18 October 2013

A DIFFERENT DEDICATION- Temples of modern India

Mukul Kesavan

When Narendra Modi follows Jairam Ramesh in expressing a preference for toilets over temples, you know a national conversation has begun. The current issue of Outlook magazine has a cover feature on lavatories or the lack of them. Amartya Sen helped the conversation along by pointing out that Bangladesh does better, much better, in the matter of getting its citizens to do their stuff indoors. My niece, who teaches in an all-girls school run by the municipal corporation of Delhi, tells me that the school has two thousand students but no lavatories, not one. My daughter, who interned with an NGO in Assam over the summer, had stories to tell about the anxieties of outdoor defecation. Chauffeurs and security guards bellied up against service lane walls in Delhi’s gated neighbourhoods are suddenly a talking point.

It was not always thus. When V.S. Naipaul famously wrote of Indians lined up by railways tracks, defecating, we weren’t embarrassed, we were provoked. When Bindeshwar Pathak began his Sulabh Shauchalaya movement on Gandhi’s birth centenary, and launched his campaign to build usable public lavatories, I remember thinking of him as a self-aggrandizing crank. There were many causes deemed worthy by the college-going young — land reform, secularism, conservation —but building or campaigning to build indoor lavatories for Indians who didn’t have them (which is to say, most Indians) wasn’t one of them. Crappers weren’t cool.

It’s worth asking why toilets and sanitation were unfashionable for so long given the scale of our problem. India, the figures tell us, is home to more than half the world’s outdoor defecators. The old alibis — size and poverty — that served so well for so long, don’t wilt in the face of figures that show that India is a grotesque outlier in the indoor toilet stakes. China, which is bigger than we are, has only 4 per cent of its population going outdoors. Bangladesh, which is poorer than we are, has managed to provide access to indoor toilets to 90 per cent of its people. Less than a third of all Pakistanis need to step out when they hear the call. Sri Lanka, it goes without saying, is positively first-world compared to its neighbourhood. We are the basket case of outdoor excretion, its degree zero. How did we manage to ignore the issue for as long as we did? Given the obvious price that the poor paid in terms of privacy, dignity, safety and health, what explains this absence of empathy?

There is an answer to that question that sounds like a crude simplification but isn’t. That answer is caste. Indian society has been ordered and divided by rules of ritual purity and pollution for so long that it is hard for its governing class, however progressive its self-image, to empathize with people who lack the basic amenities that this class and the privileged castes that constitute it, take for granted.

There is a reason why Nehru didn’t talk of toilets being the temples of modern India. The temples and totems of modern India had to be the dams and factories that we didn’t have, not the toilets we (or at least everyone Nehru knew) did. It’s the same reason why Mrs Gandhi’s campaign slogan was ‘roti, kapda aur makan’ and not ‘makan, khana aur pakhana’: India’s elites, then as now, were much more comfortable with the rhetoric of welfare than its nitty-gritty, or (as caste had taught them in the matter of excretion), its nitty-grotty.

Actually it’s a mistake to consider the absence of lavatories in isolation; it needs to be seen in the context of that other great Indian absence, primary schools. Education and sanitation are the two most spectacular failures of Indian public policy and they are joined at the hip. A ruling class, itself obsessed with education and personal hygiene, did nothing to extend these basic amenities to its poorer compatriots.

There is no rational explanation for republican India’s failure in the matter of primary education. All ruling classes are selfish, but most Asian ruling elites still managed to invest in mass literacy and sanitation. Virtually every Asian country in the long aftermath of decolonization made substantial investments in primary education. The result is that China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka, very different countries with very different histories and political systems, have populations that are uniformly more than 90 per cent literate. India, optimistically surveyed, hovers under 75 per cent.

China Continues to Quick-Step India

Paper No. 5583 Dated 17-Oct-2013
By Bhaskar Roy

The Chinese decision to give stapled visas and not stamped visas to two Indian archers from Arunachal Pradesh should not be surprising. The two teenage female archers were part of a 30 member Indian team who were to participate in the World Archery Youth Championship in Wuxi, China. The team was to fly by China Southern Airlines from New Delhi. The airlines refused to honour the stapled visas.

It was a well set ploy. The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi issues stapled visas. The Chinese carrier refuses to carry them. The point made was that people from Arunachal Pradesh, which China now claims as Southern Tibet, cannot visit China on an Indian passport. The standing Chinese position is that people from Arunachal Pradesh do not need a visa to visit China as the state is Chinese claimed territory or at best, disputed territory. There were protests from the Indian side, but not strong enough and not from the appropriate level.

The former commander of India, Northern Command, Lt. Gen. B. S. Jaswal was also denied a visa by China because he was posted in Kashmir, which Beijing recognises as disputed territory between their all weather friend and trusted ally Pakistan, and India. This caused a furore and India suspended military exchanges with China for some time but eventually gave Beijing a face saving way out of the situation.

There are several ways that India could have responded. After all, reciprocity is the fundamental platform for diplomacy. New Delhi, however, has declined to do so in pursuit of improving bilateral relations. The manner in which New Delhi has been dealing with China brings to mind the story of the “Arab and the Camel”. On a cold desert night, the Arab’s camel started inching into the tent and the Arab kept giving way till he was out in the cold and the camel was warm and cosy inside the tent.

The recent incident with the Arunachal Pradesh archers may be seen from another Chinese angle. Whenever a major meeting between top Indian and Chinese leaders takes place the Chinese cause an incident. Recent examples include the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) intrusion in Depsang valley ahead of new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s maiden visit to New Delhi, from where he went to Pakistan and reaffirmed nuclear cooperation. Such incidents have happened before also.

The Chinese message is “clear and consistent”, as the Chinese would say. It is for the Indian side to see and read. The message is irrespective of a spurt in bilateral trade, cooperation in WTO and Climate change, Chinese territorial claims have not receded to a position of amicable compromise. In fact, the claim lines are expanding especially in the western sector of the borders.

It would be pertinent to take note of an article (in Chinese) in the Beijing controlled Hong Kong newspaper, the Wen Wei Po. Titled “The six wars to be fought by China in the coming 50 years” and written under a pseudonym, it rates the six wars as follows: (i) 2020-2025 Taiwan unification (ii) 2025 – 2030, “Reconquest” of Spratly Islands (iii) 2035 – 2040, “Reconquest” of Southern Tibet (iv) 2040 – 2045, “Reconquest” of Diaoyu and Ryuku Islands, (v) 2045 – 2050, Unification of outer Mongolia (vi) 2055 – 2060, Taking back land lost to Russia.

What's In Store for the New Global Powers **

Emerging Challenges
An Essay by Erich Follath

China, India and Brazil are taking the global economy by storm, becoming more politically confident on their way. But even as they form a front against the West, they will have to tackle slower growth and major domestic problems that their newly prosperous citizens are no longer willing to tolerate.

What will be the world's most important cities in the future? To answer this question, the US-based journal Foreign Policy and the McKinsey Global Institute examined criteria such as economic growth and receptiveness to technology. The result? Shanghai edged out Beijing and Tianjin, followed by the first non-Chinese mega-city, São Paulo in Brazil. No Western European city ranks among the top ten "most dynamic cities." Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich don't even appear among the top 50, but other cities in China, India and Brazil do. If we are to believe the study's conclusions, humankind will be speaking Mandarin, Hindi and Portuguese in its urban centers in 2025. "We are witnessing the biggest economic transformation the world has ever seen," the experts say.

And what are currently the most competitive countries in terms of industrial production, and what will they be in the future? The management consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu has established that China is now ahead of Germany, the United States and India. But according to the projection, for which 550 top executives of leading companies were surveyed, the hierarchy will already have shifted by 2017. Germany and the United States will drop out of the top ranks, and "old" powers will no longer lead the pack, having been replaced by China, followed by India and Brazil.

What's more, according to the 2013 United Nations Human Development Report, "the rise of the South is unprecedented in its speed and scale." For the first time in 150 years, the combined output of the developing world's three leading economies -- Brazil, China and India -- is about equal to the combined GDP of the longstanding industrial powers of the North -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, this year Beijing will, for the first time, import more oil from the OPEC countries than the United States.

Getting in on Western Commerce

It isn't just the sheer land mass and huge numbers of consumers in these three countries, which make up close to 40 percent of the world's population. China, India and Brazil are also stunning the world with their impressive performance in many areas, including research and technology. The owner of the world's biggest beer brewery is Brazilian billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann, who acquired US-based Anheuser-Busch. The South American country is also considered an international leader in food research. São Paulo, together with the surrounding area, is the world's top location for German business, with about 800 branches of German companies headquartered in the area. Brazil has literally taken off, providing a home to Embraer, the world's third-largest aircraft manufacturer after Boeing and Airbus. And Rio de Janiero is an undisputed party capital, especially now that the city has been selected to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The most expensive private residence in the world, owned by entrepreneur Mukesh Ambani, is in the Indian city of Mumbai. Anyone who drives a Jaguar or a Land Rover is driving a car made by an Indian company, now that Tata Motors has bought the traditional British automaker. India is the world's largest producer of polyester and a leading force in renewable energy. Pune in western India is home to wind turbine maker Suzlon, which acquired Hamburg-based REpower. New Delhi is one of the world's leading producers of computer software and space technology. Though, on a less positive note, India spends more on arms imports than any other country.

What Is a Dictator? **

October 17, 2013

What is a dictator, or an authoritarian? I'll bet you think you know. But perhaps you don't. Sure, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong were dictators. So were Saddam Hussein and both Hafez and Bashar al Assad. But in many cases the situation is not that simple and stark. In many cases the reality -- and the morality -- of the situation is far more complex.

Deng Xiaoping was a dictator, right? After all, he was the Communist Party boss of China from 1978 to 1992. He was not elected. He ruled through fear. He approved the massacre of protesters at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. But he also led China in the direction of a market economy that raised the standard of living and the degree of personal freedoms for more people in a shorter period of time than perhaps ever before in recorded economic history. For that achievement, one could arguably rate Deng as one of the greatest men of the 20th century, on par with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

So is it fair to put Deng in the same category as Saddam Hussein, or even Hosni Mubarak, the leader of Egypt, whose sterile rule did little to prepare his people for a more open society? After all, none of the three men were ever elected. And they all ruled through fear. So why not put them all in the same category?

Or what about Lee Kuan Yew and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali? During the early phases of Lee's rule in Singapore he certainly behaved in an authoritarian style, as did Ben Ali throughout his entire rule in Tunisia. So don't they both deserve to be called authoritarians? Yet Lee raised the standard of living and quality of life in Singapore from the equivalent of some of the poorest African countries in the 1960s to that of the wealthiest countries in the West by the early 1990s. He also instituted meritocracy, good governance, and world-class urban planning. Lee's two-volume memoir reads like the pages in Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. Ben Ali, by contrast, was merely a security service thug who combined brutality and extreme levels of corruption, and whose rule was largely absent of reform. Like Mubarak, he offered stability but little else.

You get the point. Dividing the world in black and white terms between dictators and democrats completely misses the political and moral complexity of the situation on the ground in many dozens of countries. The twin categories of democrats and dictators are simply too broad for an adequate understanding of many places and their rulers -- and thus for an adequate understanding of geopolitics. There is surely a virtue in blunt, simple thinking and pronouncements. Simplifying complex patterns allows people to see underlying critical truths they might otherwise have missed. But because reality is by its very nature complex, too much simplification leads to an unsophisticated view of the world. One of the strong suits of the best intellectuals and geopoliticians is their tendency to reward complex thinking and their attendant ability to draw fine distinctions.

Regional Research Institutions and Think-Tanks: Why are they Missing?

17 October 2013
D Suba Chandran
Director, IPCS 

In the last few years, one of the American Universities has been publishing an index of leading think tanks and research institutions at the global level. While the index has been questioned by many in terms of the parameters used, it provides a usual indicator of where think tanks and research institutions are placed.

What is significant in this index is the huge gap in terms of how many think tanks from South Asia figure in the top fifty at the global level. While there are hardly few Research Institutions and Think Tanks in the global list, the Asia list is dominated by China and some think tanks/research institutes from New Delhi. What is surprising is the absence of think tanks and research institutions from the regions – from J&K to Kerala and from Rajasthan to Nagaland.

Why are they missing? Are they missing because there is no space for such institutions in the regions? Or are they missing because of the lack of efforts and regional initiatives? Or, are they missing, simply because there is no capacity?

In terms of space, clearly they are much needed and important, given the contemporary issues and problems. While the regions either within India or in other countries of South Asia are dotted with numerous NGOs for different purposes, there is a huge gap in terms of independent and non-partisan initiatives outside the government, which have credibility and acceptability. While there are good and bad NGOs, the primary activity of them, irrespective of whichever category they belong to, they are more populist and activist in nature, rather than policy or research oriented.

Clearly, a difference should be made between the NGOs and think tanks/research institutes at the national and regional levels. In terms of space, they are much needed, not only because of the contemporary needs and issues, but also because what happens in their absence. Two things happen, when there are not significant research institutions/think tanks at the regional level. First and foremost, it results in the absence of serious alternative inputs and strategies to the government as policy recommendations. While there are always numerous do’s and don’ts in the opinion pages of news papers in the English and vernacular media, they are more a response and opinion to a current issue, rather than a well thought out and structured alternative.

While the Universities in the regions undoubtedly produce voluminous reports in terms of thesis and dissertations, for a policy maker and even the common public, to make practical sense of them is a herculean task. Besides these thesis and dissertations are not aimed at policy prescriptions or providing alternatives; they are scholarly and academic discourse. At least, that is what they are supposed to be!

Second, in the absence of quality think tanks and research institutions at the regional level, their partners from the national capitals usurp the role in thinking and providing alternatives for the regions. While none can deny that the think tanks and research institutions based in the capitals have a role to play, given the reach and distance, it is not practical for those institutions from the capital to think through long distance and provide alternative strategies for the regions.

Al Qaeda’s Latest Bid to Woo India’s Muslims ***

By Animesh Roul for ISN

Al Qaeda has struggled in the past to gain the support of India’s vast Muslim population. But that’s gradually changing, warns Animesh Roul. Today, he outlines how the fragmented organization is trying to attract money and manpower from the third largest Muslim community on the planet.

Mumbai police.

Al Qaeda has recently renewed its efforts to gain a foothold within India’s 176 million-strong Muslim community. In June 2013, Maulana Asim Umar, a senior Al Qaeda ideologue, released why there is no storm in your ocean, a video that calls on the country’s Muslims to join the global jihad. Two months later, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri issued specific guidelines for Jihad and Dawa that endorsed the right of militants to fight Indians in Kashmir. The messages were released against a backdrop of growing Islamist extremism in India spearheaded by the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Worse still, the captured leader of Indian Mujahideen (IM), recently revealed to interrogators his organization’s plans to join ranks with Al Qaeda for operations inside India.

Al Qaeda’s India fixation

Three pivotal issues make India a prime target for Al Qaeda: the country’s ties with the United States and Israel, the Kashmir question and New Delhi’s strategic interests in Afghanistan. In this respect, the organization began to ramp up its rhetoric against the country in 2006. In April of that year, al-Zawahiri released a video message praising Islamist activities in the disputed territories of Jammu and Kashmir. This was followed in August 2007 by a video featuring Adam Yahiya Gadahn, an Al Qaeda operative of American descent, in which he labeled India’s overseas interests and diplomatic missions as ‘legitimate targets’.

Al Qaeda’s first message aimed specifically at India came in February 2009, when Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, the organization’s alleged financial chief, warned New Delhi of violent consequences in the event of an attack on neighboring Pakistan. The following year, Illyas Kashmiri of Al Qaeda’s 313 Brigade threatened to strike against international sporting events in India, most notably the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. And prior to the most recent messages, in September 2012 Ahmad Farooq, a member of Al Qaeda and the Harkat ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI), warned India that its alleged atrocities in Assam may garner a suitably violent response.

Dhruva Jaishankar: Long live the 'pivot'

The US' retrenchment in the Asia-Pacific region, if realised, would mark a serious setback for Indian interests 17/10/13

Ever since it was unveiled in October 2011 to much fanfare, the American policy described as the "pivot to Asia" has been beset by one problem after another. Two years on, it is comatose, and could be well and truly dead. US President Barack Obama's decision to cancel his visit to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei - the last two for major regional multinational summits - may have been compelled by domestic political developments, specifically the government shutdown prompted by the legislative impasse between Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress. But his decision to cut or cut short a trip to Asia for the third time in his tenure as president contributes to a worrying trend, and casts serious doubts about his administration's sense of strategic priorities.

The concept of a pivot to Asia came about as the result of several realisations on the part of senior US policy makers. The first factor was structural: an acknowledgement that Asia - home to over half of humanity, the primary engine of global growth, and a region with the potential for deepened military competition between emerging great powers - is increasingly vital to American interests. It was understood that US efforts and resources were being disproportionately allocated to a mostly self-sufficient and peaceful Europe and a fractured, if resource-rich, West Asia. The second, policy-related factor was the belated acknowledgment on the part of Mr Obama's senior advisors that China - towards which Washington had made sustained efforts at engagement during his first term as president - was unlikely to evolve into a willing and co-operative partner to the United States on many regional or global issues.

But the pivot, championed by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and some of her advisors, came at an inappropriate time. Ms Clinton was on her way out of government, and her successor, John Kerry, appears not to share her sense of strategic priorities. Indeed, he spent the early months of his tenure diving into the thorny challenges of West Asia, such as the rabbit hole that is Israel-Palestine peace talks. Furthermore, the US became mired domestically in budgetary battles, resulting in cost-cutting measures, particularly for its defence department. An estimated $1.2 trillion in defence budget cuts is now to be expected over the next decade, which has resulted in some of the more ambitious aspects of military rebalancing to Asia being placed on hold. And, finally, with the Arab Spring wreaking havoc on the long-standing political order of West Asia - particularly in Egypt and Syria - that region has once again become the focus of American crisis management efforts.

There may have been a certain inevitably to some of these developments. West Asia's veneer of political stability was simply unsustainable, while the warning signs of American fiscal profligacy were there for all to see. But they were all the more reason for Mr Obama - and not Mr Kerry - to travel to Bali and Brunei last fortnight and reinforce the sense of the US being a permanent fixture of Asia's institutional architecture.

For not only have the military dimensions of the pivot gone largely unrealised, ambitious deadlines for trade negotiations as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - the primary commercial arm of the pivot - have not been met. Indeed, the TPP may be affected by the current legislative stand-off, as Mr Obama's plans for trade promotion authority - fast-track trade legislation that circumvents potential Congressional amendments - are likely to face stiff opposition from both Republicans and Democrats in an American political environment increasingly predisposed to protectionism. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bali was meant to lay a platform for the US and 11 other countries involved in the TPP to reach a deal by the end of the year, which makes Mr Obama's absence particularly significant.

Know your tormentor

Khaled Ahmed : Fri Oct 18 2013

For Pakistan, the challenge is the non-state actor, not America

Imran Khan leads the national consensus in Pakistan today that the army yielded too readily to the American threat after 9/11 — "after one phone-call saying, are you with us or against us?" Forgetting what the national consensus was in 2001-02, the media has accepted the new catechism: Pakistan should have resisted the American challenge and not moved against al-Qaeda and its affiliated elements, who attacked targets in America and Europe from their safe havens in Pakistan.

Today, almost all the parties believe that the country joined a war on terrorism that was not Pakistan's to fight. Pakistani Taliban terrorists are greatly encouraged by this new political consensus and are using it to isolate the army leadership that still residually believes that the war against terrorism is Pakistan's war. It is quite possible that the army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who changed tack last year in a speech saying it was indeed Pakistan's war, has suddenly decided not to take another extension but retire and go home because of this new all-party consensus.

Some generals who fought al-Qaeda agents after 9/11 and caught and handed over a large number of such elements to the United States for Guantanamo Bay and for trials in New York — including the likes of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef — have gone through an abject inner transformation against America and in favour of "our brothers", the Taliban. General Shahid Aziz — a relative of General Musharraf — produced a heavy, badly-written tome on such a transformation after he retired earlier this year. Another Taliban-admiring officer, Major-General Sanaullah Niazi, was killed last month by the Taliban, which obviously didn't care for this spiritual opportunism.

General Pervez Musharraf, who joined the global consensus formed after a UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) was passed under Chapter VII of its charter, is accused today of having caved in to Washington to join a war that was not Pakistan's. Yet the evidence shows otherwise, and it is actually national memory which has caved in, in the face the Taliban.

Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran who headed President Obama's review of inter-agency policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, has revealed the time and effort it took to bend the Pakistan army to the global will finally embodied in UNSCR 1373. His book, The Search for Al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future (2009), tells us about the stages Pakistan went through before giving in on the Taliban.

It was President Clinton who first raised "the bin Laden issue with Sharif directly during the prime minister's visit to Washington on December 3, 1998". The president asked Sharif to use Pakistan's influence with the Taliban to help fight al-Qaeda. Sharif suggested that the US help train an ISI commando team to take care of the bin Laden problem. As he explained it, "Pakistan could not be publicly seen to be taking a tough line on the Taliban — that would only help India (read Pakistan army) — so Pakistan would work covertly with the United States on the al-Qaeda issue."

In 2000, Clinton had the unpleasant task of approaching Musharraf, who had overthrown Sharif and taken over, on the subject of Osama bin Laden. Here we see a clear formulation of what is known as "strategic depth" against India, which, after 2001,was to give birth to Pakistan's two-pronged policy of fighting terrorism and secretly protecting the Afghan Taliban.

Karzai’s Taliban Solution

October 12, 2013

Just six months before he steps down from office and a year before NATO concludes its operations, Afghan president Karzai last week criticized the outcome of Western military operations in his country saying that it had failed to achieve absolute security.

Mr. Karzai noted in particular the failure to secure Afghan villages and flush out Taliban bases in Pakistan, and that military operations had often caused civilian casualties. Foreseeing a possible role for the resurgent Taliban in a future Afghan government, Mr. Karzai suggested that such an eventuality would not undermine democratic progress or the plight of women, and reaffirmed his desire to forge an agreement with the Taliban during his remaining time in office. On one hand, this certainly sounds like capitulation to the Taliban. On the other, an admission of the difficult choice Afghanistan faces after 2014.

A number of Western diplomats and human rights advocates have voiced fears that the Taliban would do just the opposite of what Karzai suggests, believing that a Taliban presence in the Afghan government would strongly inhibit future democratic progress, making a meaningful dialogue difficult between domestic institutional and social actors, and greatly complicating regional international relations.

The very idea that, after a decade of sustained action against the Taliban it would be so resurgent, and that Mr. Karzai appears to be favorably inclined toward their active participation in government, raises fundamental questions about the viability of the entire peace process, and Mr. Karzai’s credibility as the West’s interlocutor with the Taliban. Mr. Karzai’s tendency to be defiant toward the West has in recent history caused great consternation in the U.S. government and its coalition partners.

The U.S. government has in recent months admitted that the Afghan conflict cannot be won on the battle field, which is why Washington has supported a dialogue, and the establishment of diplomatic negotiations with Taliban leaders. The insurgents have been weakened politically and militarily, but not defeated, and maintain influence in some parts of the country. Indeed, some Taliban leaders seem more interested in the continuation of provincial and regional autonomy than the creation of a unified state. To the extent that this also reflects the will of some Afghans, the notion of a single governing entity representing the will of the Afghan people seems fanciful.

Even if a political agreement were to be reached, crafting a constitution that integrates the desires of the Taliban would prove difficult, to say the least. In the past, the Taliban have made their displeasure of the current Afghan constitution known, preferring instead Islamic law.

However, over the past two years some Taliban leaders have adopted less radical positions, replacing jihadi rhetoric with more nationalist speeches, wanting to leave the impression with both the Afghan people and foreign powers that they are, in the end, Afghans and patriots, seeking the end of foreign occupation.

Also wanting to dispel the notion that they are allied with Al Qaeda, the Taliban have said they will no longer train Sunni Jihadists or attack Shia Muslims, and that they welcome better relations with the country’s religious minorities and the country’s non-Pashtun groups. Surely, part of the motivation for this ‘Taliban Lite’ is the recognition that once the Americans and its allies depart, the possibility of an endless civil war looms, with the government, Afghan army, warlords and non-Pashtun groups.

Where Have All the Workers Gone?

China's Labor Shortage and the End of the Panda Boom
October 16, 2013

A worker rests in front of piles of steel bars at a market in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, October 19, 2009. (Courtesy Reuters)

It became fashionable after the Soviet Union’s collapse to say that breakneck economic growth was the only thing postponing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) day of reckoning. Communist ideology was discredited, went the argument, but as long as the economic pie kept growing, citizens would set aside broader concerns and take their piece. But what if growth were interrupted by, say, a global financial crisis, collapse of world trade, and mass layoffs on the Chinese factory floor? The music would stop, the masquerade party would end, and Jennifer Connelly would smash her way through David Bowie’s bubble prison, so to speak.

Except that it didn’t. The Chinese economy faced exactly this cataclysmic scenario in the final months of 2008. Collapsing confidence and worldwide financial dysfunction forced businesses to cancel orders en masse. It was a huge blow to the Chinese manufacturing industry, compounding the weaknesses of a domestic economy already fragile after months of government efforts to cool a real estate bubble and overheating inflation. Tens of millions of Chinese migrant workers were laid off in the lead up to the Lunar New Year holiday in late January 2009. They returned to the countryside, passed the holiday with relatives, and waited for the crisis to abate.

Meanwhile, Zhongnanhai’s poobahs began to sweat. The global economy was plunging into the worst recession since the 1930s. China responded hastily with an outsized stimulus package that boosted confidence, but was insufficient to create jobs for both the laid-off workers and the millions of college graduates and young migrant workers who had flocked to urban job markets every year for decades. Early in 2009, Chinese officials were openly worrying about maintaining social stability in the Chinese countryside.

The economy in 2009 was indeed shaky by Chinese standards, if not in comparison to the rest of the world. China’s real GDP growth slowed to single digits -- the lowest it had been in nearly a decade. Accordingly, the China bears rose from hibernation to swarm op-ed pages and talk show panels, predicting the collapse of the Chinese labor market, an economic crisis, and a political crisis.

China’s PLA Marines: An Emerging Force

By Christopher P. Isajiw
October 17, 2013

As part of its Pacific pivot, the United States has been making substantial increases in its Asia-based forces, including a bolstering of the U.S. Marine Corps amphibious combat capabilities. One hypothetical scenario that the Navy and Marine Corps train for would be a strike against Taiwan and a possible amphibious combined force invasion carried out by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). A key spearhead of any such action would be the PLA Marines.

The PLA Marines are at present a relatively small amphibious assault force, numbering just two brigades with roughly 6,000 men each. Nevertheless, they are reinforced by naval and air power, amphibious artillery and armor. The PLA Marines are considered an elite special operations force, and theoretically therefore “punch above their weight class.” They are well trained and well equipped, using both the latest Chinese and Russian technology. They are trained for amphibious and airborne assault operations. While they were originally designed to be a much larger mass invasion force, they have quickly evolved into a rapid deployment invasion force specifically tasked for assault operations. Despite this, however, the PLA Marines are still very much a work in progress (as is arguably the PLA Navy in general), and currently lack the full necessary capabilities for a cross-Strait invasion of Taiwan. They are, however, rapidly developing this capability as part of overall Chinese military strategy.

The PLA created its first Marine regiment in April 1953. The regiment was expanded into a Marine division under the East China Navy of the PLA. It was disbanded several years later, when the PLA abandoned plans to liberate Taiwan by force. The Marines were reestablished at the end of the 1970s, and their importance has subsequently grown, together with China’s territorial claims. 

This has not passed Washington’s notice. The 2010 Annual Report to Congress Military and Security Developments in the People’s Republic of China notes: “the possibility of a military conflict with Taiwan and U.S. military intervention remain the PLA’s most pressing long-term military concerns. A potential cross Strait conflict will drive China’s military modernization as long as China’s leaders judge that the permanent loss of Taiwan could seriously undermine the regime’s political legitimacy and hold on power.” Three years later, the Annual Report offers more incisive analysis about any potential cross Strait invasion of Taiwan. In terms of an amphibious assault the 2013 version concludes that “amphibious ground forces are conducting joint training exercises that will prepare them for a Taiwan invasion scenario. Training, including amphibious landing training, is often conducted under realistic conditions, including all weather and at night.” The report concludes that the PLA’s amphibious assault and lodgment capabilities will increase with time (this is traditionally the job of a Marine brigade like the PLA Marines). While the PLA Navy’s capabilities have increased, the report points out that they still lack a “massive amphibious (air) lift capacity that a large scale invasion of Taiwan would require.”

The chances that China will mount an invasion of Taiwan remain thankfully remote for now, but the PLA Marines have nonetheless been busy, underscoring their apparent strategic and tactical importance in overall PLA military strategy. For example, as far back as 2001, the PLA Navy staged a large scale amphibious assault exercise thatalarmed the Pentagon. The PLA Marines celebrated their 30th anniversary on May 5, 2010 with a large propaganda parade. Most recently, PLA Marine vessels have taken part in the major surveillance exercises being conducted against both Japan and the Philippines in the hotly contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and other territories in the South China Sea. This past September 2013, PLA Marines deployed in the Chinese landing craft, the Jinggangshan, reached the Red Sea en route for the Mediterranean off Syria. In recent years, Chinese PLA Marines have played active roles in both UN peacekeeping missions and multinational anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

Hugh White on ‘The China Choice’

Australia has always been one of the United States’ most loyal allies, but now that the Australian economy depends mightily on the sale of iron ore to China, attitudes are a little more blurred. So perhaps it is not surprising that a provocative thesis — that the United States should share power with China in the Asia-Pacific region — should come from a former Australian government defense official.

Charlie White Hugh White, author of “The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power.”

In “The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power,” Hugh White, the principal author of Australia’s 2000 Defense White Paper and now a professor of strategic studies at Australian National University, argues that by accommodating China, the United States would reduce what he sees as the escalating chance of war. Far from being appeasement, as some in Washington argue, this would be a realistic solution, in Mr. White’s view, to what many see as the overriding question of the coming decades: how China and the United States will resolve their basic differences.

If the two countries continue to compete for primacy in the Pacific, a new Cold War — or worse, an open conflict — will be the result, he says. Many American analysts agree that conflict between China and the United States is possible, maybe increasingly likely. But few buy the argument that the United States is losing ground to China and must consider a power-sharing arrangement to avoid war.

“The strategic rivalry between the United States and China is driven by their different and incompatible roles in the region,” Mr. White said during a recent visit to Beijing, where he spoke to several academic groups, including a generally favorable audience organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “The principal aim of the United States is to preserve American primacy in Asia. China conversely wants, as a minimum objective, at least an equal role with United States. Primacy for the United States, equality for China — they are inherently incompatible.”

Kyodo News, via Associated Press A Japanese Coast Guard vessel, left, sailing alongside a Chinese surveillance ship, right, near disputed islands called the Senkaku by Japan and the Diaoyu by China.

Mr. White outlines a chilling view of what could happen in the East China Sea in the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the islands known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan.

“China is seeking to use the island dispute to demonstrate to the rest of Asia that the United States cannot support its allies in Asia in the face of China’s growing power,” Mr. White said. The willingness of China to press Japan over the islands — sending close-in sea patrols, refusing to talk until Japan softens its position — suggests “a high level of confidence that America won’t support Japan,” he said.

The Chinese, he warned, are “seriously underestimating” Washington’s resolve to back Japan, he said.

Here is one possible scenario: Mr. White puts the risk of an exchange of fire that would result in ship being sunk or a plane shot down by either Japan or China in the East China Sea at 20 percent. That may not sound like much of a risk, but given the horrendous consequences should this happen, it is greater than it may sound, he said.

“That 20 percent is a very high probability for something which has such outcomes,” he said. Should such a confrontation occur, the chance of Japan seeking American support would be 90 percent, he estimates, and the chance of the United States providing that support would be 95 percent. The probability of a conflict between China and Japan then escalating into war between the United States and China is high, he said.

Mr. White is hardly a gadfly. From 1995 to 2000 he held senior positions in the Australian Department of Defense, including deputy secretary for strategy and intelligence. Because of Australia’s close alliance with the United States, and the high degree of shared intelligence, Mr. White was privy to America’s secrets during his time in government.

He has worked with many officials in Washington, so for that reason alone his argument has been attracting attention. The Asia Society has shortlisted “The China Choice” for this year’s Bernard Schwartz Book Award, which honors works that explain contemporary Asia or U.S.-Asia relations to general audiences. (The winner is to be announced at the end of October). His thesis, he acknowledges, falls into the category of the stimulating, rather than the popular.

“ ‘I don’t agree with you, but let’s go and have lunch,’ ” is how he describes the reaction in Washington so far. “Many American officials believe U.S. exceptionalism will prevail.”

From 1985 to 1990, Mr. White worked as a private secretary to Kim Beazley, who was then minister of defense and is now the Australian ambassador to the United States. The two are good friends. Does Mr. Beazley agree with him?

“He does not buy my argument,” Mr. White said. “He can’t imagine a world where the United States doesn’t have the biggest economy and the strongest military.”

In Asia, though, Mr. White’s argument is gaining support and, in some quarters, direct echoes, especially in the wake of President Obama’s recent absence from the Asian summit meetings in Indonesia and Brunei.

“Washington will be better off negotiating new power-sharing arrangements with Beijing, instead of seeking to contain the rise of China by rounding up its allies and friends in the region,” wrote Sabam Siagian and Endy M. Bayuni, two prominent Indonesian writers and former Nieman fellows at Harvard, in an opinion piece in The Jakarta Post last week. “Asia would welcome a U.S. policy that will, of necessity, be vastly different from the 2011 pivot, and one that is more realistic and less gung-ho.”

Sounds like Mr. White lite.

“The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power,” by Hugh White, published in the United States by Oxford University Press.

MAR or War?

By Amitai EtzioniOctober 17, 2013

In a recent post for The Diplomat, Michael Haas describes my suggestion that the U.S. and China draw on Mutually Assured Restraint (MAR) to avoid falling into the Thucydides Trap, as “constructive” but subject to major criticism. His critique deserves examination, because the thesis he advances is widely held, and if true, means that the U.S. and China will slide towards a major war. Wars are always horrible, but in this case even merely preparing for one is highly troubling, as both nations face major domestic challenges that require they concentrate their resources and attention on nation-building at home rather than acquire armaments and force projections.

Under MAR, each party would limit its military build-up and coercive diplomacy as long as the other side does the same – and these self-restraint measures would be vetted. Thus, China would be free to take the steps it holds are necessary for its self-defense and maintaining its relations with its allies without proceeding to the point where it threatens other nations or the international commons. At the same time, the United States would be free to take the steps it holds to be necessary for its self-defense as well as those needed to both live up to its obligations to its allies in the region and maintain the international order.

Haas argues that MAR is infeasible given the grand strategies of China and the United States. He notes that a key tenet of MAR is that China must not “threaten other nations or the international commons.” However, Haas contends that China’s conception of adequate self-defense entails China maintaining the capacity to “establish a level of control over its immediate geopolitical environment and to deter any serious U.S. interference in its vital interests” – a strategic goal whose attainment, he believes, entails a degree of military capability that would necessarily represent a threat to China’s neighbors.

Further, Haas argues that China’s pursuit of regional control conflicts with the grand strategy of the United States. He maintains that U.S. involvement in the Asia-Pacific is intended to preserve an “expansive grand strategy of hegemonic engagement.” Thus, Haas concludes that there is an irresolvable tension between the two powers as both are pushing for hegemony in the region. Finally, he holds that even if the United States were only concerned with self-defense, this would entail at least some “forward military presence”—a presence that China would perceive as a threat to its goals.

Haas stops short of pointing out the inevitable conclusion of his analysis: that what we see here is, indeed, another case where a new power rises, the prevailing power cannot accommodate its rise, and, hence, war inevitably ensues. However, he does not spell out which core interests cannot be reconciled. The fact is that since its transition to state capitalism, China has shown no indication of seeking to replace the U.S. as a global power. In effect, it is quite content with the U.S. bearing the costs and risks of building stable governments in the Middle East, securing the flow of oil, and otherwise managing the global commons. Regarding Taiwan, both powers in effect have settled on a tacit acceptance of the status quo with China finding that it can quite effectively draw Taiwan into its orbit via economic cooperation and exchange. China would be extremely foolish to attack Japan’s mainland. Moreover, the United States’ core interests in the region are far from obvious. Surely it needs to live up to its commitments to various allies, but these can be renegotiated, and the remaining ones can be supported via the remote projection of force. There are some areas of conflict, but these pale in comparison to the areas in which the U.S. and China have shared interests, including preserving global financial stability, preventing nuclear proliferation, curbing North Korea, and countering terrorism. Hence the quest for finding peaceful ways of resolving remaining conflicts, such as matters concerning the Exclusive Economic Zone, and the contested islands, and free passage on the high seas. This is what MAR is all about.

China’s Air Force Comes of Age

By Robert Farley
October 17, 2013

A recent Andrew Erickson report detailed the constellation of institutional interest and cooperation behind the PLAN’s ongoing deployment to the Gulf of Aden. As Erickson notes, the deployment has required a substantial degree of interagency cooperation, and seems, by and large, to be meeting the needs of those institutions.

Of all the institutional challenges that modern militaries face, however, none compares to complexity of managing the need for and provision of airpower. On that metric, how is the People’s Liberation Army Air Force doing?

Historically, the pursuit of air force institutional autonomy has focused on providing space for the air force to procure appropriate equipment, manage doctrine and training, and create independent plans for warfighting. Airpower advocates have typically argued that tying air forces to armies or navies produces hamstrung forces that cannot realize the full, independent potential of airpower. However, independence has often put air forces at odds with already existing services. The histories of airpower in the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, are replete with nasty conflicts over equipment, missions and warfighting preferences.

But of course, the PLAAF is *not* an independent service. Indeed, there is a good case to be made that the PLAAF has suffered, historically, as much as any air force from the parochial interests of ground forces. A combination of poor doctrine, mismatched equipment, inadequate training and outdated technology made the PLAAF a non-factor in the Sino-Vietnamese War. Not all of this was the fault of the Air Force, as the tumultuous ideology of the Maoist period and China’s international isolation contributed to constraining the PLAAF’s development.

A combination of China’s changing strategic environment and the death of the PLA’s old guard have transformed the PLAAF’s situation. The PLAAF and the PLAN have enjoyed several autonomy enhancing reforms over the past decade, putting each on much more equal footing with respect to the Second Artillery and the ground forces of the PLA. The PLAAF also appears to have acquired considerably greater responsibility for planning and organizing air campaigns, and has also acquired a significant amount of modern equipment. However, although the autonomy and prestige of the PLAAF has grown, it remains under the umbrella of the People’s Liberation Army.

Whatever the drawbacks of this system, it has produced the appearance of inter-service comity. The system-of-systems that constitutes China’s A2/AD capabilities depends on tight integration between the PLAAF, the PLAN, and the Second Artillery. There is little open indication of any dispute or friction between the three branches, although serious problems of cooperation often only emerge in the context of real wars. Similarly, there is little indication that the procurement policies of the PLAAF have displayed the sort of service parochialism found in the United States or the United Kingdom.

China’s Economic Data: Complicated

By James Parker
October 17, 2013

October is a big month for Chinese economic data. Not only do we get the monthly figures as usual, but third quarter (3Q) results are also released. We still haven’t got all of these figures, but already the picture is looking complicated for policymakers in Beijing.

The myth of China as an export driven economy has largely been undermined (although not entirely it seems) by data proving that the country is in fact more driven by investment than the demand of foreign markets. However, China does depend on exports for a significant amount of employment, and employment is a key factor for the Communist Party as it seeks to maintain popularity.

Hence the trade data for China in September was somewhat surprising. Exports actually fell by 0.3 percent year-on-year (YonY). Imports meanwhile, performed better than expected with a rise of 7.4 percent YonY. Although this still left China with a hefty growth boosting USD$15billion monthly trade surplus, there may be some explaining to do. Did fear about the Fed’s taper dampening sentiment globally, negatively affecting demand for Chinese exports? It indeed appears from the data that demand in the EU, the U.S., South Korea, Taiwan and Australia was low for Chinese goods. Or could this be due to this year’s ongoing rise in the value of the RMB?

To answer these questions and more, the data through the rest of the year is going to be watched very closely by those seeking to predict what Beijing is going to do, and therefore how markets will fare.

September’s inflation data, released on Monday, provided another complication for those trying to get a clear picture of what is going on. Producer Price inflation remained negative and fell 1.3% YonY, highlighting China’s ongoing problems with overcapacity. Meanwhile, consumer price inflation (measured by the CPI) unexpectedly rose to a seven month high of 3.1%. Whilst not disastrous in itself, this figure complicates monetary policy, because the real benchmark deposit rate is now negative again. Equally, food prices seem to be behind much of the increase. This is never a good thing as food price rises tend to hit poor people (for whom food purchases make up a larger portion of spending) much worse.

Then we come to China’s credit data, important for its relationship to runaway investment levels, a real estate market that is frothy in some areas, and the all important question of debt levels. Chinese banks made a larger than expected RMB 787 billion of loans in September, whilst “total social financing” (which includes several other, but not all, forms of credit creation) fell from August’s total to RMB1.4trillion.

China and Iran: Destined to Clash?

October 17, 2013

An expanding Chinese presence in the Middle East could pose the greatest long-term threat to Iran.

Even as the U.S. considers Iran’s nuclear program as its most immediate threat, a consensus has emerged in the U.S. foreign policy establishment that China’s rise poses the biggest long-term strategic challenge to the country. There is little indication that a similar consensus has taken hold among Iranian elites. It will.

Indeed, as Iran has been preoccupied with the U.S. and its allies over the past decade, China has quietly established a growing presence along all of Iran’s borders. In none of these places are Iran and China’s interests perfectly aligned. In some cases, particularly the Middle East, they are starkly at odds. Consequentially, should Iran avoid a conflict with the U.S. in the next few years, it’s likely to find China to be its most menacing threat in the future.

Modern Iran-China Ties: The Story So Far

Some may find the prospect of a clash between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the People’s Republic of China farfetched. After all, the countries share many similarities. Each can legitimately claim to be the heir of one of the great ancient empires of the world, as well as of a nation that more recently suffered a century of humiliation at the hands of Western powers. The interplay between their divergent ancient and modern histories formed the basis of the revolutions that brought the current regimes to power, and have shaped their worldviews ever since. In the post-Cold War era, this worldview has expressed itself most prominently in their shared hostility to Western cultural hegemony in general, and the U.S. in particular. 

Not surprisingly, then, the PRC and IRI have enjoyed friendly and growing relations since the latter came to power. During Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s, China was one of the only countries to provide Iran with material support. This continued throughout most of the 1990s when Beijing provided Iran with military and nuclear assistance. More recently, China’s insatiable appetite for energy has led to a rapid expansion in economic ties, with Sino-Iranian bilateral trade rising from US$12 billion in 1997 to US$28 billion in 2009, the same year that China became Iran’s largest trading partner. Since then, as sanctions have continued to push Western energy companies out of Iran, Chinese companies have readily filled the vacuum. Consequently, bilateral trade has reached US$45 billion in recent years.

But this ostensibly friendly relationship masks a level of mistrust that runs particularly deep on the Iranian side. Tehran has long perceived China as playing a double game toward it. For example, although Beijing provided Iran with desperately needed arms during its war with Iraq (1980-1988), it provided Baghdad with well over double the amount of arms during the same period.

Similarly, from Tehran’s perspective, China has used Iran as a pawn and source of leverage in its dealings with the United States, always willing to sell it out for the right price. Thus, after years of U.S. pressure, China agreed in 1997 to halt its nuclear assistance to Iran and the sale of certain types of arms to reduce Beijing’s existing tensions with the U.S. This decision included Beijing cancelling a US$4 billion contract for missiles and nuclear technology. More recently, U.S. concessions in other areas have led China to support five UN Security Council resolutions against Iran over its nuclear program. While China watered these down enough to preserve its own interests in Iran, it was less insistent on preventing Western companies from fleeing the country.