27 October 2013

New Players On The World Stage : Chinese Provinces and Indian States

By Willian Antholis
Published 10/22/2013


In early February last year, Wang Lijun, the police chief of the Chinese megacity Chongqing, drove 200 miles through the night to seek refuge in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, the capital of neighboring Sichuan Province. Wang’s escape was part of a shadowy intrigue that became a sensational public scandal involving murder, money, power, adultery, fist fights, car chases, and disguises. It triggered tension between two Chinese provinces, nearly pulling the United States into the middle of a Chinese domestic political crisis, and, ultimately, led to the downfall of Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing party chief, now a fallen star who just last month was sentenced to life in prison.

For 18 months the world was riveted by this story in all its sensational and gory details, but few took notice of one of its more anomalous features. The municipality of Chongqing—which has the standing of a province—is China’s largest city, home to 30 million people. That is roughly the population of Canada, packed into an inland territory roughly the size of South Carolina. If it were a country, Chongqing would be the 41st largest in the world. That means there would be over 150 countries that are smaller; yet almost all of those countries have U.S. embassies in their capitals, and many have additional U.S. consulates in other cities. Chongqing hosts dozens of American businesses and exports about $7 billion a year. Yet it has no U.S. diplomatic representation. That was why Wang Lijun had to drive over three hours from China’s largest city to find an American diplomat.

Above: China's megacity Chongqing, population 30 million, sits at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers. Wikimedia Commons / Oliver Ren

Below: Narendra Modi, Gujarat's chief minister, addresses supporters in Dokar village during an election campaign rally in 2012. Reuters / Amit Dave

Flash to the other side of the Himalayas—around 2,000 miles from Chongqing—to the Indian state of Gujarat, where Narendra Modi is chief minister (equivalent to governor). His star still rising after ten years in power, Modi has helped Gujarat become India’s leader in manufacturing and exports. Domestic and foreign corporations have flocked to Gujarat because of the business-friendly environment Modi cultivated. In early September, he was designated by the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), the main opposition party to the Congress Party-led current government, to be its candidate for prime minister in next year’s parliamentary elections.

China-Pakistan double trouble for India


Issue Net Edition | Date : 25 Oct , 2013

Indian political establishment, duly advised by Babus who staff the Ministry of Defence on the pretext of civilian control over military, with both of them having no knowledge of matters military, are once again keeping their head buried in sand, ostrich like, allowing Pakistan and its all weather friend China to join hands, preparing to spring a military surprise on us. If we do not wake up in time it will have very dangerous consequences for the country.

On the issue of military strategy and foreign policy the Chinese have a speciality that while their top leaders change after every ten years or so, its foreign policy and military thinking does not change.

Starting January this year Pakistan suddenly upped the ante against India in Kashmir when one of their BAT team composed of Pakistani Army’s Special Forces and jehadis of the terror organisation Lashkar-e -Toiba beheaded two Indian soldiers. Since then they have been regularly violating cease fire along LOC in J&K State with impunity. Last month another BAT team sneaked into Indian Territory in Punj sector in Kashmir and killed five Indian soldiers. Now when Indian Army has started retaliating in kind, killing one Pakistani Army officer and five soldiers till date, Pakistan is hollering and protesting with their Parliament recently passing an anti India resolution. Pakistan sponsored jehadis have also become very active in the valley since January this year. There was a fidayeen type of attack on CRPF camp near Srinagar killing five CRPF personnel in March this year followed by ambush of an army convoy again near Srinagar killing eight soldiers.

While all this was taking place on the western front Chinese soldiers in the month of April marched 19 kms deep in Indian Territory in ladakh sect and pitched tents there. It took three weeks of talks and persuasion by Indian emissaries before Chinese went back but not before ensuring that the hutments made by India in strategically important Chumar sector, which overlooks Chinese movements on Karakoram Highway linking China to Pakistan, were dismantled. There after they repeated the same thing in Arunachal Pradesh. In the last few years Indo-China border, which was lying dormant for so long has been activated by China. They have carried out more than six hundred incursions in the Indian Territory.

On the issue of military strategy and foreign policy the Chinese have a speciality that while their top leaders change after every ten years or so, its foreign policy and military thinking does not change. At best it may undergo cosmetic updating in keeping with the changing time. In late eighties When China gave nuclear bomb making technology to Pakistan, China had fully realised that Pakistan is a parasite country with just one central thought of achieving military parity with India and being anti India at all times at any cost. China gave this bomb to Pakistan to gradually wean it away from the US camp within which Pakistan was fully ensconced since its independence in 1947.At that time only China had made up its mind that India can never be its friend and that China can not dominate Asia on a futuristic perspective till India is cut to size.

China counted on Pakistan to keep Indo-Pak border active and keep India embroiled in South Asia only, thereby not allowing India to fully achieve its military and economic potential.

Countering chemical weapons

How India can prepare to deal with chemical attacks

by Lt-Gen SS Sihota (retd)


ON August 21, 2013, the world witnessed with shock and disgust employment of chemical weapons in Syria against its own people. It was followed by a drama enacted by the powerful nations which are permanent members of the Security Council. These nations claim to be protectors of human rights and are responsible for ensuring world peace. John Kerry, US Secretary of State, made a forceful speech against the Syrian regime. He claimed that the US had identified the perpetrators of this barbaric act. It appeared to the world that US was ready to punish them even without the endorsement of the Security Council. But the US and its allies failed to execute that threat due to many internal and external pressures. The United Nations sent its teams to investigate the matter.

These teams confirmed that chemical weapons were used but failed to name the agency responsible for their use. The whole episode has revealed the impotence of the world body and the inability of the super powers to be able to act in such situations. One can go back in history and can see that US intervention in Iraq too was not solely for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction but to pursue and achieve their own economic goals. It is indicative of the future trend of the attitude of these nations.

After going through this entire charade it is only now that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been tasked to destroy 1000 tonnes of chemical arsenal housed in about 40 sites in Syria. There is no clear declaration about whether the Syrian regime or the rebels were responsible for using the chemical weapons. It is also being debated as to whether President Putin or President Obama came out the winner in this game of gaining supremacy of the world.

While this debate lingers, I am sure authorities responsible for the security of their nations, including India, must be examining their vulnerabilities and evaluating their preparedness if confronted with a situation like Syria. It is quite obvious, notwithstanding the prevalence of the Chemical Weapons Treaty, every country will have to meet this challenge from within their own resources without looking over their shoulder for outside help.

India is surrounded by hostile neighbours. Its borders are disputed and volatile. Forces inimical to us are pushing terrorists into our country. It is not far-fetched to presume that these elements can lay their hands on chemical arsenal lying unaccounted for after the cold war. International terrorist organisations are capable of sharing their booty. In fact, there is no need for weaponisation of the chemicals; destruction or damage to the chemical industry can create the same havoc. Our attitude towards granting licenses to the industry without much care for safety and security aspects is well known. Bhopal is still fresh in our minds.

In the recent past we have witnessed the use of gases by terrorists in theatres and metros to cause maximum damage. We also have forces within the country that are willing to create disturbances through unethical means and yet remain unaccountable for it. India is a country ripe for rogue chemical attacks. Are we prepared to counter this threat?

India needs to deal firmly with Pak on Kashmir

Resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir problem between India and Pakistan has defied most theories and approaches of conflict resolution. India needs to safeguard its interests and keep in mind that strength respects strength while the weak get pushed around

Dinesh Kumar


EXACTLY 67 years ago on 25th October 1947, an Army Airlift Committee headed by the Air Marshal heading what was then known as the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) was formed to initially discuss ways and means of sending supplies and arms to Kashmir which was under the invasion of tribesmen from Pakistan. Muzzaffarabad, Domel, Chinari and Uri had fallen and the invaders or razakars, as they were known, were closing in on Baramulla. That very morning the Defence Committee of the Cabinet chaired by Lord Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten met to discuss the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Hari Singh's request for troops that had been received the previous night (24th October).

Army soldiers take positions during an encounter with militants at Tangdar area in Kupwara district. — PTI

On 26th October Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession and a decision was taken to airlift troops to the Valley. That same day, the razakars went about brutally massacring about 11,000 of the 14,000 residents of Baramulla and wantonly raping and abducting women, including European nuns, while destroying the Mohra power station which supplied electricity to Srinagar. It was in fact this savage orgy of sordid killings, rape (the local theatre was converted into a rape centre), loot, plunder, vandalism and desecration that slowed the movement of the razakars or else they would surely have run over Srinagar and prevented the landing of Indian Army soldiers at Srinagar airfield thereby possibly changing the course of history.

Shortly before midnight the same day, a signal was flashed to 1 Sikh battalion, the nearest located Infantry unit to Delhi (stationed in Gurgaon), to reach Palam airport by 4 am the following morning (27th October). The battalion was not up to full strength and so in order to make up for the shortfall, Sikh personnel from 13 Field Regiment, an artillery regiment then stationed at the Red Fort in Delhi, were hastily organised into an Infantry company and temporarily placed under the 1 Sikh battalion.

An extraordinary operation

Thus on 27th October 1947, barely two months after Independence, 28 vintage Dakota aircraft carrying 474 Army soldiers took off for Srinagar. Six of these Dakotas were civilian and carried 15 soldiers each while the remaining 22 RIAF Dakotas carried 22 soldiers each. So uncertain was the situation in the Valley that the battalion's commanding officer, Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai, was instructed to first circle Srinagar airfield and carefully scan the countryside to check whether the raiders had already occupied it. If so, he was to fly back and land in Jammu.

"Such a rider to an operational intrusion", observes the official history of the 1947-48 war, "must surely be unique in modern military history, and was an indication of the uncertainty, hazards and difficulties facing the Indian troops when they went to Kashmir. Even the details and locations of friendly troops in the state on that date were not known to the Indian Army headquarters", states the history. Indeed, saving Srinagar and securing its airfield was of paramount importance since Srinagar was located 480 km from Pathankot, the northernmost Indian railhead at that time.

'Modi'fication of foreign policy

October 25, 2013 12:04 IST


Narendra Modi's promise to allow states a bigger say in strategising and building foreign policy is unexceptionable, says TP Sreenivasan.

A tough line towards Pakistan, greater attention to building of Brand India, and a bigger role for the states in foreign policy-making are the proposed modifications of foreign policy put forward so far by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. His promise to allow states a bigger say in strategising and building foreign policy is unexceptionable.

The states which have special links with certain countries, either because of a common border or cultural and commercial affinities, should be consulted in framing policies towards those countries, he said. As examples, he gave the links of Gujarat with Africa, West Asia, China and Japan, Odisha with Indonesia, Goa with Portugal, Pondicherry with France, Tamil Nadu with Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia and Bihar with Buddhist countries.

One could add Kerala and the Gulf countries, West Bengal and Bangladesh, Bihar and Nepal and Mauritius. Most states have links with the United States because of the large number of immigrants from these states. As stakeholders in India's relations with the countries concerned, it is only legitimate that these states be consulted and kept informed of developments.

The Gujarat chief minister did not question the constitutional position on foreign policy, which is crystal clear. It is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Centre and there is no mechanism to consult the states. Some people believe that the IndianState is only quasi-federal because of the lack of autonomy given to the states in certain vital matters.

In his letters to the chief ministers, Pandit Nehru often took the regional leaders into confidence on some aspects of foreign policy, more to educate them than to consult them.

Foreign policy advocacy by certain states was not uncommon even then. But with the advent of coalitions, in which the regional parties had the power to make and unmake governments, state leaders began to play a decisive role in foreign policy. With globalisation and economic reforms, ethnic, immigration and economic issues and even simple prejudices of regional leaders began to play a role.

The most recent dramatic instances were of Mamata Banerjee holding up the Teesta water-sharing agreement with Bangladesh, and Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi pushing India to vote in favour of a US-sponsored human rights resolution on Sri Lanka. The Tamil Nadu legislature even passed a resolution asking the Government of India to move the United Nations Security Council to ask for a referendum in Sri Lanka on establishing a Tamil Eelam there.

In its latest resolution, the Tamil Nadu legislature has demanded that India should boycott the Commonwealth Summit in Colombo.

It was not long ago that the Kerala legislature passed a resolution against the India-US nuclear deal. Less dramatically, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu slowed down the Jaitapur and Kudankulam nuclear projects, Odisha forced a revision of a South Korean project and Kerala made it hard for the Centre to deal with the Italian marines, who killed two fishermen off the state’s coast.

There have been other state interactions with neighbouring countries. Pakistan announced its readiness to buy power from Gujarat, the Bihar chief minister has been hosting dinners for Nepal politicians and the chief minister of Punjab has received a gift of a buffalo from the chief minister of Pakistani Punjab. Taking these into account, the noted columnist, Nitin Pai, has suggested the setting up of a Subcontinental Relations Council, headed by the prime minister and comprising the external affairs minister and the chief ministers of all states that have external borders. 

Summits can wait

India must privilege state power over diplomacy in international affairs.

By N.V. Subramanian (21 October 2013)


New Delhi: In the post-Cold War world, a multi-institutional approach to foreign affairs may be preferable to the uni-dimensional course that international policy-making has taken under Manmohan Singh. Indian prime ministers since the inauguration of Jawaharlal Nehru have crafted and guided foreign policy as a personal mission but the world has become a whole lot more complex in the last decade and a half to permit such unmediated individual enterprise. It might especially be prudent to step back from high jinks summitry which in India’s case under Manmohan Singh is not yielding results and to let institutions such as the armed forces and the covert services join more robustly and influentially with traditional foreign-office diplomacy and the strengthening of trade relations to assist the country’s rise. In such a transformed regime, fraught relations with China and Pakistan would become more manageable, and there would be less helplessness and hand-wringing than, say, now faced with the uncontrollable dynamics in Afghanistan as the United States prepares to withdraw its forces. 

One of the major drawbacks with the dual authority paradigm of the United Progressive Alliance is that it leaves the prime minister with altogether too much time to do diplomacy. A fully engaged head of government cannot make such vast sacrifices of his calendar at the expense of domestic politics. This manner of domestically-imposed tyranny is not half as bad as it seems. It puts a premium on the prime minister’s time, and he is compelled to delegate. The situation is adversely altered today. Sonia Gandhi effectively is the prime minister. Manmohan Singh has become her foreign minister, rushing from one world capital to another. Since she controls national politics, he has no authority to forge risky foreign deals. After the Sharm-el-Sheikh snub from the Congress party, he has become titular even in his foreign engagements. His summit meetings, therefore, are robbed of meaning. He returned empty-handed from the United States, and the outcome cannot be extraordinarily different in regard to his tours of Russia and China, where the measure of a man is taken from the political power he enjoys at home. International politics is ruthless. 

But even taking Manmohan Singh’s example to be an exception and an aberration, it is time India generally retreats from summit diplomacy and privileges the institutions of state power to produce results. Summits should always come at the last, after all the ground work is done, and the conditions created for success. Perhaps the closest to such a summit in the Indian context was the Simla Conference of 1972, but atypically for Indira Gandhi, she snatched defeat from the jaws of victory there. Nevertheless, the argument that summits should be reserved for the end still holds, even as state institutions are permitted fuller play to manage and control the external environment. 

For example, in the later part of the 1990s, the covert services did a fine job of managing the environment in Afghanistan alongwith Russia, Iran and the Central Asian Republics. It is not proper to disclose or wise to speculate what was actually done, but the agencies executed their brief, and did rather well at that. When you are to govern a state, you cannot always be very moral, and quote Gandhi to excuse your failure and incompetence. Or take the Pakistan army’s violation of the Line of Control and the regular infiltration of terrorists. Manmohan Singh complained about Pakistani behaviour to Barack Obama. What prevented him to grant the armed forces a free hand to settle the matter, who know where the red lines run? He should have conspired to make the situation so hot for Nawaz Sharief and the Pakistan army as to force their supplication. Ditto the case with China. The Chinese never indulge in pointless summitry, and deceive even as they sup. 

The simple point is that India is not leveraging its strengths. The advice from multiple institutions currently is routed to the national security advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon, who has no understanding of intelligence and military matters and statecraft in general, and uses his training as a diplomat to caution the government to the point of cowardice. It has been all-round disaster to have (retired) Indian Foreign Service officers as national security advisors. This writer has not come across one national security advisor with imagination. Politics is as much about realism as about imaginative transformation of that reality. It is one and the same for foreign affairs. Granted that India has a cipher as prime minister. But imagine a brilliant head of government being thwarted by a mediocre, risk-averse national security advisor. 

At least in the Indian context, the national security advisor concept has not worked. If there were greater inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary mixing and blending, a capable national security advisor could be chosen from a diverse pool. But the military, the intelligence services, the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Foreign Service, etc, are usually so sharply segregated that cross-breeding is a rare phenomenon. And a national security advisor has to be a perfect cross-bred product. In the absence of such a person, the prime minister has to become his own national security advisor. He has to have the depth, the understanding and the confidence to step back and permit the institutions to accomplish the results. To this end, he can employ the specialized cabinet and other high-level committees; he has an expansive prime minister’s office on call. But the key is that summitry should be put on hold or kept to a minimum till India gains an understanding of the complicated and layered post-Cold War world. 

India and China Leave Asian Century Stalled

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visit the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, on Oct. 23, 2013. Photograph by Liu Zhen/Color China 

By Chandrahas Choudhury Oct 25, 2013 1:14 PM ET


This week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made his last visit to China as India's head of state, a prolonged exercise in great-power pageantry and platitudinousness. After all, we are allegedly living in the Asian century, though we may have to wait a little longer for these two countries to jointly turn the balance of power in the world eastward.

In Beijing, Singh did his bit to keep to the Asian century script. "More than ever before, the world needs both countries to prosper together," he said. "What is at stake is the future of India and China; indeed, what may be at stake is the future of our region and our world." Speaking at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party -- a "rare honour," according to one Indian newspaper -- he also said:

Relations between India and China are unique in the world. We are two continuous ancient civilizations. We are neighbors with a long history of cultural, spiritual and economic ties. We both embarked on a new phase of our political histories around the same time. Today, we are the world’s two most populous nations, engaged in a process of socio-economic transformation of our people on a scale and at a pace unprecedented in human history.

India and China have indeed made momentous contributions to each other's history. Buddhism came to China from India early in the Common Era, and flourished there even as it faded away in the country of its origin. It traveled via the Silk Road, the trade route going from China across India into west Asia and Europe, allowing for a commingling of peoples and technologies that reverberated across the two civilizations.

Yet in the era of the nation-state, matters are somewhat more prosaic, and the reality far short of the rhetoric. Ahead of this week's meeting between Singh and Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, both sides had hoped to agree on a "liberalized visa regime" that would allow an Indian businessman, for example, to visit China without applying repeatedly for six-month visas, the maximum currently allowed.

This effort fell through after China made it clear that it would continue to treat visitors from the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh (which China lays claim to, and calls "south Tibet") differently from other Indian nationals. About the only substantive development agreed on by the two countries over the course of Singh's visit was something called the "Border Defense Cooperation Agreement," in which both sides agreed to scale down recent tensions across the 2,400-mile (3,860-kilometer) border, such as the incursion by a Chinese squadron in April.

That particular episode took place just before Li's visit to India in May, suggesting that the Chinese wanted to discombobulate their largest neighbor before they arrived at the negotiating table.

Pak army bid to keep hold on Kashmir policy

Though the Pak army denies its involvement, without its support and that of the ISI no serious attempt can be made by terrorists to infiltrate. It was perhaps worried the Kashmir movement was dying out.

Gurmeet Kanwal 


THE Pakistan army has suddenly resorted to ceasefire violations along the LoC and shelling across the International Boundary (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir at a time when it is itself struggling to cope with the tough internal security challenge posed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the TNSM and their affiliates in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and FATA. For several years it suited the Pakistan army and the ISI to keep the Indian border quiet so that they could concentrate their energies on fighting terrorism, which Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has himself called the number-one national security threat.

Indian troops on the LoC.

The genesis of the current tension with Pakistan lies in the Indian Army’s relentless counter-infiltration campaign along the LoC and extremely successful intelligence-backed counter-insurgency operations with a human touch in the hinterland of J&K, which saw two summers of relative peace (2011-12). A sense of normalcy had returned; schools, colleges and hospitals were open; commerce was flourishing; political meetings were being regularly held; and, tourists were thronging the scenic spots. Over 3 lakh pilgrims completed the Amarnath Yatra, and Janmashtami and Dasehra were again being celebrated in Kashmir. Sporadic attacks against the security forces and their convoys continued, but these were few and far between. In fact, the civilian political leadership had begun to call for the re-deployment of the army and the revocation of provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain districts. Now that tension has been ratcheted up, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has called for the use of ‘other options’ as diplomacy has not worked.

There were over 200 violations of the mutually observed ceasefire by the Pakistan army up to mid-October 2013. Of these, 125 have occurred since August 1. In comparison, there were 117 ceasefire violations in 2012 and only 61 in 2011. Similarly, the number of infiltration attempts has gone up considerably. Several hardcore LeT terrorists have been eliminated by the Army this year. Eight terrorists were killed and a large number of arms were recovered in counter-infiltration operations at several places in the Keran sector in September-October. The Pakistan army then decided to enlarge the area of its infiltration-cum-strike operations to the IB segment south of Jammu by sending in highly trained terrorists to attack the Hiranagar police station and the Officers Mess of a cavalry regiment near Samba on September 26. Subsequently, the Pakistan Rangers have been shelling BSF posts and several personnel as well as civilians have been injured in villages along the IB.

Going Native: The Pakistanization of Al-Qaeda

October 22, 2013 

On February 13, 2010, an explosion ripped through the German Bakery in Pune, India, killing 17 and injuring scores more. Suspicion immediately fell on the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and on its quasi-affiliate, the Indian Mujahideen (IM) —an indigenous jihadist network motivated by communal grievances, but built with external support. Ahmed Siddi Bapa (aka Yasin Bhatkal), the IM’s field commander, was captured on a closed-circuit video camera walking into the German Bakery carrying a backpack containing the bomb. Unlike previous attacks, however, the IM did not claim responsibility.

Another group did: al-Qaeda. A month after a drone strike killed al-Qaeda’s third-in-command Sheikh Sai’d al-Masri (born Mustafa Abu al-Yazid) in May 2010, a posthumous audio statement was released in which he declared:

I bring you the good tidings that last February’s India operation was against a Jewish locale in the west of the Indian capital, in the area of the German bakeries — a fact that the enemy tried to hide — and close to 20 Jews were killed in the operation, a majority of them from their so-called statelet, Israel. The person who carried out this operation was a heroic soldier from the ‘Soldiers of the Sacrifice Brigade’, which is one of the brigades of Qaedat al-Jihad in Kashmir, under the command of Commander Illyas Kashmiri, may Allah preserve him.

Kashmiri also e-mailed a Pakistani journalist and implied his own involvement, but it remains unclear whether he actually had anything to do with the German Bakery bombing. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that he was planning attacks against other targets in Pune at the time.

Based on Siddi Bapa’s interrogation, two of India’s most well-respected journalists reported the attack was “partial fallout of an earlier order to bomb and attack places frequented by foreigners, including Israelis.” The IM Ground Commander also allegedly dropped another bombshell. He reportedly told Indian investigators that a handful of IM members currently sheltering in Pakistan wanted to “join hands with the al Qaeda [sic] for ‘joint operations’ in India” and had held talks with a senior al-Qaeda leader.

Such reporting should be treated with significant caution. However, even if this is not the case, Kashmiri was clearly interested in launching attacks in India (on which more below) and al-Qaeda readily claimed the operation on his behalf. This speaks to a larger issue: the Pakistanization of “al-Qaeda Central” and its implications for the United States and South Asia.

Drone strikes have decimated al-Qaeda in Pakistan, killing more than 30 leaders and high-level operatives since 2008, and leaving only a handful of senior Arabs alive. These strikes have also created an incredibly hostile environment for those who have yet to meet a Hellfire missile, and some Arab members have fled for greener pastures. The depletion of al-Qaeda’s senior ranks in Pakistan and growing strength of its branch in Yemen (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP) may help to explain why Ayman al-Zawahiri recently appointed that group’s leader, Nasir al-Wihayshi, as al-Qaeda’s general manager for global operations.

Let Pakistan’s Taliban talks fail without us

By Daniel Markey
October 22, 2013


Adding to an unenviable list of challenges that already includes earthquakes, sectarian violence and an economy teetering near collapse, Pakistan’s leaders are attempting to open a new round of high-stakes peace negotiations with homegrown insurgents, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The United States cannot do much to help these talks succeed, but President Barack Obama should use his October 23 summit with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to ensure that if Pakistan’s Taliban talks fail, they fail in ways that unite mainstream Pakistanis in the fight against violent extremism rather than creating new rifts between Washington and Islamabad.

Unlike the Afghan Taliban groups that have had a live-and-let-live arrangement with Pakistani authorities, directing their violence beyond Pakistan’s borders, the TTP has conducted attacks with devastating effect on the Pakistani military and government, as well as innocent civilians. Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, describes the group as the state’s top security threat. And because Pakistan is a nuclear-armed, fast-growing state of nearly 200 million citizens that borders India, China, Iran and the Arabian Sea, the TTP’s disruptive potential also threatens U.S. security.

Peace talks are not, in principle, a bad idea. If Pakistan can talk its way to peace with the TTP without jettisoning its constitution along the way — it should. That said, it is nearly impossible to believe the TTP, a group that has so far shown itself hostile to any serious reconciliation with Islamabad, would now put down its arms and play by democratic rules.

An Incomplete Democracy

Oct 22, 2013 

Pakistan’s military continues to cast a long and often dominant shadow over the state. So when President Obama meets with Pakistan’s new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, on Wednesday, he should use the occasion to bolster the civilian government’s role relative to the military.

Pakistan, ruled by the military for half of its 66-year life, has taken steps toward democracy, but the process is far from complete.

In March, for the first time, a democratically elected government completed a full term. It transferred power to the current administration, led by Mr. Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party won elections in May.

New constitutional amendments have curtailed the power of the presidency, and transferred authority and resources from the federal government (a traditional power base for the military) to provincial authorities.

Earlier this month, the long-time army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, announced that he would retire in November — and not extend his term as he did back in 2010.

Mr. Sharif isn’t afraid to stare down the country’s formidable army — a fearlessness that led to his ouster from an earlier stint as prime minister. He sent a strong signal early in his current term by declining to name foreign and defense ministers, holding those portfolios, representing areas long controlled by the military, for himself.

He also stated his intention to charge Pervez Musharraf, the former army chief and president who overthrew Mr. Sharif in a 1999 coup, with treason.

But Pakistan’s recent history cautions against giddy thinking about democracy. Before Mr. Sharif was ousted in 1999, many observers thought that democratization was well under way; they were wrong.

Today, the military isn’t itching for another coup, but it continues to wield tremendous influence, often with impunity. Its power is enhanced by Pakistan’s Constitution, which prevents high courts from challenging its actions. The military’s vast economic holdings, ranging from cereal to cement, are rarely subjected to scrutiny.

For years, civilians have deferred to the security establishment on security matters — and this hasn’t changed during Mr. Sharif’s first months in office. Despite a series of deadly terrorist attacks, his government hasn’t offered a clear security or counterterrorism strategy. It did, however, authorize a 15 percent increase in next year’s defense budget.

This summer, a jailbreak freed hundreds of militants, and the capital went into lockdown in anticipation of attacks. The ever-present military was deployed and took the lead in hunting down terrorists — even as it was rescuing citizens trapped by floods.

The United States largely perceives Pakistan through the lens of its 12-year-long military intervention in Afghanistan, so its relations with Pakistan are dominated by security concerns: sanctuaries for militants in the tribal areas, near the Afghan border; the safety of Pakistan-based NATO supply routes; and Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban in Afghanistan. When Secretary of State John Kerry visited in August, he met with the army chief, General Kayani — which would be rare in high-level diplomatic visits to other democracies.

Each U.S. Troop In Afghanistan Now Costs $2.1 Million


Kevin Baron is executive editor of Defense One. A 15-year veteran of Washington’s defense, national security and foreign affairs scene, Baron has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and politics for Foreign Policy, National Journal, Stars and Stripes, the Boston Globe’s Washington bureau, ... Full Bio

The average cost of each U.S. troop in Afghanistan will nearly double in the last year of the war to $2.1 million, according to a new analysis of the Pentagon’s budget. 

For the past five years, from fiscal 2008 through 2013, the average troop cost had held steady at roughly $1.3. million. But the Pentagon’s 2014 war budget would dramatically increase that figure. The added cost, argue Defense Department officials, is a reflection of the price of sending troops and equipment back home in the drawdown.

Not so, says Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis’ Todd Harrison. He doesn’t buy that excuse, and argued on Thursday that the U.S. has been moving far greater amounts of troops and equipment in those previous budget years. Instead, he said, as the number of U.S. troops decline, the overhead cost to support the war and the Afghan forces that the U.S. continues to underwrite remains relatively stable. 

“It was a bit of a shocker to me,” Harrison said. The budget analyst said costs like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, as well as the support structure for troop life remains high, compared to the total personnel number dip. 

Can Negotiations Crack the Deadlock in Afghanistan?

Interviewee: Stephen Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor
October 25, 2013

The war in Afghanistan is likely to be a "grinding stalemate" after NATO forces depart at the end of 2014, as long as the U.S. Congress continues to foot the bill for Afghan forces battling the Taliban, says CFR's Afghanistan expert Stephen Biddle. However, he says it's questionable to assume Washington's long-term financial support. The most practical course for Western powers in the long term is to support a negotiated settlement that "involves real compromise from both sides," although he says the process will be trying. Biddle says that the Pakistanis, who have protected the Taliban all these years, just want to ensure that the government that eventually emerges in Kabul is not pro-Indian.

The Afghan war now has been going on since 2002. Are we reaching the end of it? What's the prognosis?

President [Barack] Obama has said that in 2014 Afghans will have full responsibility for waging the war, and that it will come to "a responsible end." But the war will certainly not come to an end at the close of 2014. The U.S. presence might end, depending on decisions that haven't been made yet, but the war will certainly continue. And the long-term prognosis for the war is up in the air at this point. The conduct of the war militarily is basically stalemated, and my guess is that after 2014 it will continue to be stalemated.

A reasonable estimate of what Afghan security forces will be able to do after 2014 is that they'll be able to hold what they have, but I don't think they'll be able to expand the government's zone of control very much. And the Taliban will continue to hold some strategically important real estate, especially in the eastern part of the country, but also in some parts of the south. We're probably not going to see the Taliban rolling into Kabul and defeating the government militarily, but neither are we going to see the government defeating the Taliban militarily. What we're likely to get is a grinding stalemate that continues as long as the U.S. Congress pays the bills to keep the Afghan National Security Forces (NSF) fighting.

What is the likelihood, in your opinion, of that happening?

In the near term, the likelihood is quite good. My guess is Congress will pay whatever the administration requests for a few years. The problem is they have to keep doing that indefinitely, unless you think that the U.S. Congress's patience is going to exceed the Taliban's. And that's a pretty demanding assumption to make, because the Taliban is fond of the cliché that "the Americans have the watches, but we have the time." It is famously patient.

So, if there's no means for the Afghan government to bring the war to an end militarily, you're left with only two scenarios in the long-term: either the Taliban does in fact wait us out, when sooner or later the U.S. Congress shaves the appropriation to the point where the Afghan military can't function successfully, or we negotiate a settlement. Those are the only long-term plausible outcomes. So, I think in practical terms the acceptable end state for the West in this war is some kind of a negotiated settlement; and therefore the real issue is how do we get a settlement we can live with, what will its terms be, and what do we have to do in order to make those terms livable for us?

Over the past year there was a lot of publicity given to an effort to get negotiations started, and that didn't work out. Where do things stand now?

China-Pak nuclear deal

India main factor in influencing Beijing’s policies

by Harsh V. Pant 25/10/13


WHEN Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was getting ready to leave for his trip to China, news emerged of China-Pakistan nuclear cooperation. In what will be the first foreign sale of its indigenous 1,100 MW nuclear reactor, ACP 1000, China is all set to sell two more nuclear reactors to Pakistan in direct contravention of its own global commitments as a member of the NPT and the NSG. India has been reduced to protesting ever since the details of a potential Sino-Pak deal came to light some months back. New Delhi, we are told, has made its reservations known to Beijing through diplomatic channels. But should it really come as a surprise that China is trying its best to maintain nuclear parity between India and Pakistan?

After all, this is what China has been doing for the last five decades. Based on their convergent interests vis-à-vis India, China and Pakistan reached a strategic understanding in the mid-1950s, a bond that has only strengthened ever since. Sino-Pakistan ties gained particular momentum in the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian war when the two states signed a boundary agreement recognising Chinese control over portions of the disputed Kashmir territory and since then the ties have been so strong that Chinese President Hu Jintao has described the relationship as “higher than mountains and deeper than oceans.”

Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, has suggested that “No relationship between two sovereign states is as unique and durable as that between Pakistan and China.” Maintaining close ties with China has been a priority for Islamabad and Beijing has provided extensive economic, military and technical assistance to Pakistan over the years. It was Pakistan that in early 1970s enabled China to cultivate its ties with the West and the US in particular, becoming the conduit for Henry Kissinger’s landmark secret visit to China in 1971 and has been instrumental in bringing China closer to the larger Muslim world.

Over the years China emerged Pakistan’s largest defence supplier. Military cooperation between the two has deepened with joint projects producing armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates. China is a steady source of military hardware to the resource-deficient Pakistani Army. It has not only given technology assistance to Pakistan but has also helped Pakistan to set up mass weapons production factories. Pakistan’s military modernisation process remains dependent on Chinese largesse. In the last two decades, the two states have been actively involved in a range of joint ventures, including JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, K-8 Karakorum advance training aircraft, and Babur cruise missile the dimensions of which exactly replicate the Hong Niao Chinese cruise missile. The JF-17 venture is particularly significant, given its utility in delivering nuclear weapons. In a major move for China’s indigenous defence industry, China is also supplying its most advanced home-made combat aircraft, the third-generation J-10 fighter jets to Pakistan, in a deal worth around $6 billion. Beijing is helping Pakistan build and launch satellites for remote sensing and communication even as Pakistan is reportedly already hosting a Chinese space communication facility at Karachi.

China has played a major role in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure and emerged Pakistan’s benefactor at a time when increasingly stringent export controls in Western countries made it difficult for Pakistan to acquire materials and technology from elsewhere. The Pakistani nuclear weapons programme is essentially an extension of the Chinese one. Despite being a member of the NPT, China has supplied Pakistan with nuclear materials and expertise and has provided critical assistance in the construction of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities. It has been aptly noted by non-proliferation expert Gary Milhollin, “If you subtract China’s help from Pakistan’s nuclear programme, there is no nuclear programme.”

Dawn of a new age in Lankan Tamil politics

 25 October 2013 

The election result in the Northern Province redefines relations between Jaffna and Colombo. India should use it as an opportunity to strengthen ties between Colombo and New Delhi

Tamils in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province have struggled for over five decades to secure grassroots devolution of power. Sri Lankan Tamil leader SJV Chelavanayakam was able to negotiate agreements with Prime Ministers S Bandaranaike and DS Senanayake in 1957 and 1965. In the 1965 Agreement, Sri Lankan Tamils agreed to the devolution of limited powers to District Councils, with use of Tamil permitted in District Courts. But, even these expectations were not fulfilled. It was only after direct Indian involvement and facilitation that meaningful powers were devolved to Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka under the 13th Amendment of its Constitution. A persistent Indian diplomatic effort and growing trust and confidence between New Delhi and Colombo, eventually led to Provincial election being held in Northern Province last month.

The ostensibly separatist Tamil National Alliance was swept to power. Thereafter, on October 7, the highly respected Tamil jurist and former Supreme Court Judge, Justice CV Wigneswaran, was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Northern Province, in the presence of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is, however, still imperative to replace manifestations of Sinhala triumphalism in the ethnic conflict, by statesmanship and reconciliation. The election in September was considered internationally as free and fair, despite efforts by the Sri Lankan Army to intimidate voters and candidates. Moreover, the TNA has shown statesmanship in the aftermath of the election. TNA spokesman MA Sumanthiran rejected separatism and reaffirmed commitment to a united Sri Lanka, where Tamils can live in freedom and dignity. Justice Wigneswaran made it clear that he did not share objections of others about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attending the Commonwealth Summit.

Interestingly, there are differences now between views in Jaffna and in Tamil Nadu not only regarding participation in the Commonwealth Summit, but also on the issue of fishermen from Tamil Nadu. There are still protests about the action taken by the Sri Lankan Navy against Tamil Nadu fishermen, intruding into Sri Lankan territorial waters, adjacent to Tamil-dominated Northern Province. But, Chief Minister Wigneswaran blames Tamil Nadu fishermen for inflicting misery on Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen. He bluntly asserted that fishermen from Tamil Nadu, using big trawlers “came early into Sri Lankan waters, caught all the fish and left the (Sri Lankan Tamil) people high and dry.” He added that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister “has a crucial role in addressing the issue of Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters”. There now appears to be good prospects for dialogue between fishermen in Tamil Nadu and Jaffna to address mutual concerns. The Jaffna Tamils and the Sri Lankan Government are making common cause to deal with what they believe are illegal intrusions by fishermen from Tamil Nadu.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid paid a brief visit to Jaffna recently after talks in Colombo. He exchanged views with Chief Minister Wigneswaran on the substantial Indian assistance being channelled to Northern Province, primarily for relief, rehabilitation and infrastructure. India has extended credits totalling $960 million for upgrading rail communications and renovating and extending rail services from Colombo and across Northern Province. As part of the rehabilitation effort in the war-torn Province, India is renovating the Palaly Airport and the Kankesanthurai harbour. It is also financing construction of 50,000 houses and has provided medical assistance, one million roofing sheets and agricultural implements, for displaced Tamils. While in Colombo, Mr Khurshid finalised details for construction of a coal-fired power plant in Sampur, through a joint venture between India’s National Thermal Power Corporation and the Ceylon Electricity Board. The primary interest of the regional leadership in Jaffna is to secure effective and enhanced Indian assistance and prepare for hard bargaining for promised devolution of powers.

Sri Lanka: India's CHOGM dilemma

October 25, 2013 


If Indian PM boycotts the CHOGM, it is likely to add to Sri Lanka’s bitterness. This would not help India’s desire to add more depth and content to its relations with Sri Lanka but its ability to influence Sri Lanka’s decision making process on the both strategic issues and on Tamil minority issues, says Colonel (retd) R Hariharan.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s is facing a Shakespearean dilemmaon attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Colombo in November. This is not surprising as there are strong political and strategic reasons, both for and against, attending the Colombo summit.

He is facing strong internal and external pressures that cloud objective decision making on the issue. Added to this is the erosion of the PM’s leadership image in recent times. It has taken a severe beating recently after huge scams linked to his office started surfacing one after the other. As a result, each and every decision of the PM is being questioned and the same fate probably awaits his decision on CHOGM as well.

He has to do some delicate tightrope walking to meld long term national interest with short term political priorities. The task is made more difficult because it can affect not only the poll prospects of the Congress party in the 2014-parliamentary election but even the longevity of his coalition before the election. 

Political leaders of almost all hues including the Congress party in Tamil Nadu have called for a boycott of the CHOGM. This is not surprising as they got on the Eelam bandwagon ever since Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa effectively used the Sri Lanka Tamil issue to sweep the state elections. She has continued her strident stance as many Tamils consider the Centre’s response to Sri Lanka’s war crimes and human rights aberrations as inadequate and ineffective; this has put both the Congress and the DMK on the defensive. Smelling blood, the Tamil Nadu chief minister turned even more hawkish, calling for slapping a trade embargo on Sri Lanka and international action against President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The developments in Tamil Nadu seem to have influenced India’s vote against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR last year.

The Tamil Nadu CM had been emphatic in calling for an Indian boycott of the CHOGM. All parties in the state were quick to follow suit. None of them, barring some notable exceptions, have critically debated the pros and cons of boycotting the CHOGM on the country's Sri Lanka policy or on Sri Lanka Tamils.

During the last three years, Jayalalithaa has strengthened her support base with a slew of populist measures like the running subsidised food outlets that benefit the poor. Many analysts feel this would help her capture most of the 40 parliamentary seats in Tamil Nadu in the 2014 elections. Ever since the Narendra Modi electoral bandwagon started gathering massive public support, the Congress party is in jitters about its poll prospects in 2014. So the party simply cannot afford to ignore Jayalalithaa and Tamil Nadu. Already a section of Congress leaders is said to favour forming an electoral alliance with the AIADMK, ditching the DMK, their long standing partner. 

But neither Dr Singh nor the Congress party figure in the mercurial chief minister’s favoured list. Only consolation is that she is playing her coalition cards close to her chest so far, despite her better equation with Modi. Probably this has given Congress a glimmer of hope of reworking its relations with her. If the PM attends the CHOGM, such hopes are sure to be dashed.

Amid Perfect Storm of Climate Challenges, Can Aquaculture Net Food Security Gains in Bangladesh?

October 15, 2013

It is difficult to find a country feeling the negative impacts of climate change more severely than Bangladesh. Name any alarming, seemingly far off effect of a warming world being discussed in the halls of Washington or the summits of Copenhagen, and there is a good chance Bangladesh is experiencing it today. Flooding, drought, sea level rise, mass migration, and crushing poverty are exacerbated by a growing population and rapid urbanization. This perfect storm of climactic and demographic trends presents a looming crisis for Bangladesh, no more so than when it comes to food security.

Yet travelling through the country – as I did in 2011 as a student at Muhlenberg College – one notices a change. Bangladeshis are harvesting carp and tilapia from ponds where rice fields, spoiled by salinization, once stood. But is the new trend of aquaculture enough to off-set the challenges of a changing climate in one of the most densely populated countries on Earth?
Flooding and Drought Disrupt Rice Production

For the last thousand years or so, rice has dominated the Bangladeshi diet. Accounting for 77 percent of agricultural land use and 70 percent of caloric intake, the food security of the country’s 151 million people is intimately tied to the thrice-annual rice harvests. However, the effects of climate change have begun to destabilize this long-time staple, reducing the industry’s capacity to keep pace with the demands of a swelling population.

Situated at the terminal flood plain delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna Rivers, Bangladesh’s low-lying geography means that every year between 20 to 40 percent of the country is flooded. Though this annual flooding is the norm and once benefited rice farming by bringing nutrient-rich sediment down from the mountains, the frequency and intensity of recent floods has overwhelmed many farmlands.

From the Himalayas, where UN experts say 95 percent of ice flows are in retreat, glacial melt has inundated the country in the north. “The river burst its banks,” a Bangladeshi woman told The Guardian earlier this year, recounting the aftermath of three successive floods between July and September 2012. “My rice paddy was washed away, even the very smallest plant. We would have been harvesting it next month.”

Sea level rise in the Bay of Bengal also brings flooding from the south. Two-thirds of Bangladesh is less than five meters above sea level, making it exceedingly vulnerable to small ocean changes. Assuming global emissions continue to increase, the IPCC projects sea levels to rise by an average of 62 centimeters by the end of the century, an increase that could result in the loss of nearly 40 percent of productive land in the south, the country’s former breadbasket. Already, saline intrusion – a byproduct of coastal flooding that decreases soil fertility – has left between 29 and 36 percent of Bangladesh’s coastal belt “very strongly saline.”

In an ill-fated twist of irony, shifting weather patterns have also left the country more drought prone, particularly in the west. In 2010, agriculture was devastated after the lowest recorded rainfall since 1995. Researchers predict the recurrence of slight drought over the next 40 years could cause a 10 to 30 percent loss in rice yields, and severe drought a stunning 70 to 90 percent loss.