19 August 2013

Pvt sector's furtive entry into mining in tribal areas irks Deo

By Nitin Sethi 

Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo has criticised the Union and State governments for disinvesting in public sector companies to permit private entities to mine in tribal-dominated Schedule V areas, calling the move unconstitutional.

In a letter to Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, Mr. Deo said, “Circumventing the constitutional provisions through disinvestment is being done in a stealthy manner through decisions of the government instead of adhering to the well laid down procedure under Article 368 of the Constitution.”

“Disinvestment of shares of such companies can be resorted to either by the State or by the Central government. Once disinvestment takes place, the need for constitutional safeguards by such companies will not only get diluted but thrown to the winds,” he warns, noting examples of the Orissa Mining Corporation and the Andhra Pradesh Mining Corporation.

He also says, “Disinvesting shares of such companies which are not owned and controlled by ST community will result in surreptitiously subverting and undermining the sanctity of the constitution.”He concludes, “This threat looms large upon us today and this practice needs to be stopped forthwith.”

The letter came as a reply to Ms. Natarajan’s two missives to Mr. Deo in the case of Vedanta bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills of Odisha.

In her letter, Ms. Natarajan noted that the State government was not following the Supreme Court orders in spirit and letter while facilitating the decision by village councils on whether they claim religious and traditional rights on the contested hill or not. She asked the Tribal Affairs Minister that he should act along with the Environment Ministry to block any attempt by the State government to vitiate the decisions of the village councils by claiming they were influenced by vested interests. She wanted Mr. Deo to issue binding instructions to the government under the fifth schedule as well as the Forest Rights Act to comply with the orders of the Supreme Court.

On Vedanta, Mr. Deo, in response to Ms. Natarajan, said he had formed a team to assess claims by village councils beyond the 12 councils that the State government had limited the exercise to. He said the Law Ministry had advised him against intervening in the issue as the Vedanta case was before the Supreme Court and that any legal remedy against the actions of the State government could be addressed only by the Environment Ministry.

He noted that the Law Ministry too agreed with the position of the Tribal Affairs Ministry that the scope of filing claims under the Supreme Court judgment would be open to all villages of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts. Many more villages than the 12 the State government had pursued had filed various rights, including religious and cultural, over the Niyamgiri forests.

The Mahan-Mackinder Debate on India’s China Deterrence

By Abhijit Singh
August 18, 2013

The decision by the government of India to raise a mountain strike corps has triggered an interesting debate on just how India can effectively deter Chinese aggression on its border. The debate is between theMackinderites and the Mahanians.

In an article in the Journal of Defence Studies in July (India’s Geostrategy and China – Mackinder vs Mahan), Zorawar Daulet Singh first staked out the Mackinderite position by arguing that India’s strategic plans for countering Chinese aggression must shift emphasis from “maritime dominance” to more “border-centric” formulations.

Then, Rear Admiral (Retd) Raja Menon, in a well-argued piece in The Hindu on July 29, chided the continentalists by criticizing the government’s raising of a mountain corps, which he felt served no useful purpose other than creating another unmanageable and ineffective asset. Menon argued that the effort and resources being lavished on forming an “air-immobile and single-axis” strike corps should have been spent on creating a more capable maritime force, which could be used to choke Chinese trade in the Indian Ocean. In a rejoinder to Admiral Menon’s piece a few days later, Singh reemphasized the futility of expecting Indian maritime strength in the Indian Ocean region to effectively deter Chinese adventurism on the border.

While both writers make compelling arguments, each appears to have missed out on at least one crucial aspect of the India-China conflict dynamic. In both cases, that aspect is a critical piece in the jigsaw of Sino-Indian strategic relations, the absence of which renders both maximalist positions untenable.

The Mackinderite Folly

To begin with, on available evidence, the Mahanians seem to have got it more right than the Mackinderites; simply because China is still most vulnerable at sea – regardless of its efforts at territorial integration and a consolidation of its land oil-supply routes. Fundamentally, a state’s strategic weaknesses exist, not so much in areas where its adversary is strong, but in domains where the nation itself faces a massive strategic disadvantage. That “weakest of weak spots” for China is its sea lines of communications (SLOCs) in the Indian Ocean region. Beijing realizes that its dependence on the Middle East and Africa for hydrocarbons is near total. With nearly 80 percent of its energy supply still arriving by sea, there is no escaping its dependence on the Indian Ocean SLOCs. What is more, the situation is unlikely to drastically change anytime in the foreseeable future. As strategic predicaments go, no ‘dilemma’ for Beijing is more ‘existential’ than its Malacca dilemma.

U.S. to help India face new security challenges

By Sandeep Joshi

Washington has agreed to throw open its specialised agencies for advanced training in a range of skills

Three months after the U.S.-India Homeland Security Dialogue in Washington, India is all set to send its officers to various agencies across American federal organisations to sharpen their skills and acquire new ones to fight terrorism.

Indian officials and security officers would soon be visiting the U.S. for training in an array of courses — from cyber security, megacity policing and forensics, to critical infrastructure protection, financial terrorism and anti-terrorism intelligence.

The U.S. government has agreed to give Indian officers access to its specialised agencies under the Department of Homeland Security, particularly the Georgia-headquartered Federal Law Enforcement Training Centres (FLETC), to help them deal with the changing face of international terrorism.

“The dialogue between Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in Washington in May this year paved the way for this cooperation... Through these specialised training programmes, India will gradually build an army of experts who can handle new technologies and mechanism to deal with various kinds of terrorism and anti-national activities,” a senior Home Ministry official told The Hindu.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, created after the 9/11 terror attack, along with the FLETC has fashioned several advanced courses. “We have identified around a dozen departments and organisations whose officials would take part in these programmes... The U.S. has also agreed to help us in creating specialised training institutions to develop skills in various anti-terrorism measures. Sharing of technology for technical surveillance, capacity building and technology development will also be a part of the U.S.-India cooperation,” the official said.

Broadly, the U.S. programmes will deal with four aspects of terrorism — ‘Global supply chain, transportation, port, border and maritime security,’ ‘Megacity policing and sharing of information among federal, State and local partners,’ ‘Illicit finance, smuggling of cash, financial fraud and counterfeiting,’and ‘Cyber security and critical infrastructure protection.’

Rich world ‘fails’ U.N. scheme on Amazon park

By Shobhan Saxena

Special Arrangement A view of Yasuni National Park

In a major example of how the rich world countries are refusing to put their money where their mouth is on climate change, a major U.N.-backed initiative that would have kept fossil fuels underground in the pristine forests of Ecuador has collapsed.

Between Thursday and Friday, as Defence Ministers of three countries sharing the Amazon region — Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador — were discussing plans to improve monitoring of the world’s biggest rainforest, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced that his country was giving up a conservation scheme that would have paid the country not to drill for oil in the Amazon’s previously untouched parts of Yasuni National Park — the most diverse natural zone in the world.

The far-reaching decision that would lead to the demise of the planet’s most creative and ambitious approach to biodiversity conservation, social development and climate change immediately sparked a fiery debate on the future of the world’s biggest eco-system, with Mr. Correa blaming the rich nations for failing to support the scheme to attract donations for Ecuador.

Special Arrangement Yasuni National Park
At a news conference on Friday, Mr. Correa said the initiative had attracted only a fraction of the cash it had aimed to raise.

With only $13 million so far in actual donations, he said he had been forced to abandon the fund as “the world has failed us”.

“It was not charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility in the face of climate change,” said Mr. Correa, who had launched the scheme in 2010 with the aim of raising $3.6 billion, almost 50 per cent of the value of the reserves in the park’s Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field, over 13 years.

Turning out to be rocket science

By N. Gopal Raj

After years of effort and back-to-back failures, today’s GSLV launch is crucial to ISRO’s quest for an indigenous cryogenic engine

Once again, a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is on the launch pad at Sriharikota. This launch will be crucial — after two successive failures of the rocket, the Indian Space Research Organisation can ill afford one more troubled flight. Moreover, the space agency needs to demonstrate that, after 20 years of effort, it has now mastered cryogenic technology.

The GSLV retains the first two stages of its predecessor, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). In order to carry heavier satellites than the latter, the third stage of the GSLV uses cryogenic propulsion. Running on liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, a cryogenic engine offers greater energy efficiency than those that use other propellants. The improved efficiency means that the upper stage can carry less propellant, with the weight saved translating directly into more payload.

ISRO tried to purchase cryogenic technology from what was then the Soviet Union, but the deal that was signed in 1991 ran into trouble after the U.S. imposed sanctions. Russia, which inherited the deal after the breakup of the Soviet Union, backed out of providing the technology but agreed to supply seven flight-worthy stages for the GSLV. (For more details see “The long road to cryogenic technology,” The Hindu, April 15, 2010).

Left with no option, ISRO began the Cryogenic Upper Stage Project in April 1994 for developing an indigenous version of the Russian cryogenic engine and stage. While this technology development was in progress, it could fly the GSLV with Russian-made stages.

The GSLV, equipped with a Russian cryogenic stage, first flew in 2001. However, unlike the PSLV, which shook off the failure of its first launch and went on to notch up 23 consecutive successes, the GSLV has been trouble prone. In its seven flights so far, three were outright failures and another two suffered serious problems.

In April 2010, the GSLV flew for the first time with an indigenous cryogenic stage. Close to five minutes after lift-off, the cryogenic engine came to life but only very briefly. With thrust from that engine failing to pick up, the rocket soon tumbled into the sea.

In December the same year, the GSLV was flown again, this time with a Russian cryogenic stage. But disaster struck yet again, with the vehicle going out of control less than a minute into the flight, breaking up into pieces and exploding into flames over Sriharikota.

Indian Navy: How Much Blue Water!

18 Aug , 2013

INS Chakra

The launch of Vikrant, the indigenous aircraft carrier, and first of the Arihant class of indigenous nuclear powered submarines have been great leaps in capacity building for a blue water capability of our Navy. 90 percent of Vikrant has been reportedly built indigenously albeit it is unclear what parts and technology were imported, how crucial are they and what is the cost. The 37,500 ton Vikrant makes India the fifth country after US, UK, Russia and France capable of designing and building a ship of this size. Vikrant will obviously house a number of Mig-29K aircraft, the indigenous LCA and Kamov helicopters though post extensive sea trials, actual commissioning is likely by 2017 or so.

To that end, we are making progress toward acquiring blue water capability and aircraft carriers as the nerve centre and main punch of Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs) are definitely vital but the question mark remains in terms of our submarine capabilities.

With a coastline extending 7,863 kilometres, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 1.02 million squares, island territories, and off shore assets extended over 17,000 square kilometers (including 30 processing wells, 125 well platforms and 3000 kilometres of seabed pipelines) and 97 percent trade by sea, India definitely requires 2-3 aircraft carriers in service at all time. Our Navy is currently undergoing a 15-year modernization plan. The Russian aircraft carrier Gorshkov is likely to join by next year and underwater test firing of BrahMos has been successful. To that end, we are making progress toward acquiring blue water capability and aircraft carriers as the nerve centre and main punch of Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs) are definitely vital but the question mark remains in terms of our submarine capabilities. The Arihant class submarines will help in closing some of the gaps. Post the unfortunate tragedy of INS Sindhurakshak serious concerns have emerged in respect of vintage of our submarines and the pace of their possible replacements.

Perhaps there is a need to closely examine why China that has displayed great forethought in every possible field remains behind India in launching an indigenous aircraft carrier despite top Chinese military and civilian officials periodically affirming the importance and relevance of Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) to China’s military modernization. Even though some Western analysts conclude Chinese RMA being limited to ‘pockets of excellence’, surely sea and oceanic capabilities are topmost on Chinese agenda.

Too close for comfort

By Ranjit B. Rai

The INS Sindhurakshak tragedy is a wake-up call for the defence establishment to relocate bases away from bustling cities and economic hubs

November 3, 1961, was a landmark for the Indian Navy. India’s maiden aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant (formerly HMS Hercules), with its full load of ammunition, Sea Hawks and Alize aircraft (and a crew of 1,100), was ceremoniously received by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the Ballard Pier of Bombay. J.R.D. Tata was one of the invited guests. Panditji was taken around the ship by Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) Vice Admiral R.D. Katari, (Flag Officer Commanding Indian Fleet – FOCIF) Rear Admiral B.S. Soman, and the ship’s captain, Peter [Pritam Singh] Mahindroo.

Rear Admiral Sadashiv Karmarkar, the first Indian to command British officers on RINS Cauvery, was the Flag Officer Bombay (FOB). The Navy had to berth the 20,000 ton Vikrant at Ballard Pier, the only berth where the carrier could have been accommodated with full load. No berth in the naval dockyard could accommodate the fully loaded Vikrant and she needed to lighten to 17,000 tons. A similar situation is prevalent for the 47,500 ton INS Vikramaditya at Mumbai, and which is set to arrive. She will be berthed ingeniously at the outer naval dockyard berth with special pontoons manufactured by Goa Shipyard Ltd., till permanent facilities at INS Kadamaba at Karwar are set up as part of “Project Seabird.”

The Great Bombay explosion

J.R.D. Tata and Karmarkar were witnesses to the famous “Bombay Victoria Docks Explosion” that took place on April 14, 1944. SS Fort Stikine carrying a cargo of cotton bales, gold and ammunition including 1,400 tons of explosives, caught fire and exploded and broke into two. In the impact, windows 12 km away in Bombay were shattered. The seismographs at Shimla recorded tremors. Many parts of Bombay were wiped out because of the blasts and fires that raged for two days. Showers of burning material set fire to Bombay’s slums. Eleven vessels berthed close by were sunk or damaged and 800 deaths reported. The memory stayed.

In 1963, J.R.D. Tata, a visionary, heard of the Navy’s needs and learnt it was going to reclaim land towards the Taj Mahal hotel, a site he treasured, to expand the vintage naval dockyard. Learning of the cost of new berths and dredging the approaches to the naval dockyard were worth hundreds of crores, the Tatas initiated a business study and offered to develop a deep water naval base and a port in Gujarat near Jamnagar, superior to Kandla, to berth Vikrant and other warships to decongest Bombay.

Karmarkar (also a visionary), due to differences with CNS Soman, was abruptly retired in 1964. The Tatas were keen to enter the shipping and port businesses, and J.R.D. knew Karmarkar, had a close working relationship with Defence Minister Y.B. Chavan, who had been appraised of, and was in support of the proposal to decongest Bombay. J.R.D. suggested to Karmarkar to join and pursue the project from Bombay House.

Deterring a joint China-Pak attack

Aug 19, 2013

To protect our territorial integrity, we need to change India’s “no first use” (NFU) doctrine to make it similar to that of Pakistan and China. India should declare that it may use tactical nuclear weapons in case its “red lines” are crossed.

In 2008, based on my four-decade-long experience in the Indian Navy and Coast Guard, small activities and border skirmishes caught my attention and, as I began studying them, I saw a diabolic pattern emerging.

Alarmingly, it all added up to Pakistani terrorists getting ready to carry out an attack on India by sea. On May 19, 2008, The Asian Age published my article, The next terror attack could be from the sea. The carnage of 26/11 took place six months later.

Fifty-one years after the disastrous 1962 war with China, India continues to pay the price for ignoring its defences, this time in Ladakh, where lack of infrastructure (there is still no road link from Leh to the eastern airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldi, and men need to march for six days across mountainous terrain to cover this distance), and lack of adequate force levels have left a vulnerability which is being exploited skilfully by China. Favourable flat terrain, excellent Chinese infrastructure and force availability means that Chinese troops can reach the disputed territory in eastern Ladakh in 12-24 hours.

The recent change of political leadership in China and Pakistan, along with the impending American withdrawal from Afghanistan, has resulted in more coordinated China-Pak activities along our borders. When Nawaz Sharif came to power on June 5, 2013, he immediately set up the “Kashmir cell”. Less than two months later, on August 2, 2013, bombs went off near our Jalalabad consulate. Now, studying the pattern of activities along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir (the August 6 killing of five jawans, firing along the LoC and the Kishtwar riots) and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh (the April 2013 Depsang area faceoff, and present probes by the Chinese Army), I am once again worried that a joint China-Pak threat may materialise at very short notice, specially now that we are in “election mode”.

China, worried about the security of its proposed $18 billion “energy corridor” (oil pipeline, road and rail links) from Xinjiang province to Gwadar port via Karakoram mountains, has apparently decided that it needs to grab some disputed territory in eastern Ladakh, close to its proposed energy corridor.

Given the infrastructure and military capability in eastern Ladakh — armed Indian policemen and a few soldiers — the Chinese Army can launch an air-ground offensive with 10-20,000 motorised troops and 100-300 tanks to capture the entire area it claims as its own in north-eastern Ladakh in 48 hours. The border airstrips of Daulat Beg Oldi and Nyoma could be captured by Chinese helicopter-borne forces in a few hours, thus cutting off airborne logistics to eastern Ladakh. Active intervention by the Indian Air Force (IAF), even if approved immediately by the government, may have little impact on the outcome given the current force levels on both sides.

MISSION POSSIBLE- A lot needs to be done to better the infrastructure

COMMENTARAO: S.L. Rao

From darkness to light

Our infrastructure has not grown or improved. This causes severe delays in every economic activity, with serious adverse impact on economic growth. Infrastructure investments are usually large and act to stimulate the economy and employment. They have not done so for the last three years.

The power sector has suffered the most. Liberalization of power began in 1994, when private investment was permitted in generation. In 1998, liberalization was allowed also in power transmission and distribution. The central electricity regulatory commission was created in 1998. Commissions for each state (in some cases for groups of states) followed. Convinced that it had created the enabling conditions, the government awaited substantial private and foreign investment. Unaccustomed to attracting private investment, the government did not realize that mere opening of the sector was not enough. None of the enabling environment was simplified.

The ‘reforms’ did not stimulate the power sector. A major constraint was the irrational belief that electricity should be available to all, and to those who could not afford it, at below the cost or even free. This became a populist political ploy.

The telecommunications sector, especially mobile telephony, was virgin soil. It benefited itself and the consumer the most when it was opened to private investment. But the huge sales values of Spectrum provided opportunity for scams by bureaucrats and politicians. This messed up the sector’s profitability for some years.

The public-private partnership model was an imaginative way to minimize government investment in developing infrastructure (in ports, airports, roads, metro rail). “Viability gap funding” was to meet the shortfall in expected revenues. The government paid a fraction of what it would otherwise have invested. However, the contracts were not fully thought through. There were loopholes. The need for many government approvals delayed project execution. Delays in approvals led to cost escalation, unbearable in low margin, high investment projects. Other force majeure factors and changes in law (for example, tax rates) also made many quotations unviable in execution.

The power sector has been deteriorating every year since ‘reforms’ began, with severe shortages of power, load-shedding, frequency and voltage fluctuations, large-scale thefts of power, submissiveness of state electricity regulatory commissions to their governments, and growing losses of the state-owned distribution enterprises. The year 2012-13 has been the worst for the power sector, as for other infrastructure sectors. In power, tariffs have mostly remained low because of trading, and financial constraints prevented SEBs from buying power. Below-cost supplies to farmers and low-income groups have distorted price structures and diverted state government funds to power subsidies. Stranded capacities of gas and coal-based generation plants amounted to around 50,000 megawatt. New investments in power generation and distribution have almost halted, especially from the private sector. Intra-state transmission has also had poor investment.

National Interest: Once upon a spooky time

Aug 17 2013

On the front page of this newspaper today, you couldn't have missed our defence correspondent Manu Pubby's story on the joint India-US U-2 spy place missions over Tibet in early 1960s. This is based on some recently declassified CIA documents. What if I said this isn't really a new story? And what if I said, instead, yes, yes, of course it is a new revelation. And then suffixed it with an OOPS!!! Preferably in all capitals, and many signs of exclamation.


The funny — and fascinating — thing with spy stories is, that just when you think you've cracked one, another one emerges from behind it, and makes you look silly. I would have thought I, as a reporter then with India Today magazine, had cracked in the winter of 1983, the joint Indian intelligence (then only Intelligence Bureau, or IB, since RAW wasn't yet formed) and CIA story on the U-2 operations. Now, three decades later, I have to acknowledge that I had got only a part of it, and that somebody far cleverer had sold me a dummy, though possibly with good intentions.

The story first broke out of Washington when I was following up the infamous Larkins Brothers spy case in New Delhi for an India Today cover story along with my friend and colleague (now group editor, special projects and features, at the Express) Dilip Bobb. Major General Frank and Air Vice-Marshal Kenneth Larkins, had been arrested in India's most significant spy bust for stealing and selling away secret manuals of MiGs, apparently to the US. Both were convicted. These remain the seniormost Indian defence officers ever convicted for spying. But it was in the course of pursuing that scandal, and investigating the widening arms bazaar-defence services-espionage network that the story about joint IB-CIA operations in the '60s broke. Of course, then there were immediate denials.

If I was to get some real insight, I thought, why not try and get it from the horse's mouth. So I called B.N. Mullick, our most powerful, and long-lasting spy czar ever. He led the IB for 14 years and was Nehru's right hand. Now living in retirement at Vasant Vihar, he readily granted me an audience.

Still new to the geography of Vasant Vihar, I found his home with some difficulty on a sunny winter afternoon and thought, just for a moment, that I had come to the wrong place. As the name plate mentioned H.A. Barari, "foster son-in-law", then number two in IB and subsequently director. But then a thin old man in a golf cap, sunning himself in a lounge chair, called out to me. "Park your motorcycle outside and come in, you are at the right place," said Mullick, the legend. He was much more than a spymaster. He was, also a wonderful story-teller and chronicler of history. His trilogy ('My years with Nehru, 1948-1964', 'My years with Nehru: the Chinese betrayal', 'My years with Nehru: Kashmir') still remains one of the finest accounts of those perilous decades.

He told me the U-2 story, of how Nehru had reluctantly agreed to allow US spy plane operations, but had baulked when the CIA wanted to set up a base for them in Charbatia, in Orissa. He told me the story in detail and it was published in the December 31, 1983 issue of the magazine, as a part of the Larkins cover story.

What Delhi must say, what Dhaka needs to hear

Aug 19 2013

Early parliamentary approval of the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh is in India's interest. If the BJP sees itself as a champion of national security, it must support the bill.

As UPA 2 enters the last lap of its tenure, it is not just the Indian economy that is unravelling. New Delhi's loss of purpose and direction in the last few years has had an equally damaging impact on the diplomatic front.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's bold effort to transform bilateral relations with the US, pursued with equal vigour by his successor Manmohan Singh during UPA 1, is now under a cloud. Vajpayee's attempt to normalise relations with Pakistan, pushed further by Singh over the last decade, appears to be disintegrating. A more successful outreach to Bangladesh, begun by the NDA, and finalised by UPA 2, is now in danger of being undermined, thanks to Delhi's dysfunctional politics.

While the levers for economic regeneration are largely in the hands of the government, Delhi needs support from the opposition to bring some of its historic foreign policy moves to a closure. The breakdown of national unity during the nuclear debate in the UPA's first term had complicated what was in essence a simple and mutually beneficial nuclear accommodation between Delhi and Washington. If the BJP leadership's tactical temptations and the CPM's ideological blinkers messed up UPA 1's historic civil nuclear initiative, UPA 2 has faced unprecedented challenges from state governments in the pursuit of its regional goals. Competitive populism in Tamil Nadu has seen Delhi meekly surrender its responsibility to craft a coherent policy towards Sri Lanka. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's tantrums, in turn, have nearly wrecked India's historic outreach to Bangladesh. While regional parties have the luxury of irresponsibility on foreign policy issues, national parties can't abandon their duty to protect India's security interests. This week in Parliament will show if they are up to it, or if they simply play politics.

After a prolonged delay, the government hopes to table in Parliament this week the bill on a comprehensive land boundary settlement with Bangladesh. In the last session, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid stepped back as members of the AGP, opposed to the settlement, disrupted the proceedings. One hopes Khurshid will be a little bolder this time and the PM will articulate the strong political case for Parliament to approve the bill. It is even more important for the BJP, which has been playing political hide-and-seek on the bill, to come out explicitly in favour of the legislation, since India's collective stakes in the agreement are so high.

Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani Retiring; What Next in Pakistan?

August 18, 2013

Guessing Game as Pakistan’s Powerful Army Chief Prepares to Retire

ISLAMABAD — In a nation long plagued by military coups, the question of who will replace Pakistan’s all-powerful army chief has taken on new urgency this year as the country tries to shake off the legacy of decades of military dictatorship.

General Ashfaq Kayani, arguably the most powerful man in the nuclear-armed country, is expected to step down after six years in November - presenting Pakistan’s new premier with the toughest of choices yet since coming to power in May.

The army has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its history since independence in 1947. But even during periods of civilian rule, the army has set security and foreign policy.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he wants to disentangle the military from politics and he has taken over the foreign affairs and defense portfolios in an apparent show of determination to wrest those responsibilities from the army.

But the military is unlikely to relinquish its hold at such a sensitive time. As Western forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year, Pakistan is striving to prevent old rival India from increasing its influence there.

Illustrating the difficulties Sharif might face in setting foreign policy, his bid to improve ties with India has been undermined by violence between Indian and Pakistani forces in the disputed Kashmir region. While the two armies trade fire and blame, Pakistan’s civilian government can only look on.

Nevertheless, the Pakistani military has meddled less in politics under Kayani, earning him a reputation as a pragmatic leader willing to ease the military’s grip on political affairs and publicly endorse democracy.

Sharif, himself ousted in a military coup in 1999, has a difficult relationship with the army, and picking Kayani’s successor could be the defining moment of his second term.

"It’s not just that Nawaz wants someone he can trust and who he can use to neutralize the army’s political role," one retired senior military official told Reuters. "The army also wants someone who will be able to work with Nawaz."

China-Russia military drill sends out five signals

By Wang Xinjun

Terrorism is still a worldwide threat. The 20-day Peace Mission-2013 China-Russia joint military drill, starting from July 27, has been attracting widespread interest from international strategic institutions and the media. Undoubtedly, international terrorist forces are also keeping a watchful eye on the exercise.

The China-Russia joint military drill conveys the following important messages to the world:-
First, China and Russia will work together to firmly crack down on terrorism, which causes significant harm to a world that is trying to achieve peace and development. The resurgence of terrorist forces in China and Russia in recent years demonstrates the need for cooperation between the two countries.

Second, China and Russia will use counter-terrorism as a starting point to promote strategic trust and cooperation in their border area in response to non-traditional security threats. The two countries are neighbors and partners. They have substantial scope for cooperation and win-win partnership; they also share much common ground on security issues. In addition to the fight against terrorism, they will work together in other areas including combating transnational drug trafficking, smuggling, the prevention of disease transmission, and safeguarding strategic channels. Therefore both sides should have a proactive plan, involving sincere cooperation, which strives to eliminate security threats at their source. This will be conductive to removing the obstacles hindering a wide range of economic, technological and cultural cooperation.

Third, China and Russia are willing to work together on a broader agenda to promote world peace and stability. Through mutual exchanges, Chinese and Russian leaders have reached a broad consensus on issues such as opposition to power politics. The two countries are among the world's most important, which means that they shoulder heavier responsibilities and obligations in promoting regional and world peace and stability.

Fourth, both China and Russia think the world should abandon confrontation and the mentality of power politics, and aim for a win-win situation through mutual trust and cooperation. After thousands of years of confrontation and conflict, and two world wars followed by the U.S.-Russia Cold War in the last 100 years, there has been a developing trend of opening, reconciliation and cooperation.

China’s “Warfare” Strategies and Tactics

By J.M. Norton
August 18, 2013

China employs military actions to achieve political outcomes in territorial disputes. Understanding them is important if conflict is to be avoided.

Last month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scored a decisive victory in Japan’s Upper House elections. The Chinese leadership’s actions before, during and after the election period shed light on its use of traditional and high-technology warfare strategies and tactics.

This form of warfare uses different types of technology in bounded or protracted military actions to force a political outcome to an existing dispute. It exploits a combination of traditional and advanced technologies – missiles, vessels, jet fighters, surveillance aircraft, tests and interruptive technologies – to send political messages to rivals. That China’s leaders engage in this unique warfare may reflect their feeling that they have reached a point of inadequate returns from solely diplomatic overtures. They may also be seeking new ways to send the desired message. Finally, they might sense that the dispute with Japan has begun to cross a threshold, and now threatens China’s national interests.

In this context, China’s national interests are narrowly defined. According to my research, they include the promises the leadership has made to the Chinese people on eventual national unification as well as protecting the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty from external threats. Counter to conventional wisdom, China’s bureaucracy is not always run according to top-down decision-making by the Standing Committee of the Politburo. In cases where the leadership has made formal promises to the population, domestic sentiment is a formidable driver of policy. In other words, the domestic audience is not only part of the decision-making process but also has the power to hold the leadership accountable for failing to defend these assurances. Accordingly, when China’s rivals and their partners, friends or allies demonstrate the political will and acquire or put in place the military capabilities to undermine the Chinese leadership’s promises on these issues, the leadership is forced to demonstrate some form of resolve. Typically it resorts to the use of traditional and high-technology political warfare to send a political message and force a diplomatic outcome.

Although China’s leaders employ this singular form of warfare, the leaders have little intention of escalating the dispute into some type of militarized conflict. Rather, their primary purpose at any point during the warfare drills is to compel the adversary to the negotiating table and possibly remove the dispute from the public spotlight.

China’s Reform Anxiety

Aug. 15, 2013 

Illustration by Pedro Molina

In fact, the Chinese government’s stance – based on Premier Li Keqiang’s “Likonomics,” which prioritizes structural reform over rapid GDP growth – will prove to be in the best interests of China and the rest of the world. China’s structural problems – including restrictions on labor mobility, a rigid and risk-laden financial system, and excessive reliance on government investment – are threatening its stability and economic development. Given that China’s GDP growth rate remains respectable relative to the rest of the world, the need to emphasize structural reform is clear.

But, despite well-intentioned statements and narrow gestures, China’s new leadership has yet to establish a concrete, bold reform plan capable of resolving the economy’s deep-rooted problems.

For example, last February, the State Council announced plans to reform the hukou (household registration) system, which assigns legal residency according to a person’s place of birth. The system makes relocating very difficult, as those who do not manage to acquire local residency permits face major hurdles in gaining access to public services when they migrate to other provinces. Indeed, their children are even prohibited from taking college entrance exams.

The reform plan was supposed to improve the situation by allowing migrants in towns and small cities to acquire local residency permits more freely, while easing the requirements in medium-sized cities. But efforts to reform the system have been met with strong resistance, especially from local governments and residents, who fear the strain that unregulated migration to their cities will have on resources, employment, and services. As a result, a genuine hukou reform strategy remains elusive.

Similarly, the government has been slow to formulate and implement effective financial-market reforms. Hopes were high early this year, when the State Council announced a strategy aimed at liberalizing the capital account, establishing a more flexible exchange-rate policy, and opening the financial sector to domestic private capital. But the government then heeded influential economists’ warnings of the risks of relaxing capital controls too hastily.

In fact, the opposite should be happening. Narrow policies like the government’s recent credit tightening will make it difficult to direct financial resources to the real economy – one of the primary objectives of “Likonomics.” Genuine progress depends on Chinese leaders’ willingness to address the structural flaws – namely, the restrictions on domestic private capital – that are impeding the financial system’s ability to channel savings to the most promising economic sectors.

CHINA AND ITS PERIPHERIES: LIMITED OBJECTIVES IN BHUTAN

By Tilak Jha


Of all the nations that border China, its comparison with Bhutan would appear to be a paradox. In comprehensive power terms, Bhutan is almost a nonentity to China. Bhutan’s biggest disadvantage is its geography that limits its connectivity to India in South and China in north with no access to sea or any other third country without using either Indian or Chinese land or airspace. Nevertheless, in the geopolitical context of today’s South Asia, Bhutan’s geography has strategic ramifications for both India and China.

This provides Bhutan with more diplomatic maneuverability than ever before. As Jane Shi (2011) wrote, “Though it has no direct access to major waterways or ports, Bhutan is positioned at a strategic location between India and China, controlling several important Himalayan mountain passes.” For China, it is Bhutan’s location just north of India’s only road link to its relatively unstable northeastern states – the Siliguri Corridor – that could provide it with a rare political and military opportunity in South Asia generally but specifically against India in the long term. 

China’s objectives in Bhutan remains limited in the short term which partly explains its comparatively aggressive stance towards Bhutan till the 1960s. Of late, however, Beijing has displayed relative patient farsightedness in considering Bhutan as a small but important element of its South Asia policy framework. Like Nepal, Beijing has employed a mix of persuasion and coercion with Bhutan as well reminding the repercussions of siding with India. With Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and even Bangladesh offering Beijing more leverage in South Asia against India than ever before, Bhutan could play a critical role for China: firstly in furthering its strategic depth against India’s northeastern periphery; second in restraining its Tibetan dilemma from spilling over into Bhutan; and lastly, in stopping Bhutan from being guided by Indian concerns alone.

Given the importance of the historical context in explaining the China-Bhutan dynamics, the first section deals with the historical-contemporary trajectory. The second section focuses on the contemporary geopolitical aims and objectives of China in particular in South Asia vis-a-cis India and the missing links that Bhutan could fill. Tibet’s and India’s inevitable influence both political and cultural on the China-Bhutan relationships will be part of the entire discussion.

I
China and Bhutan: Historical & Contemporary Contexts

China’s embrace of its external periphery states was historically influenced by what is now construed as the Chinese notion of international system, that is, the tributary system (Zhang and Buzan 2012: 3).

The Tibetan plateau probably with the exception of its Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) when Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo unified Tibet and forced the Chinese Emperor Taizong to enter into a marriage alliance gave birth only to what could be termed limited states. Whatever influence China ever had over Tibet or Tibet had over Bhutan and Nepal had an important logistical determinant. The communication and connectivity concerns required that even if Tibet was some form of a tributary state, the Chinese required Tibetans to be in charge of most of their affairs including even foreign affairs, occasionally letting them get away with near independence level of autonomy (Xinhua, 29 April 2013).

leaders who are actually leading

By Ian Bremmer
August 15, 2013 

Earlier this summer, as I watched the Pope attract millions as he toured Brazil, I noticed how rare the scene was. Here was a man in control of an embattled institution, and he had somehow rallied his troops. By going back to the basics of Catholic belief—embracing humility, supporting the downtrodden, asking for sacrifice— as well as pushing the envelope (with his more progressive stance on homosexuality, for example), Pope Francis had begun to rehabilitate the church. It was viable leadership: the kind that motivates, inspires, and unites.

This is becoming increasingly rare. We live in a world where no single country or group of countries can provide dominant, sustainable global leadership—G-Zero, as I call it—and that’s in large part because so many countries lack solid leadership at home. As I look around the world, I see only three leaders of major countries that, like the pope, are managing to squelch opposition, carve out a more impactful role for themselves, and undertake difficult reforms, all while leveraging their popularity and consolidating their strength.

In Japan, Shinzo Abe, the country’s former and also new prime minister, has enjoyed extraordinary popularity since reemerging as a national leader last year. Abe, who had a disappointing stint as prime minister in 2006-2007, has come back with force, promoting a namesake economics plan that has Japan shedding its “lost decades” and inspiring Japanese citizens. So far, “Abenomics” is producing some impressive results. Profits among major Japanese companies in the 2nd quarter of this year were double the figure a year ago. Private consumption in the same period increased 3.8 percent on an annualized basis. The Nikkei stock average is up over 30 percent this year.

He’s young, charismatic, and his administration’s approval rating has hovered in the 60 percent range throughout most of his term (though it has declined over time). His leadership was given a further vote of confidence in an upper house election this summer when his ruling coalition scored a landslide victory and consolidated its party. For now, Japanese see Abe and his policies as the best shot Japan has had in a long time at getting its mojo back.

Likewise for Xi Jinping, China’s President. I’ve covered his popularity in another column, including his aspirational “Chinese Dream” speeches, the apocryphal urban legend of Xi taking cab rides to talk to commoners, and his charming improvisation with world leaders. Xi’s latest legend-burnishing photo op is of him holding his own umbrella with his pant legs rolled up. It’s an innocent gesture, with deeper bureaucracy-shaking undertones for his Chinese constituents. With the help of a centralized government, he has the hold of his people through a mix of accessibility and charisma.

The ‘To Hell with Them’ Doctrine

August 16, 2013 

The attitude that there’s little the U.S. can do for the Muslim world is back. By

On patrol in Farah Province, Afghanistan, June, 2009. 

Maybe everyone is misreading America’s views on foreign policy?

Among Republicans, there’s a big argument between the so-called isolationist wing of the party and the ostensibly interventionist wing. On the left, there’s a similar debate (though liberals are never described as isolationists no matter how isolationist they might be). Among Democrats, the dividing lines are murkier if for no other reason than the Democratic party takes its lead from President Obama, and his own views are murky, to put it charitably.

The biggest boon to the anti-interventionists is the simple political reality that Americans just don’t want to intervene in Syria. They also want to get out of Afghanistan. They don’t seem to care much that Iraq is slowly sliding back into chaos. The footage out of Egypt may be horrific, but I would be surprised by any groundswell of sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some commentators paint all of this as part of a general isolationist or inward-looking attitude on the part of the American people. And Lord knows that after so much American blood and treasure has been spilt since 9/11, nearly everyone is war-weary.

But there’s a simpler reason for American reluctance to intervene in the Middle East that plays a much bigger role in people’s attitudes about foreign policy. It can be summed up with the words “to hell with them.”

I borrow the phrase from my National Review colleague Rich Lowry. In 2006, as even the rosiest scenarios in Iraq turned gray, Lowry wrote an essay on how the Bush administration was losing the support of the “to hell with them” hawks. These were, in Lowry’s words, “conservatives who are comfortable using force abroad, but have little patience for a deep entanglement with the Muslim world, which they consider unredeemable, or at least not worth the strenuous effort of trying to redeem.”

Why U.S. hasn't cut aid to Egypt

By David Rothkopf, Special to CNN

August 16, 2013 

Wreckage and debris litter the area around the Al-Fateh mosque in Cairo, where hundreds of Islamist protesters had barricaded themselves on Saturday, August 17. Thousands defied an emergency order by taking to the streets the day before to mark a "Friday of anger" in support of ousted President Mohamed Morsy. Look back at Egypt's unrest.














STORY HIGHLIGHTS

David Rothkopf: After Egypt slaughter, U.S. response was criticized as puny, impotent
He says cutting funds might feel good, but will cede U.S. leverage to Arab nations offering aid
He says real impact requires strong political, economic diplomacy at highest levels
Rothkopf: U.S. has choice: embrace risks of engagement, or be passive, accept less clout

Editor's note: David Rothkopf writes regularly for CNN.com. He is CEO and editor-at-large of the FP Group, publishers of Foreign Policy magazine, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

(CNN) -- The slaughter of hundreds in Egypt this week was horrifying. The response of the United States to that slaughter seemed puny and impotent. The president and the secretary of state offered strongly worded condemnations, and the United States canceled its participation in a military exercise that probably wouldn't have happened anyway, given the unrest.

Around the world critics suggested the United States was either effectively condoning the violence or sending a strong message that it wouldn't penalize the Egyptian military for this or future harshness. It didn't help that after his statement the president slipped off for a round of golf.

U.S. military needs Egypt for access to critical area

Jim Michaels, USA TODAY 
 August 17, 2013

Story Highlights

Access to the Suez Canal critical for U.S. military missions in the Middle East

The United States sends $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt each year

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has spoken to Egypt's military leader six times in recent weeks

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is heavily dependent on Egypt to move personnel and equipment to Afghanistan and around volatile parts of the Middle East, complicating U.S. efforts to place pressure on the Egyptian military in the wake of its violent crackdown on protesters.

"Egypt has been a cornerstone for the U.S. military presence in the Middle East," said James Phillips, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

During the past year, more than 2,000 U.S. military aircraft flew through Egyptian airspace, supporting missions in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East, according to U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the region.

About 35 to 45 U.S. 5th Fleet naval ships pass through the Suez Canal annually, including carrier strike groups, according to the Bahrain-based fleet. Egypt has allowed U.S. warships to be expedited, which often means getting to the head of a very long line of ships waiting for access to the canal.

"The Egyptian military has always been good to us," said Kenneth Pollack, an analyst at the Brookings Institution.


Egyptian cooperation is particularly critical at a time when the Pentagon is facing budget pressures and tensions with Iran remain high.

The Name of War


In 1881 the United States government published the first of many volumes of the official records of its war with the Confederate States of America. That massive resource has been a first port of call for historians, amateur and professional, since the moment of its publication; today digitization has made it even more widely accessible. Its shorthand nickname is the O.R., for Official Records. It can come as a surprise, then, to see that its full title is The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. It was called that because the rebellion was what the people who actually fought the war, especially but not only on the Union side, were most likely to call it. Understanding why helps us to better understand how the war’s participants understood the conflict, and how they remembered it.

During the war, Northerners and Southerners sometimes used the uncapitalized phrase “civil war” as a declarative description of the mess in which they found themselves, but Civil War was not yet a proper noun. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war,” President Lincoln famously declared in the Gettysburg Address. Less famously, Lt. James Langhorne of the 4th Virginia Infantry lamented to his mother, “I think our country is doomed to a civil war of years duration.” Throughout the struggle Confederates likewise spoke of the “civil war,” or just “this war.”

But most often, Northerners referred to the war as a rebellion. They commonly used phrases like “this rebellion” and “the great rebellion.” Northerners followed the course of the war in Frank Moore’s popular Rebellion Record, which began to run in 1861, and Lincoln himself frequently used the word “rebellion” to describe the war in public and in private. Rebellion was simply what Union soldiers, and sometimes even Confederate ones, called the war. It seemed as natural as calling a tree “a tree.” The perpetually grouchy Massachusetts soldier Roland Bowen grumped that “we have not done much toward putting down this Rebellion yet,” for example, while the Floridian Roderick Gaspero Shaw worried that if Confederates did not kick the Yankees out of Georgia by the spring of 1864, the “Rebellion will tremble.” And of course, Northerners blasted Confederates as “rebels,” a label that many Confederates proudly adopted. But what did it mean to call the war a rebellion?

Lincoln understood the importance of semantics. “It might seem, at first thought, to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called ‘secession’ or ‘rebellion,’” he told Congress in July 1861. “The movers, however, well understand the difference.” Lincoln thought that secession was an act of rebellion against democratic self-government. A disgruntled minority had captured the reins of power in the South and rode it out of the Union because it did not like the way a presidential election turned out. This act defied the core principle of democratic self-government, for elections have validity only when all parties agree to abide by results, even when they don’t like them. If self-government was to survive, then the rejection of – rebellion against – a fairly and freely elected government had to be defeated. As Lincoln put it, “It is now for [us] to demonstrate to the world, that those who can fairly carry an election, can also suppress a rebellion.”