13 August 2013

*** Can India Blockade China?

By Shashank Joshi
August 12, 2013

The Indian Navy has had a big week. The reactor in its first indigenous nuclear submarine, the Arihant, went critical on Saturday, and its first indigenous aircraft carrier, theVikrant, was formally unveiled today. It's long been assumed that one of the primary tasks of the rapidly-modernizing service and its expanding fleet is to apply pressure to China's Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs) in the event of conflict. 

The Economist suggested a few months ago that "India’s naval advantage might allow it, for example, to impede oil traffic heading for China through the Malacca Strait." David Scott's recent article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, argues that: "In the case of the Malacca Strait … India [has] the ability to block (China’s so-called ‘Malacca Dilemma’) easy Chinese access to the Indian Ocean." Ajai Shukla, a well-informed defense journalist, writes that "analysts agree that the Indian Navy … can shut down the Indian Ocean shipping lanes whenever it chooses," and quotes a retired fleet commander as saying that "a couple of submarines and a fighter squadron at Car Nicobar could easily enforce a declared blockade." India's first official naval doctrine, in 2004, itself boasted that "control of the choke points could be used as a bargaining chip in the international power game."

Raja Menon, a retired Rear Admiral and prominent advocate of seapower in Indian strategic debates, built on these assumptions in a recent op-ed in the Hindu, criticizing the government's decision to invest substantially in raising a new Indian Army strike corps intended for the Chinese border:

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 [around $10bn] 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.

*** Nuclear signals in South Asia

Arun Vishwanathan 

India, Pakistan, and China have been dancing a nuclear tango of late, taking steps that have serious implications for the entire region.

Pakistan has worked assiduously to expand its fissile material stockpile while threatening to lower its nuclear threshold, claiming that its short-range missile, Nasr/Hatf-IX, is nuclear capable. These Pakistani moves are apparently meant as a counter to India’s Cold Start Doctrine, a plan for launching a conventional military attack on very short notice, even though New Delhi has denied its very existence. China, meanwhile, has continued to modernize its missile forces while fostering strategic ambiguity about its no-first-use nuclear policy. And in response to Pakistani and Chinese signals, India has publicly emphasized the survivability of its nuclear missiles, the extension of their range, and the deployment of a nuclear submarine, suggesting a powerful second-strike nuclear capability.

A nuclear signaling game can be beneficial to both the sender and receiver of messages; if the signals are properly understood, they can reduce the likelihood of nuclear conflict by suggesting, ahead of time, just how unwelcome the results of military aggression would be. Poorly executed signals, however, can be misunderstood, heightening tensions and increasing the possibility of escalation during a conflict. The current round of South Asian signaling seems to be of the latter variety.

Pakistan’s weak signal. Whether an adversary perceives a signal as strong or weak is crucial to success in the nuclear signaling game. Despite widespread international consternation following Pakistan’s claims about a supposed nuclear capability for the Nasr missile, New Delhi has gone its diplomatic way, pretty much as usual. This lack of reaction is largely due to several doubts about Pakistan’s claim. First, a warhead that could fit into such a small, short-range missile system would likely have to be a plutonium-based, linear-implosion device. During its 1998 nuclear tests, however, Pakistan did not detonate a plutonium device. Second, given the low quality of Pakistan's natural uranium ore, there are also doubts whether it can produce enough fissile material to simultaneously stockpile uranium- and plutonium-based weapons. Last, and most important, Indian nuclear doctrine does not distinguish between tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. India continues to adhere to a no-first-use policy, but its nuclear doctrine clearly assures that it will engage in massive retaliation against any nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces, anywhere.

In sum, India doubts Pakistan’s claim that its short-range Nasr is nuclear capable and, even if it were, India does not see a nuclear-capable Nasr as greatly changing the nuclear equation between the countries. Therefore, even though it has tested low-yield nuclear weapons, possesses the capability to miniaturize its nuclear warheads, and has a reliable delivery platform, India has not found it necessary to respond directly to the Pakistani threat.

Even so, Islamabad should re-consider its gambit, which illustrates well how nuclear signaling can go off course. That’s to say, Pakistani strategists should ask themselves this question: Is Pakistan’s deterrent capability strengthened or weakened by an unpersuasive claim that the Nasr is nuclear capable and ready for tactical use? Though not to their liking, the answer is the latter, and surely, a weak deterrent cannot be in Pakistan’s national interest. In particular, a capability that is perceived to be a bluff is unlikely to deter India from launching a conventional military attack on short or no notice. 

India’s Pakistan Policy: The Nation Incensed

Paper No. 5542 Dated 12-Aug-2013
By Dr. Subhash Kapila

The Indian Republic stands incensed intensely this last week not only because of the fixative obsession of the Government for resumption of the Pakistan-India Peace Dialogue but more incensed that the Government forgetful of India’s National Honour resorted to vain subterfuges to provide escapist loopholes to the Pakistan Army over its attacks in Poonch killing five Indian soldiers, so that the Peace Dialogue was not derailed.

My previous Paper arguing against the resumption of the Peace Dialogue stood reinforced within twenty four hours by Pakistan Army’s unprovoked attack on a forward border post in the Poonch Sector on the Line of Control killing five Indian soldiers.

The Indian Army’s initial press release contents were changed in the statement made by Defence Minister Antony on the floor of the Parliament, the same day. Thereafter the Indian Army earlier press release was withdrawn and a fresh one reflecting the Defence Minister’s statement was issued.

By then all political hell had broken loose as the Government’s actions in not reflecting Pakistan Army direct involvement had given the game away. Details of this sordid sequence event have flooded the media and it is not the intention to repeat those details in this Paper.

What requires reflecting in this Paper are the details of Indian media reportage on this issue to highlight two facts. The first fact is that the Indian Government stands widely disconnected from Indian public opinion on the issue of its obsession with a Peace Dialogue with Pakistan forgetful of a long sequential of provocations by the Pakistan Army causing a speedy downslide and a further widening of the ‘trust deficit’ with Pakistan.

The second fact illustrates the widespread and strong inflamation of informed Indian public opinion against the Indian Government’s undisguised subterfuges to insulate its propensity to jump for resumption of Peace Dialogues with Pakistan by providing Pakistan with alibis as were evident in the Defect Minister’s statement in Parliament. Excerpts from media reports and editorials are reflected below to illustrate this aspect.

“The decision to change the Army’s inputs on the involvement of Pakistan Army’s regulars on Tuesday’s attacks on the Line of Control that killed five Indian soldiers was taken at the highest level in a bid to insulate the first meeting of Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh with just elected Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the margins of the UN General Assembly at New York in late September at the delicate juncture in the relationship.” Indian Express August 07 2014, Front Page Column

Further, it is stated that “The conclusion that we can draw from Mr Antony’s silly but dangerous clean chit to the neighbouring Army is that he Government is desperate to push ahead with talks with the Sharif regime and does not want to acknowledge any truth which can come in the way of that determination”.

M J Akbar who is India’s leading Columnist has some very strong and scathing observations against the charade carried out by the Indian Government, At the outset he states that “Antony did not make a mistake when, on the floor of the Parliament he crafted a loophole through which the Pakistan army could escape responsibility after having killed, with the help of around twenty terrorists. Antony consciously subverted the Indian Army’s official account, based on battlefield evidence, to help the killers. This is a political crime, all the more heinous for having been committed by a defence minister. Antony must resign”

Unforgiving take on past

Posted on August 11, 2013

(Review of Lt Gen V.K. Nayar’s book, ‘From Fatigues to Civvies: Memoirs of a Paratrooper’, Manohar, 2013; Rs 1395/-)

Lieutenant general V K “Tubby” Nayar (Retd) is among a rare breed of military officers. Despite being outspoken with his seniors in service and wearing his inability to suffer fools gladly on his sleeve, he made it to the top ranks of the Indian Army which in recent years has, unfortunately, begun to resemble other government services where flattery and sycophancy earn good “Çonfidential Reports” and ensure career dividends.

Originally a Signals officer, Nayar, after persistent pestering of his bosses, managed a transfer to his desired regiment — the elite Maratha Light Infantry (MLI), securing a billet with 2 Para (3rd battalion, MLI, converted to paratroop infantry). 2 Para was dropped over Tangail in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, less than six months after Tubby, to his eternal regret, had handed over command.

But thereafter Nayar missed nothing, being in on the anti-Sikh riots in the capital when, as additional director-general, military operations, he pleaded futilely with then chief of the army staff, general Arun Vaidya, to appoint him the general officer commanding Delhi area in order quickly to show force and deter the rioters; Operation Bluestar; and, the 1987 Operation Brasstacks. As the Western Army commander, he was tasked by army chief general K Sundarji to write and conduct the massive exercise, without being made aware that Brasstacks was to be a cover for an armoured thrust into Pakistan — Operation Trident, which II Corps was supposed to execute after peeling off from Brasstacks. It was a complicated deception manoeuvre to facilitate Trident, except it was so bungled by Sundarji that the commander of II Corps, the estimable Lt Gen Hanut Singh, was surprised by this new plan requiring his large formation to wheel around mid-exercise and rush pell-mell into battle on the hoary Rahim Yar Khan axis — something he was entirely unprepared for! Nor did the Western Air Command have any hint of war, with its head, air marshal M M Singh, confessing to Nayar that his fleet of Jaguars was low on droppable ordnance!

It helps that as a memoirist he has a sharp memory and can recall details of conversations and incidents from 40-50 years ago involving his colleagues and seniors. While he has nothing but praise for the men and officers he commanded, his unvarnished take on his seniors is refreshing for its withering honesty. The late General Arun Vaidya is described as lacking in “moral courage” and General K Sundarji is dismissed as “big talking and blustery”— more show than substance who, Tubby fears, set a bad example for junior officers to emulate. And he reveals the self-aggrandizing tendencies routinely realised by IAS officers at senior levels of government. There was P K Kaul, for instance, who as defence secretary opposed the establishment of the National Security Guard (NSG) as redundant to the need, as the finance secretary rejected it on the basis of paucity of financial resources, but as the cabinet secretary approved the NSG because it would be controlled by him!

India's Quest for an Indigenous Aircraft Carrier

Date : 12 Aug , 2013

It was indeed fortuitous for our navy that at the moment of India’s independence, those charged with planning for the nation’s embryonic maritime force included many men of vision. In 1948, within six months of freedom, a ten year naval expansion plan had been prepared, largely by Royal Navy officers serving on secondment, for consideration by the Government of India.The plan was drawn up around the concept of two fleets; one for the Bay of Bengal and the second for the Arabian Sea, each to be built around a light fleet carrier, to be replaced subsequently by a fleet carrier. The grandiose scheme provided for four fleet carriers and 280 ship-borne strike and fighter aircraft in the next few years. This plan received approval in principle from the Governor-General Earl Mountbatten, as well as the Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, but unfortunately failed to materialise because of a variety of reasons.

The Royal Navy, which saw her naval aviation being virtually dismantled, was mirrored to an extent in India. The RN had been deprived of both fixed wing carriers and aircraft; the IN had a small carrier but could not find a new aircraft that was compatible.

Hostilities with Pakistan in Jammu & Kashmir in the winter of 1947 had focused India’s attention on the Himalayas rather than the oceans and the young nation’s scarce resources were being diverted to the army. Moreover, the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 required all WW II naval aviation surpluses of the RN to be marshalled once again for service, and there was not enough to spare for the Indian Navy (IN). However, the main impediment that emerged was a change of heart in His Majesty’s Government.

The reason why the British were willing to help bolster India’s naval strength was the basic assumption that the IN would form part of a Commonwealth-based bulwark against any possible depredations by the Soviet “Bear” in the maritime domain (perhaps looking for warm water ports?). However, by now India had decided to adopt an equidistant non-aligned stance between the two “cold-warriors” and her steadfast refusal to be part of any military alliance considerably dampened RN enthusiasm and support.

Arrival of the First Carrier

The dire financial straits of the fledgling nation also posed many hindrances to the planning process for creating a navy, but the carrier project eventually survived, albeit in a drastically diluted form. In 1957, the unfinished hull of HMS Hercules, a Majestic Class light fleet carrier was acquired by India and taken in hand for completion in Belfast. Four years later she was commissioned into the IN as INS Vikrant. Sister ships served in the Canadian and Australian Navies for some years.

The aircraft complement of Vikrant was essentially a Hobson’s choice, and consisted of the Armstrong-Whitworth (later Hawker-Siddley) Seahawk, a straight-wing, first generation ground-attack jet fighter, and the French built Breguet Alize turbo-prop ASW machine. Both the aircraft served us faithfully, but by the late 1970s they were long in the tooth and needed urgent replacement.

Simulation and Training: The IAF Perspective

Issue Vol. 28.2 Apr-Jun 2013 | Date : 12 Aug , 2013

Aero India 2013 view from the cockpit of C-17 Globemaster

“Simulators go a long way in ensuring that a pilot learns about systems under simulation before he actually uses these on-board an aircraft thus saving precious flying hours. Apart from simulators being inducted with the new aircraft being contracted for, the IAF has taken a conscious decision to include simulator training as part of the curriculum for ab initio training of pilots.”

—Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, Chief of the Air Staff, Indian Air Force

“Simulation” implies an imitation of a real-life process usually with the help of a computer or other technological devices, in order to provide a life-like experience. This has proven to be a very reliable, successful and a low-cost option for training not just in the militaries worldwide, but even in the corporate world. It is important to emphasise that training simulation is not just a glorified video game but its aim is to train and educate to develop skills that would be used when faced with a similar situation in real life.

Simulators provide an opportunity to practice for even the most unforeseen contingency…

The rationale for providing simulators in the domain of military training is obvious. Given the rising costs and increasing complexities of aircraft and other weapon platforms, there is a requirement for infrastructure and resources to provide real life situations with a facility to record and analyse the performance of trainee. Simulators can bring realism to training where none exists, not just for the training of an individual but an entire team. The simulator is a special category of training device that can replicate all or most of the functions of a system. Simulators can, therefore, be used to train operators in various skills while preserving the primary equipment for operational use.

The association of the Indian Air Force (IAF) with simulators is not new. A rudimentary simulator known as a Link Trainer was in service many decades ago to introduce pilot trainees to instrument flying in the Intermediate Stage of training now termed as Stage II. It was equipped with air bellows to provide roll and pitch inputs and an electric motor which, while rotating the platform, provided the yaw cues. The cockpit was fully covered and the layout was generic. Apart from the Link Trainer, the pilot trainee was introduced to the Ejection Seat Simulator, which besides being used for medical evaluation, also provided a near realistic experience of ejection from an aircraft. On commissioning, when the young pilots moved to the Operational Conversion Unit, they had their first introduction to an aircraft simulator, the Hunter Simulator, which had the complete cockpit layout, could simulate a complete sortie profile and even provided sound effects.

Thereafter, pilots got the opportunity to train on the simulators of combat aircraft such as the MiG 21 or Su-7. Today, the IAF has graduated to the Hawk Simulator as also Flight Training Devices for the AN-32 and Do-228 in the basic training stages. Thereafter, pilots are exposed to other highly technologically sophisticated simulators such as for the C130J multi-engine transport aircraft. Apart from flying training the IAF has simulators for training of vehicle drivers, medical personnel, radar operators, basic and advanced training of Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) as also for war-gaming, weapons and combat training, to mention a few. Apart from simulators for training in the IAF, the Indian Navy has a Disaster Training simulator at its base in Lonavala. This simulates the flooding of a ship while experiencing severe pitching and rolling movements.

Flying training has always been an expensive proposition with both platforms and weapons becoming prohibitively expensive…

Saving Afghanistan’s Economy: The 1818 Model

August 12, 2013
By Christian H. Cooper

The early U.S. experience may offer an idea for avoiding the crash that looks likely in Afghanistan post-2014.

Panic would be an understatement. Land values and home prices were down 50%, key financial prices hit 25% in a single day, and banks began to foreclose on heavily mortgaged properties.

The financial crisis of 2008? No, in fact we’re talking about the first modern financial crisis to hit the United States, way back in 1818-1819. If we’re lucky, that difficult period could provide a blueprint for how to pull out of the nose-dive that looks increasingly likely to be the trajectory of the Afghanistan economy after 2014.

The early financial history of the United States reads like a playbook of things to avoid: an experimental central bank with almost no accountability, regional banks with even less oversight of their own back-room currency printing presses, and an easy credit mentality driven by the new national pastime of Western expansionism. This heady mix of credit and confidence exacerbated a boom and bust cycle that would last until well after the American Civil War.

Many of these booms and busts in early U.S. history can be attributed to the emergence of the agricultural futures markets in Chicago, the use of leverage in those markets, and the ability of banks to use local harvests as a source of credit in the form of new loans without centralized control. This newly created credit exacerbated price volatility around harvest times, which was made even worse by leveraged commodity speculation. The frequent outcome was widespread bank failure.

As complex and obscure as this picture seems, it does offer one gem of an idea with direct applicability to Afghanistan: the use of agriculture as a source of credit and as a way to increase food security locally.

Afghanistan’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture and so its economic output often swings wildly year-to-year. What is perhaps less quantifiable but no less important is the emotional impact those swings have not just on economic output but on the stark choices faced by Afghan families when times are very bad and the limited opportunities available when times are good.

One possible solution aimed at reducing uncertainty is to establish a new system of agricultural districts across the country. Within these districts nationally owned grain storage facilities could be built to secure and audit locally grown yet farmer-owned staple crops. Each large district, ultimately as many as 10 or 12 across the country, would give farmers low-cost storage, could link individual identification of what they own to the national ID card in development, and might offer the capacity to either sell a portion of their crops to government-sponsored programs or save for future shortages to feed their own families. It’s the farmer’s asset and their choice.

Anatomy of India and Pakistan Reconciliation


August 12, 2013

There is a growing thinking in the West that the rivalry between India-Pakistan, the two nuclear armed neighbours, is the root cause for the current impasse in Afghanistan. It underscores that India-Pakistan are reaching a negative crest in their relationship owing to the dialogue process that is largely clogged and a growing economic and military asymmetry between the two. These according to Western policy analysts are enhancing Pakistani insecurities at three levels, with negative impact on Afghan reconciliation process.

The first level of insecurity relates to growing conventional asymmetry that western interlocutors believe is forcing Pakistan to enhance its nuclear arsenal both in qualitative and quantitative terms. By linking tactical nuclear weapons with conventional warfare doctrine to deny India the space for limited war “under nuclear overhang” is even more dangerous.

At the second level, it seems that Pakistan’s insecurities are based on the post-2014 scenario. The Nawaz Sharif government is attempting to leverage the insecurities at two levels: one, despite the popular anti-Pakistan discourse in the US, it has successfully positioned Pakistan, as a key actor with avowed influence over Taliban leadership, in the reconciliation and reintegration process in Afghanistan. Islamabad is simultaneously using its clout with both the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani group to emerge as an honest broker for a pro-Taliban swing in the reconciliation process. Pakistani influence over Taliban, supported by the Saudi, is seen by the US as being crucial for its overall Afghan strategy. Not surprisingly, Sartaj Aziz is advising the Afghan leadership on power sharing agreement with Taliban. Equally not surprising is the fact that John Kerry in his recent visit to Pakistan promised a five year 11 billion dollar assistance package to address Pakistan’s critical energy and other infrastructural needs, even as Sharif made customary protest over drone strikes.

Despite the double game of being an important interlocutor in the US-led reconciliation efforts while simultaneously conniving with Taliban, the reality is that there are concerns in Islamabad over its future relationship with the Taliban. Equally important are the concerns about India’s increasing relevance and good equation with the Afghan government and political leaders of all hues. Like other donor nations, India’s continued effort will be critical for Afghanistan’s peace and stability beyond 2014. This is something which even the Taliban acknowledges. Currently it appears that the military establishment limited aim is to ensure a pro-Pakistan post-2014 Afghan government.

The third level of insecurity is vis-a-vis India. There is a definitive diplomatic push by the newly elected Nawaz Sharif government towards improving relations with India, what is being highlighted in the West as the grand reconciliation. This is circumscribed by restarting the dialogue process through a focus on trade and commerce. The Indian gestures of providing much needed gas and electricity to energy starved Pakistan is seen as being part of this reconciliation strategy. The Sharif government is aware that long term development and economic stability can only come about by building bridges with India.

Ambush on the LoC: Rethinking the Response


August 12, 2013

During the early hours of August 6, 2013, the relative quiet of the last few months was shattered, when a group of approximately 20 heavily armed personnel, ambushed an Indian patrol about 400 metres across the LoC on the Indian side. Five soldiers were killed and the sixth was injured. Earlier, on January 8, 2013, the Pakistani Army in conjunction with terrorists had carried out an ambush against the Indian Army and beheaded a soldier. In addition to the resultant international outrage, the incident had practically derailed peace talks between the two countries. The ambush, which began as a tactical operation by Pakistan, had a far-reaching strategic impact on relations between the two countries.

While the ambush of January 8 came in the period preceding general elections in Pakistan, this misadventure comes in the immediate aftermath of the Nawaz Sharif Government taking over power and indicating its intent to restart peace talks with India.

There have reportedly been 57 ceasefire violations of the Line of Control (LoC) this year, which, according to the Defence Minister, are 80 per cent more than the same period last year, and the number of infiltration attempts have doubled. However, incidents similar to the cross border ambush of January 8 were not repeated, until 06 August. The incident raises a number of issues of concern, which need to be analysed in the perspective of recent events.

First, the Kargil conflict took place under the watch of Nawaz Sharif and in the wake of possibly the most significant peace initiative led by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Since then, while the Pakistani Army continues to remain the most critical determinant of peace initiatives with India, terrorists within Pakistan have gained ground and have the capability to undertake violent actions at will. The jail break at Dera Ismail Khan is the most recent example of a series of such incidents. This places a question mark on the capacity of the civilian establishment in Pakistan to move forward on any form of peace initiative with India since it is unable to exercise control internally.

Second, this weakness and helplessness of the civilian establishment in Pakistan is often quoted as an alibi for greater responsibility and restraint from the Indian side. This is considered a pre-requisite for strengthening the hands of moderates within Pakistan and defeating the design of terrorists and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to derail peace initiatives. The imperative of pursuing peace is unquestioned and India has often ignored provocations from the other side in pursuit of peace. However, repeated attacks on Indian soldiers across the LoC cannot be tolerated in one-sided pursuit of peace with Pakistan, as peace is never won from a position of weakness. Such attacks, without suitable counter action in the immediate aftermath, have a demoralising effect on the soldiers for whom pride and a sense of moral ascendency is imperative to succeed while operating under extremely difficult circumstances. It is also gives a message of helplessness to the countrymen who look up to the armed forces as the protectors of India’s territorial integrity. If an ineffective Pakistani civilian establishment and international community feel that such incidents are beyond the control of the Pakistan government and should not become an impediment in peace parleys, then they should also be prepared to accept resultant counter action by the Indian side with the same degree of accommodation. Proponents of an uninterrupted and uninterruptible peace process between the two countries argue that terrorist acts should not be able to derail peace talks. By the same logic, all measures to defeat the designs of terrorists should also not derail the peace process. These measures must include an immediate and proportional response from the Indian side.

China to surpass U.S. as biggest oil importer

The Washington Times
Updated: 10:09 a.m. on Monday, August 12, 2013

China in October will become the world’s largest importer of crude oil, surpassing the U.S. for the first time as the Asian giant’s rising consumer class of drivers grows increasingly thirsty for fuel, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported.

China already is the largest importer of oil from the troubled Middle East, taking away a distinction that plagued the U.S. since the 1970s. Its ascendance as the world’s largest importer — even as U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil declines to negligible levels — could transform the geopolitics of the region and the world as the focus of global defense efforts for decades has been keeping open the vital oil transport lines leading from the Persian Gulf, analysts say.

China’s emergence as the world’s biggest oil importer has been building for years, but grew particularly rapidly this decade with the burgeoning of car sales there, which surged to over 19 million last year. China, with 1.3 billion consumers, since 2009 has been the world’s largest market for autos.

That is causing China’s consumption of oil to surge by 13 percent to 11 million barrels a day between 2011 and 2014, the energy agency said. China’s manufacturing industries also are heavy users of oil.

While China’s dependence on foreign oil is growing rapidly, U.S. dependence has been dwindling rapidly. Imports started shrinking dramatically in the U.S. last year as production of oil from shale deposits in North Dakota and Texas kicked into high gear. The U.S. is exporting some of its surplus crude oil in the form of gasoline and other refined products to nations in Latin America and elsewhere.

The surge in U.S. oil production came as more fuel-efficient cars mandated by the government and a declining trend in driving habits caused a drop in U.S. oil consumption to 18.7 million barrels a day recently from a peak of 20.8 million in 2005, the agency said. The combination of higher production and lower consumption has led to reduced imports.

The turnaround in oil imports and consumption, in turn, is helping to shrink the U.S. trade deficit and give U.S. industries a competitive edge as they tap into relatively cheap oil and natural gas pouring out of shale deposits in the Midwest.

While China has vast shale deposits, too, and is eager to tap those to satisfy some of its growing demand for oil and gas, experts say the Asian nation is years away from being able to exploit such unconventional oil sources as it lags the U.S. in technical expertise.

Op-Ed: Reflections on "The China Threat"

August 1, 2013 

It seems that not a day passes without dire warnings about China’s rising economic and military power. China, we are told, is a multi-front menace. Due to “rising nationalism” and an insatiable demand for energy, China covets increasingly large areas of the South China Sea, and ominously seeks to establish a robust forward presence as far as the Indian Ocean; the Chinese state and military are engaged in a long-term strategic effort to steal intellectual property and other secret information; Chinese State-owned enterprises (SOEs) plan to corner the market on valuable natural resources or purchase “iconic” Western companies (such as the resort chain Club Med and Smithfield International, which sells pork products). As Heriberto Araujo and Juan Pablo Cardenal recently wrote, China “seems to be steadily taking it over commercially,” referring to the world, no less.1 They contend that “by buying companies, exploiting natural resources, building infrastructure and giving loans all over the world, China is pursuing a soft but unstoppable form of economic domination.” Then, of course, there is the familiar litany of complaints about the human rights violations of the People’s Republic of China (PRC); toys made by prison labor and sold to Kmart, and environmental damage caused by state-driven industrialization. 

To those of us who have studied Asia for some time—in my case since 1985—much of this has a deja vu quality to it. In the 1980s and early-1990s, it was Japan, not China, that provoked hyperbole. Michael Crichton’s best-seller, The Rising Sun, tapped into widespread fears of Japan as a samurai-like economic warrior/competitor; Ezra Vogel’s Japan as #1: Lessons for America (1981), explored the sources of Japanese economic prowess against the background of 1970s American “malaise,” or to use the fashionable term, “decline.” Paul Kennedy, in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1989), predicted Japan’s ascendance to the top spot in the international order. Unions and their politicians scolded Japan for its unfair, state-guided trade practices and fretted that “Japan Inc.”—a seamless meld of state, firm, and family—was too potent a rival to defeat. Japanese cars were smashed in publicity stunts. Leaving aside the not-so-covert racism here2—fewer concerns were voiced about the phoenix-like rise of a defeated Nazi Germany—it is evident that, at least in part, Americans: (1) have a tendency to seek the dreaded “Other”—a powerful, dangerous and hard-to-fathom threat—in Asia (in the 19th and 20th centuries, this was referred to as the “Yellow Peril”); and, (2) contrast this rising Asian threat to a perception of American decline. 

None of this is to suggest that the Chinese state does not play an important role in its economy, that its military has not received increasingly larger budgets, that China has not made a strong play for oil, or that its foreign policy is not radically mercantilist (all these were noted about England in the years of empire and, frankly, can apply to the contemporary United States). The main question is: What do we make of these facts? Our minds, perhaps naturally, want to see them as part of larger cohesive pattern, a “template,” that can be summed up in a sound bite, or a simplistic, adjective-driven “analysis”: “authoritarian,” “rising,” “nationalist,” and the like. But when small and large fortunes can be spent and made by driving this sound bite home—think of the budgetary resources devoted to gathering intelligence, congressional studies and committees, Washington think tank papers, and weapons development—it behooves us to take a critical look at this template. If disassembled, key components of China’s “advantages”—its “strategic” state, mercantilist SOEs, “nationalism,” and aggressive pursuit of resources—are less impressive; China is far weaker, vulnerable, and deeply troubled than one would think by reading the usual media fare about it. China, I suggest, will be “muddling through” for quite some time. Let’s look at these one by one.

The State.

In contrast to its popular image as strategic-thinking monolithic Leviathan, full-time scholars of Chinese politics tend to emphasize its internal fragmentation. Like other states, Chinese politics, and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as well, China is frustratingly pluralistic and ruthlessly competitive. With over 82 million members in the Communist Party, how could it not be so? While space does not allow me to elaborate upon all of the internal cleavages, I can mention a few. At the elite level, Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution has written extensively about fierce policy debates between two “factions”: elitist, coastal-oriented “princelings” (those whose parents or in-laws were high-level officials in the party or military), and those who rose through the Communist Youth League (the “CYL faction,” who tend to be more “populist” and “regional” in orientation).3 These politicians have different orientations toward global trade issues, foreign policy, political liberalization, and reducing inequality (currently at worrisome levels4). Family rivalries are a source of much political intrigue; Chinese citizens have made a sport out of tracking family connections in politics, business, and elsewhere. Victor Shih, a political scientist, has conducted an excellent faction-based analysis of Chinese finance and banking.5 Regional interests are also represented. If you are the governor of Fujian Province, opposite Taiwan, you are unlikely to jump on a “nationalist” bandwagon because Taiwanese have invested billions into your province and employ many people; if you are an official in the Southwest, trade with the countries in your regional “neighborhood” can trump an aggressive stance on offshore islands disputes. Hainan Province, dependent on tourism, has encouraged investment in 5-star hotels, but this economy would vaporize in a flash in case of a conflict. So, while all officials might pay lip service to an “aggressive” national position in speeches, they are more likely to be cautious in practice. The take away here is that in every policy arena, it is critical to understand who the players are, and assume that many debates take place behind the scenes; there is no “master plan.”

The Myanmar- China Pipeline: Implications for India


The much hyped multibillion dollar pipeline connecting Shwe Gas fields at the Irrawaddy Delta to China’s Yunnan province was formally inaugurated on 29 July 2013 at Mandalay. This project which was inked in 2007 consists of two separate pipelines for crude oil and natural gas. While the 793 kilometre gas pipeline has been commissioned, the 771 kilometre oil pipeline is likely to be completed by September this year. The Project consisted of two joint ventures, South East Asia Oil Pipeline (SEAOP) and South East Asia Gas Pipeline (SEAGP). SEAOP is a joint venture between China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterpise (MOGE) and SEAGP is a joint venture between CNPC, Daewoo (South Korea), GAIL (India), MOGE and Korean Gas Corporation (KOGAS). The CNPC has 50.9% stake in the SEAGP, Daewoo and 25.04%, KOGAS 4.17%, GAIL 4.17% and ONGC 8.35% and MOGE 7.37 % stake.

This 793 km pipeline starts from Kuaykphyu in Myanmar and passes through the Rahkine state, Magway and Mandalay regions into the Shan State and enters China at Ruili in Yunnan Province. Enroute the pipeline has six pumping stations. The cost of this gas pipeline has been estimated at USD 2.01 billion. The gas pipeline has a pumping capacity of 12 billion cubic meters and the oil pipeline has capacity of 22 million tonnes of crude oil per year. Just by allowing the transit, Myanmar is going to have multifarious benefits. The annual transmission of 22 million tonnes of crude oil through the oil pipeline will bring $ 22 million as well as well as $ 13.6 million in transit fees. Exporting 12 billion cubic metres of gas will bring in $1.5 billion. This means a lot to the struggling economy of the nation. Myanmar also gets rights to use 2 billion cubic metres of natural gas for its domestic use. This is likely to be used by major cities along the pipeline to supply energy to the inland regions, boosting its economy. Over the next 30 years Myanmar is set to earn a whopping $ 30 billion from this project. As per an independent local news network in Myanmar, Mizzima.com, this project will create a huge amount of job opportunities for local people, hiring as many as over 6,000 for the construction work followed by maintenance work.

The huge investment by China in the pipeline project is understandable. An energy-starved China is looking at hedging its energy related risks for which it is ready to make any concessions. The Chinese company CNPC grabbed this vital project in 2007 right after the Chinese vetoed the US backed anti-Myanmar human rights violation resolution being framed by the UN Security Council. India too had submitted its proposal for a pipeline routed through the northeastern states but Myanmar’s regime which was deeply indebted to its northern neighbour, granted the project to them. As far as China is concerned, this is not its first pipeline project. The 4700 km long Russia-China oil pipeline linking the oil fields of Siberia was fully functional by 2011.1The second pipeline project, Kazakhstan–China oil pipeline runs from Kazakhstan's Caspian shore to Xinjiang in China. This was completed in 2007 and has a capacity of 20 million tonnes per year.2 For China energy security is of paramount importance as the growing economy of China has made it the second largest oil consumer in the world with a gigantic consumption of 9.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in Jun 2013.3 With almost 80 percent dependence on the US controlled Malacca Strait for its oil imports , it was a perennial paranoia, which China wants to overcome4.

The Opposition Advances in Damascus

Aug 9, 2013 - Elizabeth O'Bagy

Despite significant gains in Homs province, Syrian government forces are struggling against opposition forces on other fronts. In Damascus, opposition forces have mounted a major offensive, entering many government-held areas and gaining new ground. Although the government has gone on the counter-offensive, opposition forces have been able to maintain their advance and prevented government forces from storming a number of critical areas in the city. These gains reveal the extent to which the opposition is able to adapt to changes in the operating environment, and prove that the Syrian government lacks the capacity to conclusively defeat the insurgency despite increased assistance from external allies.

The media is focused on the battle for Homs, and consequently the Syrian government appears strong with current momentum moving in its favor. The government’s imminent victory at Homs is indeed significant for efforts to consolidate its primary line of communication from the coastal region through Homs to Damascus; however, reports of government strength are misleading as indicators of the overall campaign for Syria. Such reports overlook critical opposition victories across other fronts. The Syrian government has had to consolidate resources and reinforcements in Homs province, and have diverted attention from important opposition activities, particularly in Damascus. At a time when the opposition is reeling from the loss of Homs and struggling to counter the impacts of greater Hezbollah and Iranian support, it has nonetheless made significant gains in Damascus, proving that the Syrian government lacks the capacity to conclusively defeat its insurgency.

Beginning on July 24, rebel forces launched a major offensive in Damascus city. Despite the Syrian government’s continuous bombardment of Jobar, Barzeh, and Qaboun, rebels managed to push into the Jobar neighborhood, and from there began a concerted drive into government-held districts in the city.[1] After major clashes between government and rebel forces, the opposition took control of the Abbassiyeen garages, an important government-controlled facility.[2] Continuing their push, rebel forces then took control of a major electrical facility just south of Ruken al-Din, and are now laying siege to a large tank park belong to Branch 211 in southern Qaboun using homemade rockets. In Barzeh, the opposition has also advanced on regime positions with major clashes occurring near the Military School and main government managerial buildings.[3] Although clashes are still ongoing in many of these neighborhoods, the opposition has moved into government-held territory previously thought to be impenetrable. While the overall operational value of such victories may be limited, the area has a large military presence and is symbolically important as it nears the Defense Ministry and the Officer’s Club.

By July 26, the Syrian government increased its aerial bombardment of the Jobar, Qaboun, and Barzeh neighborhoods in an attempt to push back the rebel offensive. The next day, government troops conducted a counter-offensive into Barzeh in an attempt to push back the opposition. However, rebel forces were able to hold their ground. The regime offensive has stalled as the opposition has blocked all attempts to storm the neighborhood.[4] Since this time, government and opposition forces have been engaged in major clashes with significantly higher numbers of casualties on both sides than is typical for battles in Damascus.[5] The scale and duration of fighting in these neighborhoods point to the limited capacity of the government, security forces especially as it has had to divert reinforcements to Homs province. This marks the first time that opposition groups have been able to push into three different government-held areas, achieving significant gains in each, while simultaneously maintaining its current operations against major regime targets in the city including Damascus International and Mezze airports.

In order to better organize and coordinate operations in Jobar, Qaboun, and Barzeh, a number of rebel groups have recently banded together to create Jabhat Fatah al-‘Asima, or the Front to Open the Capital.[6] The new front reportedly comprises 23 different battalions, most notably of which includes the Farouq al-Sham Battalion and the Habib Moustafa Brigade.[7] Previously, units in these areas have tended to remain small, having to operate underground and in secrecy to avoid regime detection. However, emboldened by recent successes, more and more rebel groups have shown a willingness to coalesce into larger alliances with the hopes of bringing greater forces to bear and coordinating more effectively on operations. Commanders have also suggested a need to come together in order to better allocate resources and distribute recently acquired weapons to areas where they will have a greater impact.[8] Given that previous attempts to unite opposition groups in Damascus have largely failed, it remains to be seen whether this new coalition will have much of an impact. However, the fact that many of the more powerful groups in Damascus have joined and others, including Liwa al-Islam, have agreed to work with the front suggests that it could be an important development in terms of cooperation and coordination among opposition forces in the south.

The Coming of Al Qaeda 3.0

Bruce Riedel
The Brookings Institution
August 8, 2013

In case anyone needed reminding, the recent global terror alert illustrates that, 15 years after its first attacks on America, Al Qaeda is thriving. The coup in Egypt and the chaotic aftermath of the Arab awakening is only going to add more militants to this army of radicals. Failed revolutions and failing states are like incubators for the jihadists, a sort of Pandora’s Box of hostility and alienation.

The news that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and his man in Yemen, Nasr al Wuhayshi, were communicating and hatching plots to attack Western targets in the region is no surprise. Like any CEO of a multinational company, Zawahiri is in regular communication with al Qaeda’s half dozen regional franchises—just as Osama bin Laden was before he was killed. 

What is new is the rapid growth of these franchises—associated cells and sympathetic movements from Algeria to Aden. The uprisings that swept the Middle East two years ago initially threatened al Qaeda by suggesting a better alternative to terror and jihad in the form of democracy and peaceful change. Now the revolutions have all but failed, creating more chaos than constitutions, and Twitter is not mobilizing reform. The pandemonium in Syria, Libya, and Egypt, are like a hothouse for al Qaeda, which is thriving just as it has in Somalia and Afghanistan. 

But Egypt is the most critical piece. Zawahiri was taken by surprise in 2011 when the revolution swept President Hosni Mubarak from power. Indeed, his first statements on the revolution bordered on the incoherent. But his message has since then become clear. 

Last week, al Qaeda issued a statement from his hideout in Pakistan that urged Egyptians to fight the army coup. Zawahiri said the Egyptian Army is an American tool and that the coup was fueled by Saudi and Gulf money. 

In an I-told-you-so moment, Zawahiri reminded the Muslim Brotherhood—and the now-ousted President Mohamed Morsi—that al Qaeda had always maintained that nothing was to be gained through the ballot box and that jihad was the only viable path to power. 

Zawahiri seems to have calculated that the army coup will radicalize millions of Muslim Brotherhood members, driving them into the embrace of al Qaeda, and that Egypt will revert to the terror and violence that wracked it in the early 1990s. 

He may be right. In Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, al Qaeda has made unprecedented gains recently due to growing Sunni anger. This growth in these al Qaeda franchises has been encouraged by Zawahiri in covert and overt messages for two years. 

Jihadists from Chechnya to Copenhagen have followed his advice and flocked to Syria to join the jihad. Hundreds have “martyred” themselves fighting Syrian despot Bashar al Assad. Jail breaks in Iraq, Libya, and Pakistan have freed more than a thousand Qaeda prisoners in the last month alone, a move Zawahiri has also lauded. In Yemen the American-backed government in Sana has made some gains this year and has had a better record on reform than many other postrevolutionary regimes. Yet al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is still attracting Yemenis and Saudis angered by drones, poverty, and desperation. 

We cannot afford to miss out on shale gas

11 Aug 2013

Safe fracking will cut energy bills and create wealth without ruining precious countryside, writes David Cameron

Britain has led the way in technological endeavour: fracking is part of this tradition Photo: AP

Fracking has become a national debate in Britain – and it’s one that I’m determined to win. If we don’t back this technology, we will miss a massive opportunity to help families with their bills and make our country more competitive. Without it, we could lose ground in the tough global race.

As with any advance in technology, fracking – drilling for so-called “unconventional” gas – has rightly drawn scrutiny. But a lot of myths have also sprung up. So today I want to set out why I support it – and deal with the worst of the myths at the same time.

First, fracking has real potential to drive energy bills down. Labour’s mismanagement of the economy means that many people are struggling with the cost of living today. Where we can act to relieve the pressure, we must. It’s simple – gas and electric bills can go down when our home-grown energy supply goes up. We’re not turning our back on low carbon energy, but these sources aren’t enough. We need a mix. Latest estimates suggest that there’s about 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas lying underneath Britain at the moment – and that study only covers 11 counties. To put that in context, even if we extract just a tenth of that figure, that is still the equivalent of 51 years’ gas supply.

This reservoir of untapped energy will help people across the country who work hard and want to get on: not just families but businesses, too, who are really struggling with the high costs of energy. Just look at the United States: they’ve got more than 10,000 fracking wells opening up each year and their gas prices are three-and-a-half times lower than here. Even if we only see a fraction of the impact shale gas has had in America, we can expect to see lower energy prices in this country.

Secondly, fracking will create jobs in Britain. In fact, one recent study predicted that 74,000 posts could be supported by a thriving shale-gas industry in this country. It’s not just those involved in the drilling. Just as with North Sea oil and gas, there would be a whole supply chain of new businesses, more investment and fresh expertise.

Thirdly, fracking will bring money to local neighbourhoods. Companies have agreed to pay £100,000 to every community situated near an exploratory well where they’re looking to see if shale gas exists. If gas is then extracted, 1 per cent of the revenue – perhaps as much as £10 million – will go straight back to residents who live nearby. This is money that could be used for a variety of purposes – from reductions in council-tax bills to investment in neighbourhood schools. It’s important that local people share in the wealth generated by fracking.

The (Russian) Arctic is open for business

Michael Byers

In the 1990 thriller The Hunt for Red October, the rogue captain of a Soviet submarine evades the U.S. and Soviet navies by threading his way through a narrow – but precisely charted – mid-ocean trench.

In real life, the Soviet navy’s charting efforts extended to the heart of the Canadian Arctic. Soviet-era charts, available today, show more depth soundings in the Northwest Passage than Canada’s most recent charts do.

The Cold War is over, but Russia still takes the Arctic seriously. Russian nuclear-powered submarines still sail under the sea ice, where Canada’s diesel-powered submarines cannot venture.

Russia is intent on transforming its Arctic coastline into a commercially viable alternative to the Suez Canal. In 2011, President Vladimir Putin said: “I want to stress the importance of the Northern Sea Route as an international transport artery that will rival traditional trade lanes in service fees, security and quality.”

Russia uses icebreakers to escort commercial vessels, and charges fees for the service. In 2007, it launched the Fifty Years of Victory, a nuclear-powered behemoth able to break 2.5 metres of ice at speed.

Canada’s diesel-powered icebreakers are much older and smaller. Although some money was recently budgeted for refits, there are plans for only one new vessel – and no construction contract has been signed. Canadian icebreakers generally aren’t used for escorting commercial vessels in the Arctic, and when they are, no cost recovery takes place.

Russia is building 10 search-and-rescue stations in the Arctic, each with its own ships and aircraft. The stations will supplement the icebreakers, their on-board helicopters and numerous military bases.

Not a single Canadian search-and-rescue aircraft is based in the Arctic. Helicopters and 45-year-old Hercules planes are deployed from Canada’s more southerly regions. An attempt to procure replacement planes began in 2002, but again, no construction contract has been signed.

Russia has 16 deep-water ports in the Arctic. Canada’s sole Arctic port is at Churchill, Man., nearly 2,000 kilometres south of the Northwest Passage. A plan to transform a disused wharf on Baffin Island into an all-year naval base, announced in 2007, has been delayed and curtailed.

The combination of melting ice and Russian state investment has led to a recent tenfold increase in shipping along the Northern Sea Route, with more than 40 large ships – mostly bulk carriers and oil tankers – sailing through last year.

Traffic through the Northwest Passage is increasing less quickly, due to the absence of good charts, search and rescue, icebreaker escorts and ports of refuge. Sea ice is a rapidly diminishing problem: For the past several summers, the entire waterway has been ice-free.

Russia generates 20 per cent of its GDP in the Arctic, mostly from oil and gas that is increasingly discovered and extracted using foreign capital.

Building an Indian social network

Tue Aug 13 2013

For the sake of national security and to protect the privacy of its citizens, India should develop its own social media platforms

Revelations about global surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) has made other governments think about their national security. It is instructive to see how the US government has created legal instruments, in the form of the amended Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Patriot Act, to conduct electronic surveillance.

It is now well known that the critical internet resources like domain name servers, global routers, the control of ICANN for internet governance give a natural advantage to the US in global cyber surveillance. These platforms are used by all countries, and their traffic largely passes through the US, thereby exposing it to surveillance. Social media platforms further expose the nationals of other countries to the risks of such surveillance by the US government. Most are American, but it is the citizens of other countries whose personal data, under NSA scrutiny, is at risk of US surveillance. At the same time, the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) of India, for example, cannot access content or the coordinates of suspects, even in terrorist and serious crime cases, because these may not be considered crimes under US law.

Every nation has to fend for itself. What are the lessons for India? Much has been said about cyber and national security through building indigenous capabilities in chip design, telecom equipment, operating systems and databases, along with preferential market access for these products and systems for reasons of security. But what is missing from the discourse is the development of social media platforms. Anonymity in cyberspace gives everyone a chance to air their views. It can promote harmony or disharmony. Since this medium is going to expand, it is important that India creates its own platforms, much like our own newspapers and magazines. The content will remain within the territorial jurisdiction of India, and be subject to national laws. Likewise, search engine data about Indians will also remain in India. It makes tremendous business sense for Indian companies, since advertising revenue from these platforms is increasing. For example, Google's revenue from the Indian market was reported to be Rs 1,162 crore from search and Google+ alone. At present, a large number of Indian users are on email and social media platforms such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and YouTube. The present base of 130 million users is likely to touch 300 million in the next few years. The potential of increased revenue from social media platforms is obvious. That is why many of these companies are chasing the Indian market.

The idea of promoting our own social media companies needs to be pursued. China has shown the way, even though its reasons were different, namely suppressing public dissent and monitoring online chat to identify potential troublemakers. But today, some of those platforms are bigger than Twitter. While Facebook and Google+ are the top two social networks, six out of the top ten are Chinese. Qzone is China's biggest social network, with around 600 million registered users. Renren, launched in 2005, and Kaixin, launched in 2008, are Facebook-like. Sina Weibo, launched in 2008, is a microblogging site, as a replacement for Twitter. Youku, started in 2006, allows uploading of videos like YouTube. Jiepang is a location-based mobile application for the Chinese. Then there is TenCent Weibo microblogging service. Baidu is the search engine of China, its own Google, with practically all internet users accessing it for search. There are many more.

There is another point that deserves mention. Today, Google as the search engine for the entire world, with the exception of China, stores the search choices of every person; it profiles them to increase advertising revenue. Tomorrow, this wealth of data can be a weapon in the hands of the US government, in ways yet unknown. A borderless cyberspace opens immense possibilities for the US government to control opinions and other global thought processes, as has been shown by the NSA's Prism programme.

Saving The Internet

Opinion

The open, global internet is unlikely to continue to flourish without deliberate action to promote and defend it.

NEW HAVEN

The internet as we know it is open, secure and resilient. This is no mistake. It was designed and evolved this way. Due to its open nature, the internet has gained traction at a fantastic pace and transformed the world by fostering communication and innovation while generating tremendous economic growth. Roughly 2.5 billion people, more than one third of the world’s population, currently use the internet, and another 2.5 billion individuals are expected to go online by the end of this decade.

But the open internet that governments, corporations and individuals the world over rely on is under threat. Only concerted moves by the stakeholders can protect its valued openness.

The internet, as it transforms, has become a victim of its own success. The various groups that rely on internet services— governments, corporations, and individuals of all types and purposes— have different needs. Sometimes these needs overlap, and sometimes they are at odds. However, sovereign governments are increasingly seeking control of their own domestic spheres as well as the flow of data and information between countries and, in doing so, are attacking the openness that represents one of the foundations of the internet.

Nation-states are increasingly attempting to regulate social, political and economic activity and content in cyberspace and, in many cases, suppress expression they view as threatening. Justifying their actions by claiming to protect children or national security, more than 40 governments have erected restrictions of information, data and knowledge flow on the internet. Censoring the internet takes many forms including censorship of opinions (Vietnam, Saudi Arabia); censorship of specific websites or ISPs (Australia, Pakistan, Russia); censorship of specific information (China, Germany); demanding information be taken down (France, Singapore); demanding users’ IP addresses (more than 50 countries); and erecting regulatory barriers to cross-border, information flow (Brunei and Vietnam). More drastically, others including Iran, China, Saudi Arabia and Russia have considered building national computer networks that would tightly control or even sever connections to the global internet. The ongoing controversy surrounding former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden makes for headline-grabbing news, but obscures these broader global challenges confronting the world’s internet infrastructure.

The internet facilitates communication, commerce and trade and is an integral part of modern life. The global repercussions of censorship are severe. Regulations that constrict the flow of information not only create disparities among people’s access to knowledge, but also have a negative effect on the shape, architecture, safety and resilience of the internet. In 2012, for example, two proposals in the US Congress to allow filtering of the Domain Name System, or DNS, which would enable the government to require US companies to block access to certain websites, were deemed a significant risk to cybersecurity. Moreover, restrictive and discriminatory operating rules complicate trade and slow global national economic growth. The internet economy accounted for 4.7 percent of US gross domestic product in 2010, or $68.2 billion, and is projected to rise to 5.4 percent of GDP in 2016. The United States captures more than 30 percent of global internet revenues and more than 40 percent of net income. Filtering, blocking and other limitations on data flow make it more difficult for companies of all sizes to reach customers, provide services or share critical information globally.