3 October 2013

Repairing India - Pakistan Relations

India, Pakistan leaders say they want better ties but reach no concrete agreements
By Paul Eckert, Reuters, Sep 29, 2013

(Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, agreed on Sunday to work to restore a cross-border ceasefire after a spate of shootings in order to improve strained ties, officials said.

Singh and Sharif met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, amid heightened tension between the nuclear-armed neighbors over the Kashmir region, sparked by series of fatal clashes on their de facto Himalayan border.

India emerged from the meeting of more than an hour calling the talks "useful" while Pakistan called the atmosphere "very positive."

They both expressed a desire to improve ties but agreed that "peace and tranquility across the LOC (Line of Control) is a precondition," Indian national security adviser Shivshankar Menon told reporters in New York.

"We need to address the issues that we face today and then we hope to move it forward," he said.

Pakistan's Secretary for Foreign Affairs Jalil Abbas Jilani told reporters the New York meeting set the stage for future cooperation even though they did not reach specific agreements.

"The most significant aspect of the meeting was that the leaders expressed their commitment to ... better relations between the two countries," he told reporters at a separate New York briefing.

"Both sides wish to see a better India-Pakistan relationship than we have today," said Menon.

What National Security ?

01 Oct , 2013 

Not having a National Security Strategy is a terrific boon to the hierarchy, for where is the question of accountability. Without a strategy, national security can flow the way it wants, whose waywardness can best be figured out and capitalized by adversaries. Then of course, there cannot be any adversaries when they are being engaged in transactional activities at costs that can be deciphered any which way – what with morphing perceptions through both the paid and controlled media. 

Huawei has an ongoing relationship with PLA and Chinese political leadership, and trains PLA units in networking design and construction. 

Just last year, October 2012 to be precise, our National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) issued a warning against Chinese companies especially Huawei and ZTE quoting IB reports that they are involved in the PLA project for strengthening army’s electronic warfare capabilities. ZTE maintains a diverse relationship with PLA encompassing collaborative research with military and civilian universities, including satellite navigation, data link jamming techniques, training of active duty PLA personnel, and as prime supplier of customized telecom service and hardware to the PLA. Similarly, Huawei has an ongoing relationship with PLA and Chinese political leadership, and trains PLA units in networking design and construction. Not that they we don’t have Chinese products in India – computer parts, telecommunication equipment, even pen drives and we don’t know what malware has been embedded in these at manufacturing stage, leave aside China’s bot armies. But lo and behold national dailies yesterday announced our Home Ministry has pulled out ‘all stops’ for Huawei and ZTE for investments in India. This is great going because rather than boosting indigenization, foreign imports facilitate much higher cuts and less chances of anyone getting wise. So, what is the motivation to ignore the NSCS caution, one can well surmise. 

Comprehensive National Security (CNP) has multiple constituents; military security; political security; economic security; food security; personal security; health security; environment security; energy security; community security etc – all intertwined. Logically, any country should be specifically focused on each of these components to facilitate continuous and balanced growth of the CNP. But then CNP is possibly associated with China so why bother? Besides, we have engineered our own interpretation of all these so called components of CNP that in turn cater to our national security needs. 

…for any country to have inclusive national security, a sustained economic growth of 8 to 10 percent is essential. 

Challenges and Solutions in Indian Higher Education

By Shreyasi Singh
October 2, 2013 

India’s huge pool of young people might be considered its biggest strength. Unfortunately, India is far from having its act together when it comes to figuring out how to educate these young people. Government data suggests that only one out of every seven children born in India goes to college. What’s more, the nation suffers from both a crippling quantity, as well as a quality, challenge when it comes to higher education.

For instance, the QS World University Rankings, an annual listing of the world’s top universities, had no Indian institutes in the top 200 of its recently released global list for 2013. Also, India has one of the poorest Gross Enrolment Ratios (GER) for higher education in the world. According to 2010 data, India’s GER was a meager 13.8 percent, compared with the global average of around 26 percent. Australia, Russia and the U.S., to name a few examples, have GERs upwards of 75 percent. Although the Ministry of Human Resources & Development had set a target of a 30 percent GER for India by 2020, that target is unlikely to be met. At the current rate of GER growth, India is looking at a GER of around 19 percent.

To find out how India got to this point, and how it can climb out of its educational abyss, The Diplomat spoke with Pramath Raj Sinha, the founding dean of the Indian School of Business (the youngest and first Indian B-school to break into the Top 20, according to the Financial Times Global MBA rankings). Sinha is also an active member of a group of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders who are setting up Ashoka University, a liberal arts university modelled on the lines of the Ivy League – a first for India. Ashoka will start admitting its first batch of students in August 2014.

Through his experience of establishing two higher education institutions, and publishing EDU, possibly India’s only magazine on leaders in higher education, Sinha has a wealth of insight and an important stake in the future of higher education in India. He shares some of his thoughts on the matter here.

Tell us about the scale of the challenge India faces when it comes to higher education.

Deterrence is not a fantasy

Oct 03 2013,

There is a relentless campaign to depict India's nuclear weapons programme as motivated by prestige rather than a necessary means to meet real security threats. Despite all evidence to the contrary, such criticism continues to find votaries even among Indian analysts ('Nuclear weapons, costs and myths', C. Gharekhan, IE, August 27). There are also more recent questions about India's nuclear posture. Developments in delivery capabilities are portrayed as destabilising and leading to a nuclear arms race ('Five myths about India's nuclear posture', Vipin Narang, The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2013).

India's nuclear posture has evolved in the context of both regional and global nuclear threats. Nuclear weapons by their very nature are weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which recognise no national or regional boundaries. The interactive web of multiple nuclear-weapon capable states also creates a dynamic far more complex and unpredictable than that which prevailed during the Cold War, with an essentially binary nuclear equation between the two superpowers. India's nuclear posture not only takes account of an adverse nuclearised threat environment regionally, it also takes cognisance of the impact on its security of global developments in this regard. To frame India's nuclear posture in relation to Pakistan and/ or China and then to pick holes in it, is to miss the strategic calculus that underlies it.

India's nuclear weapons are for deterring a WMD attack against India. It has never been argued in this country that acquiring nuclear weapons would save money by substituting conventional capabilities with nuclear assets. The contention that India has neutralised its conventional superiority vis-a-vis Pakistan by going overtly nuclear has no basis in fact. India's conventional superiority did not deter Pakistan from repeated acts of aggression against India in 1947, 1965 and 1971, when nuclear weapons were not a factor. Even later misadventures like Kargil, as revealed in Benazir Bhutto's memoirs, were planned years before the overt nuclear transition of 1998. India will require capabilities to meet both conventional and nuclear threats from Pakistan.

Given the multiple dimensions of the nuclear threat, a limited nuclear weapons freeze between India and Pakistan will not enhance India's security. India is the only nuclear weapon state to categorically declare that a world free of nuclear weapons would enhance and not diminish its security. However, as long as nuclear weapons remain, India's security requires that it maintain a "credible minimum deterrent". This posture is not specific only to Pakistan and China. Additionally, India's development imperatives and its commitment to rapid socio-economic transformation require an enabling security environment free from nuclear threat or blackmail.

With respect to credible minimum deterrence, it is not necessary to specify the "minimum" in numbers. This will be determined in the light of a continually evolving nuclear security environment, both in India's own neighbourhood and globally. India does not have one minimum for Pakistan and another for China. Our nuclear planning does not take place in such tightly separate compartments.

Concerning China, India does not need a matching nuclear arsenal or delivery capability. A "credible minimum deterrent" is adequate vis-a-vis China or any other nuclear-armed adversary. We will need a "vastly enhanced conventional capability in terms of weapon systems, infrastructure, etc" in addition to prevent a possible war with China, major or minor. This is sought to be addressed by successive Indian governments, but regrettably at a pace not commensurate with what is required.

PM to PM

Oct 02 2013

Both India, Pak governments are weak at home. Both know they must keep talking.

Things have got so bad between India and Pakistan that when they talk peace it looks like war. Their prime ministers were to address the 65th annual session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York and then meet on the sidelines on September 29.

On Friday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made some ill-advised, bellicose, Kashmir-related remarks against India in his speech at the UNGA. On Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lashed out at Pakistan in his speech. Before they met on Sunday, Sharif reportedly called Singh a "village hag" (sic) off the record and put paid to whatever diplomatic gains he had counted on. After that, the meeting could not be one-on-one.

Back home, the Indo-Pak media war was savage, sharpened by BJP leader Narendra Modi's explosive reaction to the "village hag" remark. One channel pitted the notoriously visceral Pakistani politician Sheikh Rashid Ahmed against Hindu and Muslim Indians, scoring brownie points while anchors lost their neutral cool.

The New York meeting achieved nothing except a vague agreement on sorting out the recent Line of Control incidents through armies that hate each other. Pakistan's reference to Indian terrorism in Balochistan was correct but not comparable to India's globally accepted designation of Pakistan as the epicentre of terrorism, threatening the world, including the US, the EU, India, Russia and China, to say nothing of the Central Asian states, which cower before the Uzbek terrorists trained in Pakistan.

Manmohan Singh's reaction to an act of terrorism in Jammu on the eve of his meeting with Sharif was brave and statesmanlike, given the negative press he has at home and the populist atmospherics of the coming elections in India. He said he would not be deterred by terrorism while talking peace with Pakistan. While in New York, he met President Barack Obama — who could not find time for his Pakistani counterpart — and agreed to meet Sharif, with caveats against pinning high hopes on the meeting.

Sharif's reference to Kashmir at the UNGA was aimed more at audiences at home than at India. He also expressed Pakistan's newfound plaint about the "unjust" global system created by a flawed UN and called, unrealistically, for reforms in the world body. At home, rightwing TV anchors and newspaper reporters were pleased that "he spoke softly but gave a harsh message". Some were put off because he was not "fiery" enough, meaning that he lacked in denunciatory "Chavizmo" or the parading of a poor man's useless tumescence in global politics.

Ace anchor Kamran Khan gave the familiar, but repeatedly defeated, spin to the Jammu attack on Indian police and military troops: "The attacks inflicted a heavy loss to the Indian army and police and also revived the assertion that no effort for peace between Pakistan and India could bear fruit until the Kashmir issue was resolved."

Sharif was toeing the Foreign Office line, which has traditionally toed the Pakistan army line, built on the frozen geopolitical position on India as a permanent enemy opposed to the very existence of Pakistan. The last bit is supported by the textbook brainwash in the schools of Pakistan, particularly Punjab, currently ruled by Sharif's rightwing PML(N).

Undercutting Aadhaar

By M.H. Suryanarayana
Oct 01 2013

How the court's order has complicated the UPA's cash transfer plans.

The Supreme Court interim ruling against the UPA's biometrics-based identity scheme, Aadhaar, touched on two aspects of the project: enforcement and eligibility. It has ruled that enrolment for the Aadhaar card should be voluntary; it cannot be made mandatory to claim public services and subsidies. With regard to eligibility, it has declared that the card cannot be issued to illegal migrants; it can only be issued after verifying citizenship.

Since Aadhaar is considered critical to targeting public services and subsidies, to ensure comprehensive coverage of the poor at minimum cost by reducing corruption and improving transparency, the court's order will have major implications for these objectives. To examine the possible implications, we need to know how Aadhaar was conceived and how it works.

It is a multipurpose national identity card project, a 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on behalf of the government of India. Enrolment is not mandatory. The number is linked to demographic and biometric information — photograph, 10 fingerprints and iris recognition — about each individual. This serves as evidence of identity and address for an Indian resident. Such information would establish individual identity and eliminate duplication.

Such foolproof identification is imperative today because there is an urgent need to contain the fiscal deficit by reducing excessive public expenditure due to leakages and inefficiencies in the implementation of safety nets. For instance, according to Census 2011, there are 21 million households in Andhra Pradesh, but the number of ration cards in circulation is 24.5 million. This is due to "duplicates" (where the same individual benefits multiple times) and "ghosts" (non-existent beneficiaries).

To address these issues, the government has created what is called the Direct Benefit Transfer System (DBTS). The DBTS aims to credit funds for scholarships, pensions and wages under public works directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries identified, using their Aadhaar numbers. This would eliminate duplicates and ghosts and therefore minimise leakages or undue public expenditure.

Thus, the very design of the DBTS is such that the benefits of various welfare programmes would be conditional on Aadhaar enrolment. This is what has motivated the public to pursue enrolment despite the inconvenience. The UIDAI has already issued more than 400 million cards.

The government launched the DBTS on January 1 this year. To begin with, it covered seven welfare schemes in 20 districts, spread over 16 states. The schemes include scholarships, pension for widows and unemployment allowances. In the long run, it is proposed to cover food, fertilisers, and fuel subsidies by working out their cash equivalents and transferring them directly to the beneficiary accounts. The DBTS for LPG has already benefited three million households in 18 districts since its launch in June.

Now, what are the implications of the Supreme Court's order for the relevance of Aadhaar in claiming welfare benefits? One immediate fallout will be that citizens will have limited incentive to pursue Aadhaar enrolment. This is particularly so for those who already possess other identification documents and were enrolling for Aadhaar only because it was made mandatory for access to certain government schemes. If Aadhaar enrolment is delinked from various welfare programmes, only those who need it as a proof of identity and address will seek it out.

Going round in circles, with nothing to show

02 October 2013

India must talk to Pakistan, because dialogue is the only way forward. But there is no hope of getting the desired results if New Delhi is armed with a toothpick. It must talk from a position of strength

Of the 16 summits he has held in the past 10 years with Islamabad’s top leadership, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s New York meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been the most meaningless: Symbolic and contrived to assuage Mr Sharif’s constituency, please the international community and perhaps, please Mr Singh himself.

For Mr Sharif, who has claimed that he won the elections advocating peace with India and was hounded out of office in 1999 for the same reason, and for Mr Singh, who is an inveterate pusher for talks with Pakistan, this summit was preceded by unsavoury events. The talks were confirmed only after Mr Singh took off for New York; a fidayeen attack in Jammu occurred three days prior to the talks; Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi detonated a political IED targeting Mr Singh while he was in the US; and former Army chief General VK Singh’s startling revelations about the Army’s political role in Kashmir and covert operations across the Line of Control were still reverberating.

While these incidents were especially damaging to Mr Singh’s swan song appearance, Mr Sharif’s UN General Assembly speech claiming credit for the dialogue initiative and nailing India on Kashmir’s self-determination did not help either. Following Mr Sharif in the batting order at the UNGA, Mr Singh gave it back calling Pakistan the epicentre of terrorism. In the meeting with US President Barack Obama, he mentioned about the Punjab Government’s funding of the Jamaat ud-Dawa’h, the front organisation for the internationally-banned Lashkar-e-Tayyeba which is acknowledged as a global threat. The off-the-record narration of this event, peppered with Punjabi anecdotes by Mr Sharif to journalists in New York in a veiled reference to Mr Singh, further sullied the atmosphere for talks. This was not the time for talks.

According to the Pakistani columnist of the Toronto Sun, Tarek Fatah, “If it comes to terrorist attacks carried out around the globe, almost all of them have either originated in Pakistan, were carried out by young men of Pakistani ancestry or by jihaditerrorists who were trained on Pakistani soil. Else, they were planned and executed by Islamabad’s intelligence agency, the ISI, and its sponsored terrorist organisations.” Mr Fatah has catalogued 10 major international terrorist incidents beginning September 1986, with the attempt to hijack PanAm jet at Karachi airport, to the May 2010 foiled bombing in New York City’s Times Square in which Pakistanis were prominently involved. Further, Pakistan has been home to most of the Al Qaeda leadership — Abu Zubayedah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khaled Sheikh Mohammad, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Mustafa Nasr and, of course, Osama bin Laden and the group’s current Emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Pakistan has emerged as the world’s number one source of jihadi suicide bombers — there were 225 bombings between 2008 and 2011, killing 3,900 Pakistanis,and the country is ground-zero for training of Islamic terrorists and the biggest threat for nuclear terrorism. By this record, the reference to Pakistan as an epicentre of terrorism is an understatement. It is terror made by and in Pakistan. Still, Pakistan likes to equate itself with India as a victim, though its brand of terrorism is self-inflicted.

Where India fits in China’s worldview

Chinese strategists have crafted ideas on a new model for ‘big country’ relationships. China is seeking accommodation with the US and striving for more cooperation in relations with BRICS, especially Russia and India.

By Rajiv Bhatia 

A man walks past the Free Trade Zone in Shanghai, which was inaugurated recently. China's leaders will lay out reform plans to transform the world's second-largest economy at a key party meeting in November. Reuters

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets US Secretary of State John Kerry in New York during the 68th UN General Assembly. AFP

CHINA ranks high in the foreign policy calculus of India. The two countries need to manage their relations wisely, but this cannot be done in isolation from their relationship with other countries. Following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US, the Indian elite interested in foreign affairs is assessing China’s latest conception of its major country relationships. Its view, marked by a blend of continuity and change, is still evolving, with different influential voices in China, defining it differently. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to dig deeper.

A valuable opportunity to study China’s worldview presented itself as I led a delegation of eminent experts to China, a visit scripted by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA). During the five-day tour in early September, we held dialogues with the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA) in Beijing and the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. In addition, we had substantive discussions with three other academic and strategic community institutions. The hosts had made excellent arrangements, providing a congenial environment for us to exchange views on a range of contemporary questions with Chinese scholars of varying backgrounds and persuasions.

The timing was apt too as China’s new political leadership had settled down well. It has been according high priority to foreign policy, as illustrated by the visits abroad of its President and Prime Minster, and numerous visits of foreign leaders to China.

International context

Although much has been happening around the world, the Arab region and Asia grab more headlines today than any other area. Triumphs and travails of the Arab Spring have kept the world’s attention riveted on West Asia. The election of a new President in Iran and post-2014 prospects of Afghanistan have kept Central Asia in the limelight. Changes in Pakistan, following Nawaz Sharif’s election as Prime Minister and the immense uncertainty and tensions caused by violations of the LOC by Pakistan as well as numerous incursions across the LAC on the India-China border have kept up the political temperature in South Asia.

But it is in Southeast and East Asia that we witness a serious strategic rivalry between the US and China, despite the two countries’ unprecedented economic interdependence. Linked to it is the fluctuating confrontation between China and Japan as well as between China and a few ASEAN countries on claims and counterclaims relating to the East China Sea and South China Sea, respectively. Further, there are global financial, development and climate change issues facing the international community which groupings like G-20, G-8 and BRICS have been trying to address, however unsatisfactorily.

Rajan Panel report: It's a battle of the States

AP Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan.

It's the Battle of the States. This week, we go inside the Rajan panel report on states' backwardness, and look at how states do on ten sub-indicators that add up to development.

Lands Down Under

From who makes the best biryani, to who plays the best cricket, we disagree on a lot of things across state borders in India. So it's not surprising that we are rarely able to agree on which Indian states are more and less developed. Goa's richer but Kerala's more educated and Tamil Nadu does better on women's health but Gujarat on employment - so who does best all-round?

Same game.

New rules.

The Underdevelopment Index

Late last week, the Raghuram Rajan-headed panel set up by the government to identify criteria to determine a state's relative backwardness came out with its report. It created a new index, and ranked Indian states on it, with 0 being 'not backward at all' and 1 being 'most backward'. For the purposes of distributing Central funds, the committee recommended that states scoring more than 0.6 be declared as 'least developed', those scoring between 0.4 and 0.6 as 'less developed' and the seven states less than that as 'relatively developed'.

Source: Rajan panel reportOdishaBiharMadhya PradeshChhattisagrhJharkhandArunachal PradeshAssamMeghalayaUttar PradeshRajasthanManipurWest BengalNagalandAndhra PradeshJammu and KashmirMizoramGujaratTripuraKarnatakaSikkimHimachal PradeshHaryanaUttarakhandMaharashtraPunjabTamil NaduKeralaGoa00.
To create the index, the panel selected 10 sub-indicators that covered a range of development outcomes and weighted them equally.

The Ten Parameters


Who will be the next Pakistan Army Chief?


Reflections No.1, October 2, 2013

Author: Ms. Jayashree G

The retirement of present Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani this November after being at the helm of affairs for six years brings up the question of his likely successor. The appointment of an Army Chief is very important given the influence that the Army has over Pakistan’s foreign and security policy as well as the pivotal role it plays in shaping Islamabad’s policy towards India. In the past, the chief of the Pakistan Army has normally been chosen from the fighting arms especially from Infantry, Armoured corps and the artillery wings of the Pakistan Army. Though on paper it is the Pakistani Prime Minister who appoints the Army Chief, the current incumbent is believed to have an important say in the appointment of his successor given the Kayani would send a short list of three individuals for the consideration of the Prime Minister.

Though seniority does play an important role in selection of the next chief, the last time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was posed with this difficult choice he chose the Pak Army chief not purely based on seniority but also gave importance of the ‘perceived loyalty’ of the individual. As Prime Minister Sharif felt that loyalty should be given more value as the determining tool for the selection for the coveted post, he found General Musharraf more suitable. Given this backdrop, it is very difficult to predict as to who would be the next chief of the Pakistani Army but in all likelihood it would be based on a combination of seniority, merit and loyalty to the Nawaz Sharif dispensation. This article seeks to give brief profiles of the top five senior-most Lieutenant Generals one among who could be the next chief of the Pakistan Army in case Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chooses to give importance to seniority. Given that Gen. Kayani’s term ends in November 2013, the article does not profile Lt. Gens. Khalid Nawaz and Alam Khattak who are due to retire a month earlier.

The first person in terms of seniority is Lt General Haroon Aslam, joined the Azad Kashmir Regiment (Infantry Regiment) in 1975 and Special Services Group (SSG) in 1981. As General Officer Commanding (GOC) SSG in 2009, Aslam was amongst the first group of soldiers to land at the highest battle ground of Swat amidst heavy gunfire from militants. He was promoted from Brigadier to the rank of a Major General in 2005 and in 2007; he was given the important task of DG Rangers Punjab. Lt Gen Aslam is also familiar to the Indian military leader ship as he negotiated a number of agreements with his Indian counterparts for release of prisoners and on issues relating to human and drug smuggling and coordinated patrolling of the international border. As Rana Banerji (Distinguished Fellow, IPCS) points out, a fact that could prove to be a drawback for Lt. Gen. Aslam’s promotion as the next Army Chief could be the fact that he aided Gen Musharraf in the October 1999 coup during his stint in the Military Operations directorate. Lt. Gen. Aslam is believed to have led the SSG from the front in their bid to control of the Taliban strong hold of Peochar in Swat in 2009. Subsequently, he was promoted to the position of Lt General. He commanded the Bahawalpur Corps and was posted as Chief of Logistic Staff (CLS) in January 2013. If the decision to make COAS is on seniority principle, Lt General Haroon Aslam would top the list.

Lieutenant General Rashid Mehmood is the second person on the list of probables. Lt. Gen. Rashid belongs to the Baloch regiment (Infantry Regiment) which is General Kayani’s parent arm. Prior to the active phase of the war on terror, he served as deputy director-general ISI (when Gen. Kayani was general Chief) with the responsibility to coordinate intelligence operations. In 2001, he was part of the six member delegation which met Taliban chief Mullah Omar in Afghanistan to negotiate with him to handover Bin Laden. While serving in the United Nations he was promoted from Brigadier to the rank of two-star General in 2005. Lt General Rashid is believed to enjoy good relation with the Sharif family. This could be the result of his interaction with Nawaz Sharif’s brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in his capacity as Lahore Corps Commander. It is believed that his contiguity to the powers that be helped Rashid assume the position of Military Secretary to ousted President Tarrar - believed to be a good friend of Nawaz Sharif’s father - and also take charge as Chief of General Staff (CGS) in January 2013.

*** The Afghan War Will Never End

Will the U.S. still be meddling in Afghanistan 30 years from now? If history is any guide, the answer is yes. And if history is any guide, three decades from now most Americans will have only the haziest idea why.

Since the 1950s, the U.S. has been trying to mold that remote land to its own desires, first through an aid "war" in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union; then, starting as the 1970s ended, an increasingly bitter and brutally hot proxy war with the Soviets meant to pay them back for supporting America's enemies during the war in Vietnam. One bad war leads to another.

From then until the early 1990s, Washington put weapons in the hands of Islamic fundamentalist extremists of all sorts -- thought to be natural, devoutly religious allies in the war against "godless communism" -- gloated over the Red Army's defeat and the surprising implosion of the Soviet empire, and then experienced its own catastrophic blowback from Afghanistan on September 11, 2001. After 50 years of scheming behind the scenes, the U.S. put boots on the ground in 2001 and now, 12 years later, is still fighting there -- against some Afghans on behalf of other Afghans while training Afghan troops to take over and fight their countrymen, and others, on their own.

Through it all, the U.S. has always claimed to have the best interests of Afghans at heart -- waving at various opportune moments the bright flags of modernization, democracy, education, or the rights of women. Yet today, how many Afghans would choose to roll back the clock to 1950, before the Americans ever dropped in? After 12 years of direct combat, after 35 years of arming and funding one faction or another, after 60 years of trying to remake Afghanistan to serve American aims, what has it all meant? If we ever knew, we've forgotten. Weary of official reports of progress, Americans tuned out long ago.

Back in 1991, as Steve Coll reports in Ghost Wars, an unnamed CIA agent mentioned the war in Afghanistan to President George H.W. Bush. Not long before, he had okayed the shipment of Iraqi weaponry captured in the first Gulf War -- worth $30 million -- to multiple factions of Islamist extremists then battling each other and probably using those secondhand Iraqi arms to destroy Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. Still, Bush seemed puzzled by the CIA man's question about the war. He reportedly asked, "Is that thing still going on?"

Such forgetfulness about wars has, it seems, become an all-American skill. Certainly, the country has had little trouble forgetting the war in Iraq, and why should Afghanistan be any different? Sure, the exit from that country is going to take more time and effort. No seacoast, no ships, bad roads, high tolls, IEDs. Trucking stuff out is problematic; flying it out, wildly expensive, especially since a lot of the things are really, really big. Take MRAPs, for example -- that's Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles -- 11,000 of them, weighing 14 tons or more apiece. For that workhorse transport plane, the C-17, a full load of MRAPs numbers only four.
The equipment inventory keeps changing, but estimates run to 100,000 shipping containers and about 50,000 vehicles to be removed by the end of 2014, adding up to more than $36 billion worth of equipment now classified as "retrograde." The estimated shipping bill has quickly risen to $6 billion, and like the overall cost of the war, it is sure to keep rising.

China’s Fear Of US May Tempt Them To Preempt: Sinologists

October 01, 2013 

Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.

WASHINGTON: Because China believes it is much weaker than the United States, they are more likely to launch a massive preemptive strike in a crisis. Here’s the other bad news: The current US concept for high-tech warfare, known as Air-Sea Battle, might escalate the conflict even further towards a “limited” nuclear war, says one of the top American experts on the Chinese military.

[This is one in an occasional series on the crucial strategic relationship and the military capabilities of the US, its allies and China.]

What US analysts call an “anti-access/area denial” strategy is what China calls “counter-intervention” and “active defense,” and the Chinese appraoch is born of a deep sense of vulnerability that dates back 200 years, China analyst Larry Wortzel said at the Institute of World Politics: “The People’s Liberation Army still sees themselves as an inferior force to the American military, and that’s who they think their most likely enemy is.”

That’s fine as long as it deters China from attacking its neighbors. But if deterrence fails, the Chinese are likely to go big or go home. Chinese military history from the Korean War in 1950 to the Chinese invasion of Vietnam in 1979 to more recent, albeit vigorous but non-violent, grabs for the disputed Scarborough Shoal suggests a preference for a sudden use of overwhelming force at a crucial point, what Clausewitz would call the enemy’s “center of gravity.”

“What they do is very heavily built on preemption,” Wortzel said. “The problem with the striking the enemy’s center of gravity is, for the United States, they see it as being in Japan, Hawaii, and the West Coast….That’s very escalatory.”

(Students of the American military will nod sagely, of course, as we remind everyone that President George Bush made preemption a centerpiece of American strategy after the terror attacks of 2001.)

Wortzel argued that the current version of US Air-Sea Battle concept is also likely to lead to escalation. “China’s dependent on these ballistic missiles and anti-ship missiles and satellite links,” he said. Since those are almost all land-based, any attack on them “involves striking the Chinese mainland, which is pretty escalatory.”

“You don’t know how they’re going to react,” he said. “They do have nuclear missiles. They actually think we’re more allergic to nuclear missiles landing on our soil than they are on their soil. They think they can withstand a limited nuclear attack, or even a big nuclear attack, and retaliate.”

What War Would Look Like

No, China Is Not About to Overtake the US in Space

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan and Arvind K. John 
October 02, 2013

The country’s space program will need sweeping reform before that happens.

China’s growth trajectory overall and more particularly in the space domain has been impressive. However, John Hickman’s categorical assertions in a recent Foreign Policy article that China is catching up and “may surpass the United States… to become the world’s preeminent spacefaring power” seems to us a touch far-fetched.

Certainly Hickman is right about Chinese determination and the “unquantifiable” factor of “an extraordinary sense of historical grievance” being a major driver of Chinese space dreams. China attributes its “military technological backwardness” to its past national humiliation at the hands of other major powers. Indeed, this is an important part of the national psyche and helps drives the Chinese space programs.

The problem lies in the tools needed to turn determination into material outcomes. The most important: China has nothing near the commercial space sector that the U.S. boasts. Sure, NASA now gets less than 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget, but much of America’s true capabilities are embedded in its private sector, which plays a much larger role than its equivalent does in China’s space sector and gives the U.S. a major advantage in space technology innovation. Not to mention the fact that the high-tech and defense sectors also contribute and the U.S. lead there is not going to disappear anytime in the next several decades.

China is taking steps to beef up its own commercial space sector (read: state-owned enterprises) but it still lacks the massive private-sector investment in R&D that will be vital to sustaining the success of any space program. For now, China must rely on public investment to advance its space program.

A Need for Innovation

More importantly, China does not innovate, it copies. That helps it catch up, but without innovation China will have difficulty taking over the top spot. Its growth looks like a parabola, approaching the number one spot before falling away.

China’s Heroin Usage Skyrockets

By Elleka Watts
October 2, 2013 

Some Tuesday China links:

China Digital Times reports that demand for the narcotic heroin in China (including Macau and Hong Kong) has risen so sharply that drug traffickers are struggling to keep up. One report that CDT notes says that 90 percent of heroin smuggled through the so-called Golden Triangle is shipped to China. The UN estimates that China and Taiwan account for 70 percent of all heroin consumption in East Asia.

Yu Guangyang, an economist who helped Deng Xiaoping launch his market reforms in the late 1970s, died this week at 98, South China Morning Post noted commemorative report.

Political analyst Chen Ziming told SCMP, "Yu was one of the most liberal party officials and influential economists in the late 1970s and 1980s." The well-known economist not only assisted Deng, but was also an advisor to Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. He famously helped co-write the 1978 third plenum speech, which launched Deng’s landmark reforms.

Xinhua reports that members held a Politburo Standing Committee study session in a “Beijing technology hub known as China’s Silicon Valley." According to the report, it was the first time such a study was held outside of Zhongnanhai.

Yesterday, Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone (FTZ) published a list of sectors that will remain off limits to foreign investors. Prohibited industries include those involved with gambling, sex and pornography, rare earth exploration, internet data centers, compulsory education, transgenic crops, cultural heritage auctions, golf courses and armament industries. While not completely banned, there will be restrictions on other industries including telecommunications, media and online games – according to the China Daily.

With Russia in Middle East, China Claims Central Asia

By Zachary Keck
October 2, 2013

Russia’s Middle East policy is all the rage these days.

An article in the Washington Post on Tuesday notes what we at The Diplomat have long been discussing: Moscow’s diplomatic offensive in the Middle East region.

The most visible sign of this, of course, is Russia’s policy of protecting the Syrian regime. Along with the diplomatic cover Moscow is providing Bashar al-Assad at the UN Security Council, Vladimir Putin has also established a permanent naval task force in the Mediterranean Sea for the purpose of facilitating Russia’s support for Syria. Russia’s Navy is far from limitless, though, so the ships being deployed to the Mediterranean are coming from Moscow’s other naval regions including the Pacific.

Beyond Syria, Russia’s new beefed up Middle East diplomacy includes more discrete actions. As I noted back in August, when the Egyptian military was in the thick of suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood’s street protests, Putin appeared to “be seizing on the Egyptian crisis and the U.S. response to it to expand Russia’s influence in the Arab world’s most populous country.” According to the Washington Post article, Moscow has been making similar moves in Iraq, another Cold War ally of the Soviet Union.

It’s unclear what logic is driving this policy, but certainly it’s not any realistic assessment of Russia’s strategic interests. The Middle East has little value to Russia. The strategic value of the region lies, of course, in its rich energy resources. But energy is perhaps the one thing Russia doesn’t need. Although Russia does maintain a naval base at Tartus in Syria, this is of dubious value at best.

Some analysts suspect that Russia’s Middle East gambit is driven by Putin’s desire to distract Russians from the country’s mounting economic difficulties. Many others believe it’s driven by Putin’s desire to enhance Russia’s prestige on the world stage. Another possibility, at least in the case of Syria, is that Moscow is really just driven by its lingering resentment towards the West over getting duped in Libya. In this scenario, Russia’s Syria policy is driven by its perceived need to take a hard line against the rollback of sovereignty in the post-Cold War era.

Whatever is behind Russia’s Middle East gambit, it’s not at all likely to succeed. Indeed, Russia’s just as likely to come out of this with less influence in the Middle East, and one can’t escape the feeling that Moscow may be getting played by all sides here. Although Russia is accumulating some goodwill with Assad and his inner circle, Assad is certain to be greatly weakened from the civil war for years to come, if indeed he manages to retain power at all. Should another regime emerge, particularly one including some Sunnis, Moscow will find itself greatly weakened in Syria.

Furthermore, in fashioning itself as Assad’s most public defender, Moscow is alienating nearly all of the other much more important states in the region. This is certainly true of Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states led by Saudi Arabia, as well as groups like Hamas. In palling around with Assad’s other main backer, Iran, Russia is winning itself no fans in Israel.

One can’t help but compare Russia’s collective alienation of the Middle East to how China has fared. Although Beijing has voted with Moscow on Syria at the UN Security Council, and continues to maintain an embassy in Damascus, it has happily allowed Russia to take the lead in voicing support for Assad. Beijing has also sought to offset its alienation of the Sunni powers in the region by taking on a larger role in other issues they care about, like the Middle East Peace Process.

China's Central Asia Bazaar

29 September 2013 
Issue 5223

Looking back 10 years from now, the most important news of September 2013 may not be Moscow and Washington jousting over Syria's civil war. It may well be China quietly locking down massive quantities of Central Asian oil and gas.

While the world worried about Syria, China's President Xi Jinping deftly moved through Russia's old imperial backyard, signing almost $100 billion in energy deals — $15 billion in Uzbekistan, $30 billion in Kazakhstan and an estimated $50 billion in Turkmenistan.

Stopping in Astana, Kazakhstan's futuristic new capital, Xi pasted a political label on these Chinese-funded business deals. He called it a new "Silk Road Economic Zone."

Evoking the old Silk Road that once brought Chinese silk and porcelain to Europe, he said, " I can almost hear the ring of the camel bells and smell the wisps of smoke in the desert."

Of Central Asia's five former Soviet republics, the Chinese president concentrated on the three blessed with vast oil and gas reserves. He added Kyrgyzstan for a regional security meeting, also inking a $1.5 billion deal to build a second pipeline through the nation and transship Uzbek and Turkmen gas to China.

China's supreme leader skipped energy-deprived Tajikistan, leaving this nation bordering Afghanistan to the Russians. In Russia's largest foreign military deployment, Russia stations 6,000 soldiers in Tajikistan. Russia is laboring to strengthen Tajikistan's defenses in advance of NATO's planned pullout from Afghanistan next year.

While Xi pursues his new "marching westwards" policy, he defers to Russia on security issues in Central Asia, a region administered by Moscow for about 150 years, until 1991. This month, Xi carefully followed protocol, breaking his Central Asia tour with a trip to St. Petersburg to consult with President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 meeting. Two days after this meeting, Novatek, a major Russian gas producer, announced that Chinese banks will help finance a $20 billion natural gas project in Russia's Arctic.

China's shopping spree through Central Asia's energy bazaar was so striking that Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov felt compelled to give a press briefing in Moscow. As China signed "strategic partnerships" with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, the Russian diplomat assured reporters, "Our Chinese friends recognize the traditional role our country continues to play in this region, so we do not see any regional rivalry problems."

The Dark Side of Transition: Violence Against Muslims in Myanmar

Asia Report N°251 1 Oct 2013 

The Executive Summary is also available in Burmese.


Following the outbreak of deadly intercommunal clashes in Rakhine State in 2012, anti-Muslim violence has spread to other parts of Myanmar. The depth of anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, and the inadequate response of the security forces, mean that further clashes are likely. Unless there is an effective government response and change in societal attitudes, violence could spread, impacting on Myanmar’s transition as well as its standing in the region and beyond.

The violence has occurred in the context of rising Burman-Buddhist nationalism, and the growing influence of the monk-led “969” movement that preaches intolerance and urges a boycott of Muslim businesses. This is a dangerous combination: considerable pent-up frustration and anger under years of authoritarianism are now being directed towards Muslims by a populist political force that cloaks itself in religious respectability and moral authority.

Anti-Indian and anti-Muslim violence is nothing new in Myanmar. It is rooted in the country’s colonial history and demographics, and the rise of Burman nationalism in that context. Deadly violence has erupted regularly in different parts of the country in the decades since. But the lifting of authoritarian controls and the greater availability of modern communications mean that there is a much greater risk of the violence spreading.

Among the most discriminated against populations in Myanmar is the Muslim community in northern Rakhine State, the Rohingya. Most are denied citizenship, and face severe restrictions on freedom of movement as well as numerous abusive policies. In June and October 2012, clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine State left almost 200 people dead and around 140,000 displaced, the great majority of them Muslims. Communities remain essentially segregated to this day, and the humanitarian situation is dire.

In early 2013, the violence spread to central Myanmar. The worst incident occurred in the town of Meiktila, where a dispute at a shop led to anti-Muslim violence. The brutal killing of a Buddhist monk sharply escalated the situation, with two days of riots by a 1,000-strong mob resulting in widespread destruction of Muslim neighbourhoods, and leaving at least 44 people dead, including twenty students and several teachers massacred at an Islamic school.

U.S. Sanctions Against Myanmar Need to Go

October 2, 2013 

For anyone who follows Myanmar, the unprecedented domestic changes that have been witnessed since 2011 are nothing short of remarkable. The United States, to its credit, has welcomed these reforms and has made efforts of its own to start reaching out to a country that for many years was run by one of the most brutal and repressive governments in the world. Indeed, President Barack Obama has already made Myanmar one of his administration's top foreign policy priorities in Southeast Asia. 

It is critical that the United States retain this focus, as there are numerous challenges that could yet upset Myanmar's "rehabilitation" in global affairs. Initiating a process to remove sanctions, even if this takes time, would be a good start. 

In March 2011, power in Myanmar was transferred to a nominally civilian – albeit military backed – government that has since exhibited signs of a fundamental transformation in both political and strategic direction. Under the presidency of Thein Sein, the country has released political prisoners of conscience, opened up the economy, unblocked Facebook, moved to at least partially unshackle the press and, perhaps most notably, freed Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from nearly 15 years of house arrest. Last year, her National League for Democracy contested in elections, winning 43 out of 44 seats – a result the military accepted. 

While such progress is welcome, Myanmar faces a number of significant challenges in overhauling its political, social and economic infrastructure. Principally these include: widespread poverty and underdevelopment; a governing system that continues to lack true accountability and transparency; escalating religious tensions between Muslims and Buddhists; a highly aggrieved (and officially nonrecognized) Rohingya minority; the existence of armed ethnic groups that remain intimately involved in the regional drug trade; and ongoing human rights concerns in the military.