12 September 2013

Challenges in Afghanistan ***

Delhi must shed its pusillanimity on relations with Kabul
by G Parthasarathy

THE Air India flight from Kabul to New Delhi on September 5, in which I had travelled, had just landed when I was told at the arrival hall that Sushmita Banerjee had been brutally murdered by the Taliban in retribution for her expose of Taliban atrocities against women. The brutal murder again exposed the medieval and murderous characteristics of the Taliban with whom the US is almost desperately seeking “reconciliation.” This, after the Taliban, operating largely from bases in Pakistan, has killed 2,161 American combat personnel and wounded 19,080. What I found in a five-day visit to Afghanistan is that it is a country with unlimited opportunities for development and democracy, even while facing a brutal insurgency fuelled and funnelled from across its borders with Pakistan. Pakistan is an object of hate and derision across the country. Visitors from Pakistan in Kabul often prefer to describe themselves as “Hindustani” in Kabul’s bazaars.

In just over a decade after the medieval Taliban was ousted, Afghanistan has seen a remarkable political and social transformation. The country has since developed a robust political system. President Karzai and his ministers are freely criticised. The media is free and lively. Shahrukh Khan and his “Chennai Express” receive rave reviews. While schools were virtually defunct and women denied the right to education and work in the Taliban years, there are now 10.5 million students in educational institutions, with universities now flourishing in Kabul, Nangarhar, Khost, Herat and Balkh. Forty-eight per cent of all doctors and 60 per cent of teachers are women, who now are also well represented in the legislature and even in the army and the police.

Afghanistan is now preparing for the Presidential elections scheduled for around April, 2014. With President Karzai constitutionally ineligible for a third consecutive term, jockeying has commenced for who should succeed him. Afghanistan has traditionally been ruled by the dominant Pashtuns, with the Tajiks, Hazaras (predominantly Shia), Uzbeks and Turkmens who constitute over 50 per cent of the population, forming alliances to protect their interests. Powerful regional leaders with significant armed cadres like Mohammed Atta in Mazar-e-Sharif and Ismail Khan in Herat will have a significant say in any outcome. This jockeying for viable coalitions will continue till the Presidential elections are held. President Hamid Karzai, derided by the Americans and their British camp followers, deserves high praise for the way in which Afghan democratic institutions have been nurtured, ethnic, sectarian and religious pluralism respected and the state and educational institutions developed, in his 11 years as President. Even the miniscule Sikh and Hindu communities are now represented in Parliament.

There are understandable suspicions in Afghanistan about the future American role after they end their combat operations in December 2014. Recognising their economic and military vulnerabilities, Afghans realise that they will have to conclude a security pact with the Americans, giving the Americans more than half a dozen air bases, if they are to secure American and western economic and military assistance. It will require at least 10 years of relative peace for the Afghans to become economically self-reliant, by developing their agricultural and mineral potential. What is most worrying for the Afghans is the American policy of supplying their armed forces only weapons with limited firepower, while denying them artillery, tanks and other heavy weaponry, which they possessed earlier, but were destroyed by the Americans shortly after they arrived. This is a source of deep anger and anguish as Afghanistan's ill-equipped armed forces are taking huge casualties as they confront the Pakistan-backed Taliban. American policies are widely seen as a deliberate ploy to force the Afghans to “reconcile” with the Pakistan-backed Taliban and Haqqani network with Pakistani "facilitation".

While the Afghans are seeking good neighbourly relations with Pakistan, the overwhelming view is that there will be no change in Pakistan's malevolence in the near future. In contrast there is huge admiration and affection for India with public opinion polls indicating that India is the most highly regarded country, by 74 per cent of Afghans polled. Ninety-one per cent of Afghans polled have an “unfavourable” view of Pakistan, with 58 per cent regarding the Taliban as the “biggest danger” to their country even when including local warlords, drug smugglers and the US. India's economic assistance and political non-interference have played a crucial role in this. But this favourable perception is slowly changing, primarily because of India's refusal to provide any military equipment to the Afghan army, which has deliberately been kept inadequately equipped.

The G-Zero scenario

Sep 12 2013
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-gzero-scenario/1167890/0

Differences at the G-20 summit suggest it may be every nation for itself now.

Back in 1999, when the G-20 replaced the G-8 and was formally constituted, the world was a far more secure place. The agenda for the 20 member states was focused on one ambition: the promotion of international financial stability. Following the latest summit in St Petersburg last week, it is safe to say that the seven meetings that took place between the heads of government yielded little. The G-20 met in the shadow of global financial instability and the threat of a possible strike on Syria, backed by only two of its members, the US and France. The rest, including summit host Russia, are either vehemently opposed to any military operation or will only support UN-sponsored action. While the latest compromise solution could stave off military action, differences regarding the global economic meltdown and the weapons needed to tackle it were also evident. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's stated objective was "an orderly exit from the unconventional monetary policies being pursued by the developed world for the last few years". It's a case, clearly, of each member country looking after its individual interests rather than the greater global good. Even within the BRICS umbrella, India's economic travails received scant support from Russia and China.

So, is the world in 2013 in the throes of what author and geopolitical analyst Ian Bremmer labelled the G-Zero? Last year, Bremmer argued in his book, Every Nation for Itself, that the world was facing a leadership vacuum, with the US in decline and China still struggling with economic uncertainty and disparity. Moreover, he believes that the diverse political and economic values of the G-20 have produced a global gridlock. His core argument is, given that so many challenges transcend borders, the need for international cooperation has never been greater, while, paradoxically, countries across the world are growing increasingly insular. The global leadership vacuum, he predicted, would provoke uncertainty, volatility, competition and, in some cases, open conflict.

Another widely discussed report, produced by Standard Chartered, concluded that the world had entered a new "super-cycle" in which traditional economic hierarchies were being upended. Ever since the financial crisis, the report stated, the US had lost the economic strength and the will to be the world's policeman. The number of Americans, for example, who believe the US should "mind its own business internationally" has spiked to a level not seen since the 1950s. For many countries, this would seem like a relief from from America's aggressive interventionism, but it has also helped create a stalemate on everything from global warming to international trade or action against Syria. That has the potential to radically affect future generations across the world, as countries become more inward-looking and adopt policies geared to domestic priorities, the opposite of the G-20 mandate.

What Bremmer's geopolitical analysis showed was that just a generation ago, the then G-7 — France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, the US and Canada — not only powered the global economy, it also, for better or for worse, made decisions that determined the fate of the entire world. But over the last few years, that dynamic has changed dramatically. For the first time in seven decades, Bremmer pointed out, there is no single power or alliance of powers ready to take on the challenges of global leadership. At one time, the US, Europe and Japan were the world's powerhouses, the free-market democracies that propelled the global economy forward. Today, they are struggling to find their footing. Within Europe, only Germany and France seem comparatively stable. In Germany, poll-bound citizens are questioning why their country should be bankrolling the rest of the European community. Bremmer's conclusion, that the world is in danger of becoming a series of gated communities as power is regionalised instead of globalised, is increasingly in evidence.

Can India be a rule shaper?

BRUCE JONESWAHEGURU PAL SINGH SIDHU

Influencing the multilateral order is in the country's national interest as the dividing lines between them have blurred

As India moves toward its seventh decade of independence, it faces a defining period. As the world’s biggest democracy with an economy among the world’s ten largest, India’s status as a re-emerging global power is now not just recognised but increasingly institutionalised: a seat in the G-20, increasing clout in international financial institutions, growing acceptance as a nuclear-armed state, and impressive peacekeeping credentials under the United Nations.

Meanwhile, geopolitical shifts have created simultaneous opportunities and challenges: the opening with the United States; the rise of China; the global financial crisis; the so-called Arab Spring; the mounting crisis between Iran and the West as well as key Gulf states; and the growing international tussles over energy, climate, food, cyber and the oceans. India’s rapid growth came through participation in the multilateral order, and now its development strategy makes it dependent on a stable globalisation. India has growing economic, trade and energy stakes in literally every corner of the globe. Much of that trade and energy flows via the Indian Ocean, where India is an established maritime player but where it also faces new threats and pressure to ramp up its engagement.

At this stage in its history, India has critical interests in every major multilateral regime, and vital interests in several emerging ones. The boundaries between Indian self-interest and the contour of the multilateral order have blurred. In short, India has no choice but to seek to influence the evolving multilateral order to sustain itself.

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged in his Independence Day address, India’s economic well-being is now directly linked to ensuring a healthy world economy: “Countries today are more integrated with each other than ever before. We have endeavoured that our foreign policy exploits this fully to India’s benefit.” Thus it has become imperative for India to not only govern itself better but also to contribute to shaping the evolving multilateral order.

Criticism

Commentary on India’s posture on the multilateral order asserts that it has often been little more than a defensive crouch; that non-alignment was rooted in a geopolitical strategy, but Indian policy has not fully reacted to changing geopolitics and geo-economics; that India has not yet genuinely sought to shape the resulting global order. What is certainly true is that India’s posture on the multilateral order has not changed as quickly or dramatically as the order itself.

A lonely man

Sep 11, 2013

Many of Chidambaram’s critics, including those in his own party, contend that when it comes to him, the rather thin line between self- confidence and arrogance was frequently breached

It’s lonely at the top. Especially when those who once lionised you turn into your bitter critics. That indeed is the unfortunate denouement that Palaniappan Chidambaram, the Harvard-educated three-time finance minister and former home minister of India, currently finds himself in.

No one ever doubted that he is not just super-smart but extremely intelligent as well. It was not very long ago that he could do nothing wrong. Today, he is being accused of being unable to do anything right as he oversees an economy in doldrums. The rupee has collapsed, growth rates are down, industrial production has declined and inflation remains stubbornly high. Mr Chidambaram is urging everybody and his brother not to become excessively despondent. But few seem to be willing to listen to him.

The job of the finance minister is hardly one that is guaranteed to win a popularity contest, even if he is paid by the ordinary taxpayer to be perpetually optimistic. But the way in which Mr Chidambaram rubbed some of his one-time confidantes the wrong way is perhaps unprecedented in contemporary Indian history. Relations between the boss of North Block and the head of the country’s Central bank and apex monetary authority have not always been smooth. But rarely have their differences of opinion been so out in the open.

Duvvuri Subbarao was literally hand-picked for the post of finance secretary by Mr Chidambaram. But the two stopped seeing eye-to-eye after the former became governor of the Reserve Bank of India. The finance minister was visibly upset over the RBI’s decision to keep the interest rates high despite his ministry putting out a fiscal consolidation roadmap. In October 2012, Mr Chidambaram publicly remarked that if the government had to meet the challenges of growth, “we will walk alone”.

Mr Subbarao waited for his last public lecture as RBI governor to hit back at his former mentor: “I do hope finance minister Chidambaram will one day say, ‘I am often frustrated by the Reserve Bank, so frustrated that I want to go for a walk, even if I have to walk alone. But thank God, the Reserve Bank exists’.”

The finance minister recently urged the people of India to stop buying gold for a year to contain the burgeoning current account deficit on the external balance of payments. Rather belatedly, he increased the customs duties on imports of the yellow metal and imposed curbs on gold purchases. It was a classic case of “too little, too late”.

Soon thereafter, the rupee crashed and the economy went into a tailspin. The same foreign investors who he had assiduously wooed left Mr Chidambaram high and dry. The same Indian capitalists who had gone overboard praising his “dream Budget” of 1997 for cutting taxes, went overseas, preferring to invest outside their country and become home-grown multinationals.

Will history judge Mr Chidambaram as one who undermined institutions in the world’s largest democracy? He is visibly unhappy that the Supreme Court’s decisions contributed to a sharp fall in exports of iron ore and that the country is currently importing a substantial proportion of its requirements of coal for power generation despite possessing large reserves of the mineral. Mr Chidambaram was also critical of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on the 2G spectrum scam.

Death of politics

Sep 11, 2013

The ruling party seems to be suffering from a Modi fixation. Leaders of the sycophant brigade are trying to outdo each other in vitriolic attacks against him and demonstrating their loyalty to the ruling family.

Politicians focus on next elections, while statesmen on the next generation. Our political leaders — under Mahatma Gandhi and for over a decade thereafter — were statesmen who dedicated themselves to the service of the nation.

The era of those great leaders ended with the demise of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Today our political leaders are only concerned about retaining or grabbing power.

There’s no doubt that Indira Gandhi was a great Prime Minister, but she also had serious shortcomings. She got full advantage of being the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and the surname of the Father of the Nation, but owed her prime ministership to “The Syndicate”. Her transformation from a “goongi gudiya” to the Iron Lady was her own achievement. She proved to be a great war-leader in 1971 when India achieved a unique victory in over one million years of its history. But she is also responsible for many ills of our present polity. New-brand Congress, new-brand Gandhis and new-brand netajis are so unlike their original brands.

India under the United Progressive Alliance-2 government is groaning — there’s dynastic rule, rampant corruption, policy paralysis, bad governance, economic mismanagement and galloping inflation. Some of these ills have spread to several political parties. Both external and internal national security are often held hostage to votebank politics. Illegal migration in the Northeast, appeasement in Kashmir, soft policy towards Pakistan and terrorism are the outcome of seeing all these issues from the prism of votebank. So also the preemptory and indefensible action against Indian Administration Service officers like Durga Shakti Nagpal in Uttar Pradesh and Ashok Khemka in Haryana.

Dynastic bug eats into the fabric of democracy like termites. Heredity becomes more important than ability. All power gets concentrated in the ruler and his/her progeny. Feudal culture of fawning courtiers becomes dominant. Feudalism destroys people’s self-respect and dignity.

I belong to a generation which grew up under colonial rule and spent first few years of my service under British superiors. We served with more self-respect and dignity in our early days than the present generation under our political masters can. Power-drunk and corrupt politicians at the drop of a hat order “off with his head” and officials have to lump it. The steel frame of the administration has been reduced to a pulp.

The middle-class constituted three per cent of the population in 1947. It is now 37 per cent. Unlike in the past, it has now started queuing at polling booths. Thanks to television, Internet and mobile phones, there is widespread awareness of UPA’s misrule even in rural areas.

The shattered image of the Congress cannot be revived through financial extravaganzas like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) before 2009 general elections or the Food Security Bill before the 2014 general elections. Rajiv Gandhi said that only 15 per cent of fund for development reached the beneficiaries, the remainder gets siphoned off. Today the instrument of governance is so corroded that it can barely deliver even that much.

Behind U.S. heat on fridge gas pact, thirst for markets

NITIN SETHI

APU.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, Todd Stern (in picture), demanded that Indian officials agree to phase out refrigerant gases under the Montreal Protocol before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits the U.S. File photo

Ministries advise PMO to resist arm-twisting in run up to PM’s visit

The U.S. is pushing India hard to sign on to a pact that would eventually lead to New Delhi replacing climate-damaging refrigerant gases with alternative, but expensive, technologies proprietary to a few U.S.-based companies.

Signing the pact — the multilateral Montreal Protocol — would open a huge market for these U.S. firms that hold patent rights on the replacement gases and their attendant technologies.

In a meeting with Indian officials, minutes of which were accessed by The Hindu, the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, Todd Stern, demanded that Indian officials agree to the beginning of discussions on the phase out of these refrigerant gases under the Montreal Protocol before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits the U.S. Records show that he warned that if the decision was not taken at the official level, President Barack Obama would raise it directly with the Indian Prime Minister.

Mr. Stern, in his meeting, told Indian officials that it is a political priority not just for the U.S. administration but also personally for President Obama.

The Ministry of External Affairs and the Environment Ministry — both nodal points for environment-related international agreements — have opposed the move strongly, raising a red flag on several counts. They have said that the Union Cabinet had earlier decided against such a move. It’s noted that the new technology and gases being pushed as the alternative are patented by select industrialised country companies, are 20 times more costly at times and untested for safety in some cases.

The Ministries have warned of the potential impact on India’s defence equipment — submarines and aircrafts, which use the refrigerant gases. Besides, such a decision promises to weaken the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and dilute existing responsibilities of the developed world to fund reduction of global emissions, it has been pointed out internally.

But India has been caught in a bind with the Prime Minister signing on to the recent G20 communiqué that encouraged such technology transition in breach of the Union Cabinet decision, which was taken in 2012. The PMO approved the communiqué signed at St. Petersburg without the knowledge of the nodal environment ministry.

The Indian government’s position against bringing this transition under the technology replacement regime of the Montreal Protocol has been reiterated innumerable times in domestic, bilateral and multilateral forums for years now besides being laid down in 2012 as part of India’s climate negotiation redline as a Cabinet decision.

But Dr. Singh’s approval of the St. Petersburg communiqué has left the Indian flank open with the U.S. special envoy, Mr. Stern, pointing to the communiqué specifically while leaning on Indian officials to approve the decision.

Dead men talking

Sep 12 2013

Reporting on Lanka's blood-soaked years, I watched names disappear from my notebook.

This is one box nobody would like to check on his CV. Not even the most battle-hardened hack. But, early in September of 1989, I found myself in the wrongest place at the wrongest time. And witnessed my first, and hopefully only, live (apologies for that horrible malapropism, but we are all brainwashed by news TV now) execution ever. This was in the middle of Galle Road, Colombo's shopping and pleasure strip, studded with clubs and malls.

For just a moment, it had even seemed that the gunshot roar had come as a relief. There was a mild groan, and silence again. And as I reported then, in what you may call the first draft of this story ('Sri Lanka: Falling Apart', India Today, September 30, 1989), when a man is shot in the head with an M-16 rifle at 30 metres, he just drops dead. Soldiers jumped past streams of blood and poked the body with gun barrels. "Anyone who tries to take a picture will join this body in the ambulance," warned the officer. Since all of us had just seen him carry out the execution, nobody would even think about that. This was the Sri Lanka of 1989.

The victim had been clutching a bag. Soldiers suspected it contained a bomb and challenged him. He just sat down in fright as snipers took positions and a crowd of hundreds gathered, as if around a street performer. The man, obviously frozen in terror, just continued sitting quietly. It is a horrible comparison if you saw that film, but years later, as I watched Kevin Spacey, on his knees, his face a portrait of meditative peace, waiting for Brad Pitt to shoot him in David Fincher's disturbing dark thriller, Seven, this execution came back to me. Unlike Spacey's evil John Doe, this was a totally innocent man. It's just that you somehow saw calm, not fear, on his face.

The set-piece in place, and too scared to close-in, in case he was a suicide bomber, a sniper first shot him in the shoulder. He lay writhing in pain, still quiet. "Shoot him, kill him now," shouted the officer. Another sniper shot him in the head. Next to his body, his bag now lay, its contents spilled: fresh vegetables. Five minutes later, the road was open, and life back to normal. For me, it was just an evening walk from crowded Dehiwala to my hotel, Lanka Oberoi (now Cinnamon Grand).

No part of the subcontinent is unfamiliar with mass violence. But you've seen nothing like Sri Lanka in those years. Corpses floated down rivers, hung from trees, smouldered by the roadside, smelling of flesh and rubber. The smell told you the favoured method of execution in Sri Lanka then was not a single M-16 bullet, but "necklacing" — tie the arms, put a tyre round the neck, throw a tin of kerosene and a burning cigarette. On the drive from Katunayake airport to Colombo, as you crossed Kelaniya (also called Kelani Ganga river), where, a little upstream, the 1957 World War II classic The Bridge on the River Kwai was shot, you looked down instinctively for floating bodies. You were rarely "disappointed". The Colombo commuters' and school children's favourite pastime was hanging around the Kelani bridge looking for bodies. In fact, a day before I witnessed that execution, the state-owned Daily News reported that the price of fish was crashing: who would want to buy fish feeding on human bodies?

Mind you, this wasn't the Tamil north and the east. Prabhakaran was not to blame for this, though he was up to his own stuff, on the run from the IPKF, but carrying out the odd deadly ambush and cutting that diabolical deal with Premadasa. This was the turn of the Sinhala mainland to be on fire. The radical left JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) insurgency raged. Sinhala killed Sinhala. Soldiers killed civilians, guerillas killed soldiers and state-sponsored vigilantes — Green Tigers, Yellow Scorpions, Blue Cobras and so on — killed whoever they wished to. Tens of thousands were killed during those months. Led by Rohana Wijeweera, as charismatic and cruel as Prabhakaran, the JVP paralysed Sri Lankan elites. My old friend and Tamil moderate politician and lawyer, Neelan Tiruchelvam, put it brilliantly, as only he could. "Doctors can't treat, teachers can't teach, lawyers can't defend. The very basis of our lives is under threat." In these five weeks, the toll in just Sinhala areas crossed 5,000. And remember, the total Sinhala population then would not have been more than 1.2 crore. This, when there had been no riots. Just targeted killings.

India to Test “China Killer” Agni-V ICBM

By Zachary Keck
September 11, 2013

India will conduct a second test of its longest range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile sometime around September 15, according to local media outlets.

On Monday, the Chennai-based The Hindu cited an unnamed official at the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), India’s military technology agency, as saying that DRDO is currently preparing for the second test of the Agni-V missile at Wheeler Island. The official said the test would be conducted “around September 15,” presumably depending on how preparations go and weather conditions. The report went on to cite another Indian official as saying that two Indian naval ships were being positioned in the Indian Ocean near the target point of the test.

The Agni-V is a three-stage, solid-fueled missile that can travel 5,000 km while carrying a 1,000 km payload, making it India’s longest range missile. It is often referred to as India’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in local media. Although it demonstrates mastery of all the necessary technologies of ICBMs, technically it is only an intermediate ballistic missile as ICBMs have ranges of at least 5,500 km. 

India first tested the Agni-V in April 2012. The first test, which was also conducted at Wheeler Island, was successful and garnered a lot of excitement in India, both because of the scientific achievements involved in developing an ICBM-like missile, as well as because the Agni-V will allow India to deliver nuclear weapons to many of China’s major cities for the first time. In light of this, some in India have taken to calling the Agni-V the “China killer.”

Last month The Hindu reported Tessy Thomas, the director of the Agni Missile Project at DRDO, as saying there will be two or three more tests of the Agni-V before the missile is deemed operational in 2015. She also said that the Agni-V, like all of India’s missiles, is a “weapon of peace.”

Back in May, V.K. Saraswat, who at the time was DRDO’s Director-General, confirmed that his organization was modifying the Agni-V to enable it to carry Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs). As The Diplomat explained at the time:

“MIRVs enable ICBMs to carry multiple nuclear warheads on a single missile, and strike multiple targets or a single target with greater efficiency. After the last stage of the ICBM boosts off, a MIRVed ICBM will dispense the warheads to their separate or singular targets. Both the Soviet Union and the United States MIRVed their ICBM forces during the 1970s, which complicated arms control agreements moving forward.”

In her comments last month, Ms. Thomas implied that the modifications to allow India to MIRV its Agni-Vs had been completed successfully. This raises the possibility that the upcoming test would use a MIRVed Agni-V, although The Hindu report did not give any indication to suggest that this is the case.

Manmohan Singh’s Tenure: Shades of Gray

By Tridivesh Singh Maini
September 11, 2013

Upon returning from the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg last week, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh stated that Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi was a suitable candidate for Prime Minister, and that he would be happy to work under the latter. This seems to signal that Singh is out of the race. A senior Congress leader and Minister, Jairam Ramesh, echoed Singh in a televised interview. Of course, there are also many who suggest that Rahul Gandhi would prefer to sit on the sidelines.

Only time will tell whether or not Rahul Gandhi becomes prime minister, even if the Congress returns to power. Nonetheless, Singh’s statement once again brings to the fore his excessive reverence for the first family of Indian politics, which by brazenly pushing vote-garnering policies like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the Food Security Act, has given precedence to politics over economics. The struggling Indian economy has caused irreparable damage to Singh’s otherwise impeccable reputation and will doubtless shape his legacy.

This is extremely unfortunate for Singh, who was once acclaimed as one of the architects of modern India and who served as Finance Minister during the Narasimha Rao regime, which initiated India’s economic reforms in 1991.

In addition to the current government’s poor performance and Singh’s excessive obedience to the Gandhi family, the prime minister’s poor communication skills have also overshadowed some of his own achievements.

The most important of those achievements is the fact that he has tried hard to give a fresh dimension and gravitas to India’s foreign policy in the context of relations with the U.S., as well as in India’s immediate neighborhood. While there is no doubt that the architects of both of these policies were two of Singh’s predecessors, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the late Inder Kumar Gujral, Singh exhibited conviction in giving a further thrust to both. He pushed ahead with the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, despite skepticism from many of his party colleagues and those within the opposition. This, many analysts argue, played a major role in endearing Singh to large swathes of the urban middle classes, and helped in the re-election of the Congress in 2009.

In India’s more immediate neighborhood, Singh was not as good at making symbolic gestures as his predecessor Vajpayee. Nor will his name go down for initiating a regional policy like Gujral, who is credited with being the architect of the “Gujral doctrine.” Still, Singh has tried hard to reach out to all of India’s neighbors by making concessions, granting financial assistance and improving connectivity through India’s border states.

It is a different matter of course that the benefits of closer strategic ties with the U.S. are yet to accrue to India. In the context of the neighborhood, the compulsions of domestic politics and red tape have hampered closer integration between India and its neighborhood.

In sum, it would be fair to say that while Singh may have disappointed many of his supporters, especially during his second term in office, he definitely has made sincere attempts to change the discourse on major issues, including foreign policy. It is very easy to adopt a black and white approach towards leaders, especially during election season. But responsible analysts and intellectuals must also strive to find shades of gray. 

Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based columnist.

Pakistan News Digest


This is the first issue of Pakistan News Digest being brought out by the Pakistan Project team at IDSA. It is the latest addition to the News Digests being produced by IDSA. The digest seeks to keep its focus on all round strategic developments taking place in Pakistan on a monthly basis. It culls out information and analyses from the Pakistani media— both English and vernacular— and provides a ready reference material for the wider strategic community. Given the strategic importance of Pakistan for India and the wider world, it is hoped that the digest will be received well by the readers.

Current Issue: August 2013

Pakistan Will Release Mullah Barader, Former No. 2 of Afghan Taliban, Later This Month

September 10, 2013
Exclusive: Pakistan to Free Former Taliban Second in Command This Month

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan will release former Afghan Taliban second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, as soon as this month to help advance peace efforts in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan’s foreign policy chief said on Tuesday.

Pakistan is under growing pressure to free senior Taliban figures, particularly Baradar, to boost reconciliation efforts, as most NATO combat troops prepare to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and anxiety grows over the country’s security.

"In principle, we have agreed to release him. The timing is being discussed. It should be very soon … I think within this month," Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs, told Reuters.

Baradar’s fate is at the heart of Afghanistan’s efforts to kick start the stalled peace process and push Pakistan to hand over important Taliban captives who could provide leverage in the negotiations.

Aziz said, however, that Baradar would not be handed over to Afghanistan directly as some in Kabul had hoped, and would instead be released straight into Pakistan.

The Afghan government believes Baradar is more open to dialogue than many of his comrades, but it is not clear whether he would promote peace or war against President Hamid Karzai’s Western-backed government after his release.

One of the most ruthless Taliban figures, he was given his nom de guerre of “Baradar”, or “brother”, by Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Aziz said it was important to make sure the released Taliban prisoners had a chance to establish contact with their leadership on the ground to persuade them to be part of peace talks - an idea he said Karzai has agreed to.

"Obviously Karzai wanted him to go to Afghanistan, but we feel that if they are to play a positive role in the reconciliation process then they must do it according to what their own Shura (Council), their own leadership, wants them to do," he said.

"That they can’t do unless they are released. … I think he (Karzai) accepted this point that they should play a constructive role in the peace process."

Aziz’s remarks followed last month’s trip by Karzai to Pakistan, where he sought the handover of some Afghan insurgents as part of the stalled peace process.

Pakistan Plays With Fire And Gets Burned

September 7, 2013

Pakistan’s policy of tolerating, and often supporting and encouraging, Islamic radicalism continues to manifest itself in a lot of dead civilians and security personnel. The war in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan) is getting very personnel for the security forces. On August 8th, a terrorist suicide bomber attacked a funeral for a policeman in the provincial capital. The main targets were senior police commanders and several were killed. Most of the 40 dead were lower ranking police. Terrorist violence is setting records this year in Baluchistan and it has nothing to do with the Taliban and everything to do with tribal and religious tensions that have existed in the area since before Pakistan was created after World War II. 

While these attacks on police get a lot of media attention, the growing incidence of government tolerated terrorism is largely ignored in the media. This is the anti-Shia violence, which the government is less concerned about. What does get the attention of the security forces is the separatist unrest involving Baluchi tribesmen. All this takes place in southwest Pakistani province of Baluchistan. In the last decade over 4,200 terrorist deaths have occurred in Baluchistan (population eight million), with about a third of them in Quetta (population 900,000), the provincial capital. The death rate is increasing. Last year there were 954 terrorism related deaths last year, compared to 711 in 2011, 347 in 2010, and 277 in 2009. Worse, less than ten percent of the deaths were terrorists, most were civilians (72 percent last year and 76 percent in 2011). Most (over 80 percent) of these deaths were not the result of the usual (anti-Shia, anti-government) terrorists but civilians the army suspected of being Baluchi rebels or supporters. These people just disappeared, although their bodies sometimes showed up eventually. This secret war against Baluchi rebels is largely driven by desperate efforts to halt the attacks on the natural gas pipelines. The government sponsored campaign against the tribal rebels has not been stopping the attacks. The government is under increasing pressure to call off the illegal police and army kidnappings and murders. The intimidation has not worked and the Baluchi tribes are even more determined to gain a measure of autonomy and freedom from government-sponsored terrorism.

Meanwhile, the war between Sunni and Shia Moslems is most violent in Pakistan, especially in Baluchistan. Last year there were 113 terrorist attacks against Shia in Pakistan, leaving about 400 Shia dead. The Sunni radicals responsible for this violence have been at it for decades, but it has gotten worse since al Qaeda came along in the 1990s. Nearly half of the attacks occurred in Baluchistan, where the majority Baluchis have come out publicly against the Sunni Islamic terrorists who are killing Shia. Most of the killers in Baluchistan are not Baluchi, and that’s another reason for the Baluchi to be hostile to the government supported terrorists.

Only 10-15 percent of Moslems are Shia. Most (about 80 percent) of the rest are Sunni, and many of them consider Shia heretics. In several countries there is constant violence between Shia and Sunni radicals. In Pakistan, about 15


A New Dark Age for Women

Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

With the drawdown of allied Forces inching closer, the Afghan Taliban and its affiliates in their pursuit of the enforcement of a brutal extremist Islamism have escalated violence and oppression against women across the country. Women who defied the Taliban’s diktat and came out of their homes to started work have been targeted with increasing frequency. Others, who have criticized or otherwise challenged the Taliban have also faced extreme consequences.

Sushmita Bandyopadhyay, a woman of Indian origin, was brutally killed by Afghan Taliban terrorists at Kharana in the Paktika Province in the night of September 4, 2013. Dawlat Khan Zadran, the Paktika Police Chief, disclosed, “The militants arrived before dawn at Banerjee's residence. They tied up her husband and other members of the family. The militants then dragged Banerjee outside, took her to a nearby road and shot her at least 15 times. Her body was dumped at a madrassah with some of her hair ripped out. It seems the killers were angry with the book and the film.” Indeed, the Taliban militants were angry. A close relative of the victim said, "They (Taliban militants) were saying, why have you written all these nasty things about us?"

Bandyopadhyay had converted to Islam and rechristened herself Sayeda Kamala after her marriage to Jaanbaz Khan, an Afghan citizen. She had authored a trilogy of memoirs, including the volumeKabuliwalar Bangali Bou (Kabuliwala's Bengali Wife), published in 1998; followed by Mullah Omar, Taliban O Ami (Mullah Omar, Taliban, and I), in 2000; and finally, Ek Borno Mithya Noi (Not a Word is a Lie), in 2001, in which she documented Taliban atrocities in Afghanistan. These memoirs became the basis for the 2003 Bollywood film Escape from Taliban. According to an October 8, 2001, report, her husband Jaanbaz Khan, had then stated, "I am being pressurized to give talaq to my Bengali wife, Sushmita Bandopadhay, whom I married here in Kolkata in 1989, if the shooting of the film is not stopped. The Taliban have sent word they cannot guarantee the safety of my family members who live in Sharana village near Ghazni, if the film is made."

Sushmita had returned to Afghanistan in January 2013 and had been working as a paramedic at a Government facility there.

There has also been a slew of attacks against women in power. On August 7, 2013, Taliban terrorists ambushed the convoy of Afghan woman Senator, Rouh Gul Khirzad, seriously wounding her in the attack and killing her 8-year-old daughter and a bodyguard in the Muqur District of Gazni Province. Khirzad’s husband, son and another daughter were also wounded in the attack. Khirzad was the head of the Defence and Internal Security Commission.

On July 3, 2013, 2nd Lieutenant Isla Bibi, the commander of women Police officers in Helmand Province (there are 32 female officers among a 7,000 strong Police Force in Helmand), was killed in Lashkar Gah, the Provincial capital. Earlier, this year, in a media interview, Isla Bibi had spoken of the tremendous opposition she had faced to her decision to join the Force: “My brother, father and sisters were all against me. In fact my brother tried to kill me three times.”

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) Annual Report, 2012, the number of female civilian casualties in 2012 stood at 864 (301 deaths and 563 injuries), a 20 per cent increase over 2011. Women and girls killed and injured in incidents of targeted killings more than tripled in 2012, with 51 casualties, in comparison to 16 in 2011. Most of these incidents followed threats by terrorists against the women in relation to their work with the Government on women’s issues. For instance, on July 13, 2012, terrorists detonated a magnetic improvised explosive device (IED) against the vehicle of the Provincial Director of the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Laghman Province, Hanifa Safi, killing her and wounding her husband and daughter at Mehtarlam, the Provincial Capital. Similarly, on December 10, 2012, two armed Taliban terrorists shot dead the Provincial (Acting) Director of the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Laghman Province, Najia Siddiqi, in the Sharmaki area of Mehtarlam. UNAMA in its Mid-Year Report 2013, has disclosed that, in the first six months of 2013, conflict-related violence killed 106 women and injured 241 (347 total casualties), a 61 per cent increase over the same period in 2012. Georgette Gagnon, UNAMA’s Director of Human Rights, observed, “The growing loss of life and injuries to Afghan women and children in 2013 is particularly disturbing.”

Faustian Bargains

Ambreen Agha
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

The brouhaha over the impending ‘peace talks’ between Nawaz Sharif led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Government and the Hakimullah Mehsud led Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) seems to have subsided for some time now. On August 31, 2013, TTP ‘spokesperson’ Shahidullah Shahid denied any level of talks with the Government, adding that no contacts had been made between the two sides, and that no offer of talks had been received. In an official acknowledgment, referring to reports of talks between the two sides, Federal Minister for Interior Nisar Ali Khan Chaudhry confirmed, on September 1, 2013, “These reports are baseless as the decision to talk with the TTP would be taken during the All Parties’ Conference (APC) after taking political parties into confidence.”

Interestingly, these two statements are in stark contrast to what Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid had stated on August 30, 2013: “Headway has been made with respect to informal contacts between the Government and the Taliban... The process for evolving peace formulas has been started so that chaos and violence could be eliminated which has cost us thousands of lives.” And unnamed senior TTP leader confirmed, on the same day, that initial contacts between the two sides had been established and that the talks encompassed a wide range of issues, including prevention of sectarian violence and snapping of ties with al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

Since the days of his campaign for the May 2013 General Elections, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed the desire to hold talks with the terrorist leadership. Not surprisingly, on August 19, 2013, in his first televised address to the nation after taking office on June 5, 2013, Sharif called for dialogue with the terrorist formations, primarily the TTP, to end bloodshed. He also warned that his Government would use force to stamp out terrorism from the country. The Hakimullah Mehsud-led TTP rejected that offer on August 24, 2013, and expelled the ‘chief’ of TTP’s Punjab Chapter (also known as the Punjabi Taliban) Asmatullah Muawiya who had welcomed the offer of talks by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on August 20, 2013. Muawiya had, however, rejected the move, declaring that the Punjabi Taliban is a separate group and it has its own decision-making body to decide leadership and other matters. Clearly, the TTP was not willing to engage in any level of talks with the Government unless it had secured its own perceived ‘interests’, even at the cost of internal bickering.

Even earlier, on February 3, 2013, TTP had expressed willingness to hold talks with the Government, but on two preconditions: the release of seven of its leaders and guarantees by leaders of PML-N, Jama’at-e-Ulema Islam-Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) and Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) that the exercise would be fruitful. In a video message released in Peshawar, TTP’s then ‘spokesman’ Ehsanullah Ehsan declared, "The release of Muslim Khan, Maulvi Omar and five other TTP leaders is a prerequisite for talks, while former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Syed Munawar Hasan should be the guarantors." He added that the release of Muslim Khan and Maulvi Omar was essential, because they would be TTP's main negotiators.

However, the TTP’s position was reversed after the killing of its ‘deputy chief’ Wali-ur-Rehman, in a US drone attack in the North Waziristan Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on May 29, 2013. On May 30, 2013, Ehsan said, “We had made a sincere offer of peace dialogue with the Government but we strongly believe that the Government has a role to play in the drone strikes. That is why the Taliban central shura has decided to completely cancel the offer. This is now a final decision. We will teach a lesson to Pakistan and United States for depriving us of our leader.” Khan Syed replaced Wali-ur-Rehman as the ‘deputy chief’ soon after.

A New Type of US-China Military Relationship


By Ryan McClure
September 11, 2013

If one word could summarize the United States’ relationship with China since the former’s pivot to Asia, it would be exploration. Global peace and regional security depend on healthy ties between Washington and Beijing, but both countries are still exploring the nature and extent of what these ties entail. 

Following the Bush administration, which allowed Sino-U.S. ties to wither, the Obama administration has had to establish a base upon which a mutually valuable relationship could be built. Trust, understanding and cooperation are key to the establishment of any healthy foreign policy.

During a recent visit to Washington, Chinese Defense Minister General Chang Wanquan met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to address several endeavors that the United States and China will undertake to strengthen their relationship. While this visit did not fundamentally change Sino-U.S. relations, it demonstrates the commitment of both Pacific powers to establishing a peaceful and cooperative relationship. The visit also undermines the argument that the goal behind America’s pivot to Asia is Chinese containment.

Military cooperation was a focus of Chang’s visit and will be an important pillar of Sino-U.S. cooperation. “The United States welcomes and supports the rise of a prosperous and responsible China that helps solve regional and global problems,” said Secretary Hagel

This support will entail a number of joint military exercises. Just last month, the two sides conducted a counter-piracy drill in the in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia. Then, on Monday, the PLA Navy and its U.S. counterpart conducted humanitarian rescue exercises off the coast of Hawaii. The Hagel-Chang meeting also led to an agreement to establish a notification mechanism to inform each other of their military activities, reduce the potential for miscalculation, and promote better coordination. Moreover, China will, for the first time ever, participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, the world’s largest international maritime warfare drill. 

Military exchanges are also planned. This week, for instance, Admiral Wu Shengli, the commander of China’s Navy, is visiting the United States. Later this year, the U.S. Army’s Chief-of-Staff, General Raymond Odierno, and Air Force Chief-of-Staff General Mark Welsh, will visit China. Additionally, Secretary Hagel will visit China next year for the first time as Secretary of Defense.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: China’s NATO?

By Tyler Roney
September 11, 2013

On Friday leaders of Central Asian nations will meet at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. China arguably wields the most power of the countries involved, and the propaganda mills in Beijing are pumping out content hailing the importance of the upcoming meeting. In the end, though, what does it really mean for the Middle Kingdom?

The SCO, previously known as the "Shanghai Five," is made up of major and minor players; while China and Russia are the main attractions, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan sit on the sidelines, hoping for a spot in China's "Go West" strategy. There is a lot on the agenda to cover, from China's pipelines to security in Afghanistan. However, one thing is clear: China holds the reigns.

Currently, China's celebrated lord and master Xi Jinping is touring the Central Asian nations to much fanfare back home. The state run media is following his stops in each country closely, hanging on every written promise of upholding the rule of law and that China will provide 30,000 government scholarships for SCO member states to study in China.

Indeed, the SCO isn't just a meeting of like-minded nations; it's a chance for China to show off its charm.

Perhaps the clearest sign that other SCO states are merely window dressing came earlier this month when Chinese and Russian troops carried out joint military exercises in the Urals, leaving everyone else to ask, "Where are the other four members?"

Still, there is no shortage of countries that aspire to join the SCO, such as India and Pakistan, both of which serve as observer states, and Turkey, whose Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan once joked that he would abandon the EU for a spot in the "Shanghai Five." Despite the seemingly innocent comment, it sparked concern in some quarters that Turkey would actually make good on Erdogan’s threat.

On the Chinese side, the SCO charm offensive is underway, and if last year's Beijing summit is anything to go by, Chinese readers have a week of unending praise of the SCO ahead, complete with condemnations of Western forces, the "Western media" and NATO. While this may result in more development for the region, it also means legitimizing and promoting things like China's human rights policies, giving them a broader banner of support.

The SCO's stated enemies are "terrorism, separatism and extremism," known collectively as the "Three Evils.” Under the broad stroke of "counterterrorism," the group's official line on security has been called by some a "vehicle for human rights violations." While the rhetoric on human rights from the SCO is par for the course, in practice the "Three Evils" are a catch-all excuse for domestic crackdowns.

China And The Quiet Invasion


September 6, 2013

Chinese violations of the LAC (Line of Actual Control) border with India continues. Most of the recent Chinese intrusions are in the northwest and have, in effect, taken control of 640 square kilometers of territory on the Indian side of the border. There are three separate areas where Chinese troops have made these incursions. In response, India announced it is expanding its network of border bases along the 3,488 kilometer Tibet frontier. Currently there are 150 of these small, fortified bases. Most (98) of these outposts will be enlarged and improved, while 35 new ones will be built over the next 4 years. Negotiations to settle the dispute are stalled.

The LAC is also known as the MacCartney-MacDonald Line and is the unofficial border between India and China. The LAC is 4,057 kilometers long and is mostly Tibet on the Chinese side. China claims a lot of territory that is now considered part of India because when Tibet was independent in the early 20th century, Tibet agreed to the MacCartney-MacDonald Line. When China reconquered Tibet in the 1950s, that border agreement was renounced as “unfair”. China has never backed away from its claims on Indian territory and its violation of the LAC is a major crises for India (which has a defense budget one third that of China’s).

The Chinese believe that the Indians are militarily weaker and not willing to confront a gradual and persistent Chinese effort to take control of the contested area. Sometimes this attitudes shows up in the Chinese media. Over the last week Chinese state controlled media has been mocking the capabilities of the Indian Navy, using the August 14th explosion that sank a Russian built Indian Kilo class sub while docked near Mumbai as an example. The 16 year old submarine had recently returned from Russia after an $80 million refurbishment. 18 sailors were killed as the sub sank at dockside. The Chinese media also criticized the earlier launching of India’s first Indian built aircraft carrier as essentially foreign made because the vessel used French blueprints, Russian aircraft, and American engines. This harsh commentary ignored that fact that China has had similar problems with its warships in the recent past and that Chinese built warships use a lot of foreign technology (usually stolen). This public disparagement angered many Indians, and in response, India has cancelled the visit of a senior air force general, in response to a Chinese invitation last month.

India is alarmed at growing Chinese and Pakistani investment in neighboring Sri Lanka. Chinese firms are more experienced and effective at arranging these foreign investments and India’s smaller neighbor feels more comfortable with investment from distant China rather than neighbor (and sometimes big bully) India. The Chinese economic investments often have military implications, like China building satellite ground stations in Sri Lanka. There is also growing Sri Lankan military cooperation with China and Pakistan.

As a good will gesture, both nations meanwhile agreed to hold joint counter-terrorism drills in November. This would be the third time this has been done, although it hasn’t happened for the past five years because of the growing Chinese aggressiveness along the LAC. These counter-terrorism drills only involve 150 special operations troops from either country and are mostly for show.

Rural eastern India continues to suffer from a low-level war with Maoist rebels. These armed leftists have been involved in incidents that have left over 200 dead so far this year. For the last few years the Indian national police have been using a special force of nearly 100,000 para-military troops and civilians to destroy the Maoist organization (which has about 11,000 armed followers and 3 times as many unarmed supporters).

Both India and Pakistan share many cultural aspects, and one of them is widespread corruption. Not surprisingly, both nations share a widespread distaste for all this corruption. For that reason, many Pakistanis are watching with great interest the current anti-corruption movement in India. While many Indian and Pakistani leaders are content to exploit the corruption rather than seeking to eliminate it, this is changing in India. That gives hope to Pakistanis, because their leaders have displayed no real enthusiasm for actually doing something about corruption. In India a growing number of leaders are actually joining the anti-corruption drive. There is still a lot of resistance from Indian political leaders, in part because the anti-corruption movement seeks to punish senior people who are formally charged with corruption. In Pakistan such charges rarely do any damage to senior people who are prosecuted. The Indian anti-corruption effort is making progress against this sort of thing and that gives Pakistanis hope.

Implementing the Chinese Dream

September 10, 2013

Since the conclusion of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last year and the end of the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) earlier this year, the Party Central Committee with President Xi Jinping as General Secretary has, in light of new conditions and new tasks, focused on China's long-term and strategic agenda with a keen appreciation of the evolving global environment and development trends at home. Bearing in mind both the domestic and international interests of the country and maintaining the continuity and consistency of its major diplomatic policies, it has promoted innovations in diplomatic theory and practice by keeping up with the trend of the times. With a good beginning and an overall plan adopted, the Party Central Committee has put forth many important strategic ideas on China's external affairs as well as diplomatic policies and principles, and taken a number of major diplomatic initiatives which have not only created external conditions favorable for facilitating the work of the Party and the state across the board, but also enriched and developed the system of diplomatic theory with Chinese characteristics.

I. The new diplomatic initiatives as taken are strategic, overarching and innovative in nature.

Given close international attention on major policy direction of the Party Central Committee with President Xi Jinping as General Secretary after the 18th Party Congress, President Xi made his diplomatic debut by meeting the representatives of foreign experts working in China. Later, the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee held a collective study session on unswervingly following the path of peaceful development. On both occasions, President Xi made important remarks on China's opening-up strategy and foreign policy, sending out a clear message that China's new collective central leadership is committed to reform and opening-up, the path of peaceful development and the strategy of win-win cooperation with the outside world while resolutely upholding China's core national interests.

Since the end of the annual NPC and CPPCC sessions this year, President Xi and other Party and state leaders have paid visits to major countries, neighboring countries, emerging market economies and developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America, and hosted visits by dozens of foreign leaders. These activities of bilateral and multilateral diplomacy both at home and abroad have enabled Chinese leaders to meet more than one hundred foreign heads of state and leaders, which has effectively enhanced China's friendly exchanges and pragmatic cooperation with other countries.

1. Actively promoting relations with major countries: President Xi made Russia the first leg of his first overseas visit as China's President, which strengthened bilateral cooperation in economy, trade, energy and strategic security and consolidated the basis of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership and coordination. President Xi held meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Annenberg Estate in Los Angeles, during which the two sides agreed to work together to build a new model of major-country relationship based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation. China and the United States also successfully held their fifth round of Strategic and Economic Dialogues, making progress in implementing the agreement of the two presidents and advancing the building of a new model of major-country relationship. With Chinese Party and state leaders visiting European countries, China has played host to French President Francois Hollande and other European leaders, and worked steadily to open up new areas of mutually-beneficial and pragmatic cooperation between China and Europe.