15 October 2013

J&K: Incoherence and Volatility

Anurag Tripathi
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

In its continuing attempt to reverse the trend of deepening peace in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Islamabad has, since the beginning of 2013, intensified its onslaught on the border, repeatedly violating the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) signed in November 2003. The ‘intrusion’ into Shala Bhata village along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Keran Sector of Kupwara District in September 2013, was a glaring recent example of such violations.

Reports suggest that a group of an estimated 30 to 40 infiltrators, comprising Pakistan Army’s Border Action Team (BAT) troops and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)-backed terrorists, had ‘captured’ Shala Bhata village at some time in September 2013. The Army, however, denies such reports, asserting, “The enemy was not occupying higher ground but sitting in a nallah (rivulet)… If this was intrusion, the adversary would go and occupy dominating ground which is defensible.” Nevertheless, the Army was forced to launch Operation Shala Bhata on September 24, 2013. According to reports, at least 19 terrorists were killed during the operation. Five troopers also sustained injuries during the operation. The operation was called off on October 8, 2013, with Army declaring, “our counter-insurgency deployment is being strengthened. We are now going to launch operations which are intelligence based, which are surveillance based, so that we can eliminate and meet the challenges.”

In the meantime, an Army soldier was killed at Kachal along the LoC in the Keran Sector as the Army foiled an infiltration bid by terrorists in the night of October 10, 2013.

The sheer duration of the Operation Shala Bhata clearly demonstrated the enormous challenge that the SFs faced during the course of 15-days over which the engagement was extended. Indeed, the last protracted counter insurgency (CI) operation, Operation Khoj, had been launched in the J&K between March 27 and April 2, 2010, following information that a large group of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists, all equipped with maps, weapons and ammunition, had infiltrated along the Pallanwalla sector in Jammu (Jammu District) in the night of March 22, 2010. 16 LeT terrorists and six soldiers were killed, as almost 1,000 troops spread out across an area of just over 50 square kilometers. Speaking about the scale of the Operation Khoj, then General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the CI Uniform Force, Major General M.M.S. Rai stated, "No doubt it was the biggest by the sheer size of it, and the number of people involved on ground. We wanted to quickly eliminate, search and destroy and that is why we lost our own men too." SFs later claimed that Operation Khoj was, in fact, the second largest CI operation in the State after Operation Sarpa Vinash (Snake Destroyer) that was executed in the State in 2003 in the remote Hill Kaka region near Surankote town in Poonch District. "Operation Sarp Vinash, which was conducted in an area of approximately 150 square kilometres between April and June [2003] after comprehensive planning, led to the elimination of 65 terrorists and smashing of 119 hideouts," an unnamed senior Army officer had then told the Media.

Meanwhile, talking about the direct role of the Pakistan Army in the latest offensive from across the Border, General Officer Commanding (GOC) Northern Army command, Lieutenant General Sanjiv Chachra asserted,

The infiltrating terrorists have always received the tacit support of the Pakistan Army establishment. We are almost on eyeball-to-eyeball and we can see each other. At such a point of time, a large group of terrorists infiltrating… you mean to say that this is happening without the complicity of Pakistan Army? This is ridiculous. 59 major weapons, including 18 AK Rifles, and war like stores were recovered. Most of the arms recovered from the scene of operation have Pakistan marking.

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

Publication: China Brief Volume: 13 Issue: 20
October 10, 2013

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.”

After Kayani

The man who kept Pakistan together is retiring. Now what?

OCTOBER 11, 2013

The evening was temperate. The skies were clear. And the general's eyes began to fill with mist. On April 30, 2011, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, now the outgoing head of the Pakistani Army, struggled to hold back his tears as he stood before the Yadgar-e-Shuhada, a memorial dedicated to Pakistani soldiers slain in the line of duty, at the Army's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Kayani's hands quivered as he saluted Pakistan's fallen warriors. He blinked nervously, pressed his lips tight, and swallowed back tears. It was a rare display of emotion by this normally stoic career soldier, a man often described as having an inscrutable "poker face."

That evening marked the nation's second annual Martyrs' Day -- a commemoration inaugurated by Kayani not so much to remind Pakistanis of the sacrifices made in three wars with India but to mobilize national support for an enduring war within. It has been a decade-long war of Pakistani against Pakistani, Muslim against Muslim, and Islam against Islam. Perhaps more than anything, it has also been Ashfaq Kayani's war.

Kayani, who issued a public statement on Oct. 6 confirming his retirement, has commanded the Army in its fight against the Pakistani Taliban for the last six years. His influence was so wide-ranging that Adm. Mike Mullen, while chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with him more than two dozen times. Soon, however, he will enter private life. And barring a post-retirement appointment to a civilian post, such as national security advisor, he will retain little, if any, influence over policymaking.

In 2007, Kayani inherited a fighting force that, under his predecessor, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, struggled to counter the jihadi threat in the country's lawless tribal areas and adjoining territories in the years following the 9/11 attacks. Battles between the Army and jihadists often resulted in stalemates, followed by peace deals that militants used to strengthen and spread. The security forces, particularly the paramilitary Frontier Corps, were plagued by significant rates of desertions in the tribal areas, mainly by soldiers who opposed fighting other Muslims. Some communities, in accordance with a fatwa by radical cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi, would refuse to participate in the funeral rites of soldiers whose bodies had been brought back home, believing that the war they had died in was illegitimate and designed to further U.S. interests.

Not only was the Army that Musharraf handed over to Kayani demoralized and fatigued in battle, but it was also overleveraged in politics and business. During his tenure, Kayani distanced the Army from politics. He declared 2008 the "Year of the Soldier" and pledged to improve the living conditions of low-level and noncommissioned officers, men who could not count on the kind of kickbacks and lucrative noncombat appointments enjoyed by senior officers.

Redux: Why Afghanistan Could Go the Way of Iraq

October 11, 2013

President Barack Obama campaigned on ending the Iraq war. He could not have conveyed any more clearly that irrespective of consequences, the U.S. military was leaving Iraq. His administration put in place an arbitrary "end of combat operations" in August 2009 and announced that all U.S. forces would leave Iraq by December 2011. Negotiations with the Iraqi government over the residual U.S. military presence were explicit that the mission of those forces was only advising and training the Iraqi military. And when the Iraqi government balked at granting blanket immunity to U.S. forces, the Obama administration took no for an answer and withdrew.

The retreat was camouflaged by "the largest U.S. diplomatic operation since the Marshall Plan," a triumph of soft power that was so dangerously beyond the State Department's capabilities and so poorly attuned to Iraqi needs that despite 17,000 people, it was ineffectual. It was quickly reduced to 5,000 (including contractors), and even that will be cut by two-thirds this year. U.S. soft power has had no demonstrable effect on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's choices to use the means of state power to move against political rivals and non-Shiites, allow Iran to ferry weapons through Iraq, support Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and deny the United States political cooperation on virtually every issue in the Middle East. The day Maliki returned from meeting with Obama, he issued an arrest order for his (Sunni) deputy; his (Sunni) finance minister was also raided by security forces. Sectarian violence has escalated horrifically, now killing a thousand Iraqis a month. We enabled a descent into authoritarianism.

Obama's "responsible withdrawal" squandered U.S. success in Iraq, and the administration now looks to be replicating that failure in Afghanistan. The president began his Afghanistan "surge" by announcing its end date, a timeline unencumbered by achieving its objectives. Predictably, the political result negated the military effort, with all affected parties gaming the U.S. exit. The White House established a 2014 end date to combat operations and accelerated withdrawal plans corresponding with no discernible (foreign) political or military objective -- it does, however, align with the president's (domestic) political objective of "the tide of war receding." 

The corresponding "civilian surge" that would place diplomatic engagement and development assistance at the forefront of the U.S. effort never materialized; the inspector general reports so little accountability for aid that we're actually funding the enemy. The administration has declined to outline its plans for the U.S. mission on Afghanistan after 2014 despite pleas from military leaders and even the administration's civilian supporters like Michèle Flournoy that it is essential to keeping Afghanistan cooperative in our war efforts.

Afghanistan has repeatedly conveyed its support for a continued U.S. military presence after 2014. In the past two months, the Obama White House has started making petulant statements about losing patience with negotiations on the agreement that would apply to U.S. forces after 2014. The White House has now regaled the Washington Postwith the -- presumably classified -- details of a video conference in which "President Obama drew a line in the sand for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. If there was no agreement by Oct. 31 on the terms for keeping a residual U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, Obama warned him, the United States would withdraw all of its troops at the end of 2014." 

The sticking point in the agreement under negotiation is not immunity for U.S. military forces (as it was in Iraq). What Karzai reportedly wants is intelligence sharing and a commitment to defend Afghanistan against external invasion. Presumably intelligence sharing is workable, since if the United States is supporting Afghan military operations that will need to occur -- which leaves the defense question. The Obama White House considers this beyond the pale as it would require Senate ratification. It is a big ask, to be sure, but not an unreasonable one from a country that has been subject to much Pakistani malfeasance. And one that ought to be subject to creative solutions -- the United States is committed to the protection of many countries with which it does not have explicit defense treaties. Karzai is being unduly demanding because we have been unreliable in our dealings with him. He's not wrong to doubt us.

Pakistan: Deciphering ‘Hate’ Factories

D Suba Chandran
Director, IPCS 
10 October 2013

An interesting commentary by Shujaat Bhukari (http://bit.ly/1fllBfs) that referred to madrassa education needs further analysis and understanding. How have these institutions of education and learning ended up as hate factories in Pakistan? Why is this phenomenon restricted only to Pakistan and not other countries where the same institutions are engaged in serving humanity? Are terrorists and anti-American sentiments with their links to these educational establishments primarily responsible for hatred and violence?

First, why are these particular activities of madrassas supported by civil society? As parents, none of us would like to send our children to institutions that are perceived as hate factories and known to produce suicide bombers. Why then does a section within civil society send their wards to such schools? This is where mainstream educational institutions should take the blame, for failing an entire population in Pakistan. While the situation of government-run educational systems in South Asia is generally poor, in Pakistan, the situation is worse. Corruption, failure of governance, lack of proper skills and trained teachers are killing the state-run educational system in Pakistan. In rural areas especially, there are numerous ghost teachers and even ghost schools that only exist on paper.

If the infrastructure is bad, the quality of education is worse. If a number of poorly qualified teachers enter the system with bribes, the level of training for the next generation will be anything but poor. 

Members of the middle and upper classes can afford to send their children to private schoolsbut this luxury is not available to the lower middle and lower classes. Their children are sent to madrassas, which have gained prominence not because of their curriculum but because the mainstream educational structure has crumbled.

Second, successive governments including that of Musharraf’s attempted superficial changes but were unable to mainstream madrassa education, given that mainstream education was itself is in disarray. How can the collector of a district streamline the madrassa, which is self-sustained and supported by outsiders, when he is unable to streamline schools directly funded by state resources? There has also been no political pressure or directive from the governments, both at the provincial and federal levels, to fix the situation. Things are further complicated by a nexus of rulers, political parties and their multiple religious supporters. 

Third, and most importantly, madrassas were allowed to become a ‘hate’ industry during the 1980s and 1990s, as they served an important foreign policy tool for the military and its ISI to host, train and recruit jihadis, who in turn became Pakistan’s proxy in Afghanistan and J&K.

Had the madrassa system been left to itself, it is unlikely to have evolved into what it is today. If one has to trace the history of their evolution, it can be observed that General Zia started the trend through the use of religious political parties such as the JUI. This served multiple purposes: to sustain the Mujahideen to fight in Afghanistan, provide training grounds, ensure a steady supply of fighters. Both factions of the JUI, led by Samiul Haq and Fazlur Rehman respectively, were more than happy to provide this service through their own network of madrassas. This in turn got them closer to the establishment and ensured substantial funding support. In return, Zia also used these religious parties for a political purpose – to keep the PPP away.

In the 1990s, the establishment’s strategy towards Afghanistan (through the Taliban) and J&K (through Jaish, Harkat and Lashkar) further abused the madrassa network. What is happening today, especially after 9/11, is the blowback of these actions. Blaming the TTP or the Taliban alone for converting this noble institution into a hate factory is a faulty conclusion.

The many roads to Kabul


The Hindu

China is quietly but surely pursuing its strategic interests in Afghanistan. It is time India worked out the implications for itself

A few years ago, Pakistan made an extraordinary proposal to Afghanistan regarding the extraction and marketing of Afghan mineral wealth which is, according to the United States Geological Survey, worth around $1 trillion. It suggested that an Afghan, Pakistani and Chinese consortium be established to undertake this activity. It was a serious and thought out proposal for it was made by a very senior Pakistani Minister. The Afghans were not certain if Pakistan had taken China on board before making the sounding but some in Kabul saw this as a manifestation of a Sino-Pakistan nexus on Afghanistan. The Afghans rejected the Pakistani idea altogether.


This episode holds a lesson for the Indian strategic community which is focussed on U.S. and Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan. This is unexceptionable but our security establishment should also pay close attention to China’s policies, both direct and along with Pakistan, towards Afghanistan as they may intersect Indian approaches and interests. A middle official level dialogue between India and China on Afghanistan has occurred but far greater scrutiny of Chinese actions is needed.

China has always looked at Afghanistan with caution and circumspection but never with indifference; it has actively but quietly pursued its interests in a country with which it shares a short boundary in the high mountains at the eastern edge of the Wakhan Corridor. On the Chinese approach in the 1960s, the American scholar Dupree notes, “the Chinese moved from behind the bamboo curtain to woo the Afghans socially, politically, and, in a lesser degree, economically.” During the Afghan Jehad against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, the Chinese supported the Afghan Mujahideen. Barnett Rubin, an authority on the Afghan Jehad, writes, “the operation was not just a CIA operation; it was a joint operation of the CIA, the ISI, the Al Istakhbarat al-Ama (General Directorate) of Saudi Arabia. The Chinese were also involved (although they were and are rather discreet about this). These were four intelligence agencies that met every week in Islamabad. A lot of weapons from China went into Afghanistan as well but were not paid for by the Chinese.”

Ironically, the success of the Afghan Jehad invigorated China’s main internal security threat — Xinjiang’s Uighur militancy and quest for throwing off the Chinese yoke. In the 1990s, as the Taliban gained strength and territory in Afghanistan and as their alliance with the al-Qaeda deepened they began to give sanctuary and support to Central Asian Islamic militant groups and others including the Uighur groups. It is generally believed that a thousand Uighur militants came to Afghanistan but in 2003 a senior Chinese official gave this writer a much higher figure.

China turned to Pakistan to persuade the Taliban to expel the Uighur militants from Afghanistan. The “all weather friend” interceded; Chinese officials met senior Taliban leaders who made promises to rein in the Uighur militants. The promises were not kept. Following 9/11, the Taliban were ousted by the Coalition and Northern Alliance forces in November 2001. They retreated into Pakistan and the Uighur militants went with them.

Ex-Maoist fighters join army in Nepal but challenges remain

Nepal commissioned a group of former Maoist rebel fighters as officers in the national army on Monday, fulfilling a main component of a fragile peace deal that ended civil war but has failed to bring political stability to the Himalayan nation.

Some 70 Maoist fighters who battled the army in the decade-long conflict that ended in 2006 joined their former foes in a parade at the Nepalese Military Academy at Kharipati, 20 km (12 miles) east of Kathmandu.

The army had initially resisted integrating the Maoist guerrillas, saying they were politically indoctrinated.

In total, 1,460 of the 19,600 fighters registered by the United Nations after the war have joined the army. The rest left camps for civilian life, some with a rehabilitation package of up to $10,200.

Former fighter Anil Rokaya said he was happy to join the army and had put the past behind him.

"There is no question of bad feelings. That was a different time when we fought and the context has changed after the peace process," said the 26-year-old.

Dressed in dark green military uniforms, the last fighters received the insignia of their new positions in the army from Khilraj Regmi, chairman of the caretaker cabinet that is governing Nepal before elections due in November

"This is a matter of happiness for all that the integration process has completed successfully," Regmi said.

But Nepal is some way from normality. Seven years after the end of the war, it is still without a new constitution, and successive governments have collapsed because of differences about the course the young republic should take.


The Maoists emerged as the biggest party in an election in 2008 for a special Constituent Assembly, which subsequently abolished the 239-year-old Hindu monarchy and turned Nepal into a secular republic.

Six Wars China Is Sure to Fight In the Next 50 Years

13 Oct , 2013

On July 8, 2013, the pro-PRC Chinese-language newspaper, Wenweipo, published an article titled “中國未來50年裡必打的六場戰爭 (Six Wars China Is Sure to Fight In the Next 50 Years)”.

The anticipated six wars are all irredentist in purpose — the reclaiming of what Chinese believe to be national territories lost since Imperial China was defeated by the Brits in the Opium War of 1840-42. That defeat, in the view of Chinese nationalists, began China’s “Hundred Years of Humiliation.” (See Maria Hsia Chang,Return of the Dragon: China’s Wounded Nationalism. Westview, 2001.

Below is the English translation of the article, from a Hong Kong blog, Midnight Express 2046. (The year 2046 is an allusion to what this blog believes will be the last year of Beijing’s “One County, Two Systems” formula for ruling Hong Kong, and “the last year of brilliance of Hong Kong.”)

Midnight Express 2046 (ME2046) believes this article “is quite a good portrait of modern Chinese imperialism.” What ME2046 omits are:
the original Chinese-language article identifies the source of the article as 中新網 (ChinaNews.com).

The Chinese-language title of the article includes the word bi (), which means “must” or “necessarily” or “surely.” That is why the word “sure” in the English-language title of the article.

September 16, 2013

China is not yet a unified great power. This is a humiliation to the Chinese people, a shame to the children of the Yellow Emperor. For the sake of national unification and dignity, China has to fight six wars in the coming fifty years. Some are regional wars; the others may be total wars. No matter what is the nature, each one of them is inevitable for Chinese unification.
The 1st War: Unification of Taiwan (Year 2020 to 2025)

Though we are enjoying peace on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, we should not daydream a resolution of peaceful unification from Taiwan administration (no matter it is Chinese Nationalist Party or Democratic Progressive Party). Peaceful unification does not fit their interests while running for elections. Their stance is therefore to keep to status quo (which is favourable to the both parties, each of them can get more bargaining chips) For Taiwan, “independence” is just a mouth talk than a formal declaration, while “unification” is just an issue for negotiation than for real action. The current situation of Taiwan is the source of anxiety to China, since everyone can take the chance to bargain more from China.

China’s Interests in Shaksgam Valley

11 Oct , 2013

Chinese nationals are once again in the newspapers of Gilgit-Baltistan, this time for smuggling heavy precious metals and gems out of the region.

To date, China occupies more than 20,000 square kilometer of Gilgit-Baltistan covering Shaksgam, Raskam and Aghil valleys.

Similar reports also appeared last year when they tried to smuggle uranium, gold and copper from Gilgit-Baltistan. The Chinese model of mineral exploration fails to support Gilgit-Baltistan’s economy since the corporations do not provide jobs to the locals and deny a share in the revenue to the resource-owners.

To make the situation worse, the Pakistani regime has placed a ten-year ban on local businesses involved in gem extraction and trade. Undue concessions to the international corporations and ban on the locals affect the economic well-being of tens of thousands of people.

Pakistani regimes are notoriously famous for bending over backwards to facilitate China’s involvement in Gilgit-Baltistan.

In 1963, Pakistan handed over 5,800 square kilometers of the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan to China without the consent of the local people. Authorities even threatened the ruler of Hunza, who claimed the valleys up to the Aghil Pass, of imprisonment and torture for objecting to such a deal. China currently occupies more than 20,000 square kilometer of Gilgit-Baltistan covering Shaksgam, Raskam and Aghil valleys.

The Communist Party of China might find it interesting that the Chinese official maps of 1917, 1919 and 1933 recognize the border of Jammu & Kashmir at the Kunlun mountain range. An earlier map of Xinjiang compiled in 1762 at the orders of the Chinese Emperor Chien Lung also acknowledged the southern border of Xinjiang at Kunlun. This comfortably places Shaksgam, Raskam and Aghil valleys within Gilgit-Baltistan.

The majority of the geographical entities in both the Aghil and Shaksgam valleys possess Balti nomenclature demonstrating an ancient socio-economic and political interlinks of these valleys with Baltistan.

For instance, the passes are called Sarpo Lago (yellow top of the pass), Drenmang La (abundant with bears), Shingshol La (pass where tree density is thinning) and Sagang La (pass with earth and ice).

China has built feeder roads eastward through Shaksgam linking Gilgit with Hotan, which is an important military headquarter situated at the cross-section of the Tibet-Xinjiang Highway and Hotan-Golmud Highway.

The mountains are named Skyang Kangri (wild donkey), Kyagar Kangri (grey and white) and Skamri (dry rock), while the valleys are Shaksgam (dried up heap of pebbles), Aghil Ldepsang (plain), Marpo Lungpa (red), Salungma (earthen), Khapulung (gateway valley), Kharkhor Lungma (castle surrounding) and Skam Lungpa (dry).

The famous camping grounds include Moni Brangsa (residence of musicians), Balti Brangsa (Balti residence) and Balti Pulo (dwellings of the Baltis).

Charity Begins at Home

Why China's Foreign Aid Won't Replace the West's

October 13, 2013

Liberian children hold Chinese flags before the arrival of China's President Hu Jintao in Monrovia February 1, 2007. Thousands of cheering Liberians lined the streets of the capital Monrovia to greet Hu, hoping for desperately needed investment for their war-scarred nation. (Christopher Herwig / Courtesy Reuters)

A few years ago, I came across a story about a dispute over a courthouse that China had built as an aid project in the Cook Islands. Apparently, the bathrooms in the structure did not account for the significant differences in body shape between the average Chinese and the average Cook Islander. And although that issue was rectified and the courthouse still stands, the building is rusting and the judges perspire working with broken air-conditioning in the tropical heat.

Stories like this have provided ammunition to critics of Chinese aid who insist that Beijing must adopt international standards and policies for overseas development assistance. Their insistence usually stems from two main motives. First, aid professionals worry about the impact of Chinese aid on development outcomes. Second, Western officials seem more concerned about China’s influence in the developing world. But given the complex mix of factors that shape Chinese aid policy, do not expect the country to play by international rules anytime soon.

The dominant -- and largely Western-built -- system of international aid practices has evolved over time, reflecting changing priorities and pressure to improve development outcomes. Recently, Western governments and aid agencies have emphasized transparency and accountability to help partner countries better plan and manage resources effectively. Other best practices include working with a country’s civil society groups to ensure that development is inclusive and using the contractors and suppliers in aid projects,that will give developing countries the best value for their money. Not all Western donors live up to these principles, but they at least aspire to them.

There are many reasons why China does not follow these Western aid practices. Some are well known and have to do with the way in which China wants to position itself globally. For example, China tends to classify its aid as South-South cooperation as a way to distinguish itself from Western donors with colonial histories. But often missed in discussions of Chinese aid are the domestic reasons that limit China from being more like a Western donor.

In China, many players, often with competing interests, are involved in shaping and implementing aid programs. And that makes it difficult for aid officials to impose any coherent rules -- let alone Western ones.

Technically, aid policy is set by political leaders in the State Council, the highest executive body, which consists of the premier, vice premiers, state councillors, and other ministers. Their decisions are passed on to the Commerce Ministry’s Department of Foreign Aid (DFA), which has a staff of less than 100 to manage a bilateral aid budget worth more than $5 billion a year. In partner countries, a single official in the Chinese embassy usually has responsibility for the aid program. That official is rarely able to give aid much priority, though, since he or she is also responsible for economic and commercial activities, usually a much larger portfolio.

The US-China Contest: Is it all about the “Pivot”?

With President Barack Obama cancelling his recent four-nation Asian tour owing to the political standoff over the US budget that led to a shutdown of non-essential government services, comments and doubts about America becoming a nation that is politically dysfunctional and on the verge of another economic crisis loom large world over. In this backdrop, Washington's commitment to its strategic "pivot" to Asia too has come under the scanner once again. The pivot has often been interpreted as a revival of the military and economic influence of the United Sates in Asia--more so, to balance out a rising and increasingly assertive China.

President Obama was scheduled to visit Malaysia and the Philippines followed by participating in regional summits including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali and the East Asia Summit, organised by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Brunei. Could the no-show by the American President work in favour of a cash-rich China given that President Obama was scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the summits? Has a distracted Washington further accentuated perceptions that China has, in some ways, outflanked the US pivot at least for the time being?

Incidentally, it was at these very APEC and East Asia Summits earlier that President Obama announced the US’ strategic pivot, or rebalancing, towards Asia. Washington has often chosen to demonstrate America’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific region especially to the ASEAN-led regional security architecture—a central plank of the Obama administration's Asia policy.

While Obama chose to tackle the situation back home, Mark A Welsh, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force met with his Chinese counterpart, Ma Xiaotian, also a member of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and commander of PLA Air Force (PLAAF) in September at the PLAAF Headquarters. It was agreed that cordial relations between the respective air forces were indeed an important component of the military diplomacy of the American and Chinese militaries. Ma Xiaotian expressed China’s willingness to make joint efforts with Mark Welsh to push forward exchanges and cooperation between the two air forces to build a mutually beneficial air and space environment. The US Air Force in particular is keen to expand bilateral exchanges in the professional and technical fields.

Obama cancelling his visits to Indonesia and Malaysia on the one hand and Xi Jinping announcing a raft of deals worth $ 30 billion in Indonesia followed by the announcement of a "comprehensive strategic partnership" with Malaysia including upgrading military ties, appear symptomatic of the portentous concerns within Asia over the actual sustainability of the American commitment to the region. It takes one back to statements such as the one made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she declared two years ago "… we are back to stay” as a power in Asia. American diplomacy has surely taken a hit vis-à-vis supporting its allies that are concerned and at the receiving end of China's assertive maritime expansion especially in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

Kashgar on the Move

By Alessandro Rippa
October 14, 2013

Well placed for Central Asian trade, China’s westernmost city is embracing the future, and saying goodbye to its past.

China’s westernmost city, Kashgar lies at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, closer to Bagdad than Beijing. For travellers and traders coming from Central Asia and Pakistan, the city offers a first glimpse of China. Yet, in most cases, Kashgar strikes them for its similarities to the countries they have just left. Coming from inner China, on the other hand, Kashgar often leaves the impression of entering another country, particularly as one walks through the narrow alleys of the old town, or watches the crowd at the dusty livestock market on a Sunday morning. Kashgar’s old town, not long ago, was used as a set for the movie The Kite Runner, based on Khaled Hosseini’s homonymous novel, to represent Kabul prior to the Soviet invasion. Today, asked about the movie as they drink cups of milk tea in one of the few Pakistani restaurants in town, Afghan traders admit that the city somewhat reminds them of the Kabul of their youth.

This is not, however, the reason they are there, and the scenic old town does not seem to interest them at all. As a Pakistani moneylender who spends most of the year in Kashgar tells me, “If you look at the city, you will see that Kashgar is more developed than our capital, Islamabad. We don’t have such tall buildings in Islamabad, and this is like a small town in China!” A Tajik truck driver, enjoying a bottle of Chinese baijiu with his fellow countrymen, points to the quality of the roads as a sign of Chinese progress: “Everything is new, roads are broad and well paved. If you come to Tajikistan, you’ll see the difference with our roads.”

Kashgar’s links to the Central Asian world – geographic and cultural – are thus not only a feature of its much-discussed “old town,” which at any rate is being transformed in a massive process of renovation. Central Asia is also an important part of the city’s future plans for development. This future, far from the artisans and mosques of the old town, is reflected in the current construction of the new Special Economic District.

The district will represent the core of Kashgar’s Special Economic Zone (SEZ), as the city was classified in May 2010. Kashgar’s model is Shenzhen, transformed in thirty years from a small fishing village into a large city that is one of China’s wealthiest. If Shenzhen was chosen for its proximity to Hong Kong, Kashgar lies within a day’s ride of four different countries: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan (though the border at the Wakhjir Pass is not an official border crossing point and it is not served by a road) and Pakistan.

China is not hiding these ambitious plans for its westernmost city. Quite the contrary. Between the end of June and the beginning of July, as foreign journalists in China were busy covering the most recent spate of attacks in Xinjiang, an important four-day fair in Kashgar went almost unnoticed. It was the ninth edition of the Kashgar Central & South Asia Commodity Fair, an important attraction for Central and South Asian traders. The main avenue was the impressive Kashgar International Convention and Exhibition Center, situated not far from the recently constructed Eastern Lake – a major attraction for Chinese tourists. Meanwhile, for the first time in 2013 the China Kashgar-Guangzhou Commodity Fair has been held as part of the main fair, though in a different location: the Guangzhou New City, a exposition complex in the South-Western part of town, on the Karakoram Highway, newly opened for the occasion.

PLA Rapidly Acquiring Precision Guided Munitions: Time for India to Enhance Capabilities

Of late, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been adding to its precision capabilities in consonance with its doctrine of fighting a ‘local war under conditions of informationalisation’ which had evolved from its earlier doctrine of fighting ‘local war under hi-tech conditions’.

Learning from the world wide experience of other militaries, the PLA has imported and then indigenously developed technologies that have provided it an edge over not only the armed forces in the region but also helped in closing the technological gap between its precision capabilities and those of the U.S. defence forces. Though India is known for its information technology prowess, yet it is China that has made rapid strides in information age warfare capabilities.

PLA has been studying the use of precision munitions since ‘Operation Desert Storm’ of 1990-1991. In that Operation, only nine percent of overall ammunition was precision guided and its usage increased to 35 percent in Kosovo and Afghanistan. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the circular error of probability (CEP) was only a few meters; or as claimed by the US forces it was around one ‘bomb length’. The use of Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) then had climbed to 68 percent versus 32 percent dumb bombs. Improving the accuracy of weapon systems has been the cherished ambition of military scientists. Looking back, in World War II, the CEP for an air-delivered bomb was 1000 meters; in the Korean War, this was improved to 300 meters and by the time of Vietnam War, it had progressed to slightly over 100 meters. Now, the CEP could be in a single digit only.

Combined with its acquisition of precision capabilities, PLA has also been paying significant attention on joint warfare concepts that in many ways would be able to exploit long range precision assets and provide the PLA forces flexibility, agility, economy of effort and concentration of effects. Such effects, at times, at the target end could be much more than a sub-kiloton nuclear weapon.

PLA conducted a "Joint Teaching 2012 Queshan" (Lian Jiao-2012 Queshan) exercise which tested the concepts of joint firepower strikes. Achieving long range precision has been one of the crucial elements of such strikes. The success of joint precision firepower strikes would depend upon many contextual factors like command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) network which would involve seamless integration of both ground and space based assets. PLA in the last decade or so has made tremendous progress on C4ISR capabilities which would naturally give an edge to its evolving precision capabilities.

In addition to developing long range precision strike capabilities through improving the accuracy of a variety of its ballistic missiles (including the much talked about anti-ship ballistic missile DF-21D), cruise missiles, air to surface missiles and air to ground to precision munitions, the PLA has paid most attention to developing artillery delivered munitions which can undertake a wide variety of missions. For instance, it has developed smart munitions that are terminally guided or those which can sense the target through a variety of sensors fitted in the munitions. It has acquired capabilities equivalent to the western/American Cannon Launched Guided Projectiles that can carry out top attacks on enemy’s armour. Last year, the PLA daily had reported a break through ‘in its technology that senses a target and deploys a destructive projectile to break through armor, immediately followed by a cluster of sub-projectiles to wipe out whatever the armor was protecting’. Thus, with a single gun, the Chinese artillery could destroy a large number of tanks. This needs to be kept in mind especially when it comes to the tankable areas of Ladakh. Precision capabilities would also enable the PLA to destroy well fortified Indian bunkers with one or limited number of rounds.

China’s defence industry has also developed 120 mm mortar ammunition with a seeker that can provide a CEP of 7-9 meters. Though these munitions are not as precise as those of similar U.S. and Israeli munitions, yet these provide value for money as GPS guided precision munitions are more expensive. Chinese have also fitted these seekers to their 122mm, 152mm and 155mm howitzer munitions. Further, almost all the forward observers are provided with laser guidance units for achieving precision hits at the target end.

PLA’s Multiple Rocket Launching Systems (MRLS), which are part of its field artillery, have been fitted with precision guidance systems that have improved dramatically the artillery’s long range precision capabilities.

The Relevant Organs: Institutional Factors behind China’s Gulf of Aden Deployment

Publication: China Brief Volume: 13 Issue: 20
October 10, 2013

Numerous institutional factors have driven and incentivized China’s participation in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. Central to executing China’s first instance of protracted Far Seas naval operations has been inter-agency coordination among the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and other military and civil units and agencies. Beginning in 2008, Gulf of Aden operations have been designed and supported by an increasingly flat network of civil and military organs that collectively decide strategies, design and implement policies, and provide rear area support for the PLAN’s anti-piracy operations. This article will identify the main actors in this process, survey the gains achieved to date, and explain what these developments mean for broader Chinese military development.

The Institutional Genesis of Chinese Anti-Piracy

Given its flourishing ocean economy, China’s naval deployment to and sustained presence in the Gulf of Aden can be explained partially by economic incentives. Politically, Beijing felt compelled to avoid being seen as impotent compared to other large—and not so large—states. Finally, as viewed within China’s highest policy-making circles, deploying PLAN vessels implicitly allowed China to begin what many civil and military leaders viewed as the next phase in China’s twenty-first-century military modernization. In addition to these strong incentives, a perceived lack of cost-effective alternatives for addressing piracy on the Far Seas ultimately pushed Beijing to send PLAN forces to protect its interests.

One of the most thorough accounts available to date of the genesis and initial stages of the missions documents that it took nearly a year to decide finally to send PLAN forces through the Indian Ocean to the Horn of Africa (Huang Li, Sword Pointed at the Gulf of Aden, p. 174). One dimension of the internal debates over piracy related to the aspirations of China’s public and leadership to see their nation become a great power in the twenty-first century. The “China dream” articulated by General Secretary Xi Jinping in early December 2012 has resonated throughout the Chinese bureaucracy, reflecting official and public desires for national rejuvenation (Xinhua, December 2, 2012). As Daniel Hartnett recently wrote, one component of this revival is the “Dream of a Strong Military” (qiangjun meng) (See China Brief, Vol. 13, Issue 17). Indeed, in recent years China’s “perfect record” of anti-piracy patrols has been repeatedly celebrated in Chinese official statements, scholarship and media.

As early as May 2008 [*] associates at the Navy Military Studies Research Institute and the PLA National Defense University (NDU) began discussing escort feasibility. Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Ministry of Transportation (MoT), and the Headquarters of the General Staff of the PLA, as well as various experts, began convening in mid-October 2008. Captain Xing Guangmei, director of the World Naval Research Division, director of the Legal Research Office (falü yanjiushi), and a research fellow at the Navy Military Studies Research Institute (haijun xueshu yanjiusuo), played a significant role in deployment policy formulation. Beginning in October 2008 she and her team were presented with several policy questions: “What kind of military operations are military anti-piracy operations? [Is one] able to dispatch troops [to conduct anti-piracy operations]? What will military personnel do [once] deployed? If during the voyage [warships] do not [successfully] save ships victimized [by piracy], [then] what kinds of responsibilities will warship commanders bear? What to do if [Chinese forces] enter Somali territory?” [1]

China also faced the central issue of deploying forces independently rather than under the aegis of a preexisting multilateral mechanism. Given uneasiness on both sides regarding security concerns and familiarity, however, it was never likely that Beijing would integrate itself into one of the prevailing transnational mechanisms such as U.S.-led Combined Task Force (CTF)-151, NATO-commanded Operation Ocean Shield (OOS), or EU NAVFOR (Atalanta). The reality that unilateral involvement would be the only feasible option for the PLAN under prevailing circumstances may explain the surprisingly quick and effective coordination observed between China’s MoT, MoFA, and the PLAN, all of which cooperated with unusual speed in late 2008 to craft a framework for the PLAN’s anti-piracy deployment and thereby establish an operational foundation. A symposium held by these three entities, as well as the Ministry of Commerce, in early December, further formalized the policy process.

Why China Wants the Su-35

Publication: China Brief Volume: 13 Issue: 20
October 10, 2013

A senior executive at Russia’s state arms export company, Rosoboronexport, has said that Russia will sign a contract to sell the advanced Su-35 jet to China in 2014, while confirming that the deal is not on track to be finished in 2013 (RIA Novosti, September 7). This is unlikely to be the last word on the matter—the negotiations have dragged on since 2010, and have been the subject of premature and contradictory announcements before—but it is a strong indication that Russia remains interested in the sale. For the time being, China’s interest in the new-generation fighters is worth examining for what it reveals about the progress of homegrown military technology and China’s strategy for managing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. If successful, the acquisition could have an immediate impact on these disputes. In addition to strengthening China’s hand in a hypothetical conflict, the Su-35’s range and fuel capacity would allow the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) to undertake extended patrols of the disputed areas, following the model it has used to apply pressure to Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

Previous reports in Chinese and Russian media in June of this year pointed toward a deal having been reached over a sale of Sukhoi Su-35 multi-role jets, but were not viewed as official due to more than a years worth of contradictory reports in Chinese and Russian media (Global Times, June 6). For the past year Chinese and Russian media have been contradicting each other over the status of the sale. At one point, Russian sources claimed that the sale had gone through, only to be categorically refuted by the Chinese Ministry of Defense (Global Net, March 12, 2012). Nevertheless, in January both governments paved the way for an eventual sale by signing an agreement in principle that Russia would provide the Su-35 to China.

A big question remaining is the number of aircraft that China will purchase. The Chinese Global Times reported this summer that a group of Chinese representatives were in Moscow evaluating the Su-35, and would begin acquiring a “considerable number” of the advanced jets (Global Net, March 12, 2012; Phoenix News, June 6). Whether that means that China will purchase more than 48, as mentioned in press statements a year ago, is unclear. Evidence of continued negotiation for the jets indicates a strong desire within the Chinese Military to acquire the Sukhoi fighters.

In recent years the Chinese Air Force has benefited from much attention to its homegrown stealth and bomber programs, but the purchase of the Su-35s shows that Russian technology remains critical for key technologies, putting to rest claims by military leaders like Air Force Major General Wei Gang that China’s aircraft development is entirely self-reliant (People’s Net, March 9, 2012).

Chinese aviation is still reliant in many ways on Russia. Media attention has been focused on China’s domestic development programs, including stealth fighter-bombers and helicopters. The advance of Chinese aviation capabilities is by now a common theme, with every month seeming to bring new revelations about Chinese aviation programs, like the recently posted photos of the Li Jian, or “Sharp Sword” Stealth Drone (Phoenix News, June 5). While the ability to manufacture and perform design work on these projects represents significant progress, “under the hood” these aircraft often feature Russian engines. China continues to try to copy or steal Russian engine technology because of a strong preference for building systems itself. However, purchasing the Su-35 does not reflect a shift in the preferences of the Chinese military leadership. Buying the Su-35 reflects the delicate position China finds itself now, as both a large purchaser and producer of primarily Russian-style weapons. Though self-reliance has always been important to China, it has been superseded by the strategic need to acquire cutting edge weapons systems quickly. According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), beginning in 1991, China began purchasing the Su-27 long-range fighter jet (an older relative of the Su-35) (SIPRI website).

China and the SCO: Dead Wood but a Good Platform

Publication: China Brief Volume: 13 Issue: 20
October 10, 2013

In the week before the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Bishkek on September 12, Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping visited four countries on China’s western flank—Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan—and met their presidents. In between these visits, Xi attended the G20 summit in Moscow on September 5, where he affirmed the “sound momentum” of U.S.-Chinese relations with President Barack Obama, congratulated China and Russia on their 50 joint projects with President Vladimir Putin and brushed off Japanese President Shinzo Abe in a five-minute meeting where Abe warned of “great difficulties” that Japan and China were “unwilling to see” in the East China Sea (South China Morning Post, September 7).

At the SCO Summit, Xi also met the president of SCO observer Mongolia and held a three-way meeting with Putin and Ayatollah Rouhani , the leader of SCO observer Iran. Xi’s Journey to the West yielded more concrete results than his visit to California in July 2013, where he generated “positive optics” with President Obama but no specific deliverables. In Central Asia, Xi signed landmark energy and infrastructure deals with all five Central Asian leaders and made key policy announcements on Chinese foreign policy related to NATO, Afghanistan and Syria.

Xi’s deals demonstrated the SCO’s relevance as the diplomatic engine of Chinese-Central Asian relations even though the security and economic purposes for which the SCO was founded take place bilaterally on the sides of the Summit. The structures of the SCO are less relevant than the opportunity that the SCO Summit affords China to network with Central Asian governments, advertise Chinese economic preponderance in Central Asia on the international stage, and portray Central Asian unity on key international security issues.

Silk Road Economic Belt

In a speech in Astana on September 7, promoted as “historic” in the weeks before in official media reports, Xi proposed a “Silk Road Economic Belt,” the term echoing the U.S.-proposed “New Silk Road.” Unlike the New Silk Road, which features Afghanistan as the “Asian Roundabout” connecting South Asia, Central Asia and Europe, the Economic Belt heads eastward from Afghanistan and Central Asia to China’s Xinjiang Province—although, according to Xi, it would also extend to the Baltics. While the New Silk Road has suffered from lack of implementation, the Silk Road Economic Belt is in high gear.

During Xi’s visit to Uzbekistan’s Silk Road hub of Samarkand, he emphasized his roots in Shaanxi Province, whose imperial capital, Xian, was the Silk Road’s eastern terminus. The Economic Belt would revive Silk Road routes, but with silk replaced by oil and gas. The high-profile deals that Xi concluded in the run-up to the SCO Summit included:

China Pushes “Silk Road” Regional Trade on Two Fronts

Publication: China Brief Volume: 13 Issue: 20
October 10, 2013 

China’s top two leaders went to Southeast Asia last week with a message of regional economic integration, promising to build a “maritime silk road” (haishang sichou zhi lu) across the South China Sea (China News Service, October 3; Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, October 9). A new slogan, it echoes President Xi Jinping’s proposal for a “silk road economic belt” last month in Astana (for more on this, see “China and the SCO: Dead Wood but a Good Platform” in this issue of China Brief), and seems to betoken an effort to deemphasize territorial differences in favor of trade, inaugurating what Chinese statements describe as a “diamond decade” for China-ASEAN relations including cultural exchanges and goodwill as well as trade (Xinhua, October 7).

Xi’s speech described three elements of the maritime silk road: “macroeconomic coordination,” cooperation on financial regulation and the establishment of an Asian infrastructure development bank (Sinotf.com, October 8). Of these, no specifics have been released on the first two, while the third seems to be an extension of the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund established by Wen Jiabao in 2009. Much like Xi’s Silk Road Economic Belt, the maritime silk road seems to be a statement of intent more than a proposal, an effort to further expand what is already a major trading relationship. A statement issued at the China-ASEAN summit set a goal of doubling annual trade to $1 trillion per year by 2020 (Xinhua, October 10).

The phrase “maritime silk road” is not new—it describes a historical trading system along the coast of Asia and is commemorated by a number of monuments in Chinese port cities—but the current use has not previously been seen at a high level. It appears to have been first used during this administration by Premier Li Keqiang in early September at a trade show in Guangxi province, one of China’s poorest. Speaking there, he described ASEAN trade as an opportunity to develop Guangxi and its neighboring provinces as part of a “southwest corridor to the sea,” framing it as part of his drive to continue the legacy of reform and opening (Xinhua, September 4). The phrase has occasionally been used in the context of economic development in Guangxi, as in a 2010 People’s Daily Overseas Edition article on the opening of the Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone (August 5, 2010).

Chinese statements have also tied the maritime silk road to China’s strategy for dealing with the South China Sea and world trade; but as with most Chinese policy, it needs to be read in the context of domestic economic planning. Since coming into office, both Xi and Li have made repeated calls to spur growth by “deepening reform and opening,” evoking the legacy of reformist leader Deng Xiaoping. While the most dramatic changes are likely to come from internal reforms, Li’s Guangxi speech described the trade push as a resumption of “opening” (kaifang). Expanding China’s overseas markets will no doubt help the country’s economy weather the competitiveness lost in reform.