12 October 2013

Al-Qaeda set to burn the Ganga Post 2014

Issue Net Edition | Date : 12 Oct , 2013


The year 2014 is very important to many of us, in the Indian sub-continent for some reason or other. The importance of which is being discussed on the television, the radio and in the print media at length as to what will happen in Afghanistan after the Americans pull out next year, who will lead the Pak army and who shall be the Prime Minister of India and many other questions which will effect this region as a whole thereafter. The uncertainty sometimes makes you shiver, more so when Al Qaeda as a subject gets attached to the destiny of the millions in our sub continent.
Recent revelation by Yasin Bhatkal during his interrogation by NIA that the Indian Mujahideen is in process of teaming up with the world’s most dreaded terror outfit the Al-Qaeda, which is in its final stages.

A landmark event that will take place in this region shortly would be the withdrawal of the American led NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014. The vacuum of power in the most hostile region on this earth will witness a scramble and jostling for the space in question by different forces.  What will be the fallout of this draw down, has been commented by many analysts quiet often. What emerges from the debate is a high probability of resurgence of Taliban and Al-Qaeda on the political landscape of Af-Pak region. If that be so, should it be a reasonable assumption to make of a future possibility of India coming under the devastating influence of Al-Qaeda terror. This scenario poses  a serious threat of not only altering the lives of millions, but also the future emergence of India as a major global economic and a strategic player in times ahead.

When we run a scan, through our history it emerges that despite all the differences which surfaces between the followers of the two main religions in India quiet off and on, the relations amongst these communities have been cordial over the centuries. There are many examples where the members of both the communities have fought shoulder to shoulder like in the case of 1857 war of independence for the honour of their mother land. This unique synergy has been central theme to the idea of Hindustan and Hindustaniayt, which I fear, is now under threat from radical Islam emanating from Af-Pak region and fuelled by fanatics from amongst the majority in India. As the radical ideology spreads and displaces the Sufi essence of Islam in India the forces like Al-Qaeda can take advantage of furthering their ulterior motives. This rather pessimistic depiction of our future may not be out of context and I have tried to reason it out in the succeeding paragraphs.

Recently there was an article written by a Pakistani journalist in India’s leading news daily recently, which gave an insight into the spread of Al-Qaeda network in Pak Punjab with the active help of Jamat-e-Islami (JeI). JeI has a strong presence in various schools and colleges of Punjab in form of Jamat-e-Talaba (JeT). They were responsible for carrying out recruitment for the erstwhile Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The role played by the Punjabis in that regime gets highlighted by the fact that out of 9000 Taliban prisoners held by the Americans, 6000 were Pakistani Punjabis. Over the years the role of JeI has remained unchanged and that is to carry out indoctrination at colleges and school across Punjab and recruit the most diehard fanatics for Al-Qaeda, Taliban and now even the Tehreek- e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP).  The infamous Hafeez Sayeed of Jamat-ul-Dawa (JuD) is also an outcrop of this very Jamat (JeI). Al-Qaeda is busy strengthening its organisation in Punjab alongside recruiting new cadres, for a showdown with Afghan Military post American withdrawal in 2014.


The Al-Qaeda is already in league with Afghan Taliban and TTP fighting for a common goal of establishing a Nizam based on Shariat in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Taoiba (LeT) and JuD joining hands with Al-Qaeda will not only add up to strengthen this terror machinery in Af-Pak region but will also pose a serious challenge to all  the countries of South Asia.

Muzaffarnagar riots should give an insight in to the extent the radicalisation that has taken place in the society at large. They should also be seen as an intelligence failure in failing to identify the areas and pockets where sophisticated weapons have made way.

ISI may be trying hard to balance the Jihadi power in Pakistan’s favour; however it does not appear to be working correctly. Though the Pak army has left no stone unturned in supporting Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda with a sole aim of extending its influence in Afghanistan post American withdrawal and use that country as Pakistan’s strategic space during any future conflict with India. However TTP is posing a real danger to the establishment and larger stability of Pakistan itself. The Pak army is indeed treading on a very thin and a dangerous line, the efforts to keep the Afghan Jihadi outfits separated from Kashmiri Jihadi groups, I suspect these efforts are failing. The very future of Pakistan to me appears so bleak in this back drop.
Recent revelation by Yasin Bhatkal during his interrogation by NIA that the Indian Mujahideen (IM) is in process of teaming up with the world’s most dreaded terror outfit the Al-Qaeda, which is in its final stages. The only issue that needs to be settled is whether the IM will be in an assisting role or will merge with Al-Qaeda.

As per Bhatkal, ISI is reportedly annoyed with this latest move of IM and it should be a testimony to the reality that Pak army is now unable to keep the Afghani and Kashmiri Jihadi organisations separated any more. In the worst case scenario, if all these terror outfits group under Al-Qaeda, they will have a serious potential of unleashing havoc from Gawadar in Baluchistan to Yangon in Myanmar and Xinxiang in China to Kanyakumari in South India.

As an Indian what should worry us is the steady spread of Wahhabi philosophy and Deobandi Ideology which as a design is being facilitated through the net work of madrasas that are dotted all across the country, especially so in the states of UP, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. Any attempt by the government to regulate them is met with a stern opposition from various quarters; this being often termed, as an effort to suppress the minorities or a move said to be violating the fundamental right to freedom of religion. Whatever be the administrative or the political compulsion, the net result is a rise in the numbers, who are graduating from such Madrasas that are receiving funds from the Middle East and propagate the Wahhabi philosophy thus threatening the our dominant Sufi culture.
Religion and caste based politics, mal governance supported by the wide spread corruption, high percentage of unemployed youth and lack of development makes the Gangetic plains an ideal turf for terrorist related activities.

Those who follow this subject closely will agree that the dynamics of minority majority relationship have undergone a drastic change since the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 and subsequently the Gujarat riots of 2002. Consequently the Muslim community in India today is gradually getting attracted towards the hard-line Deobandi ideology. SIMI and later the IM are a classical manifestation of such change in attitudes. The Indian states of UP and Bihar have been in the headlines for a number of high profile arrests of senior IM cadres, which only highlights the spread and extent of safe havens that may exist in these states. The earlier SIMI strong holds in UP, in the districts of Meerut, Aligarh, Kanpur, Azamgarh and Gorakhpur are reported to have a large number of sleeper cells of IM, which should be a serious cause of concern to the security establishment if the merger of the IM and Al Qaeda turns out to be a reality.

The Muzaffarnagar riots of Aug – Sep 2013 should not only be seen as an outcome of a political game plan as alleged by some or reflected as an administrative failure. These riots should give an insight in to the extent the radicalisation that has taken place in the society at large. They should also be seen as an intelligence failure in failing to identify the areas and pockets where sophisticated weapons have made way. It would be pertinent to highlight the fact that for the first time AK 47 has been used during the riots, probably at six to eight different places. The flag marching contingents of the Indian Army were also not spared and there were instances reported when the army was fired upon by such weapons. It should not be a surprise to the security establishment of India if they happen to confront a large number of such sophisticated weapons and other warlike stores in the Hindi heartland in near future. Religion and caste based politics, mal governance supported by the wide spread corruption, high percentage of unemployed youth and lack of development makes the Gangetic plains an ideal turf for terrorist related activities. The merger of IM and Al-Qaeda in such a case will definitely spell doom for the millions in this part of India. Al Qaeda will definitely exploit this situation to its advantage by expanding the existing support base of the IM and further lure those into its folds who have suffered during these riots.

Despite all the indicators and the early warnings, Indian politicians appear to be playing with the destiny of our country. This can be stated out of the fact that a lot of damage has been done to the intelligence and security setup for cheap political gains. The political bosses have used institution against institution to settle political scores without an iota of concern for the national security. Today the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has its credentials under the question mark over the Israt Jahan’s case. The Indian Army’s, Technical Support Division (TSD), a fantastic tool that was highly effective in monitoring conversation of our enemy commanders and terrorist leaders, thus forewarning us of their intent, now unfortunately lies disbanded. All this has been sacrificed due to a tussle between the former chief, Gen VK Singh, his Successor, Gen Bikram Singh, the Government and ever suspicious bureaucracy. Whatever is the justification, India and the Indians are the net losers.

Instead of strengthening our institutions in gearing up for the security challenges that lay ahead, our leaders have systematically weakened them. It was our late Prime Minister Mr IK Gujral who during his brief stint, ordered the shutdown of special operations desk of RAW leading to major gap in India’s intelligence capabilities. A similar act has been performed by Dr Manmohan Singh and his government in weakening the IB and the Military Intelligence, as it appears.

India needs to re calibrate its strategy in dealing with the challenges of internal security.
India desperately needs a system on the lines of American Home Land Security. An effort to that effect was made by our then home minister, Mr Chidambaram by formulating norms for National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). The NCTC along with NIA could have proved very effective in checking the growing menace of terrorism. Unfortunately all such efforts have been stalled by petty party politics riding over the larger national interests.

India needs to re calibrate its strategy in dealing with the challenges of internal security. The effort should be towards the prevention rather than finding a cure later. If the nation fails to read the threat looming large on our western horizon, then the apprehension of many will be a hard reality; soon we would be reading the headlines of car bombings, killing innocent people by hundreds. A sound counter strategy has to be put in place before the IM and the Al Qaeda merge as one. In my opinion the following should be the counter strategy:
  • Re raise the intelligence gathering unit; the Technical Support Division of the MoD.
  • Strengthen the intelligence apparatus of the centre and the states by the creation of NCTC at the earliest.
  • Revive the Special Operation desk of the RAW and carry out targeted elimination of the leadership of Al Qaeda, Taliban and the JeI in Af-Pak region.
  • India should get into collaboration with the CIA and the Mosad at the operational level and exercise covert and overt options in containing and eliminating the terror threat to this region.
  • Initiate an aggressive psychological warfare like campaign, to nullify the spread of the Wahabbi philosophy.
  • Give patronage to the institutions, artists, academicians and religious leaders who work towards the spreading and strengthening Sufism.
  • Map the funding and regulate the education being imparted at various Madrasas.
  • Development and education in the areas identified as fertile breeding grounds for terror to be a top priority of the government over all other issues of administration.
My anxiety increases further as I try to find the answer to the question; Will the Gangetic plains be the future battle ground of Al-Qaeda post 2014?

http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/al-qaeda-set-to-burn-the-ganga-post-2014/




Defence PSUs: The Great Betrayal

Issue Vol 24.4 Oct-Dec 2009 | Date : 05 Oct , 2013


Saras

When the Saras crashed, killing its crew, the deafening silence in the media, as also from those who know about flight testing, design and manufacture of aeroplanes, and the unforeseen dangers in this activity, was rudely apparent. What is the Saras for? Who would use it? What kind of pilots would fly such a piece of aeronautical disingenuity? Was the Saras made to order, or was it created without any Qualitative Requirements? Which potential airline or military user was consulted before the Saras design was frozen? Which certification agency oversaw the progress of Saras from the drawing board to the shop floor, and into the air? These and many more questions are out of public domain, and alas, neither the media, nor the aeronautical engineering community, nor the Office of Scientific Adviser (SA)  to the Raksha Mantri (RM), nor the Parliament, nor the Defence Ministry have demanded answers from the Designers or the Flight Testing agency controlling the Saras programme.

No chief of the IAF will ever buy the Saras. Which VIP will fly in this piece of unreliable aeronautics?
Whither Accountability. What can one say about the accountability of these organisations? Three precious lives of the Indian Air Force perished with the Saras. Why were they doing this job on an aeroplane which would never to be inducted into the IAF? Why was this piece of poor aeronautical engineering thrust upon the IAF?

Why Do the Armed Forces Get Unusable Weapons?
Enough Is Enough. It logically leads us to a very basic question – why did the IAF do this for a lemon of an aircraft? No chief of the IAF will ever buy the Saras. Which VIP will fly in this piece of unreliable aeronautics? Just because the National  Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) can make nothing better, must we accept it and then precipitate an avoidable tragedy? What are the credentials of the NAL to design aeroplanes? Are NAL designers willing to travel in the Saras? Indeed, the IAF must support indigenous industry, and it has done so for decades, many times against better judgment, and what is more, that it has sacrificed in men and efforts to boost indigenous technology. After 26/11 the clamour  was: “enough is enough”.

Is it not time for the Indian Armed Forces to say the same thing about the DRDO, specially after the Saras crash? Arguments and justification for PSUs/DRDO/Ord Factories continuing to design and manufacture what the Armed Forces do not want, will remain. It has to stop somewhere, maybe this accident should galvanize us into affirmative action to resist being burdened with weapons that we do not need today, and we will certainly not need tomorrow.

 I was staying at the BSF Mess, and a young constable asked me “Saab, why have we been given the INSAS rifle? It stops more often than it fires”. After pumping crores into Ordnance Factories, they make unreliable rifles for our jawans?

India’s Security in Jeopardy. Some classic examples of our R&D failures are the Arjun tank, INSAS rifle, Saras, Kaveri, Akaash, Nag, Indra Radar, and so many more unknown to me and India. During Aero India 2009, I was staying at the BSF Mess, and a young constable asked me “Saab, why have we been given the INSAS rifle? It stops more often than it fires”. After pumping crores into Ordnance Factories, they make unreliable rifles for our jawans? The recent revelations about DG Ordnance Factory Board, taking bribes from suppliers, tells us what is happening in that organization. What is worse, no one seems to want to remedy the malaise. We faujis have made so much fuss about the 6th Pay Commission, One Rank One Pension, Warrant of Precedence – fasts at Jantar Mantar, but no protest from any quarter, over all these years, about useless equipment being dumped upon the disciplined faujis? In turn the fauji fights and wins the battle. Is this not willful dereliction of duty by successive DRDO scientists, and their supreme commander, SA to RM? Each of them, without exception is guilty.

Understanding Nawaz Sharif

Issue Net Edition | Date : 10 Oct , 2013

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh in a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, in New York.

In the face of the recent revelations by well-placed sources that the Manmohan Singh government has been underplaying a series of border intrusions by and effective loss of Indian territories to China, it is understandable if many Indians do not exactly believe the Indian Army Chief Bikarm Singh when he asserts that the Indian troops have driven away and killed the Pakistani inflators in the Keran sector of Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir after nearly a fortnight-long battle. And it is all the more so when for the first time in Independent India’s history, the present government has systematically tried to create factions within the Army and leaked military secrets for petty political gains. General Singh is, however, spot- on when he says that the Pakistani Army and ISI need to be made “accountable” and forced to rein in their “nefarious agenda of actively supporting” jihadis factories churning out terrorists to wage covert war against India.
…ever since Sharif was elected last May as Pakistan’s new political executive for the third time, infiltration into India has increased, resulting in two major ambushes of our soldiers.

But who will rein in these jihadi elements in Pakistan? The recently elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif? Well, that is what our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and idealistic peaceniks think so. That was the reason why despite growing public pressure to the contrary, Manmohan Singh met in New York last month. But what have been the concrete results? Nothing. And this brings me to the issue of the limitations of peace talks with Pakistan. Let me explain the issue  through the following question-answer format.

Question: Is Sharif a man of peace?
Answer: One is not absolutely sure.
There is no doubt that the Pakistani Prime Minister has on numerous occasions talked of the virtues of peace with India. But he has not been implementing what he says. He signed the “historic” Lahore-Accord with then Prime Minister Atal behari Vajpayee in 1999. But it was immediately followed by Pakistan’s adventure in Kargil   and the resultant fourth war against India. Of course, he blames his then Army Chief Pervez Musharraf for stabbing him in his back, but the latter has a different story to tell. There are reports that the planning for Kargil-invasion was very much in the knowledge of Sharif. Only history will tell who- Sharif or Musharraf- is right.
Similarly ever since Sharif was elected last May as Pakistan’s new political executive for the third time, infiltration into India has increased, resulting in two major ambushes of our soldiers.  There has been an increasing regularity with which Pakistani soldiers violate the ceasefire across the Line of Control (LoC). In fact, Pakistan has violated ceasefire more than 120 times so far this year, the highest since 2003 when both countries agreed on the border truce. Around 93 violations took place in 2012, 51 in 2011 and 44 occasions in 2010. Likewise, since Sharif came to power, Pakistani diplomats have been hyperactive in internationalizing the Kashmir issue. In fact, Sharif himself spent considerable time in discussing Kashmir in his speech at the United Nations, just before meeting Manmohan Singh at New York.
If one looks at Nawaz Sharif’s political past, it becomes obvious that he has always been comfortable with the Islamists.

India in the South China Sea: Commercial Motives, Strategic Implications

Publication: China Brief Volume: 13 Issue: 20

October 10, 2013 04:21 PM Age: 6 hrs
 
Although India is not a party to the South China Sea dispute, in recent years—particularly since Secretary of State Hilary Clinton vigorously advocated freedom of navigation in the South China Sea at the Asian Regional Forum meeting in Hanoi in July 2010, and India endorsed the stance—Beijing has grown wary of India’s intentions in the South China Sea. This wariness was further exacerbated in September 2011, when India and Vietnam announced plans to sign an agreement for oil exploration in the South China Sea. Beijing responded by saying that China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea, and that China’s stand was based on historical facts and international law. It was further stated that China was opposed to any project in the South China Sea, without directly referring to India (The Pioneer, September 16, 2011).
The same day, while answering a question raised by a correspondent about Chinese objection to India’s Oil and Natural Gas Commission Videsh Limited’s (OVL) proposed deal, New Delhi said that OVL had been present in Vietnam for quite some time, including in a major oil venture for offshore oil and natural gas exploration, and that they were in the process of further expanding their cooperation and operation in Vietnam (Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson on EAM’s visit to Hanoi).  The OVL is a state owned company under the Ministry of Oil and Natural Gas and as such enjoys diplomatic support of the government. The government, however, does not interfere in its day to day operations.
India already has a stake in Block 06.1, located 370 kilometers south-east of Vung Tau on the southern Vietnamese coast with an area of 955 square km. The exploration license for this block was acquired by OVL in 1988. The field started commercial production in January 2003. During 2010-11, OVL’s share of production from the project was 2.249 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas and 0.038 million metric tons (mmt) of condensate (Annual Report of ONGC Videsh Limited 2010-11).  Later in 2006, OVL acquired two more blocks in the South China Sea for hydrocarbon exploration. Block 127 is an offshore deep-water Block, located at water depth of more than 400 meters with an area of 9,246 sq. km.  OVL had invested approximately $68 million by March 2010. A location for drilling an exploration well was identified and the well was drilled in July 2009 to a depth of 1,265 meters.  As there was no hydrocarbon presence, OVL decided to relinquish the block to Petro-Vietnam. The second Block 128 was also acquired at the same time. The Company had invested approximately $49.14 million by March 31, 2012. As in the case of Block 127, in Block 128 also the well could not be drilled with the rig, as it had difficulty anchoring on the location. The drilling activity has been kept under suspension. Vietnam has been goading India to pursue drilling in Block 128, asserting that it is very much within its territorial water.
The issue was, however, played out in the media, both in China and India. The Global Times quoted Wu Xinbo, Professor at the Center for American Studies at Fudan University: “As a South Asian country, India actively takes part in East Asian issues through the support of the U.S., which has been advocating for Asian countries to counter China. The U.S. takes every opportunity to counter China, and its joint military maneuvers with Japan and other regional countries has been more frequent in recent years” (Global Times, September 17, 2011). Wu added that this project helps India kill two birds with one stone­—it will bring economic benefits to India while also balancing out China politically. The article quoted another Fudan scholar, Shen Dingli, Director of the Centre for American Studies, who said, “In recent years, China has also been building up relations with countries like Myanmar that neighbor India, not to mention that Pakistan invited China to provide safety protection, and offered China a naval port on the Indian Ocean. All these moves made India feel nervous.”

A Dialogue with a Difference


By  Tridivesh Singh Maini

October 11, 2013
While the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan were preparing for their meeting in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, another set of leaders were in Islamabad, exploring new ways to improve the bilateral relationship. These were group of young leaders from a range of fields: politics, media, the arts, academia and medicine, who had been chosen by the Asia Society, New York as Fellows for the year 2013-2014, under the India-Pakistan Regional Young Leaders Initiative (IPRYLI). In all there were 11 individuals, five from India and six from Pakistan. The three-day conference in late September was a joint endeavor of the Asia Society and the Jinnah Institute in Pakistan. I had the good fortune of attending the conference.

There were two obvious differences between the meeting between the prime ministers and the brainstorming session in Islamabad.

First, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif restricted their conversation to tensions across the Line of Control (LOC) and the terrorist attack in Jammu. In contrast, the young leaders in Islamabad were not bound by politics, and felt free to discuss a gamut of issues, although there was a focus on the visa regime, which affects ties in virtually every sphere, especially trade, education and tourism.

Second, both Singh (born 1932 in what is today Pakistan) and Sharif (born 1949) belong to the older generation. The young leaders meeting in Islamabad were not around to witness the wars of 1965 or 1971, and remember only the Kargil War of 1999 (which occurred during Sharif’s second stint as Pakistan’s prime minister). This meant that though they were naturally familiar with the terrible stories of partition and conflict, they carried less historical baggage. Many agreed that online jingoism is partly to blame for the acrimony between the countries.

PM’s itinerary is missing an agenda

Oct 11, 2013

The US needs to be sensitised to the fact that there is no escaping AfPak jihad as it has now cross-bred into a virus that needs global solutions. If Dr Singh had put it thus, perhaps Mr Sharif would have called him a scaremonger but not an old woman.
It is often alleged that the Indian foreign and national security policies lack a strategic vision, and from this derive the leitmotifs of daily policy implementation or forays into summitry abroad. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has just been to Washington and New York.

He is now in Indonesia for the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit followed by the East Asia Summit (EAS) — While the former has as its members 10 neighbours East of India, the latter has India, Australia and New Zealand, besides China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the US and Russia. After the EAS, Dr Singh will head for Russia for a two-day trip (October 20-22), and return via Beijing. An extremely busy diplomatic calendar, but devoid of the symphonic touch of a composer.

For instance, the US visit was necessary to put a flagging relationship on fast-track. For that Dr Singh needed political strength at home, the paucity of which was demonstrated by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s intemperate lashing out at an ordinance of the Congress’ making. Hardly the backdrop needed on the eve of engaging a global power cribbing over inadequate commercial returns from its strategic investment in India. The answer was not to throw a half-baked preliminary nuclear deal at Westinghouse hoping the US would be ameliorated, nor to complain, as Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in half-jest, half-ire said was what old women in villages did, that Pakistan was the epicentre of terror.

It was an opportunity to level with the US on Indian concerns about the economic and safety dimensions of nuclear power, something that’s being examined globally, and about which the concerns of Indian political parties and public are genuine.

Secondly, on terror it would have been better if the attacks on India had been put in the context of the revival of Al Qaeda, as seen in the recent attacks in Kenya and Nigeria, and that, as America’s leading security expert on South Asia Bruce Riedel has said, it remains embedded in Pakistan-based groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. The US needs to be sensitised to the fact that there is no escaping AfPak jihad as it has now cross-bred into a global virus that needs global solutions. If Dr Singh had put it thus, perhaps Mr Sharif would have called him a scaremonger but not an old woman.

Similar superficiality has been demonstrated in assessing the rise of Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and the resumption of dialogue on the Iranian nuclear issue, besides direct foreign minister level talks. President Rowhani’s address at the United Nations General Assembly in September reveals the Iranian thought processes — he emphasised that Iran has had orderly change through a democratic exercise consistent with religion. He is partly right. More or less free elections were held, but while candidates short-listed by the Guardian’s Council — a body dominated by the clergy and the Supreme Leader’s nominees — were in the forefront, the votaries of the Green Movement still remain invisible, although on the eve of his New York trip last month some political prisoners were released.

Mr Rowhani also said that the world is passing through a critical period of transition in which Iran is “an anchor of stability”. Coercive economic and military policies are useless in stymieing “regional players from their natural domain of action”. This is Iranian misreading of perceived US weakness personified in President Barack Obama, beleaguered at home, grabbing the Russian life-line on Syria. Mr Rowhani then turned the knife in the US side by preaching democracy as the solution to the problems in the region i.e. Bahrain, where a Shia majority is not allowed political self-expression; Syria, where Iran calculates a majority worried about the Islamist nature of the alternative may opt for the Assad regime and so on.

The thousand cuts

Oct 11, 2013


It is time we gave up our desperate attempts to reach out to Pakistan. Talks with Pakistan should be held from a position of strength at the official level.
The origin and history of Pakistan are of relentless hostility towards India. I can say from my personal experience that this began in the Army on June 3, 1947, a few weeks before Partition on August 15, 1947.
I was then serving as a major in Military Operations Directorate, South Block. I found a marked change in the attitude of some officers going to Pakistan though the majority continued to remain friendly. Colonel Akbar Khan was a full colonel in the Weapons and Equipment Directorate. There were rumours that he was close to Muhammad Ali Jinnah. On one occasion I saw him emerging from Jinnah’s house in Delhi, 10, Aurangzeb Road.
In August 1947, Brigadier K.M. Cariappa, the seniormost Indian officer, hosted a farewell party at Delhi Gymkhana Club for officers going to Pakistan. Cariappa presented a large silver trophy showing a Hindu and a Muslim soldier kneeling and pointing their rifles in the same direction, symbolic of the two fighting together against a common enemy. In his farewell speech, Cariappa said, “We have been brothers who have lived and fought together. Though we may now be in different Armies, we will continue to be brothers.” I could see a lot of wet eyes at the party. Akbar Khan was also there. What an irony that within 12 weeks Pakistan launched an invasion of Kashmir by tribals and Pakistan Army personnel under the command of Akbar Khan, who had assumed the pseudonym General Tariq.
Starting with the war in Kashmir, Pakistan has been violating every single agreement. It violated the Standstill Agreement with Kashmir, invading the state on October 22, 1947. In spite of the Suspension of Offensive Operations agreed upon on June 1, 1948, at the instance of the UN, on August 14, 1948, it overran the isolated state force garrison at Skardu Fort, Baltistan. The Indian Army retaliated with two successful operations at Zojila and beyond to Leh, and in Poonch region.
India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire on January 1, 1949, accepting the August 13, 1948, UN ceasefire resolution. This called for the total withdrawal of all Pakistan forces from Kashmir before a UN supervised plebiscite. Pakistan failed to honour this commitment and India was allowed to retain her forces in Kashmir till the plebiscite. On July 27, 1949, Indian and Pakistani delegations met at Karachi for discussions to delineate the 750-km ceasefire line in Kashmir. I was the secretary of the Indian delegation.

Burma’s long road to democracy

Oct 12, 2013

Rapid democratisation in plural societies from years of colonial rule may provide opportunities for unscrupulous ethnic entrepreneurs to stoke crude nationalist sentiments
Early this month the International Crisis Group (ICG), a highly respected Brussels-based non-governmental organisation, issued a report on the growth of anti-Muslim and anti-minority sentiment in Burma. Much of the violence, ironically, stems from Buddhist monks who are scapegoating hapless minorities. The report, intriguingly enough, blamed the bigotry and violence on the years of “frustration and anger built up under years of authoritarianism…”
This explanation, though seemingly attractive and plausible, is a bit too facile. Do we really know that this form of bigotry had been festering all along and the fitful steps toward a more democratic order has suddenly unleashed these lurking passions and deep-seated hatreds? Similar arguments were also made in the wake of the break-up of Yugoslavia and the unleashing of ethnic hatred and fury in the Balkans.
There is little question that the Buddhist monks — who have been implicated in the violence that consumed over a thousand lives in Rakhine state — are engaged in a form of ethnic scapegoating of the Muslim minorities. They have also managed to wrap themselves in the mantle of religious legitimacy and Burmese nationalism. However, there is insufficient evidence that this form of ethnic discord and violence is the result of long pent-up anger and frustration, which is now bursting forth.
Instead, as two American political scientists, Jack Snyder and Edward Mansfield, had argued some years ago that rapid democratisation in plural societies from years of colonial rule may well provide opportunities for unscrupulous ethnic entrepreneurs to stoke crude nationalist sentiments, promote ethnic discord and provoke violence. They can usually get away with these forms of execrable behaviour because of what Mr Snyder and Mr Mansfield referred to as incomplete democratisation.
This concept requires some explication. Simply stated it means that while the repressive institutions of authoritarian rule may have weakened, they have not been replaced with others that provide a framework for the operations of a working democracy. Accordingly, while press freedoms may emerge, the media may not have become imbued with the norms of fair reporting and avoidance of rank sensationalism. It may have few internal restraints on the use of inflammatory language when dealing with and reporting on potentially fraught subjects.

Doubts on China's “New Model for Great Power Relationship”

October 3, 2013 |

  Dr. David Lai

A buzz phrase, “China’s new model for great power relationship (read U.S.-China relationship),” is making rounds in China’s diplomatic, defense, and policy analysis circles of late. Chinese official statements, policy think-tank discussions, and publications on U.S.-China relations are all heavily loaded with this topic. This fanfare culminated in a statement by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Sunnylands Retreat in southern California in early June 2013. The Chinese initiative also got a “military dressing” 2 months later when Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan took the podium at the Pentagon to advocate a new military relationship between China and the United States.
Old-Wine in a New-Bottle.
 
      The precise wording of Xi Jinping’s remarks at the Sunnylands was not seen anywhere in U.S. official press releases. Yet the Chinese media was flooded with extensive coverage. China’s new foreign policy helmsman, Yang Jiechi, who is currently China’s State Counselor on Foreign Affairs and formerly Chinese Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United States, provided a Chinese account on Xi’s talking points. Yang accompanied the Chinese president to the meetings at the Sunnylands. He summarized Xi’s assertions as follows. First, China is aware of the power transition with the United States—as a result of China’s rapid rise—and the deadly contests sparked by similar power transitions in ancient as well as contemporary times. However, Xi argues that history is not destiny; nor is war inevitable between China and the United States.
      Second, Xi remains hopeful that alternatives to war are possible. China’s pledge of peaceful development is a prime example. This undertaking came about in 2003 when China attempted to counter the “China Threat” outcry and ease U.S. concerns over China’s rise. The pledge of peaceful development categorically stated that China would not do the following: 1) challenge U.S. supremacy in international affairs; 2) make efforts to alter the U.S.-led international order; 3) use force to secure natural resources for China’s development; and, 4) repeat the mistakes made by former great powers in similar power transition processes. President Xi reassured President Obama of China’s commitment to this cause.
      Finally, President Xi put forward a “Three-Point Proposal” as a new formula for the U.S.-China relationship in particular and other great powers in general:
      1. No clash (不冲突) or confrontation (不对抗). This means that the two nations objectively and reasonably will look at each other’s strategic intent, insist on becoming partners not opponents, and handle conflicts and differences through dialogue and nonconfrontational means.
      2. Mutual respect (互相尊重). The countries will respect the choice the other side has made on its sociopolitical system and path of development, mutually respect each other’s core interests and major national concerns, seek harmony and bury hatchets, be forgiving, learn from each other, and make progress together.
      3. Seeking cooperation and win-win (合作共赢). The two sides should abandon a zero-sum mindset, be considerate of the other’s interests, promote common development while pursuing its own, and deepen integration of interests.
 
Additionally, the Chinese leader asked his U.S. counterparts to abandon the Cold War mindset and give this formula a chance for success.
      The three points, however, hardly present anything new. They are reiterations of China’s long-held “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence,” which emphasize mutual respect for a nation-state’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, noninterference in a sovereign state’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. China has used these principles to protect its core interests since the mid-1950s (although China did not use the term “core interest” until recent years).

China strides, US shrinks in Asia


By Francesco Sisci


BEIJING - Who remembers Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, the Southern states that fought the Northern states lead by president Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War? Barack Obama, really and symbolically black, looks like the true vindication and completion of that war, which broke and then united the United States and turned an assembly of fairly autonomous states into a nation.

The civil war was fought symbolically as well as for the freedom of the black slaves - and thus for the freedom of every man in the US and in the world - adding a new dimension to the American

identity that greatly helped the country to become great globally. Lincoln brought the country to war and marked this new identity, attained through victory in a very bitter conflict. Had Lincoln been defeated, he would have become a footnote in history.

In a way, seen from afar, Obama, who Spielberg's homonymous movie suggests is Lincoln's anointed successor, is facing a similar challenge. He must create a new American identity by fighting his internal enemies, in this case the Republicans, almost as Lincoln fought the Confederates. As freeing the slaves was the purpose 150 years ago, now the goal is to establish a mindset of greater solidarity in order to care for the less fortunate. This can be a new dimension of the American identity. Here the battle over health care is both real and symbolic.

In a nutshell, Obama believes that providing a basic health care for everyone, even those who have nothing, is a basic human right and overrides all other concerns. The Republicans argue, simply put, "We can't afford it", and thus it should be put to rest either for now or forever. Some of them, the Tea Party people go even further by fighting massive interventions in social affairs, and thus they challenge the principles moving Obama and his supporters.

This is in a way similar to the debate over freedom for the slaves. The Northerners wanted freedom for the slaves, overriding all concerns about what that freedom could mean for Southern society; Southerners wanted conversely to keep their society, which would be disrupted by freeing the slaves.

Here, there are many other considerations. In both cases, there is an effort to make the presidency stronger before the other powers of the state. There is idealism in the face of a conservative realism - and there are certainly many other elements, but to make it simple, allow me to focus on just these.

What is starkly different about these two historical moments is the international context. There was no globalization 150 years ago, and America was indeed pretty isolated. Therefore it could fight an internal war without affecting or being too affected by the international situation. Europe was the absolute center of the world: England was expanding its reach from its Indian powerhouse, France was dreaming of a Napoleonic return, Russia and Austria were tottering and harking back to a world that was no more, Prussia was on the rise, and Italy had just been born. China was collapsing in the midst of an earth-shattering primitive civil war, pitching pseudo-Christian Taiping rebels against Manchu imperial forces. Nobody cared or was too interested in meddling much with an arcane civil war in America.

Now, things are totally different, and it is not only America's future but also the future of the international order at stake.

Five Misconceptions about the Chinese Military


CHINA POLICY INSTITUTE BLOG

Dennis J Blasko

The conventional wisdom about the Chinese military appears simple on the surface but becomes more complex upon closer examination.
 
1. China Has the World’s Largest Military
That depends on what you count. China officially states the PLA has 2.3 million active duty personnel. That number is usually compared to about 1.4 million U.S. active duty service members. However, the Chinese figure includes an unknown number of PLA uniformed civilians working mostly in non-combat roles, but considered active duty personnel. These uniformed cadre are equivalent to roughly 750,000 Dept of Defense civilians who are not counted as active duty and do not wear uniforms.
 
Chinese media report about 510,000 personnel in the PLA reserves whereas the U.S. military reserve components number over 1.1 million. Thus, if we compare the same types of active, civilian, and reserve personnel, the U.S. military outnumbers the PLA 3.25 million to 2.81 million.
 
In 2006 the PLA began integrating about 20,000 civilian contractors in roles similar to their uniformed civilians. These contractors, however, pale both in number and scope of work compared to contractors working for the U.S. military. In June 2013, the DOD comptroller told Congress “about 700,000 defense contractors work throughout the department.”
 
But, not counted as part of the PLA, the Chinese armed forces also include 660,000 to a million People’s Armed Police and some eight million militia members (on paper). Within those militia numbers, perhaps several hundred thousand grassroots government civilians command militia units and perform conscription and demobilization duties for the PLA. These forces do not have direct U.S. counterparts, and, with a few important exceptions, are focused on internal security and defense of the Chinese mainland and coast.
 
According to one study the cost of the total DOD workforce (including contractors) in 2010 was $476 billion. Relatively speaking, the entire announced Chinese defense budget was about $78 billion for the same year.
 
2. The Chinese Defense Budget is At Least Two Times the Announced Budget
The size of China’s defense budget is subject to the basic principle that military modernization is subordinate to, but coordinated with, national economic development. For the past several years, annual defense increases have been tied roughly to GDP growth plus inflation. In 2013, the officially announced Chinese defense budget is a little less than $120 billion.
 
For years, many analysts have applied some multiplication factor to the announced budget to determine “actual” Chinese defense spending. Yet no two organizations agree on what should be included in China’s total defense-related spending. For example, should expenditures for the People’s Armed Police be counted as defense spending or as part of the “public security” budget (which now exceeds the defense budget)? Rarely is the problem of Purchase Power Parity or exchange rates discussed in these estimates.
 
Chinese sources identify an array of potential sources of extra-budgetary funding available to the PLA from the central government (for example, for foreign arms purchases), local governments (such as some infrastructure development,), and the PLA itself (for example, the value of food grown and consumed, income from the sale or rental of excess land). The number and size of each these sources vary from year to year, but sufficient data is not available to calculate their impact on the official defense budget.
 
With the existing publicly available data we simply can’t know how large “actual” Chinese defense spending is. Any estimate of the size of “actual” defense spending needs to identify exactly what is included and is best expressed as a range of numbers to reflect the uncertainty involved in the process. Readers should not assume that the higher figure is the most accurate number.

Iranian Aftershocks:

   Suzanne Maloney | October 10, 2013 1:23pm

 Washington And Tehran Face An Uncertain Diplomatic Landscape


A demonstrator peeks from under an Iranian flag during a ceremony to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran's Azadi square (REUTERS/Caren Firouz). Nearly two weeks have passed since President Barack Obama made history with a phone call to his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, during the final moments of Rouhani's inaugural visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly meetings. And less than a week remains before diplomats from the two adversaries sit down in Geneva, along with European, Russian and Chinese representatives for the latest round of a long-running negotiation on Iran's nuclear program — talks that have suddenly assumed new meaning and newly inflated expectations thanks to the bilateral breakthrough. This interlude offers an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved and what lies ahead for diplomacy aimed at resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis.

  Since news of the presidential phone call went public — initially via a Twitter account associated with Rouhani, momentarily preempting President Obama's hastily-organized press conference — the shock of the unprecedented direct contact between Iranian and American leaders has faded. So has the glow of the calculated charm offensive that Rouhani and his colleagues waged during their week in New York. Both leaderships have seen some public pushback from their domestic political rivals, who distrust the sudden embrace of diplomacy, and are gearing up for the talks as the first real substantive test of the gamble they took in breaking one of the central taboos of Iran's post-revolutionary order.

The weeks since the epic phone call have clarified several important dimensions of the diplomatic landscape. First, the Iranian overtures were no accident or happenstance; the outreach to Washington was the product of a meticulously prepared operation by Tehran, one that could only have taken place with the explicit endorsement of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the rest of the regime's traditional base. That Rouhani has a mandate to seek a serious nuclear deal has been progressively more transparent since the launch of his surprisingly audacious campaign for the president last May, and his reception since his return from New York only offers further confirmation.

Fear and loathing in House of Saud


By Pepe Escobar
 
 
Every sentient being with a functional brain perceives the possibility of ending the 34-year Wall of Mistrust between Washington and Tehran as a win-win situation.

Here are some of the benefits:
  • The price of oil and gas from the Persian Gulf would go down;
  • Washington and Tehran could enter a partnership to fight Salafi-jihadis (they already did, by the way, immediately after 9/11) as well as coordinate their policies in Afghanistan to keep the Taliban in check post-2014;
  • Iran and the US share the same interests in Syria; both want no anarchy and no prospect of Islamic radicals having a shot at power. An ideal outcome would balance Iranian influence with a power-sharing agreement between the Bashar al-Assad establishment and the sensible non-weaponized opposition (it does exist, but is at present marginalized);
  • With no more regime change rhetoric and no more sanctions, the sky is the limit for more trade, investment and energy options for the West, especially Europe (Iran is the best possible way for Europeans to soften their dependence on Russia's Gazprom);
  • A solution for the nuclear dossier would allow Iran to manage civilian use of nuclear energy as an alternative source for its industry, releasing more oil and gas for export;
  • Geopolitically, with Iran recognized for what it is - the key actor in Southwest Asia - the US could be released from its self-imposed strategic dogma of depending on the Israeli-Saudi axis. And Washington could even start pivoting to Asia for real - not exclusively via military means.

    Ay, there's the rub. Everybody knows why the Israeli right will fight an US-Iran agreement like the plague - as Iran as an "existential threat" is the ideal pretext to change the debate from the real issue; the occupation/apartheid regime imposed on Palestine.

    As for the House of Saud, such an agreement would be nothing short of Apocalypse Now.

    I'm just a moderate killer
    It starts with Syria. Everybody now knows that shadow master Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, has been fully in charge of the war on Syria since he was appointed Director of National Intelligence by his uncle, Saudi King Abdullah.

    Bandar is taking no prisoners. First he eliminated Qatar - the major financier of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) - from the picture, after having a helping hand in Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad, deposing himself to the benefit of his son, Sheikh Tamin, in late June.

    Then, in late July, Bandar spectacularly resurfaced in public during his now famous "secret" trip to Moscow to try to extort/bribe Russian President Vladimir Putin into abandoning Syria.

    Notoriously, the House of Saud's "policy" on Syria is regime change, period. This is non-negotiable in terms of dealing a blow to those "apostates" in Tehran and imprinting Saudi will on Syria, Iraq, in fact the whole, mostly Sunni Levant.

    In late September, the Jaish al-Islam ("Army of Islam") entered the picture. This is a "rebel" combo of up to 50 brigades, from supposedly "moderates" to hardcore Salafis, controlled by Liwa al-Islam, which used to be part of the FSA. The warlord in charge of Jaish al-Islam is Zahran Alloush - whose father, Abdullah, is a hardcore Salafi cleric in Saudi Arabia. And the petrodollars to support him are Saudi - via Bandar Bush and his brother Prince Salman, the Saudi deputy defense minister.

    If this looks like a revamp of the David Petraeus-concocted "Sunni Awakening" in Iraq in 2007 that's because it is; the difference is this Saudi-financed "awakening" is geared not to fight al-Qaeda but towards regime change.

    This (in Arabic) is what Alloush wants; a resurrection of the Umayyad Caliphate (whose capital was Damascus), and to "cleanse" Damascus of Iranians, Shi'ites and Alawites. These are all considered kafir ("unbelievers"); either they submit to Salafist Islam or they must die. Anybody who interprets this stance as "moderate" has got to be a lunatic.

    Incredibly as it may seem, even Ayman al-Zawahiri - as in al-Qaeda central - has issued a proclamation banning the killing of Shi'ites.

    Yet this "moderate" tag is exactly at the core of the present, Bandar Bush-concocted PR campaign; sectarian warlords of the Alloush kind are being "softened", so they are palatable to a maximum range of Gulf sources of funds and, inevitably, gullible Westerners. But the heart of the matter is that Jaish al-Islam, essentially, sports just a slight chromatic difference with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) - the al-Qaeda-linked umbrella which is the prime fighting force in Syria; as in a bunch of weaponized fanatics on varying degrees of (religious) crystal meth addiction.

    Paranoia paradise
    To complicate matters, the House of Saud is in disarray because of the succession battle. Crown Prince Salman is the last son of King Abdul Aziz, the founder of the Saud dynasty, to have a shot at power gradually by age.

    Now all bets are off - with hordes of princes engulfed in the battle for the great prize. And here we find none other than Bandar Bush - who is now, for all practical purposes, the most powerful entity in Saudi Arabia after Khalid Twijri, the chief of King Abdullah's office. The nonagenarian Abdullah is about to meet his Maker. Twijri is not part of the royal family. So Bandar is running against the clock. He needs a "win" in Syria as his ticket to ultimate glory.

    That's when the Russia-US agreement on Syria's chemical weapons intervened. The House of Saud as a whole freaked out - blaming not only the usual suspects, UN Security Council members Russia and China, but also Washington. No wonder the perpetual foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, snubbed his annual address to the UN General Assembly last week. To say he was not missed is an understatement.

    The House of Saud's nightmare is amplified by paranoia. After all those warnings by King Abdullah for Washington to cut "the head of the snake" (Iran), as immortalized on WikiLeaks cables; after all those supplications for the US to bomb Syria, install a no-fly zone and/or weaponize the "rebels" to kingdom come, this is what the House of Saud gets: Washington and Tehran on their way to reaching a deal at the expense of Riyadh.

    So no wonder fear, loathing and acute paranoia reign supreme. The House of Saud is and will continue to do all it can to bomb the emergence of Lebanon as a gas producer. It will continue to relentlessly fan the flames of sectarianism all across the spectrum, as Toby Matthiesen documented in an excellent book.

    And the Israeli-Saudi axis will keep blossoming. Few in the Middle East know that an Israeli company - with experience in repressing Palestinians - is in charge of the security in Mecca. (See here and here (in French)). If they knew - with the House of Saud's hypocrisy once more revealed - the Arab street in many a latitude would riot en masse.

    One thing is certain; Bandar Bush, as well as the Saudi-Israeli axis, will pull no punches to derail any rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. As for the Bigger Picture, the real "international community" may always dream that one day Washington elites will finally see the light and figure out that the US-Saudi strategic alliance sealed in 1945 between Franklin D Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud makes absolutely no sense.

    Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).





  • Mind Your Own Business

    Why America needs to fix its problems at home before messing around in Asia.

    BY SHEN DINGLI | OCTOBER 9, 2013

    Leading a responsible nation requires delicate balancing. U.S. President Barack Obama must manage the time he spends on domestic and international politics, so he doesn't neglect thorny national issues, or overlook international situations where the United States claims to desire to play an important role. When a nation's foreign policy is more assertive than its domestic policy, problems can arise. Back in November 2011, Obama told the Australian parliament that "In the Asia Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in." Clearly, he has both overstepped and not followed-up. But if Obama were able to balance this so-called "pivot" to Asia with domestic concerns, Asia-Pacific nations would welcome the United States as a responsible stakeholder in the region. Unfortunately, these days, that is not the case.
    In early October of this year, Obama announced he would not be attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the premier gathering of Asian leaders, held October 7-8 in Indonesia. This is not the first time Obama has failed to attend top gatherings of the region's leaders. Though he dispatched the capable John Kerry to attend on his behalf, the secretary of state lacks Obama's stature, and thus is less able to push the U.S. regional agenda.
    Obama appears overwhelmed by domestic problems. He cancelled his Asia trip because of the U.S. government shutdown, which arose from his desire to defend "Obamacare," his controversial health care program. Promoting universal medical insurance has been part of his party's platform for over half a century; similar plans are already available in many industrialized countries. However, Obama may have failed to understand a fundamental tenet of American exceptionalism: The United States has a unique history and culture that allows its citizens great liberty -- and many believe that includes the right not to buy medical insurance.   
    Republicans may deserve most of the blame for the government shutdown, but as president, Obama shoulders the ultimate responsibility for shaping the nation's agenda and forging consensus so the government does not fall apart. Obama has been pushing the right agenda, but at the wrong time: Obamacare shouldn't be prioritized until the United States is able to balance its budget and foster the growth of middle-class incomes.
    Obama's Asia policy suffers from the same excess of ambition and lack of balancing as his healthcare policy. Washington has expressed concern about Chinese vessels conducting economic activity in several Southeast Asian nations' exclusive economic zones. And the White House worries about China's "assertive" handling of territorial disputes with U.S. allies, including the Diaoyu -- islands in the East China Sea which Japan claims -- and Huangyan, a shoal in the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines. By meddling with the Diaoyus, Obama is taking an unbalanced stance in favor of Japan, thus stirring up tensions in East Asia.
    12

    Cyber Security and the Government of Canada


    John Forster, Chief Communications Security Establishment

    http://www.cse-cst.gc.ca/gtec/speech-2013-10-09-eng.html

    October 9, 2013
    GTEC

    Ottawa, Ontario
    9 October 2013

    Introduction

    • Thank you for that kind introduction. The organizers of GTEC have put together a rich programme.
    • The conference theme, Agile Government: Open, Collaborative, Mobile is timely and relevant and of great interest to CSE.
    • This is especially timely given that October is Cyber Security Awareness month. getcybersafe.gc.ca contains a lot of good information for Canadians about protecting themselves online. And of course CSE’s web site is full of advice, directives, and guidance for government departments and employees. As you are about to hear – every month is cyber security awareness month at CSE!
    • TodayI would like to talk to you about cyber security and the Government of Canada:
      • First I’d like to provide a little background information on my organization, the Communications Security Establishment; li>
      • Then describe the rapidly evolving cyber environment in which we in government work – both the good and the bad;
      • Then I’ll go over the four categories of cyber actors;
      • Next I’ll discuss what all of this means for the Government and what CSE is doing about it; and finally,
      • I would like to finish with an overview of what departments should be doing to protect themselves.

    CSE

    • The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is Canada’s national cryptologic agency. Under the National Defence Act, we are mandated to provide the Government of Canada with three key services:
      • First, we collect foreign communications signals intelligence to support government decision-making for national security, defence and foreign policy.
      • Second, we provide IT Security products and services that help secure government systems and networks and their information. We also work with Public Safety and the private sector to protect systems of importance to Canada, such as critical infrastructure.
      • And finally, because we possess unique technical capabilities that would be too expensive to duplicate, we provide technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies under their authorized mandate, such as a court warrant.
    • Our first mandate, our foreign signals intelligence role, is certainly being talked about – a lot – in the media right now.
    • So, I’d like to start by saying a few words about it, although because of the classified nature of our work, I am sure you can appreciate that I can’t say much.
    • First of all, everything that CSE does in terms of foreign intelligence follows Canadian law.
    • Second, in some of the coverage you may have heard questions raised about respecting the privacy of Canadians. I can tell you that we do not target Canadians at home or abroad in our foreign intelligence activities, nor do we target anyone in Canada. In fact, it’s prohibited by law. Protecting the privacy of Canadians is our most important principle.
    • And lastly, everything we do, and I mean everything we do, is reviewed by an independent CSE Commissioner. He and his office have full access to all records, systems and staff to ensure that we follow all Canadian laws, and that we respect Canadians’ privacy.
    • In 2011, we became a stand alone agency reporting to the Minister of National Defence. It’s important to note that although we are part of the Defence portfolio, we serve all of government.
    • For the last 20 months, it has been my privilege to lead this most remarkable organization! CSE employees are some of the country’s most highly skilled mathematicians, engineers and computer scientists, translators and analysts. They speak 64 languages. They are dedicated, professional and committed to help protect Canada and Canadians from global threats every day. It is an honour to work with them.

    Evolving Cyber Environment – The Good

    • The world in which we work – cyberspace – is changing rapidly. You may not know that Canada invented the term cyber space. The term was first coined by Canadian science fiction writer William Gibson in 1982. He defined it as “the consensual hallucination that takes place when humans interact with computers”. Consensual hallucination … I think he nailed it.
    • And now, there are 2.7 billion Internet users. Every day, over 200 billion emails are sent. There are 1.1 billion Facebook accounts. The Bank of New York alone processes 3 trillion transfers daily.
    • The tremendous growth of the Internet has seen it become a fundamental part of our lives – it underpins how our economy functions, how we provide government services, how we communicate, even our daily social interactions. And as cyberspace has grown, the security of these systems, and the information they contain, has become an urgent priority.
    • And boy are we hooked! More than 85 per cent of Canadians are online. We learn, shop, bank and socialize instantly with the click of a mouse. In fact, Canadians spend more time on-line than any other country, double the average (could be the cold winters!).
    • Internet technology is transforming our economy. Markets all around the world can be reached instantly. Canadians placed orders for more than $20 billion in online sales in 2012. Up 10% since 2011. And Forrester Research predicts this will climb to almost $34 billion in 2018.
    • All sectors of Canada’s critical infrastructure rely on digital technology too. Computer networks help deliver oil and natural gas, operate power stations, deliver water, underpin public transportation, and air traffic control systems.
    • So, what does this mean for Canada and the federal government? As a market economy, heavily dependent on trade and foreign investment, Canada relies on a secure and open network of global communications.
    • People, governments and business depend on the rapid and reliable transmission of ideas, information and data through cyberspace. However, it is a space that was designed without security in mind; there are no geo-spatial boundaries; no rules of behaviour; and any one can easily hide their identity or cover tracks of their nefarious activities.

    Cyber Network Environment – The Bad

    • Unfortunately this growing interconnectedness that brings such rich benefits also makes our systems more vulnerable to those who seek to access, compromise, manipulate or even destroy our information.
    • Reports (ie. MacAfee, Symantec) estimate there are 60,000 new malicious programs identified every day. And 1 in every 200 emails contains malicious software, or malware. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller testified that cyber threats will surpass terrorism as the number one threat facing the United States.
    • For example, one can buy a botnet, (a collection of Internet-connected programs communicating with other similar programs in order to perform tasks to facilitate online criminal activity) for as little as $250 – with 24/7 support! And one botnet is reported to have stolen credit card and banking information from almost 13 million people.

    Who Are The Key Cyber Actors?

    So who and what are the primary cyber actors of concern in securing your systems? We generally identify four broad groups:
    1. HACKTIVISTS: These are activists who use computers and computer networks to promote political or social causes. Groups use technology to produce results similar to conventional protest, activism or civil disobedience. Their activities usually involve over-loading their target’s website or altering it to get their own message out. Although this activity is increasing, proper cyber security measures and Internet service providers are usually quite adept at mitigating their disruptions.
    2. CRIMINALS: the Internet is home to a huge underground economy rooted in criminal activity. The 2013 Norton Report estimates that cyber crime cost Canadians $3 billion in the last 12 months, up $1.4 billion from the pervious year. An estimated 7 million people in Canada have been victims of cybercrime. Global losses are estimated at $1 trillion – which some reports say exceed proceeds from the drug trade.
    3. TERRORISTS: Cyberspace is used by terrorist organizations as a conduit for funding, recruiting, planning, intelligence and training. It is cheap, less risky and anonymous – making it a very attractive option. And as a more technically knowledgeable generation emerges, it is not unreasonable to assume some may begin to use cyber as a disruptive tool.
    4. NATION STATES: More than 100 countries possess the human technology and financial resources to conduct cyber operations on a persistent basis to collect intelligence, disrupt, or in some cases damage, IT infrastructure.
    As Government of Canada IT professionals, this is the world you live in. Every day, you are working to protect your government networks, and Canadians’ information, against one, some or all of these groups. And it’s our job at CSE to help you do it successfully.

    What This Means For The Government And Why Should You Care

    • As you can imagine, the Government of Canada is an attractive target for these cyber actors because of Canada’s strong economy, technology, online government services, and important international role.
    • Canadians want to deal with their governments on line and more and more government services are going there - more than 130 commonly used services are online, including tax returns, employment insurance and passports.
    • And Canadians don’t just want … they expect their governments to protect their information and their privacy.
    • This is fundamentally important to every department and every person in this room.
    • Cyber actors are constantly probing government systems millions of times each day in fact to discover vulnerabilities – they are looking for weaknesses and openings into government and information.
    • This issue is not going away. Last year, the number of detected cyber incidents on government of Canada networks almost tripled. That is in part due to much better detection. The good news is – the rate of actual incidents has dropped significantly because security is improving across government departments. Some of our collective government efforts are paying off.

    What Are We Doing About It

    • In 2010, the government announced its Cyber Security Strategy with three strategic objectives:
      1. Securing government systems;
      2. Working with the private sector and governments to protect critical infrastructure; and
      3. Helping Canadians to be secure on line.
    • CSE’s first priority has been to help better secure Government of Canada networks and systems. This is not a simple task when you consider the disparate nature of government’s networks – serving 377,000 public servants, with more than 57,000 servers, and about 9,000 Internet connections.
    • As you’ve heard from Minister Findlay, Shared Services is making impressive progress in consolidating email, data centers and communications networks. While consolidation has great potential for efficiencies, it is giving us an amazing opportunity to significantly improve security throughout government networks and data centers.
    • Second, as Shared Services transforms the Government of Canada’s IT infrastructure, CSE is working closely with them to ensure security is built right in from the start. Security requirements are being embedded into the procurement process as Shared Services transforms and modernizes the government’s IT enterprise. Security is baked into the design and procurement of the new government email for example.
    • Thirdly, CSE operates the Government of Canada Cyber Threat Evaluation Centre, also known as the GC-CTEC. We deploy detection and discovery capabilities for sophisticated cyber actors which help departments defend against or recover from cyber security incidents. Through our colleagues at Public Safety, we also share it with key industry partners to help us provide a broader shield for our critical infrastructure.
    • Fourth, CSE is leveraging our foreign signals intelligence to better understand cyber actors so that we can thwart their efforts before they even reach our networks. Our intelligence allows us to recognize malware and viruses that might go undetected by commercial anti-virus technologies.
    • CSE leverages information from our five eyes partners - the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand. We constantly share knowledge on evolving cyber threats and ways to mitigate them. Canada benefits greatly from this collective pooling of knowledge and capabilities.
    • Six, CSE plays a lead technical role in defining IT security standards and guidance working with the CIO at TBS, Corinne Charette. We post advice on our website that all IT practitioners can use. We also provide tailored guidance for large government projects.
    • Seven, with industry, CSE provides security guidance on commercially available products and works with vendors to improve security in products being considered for government use.
    • Eight, training. CSE’s IT Security Learning Centre provides training and awareness programs to all GC IT security professionals and other employees. If you haven’t been to a CSE course, please visit our booth for more information.
    • And finally, CSE also provides solutions that protect the government’s most sensitive and classified information with specialized encryption technology.

    What Departments Can Do

    • But, better intelligence, sensors and technology will only take us so far. Human behaviour is also critical. Because, frankly, we don’t always make it very difficult for adversaries to succeed. For instance:
      • We unwittingly infect networks by using the same thumb drive that contains malware on both classified and unclassified networks.
      • Not using sophisticated and current and Administrator Passwords. Some passwords, which can give complete access into a network, have not been changed in 10 years (this by the way is very typical of Canadians, 30% of whom never change their passwords).
      • Using outdated software. There are users of Windows 98 for which security patches ceased in 2004. This means known vulnerabilities exist – it’s an open door for cyber actors. There is a big push in government to upgrade to at least Windows 7 before April 2014.
    • You must focus on your most precious assets – your information. As government, we are stewards and protectors of the information entrusted to us. In particular, Canadians expect us to secure holdings that contain their private information. Put your best security practices against your most important information.
    • To help departments, we have developed the Top 35 Mitigation Measures. The list provides proactive best practices to help mitigate against the vulnerabilities in networks that facilitate targeted cyber intrusions.
    • We at CSE believe implementing even the top four measures from the list would prevent the vast majority (between 80 and 85%) of intrusions that CSE currently responds to. They are:
      1. Application whitelisting – we all love our apps. But make conscious decisions to only allow approved software on government systems. Anything else should be treated as suspicious, and prevented from running on your systems. By stopping malicious software at the front end, the issue is eliminated before it begins.
      2. Always patch third party applications in order to have the latest versions of software. This ensures known vulnerabilities are patched. Having out-dated software on your systems is like leaving your front door open for cyber actors.
      3. You also need to patch your operating systems. Just like applications, updating your operating software will minimize the risk of attacks on known vulnerabilities
      4. And finally, it’s important to minimize administrative privileges. Administrative accounts, which usually have access to most of your network, really should be reserved for those who need the access and not for purposes of convenience for all users.

    Growing Challenges – Going Mobile

    • Cyber security becomes even more challenging with mobile technologies and wireless networks. Smart phones, laptops and tablets have become fundamental tools.
      • In Canada, over 74 per cent of us own and use at least one mobile device, and 62 per cent of those are smartphone owners. About 1 in 4 federal public servants is issued a blackberry, which also connects to government networks.
    • These mobile technologies are fundamental to how we work in Government and increasingly how Canadians want to do business with their government. But they are very susceptible to cyber actors.
    • When travelling it’s not just our mobile device and unsecure wireless networks that put us at risk. In some countries, hotel business centres and phone networks are monitored and in some places hotel rooms are even searched.
      • In order to protect your employees and department, there are specific safeguarding practices for wireless devices that you will find on the CSE website.
    • If you haven’t had a chance yet, I encourage you to visit the CSE exhibit to learn more about this mobile challenge, talk to our experts about all things cyber security, get guidance and advice, take a cyber security quiz and learn how you can beef up your IT network’s “immune system”.

    Conclusion

    • As a final thought, let me leave you with this. You and I have an enormous challenge – how to protect an environment that is easy to attack, difficult to defend, has thousands of entry points and operates at millisecond speeds. One malicious cyber actor can cause significant and costly damage to our systems and put sensitive information at risk. It is a team sport — it will take all of us, IT practitioners in government and industry, working together to ensure we can safely have an agile government, that is open, collaborative mobile – AND relatively secure!
    • Cyber security is here to stay. It is not going away. It is growing and getting more sophisticated. It is no longer the domain of just the IT specialist, or the departmental security officer. It is a critical responsibility of the CIO in every department, and of Deputy Ministers as well.
    • I would like to thank GTEC and the conference organizers for shedding light on this important subject.
    • In the words of Oscar Wilde “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” And with that I will go.






    The Known Unknowns of Counterterrorism Ops


    When it comes to assessing the success of the war on terror, there's a lot we just don't know.

    BY MICAH ZENKO | OCTOBER 8, 2013


    Last Friday, Navy SEALs reportedly attacked a compound in the coastal city of Barawe, Somalia, with the goal of capturing or killing a senior leader of al-Shabab. According to an Obama administration official: "It did not achieve the objective." Hours later, Army Delta Force commandos were reportedly involved in a mission in Tripoli, Libya, which led to the capture of Abu Anas al-Libi, who was indicted in a U.S. district court for his alleged involvement in the U.S. African embassy bombings in 1998. These twin counterterrorism operations conducted 3,000 miles apart were lauded as "a major blow against the remnants of al Qaeda's core," by Rep. Adam Schiff; as a confirmation of "the unparalleled precision, global reach, and capabilities of the United States military," by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel; and as "a powerful flex of military muscle aimed at capturing fugitive terrorist suspects," by the New York Times.

    Several news reports and analysts also claimed that the operations demonstrated that the Obama administration suddenly prefers capturing suspected terrorists to killing them. Recent evidence would suggest otherwise. In 2013, by one estimate, there have been 45 U.S. drone strikes (in Pakistan and Yemen) that killed approximately 209 people; two raids that captured one person are clearly not the equal. There are assuredly other covert or clandestine capture/kill operations that we do not know about, but it is far too soon to tell if this portends a wholly new policy shift.
    The reactions to the African raids remind us that perceptions of success, failure, and trends in preventing terrorism swing wildly based upon public events. Nothing captures public attention, or appears to appraise U.S. counterterrorism effectiveness more than verifiable uses of military force and/or demonstrable terrorist attacks. Someone, it is unclear who, once said: "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Accordingly, assessing U.S. counterterrorism policies based solely on a limited selection of events amplified in the media should be avoided.
    The overwhelming majority of counterterrorism operations and tactics are never known, rarely revealed years later, and of debatable effectiveness. For example, after the Saudi Hezbollah bombing of the Khobar Towers housing facility in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that killed 19 Americans in June 1996, the Clinton White House debated many military and non-military responses against Iran. One that was implemented consisted of a large-scale covert operation that "outed" Iranian agents around the world in order to deter Tehran from threatening U.S. intelligence agents and diplomatic institutions. Among the participants was then-CIA station chief to Saudi Arabia John Brennan, who reportedly knocked on the car window of an Iranian agent, and announced: "Hello, I'm from the U.S. embassy, and I've got something to tell you." Whether this coordinated demonstration of global U.S. surveillance worked, and for how long, is unclear.
    Similarly, financial counterterror tools are applied discreetly, in corporate boardrooms and via off-the-record conversations between regulatory officials. In his excellent new book, Treasury's War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare, former Bush administration official Juan Zarate describes how law-enforcement, intelligence, and regulatory agencies developed and refined tools to monitor and constrain international financial transactions that are diverted to support terrorist causes:
    This was a new kind of war -- not 'shock and awe,' but more like a creeping financial insurgency. It was a 'hidden war' intended to constrict our enemies' financial lifeblood. And we were succeeding, under the radar.
    The book catalogues notable innovations in reducing terrorists' access to global banking networks, and increasing the resources required to securely transfer money. Several intercepted al Qaeda communications -- later selectively released by the U.S. government -- showed how some local affiliates had become primarily fundraising entities, with an aspiration to re-activate plots should they be able to bring in sufficient funding. Yet, as Zarate notes, al Qaeda's affiliates adapted to U.S. pressure, developed self-funding mechanisms, and continue to recruit, train, and plan terrorist attacks, albeit with a predominantly domestic or regional focus.
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