19 October 2013


Regional sentiments run deep in the states of India
Politics and play - Ramachandra Guha

The chief minister of my state, Mr Siddaramaiah, recently announced that he would take an all-party delegation to meet the prime minister. He hopes thus to convince Manmohan Singh and the Union government to (i) install a statue of the medieval chieftain, Kempegowda, at the city’s international airport; (ii) name Bangalore’s main railway station after Sangolli Rayanna, a warrior who fought against the East India Company in the early 19th century, and who has been the subject of a recent Kannada film.

Four things are interesting about this proposal. These, in order of importance, are: (i) although folklore credits Kempegowda with founding Bangalore, in fact the town existed from well before his time; (ii) it is anachronistic to see Sangolli Rayanna as a ‘freedom fighter’, since he was fighting for the retention of his aristocratic chief’s privileges; (iii) of these two heroes, one comes from South Karnataka, the other from North Karnataka, their joint invocation bringing together the different, disparate, and often disputatious regions of the state; (iv) this, to my knowledge, is the first time a Karnataka chief minister has sought to make the promotion of regional heroes (real or fictive) a conspicuous part of his political agenda.

The operative word here is regional. Mr Siddaramaiah’s predecessor, B. S. Yediyurappa, was an incompetent, if not calamitous chief minister, under whose regime the state witnessed indifferent economic growth, attacks on minorities, and gross political corruption. Among the (so to say) ‘constructive’ achievements of Mr Yediyurappa’s government was to rename a flyover in west Bangalore, located not far from the Yeshwantpur Railway Station. I had often driven over the flyover in the past, and noticed only the destinations posted on it — right to Tumkur, left to Rajaji Nagar. After Mr Yediyurappa assumed power, however, these sign-boards cowered under a much larger metal banner in blue, proclaiming that we were now on the ‘Pandith Deendayal Upadhyaya Flyover’. Now the Pandit had no organic connection with Bangalore (or Karnataka). However, in the 1950s and 1960s he had served as the influential secretary of the Jana Sangh, the mother organization of the Bharatiya Janata Party to which Mr Yediyurappa (then) belonged.

In other states where they have been in office, the Bharatiya Janata Party has likewise named junctions and roads after the builders of their party. I grew up in the sub-Himalayan town of Dehradun; returning there in 2001, after some years away, I found that a crossing I had passed a million times in my youth was now called (after the founder of the Jana Sangh) ‘Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Chowk’. It was previously known as ‘Bindal Chowk’; which was both pragmatic and sensible, since a river by that name flew alongside it, whereas Dr Mookerjee had probably never visited the town himself.

The BJP is a party of the ideological Right. Its counterpart on the Left is the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The CPI(M) has been episodically in power in Kerala and for much longer stretches in West Bengal. I know Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram only from fleeting visits, whereas I spent five formative years as a student in Calcutta. Two streets I knew well in those years were Lenin Sarani (formerly Dharamtala), that runs at the end of Chowringhee, and Ho Chi Minh Sarani, which is also in the heart of the city. I am told, meanwhile, that a major road in south-western Calcutta is called Karl Marx Sarani.

Long Live the 'Pivot'

October 17, 2013

The following article originally appeared in The Business Standard on October 17, 2013.

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.

The Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project

In contemporary times, most dam construction has shifted from the developed to the developing world, with some countries such as China and India implementing large dam construction programmes. The Northeastern region has been identified as India’s ‘future powerhouse’[i] where about 168 large hydroelectric projects have been proposed. These include 22 projects having potential of 15,191 MW in the Subansiri River Basin.[ii] The 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project, proposed to come up at Gerukamukh on Assam-Arunachal border is the first large hydroelectric project to be constructed in the Subansiri River Basin which in turn is a major part of Brahmaputra River Basin. The large number of projects in the region have the potential to majorly alter the rivers’ patterns and the landscape along it. Therefore, large dams are emerging as a major issue of conflict in Northeast India.[iii]

The Northeast, especially the state of Arunachal Pradesh, where the majority of the dams are due to be built, is a biodiversity hotspot, ecologically sensitive and prone to earthquakes. It is classed as a seismic Zone V – “most dangerous” – by India’s seismologists.[iv] Similar dam projects have already provoked controversy. For example, the 405 MW Ranganadi Hydro Electric Project built by North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) in Arunachal Pradesh caused heavy floods during 2004, 2008, and 2011 in downstream Assam which resulted in loss of agricultural land thereby leading to displacement of residents. There is also a perception among the local inhabitants that the benefits of the projects will not be shared with them though they will be subjected to threats to their livelihoods, environment and culture. This has provoled controversy and is a potential source of future conflict.

The issues of dam proliferation in Northeast India started way back in 2001 when Central Electricity Authority (CEA) in its preliminary ranking study of the nation-wide potential for hydroelectricity gave the highest marks to the Brahmaputra River Basin. The Brahmaputra River System includes Barak and other south flowing rivers like Teesta, Subansiri, Kameng, Kalang, Dihang, Dibang and Lohit. The Brahmaputra is one of the world’s largest rivers, with a river basin of 5,80,000 sq.km of which 33 percent is in India.[v]

As far as the Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project is concerned, after completing 50 percent of the work, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) is in a dilemma over the project. In the past seven years, at least six expert committees have raised alarm on the dam’s safety and its possible impact on downstream areas. The latest is a technical experts’ committee of the Planning Commission, set up in January 2011. The committee, comprising former bureaucrats with the Ministry of Water Resource is of the opinion that the project is not scientifically and technologically viable and calls for a major overhaul in the design. Construction remains stalled at the project since May 2012 due to frequent protests and strikes.

Sino-Pak Nuclear and Missile Collaboration: Implications for India


Defence and Security Alert, Vol 5, Issue 1, October 2013, pp. 32-34.
Arun Vishwanathan, Assistant Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies

Cost-benefit analysis is an intrinsic part of international relations and integral to understanding behaviour of states and the choices they make. Countries always try to find ways of maximising benefit while minimising their costs. China has put this strategy to good use while providing assistance to Pakistan in the nuclear and missile domain. By providing assistance to the Pakistani nuclear weapons programme, China – at least cost – has attempted to counter the Indian nuclear capabilities. The Chinese assistance can be seen as part of a larger attempt to tie down India to its Western neighbour, thereby thwarting New Delhi’s regional ambitions. In doing so, China and Pakistan seem to have put into practice, Kautilya’s maxim "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

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Drones over Pakistan

Drop the pilot
A surprising number of Pakistanis are in favour of drone strikes
Oct 19th 2013 | ISLAMABAD 

NATIONAL surveys find that Pakistanis are overwhelmingly opposed to CIA drone strikes against suspected militants in the tribal badlands close to the Afghan border. The strikes are seen by many as an abuse of sovereignty, a symbol of American arrogance and the cause of civilian deaths. So when Sofia Khan, a school administrator from Islamabad, travelled with hundreds of anti-drone campaigners to a ramshackle town bordering the restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) last October she was stunned by what some tribesmen there had to say.

One man from South Waziristan heatedly told her that he and his family approved of the remote-controlled aircraft and wanted more of them patrolling the skies above his home. Access to the tribal regions is very difficult for foreign journalists; but several specialists and researchers on the region, who did not want to be identified, say there is at least a sizeable minority in FATA who share that view.

Surveys are also notoriously difficult to carry out in FATA. A 2009 poll in three of the tribal agencies found 52% of respondents believed drone strikes were accurate and 60% said they weakened militant groups. Other surveys have found much lower percentages in favour. But interviews by The Economist with twenty residents of the tribal areas confirmed that many see individual drone strikes as preferable to the artillery barrages of the Pakistani military. They also insisted that the drones do not kill many civilians—a view starkly at odds with mainstream Pakistani opinion. “No one dares tell the real picture,” says an elder from North Waziristan. “Drone attacks are killing the militants who are killing innocent people.”

American claims about the accuracy of its drone attacks are hard to verify. The best estimate is provided by monitoring organisations that track drone attacks through media reports, an inexact method in a region where militants block access to strike sites. However, the most thorough survey, by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, suggests a fall in civilian casualties, with most news sources claiming no civilians killed this year despite 22 known strikes.

Though there is ample evidence that the Pakistani government has given its secret blessing to the CIA programme, it still allows anti-drone sentiment to blossom. Domestic anger over drones can be a useful negotiating chip on other issues, says one former American official. The government also fears reprisals from militants.

Supporters of the drones in Pakistan’s media are even more reluctant to speak frankly. Many commentators admit to approving of drones in the absence of government moves to clear terrorist sanctuaries. But they dare not say so in print.

In 2010 a group of politicians and NGOs published a “Peshawar Declaration” in support of drones. Life soon became difficult for the signatories. “If anyone speaks out they will be eliminated,” says Said Alam Mehsud, one of the organisers, who was forced to leave Pakistan for a time.

As for Ms Khan, she has had a partial rethink. “I still want the drones to end,” she says. “But if my government wants to do something they should do it themselves, without foreign help.”

MIA: $230 Million in Spare Parts in Afghanistan

Source Link
Posted By R. Jeffrey Smith, Center for Public Integrity
 October 16, 2013

The purchase of spare parts by the U.S. military is a big business, with more than $25 billion worth of screws and widgets kept in storerooms. It is also a notoriously sloppy one. Pentagon auditors have found that, due to poor bookkeeping, the military services regularly buy parts that they already have plenty of. Due to poor oversight, moreover, they frequently pay too much for them.

A partly-plastic roller wheel for an aircraft ramp worth a bit more than $7 is billed to the Pentagon at $1678. "Commander" seats for Stryker armored vehicles are purchased long after they became obsolete. A 38-year supply of parts is stocked for an aircraft with a much shorter lifespan. "Do we have enormous warehouses sitting around with stuff that no one is going to use?" asked a senior defense official who briefed reporters over breakfast on these and other episodes earlier this year. "Yes."

Now, in an act of generosity, the Pentagon has successfully exported its spare parts mismanagement to Afghanistan. It seems that a multinational, U.S.-led military office called the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) spent $370 million from 2004 through the middle of this year on spare parts for vehicles operated by the Afghan National Army. But last year, it confirmed that it could not account for $230 million worth of the spare parts, according to an Oct. 16 report by the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Not only that, the multinational office ordered another $138 million worth of spare parts to cover purported shortages, but without determining first whether the needed screws and widgets were already in stock. Why? Well, the military relied on the Afghans to keep records of its inventory. And the Afghans, according to the audit, did not keep those records up to date. When auditors asked, the office couldn't find any written justification for the new parts orders.

"CSTC-A officials...had no historical demand and usage data from the [Afghan Army] or contractors to support their $130 million in parts orders," said the report, which was signed by special inspector general John F. Sopko. Nor could the office provide any documentation confirming that the Afghan Army actually received all the parts that were ordered.

Some of the purchases are continuing, apparently on autopilot, with a stream of revenues going to the companies that make the vehicles and their components. And it may get worse, since the multilateral office intends to turn over the authority to make spare parts purchases - funded by U.S. and allied grants - to the Afghan Army itself.

"Guessing is not appropriate when spending tax dollars," Sopko said in a statement to the Center for Public Integrity. "The United States has spent hundreds of millions on spare parts that are unaccounted for."

His report is decorated with photos of "non-inventoried" spare parts in boxes piled high outdoors and in a warehouse, located in different regions of the country. The Army, the report says, "lacks the staff to conduct inventories." After visiting Kabul and the provinces of Mazar-e-Sharif, Helmand, and Kandahar, his auditors were told, they said, that some containers are not inventoried for a year, "leaving contents susceptible to theft."

The entire process leaves "U.S.-purchased equipment and funds vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse," the report said.

As They Leave Afghanistan, Britons Ask, ‘Why?’

Published: October 17, 2013
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That question is being asked here and in Kabul as British troops, like their more numerous American counterparts, prepare to relinquish combat duties in Afghanistan next year after a tenure that appears to have achieved few of the goals set by their political masters.

In March 2002, Britain committed 1,700 soldiers to join American forces in what was portrayed as little more than rooting out the remnants of Taliban and Qaeda forces after the American-led invasion six months earlier. The logic was that if the streets of Britain were to be kept safe, then terrorism’s distant havens had to be dismantled. But that brief early deployment did not shield Britain from the more immediate menace of homegrown terrorism. On July 7, 2005, four suicide bombers killed themselves and 52 travelers on the London transit system. None of them had ties to Afghanistan.

By 2009, the official mantra was the same, but the geographic reach had been redefined. Mission creep had raised the number of British soldiers to 9,000. The border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, said Gordon Brown, the prime minister then, were “the crucible of global terrorism” threatening “the streets of Britain.”

In late 2013, a new statistic has entered the calculations of loss: 444 British military personnel dead — the single most potent figure fueling the outrage expressed by many in Britain when Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, told the BBC last week that the entire NATO exercise had been pointless.

The years of combat “caused Afghanistan a lot of suffering and a lot of loss of life and no gains because the country is not secure,” he said, adding: I am not happy to say there is partial security because that is not what we’re seeking. What we wanted was absolute security and a clear cut war against terrorism.”

Cpl. Tom Neathway, a Briton who lost both legs and his left arm to a Taliban booby-trap five years ago, said of Mr. Karzai: “I think he’s stupid to say that. We may not be out there for the right reasons. Who knows?”

But comments like Mr. Karzai’s, the corporal said, make a soldier “just wonder whose side he is fighting on.”

The resentments draw on a long history of interventions and invasion that left British imperial armies bloodied from Kandahar, Afghanistan, the 19th century to Kut, Iraq, in World War I. Then, as now, the imperative to mold far-flung events collided with resistance.

But the precedents did not deter Tony Blair as prime minister from joining the United States as a junior partner in fighting in both countries, only to discover that history could not simply be rewritten when the invaders tired of the fray and wished to go home.

Iraq is now seized with some of its bloodiest, sectarian violence since the darkest days of the American-led occupation. Afghanistan is threatened with internecine bloodletting the moment Western forces withdraw next year.

While politicians and generals conspire to declare the campaign a success, the columnist Simon Tisdall wrote in The Guardian, “Karzai’s comments are a salutary reminder that all is far from well in Afghanistan — and things could turn very messy, very soon.”

According to the Web site iCasualties.org, 2,287 American troops have been killed there since 2002. The coalition losses amount to far fewer than the thousands of civilian deaths tallied by the United Nations, which blames insurgents for three-quarters of noncombatant fatalities. But, arguably the most troubling legacy is that the avowed target of the Afghan campaign — jihadism — has simply dissipated to re-form elsewhere, in Somalia, Yemen, the desert hide-outs of North Africa and the newest killing fields of Syria.

Most worrisome to the counterterrorism authorities here, scores of Britons who have joined the battle against President Bashar al-Assad may now return home, even as the Afghan war winds down without the clear-cut outcome invoked by Mr. Karzai.

Some specialists depict the shift of focus as the most ominous in a decade.

“Syria is a very profound game changer,” said Charles Farr, who heads the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, “and the significance of it is still emerging.”

Afghan Army Struggling Because of Broken Equipment and Poor Logistics Infrastructure

Kevin Sieff
Washington Post
October 18, 2013
Source Link
October 18, 2013
In Afghanistan, army struggles to wage war with damaged equipment, poor logistics

WARDAK, Afghanistan — Their fighting season nearly over, members of an embattled Afghan army unit recently inspected their equipment, most of which was in two heaps on their base. There were Humvees shredded by roadside bombs, armored trucks damaged by rocket-propelled grenades and other vehicles in need of repair after hard use in one of the country’s most volatile areas.

The Afghan soldiers could not fix any of them, and replacements hadn’t come. Seventy-five percent of the battalion’s armored vehicles were out of commission. There were so few Humvees that some soldiers walked for 20 hours to get from base to base.

“How can we fight a war like this?” asked Col. Hamidullah, the battalion commander, who like many Afghans uses one name.

The problems plaguing Hamidullah’s battalion represent what might be the biggest threat to the fledgling Afghan army: an inability to repair or replace vital equipment once it is broken. The U.S. military shouldered that responsibility for years. But just as the Afghan army started doing the bulk of the fighting, the Americans stopped repairing Afghan equipment.

The U.S. military said that turning over the job to the Afghans was an inevitable part of the transition process. But with the Afghan supply chain still undeveloped and the Defense Ministry still hobbled by corruption, army units across the country aren’t getting the gear and parts that they need.

Afghan commanders are now taking stock of how many vehicles they have lost during the fighting season, which typically lasts from spring until fall, when many Taliban commanders return to Pakistan. Nabiullah, a battalion commander in the Arghandab River valley in southern Kandahar province, said by telephone that 20 percent of his Humvees have been blown up or have fallen into disrepair. Khan Agha, a battalion commander in Kandahar’s Panjwai district, said his unit lost about 15 percent of its Humvees in the past four months.

“We don’t have enough trained professionals to take care of this equipment,” Nabiullah said.

By nearly all measures, it was a brutal fighting season for the Afghan security forces. About 400 soldiers and police officers were killed every month. Even in districts where there wasn’t much combat, improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs, took an enormous toll on the army and its equipment. U.S. officials have praised the Afghans for their resilience in the face of such heavy losses.

Afghan soldiers say that they haven’t lost their willingness to fight but that the lack of functional equipment has restricted their ability to conduct operations. In Hamidullah’s battalion, for example, the team charged with locating and disarming roadside bombs is down from four Humvees to one, seriously reducing the number of patrols it can conduct.

Even the much-lauded Afghan special forces teams are plagued by the logistical problems.

“The Americans gave us the Humvees, but they didn’t give us the spare parts,” said Sgt. Mohammad Safi, who is part of the special forces team based in Wardak province’s Nerkh district. His team lost three Humvees this fighting season, and none have been replaced.

Lack of spare parts

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the armored vehicles to Afghan troops. This month, the Taliban fired two rocket-
propelled grenades at a personnel carrier from Hamidullah’s battalion while the soldiers were on a routine patrol. The windshield was shattered, the roof was mangled and the engine was damaged, but the men inside were unharmed.

Days later, three Afghan mechanics were hard at work trying to repair the damaged engine. The Americans had left them a manual to fix the vehicle, full of diagrams and pictures of spare parts. But the Afghans had received few of those parts. They were even out of engine oil.

Indo-Myanmar Relations: An Appraisal

India and Myanmar share significant cultural and historic ties. However, the cordial Indo Myanmar relations prevalent during the Nehruvian era developed strains after the military assumed power in 1962. India’s support to the pro-democracy movement in 1988 further exacerbated the relationship. The process of normalisation of relations started in 1993 when India decided to engage the military regime. There was a commonality of interests as Myanmar looked to reduce its excessive dependence on China while India sought to curtail increasing Chinese encroachment in its backyard.The award of the “Nehru Prize for International Understanding” to Aung Suu Kyi in 1995 raised eyebrows in the military regime and at the same time, India’s engagement with the military junta upset Aung Suu Kyi. However, this was but a temporary hiccup in the developing relationship. A series of high-level visits from both sides have added to strengthening the relationship. In the economic domain, India has committed over USD 1.2 billion in aid to Myanmar in the sectors of infrastructure, health, education, agriculture, industrial development and culture. This is the second largest Indian investment after Afghanistan where India has committed over USD 2 billion. Apart from several developmental initiatives, India also supplied military hardware, badly in need by Myanmar army in fighting rebels, in spite of severe international pressure.

High Level Visits

After the new government was formed by President Thein Sein on March 30, 2011 and democratic reforms introduced, the relations have seen further impetus. Shri S M Krishna, then Minister of External Affairs was the first foreign minister of any country to visit Myanmar in June 2011. This was followed by a visit of President U Thein Sein to India in October. President Thein Sein visited India again in Dec 2012 for the Indo-ASEAN summit. Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann led a high level parliamentary delegation to India from December 11-17, 2011. The objective of the visit was to share India’s experience in parliamentary practices and procedures with the visiting Myanmar delegation. Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin paid an official visit to India from January 22-26, 2012. The Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh paid a state visit to Myanmar from May 27-29 2012, which was a first by an India Prime Minister in 25 years. The C-in-C of Myanmar armed forces Vice Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing was on a weeklong visit to India in August 2012. The Indian service chiefs too visited Myanmar since. The visit of Aung Sang Suu Kyi in November 2012 helped clear her misgivings caused as a result of India engaging the military junta. The present Indian External Affairs minister Mr. Salman Khurshid also visited Myanmar in December 2012, his first foreign trip to any country after taking up the post. These visits are a pointer to the importance both countries attach to improved ties.


There are two border trading points Moreh-Tamu andZowkhatar –Rhi. Proposal for a third border trade point at Avakhung-Pansat/Somrai is under consideration. The border trade saw a spurt from USD 14.2 million in 1980-81 to USD 1.94 billion in 2012-13. The target is to increase trade to USD 3 billion by 2015. India is a major export market for Myanmar with timber and pulses constituting Myanmar’s major exports. But starting 2014 Myanmar has banned export of raw timber. Now many Indian companies are considering investments in Myanmar to process wood and set up plywood and other factories. Indian exports remain on the lower side with pharmaceuticals being the major export item. Now the exports are diversifying and companies are investing in passenger cars, commercial vehicles and textiles. Indian companies are also considering investing in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in a big way. Though trans-border trade has taken off it is still much below the potential which is being addressed on a priority basis with significant steps taken in this direction. In addition, some Indian companies are investing in oil pipeline projects and offshore platform development project. ONGC and GAIL have a share in A1 and A3 blocks and are investing in gas pipeline projects. Other companies are also bidding for new exploration blocks for which scrutiny is underway.

The Cost of Asia’s Energy Boom

October 18, 2013
By Anthony Fensom

Rising energy demand throughout the region will require some massive new investments.

Asia has been warned of the high price to be paid for its energy boom, with the Asian Development Bank urging regional cooperation to overcome mounting power costs, energy security and environmental challenges.

“Our projections show the region will consume more than half the world’s energy supply by 2035, with electricity consumption more than doubling as economic growth and rising affluence drive demand,” said the bank’s S. Chander, special senior advisor, infrastructure and public-private partnerships.

“Countries cannot meet these huge power requirements all on their own, so the region must accelerate cross-border interconnection of electricity and gas grids to improve efficiencies, cut costs, and take advantage of surplus energy,” he added in a statement announcing the bank’s latest Energy Outlook for Asia and the Pacific report.

At 2.1 percent a year over the period through to 2035, the Asia-Pacific’s energy demand is expected to exceed the world average growth rate of 1.5 percent, although the trend will slow as countries improve their energy efficiency.

Nevertheless, the Philippines-based lender said fossil fuels would continue to dominate the region’s energy mix, increasing their share to 83 percent by 2035, led by coal at 42 percent, oil at 26 percent and natural gas at 17.5 percent.

Coal demand is expected to grow by nearly 2 percent a year, led by increased Chinese consumption and greater consumption in Southeast Asia as countries seek lower cost energy sources.

While China will dominate demand with its near two-thirds share, its demand growth is expected to slow due to improvements in energy efficiency and a shift toward other power sources. By contrast, India will see a steady rise in demand, maintaining the second-largest share through continued growth driven by the power sector.

Among Southeast Asian nations, Indonesia is expected to substantially increase demand, reaching Japan’s level by 2035 to become the fourth-biggest coal user in the region. The ADB said the region would become a net importer of coal “sometime after 2015,” but would switch back to a net exporter after 2035 due to growing production in Indonesia and Australia.

The coal forecasts were supported by energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie (Woodmac), which has predicted that coal will surpass oil as the world’s key fuel by 2020 on the back of rising demand in China and India.

The Dragon’s Spear

China’s asymmetric capabilities have the potential to lessen US military advantage

Over a decade ago the Federation of American Scientists described the Chinese missile program as a pocket of excellence in an otherwise problematic indigenous military industry. In 2010 the Chinese military was reported to have started tests on its most ambitious missile project, the DF-21A, an anti-ship ballistic missile. In early 2013 several reports claimed that the missile had begun to be deployed in small numbers in Southern China. The DF-21A is reportedly designed to be an aircraft carrier killer aimed at deterring US aircraft-carrier battle groups from interfering in case of conflict over Taiwan and other flashpoints like the South China Sea.

China’s decision to use ballistic missiles for anti-ship warfare is unusual considering that targeting moving ships with a missile on a ballistic trajectory is much harder and requires more sophisticated navigation than cruise missiles. The People’s Liberation Army decision to opt for an anti-ship ballistic missile, or ASBM, reflects the growing confidence and sophistication of its military industries.

Analysts are divided over the implications of the new system for the US military. Some, not surprisingly, claimed that it is a game-changer and a threat to US forces in the region. Other analysts observed that the US military has several ways of defeating the ASBM such as using decoys and by targeting Chinese support and communication systems. While both sides of the debate have raised valid points, one should not see the Chinese ASBM in isolation, but as part of larger process of military modernization and a changing doctrine in the PLA.

Chinese military strategists have for millenniums been fascinated by asymmetric methods of warfare. China has no illusions about its military inferiority vis-à-vis the United States and knows that the status is likely to endure for at least two decades.

As such the PLA has been developing a full range of asymmetric strategies to deter the US until its military reaches maturity. Aware of the US dependence on space and satellite communications to conduct even the most basic military operations, the PLA has for the past decade invested significant amounts to develop anti-satellite weapons. In January 2007 China fired its first anti-satellite missile destroying one of its own aging satellites in outer space. In May 2013 China fired a rocket carrying no payload over 10,000 kilometres into outer space, the highest launch since the mid-1970s. The absence of a payload such as a satellite could suggest the rocket is designed as an anti-satellite weapon.

In addition to ballistic missiles and rockets, China has also experimented with green and blue laser weapons with the US military accusing China of firing several laser beans at its satellites. Laser pulses can disrupt satellite communication and depending on the strength could destroy it. 

China’s Air Force Comes of Age

October 17, 2013By Robert Farley

Long subordinate to the army, the PLAAF is gaining greater autonomy while still cooperating admirably with other services.

Image credit:U.S. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash

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.

The Most Dangerous Continent

By Moisés Naím

Wikimedia Commons Some problems travel well. Sometimes too well. Financial crashes have taught us that in some cases what starts as a very local economic problem quickly escalates and becomes a global crisis. Think Greece—or more recently Cyprus. And we know that terrorism also has a way of going global in unpredictable and dangerous ways.

But what about regions? Which continents are more prone to infect the rest of the world with their problems? Africa and Latin America's woes, for example, remain mostly insulated. Of course, the mass emigration of Africans to Europe and Latin Americans to the United States is an example of how one continent’s problems spill over into another, but this contagion has had much less of an impact than the economic crisis in the U.S. or Europe, for example. Millions of people all over the world, and especially in Europe, are still paying the consequences for that financial earthquake.

The point is that the problems of some continents are more ‘systemic’ than others. This is to say that the agonies of some regions affect the entire world, no matter how far away they are. The question, then, is: Which of the five continents is bound to spread more unhappiness in the future?

One way to answer is to think about which threats travel the easiest and with no trouble skirt borders, fortifications, or the public policies that we naïvely believe protect us. An economic crash in China, for example, is bound to be felt everywhere and by everyone.

Nor may we be able to dodge the consequences of the nuclear experiments of a young, inexperienced North Korean tyrant. So, which continent is the most dangerous? Asia. This may surprise those who see the ‘Asian economic miracle’ as a model for the rest of the world. Or those who think that conditions in the Middle East are ripe for a lengthy and rising wave of armed conflicts, religious radicalization and international terrorism. All this is true.

But the problems that originate in Asia will prove more and more complicated, as their already gigantic economies continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace than in the last several decades.

The main threats to humanity today are: 1) climate change; 2) nuclear proliferation; 3) the outbreak of a disease with no known cure that spreads across the globe claiming a large number of victims; 4) global economic crises and, of course, 5) an armed conflict between two or more military powers, such as China and India, for example. Of course, there are other threats: terrorism, the increased scarcity of water, criminalized governments, structural unemployment, and the proliferation of failed states. But none of these would generate the colossal consequences of the five I list.

Asia is the region with the most countries that have the potential to create and spread these five problems. The much celebrated economic success of the ‘Asian tigers’ obscures the fact that this continent is also home to the principal threats to global stability.

According to the Asian Development Bank, Asia is on the path to double its consumption of oil, triple its use of natural gas, and see an 81 percent increase in its use of high polluting coal, speeding up and doubling its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2035. Asia alone, then, would be emitting the total amount of CO2 that experts have calculated to be the maximum sustainable level for the entire planet.

What Happened to Iraq?

Norman Ricklefs Oct 17 2013, 
Terrorists that the U.S. subdued, but never defeated, have reemerged and now threaten to restart Iraq's sectarian civil war.

Civilians gather at the site of a car bomb exploded in a street lined with shops in the Iraqi city of Samarra, 62 miles north of Baghdad. (Bakr al-Azzawi/Reuters)

As the bombings increase and show no sign of letting up, and as many wonder if Iraq is about to descend again into the horrors of sectarian war; it's worth taking a good look at Iraq today and asking what is going on with America's greatest nation-building attempt since the Marshall Plan.

Any examination of the last 10 years in Iraq demonstrates that the main problem facing the country since 2003 has been the rise of armed groups outside the control of the central government, beginning with the anti-U.S. insurgency, which contained a terrorist component that still operates today with virtual impunity, and followed by the rise of the Shia militias, who were defeated on the battlefield between 2008 and 2011 but still possess their weapons. All the other indicators in Iraq are actually very good, especially for a post-conflict environment, but the spiraling violence now is especially distressing after the steady reduction in violence between 2007 and 2012.

The societal divisions that existed in Iraq in 2003 still exist today. There are the Sunni tribes of western Iraq; there are Sunni Islamists; there are Sufi groups; there are radical jihadists; there are Shia Islamists connected with Iran; there are Shia Islamists who follow the infamous Moqtada al Sadr, and there are Shia Islamists who follow the example of this father but not him personally. And then, of course, there are the majority of Iraqis, who are remarkably moderate, non-sectarian and secular in outlook. After the 2003 invasion, various elements of the Sunni community formed the backbone of the anti-coalition insurgency, and later Shia militias supported by Iran opened another front against coalition forces. In 2007, the Sunni insurgency began to reduce in force, and after 2008 the Shia militias were also pacified, eventually stopping their military activities by 2011. Today, although the same societal divisions exist, it is only the most radical Sunni jihadists who are fighting.

The Party’s Already Started in Egypt

Jack Mulcaire
October 17, 2013 · 

Almost four months after the coup that removed former President Muhammed Morsi from power, Egypt is not even close to calming down and returning to business as usual. A new phase in the turmoil initially unleashed by Mubarak’s overthrow has begun—armed resistance to the new military government by Islamists of different stripes who have been exiled from Egypt’s political process. While this nascent rebellion is starting small for now, the signs are already very worrying. Egypt could be standing on the edge of a war that would pit its “deep state” against the nation’s Islamists who have been forced out of the political process. If this does come to pass in Egypt, the most populous Arab state and a lynchpin American ally, it would be a major defeat for American foreign policy in the region.

Since the Tahrir Square uprising in January 2011, attacks on security forces and largely ineffective security operations by the army have been escalating in the Sinai Peninsula. Escalating violence was widely blamed on local Bedouin tribes and the remnants of the Islamist insurgency Egypt experienced in the 1990s.

After the coup against Morsi, things changed and the violence became much more severe. Everyone’s seen the waves of bloody protests on TV that killed hundreds around Egypt—extremely violent protest-riots have been a staple of Egypt’s revolution since 2011. But recent events have made it clear that many in Egypt are rejecting even the pretense of peaceful protests entirely: bombings, assassinations and ambushes of the security forces are becoming a daily occurrance, and while still centered within the Sinai, they’ve spread beyond it to every part of Egypt. August only saw the death of 25 policemen in a Sinai ambush and the death of 15 policemen in an attack against a police station.

Since the beginning of September, there has been an assassination attempt against the Interior Minister in Cairo, multiple bombings of army and police targets in different parts of the country, attacks container ships in the Suez Canal and against Egypt’s gas transport network. These are just a few events that stand out from the daily occurrences of bombings and shootings. On October 7th alone, six soldiers were killed by a roadside ambush in northern Sinai, three were killed in a suicide bombing in southern Sinai, and Egyptian state television’s largest satellite dish in the heart of Cairo was hit with RPGs.

Some elements of this new burst of attacks make it especially troublesome. We’re starting to see the stylings of international jihad show up in Egypt. This video, showing a series of successful drive-by attacks on Egyptian army officers including a colonel, is classic jihadi propaganda, marked by the black-and-white raya al ‘uqab style flag and nasheed music. It was posted by a group called Liwa al Furqan (Brigade of Severance), which has also posted similar videos showing attacks on ships in the Suez Canal and against state television’s satellite dish. The name and propaganda-video style unmistakably mark Liwa al Furqan as a franchise of the same international jihadi ideology that motivates groups like Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, and ISIS in Iraq.

The fiscal deal in Washington

Worse than Europe, really
None of the deeper problems with American government was solved this week
Oct 19th 2013

IMAGINE you are in a taxi and the driver suddenly turns violently and speeds towards a wall, tyres screeching, only to stop at the very last moment, inches from the bricks—and cheerfully informs you that he wants to do the same to you in three months time. Would you be grateful that he has not killed you? Or would you wonder why you chose his cab in the first place?

That is the journey Congress has taken the American people on over the past few weeks (see article). The last-minute deal to raise America’s debt ceiling, avoid a default and reopen the government at least until mid-January, which was signed by the president on October 16th, is welcome only compared with the immediate alternative.

For a long time American politicians have poured scorn on their European peers for failing to deal with the euro crisis. This week Washington equalled Brussels on one measure of dysfunctionality and surpassed it by another. The way in which the Democrats and Republicans, having failed to reach any agreement, decided to “kick the can down the road”, was deeply European. The deal allows the government to stay open till January 15th and the debt ceiling to be raised until February 7th. Just as America’s economy seems to be recovering, with the promise of GDP growing by 2.7% in 2014, it could face another shutdown of the kind that has just sent consumer confidence to a nine-month low and knocked back growth in the fourth quarter by an estimated 0.6 percentage points.

The way in which the Americans have surpassed the Europeans is the unreality of their discussion. The Europeans at least talk vaguely about banking unions and other solutions to their mess. In America the immediate budget deficit—at 3.4% of GDP—is smaller than that of many European countries. Indeed the danger is of too much tightening in the short term. But the country’s long-term fiscal problem is immense: it taxes like a small-government country but spends like a big-government one. Eventually demography—and the huge tribe of retiring baby-boomers who expect pensions and health care—will bankrupt the country. By the IMF’s calculation, if America is to reduce its debt to what it regards as a sensible level by 2030, allowing for all this age-related spending, it needs a “fiscal adjustment” of 11.7% of GDP—more than any other advanced country other than Japan. Yet the Republicans refuse to discuss tax rises, without which Barack Obama and the Democrats refuse to discuss cuts to entitlements: neither of those things had anything to do with the impasse of the past few weeks.

Nuclear diplomacy, not force, offers the safest, surest route to rein in Iran

theguardian.com, Wednesday 16 October 2013

Iran's economy and regional power are both at a low ebb. That makes this a good moment for the west to get a nuclear deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photograph: Document Iran/Corbis

With the latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 world powers only in its first day, a global agreement to ration second world war references is sorely needed. Commentators have invoked Churchill, Munich and Hitler – with some North Korea references thrown in – to argue that Iran's nuclear program, and the Tehran regime's ideology, represent such a threat that nothing but a military response will do.

It's time for a dose of reality, however. One needn't see Iran's newly-elected President Rouhani as benign, or even as a profound break from the clerical regime's policies, in order to survey the facts and conclude – as a broad, bipartisan consensus of military and security leaders has done – that the deal on the table is the best way forward.

As Ken Pollack notes in his recent survey of US-Iran policy options, Unthinkable, we aren't really sure what the regime's goals are – and it may not be either. However, if we begin by imagining that some of the more pessimistic assumptions are correct – that Iran will seek regional dominance and nuclear weapons capability no matter what, and attempt to cheat on any agreement that is reached – the arguments for a negotiated settlement, even a less-than-perfect one, don't get weaker. They may actually get stronger.

If Iran's leaders are truly bent on regional or even world domination, they're doing a terrible job. In just the last five years, Iran's regional image has plunged as it repressed its own "green revolution", while other Middle Eastern societies, where citizens made similar calls for genuine, representative democracy and an end to corruption, had greater success.

Hostility toward the Shia sect of Islam, of which Tehran rules the world's largest concentration, has grown into open talk of regional warfare, with the battlefield spreading from Syria. The pressures of the Arab awakenings and Sunni-Shia tensions lost Iran its Palestinian ally, Hamas, which had been a key tool to Iran's ability to harass and threaten Israel; Tehran no longer has any influence on Hamas's actions.

Iran now faces global opprobrium for the actions of its Syrian ally. Its military and cyber aid have failed to be decisive for Bashar al-Assad, but they do serve as another drain on Iran's sanctions-stressed treasury and as a source of popular resentment abroad. Now, instead of overseeing a solid Shia crescent through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – poised to threaten Turkey, Israel and the Gulf – Tehran presides over three weak or tottering regimes, plus its ally Hezbollah, which it pressured to turn away from its anti-Israel focus to make an all-or-nothing bet on propping up Assad in Syria.

This kind of regional activity can be acknowledged as dangerous for the US and our allies – but because Iran is weak, not because it is strong.

If the Iranian regime is going to hanker for nuclear weapons capability no matter what, would we prefer to have its activity completely unsupervised and unknown? Or would we prefer to have inspectors intrusively swarming over the country's facilities, catching sight of things they weren't supposed to see, getting tips, and able to offer advance warning should Iran mount an uranium enrichment rush for a bomb? This is the flip side of the North Korea example: Pyongyang was most able to surprise outsiders when it had little or no outside observation.

Under such a scenario, an agreement that broadens and deepens Iran's inspection regime, takes away its most-enriched uranium (20%), and commits Iran to living under the terms of the international agreements that other non-nuclear weapons states have accepted actually makes the US and our allies more secure, not less.

Above all, it gains time. By removing Iran's most-enriched uranium, the number of months or years it would take Tehran to successfully complete a bomb increases substantially, giving us more warning. This is the same result proponents of an Israeli bombing raid say they want, while admitting such a raid would, in fact, not end the program. But an agreement achieves this without splintering the coalition arrayed against Iran or unleashing retaliation on the US and its allies – or killing Iranians.