27 August 2013

‘Rogue’ acts on LoC

By Gurmeet Kanwal

Raise the cost for Pakistan army’s proxy war

IN recent months the Pakistan army has been behaving in a rather aggressive manner on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir in blatant violation of the mutually observed ceasefire. Its rogue actions have included the beheading of an Indian soldier in January 2013 and an ambush on the Indian side of the LoC, which resulted in the death of five Indian soldiers in the Poonch sector. Since then, there have been daily incidents of trans-LoC firing, including in the relatively quiet Kargil sector. The Indian army has responded appropriately to this unprovoked firing.

The Pakistan army has denied that its personnel were involved in the ambush on August 6 and that so-called Kashmiri terrorists may have sneaked across the LoC and ambushed the Indian patrol. This preposterous denial lacks credibility as every military professional familiar with the LoC environment knows that incidents of this nature can occur only with the direct involvement, wholehearted operational planning and full logistics support of the Pakistan army.

Complex operations by Border Action Teams (BATs) are invariably led by personnel of the Special Services Group (SSG, Pakistan's Special Forces) and include specially selected regular soldiers. A large-sized terrorist group simply cannot get through the Pakistan army's well-coordinated forward defences, navigate the anti-personnel minefields and then come back safely after several rounds of firing have taken place and plenty of noise has been generated. In short, explicit connivance is an inescapable prerequisite for a trans-LoC raid to succeed.

Why did the Pakistan army orchestrate such an incident at a time when the Nawaz Sharif government wishes to reach out to India? General Kayani has himself admitted that India is not Pakistan's number one national security threat and that the danger lies within. Quite obviously, the Pakistan army is not in sync with Prime Minister Sharif regarding his policy of normalising relations with India and would like to keep the pot simmering in Kashmir. Though it has carefully calibrated the number of incidents of violence and the targets to be attacked, the army considers it necessary to keep the machinery created for terrorism and insurgency well-oiled so that the so-called Jihad can be ratcheted up when needed.

Perhaps the Pakistan army is of the view that the Jihad in Kashmir is flagging and needs to be revived through a series of spectacular incidents designed to raise the morale of terrorists. Lt Gen Gurmit Singh, GOC, 15 Corps, has said that 28 hard core terrorists have been eliminated since June 24. Of these, 18 were killed while attempting to infiltrate. Approximately 500 terrorists now remain, including sleeper cells, and about 2,000 are waiting in Pakistan and PoK to be inducted. The Indian army is making it difficult for them due to sustained counter-infiltration operations. This summer has seen a major increase in the number of attempts that are being made to infiltrate newly trained terrorists. According to a statement made by Defence Minister A. K. Antony in Parliament, there have been 57 violations of the ceasefire agreement so far this year compared with 93 in 2012. Most such violations are of small arms fire to aid and facilitate infiltration across the LoC.

On another plane, there could be a connection with the situation in Afghanistan. The incident on the LoC has come close on the heels of the ISI-sponsored attack on India's consulate in Jalalabad. Is the Pakistan army sending a message to India to reduce its involvement in Afghanistan, particularly its military aid and training support to the Afghan National Army? It is well known that the Pakistan army is deeply concerned with the support India enjoys in Afghanistan and India’s continuing commitment to Afghan reconstruction and would like to limit India's influence.

On Kabul, take a wider view

Aug 26 2013

It is in India's interests to encourage dialogue between Karzai and Sharif

Today, Hamid Karzai will call on Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad. Since 2002, Karzai has made 19 trips to Pakistan, but this is the first time he will meet Sharif since the latter's election as the new prime minister of the country.

There are many bones of contention. Afghanistan continues to accuse its neighbour of harbouring the Taliban leadership in Quetta and nurturing terrorist outfits — including the Haqqani network — which have been attacking not only Nato forces and Afghan National Army (ANA) personnel, but also the Indian embassy and consulates. Kabul is particularly resentful of Pakistan's alleged sabotaging of the reconciliation process. The first chief of the High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed in 2011 by the Taliban. The assassin, according to Kabul, came from Pakistan. Moreover, moderate Taliban voices open to holding independent dialogue with the Karzai government are allegedly being systematically eliminated.

In 2010, Abdul Ghani Baradar, Mullah Omar's key operational aide, who was covertly in touch with officials from Kabul, was arrested. Meanwhile, Mullah Omar is allegedly being held in a safe-house in Pakistan. The struggle, apparently, is over the ownership of the peace process. Karzai wants moderate Taliban voices to be free of Pakistani influence so as to have a truly Afghan-led peace process. Pakistan wants to retain its strategic significance in the Afghan political landscape by controlling the peace process.

Islamabad, for its part, accuses Afghanistan of offering a safe haven to Islamist groups targeting the Pakistani state, including Maulana Fazlullah, a leader of the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law) and Mangal Bagh Afridi of the Lashkar-e-Islam. The TNSM, now allied with the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), had come to the rescue of the Afghan Taliban in 2001 and may well attack Pakistan from that side of the border now that the withdrawal of Nato forces is giving militants room for manoeuvre. Lashkar-e-Islam, a smaller militant outfit, continues operating in the Khyber Tribal Agency, while its leadership frequently travels to the Nangarhar province in Afghanistan.

Karzai may also be asked, once again, to recognise the Durand Line as an international border in order to ward off the risk of Pashtunistan. But there is another, more immediate cause for concern for Islamabad: the Indo-Afghan rapprochement that materialised in 2011 after the first "strategic partnership" ever signed by Kabul. This agreement is problematic from the Pakistani point of view. First, New Delhi has committed itself to training Afghan soldiers in counter-insurgency operations. Second, India would provide arms to its partner. Indeed, that was the reason for Karzai's visit to India in May, according to Pakistani officials, who made it clear that they disapproved of it.

In spite of the trust deficit resulting from the factors mentioned above, Afghans and Pakistanis know that they have to come to terms with reality. That implies talks as well as compromises.

In little more than a year, most of the Nato forces will have withdrawn from Afghanistan. The US may retain military bases, but these will not enable Kabul to control territory beyond cities. Certainly, the ANA will get arms and training, but it will probably not be in a position to resist a full-fledged Taliban offensive. Worse, fractured along ethnic lines, it might even break up if the current Afghan political elite fails to mend its internal differences.

Nuclear weapons, costs and myths

Aug 27, 2013

The question is whether nuclear weapons have made us more secure against potential adversaries.

We have not had a dispassionate debate in our country about nuclear weapons: whether they have really enhanced our security or merely made us feel good about ourselves, whether they have helped in reducing our dependence and expenditure on conventional weapons, or whether the various doctrines propounded mainly by Americans during the course of the Cold War, such as mutually assured destruction, first-strike capability, second-strike capability (the basis of our "nuclear doctrine"), etc are valid, or serve any useful purpose for us.

The nuclear jargon created by "strategic" thinkers in the West might have made sense at the time, but the situation is not reproducible in our region. America and the Soviet Union did not share a land boundary, did not have emotional territorial disputes and neither was thirsting to avenge military defeat. In our region, all these factors are present, and they throw doubt on the usefulness of atomic weapons. The most relevant one for the purpose of our discussion is the doctrine of second strike. It says that if Pakistan, for example, were to attack first with nuclear weapons, we would retain the capacity to absorb the shock and destruction, and to retaliate in second strike (since we would be the second one to strike) and inflict unacceptable damage on Pakistan — indeed, erase it altogether. Ergo, Pakistan will never dare attack India. But this theory has already been proved wrong.

The first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed about 1,20,000 people and destroyed more than half the city. If a bomb of similar destructive power were to be dropped on Delhi, the casualties would be 10 times greater, considering the density of population and the nature of the habitation. Are we seriously to believe that, in the wake of such massive destruction, the government, irrespective of its composition, could retain the cohesion, the nerve, the command and control chain, no matter how convincing it might look on paper, to actually launch a counter nuclear attack? Where is the guarantee that the initial strike by Pakistan would not destroy the governing structures and that there might not be anyone left to take and pass on the necessary orders? We would, of course, be able to retain many of our nukes, since they would have been dispersed across the country and some of them would be deployed underwater in submarines.

Our nuclear theorists would argue that that is precisely the point. Since both countries would realise that the other side would have saved some of its nukes from the initial strike by the other side, there would, in fact, be no nuclear exchange. In other words, nuclear weapons are meant never to be used; they are weapons of dissuasion or deterrence and are meant to guarantee that there would be a permanent no-war situation. Their only purpose is to deter any large-scale hostilities; if they have ever to be used, whatever the circumstances, the rationale for having them would have been disastrously defeated.

There is no way to prove or disprove the deterrent theory. But there are more examples of the deterrence theory not working ever since the nuclear era began. In a slim volume titled Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons, author Ward Wilson makes a most credible case to demolish the myth, nurtured by both the Americans and the Japanese for their respective reasons, that Hiroshima forced Japan to surrender unconditionally. Constraints of space do not permit elaboration of his argument, but his short point is that destruction, irrespective of its magnitude, does not cause defeat; it was not Hiroshima or Nagasaki but the Soviet declaration of war against Japan on August 8 that compelled Japan to surrender.



India must repulse the intruders and also talk to Pakistan

Freezing relations with Pakistan and temporarily stalling secretary-level talks tentatively scheduled for September appears to be the preferred choice for commentators and experts alike. To be sure, Opposition representatives of all stripes make clear that the very idea of dialogue requires urgent revision. Indeed, there is much merit to the argument. After all, the unjustifiable and challenging attacks across the line of control are said to continue unabated. Indian army spokesmen make clear that Pakistani Border Action Teams or a mix of Pakistani regular soldiers and un-uniformed non-State actors supported by Pakistan are likely to continue their campaign along the border.

Tellingly, Pakistan’s print media — or at least selective English language newspapers — have adopted a somewhat more cautious tone in reporting the existing state of cross-border fighting. Instead, much is made of Islamabad’s decision to release 300-odd Indian prisoners (on August 24) lingering in Pakistani jails. This is no doubt an effort to return a degree of confidence to the process of laying the groundwork for talks. There is of course a sinister duality in an approach whereby targeted attacks are launched from the same country as the gesture of peace, but such is Pakistan. Such dualities ought not to surprise anyone.

To be sure, the current state of alert is a potent example of how and why dealing with Pakistan necessarily requires a strategy designed to address or at least partially appreciate the constraints and motivations placed on decisionmakers in both Islamabad — the political abode — and Rawalpindi — home to Pakistan’s military tsars. Cynics would of course suggest that it is not the responsibility of one sovereign state to consider the internal and fractious politics of another. This logic has little or no practicable meaning whatsoever. ‘Knowing your opponent’, as Sun Tzu loosely argued, is the first principle of strategy.

Opposition elites loosely advocate stalling talks and adopting a muscular strategy designed to push back Pakistani sponsored actions. In short, many representatives in the past week have suggested escalation. Devising a ‘befitting reply’ and ‘teaching them a lesson’ have become commonplace in India’s political vocabulary. But what does all this mean? What exactly is it that India can do? In its simplest definition, strategy is about practising that which leads to a set of intended outcomes. Thereby, the key question that requires greater introspection is what is that India would like from its relations with Pakistan? Such a question need not require debating two polar ends of an argument: of either talking or not talking, rather, working towards an end that suits what might be called Indian interests.

There is, of course, much confusion and debate with regards to what these interests might be. A minority on the extreme fringe of the political Right seems to think that military intervention inside Pakistan is likely to end the threat of conflict. It does not take much to see why such poorly constructed ideas are less worthy of attention. Leaving aside the obvious fact that Pakistan too enjoys the comfort of many nuclear weapons, the key question of course is: has intervention in the past decade reduced the potential for bloodshed and inspired the hunger for peace? Those living in Afghanistan or Palestine or even Libya are certainly less enthused by tough talk. It is not hard to see why any form of Indian military intervention in Pakistan — no matter how limited it might be — would only unite a disenfranchised polity inspired by the hunger for war. Even peacemakers cannot be expected to swallow humiliation.

Will INDU Windfall the Simulation Culture in Indian Defence Forces

On 23 May 2013, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone of Indian National Defence University (INDU) at Binola near Gurgaon. The establishment of the university was recommended by the Kargil Review Committee constituted on 29 July 1999 to “Review the events leading up to the Pakistani aggression in the Kargil District of Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir and to recommend such measures as are considered necessary to safeguard national security against such armed intrusions." It took over a decade for the cabinet to accord ‘in principle’ approval in 2010 and then a few more years for laying the foundation stone. Notwithstanding the delay, the University when completed will mark an important step in spread of strategic culture in India undertaking long-term defence and strategic studies and creating synergy between the academic community and Government functionaries. It will promote policy-oriented research on all aspect relating to national security as an input to strategic national policy making and encourage awareness of national security issues by reaching out to scholars and an audience beyond the official machinery. Presently, Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS), in consultation with the defence ministry is refining the detailed modalities of INDU to include its organisation, hierarchy, staffing norms and curriculum. Expected to be completed by 2018-19, the President of India would be the Visitor, the Defence Minister would be the Chancellor and an officer of the rank of Army Commander from Army (or his equivalent from Air Force or Navy), selected on merit, would be the Vice Chancellor or the President. The faculty shall comprise defence officers and a civil faculty comprising civil services, foreign countries, diplomats, academics and strategic planners.

The University will conduct courses of varying durations on numerous subjects including Wargaming and Simulation. It is proposed to have four colleges, one of them being Indian Institute of Defence Technology (IIDT). A Department of Wargaming and Simulations is slated to be established under the IIDT. Thus, article aims to analyse whether, given the current institutional thought process, INDU can jump-start the proliferation of ‘Simulations Culture’ in Indian Defence Forces. This may be difficult to achieve if the process of establishing INDU continues in the way it is planned now, and would require major implementation changes. There is a strong requirement to address certain major issues about the planned structures and ethos being given to this proposed neonate. Firstly we will review the organisational structure and staffing norms as planned, and then, the establishment of Department of Wargaming and Simulations as part of INDU will be specifically analysed.

Autonomy of the Proposed Institution.

The Prime Minister’s Bulletin board[i] on the proposed INDU states: -
“It is meant to ensure that our country, our government and our armed forces benefit from the best military advice that is available. It is meant to provide … for our thinkers and policymakers to understand the complexities of war and conflict....(the nation) would then be able to fulfill the vision of the late Dr. K. Subrahmanyam who, in proposing the establishment of the National Defence University, had highlighted the need to educate and adequately prepare national security leaders to enable them to look at security challenges holistically and frame policies based on informed research”.

However, if the proposed university is to be funded from the defence budget and the Defence Minister is to be the Chancellor, it would definitely render it and its departments vulnerable to official interference and administrative inconvenience. The fate of the judgments and adjudications of Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), which is straining at its leash under the MoD is a case in point. More so, principled intentions notwithstanding, the official functionaries in our country (both military and civil) are well known to be allergic to ‘external advices’, resenting criticism and seldom honouring difference of opinions. It should not happen that the INDU falls in the trap of ‘toeing the line of the master’. Autonomy, not only in leadership but also in ‘funding pattern’ is a prerequisite that will go a long way in liberating the establishment in rendering credibly feasible advice.

Why should our soldiers ‘be nice’ to Pakistanis asks a Common Man

26 Aug , 2013

While reading an article in the Hindustan Times which advocated more talks and less fighting with Pakistan, in response to the article, I stumbled upon a series of comments by a gentleman who calls himself ‘Pink’, which left me dumbfounded. Because if true, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise, the implications are staggering, not just for the Indian Army, but also for the nation.

Indian Army officers need to be far more direct and stick their neck out but they are genuinely worried about the consequences to the army…

The article was published two days after the ambush of an Indian patrol by Pakistani soldiers in the Poonch Sector, in which five Indian troopers were gunned down. Subsequently, Defence Minister AK Antony gave a clean chit to the Pakistani army, saying the killers were dressed in Pakistani army uniform. He was forced to retract that statement following the outrage that followed.

But nevertheless, says Pink, ‘There is pressure (on the army) from the government to be ‘nice’ to the Pakis and militants and some careers have ended when officers have stood by their guns.’

I have taken the liberty of compiling some of Pink’s comments below. These comments deserve a response from the government, which seems to be bent on neutering the Indian army in a methodical, diabolical manner. It is time we Indians stood up for our forces.

- Ramananda Sengupta.


Comments by Pink:

The current government is proving itself so incompetent and is down right hand in glove with paki establishment in wanting to obsolve pakis on any wrong doing what so ever!! I wonder if power that be wanted to issue statement saying aliens came and caused the “incident”! I have a question for gurus, Can there be a political pressure on Army to not to retaliate even for such a gross provocation? Does it mean the local commanders have to offer drinks and snacks to invaders and twiddle their thumbs while PMO and MEA pour over language in a draft to be read out to indian parliament to ensure that Indian public does not think paki’s are responsible for ongoing terror against India! What kind of compulsion makes current government act and behave as they do??

And what happened ..he was sacked overnight on the insistence of Brajesh Mishra for doing his job.

A Dream Gone Sour

AUGUST 22, 2013

In the 70-plus days since Pakistan's new prime minister took office, the country has suffered roughly 70 terrorist attacks. So why doesn't Nawaz Sharif have a counterterrorism policy?

Sixty-six years ago last week, Pakistan came into existence on the Night of Destiny, the holiest night in the Islamic calendar -- on which, according to tradition, the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over 1,400 years ago in the outskirts of Mecca.

For many Pakistanis, this was not mere coincidence, but evidence that the Muslim homeland was born of Providence. In what later became the state-backed nationalist narrative, Pakistan would not only be indelibly linked with the Islamic faith, but it would also be a nation with a mission beyond its borders -- a nation that would ostensibly help reawaken the sleeping Muslim world whose glory days seemed far behind it.

Alas, Pakistan today is, in the words of Roedad Khan, a bureaucrat who served five Pakistani presidents, "a dream gone sour." Pakistan suffered more terrorist attacks than any other country in the world in 2012, has thesecond-largest number of children without access to schools, and boasts one of the world's lowest tax-to-GDP ratios. The rancidity of the dream appears to grow with each passing day. 

As for Islam, the glue that once bound Pakistanis together is now increasingly a dividing force that defines the blood-stained boundaries between them. The Islamic Republic is in the midst of what will likely be a long warwithin, as some jihadists who once served as instruments of the military fight their erstwhile patrons. They seek to impose a radical Islamic state upon Pakistan's 190 million people and subdue its religious minorities, including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis, and Shiite Muslims, whom they believe to be kuffar, or infidels, and worthy of death.
This domestic threat looms large in the minds of Pakistan's military leadership. It is the threat from Pakistani jihadists -- not India, not Afghanistan, and not America -- that was the exclusive focus of the remarks by the Pakistani army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, at an Independence Day celebration on the evening of Aug. 13. Kayani warned Pakistanis not to bow down before terror and called on the country's political leadership to form a national security strategy. Pakistan, he said, was conceived as a land in which "the personal and religious liberties of minorities" would be secure like those of its majority populace.

In an allusion to Pakistan's growing sectarian strife, the army chief's address was preceded by the recitation of select verses from the Quran that were originally directed at warring Arabian tribes. These verses call on Muslims to stand together and avoid division, reminding them: "You were on the verge of falling headlong into the abyss of fire, but God saved you."

For Pakistan, the abyss of fire is indeed near. Tens of thousands of Pakistanis have been killed by terrorists and insurgents since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States -- and the scourge of terror shows no signs of abating. Despite a number of relatively successful counterinsurgency operations, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) remain capable of hitting most Pakistani urban centers. And the threat has only increased since the new federal government came into power in June.

Is China Building an “Aircraft Carrier in Disguise?”

By Zachary Keck
August 26, 2013

Earlier this month a series of pictures posted on Chinese military forums appeared to show that China was building its first indigenous aircraft carrier, prompting much speculation and commentary including fromThe Diplomat.

Now some claim that this narrative might have been mistaken.

According to Japan’s Kyodo News, Kanwa Information Center, a private Canadian think tank, has published a report that claims that the pictures do not show an aircraft carrier. Instead, the Kanwa report—which is based on Ukraine military sources— says the vessel under construction is China’s first amphibious assault ship capable of carrying hovercraft and helicopters.

In other words, if the report is accurate, China is building a Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA)-like ship not completely unlike the Izumo-class helicopter destroyer Japan launched earlier this month, which Chinese analysts referred to as an “aircraft carrier in disguise.” 

Kanwa says the vessel is being built at a shipyard on Shanghai's Changxing Island and could be commissioned as early as 2015. It will reportedly displace 35,000 tons, roughly double what China’s three existing Type 071 amphibious assault ships, which displace between 17,000-20,000 tons and cannot launch helicopters, according to Sino-Defense. The same source says the Type 071 ships were built by Shanghai-based Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard. The location of Changxing Island, suggests that Jiangnan Shipyard is constructing the new vessel.

Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyer reportedly displaces between 20,000-25,000-tons.

China’s new LHA will carry four hovercraft and up to 20 helicopters, according to Kyodo News, which cited the Kanawa report.

There’s reason to think the Kanwa report is accurate. Indeed, last November a Chinese admiral told CCTV, China’s official broadcaster, that the PLAN was building a 40,000-ton amphibious assault ship similar to the U.S. Navy’s LHA.

According to China-Defense Mashup, Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo said on CCTV last November, “WZ-10 and WZ-19 may deployed in China’s future amphibious assault ship. And China now is developing a new generation of amphibious ship, 40000 ton displacement, like U.S. Navy Landing Helicopter Assault LHD ship. The heavy transportation helicopters on this amphibious assault ship will be escorted by armed choppers like WZ-10 and WZ-19.”

The Chinese Can't Stage a Decent Show Trial

Vehicles transport former Chinese politician Bo Xilai (right car) as policemen blocked his faces with a board in the back of the vehicle after the third day of his trial at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court on August 24, 2013 in Jinan, China. 

The trial of the decade — against former party heavyweight, Bo Xilai – has become a disaster for the new Chinese leadership. The charismatic Bo’s forceful assertions of innocence against charges of petty corruption and misuse of office have enlivened his supporters and made his accusers look weak and petty.

Joseph Stalin mastered the political show trial. His first, against sixteen of Lenin’s deputies and Trotsky allies, lasted five days. His second, against seventeen party officials, lasted a week. The third, against the twenty-one members of the “Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites,” lasted almost two weeks in the presence of invited diplomats and journalists.

Stalin orchestrated his show trials as carefully staged rituals. In each, the defendants’ confessions were extracted well before the trial. They dutifully confessed in public court to horrendous crimes of murder, espionage, and treason. Official newsreels showed the repentant traitors begging for mercy. With few exceptions the defendants received the death penalty and were shot within a day or two of the trial. The Soviet press condemned the “mad dogs” in incessant drumbeats of vitriol. Factory workers organized “spontaneous” meetings to demand the supreme penalty. Confused diplomats and journalists, many of whom did not understand Russian, sat in the court room as interpreters whispered in their ears. They concluded that the show trials had exposed real plots against a Soviet Union, which had narrowly averted overthrow by sinister forces from within and without. What a success for Mr. Stalin!

Stalin would erupt in laughter at the pantywaist show trial of the disgraced party leader, Bo Xilai, currently underway in Beijing. It violates all of Stalin’s rules for a successful show trial.

First, the charge must be dead serious – an assassination plot, foreign espionage, or something of similar weight. Mr. Bo stands accused of accepting bribes, adding up to a less than five million (not billion) dollars, and misusing his office. In hearing such charges, ordinary Chinese citizens know that their own local officials have also misused their offices and stolen as much or more. When the New York Timesreported (using information supplied by Bo supporters) that premier Wen Jibao’s extended family had accumulated $2.7 billion in wealth, the Chinese internet reacted that “Grandpa Wen” was honest because he and his family stole so little. Corruption is simply a fact of daily life in China.

Second, the prosecutors and secret police must have leverage to extract a confession to a serious crime, either by torture or threats to family members. So far, Bo’s confession is that he “made mistakes” while he denies the specific charges. In Bo’s case, his wife is already under a suspended death sentence for poisoning an English business associate, and his son is safe in America (with a healthy bank account). Bo’s accusers have no leverage. When one of Stalin’s victims did not behave in court, the court recessed so that he could be beaten into submission. It would be difficult, to say the least, to recess and torture Bo into better court room behavior.

India & China: Looking Beyond Border Incursions & Li Keqiang's VisitLi Visit

By Jayadeva Ranade

As the dust settles after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India and accompanying intrusions, it will be prudent to objectively assess the nature of the China-India relationship over the longer term. An episodic evaluation will be misleading, particularly as the timing of these intrusions marks them out as of significance. They are also an escalation of the unfriendly Chinese behavior demonstrated shortly before the visits of Chinese President Hu Jintao in November 2006 and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in December 2010.
Just prior to Hu Jintao’s visit to India in 2006, China’s Ambassador in New Delhi, Sun Yuxi, publicly declared: “In our position, the whole of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory. And Tawang is only one of the places in it. We are claiming all of that”. Later, in the months prior to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit in December 2010, Beijing denied a visa to India’s Northern Army Commander and began issuing stapled visas to residents of J&K thereby implicitly designating the entire state as ‘disputed’, a stand from which it has not backed off. Barely a month earlier around the visit of Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) member Zhou Yongkang in November, an article by a senior commentator in the Party mouth-piece ‘People’s Daily’ had warned India against drawing closer to Japan in pursuit of its ‘Look East’ policy.

Contextualizing Li Keqiang’s India Visit

The circumstances surrounding Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit are relevant as are Beijing’s other actions and pronouncements. These need to be viewed in the larger perspective of the new Chinese leadership’s strategic foreign policy. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ‘China’s Dream’, in fact, promises to wipe out past humiliations and lays bold emphasis on a strong and wealthy China. 

There are adequate indications that Beijing assesses that the time is now opportune for it to push for international acceptance of what it perceives is its pre-eminent position in the region, including the Asia-Pacific. It considers that it has adequate stature and strength for it to partner the US in the resolution of international and regional issues. The recent (June 7-8, 2013) Sino-US Summit publicly stated that a start had been made in building a “new type of major power relationship”, a point which was often reiterated by the two senior Chinese interlocutors, Vice Premier Wang Yang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi, at the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED) held soon after on July 10-11, in Washington DC.

Tacit US acceptance, at least for the short-to-medium term, seemed apparent in US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon’s disclosure that the Summit had taken place at a time when the US faces “an intense range of bilateral, regional and global challenges on which U.S.-China cooperation is critical”. Describing discussions as “quite unique and important” he added that the Summit aimed to start building a “new model of relations between great powers”.

Relevant in this context are the lessening references to the ‘Asian pivot’, for which the preferred term is now ‘rebalancing’. The emphasis seems also to have shifted from the military to the economic sphere with focus on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which envisages a whole new set of rules for the international economy and trade. The US and West possibly expect to retard China’s economic growth and rise by these new rules, which will also adversely affect a number of other countries too.

Shortly prior to the Summit, China’s self-image was clearly outlined in two articles by senior commentators which were published in the Party’s official mouthpiece ‘People’s Daily’. On May 28, 2013 Jiemian Yang, Dean of the Shanghai Institute of International Studies (SIIS) and younger brother of Chinese State Councilor and former Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, candidly declared that the increase in China's comprehensive national strength had given its new leaders more confidence in dealing with the international community. Stressing that China will adhere to its own theories, systems and path of development, he emphasized that this “self-confidence” has enabled China’s leaders to be “very firm” in safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity while simultaneously being flexible in dealings with smaller countries. He revealed that they will focus more on the neighbourhood and travel oftener in the region.

Asia Eyes The Arctic

By Page Wilson
August 26, 2013

The admission this year of six new permanent observers to the Arctic Council was a pivotal moment, in more ways than one.

In May this year, Japan, China, India, South Korea, Singapore and Italy were admitted as permanent observers to the Arctic Council—a forum bringing together the eight Arctic member states (United States, Canada, Norway, Denmark (via Greenland), Russia, Sweden, Finland and Iceland), indigenous Arctic populations, and other interested parties to discuss a range of issues posed in this unique region. Formed in 1996, the Council and its work has been attracting growing worldwide attention in the wake of the record low levels of sea ice coverage documented in the summer months of 2007—a record which itself was broken last year.

That five of the six new observers to the Council are Asian states reflects two developments: first, the great interest of these states in the commercial opportunities made possible by a transformed Arctic region; and second, the Council’s need to reinforce its position as the preeminent body for the discussion of Arctic matters. Taken together, these developments suggest that the future of Arctic affairs, both inside and outside the Council, is likely to be far more complex and far more influenced by Asian actors than has been the case to date.

The economics supporting the Asian observers’ interests in the Arctic are well known. Increasingly long ice-free periods in the North West Passage (NWP) and the Northern Sea Route (NSR) due to the effects of climate change raise the prospect of a quicker and cheaper transit for Asian products destined for Europe than that currently provided by the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal.

In a speech given a few days after South Korea was accepted as an observer, its Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs estimated that by using the NSR, travel time and distance between the shipping hub of Busan and Rotterdam would be reduced by about thirty per cent – leading him to refer to the new route as the “Silk Road of the Twenty-First Century.” Shipping in the other direction—from Europe to Asia via the NSR—has also begun, with the first Japanese-owned ship carrying Russian iron ore concentrate from the Kola Peninsula to China in 2011. Presently, China is attempting its first commercial transit of the NSR, expecting the journey time between Dalian and Rotterdam to be reduced to 35 days, instead of the usual 48 days. The dangers associated with the traditional Suez Canal route—namely, piracy around the Horn of Africa—only adds to the appeal of new Arctic shipping lanes, despite the considerable uncertainty that still surrounds their viability in one of the world’s harshest environments.

Should regular, commercial, maritime activity in the Arctic become a reality, then this is likely to be a mixed blessing for global shipping hubs such as Singapore and South Korea. On the one hand, less traffic to these hubs as companies increasingly choose to “go over the top” means the direct economic contribution gained from marine transport will drop. On the other, the expertise these states have in related areas—including port infrastructure management, ship-building, plus offshore and marine engineering—will itself count as a valuable resource, particularly for certain Arctic states with an eye on the burgeoning economic opportunities in the region, but with little up-to-date experience in these areas.

A second economic rationale underpinning Asian observers’ interest in the region is its resources. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that the Arctic contains 30% of the world’s undiscovered reserves of natural gas, and 13% of its undiscovered oil. The same survey suggested around 84% of the Arctic’s estimated resources are located offshore. While global prices for these commodities remain high, there will be a strong incentive to explore recovery options despite the high cost and high risk involved.

John McCain, China Trade Barbs Over Senkaku Islands

By Zachary Keck
August 26, 2013

On Thursday, China slammed U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) over a statement he made in Tokyo on Wednesday, when the senior American lawmaker referred to the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands as “Japanese territory.” The senator later walked back the claim slightly.

“The Diaoyu Islands are inherent territory of China and anyone's attempt to deny the fact will end up in vain,” a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry told China Daily in a written statement.

“We urge the relevant U.S. lawmaker to stop making irresponsible remarks and avoid further complicating relevant issues and regional situation,” the statement added.

The Foreign Ministry was referring to comments McCain had made the day before to reporters following a meeting with Japan’s foreign minister.

According to Kyodo News, McCain told reporters in Tokyo, “The Congress in the United States resolution last year said the Senkaku is a Japanese territory. That is our position as a congress and as a government. I will continue to repeat that when I go to China."

This statement, his claims notwithstanding, put him at odds with U.S. policy, which maintains that Washington will not take sides on any sovereignty dispute so long as it’s resolved without the use of force or coercion.

McCain appeared to be referring to the Webb Amendment, which the Senate passed unanimously last year as an attachment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Although McCain was a co-sponsor on the amendment, he appears to have inaccurately conveyed its substance last week.

The relevant parts of the amendment were in line with U.S. policy on the issue, stating: “While the United States takes no position on the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku islands, the United States acknowledges the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands” and “the unilateral actions of a third party will not affect United States acknowledgement of the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands.”

The Senate also passed a much more extensive resolution on territorial disputes in Asia back in June of this year. This resolution went much farther in singling out China for criticism over some of its actions in the South and East China Seas, specifically its stepped up patrols and locking radar on Japanese vessels. Throughout the entire resolution, the Senate also referred to the islands only by their Japanese name, the Senkakus, except for in one instance in which it was directly quoting a Chinese official.

Still, the relevant part of the June resolution was consistent with U.S. policy of not taking sides on issues of sovereignty. “Whereas although the United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands,” the resolution said, “the United States Government acknowledges that they are under the administration of Japan and opposes any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine such administration.”

Jakarta’s Counterproductive Counterterrorism Approach

By Tyler McBrien
August 26, 2013

Opacity, lack of accountability, and extra-judicial killings are not criticisms reserved solely for U.S. counterterrorism policies. The Indonesian government faces similar grievances, domestically and internationally, in its own counterterrorism campaign. With the ongoing pivot to Asia, the United States is looking to Indonesia, already a regional economic powerhouse, as a like-minded democratic partner. Encouragingly, Indonesia’s counterterrorism police, troubled by a history of human rights abuses, have begun—albeit haltingly—to admit wrongdoing in select cases. Washington should applaud Jakarta’s move toward accountability, emphasizing that a respect for human rights will not only further Indonesia’s counterterror operations but strengthen its nascent partnership with the United States. 

Last week, Densus 88, Indonesia’s elite counterterrorism police force, lauded for its widespread success yet criticized for human rights abuses, released two suspected terrorists due to lack of evidence. Emerging from police captivity with bruised wrists, the two men were placed in the custody of a leader from Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah. The handover came on the heels of protests from the human rights group Indonesian Police Watch (IPW) and an investigation from Muhammadiyah, who still demand an explanation from police. Although the unit enjoys strong Indonesian public opinion, the controversial Densus 88 is plagued by frequent protests and rebukes. While shrugging off criticism seems to be Densus 88 standard operating procedure, the recent incident showed a significant improvement in the organization’s accountability to the Indonesian public.

Formed with financial and logistical support from the United States and Australia in the wake of the 2002 Bali bombings, the 400-strong Densus 88, also known as Special Detachment 88, has enjoyed categorical success in busting up jihadi terrorist cells in Central Java. Indeed, the unit’s operations have merited due praise from some Western media outlets and even a nod from the Obama administration. However, the outfit’s shoot-first record and allegations of torture have drawn the ire of Indonesian Muslim organizations and international watchdogs alike.

Earlier this year, a video of masked Densus 88 officers harshly interrogating and continually striking several wounded suspects surfaced on YouTube. In the 14-minute video, an officer shoots one unarmed suspect in the back. This video punctuated the contentious relationship between the unit and Indonesia’s Muslim organizations, which carry considerable weight in a country with the world’s largest Muslim population. After several prominent Muslim leaders called for the disbandment of Densus 88, the National Commission on Human Rights, Komnas HAM, launched an investigation, eventually confirming the authenticity of the video. The YouTube video only added to concerns over Densus 88’s extrajudicial killings, sparking debate in the Indonesian legislature over whether or not to end the unit’s mandate.

Obama’s Guns of August

Aug. 24, 2013

President Obama will likely bomb Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. Here is the logic—and limits—for the president’s plan of attack.

Syrian army tanks in Damascus on Saturday. Obama may be considering a strike against Assad's regime.

It seems likely that President Obama will bomb Syria sometime in the coming weeks.

His top civilian and military advisers are meeting in the White House on Saturday to discuss options. American warships are heading toward the area; those already there, at least one of which had been scheduled for a port call, are standing by. Most telling perhaps is a story in the New York Times, noting that Obama’s national-security aides are studying the 1999 air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for action in Syria.

In that conflict 14 years ago, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, an autonomous province of Serbia, were being massacred by Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. President Bill Clinton, after much reluctance, decided to intervene, but couldn’t get authorization from the U.N. Security Council, where Russia—Serbia’s main ally—was certain to veto any resolution on the use of force. So Clinton turned to NATO, an appropriate instrument to deal with a crisis in the middle of Europe

The parallels with Syria are obvious. In this case too, an American president, after much reluctance, seems to be considering the use of force but can’t get authorization from the U.N. because of Russia’s (and China’s) certain veto. The pressures to act have swelled in recent days, with the growing evidence—gleaned not just from Syrian rebels but also from independent physicians’ groups and U.S. intelligence—that Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons, killing more than 1,000 civilians.

But where can Obama turn for the legitimacy of a multinational alliance? Nobody has yet said, but a possible answer is, once again, NATO—this time led perhaps by Turkey, the alliance’s easternmost member, whose leaders are very concerned by the growing death toll and instability in Syria just across their southern border.

The weapons that NATO used—and, more important, did not use—in Kosovo are also likely to appeal to President Obama. Clinton was insistent that no U.S. ground troops be sent to aid the Albanians and told his commanders to keep from losing a single American in the fight, if possible.

And so, the Kosovo campaign was, from America’s vantage, strictly an air war. (Just two U.S. servicemen were killed, and not in battle but in an Apache helicopter that crashed during an exercise.) The air war went on for what seemed, at the time, an eternity—78 days. More than 1,000 NATO planes (including the first Predator drones) flew a total of 38,000 combat sorties. The bombs—most of them dropped from altitudes of 10,000 feet and higher, to avoid air-defense batteries—seemed to have no effect on Milosevic’s actions until the final days of the campaign, and so NATO’s commanders kept adjusting and expanding the target list, which ranged from military bases, factories, and electrical power plants to individual Serbian tanks on the battlefield.

Choosing the Right Options in Syria

Aug 26, 2013

The U.S. has hard choices to make in Syria. Even if the U.S. does intervene militarily, the time window for its best option has already passed. President Obama may have had reason to be cautious and play King Log to President Bush’s King Stork, but the U.S. did not intervene when the rebels were strongest, the Assad regime most fragile, and limited U.S. support to the then dominant moderate rebel factions might well have pushed Assad out of power without dividing Syria along sectarian and ethnic lines.

Every option today comes up against the reality that Assad is now far stronger, the country is increasingly being split into Assad and rebel controlled sections, the rebels are fractured and rebel forces have strong Sunni Islamist extremist elements, and the nation is increasingly polarizing into an Alawite and more secular Sunni and minority bloc, a Sunni Arab bloc, and a Syrian Kurdish bloc. In practice, this means there is no way the U.S. can quickly use any amount of force to destroy the Assad regime with any confidence that Syria will not come under Sunni Islamist extremist control, or divide into Alawite, Sunni, and Kurdish blocs in ways that prove to be even more violent and lasting than such sectarian and ethnic divisions have in Iraq.

The U.S. is also now faced with having chosen the wrong red line. No one has accurate estimates, but the key challenge in Syria is scarcely to end the use of chemical weapons. The real challenge is some 120,000 dead, another 200,000-plus wounded, and as many as 20% of its 22.5 million people have been displaced inside the country or are living outside it as refugees. The nation has lost some three years of economic development, become a country of polarized factions, and seen many – if not most – of its children lose much of their schooling and learn to live in fear and anger in a country where more than a third of the population is 14 years of age or younger.

Chemical weapons alone are not a reason to use force. Even the most successful cruise missile strikes would not destroy Syria’s holdings. There is no credible chance the U.S. can locate or destroy Syria’s entire holding without a massive air campaign and some kind of presence on the ground. Even if the Assad regime has not done the obvious, and used the last few months to covertly disperse a large portion of its weapons, cruise missiles simply don’t have that kind of destructive power.

Even if the U.S. can somehow stop all future use of chemical weapons, the military impact will be marginal at best. Moreover, anyone who has actually seen wounds from conventional artillery -- or badly treated body wounds from small arms -- realizes that chemical weapons do not cause more horrible wounds. If anything, an agent like Sarin tends to either kill quickly or result in relative recovery. The case for intervening cannot be based on chemical weapons. It has to be based on two factors: Whether it serves American strategic interest and whether it meets the broader humanitarian needs of the Syrian people.

Americans also need to remember that the U.S. has chosen bad options in Syria before, and the sheer pointlessness of largely symbolic U.S. strikes. The pointless use of battleships to shell Druze and Syrian forces in Syria in 1983 led to the Marine Corps barracks bombing and a similar attack on French forces on October 23, 1983. U.S. mistakes and debates within the Pentagon then led the U.S. to suddenly halt its part of what might have been a meaningful, large-scale U.S.-French strike plan, have the U.S. halt its strikes without telling its French ally, and result in a totally ineffective French bombing of Syrian targets on November 16, 1983. On December 4, 1983, the U.S. finally did launch 28 airstrikes because of Syrian air defense attacks on U.S. F-14s flying reconnaissance missions. The end result, however, was a pointless attack on Syrian air defense targets, the loss of two U.S. aircraft, one pilot dead, and another held prisoner until he was rescued by the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

Reports of American decline are greatly exaggerated

By Hussein Ibish

As the debate rumbles over a potential end to American aid in Egypt, some claim that this great Arab nation isn't that important any more. They argue that while it may once have been central to the Middle Eastern political and strategic landscape, Egypt is now largely irrelevant.

This is a gross error. In fact, Egypt remains enormously important to the broader region, but such discourse reflects the growing desperation of those who want its aid cancelled. Thankfully, cooler heads are beginning to prevail in Washington, as Americans remember the importance of the US-Egypt relationship.

But the debate also subtly invokes two larger issues facing the American establishment: the "pivot to Asia," and "American declinism".

Because Egypt clearly is a major regional player, to try to argue that it's not important to the US is, in effect, to hold that the Middle East no longer has the centrality it once did to American foreign policy.

The two ideas are inextricably linked, although usually only by implication, because the dismissal of the broader Middle East is impossible to rationally defend.

The "pivot to Asia", announced by the Obama administration in 2011, was widely interpreted as a "pivot away from the Middle East".

First, there was a growing sense of "Middle East fatigue" after the fiasco in Iraq, failure in Afghanistan, and Israeli-Palestinian impasse. So it was understood as reflecting an impulse to move away from a region that seemed nothing but trouble. Second, it was interpreted as an acceptance of a shift of global power towards East Asia. Third, it was seen by many as setting up a new, more confrontational relationship with a more influential China.

But how much of a "pivot" has there actually been in the past two years? The US Air Force has certainly been reallocating its resources, much more so than other military branches. And there has indeed been an obvious increase in American diplomatic traffic to East Asia.

But the Middle East remains the central focus of American foreign policy. Whatever "pivot" may have been anticipated has yet to be implemented. For now, the US remains focused on Iran, is moving towards a deeper engagement in Syria, and has strongly recommitted to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

American Middle East policy sometimes looks confused, because the challenges are so severe while its options are limited. Indeed, this may have made the Asian "pivot" idea so attractive. But, for now, there is clearly no escaping the centrality of the Middle East.

The other debate lurking beneath the surface is that of "American declinism": the idea that American power is in some kind of free fall and therefore its foreign policy goals should be modest.

Codename 'Apalachee'

By Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark

How America Spies on Europe and the UN

President Obama promised that NSA surveillance activities were aimed exclusively at preventing terrorist attacks. But secret documents from the intelligence agency show that the Americans spy on Europe, the UN and other countries.

The European Union building on New York's Third Avenue is an office tower with a glittering facade and an impressive view of the East River. Chris Matthews, the press officer for the EU delegation to the United Nations, opens the ambassadors' room on the 31st floor, gestures toward a long conference table and says: "This is where all ambassadors from our 28 members meet every Tuesday at 9 a.m." It is the place where Europe seeks to forge a common policy on the UN.

To mark the official opening of the delegation's new offices in September 2012, EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy flew in from Brussels, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was on hand as guest of honor. For "old" Europe -- which finances over one-third of the regular UN budget -- this was a confirmation of its geopolitical importance.

For the National Security Agency (NSA), America's powerful intelligence organization, the move was above all a technical challenge. A new office means freshly painted walls, untouched wiring and newly installed computer networks -- in other words, loads of work for the agents. While the Europeans were still getting used to their glittering new offices, NSA staff had already acquired the building's floor plans. The drawings completed by New York real estate company Tishman Speyer show precisely to scale how the offices are laid out. Intelligence agents made enlarged copies of the areas were the data servers are located. At the NSA, the European mission near the East River is referred to by the codename "Apalachee".

The floor plans are part of the NSA's internal documents relating to its operations targeting the EU. They come from whistleblower Edward Snowden, and SPIEGEL has been able to view them. For the NSA, they formed the basis for an intelligence-gathering operation -- but for US President Barack Obama they have now become a political problem.

Just over two weeks ago, Obama made a promise to the world. "The main thing I want to emphasize is that I don't have an interest and the people at the NSA don't have an interest in doing anything other than making sure that (...) we can prevent a terrorist attack," Obama said during a hastily arranged press conference at the White House on August 9. He said the sole purpose of the program was to "get information ahead of time (...) so we are able to carry out that critical task," adding: "We do not have an interest in doing anything other than that." Afterward, the president flew to the Atlantic island of Martha's Vineyard for his summer vacation.

Wide Range of New Surveillance Programs

Obama's appearance before the press was an attempt to morally justify the work of the intelligence agencies; to declare it as a type of emergency defense. His message was clear: Intelligence is only gathered because there is terror -- and anything that saves people's lives can't be bad. Ever since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, this logic has been the basis for a wide range of new surveillance programs.