11 October 2013

India's Tryst with Destiny

October 10, 2013

India could offer the world a signal electoral drama next spring, with geopolitical repercussions for the whole Eurasian rimland. Narendra Modi, the charismatic chief minister of Gujarat in northwestern India, will likely run for prime minister against Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of the political forefather of India's modern republic, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Modi, though considerably older than Gandhi, represents an efficient, new style politics that is nationalistic and unapologetically abrasive, and thus comfortable with civilizational tension. The youthful Gandhi, through his name, embodies an old-style politics that, while portrayed as corrupt and complacent, is also universalist. Modi has many enemies yet promises to shake things up in a country with vast potential but stuck in the economic and institutional doldrums. Gandhi, who has far less experience and is half-Italian, is actually the less-disruptive, more conservative choice. His mother, Sonia Gandhi, is the real authority within the Congress party. If Congress wins in 2014, his rise to the premiership is not expected to change the balance of power within his party.

Modi presently represents the Hindu nationalist BJP, or Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People's Party). But even within the BJP he is seen as edgy and controversial. The very word "Modi" in India connotes the shocking events of February 2002 in Gujarat, when Modi, it is alleged, played a critical role as a Hindu chief minister in a pogrom that killed 2,000 Muslims, led to 400 rapes of Muslim women, and left 200,000 homeless. Modi has never officially apologized or offered a detailed explanation for those events. And yet throughout four terms as chief minister he has demonstrated a financial probity and a machine-like bureaucratic dynamism that has made Gujarat a leader within India for economic development, so much so that Muslims along with many others have flocked to Modi's Gujarat in search of jobs.

Modi is a hypnotic orator who, as one corporate executive after another has said, offers the best model of governance in a country rife with corruption and red tape. His actions in February 2002 have led him to be compared with Adolf Hitler, while his obsession with management details have led him to be compared with Lee Kuan Yew. Of course, Modi is neither. He is a new kind of hybrid politician: both media-savvy and manifestly ambitious. He is the first authentically charismatic Indian politician since Indira Gandhi -- the late grandmother of his opponent in next spring's election.

Rahul Gandhi is an empty vessel compared to Modi. Gandhi, despite being educated at elite schools, is close to ultimate power only because of his family name and connections, not because he is particularly brilliant. Compared to Modi, who rose on his own from truly humble beginnings, there is simply little original one can say about Gandhi. The mere election of his Congress Party next spring, it is alleged by some, will cement nepotism and corruption. The status quo will simply have a better chance to survive with the fourth generation of the founding political family, whereas Modi offers more of a break with the past, for better or for worse.

In fact, this upcoming election will reveal how India suffers from a profound leadership vacuum: the only selection appears to be between someone tainted by inter-communal mass violence and someone who has essentially inherited his position by way of his family.

Just as the political system could offer a stark choice to Indian voters, India, too, is at a crossroads. Just consider the geopolitical environment:

Kashmir: Keran Defining Battle for 2014

By Arun Sahgal 
October 9, 2013 

Keran marks the beginning of the long road to 2014

2014 – the year of US withdrawal from Afghanistan and that of general elections in India along with Assembly elections in J&K has created a resultant dynamic in J&K where only one stakeholder seems to be having a long-term end game in mind – The Jihadi Military Complex(JMC) of Pakistan. While all other look at J&K from their partisan short-term perspectives, the JMC has a sanctified and coherent strategy to wear down the Indian and Kashmir governments in pursuit of its larger ‘Ghazwa e Hind’ game plan.

As violence was coming down and media played up stories of how youth were focusing on jobs than militancy and the politicians sang their chorus for removal of AFSPA – a series of events began to take shape to remind India that the JMC would go to any length to keep the pot boiling. For a detailed analysis of the Keran operation read here and here.

Gool and Kishtwar provided the motivation for the resurgence of violence. However, this time around JMC launched a twin strategy of Fidayeen attacks, as in Sambha and Kathua along with activation of Line of Control (LC) in Mendhar and Keran Sectors on the LC. These were followed up by isolated attacks against soft police targets as in Lal Chowk and Ahmadnagar. For flavour they helped revive the strikes and bandh strategy as in Kishtwar, Budgam and Shopian. In most cases the triggers unfortunately were provided by inept action by police and para military forces as in Kathua, Gool and Kishtwar. Ministry of Home Affairs internal inquiry has indicated that Kathua police not only did not inform the local army unit but also failed to inform police headquarters. 

The main drivers which helped them achieve this congruence, unfortunately, came from lack of governance and the controversy arising out of Gen VK Singh’s disclosures. The cumulative effect was instant suspicion and lack of faith in the democratic process in Kashmir. Pro India politicians were targeted and maligned through a surge in intelligent dissemination of misinformation by vested interests for their partisan gains. As brought out in our earlier post, Kashmir – What Now? the three institutions that were bringing Kashmir towards stability were systematically destroyed. As Nitin Pai puts it succinctly:

First, the emergence of a favourable political dispensation in the state after well-attended, credible, free and fair elections. Second, the containment of Pakistan interference in Kashmiri politics. Third, the materialisation of a favourable international environment where violent Islamism was neither tolerated nor fashionable to defend.

We have discussed these at length here, here and here

Now let us see the JMC plan, duly supported (unwittingly) by the main stream and the separatists to subvert the army and divert attention from governance to emotive issues such as AFSPA. This nowhere underscores the fact that the separatist strategy has also changed significantly in favour of an educated youth driven “resistance” mode where the ageing Geelani is being guided by the youth rather than the other way round.

Deconstructing Keran

October 9, 2013 

Terrain view of the densely forested 12000 feet high Keran area where the operations took place

Last fortnight has been trying for the Indian Security forces which saw an upsurge of violent militant activity in J&K. In our analysis based on our visits to Kashmir we had opined that as a run up to 2014, violence in J&K would pick up if Pakistan wished to keep the issue alive. They obliged.

While routine BAT actions at LC were anticipated before the closure of passes, the Keran bid of enmass infiltration supported and orchestrated by the Jihadi Military Complex (JMC), displayed a heightened sense of despondency and desperation on part of Pakistan – one to derail the Man Mohan – Sharif talks in Washington and second to remind the Indian establishment that despite Af Pak and al Mizan, Kashmir was central to Pakistan’s terror plot.

What did Pakistan hope to achieve by infiltrating such mass numbers in a strategically insignificant area unlike Kargil?

Their aim was not so much as to infiltrate as to engage the Indian army in a sustained operation but to draw global attention in support of their claims to Kashmir when Nawaz Sharif was scheduled to open talks with PM Man Mohan Singh. Well it was always known that as Nawaz Sharif, battling JMC pressure at home, builds atmospherics for peace, violence in Kashmir will pick up. We had articulated that here.

However, it must be understood that this action by the Pakistan military is a perfect example of their bravado by conflict initiation with terrible conflict termination strategy something apparently they take pride in. Karen is no strategic game unlike Kargil where Pakistan could severe the Leh highway. Here they are at the mercy of Indian Army with their only road passing through the Neelam Valley, sand witched between Gurais and the Kishan Ganga river, which can be interdicted at will. As the ceasefire had been convincingly violated, India could have upped the ante here. Had India decides to go beyond the LC the Neelam/Kishanganga Valley to the East, bordering Gurez, would have been completely cut off.

The army briefings by Lt Gen Gurmit Singh rubbished Mukul Deva style military fiction stories built around the infiltration attempts. The term “occupation of the ghost village of Shala Bhata”, the way it was put across by section of media does conjure pictures of Kargil to the uninitiated. However, it takes a lifetime to understand the social dynamics of operating in a highly intense battle of nerves against a determined enemy on this perennial battlefield. Such ghost villages exist at various places along the LC and BAT occupation during a bid to infiltrate terrorists does not amount to Kargil type operation.

Pakistani Identity Card of killed terrorist recovered establishes Pakistan’s complicity

Slain terrorists on the LC fence

So what are the lessons learnt here?

US-India relations hit a rough patch

By Shashank Joshi
8 October 2013 

When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Washington last week for the first time in four years, the mood was distinctly subdued. India's once-stratospheric growth rate is stubbornly depressed. The Indian government is low on political capital and stuck in risk-averse mode until next year's general elections, with a huge question mark over Singh's personal future.

Most Indians anyway focussed on Singh's New York meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif — underwhelming, as it turned out, and marred by a perceived slur — rather than his meetings with President Obama. More generally, the promise of US-India relations remains far below the levels anticipated only a few years ago.

Why the stasis?

There are any number of reasons. Indian journalist Indrani Bagchi suggests that 'there remains a strong lobby within this government starting with [ruling Congress Party chairwoman] Sonia Gandhi and [Defence Minister] AK Antony downwards, which retains an instinctive aversion to America'.

That same government's slow rate of economic reform irks American companies who want to invest in India. In particular, a strict nuclear liability law limits those companies' ability to exploit a landmark civil nuclear cooperation agreement initiated by the Bush administration in 2005.

Also, India's byzantine procurement rules madden the American defence companies eager to sell into what is one of the few growing arms markets in the world.

A sense prevails that the low-hanging fruit in the bilateral relationship was picked some years ago. But one less-noticed problem is that the limited bandwidth of US foreign policy is presently occupied by issues in which India is either wary of US policy or simply apathetic.

The Middle East 

In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September, President Obama noted that 'in the near term, America's diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Arab-Israeli conflict'. India has much to gain from a rapprochement between Iran and the United States, not least the ability to once again freely import Iranian oil. India was circumventing international sanctions by paying for a diminished flow of Iranian oil in rupees, but the new Iranian government is insisting that India can only pay for half this way. India is a bystander rather than active participant in the broader dispute, watching from the sidelines as the P5+1 bloc, which includes Russia and China, participates in negotiations. 

On Syria, India is sympathetic to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It views the issue through the lens of the Afghan jihad in the 1980s, which Indians see as indelibly associated with the subsequent uprising in Kashmir and the growth of anti-Indian militancy. When the Indian Government summoned the Syrian Ambassador in Delhi last month, it was not because of Syrian policies but because the ambassador had alleged that Indian jihadists were fighting with the rebels. The ambassador stated, tellingly, that 'he was always deeply appreciative of India's position on Syria'.

India unsurprisingly opposes efforts to arm the Syrian rebels, tends to see the armed opposition as irredeemably compromised by jihadists and reflexively opposes US proposals for military action, particularly outside the ambit of the UN Security Council. India has already had to abandon several oil fields in Syria and, in September 2013, India's foreign secretary even referred to an existing Indian line of credit to the Syrian government. Yet, despite these equities, India has no leverage over the parties to the conflict. In May, an Iranian suggestion of greater Indian involvement went nowhere. There is little that Singh would usefully have been able to say to Obama on the subject.


Did the PMs of India and Pakistan need to meet just yet?

By Kanwal Sibal

Manmohan Singh’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, in New York on September 29 produced limited results. After Singh himself mentioned toned down expectations from the encounter, it became clear that little would emerge from it.

As it is, many were of the opinion that with mounting cease-fire violations since Nawaz Sharif took over, his declared intention to highlight the Kashmir issue internationally, the permissiveness in dealing with anti-Indian elements like Hafiz Saeed and the decision to postpone according India ‘most favoured nation’ status, it was desirable to delay the summit meeting till the Pakistani premier went beyond avowals of friendship and concretely signalled a substantive change in Pakistan’s approach towards India.

Pakistan’s cross-border terrorist action in Samba just before the scheduled meeting tested once more the rationale of India’s policy of persistently engaging Pakistan, undeterred by terrorist attacks from its soil against us. The Samba attack provided a handy occasion to signal to the new Pakistani premier that after two decades of tolerating Pakistani terrorist blows in the belied hope that the dialogue process will eventually wean Pakistan away from such abnormal behaviour, it could not be business as usual with it. This opportunity to retrieve the political mistake of delinking dialogue from terrorism was, regrettably, lost by the decision to meet Nawaz Sharif.

Nawaz Sharif’s other provocations in New York provided additional reasons to try to recover lost diplomatic ground with Pakistan, represented by our litany that we have no option but to have a dialogue with it and that both countries are victims of terrorism. Nawaz Sharif was more vocal on Kashmir in his speech at the United Nations general assembly than he needed to be, if improving the atmospherics with India is intended. He reverted to traditional diplomatic baiting of India by seeking UN or third-party intervention on bilateral issues, contrary to the Simla Agreement. In his interviews, he spoke of both sides ending terrorist activities against each other, signalling that he will not be defensive on this central issue and will reject that only Pakistan is answerable on this account. His barb comparing our prime minister with a complaining village woman — unconvincingly denied — is less important for its contemptuousness than for Pakistan’s growing impatience with Indian accusations of terrorism, which were voiced also by the former foreign minister of Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar, who admonished India to go beyond its tiresome discourse on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

Those supportive of the New York meeting marshal the usual arguments that do not stand scrutiny. To say that it was necessary to have the meeting if only to talk tough with Nawaz Sharif and clearly convey our expectations on cross-border terrorism and the trial of those responsible for the Mumbai attack, implies that we have not talked tough with Pakistan’s leaders in previous meetings and have not forcefully demanded tangible progress on the Mumbai massacre. If we have, and Pakistan’s leaders have not listened to our robust urgings, what makes us believe that Nawaz Sharif would be more impressionable? Pakistan may respond to tough actions, but certainly not to tough words. More so because if we say that we have no choice but to have a dialogue with Pakistan, we are clearly conveying that tough actions are excluded from our panoply of responses.

Kashmir: India-China-Pakistan Triangular Conflict

 By Brig Amar Cheema 
OCT 8 2013.

Poor Kashmir, it lies in the Himalayan ramparts where the borders of India, Pakistan and China rub together. Reality mocks its beauty. There is no escaping the permeating meloncholy of a land that lies under the gun.” — Trevor Fishlock

Kashmir’s ‘locational’ relevance for India, China and Pakistan has always been significant and it has become a driver in its own right for the perpetual state of conflict with Pakistan and a reality which has the potential for keeping the Sino-Indian relations adversarial.

The indelible factors of geography in terms of ‘location,’ ‘space’ and ‘terrain’ in shaping the destiny of nations remains profound. The conflict that has been going on ‘for’ and ‘in’ the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) for seven decades is a prime example; it is the State’s locational position on the face of the earth for China, India and Pakistan that is driving the triangular competition in which Pakistan’s virulence is being used both as the means to ‘contain’ India, and her territory, including what she occupies to act as a spring board for China’s regional outreach.

Contributing to the factors of geography are vestiges of the past. Shadows of history fall long and keep festering if the end state is allowed to remain open ended and if actions are not grounded in strategic logic. Such has been the case of Kashmir – both in handling Pakistan and China and failing to integrate the Kashmiri people. In the absence of the national will to correct what the Chinese call as ‘historic mistakes,’ outrages in the form of periodic sabre rattling and violence would continue – Keran and Samba are merely the recent of the many examples. While mistakes of the past cannot be undone and war is never a good option, corrective measures within a well calibrated operating matrix are always possible.

Though stating the obvious, it is important to highlight that the map is intended to draw attention to the adverse balance sheet after seven decades of conflict; out of the 2,22,236 square kms that originally comprised the Princely State of J & K, 56 percent has already passed under the control of China and Pakistan. The mutilated state of J&K is marked in black and red respectively-lines that have been drawn with blood of soldiers who continue their unending vigil in the absence of a coherent national strategy. At the same time the map reiterates Kashmir’s geographical proximity with Afghanistan, with which it shares a land border, and the proximity of the energy rich Central Asian Republics. Kashmir’s ‘locational’ relevance for India, China and Pakistan has always been significant and it has become a driver in its own right for the perpetual state of conflict with Pakistan and a reality which has the potential for keeping the Sino-Indian relations adversarial.

The triangular strategic competition between China and Pakistan on one side and India on the other is remicent of the Great Game of yesteryears; the aims and ends may have changed, but Kashmir’s strategic value as an avenue for Great Powers, remains a significant factor for conflict. China wants to develop her Silk Route through her territory (Gilgit-Baltistan) and India (ideally) would like to develop energy routes to the CAR nations through Afghanistan, which are best accessed through her territory/Pakistan. Since the aims are not complementary and there is no reason to expect a diplomatic solution, the ‘K’ factor and the dynamics it generates would add to the volatility and exacerbate the competition. If the frequency and scale of incidents of the current year are any indication, preliminary moves for setting the stage to exploit the post 2014 situation are already underway.

Which India does America Want?

By Prakash Katoch

The question which India does America want is intriguing for there are no two India’s but then does America want a strong India or a weak one – that is the difficult part. There are no straight answers. Ask official establishments of both India and US and the answer is of course a strong India but closer examination indicates hosts of ambiguities akin the Bush’s remark that ‘India has to fall in place’, a statement that can be construed any which way.

Declassified 1962 vintage US documents disclose US view that India and China should never be permitted to join hands as that would not be in US interests, implying they should remain at loggerheads. Ensuing years have been worse. Gary Bass, the Princeton historian, in his latest book 'The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide' reveals how US President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger supported Pakistani military dictatorship’s brutally quashing results of a historic free election in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), how Nixon-Kissinger hated India and Indira Gandhi and tried their level best to oppose any Indian action despite the Pakistani army crackdown killing hundreds of thousands of people and sending 10 million refugees fleeing to India - one of the worst humanitarian crisis of the 20th century. Bass writes further that they even secretly encouraged China to mass troops on their Indian border and illegally supplied weapons to the Pakistani army, all while censoring American officials who dared to speak up. The authenticity of this cannot be doubted with these facts based on White House tapes. Bass says that Kissinger proposed three “dangerous” initiatives against India: illegally allow Iran and Jordan to send squadrons of US supplied aircraft to Pakistan; secretly ask China to mass its troops on the border with India, and; deploy a US aircraft carrier group in Bay of Bengal to threaten India. He urged Nixon to stun India with all three moves simultaneously. Bass goes on to say, “In fact, to help Pakistan, Nixon and Kissinger knowingly broke US law, and did so with the full awareness of George H W Bush, H R Haldeman, Alexander Haig and others.”

Recently at the UN General Assembly, Obama said, "The US has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries…The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn't borne out by America's current policy or public opinion." What Obama presented to global leaders is an image of America as a reluctant superpower, ready to confront Iran's nukes and kill its enemies with targeted drone strikes, but unprepared to embark on open-ended military missions in Syria and other troubled countries. Defeat in Afghanistan, cumulative losses in Iraq-Afghanistan and strong public opinion at home has obviously forced the new US foreign doctrine of switching from direct military domination to more subtle manipulation, controlled engagement and boots on ground replaced by proxies but in the case of India, US manipulation has been ongoing for decades more in the interest of Pakistan and China. This, even despite occurrences like India downplaying the USA NSA snooping scandal while Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian President has thrown it back at the US.

Glenn Greenwald wrote in the Guardian that more the US knows about what other countries are doing, not just their governments but their companies and populations, the more power the US has vis-à-vis that country. But do other nations do like US NSA and does the argument that everyone snoops on governments and diplomatic missions hold while also claiming moral high ground as the global policeman? Doesn’t this snooping include blackmailing political hierarchy of the target country to facilitate geopolitical maneuvering to suit US interests? 

It is no secret that cartographic aggression of India affecting J&K and India’s northeast was first initiated in the US, by no means innocent as it is made to be. No statements emerge from the US on Chinese aggressive actions against India including recent incursions and intrusions. But then speculation is ripe that US is going to ask its allies, even Japan, to avoid actions which displease or provoke China – indirectly reassuring China. In the same stream, Think Tanks in both US and Canada were actively engaged in planting suggestions for India to withdraw from Siachen to consolidate China-Pakistan Himalayan honeymoon.

Pak Regulars Combine with LeT, Mujahids, and Taliban against India

09 Oct , 2013

It is not surprising that India’s lack of strategic culture denies policy makers to think beyond Border Action Teams (BAT). Whether the BAT obsession is because of the penchant for cricket diplomacy is not known. This too maybe relevant to Pakistan but Chinese don’t play cricket. Yet, pundits attribute deep PLA intrusions to Chinese Border Regiments, who incidentally are very much directly under PLA not that this is not known especially to our mandarin speakers including the NSA.

Why has the Defence Minister not given any statement in last so many days? Wasn’t the daily situation report on his and the Prime Minister’s table every morning? Or is he too busy planning the joint military exercise with PLA this month?

Through the article, ‘Another Kargil in Keran Sector?’ published in these columns on 3rd October, I had pointed out that the massive intrusion in Keran Sector since 22nd September was deliberately kept under wraps to facilitate the Prime Minister meet Nawaz Sharif in New York – a shame. Whether the Army has been forced now by the political masters (under media pressure) to call off the operation and reduce it to ‘mopping up’ is the bulk opinion in civil circles but more pertinently, the following questions are being asked:

Why has the Defence Minister not given any statement in last so many days? Wasn’t the daily situation report on his and the Prime Minister’s table every morning? Or is he too busy planning the joint military exercise with PLA this month?

If the intruders had occupied an abandoned village, why were they not subjected to concentrated artillery fire and blown to pieces especially since they were on higher ground?
Did we not learn the above lesson from the Kargil conflict?

Was the Army stopped by the political authority from doing so?

The Army Chiefs explanation that “we respect the ceasefire” is laughable in face of repeated Pakistani breaches and wasn’t this intrusion serious enough to blast the Pakistani post (s) itself that facilitated this intrusion?

When the intruders were assessed as 30-40, how many are still inside if only eight bodies were found? Do you expect us to believe that balance bodies were “dragged back” across the LC?
Is the army content with a brigade strength three sided cordon of the intruders, using Special Forces to flush the intruders like regular infantry and finally getting less than one third of the intruders?

Has the abandoned village area been occupied now? If not, what prevents repeat of similar intrusion?

Isn’t the Army concerned about the host of questions in TV debates about beatings taken in recent months or is it content with old timers writings about how they dealt with similar situations in their time?

How to Talk to the Taliban

October 9, 2013

Pakistan's recent release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban's second in command, in an effort to catalyze a peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban has not brought an end - or even pause - to the Taliban's violent attacks on Afghans, Americans, or friends and allies.

During my tenure as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, SRAP, from 2011 to 2012, we often found ourselves reacting to Taliban actions which, in their frequency and brutality, called into question the Taliban's commitment to creating a peace process, especially the September 2011 murder of then chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, by a suicide bomber posing as Taliban negotiator who had come to "discuss peace."

Attacks like these prompt many to ask: Why bother talking to the Taliban? The answer is that, as both President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear while I served as special representative, the war in Afghanistan is going to end politically and we would either shape that end or be shaped by it. If there is ever to be peace in Afghanistan, Afghans will need to talk to other Afghans about the future of Afghanistan. Since the Taliban today officially refuses to talk to Kabul's representatives, getting to these talks might require a US effort to help open the door.

In February 2011, we were presented with an opportunity to do just that. An allied government had put the US in contact with someone who appeared to be an empowered representative of the Taliban. The contact, while preliminary, offered the intriguing possibility of a direct conversation with the Taliban - a conversation which, we hoped, could create the context for the Afghan government and the Taliban to talk.

Those US-Taliban talks, which lasted from mid-2011 to March 2012, ultimately failed. While many details rightly remain classified, here are three of the lessons I learned sitting across the negotiating table from the Taliban that may be helpful to those who may seek to reopen the dialogue with them or others who need to talk to an insurgent group in some present or future conflict:

Set clear conditions and moral guidelines and stick to them. These need not be preconditions. Indeed, before talks with the Taliban began, Secretary Clinton made clear that while the US had no preconditions for talking to them, Washington would support reconciliation with only those insurgents who met three important end conditions: Break with al Qaeda, end violence, and live inside an Afghan Constitution that guarantees the rights of all individuals, especially women.

The talks with the Taliban were designed to create a series of confidence-building measures, or CBMs, consistent with these principles and designed to open the door for Afghans to talk with other Afghans about the future of Afghanistan. The CBMs included a requirement that the Taliban make a public statement distancing themselves from international terrorism and accepting the need for an Afghan political process. They also included the opening of a Taliban political office in Doha, which we made clear could not represent the headquarters of an alternative Afghan government, be an insurgent recruiting station or a venue of raising money to support the insurgency. They also involved the possible transfer of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo and the release of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since 2009.

Pakistani Taliban Commanders in Waziristan Reject Peace Talks With Islamabad

In Pakistan’s Pashtun Tribal Belt, Taliban Reject Peace Talks

October 9, 2013

WAZIRISTAN, Pakistan — The Pakistani Taliban envoy drew his white trousers up before settling on the floor of a mud-walled house in Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun tribal region near the Afghan border.

Bodyguards, their long hair spilling out from traditional flat caps, listened warily for the occasional sound of a drone aircraft overhead.

Carefully, Shahidullah Shahid laid out the conditions for peace talks with the Pakistani government: release all Taliban prisoners, withdraw the army from the tribal areas where the Taliban are entrenched, and stop U.S. drone strikes.

The Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of factions operating independently from their Afghan Taliban allies, are fighting to set up an Islamic state in Pakistan but the government is trying to negotiate a peace settlement to end years of fighting.

"Drones really stop us from moving freely in the area," Shahid, the main spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, told a small group of reporters on a recent visit to Waziristan.

"But even if our enemies use an atomic bomb, we would not stop our jihad."

Despite the government’s push for talks, violence has risen sharply since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power in a May election. Churches, buses and markets have all been hit, reflecting the Taliban’s resolve to keep fighting.

"Islam doesn’t need democracy. Islam itself is a complete system," Shahid said, adding that there had been no direct peace contacts between Sharif’s representatives and the Taliban.

Taliban officials who escorted Reuters on the trip requested that the exact location of the interview not be revealed.

Pakistan sponsored the rise of the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan in the 1990s but now faces its own home-grown insurgency. It is keen to find a lasting solution to the problem which has devastated communities and ruined the economy.

"At the start of negotiations, you don’t threaten them, you speak from a position of strength but you don’t try to irritate them," Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s foreign policy chief, said last month.


Pakistan’s semi-autonomous Pashtun lands along the Afghan border, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), have never been brought under the full control of any government.

Portrait of an Afghan Assassin

No one is sure what made a 17-year-old poetry-writing cop gun down four Marines. But somewhere in his story is the key to whether we'll ever get out of Afghanistan.

Oct. 7, 2013 

August 10, 2012, was the 22nd day of Ramadan, the holy month when devout Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. Summer days in southern Afghanistan are long and brutally hot, and the few dozen officers at the Garmsir headquarters of the Afghan National Police were relieved when, as the light slanted low over the Helmand River, the sunset call to prayer finally sounded. After the evening meal, no one paid much attention as Aynuddin, the 17-year-old assistant to the police chief, walked into the station, picked up an AK-47, and headed toward the open-air gym out back.

There were seven Marines in the gym that night, part of a police-training team that lived on the second floor of the dun-colored police station. They liked to use the gym—a makeshift cluster of weights and equipment under camouflage netting in a corner of the yard—after dusk, when the heat had begun to dissipate. Hospital corpsman David Oliver, a buff, blond, 24-year-old medic, was skipping rope in the corner. Two younger Marines, Greg "Buck" Buckley Jr [1]. and Richard "Richie" Rivera, were doing dumbbell curls, yelling "Beach Day!" each time they brought the weights to their shoulders.

Members of the close-knit group had fantasized about Beach Day since the unit landed in Garmsir four months earlier. Once they arrived back at their base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii [2], this long-awaited day would be dedicated to women, waves, and booze, the things they missed most in dusty Afghanistan. They had planned every moment—where they'd stay, who'd carry the cooler and who the boom box. In just 40 hours they would begin the journey home. That's why 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson had joined them. He was trying to get in better shape for his wife.
"I don't feel safe here at all," Greg Buckley Jr. told his dad. "I want to come home. I'm telling you, somthing's going to happen to me here."

The end of the deployment couldn't come soon enough. Garmsir wasn't exactly the action-packed war zone that they had been hoping for. Southern Helmand was largely peaceful now [3], three years after the30,000-troop surge [4] ordered by President Obama began in earnest, and none of them had fired a single shot in battle. Mentoring the Garmsir police force was a thankless task that they had come to loathe. It wasn't just that the Afghan police were shockingly ill-trained and corrupt, or that the Marines spent their days teaching them the most rudimentary of tasks, such as using handcuffs or tourniquets. What was really galling was that the police clearly didn't want them there. "The Afghans didn't really give a shit," Oliver recalled. "We're supposed to be helping them, and it's hard for us to understand that these guys really do not want our help."

Lurking behind the resentment was a gnawing concern: that one of the cops might turn on the Marines without warning. So-called green-on-blue (or insider) attacks had been sweeping Afghanistan [5], leaving dozens of Americans dead. Innocent frictions between the two sides in Garmsir—such as arguments over living space—now took on a more menacing tone. The Marines felt like they were walking on eggshells. "I didn't ever feel safe," Oliver said. "It was, 'Be aware, never trust them, always have your weapon on you.'" But that evening he and some of the other Marines had left their pistols on the weight rack. They were almost home free.

Aynuddin stepped into the gym and leveled his rifle.

China’s Dams: A Security Challenge for South Asia

October 1, 2013

China’s proposed dams on the Yaluzangbu River in Dagu, Jiacha, Jiexu and Zangmu have added a new roadblock to improving Sino-Indian relations. What has aggravated tensions is China’s reluctance to accede to India’s call for a water commission or an inter-governmental dialogue or a treaty. Although Indian and Chinese officials have held talks and the latter have agreed to share hydrological information through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Brahmaputra and the Sutlej in flood season, the absence of a bilateral treaty makes it next to impossible for India to verify China’s claims as of now.

China’s determination to implement the Great South-North Water Diversion (SNWD) Project could have serious environmental implications for China and its neighbouring countries by affecting the flow of rivers downstream. The project consists of three stages – eastern, central and western routes – out of which the first two stages involve diversion of waters from China’s internal rivers while the third has transboundary ramifications, especially for South Asia. The western route leg targets the Salween, the Mekong, the Brahmaputra and the Jinsha. Some reports even suggest that China is planning to build the world’s largest dam and hydropower station on the Brahmaputra at the Great Bend (where the river takes a U-turn to enter the plains of Assam via Arunachal Pradesh). Approximately, 354 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water flows from Tibet to India out of which 131 BCM is accounted in the Brahmaputra River; on this river alone China is allegedly planning to build twenty-eight dams.

China’s lack of transparency has left the governments in India and Bangladesh guessing about its future actions with respect to its diversion plans. One important point that needs to be taken into account while analysing these diversion projects from the point of view of the lower riparian countries is that the same river has an average run-off of 550 BCM of water when it reaches Bangladesh due to monsoonal waters and the water contributed by tributaries. Therefore, a dam intended for hydropower generation might not make any difference to the run-off. Water diversion during monsoons could be a blessing in disguise as the excess waters have been a cause for floods in both India (particularly Assam Valley) and Bangladesh.

However, if China diverts during the entire year, it could lead to damaging consequences for the two countries. Also, the possibility of contamination, sedimentation and flash floods is high. India has been arguing that since it has 58 percent of the total Brahmaputra drainage basin and is dependent on it for almost 30 percent of the country’s water resources and 41 percent of its total hydropower resources while China controls only 20 percent of the basin, India has a greater right to the river’s resources.

The Yangtze River on which the Three Gorges Dam has been built is the source of waters for the first two legs of this grand project. Brahmaputra River could be afflicted by the same problems that the Yangtze has been over the past few years. This would affect India and Bangladesh directly. Moreover, the areas where these dams are being proposed to be built are seismically unstable.

Accusations have also been levelled against China for flash floods in Arunachal Pradesh in the past, which were supposedly caused by a breach in the upstream dam in Tibet that raised the level of the Brahmaputra by more than thirty metres. Similarly, Himachal Pradesh has also been affected allegedly by Chinese dam-building activities in the form of floods in 2000, 2001 and 2005.

China Can Attack Taiwan By 2020, Taipei Says

By Zachary Keck,
October 9, 2013

China is acquiring the capabilities to mount a full attack on Taiwan by 2020, Taipei said in a biennial defense report on Monday.

In the 2013 ROC National Defense Report, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) says that China will have the capability to forcibly reunite Taiwan and mainland by the year 2020. Focus Taiwan summarized the report as saying that China is building up its “combat capabilities to a level where it could launch an all-out attack on Taiwan, including the outlying islands.”

Among these capabilities, according to the report, China currently has 1,000 missiles aimed at Taiwan and this number has been on the rise. The report added that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) “has stationed a large number of advanced aircraft within unrefueled range of Taiwan, providing them with a significant capability to conduct air superiority and ground operations against Taiwan.”

In the report, the MND also expresses concern about China’s procurement of two large amphibious assault ships, which it compares to the Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) ships used by the U.S. Navy.

It also noted that Beijing is acquiring a number of capabilities—notably, the DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM)—and perfecting so-called “combined operations” in order to have the necessary capabilities to deter third parties from intervening during a Chinese assault on Taiwan.

China is meanwhile constructing a multi-layered missile defense system to limit the amount of retaliation Taiwan can bring to bear against mainland China during an attack. “A number of long-range air defense systems provide strong layers of defense against a counterattack in mainland China,” the report said, Focus Taiwan reported.

Cheng Yun-peng, director-general of the MND's Department of Strategic Planning, said in a press conference this week that the 2020 timeframe is merely a rough estimate of when China would have the capabilities to overrun the island.

The National Defense Report noted that Taiwan is seeking to counter China’s moves by focusing on an asymmetrical homeland defense strategy. Cheng specifically alluded to the Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missiles Taiwan has developed to counter an amphibious assault from PLA forces.

Taiwan relies on the United States to provide much of its advanced weaponry. Earlier this month the U.S.delivered the first of twelve P-3C Orion patrol aircraft it is selling to Taiwan. The P-3C Orion is used for anti-submarine operations.

China dreams real, we only fantasise

10 October 2013 

Beijing is pushing ahead forcefully with a series of programmes that will give it a technological edge in defence needs, for now and for the future. Sadly, India is still saddled with old-world equipment

The untimely death of Arun Kumar Bal, the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, negotiating the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft purchase, will delay further India’s military preparedness. It is now unlikely that Delhi will sign the ‘deal of the century’ for 126 Rafale fighters from Dassault Aviation during the current Fiscal Year 2013 (in other words before the Lok Sabha election). On October 4, during a Press conference Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said that appointing Bal’s successor and familiarising the new appointee with the complexities of the MMRCA negotiations could take four months, if not longer.

The same day, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Defence Minister, remained optimistic. “It is logical that there should be in-depth technical and financial discussions”, he pointed out. This raises another related issue: That of Chinese defence preparedness and India’s lack of it.

A few months ago, The People’s Daily provided some details on the Chinese Dream, so dear to President Xi Jinping. The mouthpiece of the Communist Party explains: “The Chinese dream is a dream for peace. Adhering to the peaceful development is China’s choice of the times. China stands for peace settlement for global disputes and issues and the new security concept of mutual trust, mutual benefit and cooperation... The Chinese dream belongs to the world.”

Well, it is unfortunate that recent events on the ground did not reflect these high philosophical objectives. The South China Sea, the East China Sea as well as the Himalayan borders between India and China, (whether it is in Ladakh, Uttarakhand or Arunachal Pradesh), have only witnessed tension, not harmony.

It is, however, certain that India has to learn something from China in terms of ‘dreaming’. But let us not fool ourselves — the true objective behind the Chinese Dream is to make China a dominant, self-reliant superpower.

Very early in its history, the Chinese Communist leadership realised that the great renaissance of the Chinese nation was dependent on ‘innovation with Chinese characteristics’. Beijing has now taken decisive actions to remedy some of the nation’s deficiencies in this field; India has not yet.

On June 22, 2013, The South China Morning Post affirmed: “China’s top science advisers have listed 19 projects as the research priorities of the next decade. They include quantum telecommunications and a high-performance jet engine that could drastically improve the capacity of its indigenous fighter jets.”

According to the Hong Kong-based newspaper, the report was prepared by the Chinese Academy of Sciences as a roadmap for breaking into the American dominance in domains as diverse as military, space, new materials, energy and agriculture.

Why the Bestselling Chinese Book of All Time Is Out of Print

By Isaac Stone Fish 
October 9, 2013

During the disastrous decade-long Cultural Revolution, The Quotations of Chairman Mao, a slender volume of the leader's sayings, replaced literature and learning. People would sometimes greet each other using quotes from the book, or give the books as wedding gifts. For hundreds of millions of Chinese in the 1960s, it's probably safe to say Quotations was the only book they owned. While statistics are imprecise, perhaps a billion or more copies circulated during the Cultural Revolution, making it the most widely distributed book in history besides the Bible.

Much has changed in China since the 1970s -- including the little-known fact that Quotations is now out of print. These days, no Chinese publishing house prints Quotations (though it's unclear whether that's because it's illegal to do so or because or no one wants to try their luck). A search for The Quotations of Chairman Mao on the Chinese version of Amazon returns hundreds of responses -- including The Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Proverbs of Chairman Mao, and a wallet designed from The Quotations of Chairman Mao, which sells for $6.50 and is made from a "fashionable canvas" material. You can even buy -- no joke -- a disco remix of the Quotations. But you cannot buy the book itself. A search in Dangdang, a Chinese online bookseller, returns even more limited results. To legally publish in China requires a Book Number-- a registration system that allows for the monitoring of printed materials -- and Quotations apparently lacks one.

China’s Investment Addiction

Oct. 7, 2013
Yu Yongding was President of the China Society of World Economics and Director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He has also served as a me…Full profile 

BEIJING – China’s economy slowed unexpectedly in the second quarter of this year. Just as unexpectedly, most data released since July suggest that China’s growth has stabilized. Markets, not surprisingly, have breathed a collective sigh of relief. But should investors still be nervous?Illustration by Paul Lachine

Currently, the most severe problem confronting Chinese authorities is overcapacity. For example, China’s annual production capacity for crude steel is one billion tons, but its total output in 2012 was 720 million tons – a capacity utilization rate of 72%. More strikingly, the steel industry’s profitability was just 0.04% in 2012. Indeed, the profit on two tons of steel was just about enough to buy a lollipop. So far this year, the average profitability of China’s top 500 companies is 4.34%, down 33 basis points from 2012.

Some say that today’s overcapacity is a result of China’s past overinvestment. Others attribute it to a lack of effective demand. The government seems to come down in the middle.

On one hand, the authorities have ordered thousands of companies to reduce capacity. On the other hand, the government has introduced some “mini-stimulus” measures, ranging from exemptions for “micro firms” from business and sales taxes to pressure on banks to increase loans to exporters.

The authorities’ official line is that China’s growth model requires less investment and more consumption. But not all Chinese economists agree. They argue that capital stock is the key factor for growth, and that China’s per capita capital stock is still low relative to developed countries, which implies considerable scope for further investment.

To be sure, capital accumulation is a driving force of economic growth, and catching up with developed-country income levels implies that China must increase its capital stock in the long run. But what is at issue is not the size of the capital stock, or even the level of investment; the problem is the growth rate of investment, which has been significantly higher than that of GDP for decades.

According to official statistics, China’s investment rate is approaching 50% of GDP. Given absorption constraints, capital efficiency has been falling steadily amid increasing deadweight. If environmental damage caused by breakneck investment growth were taken into account, China’s capital efficiency would be even lower.

Human capital and technological progress are as important to economic growth as physical capital and labor, if not more so. If resource allocation is skewed toward physical capital at the expense of accumulating human capital – for which adequate consumption is indispensable – economic growth would be more likely to slow than rise. So China should reduce the growth rate of investment and increase that of consumption, allowing the investment rate to settle at a more sustainable level.

Of course, it is not entirely untrue that China’s overcapacity reflects a shortfall of effective demand. But where can effective demand come from?

Will Balancing Against China Provoke or Deter It?

By Zachary Keck
October 10, 2013

Earlier this week, China criticized Australia, Japan and the U.S. and warned the three powers not to get involved in its disputes in the South and East China Seas.

In response to a trilateral statement issued by Australia, Japan and the U.S., a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson reportedly stated, “The United States, Japan and Australia are allies but this should not become an excuse to interfere in territorial disputes, otherwise it will only make the problems more complicated and harm the interests of all parties.”

The spokesperson added: “We urge the relevant countries to respect facts, distinguish right from wrong, be cautious, and stop all words and deeds that are not beneficial to the proper handling of the issue and undermine regional stability.”

A different spokesperson from China’s Foreign Ministry was separately quoted as saying, “Playing up so-called maritime security issue goes against real efforts for the freedom and security of navigation.”

These statements were undoubtedly aimed at playing to the sentiment in the region—which is particularly strong in many Southeast Asian nations—that balancing against China’s potential misuse of power will unnecessarily escalate tensions and provoke Beijing into taking assertive or aggressive actions. Indeed, statesmen and diplomats from all nations go to extraordinary lengths to disavow the notion that any of their actions, including those taken with allies or strategic partners, are aimed at any particular country. In the context of the Asia-Pacific, when a nation(s) says that their actions are not directed at any particular country, this more often than not means that they are not directed at China. These assurances often strain credulity, however, which is why China has such a hard time accepting them.

Even so, the notion that balancing or hedging against China will provoke it is not entirely without merit. As Larry Wortzel and Henry Kissinger have pointed out, Beijing has a history of pursuing what might be called “preemptive self-defense” or “offensive deterrence,” and its current “active defense” policy seems to capture the essence of this doctrine.

Further, so far as the balancing or hedging against China consists of forming or strengthening alliances or strategic partnerships, the issues of chain gangs and entrapment must be considered. Under this scenario, a weaker ally might become emboldened by its alliances and therefore take greater risks in confronting or challenging China. This could then drag the larger allies into conflict with China.

That being said, the argument that forming alliances or internally balancing against China is likely to provoke it is contrary to international relations theory 101. As any introductory IR class teaches, the more efficient neighbors are in balancing against a powerful regional state, the more likely they are to deter it from challenging the status quo or, should that fail, defeat its attempts to alter the status quo.

There are plenty of cases demonstrating that a lack of balancing or the perception of it has encouraged military adventurism in the past. For example, in establishing the modern German state, Bismarck took great pains to keep his potential enemies divided, thereby preventing an efficient balancing coalition from forming against him. On the other hand, the “cult of the offensive” prior to WWI tempted Germany into believing that it could quickly eliminate France from the war before turning its sights on Russia. This failed, of course, and Berlin took note. The next time it sought hegemony over Europe, Hitler made sure to secure a separate peace with Stalin (despite clashing ideologies) before taking actions that ran a high risk of leading France and the U.K. to declare war against Germany.