29 August 2013

Asia's Looming Power Shift *****

September 1, 2013
CARTOGRAPHICAL CONCEPTIONS of Asia obscure what, in strategic terms, is a “Greater Asia.” It stretches from eastern Iran through Central Asia and South Asia to Indonesia, and from the Aleutian Islands to Australia, encompassing the Russian Far East, China, Japan, the Korean Peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is connected by multifarious transactions, cooperative and adversarial, resulting from flows of trade and investment, energy pipelines, nationalities that spill across official borders, historical legacies that shape present perceptions, and shifting power ratios, within and among states. This is not a closed system; after all, many Greater Asian states are closely tied to the United States, a non-Asian Pacific state whose prowess enables it to shape power balances and political and military outcomes across the region. Yet America will face unprecedented changes in the distribution of power in Greater Asia’s eastern theater and disruptions in the western theater, as domestic constraints—economic and political—curtail its choices. That, in turn, will necessitate strategic reassessments by states in the region, particularly those that have relied on American protection. All this will undermine long-standing analytical frameworks and policies.

These looming changes cannot be fully understood through the prism of the grand theories devised to depict the post–Cold War world, including the three most prominent ones: the “Clash of Civilizations”; the “End of History”; and globalization. All three, underpinned by reductionism and historicism, miss the manifold, complex and contradictory forces shaping Greater Asia.

Samuel P. Huntington’s perception of persistent civilizational clash missed the reality that in Greater Asia states, not civilizations, remain the principal wellsprings of change. True, something akin to civilizational conflict is visible in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Sri Lanka, China, the Philippines, Pakistan and Malaysia. But, while it may threaten the cohesion of such countries, it has not integrated them into any civilizational blocs. In Asia, the effects of culture and religion are fissiparous rather than integrative and will remain so.

There is no Hindu civilization capable of mobilizing Asian loyalties and resources and aligning states’ policies to India’s benefit. Within India, Hindu nationalism—Cassandras’ cries notwithstanding—has failed to overcome the abiding appeal of secularism among the country’s founding doctrines. Though imperfect in practice, secularism has more purchase in Indian politics than ideologies based on religion and remains the signature of the Congress Party, India’s only national political organization. Partly because of its association with the North’s “Hindu heartland,” the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—previously the Bharatiya Jana Sangh—has shallow roots in southern India, the locus of much of the country’s innovation and high economic growth, and has failed to capture the national imagination. Only twice (in 1977–1980 and 1999–2004) has the BJP formed a multiyear national government. Singly or through coalitions, the Congress Party has dominated India’s national politics.


The people of Darjeeling just want what is historically due to them, writes Anjan Dutt

At the onset let me clarify that I have no political agenda and have always refrained from politics, Left or Right. Never walked in rallies except for joining the mourners at the Maidan at 17, when the theatre actor, Prabir Dutta, was shot by the police, and more recently to escort the 80 plus director, Mrinal Sen, who wanted to join the Nandigram rally. I have great friends who are communists, people fighting for women’s rights and the gay cause. I have deep respect for those who raise their voices against social injustice. But I prefer to shut up and let my work speak for itself. The reason why I chose to write this is because much of what I am stems from the place in question: Darjeeling. Once again the volcano is erupting in the hills and I thought that my audience ought to rethink before jumping to predetermined conclusions.

The issue of Gorkhaland has a very long history. Whether we agree or not, the fact remains that it is an issue that addresses the identity of the people of Darjeeling. By no ideological yardstick can one claim that Darjeeling does not have a cultural/historical identity different from that of the rest of Bengal. It logically could have been slapped onto Sikkim. The British, famous for making blunders, slapped it on to Bengal for convenience and the Bengalis always regarded it as a convenient, quick getaway from the heat. Never was there a concerted effort to integrate the folks of Darjeeling with a Greater Bengal. What has been the average Bengali’s perception of the Gorkhas or Nepalis of Darjeeling? A Daju who works in the tea gardens, or who drives you up to your hotel from Siliguri, or at best a comedian in a Dev Anand movie. How many of us really care to see their true picture as thinkers, national warriors, professionals in all the different fields of life? Why would an average Gorkha or Nepali from Darjeeling be treated like a second-class citizen in our state or country? Why should all the decisive government offices in the hills be situated in Siliguri and not the hills? Is it because most political babus will not be comfortable in that climate or language — which most never even attempt to learn throughout their tenure? Let us not split hairs over exceptions but face the fact that generally we residents of the Bengal of the plains never looked at Darjeeling as anything beyond a tourist spot or a shooting location. We never really called each other brothers. There has been and will forever be a cultural and historical divide.

When Kabir Suman (after his stint in Germany and the United States of America) and then I, started singing our own songs, strumming our guitars, wearing our faded denim, we were not Bob Dylan clones. We were Bengalis redefining our Bengali legacy. And it was Bengalis who embraced us. Not those in power, not the music industry in general, but the average Bengali.

Who gained economically? Which industry grew? The Bengali music industry. I cite this example because it is important at this crucial juncture for all Bengalis to realize that the average folk in Darjeeling are actually fighting for their identity. And any form of real development stems from one’s growth and respective identity.

What has the state been doing apart from trying not to face the real issue here? So let us not raise questions as to whether Darjeeling’s movement has the best possible leadership but ask what the movement is all about. The movement is being led by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha or Bimal Gurung because they have been chosen by the people. But the movement is not about GJM; it is about the numerous folks of Darjeeling wanting their identity, their autonomy.

Two years ago, the people of West Bengal chose an alternative government. Did anyone at that point ask whether they were choosing the ideal government or leadership? They could have waited 30 more years for the ‘best’ alternative. They did not. They took over 30 years to decry corrupt communists and then took the only alternative they had. I’m not questioning that alternative. That is neither my purpose nor is it relevant here. I am just one rooted Bong who looks at facts. And I am still willing to give my leadership more time. Because I know that it will take time to sort out years of corruption. As I know it will take years to sort out all the problems of Darjeeling caused by our own government’s nonchalance. But for this moment let us not evade the real issue of identity and support those who want their own autonomy for justified historical reasons. Let us realize that things in Darjeeling cannot get any worse. At least, given autonomy or statehood, the leadership will have to be answerable to the people there and perform. As elsewhere, there will be opposition and corruption and the newborn unit will have to steer through collaboration with the neighbouring states.

Geopolitics of oil and gas Time for India to plan its energy policies

by G. Parthasarathy

IN the aftermath of the Second World War, an energy-hungry Western alliance faced an energy-surplus Soviet Union. The world witnessed a new "Great Game" involving a quest for influence in the energy-rich Middle East, particularly the oil-rich Persian Gulf. The Carter Doctrine of 1979 brought American military power to India's doorstep. The US Central Command headquartered in Qatar and the US 5th Fleet based in Bahrain were primarily set up to prop up pro-American regimes and guarantee energy supplies for the United States and its allies.

The global energy scenario has changed dramatically in the recent past with the development of "Fracking" (hydraulic fracturing) technology in the US. American crude oil production grew by more than one million bpd in 2012, the largest increase in the world. Crude oil production jumped 14% last year to 8.9 million bpd. The US is set to replace Saudi Arabia as the largest producer of oil in the world by 2020. Even today, gas availability in the US exceeds demand and the US has surplus gas for sale. Recent surveys indicate that Canada's oil sands reserves contain the equivalent of 2 trillion barrels of conventional oil, which is more than the presently estimated reserves of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq put together. With a growing production of oil in the US and its reduced dependence on imports, the World Bank has predicted that oil prices will fall to $102 per barrel by the end of this year.

The US alone has a potential 24.4 trillion cubic metres (TCM) of gas reserves. The estimates of shale gas reserves elsewhere are: Argentina 21.9 TCM, Europe 18.1 TCM, China 36.1 TCM and Australia 11.2 TCM. India's recoverable shale reserves are estimated at 63 TCF, roughly one-fourth the reserves of the US and one-sixth those of China. China's reserves are largely in sparsely populated areas. Beijing announced in March this year that it is aiming to produce 6.5 billion cubic metres of gas by 2015. India has released a draft policy for the exploration of shale gas. But, shale production has faced public opposition elsewhere on safety and environmental grounds. One hopes that policies governing shale exploration are transparent and do not lead us into the sort of problems we have faced from activists on the exploitation of gas, coal, or more recently, even on nuclear power plants.

Given problems that members of the European Union are facing with gas supplies from Russia, the US is set to become a major supplier of natural gas to its European partners. The vast potential for energy resources in North America will be supplemented with growing production in Latin America. Oil production is growing in Brazil. Columbia's oil production has doubled since 2007. Argentina has larger shale gas reserves nearly as large as the US. Venezuela's already substantial production can be stepped up significantly. The production in Mexico, with oil reserves larger than Kuwait, has remained stagnant and below expectations. Production is Mexico would rise substantially with policy changes now under way. Moreover, the off-shore Levantine Basin, where Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Gaza have overlapping claims, has substantial oil and gas reserves. The influence of Iran and Arab oil producers in Western capitals will be drastically reduced, as the Americas become a power house of global energy production. In this emerging scenario, oil prices cannot be arbitrarily raised by OPEC, causing huge economic problems for importing developing countries, as it did in the past,

The India of 2013 is not the India of 1991

Published: August 29, 2013 
M. K. Venu

The Hindu

With simple ideas that do not require big bang reforms, India can weather the storm caused by global and domestic economic factors

There are ways of looking at India’s present economic woes marked by a rapid fall in the value of the rupee caused by persistent inflation of the past few years and the high current account deficit (CAD) of about $85 billion (4.5 per cent of GDP) which needs to be funded through uncertain capital inflows year after year. The description of the present crisis by various economic and political analysts by itself tends to carry shades of ideological bias. Some well known economists on the far right prefer to describe the external sector situation as worse than the 1991 economic crisis India had faced. This narrative suggests the 1991 crisis was marked by a severe, external sector crunch and it acted as a trigger for the big bang reforms of the early 1990s. This section believes that the present crisis may be worse than that of 1991 but the government this time round is much more complacent, and less inclined to implement drastic reforms to revive growth.

Then and now

Of course, not everyone agrees with the narrative that the India of 2013 is worse than it was in 1991. Actually it is not. And more of the same kind of reforms is perhaps not the answer either. The world was very different in 1991 when western economies were still strong and looking outward, trying to deepen the process of economic globalisation. Today, major OECD economies are looking much more inward than before, trying to fix their own domestic economy and polity. Emerging economies like India, which managed to avoid until 2011 the negative impact of the global financial crisis, began to dramatically slowdown after 2011. Most of the BRICS economies have lost over four per cent off their peak GDP growth rates experienced until 2010.

After 2010, excess global liquidity flowing from the West, the consequent high international oil and commodity prices fed seamlessly into India’s domestic mismanagement of the supply of key resources such as land, coal, iron ore and critical food items to create a potent cocktail of high inflation and low growth, and a bulging CAD. The key difference between 1991 and 2013 is the availability of global financial flows. In 1991, western finance capital had not significantly penetrated India. Now, a substantial part of western capital is tied to India and other emerging economies where OECD companies have developed a long-term stake. The broader logic of the global capital movement is that it will seamlessly move to every nook and corner of the world where unexploited factors of production exist and there is scope to homogenise the modes of production and consumption in a global template. This relentless process may indeed gather steam after the United States shows further signs of recovery. Indeed, some experienced watchers of the global economic scene have said that a recovery in the U.S. will eventually be beneficial for the emerging economies. This basic logic will sink into the financial markets in due course. At present, the prospect of the U.S. Federal Reserve withdrawing some of the liquidity it had poured into the global marketplace is causing emerging market currencies to sharply depreciate.

In a sense, the depreciation of 15 to 20 per cent this year of the currencies in Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia and India can be seen partially as a knee-jerk reaction to the smart recovery of the housing market in the U.S. and the consequent prospect of the Federal Reserve gradually unwinding its ongoing $40 billion a month support to mortgage bonds over the next year or so. But eventually, a fuller recovery in the U.S. will mean better economic health globally.

Besides, some tapering of liquidity by the U.S. Federal Reserve is inevitable as such an unconventional monetary policy cannot last forever. The U.S. Federal Reserve balance sheet was roughly $890 billion in 2007. It has ballooned to a little over $3 trillion today simply by printing more dollars. Such massive liquidity injection by printing dollars in such a short period is probably unprecedented in American history. This is also unsustainable because sooner rather than later, such excess liquidity could send both inflation and interest rates shooting up in the U.S. — which again may not be good for the rest of the financially connected world.

Cloak of secrecy, and dagger of propaganda

Thursday, 29 August 2013 | Claude Arpi

The Government’s obsession with suppressing important information in the name of national security has led to the proliferation of opacity and misinformation. The India-China border deliberation is an example of that

In 2009, The Times of India reported that the Prime Minister’s Office had admitted it had 28,685 secret files; none was declassified that year. The policy of opacity continued during the following years and probably some of these files have been lost since then, as there is no reason to believe that files in the PMO are better kept than in the Coal Ministry (a babu explained that the coal files got ‘misplaced’ because they were kept vertically instead of horizontally!).

The Government has become so opaque that it is today impossible to know which files are ‘classified’, lost or misplaced, since the manual that details the declassification process is itself marked ‘secret’. This is what Chandrachur Ghose, an RTI activist, was told by the PMO in response to a request a few years ago: “Declassification of files is done as per the manual of departmental security instructions issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Ministry has marked this manual as confidential and has declined to provide it.” The Indian Government’s arbitrariness and complete lack of transparency is shocking despite the Public Record Rules, 1997, which state that records that are 25 years or more must be preserved in the National Archives of India and that no records can be destroyed without being properly reviewed.

Of course, the Government has never read what Jawaharlal Nehru had written on the subject. In 1957, some historians asked to consult papers in the NAI to write a history of the Ghadar movement; the plea was refused as they were ‘secret papers’. When this was brought to Nehru’s attention, he said: “I am not at all satisfied with the noting on this file by Intelligence or by the Director of Archives. The papers required are very old, probably over thirty years old. No question of secrecy should apply to such papers, unless there is some very extraordinary reason in regard to a particular document… they should be considered, more or less, public papers. To say that they can only be seen by research scholars is not very helpful.”

The opacity is not restricted to ‘historical’ files; current issues such as the border dispute with China are victims of the secretive ways of the Government. Today, if the public lacks basic knowledge on the border issue, particularly the respective claims of both India and China, the blame can be squarely put on the Indian Government whose responsibility it is to inform the people about its dealings with China.

In this context, it is high time that the Government of India publishes a White Paper on its border with China, as was done in the past by the Ministry of External Affairs (between 1959 and 1965, 15 White Papers on the border issue, known as Notes, Memoranda and Letters Exchanged and Agreements signed between The Governments of India and China, were tabled in Parliament). Similarly in 1960-1961, after several rounds of talks between Indian and Chinese representatives, a detailed Report of the Officials on the Boundary Question was released.

If India has a case, and I believe that it has a strong one, it should be known and understood by the common man. The time has come for the Government to tell the people what has been going on during the several rounds of talks between the Special Representatives. Have the Chinese provided maps of their ‘perceived’ Line of Actual Control? If not, why? Has the LAC moved southwards since the 1960 talks? Are there two ‘perceived’ LACs? How many ‘perceived’ intrusions have occurred during the previous years and where?

For months, the media has mentioned intrusions across the LAC in Ladakh, whether it is near Daulat Beg Oldie, Siri Jap or Chumar, each time the Government has tried to keep a veil of secrecy as opaque as ‘coal(gate)’ on the issues: “This can’t be discussed publically; the common man can’t understand the intricacies of a situation inherited from history”, the babus will tell you.

It appears now that the Chinese have extended their ‘incursions’ to Arunachal Pradesh, particularly to the Anjaw district. Former (BJP) MP Tapir Gao claimed that early this month, the People’s Liberation Army intruded into Indian territory after over-running at least six of the nine Indian check posts. Mr Gao even affirmed that the face-off continued for some time near the McMahon Line.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, Mr Gao asserted that the incursion started around August 12. He explained that a group of BJP workers visited the area, located near Chaglagam in Anjaw district and confirmed the veracity of the information. The Indian public knows nothing about the situation in this remote part of Arunachal. Why is the Government keeping the issue under wrap?

India Eyes Drone-Launched Smart Bombs

By Zachary Keck
August 29, 2013

India will soon be equipping its drones with precision-guided munitions (PGMs), according to the head of the country’s defense technology agency.

According to The Hindu, on Monday Avinash Chander, the new Director-General of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) said that “in a couple of months” his organization would begin testing PGMs that are small enough to fit onto Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

The newspaper paraphrased Chander as saying that along with miniaturization, the “major thrust” of DRDO’s effort in the short term are on “bridging vital gaps in developing advanced seekers, sensors and actuators.” In the future, Chander said his agency would focus on the “development of navigation and telemetry on chip and that of loitering weapons with 80 percent explosives and 20 percent avionics.”

Speaking at the same conference as Chander, G. Satheesh Reddy, the head of Research Centre Imarat (RCI)—a missile research laboratory that is helping to develop India’s PGMs—said his company was working on extending the range of the PGMs to 100 km, up from 30 km currently.

Since taking over DRDO in June, Chander has said that developing more advanced UAV technology will be a top priority for the defense technology agency under his management.

India is already in the drone business, and demand for UAVs from the defense and civilian sectors is expected to increase drastically in the years ahead. Currently, annual UAV sales in India stand at about US$5.2 billion; this figure will increase to US$11.6 billion over the next decade, according to the Teal Group Corporation, a U.S. aerospace consultancy firm.

A Teal Group executive told The Times of India last month that they expect India’s demand to be “50 medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAVs, 60 Navy UAVs, 70 Air Force tactical UAVs, 100 Army tactical UAVs and 980 mini-UAVs over the next decade."

India’s precision-guided technology is currently far more underdeveloped, but Delhi is hoping to change this in the coming years through indigenous development or imports. According to India Military Review, India’s precision attack and targeting capabilities are currently limited to laser-guided bomb (LGB) kits attached to dumb bombs.” The same source, however, forecasts that precision bombs and missiles will become much more common among Indian Naval and Air systems over the next five to ten years.

Indian defense experts The Diplomat spoke with were therefore skeptical that India’s drones will be equipped with miniaturized smart bombs any time in the immediate future.

Bharat Karnad, a Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Center for Policy Research in Delhi, acknowledged that “DRDO is working on a project to develop a sufficiently compact PGM to arm a drone” but said that “such a capability is immanent, not imminent.”

Yogesh Joshi, an expert on India’s strategic and missile capabilities at the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, was slightly more optimistic.

“It will take them a lot of time to get where U.S. and Israel are,” Joshi told The Diplomat referring to DRDO. “However, DRDO is also benefiting a lot by collaboration with U.S. and particularly Israel. Given the fact [that the] U.S. is not as critical of India-Israel engagement as it used to be has benefited this relationship. So the progress may be much more speedy than we expect.”

Both experts also agreed that having such a capability would be useful to Delhi in a number of important areas.

What DNA Testing Reveals About India’s Caste System

Aug. 27, 2013
Dr. Kumarasamy Thangaraj

Kumarasamy Thangaraj takes a blood sample from an Andaman islander, as part of his research into the genetics of India's castes

Kumarasamy Thangaraj traveled 840 miles (1,350 km) off of the eastern coast of India by plane, then ship, then six hours by car, then ship again to collect blood samples from an isolated tribe of hunter-gatherers on the Andaman Islands. Their blood, he explained through an interpreter, would help him understand a pivotal moment in India’s genetic history. The tribesmen had never heard of a gene before or an academic study for that matter, and the whole pitch struck them as an interesting diversion from their usual routine of spearfishing.

“They mostly laughed,” Thangaraj says, before they offered up their arms in exchange for food. A few needle pricks later, they returned to their boats to fling short wooden spears into the water with uncanny aim, while Thangaraj made the long journey home to Hyderabad. He deposited the latest samples into a blood bank, alongside another 32,000 samples from his countrymen.

The collective bloodlines at the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, India’s leading genetic-research institute, pose a unique riddle for researchers. On the one hand, geneticists can trace nearly all bloodlines back to two ancestral groups, one hailing from Africa, the other from Eurasia. These groups mingled, married and swapped genes. A mixture of their genetic material can be found in nearly every person on the subcontinent today.

But at some mysterious point in history, these braided bloodlines began to fray. The population divided along linguistic, religious and tribal lines, to the point where it separated into 4,635 distinct genetic groups. Europe and Asia look positively homogeneous in comparison, says Thangaraj. He and his collaborators at Harvard Medical School wanted to know when exactly the Indian melting pot stopped melting.

Their finding, recently published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, made waves when it was revealed that genetic mixing ended 1,900 years ago, around the same time the caste system was being codified in religious texts. The Manusmriti, which forbade intermarriage between castes, was written in the same period, give or take a century.

Thangaraj says the study shows only a correlation between the early caste system and the divergence of bloodlines, and whether one caused the other is a debate better left to historians. Nonetheless, it puts a stake in the ground, marking the moment when the belief that one should marry within one’s own group developed into an active practice.

He also doesn’t want the early signs of a caste system to overshadow another finding of his study — how completely the population mixed 2,000 years ago. He points to the Paliyar tribe in the foothills of southern India. Their villages are inaccessible by car, and outsiders cannot visit them without a government permit. “They’re still in the forest,” says Thangaraj, “but still they have some affinities with other groups. At some point in time, everybody was mixed.”

Is India Swimming Naked?

By James Parker
August 29, 2013

In a chairman’s letter from Berkshire Hathaway more than ten years ago, renowned investor celebrity Warren Buffet wrote that you can only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out. Tension in the Middle East or, as economists might put it, rising oil prices are now conspiring to make things just that little bit harder.

The tide of liquidity released across the globe as central banks, led by the US Federal Reserve, undertook “quantitative easing” through asset purchasing programmes, is in the process of going out. As if following a script written by those economists who argue that emerging market crises are more often than not the result of volatile financial flows, the turning of the tide has indeed created difficult conditions across many high-performing economies.

As Pacific Money has been covering, Southeast Asia, especially Thailand and Indonesia are being buffeted by bad economic news and worrying conditions. These difficulties are showing up in numerous emerging markets around the world, but it is in India where the situation is most dire.

This week the Indian currency has again been setting disturbing records, at least for anyone with “long” rupee positions. These include not only more record lows against the U.S. dollar, but on Wednesday also a dramatic drop which was the worst one day sell off almost twenty years.

Whilst Syria might be geographically far from India, the apparent turn towards a strike on Assad’s regime by a U.S. led coalition, and also the feared regional destabilization such a strike could ferment is not helping the situation in the subcontinent. Oil prices have increased in line with U.S., European and Saudi rhetoric, and this is very bad news for India, whose current account deficit is one of the main complicating factors pushing investors for the exits. Current account deficits are only helped by currency devaluation if the imports are not necessary (or replaceable), but India’s reliance on imported oil represents yet another potential complication.

Foreign funds continue to leave the country, but now it is not just bond markets that are seeing foreign outflows (USD $4.6billion this year) but also equity markets (which have lost USD $3.6billion in the last three months). 

The government remains in fire-fighting mode. Proposals now include activating currency swap agreements to ease pressure on the rupee, or policy changes to reduce the current account deficit through enabling iron ore exports. More intervention and further selling off of India’s still significant forex reserves can also be expected.

Such high volatility in the currency is of course already damaging the business environment. Fears about the need for interest rate increases to defend the currency complicate corporate financial planning, whilst rapidly rising import costs for raw materials make pricing, budgeting and business strategy a nightmare.

The rupee’s difficulties continue. 

TWQ: Double Trouble: A Realist View of Rising Chinese and Indian Power - Summer 2013

By George J. Gilboy and Eric Heginbotham
JUL 1, 2013

An objective assessment reveals that India, simply because it is a democracy, will be no less likely than China as a rising power to pose significant challenges to U.S. interests. While Washington has basically gotten its China policy right, a new approach to India is needed.

TWQ: Pakistan and Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Déjà Vu? - Summer 2013

By Shashank Joshi
JUL 1, 2013

Tactical nuclear weapons have become increasingly central to Pakistan’s nuclear thinking in the past three years, significantly raising the risks of nuclear warfighting and accidents in periods of crisis, without producing military benefits.

TWQ: Five Myths about India’s Nuclear Posture - Summer 2013

By Vipin Narang
JUL 1, 2013

Five prevailing myths about India’s nuclear posture should be dispelled, exposing its posture as no longer as minimalist as the conventional wisdom asserts with significant, underappreciated implications for safety, regional security, and crisis stability.

Karzai brings away little from Pakistan visit

Anjum Naveed/AP - Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center left, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, right arrive for a meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 26, 2013. 

By Pamela Constable, Published: August 27 

KABUL — A two-day visit to Pakistan by Afghan President Hamid Karzai ended in muted disappointment Tuesday, with no agreements or specific statements on the key issues of Taliban peace talks, prisoner releases or insurgent sanctuaries.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, welcoming Karzai for the first time since taking office in June, spoke warmly Monday of relations between the two Muslim neighbors and reiterated in several statements that Pakistan is committed to Afghanistan’s peace and security. 

Later in the day, Karzai said the two men discussed how to work together to fight terrorism and advance the peace process, “with the expectation that the government of Pakistan will facilitate and help” the process, primarily through its influence on the Taliban.

Karzai had also been expected to ask for the release of jailed Taliban leaders who might join in talks, especially Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was arrested in 2010 in a joint operation by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence teams.

But even though the visit was extended by one day and concluded with lunch in a breezy hilltop resort town overlooking Islamabad, the capital, Sharif and other Pakistani officials made no public offers to help restart talks with the Taliban or to release any Taliban prisoners.

As Karzai flew back to Kabul on Tuesday afternoon, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry issued a bland statement saying that in cordial talks, “both sides had reaffirmed their commitment to deepen and broaden” bilateral relations and “agreed to work together for the promotion of peace and reconciliation” in Afghanistan. It did not mention the Taliban by name.

Efforts to hold peace talks with the insurgent group have stalled repeatedly. In June, U.S-backed plans to open a political office for the Taliban in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar collapsed when the group displayed its flag and title in the manner of an embassy, infuriating Karzai.

Analysts in Pakistan suggested that the Afghan leader had pinned unrealistic hopes on Sharif, who said recently that Pakistan needed to “think afresh” about Afghanistan and sent his senior security adviser to Kabul to invite Karzai to Islamabad. The bilateral relationship has been marred by mistrust and recrimination for years.

Karzai has often accused Pakistan of providing shelter and support for Islamist insurgents and of seeking to undermine Afghanistan’s stability. He has visited Pakistan at least 18 times as president since 2002 but has always failed to secure meaningful cooperation in fighting terrorism or reining in the Taliban.

Afghan Army Getting Better, But….

August 28, 2013
Afghan Army Seen Improving, but Public Fears Mount
Associated Press
August 28, 2013

KABUL, Afghanistan — Hamida Gulistani was getting ready to leave home for her office when she heard the crack of gunfire. What she saw as she peered through the steel gates of her house deepened her fears about the future of her country.

Her driver lay dead. Her neighbor was shouting that Gulistani’s house was under attack. And the Afghan army and police weren’t responding to her phone calls. As an elected provincial councilor, and thus a prime target for the Taliban, she feared her time was up.

"I kept calling the police chief and other security forces, but by the time they arrived it was too late. The attackers took my car and drove away," said the 40-year-old human rights activist. She has since moved from her province of Ghazni to the relatively safer capital, Kabul.

Ghazni and neighboring Wardak province have become a hotbed of insurgent activity in the past year, mainly along the main highway which links Kabul to Kandahar in the south and runs through Gulistani’s home town. Dozens of abductions and killings are reported weekly on the highway, and Afghans are beginning to worry that the nascent Afghan National Security Forces taking over the defense of Afghanistan won’t be up to the job.

Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, who runs the day-to-day coalition campaign in Afghanistan, says only a small stretch of the 1,900-kilometer (1,200-mile) road has been affected. Less than three months after the Afghan forces took over primary responsibility for national security from the U.S.-led coalition, Milley says he’s sure they are capable of operating alone, carrying out large-scale operations around the country with little support from the U.S.-led coalition.

But while the Americans sound upbeat, there’s a growing fear among Afghans about what happens if the Western umbrella folds up. The deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO combat troops is just 16 months away, and President Hamid Karzai is stalling on a deal to keep some of those troops here as backup.

"All the people who voted for me have many concerns for 2014," says Gulistani. "The people are so disappointed, hopeless for the future of Ghazni."

They fear a return to the chaos and civil war of the 1990s that gave rise to the Taliban, the arrival of Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts, and ultimately the Sept. 11 attacks and the U.S.-led invasion.

There’s skepticism about whether the Afghan forces can protect the presidential election set for next April — the first without Karzai, who has governed Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion and is constitutionally barred from running again.

For Afghans who fear a Taliban resurgence, long-term security depends on a continued $8 billion a year in Western funding of the government and security forces, and on a deal to leave some foreign forces in place.

"If the bilateral security agreement is not signed, we know that we will not have the strong support of the international community … after 2014," said Jawed Kohistani, an Afghan political and military analyst.

Can an American Sex Toy Magnate Persuade Pakistanis to Use a Condom?

Phil Harvey will certainly try, even if it means making people blush.
By Jeremy Stahl|Posted Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013,

Last month was Ramadan, which made it an especially bad time to launch an advertising campaign for strawberry-flavored condoms in Pakistan. When the contraceptive brand Josh Condoms, did just that with an ad featuring a famous and controversial supermodel, the campaign did not last long. Pakistan’s media regulatory agency issued a statement calling the ad “indecent, immoral, and in sheer disregard to our socio-cultural and religious values.” After receiving thousands of complaints, the agency took the “unconstitutional” ad off of the air.

Aside from the retrograde and misogynistic overtones—it depicts Pakistani supermodel Mathira waiting on a schmucky-looking new husband because of the sexual prowess afforded to him by Josh Condoms—the ad itself seems relatively banal by American standards. The couple was husband and wife, and there was nothing at all sexually explicit about the ad, except maybe the suggestion that the condoms were being used for sex that was meant to be enjoyable rather than make babies. 

The idea of flavored condoms and the implication of oral sex, however, was a radical sell in a country where such discussions are heavily censored because of conservative religious norms. But the boldness of running such an ad is typical of the non-profit NGO that produced it, DKT International, and the man behind the group, President Phil Harvey. For another outfit, the Mathira ad might have been a public relations debacle, but to Harvey it was a speed-bump. The publicity generated by censorship cases in Pakistan and elsewhere may even help boost DKT’s cause by getting its ads replayed over and over again on national news programs. “Over the short term, sure [it’s good], because we got a lot of free airtime,” Harvey says. “Advertising is what drives the impact of our programs.”

DKT isn’t chastened at all; in fact, it is planning to put out another ad starring Mathira, hopefully soon. But the success of the program is about a lot more than supermodels or berry-flavored condoms. In addition to selling condoms, the group has been opening up mini clinics and training midwives in IUD insertion all over the country. These programs are taking long-term contraception methods outside of the cities and into rural Pakistan. The organization is pacing to spend $1.2 million on its operations in Pakistan this year and sell enough condoms to give 240,000 couples a year’s worth of protection.

DKT’s audacious approach to condom advertising belies an intensely pragmatic streak. The company isn’t above working with authoritarian governments or self-censoring its message if it succeeds in getting the contraceptives in the hands of the people and educating large swathes of the developing world about family planning and STD prevention.

That pragmatism runs through the core of what DKT does—the idea behind Harvey’s program is to sell contraception in the developing world for pennies on the dollar rather than to donate them for free, creating a large distribution network that includes shopkeepers, along with a greater public awareness through advertising. It also makes the products more valuable to customers who would invest in them, because people who spend hard-earned money for something are more likely to actually use that thing, even if the cost is trivial.

The approach has made DKT, which markets subsidized condoms in Pakistan and 18 other countries, the largest private provider of contraception and family planning in the developing world. Last year alone, DKT sold at least 600 million condoms, 76 million cycles of birth control pills, 16 million injectable contraceptives, and 1.5 million IUDs. In 2011, DKT estimated that its services and products prevented 7 million unwanted pregnancies and 11,000 maternal deaths.

India's Policy towards Afghanistan

Tracing China's Long Game Plan

September 1, 2013

Orville Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century (New York: Random House, 2013), 496 pp., $30.00.

SINCE THE 1990s, U.S. policy toward China has been premised on the idea that increasing Chinese wealth and international stature would lead naturally to domestic political liberalization. Early in the previous decade, the Bush administration also held out hope that China would become a “responsible stakeholder” in the international community. The intervening years have witnessed marked growth in China’s economic and diplomatic heft, with the country emerging as the second-biggest economy in the world. Its leaders refer to it as a “great power” alongside the United States. And yet the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) retains its monopoly on political authority, and since the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics the party-state has clamped down on domestic human-rights activists, lawyers and other advocates of liberal reform. Abroad, China has engaged in increasingly militarized efforts to press its claims to disputed territory, and it has also used economic tools, including threats to slow or halt commerce in certain goods, to this end. Where Chinese political elites once at least paid lip service to democratic values and international norms, now they actively tout their model as an alternative to the so-called Western system. How did successive generations of U.S. policy makers get China so wrong?

One answer is that they ignored indicators from modern Chinese history and the CCP’s record that would have called into question the notion of inevitable Chinese liberalization and assimilation to international institutions. Better late than never, Orville Schell and John Delury probe those indicators in their excellent and erudite new book, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century. Schell, a former dean of the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and current director of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations, and Delury, a Yale-trained historian based at Yonsei University in Seoul, combine scholarly learning with a reportorial appreciation of colorful, revealing details. They breathe life into their history through biographical sketches of pillars of Chinese intelligentsia and politics from the nineteenth century through the twentieth, and they argue that national rejuvenation—defined in terms of fuqiang (“wealth and power”)—has been the goal of these figures all along. Chinese elites over the past two centuries have attempted to convert the shame of their country’s nineteenth-century humiliation, when outside powers repeatedly exploited China’s military inferiority, into energy to fuel China’s ascent and redress its anguished past. If some of these elites from time to time promoted Western political values, they did so only fleetingly, at moments when they believed liberal democracy could enrich and strengthen the state. Schell and Delury’s introduction identifies a common theme across these cases:

Unlike democratic political reform in the West, which developed out of a belief in certain universal values and human rights as derived from a “natural,” if not God-given, source, and so were to be espoused regardless of their efficiency, the dominant tradition of reform in China evolved from a far more utilitarian source. Its primary focus was to return China to a position of strength, and any way that might help achieve this goal was thus worth considering. . . . 

Reformers have been interested in democratic governance at various stages in China’s tortuous path, not so much because it might enshrine sacred, inalienable political liberties but because it might make their nation more dynamic and thus stronger.

Among Chinese elites, concerns about power, understood as a function of economic and military capacity, have trumped any serious appreciation of human rights or the rule of law, whether at home or abroad. They see the world through power-hungry lenses. It is a dog-eat-dog competition out there, and the unit of account is the state, not the individual or citizen. While this perspective contrasts sharply with contemporary Western norms, it would have been familiar to nineteenth-century European statesmen such as Otto von Bismarck. Such an outlook precludes support for genuine political liberalization, which would entail popular sovereignty. Instead, China’s leading thinkers and statesmen have tended to see themselves as essential to their country’s effort to prevail in the global rat race—and, accordingly, as entitled to amass their own personal wealth and power.

SCHELL AND DELURY thus explain why China has not democratized, and this is a significant accomplishment. But they also illuminate the domestic underpinnings of China’s foreign and security policy. While the authors focus almost exclusively on Chinese internal developments, their analysis provides critical context for understanding contemporary Chinese strategy and its roots in the work and thought of key Chinese figures over the century and a half since the Opium Wars. For example, the authors profile the nineteenth-century reformer whose blueprint for both naval modernization and a “charm offensive” vis-à-vis Southeast Asia and Russia seems to guide Beijing today. And from the book’s treatment of Deng Xiaoping’s economic guru, Zhu Rongji, the careful reader may detect how and why Zhu let Western interlocutors deceive themselves into thinking he was a true free marketeer, when in fact he had no intention of abandoning state-sponsored capitalism. Since the emergence of the modern state at the end of the last dynasty, China’s leading thinkers and statesmen have set their sights on reestablishing the Middle Kingdom as the preeminent power in its orbit, and they have seen this goal as a zero-sum endeavor, requiring them to steal, plot and use force against rivals or even potential rivals and their allies.

Obama’s great Asian dawdle

Aug 28, 2013

WASHINGTON – The more assertive Beijing has become, the more reluctant U.S. President Barack Obama has been to take sides in Asian territorial disputes, although they center on a combative China’s efforts to change the territorial status quo with America’s strategic allies or partners. Washington’s feckless Asia policy has helped deepen the security dilemma of several Asian states on how to protect their territorial and economic rights against China’s power grab.

Washington has made it amply clear that despite its “pivot” toward Asia, it will not put American lives at risk to defend its allies’ territorial claims against Beijing or act in ways detrimental to its close engagement with China. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel even said in an Aug. 28 BBC interview that the U.S. does not look at China’s military buildup as a threat.

Indeed, there has been a course correction in the Obama administration’s “pivot” policy. After initially raising Asian expectations about a robust U.S. response to China’s assertiveness, Washington has tamped down the military aspects of its “pivot,” lest it puts it on the path of taking on Beijing. Instead it has been laying emphasis on the economic aspects.

Obama’s Asia policy has treaded a course of neutrality on territorial disputes between China and its neighbors, while seeking to reap the economic and strategic benefits of closer engagement with Asian states.

Washington, for example, is chary of getting drawn into Sino-Japanese territorial disputes, although Tokyo is its close ally and U.S. forward military deployments in Japan are a linchpin of America’s strategy to retain primacy in Asia. In fact, the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands that China claims are close to Okinawa, home to the largest U.S. military presence in Asia.

Similarly, even as China calculatedly badgers India along the Himalayan frontier, Washington has shied away from cautioning Beijing against any attempt to change the territorial status quo by force. In fact, on a host of Asian disputes, including China’s claim since 2006 to India’s Austria-size Arunachal Pradesh state, Washington has chosen not to antagonize Beijing by staying neutral.

Even in a case when China has forcibly changed the status quo — by taking effective control since last year of the Scarborough Shoal, located in the South China Sea within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone — the Obama team has done little more than counsel restraint and talks. With Chinese vessels this year present near the Second Thomas Shoal, the lesson the Philippines is learning that might remains right in international relations and that its security dependence on Washington is no check on the intruding colossus.

The paradox is that China’s rising assertiveness has helped the U.S. to return to Asia’s center stage, yet Obama is wary of taking sides in the territorial disputes. The only issue on which Washington has spoken up is freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. The China factor, which has allowed the U.S. to strengthen its existing military relationships and build new strategic partnerships in Asia, can remain useful for America only if it is seen by its allies and partners as a credible guarantor of stability and security in Asia. That is a function not of its military strength but of its political will.

To be sure, Washington has an interest in preventing the emergence of a Sino-centric Asia. But it has no interest in getting entangled in Asia’s territorial feuds. If it can, it would like to find a way to support its allies and partners in their disputes with China, but without alienating Beijing — a tough balancing act.

Overrated Significance of the Sino-Russia "Joint-Sea 2013" Exercise?

China Brief, August 9, 2013, v. 13, no. 16 http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/cb_08_11.pdf

  •  Xi’s Mass Line Campaign: Realigning Party Politics to New Realities
  •  “Likonomics” Trumped by Harsh Economic and Political Realities
  •  Major Country Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics
  •  Propaganda as Policy? Explaining the PLA’s “Hawkish Faction” (Part Two)

America's Default Foreign Policy

September 1, 2013

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S June 13 decision to send light weapons and ammunition to Syrian rebels reflects a fundamental reality in the dialectic of American foreign policy. Within this administration and indeed throughout official Washington, humanitarian interventionism is the inevitable default position for policy makers and political insiders. There is no intellectual counterweight emanating from either party that poses a significant challenge to this powerful idea that America must act to salve the wounds of humanity wherever suffering is intense and prospects for a democratic emergence are even remotely promising.

This reality emerges in sharp relief when one attempts to find the reasoning behind the president’s Syria decision through a process of elimination. Perhaps, one might speculate, the president decided the time finally had come to turn the tide of war decisively in favor of the antigovernment insurgents and against the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. But, no, that can’t be the driver because nobody believes Obama’s modest flow of military assistance will have a significant impact on the Syrian civil war. It would be insulting to suggest the president believes such a thing.

Perhaps, one might speculate further, Obama wanted to bolster the military position of those insurgents committed to a relatively open and pluralist nation, as opposed to the radical Islamist elements driven by jihadist passions and the dream of a theocratic nation, like Afghanistan before 9/11. But this doesn’t make sense, either. Many analysts believe the war’s jihadist groups—including Al Nusra Front, affiliated with Al Qaeda—are substantially stronger militarily than the secular rebels. It seems dubious that U.S. aid can be kept out of jihadist hands.

Perhaps there is a political desire to align government policy with public opinion. Wrong again. A Gallup poll shortly after the president’s announcement showed 54 percent of respondents opposed the president’s arms initiative, while 37 percent approved. A Pew Research Center poll released at about the same time showed that fully 70 percent of respondents opposed the idea of the United States and its allies sending arms to Syrian rebels. The Pew survey also indicated that large majorities of Americans believe the U.S. military is stretched too thin and doubt that Syria’s rebel groups would govern any better than the Assad regime.

Greater China : US hurdles strew China's reform path

Aug 27, '13

By Francesco Sisci 

BEIJING - Both in and out of China, there is little debate at the moment about one important point: China needs deep reform. Those on the two extremes of the political spectrum, the liberals and the neo-Maoists, may disagree on what China needs to do - whether to open up to a Western-style system or to revert to the old ways of the Great Helmsman - but they do agree on the diagnosis that the present system does not work. This autumn's Third Plenum may fully take on this agenda or partly shelve it, but it is definitely on the table for the seven most powerful men in China, the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China, the country's top decision-making body. 

Whatever the decision this time, China is at a crossroads very

similar to the one Deng Xiaoping faced in late 1978, when he launched the policy of "reform and opening up". However, unlike then, this time Beijing is far more isolated. Then, Deng and his allies in the Party could count on the support and international backing of the Americans, who were keen on fostering ties with China as an element of a complex anti-Soviet strategy. In fact, just months after the end of the Third Plenum of the Ninth Congress in late 1978, Beijing attacked Vietnam to punish it for Hanoi's invasion of Cambodia, a decision carried out with Washington's blessings. 

Now, conversely, it is not clear what Washington will do if Beijing moves to make more drastic reforms or instead steps back into the past. A radical move into the future - liberal reforms, for instance - may not be welcomed by Washington, which could always claim it is too little, too late, and too slow. Then a move backwards - to the path blazed by former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, now awaiting the verdict after a dramatic corruption trial - could be easier and gain greater backing domestically as proceedings against Bo did not win huge support in the West. Bo's political enemies, such as former premier Wen Jiabao, took a rap on the knuckles for corruption last December, when Wen was about to charge Bo, while the family of president Xi Jinping, who pushed against Bo at a critical juncture, got a similar treatment a few months earlier. 

Internal considerations are always the most important, especially for large countries such as China or the US, but only fools would ignore the international environment. A total embrace of neo-Maoism is impossible for many practical reasons aside from concern over the fate of Bo's supporters who are still active in Chinese politics. But plunging into economic and political reforms in line with the international practices adopted by most countries is also difficult as this could deeply shake the country at a moment when the US has launched its policy of a "pivot to Asia". 

Whether the "pivot" is a containment policy is a moot point, as the two countries have too much economic interdependence for a Soviet-style containment, but certainly there are elements of that, as the US is lining up more physical bases and strengthening political and military cooperation around China. 

This system can be characterized as a network of watchtowers or tripwires. There is a military difference between establishing a set of watchtowers and actual encirclement, but politically the two things are extremely similar. In this case, the goal could well be a warning (the watchtowers) to prevent the need for an actual encirclement, which would be closer to an act of war. 

However, it seems that the US is sending a warning, and it is doing more than hedging its bets on a peaceful engagement with China. If this is the case, why not say it clearly? A clear warning would be helpful to improve relations or set a definite course for the future: "don't do this, or else". The US should tell China what to do to avoid being warned again, and then China can decide whether to change its course or move ahead. 

If you have a situation that merits a warning but you don't issue a clear warning, then the warned party, China in this case, may be confused - on purpose or not - about what to do and what not to do. Then confusion may breed more confusion, leading to more and bigger misunderstandings in quick succession. 

In this predicament, it is hard for China to take the plunge on a particular direction of reforms, and it pushes cautious Chinese leaders to deep considerations and reflection. Meanwhile then lack of decisive action on either side may create further confusion and breed incidents. 

The US, as the more powerful country, should choose a direction, but it won't because its system makes it difficult. It is hard for the White House to impose a decisive approach on China against the opinions of the media, the US Congress and the scores of Washington's think-tanks. At the same time the huge variety of opinions and of interests about China makes it difficult to reach a wide consensus on decisive and innovative policies not widely shared by all concerned parties.