national interest has played second fiddle to political ambitions.

Article 370 has become the single reason why the people of Kashmir could not get integrated into the mainstream of Indian democracy. Immunity from various laws of the Indian constitution like the Wealth Tax and Gift Tax, has permitted the political class to indulge in nepotism and rapacious governance. A virtual oligarchy has been created in the state. The oligarchs have given Article 370 populist appeal by tying it to an autonomous Kashmiri identity, while using it as cover to indulge in a massive loot of the natural and financial resources of the state.

An Anti-Indian Feeling

In a bid to divert attention from their egregious governance, the political class, perhaps drawing inspiration from Marx’s dictum of "religion as the opium of masses," channelized the energy of the people towards religion. Maktabs (religious schools) were established all over Kashmir, ostensibly for teaching Islamic religious scriptures to the youth. In reality, these maktabs indoctrinated the impressionable youth with venomous anti-India agenda. The youth, which was disillusioned with the political system and held the Indian government in contempt for imposing the oligarchs on them, provided fertile breeding ground for proliferation of an anti-India propaganda sponsored by the notorious Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. Thousands of youth crossed over to Pakistan to get indoctrinated by the vituperative sermons and receive arms training in the ISI camps.

Kerry-Khurshid dialogue: Time for hard decisions

By Uma Purushothaman
20 June 2013

John Kerry arrives in New Delhi on Sunday (June 23) for the fourth round of the Indo-US Annual Strategic Dialogue, starting on Monday. This is his maiden visit to India after taking over as Secretary of State. The Annual Strategic Dialogue, which is held alternately in India and the US, was instituted to evaluate progress, give policy guidance and suggest new areas of cooperation between the two countries. The dialogue this year comes at a time when there are widespread apprehensions on both sides that the relationship has not fulfilled its promise and that it has "plateaued."

Whilst the strategic convergence between New Delhi and Washington has been proclaimed, it is now time to take hard decisions and move forward. So it is vital that the Annual Strategic Dialogue looks into the details of the relationship, examine new areas of cooperation and reinvigorate cooperation in areas where there is already collaboration to propel the relationship to a new level. The forum will discuss the entire range of issues in Indo-US relations, bilateral as well as regional, reflecting the transformational change in the relationship.

As the US withdraws from Afghanistan, the regional situation is fraught with uncertainties. Regional players like China, India, Russia, Iran and Pakistan will all be jockeying to protect and promote their own interests in this situation. As 2014 approaches, New Delhi and Washington should intensify their bilateral discussions and ensure some amount of coordination between their policies towards Afghanistan. This should not be difficult given that they share interests in Afghanistan such as a unified and territorially-integrated Afghanistan and an independent Afghan government. Both countries are also looking at making Afghanistan as a trade and transit hub for the region. The US needs to set aside its hesitations on the trilateral engagement initiated between India, Afghanistan and the United States. Also, as a recent ORF-Center for American Progress Report suggests, Washington and New Delhi should focus on three areas for deepening their partnership: pursuing a strengthened political consensus in Afghanistan; advancing economic and political integration in the region by helping to return Afghanistan and Pakistan to their historic roles as land bridges between the subcontinent and Central Asia and Persian Gulf; and supporting Afghan security forces, with India providing more financial assistance, training and support.

East Asia is another geopolitical sphere where India and the US share concerns about China’s rapid rise, its military modernisation and its assertiveness in the South China Sea. At the same time, they both understand the need to avoid provoking China into a confrontation. New Delhi and Washington both have stakes in their relationship with China. However, China cannot be allowed to have a veto on deepening the Indo-US relationship. India and the US need to strengthen bilateral security cooperation even while expanding engagement with China. Though the US ambassador to India has endorsed India’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh, the US response to the Indo-China border standoff earlier this year was disappointing to say the least. The US needs to unequivocally support India’s territorial claims vis-à-vis China as this will discourage China from trying to change the status quo on the border.

Upstaging India, China to get 20% stake in Russian LNG project

By Vladimir Radyuhin

China has upstaged India in the battle for Russian energy resources .

China National Petroleum Corp. on Friday signed an agreement with Russia’s biggest private gas producer Novatek to acquire a 20 per cent stake in the latter’s LNG project in Yamal Peninsular in the Arctic region of northeast Siberia, and to secure long-term LNG supplies from the plant to be built in 2018.

The same day, another Chinese company, Sinopec, signed a contract with Russia’s State-owned Rosneft for the supply of 365 million tonnes of crude over the next 25 years at a cost of $270 billion.

ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) had bid for up to 20 per cent stake in the Yamal project in a tie-up with Petronet LNG and Indian Oil Corporation.

However, Novatek’s deal with China leaves only a 9 per cent stake up for grabs, as France’s Total has another 20 per cent in the project and Novatek wants to keep 51 per cent for itself.

The Yamal field has proven and probable reserves of 907 billion cubic metres of natural gas as of December 31, 2012.

India has made few inroads in the Russian energy market after OVL acquired a 20 per cent stake in the Sakhalin-1 hydrocarbon block for $1.7 billion in 2001. Imperial Energy, which OVL bought in 2009, has proved a liability, as production keeps falling, with a further 17 per cent decline to 5,12,900 tonnes planned for this year.

Two years ago, Indian energy companies signed four preliminary deals with Russia’s Gazprom for annual supplies of up to 10 million tonnes of LNG for up to 25 years. But so far only one deal has been firmed up, with GAIL India signing a 20-year contract with Gazprom last October for the supply 2.5 million tonnes of LNG.

India also seeks a stake in Sakhalin-3 oil and gas project and in an LNG project Gazprom plans to build in Vladivostok.

Making strategy out of sense: The US, India and the Dialogue

By Manohar Thyagaraj
21 June 2013

When John Kerry arrives in India to meet with Salman Khurshid in the next edition of the US-India Strategic Dialog, one thing that won't be in short supply from both sides is the soaring rhetoric of good sense.

For, everything nice and positive that can be said about the relationship has been said before and will be said and said again. Common values, shared interests, the 'defining partnership' of the 21st Century and so on. Despite the odd disagreement between friends, the overall bilateral relationship between the two largest democracies, born of good sense, has never been in better shape.

Kerry even put out a very upbeat video 'message to India' on YouTube as a prelude to his trip. In a country where the personal computer density is 30-per-1000 people, the number of Internet users-per-100 people is 5, and the Internet bandwidth in bits-per-person is 32 (compared to over 11,000 in the US), it can, however, be legitimately asked how many people will get to see that video, and of those that do, how many start it and give up because it's as choppy as a tempanyaki chef.

The video is destined to be seen mostly by the Indian intelligentsia, not the masses. And this perhaps is the perfect metaphor for the state of the strategic dialogue that Kerry and Khurshid will be shepherding next week. The primary characteristic of the bilateral relationship at the moment is high level declarations of intent that don't translate well to the working levels.

At the top, communication between the senior leadership on both sides is very good. But, once you get past that, the real engine of any bilateral relationship -- the mid-levels of the bureaucracies -- do not communicate consistently well yet.

For instance, on the economic side of the ledger, which is expected to dominate next week's discussions, it is an accepted mantra that a strong and growing India is in the US interest. A group of Members of Congress have even written to the White House suggesting that the US support India's membership in APEC.

Yet, trade dialogue is dominated by squabbles over minutiae like the sale of pet food and milk products, and India's concerns about US immigration restrictions for skilled labour. These differences will not be easily papered over.

The defense and security side of the ledger is arguably doing better, though serious differences do exist on Afghanistan. At a time when the first Indian P-8I and C-17 have arrived within a few weeks of each other, on time and budget, that the US is quietly working to dispel the notion of being an 'unreliable' defense partner for India has never been clearer.

Afghanistan: No End in Sight

By Pratyush

When United States Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in New Delhi on June 24 for the annual India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue, Afghanistan will be one of the dominant topics on the table.

With the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops fast approaching, ISAF’s (International Security Assistance Force) handover of security responsibilities to Afghan troops on June 18 marked a crucial moment in the country’s quest towards managing its own affairs. Yet, the military transition arrives against a backdrop of one of the bloodiest months of the decades-long conflict, following audacious attacks by insurgents on Kabul’s international airport as well as on a court in the Afghan capital earlier this month. The attacks raise serious questions over the ability of the fledging Afghan Security Forces (ANSF) to secure the country after the exit of ISAF troops.

The handover also coincided with the U.S. announcing that it would begin holding direct talks with the Taliban, which opened a political office in the Qatari capital of Doha. The move to open the office infuriated the Afghan government, which responded on June 19 by suspending talks with Washington on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).

Announcing the move, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi told AFP, “The president suspended the BSA talks with the U.S. this morning (June 19),” adding that this was due to “a contradiction between what the U.S. government says and what it does regarding Afghanistan peace talks.” Latest reports have the U.S. placing talks with the Taliban on hold.

The security pact was meant to provide a strategic framework for some U.S. troops to remain in the country after a large chunk of the 66,000 American troops currently present in Afghanistan pull out by the end of 2014. By setting the contours that would determine the number of troops that will remain along with their mandate, the pact was meant to set the pace of U.S. engagement with Afghanistan post-2014. However, the suspension of talks casts a shadow of uncertainty over the U.S.-Afghan partnership, which has been characterized by constant sparring and bickering over the form, structure and timing of any peace talks with the Taliban.

Killing of Pak Taliban leader in US Drone Strike: Implications for AfPak


Just days after Barack Obama announced fresh stipulations on the use of drones, a US drone strike on May 29 killed the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) deputy chief Waliur Rehman. The TTP confirmed his death the next day, declared that they were withdrawing from peace talks with the incoming Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistani government and would extract "revenge in the strongest way". On 31 May, an assault by approximately 100 militants on a security post in Mamuzai, Orakzai agency in FATA, left three Pakistani soldiers and 20 militants dead. It is believed that the attack was in response to the death of Waliur Rehman.

The US drone strike on 29 May was the first inside Pakistan since 17 April this year and the first since Pakistanis voted overwhelmingly on 11 May for political parties, which amongst other issues, strongly opposed the US use of drones in Pakistan in their manifestoes. The Pakistani government condemned the drone strike, saying that it violated Pakistani sovereignty. Analysts are divided as to how and how much this drone strike would complicate the early days of Nawaz Sharif, who had just begun to make overtures for peace with the TTP.

The Strike

The drone strike reportedly occurred in the village of Chashma, some three kilometers from Miran Shah, the district headquarters of Pakistan's North Waziristan agency, an area dominated by the Haqqani Network. The US drone fired four missiles at a mud-built guesthouse in the Chashma area, in the early hours of May 29, killing all those inside. Apart from Waliur Rehman and his deputy Fakhar-ul-Islam, there were two Uzbek militants amongst the seven people killed. The attack was quite similar to the one on Mullah Nazir, taking out the top rung of the leadership of the faction.

Waliur Rehman

Waliur Rehman Mehsud was a member of Malkhel tribe, a sub-clan of the Mehsuds inhabiting the Sarokai Manzai area of South Waziristan. He joined the Haqqani network and, according to US State Department,was its chief military strategist. Rehman was also reported to be a former member of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur (JUI-F). When the TTP was founded in 2008, he joined the group and became the spokesperson of its chief, Baitullah Mehsud. After the death of Baitullah Mehsud in a US drone strike in 2009, Hakimullah Mehsud was anointed Baitullah’s successor, while Waliur Rehman was assigned the group’s command in South Waziristan. It is believed that this caused a rift between Hakimullah and Waliur Rehman, which persisted till the end.

Rehman, while serving as principal deputy to Hakimullah, also managed the TTP's finances. In 2009, when the security forces launched an operation in South Waziristan, causing most TTP militants to move out of the region – but Waliur Rehman preferred to remain in the Wana sub-division, where the Mullah Nazir group was in control. Rehman and his fighters shifted to North Waziristan after the suicide attack on Mullah Nazir on November 29, 2012. Besides orchestrating multiple terror attacks inside Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan, including the suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman that killed seven CIA personnel, Rehman was also linked to the failed Times Square car bombing in New York City.

Afghanistan Remains Epicenter of Refugee Problem

By Zachary Keck
June 21, 2013 

Despite the situation in Syria and the ongoing unrest in the Arab world, South Asia—largely thanks to Afghanistan— remains the region where the largest numbers of refugees originate from.

Ahead of world refugee day on Thursday, on Wednesday the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released its annual report on the globally displaced people. Among its major conclusions was that the 45.2 million people who were displaced worldwide at the end of 2012 was more than had been displaced at any time since 1994. Of these over 45 million people, about 15 million were refugees. At the end of 2011, 42.5 million people were displaced.

Although Syria and the Arab world were largely to blame for the spike, Afghanistan continued its long-running streak of being the largest source of refugees worldwide.

“With close to 2.6 million refugees in 82 countries, Afghanistan remained the leading country of origin of refugees in 2012,” the UNHRC wrote in its report.

“The country has remained on top of the list for 32 consecutive years with numbers varying from 500,000 refugees at the onset of the crisis in 1979, to more than 6.3 million at its peak in 1990. On average, one out of four refugees in the world are from Afghanistan.”

Because of that, other parts of South Asia are the recipients of the largest number of refugees in the world. First among these are Iran and Pakistan—Afghanistan’s western and eastern neighbors— which together host some 95 percent of Afghan refugees.

With over 1.6 million refugees at the end of 2012, Pakistan was by far the country with the most foreign refugees living in the country. And this only includes registered refugees; according to the Pakistani daily, Dawn, an additional 1.6 million unregistered Afghans are living in Pakistan (some place the number at 600,000). The overwhelming number of them are located in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (now called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).

The Pakistani government has issued a June 30 deadline for all Afghan refugees to leave the country or face retribution. Almost no observers find this realistic, however, and Pakistan has issued similar deadlines in the past only to extend them.

Iran was the next highest country in terms of the amount of refugees—868,200— it hosted at the end of 2012. The overwhelming majority of these refugees are from Afghanistan, although a small percent from Iraq.

The South China Sea Dispute (Part One): Negative Trends Continue in 2013

June 7, 2013 

The Chinese and Indonesian Foreign Ministers Together in May

From January through May, the South China Sea dispute continued to trend in a negative direction. Consistent with the pattern of developments over the past several years, the dispute continued to be characterized by an action-reaction dynamic in which attempts by one of the claimants—most notably, China, the Philippines and Vietnam—to uphold its territorial or jurisdictional claims led to protests and countermoves from the other claimants.

Although the United Nations appointed a panel of judges to examine a Philippine legal challenge to China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, and tentative steps were taken by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to begin talks on a Code of Conduct (CoC), there was little optimism that either of these processes would reduce tensions in the short term or provide an environment conductive to a resolution of the problem in the medium to long term.

The action-reaction dynamic, and urgent need to stem ongoing tensions, were brought into sharp relief on May 9 when Philippine authorities shot dead a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters, provoking a major crisis in Philippines-Taiwan relations. The tragic incident was not the first of its kind in the South China Sea nor, sadly, is it likely to be the last.

Part One of this essay will examine these recent developments and their immediate implications. Part Two will examine these developments through the lens of Chinese policy on maritime territorial disputes, relevant regional perspectives and provide an outlook for the South China Sea over the course of the next 18 months.

The Philippine Legal Submission to the UN

On January 22, the Philippines angered China by unilaterally submitting the Sino-Philippine dispute over jurisdictional rights in the South China Sea for legal arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (“Manila Ups the Ante in the South China Sea,” China Brief, February 1, 2013). Manila’s submission argues that China’s nine-dash line, and apparent claims to sovereign or historic rights within the line, are incompatible with UNCLOS and therefore invalid.

The South China Sea Dispute (Part 2): Friction to Remain the Status Quo

June 21, 2013 

Chinese Ships Exercising in the South China Sea in June 

China’s policy toward the South China Sea dispute remains fundamentally unchanged under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. Over the past six months, Beijing has tried to reassure neighboring countries of China’s peaceful rise, but also its determination to uphold its territorial and jurisdictional claims in the maritime domain. While China views these two positions as being in harmony, countries across the Asia-Pacific region are dismayed at the apparent contradiction between them. This article examines China’s diplomatic signaling, its military activities in the South China Sea, and Southeast Asian, U.S. and Japanese views of the dispute. It ends with the prediction that the status quo will continue throughout 2013 and 2014. Although the prospect of major conflict is slight, there will be no resolution of the dispute, friction among the disputants will continue and efforts to better manage the problem are likely to prove ineffective. This article builds on the assessment of developments in the South China Sea since January elaborated in Part 1 of this two-part essay (“The South China Sea Dispute (Part 1): Negative Trends Continue in 2013,” China Brief, June 7). 

China’s Message of Reassurance and Resolve 

During the first six months of 2013, China’s new leadership sent out a clear and consistent two-part message regarding its stance over maritime disputes: China’s intentions are peaceful but Beijing will respond assertively to provocations that challenge China’s territorial and sovereignty claims. 

That uncompromising message was delivered at all levels. In late January, six weeks before his appointment as president, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, reportedly told senior party officials that while his government remained committed to “peaceful development” it would “never sacrifice our national core interests” or “swallow the ‘bitter fruit’ of harming our sovereignty, security or development interests” (Xinhua, January 29). In April, at the opening of the Boao Forum on Hainan Island, Xi concisely reiterated that message: “On the basis of firmly upholding its sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, China will maintain good relations with its neighbors and overall peace and stability in our region” (Xinhua, April 18). 

A few weeks earlier, Premier Li Keqiang had told reporters that “China has an unswerving commitment to peaceful development and unshakeable determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that there was no contradiction between these two pledges; indeed, he went on, “they are essential to regional stability and world peace” (Xinhua, March 17). 

In May, during a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa in Jakarta, newly-installed Foreign Minister Wang Yi expanded on this message in the context of the South China Sea dispute. Wang restated China’s sovereignty claims over the Spratly Islands, as well as the government’s “determination to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” He added that, although China remained committed to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, implementing the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC), and resolving disputes peacefully on a bilateral basis, it would also remain “vigilant” against “potential disturbances of some countries for their own interests”—a veiled reference to Vietnam and the Philippines. On a more positive note, however, Wang also indicated that Beijing was ready to start discussions on a code of conduct (CoC) (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 2). 

Show of Force—or Just for Show?

By Captain Robert C. Rubel, U.S. Navy (Retired)

The newly launched Chinese aircraft carrier appears to be merely symbolic and nothing more—at least for now.

The aircraft carrier is an iconic ship type. That is, its history of dominance at sea along with the great expense and technical challenge of building and operating a fleet of them have invested it with potent geopolitical meaning. Possession of an aircraft carrier, almost regardless of its absolute or relative capability, signals that its owner is among the top rank of world navies. In fact, many countries’ carriers are either inoperable or only minimally so, and others, while able to get under way and operate aircraft, are unitary examples in their navies and thus constitute little more than symbolic naval power.

China has recently put a carrier to sea and appears intent on developing an actual carrier-aviation capacity. The distance between a symbolic and a real capability is quite long, and it is important to understand the nature of that distance to assess the prospects that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will be able to develop a geopolitically meaningful carrier-aviation arm.

Useful criteria by which we might measure the extent China has to go in order to deploy a real carrier-aviation capability can be extracted from the current U.S. maritime strategy, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower ,” commonly referred to asCS21 . 1 Credible combat power, according to that document, comprises the ability to limit regional conflict, protect vital U.S. interests, reassure friends and allies, deter war among major powers and, of course, contribute to winning wars. This is a strategic task list and as such helps us avoid confusing operational capability with strategic utility. In using these criteria we also avoid conflating regional and global considerations. China may or may not have ambitions for projecting military influence globally, but that is not the issue at this juncture.

To complete the CS21 strategic task list, and setting aside for the moment questions of perception and signaling, a navy has to be able to carry out two basic operational functions—sea control and power projection. Real combat-credible power means that an aircraft carrier must be able to go where it needs to in order to clear the seas of enemy combatants and if necessary project power ashore. Moreover, those land strikes must produce strategic results or at least operationally support troops on the ground. It is easy enough to articulate these functions in a broad way, but a lot of difficult business underpins them, not the least of which is logistics.
Formidable Task Ahead

Like good strike planners, we will start at the target and work backward to properly scope the magnitude of the task facing a nascent PLAN carrier-aviation establishment. The first question is whether the target is susceptible to a one-time strike, such as the one the Israelis conducted on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor or the Eldorado Canyon raid on Libya, or whether a progressive and extended air campaign is necessary. One-time strikes generally require a hefty pulse of power—i.e., a large number of sorties. U.S. carriers can put 40 or more strike aircraft into the air almost simultaneously, and this is barely enough in many cases. Even with precision weapons, some redundancy must be built in to account for losses to enemy defenses, mechanical malfunctions, etc. It is hard to see how a single Chinese carrier of the Liaoning class could generate a sufficient pulse of power with 30 embarked jets. Moreover, with the ski-jump launch system the range/ordnance tradeoff becomes too restrictive, especially in the absence of an aerial refueling capability.

An extended air operation or campaign generates a whole new set of problems. However restricted the number of weapons a J-15 fighter can carry per sortie, at some point the carrier will run low on ordnance. Thus a logistics capability will have to be developed that keeps the carrier supplied with all classes of goods. While fuel, weapons, and food are what most folks think of in terms of logistics, perhaps the most challenging aspect is maintenance and damage repair. With an air wing of 30 strike aircraft, maintenance bottlenecks would be more effective than enemy air defenses in limiting the number of sorties the carrier could put across the beach.

Assuming the PLAN develops an at-sea replenishment capability, such maneuvers interrupt flight operations. So, depending on the nature of the air campaign, at least two aircraft carriers would be needed to maintain continuous coverage at even a minimum level. Although the Liaoning is likely to be more capable than the British carriers that were involved in the Falklands War, the difficulties imposed by the limitations of a ski-jump launch and only two decks would still make support of even limited ground operations over time problematic, especially in the face of a denial threat.
In Search of a Target

Does China Mix Business with Politics?

June 21, 2013

In an apparently conscious decision, the Government of India blanked out the media from the deliberations, border meetings, diplomatic parleys and formal talks that brought an end to the Chinese intrusion in Ladakh . This led to intense speculation in the media with some quarters terming the Indian response to be soft and weak. Amongst the theories doing the rounds, one that some analysts seemed to endorse was that ‘upping the ante’ against China would jeopardise our bilateral trade, already under strain due to a yawning deficit of $29 billion in favour of China.1 The question that begged response is – does China feel like wise? Does China go soft when trade is threatened? Does China mix business with politics? The answers to these questions drew some interesting conclusions while researching China’s trade figures with those countries with which it has strained political relations.

In a revealing piece on CNN blogs, “Does Upsetting China Matter?”, Kerry Brown argues that in the recent past China has had diplomatic rows with Britain and Norway, the former over David Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in May 2012 and the latter over the award of the Nobel Peace prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010. Both nations have been politically ignored by China. Yet in 2012, China’s exports to Britain rose 4.9 per cent to $46.3 billion and imports from Britain rose 15.5 percent year-on-year to $16.8 billion. Similarly trade with Norway has risen by 19 per cent between 2011 and 2012.2 Kerry Brown’s argument is compelling- “China may be upset, but it has still been willing to engage - just not with the prime minister”! I decided to test this argument in the Asian context by looking at China’s trade with some of the countries in Asia where China’s ties have been strained, viz, Japan, Vietnam and Philippines.


China and Japan have been involved in a territorial dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea for decades. The issue took an ugly turn in 2012 when Tokyo Governor Ishihara announced plans to purchase the Senkaku islands from its private owners sparking a protest from China. The issue flared up in August when Chinese and Japanese citizens tried to land on the islands. By September Japan announced that it had purchased the islands and they were national property. This triggered a wave of violent protests across China hurting Japanese businesses and forcing closure of some factories. Tensions continue to remain over the sensitive issue raising nationalistic fervor amongst Japanese and Chinese alike. Ships of the PLA Navy and Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) are on alert while the coast guards of both countries have fired water cannons at each other. Even fighter aircrafts have been scrambled as air space violations have led to ugly exchange of words between the leadership of both nations.
But how much has this issue of China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty impacted trade?

China’s exports/imports to Japan 2005-20123

200580,340,099109,104,815-28,764,716$190 billion
200692,851,689118,516,332-25,664,643$210 billion
2007109,060,309127,643,646-18,583,337$237 billion
2008124,035,383142,337,115-18,301,732$ 266 billion
2009109,630,428122,545,120-12,914,692$ 231 billion
2010149,086,369152,800,714(3,714,344)$300 billion
2011161,467,319183,487,439- 22,020,120$344 billion
2012144,686,177189,018,794- 44,332,617$333 billion
In a poll carried out by The Asahi Shimbun in September 2012, 63 percent of Chinese disliked Japan and just 10 percent liked Japan, whereas, only 3 percent Japanese liked China. Interestingly, in terms of the respective weight of their economies, 78 percent of respondents in Japan said the Chinese economy exerts a major influence on Japan. In a comparatively similar response in China, 44 percent of respondents said the Japanese economy exerts a major influence on China. Clearly, despite their obvious dislike for another, both realise that economic considerations weigh heavier on their relationship.4 The data of trade between the two countries over the last seven years shows a steady rise in bilateral trade despite their often turbulent international relations.

Managing India- China convergences and contradictions

By Col. R. Hariharan 

(This is the full text of a presentation made by the author at the China-South Asia Think Tank Forum meet held on June 6 and 7, 2013 at Kunming) 


The 21st century is going to be the Asian century, if we go by the continued growth of Asian economy despite global economic downturn. Three Asian power centres – China, Japan, and India – are increasingly influencing global power equation well beyond Asia. As strategic analyst Brahma Challaney puts it “Never before have China, Japan, and India have all been strong at the same time.” 

Historically, the three Asian powers have had social and cultural linkages that influenced religious perceptions and life style of Asia as a whole. However, the aftermath of the World War II not only changed Asia’s territorial contours but also introduced political and structural changes. After the end of Cold War and the emergence of a liberalized world economic order, China has developed into a global economic power, overtaking Japan in the process. China now aspires to overtake the U.S., which continues to remain the most powerful nation in the world. 

India having grown into a regional economic power has more modest ambitions to expand its linkages with the east and protect its global strategic, economic and political interests. In Japan strong nationalist sentiments are striving to cut loose its umbilical relationship with the U.S in a bid to reassert its global power. 

The three nations, despite their divergent aspirations, have a triangular relationship which regularly comes under stresses of their strategic perceptions and world view. Their relationship with the U.S. and its role in the expanded definition of the Asia-Pacific region is perhaps the most important component of the strategic perceptions of the three Asian powers. 

They respect the U.S. military and economic might and its impact in Asia. And they have tried to strike a win-win equation with the U.S. to serve their national interests. China though suspicious of the U.S.’ strategic intentions is trying to build meaningful economic relations with it, while protect its own core interests. This was amply demonstrated during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to the U.S. 

The strategic environment of South Asia is likely to undergo major changes in the next two to three years. General elections in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Maldives and possibly Sri Lanka in this period could result in change of national leadership as it happened in the recent elections in Pakistan. 

This could cause changes in their policy perceptions resulting some realignment of equations in their relations. With the thinning out of U.S. troops and coalition forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the Af-Pak region is likely to face a period of uncertainty and instability affecting the region. The resurgence of terrorism in South Asia bordering Af-Pak region is a real possibility. 

India, the dominant power in South Asia, is getting ready to respond to the dynamics of change in the region to safeguard its national interests. China with an agenda to build politico-economic partnership with its neighbours has already made large headway in South Asia. Thus China’s South Asia agenda is also likely to face a challenging period. This will be more so, when its competing interests with India come into full play. Given India's domination of the South Asian scene, for building a win-win relationship in South Asia, China has to strengthen its relations India. 

South China Sea Conflicts Ignited United States Pivot to Asia Pacific

By Dr. Subhash Kapila 

The United States possibly would have preferred to delay its strategic pivot to Asia Pacific till 2014 by which time the planned draw-down of US military forces from Afghanistan would have commenced. China seems to have forced the US hand in doing so by igniting the South China Sea conflicts, first with Vietnam and then the Philippines markedly from 2008 onwards. 

China's escalation of conflictual issues in the South China Sea was a strategic gauntlet thrown by China to the United States with multiple aims, which the United States could have ill-afforded to ignore. China perceived that as the first step towards emerging as the 'strategic co-equal' of the United States on the global stage. 

Prominently, the over-riding aim seems to have been to put the United States on notice that China's naval build-up in the preceding decade had reached levels in the Western Pacific where the US naval predominance could be challenged by China and that China would eventually effect a naval breakout into the wider Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. 

Counting on a flawed assessment that the United States with its 'Risk Aversion' policies towards China would hesitate in confronting China aggressive moves against Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea, China felt emboldened to proceed ahead with its military brinkmanship in the South China Sea. It thus hoped that by use of coercion and force it could force Vietnam and the Philippines to submit to Chinese sovereignty claim over the whole South China Sea as per its illegal 'Nine-Dashed Line' claims. 

Attendant on the above was another strategic move to dent the United States image in the Asia Pacific in that the United States was not a reliable guarantor and committed security partner both to established US Allies like Japan and South Korea but also to reclaimed ally, the Philippines and new US strategic partners like Vietnam. 

Having stated the broad parameters of China's new Grand Strategy against the United States by proxy use of South China Sea as a stepping stone, some words need to be devoted to the events leading to China's misreading of strategic events in the second half of the last decade and thereafter. 

The United States could not have been unaware that China's stupendous military build-up was proceeding unabated for nearly two decades and that a strategic vacuum had set in especially in South East Asia with the United States strategically distracted and militarily stretched by its military interventions and Iraq and Afghanistan. 

China has been always credited with abundant strategic foresight and strategic vision in reading the international and regional security environment before it initiates any unsettling strategic moves to secure the ends of its Grand Strategy. 

China for some inexplicable reasons seems to have totally misread United States resolve, strategic priorities and commitments in relation to Asia Pacific security especially from the period 2008 onwards. 

In China's perceptions and strategic calculations during this period what seems to have prevailed were faulty assessments of decline of US military power, US financial woes arising from global recession, and the US being in a militarily quagmire in Afghanistan. 

China sensed that the above factors coupled with China's naval expansion and modernisation having peaked to levels where US maritime dominance could be reasonably managed, it set sail into the South China Sea with aggressive military brinkmanship and even use of armed force against Vietnam and the Philippines. 

Vietnam and the Philippines were 'frontline states' in the South China Sea contesting China's unilateral and illegal claims over the entire South China Sea virtually to the shores of Indonesia by the now infamous 'Nine -Dashed Line'. Both these nations did not have the naval and military might to deter China's unprovoked military brinkmanship in the South China Sea. 

Searching For Gold In China's Poison Land

Decades of unbridled industrialization has left much of China's soil badly contaminated. Some are set to make millions cleaning it up.

China already has air and water pollution prevention laws -- but so far nothing regarding soil pollution - By Yu Han

BEIJING - For two years, Zhang Yong has been waiting for a good opportunity to capitalize on China’s polluted soil.

Zhang is a partner at Qiming Venture Partners, and like many other investors, sees a bright future in the soil remediation industry – which purifies and revitalizes polluted soil. The demand for such services has been picking up lately, but Zhang has decided to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

“The nature of land in China is complicated,” Zhang says. “Different land-use rights and distribution mechanisms have a big impact on the interests of soil cleanup investors and beneficiaries.”

Zhang was initially drawn to BCEG Environmental Remediation Co., Ltd. two years ago, but another investor beat him to it. Since then, many soil cleanup companies have emerged, but none have stuck out. Zhang says that the current industry is eager to achieve quick growth and instant returns, but many enterprises don’t have the technology to back up their ambitions. Some just dig out contaminated soil and throw new soil in its place.

So far, this has been a workable model because real estate developers prefer dealing with the issue quickly and cheaply -- and there are not yet suitable government standards to regulate the industry.

Business opportunity

Up to now, it’s mainly been first-tier cities that are trying to tackle chemical factory and metallurgic plant pollution that’s accumulated over several decades. 

In Beijing for example, about 200 factories were relocated outside the Fourth Ring Road from 2003 to 2008 in the run up to the Olympics, which left 9 million square meters of land that had been contaminated by various chemicals. These patches are often referred to as “brown land” or “poisoned land”. Before it can be rebuilt upon, the soil must be cleaned up. 

Two Nations, two dreams, one Pacific

The Chimerica Dream

Sun Tzu, the ancient author of The Art of War, must be throwing a rice wine party in his heavenly tomb in the wake of the shirtsleeves California love-in between President Obama and President Xi Jinping. "Know your enemy" was, it seems, the theme of the meeting. Beijing was very much aware of—and had furiously protested—Washington’s deep plunge into China’s computer networks over the past 15 years via a secretive NSA unit, the Office of Tailored Access Operations (with the apt acronym TAO). Yet Xi merrily allowed Obama to pontificate on hacking and cyber-theft as if China were alone on such a stage.

Enter—with perfect timing—Edward Snowden, the spy who came in from Hawaii and who has been holed up in Hong Kong since May 20th. And cut to the wickedly straight-faced, no-commentary-needed take on Obama’s hacker army by Xinhua, the Chinese Communist Party’s official press service. With America’s dark-side-of-the-moon surveillance programs like Prism suddenly in the global spotlight, the Chinese, long blistered by Washington’s charges about hacking American corporate and military websites, were polite enough. They didn’t even bother to mention that Prism was just another node in the Pentagon’s Joint Vision 2020 dream of “full spectrum dominance.”

By revealing the existence of Prism (and other related surveillance programs), Snowden handed Beijing a roast duck banquet of a motive for sticking with cyber-surveillance. Especially after Snowden, a few days later, doubled down by unveiling what Xi, of course, already knew—that the National Security Agency had for years been relentlessly hacking both Hong Kong and mainland Chinese computer networks.

But the ultimate shark fin’s soup on China’s recent banquet card was an editorial in the Communist Party-controlled Global Times. “Snowden,” it acknowledged, “is a ‘card’ that China never expected,” adding that “China is neither adept at nor used to playing it.” Its recommendation: use the recent leaks “as evidence to negotiate with the U.S.” It also offered a warning that “public opinion will turn against China’s central government and the Hong Kong SAR [Special Administrative Region] government if they choose to send [Snowden] back.”

With a set of cyber-campaigns—from cyber-enabled economic theft and espionage to the possibility of future state-sanctioned cyber-attacks—evolving in the shadows, it’s hard to spin the sunny “new type of great power relationship” President Xi suggested for the U.S. and China at the recent summit.

India places its Asian bet on Japan

By Peter Lee 
20 June, 2013

In a dismaying week for the People's Republic of China (PRC), India turned away from it, and gave further signals that it is ready to move beyond the narrative of Japanese World War II aggression that has informed China's Asian diplomacy and anchored the US presence in Asia for over half a century in favor of a view of Japan as a leading and laudable security actor in East Asia. 

I don't know if there is a term in the diplomatic lexicon for "deep tongue kiss accompanied by groans of mutual fulfillment", but if there is, it seems it would be illustrated by the encounter between Indian President Manmohan Singh and Japanese PM Abe Shinzo in Tokyo on May 27-29, 2013. 

Speaking to an assembly of Japanese government and corporate worthies in Tokyo, Singh said: 

Asia's resurgence began over a century ago on this island of the Rising Sun. Ever since, Japan has shown us the way forward. India and Japan have a shared vision of a rising Asia. Over the past decade, therefore, our two countries have established a new relationship based on shared values and shared interests. ... 

Our relationship with Japan has been at the heart of our Look East Policy. Japan inspired Asia's surge to prosperity and it remains integral to Asia's future. The world has a huge stake in Japan's success in restoring the momentum of its growth. Your continued leadership in enterprise, technology and innovation and your ability to remain the locomotive of Asian renaissance are crucial. India's relations with Japan are important not only for our economic development, but also because we see Japan as a natural and indispensable partner in our quest for stability and peace in the vast region in Asia that is washed by the Pacific and Indian Oceans. 

Our relations draw their strength from our spiritual, cultural and civilizational affinities and a shared commitment to the ideals of democracy, peace and freedom. We have increasingly convergent world views and growing stakes in each other's prosperity. We have shared interests in maritime security and we face similar challenges to our energy security. There are strong synergies between our economies, which need an open, rule-based international trading system to prosper. 

Together, we seek a new architecture for the United Nations Security Council. In recent years, our political and security cooperation has gained in salience. Japan is the only partner with whom we have a 2-plus-2 Dialogue between the Foreign and Defence Ministries. We have also begun bilateral exercises with the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force. 

The romance was consecrated by an audience with the Japanese emperor and empress for Singh and his wife, and the announcement that the royal couple would be visiting India before the year's end in only the second overseas trip for the aging emperor since 2009. 

It should also be noted that India is studying Japan's offer to sell an amphibious plane, the US-2, that would be de facto Japan's first overseas military sale, though it would go out under the flag of "dual use" (the Japanese government has previously supplied maritime patrol vessels to Indonesia, and has promised them to the Philippines, but as "developmental assistance," not as a sale).