14 October 2013

Age-old civilisation lacks cultural goal

14 October 2013 


India’s premier institution for soft power projection, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, faces a severe existential crisis due to paucity of funds

India seems to lack a coherent and well-articulated strategic cultural vision. When it comes to projecting our soft power and through it to secure our civilisational space in the immediate neighbourhood, we seem to be apathetic, indifferent and oblivious to the growing demands for formulating an effective policy for soft diplomacy and cultural power projection.

The state of India's soft power initiatives and the institutions expected to spearhead them seems confused and ignored. The Nalanda University — one of the dominant agendas of the Prime Minister's discussion at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — mired in procedural delays and subversions, is a stark example of this confusion.
The irony is that the present Nalanda initiative, which passes itself off as the intellectual heir of the Nalanda University of yore, has been unable to attract most of the Buddhist nations of the region. With the exception of Cambodia, Laos and to a certain extent Singapore, the other countries which have signed the memorandum at the Asean summit are New Zealand, Australia and Brunei — countries with no known civilisational contribution to the spread of Buddhism.

No proactive effort seems to have been made to enlist active participation from Japan, Korea and Thailand, and I am trying to be politically correct when not referring to how the Taiwanese and the Tibetans have been overlooked in the entire scheme. China, on the other hand, seems to have been allowed a major say and its propensities appear to have been kept in mind while inviting nations to sign the recent Nalanda memorandum of understanding. An increased Chinese participation in the project stymies the possibilities of other major international players. We have been incapable of identifying our friends and of utilising their age-old goodwill for us when it comes to securing our civilisational voice in the region.

the genocide that time forgot

Oct 12 2013
Refugees of the 1971 war crossing over into India from Bangladesh

Book: The Blood Telegram

Author:l Gary J.Bass

PublisherRandom House

Price: Rs 599

Pages: 499

Archer Blood was the American consul general in Dhaka (then Dacca) in 1971-72. He not only witnessed the slaughter of thousands of civilians by the Pakistani Army and dutifully reported on the genocide to his government but also, when the US continued to support Yahya Khan's Pakistan, he sent a telegram of dissent signed by most of the American consular staff and other US government officials in the city. Gary J. Bass, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, a scholar who has studied the role of human rights in making foreign policy — among his earlier books are Origins of Humanitarian Intervention and Politics of War Crimes Tribunals — has made Blood's telegram and the horrific events of the 1971 war the focus of this book. Interestingly, the subtitle of the US edition is 'Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide' while the Indian edition is subtitled 'India's Secret War in East Pakistan'.

The logic behind this difference lies in the substance of the narrative, the reaction of two democracies, India and the US, to the slaughter in East Pakistan, which Bass equates with "the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda". (Just by the way, little is said of the failure of other democracies, then mainly in the West, to condemn the incident or to do anything concrete for the victims.) He is vitriolic in his criticism of the US reaction, shaped, it would appear, almost entirely by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. He is only slightly less critical of the Indian response led, according to him, by Indira Gandhi and P.N. Haksar, then her principal secretary. Perhaps India comes out in a somewhat better light. Bass sees certain commonalities between the two — public opinion was outraged by the reports of the massacres in both countries as were the legislatures. But to be accurate, in the US, it was the Democrats led by Ted Kennedy who were vocal, and the press in both countries minutely followed the events and reported on the killings with horror and empathy. Bass even finds a similarity in the ruthless personalities of Nixon and Gandhi and parallels in their geopolitical responses to a humanitarian crisis. But there the similarity ends.

Indo-US relations had reached a nadir at this time and the distrust between the two countries ran deep. The degree of loathing for Gandhi, India and Indians entertained at the highest levels of Nixon's administration, expressed in coarse, almost racist if graphic language, is not as surprising as the political risks both Nixon and Kissinger were willing to take in supporting Pakistan. These included the transfer of arms to Pakistan, which were on occasion used to butcher the people of East Pakistan, the flouting of US law by arranging to clandestinely transfer airplanes to Pakistan through Iran and Jordan during the war, and, most terrifyingly, urging China to open a front against India when it seemed that the latter was about to win in the east. This was with full awareness that the USSR might get involved against China, causing a larger conflagration with the US weighing in on the side of the Chinese. These actions were not only reckless and unsupported by any direct threat to US security, but carried potentially devastating nuclear risks. Of course, this was in the middle of the Vietnam War and at the height of the Cold War — the utility of Pakistan as a facilitator of the opening to China overwhelmed any compunctions about the slaughter of Pakistani Bengalis. Yet even after direct links were established with the Chinese, the support for Yahya and his government did not waver — partly, according to Bass, because of the personal chemistry between Nixon and the General, partly not to appear weak before their newfound Chinese friends , but mainly because of his and Kissinger's visceral dislike of India.

Sri Lanka: Coming to term with new environment

By Col R Hariharan 
11/10/13


TNA Chief Minister for NPC

It would be facile to describe the swearing in of CV Wigneswaran as the chief minister of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) at the ‘Temple Trees’ in the presence of President Mahinda Rajapaksa on October 7, 2013 as a breakthrough in the troubled relationship between the Sinhala majority and the Tamil minority. Both the communities have many more miles to go before they can forge a new relationship.

After all the pre-election rhetoric, a chief minister of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) – a party described till yesterday as LTTE proxies – swearing by the constitution in the presence of the Sri Lanka President does herald a change. It signals the willingness of both the TNA and the government to evolve a working relationship.  The Sri Lankan military’s action of blowing up one of the final abodes of LTTE leader Prabhakaran on the election-eve may well portend changes more than symbolic. Even otherwise, it is a good beginning that might turn out of be nothing more than that if it is not sustained.

There is no doubt the NPC chief minister has a difficult task of meeting voters' aspirations within the constricting format of 13the Amendment (13A) ‘Minus.’ And to get some results he has to progress a dialogue with a highly assertive national leadership. Added to this is the opprobrium of TNA being considered as an Indian proxy while trying to live down its unpleasant client relationship with LTTE in the past.

The ‘India proxy’ tag of TNA seems to cloud the thinking of not only key national leaders but even better informed Sri Lankans. A case in point is the editorial description of the well merited TNA electoral victory by the Sunday Times, Colombo, on October 29. It said: "India has eventually got its way by having its proxy now in power and place in the North of Sri Lanka. This was the foothold it had wanted all these years and it is going to be more than a headache for the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government that caved in to concerted pressure from the so-called "international community". Was this the sum total of an election held after 25 years? Does it require international pressure for an elected government to "cave in" to conduct its own election?

This is the national environment in which the TNA has to rebuild a win-win relationship with an increasingly ‘authoritarian government’ (description courtesy: Ms Naveneetham Pillai of UNHCR). Given this situation, the NPC and Wigneswaran will need India’s handholding to wade through the complex political quagmire although he has talked of TNA going ahead all by itself.

Indian MEA’s visit

So the maiden visit of Indian Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid on October 7 and 8 assumes greater importance than merely meeting with his counterpart to discuss the post-NPC election scene, reviewing progress of India-assisted projects or witnessing the signing of agreements for Indian-aided Sampur thermal power plant.

There was a welcome effort at public diplomacy during the Indian MEA’s visit. In the two public interactions, the MEA spelled out his perceptions on some of the major issues after interacting with his counterpart and the President.

What’s Mandarin for great game?

By Manoj Joshi


AP MARCHING AHEAD: The Great Game today is about the rise of China, and the U.S. effort in remaining number one, come what may. Chinese President Xi Jinping during a recent state visit to Malaysia. Photo: AP

In contrast to a flagging American foreign policy, China is hitting all the right notes in forging relationships and configuring partnerships

The cancellation of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to South-East Asia, and the two separate tours of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang to the region can be seen as geopolitical markers of our times. The energetic Chinese foreign policy — which has seen Xi hop across a dozen nations in three of the world’s six continents this year, including an intriguing trip to the Caribbean — contrasts with the seeming American lassitude all around.

This is most evident in Asia, where the self-declared American pivot to the region — already diluted by being renamed a “rebalance” has become hostage to a virtual civil war between the Republican and the Democratic parties. In the meantime, China has moved to shore up relations with strategic neighbours Russia and Central Asia and now to repair ties in South-East Asia that have been frayed by its muscular assertion of territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Xi undertook a whirlwind tour of South-East Asia beginning with a two-day visit to Indonesia earlier this month, followed by a visit to Malaysia and culminating in his participation at the 21st informal leaders meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation at Bali. To underscore the Chinese determination in wooing the ASEAN bloc, this visit has been followed by Premier Li Keqiang’s October 9-15 tour which saw him first in Brunei to attend the 16th China-ASEAN leaders meeting, the 16th ASEAN plus three (China, Japan, South Korea) summit and the eighth East Asia summit, and then in Thailand and Vietnam.
Overwhelmed by crises

There is more than an element of irony in the fact that at the same time President Obama was compelled to cancel his four-nation, weeklong trip to the region on account of the political crisis in the U.S. He had planned to visit Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as attend the APEC meeting in Bali, followed by the Brunei East Asia summit. It is not clear when Mr. Obama will finally find time to visit the region which has a key role in America’s Asian “rebalance.” As for Central Asia, the Americans seem to have disengaged entirely; even in Afghanistan, there is continuing and discomfiting talk of the “zero option” or the total pullout in 2014.

It is difficult to avoid the sense that the U.S. is being overwhelmed by the double whammy of domestic political and economic crises, accompanied by external developments. America may be the world’s sole superpower, but that also means bearing a disproportionate share of the world’s headaches be it in Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea and island disputes of China. The domestic political crisis is more insidious because it could be signalling a desire of the deep establishment to retrench foreign commitments on a longer term basis. The U.S. has a huge domestic agenda, both political and economic, and there is little indication that it is anywhere near evolving ways to deal with them. With some variations, the same could be said of Europe and Japan.

The U.S. is deeply aware of the geopolitical challenge that China poses. The articulation of the Asian pivot was one manifestation of this. Another was the call to press new trade arrangements through the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would bypass the blockade on the Doha round of the WTO and provide a fresh economic impetus to the western world.

The Great Unwinding: Iranian Nuclear Negotiations and Principles for Sanctions Relief


Type of Publication: Policy Brief
Date: 10/11/2013


In The Great Unwinding: Iranian Nuclear Negotiations and Principles for Sanctions Relief, Elizabeth Rosenberg, director of the Energy, Environment and Security program and Dr. Colin Kahl, Middle East program director, note that the Iranian regime may be ready to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. But, they add, the real test will come with the resumption of nuclear talks in Geneva on October 15-16 when the parties will have to confront taking concrete steps. 

Ms. Rosenberg and Dr. Kahl outline the challenges to the Obama Administration in striking “the appropriate balance between relieving sanctions and concessions on the nuclear issue.” They offer suggestions on how to move forward through U.S. executive action, congressional legislation and European Union moves but caution that, as a hedge, relief from sanctions “should also include provisions for automatic reinstatement if Iran does not comply with the terms of any nuclear agreement.”

The End of the Nation-State?

By PARAG KHANNA
October 12, 2013


SINGAPORE — EVERY five years, the United States National Intelligence Council, which advises the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, publishes a report forecasting the long-term implications of global trends. Earlier this year it released its latest report, “Alternative Worlds,” which included scenarios for how the world would look a generation from now.

One scenario, “Nonstate World,” imagined a planet in which urbanization, technology and capital accumulation had brought about a landscape where governments had given up on real reforms and had subcontracted many responsibilities to outside parties, which then set up enclaves operating under their own laws.

The imagined date for the report’s scenarios is 2030, but at least for “Nonstate World,” it might as well be 2010: though most of us might not realize it, “nonstate world” describes much of how global society already operates. This isn’t to say that states have disappeared, or will. But they are becoming just one form of governance among many.

A quick scan across the world reveals that where growth and innovation have been most successful, a hybrid public-private, domestic-foreign nexus lies beneath the miracle. These aren’t states; they’re “para-states” — or, in one common parlance, “special economic zones.”

Across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, hundreds of such zones have sprung up in recent decades. In 1980, Shenzhen became China’s first; now they blanket China, which has become the world’s second largest economy.

The Arab world has more than 300 of them, though more than half are concentrated in one city: Dubai. Beginning with Jebel Ali Free Zone, which is today one of the world’s largest and most efficient ports, and now encompasses finance, media, education, health care and logistics, Dubai is as much a dense set of internationally regulated commercial hubs as it is the most populous emirate of a sovereign Arab federation.

US hegemony under a cloud

Regional realities changing in West Asia 

by Harsh V. Pant


IN a first of its kind the United Nations (UN) is getting ready to set up a chemical weapons mission with about 100 technical specialists, administrators and security officers to destroy Syria's nerve agent programme. This plan has been outlined by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and will require approval by the Security Council in order to implement an agreement on Syria's chemical weapons that was brokered by the United States and Russia.

A UN advance team of 35 is already in Damascus to begin dismantling Syria's chemical weapons programme, a task for which the UN faces enormous security challenges. Just hours before the advance team arrived in Damascus, two mortars shells landed near their hotel underscoring the precarious nature of the task they have been asked to accomplish in Syria's dangerous and volatile environment. Despite taking on this challenge, the UN Secretary General has conceded that the campaign to contain one of the world's deadliest weapons programmes would not end the suffering in the country, where more than 100,000 people have died since 2011, the majority killed by conventional weapons used by the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad.

There are already concerns that the list of chemical weapons supplied by the Assad government is far from complete and there are allegations that Syria has been moving around its chemical weapons stores even though the US Secretary of State had demanded a full and comprehensive accounting in a week's time. There have been complaints that this diplomatic process has tied the US hands and will entangle it in months of negotiations that are likely to yield little, something which suits Assad and Russia. But the deal has been enough to give US President Barack Obama a face-saving measure.

That Obama has had no policy on Syria was evident from his flip-flops as the crisis came to a point of no return. For more than two years he had insisted that Assad must go, but took few steps to hasten that departure. During this time millions of people have been displaced from their homes, al-Qaida has found a safe haven in the country and violence has spread to neighbouring Lebanon and Iraq, with Israel, Jordan and Turkey also at risk. There has been an extraordinary failure of leadership by the US President. While deciding on intervention in a fateful West Asian war, the US President chose a minimalist option which was likely to fail.

Days after being on the verge of sending U.S. missiles into Syria to punish Assad for using chemical weapons, Obama decided to go to the Congress to authorise this mission in advance. As it started to become clear that Congress would not give its approval for an attack on Syria, Obama started to have a rethink. Finally, the President was offered a lifeline by the very regime he was planning to attack, when Assad agreed to a Russian plan to surrender chemical weapons. As a result, Obama then decided to pursue diplomatic efforts to force the Syrian President to turn over control of his chemical weapons to an international body, and eventually to see them destroyed. Failing that, he could then go back to Congress with a stronger case to make that he has exhausted peaceful efforts and that only military action is the only course left to deter the Syrians from using those weapons again. It has been a muddle all around for Washington.

As govt gears up against digital attacks, Mukesh Ambani's RIL bets big on cyber security sector

By Ullekh NP, ET Bureau
13 Oct, 2013


RIL will continue to aggressively build a cyber security network to protect its own assets and will then look for selling those security solutions in the market.

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I believe India's future is digital. Indeed, mankind's future is digital. I envisage a new India in the nottoo-distant future, where almost everything we do is digitally transformed...I see a new India which will use digital currency instead of paper money, for a more secure and convenient way to transact. 

— Chairman Mukesh Ambani at Reliance Industries' 39th annual general meeting in June 2013

After building world-class capacities in petrochemicals and petroleum refining, and working towards creating similar size and scale in organised retail and digital telecom services, where does a Rs 3.7-lakh-crore conglomerate look next for growth — growth that fits in with India's largest private sector corporation's four decades' old obsession with all things large and scalable?

The opportunities for such growth for Mukesh Ambani, the 56-year-old chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), are many. Just one of them: a billion-dollar game plan for aerospace and homeland security, headed by Vivek Lall, the former Boeing head honcho.

Lall may find himself once again burning midnight oil — along with Ambani and his core team — over yet another new venture, one that dovetails swimmingly well with homeland security and RIL's strategy to deliver digital content, applications and services through a pan-India broadband network.

***** The Limits of Counterinsurgency Doctrine in Afghanistan

The Other Side of the COIN



Eikenberry, Obama, and General Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan, March 2010. (Pete Souza / White House)

Since 9/11, two consecutive U.S. administrations have labored mightily to help Afghanistan create a state inhospitable to terrorist organizations with transnational aspirations and capabilities. The goal has been clear enough, but its attainment has proved vexing. Officials have struggled to define the necessary attributes of a stable post-Taliban Afghan state and to agree on the best means for achieving them. This is not surprising. The U.S. intervention required improvisation in a distant, mountainous land with de jure, but not de facto, sovereignty; a traumatized and divided population; and staggering political, economic, and social problems. Achieving even minimal strategic objectives in such a context was never going to be quick, easy, or cheap.

Of the various strategies that the United States has employed in Afghanistan over the past dozen years, the 2009 troop surge was by far the most ambitious and expensive. Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine was at the heart of the Afghan surge. Rediscovered by the U.S. military during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, counterinsurgency was updated and codified in 2006 in Field Manual 3-24, jointly published by the U.S. Army and the Marines. The revised doctrine placed high confidence in the infallibility of military leadership at all levels of engagement (from privates to generals) with the indigenous population throughout the conflict zone. Military doctrine provides guidelines that inform how armed forces contribute to campaigns, operations, and battles. Contingent on context, military doctrine is meant to be suggestive, not prescriptive.

Broadly stated, modern COIN doctrine stresses the need to protect civilian populations, eliminate insurgent leaders and infrastructure, and help establish a legitimate and accountable host-nation government able to deliver essential human services. Field Manual 3-24 also makes clear the extensive length and expense of COIN campaigns: “Insurgencies are protracted by nature. Thus, COIN operations always demand considerable expenditures of time and resources.”

The apparent validation of this doctrine during the 2007 troop surge in Iraq increased its standing. When the Obama administration conducted a comprehensive Afghanistan strategy review in 2009, some military leaders, reinforced by some civilian analysts in influential think tanks, confidently pointed to Field Manual 3-24 as the authoritative playbook for success. When the president ordered the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan at the end of that year, the military was successful in ensuring that the major tenets of COIN doctrine were also incorporated into the revised operational plan. The stated aim was to secure the Afghan people by employing the method of “clear, hold, and build” -- in other words, push the insurgents out, keep them out, and use the resulting space and time to establish a legitimate government, build capable security forces, and improve the Afghan economy. With persistent outside efforts, advocates of the COIN doctrine asserted, the capacity of the Afghan government would steadily grow, the levels of U.S. and international assistance would decline, and the insurgency would eventually be defeated.