6 September 2013

Iran: Managing U.S. Military Action in Syria ***

SEPTEMBER 4, 2013 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Sept. 3. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)


Conventional wisdom says that a weakened Syria would undermine Iran's regional influence, but a U.S. military intervention in the country could actually benefit Tehran. The government there has devised a sophisticated strategy for responding to a U.S. attack. Of course, Tehran would activate its militant proxies in the region, including Hezbollah, in the event that the United States launches an attack, but it would also exploit Washington's visceral opposition to Sunni jihadist and Islamist groups to gain concessions elsewhere. 


Iran already has engaged diplomatically with many of those involved in the Syrian conflict. Over the past weekend, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the foreign affairs and national security head for the Iranian parliament, led a delegation to Damascus, presumably to discuss the potential U.S. attack. Earlier on Aug. 29, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over the phone. Their conversation followed U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman's visit to Tehran, where he and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif likewise discussed Syria. Even the Omani sultan paid a rare visit to Iran, reportedly carrying with him positive messages from the Obama administration for Iran's new government. 

Notably, the rhetoric from Tehran -- particularly from its military leadership -- has been relatively tame. Typically the government antagonizes Washington when U.S.-Iranian tensions heat up, and indeed the Syria situation has aggravated tensions. Syria is a critical Iranian ally, and the survival of the al Assad regime is a national security interest for Tehran. Iran cannot afford to directly retaliate against the United States, but it is widely expected to retaliate indirectly through militant proxies. 

Skillful Maneuvers

Iran's strategy involves more than just activating these proxy groups. It entails the kind of skillful maneuvering it displayed as the United States sought regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tehran cooperated with Washington, and it benefited greatly from the downfall of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein accordingly. The Iranian strategists who helped devise those approaches are once again in power. Zarif, for example, was Tehran's point of contact with the George W. Bush administration in the early days after 9/11. 

However, the Syria situation differs from those of Afghanistan and Iraq. This time it is Washington's aversion to regime change that Tehran is trying to exploit. In fact, the only real reason the United States would want to replace al Assad is to curb Iran's regional influence, which grew considerably after Saddam's ouster. But Washington does not want to supplant al Assad only to see Damascus come under al Qaeda's control. This partly explains why Hossein Mousavian, a close associate of Rouhani, wrote an op-ed Aug. 29 that said regime change in Kabul is "a blueprint for new collaboration" between Washington and Tehran. Mousavian called for U.S.-Iranian cooperation to extend beyond Syria to better manage the crisis-ridden region. 

While the potential exists for U.S.-Iranian cooperation on Syria, U.S. military action undoubtedly would weaken the country. This carries serious risks for Iranian interests. An unfriendly Syria could cut Tehran off from Hezbollah, its pre-eminent non-state Arab ally, and jeopardize the position of its Iraqi allies. 

However, limited airstrikes on Syria that do not undermine the al Assad regime could actually work in Iran's favor. Such airstrikes could divide the rebellion between factions that oppose military intervention and those that favor it. Through their Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi allies, the Iranians would then be able to better manage the rebellion, which includes radical Islamist elements. 

Engineering Terror

Issue Net Edition | Date : 05 Sep , 2013 

Abdul Karim Tunda 

Two dreaded Indian terrorists – Abdul Karim Tunda and Yasin Bhatkal – have been apprehended recently near Indo-Nepal border. Both of them had developed significant Pakistani connections; in fact they were roaming abroad with Pakistani passports. But, then the Pakistan-factor behind rising incidents of terrorism in India has been wellknown. Therefore, this column this week is going to focus on one of the underplayed aspects of terrorism – what motivates one to become a terrorist. 

…the country has a very dangerous future ahead as educated and intelligent young men like Badkal are now guiding the movements of terror. 

Let us take the examples of Tunda and Badkal. Tunda came from a very humble background, whereas Badkal hailed from a middle class family and was well-educated. A friend of mine is not surprised that Tunda chose the path of terror, but he is shocked that Badkal turned out to be a dreaded radical. He thinks that the country has a very dangerous future ahead as educated and intelligent young men like Badkal are now guiding the movements of terror. While I agree with him over his prophesy, I was amazed to find him under the impression that if one is educated, he or she will not be a terrorist as usually terrorists, according to him, are those who are oppressed, poor, uneducated, gullible, and religiously motivated to carry violence. 

But then my friend cannot be faulted to think that way. After all, it is a popular explanation everywhere that economic deprivation and a lack of education caused people to adopt extreme views and turn to terrorism. In other words, so the argument goes, extremism and fanaticism are the fallouts of appalling forms of poverty and lack of opportunities. Most of our Left- dominated academia, media, human rights activists and jhoola-wallas harp on this theory day in and day out and blame the “State” being responsible for terrorism in the country. 

However, what is popular is not necessarily true. For, the unpleasant truth is that neither material deprivation nor inadequate education is an important cause of support for terrorism or participation in terrorist activities. Such explana­tions have been embraced almost entirely on belief or hearsay, not on scientific evidence. Let me prove this point by citing serious and painstaking research findings by scholars specialising on terrorism. 

After examining the educational backgrounds of 75 terrorists behind some of the most significant recent terrorist attacks against Westerners, Peter Bergen, the author of “Holy War Inc.,” and Swati Pandey, a research associate at the New America Foundation, found that a majority of them are college-educated, often in technical subjects like engineering. In the four attacks for which the most complete information about the perpetrators’ educational levels is available – the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the 9/11 attacks, and the Bali bombings in 2002 – 53 percent of the terrorists had either attended college or had received a college degree. 

INS Sindhurakshak Tragedy: Navy should Strengthen and Safeguard its Submarine Fleet

Even as the Indian Navy, the youngest of the three services, had every reason to rejoice over India’s home-grown nuclear powered submarine INS Arihant attaining criticality and the launch of the indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in the first fortnight of August, a massive blow in the form of the wrecking of the INS Sindurakshak submarine in a devastative explosion on August. 14, turned the” mood of celebration” into a “moment of sorrow and introspection”. 

The death of eighteen Indian Navy personnel on-board the ill fated Sindhurakshak, considered the key, frontline conventional submarine in service with the Indian Navy, made the tragedy all the more painful and shocking. Evidently, Sindhurarkshak was a sort of prized possession for the Indian Navy as it had come back from Russia after an extensive refurbishment. Incidentally, Sindhurakshak was deployed at the Mumbai dockyard following a US alert about the possible LeT(Lashkar-e-Toiba) attack along India’s coastline.The 2,300-tonne Sindhurakshak was, by all means, the operationally best submarine at the command of the Indian Navy since it got new sensors and underwent structural modifications which extended its lifespan by almost a decade .Following its midlife refit programme at Russia’s Zvezdochka shipyard at an estimated cost of US$80-million, Sindhurakshak, originally built in 1997, was equipped with the tube launched Club-5 cruise missile effective against the surface vessels and submarines at a range of about 200-kms. Sindhurakshak is one of the ten kilo class submarines that India bought from Russia between 1986 and 2000. 

In the aftermath of this tragedy, Defence Minister A K Antony informed the Indian Parliament that “The navy has ordered a Board of Inquiry (BoI) and it has started with all the seriousness. Its terms of reference are to look into all aspects of causes of this incident. Nothing is ruled out. All likely aspects would be examined by BoI” said Antony. In a way, Antony’s statement implies that sabotage angle could not be ruled out. 

Antony also revealed that the entire operational submarine fleet of the Indian Navy is currently undergoing extensive checks on the weapons related safety system and an audit of the current standards operational procedure has also been ordered. But then a serious question that begs answer is as to why the political dispensation in New Delhi slept over for more than a decade over a proposal for the acquisition of the submarine rescue system. Naval warfare experts point out that the timely deployment of the state of the art Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel (DSRV) could easily save the lives of the sailors on-board the submarine under disintegration. Naval forces of Russia, USA, China, UK and Singapore all have deep sea rescue systems in place. It may be recalled that in August 2000, more than 100 Russian sailors on-board the nuclear powered submarine Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea, had to pay with their lives on account of the failure to deploy DSRV on time. The moral of the story is that by deploying a submarine rescue system, India could have easily managed to save the lives of the sailors on-board Sindhurakshak. 

Can India Plug Its Brain Drain?

By Shreyasi Singh 
September 5, 2013

Through much of the 1960s to the 1990s, India suffered from a brain drain. Each year, graduates—especially those in engineering, math and other sciences—would leave India to access superior post-graduate education and research opportunities available abroad, with the United States near the top of the list. For decades, Indian students have been one of the largest groups of foreign students in U.S. universities. In the past ten years, college and university campuses across the U.K., Australia and Singapore have also been inundated with Indian students.

Yet, even as student outflow continues, over the past 15 years—and most briskly, through the mid-2000s—India has witnessed a promising reverse trickle, buoyed both by the potential of its economy, the romanticized idea of coming home, and a slowdown in the developed world. It’s a trend I personally benefited from as close friends and cousins moved back home to work in the Indian offices of large multinationals, or to open consulting firms, architectural practices and design outfits. Their reasons were quite clear: to be part of the exciting Indian growth story. Unfortunately, the last six months have seen the coin flip again. A sputtering economy and a dithering government have again made going overseas a smart career move for technology professionals and mid-level corporate managers.

As somebody who tracks entrepreneurial activity in the country, it’s difficult to ignore this trend in India’s start-up scene, especially in the technology sector. Several fledgling technology companies I’ve spoken to have recently moved their bases to Singapore or Silicon Valley, or are contemplating doing so. Soumitra Sharma, who is part of the investments team at IDG Ventures India, a venture capital fund focused on investing in technology and technology-enabled businesses, attests to this new movement.

“As far as early-stage technology companies are concerned, it’s very clear that most of the enterprise markets are global,” Sharma told The Diplomat. “And the reality is that it’s very difficult to build a large enterprise company based out of India because the India market when it comes to enterprises (not consumers) is not very large. For start-ups to scale, they have to go global, and it’s important for founders to base themselves closest to where there markets and customers are.”

Sharma explained that although India still features in the scheme of things, the reality is that for Indian entrepreneurs who want to build global companies in the technology product space, it’s prudent to move to the talent-rich, capital-enabled, mature markets of Singapore and the Bay Area. You start out in India, he says, to build your credibility and gain early adopters, and then move on.

“Nobody thought along these lines four or five years back,” Sharma said. “But, now, most VCs that have invested in companies that work in the enterprise segment, immediately encourage part of the founding team to move base, or to expand the one or two-man sales teams that most people would earlier have located out of the U.S. or Asia-Pacific.”

SETTING THE STAGE - Should the PMs of India and Pakistan meet in New York?

Kanwal Sibal 

Whether the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, should meet his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, in New York in September has become a politically controversial issue. The government is being cautious in not ruling in or out such a meeting at this stage, hoping that between now and late September, the surrounding circumstances may change for the better, making the meeting politically less risky in the background of the public agitation over the killing of five Indian soldiers on the Line of Control, and the government’s shaky handling of the defence minister’s statement on the incident in the Lok Sabha. 

Clearly, the minister’s first statement, casting doubts on whether the regular troops from Pakistan were involved in the killing, was intended to keep open the doors not only for the New York meeting but also the resumption of the composite dialogue prior to that, for which suitable dates were being considered. The second statement accusing Pakistan’s military of direct involvement, followed by giving the Indian military a free hand in responding to Pakistan’s cease-fire violations, has, naturally, complicated the political choreography of dialogue resumption, with the postponement of some envisaged secretary level-meetings as the first casualty. 

It is apparent that Nawaz Sharif’s election raised hopes of better relations with Pakistan, especially as improvement of ties with India figured in his party’s election manifesto and his post-election statements on expanding economic cooperation and expediting the trial of those involved in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks struck the right chords. These positive perspectives evidently prompted our prime minister to send his special envoy to meet Nawaz Sharif even before he formally took office, a gesture reciprocated by the latter through sending his special envoy to Delhi with the message that all stake-holders in Pakistan — meaning the military — were aboard on improving ties with India. 

The positive momentum of these early moves has, however, been reversed by subsequent developments. They have raised the question of whether the early optimism on our side was justified in the light of our frustrating experience of decades in dealing with Pakistan, the structural impediments that exist there in normalizing ties, and the long-standing links of Nawaz Sharif and his party with jihadi organizations. To this must be added the region’s changing geo-political scenario with American overtures to the Taliban and its renewed recognition of the Pakistan military’s crucial role in facilitating an orderly American withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Karachi: The Impending Operation?

In a unique move, Pakistan’s federal cabinet is meeting at the Governor’s House in Karachi on 04 Sep 13 to analyse Law and Order situation in the city. The meeting follows a demand by MuttahidaQaumi Movement (MQM), the party that has controlled Karachi during the last few decades; for deployment of the Army in Pakistan’s largest metropolis. The demand shows how the power equation in the troubled city has changed drastically. In the past MQM was steadfastly opposed to the Army’s intervention in Karachi, which it considered as its pocket borough. MQM has also been the victim of “Operation Clean-up” launched by Pakistan Army from 1992 to 1994 in the city and consequently was firmly opposed to any military intervention in the city. However, with its back to the wall, the unquestioned lords of Karachi have been forced to make a volte-face and seek military operations. 

The changing ethno-political equilibrium in Karachi has brought about this change in MQM’s stance. MQM, which draws its primary support from the Urdu speaking Mohajir or migrant community, which migrated from India, has seen its support base erode under the continuing influx of Pakhtoons from Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. Successive military operations in Swat Valley, Waziristan and other parts of FATA have forced large number of Pakhtoons to migrate to Karachi in search of livelihood and according to most estimates they constitute about a quarter of Karachi’s population. There are more Pakhtoons in Karachi today than in Peshawar or Kabul. To compound the problem for MQM, the birth rate amongst Mohajirs, who are relatively the most educated amongst various ethnic groups of Pakistan; has been falling consistently vis-à-vis Pakhtoon, Baloch and Sindhi masses, who are by and large uneducated and conservative in their outlook. As a result, the population of Mohajirs in Karachi has fallen below the crucial half way mark. 

To retain its dominance, MQM tried to broaden its support base, but failed to win substantive support amongst other ethnic groups, despite changing its name from Mohajir Qaumi Movement to Muttahida (United) Qaumi Movement. It then resorted to maintaining its influence by clinging on to power and for last 10 years was an integral component of the governments in Islamabad and Karachi, despite the changes in ruling dispensation. It used its proximity to power in gerrymandering constituencies in urban Sindh to ensure its political dominance, despite falling numbers. It also continued to use strong arm tactics to ensure its vice like grip on the city and used its influence in the government to remove its breakaway faction from its stronghold in Karachi. Its influence also ensured that the religious parties, which had significant influence in the city, were eclipsed. However, 2008 elections saw the Awami National Party (ANP), supported by Pakhtoon youth take on the MQM at its own game. The 2008 elections also saw the ANP make a debut in Sindh Assembly and next five years saw frequent clashes between armed Pakhtoon and Mohajir gangs. 

Charge of the unenlightened brigade

A. K. Shiva Kumar 

Jagdish Bhagwati’s attacks on Amartya Sen are based on a series of misattributions and obscure the real issues on which the two economists differ 

Rich and lively public debates are the raison d’être of any democracy. But the recent attacks by Professor Jagdish Bhagwati on Dr. Amartya Sen confound the real issues on which Sen and Bhagwati differ. 

Bhagwati tries to position himself as a proponent of growth that would benefit the poor through later redistribution. In contrast, Sen is portrayed as being anti-growth, and as advocating only for “redistributing” the meagre resources that are available. This is a complete misdiagnosis, based on a number of serious misattributions. 

Instrument for progress 

First, Sen has never denounced economic growth. On the contrary, he has repeatedly argued for the importance of economic growth as an instrument for economic progress (but not as an end in itself), beginning with his first publication, in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 1957. More recently, in Hunger and Public Action, published in 1989, Jean Drèze and Sen outline in some detail the strategy of “growth-mediated security,” which calls for promoting economic growth and directing the greater general affluence and also larger public revenues to combat deprivation and enhance health care and education. In a recent interview to Prospect’s Jonathan Derbyshire, Sen has reaffirmed his position: “Economic growth is important precisely because it can help people to lead better lives. But to take growth itself to be a fetishistic object of admiration is part of the problem. I think we have to understand that, ultimately, not having an educated, healthy population is not only bad for well-being but also bad, in the long run, for sustaining our economic growth.” Sen has never been against growth in general, but has shown the inadequacy of the type of growth that fails to improve the lives of ordinary people. 

Second, he has consistently argued that economic growth is an important means of development but the intrinsic ends or goals of development have to be more than simply material advancement. His Development as Freedom opens with the following sentences: “Development can be seen, it is argued here, as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy. Focusing on human freedoms contrasts with narrower views of development, such as identifying development with the growth of gross national product, or with the rise in personal incomes, or with industrialization, or with technological advance, or with social modernization. Growth of GNP or of individual incomes can, of course, be very important as means to expanding the freedoms enjoyed by the members of the society … Viewing development in terms of expanding substantive freedoms directs attention to the ends that make development important, rather than merely to some of the means that, inter alia, play a prominent role in the process.” 

Education and nutrition 

Third, Sen has consistently championed health, education and nutrition because they are intrinsically significant as well as an important means to boost economic growth. There is, in fact, no contradiction here: the advancement of human capability is both a part of enhancement of human freedom and well-being and a significant way of promoting and sustaining high levels of economic growth. An educated and healthy labour force is both a contributor to good human living and freedom, and to advancing and sustaining a dynamic and expanding economy. In their recent book, An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions, Drèze and Sen note: “It is necessary to recognize the role of growth in facilitating development in the form of enhancing human lives and freedoms, but it is also necessary in this context to appreciate how growth possibilities of a country depend in turn on the advancement of human capabilities (through education, health care and other facilities), in which the state can play a constructive role.” 

Why India’s Economy Is Stumbling?

Arvind Subramanian

August 30, 2013 -- For the past three decades, the Indian economy has grown impressively, at an average annual rate of 6.4 percent. From 2002 to 2011, when the average rate was 7.7 percent, India seemed to be closing in on China — unstoppable, and engaged in a second “tryst with destiny,” to borrow Jawaharlal Nehru’s phrase. The economic potential of its vast population, expected to be the world’s largest by the middle of the next decade, appeared to be unleashed as India jettisoned the stifling central planning and economic controls bequeathed it by Mr. Nehru and the nation’s other socialist founders. 

But India’s self-confidence has been shaken. Growth hasslowed to 4.4 percent a year; the rupee is in free fall, resulting in higher prices for imported goods; and the specter of a potential crisis, brought on by rising inflation and crippling budget deficits, looms. To some extent, India has been just another victim of the ebb and flow of global finance, which it embraced too enthusiastically. The threat (or promise) of tighter monetary policies at the Federal Reserve and a resurgent American economy threaten to suck capital, and economic dynamism, out of many emerging-market economies. 

But India’s problems have deep and stubborn origins of the country’s own making. The current government, which took office in 2004, has made two fundamental errors. First, it assumed that growth was on autopilot and failed to address serious structural problems. Second, flush with revenues, it began major redistribution programs, neglecting their consequences: higher fiscal and trade deficits. 

Structural problems were inherent in India’s unusual model of economic development, which relied on a limited pool of skilled labor rather than an abundant supply of cheap, unskilled, semiliterate labor. This meant that India specialized in call centers, writing software for European companies and providing back-office services for American health insurers and law firms and the like, rather than in a manufacturing model. Other economies that have developed successfully — Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and China — relied in their early years on manufacturing, which provided more jobs for the poor. 


An uncertain glory: India and its contradictions By Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen, Allen Lane, Rs 699 

The most formidable challenge facing India and her policy-makers is to find the right balance between democracy, equity and economic growth. Since the inauguration of the era of economic liberalization, there have been many advocates of the idea that what matters really is economic growth. The other two of the triad, it is averred, are not that important or are issues that can be addressed later once India is firmly and irretrievably on the path of economic growth. 

In this powerfully argued and empirically solid book, Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen refuse to take such a simplistic and one-sided view of India’s myriad problems. They do not for a moment argue that economic growth is unimportant or irrelevant. They believe, “Economic growth is indeed important, not for itself, but for what it allows a country to do with the resources that are generated, expanding both individual incomes and the public revenue that can be used to meet social commitments.’’ 

Social commitments, or call it welfare, are a key element of any democratic polity. A government that has been democratically elected almost by definition has a certain responsibility towards the welfare of the people whom it represents. It is here that the promise of Indian democracy remains woefully incomplete. India is stalked by poverty and the growing disparity between the rich and the rest. There is also “the persistent ineptitude and unaccountability in the way the Indian economy and society are organized’’. Drèze and Sen address these huge disparities and deficiencies. The book is in part an exposition of the state of the Indian economy and society; it also suggests certain modifications in the priorities or goals of policies. The authors are thus looking at what they style an “unfinished agenda’’. 

The point is important because there is no denying the scale of the Indian economic achievement. In 1900, as one Indian economic historian tellingly noted, “the brightest jewel in the British crown was the poorest country in the world.’’ By the end of the 20th century, India had become the second fastest-growing large economy in the world. Yet this achievement or transformation in no way guarantees that economic growth is on a stable and sustainable track. Thus the phrase, “uncertain glory’’. The future of India hovers between the light and the dark, to borrow from the title of one of C.P. Snow’s novels. 

Readjustments in China’s Diplomatic Practice

Bhaskar Roy

It is very important for Indian foreign policy makers to pay serious attention to a lengthy article written recently (Aug 16, 2013) by Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi on China’s foreign policy. The article titled -“Innovations in China’s Diplomatic Theory and Practice under New Conditions” hints at a few things, gives clarity in very few areas and leaves much to the acumen of the interlocutors to decipher.

Yang Jiechi who heads China’s foreign policy establishment in the govt, is also the director of the Central Leading group for Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party of China. This is the supreme body of China’s diplomatic and foreign policy brain, headed by President and Party General Secretary Xi Jinping who is also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC). The deputy head is Li Yuanchao, Vice President of the country and a Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) member. Foreign Minister Wang Yi is also a member of this group. Significantly, others who are ex-officio members of the group include the Commerce Ministry, Ministry of Public Security and the Deputy Chief of General Staff Headquarters. There would be other important ministries, agencies and think tanks who are co-opted. The total membership of the group is not public and hence, outsiders have to make out by collating stray reports in the Chinese media.

This reflects the width and depth of consultations that the Chinese establishment goes through when formulating diplomacy and foreign policy on the ground. In contrast, India’s foreign policy is generallyreactive and personality driven. Less than a handful of people are involved in taking decisions. In fact, more acute, important and sensitive the issue, the fewer the number of officials involved in India. This is the contrast between India and Chinese foreign policy making, and the reason why India has failed to construct the base of a long term foreign policy.

Yet, Yang Jiechi’s article suggests that Xi Jinping is still fighting to establish his primacy in foreign policy making, and he has in his mind certain adjustments in approach within the established strategy. Almost all paragraphs of Yang’s article, which is an officially backed declaration, extols Xi Jiping and his leadership of the Party’s Central Committee. Published also in English, Yang sends out the message that it is Xi who will take the decisions. Internally, it appears to be a message to others pushing for a stake not to disturb his line, which is not soft but critically designed and in tune with the emerging global environment and trends at home.

Obviously, this strategic foreign policy is evolving. It is, however, predicated by “diplomatic theory with Chinese characteristics”. The significance of this statement does not simply mean “a good policy is that which serves China’s interests”. It goes much further and emphasises what China demands is right and everything else is wrong. This should worry China’s neighbours who have territorial disputes with China, and such disputes are likely to grow as Beijing expands its claims in consonance with its military and economic power.

The word “innovation” reveals that Xi Jinping and his colleagues are beginning to recognize that while protecting its interests China has the responsibility to contribute to the world. This would call for a huge change in the mindset of the Party’s Central Committee where members are from a wide spectrum of ideological shades. Currently, an ideological and political debate has engrossed the nation- how much liberalism and how much conservatism. The internal developments will certainly force Xi Jinping to shape foreign policy, especially diplomacy, accordingly. It would need to be seen how China behaves diplomatically, especially in the use of language, when dealing with territorial disputes.

Why Convergence Breeds Conflict

Growing More Similar Will Push China and the United States Apart 

Great powers think alike: greeting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Beijing, May 2012. (Shannon Stapleton / Courtesy Reuter

Many fear that in the not-too-distant future, the world will be torn apart as the gulf that separates China and the United States grows ever wider. How, they ask, can a communist dictatorship and a capitalist democracy bridge the gap between them? But it is time to stop thinking that the two countries come from different planets and that the tensions between them are the product of their differences. In fact, until relatively recently, China and the United States got along quite well -- precisely because their interests and attributes differed. Today, it is their increasing similarities, not their differences, that are driving the two countries apart. 

The U.S.-Chinese relationship stands in stark contrast to the one between the United States and the Soviet Union, the last country to rival American power. During the Cold War, when geopolitics was above all a clash of ideologies, increasing contact and growing convergence between the two disconnected societies fostered détente.

But the contemporary era of international interdependence has reversed that dynamic. Today, competition has more to do with status than ideology. As a result, differences between great powers frequently lead to complementarity and cooperation, whereas convergence is often at the root of conflict. As they rebalance their economies and recalibrate their foreign policies, Beijing and Washington are increasingly fighting over shared interests. And as Sigmund Freud could have predicted, the more similar China and the United States become, the less they like each other. Freud called this “the narcissism of small differences”: the tendency of essentially similar people to fixate on minor distinctions between themselves in order to justify hostile feelings. Of course, the two countries are hardly identical. But the chasm that divided them a generation ago has narrowed, and as they converge they are becoming more conflict-prone.

When U.S. President Barack Obama came to power in 2009, he hoped to integrate China into global institutions and encourage it to identify its interests with the preservation of the postwar, Western-led international system. But almost five years later, according to a U.S. official with whom I spoke earlier this year who is familiar with the president’s thinking, Obama’s attitude toward the Chinese is best described as “disappointment.” According to the official, Obama feels that the Chinese rebuffed his attempt to forge an informal “G-2” arrangement during his first trip to China, in November 2009, and disagreements between Beijing and Washington on climate change, maritime issues, and cybersecurity have convinced Obama that China is more of a problem than a partner.

How China’s Economic Rebalancing is like the Movie ‘Speed’

By Zheng Wang 

September 4, 2013

How many remember the Hollywood film, Speed, starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock? In the movie, Reeves’ character must keep the Los Angeles bus he is driving above 50 miles per hour to prevent the bomb a disgruntled former bomb squad sergeant has planted from going off and killing everyone on board.

The Chinese economy is currently like that bus in that it must stay above a certain speed. To fall below a set national growth rate will set off the bomb that is attached to the Chinese economy.

Beijing sets a strict growth rate for its economy called the “red line” (hongxian). Under Premier Wen Jiabao, the red line was usually around 8 percent annual growth. Recently, however, this rate was lowered to 7.5 percent. Regardless if it is 8 or 7.5 percent, it is an unthinkably high rate for most countries in the world. Maintaining such a high speed is to prove especially difficult for China, though, given that it is now the world’s number two economy. Beijing is therefore playing a very dangerous game indeed.

In China, growth rates have never been solely an economic issue. The growth rate is closely related to employment, employment with social stability, and social stability with political stability. Given the social and political implications of the unemployment rate, and the fact that China is endowed with a massive population, it should not be surprising that the Chinese government considers maintaining robust employment as its number one priority.

Under Mao, and indeed through the middle of the 1980s, about 80 percent of China’s population lived in the countryside. Low living standards meant that many struggled for everyday survival, but they did not have as many social stability problems because people did not move around the country.

Since China’s reform and opening up policy was instituted, and Beijing joined the WTO, millions of Chinese have left the countryside for employment in cities along the more prosperous coast. Living in these cities also has raised people’s expectations for life and work, making it hard for them to fathom ever returning to the countryside to farm. An exodus back to the countryside is further complicated by the fact that many rural migrants in China have had their former land plots seized by Chinese authorities to make way for new highways, express train railways and giant factories.


By Jonathan Watts

The environmental limits on China’s current road of economic growth will become increasingly apparent over the next five years, prompting policymakers to either change direction or brace for a nasty collision. 

Their ability to do so will depend on what they are driving—which remains open to question. For all the talk of the ‘Chinese model,’ nobody can seem to agree whether it's a juggernaut or a jalopy. 

From a purely economic perspective, it looks very much like a juggernaut. Having overtaken Japan and still motoring along at double-digit pace with a fifth of the world’s population on board, the speed and size of China’s GDP is awe-inspiring. But from an environmental viewpoint, it more closely resembles a jalopy—belching fumes, wasting fuel and constantly in need of a radiator refill. 

Over the past five years, China has become the world’s biggest energy consumer and greenhouse gas emitter. Its longstanding problem of water scarcity in the north has been compounded by pollution, overuse and drought, to leave an accumulated deficit of more than 200 billion cubic meters. 

These problems show no signs of abating without an overhaul. On the latest trends of population growth, rising affluence and energy use, the emissions of the average person in China will surpass those of Europeans within five years and Americans within 10. Demands for water, energy, food and almost every other resource will also intensify, despite warnings that they are already beyond sustainable levels. 

Until now, Beijing has managed to avert a crisis with a series of supply-side solutions to provide more water and fuel, while tinkering with the engine mid-drive. It has embarked on the world’s biggest hydro-engineering project—the South-North Water Diversion Project—to channel rivers to the dry north. It has intensified diplomatic and trade efforts to secure coal, oil, timber and other resources in Australia, Africa and South America—adding to the competitive pressures with the United States. And it has boosted the efficiency of its industrial sector by investing heavily in new power plants and renewable energy. 

The upgrade to a sleeker, low-carbon economy is an expensive and difficult task that is a long way from completion, but China appears ready to pay. Last year, it invested $34 billion in ‘clean technologies’ compared to the United States’ $18 billion, according to the World Resources Institute. The two biggest alternative energies—hydro and nuclear—will see a rapid expansion over the next decade, though they too have an environmental cost.Wind energy generating capacity is growing fast (China became number one in this field too last year), but more than a third isn't yet connected to the grid. Development of solar power, eco-cities and electric vehicles has even further to go, but the government has committed considerable funds to realise these goals. 

Understanding China’s Unbalanced Growth

Yukon Huang Op-Ed September 4, 2013 Financial Times 


China’s unbalanced growth is the result of a healthy urbanization process which has been good for the economy, and this process is likely to continue generating unbalanced growth for a while longer.

That China’s growth is unbalanced is a fact. Consumption as a share of GDP has declined steadily over the past decade to 35 percent — the lowest of any major economy — while its investment share rose to above 45 percent, correspondingly the highest (Figure 1). But are these imbalances a vulnerability — as most observers believe — or a consequence of China’s economic rise and therefore not inherently problematic? 

Many analysts attribute these imbalances to low interest rates, supported by an undervalued exchange rate, which are seen as repressing consumption and encouraging excessive investment. But this argument is misleading since the primary reason for these imbalances is not financial repression but a broadly successful urbanisation cum industrialisation process. This process has caused household income to fall as a share of GDP and the savings rate to rise, which together explain the decline in consumption as a share of GDP over the past decade and half. 

Senior Associate
Asia Program

All this was laid out by Arthur Lewis in his Nobel Prize-winning model that showed how the transfer of surplus workers from the rural sector to the modern economy, complemented by rising investment, leads to rapid but unbalanced growth. His analysis also prescribed the conditions when labor supplies tighten, growth slows and the economy becomes more balanced – now commonly referred to as the “Lewis turning point”. 

These imbalances come from the impact of urbanisation on labor’s share of GDP as workers move from rural to urban-based activities. Assume for example that a typical Chinese farmer produces rice worth 10,000 RMB a year and nets 9,000 after paying for inputs. He then saves 2,000 and spends 7,000. In the national accounts, his activity translates into a consumption share of 70 percent of the value of production. 

Suppose that he moves to Shenzhen and gets a job with Apple (Foxconn) and is paid a typical 30,000 RMB a year. Like most migrants, he saves half and consumes half, or 15,000. Apple combines his labor with capital and imported parts to produce iPads worth 60,000 in terms of valued added. His consumption as a share of industrial value added is now 25 percent. 

Syria: The Search for a Precedent

September 5, 2013

As members of Congress decide whether or not to support legislation authorizing military strikes against Syria with the knowledge that the United Nations Security Council is not likely to provide any imprimatur—as it did for the Gulf War in 1991, a critical factor in why a number of representatives and senators chose to back president George H.W. Bush—the supporters of imminent action have been sifting through the historical record to find ways to justify the use of force. 

The military missions most commonly cited as analogies have been the Iraq War of 2003, the Kosovo intervention in 1999, and the Desert Fox operation in 1998. The Iraq War has become an unpleasant precedent, given that U.S. claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction proved to be unfounded while evidence, particularly from United Nations inspectors, that Baghdad did not possess WMD capabilities were discounted. The vote in the British parliament against taking any immediate action against Syria, as well as the skepticism of other governments and indeed many Americans, reflects a post-Iraq War legacy of distrust as to the veracity of definitive claims by U.S. intelligence. 

The Desert Fox operation is a more seductive analogy, because the scope of that operation seems to resemble the coming campaign against Syria. The four-day series of air strikes against Iraq— conducted only by the United States and Great Britain, and without any specific authorization from the Security Council, was designed to degrade Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's military capabilities and diminish his weapons stockpiles. No one was under any illusions that Desert Fox would precipitate the fall of Saddam’s regime. Rather, the campaign was designed to punish him for his apparent efforts to obstruct UN weapons inspections. Washington's intent with Desert Fox was to maintain an international norm against the illicit acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, just as it wants to maintain a norm against chemical-weapons use today. Indeed, Desert Fox may provide a useful template, only with France taking the place of the U.K., and the testimony of President Barack Obama’s national-security team on Capitol Hill suggests that they are eager to embrace a similar set of limited military objectives. Both chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel were careful not to oversell any proposed military action, utilizing a similar focus on degrading rather than completely destroying capabilities. But, in contrast to Desert Fox, it is not clear today whether a Syria mission would be to secure and destroy chemical weapons or simply “degrade” the offensive capabilities of the regime—or whether it would be only a first step to escalation that would culminate in Assad's overthrow itself. Some in the Obama administration are firmly committed to the most minimal definition of the mission, but others may hope that if the U.S. dips its toe in the water of a deproliferation mission, it may end up jumping in the swimming pool of a full-fledged humanitarian intervention. 

That is why many observers have found the Kosovo precedent more attractive. Just like today, a Russian veto stood in the way of any sort of authorization from the UN Security Council. So, in its search for some degree of international legitimacy in the Kosovo case, Washington chose to turn to NATO. Its argument was that, if the UN Security Council proved deadlocked, a regional security organization was capable of providing the necessary authorization. 

Will Syria Kill the Asia Rebalance?

September 5, 2013

Reality is always messier than theory. It's an axiom in the military that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, and that should apply equally to foreign and national-security strategies writ large. It was therefore inevitable that the original plan rolled out by the Obama administration in 2011 to rebalance America's strategic focus and investments toward the Asia-Pacific would be more complex in execution than it initially seemed in speeches, articles and papers. 

Ever since it was announced, scholars and policymakers from America's allies, partners, and potential adversaries in the Asia-Pacific have all been asking the same question: can rebalancing last? These concerns were raised in some quarters with the departure of national-security adviser Tom Donilon, NSC Asia pointman Jeffrey Bader, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell—all of whom were seen by some as the driving forces behind the rebalance. Such fears intensified when Secretary of State John Kerry began his Middle Eastern shuttle diplomacy, with some expressing concern that his actions demonstrated a disregard for American interests in Asia. 

Of course, the policies enacted are more than a product of the personalities who produced them. The U.S. government remains staffed by an impressive array of Asia specialists and highly effective policymakers who share a commitment to sustaining and deepening the rebalance. Moreover, rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific is ultimately the president's policy, and President Obama has demonstrated his continued commitment to the region in his second term, sustaining the momentum of regional trade and diplomatic initiatives, hosting visits with six Asian leaders in Washington, and visiting Bangkok, Rangoon and Phnom Penh for his fifth trip as president to the Asia-Pacific. 

Still, questions about the sustainability of rebalancing will inevitably continue, and U.S. intervention in Syria will likely reinforce preconceptions and fears of American strategic distraction. Indeed, while the Chinese government officially opposes U.S. intervention in Syria, my private conversations with Chinese scholars have reflected a range of reactions—from astonishment that the United States would willingly involve itself in Middle Eastern turmoil, to genuine confusion about what interests the United States sees for itself in Syria, to barely-contained enthusiasm for the prospect of the United States becoming embroiled in a Middle Eastern quagmire. 

The reality is that the implications that an intervention in Syria holds for U.S. rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific will depend on the intensity of the attack and the duration of U.S. involvement. So far, U.S. ambitions appear to be relatively limited. Two U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and five destroyers have taken position in the region, and the U.S. seems poised to strike Syrian military forces in an effort to, in the words of recent media reporting, “deter, punish, and degrade” Assad's military capabilities. It's important to note that neither of the two aircraft carriers in the area nor any of the five destroyers sent to the region—the Mahan, Barry, Gravely, Ramage, and Stout—were diverted from the Asia-Pacific. Secretary of Defense Hagel recently completed an important visit to Southeast Asia, where he assured the media that despite problems in the Middle East, "this area of the world is going to continue to be a significant part of redefining international affairs." At least for the time being, the only major sacrifice that Asia policy has had to make for the sake of an intervention in Syria has been the attention of senior policymakers and military leaders. Rebalancing can certainly survive this. 

The real test for rebalancing will be if the intervention in Syria intensifies or endures for a long period of time. Senior leaders have commitments for regular travel to the Asia-Pacific, and postponements or an absence would send a stark message to the region that Washington's focus may be straying. Moreover, an intense, long-term intervention in Syria would necessarily divert military resources out of the Asia-Pacific. This would send a strong signal to America's friends and potential adversaries alike that American power, already hampered by sequestration, has very real limits. 

There are several ways in which the United States can assuage Asian concerns about the sustainability of American power in the region. First is an effort, already underway, for the United States to provide more military aid to its allies and partners in the region in order to empower them to contribute to public goods such as regional stability, maritime security, and humanitarian-assistance operations. Yet this cannot be an answer in itself—the region still requires American capabilities and American leadership to sustain regional stability and prosperity. Building military capabilities without providing leadership and commitment is a recipe for arms races, regional rivalry and instability. 

The Terrible History of Human Shields

The possible use of human shields in Syria has a long precedent in some miserable history.
September 4, 2013

A Syrian military tank burns during fighting Wednesday in a suburb of Damascus. (AP Photo/The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad) 

The Mongols pierced holes into the hands of their female Japanese captives. They threaded ropes through the holes to connect the women together in a long line, and made them march ahead of the Mongol soldiers as a human shield, leading into Japan's fortresses. 

This is said to have taken place in the late 13th century. But the terrible story of human shields doesn't end there.

There are new reports this week that the Assad regime in Syria is moving troops into civilian areas ahead of a possible U.S. missile strike, and possibly placing prisoners in military sites. It's the kind of jaw-dropping military tactic that is typically scorned by the international community, and explicitly banned by the Fourth Geneva Convention (of which Syria is a party). It's also the kind of tactic that, if used during a possible U.S. strike, has the potential to completely deter and degrade the Obama administration's plans for quick, relatively painless, and limited action.

This isn't the first time we've heard of the Syrian regime possibly using human shields. The U.N. annual report on Children and Armed Conflict released in June 2012 included the Syrian armed forces on the list of parties that recruit, use, or abuse children in armed conflict. The report specifically accused Syrian troops of using children as young as 8 as human shields during raids. In March, based on witness reports, Human Rights Watch accused the Syrian government of having "endangered local residents by forcing them to march in front of the army during recent arrest operations, troop movements, and attacks on towns and villages in northern Syria."

Among tyrannical regimes, the use of human shields has an infamous recent history. NATO worried that forces loyal to Libya's Muammar el-Qaddafi were using civilians to protect themselves in April 2011. Libyan rebels claimed that August that the government was using human shields in Qaddafi's birthplace of Sirte.

But perhaps the most notorious recent proponent of human shields was Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Hussein used "thousands of foreign and Iraqi civilians as human shields in bids to manipulate domestic and international opinion and deter military action against his regime" when he was in conflict with the West, according to a January 2003 CIA report. The CIA alleges that in 1990, Hussein "held more than 800 Western, Japanese, and Kuwaiti nationals" in Iraq and Kuwait to defend his regime from an attack to end its invasion of Kuwait. In 1997, Hussein "enticed or coerced" thousands of Iraqi civilians to act as voluntary human shields to ward against an attack after Iraq refused to let U.N. inspectors into some sites. Iraqi men, women, and children served as human shields at roughly 80 palaces and facilities during the crisis.

The CIA report was released at a significant time, just months ahead of "shock and awe" and the beginning of America's war with Iraq. For his part, President Bush warned in a February 2003 speech that Hussein "regards the Iraqi people as human shields." The CIA report expressed concern that the Iraqi regime was again preparing to use human shields ahead of a coalition strike, and was actively courting volunteers from international antiwar groups.

Arm and Shame

Published: September 3, 2013 

The Obama team has clearly struggled with its Syria policy, but, in fairness, this is a wickedly complex problem. We need a policy response that simultaneously deters another Syrian poison gas attack, doesn’t embroil America in the Syrian civil war and also doesn’t lead to the sudden collapse of the Syrian state with all its chemical weapons, or, worse, a strengthening of the Syrian regime and its allies Hezbollah and Iran. However, I think President Obama has the wrong strategy for threading that needle. He’s seeking Congressional support for a one-time “shock and awe” missile attack against Syrian military targets. The right strategy is “arm and shame.” 

Thomas L. Friedman

Let me explain. Count me with the activists on the question of whether the United States should respond to the Syrian regime’s murder of some 1,400 civilians, more than 400 of them children, with poison gas. If there is no global response to this breaching of a universal taboo on using poison gas, the world will be a much more dangerous place. And only America can spearhead a credible response: Russia and China have rendered the United Nations Security Council meaningless; Europe is a military museum; the Arab League is worthless; all others are spectators. We are out front — alone. We may not want to be, but here we are. So we must lead. 

But upholding this norm in the context of the Syrian civil war is not a simple matter. Start with the fact that probably the only way to produce a unified, pluralistic, multisectarian Syria is for an international army to come in, take over the country, monopolize all weaponry and referee a long transition to consensual rule. Syrians can’t forge that on their own now. But such a force is not possible in this century, and Iraq demonstrated how hard it is for even that option to work. 

Thus, the most likely option for Syria is some kind of de facto partition, with the pro-Assad, predominantly Alawite Syrians controlling one region and the Sunni and Kurdish Syrians controlling the rest. But the Sunnis are themselves divided between the pro-Western, secular Free Syrian Army, which we’d like to see win, and the pro-Islamist and pro-Al Qaeda jihadist groups, like the Nusra Front, which we’d like to see lose. 

That’s why I think the best response to the use of poison gas by President Bashar al-Assad is not a cruise missile attack on Assad’s forces, but an increase in the training and arming of the Free Syrian Army — including the antitank and antiaircraft weapons it’s long sought. This has three virtues: 1) Better arming responsible rebels units, and they do exist, can really hurt the Assad regime in a sustained way — that is the whole point of deterrence — without exposing America to global opprobrium for bombing Syria; 2) Better arming the rebels actually enables them to protect themselves more effectively from this regime; 3) Better arming the rebels might increase the influence on the ground of the more moderate opposition groups over the jihadist ones — and eventually may put more pressure on Assad, or his allies, to negotiate a political solution. 

By contrast, just limited bombing of Syria from the air makes us look weak at best, even if we hit targets. And if we kill lots of Syrians, it enables Assad to divert attention from the 1,400 he has gassed to death to those we harmed. Also, who knows what else our bombing of Syria could set in motion. (Would Iran decide it must now rush through a nuclear bomb?) 

Airpower Options for Syria

Assessing Objectives and Missions for Aerial Intervention 

As the Syrian civil war drags into its third year with mounting casualties and misery among the civilian population, and the large-scale use of chemical weapons, interest in the possibility of military intervention by the United States and its allies is growing despite U.S. wariness of becoming involved in a prolonged sectarian quagmire. Without presuming that military intervention is the right course, this report considers the goals an intervention relying on airpower alone might pursue and examines the requirements, military potential, and risks of five principal missions that intervening air forces might be called on to carry out: negating Syrian airpower, neutralizing Syrian air defenses, defending safe areas, enabling opposition forces to defeat the regime, and preventing the use of Syrian chemical weapons. It finds that (1) destroying the Syrian air force or grounding it through intimidation is operationally feasible but would have only marginal benefits for protecting Syrian civilians; (2) neutralizing the Syrian air defense system would be challenging but manageable, but it would not be an end in itself; (3) making safe areas in Syria reasonably secure would depend primarily on the presence of ground forces able and willing to fend off attacks, and defending safe areas not along Syria’s borders would approximate intervention on the side of the opposition; (4) an aerial intervention against the Syrian government and armed forces could do more to help ensure that the Syrian regime would fall than to determine what would replace it; and (5) while airpower could be used to reduce the Assad regime’s ability or desire to launch large-scale chemical attacks, eliminating its chemical weapon arsenal would require a large ground operation. Any of these actions would involve substantial risks of escalation by third parties, or could lead to greater U.S. military involvement in Syria.