16 September 2013

Triple Whammy – Terrorist Threat to South India

Date : 15 Sep , 2013

There is considerable commotion about the R&AW and IB warnings of threat to South India by the LeT off the coast of Sri Lanka. Last year, Daniel Benjamin, US Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism had stated that LeT was a threat to South Asia. Concurrently, Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Foundation was more direct in pointing out, “The only reasonable objectives for the United States is the permanent evisceration of LeT and other vicious South Asian terrorist groups – with Pakistani cooperation if possible, but without it if necessary.” But the question remains whether the US would want to do so in the first place, especially in case of the LeT who it never targeted and will continue not to target unless mainland US is threatened. The US-Pakistan understanding that US drone strikes would not target the LeT is no more a secret. Moreover, US-Saudi Arabia relations, as well as Chinese support, have ensured that Pakistan remains untouched, retaining its pre-eminence as the frontline Sunni Muslim terrorist state replete with nuclear weapons as the vanguard of global jihad, both US and China believing that their countries would not be affected.

Ironically, the Popular Front of India (PFI) is still not included in the banned list of terrorist organisations in India because of regional politics.

Coming back to the threat to South India, the LeT threat should have been envisaged years back. First, the LeT was raised specifically to target India not J&K alone. Second, MK Dhar, former Joint Director, Intelligence Bureau wrote in his book ‘Open Secrets – India’s Intelligence Unveiled’ that way back in 1992-93, the process of transplanting armed modules in the heartland of India by Pakistan had started takingcognisable shape and that some of these cells were identified in ten different states spanning the length and breadth of India including the states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Maharashtra, and that volunteers from all these states were being sent to Pakistan for training with Mujahidin, Taliban and Al Qaeda. It is but natural that these transplanted armed modules had elements of LeT, if not fully comprising LeT cadres. Third, most importantly, media reports citing R&AW and IB sources have been bringing out that the Kerala Headquartered Popular Front of India (PFI) that picked up arms against the Indian State four years back was formed on behest of Al Qaeda and LeT, whose footprints have been in Kerala since long. Two years back, four of the LeT trained PFI cadres were apprehended in Kupwara, in Northern Kashmir, trying to cross over to POK. Ironically, the PFI is still not included in the banned list of terrorist organisations in India because of regional politics.

It is no secret that while the IPKF was fighting in Sri Lanka, the then government of Tamil Nadu was labeling the Indian Army “Traitors”. There were no state officials to receive the soldiers when the IPKF eventually pulled out. This is another example of regional politics overshadowing counterterrorism efforts. Not for very different reasons the recently released feature film ‘Madras Café’ is banned in Tamil Nadu. It is well known that it was the ISI that organised the training in mines/IEDs/explosives for the core group of Indian Maoists through the LTTE that the Maoists are using to good effect. This would have not been possible without some supporting elements embedded in South India. The fact that terrorists during 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks had some links, however small, within India is apparent. While interlinking of terrorist organisations nationally, regionally and globally is known, the ISI-LeT-Al Qaeda-Taliban links are well established and proven. In the heydays of the LTTE, Al Qaeda is known to have sent a batch of their cadres for training with the sea wing of the LTTE. This training enabled Al Qaeda in mounting the attack on USS Cole. Why would the LeT-Al Qaeda not then nurture their LeT links and establish launch pads in Northern Sri Lanka?

…it was brought out that weapons are coming in by sea, mostly off the Andhra coast to augment the Maoist arsenal.

The terrorist attack during 26/11 was mounted by sea, the warning for which had reportedly come earlier but the significance of which was lost out somewhere along the line. As per intelligence reports, Al Qaeda had actually planned such an attack couple of months earlier against Manhattan including targeting the UN headquarters but the CIA reportedly got wind of it having infiltrated Al Qaeda. The expertise with Al Qaeda-LeT to mount such attacks by sea already exists and training must be in full swing as part of the ‘Karachi Project’ under aegis of ISI though Pakistan denies existence of this project. Additionally, ISI-LeT links with Somali pirates and availability of their trawlers and boats aside from numerous other vessels floating in the waters makes movement easy. The fact that considerable drugs are coming into India by sea is also known, protected by the underworld and drug mafia. In a recent seminar on Maoist insurgency, it was brought out that weapons are coming in by sea, mostly off the Andhra coast to augment the Maoist arsenal.

Breakaway Afghan Taliban Group Claims to Have Killed Indian Author

September 15, 2013

'We Killed Sushmita Banerjee' Says Renegade Taliban Militia
Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau
The Daily Beast

Around midnight late last week, half-a-dozen gunmen quietly scaled the 12-foot-high mud-brick wall surrounding the modest house and stealthily entered Janbaz Khan’s bedroom in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province. They put a gun to his head, blindfolded him, and bound both his hands behind his back. They warned him not to move. “We are staying on top of you so don’t make a sound or we’ll shoot,” Janbaz later recalled them saying. He obeyed. In the morning his brother, who had been sleeping in an adjoining room, found him and removed the blindfold and cuffs. Immediately both men realized what had happened. They rushed to the bedroom of Janbaz’s wife, Sushmita Banerjee, the Indian author and health care worker, and discovered what they had feared. She had vanished.

At three a.m. that night, an elderly woman in a neighboring village tells The Daily Beast that she was awakened by the sustained crackle of gunfire. She thought a family was celebrating the birth of a baby boy. But what she actually heard were the sounds of Banerjee’s brutal execution. Nayab Khan, a 50-year-old villager, found her body, dressed in her night gown, dumped at the gate of a government school about one kilometer from her home. Although Banerjee’s face had been obliterated by several of the 15-20 bullets that police say her executioners had fired into her, Nayab immediately realized who the dead woman was. “She was not wearing a normal Afghan village woman’s dress and chador,” he told The Daily Beast. “So I knew it was the Indian wife of Janbaz.”

The Taliban were quick to deny any responsibility of Banerjee’s death, particularly since she had converted to Islam when she married Janbaz in the 1990s. “This is the enemy’s propaganda that is blaming us for killing a woman,” said the spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. But an increasingly powerful, renegade Taliban militia—The Suicide Group of the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan—was proud to announce that it was the killer. The group, led by Mullah Najibullah, broke away from the mainstream Taliban earlier this year as it rejects any peace negotiations with either the U.S. or Kabul, viewing those contacts as treason against the jihad-until-victory call of Taliban’s founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar. “We killed Sushmita Banerjee because she is an Indian spy,” the group’s spokesman, Qari Hamza, tells The Daily Beast exclusively. He admits that his men kidnapped, harshly interrogated, and then killed her. “We took her from her house, investigated her for three hours and then left her dead,” he says. “During our investigation Sushmita Banerjee also disclosed the names of other agents and we will go after them as well,” he adds. “We are against everyone who is engaged against the Afghans, the jihad and works with the American attackers.”

The Suicide Group’s accusations of espionage against her ring hollow. She hardly fits the profile of a spy. She lived in near poverty in the remote Afghan countryside near the Pakistani border and worked tirelessly at a private, rural health care clinic, concentrating on the well-being of local women. But the independent-minded Banerjee had long raised the Taliban’s ire by her uncompromising stand for women’s rights and betterment in a society that largely oppresses women and sees them as second-class citizens. Her 1995 book, A Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife, which became a best seller in India and was made into a Bollywood movie, recounts in detail the austere and restrictive lives that rural Afghan women lead, her own run-ins with the radical ruling Taliban in her village, her arrest, and her escape from the Taliban. At one point the Taliban shut down her small pharmacy, saying that a woman is prohibited from running a business. According to one of her husband’s relatives, she told the Taliban in the 1990s: “I may be an Indian but I’m also a Muslim married to an Afghan. So I’m now a daughter-in-law of all Afghans. If you don’t want me then I will return to India.” She did so about one year before the Taliban’s overthrow in late 2001, but returned along with her husband to the family’s house in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province several months ago.

Figuring out distribution

Mon Sep 16 2013, 

We need to debate how we define access to opportunities

President Barack Obama recently kicked off a series of speeches to start a new conversation on economic policy in the US. It seeks to outline the cornerstones of "what it means to be middle class in America and rebuild a society where everyone who works hard, can get ahead". This is no less relevant for India. For a nation shadow-boxing with the twin spectres of economic gloom and political despair and distracted by non-debates between stalwart economists, the times beseech a new economic and social policy conversation.

A word cloud of the mainstream debates on economic reforms here will reveal the easing of foreign direct investment norms, financial deregulation, liberalisation of labour laws, corporate tax reforms and infrastructure creation as the priorities. This, while undoubtedly important for economic growth, betrays a narrow and short-sighted approach that overlooks other, equally important determinants of growth.

Primarily, any serious debate on a development model has to go beyond aggregate measures of growth and also address distributional issues. We need a conversation that holds out the promise that all Indians can benefit from economic growth. Apart from its normative appeal, this is also sound economics.

Economies grow sustainably when markets expand — more people demanding goods and services attracts investment, raises production, creates jobs and employs people, increases purchasing power, creates demand for more and newer goods and services and so on. The critical factor is "more people demanding goods". The base of the "demand pyramid" has to broaden, eventually encompassing all Indians.

But people can enter the market only if equipped with a basic set of human capital resources to access the opportunities that arise from economic growth. In all successful growth stories, including most recently from East Asia, governments have laid this platform by making large and effective investments in human capital formation. They have generally been in the form of investments in education, healthcare, nutrition and skills development. Our Constitution too promises to secure for all Indians "equality of access to opportunities". It is, therefore, the responsibility of the state to enable this access, so that every Indian can get to the starting line.

It is, of course, possible that in a continental economy like India, high growth rates can be sustained for some time by a much narrower pyramid base in relation to its potential size. But as World Bank economist Martin Ravallion highlighted in a recent op-ed here ('Why promotion is better than protection', August 13), India's antecedent human capital inequalities, apart from ensuring that poor people benefited disproportionately less from recent growth, are also a constraint to sustained economic growth. Further, neither access to opportunities for human capital formation nor the capacity of the state to provide the required thrust for improvements in human capital formation automatically follow from economic growth.

The most compelling proof of this comes from India's dismal performance on human development indicators in the recent high-growth years. While they have doubtless improved with growth, and faster than before the economy liberalised, the progress has been slower than even those made by many poorer countries in the same period. Though we are only a few years behind our major emerging economy competitors in GDP aggregates, we are decades behind them in all social indicators. In fact, we fare no better, sometimes even worse, than strife-torn sub-Saharan African countries.

In Muzaffarnagar, back to the future

Hasan Suroor

The Hindu BOILING OVER: Instead of trying to restore peace, the multitude of political parties are busy finger-pointing. Army personnel at Kutba village during curfew in Muzaffarnagar. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

It is in India more than in any other democracy that politicians ignore the redlines that turn divisive rhetoric into a riot and even get rewarded by voters for this

For someone — and I say it with some shame and embarrassment — who cut his teeth in journalism on a hefty diet of communal riots in western Uttar Pradesh in the 1970s-1980s, reading about the events in Muzaffarnagar and seeing images of violence and destruction is like watching history replayed in slow motion. There are the same conflicting versions of who “started it first”; the same self-righteous assertion of innocence by both sides; the same familiar-sounding allegations of high-handedness/one-sidedness levelled against the police; and, most nauseatingly, the same political blame game.

Back then it was simpler to pick a villain. There were only two main political parties — the Congress and the Jana Sangh (later renamed the Bharatiya Janata Party). Or two and a half if you counted the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh whose shadow always hovered in the background. Now, there are enough parties to fill a planet. So, in the past few days we have seen the Congress, the BJP, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal — to name a few — busy finger-pointing when they should have been trying to restore peace and sanity.

Past and present

Generally, Hindu-Muslim relations are a great deal more robust today than they were in the 1970s when tension was always simmering under the surface — and a riot waiting to happen. While researching a book on the subject, I found a refreshing change in the attitudes of both communities. Young Hindus and Muslims say they have no wish to carry on with old grudges and simply want to get on with their lives. But what has not changed and may, in fact, have become worse as electoral politics has become more fiercely competitive, is the cynical use of religion and caste for votes. The pattern of events in Muzaffarnagar has an all-too-familiar ring: an incident, whose provenance itself is uncertain, blows up into a full-scale communal conflagration with a little help from an assortment of political interests united by an obscene greed for votes.

In the U.K.

Divisive politics is not unique to India. Political parties even in the most advanced countries thrive on divisions, mostly along race lines, but the mark of a civilised political discourse is to know when and where to draw the line. In the more civilised societies, the line is drawn at the point where there is a danger of tipping into violence — and a loss of human lives. In Britain, for instance, even the most rabidly racist group would not be caught crossing the line between legitimate propaganda and incitement to violence. They would not be allowed to — plain and simple. Moreover, there is evidence that British voters don’t reward hate politics.

Who shall guard the guardians of India?

By Aruni Mukherjee 


Not many of us know of the words, originally espoused by Thomas Macaulay in the context of ancient Rome, inscribed on the war memorial in the tranquil Buddhist monastical town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh:
  • ''How can a man die better than facing fearful odds
  • For the ashes of his fathers and the temple of his Gods''
  • - To the sacred memory of the Heroes of Rezang La, 24 martyrs of the 13 Kumoan, who fought to the last man, last round, against hordes of Chinese on 18 November 1962
Better known among Indians is the bravery with which the country's soldiers defended their territory against invading

People's Liberation Army (PLA) forces despite being hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. Some of us are also aware of the impotence, ineptitude and leaden footedness of India's political leadership in 1962, which failed to foresee the knife inside the velvet gloves of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and then failed to back the military to the hilt; for example, with the decision not to use the air force despite repeated requests from a struggling army. 

History is about to repeat itself - and Indians seem terribly apathetic about it. Last week, it was reported that Indian soldiers had been stopped from patrolling right up to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, and the PLA had occupied 1,657 square kilometers on the Indian side of the LAC. When opposition parties created a furor in parliament, the Defense Minister A K Anthony simply issued a denial that any such incursion had taken place, and that "this government keeps a constant watch on India's security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard it''. That was hardly specific, was it? 

Reports of Chinese occupation, if true, make a lot of sense. India has built a landing strip near Daulat Beg where it can land C-17 Hercules transport aircraft that can carry a large number of troops, and it makes sense for the Chinese to snoop around this area. Back in April, the PLA had intruded yet again, destroying a few surveillance posts and stealing a surveillance camera. Even then, the PLA had set up camp around 20 km inside the Indian side of the LAC and had demanded that the Indian Army dismantle an advanced border post as a quid pro quo for them returning to their side of the LAC. India obliged. 

All of this resonates with Defense Minister Anthony's statement, which accepted that India had neglected the border infrastructure for several decades and in recent years had been strengthening it with new roads, airstrips and raising of new mountain divisions. This, Anthony said, has irked the PLA into doing its best to thwart progress. That may well be, but China's behavior appears awfully similar to someone turning up in your home and refusing to leave unless you demolish your garden fence - why is India not telling them to get lost? 

China and India set up a committee in the late 1980s with a view to finding a peaceful resolution to their border dispute. After several rounds of negotiations it is clear that nothing has been achieved. Both countries still show the full extent of their territorial claims on their maps, albeit China's are the most outrageous (for example, all of Arunachal Pradesh is shown as south Tibet). You get the sense that China would much prefer if India kept on talking without an end in sight - online forums often mock the Indians' love for an argument or a discussion - many in China view this as an aptitude for blabbering versus their propensity for action. 

And what might action look like? Very simply, the PLA might change the reality on the ground, and in so doing shift the basis upon which any future discussions on the border may be held. Through its small-scale incursions, the PLA is at present testing the mettle of the Indian political leadership. Despite its massive military build up and a defense budget three times the size of India's, the PLA does not feel confident enough to undertake a full-scale invasion of the disputed territory. But make no mistake - that day will come. Maybe not in the next 10 years, but it will, unless India shows resolve now to stand up to this menace. 

Modernisation and austerity

Sep 16 2013 

Can India afford to simultaneously modernise all three defence services at its current pace?

Yesterday, India jubilantly tested the long-range Agni-V ballistic missile for the second time, en route to the missile's induction into the Strategic Forces Command in several years. But trouble looms on India's borders. In the recent monsoon session, Defence Minister A.K. Antony stood before Parliament to defend the government against the charge that it is permitting Chinese encroachment along the border and Line of Actual Control. Ground realities are difficult to discern from New Delhi, but much of the Indian media seems fearful that the Chinese are winning a slow border game of chicken. To the west, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif continued to make conciliatory noises towards Delhi while also chairing a National Command Authority meeting, which affirmed its support for "full spectrum deterrence".

To deal with this rough neighbourhood, India has embarked on an ambitious military modernisation programme. Indians have triumphantly witnessed progress on a nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the Arihant, whose reactor recently went critical; watched the aircraft carrier Vikrant set off from dry dock; cheered news of the successful Agni-V test; and learned of political clearance to raise a Mountain Strike Corps in the east to be headquartered at Panagarh. Each of India's three armed services is moving to modernise itself.

But can India afford it all? The defence budget for 2013-14 grew by 5 per cent over the previous year, with defence capital acquisitions growing by 9 per cent. But, with inflation averaging more than 5 per cent since February, and the rupee depreciating by 14 per cent against the dollar over the same period, that modest nominal budget increase is actually a real budget decrease for defence. In a time of austerity, strategic planning is about prioritisation. How should India prioritise its future military modernisation to meet its envisioned security requirements? Each of the three services can claim urgent need.

First, there is the Indian Air Force. Saddled with an ageing, shrinking set of fighter aircraft and a stalling deal to buy France's Rafale, the IAF desperately needs an infusion of modern fighter aircraft. While the Sukhoi-30 MKI is an incredibly capable aircraft, and India plans to ultimately acquire 272 of them, one fighter alone cannot meet the full range of India's needs and mandated squadron strength. Despite high hopes, the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal with Dassault for its Rafale jets appears to be sputtering. Between French cutbacks in production and the falling rupee, it is an open question whether Dassault can live up to the terms of its lowest price bid. The IAF's joint development with Russia of a fifth-generation fighter, the Sukhoi PAK FA, is still in the early phases of development. That leaves India still relying on obsolete MiG-21s— in service for 50 years, with an increasingly abysmal safety record — as the backbone of its fighter strength. The IAF is similarly strained on transport and close air support capabilities.

While the air force struggles to replace obsolete platforms, the navy has launched an ambitious expansion plan of its surface and submarine fleet demanding significant capital expenditures. The half-decade process of developing and arming the Arihant and Vikrant is only beginning. But to have a fully operational nuclear deterrent at sea, India will need at least three nuclear submarines — at an estimated $3 billion each, not including the cost of developing the submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Similarly, the Vikrant will need time in port for maintenance and refitting. To keep up its forward naval air presence, India will need to complete the Vikrant's bigger sister ship, the Vishal, and finalise the painfully expensive, long-delayed acquisition of the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya from Russia.

The army has its own ambitions for replacing and expanding capabilities. The recent clearance to raise a Mountain Strike Corps will cost an estimated Rs 65,000 crore. Meanwhile, the army is in the process of fully upgrading India's main battle tank to the Russian T-90, even as it upgrades the army's attack-helicopter fleet and basic infantry, artillery, and armoured equipment. The army still has to decide where to hide its indigenous Arjun tank, which it has never been excited about but had thrust upon it by the DRDO. If the goal is indeed to be capable of waging offensives simultaneously on India's western and eastern fronts, the army still has a long way to go.

An overview of India's defence economy: Business Standard special gazette


Preparing for a two-front war
An IAF C-130J Super Hercules lands for the first time at the Daulat Beg Oldi forward airstrip on 20th Aug 2013
By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard Defence Gazette
11th Sept 13

For decades, the Indian military and its defence posture were structured to ensure “deterrence” against Pakistani adventurism on the western border, and “dissuasion” against China in the north and east. Put simply, that meant being able to wage, and quickly win, a punitive war against Pakistan; while also being able to hold off a Chinese attack for a short time. With China having rattled sabres on the Sino-Indian border (the Line of Actual Control, or LAC) to distract India during the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, New Delhi is clear that it must continue to defend the LAC, even through a war with Pakistan.

But what has been a relatively light presence on the China border is now being strengthened dramatically, as India’s military prepares itself for what the Indian Army chief in 2009, General Deepak Kapoor, termed a two-front war. This apprehension was also voiced by his successor, General VK Singh. China’s emergence as a global powerhouse that pursues its national interests and territorial claims unapologetically has forced New Delhi to rethink its basic security calculus. This could have enormous implications on Indian defence spending, procurement and the emerging defence industry in the country.

As the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has modernized; created quality road and rail infrastructure in Tibet that permits rapid build-up and switching of forces between sectors; and conducted annual manoeuvres involving the rapid build-up in Tibet of divisions from other theatres, New Delhi too is shifting gears on the LAC. After years of deliberation and debate, the Indian military has added defensive muscle and is transforming an exclusively defensive strategy into one with a significant offensive element.

“China spends nearly one-fourth of its (estimated $120 billion annual defence budget) in the borders with India and is reflected in over 30 military exercises conducted in and around Tibet in the last two years,” notes Srikanth Kondapalli, Professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

India’s counter to China’s growing muscle started with the raising of two mountain divisions (some 40,000 troops), during the 11th Defence Plan (2007-12), which have already beefed up defences on the McMahon Line, the border between Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet.

Today four Indian corps defend the LAC --- 14 Corps holds Ladakh; 33 Corps defends Sikkim; and 4 Corps and 3 Corps safeguard Arunachal Pradesh. The ten divisions under these corps have roughly 220,000 troops. But that may not be enough, says Professor Kondapalli. Across the LAC in the PLA’s Chengdu and Lanzhou military regions, are 400,000 troops of the 13th, 14th, 21st and 47th Group Armies (the equivalent of corps).

To partially even out this mismatch, India is raising a “mountain strike corps” during the 12th and 13th Defence Plans (2012-22). Analysts like Brigadier (Retired) Gurmeet Kanwal estimate that the strike corps will have 90,000 troops and raising it will cost Rs 64,000 crore over the next seven years. But more than the numbers, India’s decision to raise a strike corps is a decision to raise the ante with China. It is a statement from New Delhi that any war that China initiates will not be fought just on Indian soil. The strike corps is tasked to launch attacks across the LAC, taking the war to China.

Along with this unprecedented army build up, the Indian Air Force (IAF) too is turning its attention to the LAC. Sukhoi-30MKI squadrons have been located in Tezpur and Chhabua, in Assam. Jorhat, Guwahati, Mohanbari, Bagdogra and Hashimara air bases are being strengthened too. Eight old ALGs (Advanced Landing Grounds) have been refurbished so that they can support light aircraft and helicopters. The multi-billion dollar acquisitions of ten C-17 Globemaster III heavy lift aircraft, six C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft and the impending procurement of the CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopter will further strengthen capabilities on the LAC.

The Obstacle to Peace Talks Posed by CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan

September 14, 2013
U.S. Drones Cloud Pakistan Peace Overtures With Taliban
Saeed Shah
Wall Street Journal
September 14, 2013

ISLAMABAD—Pakistani Taliban raised the stakes for reaching a peace deal with the country’s government by insisting, among other demands, that Islamabad develop a policy to prevent U.S. drone strikes against militants during the talks.

Senior leaders of the domestic insurgency presented a list of 35 demands to Pakistani government officials at a meeting in the South Waziristan part of the tribal areas Friday, Taliban commanders said.

The militants said they would abide by a cease-fire as long as talks continue, and the government has said it would respond to the demands. But the tentative peace overtures threaten to fall apart on the insurgents’ insistence that the government find a way to prevent U.S. drone strikes. Past deals with the Pakistani Taliban have collapsed after militant leaders were killed by drones.

Earlier in the week, a conference called by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of all of the country’s political parties in Parliament endorsed his plan to hold peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban. No conditions were attached to the government offer.

The demands from the militant side, reported by The Wall Street Journal this week, would give them nearly unconstrained control of Pakistan’s tribal areas. The tribal areas are already considered a major regional and international security threat as a sanctuary for jihadists from all over the globe.

"I have serious concerns that this process is legitimizing the militants," said Bushra Gohar, a former lawmaker and senior member of the Awami National Party. "If the government agrees to all these demands, this is clear surrender," she said. Ms. Gohar said the demands would turn the tribal areas into a separate "emirate for the Taliban."

Even while the U.S. pursues peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, it is deeply uneasy about Pakistan’s negotiations with its homegrown militants. U.S. officials have been reluctant to comment publicly, however, wary that they will be blamed if the Pakistani process fails.

The Pakistani Taliban, which works closely with al Qaeda and is independent of the Afghan Taliban, wants Shariah—Islamic law—instituted in the tribal areas, a wild region that runs along Pakistan’s north west border with Afghanistan. It also wants the army to withdraw from the tribal areas and be replaced by the more lightly armed Frontier Corps.

The group also demanded an amnesty for its members, the freeing of its prisoners and compensation for death and property damage from U.S. drone strikes and Pakistani army operations in the tribal areas.

Pakistan’s information minister and the spokesman of the Interior Ministry didn’t return calls seeking comment. The tribal areas, used as a refuge by Pakistani militants, Afghan insurgents and al Qaeda operatives, have been the focus for the U.S. drone program, which is run by the Central Intelligence Agency.

For the Afghan government and U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, the tribal areas are a major reason why they were never able to defeat the Afghan Taliban, as they could easily retreat into this lawless zone.

There have been 362 drone strikes in the tribal areas since 2004, according to a tally kept by the New America Foundation, an independent think tank based in Washington DC, killing as many as 3,387 people. It has been easily the most effective weapon against the top command of the Pakistani Taliban, with leaders killed including Nek Mohammad in 2004, Baitullah Mehsud in 2009, and Waliur Rehman this year.

Jan Achakzai, a spokesman for the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, a hard-line Islamist party which is playing a major role in the peace talks and is a partner of Mr. Sharif in parliament, said that the government should be able to accept most of the militants’ demands.

"An amnesty is part of any reconciliation process, so that should not be a problem. Shariah is very easy to have in the tribal areas," said Mr. Achakzai. "The aim is for these people to agree to live peacefully there."

Mr. Achakzai said that it would be impossible to ask the militants to disarm, as guns are “part of the culture of the tribal culture.”

He added: “The one thing that the government cannot guarantee is that drone strikes won’t happen. The Americans do what they want with those. If that becomes a condition from the militants, then the peace process is in trouble.”

Pakistan officially opposes the drones, though it has secretly cooperated with the program in the past. Islamabad says that the drones are illegal, as they breach the sovereignty of the country and are counterproductive, as the deaths caused aid recruitment to militant groups. This week, Pakistan suggested it may take the issue to the United Nations.

The Pakistani Taliban and its allies have killed 17,541 civilians and 5,355 security personnel since 2003, according to South Asia Terrorism Portal, a website that tracks the deaths. Unlike the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani movement isn’t fighting a foreign presence in its country but has declared war on its own government and security forces.

Washington pointed out this week that the TTP was designated by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. It noted that the TTP had repeatedly threatened the U.S. and had claimed responsibility for the failed car bombing attempt in 2010 in New York’s Times Square.

Pakistani Taliban Demand Pakistani Army Withdrawn From Waziristan Before Peace Talks Begin

September 15, 2013
Pakistani Taliban Make Demands Before Peace Talks
Associated Press
September 15, 2013

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The Pakistani Taliban demanded Sunday that the government release militant prisoners and begin withdrawing troops from the group’s tribal sanctuary before they will participate in peace talks, raising doubts about prospects for negotiations.

The demands came as a roadside bomb killed a major general and two other soldiers as they were riding in a vehicle in the country’s northwest, the military said. The general was the top army commander in an area of the northwest containing the Swat Valley, where the military carried out a major offensive against the Taliban in 2009.

The Taliban’s leadership council decided on the need for confidence building measures ahead of peace talks while meeting to discuss the government’s offer to hold negotiations, said the group’s spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid.

Pakistan’s major political parties endorsed peace talks with the Taliban last week as the best way to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed thousands of people. But it’s unclear what steps the government is willing to take to convince the militants to sit down at the negotiating table.

It’s also unclear what would be acceptable to the army, which has lost thousands of soldiers fighting the Taliban and is considered the strongest institution in the country.

"The Taliban have been deceived in the past in the name of peace, so the government will have to take some steps before the start of talks to assure the Taliban that the government is serious about the peace process," Shahid told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The government must release Pakistani Taliban militants it is holding prisoner and show that it is withdrawing soldiers from the tribal region along the border with Afghanistan, said Shahid.

"If the government does not take these two steps, the peace process cannot go forward," said Shahid.

Intelligence officials and militant commanders said the Taliban and the army exchanged a small number of prisoners last week as a confidence building measure ahead of talks, but the army denied the swap.

The army has carried out scores of operations against the Taliban in the tribal region, but the militants have proven resilient and continue to carry out regular attacks.

The roadside bomb that killed Maj. Gen. Sanaullah Niazi and two other soldiers Sunday was planted near the Afghan border in Upper Dir district, the military said. Upper Dir and the Swat Valley, both of which were under his command, are located in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Also Sunday, a roadside bomb killed one soldier and wounded another in the North Waziristan tribal area, the main sanctuary for Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the country.

On Saturday night, militants ambushed a group of tribal policemen riding in a vehicle near the northwest town of Bannu, killing two of them and wounding four others.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Many observers are skeptical about peace talks with the Taliban since prior agreements with the militants have fallen apart. Critics say the deals simply gave the militants time to regroup and continue their fight against the state.

It’s also unclear what room for compromise the Taliban and the government would find if they did sit down to negotiate. The militants have criticized Pakistan’s democratic system, demanded the imposition of Islamic law and stipulated the government must break off its alliance with the United States.

Even if the two sides could come to an agreement, it’s unclear how well the Taliban could enforce it on their side. There are dozens of militant groups based in the tribal region with varying degrees of allegiance to the Taliban.

The U.S. is wary of a peace deal because it could give Afghan Taliban militants greater space to conduct cross-border attacks against U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan. But it could be hard for the U.S. to push back against negotiations since it wants Pakistan’s help in striking a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban.

The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are allies but have focused on different targets. The Afghan Taliban have fought coalition troops in Afghanistan, while the Pakistani Taliban have largely focused on battling the Pakistani state.

The Pakistani Taliban indicated they were open to holding peace talks at the end of last year but withdrew that offer in May after the group’s deputy leader was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Despite the Taliban’s reluctance, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has continued to push for negotiations since he took office in June.

Pakistani General Killed in IED Attack in Upper Dir District Near Afghan Border

September 15, 2013
Pakistani General, Two Other Soldiers, Killed in Bomb Blast
Reuters
September 15, 2013

ISLAMABAD — A roadside bomb killed a Pakistani general and another officer on Sunday near the border with Afghanistan, the Pakistani army said, rare high-ranking casualties in Pakistan’s war against militants.

Major General Sanaullah Khan, along with a lieutenant colonel and another soldier were killed in the Upper Dir district after visiting an outpost near the border, the army said.

"Pakistan army has made substantial sacrifices to protect the nation against the menace of terrorism and such cowardly acts by terrorists cannot deter the morale of our armed forces," Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement.

The attack comes after weeks of discussions within Sharif’s government about whether to pursue peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, who are separate from Afghanistan’s Taliban but allied with them.

Last week, all major political parties held a conference on the issue and agreed that talks should be pursued.

But it is not clear when talks might begin, who might take part or if they would be held under any conditions.

The killing of Khan and the other two would likely make it more difficult for the government to enter negotiations.

The Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of different factions, have said they will have their own meeting to decide whether to negotiate with the government. Analysts say it might be difficult for them to reach an agreement.

The Taliban said last year that they would only consider talks if the government imposed strict Islamic law and went to war with old enemy India.

But Sharif’s government, which came to power this year, has made improving ties with neighboring India a priority.

Whatever the Taliban demand, the killing of a major general and other officers will make it more difficult for the government to pursue talks with the militants.

China:PLA: Implementing the CCP Mandate

Paper No. 5558 Dated 15-Sep-2013
By Col. R. Hariharan

(This paper was originally presented by Col Hariharan at the Third Annual Conference on “Inside China 2013: New Leadership, Social Changes and Economic Challenges,” jointly organised at New Delhi by the C3S, India International Centre, New Delhi, Institute of Policy and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi, Department of East Asia Studies, Delhi University, and Centre for East Asia Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, on September 6, 2013 at New Delhi).

INTRODUCTION

The long process of China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) modernisation going on since 1978 is conditioned by three things: Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s mandate, national leadership’s guidance, and the dynamics of strategic environment in which the PLA is expected to operate.

The 18th National Congress of the CCP held in November 2012 brought in fifth generation leaders in a thorough makeover of the national leadership. Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang brought in to the politburo standing committee replaced Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao as President and Premier respectively in March 2013. Thus in the next decade or so the PLA modernization process will be guided by the 18th Congress deliberations, under the new leadership according to the strategic environment visualized by them. [1]

After deliberating on issues, the 18th CCP Congress Work Report identified the broad contours of PLA’s strategic modernization as:

“Building strong national defense and powerful armed forces that are commensurate with China’s international standing and meet the needs of its security and development interests is a strategic task of China’s modernization drive.

“We should attach great importance to maritime, space and cyberspace security. We should make active planning for the use of military forces in peacetime, expand and intensify military preparedness, and enhance the capability to accomplish a wide range of military tasks, the most important of which is to win local war in an information age.”[2]

Translated in military terms, the Congress visualized PLA modernization as a continuous process in keeping with the strategic needs of China to enhance its global power projection. Its stress on maritime, space and cyberspace security are closely linked to informatization process already underway to bring PLA on par with modern armies of the West, particularly the U.S. The digitization process of PLA will go hand in hand as part of the “four modernizations” – the strategic direction provided by Deng Xiaoping for his holistic development vision in the fields of agriculture, industry, national defence, and science and technology. This enables the PLA modernization process to take advantage of the gains of national development.

PLA’s peace time employment envisaged by the Congress would be to further improve its competence in military operations other than warfare (MOOTW) that will include disaster relief as well assistance to the Peoples’ Armed Police (PAP) to handle internal unrest and counter terrorism tasks whenever required. Continued participation of PLA in UN peace keeping operations and anti-piracy missions would be in keeping with China’s growing international influence and desire to increase its international profile as a responsible global power.

PLA and the new leadership

President Xi Jinping in his first address made to the nation on March 17, 2013 as head of state spoke of the Chinese dream. He said “We must make persistent efforts, press ahead with indomitable will, continue to push forward the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and strive to achieve the Chinese dream of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. “To realise the Chinese road, we must spread the Chinese spirit, which combines the spirit of the nation with patriotism as the core and the spirit of the time with reform and innovation as the core,” he added.

Since becoming President, Xi had been travelling far and wide throughout the country from Shenzhen “Special Economic Zone” of in the south where China’s economic revolution started to arid Gansu in the North one of the poorest provinces. He has been visiting military training institutions, PLA establishments and naval ships to spread his Chinese dream. Evidently Xi’s Chinese dream will have reform and innovation as ingredients in both economic and strategic security content.

The idea is reflected in retired PLA Colonel Liu Mingfu’s book The China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-America Era in 2010. He says “Since the 19th Century, China has been lagging on the world stage….President Xi’s dream is of a stronger nation with a strong military.”[3]

Even before Xi became President in March 2013, as general secretary of the Central Committee of the CCP he had “vowed to unswervingly fight against corruption and keep power reined within the cage of regulations” while addressing a plenary meeting of the CCP’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) on January 22, 2013. He “ordered enhanced restraint and supervision on the use of power.” He stressed, “Power should be restricted by the cage of regulations.”

China designs n-reactors with developing countries in mind

Published: September 16, 2013 
Ananth Krishnan

China has made a case for its domestically-developed, fourth-generation reactor as the answer for developing countries’ concerns regarding costs and safety

As the rest of the world reconsiders the use of nuclear energy in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan, China has made a case for its new, domestically-developed, fourth-generation reactor as the answer for developing countries’ concerns regarding costs and safety.

The State-run China Nuclear Engineering Group Corporation (CNEC), closely involved in the design and construction of many of the 17 nuclear reactors in operation, on Sunday, presented designs of its new fourth-generation High Temperature Reactor (HTR) and High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor (HTGR), on the sidelines of the first China-Arab States trade exposition which opened in this western Chinese city.

With global interest in nuclear power waning following Fukushima, the CNEC is hoping that success with its reactor will help rekindle interest abroad.

The CNEC has been charged by the State Council, or Cabinet, with expanding the nuclear industry’s reach overseas. The company was behind the Chashma-3 and Chashma-4 reactors in Pakistan. The deals triggered controversy because they were agreed to after China joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Since those deals, the CNEC has struggled to make headway overseas following the Fukushima incident and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) concerns over some models, such as the Westinghouse-inspired 1000 MW reactors, over which China and Pakistan have had recent talks.

The company is banking on the HTR design as the answer to both concerns. “The HTR reactor, which is fourth-generation, is one for which we have complete IPR so we can freely export this reactor,” Zhang Wei, CNEC’s Chief Engineer, told The Hindu.

Export

Mr. Zhang also said the CNEC had initiated talks with countries ranging from South Africa and the United Arab Emirates to Cambodia, to export its reactors.

Mr. Zhang said the HTR was also much safer, with its inherent structural design ruling out a recurrence of a Fukushima-type incident. In October, China gave the green light to restarting construction of reactors after a more than a year-long suspension, during which a safety review was conducted in the wake of Fukushima .

China is building 28 reactors – more than in any other country — with most of the projects entirely designed and constructed domestically, using technology adapted from the U.S., France and Russia.

China Gets Serious on Pollution

By James Parker
September 15, 2013

Time certainly flies. It is already nearly four years since the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (the “Copenhagen Summit”) ended amidst mutual recriminations, blame-trading and considerable bad feeling. Much of the acrimony centered on the subject of developed country subsidies, or funding for environmental cleanups and clean-technology deployment in emerging markets and less-developed economies, these days increasingly the source of pollution.

Since then, the issue of air pollution and environmental degradation has become that much more immediate, especially for China. Worries about health consequences, economic fallout and a lack of government action have been some of the most persistent issues facing China throughout the year, especially in January when Beijing and much of Northern China suffered from a choking “Airpocalypse” that seemed to finally bring the issue to the forefront of policymakers’ minds (and lungs).

So, as Beijing again suffered from a spike in bad air quality, it was perhaps fortunate that the Chinese government finally announced on Thursday a long awaited and much-rumored set of measures aimed at improving China’s air quality.

Front and center of the plan is the issue of coal. China has a lot of it, burns a staggering quantity and has been doing so at increasing rates over recent history. Beijing has now announced that the country will aim to cut coal’s contribution to primary energy use to below 65% by 2017. The beneficiaries of this policy will be nuclear power, natural gas and a little bit of non-fossil fuel energy.

This plan comes just more than a month after the announcement that the government would support environmental protectionas a “pillar industry” (through tax breaks and subsidies) and would increase spending on energy-saving and pollution-tackling technologies. 

Several industries in which coal consumption is high are also, quite conveniently for a government trying to push through a painful economic restructuring, suffering from chronic overcapacity and are in need of “consolidation” (read: closures) anyway. The steel sector, excess capacity in which actually increased even after global demand collapsed in late 2008, is expected to be one loser as the plan takes effect. Another area that could face pressure is the country’s enormous aluminum industry.

Of course, in China strong regulations are not always accompanied by strong or effective enforcement, with both corruption and growth-favoring local governments conspiring to undermine rules in many areas. Moreover, the plan fails to address another major source of air pollution in China – vehicle emissions – although the announcement does suggest that the roll out of stricter emissions standards may be brought forward. China will need to tackle both issues if it is to achieve a healthier environment in which its citizens can strive for the “Chinese Dream” recently described by President Xi Jinping.

Investors in Chinese energy, coal, steel and aluminum would be advised to consider the implications of the plan seriously. As usual, there will be both winners and losers, as opportunities emerge alongside the pain.

New Details Available on Chinese Satellite Imagery Capabilities

September 14, 2013
China’s Satellite Imagery Capabilities Coming into Sharper Focus
Peter B de Selding
Space News
September 13, 2013

PARIS — The Chinese government, which over the past 20 years has been one of the world’s biggest markets for commercial Earth observation satellite imagery, has achieved autonomy in medium-resolution imagery and expects to reach that goal in submetric imagery within three to five years, according to China’s Center for Resource Satellite Data and Applications (CRESDA).

The good news for China’s domestic industry is not as good for the half-dozen or more commercial satellite imagery companies, mainly in North America and Europe, that have counted on China as a big growth opportunity for the foreseeable future.

China’s increasing self-sufficiency has already cost several satellite image providers, including RapidEye of Germany and Astrium Geo-Information of France, revenue in the past couple of years as China’s domestic satellite builders have proved capable of building satellites with ground resolutions of between 2 and 5 meters.

The scheduled December launch of the DF-2 satellite in December is the opening salvo in China’s attempt to reclaim the high-resolution side of its domestic market as well.

DF-2 is capable of producing images with a ground sampling distance of 80 centimeters in black and white, and 3.2 meters in color. Its images have a swath width of 48 kilometers, and the satellite is capable of swiveling on its axis 35 degrees to either side, according to Zhou Zi Kuan, director of international business development at CRESDA, a unit of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

Discussing China’s Earth observation market here Sept. 13 during the World Satellite Business Week conference organized by Euroconsult, Zhou said China has dramatically reduced its use of medium-resolution data from non-Chinese providers such as RapidEye AG, which operates a five-satellite constellation.

He said the current Chinese optical imaging satellites have a performance equal to the French Spot 5, India’s IRS-P5 and Japan’s ALOS.

“Five or 10 years ago a lot of people said our satellites were no good,” Zhou said. “Even giving the data away for free they did not attract many users. But the government has changed its previous focus from manned space to applications.”

Assuming DF-2’s performance matches its design, it will be followed by other DF-2-model satellites. Under this scenario, Zhou said, the days likely are numbered for non-Chinese image providers operating in the Chinese market.

“The DF-2 performance will need to be validated, but I think the trend is clear,” Zhou said. “In three to five years, we will no longer need foreign satellites to provide sub-metric imagery. For now the focus [of the Chinese high-resolution satellites] is on the Chinese market, but we are preparing for entry into the global market.”

Aki Yamaura, general manager of Beijing Eastdawn Information Technology Co. Ltd., a major provider of geographic information systems to the Chinese government, said he is adopting a wait-and-see position with respect to China’s upcoming satellites.

But Yamaura, who also addressed the conference here Sept. 13, said the total revenue generated by sales of satellite images in China, which has grown sharply in the past decade, is likely to plateau because China’s domestic satellites sell images at half the price, on a pixel basis, of their non-Chinese counterparts.

Syrian Rebels Attack Chinese Diplomats, Embassy

By Zachary Keck
September 13, 2013

Chinese diplomats in Syria as well as Beijing’s embassy are under regular threat from rebel attacks, China’s ambassador to Syria has confided to local media outlets.

In an interview with the Global Times, Zhang Xun, China's ambassador to Syria said that Beijing’s embassy in Damascus has increasingly been caught in the cross-hairs of fighting between rebel and government forces in recent months.

In one notable instance, shrapnel and shell fragments from a mortar attack deflected off a nearby building and landed inside the Chinese embassy.

“A shell hit the ceiling of a building some 60 meters away and the fragments bounced into our building,” Zhang told reporters from the Global Times, showing them the actual shells, which he kept in an envelope in his office.

Zhang said that in another attack last month, Syrian rebels fired mortar shells at President Bashar al-Assad's motorcade. They missed the Syrian leader but hit a building that was located just 10 meters from the Chinese embassy. The shock from the attack damaged the nearby embassy, however.

“Several windows in our corridor were shattered. Some of the shrapnel fell onto my balcony,” Zhang said of the attack, which took place on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

According to the report, the Chinese embassy is located in the heart of Damascus near the Bashar al-Assad’s presidential palace and key military buildings, which unsurprisingly are often the targets of rebel attacks.

Another diplomat from the embassy told the Global Times that Chinese personnel have been targeted directly by rebel forces, particularly when they are meeting with Syrian officials. Indeed, according to a Want China Times report, Zhang was nearly killed in a sniper attack during a meeting he held with Syria’s foreign minister.

The Global Times article says that Zhang now keeps a bullet-proof vest, gas mask and pistol in his office.

There are also reports that the rebels are actively plotting attacks against the Chinese embassy, presumably in retaliation for China’s continued support for the Assad regime. The Want China Times report said that a brigade commander in the Free Syrian Army, one of the rebel forces fighting the Syrian government, has vowed to launch a “full-scale attack” on the Chinese embassy.

Meanwhile, the Global Times claims that a local driver the embassy had employed was arrested earlier this year by Syrian authorities for allegedly planning to place bombs under the embassy car. The article, which said the driver had confessed to the crime, added that he had been recruited by Syrian rebel forces during a trip to Jordan in February.