4 September 2013

Obama's Tightrope Walk ***

September 3, 2013

Last week began with certainty that an attack on Syria was inevitable and even imminent. It ended with the coalition supporting the attack somewhere between falling apart and not coming together, and with U.S. President Barack Obama making it clear that an attack was inevitable, maybe in a month or so, if Congress approves, after Sept. 9 when it reconvenes. This is a comedy in three parts: the reluctant warrior turning into the raging general and finding his followers drifting away, becoming the reluctant warrior again.

Begin with the fact that the United States was not the first country calling for military intervention in Syria after pictures of what appeared to be the dead from a chemical attack surfaced. That honor went to France, Turkey and Britain, each of whom called for action. Much as with Libya, where France and Italy were the first and most eager to intervene, the United States came late to the feast.

The United States did not have any overriding national interest in Syria. It has been hostile for a long time to Assad's regime. It has sympathy for the Sunni insurgents but has drawn the conclusion that the collapse of Assad is not likely to lead to a democratic regime respecting human rights, but to an Islamist regime with links to al Qaeda. The United States is in the process of recovering from Iraq and Afghanistan, and is not eager to try its hand at nation building in Syria, especially given the players. Therefore the American attitude toward Syria has been to express deep concern while staying as far away as possible, much as the rest of the world has done.

What started to draw the United States into the matter was a statement made by the president in 2012, when he said that the use of chemical weapons would be a red line. He didn't mean he wanted to intervene. He set the red line because he figured that it was the one thing Assad wouldn't try. It was an attempt to stay out, not an announcement of interest. In fact, there had been previous evidence of small-scale chemical attacks, and the president had dodged commitment.

Washington's Human Rights Faction

This time, with major foreign partners demanding action, the president felt he had no choice. A significant faction pressed him on this in his foreign policy apparatus. There were those, like National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who favored the use of military force in the events of war crimes and human rights violations on a major scale. One would have thought that she would have supported the war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein, the epitome of war crimes and human rights violations, but she didn't, and that's another matter. The point is that, leaving Iraq, this faction felt that the United States failed to carry out its moral obligations in Rwanda, and applauded the intervention in Kosovo.

This faction is not small and appeals to an important tendency in American political culture that sees World War II as the perfect war, because it was waged against an unspeakable evil, and not for strategic or material gain. That war was more complicated than that, but there was an element of truth to it. And the world, on the whole, approved of American involvement there. For them, this was the model of U.S. foreign policy. Secure behind distance and power, the United States ought not be a typical insecure political power, but should use its strength to prevent the more extreme injustices in the world.

Line of no control

Sep 03, 2013

Given that India has consciously ruled out any option of retaliation in kind, the question is: Are there now any limits on the extent of forbearance by India in respect of habitual prevarication by Pakistan?

The ambush of an Indian Army patrol by a Pakistani Border Action Team (BAT) near the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector of Kashmir on August 6 is typical of the “small war” between India and Pakistan which flickers daily along the LoC. While the encounter and its results would have caused elation in the Pakistan Army, the lack of a rapid retributive response from India would have disappointed many. Every unchallenged provocation by Pakistan diminishes India correspondingly in the eyes of its citizens and, perhaps, more importantly, of its soldiers.

Restraint under all provocations seems to constitute the Indian government’s core Pakistan policy. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems to have detached himself from any public pronouncements and devolved complete authority to the external affairs minister Salman Khurshid. Mr Khurshid is seen at his happiest when riding his pet hobby horse of peace at any cost with Pakistan.

Undoubtedly, peace is an important objective as long as it is kept in mind that plausible denial of provocation is a standard response of the Pakistan Army. Pakistan’s denial was seen most recently in respect of the revelations made in custody by both Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and an expert bomb maker of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba Abdul Karim Tunda. Given that India has consciously ruled out any option of retaliation in kind, the question is: Are there now any limits on the extent of forbearance by India in respect of habitual prevarication by Pakistan?
Border incidents initiated by Pakistan along the LoC are microcosms of the active “hot peace” played out by the hardline elements controlling Pakistan. The Indian dream world of peace attempts to play down this harsh geopolitical reality under the misguided impression that a policy of unilateral forbearance by India will somehow promote goodwill with a pathologically hostile and recalcitrant Pakistan Army. But the effect is likely to be just the opposite and will, in fact, only encourage Pakistan Army’s intransigence.

The Pakistan Army has traditionally assumed an aggressive stance on the LoC. On the Indian side, the Army has always been held in strict check. Exercise of military initiatives by Indian commanders has been straitjacketed into a tightly centralised system of political control which has over the years built up cautious and defensive mindsets, hesitant to exercise the immediate initiatives required to seize fleeting opportunities without first clearing every situation with the chain of command.

“Offensive action, concentration of force, and surprise” are the key principles of war taught in all armies, navies and air forces, and the Indian Army is no exception. But their effective inculcation at human level has to commence at an early age, which requires a supportive environment, sometimes lacking in hierarchical organisations.

The pattern of small unit provocations across the LoC by Pakistan Army’s BAT of regular special service group (SSG) forces working with jihadi auxiliaries is likely to intensify as American withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 approaches. The Pakistan Army may well have already commenced the process of shaping the post-2014 battlefield in Afghanistan to its own advantage.

It is, therefore, important to carefully analyse from an Indian perspective just how Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s rhetoric regarding India-Pakistan friendship plays into the post-2014 scramble in Afghanistan. India must assess Mr Sharif’s likely intentions. Given his earlier record, could this be a new siren song to beguile the Indian leadership into complacency at a critical juncture?

Critical feat

Aug 28, 2013 

IT was October 23, 2004, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was to inaugurate the construction of the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam, about 60 kilometres from Chennai, in Tamil Nadu. On the way to the auditorium where the function was to take place, his car took a detour and stopped in front of a nondescript building called Plutonium Reprocessing Plant (PRP). The PRP was a facade behind which a project of great secrecy was under way. As Manmohan Singh stepped inside the building and entered a big hall, he was amazed to see a massive device with a pressure hull and a shielding tank with water inside. It was India’s first Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR). It would generate 80 MWt using enriched uranium as fuel and light water as both coolant and moderator. The then PWR Project Director S. Basu, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Anil Kakokdar, and Director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) Srikumar Banerjee, explained the features and importance of the PWR to Manmohan Singh. The PWR that Manmohan Singh saw was a “half boat”. His visit to the plant was not revealed to the press.

Two years later, on September 22, 2006, when the PWR reached its first criticality, that is, when it went into operation, an “invisible team” was thrilled. BARC scientists spent the next few weeks performing experiments on the physics of the reactor before the PWR started generating a stable supply of power. The event was again kept a secret.

On July 26, 2009, when Gursharan Kaur, the Prime Minister’s wife, broke a coconut on the hull of a submarine in the Ship Building Centre at Visakhapatnam harbour and named the boat “Arihant”, hundreds of engineers and scientists of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Navy were overjoyed. The gathering that was present erupted in applause as the sluice gates of the dry dock opened, seawater gushed in and INS Arihant started floating.

Arihant is 111 metres long, 11 m wide and about 15 m tall. It has a surface displacement of about 6,000 tonnes. The launch marked the culmination of a saga of 25 years of selfless intellectual and physical work on the part of DAE, DRDO and navy personnel, who were never in the limelight. For Arihant is no ordinary submarine powered by diesel. It is a nuclear-powered submarine and the reactor that will propel it is identical to what Manmohan Singh saw at Kalpakkam on October 23, 2004.

Manmohan Singh made clear India’s policy on that day. “We do not have any aggressive designs, nor do we seek to threaten anyone…. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon us to take all measures necessary to safeguard our country and keep pace with technological developments worldwide. It has been rightly said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Both the Prime Minister and Defence Minister A.K. Antony remembered the contribution of the Russians who helped India achieve “a historical milestone” in the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) programme. Manmohan Singh thanked “our Russian friends for their consistent and invaluable cooperation, which symbolises the close strategic partnership that we enjoy with Russia”.

August 10, 2013, was yet another significant day. At 1-20 a.m. on that day Arihant’s PWR reached its first criticality, and that truly propelled India into an exclusive club of countries that can build nuclear-powered submarines of their own: Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China. Arihant’s nuclear propulsion will enable it to stay under water for months on end, obviating the need to come to the surface periodically to recharge batteries, unlike diesel-powered boats.

Not his master’s voice

Raghuvir Srinivasan

Duvvuri Subbarao’s biggest accomplishment was sustaining the RBI’s legacy of independence

There is something that the Reserve Bank of India does to those who head it — it imbues them with an independent, autonomous streak. When Duvvuri Subbarao assumed the office of Governor at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in September 2008, the talk was that he was North Block’s man sent to tame the central bank after a period of stubborn independence under the redoubtable Y.V. Reddy. Yet, five years hence, as he hangs up his boots today, Dr. Subbarao has not just disproved those assumptions but has actually scripted his own chapter of autonomous central banking by standing up to his political masters on different occasions over different issues.

His was not an easy term. The hazards do come with the position. Yet, even by that yardstick, Dr. Subbarao’s five years at the helm of the RBI were remarkable for the challenges that he had to face and the pressures that he had to endure from North Block and India Inc. He ran headlong into the credit markets freeze following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which was within a few days of his assumption of office. Ergo, he cut rates in his very first policy statement in October 2008 and followed quickly with more cuts as the repo rate fell from nine per cent in July 2008 to 5.50 per cent in January 2009. Alongside, Dr. Subbarao eased up on the cash reserve ratio infusing much-needed liquidity to stave off a crisis even though he and the RBI knew that there would be a price to pay down the line in the form of inflation.

Within the next one year the inflation monster started rearing its head. With massive amounts of money sloshing around the world financial system as central banks unleashed liquidity, India started experiencing huge capital inflows into its markets. The challenge was now to change tack to tightening rates. There are some who believe that Dr. Subbarao was behind the curve in changing direction which in turn led to inflation rising to unsustainable levels in 2010 and continuing to rage through 2011 despite the central bank reversing its easy money policy.

Interestingly enough, there are others who fault the Governor for tightening rates and presiding over a downturn in growth when inflation was largely due to supply-side factors not in the control of RBI’s monetary policy. This debate only highlights the dilemma of monetary policy, something that Dr. Subbarao acknowledged in the Tenth Nani Palkhivala Memorial Lecture on August 29, his last public speech as Governor.

To be fair to Dr. Subbarao, the RBI cannot be blamed for the mess that the economy now finds itself in. The central bank often found itself handicapped by the lack of support from North Block which was running a loose fiscal policy encouraged by the massive capital inflows into the economy. Economic policy-making is a bit like an orchestra in which the two main players, RBI and North Block, must make beautiful music together on separate instruments. When one plays out of tune, as the Finance Ministry did for much of the last five years, what emerges is cacophony. This is what Dr. Subbarao was hinting at in his last few monetary policy pronouncements and spoke openly about at the Palkhivala lecture.

He did not shy away from pointing out, on more than one occasion, about the unreliability of key data emanating from the government which form the basis of monetary policy. The reported number of Index of Industrial Production has been adjusted more than once in recent times to reflect corrections. His biggest fight though was reserved for the role of the RBI in the light of the recommendations of the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission which argued that the central bank should restrict itself to conducting monetary policy.

PLA restricting Indian patrol area: Report

A spot report, commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on the India-China border issue, has confirmed the government’s worst fears. The ground situation report, submitted by National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) chairperson Shyam Saran to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 10, 2013, underlines that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops are not allowing their Indian counterparts to patrol the Indian perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.

Singh had told Saran to visit the eastern Ladakh and Siachen sectors from August 2 to 9 for reviewing the border infrastructure development and LAC situation. Saran, who had conducted a similar exercise in May 2007, has reported a grim scenario of Chinese transgressions in the Daulet Beg Oldi (DBO) sector, Depsang Bulge and Chumar.

The report has been shared with the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

An inter-ministerial committee headed by home secretary Anil Goswami has reportedly been set up to monitor the LAC situation and the existing empowered committee on border infrastructure development, led by cabinet secretary Ajit Seth, has been asked to remove the bureaucratic bottlenecks in Ladakh.

Though the government is tightlipped about the report, Saran has indicated that the “limits of patrol” line has become the new LAC for India in certain areas of Ladakh sector.

The Chinese define the LAC in eastern Ladakh as marked on a map in then premier Zhou En-Lai’s letter of November 7, 1959, to then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Indian perception of the LAC, as marked by the China Study Group (CSG) in 1976 on the basis of the 1962 war positions, vastly varies from the Chinese one on at least 12 pockets from DBO to Chumar.

However, the CSG — which comprises the foreign, home and defence secretaries, the army vice-chief and two intelligence chiefs — defined the “limits of patrolling” for the Indian Army to maintain border peace. The patrol line is between New Delhi and Beijing’s LAC perceptions and 2-20 km short of the Indian line.

Saran has reported that the Chinese have built a motorable kutcha road to a sensitive Track Junction area in the DBO sector, thus changing the position on ground and in violation of the 2005 protocol.

The former foreign secretary told the PMO that Indian troops were able to go only up to the patrol line in Depsang with the area defined as “bulge” with Chinese PLA. The April 15, 2013, Depsang incursion at Raki Nullah was designed to prevent the Indian patrols from reaching Points 10, 11, 11A and 13 with Point 12 outside the patrol line.

Saran and former northern army commander Lt Gen PC Bharadwaj also surveyed Pangong Tso, a saltwater lake through which runs the LAC. They found a beefed up PLA firmly entrenched in their position in the Srijap area.

Saran is also concerned with the situation in Chumar where the PLA is making frequent transgressions, claiming 85 sq km of Indian territory despite the international border defining the two countries.

Rotting food, rotten arguments

Wed Sep 04 2013

How do food bill supporters ignore the 45 per cent leakage in PDS, especially after their own studies?

Everything populist (popular) is wrong — Oscar Wilde modified (ever so slightly)

There have been some questions raised about my estimate of the food security bill (FSB) costing Rs 3,14,000 crore or approximately 3 per cent of the GDP ('Manmonia's FSB: 3% of GDP', IE, July 6). In their article 'Correct costs of the food security bill' (FE, August 17), three distinguished economists (Ashok Kotwal, Milind Murugkar, Bharat Ramaswami, hereafter KMR) join together to demonstrate that I was barking up the wrong tree, that my calculations were all wrong and that the true cost of the FSB would only be 18 per cent higher at Rs 85,000 crore (full disclosure: I insisted that their article be published).

The KMR estimates have been boldly endorsed in a spate of recent articles and/ or comments, for example, by Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen, in articles in Tehelka and Mint, and in cyberspace by leading economist Debraj Ray. These are senior and respected economists/ commentators, and it is important that their (wild) allegations be seriously looked into.

In my article, I had provided a simplified short-cut method of estimating the approximate size of the food subsidy. In the table, I present stage-by-stage estimates of the FSB, from procurement to distribution. Broadly speaking, there are four estimates of the cost of the FSB. The lowest of these is the one by KMR: at Rs 85,000 crore, they are some Rs 40,000 crore less than even the official estimate of Rs 125,000 crore.

This is the first time I have witnessed any person, let alone respected economists, estimate leaky government subsidies to be less than even the leaky government of the day has claimed, and not just in India but anywhere in the world. And not leaky by a small amount — by 47 per cent (Rs 125,000 crore versus Rs 85,000 crore)! I would appreciate if any reader can provide evidence to the contrary.

The third estimate — Rs 2,27,000 crore — is by a government food official and expert, Ashok Gulati and his team (hereafter Gulati). Gulati is the chairman of the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices, and therefore in a natural position to know better.

The FSB provides a right to 860 million people (bottom 67 per cent in rural areas and bottom 50 per cent in urban areas) to avail 60 kilograms of rice and wheat a year for Rs 2.50 per kg, and a subsidy on each kilogram of Rs 20.30. This leads to a total distribution of 51.5 million metric tonnes (MMT) a year at a cost of Rs 1,05,000 crore. In addition, the government has added recipients who will receive extra cash or grain (for example, pregnant women, special groups) and Gulati estimates this subsidy to be Rs 23,000 crore The total, at Rs 1,28,000 crore, is almost identical to the government estimate of Rs 1,25,000 crore. But far, far removed from the left-touted estimate of Rs 85,000 crore.

Gulati has additional costs (agricultural production enhancement costs, infrastructure and logistics, etc) that add up to Rs 54,000 crore. So the base Gulati estimate is Rs 1,82,000 crore.

How does a respected authority like Gulati get a higher estimate of Rs 2,28,000 crore? The above Rs 1,82,000 crore estimate assumes that there are no storage costs, no rotting food and no leakages in distribution. It is as if the government was playing god with efficiency. In their reign since 2004-05, the UPA buffer stocks have averaged 37 MMT, which, at a cost of Rs 20.30 per kg, comes to approximately Rs 75,000 crore, or Rs 2,000 crore per tonne. Gulati says that no more than 20 MMT are needed, and thus the storage costs will be Rs 40,000 crore a year. The Gulati final estimate, therefore, is Rs 2,22,000 crore. However, if the average historical storage of the UPA is taken (why would they do things differently in the 10th-plus years if for nine years they have felt it necessary to store annually 37 MMT?), then the basic costs rise by an additional Rs 34,000 crore.

India's Internal Security Situation: Present Realities and Future Pathways

IDSA Monograph Series No. 23

The Monograph titled India's Internal Security Situation: Present Realities and Future Pathways deals with the internal security situation in India. It focuses on the Naxal conflict, the Northeastern ethnic armed insurgencies, and terrorism for a detailed study. The author argues that all the three conflict areas have antecedent conditions which are specific to that particular conflict and hence a comparative methodology is not useful to carry forth a work of this nature. Therefore, each conflict has been dealt with as a distinctive chapter. The first chapter provides the introductory observations; the second chapter offers an overview of Naxalism; the third chapter deals with certain significant insurgent groups in the Northeast; and the fourth chapter elaborates on the rise of terrorism in India. Based on the assessment of the three chapters including the introductory chapter, the fifth chapter identifies some “certainties and uncertainties” with regard to Naxalism, the armed conflicts in the Northeast and terrorism and their consequences in 2030. Based on this, three alternative scenarios are crafted and certain policy recommendations offered for consideration.

SYRIA: United States Obsession with Military Intervention Wars

Paper No. 5553 Dated 03-Sept-2013

By Dr. Subhash Kapila

Greater South West Asia has yet to recover from two American military intervention wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and it seems that the United States stands impatiently poised to militarily intervene in Syria. Syria stands engulfed in a civil war contrived, financed and manipulated by the United States and goaded by the Arab oil-rich monarchical regimes of Saudi Arabia and curiously Qatar.

To assert that the United States and the West is ready to militarily intervene in Syria on grounds of humanitarian intervention or abhorrence for the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Damascus regime is a sheer travesty of truth and ground realities.

In at least two Papers of mine in the recent past, when the confrontation in Syria was being whipped up into giving it a civil war mode by external forces, I had observed that the real reason for doing so was the United States strategic intentions to disrupt the evolving ‘Shia Crescent’ in the Northern Tier of the Middle East.

Syria closely allied to Iran and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, besides strong political and strategic influence in Lebanon, brought the ire of the United States and the West.

Syria was also caught up in the Middle East regional power tussle between major powers like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran. Iran was being militarily feared by both Saudi Arabia and Turkey who find it unpalatable that Iran ultimately because of its geostrategic location and natural attributes of power could ultimately emerge as the predominant power of the Middle East.

Israel with considerable hold over US domestic politics and United States strategic decision-making in the Middle East and as an implacable foe of Iran completes the overall picture as to why Iran must be militarily downsized and its emergence as the predominant power in the Middle East is pre-empted.

It needs to be noted that the emergence of a potent Shia Crescent in the Northern Tier of the Middle East figures heavily as a threat perception in Israeli strategic calculus.

Globally, it needs to be noted that the so-called Syrian Civil War provoked and impelled by external forces, stands transformed today from a domestic political tussle into a wider Islamic sectarian war between Islamist Sunni oil-rich regimes rich enough to bankroll regime changes wars and the Shia Crescent countries.

Al Qaeda operatives are being funnelled against the Damascus regime as per media reports as was earlier being done in Iraq post-Gulf War II. This would draw-in the Shia armed militias operating in Lebanon into Syria to assist the externally besieged Syrian regime.

This brief contextual backdrop should highlight the quagmire into which the United States and the West would be walking into should they decide to militarily intervene in Syria in favour of the Syrian rebel forces created to effect a regime-change in Damascus.

Delinking talks with terror leads nowhere

04 September 2013

The recent flare-up along the LoC shows that Pakistan still considers India to be its foremost enemy. In this regard, New Delhi's efforts to insulate Islamabad from the ‘deep state’ are futile

The ceasefire on the Line of Control which has generally been observed since November 2003 was seriously breached last month, triggered by Pakistani regulars ambushing an Indian patrol in the Poonch sector. The action-reaction exchange of fire constitutes a record-breaking 30 plus ceasefire violations in August alone. Altogether, so far this year, there have been nearly 100 violations, which is a 90 per cent hike compared to last year in the same period. This focussed firing and retaliation is a first in 10 years on the LoC and its Pakistani purpose has to be decoded.

The Indian response is being described as calibrated, clinical and calculated which translates into measured punishment but with restraint. The Indian Army can give back with interest, what it gets. That the response has been effective and even telling, is testified by the several calls by Pakistan for ending the firing and beginning talks to stabilise the LoC. For the moment, it is quiet.

How seriously the new Nawaz Sharif Government in Pakistan took the firing and the loss of Pakistani lives is explained by two parliamentary resolutions and a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet condemning Indian aggression, centre-staging Kashmir and advocating a revisit of existing mechanisms for strengthening the ceasefire agreement. Mr Sharif has indicated that his election victory is a mandate for peace with India. Despite the tough talking, the civilian Government, it is clear, wishes to defuse tension and resume dialogue with India.

Pakistan media’s reportage of the Poonch ambush and its aftermath is instructive. It contends that Indian Kashmiri militants carried out the ambush; Indian Defence Minister changed his statement on the incident; the Indian Director-General of Military Operations did not mention the ambush to his counterpart in their weekly conversation nine hours after the incident and the FIR attributed the ambush to terrorists; India does not want Pakistan to fight terrorism as by activating the LoC, it wants re-deployment of troops from the west to the east. In short, India is painted as the villain of the piece. Interestingly, the Hizb ul-Mujahideen was quick to take credit for the ambush but later the claim was retracted. Mr Sharif’s Special Envoy to India Shahryar Khan told journalists in London that, “Our extremists have done it to derail the peace process”.

The firefight on the LoC registered an escalation from small arms to the use of heavy artillery in the faraway Kargil sector which has been dormant since 2003. Why activate Kargil where Pakistan Army committed in 1999 the second blunder after 1971? So, why the sudden bursts of firing? For the Pakistani Army and the ISI, cross-LoC insurgency has slackened to unacceptable levels and requires a leg up. The terrorist population has dwindled to below 300 and fresh blood has to be injected before the passes close in the next two months.

This is a familiar story but attempts at infiltration are no longer succeeding as they did before the fencing was laid in 2003-2004. With 600 infiltration attempts in 2005, the record shows a declining trend from 277 tries in 2011 to nearly 270 in 2012. In 2013, infiltration attempts till August 31 were double that of the corresponding period last year. This is one of the factors for the focussed breach of the ceasefire agreement and the destabilisation of the LoC.

The Pakistani Army and the ISI, which are key opponents of normalisation of relations with India, are sending unsubtle messages across the LoC and from Lahore streets through their jihadi adjuncts that they will decide when to make peace overtures to New Delhi. Earlier this year, the Defence of Pakistan Council of Jihadis took to the streets objecting to India being granted Most Favoured Nation status, the breakthrough Confidence Building Measures for revival of dialogue. Taking the cue, Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar endorsed the sentiment saying there is no plan to give MFN status “because we need to normalise the situation on the ground”, meaning the LoC.

Top-secret U.S. intelligence files show new levels of distrust of Pakistan

By Greg Miller, Craig Whitlock and Barton Gellman, 
September 3

The $52.6 billion U.S. intelligence arsenal is aimed mainly at unambiguous adversaries, including al-Qaeda, North Korea and Iran. But top-secret budget documents reveal an equally intense focus on one purported ally: Pakistan.

No other nation draws as much scrutiny across so many categories of national security concern.

A 178-page summary of the U.S. intelligence community’s “black budget” shows that the United States has ramped up its surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms, cites previously undisclosed concerns about biological and chemical sites there, and details efforts to assess the loyalties of counter­terrorism sources recruited by the CIA.

Pakistan appears at the top of charts listing critical U.S. intelligence gaps. It is named as a target of newly formed analytic cells. And fears about the security of its nuclear program are so pervasive that a budget section on containing the spread of illicit weapons divides the world into two categories: Pakistan and everybody else.

The disclosures — based on documents provided to The Washington Post by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden — expose broad new levels of U.S. distrust in an already unsteady security partnership with Pakistan, a politically unstable country that faces rising Islamist militancy. They also reveal a more expansive effort to gather intelligence on Pakistan than U.S. officials have disclosed.

The United States has delivered nearly $26 billion in aid to Pakistan over the past 12 years, aimed at stabilizing the country and ensuring its cooperation in counterterrorism efforts. But with Osama bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda degraded, U.S. spy agencies appear to be shifting their attention to dangers that have emerged beyond the patch of Pakistani territory patrolled by CIA drones.

“If the Americans are expanding their surveillance capabilities, it can only mean one thing,” said Husain Haqqani, who until 2011 served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States. “The mistrust now exceeds the trust.”

Beyond the budget files, other classified documents provided to The Post expose fresh allegations of systemic human rights abuses in Pakistan. U.S. spy agencies reported that high-ranking Pakistani military and intelligence officials had been aware of — and possibly ordered — an extensive campaign of extrajudicial killings targeting militants and other adversaries.

Public disclosure of those reports, based on communications intercepts from 2010 to 2012 and other intelligence, could have forced the Obama administration to sever aid to the Pakistani armed forces because of a U.S. law that prohibits military assistance to human rights abusers. But the documents indicate that administration officials decided not to press the issue, in order to preserve an already frayed relationship with the Pakistanis.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council said the United States is “committed to a long-term partnership with Pakistan, and we remain fully engaged in building a relationship that is based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”

“We have an ongoing strategic dialogue that addresses in a realistic fashion many of the key issues between us, from border management to counterterrorism, from nuclear security to promoting trade and investment,” said the spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden. “The United States and Pakistan share a strategic interest in combating the challenging security issues in Pakistan, and we continue to work closely with Pakistan’s professional and dedicated security forces to do so.”

The Post agreed to withhold some details from the budget documents after consultations with U.S. officials, who expressed concern about jeopardizing ongoing operations and sources.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Critical ‘intelligence gaps’

Stark assessments of Pakistan contained in the budget files seem at odds with the signals that U.S. officials have conveyed in public, partly to avoid fanning Pakistani suspicions that the United States is laying contingency plans to swoop in and seize control of the country’s nuclear complex.

When Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. was asked during congressional testimony last year whether Pakistan had appropriate safeguards for its nuclear program, he replied, “I’m reasonably confident they do.” Facing a similar question this year, Clapper declined to discuss the matter in open session.

Scientific Innovation and China’s Military Modernization

By Michael Raska
September 3, 2013

China has aimed to overcome deficiencies in areas critical to its national security ever since it initiated the National High Technology Program ("863") in March 1986 - the most important civilian-military R&D program next to the “Two Weapons, and One Satellite” science and technology development plan of 1956-67.

The 863 Program featured a concurrent development of dual-use technologies applicable in both civilian and military domains. The program had initially focused on developing seven strategic priority areas: laser technology, space, biotechnology, information technology, automation and manufacturing technology, energy, and advanced materials. In the mid-1990s, China expanded these areas in size, scope, and importance, shifting its trajectory toward cutting-edge technological products and processes. The 863 Program is ongoing, funding projects such as the Tianhe-1A supercomputer.

Three secret national megaprojects

More importantly, the 863 Program has paved the way for China’s current “indigenous innovation” strategy, embedded in the 2006 National Medium to Long-term Plan (MLP) for the Development of Science and Technology (2005-2020). The MLP became China’s most ambitious comprehensive national science and technology plan with special long-term total funding estimated at Rmb 500 bn (US$75bn).

Central to the MLP are 16 National Megaprojects – vanguard S&T programs – “priorities of priorities” – designed to transform China’s science & technology capabilities in areas such as electronics, semiconductors, telecommunications, aerospace, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, clean energy, and oil and gas exploration. The megaprojects include both civilian and military areas, with 13 listed and three “unannounced” areas classified.

The 16 Megaprojects have been a source of considerable controversy and debates both in China and abroad, given the continuing structural, technological, and manufacturing challenges that inhibit disruptive innovation in Chinese defense science & technology system. The debate has also focused on the three classified megaprojects. Prof. Tai Ming Cheung, a leading scholar on China’s defense industries at the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California San Diego, suggested three prime candidates for the military megaprojects:

Shenguang Laser Project for Inertial Confinement Fusion:

The Shenguang (Divine Light) laser project explores the inertial confinement fusion (ICF) as an alternative approach to attain inertial fusion energy (IFE) – a controllable, sustained nuclear fusion reaction aided by an array of high-powered lasers. The lasers essentially heat and compress pellet-sized targets typically containing two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, sending shock waves into the center and releasing energy that heats the surrounding fuel, which may also undergo fusion. Shenguang aims to achieve such “burn” – fusion ignition and plasma burning by 2020, while advancing research in solving the complex technological challenges associated with controlling the nuclear reaction.

Shenguang’s target physics, theory and experimentation, began as early as 1993. By 2012, China completed the Shenguang 3 (Divine Light 3), a high-powered super laser facility based in the Research Center of Laser Fusion at the China Academy of Engineering Physics – the research and manufacturing center of China’s nuclear weapons located in Mianyang. In this context, Shenguang has two strategic implications: it may accelerate China’s next-generation thermo-nuclear weapons development, and advance China’s directed- energy laser weapons programs.

Air-Sea Battle: A Dangerous Way to Deal with China

September 03, 2013
By Amitai Etzioni 

Air-Sea Battle seems a particularly risky response to China’s growing capabilities, and of questionable necessity.

On the face of it, the Pentagon’s Air-Sea Battle plan makes eminently good sense; it is a clear response to a clear challenge. China has been developing a whole slew of weapons (especially anti-ship missiles) over the past two decades that are of great concern to the U.S. military. These weapons, known in Pentagon-speak as anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities, could undermine the international right to free passage in China’s surrounding waters or, in the case of a conflict over Taiwan or contested islands in the South and East China Seas, prevent the U.S. from making good on defense commitments to its friends in the region.

In response, the Pentagon developed Air-Sea Battle (ASB), the employment of which entails, according to position papers developed to promote it, a blistering assault on China’s mainland. A report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) gives a detailed account of how an ASB-style war with China would unfold. In the opening “blinding campaign,” the U.S. attacks China’s reconnaissance and command-and-control networks to degrade the PLA’s ability to target U.S. and allied forces. Next, the military takes the fight to the Chinese mainland, striking long-range anti-ship missile launchers. Given that this is where the anti-ship missiles are located, it is only logical that the U.S. would target land- based platforms. And to go after them, one of course needs to take out China's air defense systems, command control centers, and other anti-access weapons. In short, ASB requires a total war with China.

As word of this plan spread, it generated a great deal of buzz in defense circles—and considerable push back. Some in the Army saw ASB as an attempt by the Air Force and Navy to grab future missions and a larger share of a shrinking defense budget. They were somewhat mollified when planners later carved out more room in the plan for land forces. Others fear that it would lead to an arms race between the U.S. and China just when both powers must focus on nation building at home. Still others claim that the same goal could be achieved by a much less aggressive strategy, such as imposing a blockade on China. Above all, critics hold that ASB is highly escalatory and may lead to nuclear war. Defense analyst Raoul Heinrichs warns that the deep mainland strikes “could easily be misconstrued in Beijing as an attempt at preemptively destroying China’s retaliatory nuclear options. Under intense pressure, it would be hard to limit a dramatic escalation of such a conflict, including, in the worst case, up to and beyond the nuclear threshold.”

Faced with these objections, the Pentagon, to use the term employed by Colonel T.X. Hammes, a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer, “walked back” the plan. Air-Sea Battle’s chief architects argued repeatedly that it is merely a “concept” and that it was not designed “for a specific region or adversary.” Pentagon officials repeat that it is not a “strategy for a specific region or adversary,” and they describe ASB as a tiny office, only seventeen personnel, charged with improving cross-domain coordination and operability. However, the “operational concept” has driven major acquisition decisions and priorities. According to the nonpartisan and highly regarded Congressional Research Service (CRS), “the Air-Sea Battle concept has prompted Navy officials to make significant shifts in the service's FY2014-FY2018 budget plan” towards exactly the sorts of electronic, cyber, and anti-submarine weapons systems that the war plan for China calls for.” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert stated that the Air-Sea Battle Office has “more than 200 initiatives” in progress and that the 2011 and 2012 Presidential Budgets included related investments in “anti-submarine warfare, electronic warfare, air and missile defense, and information sharing” and that the 2013 budget “sustains these investments and really provides more resilient C4ISR investments” in line with the dictates of ASB.

China’s Central Military Commission Prioritises Combat Effectiveness

A recent meeting held in Beijing in August 2013 focused on finance management and supervision of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) according to law. Fan Changlong, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) stressed that combat effectiveness is the sole fundamental criterion for the management and use of military expenditure. Fan further placed emphasis on scientific determination of the direction and amount of military expenditure, besides prioritising related aspects such as weaponry and equipment support, battlefield construction, education and training, and personnel training. It is widely known that the PLA has been striving to make military expenditure management more scientific and contingent. Apart from Fan Changlong, the senior leadership from the four general headquarters/departments of the PLA and the CMC’s General Office, namely, Chen Yong, Cen Xu, Sun Huangtian and Liu Sheng were present at this meeting.

The above-mentioned meeting is seen to be critical given the recent belligerent assertiveness that the Chinese PLA has been displaying at various fronts, including with India, Japan and the Philippines. In fact, earlier, Xi Jinping had reiterated the imperative of raising the PLA’s combat-readiness when he approved deployment of more short- to medium-range missiles on the coastal areas facing Japan. For that matter, the PLA Navy’s largest-tonnage, the Jinggangshan amphibious dock landing ship of the South China Sea Fleet left a naval port in Sanya in southern China’s Hainan province for the waters of the South China Sea and the Western Pacific Ocean in March 2013. The Jinggangshan houses the “Lanzhou” guided missile destroyer, the “Yulin” and “Hengshui” guided missile frigates and helicopters and hovercrafts on the warships and conducted combat readiness patrols and high-sea training including command post establishment, maritime maneuvering operation, maritime right protection, high-sea escort and rapid response to support operations.

More recently, a two-day observation and mission deployment competition of the PLA’s special operation troops codenamed “Sharpen Edge 2013” was concluded on August 19, 2013 at the Zhurihe Combined Tactics Training Base of the Beijing Military Area Command of the PLA. The competition focused on eight major aspects including comprehensive combat skills, maritime and mountain blocking, covering main missions and action modes of special operations. According to the head of related department under the General Staff Headquarters (GSH)of the PLA, the competition aided in effective improvement of actual-combat capabilities of special operation troops under information-based conditions, providing effectual methods for actual-combat training as well as providing basis for compiling a new training programme. Special troops of the three services completed reconnaissance and guide operations, seizing and control operations and night urban anti-terrorism operations. At the PLA’s unit level, informationization is all about making officers adept in high-tech warfare.

Combat capability and effectiveness seems to be the flavour within the PLA. In yet another manifestation, an integrated battle group under the Lanzhou Military Area Command of the PLA conducted a live-fire drill at a training base few weeks back, aiming to improve the troops’ combat capability. China’s state-controlled media reported details of the drill site of the Red Army with a commander in charge of the drill, and Shi Zhongwu, President of the Shijiazhuang Army Command College of the PLA, subsequently commenting on the drill.

PLAN nuclear submarine development

As we see new Chinese warships come out, there is always the inevitable question of how capable are these new hardware. We can make assessments based on pictures we see and reports that we read. Nothing is harder to assess than nuclear submarines. We don’t get many pictures of them. We don’t know about the capabilities of sonar, torpedoes, combat system or the crew. And most importantly, parameters such as acoustic signature, maximum speed and depth are completely confidential. I have to rely on talking to folks who are much smarter than me on these issues, because I certainly don’t have the data or submarine background to do more than guess these things.

We know that the first 2 Type 093s were launched around 2002/3 and joined service in 2006. PLAN followers saw pictures of Type 093 coming out at that time and made optimistic assessment regarding follow-on units along with talks of Type 095 class. Most of us guessed that Type 093 was at or better than Victor III in acoustic performance (based on 1996 ONI assessment) and that Type 095 would be close to Akula I in performance. The interesting part is that PLAN stopped building Type 093s despite speculations and pictures of what appears to be new Type 093 submarines out of Huludao shipyard. Type 091s were upgraded and continued to be actively used. At the same time, a 2009 ONI study came out with chart indicating that they believe Type 093 to be louder than Victor III class and not that much quieter than Type 091. This chart caused a lot of anger online on Chinese military forums. Looking back, we can also see DoD reports of greater number of Chinese submarine patrols after 2006 along with comments from US naval services that they are able to track PLAN submarines at long range. If we combine this with the sudden stop of Type 093 construction, it would seem to indicate that Type 093 did not achieve the intended goals (of Victor III class?) in terms of noise level. At the same time, due to the greater reliability in reactor technology and improved sonar/combat system, these Type 093s and upgraded Type 091s were probably making a lot more extended patrols. I would imagine they get picked up as soon as they leave the naval base. Or else, DoD would not have such precise numbers of PLAN patrols. Certainly, Song and Yuan class have also been going out to sea for exercises, but they do not really have the endurance and would probably also expose themselves if they go too far out.

Based on everything I see, it seems like Type 093 had more reliable propulsion unit, but also a noisier one due to the need to generate greater power for a slightly larger submarine, more power sonar and higher speed/maneuvering requirements. Since the space for Type 093 probably did not increase that much inside pressure hull, they did not have much additional space for more noise insulation. At end of last year, we saw what appears to be a new type of attack sub coming out. Satellite pictures from Huludao earlier this year showed a new attack submarine and a new Type 094. This submarine was labeled as Improved Type 093 on Chinese forums. According to the latest report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China began building first of 4 improved 093 SSN in 2012. This improved Type 093 looks on the satellite photo to be slightly shorter and wider than the original Type 093. From the overheard satellite photos, it looks like this new submarine has a “hump” (like the one on kilo & Yuan) and a possible TAS installation on the tail. I would imagine the new submarines would have more space across for passive noise reduction technology, newer active noise reduction technology as well as newer generation of nuclear reactor. With the improvement in China’s civilian nuclear technology from the late 90s to mid 2000s, it is possible the newer reactor would be a lot quieter than the ones on the first two Type 093s.

This new attack submarine has now gone on sea trials. It is probably not considered Type 095, because a brand new class of attack submarine would probably have larger dimensions for more power nuclear reactor and associated propulsion gears along with more space for missile installation, sonar, living space and noise insulation. Everything I’m throwing out here is speculations. Up to now, PLAN hasn’t been able to develop a “quiet” attack submarine. USSR made a really big leap in Victor-III class (especially the later units). With lessons from the first 2 Type 093s, improved construction techniques along with other possible improvements, it’s possible that the improved Type 093 could make that leap (later Victor III units). Only time will tell where PLAN intends the performance of this improved Type 093 to be and if they will match the expected performance.

The same US-China Economic and Security Review Commission report also stated that China is continuing to build Type 094 while developing Type095 and Type 096. From past satellite photos, it looks like China launched its 4th Type 094 this year. There is at least one 094 at Sanya naval base and another at Jianggezhuang. The third one has moved around a bit, but the most recent photo from Huludao show two 094 at the piers. That could either be the 3rd and 4th or maybe a fifth one has launched. Although, I think the former case is more likely. The latest Type 094 seems to have its sail and missile installation shifted forward compared to the earlier Type 094s, but its overall dimension or the number of missile hatches did not seem to change. Compared to Type 093, I think type 094 is considered more or less successful by PLAN. The ONI charts indicated Type 094 to be quieter than Type 093 and the production of Type 094 didn’t stop for the same period as Type 093. I think PLAN is satisfied that it has a reliable second strike platform even if it is kind of loud.

As for Type 095, I think we are likely to see the lead unit of this class launched while the improved Type 093 is still under production. It is customary for PLAN to mass produce an earlier class while testing out the first unit of a new series. For example, Type 039 was still in production when the first Type 039A was launched. That would probably but the launching of first Type 095 toward the end of this decade. Type 096 would most likely come after that.

The choice in Syria is morality versus history

National Editorial
Sep 2, 2013 

The very public about-turns in London and Washington over how to respond to the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians merely serve to emphasise the lack of good options on offer. 

President Barack Obama's decision to defer the choice to Congress, an institution so gridlocked that it has been unable to agree on even basic legislation, telegraphs the message that he does not want to do anything at all.

The only parties empowered by this state of affairs are Bashar Al Assad and those supporting his murderous regime, Iran and Russia.

One wonders how history will look upon this episode, if some of the most powerful nations on the planet had evidence of an egregious breach of the most fundamental human rights and did nothing.

For those in London and Washington taking a more myopic view than that allowed historians, the decision is profoundly influenced by the circumstances behind the invasion of Iraq, which 10 years later continues to cast a deep shadow on the electorates of both countries.

One cannot disassociate the American intelligence on Syria from the flawed claims a decade ago of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As the Commons revolt faced by British prime minister David Cameron showed, voters who believe they were sold a war on a lie do not forgive easily and they certainly do not forget.

But politics is the art of the achievable. What can be done that will assuage the public's clear opposition to direct involvement but also sends an unambiguous message that the use of chemical weapons on civilians is unacceptable and will not be tolerated?

A starting point is acknowledging that the US and Britain, along with nations in this region, already have a stake in this fight. As in Afghanistan, the jihadis becoming battle-hardened and radicalised in Syria will not stay within its borders.

A second acknowledgement is that the use of chemical weapons on civilians is the most horrendous type of human rights violation. The civilised world faces a clear test of morality.

These factors make a limited but focused strike on Mr Al Assad's military capacity the least worst option, even if the impact is more likely to be symbolic than transformative.

And that is the easiest part. The real challenge will be how to create conditions and dynamics that will eventually pave the way towards a just settlement of the civil war.

Cyber War: A Skeptic’s View of the Threat

September 3, 2013

The fanciful world of cyber warfare

Emily Crawford

Sydney Morning Herald

September 3, 2013

The explosion was catastrophic. When the gas pipeline ruptured that day in Siberia in 1982, the detonation was so large that the North American Aerospace Defence Command headquarters, NORAD, initially thought it might have been a missile launch. Equivalent to three kilotonnes of TNT (or a small nuclear device), it was the largest non-nuclear explosion so far seen from space. Over 20 years later, a United States National Security Council staffer reported in his memoirs that the explosion was the result of an American sabotage operation. A Trojan horse computer virus had been embedded in the software that controlled the pressure and flow in the Siberian pipeline; in disrupting and manipulating the pressure, the virus placed stress on the pipes, ultimately leading to the massive explosion. It was, the staffer declared, the first-ever act of cyber warfare.

Except it wasn’t.

When that National Security Council staffer - Thomas Reed - published his memoirs, journalists and experts set about testing his claims. They found the allegations were unverifiable. There were no media accounts that could confirm the explosion, even though accidents and explosions in the former Soviet Union were frequently reported in Western media at the time. Declassified internal Soviet accounts of computer sabotage during the height of the Cold War also failed to report any such activities. Even the former head of the KGB refuted Reed’s report, suggesting he might have mistaken an explosion that happened earlier that year in the same region of Siberia. (In that incident, the thawing tundra had caused pipes to shift and fracture in the ground.) Even if such a lack of coverage could be chalked up to Soviet-era subterfuge and dissembling, technology experts claimed that such a ”logic bomb” would have been almost impossible to hide in the basic software of 1982. All told, the preponderance of evidence combines to suggest that the so-called ”first cyber-war attack” was a non-event.

This story of the Siberian pipeline ”attack that wasn’t” is among the examples Thomas Rid uses in Cyber War Will Not Take Place to demonstrate that cyber war, at least as it has come to be publicly discussed, has not, and will not, happen. Rid, a reader in war studies at King’s College London, has emerged in the past few years as a sceptic in the increasingly hyperbolic public debate about cyber warfare and cyber security. And there has been plenty of hyperbole: a number of top US officials - including former Whitehouse ”cyber tsar” Richard Clarke, former CIA director Leon Panetta, and the director of national intelligence for the Bush administration, Mike McConnell - have spoken of impending cyber-war disasters. Panetta has warned of a ”cyber Pearl Harbour” and McConnell has prophesied a ”cyber equivalent of the World Trade Centre attack”. Calls for a ”cyber Geneva convention” have abounded, and mass-media outlets have labelled computer viruses such as Stuxnet the ”Hiroshima of cyber war”.

The India-Bangladesh Land-Swap Deal

By Ibu Sanjeeb Garg
September 3, 2013..

One again, the Indian government has hit a roadblock in its attempt to introduce to parliament legislation that would enable a land swap deal with Bangladesh to take place. That is a shame, for the bill—the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement—has implications not only for foreign relations but also for larger questions of human rights, the right to livelihood and even the larger contours of what constitutes foreign policy in India today.

The bill in question called for India to exchange 111 of its enclaves in Bangladesh in return for 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India. Under the agreement India would give up claims for just over 17,000 acres of land which will be transferred to Bangladesh. In turn Bangladesh would cede around 7,000 acres, which would then join Indian territory.

The deal would not only end a historical thorn in the bilateral side, it would also open a new era in the relationship. India often suffers a “perception problem” in the eyes of its neighbors, which often view India with suspicion because of its size, economy and military might. That in turn encourages them to turn to China. The land swap deal would go a long way to improving India’s local image.

A healthy relationship with Bangladesh would have other economic benefits. India could seek from Bangladesh as a goodwill gesture transit rights to its northeast, brining development to a struggling region. A deal could also revive the moribund South Asia Growth Quadrangle (SAGQ), comprising India’s north east, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. And a deal would give a pre-election boost to a Bangladesh government that has generally been favorable to India.

A land swap agreement would also give citizenship rights to close to 52,000 people: 37,000 on the Bangladesh side and close to 15,000 on the Indian side. These stateless people, often victimized, would finally get rights and privileges as citizens, to the benefit of India’s human rights record.

This deal could particularly benefit the North East and Assam. Resolving the land issues would enable borders in these areas to be secured. India would be able to talk officially about the issue of migrating Bangladeshis, a thorny problem for Assam for nearly three decades that will only grow with climate change.

Despites these benefits, the legislation has faced numerous hurdles, particularly accusations that India is selling off land to Bangladesh. Not unexpectedly, ground zero for the opposition has been the northeastern state of Assam. Any policy initiated by New Delhi towards Bangladesh needs to take the sensibilities of Assam into account. In addition to the historical immigration issue, there is Assam’s proximity to Bangladesh and the region’s own troubled history with India’s neighbor, extending back to the 1970s.