6 October 2013

LOC: The Downside of BAT Actions

October 5, 2013 

The recent ongoing Pakistani intrusions on the Line of Control must be understood in the larger perspective of the Pakistan’s philosophy of keeping the LC alive by Border Action Teams(BAT). Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain explains the nuances to clear misconceptions about the LC dynamics.

During the 06 Aug 2013 flare up on the LC (LoC) in the Poonch Sector and the beheading incident in Jan 2013 the common string of information was that the targeted killing of Indian Jawans on the LC was executed by BATs. Even in the Army, not many would boast of knowing what BATs are, how do they function (modus operandi), what effects they have and how the Indian Army handles the threat. In the typical lackadaisical way that the public treats matters military not many sought more information on BATs, preferring to leave them to our professional Army to handle.

In a way that is a positive because the world of the LC is the domain of just a few who have had the honour and the ‘sugar high’ of serving in the razor sharp environment that presents itself daily in the ‘border areas’ of Jammu & Kashmir. It may be appropriate to clarify some of the basic ingredients of this high drama environment.

What is the LC?

The LC is different to the LAC (Line of Actual Control), different to the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) and much different to the Working Boundary (a term used only by Pakistan). The LAC alludes to the land boundary between the areas currently held by China and India along the Northern borders and the AGPL refers to the un-demarcated area north east of NJ 9842. To detail these aspects would be to digress from the main issue the LC, which is quite often called LoC by the media but the Army prefers to shorten it to the more colloquial LC.

The LC is an imaginary line running along the current frontier between India and Pakistan in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Although the Instrument of Accession of 26 Aug 1947 and Joint Resolution of the two Houses of Parliament of Jul 1994 place the whole of Jammu and Kashmir with India, the actual ground position has emerged over the last 65 years commencing with Pakistan’s invasion in 1947 the conflicts of 1965, 1971 and 1999 (Kargil), as also the proxy war launched by Pakistan since 1989. The LC runs well east of the actual International Boundary (IB) and is the alignment along which the operations of 1947-48 came to a halt thus creating Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK-often referred as Azad Kashmir, or AK, by Pakistan). Unlike the IB there are no boundary pillars (BPs) delineating the LC, however, there are a series of mostly unrecognizable landmarks such as boulders, trees and nullahs which have undergone change over years. The Indian and Pakistan Armies are in eyeball contact in their various pillboxes and picquets all along the alignment but at places terrain constraints may separate the two by two or more km.

UNSC aspirant India struggles for even a temporary entry

Oct 06 2013,

The issue, sources said, was taken up by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. (AP)

Even as it aspires to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council and has been campaigning for the same, India is finding it difficult to plot its way back as a non-permanent member, with contenders unwilling to stand down, and in some cases, New Delhi not keen to upset bilateral ties through an election.

In fact, the government had taken an in-principle decision at the highest levels to announce its candidature for the 2019 elections, targeting the 2020-21 term. But that announcement has been delayed after Vietnam, the contender from Asia, turned down India's request to stand down.

The issue, sources said, was taken up by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh but there was reluctance on the part of Vietnam, which has already announced its candidature, to give up its bid as the country has not been a member of the UNSC in a long time.

Instead, Vietnam has urged India to back its case and in return, reaffirmed its support to New Delhi's larger effort to become a permanent member. It also agreed to sign on to the G-4 draft on UNSC expansion.That has put New Delhi in a spot because India-Vietnam relations are an important folder in New Delhi's overall strategic approach in East and Southeast Asia. In fact, the two countries have undertaken a major overhaul in their relationship, intensified defence cooperation and shown solidarity against China's aggressive moves in the South China Sea.

The problem is that if India were to agree to Vietnam, then it runs into Afghanistan which has also conveyed its interest to UN authorities. Now again, there are bilateral compulsions and Kabul would want India to support its maiden aspiration to this slot. Asia-Pacific has two slots in the UNSC non-permanent category but only one falls vacant each year.

Afghanistan is among the few countries that has never had the opportunity to be on the UNSC and allowing its nascent democratic institutions maximum international recognition is in India's interest. More importantly, South Block will have to take a call on how it would reflect on India were it to get Afghanistan to stand down in its debut effort or even worse, get into a contest.

Karzai’s Visit to China

By Monish Gulati
Posted:Oct 3, 2013 

President Hamid Karzai landed in Xi’an, the capital of China’s Shaanxi province, on Sep 25 with a delegation for his fifth visit to China. Karzai’s delegation, significantly, included the Minister of Mines and Petroleum Wahidullah Shahrani. On the agenda were discussions with the Chinese leadership on a range of issues, including enhancing political, military, economic and cultural relations. During the visit, MoUs on financial assistance to Afghanistan, extradition of prisoners and cooperation between Kabul and the Xi’an University of China were to be signed.

The Afghan president attended the opening ceremony of the Euro-Asia Economic Forum (EAEF) 2013 at Xi’an on Sep 26. Addressing the EAEF 2013, Karzai referred to terrorism as a major challenge not just for Afghanistan but other countries as well. He also supported the recent proposal of Chinese President Xi Jinping on reviving the ancient Silk Route, and said that the initiative would help in expanding and strengthening trade not only within the region but across the globe. Xi had proposed a Silk Road economic belt, between China and Central Asian countries during his visit to Kazakhstan last month. China’s strategic focus is on establishing rail and road services to link its key trading cities with Kazakhstan, Russia, and points as far west as the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. China is looking to develop these transportation links through bilateral agreements and multilaterally through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

During the visit, Afghanistan and China agreed to sign a treaty on extradition and intensify exchanges and cooperation in the security field by way of jointly combating transnational threats, including illegal immigration, and trafficking in persons, arms and drugs. The two countries also reaffirmed their commitment to the Istanbul Process with a view to building confidence at the regional level. China, Russia, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries had at Istanbul on Nov 2, 2011 adopted a declaration on regional security and cooperation for a secure and stable Afghanistan, initiating the process. Chinese President Xi also told Karzai that China has decided to hold the fourth Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan in 2014.

Karzai also had separate meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Vice Premier Wang Yang during the visit. China and Afghanistan issued a joint statement on further deepening the partnership. China committed to provide a 200 million RMB (around US$32 million) grant to the Afghanistan government for 2013.

After meeting with China’s top leaders in Beijing, Karzai said Afghanistan considers China to be an anchor of stability for the region and the world. Common interests and Chinese leaders' wisdom has contributed to a strong China-Afghanistan relationship.

Change of Guard

By Hamid Hussain

Pakistan army is a major player on national scene therefore change of command generates unusual interest both in the country as well as the outside world. Two top positions are Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) and Chief of Army Staff (COAS). Theoretically, CJCSC is senior but practically this position is ceremonial and real power holder is COAS. Main reason is that COAS controls the army with promotions and postings. CJCSC can be selected from any of the three services but this post has been used to placate or reward some senior army officers, therefore for the last seventeen years this post is held by a senior army officer. Last time when an air force or naval officer held the position of CJCSC was in 1997. Current CJCSC General Khalid Shamim Wayen will be retiring on October 06, 2013 and COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani on November 28, 2013. 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be deciding about next appointment of COAS. His two close civilian advisors are his younger brother and chief minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. He consults with these two about all important issues. On military matters, he gets limited input from few retired officers. These include retired Lieutenant General Khwaja Ziauddin, retired Lieutenant General Abdul Qadir Baloch, retired Lieutenant General Abdul Qayyum and Brigadier Javed Malik (for brief profile of these officers see Appendix: I below). The role of these officers is very limited regarding advice about selection of new COAS. Their relationship is that of an acquaintance and not close confidant. In my view, advice from his close civilian associates will carry more weight than any army officer. In general, there is no culture of reading serious material or informed debate. Civilian leadership including Nawaz Sharif is not known for reading or soliciting advice from informed individuals about critical issues. I don’t think that country’s top ten decision makers have read a complete book in the last one year. A small group around Nawaz Sharif tries to whisper in King’s ears and general style is more close to a sixteenth century princely state with sycophancy and intrigues of Byzantine proportions. 

In normal process, COAS is usually selected from top four or five senior officers. Most of these officers are average, equal in qualifications and rotated through normal command, staff and instructional appointments at senior ranks. My own assessment is that seventy percent are average officers and not very different from officers found in other armies. Twenty percent are below average and able to pass through the promotion labyrinth due to special circumstances. Ten percent are first rate and any army could be proud to have them among its ranks. Opinions of their colleagues, superiors, juniors, friends and family members are highly subjective in nature. 

Selection of army chief is essentially a political decision and in addition to qualifications, ability of the individual to work with government on important issues is considered. COAS tenure is three years and in case of Pakistan many army chiefs got extensions to the detriment of the institution. I’ll review the tenure of General Kayani and his decision making process, challenges of the next three years for new chief and brief overview of career and my opinion about each potential candidate. 

General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani was appointed by outgoing COAS General Pervez Mussharraf when he was forced to give up his post after nine years. Mussharraf’s choice was between Kayani and Lieutenant General (later General) Tariq Majeed. Majeed was more assertive compared to Kayani who played more safely keeping his thoughts to himself. Mussharraf may have felt Kayani will work with him better as Mussharraf was to remain President after shedding his uniform. Kayani became close to Mussharraf when he was given the charge of investigating assassination attempts on Mussharraf’s life. Kayani was then commanding Rawalpindi based X Corps and his diligent work brought him close to Mussharraf and paved the way for his future rise. He was appointed Director General of Inter Services Intelligence (DGISI) where he served for three years. In November 2007, he was appointed COAS. 

Kenya Terror Strike Was Part Of Al-Qaeda’s Latest Global Jihad


September 27 2013 -- The horrible attack on a shopping mall in Kenya this week, the attack on anatural gas plant in Algeria earlier this year and the ongoing growth of al-Qaeda franchises in Syria all underscore the remarkable ability of al-Qaeda and associated movements to attract volunteers from across the Islamic world to its ranks. Al-Qaeda has achieved a long-sought goal of Islamist politics: the creation of a pan-Islamist militancy that operates across national borders and national politics. This transnational quality is one of the keys to al-Qaeda’s remarkable regenerative capacity, its ability to survive massive counterterrorism campaigns and rebuild operational capability quickly. Much remains unclear about the al-Shabab al-Mujahedeen attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, but it appears increasingly likely that the terrorists included at least a few foreign militants. Al-Shabab has long recruited volunteers for its jihad in Somalia from Somali expatriate communities abroad, including a substantial number in the United States. 

There is much speculation that a British citizen, Samantha Lewthwaite, was among the attackers. She is famous among jihadists as the wife of one of the British citizens of Pakistani origin who staged an attack on the London underground train system in July 2005. Foreign terrorists with years of living in Western societies would have been easier to slip unnoticed into the fashionable shopping mall and blend in with its multinational clientele. The January 2013 attack on the Amenas natural gas facility in Algeria was also carried out by a multinational Islamist force. The gas facility, jointly managed by Algeria’s national gas company and the Norwegian Statoil company, was the target of an attack by 32 terrorists belonging to an al-Qaeda splinter group headed by Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Belmokhtar is an Algerian veteran of training in Afghanistan in the 1980s who values recruiting across national borders. The attackers included a dozen Algerians, 11 Tunisians, two Canadians and others from Mauretania, Mali, Egypt and Libya. The leader of the team was from Niger. The two Canadians were from London, Ontario. 

The Syrian al-Qaeda franchises have attracted foreign volunteers from across the Islamic world and the Muslim diasporas in Europe and North America. Every day, there are martyrdom announcements — often on Twitter — that volunteers from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria or Pakistan have died fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams in Syria against the army of President Bashar al-Assad. Danish officials have told me that they have identified 60 Danish nationals who have gone to fight in Syria. Sen. John McCain this week said French officials have told him a couple of hundred French nationals are in Syria. This week. Jabhat al-Nusra announced that one of its local commanders or emirs in Syria had been killed and that he was from the United Arab Emirates. The total number of non-Syrian fighters in the country is unknown, but it is a substantial force.

Since Osama bin Laden first went to Afghanistan in 1980 to fight against the Soviet invasion army, he was an advocate of a global Islamic fighting force to defend Islam from its perceived enemies. Bin Laden was an early disciple of the Palestinian jihadist Abdallah Azzam, who was the most important ideologue of the early days of global jihad. In a number of books and articles published in the 1980s, Azzam argued that Islam was under attack and that Muslims needed to band together to fight back. They should work as a transnational movement to defend Islam, not concentrate on national battles but focus on the bigger picture. According to one estimate, some 35,000 Muslims from 43 countries traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s to join the jihad.

Impasse With Afghanistan Raises Prospect of Total U.S. Withdrawal in 2014

By Matthew Rosenberg
New York Times
October 5, 2013

KABUL, Afghanistan — The United States and Afghanistan have reached an impasse in their talks over the role that American forces will play here beyond next year, officials from both countries say, raising the distinct possibility of a total withdrawal — an outcome that the Pentagon’s top military commanders dismissed just months ago.

American officials say they are preparing to suspend negotiations absent a breakthrough in the coming weeks, and a senior administration official said talk of resuming them with President Hamid Karzai’s successor, who will be chosen in elections set for next April, is, “frankly, not very likely.”

“The time to conclude for us is now,” the administration official said on Friday. In the absence of a deal, “this fall, we are going to have to make plans for the future accordingly.”

The impasse, after a year of talks, has increased the prospect of what the Americans call the zero option — complete withdrawal — when the NATO combat mission concludes at the end of 2014. That is precisely the outcome they hoped to avoid in Afghanistan, after having engaged in a similarly problematic withdrawal from Iraq two years ago.

Moreover, a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan could be far costlier than it was in Iraq. It would force European powers to pull their forces as well, risking a dangerous collapse in confidence among Afghans and giving a boost to the Taliban, which remain a potent threat.

It could also jeopardize vital aid commitments. Afghanistan is decades away from self-sufficiency — it currently covers only about 20 percent of its own bills, with the rest paid by the United States and its allies.

“It is a practical truth,” the administration official said, that without a deal, “our Congress would not likely follow through on the assistance promises we’ve made, nor would other partners.”

Many contentious matters in the talks have already been settled, like legal immunity for American troops, which is what scuttled the Iraq deal, Afghan and American officials said. Yet officials on both sides say two seemingly intractable issues remain.

The first is Afghanistan’s insistence that the United States guarantee its security, much like any NATO ally, and the second is Mr. Karzai’s refusal to allow American forces to keep searching in Afghanistan for operatives of Al Qaeda. Instead, he has proposed that the United States give its intelligence information to Afghan forces and let them do the searching, said Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for the president.

American officials have rejected both Afghan proposals. The security pact is especially problematic, they say, because it could legally compel American forces to cross the border into Pakistan, resulting in an armed confrontation with an ally — and a nuclear-armed power.

“The deal is like 95 percent done,” said another American official in Washington, “and both sides are holding out.”

Pakistan needs a clear narrative for confronting terrorism

October 3, 2013

Pakistanis are sitting on a volcano. Unless the country’s principal stakeholders – the army, the politicians and the mullahs – get their act together and declare zero tolerance for violent militant behaviour, Pakistan will lose its war against extremism and terrorism.

Over 200 people were killed last week in terrorist attacks that included the killing of an army general, 85 Christian worshippers in Peshawar, housewives in Karachi. On Sunday a massive car bomb killed 40 people in Peshawar– the third terrorist attack in the city in a week.

The country has never undergone such a baptism of fire by a range of secular and religious extremists who have taken the law into their own hands. Nawaz Sharif, prime minister, has been forced to reverse his earlier call for talks with the Pakistani Taliban, hinting now at a more robust policy. Yet it remains unclear what policy he will pursue.

Such uncertainty has already fuelled tensions between Islamabad and its neighbours – two of which, India and Afghanistan, have called Pakistan the epicentre of regional terrorism in the region – as well as alienated the international community.

Pakistan is beset with three major insurgencies. In the North West the Pakistani Taliban are attacking the army and vulnerable elements of society such as Shia and Christian minorities. Further south separatists are trying to create an independent Balochistan. Karachi is a maelstrom of militias, mafias and malcontents whose violent ways have deeply undermined the country’s main port and trading centre.

The spate of terrorist attacks and the lack of a serious counter terrorism strategy has exposed the continuing deep fissures between the army and the civilian government.

Even though the army has been viciously targeted – a general and colonel were killed by the Taliban in mid-September – the military has long maintained a two track policy towards the militants. On the one hand there are those militants judged not to be enemies of Pakistan and who are allowed to fight in Indian Kashmir or Afghanistan; on the other hand there are those committed to undermining the Pakistani state, and who are targeted by the army.

Right now, the army is not in favour of direct talks with the anti-state Pakistani Taliban factions, although it has not spoken out against Mr Sharif’s call for talks. However, the military is also unwilling to launch an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in their bases in North Waziristan, because that would affect the Afghan Taliban, whom they see as “friendly” – the army wants to continue using the Afghan Taliban as a proxy force for influencing the future political make-up of Afghanistan.

Similarly, the country’s main political parties also pursue a twin-track approach towards militants, protecting those seen as supporting their interests. Political parties try not to arouse militant groups based in their heartlands – for example, the Punjab, stronghold of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League. Groups having sanctuary in Punjabinclude the virulent anti-Shia group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi which has massacred hundreds of Shias across the country and Laskhar-e-Toiba, which continues to fight in Indian Kashmir.

In Karachi where everyday violence can claim two dozen victims, political parties also protect the districts that they govern by cutting deals with militants or mafias. In recent months Karachi has faced a new threat too – an increase in Taliban-initiated bank robberies, kidnappings for ransom, protection rackets and killings.

For some politicians the alternative is evidently too scary to contemplate. The leadership of the Awami National Party, which is vehemently anti-Taliban, has been virtually wiped out by Taliban suicide attacks – a strategy that has terrified politicians, judges, police and paralysed state machinery.

China’s Economy, Back on Track

October 4, 2013 

CHICAGO — NEXT month, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang will use an important meeting — the so-called Third Plenum of the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress — to unveil China’s priorities for reforming economic policy for the next decade.

Yet because it will probably decide only general policies, leaving the specifics for later, some cynics have already begun to dismiss the reforms as too little, too timid and too late. They note that a decade ago, a previous generation of leaders failed to reduce the influence of state-owned enterprises and to complete the economic reforms of the 1990s.

But I believe the prospects for restructuring China’s economy — bolstering the role of the market, expanding opportunities for small and medium-size businesses, allocating capital more efficiently and improving the balance between consumption and investment — are better than at any point since the 1990s. At a time when global growth remains sluggish, reinvigorating such reforms is more important than ever to the world economy.

There are four reasons for my optimism.

First, China’s leaders clearly understand that their growth model needs to change.

In speech after speech, Mr. Xi and Mr. Li have put their political capital on the line by promoting economic reform. They have drawn up blueprints and adopted pilot programs — like a free-trade zone in Shanghai — that will bolster the market and rationalize the allocation of capital, for instance by permitting more foreign competition and greater fluctuation of interest rates.

Other reforms, including liberalizing deposit rates, still need to be put in place, but an experiment to liberalize lending rates is a very positive step. So is Beijing’s signal that it might open more sectors of its economy to competition through a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.

Second, China’s new leaders are strong enough to press for change. The history of Chinese economic reform suggests that vigorous central leadership is essential. Deng Xiaoping was the determined architect behind China’s initial reforms in 1978 and their reinvigoration in 1992. Zhu Rongji, the prime minister under President Jiang Zemin, pushed through reforms of the taxation system and state-controlled industries that paved the way for China’s joining the World Trade Organization in 2001.

But in the decade or so since then, reforms stalled, and a major cause was the evaporation of political commitment in Beijing. The new leaders have signaled that they are prepared to move. An anti-corruption campaign begun by Mr. Xi demonstrates a willingness to take on even the most politically sensitive pillars of the state-led economy.

Chinese Military Modernization and Force Development

A Western Perspective

By Anthony H. Cordesman, Ashley HessNicholas S. Yarosh
Sep 30, 2013

China’s military development has become a key focus of US security policy as well as that of virtually all Asia-Pacific states. This report from the CSIS Burke Chair in Strategy examines trends in Chinese strategy, military spending, and military forces based on Chinese defense white papers and other official Chinese sources; US reporting by the Department of Defense and other defense agencies; and other government sources, including Japanese and Korean defense white papers and the International Monetary Fund. The analysis also draws on the work of experts outside of government, various research centers, and nongovernmental organizations.

The goal is to provide a comparison of different views and sources, contrasting Chinese and outside views and highlighting the trends where adequate data are available, as well as the problems, gaps, and contradictions in various sources. The report is not intended to provide a particular view of Chinese developments or policy recommendations, but rather to act as a reference that can be used in US and Chinese military dialogue and by other experts looking for a comparison of official sources and the trends in Chinese forces.

Publisher CSIS/Rowman & Littlefield

ISBN 978-1-4422-2775-0 (pb); 978-1-4422-2776-7 (eBook)


China: We don't do shutdowns

By Pepe Escobar 

The latest superpower dysfunctional spectacular, aka the US shutdown, has forced President Barack Obama to cancel an entire Asian trip. First the White House announced Obama was shutting down Malaysia and the Philippines - supposed stars of the "pivoting to Asia". Then it was finally confirmed he was also shutting down the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Bali on Tuesday and the ASEAN (Association of 

Southeast Asian Nations) and East Asia summit next Thursday in Brunei. 

That leaves Chinese President Xi Jinping to bask, unrivalled, in center stage glow. As if any extra Stateside "help" was needed, and as if Xi was not already on a roll. 

On Thursday, Xi became the first foreign leader ever to address the Indonesian parliament in Jakarta. He stressed that Beijing wanted by all means to boost trade with ASEAN to a whopping US$1 trillion by 2020 - and establish a regional infrastructure bank. 

His message, in a nutshell: China and "certain Southeast Asian countries" must solve their wrangling over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights "peacefully" - as in we will discuss that messy South China Sea situation (he made no direct reference to it in his speech) but don't let that interfere with our doing serious business in trade and investment. Who is ASEAN to say no? 

And then, after upstaging Obama in Indonesia (hefty tomes could be penned about that), and signing the requisite $30 billion-plus deals (mostly in mining), Xi was off to Malaysia. 

Compare Xi's Indonesian triumph - complete with his glamorous wife Peng Liyuan wearing batik - to a recent visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, for all practical purposes, wanted to convince the Indonesians to essentially encircle China. Elaborately polite as usual, the Indonesians brushed Abe aside. China is Indonesia's biggest trading partner after Japan, and it's bound to overtake Tokyo soon. 

Beijing has already agreed to discuss a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea with ASEAN. A working group met last month in Suzhou. Four of the 10-member ASEAN (but not Indonesia) are involved in the South China Sea dispute - which, predictably enough, is all about unexplored oil and gas wealth. The Philippines will keep accusing Beijing, as it did last month, of violating the - for the moment informal - Code of Conduct. Indonesia has volunteered as mediator. It won't be a rose garden, but the fact is China and ASEAN are already talking. 

Pivoting with myself 
It's a bit of a problem when you announce - with great fanfare, and at the Pentagon, of all places - a "pivoting to Asia" to enhance the role of "Asia Pacific to US prosperity and security", and you cannot even pivot yourself to Asia for a few days to pitch it in person. In fact there's no pivoting to being with - at least for now. The Obama administration has been focused not only on two immensely complex dossiers - Syria and Iran - but also trying to contain Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's dementia in Israel and the increasingly fearful and paranoid House of Saud. 

This is what happens when Tibetan villages refuse to fly the Chinese flag

October 4 , 2103

The Tibetan capital Lhasa in 2008, adorned with Chinese flags. (Getty Images)

One of China's creepier policies in the Tibetan Autonomous Region is a 2011 initiative known as the "nine haves." Some of the nine are about development ("to have roads, to have water, to have electricity"), but one is less about helping Tibetans and more about entrenching Beijing's control in a region that doesn't seem to want it: "to have a national flag." Every house and monastery building would be required to fly the crimson, five-starred flag of China. (Monasteries are also required to display portraits of Chinese leaders.) It was to be a show of submission to Chinese rule and a continuation of Tibet's slow cultural dilution.

The rural Tibetan county of Driru, though, has defied the rule, with villagers refusing to fly the flag. On Sept. 27, Chinese authorities responded by sending in "thousands" of Chinese troops to force up the flags, according to Tibetan exile outlets and Radio Free Asia, a U.S. government-backed outlet that's among the few foreign media organizations regularly reporting on Tibet. Now, a week later, Chinese flags are still not flying.

Some Tibetans initially clashed with the troops when they arrived, precipitating a tight security clampdown. "Groups of seven paramilitary policemen have been stationed at each house and are watching the Tibetans,” an unnamed Tibetan local told Radio Free Asia. “Villagers are not being allowed to tend to their animals, and any Tibetan found loitering in the town is being taken away."

Earlier in the week, hundreds of Tibetans reportedly gathered in the Driru county seat, a village called Mowa, to protest on behalf of the civilians who had been taken away by the Chinese troops. It's estimated that 40 locals have been taken.

The most significant moment may have been on Tuesday, Oct. 1. That was China's National Day, the equivalent of America's July 4, a major national holiday – and one in which the flag is particularly important. It seems likely that the troops had arrived to ensure that all Chinese flags would fly in Tibet by the National Day. They didn't – and photos of Driru, taken clandestinely by locals, make it appear as akin to a military occupation.

The International Causes of America’s Political Dysfunction

By Zachary Keck
October 5, 2013

Particularly in the wake of President Barack Obama canceling his Asia trip, it is no secret that America is suffering from political dysfunction. 

The proximate causes of this dysfunction are petty domestic matters. Basically, gerrymandering has created many extremely conservative congressional districts that have elected radical conservatives to Congress. These newly elected conservatives have more to fear politically from primary challenges from even more conservative candidates, than they do from Democratic candidates in a general election. Thus, they have a strong political incentive to uphold their conservative credentials if they wish to keep their jobs.

But like most phenomenon, there are likely deeper structural causes to America’s political dysfunction. Proof enough of this is that the above circumstances didn’t exist until after the redistricting that followed the 2010 census, while America’s political dysfunction has persisted for much longer now.

And part of the deeper causes of the dysfunction may be at the international level of analysis, rather than the domestic. Basically, in the post-Cold War era, America has lacked an international peer competitor to unify around.

Social psychologists have long discussed the importance of out-groups in the formation and maintenance of in-group cohesion. We define who we are in no small part by who we are not. All things being equal, the greater the perceived threat from the out-group, the more unified the in-group will be. For a country as large and diverse as the United States, an out-group can be especially important for unity. 

Indeed, whatever the merits of the in-group/out-group theory in general, a cursory look at U.S. history seems to offer it strong support.

The thirteen colonies first unified around the idea of ejecting the British. After this was accomplished, disunity among the colonies became the order of the day. Thus, the U.S. accomplished little under the Articles of Confederation.

However, the United States was born into a situation of great external danger, surrounded as it was by all the great powers of the day (France, England and Spain). It was in part because of this external danger that the political elites of the day proposed a Republic with a stronger federal government to replace the highly decentralized Confederacy. Despite the intense fear of a strong executive that was the legacy of colonization, the founding fathers managed to win public support for their Republic. Key to winning this support was the Federalist Papers published anonymously by John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

Learn to Live with Germany

October 5, 2013

Here's some startling news. Angela Merkel has been serious about her policy on the euro crisis from the beginning. She also believes, as do most Germans, in balanced budgets, spending only what you earn, and in sound fiscal management.

After a rough time in the first years after reunification, German voters have grown accustomed to limiting their standard of living. They also are proud of their constitution and of the peaceful approach to the world they have followed for more than sixty years. Increasingly, they are worried that the EU is bloated, undemocratic, and against their interests.

In other words, Merkel's campaign was not attuned simply to pandering to voter tastes. Her most important talent is her ability to express the hopes and desires of the normal German citizen. Her other advantage is that she means it.

This means that large numbers of Europeans and many American officials are going to have to relearn their approach to Germany. Germany is not all of a sudden going to become a "better European" or open the spigots or allow certain countries to continue to pad their budgets with unnecessary expenditures.

Why? Because in the process of spending a trillion or more on reunification, Germans learned two things. First, that their society could pull together on a major national project and succeed. And second, that the life they lived before 1990 was padded with unnecessary benefits and subsidies that they could live without. Finally, they became even more proud of their constitution and the society it enabled them to build. And they don't want to lose it.

Is this egotistical and dishonest, as a columnist from India argued in Handelsblatt on September 27?

Well, Germany sure is much more just and prosperous than most other countries, including India. But even more importantly, the type of rigor that Germany is pushing is probably the only hope of Europe remaining competitive globally in the years to come. To return to the type of "European solidarity" demanded by so many commentators this week would lower all of Europe, including Germany, to the common denominator of France and Italy. Not a pretty sight.

What is the real problem here?

It is the inescapable fact that all of the Western world, including the United States, has been living far beyond its income for several decades. Only a few countries have heard the message and cut back. Canada is one. Switzerland is another-but so too is Germany. German voters are already attuned to a drop in real wages. It is not comfortable and certainly not the long-term goal of society. But growing inroads by low-wage societies are taking their toll. We must all get used to it.

In this case, the European situation is different from that of the United States.

The United States has a large deficit and, at the moment, a dysfunctional political system. But America has tested internal adjustment mechanisms and a habit of balance among the various parts of the country. The American economy is also dynamic and recovering. Since none of these conditions pertains to Europe, the readjustment will be much more painful.

What about radicalism and the antidemocratic and far-right forces in Europe? Explaining the situation is the job of the political leadership across Europe. But instead of telling the truth, too many leaders and commentators are blaming Germany.

NSA and GCHQ target Tor network that protects anonymity of web users

The Guardian
October 4, 2013

James Ball, Bruce Schneier, and Glenn Greenwald

The National Security Agency has made repeated attempts to develop attacks against people using Tor, a popular tool designed to protect online anonymity, despite the fact the software is primarily funded and promoted by the US government itself.

Top-secret NSA documents, disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveal that the agency’s current successes against Tor rely on identifying users and then attacking vulnerable software on their computers. One technique developed by the agency targeted the Firefox web browser used with Tor, giving the agency full control over targets’ computers, including access to files, all keystrokes and all online activity.

But the documents suggest that the fundamental security of the Tor service remains intact. One top-secret presentation, titled ‘Tor Stinks’, states: “We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time.” It continues: “With manual analysis we can de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users,” and says the agency has had “no success de-anonymizing a user in response” to a specific request.

Another top-secret presentation calls Tor “the king of high-secure, low-latency internet anonymity”.

Tor – which stands for The Onion Router – is an open-source public project that bounces its users’ internet traffic through several other computers, which it calls “relays” or “nodes”, to keep it anonymous and avoid online censorship tools.

It is relied upon by journalists, activists and campaigners in the US and Europe as well as in China, Iran and Syria, to maintain the privacy of their communications and avoid reprisals from government. To this end, it receives around 60% of its funding from the US government, primarily the State Department and the Department of Defense – which houses the NSA.

Despite Tor’s importance to dissidents and human rights organizations, however, the NSA and its UK counterpart GCHQ have devoted considerable efforts to attacking the service, which law enforcement agencies say is also used by people engaged in terrorism, the trade of child abuse images, and online drug dealing.

Privacy and human rights groups have been concerned about the security of Tor following revelations in the Guardian, New York Times and ProPublica about widespread NSA efforts to undermine privacy and security software. A report by Brazilian newspaper Globo also contained hints that the agencies had capabilities against the network.

While it seems that the NSA has not compromised the core security of the Tor software or network, the documents detail proof-of-concept attacks, including several relying on the large-scale online surveillance systems maintained by the NSA and GCHQ through internet cable taps.

One such technique is based on trying to spot patterns in the signals entering and leaving the Tor network, to try to de-anonymise its users. The effort was based on a long-discussed theoretical weakness of the network: that if one agency controlled a large number of the “exits” from the Tor network, they could identify a large amount of the traffic passing through it.

New Snowden Documents Show NSA Deemed Google Networks a "Target"

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The National Security Agency is keen to portray its surveillance efforts as primarily focused on detecting and preventing possible terror attacks. But a new trove of freshly leaked secret documents suggests that the agency also uses its powerful spying apparatus to infiltrate and monitor multinational companies.

On Sunday, Brazilian TV show Fantastico published previously undisclosed details based on documents obtained by Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The 13-minute news segment focused on the revelation that, according to the leaked files, the NSA apparently targeted Brazil’s state-run Petrobras oil producer for surveillance—undermining a recent statement by the agency that it “does not engage in economic espionage in any domain.” The Petrobras detail has been picked up internationally, and is likely to cause a serious stir in Brazil. (The country is still reeling from the revelation last week that the NSA spied on its president.) But Fantastico delivered several other highly significant nuggets that deserve equal attention.

Aside from targeting Petrobras, Fantastico revealed that in a May 2012 presentation reportedly used by the agency to train new recruits how to infiltrate private computer networks, Google is listed as a target. So are the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and SWIFT, a financial cooperative that connects thousands of banks and is supposed to help “securely” facilitate banking transactions made between more than 200 countries. Other documents show that the NSA’s so-called STORMBREW program—which involves sifting Internet traffic directly off of cables as it is flowing past—is being operated with the help of a “key corporate partner” at about eight key locations across the United States where there is access to “international cables, routers, and switches.” According to a leaked NSA map, this surveillance appears to be taking place at network junction points in Washington, Florida, Texas, at two places in California, and at three further locations in or around Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Further afield, the NSA has apparently targeted the computer networks of Saudi Arabia’s Riyad Bank and Chinese technology company Huawei for surveillance, the documents show. The agency also operates a program called SHIFTINGSHADOW that appears to collect communications and location data from two major cellphone providers in Afghanistan through what it describes as a “foreign access point.” The targeting of China’s Huawei and phone operators in Afghanistan is perhaps unsurprising, given fears about Huawei’s links to the Chinese government and potential terror attacks on U.S. interests emanating from Afghanistan. But the potential infiltration of Google, in particular, is a controversial development, and the Internet giant will no doubt be demanding answers from the U.S. government.