15 August 2013

A CHRONICLE FORETOLD ***

The first three Bharat Ratnas saw the future with clarity
Gopalkrishna Gandhi

(From top) : C.V. Raman, S. Radhakrishnan, C. Rajagopalachari

Three Indians were decorated with the Bharat Ratna in the very first year — 1954 — that the civilian awards were instituted: the elder statesman, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, the vice- president, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and the Nobel laureate, C.V. Raman. No one said at the time that all three were south Indian, all three Brahmins. Their pre-eminence was manifest. They accepted the decoration with respect and went about their work according to their lights.

All three had a Calcutta connection. CR had served as the first governor of West Bengal, the other two had taught, with distinction and dedication, at the University of Calcutta. Om krato smara kritam smara, the Isha Upanishad tells us. The work alone is to be remembered, the work alone.

It is instructive to see, on the anniversary of our Independence, what these men had to say in the midst of and, indeed, from the very heart of their work, about their country, their people.

CR was a prisoner of the raj in 1921. Holed up in Vellore Jail, he could have been bitter about his jailors, about the imperial power. He could have looked forward to swaraj as one might to a dreamlike goal. But no, he did something that surprised his contemporaries then and surprises us now. He wrote in his jail diary: “We all ought to know that Swaraj will not at once or, I think, even for a long time to come, be better government or greater happiness for the people. Elections and their corruptions, injustice, and the power and tyranny of wealth, and inefficiency of administration, will make a hell of life as soon as freedom is given to us. Men will look regretfully back to the old regime of comparative justice, and efficient, peaceful, more or less honest administration. The only thing gained will be that as a race we will be saved from dishonour and subordination.”

This was a full quarter century before swaraj was attained.

Radhakrishnan was a member of the constituent assembly on the midnight of August 14/15, 1947 when, with Jawaharlal Nehru, he made a speech of surpassing value. Reminding the nation of “our national faults of character, our domestic despotism, obscurantism, narrow-mindedness, superstitious bigotry”, he said almost exactly what CR had said 25 years earlier. Radhakrishnan’s words: “Our opportunities are great but let me warn you that when power strips ability, we will fall on evil days… From tomorrow morning — from midnight today — we can no longer throw the blame on the British. We have to assume the responsibility ourselves for what we do. A free India will be judged by the way in which it will serve the interests of the common man in the matter of food, clothing, shelter and the social services. Unless we destroy corruption in high places, root out every trace of nepotism, love of power, profiteering and black-marketing which have spoiled the good name of this great country in recent times, we will not be able to raise the standards of efficiency in administration…”

That was said at the very moment free India was born.

I do not have access to any comment made by C.V. Raman on the eve of Independence but the following observation of CVR’s to young Indians is an agnatic cousin of CR’s and SR’s: “Success can only come to you by courageous devotion to the task lying in front of you and there is nothing worth in this world that can come without the sweat of our brow. I can assert without fear of contradiction that the quality of the Indian mind is equal to the quality of any Teutonic, Nordic or Anglo-Saxon mind. What we lack is perhaps courage, what we lack is perhaps driving force which takes one anywhere. We have, I think, developed an inferiority complex. I think what is needed in India today is the destruction of that defeatist spirit…”

A LARGE INHERITANCE AND ITS CONFLICTED PARTS

Swapan Dasgupta

Indians, it is often said, have the disconcerting habit of tailoring their views to suit the listener, especially if he/she happens to be powerful or influential. I don’t know if that charge can be levelled against the 1st Baron Sinha of Raipur, a man who conformed to the highest ideal of empire citizenship. Asked by the vicereine, Lady Minto, of the possible consequences of a British departure from India, Lord Sinha replied insouciantly: “If the English left India today in a body, we should have to telegraph to Aden and get them to return as fast as they could, for in a couple of days India would be in chaos.”

Nor was the Bengali peer showering Britons with excessive flattery. Around the same time, Gopal Krishna Gokhale remarked quite matter-of-factly: “The attainment of a democratic form of self-government depends upon the average strength in character and capacity of our people as a whole, and that is far below the British average.” It was a perspective that was even shared by Rabindranath Tagore. In 1923, he answered the same question Lady Minto had posed to Lord Sinha some 15 years earlier: “What should we do if, for any reason, England was driven away? We should simply be victims for other nations.”

That enlightened Indians entertained doubts — at least until the mid-1930s — of India’s ability to replace British rule with something more worthwhile may come as a surprise to a generation that has been nurtured on a diet of over-mythologized nationalism. Maybe in the immediate aftermath of a troubled passage to Independence, some robust flag-waving was necessary to instil self-confidence and a sense of modern nationhood into India. But the passage of 66 years, while a mere speck in the traditional Hindu sense of the yug, is sufficient time for a more rounded and less emotive assessment of two historical currents. First, there has to be an appreciation that the passage to self-government and independence was far more contested than today’s India cares to admit. Second, that the modern Indian state matured and even prospered because the larger philosophy that propelled the British empire in India was left relatively undisturbed. In the world’s largest subject nation, ‘post-colonial’, quite mercifully, didn’t involve too much of a rupture.

The first assertion is relatively non-contentious. Even after 1947, a spirited debate over whether India ‘won’ freedom or benefited from a mere ‘transfer of power’ has agitated intellectuals and political activists. At one level, the issue of an outright victory against a cowering British lion is spurious. Even Winston Churchill, who watched with “deep grief… the clattering down of the British Empire” in 1947, was compelled to admit in a moving speech to the House of Commons on March 6, 1947 that a war-weary Britain had lost the will to persevere with the empire. “Many have defended Britain against her foes,” he lamented, “None can defend her against herself.” At the same time, Churchill cited the voluntary enlistment of more than three million Indians into the British army during World War II, in spite of the fierce opposition of the Congress and the ambivalence of the Muslim League, to suggest that “loyalty to Britain and all that Britain stood for in their lives” counted more than the grandstanding of the “men of straw” who would inherit India.

Churchill was echoing the sentiments of Lord Curzon, another great advocate of empire, who celebrated the fact that more than a million Indians enlisted to fight for the king-emperor in the Great War of 1914-18. “Why are these men coming? What has induced them to volunteer to take part in the fighting?” he asked. “They are thousands of miles away. They cannot hear the thunder or see the smoke of the guns. Their frontiers have not been crossed, their homes are not in jeopardy. They are not our kith and kin; no call of the blood appeals to them. Is it not clear that they are coming because the Empire means something to them?”

Whether it “speaks to them of justice, of righteousness, of mercy, and of truth”, as Curzon believed, or suggested a traditional respect for authority is an issue that can be debated. But the larger questions raised by the former viceroy are calculated to make those who believe that the 190 years after Plassey was a period of monstrous oppression and national humiliation squirm with embarrassment. However much it offends contemporary sensibilities, the fact that British rule was also seen as a force for good and a much-needed respite from post-Moghul chaos and anarchy cannot be seriously doubted.

Kill chickens to scare away the monkeys

Thursday, 15 August 2013 | Claude Arpi

One cannot expect Indian politicians to really understand the subtleties of the Art of War and Peace, but if they learn a bit from China, it would help New Delhi to not always be the loser

August 15, 1947, is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation “an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity”, wrote Sri Aurobindo in a message for All India Radio; it was also his 75th birthday.

Where are we at today?

While Sri Aurobindo and many others envisaged a leading role for India, it appears that India is today in reverse gear in many domains such as public probity, sustainable development, gender equality, politics, etc.

A Minister of Uttar Pradesh recently suggested that India does not need IAS ‘babus’, but it could also be argued that India would be better without the politicians who only serve their caste, their creed, their political constituency and their pockets.

Not only this, but when five Indians jawans were recently killed on the Line of Control, several Ministers seemed to condole Pakistan, speaking about ‘peace’, ‘talks’ or ‘forthcoming visit’.

Senior analyst MD Nalapat wrote in The Guardian: “Senior commanders in the India-Pakistan battlefield say that the rules of engagement enforced by the Prime Minister’s Office are the cause of the multiplying number of deaths of Indian soldiers at the hands of the Pakistan Army.” He quotes an Army officer as saying: “…unless the Army is given the freedom to act against provocations, more of our soldiers will pay the ultimate price”.

Not only are the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of External Affairs directing the operations (we have seen the outcome of this policy in October/November 1962), but also politicians are preaching peace.

Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor, while visiting south India, said that “keeping peace with Pakistan is in India’s national interest”; he affirmed: “The country will not be able to achieve its goals if it is distracted by hostility on its borders.”

It may be a distraction, but five jawans died. For Mr Tharoor, as for many of his colleagues, “We should be careful not to take any steps that would play into the hands of those aiming to derail peace.”

This is an old disease: Most Indian politicians believe that by chanting “Shanti, shanti, shanti”, peace will prevail and the bullies on the other side of the LoC (or the Line of Actual Control) will be pacified. Jawharlal Nehru thought so but he only encouraged Mao and his colleagues to descend towards the plains of Assam.

For the Chinese, it was easy to bully a weak India, who just wanted to talk peace and was unprepared for war. The country has never recovered from the 1962 debacle, but politicians continue to speak of ‘peace’.

It must be said here that the Gujral Doctrine of peace with our neighbours has never brought any positive results for the country. In this context is interesting to look at the how Chinese deal with such issues, and win wars without having to fight. Beijing has a few well-trained ‘Generals’, who make China’s opponents aware of the relativity of peace and war. The most famous is Major General Luo Yuan. He plays an important role when the Chinese Government needs “to kill the chickens to frighten the monkeys”.

Security challenges mount ***

India fails to confront China’s assertiveness
by G Parthasarathy

WITH its economy in the doldrums, New Delhi is now confronted with a situation where two of its neighbours, China and Pakistan, are jointly and separately undermining its security and influence worldwide. Emboldened by Chinese assistance leading to the strengthening of its navy (four new frigates), air force (JF 17 fighters) and nuclear armoury (plutonium based tactical nuclear weapons), Pakistan now believes that it can effectively deter India from responding firmly to terrorist strikes emanating from its soil. India’s mandarins, resorting to clichés like “Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism” and “action on terrorism (by Pakistan) should not be linked (by India) to the composite dialogue process,” now referred to as the “Sharm-el-Sheikh Syndrome,” would like us to believe that Pakistan is having a “change of heart”.

It is this approach to diplomacy that has led Mr. Nawaz Sharif to insist that the “composite dialogue process” with India should commence at where it was, when he was ousted in 1999. He wants us to forget that the Red Fort was attacked by the Lashkar e Taiba (now generously financed by his brother, the Chief Minister of Punjab) in 2001, and ignore the attack on our Parliament in 2001 and the 26/11 outrage in Mumbai, executed by Jihadis from Pakistan. Despite the outrage over recent killings of our soldiers, we should have no doubt that our “dialogue at all costs” security establishment in South Block will stealthily return to the recipes of the Sharm-el-Sheikh surrender. Nawaz Shari has returned from China, fully assured that the Chinese would build a highway linking its Xingjian Province to Gwadar port, which it now manages, through Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The strategic implications of this project, which will be largely executed by the Chinese army engineers, together with their development of hydro-electric projects and infrastructure in Gilgit-Baltistan, give the Chinese a capability to establish a security presence adjacent to the LoC, astride our lines of communication to Ladakh and Siachen.

If Pakistan has succeeded in pushing New Delhi to delink the composite dialogue process from its support for terrorism, China has successfully scuttled all possibility of an early border settlement by upping its border claims in both Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, even as it waxes eloquent on the dialogue on the border issue between the designated “special representatives”. Successive Indian National Security Advisers have strutted around pretending that they have devised brilliant new ideas to resolve the vexed border issue. The reality is somewhat different. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao agreed in 2005 that the “boundary should be along well defined and easily identifiable natural geographical features” and that in “reaching a border settlement, the two sides shall safeguard the interests of their settled populations in the border areas”. Yet, just a year later, the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi proclaimed that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, re-designated as “South Tibet,” is a part of China.

People of the past

Thu Aug 15 2013, 

The deeper premises that led to Partition still shape politics in South Asia

There are two abiding images of the meaning of August 15. There is Nehru, in his inimitable way, announcing a new tryst with destiny. There is the poignant absence of Gandhi, mourning loss, the erasure of an ethical ambition. India marches on, with all its contradictions. It wilfully refuses the destiny that Nehru was exhorting his fellow citizens to embrace, its energies expended on so many transitory moments that the future seems not even a distant gleam. But somewhere, there is also the shadow of that ominous past Gandhi so feared. India can, in all its bravado, say it has transcended its recent past and moved on. It can say, with some justification, that there is a new generation that is too young to even understand the Emergency, let alone Partition. Pakistan may have an identity crisis. But India does not. And yet, hidden in this protestation, there is still an anxiety. Does the unresolved aftermath of Partition still haunt us in ways we do not acknowledge?

Whether Partition was good or bad is now an academic debate. The crude fantasies of overcoming Partition that occasionally pop up are just that: fantasies devoid of political realism. But, equally, it is complacent to think that Partition does not affect us. It affects the direct victims of violence, a subject we still don't know how to acknowledge. But anyone who harbours the illusion that we have put the aftermath of Partition behind us need only take one look at politics in India. The illusion will vanish quickly.

The deeper premises that built up to Partition still frame the politics of South Asia. The first, and in our context, practically unworkable and morally insidious, is the alignment of ethnicity and territory. The aspiration to align the two is still at work, from Pakistan's western frontier to our Northeast, from Kashmir to Sri Lanka. And states, haunted by the idea that territorial loss is loss of self, counteract this, often with brutal force.

Partition still, in a sense, imprisons the political options for many ordinary Muslims. Pakistan has imperilled the future of its citizens by playing on a politics of perpetual insecurity, which licenses wholescale militarisation or worse. India has maintained, with some blemishes, a broader pluralistic and democratic context for Muslims. But in a macro narrative, their political identities still remain constricted in the form of a double disadvantage. Political parties of all persuasions have found it convenient to perpetuate the fiction of a single Muslim politics, ghettoise them, use the insecurities that come from being a minority as political fodder, but they do precious little to give them access to the mainstream. They often become, simultaneously, the object of political appeasement and real marginalisation. The backlash, in the form of Hindu nationalism, has sometimes taken a virulently threatening form, perpetuating a vicious circle of insecurity. The fact that six decades after independence, this dynamic is being played out in dozens of small riots across UP, and now Bihar, should shake off any complacency about its explosive potential.

Body blow to Navy’s submarine arm

S. Anandan 

The blast that ripped through the submarine INS Sindhurakshak has taken the sting out of the Navy’s already-enfeebled submarine arm.

On record, the Indian Navy operates10 kilo-class (877 EKM a.k.a Sindhughosh-class) and four HDW (Shishumar-class) submarines besides the nuclear-powered INS Chakra, acquired last year from Russia on a 10 year lease. The regrettable state of the stealthy submarine arm — vital for maintaining the critical sea denial capability — is evident from the fact that the Navy hasn’t been able to shore up its sub-sea patrol capabilities by inducting a new conventional submarine after the year 2000, when INS Sindhushastra, the last of the Kilo-class boats from Russia, was added to the naval inventory.

Worse, none of the Indian subs are equipped with air independent propulsion (AIP), which considerably enhances the underwater endurance of conventional diesel-electric submarines. Bereft of AIP, subs are forced to surface once in a few days for recharging their batteries, when they are most susceptible to detection by maritime patrol aircraft on the prowl. While Pakistan took delivery of PNS Hamza fitted with AIP from the French, it has already begun retrofitting two subs of the same class with the system.

Experiment

The Indian experiment of building subs indigenously at Mazagon Dock, which delivered INS Shalki and INS Shankul built on ToT in the early 1990s, went awry when the programme was shelved following allegations of corruption, which resulted in the nation’sloss of capability and skill sets acquired. More or less the same fate awaited the programme kick-started in mid-2000 — as part of the Navy’s high-value 30-year submarine building programme — to build six French-origin Scorpene class submarines at Mazagon Dock. Marred by a string of delays and cost overruns, the first in the class would at best be only delivered in 2016.

Among the kilo-class submarines, while most of them have undergone extensive and costly upgrade in Russia, INS Sindhukirti has been idling at the Hindustan Shipyard since 2006.

It was an experiment gone wrong that put paid to the submarine. While a section of top officials argued for sending it to Russia for refit, another wanted submarine refit capability to be developed indigenously. Finally, the Navy asked the dying Hindustan Shipyard to upgrade it, retrofitting it with new sensors like Ushus and weapons like the Klub missile. It was an attempt at rejuvenating a yard at the cost of a potent war-fighting platform, lamented a Navy officer.

Post-2015 agenda for those and by those living in poverty

IN India, a Ground-Level Panel (GLP) consisting of 14 members from diverse background and living in poverty was brought together for five days to deliberate on the recommendations to the UN High-Level Panel (HLP) report on the post-2015 development framework. They are not members of any government, NGOs or associated with any political party or trade union. They draw on their own experiences of marginalisation for a reality check to the HLP.

The recommendations

  • Establish a corruption free society.
  • Promote equity; a level-playing field must for everyone to realise their dreams.
  • Set up robust accountability mechanisms; there should be transparency in the way the state works. There should be better grievance redress mechanisms.
  • Provide identities, not doles; groups that are marginalised should be recognised as equal citizens.
  • Create institutional spaces to promote people’s participation in local governance and policy-making processes.
  • End stigma based on identities such as caste, disability, gender, religion and region.
  • Abolish practices that sustain discrimination such as dowry system, foeticide and ‘purdah’ system.
  • Restrict sale of alcoholic and addictive substances; sever profit motive of the state in the sale of alcohol.
  • Facilitate awareness, sensitisation and collectivisation of citizens.
  • Promote secure home environment.
  • Promote interests of farm labourers, tribals and slum dwellers; and their rights.
  • Protect environment by creating systems which deter companies from polluting it.
  • Prevent tax evasion by corporates. The tax should be used for the development of the poor.
  • Protect workers’ rights, including minimum wages and social security.
  • Promote gender equality and safety in public spaces.
Ground-Level Panel members from India

Amrita Naik: A 17-year-old tribal girl from Odisha, Amrita’s project on future solution of soil conservation was selected for the National Science Congress. She envisions a world free from foeticide, corruption and illiteracy.

The 15,000 Troop Option

BY JAMES STAVRIDIS | AUGUST 13, 2013
Plotting the course for post-2014 Afghanistan.

It is time to decide and announce the specific number of American advisors and trainers who will stay in Afghanistan after 2014 as part of the new NATO mission, Operation Resolute Support.

The 50 nations that today have troops operating in Afghanistan have collectively pledged to continue their mission well beyond 2014 and have drawn up a detailed concept of operations. But what remains under discussion is the size of the commitment.

Various options have been discussed, from the so-called "zero option" of complete withdrawal to a robust force of over 20,000 advocated publically by Generals John Allen and Jim Mattis, two key U.S. commanders.

After four years as the NATO supreme commander, and therefore overall strategic commander for operations in Afghanistan, I believe the correct number is about 9,000 U.S. and 6,000 allied troops, for a total of about 15,000 allied trainers who would focus on mentoring, training, and advising the 350,000 strong Afghan National Security Forces.

At the moment, NATO officials and the U.S. commander, General Joe Dunford, are waiting for the conclusion of the "fighting season" in October before rendering a recommendation to political leadership. This recommendation will go from General Dunford in Kabul up through both a U.S. and a NATO chain of command, and a decision may not be made until deep into the fall.

Instead of waiting for months, we should move now to decide and publically reveal the commitment.

Articulating the number in the range of 15,000 total troops would break the Taliban narrative decisively, making a lie of their oft-repeated trope that "the foreigners are leaving"; it would reassure the Afghans; it would demonstrate needed leadership to the large international coalition that is awaiting U.S. decisions. It would also encourage the conclusion of the strategic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan.

Why 15,000 troops? The post-2014 mission needs to be spread across Afghanistan, with centers in each of the regional commands -- north (Mazar-e-Sharif), west (Herat), south (Kandahar), and east (Bagram). There will have to be smaller centers in some of those regions as well, and a reliable ability to protect our own people and potentially provide some in-extremis support to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). All told, that will require 15,000 troops, still quite low compared with the 130,000 we had on the ground as recently as two years ago. This level would also provide critical mentoring and training in the areas in which the ANSF are still developing -- logistics, intelligence, medical support, close air support, and so forth.

Churchill knew loyalty should be rewarded

By Alexander Perkins
13 Aug 2013

My ancestor would have been dismayed by the betrayal of our Afghan interpreters

Afghan interpreters have played a crucial role in communicating with local leaders Photo: Getty Images

When he was 27, my great-grandfather, Winston Churchill, made his maiden speech in the House of Commons. Unlike him, I am not a parliamentarian, still less a public figure. But today, on my 27th birthday, I will be among a group of former soldiers petitioning Downing Street for a cause to which I am convinced my great-grandpapa would have lent his most eloquent support. We are asking the Government to offer all Afghan interpreters who have served alongside British troops right of entry to this country – a chance for them not only to start safe new lives, but to preserve the lives that they have already risked, and continue to risk, for supporting our Army.

These men – about 500 in number – were, admittedly, well paid for their work. But they were also idealistically committed to building a better Afghanistan. Their work went way beyond straightforward translation: they put themselves and their families in danger from Taliban reprisals. They demonstrated honour, trust and loyalty, which we – and the at least 42,000 signatories of our petition – are now asking the Government to regard and repay. If we do not grant them at least temporary asylum, and a chance to apply for permanent resettlement here, we essentially discount them and ignore our duty of care.

At the age of 23, my great-grandfather was sending this newspaper richly evocative dispatches from the front line on the North West Frontier, or what is now Afghanistan. Describing the region’s hostile terrain and tribal brutality, he wrote: “Few white men have seen and returned to tell the tale.” I felt the force of his words in 2008 and 2009, when I was in Afghanistan aged 22, serving my first six-month tour with 1 Rifles as a platoon commander in southern Helmand.

Our company interpreter was Barri Shams. He was educated and spoke several languages. He lived with us, wore the same uniform, stood with us shoulder to shoulder as we engaged in some of the fiercest fighting that Helmand province had seen, even though he was unarmed.

Barri and I went on patrol together twice a day for six months. He was my go-to guy when, for safety’s sake, we had to forewarn locals about likely fire. Inevitably, we grew close. I remember him holding a sergeant’s wound closed after an explosion as we fought our way through enemy compounds. When we were ambushed by the Taliban, Barri was right next to me as rocket-propelled grenades passed between me and the men in front and behind. As we withdrew into cover, enemy bullets were impacting inches from our heads. Somehow, Barri became separated from us. Luckily, we found him crouching behind a wall. After that I made sure he remained at my shoulder.

Lessons from Afghanistan's tribal elders

By Shahmahmood Miakhel 
August 12, 2013 

A recent meeting of 200 Afghan tribal elders that I attended in Kabul illustrates why the 2014 presidential election will be pivotal to recapturing the Afghan people's trust in their government and establishing the kind of stability they -- and the international community -- crave.

The association of elders, known as maliks, was holding its annual meeting in April, gathering representatives from all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces and most of its districts, and inviting government officials and civil society leaders to discuss the critical issues facing their country at the local level. These maliks are key links between the people and the government in Afghanistan -- serving in semi-official roles for resolving disputes, delivering a measure of justice, and providing basic services when possible.

In my meeting with the group, I tried to understand why neither they nor the Afghan security forces, which most often outnumber the Taliban, can resist the militants, even when the elders say the presence of insurgents wreaks havoc on the local population. The maliks reported that they might have no more than 50 Taliban in their area, but as many as 300 to 500 government police officers or army soldiers on the ground. Helmand province alone has 12,000 police officers, according to one provincial official. I also asked the maliks how many people lived in their districts and the answers ranged from 50,000 to 200,000.

These ratios seem stacked in the government's favor. So why couldn't 300 to 500 Afghan security forces successfully take on 50 Taliban fighters, especially when thousands of people would benefit from such efforts? 

The 200 elders made the answer clear: it's not about the size of the security forces or the quality of their equipment. It's about whether the Afghan people believe that the government and, by extension, the armed forces represent their interests and will defend their concerns. The public's trust has been eroded by widespread official corruption and efforts by the elite, and even the security forces, to enrich themselves as a hedge against the worst-case scenarios of a dramatic drop in international assistance or a collapse of the government.

From the perspective of these elders, it's as though two groups that don't represent them are fighting each other - one being the government and the other, the Taliban, fighting that government. The majority of ordinary Afghans are indifferent to both. Supporting either side makes no sense, according to the elders, when neither can be trusted to deliver on promises of security, justice, and services.

Before the 2010 U.S.-Afghan military offensive against the Taliban in Helmand province's town of Marja, then-General Stanley McChrystal famously commented that the international troops were prepared, once they vanquished the enemy, to install a "government in a box." The idea was to support a group of Afghan administrators and a provincial governor to immediately provide the services the people needed, along with the security that the troops were to deliver.

Pakistan drafts ambitious counterterrorism policy, first in 13 years

August 13, 2013 

Bonus read: "The Dead Afghan's Tale: How Afghanistan's Poorest Bear the Brunt of War," Mujib Mashal (TIME).

New CT policy 

Pakistan's Interior Ministry delivered an ambitious draft counterterrorism policy to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday that seeks to dismantle all terrorist outfits and networks in Pakistan through counterinsurgency and intelligence efforts, as well as reforms to the police and judiciary (ET). According to Pakistan's Express Tribune, which received a copy of the draft, the National Counter Terrorism and Extremism Policy 2013 is focused on dismantling, containing, and preventing terrorism, reforming the country's education system, and reintegrating low-level militant foot soldiers. The new policy also integrates military action and civilian follow-up, emphasizing the need for greater development and economic support in areas affected by terrorism. Interestingly, the draft policy also calls for a "serious revisit" of Pakistan's existing foreign policy, a likely reference to the country's relationship with the United States.

After being briefed on the draft policy by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told reporters that terrorism was a national problem and that concerted efforts were required to combat it (Dawn). In addition to the policy, Pakistan's first national security policy in 13 years, Sharif is considering creating a national anti-terrorism force.

India and Pakistan continued to trade accusations on Tuesday of cross-border attacks over the Line of Control in Kashmir, extending more than a week of increasing tensions between the two countries (AFP, AP, BBC, Dawn, ET, Reuters, NYT). An Indian army commander said that Pakistani troops had fired shots at border posts in the Mendhar section of Kashmir intermittently on Monday night, while a Pakistani military official claimed Indian troops had fired on Pakistani military posts first and they were just responding. No casualties were reported on either side. 

Responding to the continued firings, Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the U.N., offered to be an arbitrator between India and Pakistan in an interview on Tuesday (Dawn). He said that he expects "the Indian and Pakistani leadership to continue their dialogue, to create some confidence-building measures," but added that U.N. military observers are working to prevent a possible war between the two nuclear-armed neighbors over the disputed territory. 

The outlawed Punjabi Taliban, an offshoot on the Pakistani Taliban, distributed a pamphlet in southern Punjab and North and South Waziristan on Monday that said the militant group would consider itself at war with the Pakistani government if it follows through with a plan to execute four prisoners currently on death row (Dawn, ET). Last Thursday, Nusrat Mangan, the Inspector General of Sindh prisons, said that four convicts, including two members of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant organization, would be executed on August 20, 21, and 22 - the first executions of civilian prisoners in five years (Dawn). 

A Coming Japan-China Rapprochement?

August 13, 2013

On August 15, the spotlight will be on Japan again as another year passes on the anniversary of Tokyo’s surrender during World War II. More specifically, officials in China and South Korea will train a close eye to Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to see if he chooses to visit Yasukuni shrine—which is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Japan’s war dead from a wide range of conflicts from the Satsuma rebellion to World War II. According to most reports, it appears that Abe has already dismissed the idea of visiting Yasukuni on August 15th and has privately sought assurances, despite his public remarks in the Diet, from senior cabinet officials—including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida—that they also refrain from making a public visit. The gesture is obviously aimed at containing any potential fallout that would further inflame ties with China and South Korea, as well as a potential censure from Washington behind the scenes.

If Abe visits Yasukuni this month, there is no doubt that it would create temporary pandemonium across the fragile diplomatic landscape in East Asia. But there is another looming anniversary that has a stronger potential to upend the shaky equilibrium currently staked between Tokyo and Beijing. September 11, 2013 will mark the one year anniversary of the date when the Japanese government, then led by former prime minister Yoshihiko Noda, finalized its purchase of the Senkaku islands (referred to as the Diaoyu by China). Tensions between Tokyo and Beijing in the East China Sea have simmered since that point with periodic spikes, such as China’s dangerous radar-lock of a Japanese destroyer last January.

Yet while serious conflict in the East China Sea has been avoided thus far, both sides will need to remain vigilant to the inevitable posturing and nongovernmental interference that will come in the days leading up to the one-year anniversary of the purchase. For example, there are already reports that a group of Hong Kong activists (the same group that approached the islands last year) plan on making an attempt to land on the Senkaku/Diaoyu on September 11. While such a landing could be intercepted by the Japanese Coast Guard, Tokyo will need to calibrate its use of force to ensure conflict—either diplomatic or a tussle with Chinese ships—is avoided. Similarly, Japan will need to contain its own activists, who will likely stage demonstrations and potentially an attempted landing on the islands.

Commentary this summer largely focused on negatives of the Japan-China relationship including: the continuous diplomatic barbs over Chinese incursions around Japan’s administered territory in the East China Sea; the lack of real traction for a leaders’ summit between Abe and Chinese leader Xi Jinping; the unveiling of Japan’s massive helicopter-carrier—the Izumoearlier this month along; new defense plans for a development of amphibious capabilities for the JMSDF in order to defend “remote islands;” and the hopelessness created by Abe’s new mandate after his significant win in the upper-house election last month. Indeed the New York Times warned Abe on “overheated rhetoric towards China” and the South China Morning Post lamented that his victory was “so big there are suspicions he will lose interest in difficult economic reforms and pursue his nationalist agenda instead.”

Reaffirming India’s South China Sea Credentials

August 14, 2013
By Chietigj Bajpaee

India's strategic relevance in Asia will be increasingly determined by its maritime role.

This week, India unveiled its first indigenously developed aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, just days after the reactor of the country’s first indigenous nuclear submarine, the INS Arihant, achieved criticality. The milestones continue India’s rapid naval modernization, as its strategic relevance in Asia is increasingly determined by its maritime role.

“Maritime Asia” has emerged as a new geopolitical frame of reference in recent years as the nations of Asia evolve into major trading and resource-consuming powers with economic growth contingent on seaborne trade. India is no exception, with 95 percent of its total external trade by volume and 75 percent by value now conducted by sea, and with more than 70 percent of its oil imports transiting the maritime domain. To protect these burgeoning maritime interests, the Indian government has expressed lofty ambitions to establish “a brand new multi-dimensional Navy” with “reach and sustainability.” The country has the world’s fifth-largest navy with plans to build a 160-plus-ship navy, comprising three aircraft carrier battle groups by 2022.

Contested maritime role

However, India’s maritime ambitions are being challenged by the fact that the country’s maritime position is often regarded as contested. Take, for instance, the South China Sea: although almost 55 per cent of India’s trade passes through the Strait of Malacca, some countries continue to oppose allowing it to play a prominent role.

Notably, China has voiced displeasure at the growing Indian naval presence in the region. This was evidenced by reports in July 2011 that an Indian Navy vessel received radio contact from the Chinese Navy demanding that it depart disputed waters in the South China Sea after completing a port call in Vietnam. This was followed by the less belligerent but nonetheless provocative gesture of an Indian naval vessel receiving a Chinese naval escort while on its way from the Philippines to South Korea in June 2012. Beijing has also opposed Vietnam granting exploration rights to Indian company ONGC Videsh in offshore blocks located in disputed waters.

Well-entrenched maritime interests

Despite the fact that India does not share a contiguous maritime border with the South China Sea, itsmaritime interests in the region are well established. While not as vocal as the United States, which declared maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea a “national interest” in 2010, New Delhi has nonetheless echoed the U.S. position of calling for a peaceful resolution and continued freedom of navigation. India has also pursued deepening maritime relations with several claimant states, notably Vietnam, with the Indian Navy gaining permanent berthing rights at Nha Trang port and offering the Vietnamese training in submarine warfare.

Since its first deployment to the South China Sea in 2000, the Indian Navy has also been involved in several high-profile maritime operations in the region, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, joint naval exercises, and port calls. This includes its prominent role in relief operations following the Asian tsunami of 2004 and the cyclone that struck Myanmar (Burma) in 2008. The Indian Navy also escorted U.S. naval vessels transiting the Strait of Malacca as part of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ in 2002.

America's Paranoid 'Stop and Frisk' on a Global Scale

Posted By Stephen M. Walt 
August 13, 2013

Here in the United States, federal judge Shira Scheindlin has ruled that New York City's "stop and frisk" policy is in fact a form of racial profiling that violates basic constitutional rights. According to the New York Times editorial:

"Under the Fourth Amendment, police officers can legally stop and detain a person only when they have a reasonable suspicion that the person is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime. Over the years, however, the Police Department has adopted a strategy that encourages cops to stop and question mainly minority citizens first and to come up with reasons for having done so later."

I read this story and immediately thought about the similarities to certain aspects of U.S. foreign and national security policies. "Stop and frisk" is essentially an act of preemption or prevention: The suspect hasn't committed a crime, but the police go after the person on the basis of the thinnest of suspicions, like a bulging pocket or the loosely defined "furtive gestures."

Now think about the United States' use of drones or special operations forces to conduct "targeted assassinations" of suspected terrorists. In many cases, U.S. officials have some reason to think somebody might be planning a terrorist operation, but the person isn't actually doing it when officials decide to take the individual out. Notice that this policy goes way beyond mere "stop and frisk": If the United States can't apprehend someone it thinks might be dangerous, these days it just blows the person away and calls the individual a "suspected terrorist" afterward.

Unfortunately, the information on which these suspicions are based is far from 100 percent reliable. Moreover, no matter how often we are told that drone strikes are "surgical" and precise, sometimes the United States is in fact killing innocent people along with those who might actually be dangerous. But most Americans don't care because this is all happening a long way away and mostly out of sight. The negative consequences -- increased terrorist recruitment and rising anti-Americanism abroad -- only show up later.

Or think about the story that John Grisham published in the Times Aug. 11, chronicling the sorry plight of Nabil Hadjarab, an Algerian who has been imprisoned for 11 years (11!) in Guantánamo. Since being captured after the invasion of Afghanistan, Hadjarab has been tortured, force-fed, and kept mostly in solitary confinement. But what he hasn't been is tried and convicted of a crime.

Think about it: 11 years in brutal solitary confinement, and we still don't know whether this man did anything wrong. A saga like this sounds like Stalinist Russia or Saddam Hussein's Iraq; instead, it is the official policy of the Land of the Free. Indeed, Grisham reports that Hadjarab has twice been recommended for release yet remains in custody today. The sad Gitmo saga is "stop, frisk, and toss in jail" on a global scale: The United States scooped up all sorts of people, sometimes for good reason but in other cases simply because somebody sold them out for a bounty. And then the country let them languish in legal limbo for years.

What's going on is a predictable consequence of the post-9/11 hysteria that swept the United States, aided and abetted by the George W. Bush's administration and largely seconded by President Barack Obama. U.S. officials built al Qaeda into a threat of monstrous proportions -- which it never was -- and they continue to sound that tocsin today. This approach is no different from those of earlier presidents who declared a "war on drugs" in order to justify policies that have filled America's prisons with minor offenders but have done nothing to reduce drug use. The basic principle is the same: If you get enough people sufficiently scared, they will let government officials do all sorts of dubious things in order to feel safer.

Central Asia Can't Be Forgotten

August 14, 2013

The transformation of Central Asia and the Caucasus that began twenty years ago—and in which the transatlantic community has a vital stake—is incomplete and uncertain. Despite progress, numerous problems remain. They vary from country to country, but among the most ubiquitous are ineffective governance, political systems that lack public participation and transparency, shortcomings in the rule of law, and an absence of regional cooperation. Other issues include drug trafficking, terrorism, and interethnic conflict in the Caucasus, Fergana Valley, and elsewhere. Despite oil wealth, poverty is widespread, and the region does not enjoy the dynamic and diversified growth one sees in much of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America.

Externally, the region faces numerous challenges posed by competing influences and pressures involving Russia, China, Iran and the broader Middle East. Afghanistan and Pakistan are sources of instability. Such regional mechanisms as the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the proposed Eurasian Economic Union have not successfully facilitated integration and may possess more importance for their Russian and Chinese sponsors than for those living in the Caucasus and Central Asia. To counterbalance these and other forces, the region’s countries have attached great importance to ties with outside actors; they fear neglect from the United States and Europe. The planned Coalition withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 has exacerbated those apprehensions.

But military withdrawal does not have to be tantamount to neglecting or even ignoring the region. Instead, the transatlantic community should promote more purposeful ties and engagement with Central Asia and the Caucasus. These ties are vital to the area’s development and stability and essential for a more sustained progress toward pluralistic, democratic governance and promarket economic policies over the coming years. Trade and economic integration that will create constituencies for contract, property and human rights, for the rule of law, for more open and predictable government, for regional cooperation and for more market-led economic growth are key to this. The steps that countries are taking toward joining the WTO are encouraging.

So, too, are the opportunities presented by new possibilities for transcontinental trade. For hundreds of years, daunting distance and discordant politics made the heart of the Eurasian landmass an isolated economic backwater. These were the region’s economic and social burdens. Today, emerging strands of a twenty-first-century version of the old Silk Road connecting Europe with the Far East and South Asia hold great potential for turning that comparative disadvantage into a new, cheaper, speedier and more reliable transit way between and among Europe, the Levant, India and China. If that potential can also create jobs in Central Asia and the Caucasus, it will help to bolster prosperity and hope in a part of the world whose prospects urgently need brightening. For the United States it will bring greater stability to a geostrategically vital region—while creating new and more vibrant markets for our goods and services that can help create jobs at home.

The Arctic is no place for military spectacles

The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Aug. 13 2013, 

With Parliament deep in summer recess, Prime Minister Stephen Harper can look forward to his annual Arctic adventure. This month, more than 1,000 military personnel will participate in Operation Nanook, what the Department of National Defence calls the “premier” annual exercise in the Canadian north. Activities associated with Nanook are scheduled in four locations, each chosen for “particular geographical and topographical challenges,” as a recent Defence news release put it.


This year marks the seventh year of successive Nanooks, and Mr. Harper has been a regular attendee. Images of the Prime Minister perched on ice floes and in zodiacs alongside camouflaged personnel are now familiar to consumers of Canadian media. (And then there was his 2010 “I think I make the rules” ride on an ATV in Tuktoyaktuk.)

Each year, the pronouncements made alongside Operation Nanook, by the Prime Minister and other political and military leaders, are essentially identical. Words like “strong” and “sovereign” are regularly placed together. There are often sweeping gestures to Canada’s status as a “northern” nation, knowing nods to ongoing and potential resource exploitation, and perhaps a carefully phrased acknowledgment of the Arctic as an indigenous homeland.

This repetition is precisely the point. It is no longer surprising that Mr. Harper’s most prominent visits to northern Canada are in the service of military spectacles. Instead, these visits and these spectacles have become expected. Sovereignty as understood by the federal government seems to need this form of regular affirmation. But it is particularly intriguing that such affirmation is required in the north more than anywhere else in the country.

Surely the apparent need for repetitive northern military activity is related to the latent belief that such activity is also more tolerable in the region. A proposal to conduct seven consecutive annual “demonstrations of sovereignty” in the streets of a major Canadian city would be startling. There is no mistaking the recent turn, under a Conservative government, to a more vigorous embrace of Canada’s armed forces, with particular attention given to the realm of military symbolism. But that does not entirely explain the role of the north as an acceptable space for persistent, significant militarization.

The name Operation Nanook, of course, is a nod to Robert Flaherty’s extraordinary, controversial 1922 film Nanook of the North. But it is hardly a new reference: a United States naval exercise called Operation Nanook was staged in Canadian waters, with a Canadian observer, in 1946. This was an era of intense American and Canadian military interest in northern geography, a fascination made material in a blizzard of construction, from Air Force staging posts and winter warfare research facilities to the iconic radar stations of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line.

Obama's ambition-free foreign policy

By Michael Krepon
August 14, 2013

Remember when American presidents set out to do big things in the world?

That was when denizens of the Oval Office had one powerful attribute: ambition. And that’s exactly what President Barack Obama is lacking today: a desire to shape world events to America’s liking, and a willingness to take big risks to make that happen.

No wonder he is making little progress on the enormous foreign policy and national security challenges facing the United States. The less ambition an administration has, the harder achieving anything becomes.

While trying to tackle hard problems can make them more complicated, not tackling at least some of them in a serious way increases the likelihood that they will get worse. Success will come, if at all, against long odds. Without trying, failure is guaranteed.

For the president, significant diplomatic accomplishments seem nowhere in sight. Instead, the terrain looks barren or smoldering with problems from hell in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere, a Putinized Russia, and a China that is asserting territorial claims in troubling ways.

This unwelcome landscape helps explain the modesty of the Obama administration’s foreign policy and national security aims. If one is unlikely to make serious progress on very hard problems, and if Sisyphean efforts might well complicate matters further, why try?

One good reason is that, without ambition, firefighting becomes the default position, as was evident during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. She either didn’t seek or wasn’t given the lead on the Middle East, China, Russia, and nonproliferation portfolios. It’s perfectly acceptable for the White House to hold on to every one of them, but what’s the point of doing so in order to pursue modest initiatives?

Administrations that make their mark on the world have great ambition at rare junctures of dramatic change and opportunity. It’s the Obama administration’s lot to operate in a changing international environment that seems devoid of opportunity.

Some problems from hell might burn themselves out and others must be handled with care, especially after expending so much blood and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wars that are poorly conceived, planned and executed are unlikely to end well, and have a properly chastening effect.

The George W. Bush administration’s use of hard power and the Obama administration’s use of soft power have not increased U.S. persuasiveness abroad. So, what is an administration to do when no hard and consequential problem seems ripe for diplomatic accomplishment?
Diplomatic risk-taking is a high wire act, with only four potential wire-walkers: the president, vice president, the secretary of state, and the national security advisor.

Exclusive: After Multiple Denials, CIA Admits to Snooping on Noam Chomsky

Posted By John Hudson 
August 13, 2013 

For years, the Central Intelligence Agency denied it had a secret file on MIT professor and famed dissident Noam Chomsky. But a new government disclosure obtained by The Cable reveals for the first time that the agency did in fact gather records on the anti-war iconoclast during his heyday in the 1970s.

The disclosure also reveals that Chomsky's entire CIA file was scrubbed from Langley's archives, raising questions as to when the file was destroyed and under what authority.

The breakthrough in the search for Chomsky's CIA file comes in the form of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For years, FOIA requests to the CIA garnered the same denial: "We did not locate any records responsive to your request." The denials were never entirely credible, given Chomsky's brazen anti-war activism in the 60s and 70s -- and the CIA's well-documented track record of domestic espionage in the Vietnam era. But the CIA kept denying, and many took the agency at its word.

Now, a public records request by Chomsky biographer Frederic Maxwell reveals a memo between the CIA and the FBI that confirms the existence of a CIA file on Chomsky.

Dated June 8, 1970, the memo discusses Chomsky's anti-war activities and asks the FBI for more information about an upcoming trip by anti-war activists to North Vietnam. The memo's author, a CIA official, says the trip has the "ENDORSEMENT OF NOAM CHOMSKY" and requests "ANY INFORMATION" about the people associated with the trip.

After receiving the document, The Cable sent it to Athan Theoharis, a professor emeritus at Marquette University and an expert on FBI-CIA cooperation and information-gathering.

"The June 1970 CIA communication confirms that the CIA created a file on Chomsky," said Theoharis. "That file, at a minimum, contained a copy of their communication to the FBI and the report on Chomsky that the FBI prepared in response to this request."

The evidence also substantiates the fact that Chomsky's file was tampered with, says Theoharis. "The CIA's response to the FOIA requests that it has no file on Chomsky confirms that its Chomsky file was destroyed at an unknown time," he said.

It's worth noting that the destruction of records is a legally treacherous activity. Under the Federal Records Act of 1950, all federal agencies are required to obtain advance approval from the national Archives for any proposed record disposition plans. The Archives is tasked with preserving records with "historical value."

"Clearly, the CIA's file, or files, on Chomsky fall within these provisions," said Theoharis.

It's unclear if the agency complied with protocols in the deletion of Chomsky's file. The CIA declined to comment for this story.

What does Chomsky think? When The Cable presented him with evidence of his CIA file, the famous linguist responded with his trademark cynicism.