21 September 2013

Why India Tested Nuclear Weapons in 1998

By Zachary Keck
September 20, 2013

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece for The National Interest arguing that India’s acquisition of nuclear weapons had been a mistake because it had not achieved its initial purpose of addressing the Chinese threat to India’s border, while it worsened Delhi’s ability to deal with Pakistan.

I was pleased to learn that Dhruva Jaishankar of the German Marshall Fund had taken the time towrite a rebuttal to my piece, which also appeared in TNI. On Thursday TNI was kind enough to publish my response to Jaishankar’s piece.

In order to address Jaishankar’s major points, my response ran rather long. As such, I tried to reduce the length of the piece by eliminating one section. Specifically, Jaishankar had argued I ignored the context in which India’s nuclear-decision making took place. He countered by arguing:

“Given its adverse security environment in the early 1990s, India’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as a deterrent against Chinese and Pakistani adventurism would have appeared not only wise but necessary, particularly when considered in conjunction with the relatively low costs of a nuclear program, a multilateral order that threatened to recognize China’s nuclear status in perpetuity while denying India entry, and an enabling domestic political environment.”

In my response, I focused mainly on whether it made sense to examine India’s nuclear calculus solely through the decision to test nuclear weapons in 1998. Not surprisingly, I argued that it did not. However, I also noted in passing that many of Jaishankar’s specific claims were questionable on the merits, without elaborating on why this was the case.

Since Jaishankar’s claims are representative of the ones often given for why India tested nuclear weapons in 1998, its worth explaining in greater detail why these are indeed questionable on the merits.

First, Jaishankar argues that India faced in adverse security environment in the early 1990s. Although this is rather vague, he is probably referring to the collapse of the Soviet Union, India’s Cold War ally, as this is often used by Indian officials and analysts to justify the nuclear tests in 1998.

Although there is something to this argument, it is grossly overstated because the loss of the immense Soviet military machine meant that Russia’s defense industry was all too willing to continue selling India military supplies. Delhi may have had to pay more for weapons under the Russian Federation, but its economy was also expanding rapidly starting in the 1990s and 2000s. Thus, it could afford to do so.

But India’s security environment in the early 1990s cannot be characterized as highly adverse because its external threat environment was greatly reduced. China, for instance, spent the first few years of the decade completely immersed in domestic affairs following Tiananmen Square. Its interest in threatening Indian territory was greatly reduced during this time. Additionally, during this time the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began to downsize its ground forces, which had historically taken precedence. Since these were the primary menace to India along its shared border with China, this also reduced the threat Beijing posed to India in the early to mid-1990s.

Russian experts denied access to sunk submarine, INS Sindhurakshak

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 20th Sept 13

Something to hide? Russian technicians, present in Mumbai at the time of the accident, have been kept away

More than a month after the submarine, INS Sindhurakshak, sank in Mumbai after at least one fiery explosion on board, there is little clarity about what caused the disaster. And with the Indian Navy unable to raise the submarine to the surface, seawater is wiping out evidence of what might have happened in the vessel’s last fateful moments.

Inexplicably, the navy and MoD have flatly refused offers of help from a team of at least five Russian experts who were in Mumbai on Aug 14, when the Sindhurakshak sank at the Naval Dockyard. Zvezdochka, the Russian shipyard that refurbished and upgraded the submarine from 2011-13, had positioned the technicians in Mumbai to respond to any defects during the guarantee period.

Top Indian officials in New Delhi say the Mumbai-based Russian team offered assistance immediately after the Sindhurakshak disaster, but were told by Naval authorities in Mumbai that no help was needed. Nor were the Russians allowed access to the Naval Dockyard, where the Sindhurakshak still lies submerged in 10-15 metres of water.

Moscow also responded to the incident by immediately flying down a senior defence official to New Delhi. He too was told that no assistance was required. Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, also offered assistance in a public statement.

Top Russian officials worry that, in the absence of clarity about the cause of the accident, crew morale would be affected in the 50-plus Kilo class submarines in service across the world.

Kilo class submarines equip the navies of Russia (17 vessels); China (12 vessels); India (9, excluding Sindhurakshak) and several others.

“It is absolutely vital for the confidence of our submarine crews that the cause of the accident be pinpointed, and remedial measures and procedures be instituted,” says Vice Admiral (Retired) KN Sushil, a veteran submariner.

The Indian Navy, contacted for comments, says that it is “in dialogue with the Russians. Further, (the Russians) are and will be consulted wherever/whenever a need is felt. The Navy is committed to using all requisite resources to enable a comprehensive inquiry and to ascertain the cause of the incident.”

The Russian side believes that the only reason why the Indian Navy would exclude Russia from investigations is the apprehension that crew errors might have caused the explosion, not equipment failure or systems malfunction.

Chinese Aggressiveness: Need for appropriate response

Incursions from China continue despite protests and meetings by India. It is reported that on 20 August 2013, there were intrusions by China in the Walong- Choglagam sector in Arunachal Pradesh which resulted in erection of tents by troops of both sides. This follows the Depsang Plains incident of April 2013 and the Chumar incident thereafter. China has also operationalised two airfields in Tibet. These are the Ngari-Gunsa near Shihquanhe opposite Demchok in Ladakh and Bangda North opposite Arunachal Pradesh. As per reports, a dozen more airfields have been planned in Tibet. 

The intrusions are well coordinated and show marked interest by the PLA in areas of military significance. It is perhaps a signal by the new leadership in China to indicate that along with diplomatic activity, China will adopt an assertive stance on the issue of territorial claims and sovereignty. It could also be deduced that the actions of the PLA are to restrain India in building up infrastructure in the border areas. Also, by slowly biting into pieces of Indian Territory through continuous intrusions, the Chinese are observing how India’s political leadership and its security forces react to such provocation.

Ever since the new leadership has taken charge in March 2013 there have been aggressive statements by outspoken Chinese military officers about their military capabilities. It is extremely difficult to probe the Chinese military mind but Chinese military doctrine is focused towards winning short duration border wars. The PLA is training for short and swift conflict preceded by a cyber-offensive. An offensive could involve the use of missiles, anti-satellite weapons, overwhelming firepower and control over the air space. The extent and scale of conflict would depend on Chinese motives and intent.

Another aspect for consideration is the consolidation of the string of pearls strategy. While Pakistan has always been closely allied with China, Beijing is asserting increasing influence on Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Maldives and in a mild manner, Bhutan. The question to ask is “What Is the Chinese Objective”? Various possibilities exist. It could be to lower India’s image in the region and to keep India confined to the backwaters of South Asia. It could also be to demonstrate power to the Chinese people who of late have been indulging in protests and violent disturbances in Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang. How then should India respond to such unfriendly acts?

Diplomatically, India must proactively resolve all issues and differences with Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bhutan. As regards Pakistan, the policy towards border violations and inflow of terrorists from across the border, demand a firmer response. Along the LAC with China, there must be a renewed emphasis laid on patrolling and surveillance using satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and battle field surveillance radars. While the formations on the Chinese border are ever vigilant, use of technology is essential to have total visibility over our areas of concern.

Three issues need to be addressed expeditiously. These would transform our existing policy of dissuasion with China to limited deterrence. First is the raising of additional forces which have already been sanctioned by the government. This is a welcome step and when completed, will increase military capability to a large extent. It must be appreciated that the mere intent of raising additional forces has sent an important signal that the nation will protect its territorial integrity. The raisings must now be completed expeditiously to ensure peace on our Northern borders.

The next aspect relates to equipping our forces on the Northern border with missiles. China’s Second Artillery has already deployed ballistic and cruise missiles in Tibet and in the Qinghai province at Delinga. India has tested the Agni V successfully, but five more tests are required which must also be carried out in a shorter time frame. The missile must thereafter be operationalised for deployment with strategic forces. The Chinese have also deployed conventional missiles in Tibet. These must be countered by deployment of the BrahMos missile. The last and perhaps the most vital aspect relates to the development of infrastructure. There are 72 roads to be constructed out of which work has commenced only on 32. Most of them are stuck due to problems of environmental clearance and acquisition of land. There is a requirement of expediting the entire process.


 In praise of Current Science

Politics and play - Ramachandra Guha

I subscribe to about a dozen journals, these published in several different countries. With one exception all deal with social science and the humanities. The exception is Current Science, published by the Indian Academy of Sciences in Bangalore.

I was myself born into a family of scientists. My father, grandfather and two uncles spent their working lives in Indian research laboratories. A third uncle is a distinguished physicist in America. A cousin is one of India’s top nutrition scientists.

With this lineage I was expected to become a scientist myself. At high school, while I fared moderately well in chemistry, I was modest in mathematical ability and disastrously unsuited to the study of physics. On the other hand, I liked reading novels and biographies, and liked writing essays for the school magazine. Left to myself, I would have studied English literature in college, but my family thought the subject too soft. So I settled on economics, a subject deemed to have at least some pretensions to being a ‘science’.

As it turned out I was rather ordinary at economics too. When I got a low second class in my MA, one of my teachers advised me to look for another subject, which, as he put it, would be a ‘Pareto Optimum’: Good for Me, Better for Economics. I followed his advice, doing a doctorate in sociology and moving over time to an even more descriptive, less analytical, subject, namely history.

Why, with this background and training (or lack thereof) do I subscribe to Current Science? A Freudian may see it as an subconscious attempt to retrospectively ingratiate myself with the family elders whom I failed by moving away from the path they had laid out for me. In truth, I began subscribing to the journal because a friend told me that its editorials were excellent, and largely comprehensive to the aam admi.

I shall come to those editorials presently, but first a brief word on the journal’s history. Current Science was started in 1932, soon after C.V. Raman won the Nobel prize for physics. Raman strongly backed the new journal, as did other major figures in Indian science such as Birbal Sahni and S.S. Bhatnagar. However, the main work in those early years was done by two lesser-known men, the first editors, who were C.R. Narayana Rao, professor of zoology at Bangalore’s Central College, and V. Subrahmanyam, professor of biochemistry at the Indian Institute of Science.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the journal built a decent reputation, but then began to slowly decline. It was only in the 1980s, when the crystallographer, S. Ramaseshan, took over, that the journal began to revive. Ramaseshan encouraged younger scientists to write for it, sourcing articles from all across the country.

The process of renewal begun by Ramaseshan was carried on by his successor, Padmanabhan Balaram (picture), who became editor in 1995. A molecular biologist educated at IIT-Kanpur and Carnegie Mellon, Balaram is reckoned (in terms of the quality of his research) to be among the dozen or so best scientists in India. His character is rather special, too. Unlike some of his peers, he spurns networking with foreigners and politicians. He has a keen interest in the younger generation of researchers, and in scientific disciplines other than his own. He is also widely read in literature and history.

I first began subscribing to Current Science for Balaram’s editorials. These sometimes analysed the less salutary aspects of science (as when he wrote about the politics of prizes or the prejudices against women scientists), sometimes noted anniversaries of important or critical discoveries, sometimes explained the origin and spread of new sub-fields, sometimes spoke of the need for scientists to communicate to a wider public. The last injunction he put into practice, for his own editorials were written in an elegant, understated style.

Barcode Nation

Why some Indians are still fighting back against the country's new biometric ID system.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2013

CHENNAI, India — The Unique Identification (UID) system is one of the most enterprising social programs in India today -- and probably the most controversial. In a country that lacks a comprehensive identification system, more than 400 million mostly rural Indians have no way of authenticating who they are. This leaves them locked out of public services like banking, social benefits, and even recognition of citizenship. By providing a nationally recognized identity for every citizen and resident, the UID system, known as Aadhaar, is taking a major step forward by establishing a foundation for inclusive institutions that India's bloated bureaucracy is seriously lacking.

Supporters of the program see special use for UID as an efficient tool for the government to distribute established social services like cash transfers, subsidized food, and kerosene to poor citizens. They say that UID's technology is necessary to ensure that aid actually reaches the needy. But owing to the prevalence of the same corruption that aid workers are trying to combat, there are strong concerns over privacy and the potential for fraudulence.

The program works by assigning a 12-digit number to each of the country's 1.2 billion people. Connected to the number are a photograph and two biometric indicators: fingerprints and iris scans. The innovation of using biometric indicators helps by not only creating a truly unique identity, but because it also serves the many illiterate people who never obtained other forms of ID like the PAN Card used for taxes, or a driver's license. Since rolling out the July 2009 pilot project in the state of Uttar Pradesh, UID hasenrolled over 380 million people nationwide and plans to bring that number up to 600 million by the end of 2014.

As enrollment increases, state governments intend to primarily use UID as the linchpin of India's highly expensive and suspiciously leaky social safety net system. It is intended to improve programs like the Fair Price Shops (FPS) ration card system. In this arrangement, low-income Indians have access to FPS locations in their respective districts to purchase food and goods that the government subsidizes well below market prices. Under the current system, ration cards are given to families living below the poverty line. The cards are intended to entitle these families to FPS benefits, but they can also be used (often fraudulently) as identification cards.

Apart from the likelihood that politicians themselves abuse and indulge in these corrupt activities, the FPS ration card system has a number of other problems. On one hand, many eligible families are not enrolled; on the other, there is a sea of fake cards floating around which middle-class (and even rich) families use to buy cheap goods. The bogus cards are a drain on the system and reduce the amounts of food and kerosene available for the intended recipients. FPS owners are also known to siphon off their heavily subsidized inventory to make a killing on the black market.

Can't talk peace to the terrorist

Sep 20 2013

Pakistan's offer of unconditional talks to the Taliban will only bring humiliation, and no peace.

An All Parties' Conference (APC) in Islamabad on September 9, 2013 unanimously recommended the initiation of dialogue with "all the stakeholders to curb terrorism", meaning "white-flag" talks with the Taliban. Two APCs before this tried anti-Americanism to woo the terrorists, thinking the Taliban would be satisfied but failed, and also ended up doing nothing against America. After the army announced it was getting out of Swat-Malakand-Dir, the Taliban have killed a major general and a lieutenant colonel there, and killed four additional troops in North Waziristan, on September 15.

The army has already tried its populist anti-Americanism in deference to its internal emotion, but could not do without the $60 million a month it received from the US-led Coalition Support Fund for deployment in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), while needlessly tormenting a government it thought was pro-America and pro-India.

The APC line was: fighting the Taliban was part of the big mistake of becoming America's ally after 9/11. The rumour is that Imran Khan, whose party is ruling in strategic Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa abutting FATA, has convinced the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, to take the army out of FATA gradually as a gesture of sincerity to the Taliban who are fighting Pakistan because of its slavishly pro-America policy.

The APC attached no conditions to the offer of talks, except for self-mortifyingly vowing to go to the UN against American drones killing the Taliban in FATA; and now the Taliban are busy conferring among their 78 splinters to decide how to respond to the offer after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) welcomed it through a spokesman. On September 15, they proclaimed freeing of TTP prisoners as their precondition for talks. Pakistan's politics of surrender will likely bring humiliation and no peace.

In Urdu, the APC has been hailed as supreme wisdom; in English, serious doubts have arisen about talking to terrorists from a position of weakness. A clash of linguistic narratives took place pointedly on a GEO TV talk show last week where "English-medium" former Pakistan ambassador to the US and head of Islamabad NGO Jinnah Institute, Sherry Rehman, was pitted against the "Urdu-medium", recently "outed" super-non-state actor, former chief of "defunct" Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and front-row member of the Defence of Pakistan Council vowing to fight India till the bitter end, Fazlur Rehman Khalil. Unfortunately, Sherry Rehman appeared to lose the debate on language competence, but what she said was right.

As for the charge that Pakistan was getting ready to talk to the Taliban from prostration, Khalil's answer was stock: if the superpower can talk peace with the Taliban "strangers", why can't Pakistan with its own "misguided sons"? Rehman's rebuttal was easy: the Americans are leaving a country they had occupied; Pakistan was not leaving Pakistan. Then came a more complicated issue: if Pakistan can be ready to talk to the Baloch insurgents doing terrorism in Balochistan, why can't it talk to the Taliban? Rehman said: because the Taliban have come from outside, while the Baloch are Pakistanis. She carefully suppressed the comment that while both were terrorists, the Taliban had to be fought because they were ideologically more threatening.

The Taliban and hundreds of international warriors want to create a state according to the tenets of Islam listed in al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri's treatise The Morning and the Lamp, where he denigrates Jinnah's vision of Pakistan and destroys the Pakistani constitution article by article with Islamic argument. (Pakistan has taken pains to knock it out of the internet but the "alternative constitution" has been translated into Urdu and widely distributed by madrassas in Pakistan.)

The truth on the ground is that the Pakistan army is fighting the Taliban openly and Baloch insurgents deniably because both are doing terrorism, and the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) is learning new tricks from the Taliban, enjoying a kind of terror condominium in Balochistan. There can be no difference of approach: both are terrorists, both are funded from abroad and challenge a state that not long ago was doing the same sort of thing in other states. Then how is the BLF different from the TTP?

Can Nawaz rescue Pakistan?

September 14th, 2013
Authors: Viswesh Rammohan and Nabeel A Mancheri, NIAS

Over 46 million people exercised their right to vote in Pakistan in May earlier this year — close to 55 per cent of the population and a record turnout since 1988. Pakistan’s first transition from one civilian government to another is an incredible achievement for a country that has been under military rule for a large part of its history.

Nawaz Sharif is not a new name in Pakistani politics, and this time he had to overcome the biggest political challenge of his career by beating two big names in former-cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and the party of the incumbent president, Asif Ali Zardari. But even in the face of strong opposition Nawaz dominated the elections: he managed to secure 126 seats out of 272 in a direct election. Though the number wasn’t enough to form a single government, his landslide victory becomes obvious when one sees that the next best party’s tally is a meagre 33 seats.

Nawaz Sharif has been prime minister of Pakistan twice, from 1990–93 and again from 1997–99. In 1993, Nawaz resigned under pressure from the armed forces before the completion of his first term after he and President Ghulam Ishaq were locked in a political battle. His second reign was also short-lived: he was ousted from power in 1999 by General Pervez Musharraf, the army chief of that time.

Nawaz’s third term isn’t going to be any easier. The situation in Pakistan has only gotten worse since the last time he was in power. Nawaz’s biggest threats are from the inside, not the outside. Various insurgent and terrorist groups including the Pakistani Taliban, which has always been described as being close to Al-Qaeda, organised election-related violence; most of them regard elections as un-Islamic. But the Taliban left Nawaz’s campaign relatively untouched because he wasn’t perceived as liberal or secular. He will have to act on the Taliban issue with utmost caution.

The threat from the Taliban and other terrorist organisations is not Nawaz’s only problem. Pakistan is facing a huge economic crisis, with low growth rates, dwindling foreign exchange reserves and high unemployment. Nawaz calls himself an ‘industrialist’, and is probably the best person to improve the economic situation. It doesn’t help that Pakistan can’t produce enough energy for itself: even the most industrialised province, Punjab, lacks power for over 20 hours a day, making the situation for factories and businesses worse and adding to the failing economy. This energy crisis was the most important election issue, and Nawaz’s promise to fix it may be why the people chose him.

The other big player in Pakistan politics has always been the army, which still does not seem to like Nawaz very much. While this time the army chose to stay out of the elections, Nawaz will have to work with it as he governs. The army still has considerable influence in all matters of national and international interest and Nawaz has to tread carefully.

If the internal problems of Pakistan aren’t hard enough to deal with, Nawaz’s problems are compounded by foreign relations. Pakistan’s future will be determined by its relations with its neighbours. On the one hand, the situation between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been tense post 9/11. With NATO troops pulling out of Afghanistan in 2014, Pakistan will be scrutinised constantly by the United States and the world as it deals with its western neighbour. Pakistan has said that its strategy in Afghanistan post-2014 is going to be one of ‘no interference and no favourites’. Easy to say, but Nawaz might find that policy difficult to implement in practice.

Washington: Just Say No To Pakistan

September 20, 2013

Another day, another calamity: thirty killed by a suicide bomber at a funeral in Quetta; the commanding General in Swat blown up by Pakistani Taliban; renewed Indo-Pakistani fighting along the Kashmir border threatens to torpedo fragile reconciliation efforts. These events—all in the past six weeks—reinforce recent disclosures in theWashington Post confirming deep-seated official US doubts and fears about Pakistan. Taken together, they constitute an inflection point: it is time to re-examine the entirety of our ties with that duplicitous, nuclear-armed and unstable country

Another cycle of Foggy Bottom delusion will soon begin, as Pakistan moves to capitalize on an Afghanistan from which America is mostly absent. In policy terms, dealing with Pakistan resembles “Groundhog Day”—a dismal recurring cycle of action/reaction, with hopes recurrently dashed.

Whether it is the unhappy fate of a Pakistani doctor helping track down Osama Bin Laden, retried after winning an appeal; or predictably resumed skirmishing in Kashmir—all lead inevitably to grave doubt. Every week, U.S. and other policymakers voice a silent question: 

"Why Pakistan?"

Why Pakistan?

As a thought experiment, it’s a question worth asking, because there’s nothing inevitable or firmly grounded about ‘Pakistan’ at all. Imagine for a moment that Pakistan and Afghanistan did not exist as separate states. Consider instead what might have happened had a decolonizing British India devolved into countries with the same culture/ethnic basis as in Europe.

British imperialism was skilled at manipulating ethnic divisions in south Asia, but in 1947, it choose instead to act as midwife to an artificiality based on religion rather than ethnicity, thereby spawning via a bloody Partition a new state named ‘Pakistan’ (‘Land of the Pure’) in which an inherently implausible gaggle of Bengalis, Sindhis, Punjabis, Baluchis, and Pashtuns found themselves lumped together.

It was a fateful choice. If the British had instead used the same culture/language/ethnicity criteria for states as done in Europe, would Pakistan exist? Instead of Pakistan and Afghanistan. we might have ‘Pushtunistan’, ‘Baluchistan’, and even a 'Sindhi Nation' around Karachi. Afghanistan's Tajiks and other minorities might also have melded with a future Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, while the residual India would have rested on a core inclusionary civilization. Ironies abound: More Muslims live in India than in Pakistan.

Yet we must live with the baleful consequences of the Great Error in 1947. But with only the slender reed of religion, we shouldn’t be surprised, especially given Salafi and jihadi money from the Gulf States flowing into Pakistan. Nor should we be surprised by a spreading Sunni-Shia proxy war spreading across the Greater Middle East, from North Africa to Pakistan.

If prevailing Southwest Asian realities had rested instead on a cultural/ethnolinguistic foundation, it would still fall well short of being a region of peace and harmony. But feuds and clashes would have remained local. We would not have to worry about a neighborhood dispute like Kashmir being a potential trigger for nuclear conflict.

Barely a week passes without some ghastly massacre in Waziristan, Karachi, Quetta, or even in the Sindh. Despite more than $20 billion in U.S. aid since 2001, Pakistan ranks #13 on Foreign Policy magazine’s Failed State Index, 'edged out' only by such wonders as Somalia, Haiti and Zimbabwe from descending into still more humiliating status.

China’s Southern European Spending Spree

By Loro Horta
September 20, 2013
Five hundred years ago Portugal began the quasi-colonization of China. With Lisbon deeply in debt, the tables have turned.

As the world marks the 500 year anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese people to China, a wave of Chinese investment and capital is pouring into Portugal.

Portugal was the first European power to establish a permanent settlement in China and was the last to leave when it returned Macau to Beijing in 1999. Now, suffering from a severe economic crisis, Portugal is making a strong push to attract foreign investment. China, despite its own economic slowdown, is taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the crisis in Portugal – and in other southern European countries like Spain and Greece.

To begin with, a growing number of Chinese investors have also been taking advantage of the drop in Portuguese property prices by buying new luxurious apartments in Lisbon’s best districts. The Portuguese government is trying to attract this investment as well by offering Portuguese citizenship to any Chinese willing to invest a minimum of US$800,000 in the country. The “Golden Passport” plan is attracting an increasing amount of Chinese companies and private citizens to buy real estate and set up offices in the country. Chinese businesses have also expressed interest in acquiring several struggling vineyards and olive farms in southern Portugal too. This makes sense since China is quickly emerging as one of the world's major destinations for European wine exports.

Meanwhile, over the past two years, Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have been acquiring major shares in strategic sectors of the Portuguese economy, such as the water, electricity, and communications industries. One example of such a purchase occurred in late 2011, when China’s Three Gorges Corporation acquired a 22 percent stake in Portugal’s national energy company, Energias de Portugal (EDP), for US$3.5 billion (nearly twice EDP’s actual market value). This was also followed by a loan of US$1 billion by the Bank of China to EDP. 

Another example of Chinese business acquisitions in Portugal includes China State Grid’s 2012 purchase of 25% of Redes Energeticas Nacionais’ (REN) shares for a total of US$524 million. China State Grid paid the Portuguese power company 2.9 euros for each share, which was 40 percent over the value of the stock at the time of the agreement. 

Also, in March of this year, Beijing Enterprise Water Group acquired Veolia Water Portugal from its French parent company for US$123 million. Veolia provides water to four districts in Lisbon, supplying approximately 670,000 people. That same month, China Mobile announced that it was considering acquiring an unspecified stake in Portugal Telecom too.

These acquisitions not only allow China to establish a strong foothold in Portugal; they also facilitate Beijing’s expansion into Portuguese-speaking countries in South America, Africa and Asia, since many Portuguese companies already have a strong presence in these regions. For instance, last March, the Three Gorges Corporation and EDP both announced they were planning major investments in hydropower and solar parks in Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. In April 2012, China’s Sinopec bought 30 percent of the operations of Portugal’s state-owned oil company, Galp Energia SGPS, in Brazil for US$4.8 billion. Also, China Mobile’s interest in Portugal Telecom is highly motivated by the strong presence the company has in Angola, Mozambique and Timor-Leste. In Angola, for instance, Portugal Telecom has 25 percent of the cell phone market and provides 40 percent of internet communications, while in Timor-Leste, it virtually controls the whole market.

The People's Republic Of Unhappy China

September 18, 2013

Reprinted with permission from Worldcrunch.This analysis first appeared in Caixin

According to the United Nations' just released World Happiness Report, Denmark is the happiest country in the world. It is followed by Norway, Switzerland, Holland and Sweden. The world's unhappiest people are in West Africa's Togo and Benin. Among the list of 156 countries, the United States ranks 17th, Taiwan 42nd, Japan 43rd, Hong Kong 64th, and China 93rd - the latter an improvement over last year's 112th-place finish.

Though China's ranking has improved, it is still badly ranked overall. As the world's second-largest economy, its economic growth is obvious to all. China's fiscal revenue totaled 6.86 trillion RMB ($1.12 trillion) for the first six months of the year, an increase of 7.5% over the same period last year. Of that, the central budget for education, health care, social security, employment, affordable housing projects and other spending amounts to 1.57 trillion RMB ($26 billion), an increase of 13.5% over last year.

So why is China still ranked poorly - No. 93, remember - when it is increasingly spending on its citizens livelihood and when its national living standard has also risen? Developing countries that are ranked happier than China include Romania, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Libya, Indonesia, Vietnam, Albania, Angola, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Venezuela, Mexico and Panama.

It's actually not very meaningful to compare China with those countries. Although its total economy looks impressive, China is positioned poorly globally when considering its 1.3 billion people. In 2012, China's total gross domestic product (GDP) totaled 51.9 trillion RMB ($8.48 trillion) with per capita GDP at 38,852 RMB ($6,348). By comparison, Denmark, the happiest nation this year, has a GDP more than 9 times that of China.

Objectively speaking, numerous countries ahead of China on the list are not necessarily the ones where people have the highest incomes. But they are nations with the most comprehensive social security and where income and expenditure are the most balanced. Apart from economic factors, Chinese people are confronted with all kinds of dangers - unsafe food, personal information leaks, deteriorating environmental quality, an intensified doctor-patient crisis. There are many dissatisfactions here.

Many hope that economic and social problems will be solved as China develops. But for now, Chinese people simply don't have a strong sense of well-being.

The poorer poor

For example, migrant workers live and work amid hardship all year for very little money. From an overall socioeconomic perspective, there are major imbalances in quality of life among Chinese citizens. Whereas corporate executives are highly paid, ordinary people experience the opposite. Most of those born in the 1980s or 1990s can't afford to buy a house and aren't in a position to get married.

When the Gini index, a measure of income distribution, is higher than 0.4, it means that wealth is concentrated among too few people. The internationally accepted view is that 0.47 is the "red line" that a society can tolerate. But according to a study conducted by two researchers at Xinhua News agency, China's Gini index has risen from 0.28 in late 1970s to 0.48 in 2007. And the index has continued to climb since, and is now above 0.5. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting even poorer. This is just one of the many reasons that Chinese citizens feel a diminishing sense of well-being.

America needs neocentrist foreign policy

The author says that the president’s choices range from bad to worse. 


Washington is paralyzed over what to do in Syria. By all accounts, the president’s choices range from bad to worse. But Syria is actually a symptom of a deeper intellectual malaise. America’s foreign policy establishment is suffering from an adjustment disorder.

After rejecting the neoconservative policies of George W. Bush following his ill-fated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the foreign-policy herd rushed to embrace the Obama Doctrine. America would now choose not to wield its military power to influence world conflicts – particularly in the Middle East. In many ways, we chose not to have a foreign policy, choosing instead to focus on domestic considerations in the wake of a debilitating recession.

But that strategy is obviously not risk-free. The Syrian slaughter that the United States has chosen to largely ignore, currently tallied at 110,000, is rapidly reaching the estimated 125,000 civilians killed in the wake of America’s Iraq intervention. And the longer the United States has stayed on the sidelines, the stronger al Qaeda has grown, threatening not only Syria, but also its neighbors. The lesson here is that doing nothing can sometimes be just as dangerous as doing too much.

Even the president, who has given many Americans foreign-policy whiplash as he has vacillated on how to respond to that chemical weapons attack, appears to now understand the limits of the Obama Doctrine. Barack Obama spent the last five years decrying American military intervention in the Middle East (“I was elected to end wars, not start them”), and emphasizing the need to reach consensus with our international partners, only to deliver a national address pleading for public support to unilaterally bomb an Arab country that has not attacked the United States.

Obama’s problem is that he did too good of a job delegitimizing his newly discovered bellicosity. He has hemmed himself in, which explains why he continued to scrap and revise battle plans and while his senior advisors issue a cacophony of policy directives that have left the American public bitterly divided over plans to prevent mass slaughter. It also explains why he leapt at the chance Russian President Vladimir Putin offered, however slim, to get him out of his jam with a Congress that wasn’t likely to grant him the authorization he sought.

No matter what happens now in Syria, Obama appears to understand that he cannot ignore some simple realities that were previously derided as neoconservative issues. Al Qaeda, its affiliate groups, and the violent Islamist ideologies that drive them, are not dead and are not receding. The democracy deficit in the Middle East will continue to spawn instability. Autocrats and strongmen with weapons of mass destruction still pose a grave danger. Iran, an unflinching ally of the Syrian regime, has remained on a belligerent course, despite intermittent attempts at cosmetic change.

In Washington, as conversations with legislators, congressional staffers, civil servants, State Department officials, and other foreign-policy professionals over the last few weeks have made clear, there remains a deep and abiding desire to meet and overcome all of these challenges. Admittedly, many foreign-policy hands feel hamstrung by America’s financial burdens. And some feel that the volatility of the region in recent years, accelerated by the Arab Spring, has presented too many difficulties to tackle.

Countering China’s A2/AD Challenge

September 20, 2013

U.S. defense planners are now focusing on Syria, but they have also been compelled to plan for countering Chinese efforts at what Western analysts term “anti-access/area denial” (A2/AD) capabilities. How successfully Washington deals with Beijing’s increasing capabilities in this area will go a long way toward determining how much faith our western Pacific allies place in our commitments to them.

China’s efforts at developing A2/AD capabilities, which the Chinese term “counter-intervention,” are rooted in the pattern of Chinese economic growth and their assessment of lessons learned from recent major wars.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Mao Zedong, fearing attack from both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, concentrated economic development well-inland. Mao sought to protect China’s “third-line” of industry from attack by interposing China’s physical space between it and likely attackers.

Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, reversed much of this policy (among many others) when he inaugurated the period of Reform and Opening in 1978. Thanks to Deng’s policies, China’s economic center of gravity has shifted to its coast, where foreign and domestic investment has been most heavily weighted. Indeed, part of Bo Xilai’s popular appeal (as Party Secretary of inland Sichuan province) was his argument that China’s inland areas had been slighted for more than three decades of economic expansion.

Ironically, the desire for strategic depth to keep potential enemies at arm’s length from China’s economic centers is a key factor in the development of Chinese A2/AD capabilities, further motivated by Chinese observations of other people’s wars. From Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990 through NATO operations in the Balkans, the toppling of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and the destruction of the Qaddafi regime in Libya, airpower has played a major, if not central, role. In each of these conflicts, American-led forces have used sustained aerial attacks (from a variety of platforms) to degrade an opponent’s defensive capabilities and destroy their economic, political and communications infrastructure at minimal cost to itself. The American ability to rapidly deploy carrier-based airpower in the 1995-1996 Taiwan crisis is also believed by some to have been a factor.

PLA analyses have concluded that airpower is essential for the conduct of “non-contact, non-linear, non-symmetric” warfare. In their view, these three qualities are typical of “local wars under informationized conditions,” where airpower—along with space and cyber capabilities—will be essential to victory. Consequently, China’s efforts in A2/AD are intended to forestall, and if possible defeat, an opponent’s ability to engage in sustained aerial attack against key Chinese targets.

China’s A2/AD efforts are therefore focused on countering both American land- and sea-based airpower, including not only aircraft carriers, but cruise missiles and long-range bombers. To this end, Chinese strategy has strategic, operational and tactical dimensions.

The strategic dimension is embodied in the so-called “three warfares.” The objective is to fundamentally deny the legitimacy of U.S. operations in the western Pacific using legal, public opinion and psychological warfare. These initiatives are coupled with diplomacy and efforts to secure control of the East Asian littoral. The U.S. is not the sole target here. These efforts are aimed just as much at U.S. allies and third parties throughout the region. If Beijing can persuade these states that Washington should not be allowed to operate in their air and sea-space, or that it is dangerous for them to antagonize China by doing so, it as effectively shuts down American capabilities as physically destroying them.

The Mossad’s Secret War Against Syria’s WMD

By Ronen Bergman
September 20, 2013

The Spies Inside Damascus

On Aug. 20, 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama declared that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began shifting around or using his chemical weapons, Obama would consider that “a red line.” The implication was that such a move would lead to American intervention in Syria. Some officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry believed that Obama drew the line because he believed it would never be crossed. If that was his assumption, he made it based, in part, on assessments received from the Israeli intelligence services, which have waged a multidecade clandestine campaign to strip Assad of his deadliest weapons — and which also have emerged as the United States’ primary partners in collecting information on Middle Eastern regimes.

According to two former high-ranking military intelligence officials with whom I had spoken recently, Israeli intelligence agencies believed at the time that Assad would not use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and would keep his chemical arsenal as a bargaining chip to be traded in exchange for political asylum for himself, his loyal wife, and his close associates, if necessary. Israel was wrong.

On March 10, 2013, Israeli intelligence sources began reporting that the Syrian regime had made use of chemical weapons. A number of different and cross-checked sources produced this information. Among them: sources that eavesdropped on the Syrian army’s tactical frequencies and surveillance satellites that monitored movement out of a bunker known to protect chemical weapons.

Israel shared its findings with the United States, but Washington would not acknowledge those findings’ veracity. It was clear to the Israelis that the Americans saw those findings as a hot potato that the president was in no mood to hold. Without grasping the deep political significance of publicizing this material (or perhaps doing so intentionally to put pressure on Washington), Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, the head of the Aman, the Israeli military intelligence corps’ research division, stated clearly in an April 23 speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons on its citizens.

This utterance angered and embarrassed the U.S. administration. Washington stuttered for a few days and demanded clarifications from Israel. In the end, and following a report submitted to the United Nations by Britain and France, the Obama administration had to admit that the information was in fact correct. Since then, to avoid similar commotions, Aman officers are forbidden to appear in public conferences.

Either way, the intelligence coordination between Israel and the United States has not suffered, and Israel continues to share the vast amounts of information that it has about Syria with the United States. Published reports credit Israel with giving the CIA, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “intelligence from inside an elite special Syrian unit that oversees Mr. Assad’s chemical weapons” after the massive Aug. 21 sarin attack outside Damascus.

"We have a very extensive knowledge of what is happening in Syria. Our ability to collect information there is profound. Israel is the eyes and ears, sometimes exclusively, sometimes as complementary aid, to what the U.S. intelligence is able or unable to collect itself," Maj. Gen. Uri Sagi, Israel’s former chief of military intelligence, told me on Sept. 19. While the threat of an American attack on Syria — and a possible Syrian counterattack on Israel — has subsided for the moment, the Israeli-American efforts to penetrate the Assad regime continue. This is a history of those efforts.

American and Israeli spies have long been partners. “Information we collected, especially by Unit 8200 [Israel’s eavesdropping corps], has always been of the highest value to the NSA [U.S. National Security Agency] and other U.S. intelligence agencies,” Sagi noted. A top-secret memorandum, recently revealed by the Guardian, shows that the NSA passes along raw intercepts to Unit 8200. But the partnership hasn’t always produced results. Regarding the 1990-1991 Gulf War, for instance, “one must honestly admit that when it came to Iraq back then, both Americans and Israelis had very little information to share,” Sagi said.

At the time, the joint effort to spy on Syria’s weapons of mass destruction wasn’t much better.

In March 1990, North Korea’s premier visited Damascus, and the two states signed a secret deal for military and technological cooperation that centered on the supply of Scud C missiles and launchers to Syria. In early February 1991, the first consignment of some 30 missiles was shipped to the Syrian port of Latakia. The NSA, Israeli intelligence later learned, was aware that something was going on, but Washington refrained from informing Tel Aviv because the Americans feared that the Israelis would try to intercept the shipment and start yet another Middle Eastern brawl.

What Iran Really Learned from the Syrian Crisis

By Zachary Keck
September 20, 2013

Much has been written about how Iran would perceive the United States’ handling of the Syria crisis. Most of the commentary has argued that U.S. President Barack Obama must demonstrate resolve against Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons to convince the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran that he is serious about using military force against Tehran’s nuclear program. As Robert Farley and others have noted, this argument rests on faulty ground.

Instead, the more likely lesson Iranian leaders will take from the Syria incident is just how much difficulty President Obama will have convincing Congress to go along with any prospective deal with Iran. This will inevitably weaken the administration’s ability to conclude a deal over Iran’s nuclear program.

Earlier this week, Harry Kazianis pointed out on Flashpoints that few in U.S. policy circles were happy about the U.S.-Russian deal to rid Syria of chemical weapons. John Stewart marveled at the fact that even those who opposed U.S. airstrikes against Syria are bitter about the agreement. The Washington Post’s David Ignatius probably put it best when he wrote:

“What's puzzling about this latest Obama-phobia is that recent developments in Syria have generally been positive from the standpoint of U.S. interests. Obama has accomplished goals that most Americans endorse, given the unpalatable menu of choices.”

Among those who greeted news of the U.S.-Russian deal unhappily were members of Congress. For example, Mike Rogers (R-MI), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said of the deal, “This is a Russian plan for Russian interests. And we should be very, very concerned about” it. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) was even blunter, calling the deal a “debacle.”

Although the Syria deal could be signed without consulting Congress, any deal with Iran over its nuclear program will almost certainly require the U.S. Congress approving the removal of U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports and financial markets. 

This doesn’t bode well for Iran, to say the least. Keep in mind that, despite their suspicions about dealing with Russia, members of Congress in general strongly opposed military action against Syria. Thus, they had every incentive to support the deal.

The same cannot be said for Iran. Indeed, in a Congress that “has a hard time agreeing as to what the time of day [it] is,” as Leon Panetta so eloquently put it, pushing the U.S. into war with Iran has been a rare source of consensus. For instance, despite the election of Hassan Rouhani in June, as well as the opposition from the Obama administration, in July the House passed a bill to ramp up sanctions against Iran by a vote of 400-20. In contrast, a bill to provide free health care to first responders to the 9/11 terrorist attacks had three times as many votes against it despite the fact that 168 members of the House didn’t even participate in that quorum.

Ideology Trumps American Strategy in Syria

It is said that when famed Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich heard of the death of the Turkish ambassador, he said, "I wonder what he meant by that?" True or not, serious or a joke, it points out a problem of diplomacy. In searching for the meaning behind every gesture, diplomats start to regard every action merely as a gesture. In the past month, the president of the United States treated the act of bombing Syria as a gesture intended to convey meaning rather than as a military action intended to achieve some specific end. This is the key to understanding the tale that unfolded over the past month.

When President Barack Obama threatened military action in retaliation for what he claimed was the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he intended a limited strike that would not destroy the weapons. Destroying them all from the air would require widespread air attacks over an extensive period of time, and would risk releasing the chemicals into the atmosphere. The action also was not intended to destroy Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime. That, too, would be difficult to do from the air, and would risk creating a power vacuum that the United States was unwilling to manage. Instead, the intention was to signal to the Syrian government that the United States was displeased.

The threat of war is useful only when the threat is real and significant. This threat, however, was intended to be insignificant. Something would be destroyed, but it would not be the chemical weapons or the regime. As a gesture, therefore, what it signaled was not that it was dangerous to incur American displeasure, but rather that American displeasure did not carry significant consequences. The United States is enormously powerful militarily and its threats to make war ought to be daunting, but instead, the president chose to frame the threat such that it would be safe to disregard it.

Avoiding Military Action

In fairness, it was clear at the beginning that Obama did not wish to take military action against Syria. Two weeks ago I wrote that this was "a comedy in three parts: the reluctant warrior turning into the raging general and finding his followers drifting away, becoming the reluctant warrior again." Last week in Geneva, the reluctant warrior re-appeared, put aside his weapons and promised not to attack Syria.

When he took office, Obama did not want to engage in any war. His goal was to raise the threshold for military action much higher than it had been since the end of the Cold War, when Desert Storm, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq and other lesser interventions formed an ongoing pattern in U.S. foreign policy. Whatever the justifications for any of these, Obama saw the United States as being overextended by the tempo of war. He intended to disengage from war and to play a lesser role in general in managing the international system. At most, he intended to be part of the coalition of nations, not the leader and certainly not the lone actor.

He clearly regarded Syria as not meeting the newly raised standard. It was embroiled in a civil war, and the United States had not been successful in imposing its will in such internal conflicts. Moreover, the United States did not have a favorite in the war. Washington has a long history of hostility toward the al Assad regime. But it is also hostile to the rebels, who -- while they might have some constitutional democrats among their ranks -- have been increasingly falling under the influence of radical jihadists. The creation of a nation-state governed by such factions would re-create the threat posed by Afghanistan and leading to Sept. 11, and do so in a country that borders Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon. Unless the United States was prepared to try its hand again once again at occupation and nation-building, the choice for Washington had to be "none of the above."

Strategy and the specifics of Syria both argued for American distance, and Obama followed this logic. Once chemical weapons were used, however, the reasoning shifted. Two reasons explain this shift.