29 July 2013

Force Multipliers for the Indian Air Force

Issue Vol. 28.2 Apr-Jun 2013 | Date : 28 Jul , 2013

C-17 Globemaster

The IAF is currently embarked on a comprehensive and capital intensive modernisation plan. Over the next two decades, the combat fleet of the IAF will hopefully have 15 squadrons of Su-30MKI fourth generation air dominance fighter aircraft of Russian origin, up to nine squadrons of the fourth generation Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) from Dassault Aviation of France, seven squadrons of the Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft and ten to 15 squadrons of the indigenous Tejas Mk I and Mk II Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). There is also a fourth-generation combat aircraft designated as the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) in the design stage at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). As and when this aircraft is developed successfully, it will add to the combat potential of the fleet. While the number of squadrons for each type of combat aircraft may vary, the total number of squadrons in the combat fleet of the IAF is expected to go up to 42 squadrons initially and subsequently to 45 to cater for the possibility of a two-front war. All these would require an investment in excess of $75 billion over and above that already made.

The IAF will induct 22 Apache AH-64D Longbow attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook twin-rotor heavy-lift helicopters…

Force multipliers in common parlance are those elements or capabilities in the domain of the military that when combined with a given force, help to substantially, in fact sometimes dramatically, enhance its combat potential, impact and effectiveness. In other words, when operating in sync with Force Multipliers, much more can be achieved for a given force level. Force multipliers could be in a variety of regimes, some intangible such as morale, level of training, reputation, strategy or tactics. While these factors are undoubtedly important and even indispensable, what is of equal if not of greater importance is the multiplier effect of “Technology” especially in the regime of air power. The Indian Air Force (IAF) is engaged in a constant struggle to remain abreast of technological advancement in order to maintain an edge over the potential adversaries. Induction of better technology also has simultaneous and positive impact on other intangible Force Multipliers.

Modernisation of the IAF

The IAF is currently embarked on a comprehensive and capital intensive modernisation plan. Over the next two decades, the combat fleet of the IAF will hopefully have 15 squadrons of Su-30MKI fourth generation air dominance fighter aircraft of Russian origin, up to nine squadrons of the fourth generation Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) from Dassault Aviation of France, seven squadrons of the Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft and ten to 15 squadrons of the indigenous Tejas Mk I and Mk II Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). There is also a fourth-generation combat aircraft designated as the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) in the design stage at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). As and when this aircraft is developed successfully, it will add to the combat potential of the fleet. While the number of squadrons for each type of combat aircraft may vary, the total number of squadrons in the combat fleet of the IAF is expected to go up to 42 squadrons initially and subsequently to 45 to cater for the possibility of a two-front war. All these would require an investment in excess of $75 billion over and above that already made.

Tongue of war

Radha Kapoor Sharma : Mon Jul 29 2013

English gives a soft power advantage that no regional language can

With his remark, "The English language has caused a great loss to the country," BJP president Rajnath Singh threw a stone in the pond before he set off for the US to try out his own brand of the language. The ripple was not long in coming. There was a statement in support by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who deplored the "illusion that English is the only means of progress" as well as a counter-statement by a Congress leader, slamming Rajnath Singh's stance as smacking of "medievalism or hypocrisy".

The current issue is reminiscent of a recent fierce debate in France that pitted the language of Shakespeare against the language of Molière. To teach in English or not was the crucial question, which took on existentialist proportions. The spark that ignited the fire was article two of the proposed bill on higher education and research that partially relaxed the Toubon law of 1994, which stipulated French as the medium of instruction in French universities. The proposed bill, recently approved by parliament, allows university courses to be taught in English as well as other foreign languages.

While defending the bill, Genevieve Fioraso, minister for higher education, had stated that universities needed to start teaching in English to attract students from emerging countries like India, China, Korea and Brazil, who would normally prefer to study in English-speaking countries. She specifically pointed out that there were only 3,000 Indian students in France. Incidentally, in an effort to woo Indian students, France recently announced India-specific measures to ease student-visa restrictions.

The new law on teaching in English is, however, only likely to impact one per cent of university teaching and would only be regularising a situation that already exists in some of the country's premier institutions. Many business schools like INSEAD, ESSEC, HEC and the elite grandes écoles — the equivalent of the American Ivy League — are already teaching several courses in English. Yet, the reaction has been a heated debate that has created a science-art divide: with scientists supporting the proposal and philosophers, littérateurs and linguists opposing it.

For those in favour, English is indisputably the dominant international language, with its de facto status as the lingua franca of the internet, technology, research, global business, investment banking. It is not just the way of the future; it is the way of the present. To withhold from the young the opportunity to learn it is to withhold from them the possibility of advancing.

For those against, the measure threatens to sound the death knell for the French language. With English alone informing the world of science and technology, French would become "poorer", "mutilated", "marginalised" and most likely a "dead" language.

Once the language of diplomacy that held sway over the world's elite, French has slipped to the position of 11th most-spoken language. But protectionist linguistic policies are not the answer. The French Academy is fighting a losing battle to stem the influx of English words into French by coining alternative terms for email, the Web, smartphone, hashtag, which virtually never make it into popular parlance. Somewhat like attempts to impose doorbhash for telephone in Hindi.

Teaching university courses in English is also seen as an attack on national culture and identity. However, attracting more foreign students to Francewould help spread French ideas, lead to these very students developing a love of the language and culture, and becoming goodwill ambassadors of the country. In addition, ordinary French students, and not just the elite, would have access to these courses, giving them a competitive edge in a shrinking job market.

DEALING WITH OPPOSITES- India and the US should focus on what is possible

Rudra Chaudhuri

“There is obviously a great deal of rethinking” in India, Braj Kumar Nehru once said to President John F. Kennedy. Jawaharlal Nehru’s cousin — the Indian ambassador to the United States of America, the younger Nehru — made these candid confessions days after Chinese troops stormed Indian territory in October 1962. B.K. Nehru’s primary objective was to make sure to convey the undeniable change that had taken root within India. Working with the US and seeking arms assistance — evidenced in C-130 sorties dropping ammunition and other equipment in Calcutta’s Dum Dum airport— were then thought to be critical. Indeed, they were.

Apart from the fact that this episode in India’s then nascent post -Independence history would remain etched in the minds and hearts of future generations, it did something else: reconstructed political India. American interlocutors, such as John Kenneth Galbraith —then the American ambassador to India — recognized this immediately. “Change,” Galbraith argued, was all too clear. Prime Minister Nehru himself took to the pen and authored an instructive piece for the American journal, Foreign Affairs, titled “Changing India”. American officials, including those much more sceptical of India’s fortunes, too were convinced. India, according to these insiders, would work more closely with the US, minus the need to engage in charged commentary couched in the language of anti-American imperialism. Yet, as Kennedy told a senior Congress MP months after the China War, India “swung back” to its “usual” position of “un-alignment” and colonial sabre rattling once the fog of danger lifted.

To an extent, this is, of course, true. President Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy’s predecessor, was less than enchanted by Indira Gandhi’s vocal opposition to the manner and method of American intervention in Vietnam. President Nixon’s decision to side with Yahya Khan in 1971 — just as Yahya’s regime sought to persecute the Bangla speaking population in East Pakistan — expectantly did nothing for Indira Gandhi and her freshly appointed cabinet. Nonetheless, and notwithstanding these minutes of crises, there was never really a moment during which Indian and American representatives stopped talking to each other. A difficult-to-understand strain of a mutual need for engagement outpaced bureaucratic prejudice for the opposite.

To be sure, whilst the India-US relationship was constantly re-anchored during much of the Cold War, academic admission of the same was late in coming. Liberalization and India’s new-found want for market economics pushed observers to recognize a ‘changing India’. To be sure, it was not until India (and Pakistan) went nuclear that both Indian and American — read Clinton administration — officials thought it necessary to open a backchannel for debate, one which did much to reset the contours of a relationship widely recognized to be of critical importance as early as in the 1960s. Unlike in the 1960s, there was room for equal appreciation for the position of each other on issues of discussion. As is well documented, the Bush administration capitalized on such merits and helped alter an association of sorts beyond what Bill Clinton or the backchannel envisaged.

The visit to India by the US vice president, Joseph Biden, has re-invited the need and desire — at least, according to commentators — to create yet new merits for dialogue with the view to further cement a partnership that, many argue, risks losing its vitality. To some extent, this is a strawman thesis. This is not a relationship that only needs an occasional dose of something invigorating, but also sustained dialogue on a whole range of issues. Two points perhaps merit attention.

The democratic virtue of unreason

Peter Ronald deSouza : Mon Jul 29 2013

Sometimes it is necessary to be unreasonable to make the established order listen

Some weeks ago, I had gone to the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy in Mussoorie to speak to senior IAS officers. They were there as part of their mid-career training, an exercise planned to reconnect them with new ideas and policy debates. I had accepted the invitation because I believe that if we have to make a difference, and avoid the kind of tragedy that occurred with the midday meal in Bihar (this happened later), then it is to this group of people, the steel frame of the Indian state, that we have to speak. Influencing their minds, even marginally, is of utmost importance. My friends on the new left may regard this as an innocent understanding of power but, in spite of their warning, I am still willing to believe that even senior administrators have a future.

The topic of my lecture was "India's democracy: a life of contradictions". I had borrowed the title from B.R. Ambedkar's powerful closing statement in the Constituent Assembly when he, while presenting the draft Constitution, said that "on the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter a life of contradictions". We have entered this life, and hence the task of political scientists is to document it and examine its dynamics.

One of the contradictions I was speaking about was on the need to "democratise democracy". Hardly had I completed my sentence when a backbencher put up his hand and asked me to explain the phrase, saying that I was using (he meant hiding behind) jargon, as academics are wont to do. This jargon of democratising democracy was not comprehensible to practitioners like him, and would I please elaborate. Sniggers could be heard. Even senior IAS officers sometimes want to play the backbencher. Fair enough. Somewhat defensively I set about explaining that even in a democracy there remain spaces of tyranny, areas where democratic procedures and norms are absent and tyranny rules. Our task is to identify these spaces, explore their internal processes, and liberate them from the tyranny. Democratising democracy in India is a work in progress.

Since educating the IAS is also a work in progress, let me here dwell on one of the contradictions that we need to think about as we set about democratising democracy. I was talking to a colleague from UP, who was explaining to me the life-world of the Dalit. He came from this world and through a life of struggle and incredible heroism, entered the academy. He demonstrated a charming feistiness and though soft and open-minded, remained rock-like in his firmness about the things he believed in. He described to me the regular sexual abuse and rape, by the dominant castes of the village, of women in his Dalit basti. He narrated the frustration and weakness of the Dalit men in resisting this violation of their women, because doing so would mean economic destitution and even perhaps death. Filing an FIR was near impossible. The dominant castes would not permit it. The police would acquiesce to this reality of power.

The details of regular abuse of the Dalit women that he described, particularly when they worked in the fields, was so matter of fact that it could only be authentic. It reminded me of Arjun Dangle's Poisoned Bread, a collection of poems and short stories that are so full of pain and anger that you cannot read the book continuously. It is so troubling. Not a single poem or story has even a hint of celebration or joy, as one would expect from good literature. It is an endless narrative of pain, humiliation and degradation. I wondered if democracy, and its driver of equality, was changing this Dalit world and making our village spaces more decent. My interlocutor's autobiographical account seemed to suggest otherwise. Perhaps his is the only village in India where this oppression persists? The life of contradictions is moving in challenging directions.

A mountain strike corps is not the only option

Raja Menon

Instead of pouring money into raising a force that can hardly address the Indian Army’s drawbacks at the border, our decision makers should have focussed on addressing China’s weaknesses in the Indian Ocean

In the history of Indian strategic thought, the decision to create a mountain strike corps against China will remain a landmark. While the file on the subject has apparently been circulating for a while, the absence of open discussion on so momentous a decision is deeply disappointing. Some commentators are of the view that the Chinese incursion in the Depsang plains swung the decision decisively in favour of the strike corps. If so, it doesn’t make much sense, for, where is Depsang and where is Panagarh — the headquarters of the mountain strike corps?

What irks a strategic commentator about this decision is the question whether our reaction is wiser, more mature and better institutionalised than it was in 1962. At that time, the Prime Minister had “instructed” the army to “throw out” the Chinese following which Brigadier Dalvi’s mountain brigade made its fateful advance across Namka Chu. The big question today is — what were our options? Did we examine more than one option and select the best one? Presumably, it is to guarantee that we go through an intellectual process that we now have a Chiefs of Staff Committee, an Integrated Staff, a National Security Council and Adviser, and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Did they actually look at alternatives, or was it a straightforward case of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for a mountain strike corps?

The first step

The first thought that strikes a strategic thinker is whether any non-military options were first examined. This is an inevitable first step in the long and tortuous process that leads up to military action. The Depsang incident, it will be remembered, took place in a part of the country which, before 1954, was always shown as un-demarcated or undefined. What, for instance, were the arguments in the CCS for and against the Johnson-Ardagh Line and the Macartney line? Those who are unfamiliar with these names can take a look at Wikipedia. It is the essence to understanding a possible settlement of the boundary dispute. The fact is that while our case in Arunachal Pradesh is strong and undisputed, the situation is not quite similar in the west where the recent intrusion took place. Admittedly, the political numbers simply don’t permit the government to commit itself to a grand bargain with China on territory. The Chinese are in a similar position. But if the border problem hinges for a solution on a strong, domestic government, it is indeed better for both countries to postpone the solution to the next generation — as the Chinese suggest. So how did we come to the conclusion that the Chinese may force the border issue now, leading us to raise a mountain strike corps?

It has been argued that China is a continental power with a huge land army. It is making amends by funding its Navy strongly, to change the balance. But its army reforms have converted its land forces into a large armoured and air mobile force capable of rapid redeployment.

Under these conditions, to raise an infantry heavy mountain strike corps has obvious disadvantages. First, it would be geographically confined to one or two axes of movement and capable of being blunted. Secondly, whatever we may do on land, we will remain an asymmetric power vis-à-vis the huge People’s Liberation Army (PLA), whose defence budget is thrice ours. Thirdly, a strike corps in the mountains denies us the time and place of a counter offensive, because it is geographically limited. These arguments should have come up during the process of examining options. If they didn’t, it is tragic and shows little improvement from the confusion and bluster of 1962 preceding the disaster.

Infantry heavy

The Indian Army is a fine institution and no one grudges it any funding. But it is also one of the most infantry heavy armies in the world. Its armour-to-infantry ratio is badly skewed, it is not air mobile, its manoeuvre capability is poor and Rs.60,000 crore would have addressed all these deficiencies and more. Instead, with the strike corps it will become even more infantry heavy and Rs.60,000 crore will have been wasted in barely addressing the tremendous disparity with the PLA’s mobility, numbers and manoeuvre capability. It must be remembered that we are addressing mountain warfare, where high altitude acclimatisation is a necessity for soldiers before being deployed. So the mountain strike corps would already be at high altitudes with little possibility of being redeployed without huge air mobility. All this should have been apparent to the Army Aviation Corps whose leaders seem bereft of strategic thinking, having flown light helicopters all their lives. Stopping the advancing Chinese in the mountains strung out through the valleys should have required specialised ground support aircraft like the A-10 Warthog, another strategic choice which was probably ignored by the army aviation branch. By not examining non-army options we seem to be repeating the mistakes of 1962 when the Sino-Indian war became a purely army-to-army affair for reasons that have still not been established.

Strengths & weaknesses

We are not privy to the notings in the file preceding the decision to raise a mountain strike corps, but it would certainly appear that the border issue appears to have been treated purely as an army problem for which only the army can find a solution, with the other arms of the government contributing nothing. Most of all, we appear not to have assessed the Chinese weakness and strengths. Their strength is the huge logistic network that they have built up in Tibet. By creating a one axis strike corps, we have played into their strengths. The Chinese weakness lies in the Indian Ocean, a fact that even Beijing will readily concede. The clash between their political system and economic prosperity requires resources and, increasingly, the Chinese resource pool is Africa, which generates massive sea lines of communication (SLOC) through the Indian Ocean. Today, they are merely SLOCs; tomorrow they will be the Chinese Jugular. Beijing’s paranoia about the Indian Ocean is therefore understandable but the threat according to its strategic commentators comes only from the U.S. Sixty thousand crore spent on strengthening the Indian Navy’s SLOC interdiction capability would have given us a stranglehold on the Chinese routes through the Indian Ocean. The Himalayan border, the entire border, could have been held hostage by our strength in the Indian Ocean with an investment of Rs.60,000 crore.

No one minimises the pinpricks that the Chinese are capable of but what we are looking for is an asymmetric capability to balance the Chinese four-fold advantage in GDP over India. Finding the solution requires all arms of the government to debate where our scarce resources should go. A geographically limited one axis offensive will not destabilise the PLA, but a flotilla of nuclear submarines and a three carrier air group in the Indian Ocean can economically cripple mainland China.

(Raja Menon retired as Rear Admiral in the Indian Navy)

1947-48 Indo-Pak War: Fall of Gilgit and Siege and Fall of Skardu

Part- I: Fall of Gilgit

India has fought many conventional wars since independence; it has also been involved in fighting insurgency and proxy wars during this period. Many heroes that these wars produced have become household names. However, these wars also produced heroes who remain unsung; whose stories of bravery and gallantry are not so well known. One such story is recounted here.

Hard Power, The Only Currency That Works in Afghanistan

The so-called Afghan endgame is really nothing more than the US endgame in Afghanistan. For the Afghans, there is unlikely to be any endgame. Even the Americans suspect, even fear, that their exit from, nay abandonment of, Afghanistan will most likely embroil the hapless Afghans in a deadly and brutal battle for survival. But the exigencies of domestic politics and economics, and the dwindling diplomatic and military support from its effete NATO allies, have created circumstances in which the Americans don’t want to exercise their will or expend their wealth in taking the War on Terror to its logical conclusion. Worse, they have no coherent policy or strategy against Jihad Inc. – questions are even being raised about their intent to fight Islamist terror given their tacit understanding, if not cooperation, with Al Qaeda affiliates in places like Syria – certainly not in the Afpak region which is really the epicentre of jihadist terrorism.

Under the mistaken notion that appeasing and accommodating the medieval Taliban will halt the spread of Islamic radicalism, the US seems to have bought into Pakistan's con-game in Afghanistan, which holds out the tantalising prospect of a ‘honourable’ withdrawal for the sole superpower. Of course, there is nothing very honourable in a withdrawal which seeks to bring back into power, albeit through a negotiated ‘settlement’ (surrender is a more appropriate term) the forces of evil against whom the war was fought. The US plan to declare ‘victory’ before exiting only invites sniggers, if not outright contempt, among its well-wishers as well as its enemies who have conspired, connived and contributed materially, morally and monetarily, in inflicting a humiliating defeat on it.

Even more outrageous is the thinly disguised plan to outsource Afghanistan to Pakistan, in effect throwing the Afghans before the proverbial wolves. The Afghan anger and suspicion of the apparent US strategy of making Pakistan the pivot of their Afghan policy is, therefore, entirely understandable. Although the Pakistanis insist that they back an ‘Afghan-driven, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led’ peace process, only the Taliban qualify as Afghans for the Pakistanis. It is of course quite another matter that this disastrous policy of restoring peace and stability in the Afpak region will severely destabilise not just for Afghanistan but also for Pakistan and rest of the region.

The simple paradox about Afghanistan is that if the war against Taliban and their Al Qaeda associates and affiliates is not won, the peace will be lost. Capitulation before the forces of Islamic radicalism and terrorism is, however, being given the spin of ‘reconciliation’. For their part, the Taliban have given no indication that they sincerely desire any sort of reconciliation. Nor is there anything to suggest that they are ready for peaceful co-existence with those who do not subscribe to their medieval mindset. At least the Americans should know by now that the Taliban wouldn’t remain the Taliban if they were reconcilable.

The US clearly has a lot, in fact everything, riding on this ‘reconciliation’ plank hoping that it will bring the Taliban on board. What happens after the Taliban come on board hasn’t quite been thought through. Worse, the Americans don’t have any Plan ‘B’. Essentially, the US policy in Afghanistan is based on a hope and a prayer. They believe that the huge economic and political stakes that people have developed in the Afghan system and the new freedoms and empowerment that have been experienced by the ordinary Afghans will ensure that the Taliban won’t get a walkover if they refuse to reconcile. In other words, as far as the US is concerned, if Plan ‘A’ doesn’t work, the best case scenario in Afghanistan is either a civil war to keep the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies at bay. The worst case scenario is a Taliban takeover, which ironically is precisely what a successful ‘reconciliation’ of the sorts being tried in Doha i.e. Plan ‘A’, will lead to.

While the US will do what it thinks is in its best interest, and perhaps can live with the consequences of its ill-thought out strategy, the Indian government seems to be totally at sea on its options on Afghanistan. What is touted as India’s policy is really a clumsy rehash of the US policy. From a time when India was deeply sceptical about, if not completely opposed to, the reconciliation process, the Indian position has now regressed to a point where it is now open to a dialogue even with the Taliban. Clearly, the Ministry of External Affairs (and perhaps the entire Indian establishment, if at all there is such a thing anymore) hasn’t quite understood the organic links between Pakistan and the Taliban, summed up by the former Pakistani military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf who called the Taliban Pakistan's ‘strategic reserve that can be unleashed in tens of thousands against India’ whenever Pakistan wanted.

French frankness and Defence hard-sell

Posted on July 26, 2013

The French Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian at a talk in IDSA straightforwardly presented some of the points in the ‘Defence and National Security White Paper 2013′ (the last such document was issued in 2008). He emphasized the fact that both India and France prized “sovereignty” and “Strategic autonomy” as a strong basis for “convergence” of values, etc. He hard pitched the Rafale MMRCA (how Dassault Avions has had an India connection since the sale of the Ouragon fighter in the Fifties), and highlighted joint projects with DRDO on the anvil — scorpene SSKs, and short range missiles, and promised more such joint development and collaboration projects, but expressly ruled out any cooperation in the cyber war field which he said has to be done on a “national” basis.

The talk became fairly convoluted, however, when he sought to draw personal linkages with India — he was born, he said in a port-side district in Brittany called India, where a ship christened ‘Orient’ was being built for trade with India! This mercifully came at the very end and the connection sought to be made was bit of a stretch. More interestingly, he drew attention to the defence cooperation connection in the 18th century when the Anglo-French war in Europe had its repercussions in India where the French colonialists led by Dupleix clashed with their British counterparts — with the French naturally supporting native kings (Tipu Sultan) fighting the British, or who relied on French military advice and training (Ranjit Singh).

Le Drian sounded almost rueful about a lost “älternative world” had the French lorded it over the English. Of course, like the Pondicherrians, or is it now Puducherians (which sounds like an abuse!), instead of the English language, we’d all be speaking French and been a part of the Francophone cultural universe. The problem is would the French have not been more reluctant to let go of India than Britain, and how hard would they have resisted? The record suggests that like in Indo-China and Algeria, Paris would have been loath to let go of India and the parting would likely have been violent. On the plus side,the post-independence Indian leadership would not have been infused with the nonsense of Gandhian nonviolence and pacifism and general complacency that has so crippled Indian foreign and military policies post-1947, and we’d have had the satisfaction of winning freedom the hard way — not handed us by the Brits on a platter. This last was not because of Gandhi’s satyagraha and other myths, but because of the vulnerability of the Raj from a politically more alive Indian Army, which during WWII was being subverted by the pull of Netaji Subhas Bose’s militant nationalism.

But back to the present, to a direct question about whether France, unlike in the past, would help India develop its armaments design capacity — yea all the pesky things like source codes, flight control laws, and stuff like that, the French minister replied that Paris would be happy to help India acquire “command of manufacture” of weapons! In other words, France would be damned if it was going to set India up as an independent and autonomous producer of whole weapon systems. At least he was frank, because elsewhere in his address he added that “India’s security supported French economic interests”. In other words, the inter-governmental mechanism that the French have mooted is essentially to ensure transfer-of-technology only for manufacture. Thus, as far as France is concerned it’s business as usual, the same old “client-supplier” relationship Le Drian promised to overturn, staying firmly in place!

India takes lesson from China to lure workers to garment industry

By Amy Kazmin in Ahmedabad, India

A worker takes a nap during a break at an Indian textile factory

In a sleek modern office on the grounds of a textile mill built by his grandfather in 1931, Sanjay Lalbhai, scion of one of India’s oldest textile companies, is considering an experiment that could revolutionise India’s garment industry – and bolster its faltering economy.

Taking a lesson from China, Mr Lalbhai, chairman and managing director of Arvind Mills, wants to build a large garment factory with attached workers’ dormitories to help overcome the Indian textile industry’s chronic labour shortages and ramp up his company’s production from 12m to 50m pieces a year.

“I can’t build very large factories in India until I solve this,” Mr Lalbhai told the Financial Times in an interview. “Workers are not available at one location. They have to come from distressed areas of India and I have to house them in a nice way on my campus.”

An Arvind team is looking at how to design and manage dorms for between 2,000 and 4,000 workers, which would be a first for India’s textile industry. But Mr Lalbhai is convinced that housing workers is the only way for Indian garment-makers to secure enough labour to fill the growing demand from western retailers.

Despite the country’s vast, young labour force, India’s garment industry has struggled to realise its potential, burdened by crippling power shortages, poor infrastructure, high worker turnover and fragmentation. But with costs in China rising and concerns mounting about Bangladeshi working conditions, Indian companies are looking to new strategies to capitalise on what they see as a window of opportunity.

“India and China are the two countries that have the potential to clothe the world,” said Gautam Nair, managing director of Matrix Clothing, which supplies western retailers such as Macy’s and Debenhams. “India has screwed up, but this is its time.”

India is already the world’s third largest textile and garment exporter, after China and the EU. Yet its $32bn of annual overseas sales lag far behind China’s estimated $260bn and the EU’s $193bn. Turkey and Bangladesh, with a fraction of India’s population, have exports of around $23bn and $21bn respectively.

India’s Congress-led government is determined to bolster exports to reduce the wide current account deficit that has contributed to the sharp depreciation of the rupee, and sees garments as an area that could show quick results.

Kavuru Sambasiva Rao, the recently appointed textile minister, suggests Indian exports of textiles and garments could reach $43.5bn in the April-March financial year – a 30 per cent jump over last year – if existing constraints were removed.

For decades, India restricted how much money could be invested in garment factories, forcing large companies to set up many small units rather than integrated larger ones – at a high cost to efficiency. That rule has been scrapped, but the industry remains highly fragmented, due partly to rigid labour laws that make it nearly impossible to lay off workers from larger factories.

India also prohibits more than 48 hours of work per week and more than 50 hours of overtime a quarter, a severe hindrance for an industry that typically relies on overtime to meet tight deadlines at peak periods. Laws prohibiting women from working at night – which have been relaxed for white-collar jobs in IT and call centres, but not for blue collar jobs like garment factories – are another constraint.

But these impediments will be removed soon, according to Mr Rao. “I am confident of finding a solution to all your problems,” he said at a recent industry conference.

Recruiting workers remains a big challenge. Many rural Indian families are reluctant to let their unmarried daughters migrate for work, while a national rural job scheme has reduced pressure for them to do so.

While some garment factories are located in rural areas and draw workers from nearby villages, such strategies are not seen as viable for larger units. But housing in big cities where larger factories are located is expensive, with many migrants spending their entire salaries on living costs.

That is where workers’ dorms come in and Mr Lalbhai is not the only one thinking about them. India’s government is also planning integrated textile parks, which would have designated space for worker housing.

“Workers are not interested in leaving hearth, home and family unless there is an economic incentive,” said Mr Nair. “If you provide subsidised housing, you may pay the same salaries but you will increase their savings potential.”

Managing workers’ dorms in India will be challenging, given vast linguistic and cultural diversity and high sensitivity around issues of women’s security. But Mr Lalbhai said he was determined to make it work, even if it meant the first factories with dorms would have all male workers.

“We’ll have to see what are the dos and don’ts for Indian conditions,” he said. “But the business opportunity is large . . . Textiles are in a sweet spot because of China. Their factories are becoming too expensive. India should win.”

The End of Shame

8 July 2013

Hartosh Singh Bal turned from the difficulty of doing mathematics to the ease of writing on politics. Unlike mathematics all this requires is being less wrong than most others who dwell on the subject. He is the Political Editor of Open.EMAIL AUTHOR

Modi is a disgrace; but let us make sure those pointing it out are not doing so to serve other interests

Writing on politics for the first time since the Radia Tapes appeared, Vir Sanghvi commented on the Modi campaign, ‘No matter which party wins, India is certain to lose.’ It seems even shame has its limits

The distinction between cultures of shame and cultures of guilt may be an oversimplification, but it is not without merit. Consider the number of terms in Hindi and other Indian languages that derive from shame: ‘sharam nahin aati hai’, ‘log kya kahenge’, ‘besharam’, ‘sharamnaak’ (aren’t you ashamed of yourself, what will people say, shameless, shameful). On the other hand, it is difficult to find an exact match for the term ‘guilt’ in most Indian languages. There are a number of words for regret; very few for guilt. We are not a culture given to censuring our thoughts, or for that matter even our actions, unless of course, we are found out. For better or worse, in India shame acts as a social check on public conduct.

This is why the role of the media takes on an additional significance. If the Congress and BJP have recently been demanding that media coverage of accused politicians be tempered, this has little to with the judicial process. If this were a problem, the Judiciary would have intervened. The real problem is that the public airing of such deeds has forced figures such as Shashi Tharoor, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal to step down from posts in the Government or their party, even if only temporarily.

The Congress reacted very differently in the aftermath of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi. HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and Kamal Nath were rewarded for their roles in the killings, and even though Tytler and Sajjan Kumar have subsequently faced cases in court, Kamal Nath has escaped unscathed.

The Congress got away then in a way it cannot now because for much of the 1980s after the massacres, the media abdicated its role. Caught up in the myth of Rajiv Gandhi, it largely ignored the deliberate distortion of evidence before several commissions, the coercion of witnesses and the complicity of the Delhi Police. Many editors of the time who continue to lecture us on public morality today forget that, from 1985 to 1989, they presided over one of the media’s biggest post-Independence failures.

It would seem that the media has learnt from its earlier error. With the rise of Narendra Modi, the BJP has now shown that it can emulate the Congress cult of shamelessness, but at least the media has not remained silent. Unfortunately, the omissions of the past do not disappear so easily.

In a recent piece, the young columnist Mihir Sharma rightly argued that exculpating Modi because of the 1984 massacres is dangerous. But the column reminded me of a conversation we had, where he asked me about the strength of the evidence against Kamal Nath for his role in the 1984 massacres.

The evidence directly linking Kamal Nath to the massacres in 1984 is far stronger than the evidence in the Gujarat riots against any senior BJP leader, bar Maya Kodnani. Yet the media has let Kamal Nath survive as one of the most important Cabinet ministers in the UPA Government for two terms, with most people sharing Mihir Sharma’s ignorance. Little has been written about him; no questions have been asked.

I have no doubt that Sharma, once aware of the evidence, would agree that Kamal Nath should step aside and allow an enquiry into his role, even if it comes 30 years too late, but I cannot say the same of several others who are today so vituperative about Modi. Many of them attack Modi while displaying a wilful disregard of the sins of the Congress. And when this happens, it is as dangerous as the problem Sharma raises.

Modi is not just unfit for the post of Prime Minister; he is unfit for any public office. But the shamelessness of such a man is best questioned by a media that is immune to questions about its own motives. Just this week, Delhi woke up to an article on the edit page of one of India’s leading newspapers, The Hindustan Times, by none other than Vir Sanghvi. Writing in the paper on politics for the first time since his misuse of the same space was rather dramatically highlighted in the Radia Tapes, he commented on the Modi campaign: ‘No matter which party wins, India is certain to lose.’ It seems even shame has its limits.

Rebellion, Development and Security in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas

Jun 25, 2013
Author: Hassan Abbas and Shehzad H. Qazi

Conventional wisdom suggests that international development helps defeat militancy, create stability, and promote U.S. security. Stability through development has emerged as a principle of U.S. policy in the fight against militancy in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The United States pledged $750 million of development aid to Pakistan between 2007 and 2011, and various U.S. and UK agencies continue to support the implementation of development projects in the region with the objective of helping the Pakistani state establish its presence and improve economic activity in the area, both of which would enhance its capability to defeat al-Qa`ida and the Pakistani Taliban.[1]

The idea of development as a cure to militancy contends that providing economic opportunities and delivering services to civilians dis-incentivizes rebellion by increasing its opportunity cost, while simultaneously allowing the Pakistani government to co-opt tribes and segments of certain warring factions. This article argues that such a straightforward relationship between development and stability does not exist in Pakistan. A look at the Pakistani Taliban’s recruitment drivers reveals that not all militants are motivated solely by financial incentives. Moreover, development and security have a paradoxical relationship, as development efforts are often thwarted by the very insecurity they are meant to remedy. Between 2006 and 2012, for example, attacks on schools caused the partial or complete destruction of 460 educational facilities in FATA.[2] Thus, while development will be crucial in bringing stability to the tribal areas in the long-term, it remains fundamentally dependent first on the provision of security.

How the Pakistani Taliban Recruit

The major assumption undergirding the case for development is that those who rebel or support militancy are overwhelmingly poor or that the financial benefits provided by insurgents outweigh what the Pakistani government offers, which in most cases is very little.[3] Both assumptions, however, are misleading and have not only been challenged by economic modeling, but also rejected by evidence from Pakistan and cross-national analysis.[4] While no large-scale studies exist on the Pakistani Taliban’s recruitment, available information from the tribal agencies and adjoining areas reveals that their tactics are variegated—sometimes even within the same locale—and financial incentives are one of several inducements used to conscript fighters.[5]

First, Pakistan’s Taliban insurgency is a complex conflict featuring not just anti-state conflict, but inter-tribal warfare as well. For example, Waziri and Mehsud tribal groups have a long history of mutual distrust, battles and assassinations. Taliban factions that recruit heavily from these tribes inherit this rivalry and animosity. As a result, the Taliban recruit often based on tribal identity. Mehsud representation in Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), for example, is quite significant, and as a counter the Pakistani government has been trying to build bridges with Waziri tribesmen to squeeze the Mehsuds. In some cases, this was attempted through economic blockades and road construction in Waziri areas so that the Waziri tribe could bypass Mehsud areas, lessening their dependence on the latter.[6] The Pakistan Army has also armed militants of the small Bhittani tribe, who are despised by the Mehsuds,[7] in areas leading to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP) to discourage Mehsud incursions.[8] Thus, this aspect of Pakistan’s counterterrorism model inadvertently empowers tribal identity and helps the targeted group in its recruitment drive.

Second, rebels attract potential recruits through access to social networks and provision of social prestige. Recruiters have been reported to invite young men for informal conversations and offer them company. The interaction is used to glorify war and martyrdom, while gradually giving the individual a sense of belonging to a peer group and ultimately convincing them to volunteer for jihad.[9] In Swat, militants recruited young men by offering them the opportunity to ride in pickup trucks and hold weapons. These acts conferred social prestige and authority upon them, while political backing from the TTP offered clout.[10] Finally, in recent months the TTP has attempted to use Facebook as “a recruitment center” for media work as well, organizing a virtual community of radicals.[11]

Revenge and reaction is a third driver of recruitment. Contrary to general assumptions about the Taliban’s worldview,[12] they smartly employ the elements of classic Pashtunwali code that suit their recruitment objectives. On both sides of the Durand Line, for example, the Taliban have exploited the notion of badal (revenge) to recruit new fighters after civilian deaths caused by military strikes and drones.[13] Taliban militants reportedly regularly visit refugee camps and recruit those wanting to avenge the death of family members killed by the Pakistani military or frustrated by the government’s lack of basic human facilities in these camps.[14]

Fitting Intelligence to the Fight: Lessons from Afghanistan

Journal Article | July 20, 2013 Fitting Intelligence to the Fight: Lessons from Afghanistan [i]
David J. Katz [ii]


The types of information needed by the military to conduct population-centric counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan shares little in common with intelligence used for lethal targeting. Years into the Afghanistan campaign, recognition that success required effective population-centric interventions prompted a redirection of intelligence assets to focus more on acquiring detailed sociocultural information about target populations. Other reforms have sought to remedy information deficiencies by revamping the assumptions and concepts that frame the analysis of populations, their identities and attitudes and the so-called “hearts and minds” efforts seeking to change them. These adjustments during a campaign are welcome but still fall short of supplying information that can confer a strong confidence in the success of these non-kinetic activities. Appreciation of the inherent limits to the information and the level of confidence that it confers for such activities needs to be brought into the planning and execution of population-centric interventions of any ilk, whether stability operations, counter-insurgency or humanitarian assistance, regardless of their size and political significance.

Fitting Intelligence to the Fight

As we head for the exits in Afghanistan, reflecting on our performance there yields value if it institutionalizes practice and experience in doctrine so that it is not lost as operations end and people move on. In particular, we can benefit by studying the role of intelligence in conducting population-centric counterinsurgency. While Defense Secretary Panetta announced in January 2012, that the Army and Marines will no longer be sized to support large-scale, long-term stability operations, the military can count on getting involved in complex contingency operations which will have many similarities to the population-centric operations conducted during the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. [iii]

Two broad questions frame this examination: Has the intelligence community been doing the job? Has it been the right job?

In January 2010, Major General Mike Flynn co-authored a paper published by the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think-tank, titled, Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan. In it Flynn, who was serving as the intelligence chief for ISAF Commander General McChrystal, delivered a blunt critique of intelligence effectiveness in Afghanistan, declaring that, “Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy.” [iv]

The problem for Flynn was that our massive intelligence effort was directed at finding and destroying the enemy but, “Lethal targeting alone will not help U.S. and allied forces win in Afghanistan.” [v] Intelligence was hard at work but it was doing the wrong job, or more precisely, not enough of its capacity was devoted to getting information about “the environment in which we operate and the people we are trying to protect and persuade." [vi] Commanders and senior government leaders lacked vital information about the Afghan people. In a counterinsurgency, tactical-level information has far greater strategic significance than in conventional conflicts, argued Flynn. “U.S. intelligence officers and analysts can do little but shrug in response to high level decision-makers seeking the knowledge, analysis, and information they need to wage a successful counterinsurgency.” [vii]

Flynn made clear that what he proposed in this paper involves “changes that must occur” and “should be considered as a directive by the senior author.” [viii] He called for stepping up collection and production of information about the population through creating special teams of analysts “empowered to methodically identify everyone who collects valuable information, visit them in the field, build materially beneficial relationships with them, and bring back information to share with everyone who needs it.”[ix]

While Fixing Intel casts its concerns in terms of the conduct of a counterinsurgency campaign, the focus is mainly on what is needed for the conduct of stability operations which are those missions, tasks, and activities undertaken by the military, and in some instances along with civilian organizations, to maintain or reestablish for the population a safe, secure environment, deliver essential services, tend to critical infrastructure, and supply humanitarian relief.

The teams that Flynn proposed were to work in new units he called “Stability Operation Information Centers,” that would be located at the regional command headquarters throughout the country. These facilities would research and write “meaty, comprehensive descriptions of pivotal districts.” [x] The products would be kept at the lowest classification level possible so that they could not only be used for intelligence purposes but made available to “all elements with demand for information – including Afghan partners and non-government actors.” [xi]

Flynn sought to separate SOICs from the intelligence operations focusing on the enemy in order to ease outsider access and to promote at these centers a different approach to gathering, processing and disseminating information. He even suggested that in the south and east where the international presence was the greatest, SOICs be placed under the U.S. State Department’s senior civilian repre­sentatives who administer governance, development and stability efforts, outside of the military chain of command. [xii]

The SOICs were launched and commenced operations. During Flynn’s tenure and that of his successor, Brigadier General Stephen Fogarty, SOICs were brought under a new umbrella organization, called the “Civil-Military Integration Program” which was established in response to the problems identified in Fixing Intel. Also brought under the Civil-Military Integration Program were the Human Terrain System with its Human Terrain Teams deployed in the field, the Atmospherics Program – Afghanistan, which gathered open source information, and other units involved in gathering and processing sociocultural information.

In a review issued June 2012, 30 months after publication of Fixing Intel, the Department of Defense Inspector General asked whether SOICs were doing the job. The IG found that SOICs had managed to improve the ability to provide the type of information that Flynn had called for in his article. However, there were problems as well, the kind that are common for such ad hoc initiatives launched in the middle of a high-tempo combat operational environment. [xiii] The IG recommended doctrinal and organizational changes together with adjustments to the training for analysts assigned to collect and analyze population-centric information.

In Fixing Intel Flynn sought to drive home to the intelligence community the need to put more importance and resources on collecting information about the population. The IG report suggested that this effort was successful as far as it went but that significant institutional changes needed to be undertaken in order to maintain such capabilities into the future.

China’s salami-slice strategy

by Brahma C.

China’s furtive, incremental encroachments into neighboring countries’ borderlands — propelled by its relative power advantage — have emerged as a key destabilizing element in the Asian security landscape. While China’s navy and a part of its air force focus on asserting revanchist territorial and maritime claims in the South and East China Seas, its army has been active in the mountainous borderlands with India, trying to alter the line of control bit by bit.

Beijing’s favored frontier strategy to change the territorial and maritime status quo is apparently anchored in “salami slicing.” This involves making a steady progression of small actions, none of which serves as a casus belli by itself, yet which over time lead cumulatively to a strategic transformation in China’s favor.

By relying on quiet salami slicing rather than on overt aggression, China’s strategy aims to seriously limit the options of the targeted countries by confounding their deterrence plans and making it difficult for them to devise proportionate or effective counteractions.

This, in part, is because the strategy — while bearing all the hallmarks of modern Chinese brinksmanship, such as a reliance on surprise and a disregard for the risks of wider military escalation — seeks to ensure the initiative remains with China.

Changing the territorial status quo has been the unfinished business of the People’s Republic of China since its founding in 1949. The early forcible absorption of the sprawling Xinjiang and Tibetan plateau more than doubled the landmass of China.

This was followed by the advent of the earliest incarnation of the salami-slicing strategy, which led to China gaining control, step by step between 1954 and 1962, of the Switzerland-size Aksai Chin plateau of the original princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. An emboldened China then went on to seize the Paracel Islands in 1974, the Johnson Reef in 1988, the Mischief Reef in 1995 and, most recently, the Scarborough Shoal (2012).

At the core of the challenge posed by China to Asian security today is its lack of respect for existing frontier lines. In other words, China is still working to redraw political boundaries.

Along land frontiers, rodent-style surreptitious attacks usually precede its salami slicing. The aim is to start eating into enemy land like giant rodents and thereby facilitate salami slicing. The use of this strategy is becoming increasingly apparent along the Himalayan border with India, the world’s longest disputed frontier.

Here one form of attacks has involved the Chinese military bringing ethnic Han pastoralists to the valleys along the Himalayan line of control and giving them cover to range across it, in the process driving Indian herdsmen from their traditional pasturelands and opening the path to salami slicing. This strategy, which can also begin with the Chinese military nibbling at an unprotected border area, has been especially employed in the two highly strategic Buddhist regions located on opposite ends of the Himalayan frontier — Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

To assert its claims in the South and East China Seas, China unabashedly plays salami slicer. The tools of salami slicing here range from granting hydrocarbon-exploration leases to asserting expansive fishing rights — all designed to advance its territorial and maritime claims.

In the East China Sea, China has employed paramilitary agencies, such as the Maritime Safety Administration, the Fisheries Law Enforcement Command, and the State Oceanic Administration, in a campaign of attrition against Japan over the Senkaku Islands, which it calls Diaoyu — an offensive that has already succeeded in shaking the status quo by making the rest of the world recognize the existence of a dispute. This has emboldened Beijing to gradually increase the frequency of Chinese maritime surveillance ships sent into the 12-nautical-mile zone regarded as the territorial waters of the Senkaku Islands and to violate the airspace over them.

Taking on Japan, its former occupier and historical rival, is part of China’s larger search for new seabed resources and for strategic ascendancy in the western Pacific by breaking out of what it perceives to be “first island chain” — a string that includes the Senkakus, Taiwan, and some islands controlled by Vietnam and the Philippines.

China’s aim in the South China Sea is to slowly but surely legitimize its presence in the 80 percent of the sea it now claims formally. Through repeated and growing acts, China is etching a lasting presence in the claimed zones.

Among the ways Beijing has sought to establish new “facts” on the ground in the South China Sea is to lease hydrocarbon and fishing blocks inside other disputant states’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs), as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Such leases are designed to circumscribe the UNCLOS-granted economic rights of states such as Vietnam and the Philippines while expanding China’s control of the region’s oil-and-gas wealth.

China's Bad Earth

Industrialization has turned much of the Chinese countryside into an environmental disaster zone, threatening not only the food supply but the legitimacy of the regime itself.

The Wall Street Journal

In Dapu, a chemical factory sits next to a farm. 'Nothing comes from these plants,' says a local farmer.

In Dapu, a rain-drenched rural outpost in the heart of China's grain basket, a farmer grows crops that she wouldn't dare to eat.

A state-backed chemicals factory next to her farm dumps wastewater directly into the local irrigation pond, she says, and turns it a florescent blue reminiscent of antifreeze. After walking around in the rice paddies, some farmers here have developed unexplained blisters on their feet.

"Nothing comes from these plants," says the farmer, pointing past the irrigation pond to a handful of stunted rice shoots. She grows the rice, which can't be sold because of its low quality, only in order to qualify for payments made by the factory owners to compensate for polluting the area. But the amount is only a fraction of what she used to earn when the land was healthy, she says. The plants look alive, "but they're actually dead inside."

The experiences of these farmers in Dapu, in central China's Hunan province, highlight an emerging and critical front in China's intensifying battle with pollution. For years, public attention has focused on the choking air and contaminated water that plague China's ever-expanding cities. But a series of recent cases have highlighted the spread of pollution outside of urban areas, now encompassing vast swaths of countryside, including the agricultural heartland.

Estimates from state-affiliated researchers say that anywhere between 8% and 20% of China's arable land, some 25 to 60 million acres, may now be contaminated with heavy metals. A loss of even 5% could be disastrous, taking China below the "red line" of 296 million acres of arable land that are currently needed, according to the government, to feed the country's 1.35 billion people.

Rural China's toxic turn is largely a consequence of two trends, say environmental researchers: the expansion of polluting industries into remote areas a safe distance from population centers, and heavy use of chemical fertilizers to meet the country's mounting food needs. Both changes have been driven by the rapid pace of urbanization in a country that in 2012, for the first time in its long history, had more people living in cities than outside of them.

Yet the effort to keep urbanites comfortable and well-fed has also led to the poisoning of parts of the food chain, and some of the pollution is traveling back to the cities in a different—and for many, more frightening—guise.

"Pollution can be displaced only to an extent. You can't put walls around it," says Judith Shapiro, the U.S.-based author of the recent book "China's Environmental Challenges." She is one of a number of researchers and environmental activists—including many in China—who warn that pollution poses an existential threat to the current regime. It is, she says, "perhaps the single most significant determinant of whether the Communist Party will maintain its legitimacy in coming years."

China has long sought to industrialize its countryside, dating to Mao's disastrous Great Leap Forward beginning in 1958, when he sought rapid industrialization by urging peasants to set up backyard steel furnaces at the expense of agricultural output. The cumulative impact of decades of building up rural industry is now taking an environmental toll, particularly as industrial growth surges forward in China's breadbasket. In the once agrarian provinces of Hunan and Hubei, industrial activity rose more than threefold from 2007 to 2011, far outpacing industrial growth in powerhouse Guangdong.

In some cases, factories are moving to the countryside to take advantage of cheaper land, often made available with the help of local officials who want to boost growth, environmental researchers say. In other cases, urban leaders want factories to move out of crowded cities. The ensuing problems of rural pollution are exacerbated by the fact that many small-town governments have less capacity to properly regulate complex industrial activities than their counterparts in big cities, experts say.

Rice farmer Zhu Hongqing has seen the market fall after a recent cadmium scare.

The consequences of this shift catapulted to national attention in February, after China's Ministry of Environmental Protection refused to release the results of a multiyear nationwide soil-pollution survey, calling the data a "state secret." The decision—brought to a head when an activist lawyer pressed the ministry to reveal the numbers—sparked an outcry online and in the traditional media.