19 November 2013

Who betrayed Sardar Patel?

Published: November 19, 2013
Arvind P. Datar

ONE NATION: It was primarily on the assurance of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that the rulers signed the Instruments of Accession which in turn created a united India. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Sardar Patel persuaded the Constituent Assembly to guarantee payment of Privy Purses and preserve the rights of the erstwhile rulers. But the Congress betrayed him.

In the recent media coverage on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, there was not one word about the greatest insult to his memory: the abolition of the Privy Purses, first by a Presidential Order and, later, by a constitutional amendment.

Article 1 of the Constitution states that India, that is, Bharat, shall be a Union of States. No person can claim greater credit for the creation of Bharat than Sardar Patel, ably assisted by V.P. Menon (Constitutional Adviser to Lord Mountbatten). In 1947, princely states numbering 555 covered 48 per cent of the area of pre-Independent India and constituted 28 per cent of its population. Legally, the princely states were not a part of British India and the people of these states were not treated as British subjects. But, in reality, they were completely subordinate to the British Crown.

The Indian Independence Act, 1947, provided for the lapse of paramountcy of the British Crown over the Indian states. Each ruler had the option to accede to the dominion of India or to Pakistan, or continue as an independent sovereign mini-state. The rulers were often seen, perhaps rightly, as lackeys and stooges of the British Empire. Even in the “mutiny” of 1857, many of them actively assisted the British. Lord Canning acknowledged their role as “breakwaters in the storm which would have swept over us in one great wave.” From the beginning, therefore, several members of the Congress were totally opposed to the payment of Privy Purses.

Integration

The tireless efforts of Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon resulted in the princes agreeing to the dissolution of their respective states. They surrendered several villages, thousands of acres of scattered jagir land, palaces, museums, buildings, aircraft, and cash balances and investments amounting to Rs.77 crore. In addition, there was the railway system of about 12,000 miles which the states surrendered to the Centre without receiving any compensation.

In consideration of their agreeing to integrate with India, the princes were to be paid a Privy Purse, which was approximately 8.5 per cent of the annual revenue of each princely state. The amounts varied from Rs.43 lakh a year to the Nizam of Hyderabad to just Rs.192 a year to the ruler of Katodia. Of the 555 rulers, 398 were to get less than Rs.50,000 a year. The total cost to the Indian exchequer in 1947 was Rs.6 crore, which was to be progressively reduced. At the time of abolition in 1970, the total amount payable to all the erstwhile princes was just Rs.4 crore a year.

On October 12, 1949, Sardar Patel persuaded the Constituent Assembly to include Articles 291 and 362 in the Constitution to guarantee the payment of Privy Purses and also preserve the personal rights, privileges and dignities of the rulers. His brilliant speech bears clear testimony to his statesmanship and deserves to be carefully read:

“The privy purse settlements are, therefore, in the nature of consideration for the surrender by the rulers of all their ruling powers and also for the dissolution of the States as separate units … Need we cavil then at the small — I purposely use the word small — price we have paid for the bloodless revolution which has affected the destinies of millions of our people? …

Drawing a line of peace & tranquillity

Published: November 19, 2013
Nirupama Subramanian

An agreement that includes CBMs similar to those in the 1996 India-China pact, with the January 2004 India-Pakistan joint statement additionally written into it, could have an impact beyond the LoC.

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New York in September, they agreed to “find effective means to restore the ceasefire” in Kashmir. To this end, the Directors-General of Military Operations on both sides were asked to set up meetings between themselves to find ways to maintain “peace and tranquillity” on the Line of Control.

Ten years of ceasefire

Despite the instruction, the two DGMOs have not been able to schedule a meeting. It is not clear what the stumbling block is, but when Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid and Sartaj Aziz, foreign policy advisor to the Pakistan Prime Minister, met in New Delhi recently, they had to reiterate that instruction. The Line of Control has remained peaceful since the third week of October but no one knows for how long it will remain so. Instead of marking 10 years of the ceasefire, a significant achievement in India-Pakistan relations, with a celebration, all there is to the anniversary is dreaded anticipation of the next violation.

The ceasefire came into existence on November 26, 2003, after a unilateral announcement by Pakistan which India reciprocated, amid a flurry of other moves to normalise relations two years after the terrorist attack on Parliament House. There was no written agreement. After two decades of near-daily artillery fire exchanges, the guns just fell silent on the 740-km LoC and the AGPL on that Eid day a decade ago.

Soon after, India resumed building a fence on the LoC, a project it had begun much earlier but had to stop because of the artillery firing. Though Pakistan had earlier protested and criticised the construction, it allowed it to go on, and the 550-km fence was completed in 2004.

Only in August 2005 were some terms of the ceasefire spelt out in a joint statement after officials from both sides met for talks on Conventional Confidence Building Measures. The statement reaffirmed the commitment to uphold the ceasefire. Both sides agreed to upgrade the then existing hotline between the two DGMOs by the end of September that year, and hold monthly flag meetings between local commanders in designated sectors. Most importantly, they agreed not to develop any new posts and defence works along the LoC.

The arrangement worked well until 2008, the same year a democratically elected government took charge of Pakistan. From January that year to March 2009, there were, according to the annual report of India’s Ministry of Defence, 87 firing incidents on the LoC, of which 51 were ceasefire violations by Pakistan. Subsequent annual reports record only ceasefire violations by Pakistan: 33 in 2009 rising to 57 in 2010; and 61 in 2011. In 2012, the number spiked to 108. This year opened with the killing of two Indian soldiers at the LoC, one of whom was beheaded. In August, five Indian soldiers were ambushed. Both incidents effectively muddied the waters for a peace process that has been struggling to get started. According to numbers from the Indian side, the violations by Pakistan have topped 200 already this year. Officials on the Indian side are clear that the incidents are linked to cross-border infiltration.

LoC & LAC

Compare this situation with that on the Line of Actual Control. No one disagrees that this border is under stress. Unlike the LoC, the LAC has not been demarcated. There are several areas where claim lines are overlapping, so patrols encounter each other as each side patrols up to its respective claim.

India has miles to go before it can catch up with China

Naval challenges amid giant strides
Harsh V. Pant

AFTER a long nine-year wait, India has finally taken possession of the 45,000-tonne, $2.3 billion Admiral Gorshkov, now renamed INS Vikramaditya, built in the final years of the Soviet Union and now India's largest ship. It is now being escorted by warships to India on a two-month voyage from Russia's northern coast and will reach the port of Karwar in January following which the Navy will operationalise it with the first landing of its MiG-29K aircraft.

The launch of INS Vikramaditya is seen as critical for the Indian Navy in the light of China’s massive naval build-up

Earlier this year in August, India became the fifth nation in the world with the capability to indigenously design and build its own aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. This launch was preceded with the announcement that the reactor in India's first indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine (SSBN), INS Arihant, has gone critical, marking a turning point in New Delhi's attempt to establish a nuclear triad. But the celebrations came to an abrupt end when two days after the launch of INS Vikrant, a tragedy followed as INS Sindhurakshak, one of the 10 kilo-class submarines that form the backbone of India's ageing conventional submarine force, sank with 18 crew members after explosions at the naval dockyard in Mumbai. Together these developments underscored the giant strides that India has made as well as the challenges that India faces in its attempts to emerge as a credible global naval power.

Indian naval expansion is being undertaken with an eye on China, and recent strides notwithstanding, India has nautical miles to go before it can catch up with its powerful neighbour, which has made some significant advances in the waters surrounding India. The launch of an aircraft carrier is seen as critical for the Indian Navy as it remains anxious to maintain its presence in the shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, especially in the light of China's massive naval build-up. China commissioned its aircraft carrier, Liaoning, last year which is a refurbished vessel purchased from Ukraine in 1998. It is also working on an indigenous carrier of its own even as it is eyeing a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

India remains heavily dependent on imports to meet its defence requirements, so its recent successes are particularly important. But for all the euphoria, it will be five years until INS Vikrant can be commissioned by the Indian Navy and INS Arihant has yet to pass a series of sea trials. The Indian Navy wants to be a serious blue-water force and is working hard to achieve that goal. Indian naval planners have long argued that if it is to main continuous operational readiness in the Indian Ocean, protect sea lanes of communication in the Persian Gulf and monitor Chinese activities in the Bay of Bengal, it needs a minimum of three aircraft carriers and a fleet of five nuclear submarines. With Admiral Gorshkov likely to be operational by early next year and a second aircraft indigenous carrier in the wings, the Navy could be close to realising the dream of operating three carriers by the end of the decade.

Getting real with Hanoi

C. Raja Mohan Posted online: 
Nov 19 2013

As India receives the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong, Delhi must seek a bold expansion of the strategic partnership with Hanoi. India and Vietnam have long enjoyed a special relationship. But the changing circumstances in Asia demand a very different partnership between Delhi and Hanoi. Earlier, it was all about India’s expression of political solidarity with Vietnam. Delhi must now explore with Hanoi the prospects for jointly shaping the Asian balance of power.

In the past, Delhi was ready to pay a price for its genuine political warmth towards Vietnam. In the late-1960s and early-’70s, Delhi risked Washington’s displeasure by denouncing the American bombing of Vietnam. In strongly supporting Hanoi’s military intervention to save Cambodia from the genocidal Pol Pot clique in the late-’70s Delhi incurred some costs in East Asia, because the United States, China, Japan and Southeast Asia were all at loggerheads with Vietnam then.

All that, however, was in the domain of diplomacy. There was little economic content to the relationship, since both India and Vietnam chose insular approaches for national development. It was only at the turn of the 1990s, as both countries opened up their economies, that a deeper foundation for the relationship could be built.

After Vietnam opened up its oil sector to foreign companies, Indian firms were among the first to win contracts. Energy security and economic cooperation are likely to figure high in the talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Trong. But the current churn in Asian geopolitics demands greater strategic coordination between the two nations. For Vietnam, India is central to its strategy of winning new friends through a range of strategic partnerships. It is up to Delhi now to recognise the full import of Vietnam for Indian security.

Part of the problem is that India’s chattering classes continue to see Vietnam through the 20th century lens of anti-colonialism. For many generations of Indians, Vietnam’s successful wars against the French and the Americans, in the face of great odds, made it the veritable symbol of Asia’s resilient nationalism. Calcutta’s Marxists renamed Harrington Street, where the US consulate is located, as Ho Chi Minh Sarani in a tribute to the founder of modern Vietnam.

One hopes the irony is not lost on Calcutta, as Washington and Hanoi now embrace each other amid the shared fears of a rising China. There was little room, of course, for historical nuance in India’s left-liberal sentimentalism on Vietnam. After all, Ho sought and gained American support in reversing the Japanese occupation. Equally important was the inspiration that Ho drew from the American declaration of independence in announcing the formation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in September 1945.

India is now dealing with a very different Vietnam. Thanks to a population of nearly 90 million and rapid economic growth in recent years, Vietnam is emerging as a formidable power in its own right. India must now view Vietnam from the perspective of realpolitik rather than the sentimentalism of the past.

India and climate talks imperatives

T. Jayaraman

India needs an early agreement, and also adequate atmospheric “space” in terms of allowed carbon emissions to pursue its development goals. It needs to take a proactive stance on this

By all accounts, no dramatic developments are to be expected from the 19th edition of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that started in Warsaw last week. But it is generally acknowledged that the key issue at Warsaw, even if there are many other significant subjects on the agenda, centres around moving forward the negotiations on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (DPA) initiated at COP 17 two years ago.

It is widely understood that the Durban Platform was a game-changer, setting the stage for decisive climate action based on clear commitments to emissions reduction from all nations. Subsequently, the discussions in the Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP) have resulted in demanding timeline for achieving its aims, including a draft text to be produced by the COP in 2014, a global meeting of heads of states of all nations to be convened by the United Nations Secretary General to push forward such an agreement, and a final agreement to be reached by COP 21 in 2015.

While it is not a foregone conclusion that the DPA will achieve its stated goals by 2015, there are now additional factors conducive to reaching a global agreement. Even if no individual extreme climate event can be attributed exclusively to increased global warming, increasing awareness of the impact of climate-driven disasters, such as Typhoon Haiyan and the Uttarakhand flash floods, is contributing to a global recognition of the urgency of a climate deal, among governments as well as civil society. Significantly, the release of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the next several months, culminating in the release of the final synthesis report of all its findings next year, will add to the sense of urgency.

At the UNFCCC, the European Union has been the most active in pushing forward the agenda of the Durban Platform, laying out in increasing detail the framework and broad outlines of its content and a methodology for securing commitments that would ensure an effective treaty. It has been joined in this effort by many African nations, especially South Africa, and have the strong support of the island-states of the world — support that was vociferously expressed at Durban in 2011. The United States has pursued a two-track policy with respect to the DPA. On the one hand, the U.S. insists that it would undertake only such emissions reductions as it deems feasible, a strategy that is referred to as the “bottom up” approach in the global climate discourse. On the other hand, it has not hesitated to support the European Union, the Africa Group and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in their efforts to have a binding climate agreement with assigned commitments to all nations, especially when such commitments are to be imposed on China and India.

A sea change

Nov 18 2013,

'INS Vikramaditya' promises to change the balance of power in the Indian Ocean

The weather forecast for the Russian White Sea port of Severodvinsk predicted chill winds and sub-zero temperatures, but November 16 was a heartwarming day for India's navy and for the thousands of Indians who follow its fortunes. Defence Minister A.K. Antony commissioned the giant aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, marking the culmination of a 13-year-old saga. It was in October 2000 that the Russian aircraft-carrying cruiser, Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Gorshkov, was "gifted" to India under an inter-governmental agreement.

The Indian government finally gave its approval for repair and modernisation of the ship in January 2004. Designated "Project 11430", according to Russian custom, the ship was handed over to the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk in April 2004, so that the process could start. The ship had to be converted from an aviation-cruiser used for vertical take-off and landing to an aircraft carrier capable of launching and recovering supersonic fighters in the catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery mode. Operating MiG-29K fighters from the ship meant that several facilities and electronic aids had to be added for surveillance and control. Idle for two decades, the ship required extensive repair and the replacement of all equipment on board, including the engines. The modernised Gorshkov was to be delivered to the Indian navy in 2008 at a cost of $974 million.

But the progress of Project 11430 was neither easy nor straightforward. Within a few months of starting work, the Russians started sending ominous messages about the "under-estimation of work", its unexpected complexity and anticipated delays in completion. This led to an extended series of negotiations in which India, caught in a bind, succumbed to the Russian demand for a 250 per cent increase in costs and a four-year delay in delivering the ship. It is likely that in the final reckoning, the project will have overshot even these estimates for two reasons: first, the lack of aircraft-carrier expertise in a shipyard that had only built nuclear submarines till then; second, the inefficiency and corruption that afflict the Russian military industry.

But this will soon be behind us as the ship leaves Russian waters for its new home port, Karwar, on the western coast of India. The Indian navy faces two immediate challenges: the smooth integration of this huge warship, with its new systems, in terms of shore-support and maintenance, and the evolution of new doctrines to exploit the immense operational capabilities that this ship offers. Carrying a mix of supersonic, fourth generation MiG-29K fighters, Kamov-28 anti-submarine and Kamov-31 airborne early-warning helicopters, the Vikramaditya promises to transform the maritime balance of power in the Indian Ocean.

This 44,500 tonne behemoth, with its formidable air-group, will be able to exercise sea-control over a three-dimensional bubble of 400-450 mile radius. Any hostile ship, aircraft or submarine enters this zone of control at its peril. The ship has the capability of "projecting power" over a hostile shore, using the MiG-29K to deliver kinetic strikes with guns, rockets or stand-off missiles. Or it could project power by heli-borne deployment of special forces and troops. In disaster-relief situations, Vikramaditya's huge decks, hangars and domestic services could accommodate and feed thousands of refugees. Its electricity generation and water purification plants and medical facilities could provide for a small town.

What lies behind Saudi-Pak nuclear weapons cooperation

November 18, 2013

The Saudi-Pakistan nuclear weapons cooperation is meant to sound alarm bells in Washington, reminding the Obama administration that its overtures to Iran would have serious negative consequences in terms of its ties with its closest allies in the region, says Ambassador Talmiz Ahmad. Exclusive toRediff.com

On November 6, BBC's Newsnight programme broke the sensational news that Saudi Arabia, which had invested substantially in Pakistan's nuclear weapons projects, would be able to obtain nuclear weapons 'at will' from Pakistan, possibly even before Iran had perfected its own capabilities.

The news report quoted a source in Israeli military intelligence and a NATO source to support its assertions. The NATO source said that weapons were in fact ready for delivery, while the Israeli source said the Saudis, sensing progress in the Iranian weapons programme, 'will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring'.

Within a day, this report was dismissed by the founding father of Pakistan's nuclear programme, A Q Khan, who denied that Pakistan had reached a secret deal to provide nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia.

He pointed out that neither Pakistan nor Saudi Arabia had anything to gain from this transaction. The Pakistani Foreign Office dismissed the allegations as 'baseless,' being supported in this by former ISI chief, Lieutenant General Hamid Gul.

A close scrutiny of the BBC report makes it clear that the principal source for it is Israel and some elements of its lobby in Washington. First, the timing: The report emerged when Iran's dialogue with the P5+1 had just commenced, and there was every possibility of progress.

Israel, of course, has been totally opposed to the recent US-Iran 'detente': It has over the years gained substantial support from large sections of the US political establishment to which it has projected Iran's nuclear ambitions as an 'existential threat'.

In fact, the pro-Israel lobby has over several years worked closely with the American right-wing, particularly in the Republican party, to scuttle any attempt at a US-Iran understanding.

However, the situation now is much more complex. Israel's anti-Iran posture finds a favourable echo in Saudi Arabia.

,p>Since the advent of the Arab Spring nearly three years ago, Saudi Arabia, fearing the prospect of political reform in Bahrain (which could resonate across the region), has demonised Iran, accusing it of 'interference' in the affairs of the Arab Gulf States in pursuit of 'Persian' hegemony and the promotion of its sectarian interests.

In the face of the Iranian challenge, Saudi Arabia had abandoned its traditional quietist and moderate approach to foreign affairs and has adopted an aggressive and strident posture, challenging Iran bilaterally and across different theatres in West Asia.

The principal conflict between these two Islamic giants is now taking place in Syria. A regime change in that country would snap its strategic links with Iran which would cut off Iran's outreach to the Mediterranean and deny it access to the lifeline supporting the Hezbollah; the latter would obviously serve Israel's security interests as well.

Taliban Insurgency Will Survive in Afghanistan As Long As Its Illicit Funding Sources Remain, U.N.

Jon Boone
The Guardian
November 17, 2013

As many as 12,000 Taliban fighters have been killed, captured or wounded in Afghanistan in the past year, according to a UN report which warns that despite Afghan military successes, the insurgency will remain resilient as long as it enjoys a wide range of illicit income streams.

According to Afghan government sources and “Taliban internal statistics” quoted in a special report to the UN security council, between 10,000 and 12,000 rebels are thought to have been killed, captured or wounded. Deaths and injuries among the Afghan police and army have also soared in the last year. A UN official said the number of Taliban losses was a threefold increase on the figure for the same period last year.

The US-led Nato alliance has long refused to publish information about the number of Taliban fighters it believes have died on the battlefield.

The report, by the committee in charge of the UN’s list of senior members of the Taliban subject to international sanctions, says Afghanistan’s army and police have performed well in the past 12 months, even succeeding in taking back some Taliban-controlled territory.

A Taliban effort to overrun towns in 2013 had not “led to significant gains for the Taliban, who have neither managed to seize population centres nor gain popular support”, the report says.

But with violence in the country soaring to levels “not seen since 2010”, the report gives little hope of a respite in fighting as the country prepares for the end of the Nato combat mission next year.

A gathering of tribal elders in Kabul will this week debate whether any foreign forces will be allowed to remain after 2014 to support Afghan troops.

The Taliban remains a powerful and well-funded force, the report says, with the movement raising $155m in 2012 from illegal opium production.

Although the amount of protection money that insurgents receive from security companies employed to guard Nato supply convoys has fallen as foreign forces close bases, the report says 2014 is expected to be a bumper year as the alliance ships huge amounts of equipment out of the country.

It also warns that the Taliban is skimming profit off illegally mined gemstones, including rubies and emeralds. Afghanistan has an estimated $1tn worth of mineral reserves, which it is hoped will eventually help to pay for the country’s 352,000-strong security force.

The report says Kabul needs to do much more to prevent high-grade industrial explosives reaching the hands of Taliban bomb-makers, whose weapons are becoming “increasingly sophisticated and technically advanced” and now account for 80% of army and police casualties.

The training of suicide bombers outside Afghanistan is described as “a particularly worrying trend”, with the report citing two cases of suicide attackers sexually abused “in order to be conditioned for their mission”. It also reports an increase in the reliance on pistols with silencers, which have been “used widely in intimidation campaigns” during 2013.

On Sunday, the bodies of six government building contractors were found beheaded in the southern province of Kandahar.

The report says that although there is still a chance of the Taliban entering peace talks, it warns that “those interested in dialogue still appear subordinate to those committed to further fighting”.

It also says the insurgency is becoming increasingly fragmented, with the rise of a new generation of commanders operating their own “fronts” that are largely independent of the movement’s leadership.

China’s Energy Rebalancing: A New Gazpolitik?

November 18, 2013
By Hamid Poorsafer

China’s energy rebalancing may be as important and difficult as its economic equivalent.

China’s rapidly growing economy has put the nation’s political leaders under pressure to secure energy resources for stable development. The country’surbanization and economic rebalancingwill have substantial consequences for the world’s energy markets. According to British Petroleum (BP), China will account for 25 percent of growth in total energy demand through 2030 while accumulating an energy production-consumption deficit greater than that of the U.S. or Europe. China’s 2012 energy mix comprised 68 percent coal, 18 percent oil and only 5 percent natural gas, compared to 20 percent coal, compared to 37 percent oil and 30 percent natural gas for the United States.

Many countries have mapped energy policies tied to the year 2020, a key inflection point for countries to benchmark and evaluate their policies. In November 2010, the EU outlined an ambitious plan to reform its energy markets and integrate its internal market by 2020, in addition to placing several environmental and efficiency targets. In November 2000, Russia approved the Main Provisions of the Russian Energy Strategy to 2020, providing key export and production targets for its hydrocarbons. Similarly, China’s main state planning agency body, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), wants natural gas to make up 10 percent of China’s overall energy consumption mix by 2020, up from 4 percent in 2012.

China’s aggressive pursuit of natural gas is being driven by increased supply availability from shale and larger LNG markets, while Beijing is intensifying efforts to displace coal in favor of natural gas for greater environmental sustainability. Natural gas emits less carbon dioxide and zero sulfides compared to coal. One study has estimated that economic losses caused by pollution in 2010 came in at 1.1 trillion yuan, more than double the total from 2004. General Electric stated in a white paper that China could save $820 billion in environmental costs by 2025 by doubling its current natural gas consumption at the expense of coal. The more apparent the economic losses from poor environmental management become, the more pressure there will be for China to increase natural gas consumption and switch from coal. Still, aggressive natural gas expansion will require China to think about how it fits into its energy security scheme.

Energy security and natural gas are linked because of the way natural gas has traditionally been transported. Natural gas can be shipped to markets in two ways: via pipelines or as liquefied natural gas (LNG) in large shipping tankers. Natural gas agreements have detailed supply, timing and price arrangements between importers and exporters. An uninterruptible supply of natural gas is essential for consumers; if natural gas arrangements can be interrupted, countries must have alternative supply arrangements or maintain storage to meet domestic demand. As China rebalances its energy mix to meet environmental targets, it will have to deal with more complex energy security challenges.

Xi Jinping Cements Grip on China's Army

November 17, 2013

The consensus is that China's Third Plenum, which ended last week, was a little disappointing.

While the scope and scale of economic reform is still unclear, we did learn something important: when it comes to security and defence policy, President Xi Jinping is emerging as the most powerful "paramount leader" since Deng Xiaoping.

Consolidating his position may well help keep a free-wheeling People's Liberation Army in check, but will create new risks for the region nevertheless.

At the Third Plenum, Xi's power and authority over defence and security policy was extended. Of high significance is the announcement of a National Security Council, which will co-ordinate policy covering domestic security, strategic and defence issues, and international diplomacy. Although the make-up of the body is unclear, the NSC will almost certainly be chaired by Xi or answer directly to him at the very least.

China has hundreds of security agencies, so why the fuss about one more? It is not a new idea. Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao both contemplated its creation during their tenures, before putting the idea on ice. It is well known that the NSC was opposed by the PLA, which feared the loss of its institutional and informal role in security and defence policy, and other bodies with security oversight. The fact that Xi has pushed through the NSC's creation before the end of his first year as President speaks volumes about the magnitude of his political power and standing - not just over the PLA, but other entities that previously opposed the creation of the NSC.

To be sure, something like the NSC is needed. The country's security and defence institutions have not kept pace with the growth in China's economic and military capabilities. For a country that constitutes a third of all defence spending in Asia, and with a military budget already twice that of Japan's, we know worryingly little about how decisions are made, who makes them, and for what reason.

This is where Xi's tightening grip on security and defence policy and execution could be constructive. Unlike democratic polities where civilian leaders are firmly in control of security policy and diplomacy, PLA officials have consistently led the escalation of hostile words against countries with which it has territorial disputes. In multiple cases, uniformed officers have seemingly taken charge of at-sea incidents without overt authority from their civilian masters.

An undisciplined and largely unaccountable military, fuelled by hubris and supported by double-digit annual budget increases from a deeply insecure regime, is rarely a force for stability and restraint. It is no wonder that conventional wisdom views reckless miscalculation by the PLA as the greatest danger to regional stability. The hope is that Xi, with unrivalled authority over his armed forces, can encourage and enforce restraint.

This reasoning makes sense, but centralising security and defence policy under Xi carries new risks. The President has spoken openly and passionately about his pledge to "continue the great renewal of the Chinese nation", as part of his "China Dream" message - designed to revitalise the legitimacy of the CCP and ensure its continued hold on power. Military pre-eminence in Asia is an explicit component of the dream.

A further problem is that this idea of renewal draws directly from the belief that the zenith of Chinese power under the Ming and Qing dynasties represents the natural, just and permanent state of affairs for a 5000-year-old civilisation. And this means not just retaking Tibet and Xinjiang - which has been achieved - but placing Taiwan under the mainland's control, and making good on extensive Chinese maritime claims in the East and South China seas.

UNCERTAIN AT THE TOP

China’s contradictory wish-list of reforms
Rana Mitter

Chinese politics has been on a roller-coaster in the past week. First, Chinese sources let the media know that the 22,000-word communiqué at the end of the third plenum of the 18th congress of the Chinese Communist Party would announce the long-awaited road map for the next phase of China’s reforms. Up to now, Xi Jinping’s leadership had been hard to define, but this document would finally provide the clear, detailed information that would define what his term at the head of China’s party-state would be about. Then, last Tuesday, the announcement came, and it was a damp squib: a vague and contradictory wish-list of reforms with no real sense of how to achieve them. But then, on Friday, two announcements came that spelled important changes in the Chinese political system: the effective end of the “one-child” policy, and the abolition of the system of “reform through labour” that led to the notorious laogai labour camp system.

The Plenum communiqué provided plenty of fodder for China-watchers. The statement that China would allow markets to take a “decisive” role in the allocation of resources suggests a speeding up of economic reforms in a whole variety of areas. For instance, rural land is still state-owned. By allowing farmers to own their own land and develop it, a whole new element of growth may be opened up in the countryside. Another clearly-stated intention was to set up a new national security bureau, although it was not clear whether this was something along the lines of America’s National Security Council, or something more dedicated to breaking up internal dissent. Also provoking discussion was the decision to set up a small group to steer reforms. How would this group operate? Which members of the top seven figures in Chinese politics, the standing committee of the politburo, will actually be on this committee? There has been plenty of discussion in the media outside China (along with some fairly acid comment on Weibo, China’s Twitter), but little hard information.

For this discussion could not conceal a wider reality: the document gave little real indication of policy direction and even contradicted itself in certain places. The communiqué suggests both that free markets will be given more leeway to operate in China, but also that the large state-owned enterprise sector will continue to play a central role in the economy. More seriously, the report gave little clues on promised reforms in areas such as liberalization of financial services or reform of the banking sector.

Most clearly absent was any sense of political reform in a more liberal direction. In recent years, Chinese officials have spoken frequently of rule of law as a core value, yet it has also been made clear that there is no prospect of a judicial system being established that can override the ultimate will of the party. Since Xi Jinping became general secretary, China’s media have felt an increasingly chilly wind as they are reminded that even China’s increasingly commercialized broadcasters and newspapers must stay away from certain topics. So, any serious investigation of the extraordinary fall of Bo Xilai, the former party secretary of Chongqing city, or querying of the motives of China’s top leaders, is out of the question. There has been a flurry of anti-corruption campaigns in China in the past few months, as officials are told to serve no more than “one soup and four dishes” at any meal. Yet, these changes in political tone, though real, serve to consolidate the party’s rule, not to liberalize or pluralize it.

Chinese leaders control media, academics to shape the perception of China


It’s well known that Chinese censors shape and limit the news and history their people can learn. What may be more surprising is how Chinese officials shape and limit what Americans learn about China.

Last month, a cultural attache in the Chinese embassy in Washington invited Perry Link to attend a Forum of Overseas Sinologists in Beijing in December.

Given that Link is one of America’s eminent China scholars, this might not be surprising — except that he had not received a visa to enter China since 1996 for reasons the Chinese have never explained.

Link replied that he would be interested in attending, but would he receive a visa?

Absolutely, he was told.

You’re sure? Link e-mailed back.

Of course, the attache replied. Just send your passport, “and I can help you to finish the visa application.”

Link sent his passport and application, and on Nov. 8 received the following message: “After review, I’d like to inform you that you will not be invited to the forum.”

The Lucy-and-the-football quality of this exchange is striking, but Link is far from the only foreign scholar to be blacklisted. In 2011, 13 respected academics who had contributed chapters to a book on Xinjiang, a province of western China that is home to a restive Muslim minority, found themselves banned.

Link, who has forged a distinguished career at Princeton and the University of California at Riverside can survive a visa ban. But for a young anthropologist seeking tenure, the inability to do field research could be terminal. And because China never explains its refusals or spells out what kind of scholarship is disqualifying, the result is a kind of self-censorship and narrowing of research topics that is damaging even if impossible to quantify.

“The costs to the American public,” Link told me, “are serious and not well appreciated. . . . It is deeply systematic and accepted as normal among China scholars to sidestep Beijing demands by using codes and indirections. One does not use the term ‘Taiwan independence,’ for example. It is ‘cross-strait relations.’ One does not mention Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who sits in prison. . . . Even the word ‘liberation’ to refer to 1949 is accepted as normal.”

Academics understand the code, he added, “but when scholars write and speak to the public in this code, the public gets the impression that 1949 really was a liberation, that Taiwan independence really isn’t much of an issue, that a Nobel Prize winner in prison really is not worth mentioning.”

Increasingly, foreign journalists are subject to similar pressure. Paul Mooney, a veteran Asia journalist for Reuters, recently was denied a visa, with no reason given, according to the agency. Knowledgeable China hands for Bloomberg News, the New York Times and The Washington Post have met similar fates.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of China on the UNHRC

November 15, 2013
By Tyler Roney

China celebrates its membership of the UN Human Rights Council. Elsewhere, reactions are mixed.

Described as a "black day for human rights" and "asking the fox to look after the chickens,” China's recent election to the UN Human Rights Council (alongside Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Russia) has been met with outrage by many concerned groups. However, there are varied human rights interests in China and the impact may be more nuanced; in the fumble for gravitas after the election, the human rights organizations want the voice they've always lacked in China, the UNHRC looks to maintain a sliver of legitimacy, and China … well, China's boasting.

Arguably, on the domestic front, China's attitude toward human rights has been, at best, combative, but its spot on the Council could provide some much-needed spotlight. At the moment, however, that spotlight is being used as propaganda. As expected, the state media fawned over China's acceptance; Xinhua, ignoring the protests in the run up to the election and the international outcry afterward, commented, "China's election to the UN Human Rights Council Tuesday also serves as the international community's acknowledgement of China's significant achievements in the field of human rights."

Roseann Rife, East Asia research director for Amnesty International, tells The Diplomat, "We are certainly hoping a lot of good can come from it. It really represents a true desire to be more engaged in the work of the council, to demonstrate leadership by example." Over at Human Rights in China, the outlook is perhaps a bit more severe, as they suggest the power China wields and its human rights record is a danger to the council's important work. Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China says, "The geopolitical and economic influence of powerful member states like China can effectively carry forward or make hollow the Council's mandate that its members 'shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.'" Horn adds, "This is not a new risk. This is the world we live in – a world of imperfect global institutions." 

Adding to his colleague's statement, Ye Shiwei, a senior program officer also with HRIC, tells The Diplomat, "China will be going home to a host of different human rights challenges that it still needs to overcome and still needs to meet the demands of its citizens for reforms." He adds, "Because Chinese citizens are increasingly demanding these rights as well, it will be increasingly difficult for China to say that human rights are only Western constructs."

Chinese leaders control media, academics to shape the perception of China

November 18

It’s well known that Chinese censors shape and limit the news and history their people can learn. What may be more surprising is how Chinese officials shape and limit what Americans learn about China.

Last month, a cultural attache in the Chinese embassy in Washington invited Perry Link to attend a Forum of Overseas Sinologists in Beijing in December.

Given that Link is one of America’s eminent China scholars, this might not be surprising — except that he had not received a visa to enter China since 1996 for reasons the Chinese have never explained.

Link replied that he would be interested in attending, but would he receive a visa?

Absolutely, he was told.

You’re sure? Link e-mailed back.

Of course, the attache replied. Just send your passport, “and I can help you to finish the visa application.”

Link sent his passport and application, and on Nov. 8 received the following message: “After review, I’d like to inform you that you will not be invited to the forum.”

The Lucy-and-the-football quality of this exchange is striking, but Link is far from the only foreign scholar to be blacklisted. In 2011, 13 respected academics who had contributed chapters to a book on Xinjiang, a province of western China that is home to a restive Muslim minority, found themselves banned.

Link, who has forged a distinguished career at Princeton and the University of California at Riverside can survive a visa ban. But for a young anthropologist seeking tenure, the inability to do field research could be terminal. And because China never explains its refusals or spells out what kind of scholarship is disqualifying, the result is a kind of self-censorship and narrowing of research topics that is damaging even if impossible to quantify.

“The costs to the American public,” Link told me, “are serious and not well appreciated. . . . It is deeply systematic and accepted as normal among China scholars to sidestep Beijing demands by using codes and indirections. One does not use the term ‘Taiwan independence,’ for example. It is ‘cross-strait relations.’ One does not mention Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who sits in prison. . . . Even the word‘liberation’ to refer to 1949 is accepted as normal.”

Academics understand the code, he added, “but when scholars write and speak to the public in this code, the public gets the impression that 1949 really was a liberation, that Taiwan independence really isn’t much of an issue, that a Nobel Prize winner in prison really is not worth mentioning.”

Increasingly, foreign journalists are subject to similar pressure. Paul Mooney, a veteran Asia journalist for Reuters, recently was denied a visa, with no reason given, according to the agency. Knowledgeable China hands for Bloomberg News, the New York Times and The Washington Post have met similar fates.

Bloomberg provides a telling case. Last year it published groundbreaking investigations on the wealth that China’s elites are accumulating. Corruption is a sensitive issue for Communist Party leaders, and, given Bloomberg’s business interests in China, the journalism took courage.

After the reports, Bloomberg’s Web site was blocked to Chinese viewers, and journalists were denied visas. Recently, according to the New York Times, Bloomberg spiked an investigative report about a billionaire’s connection to Chinese leaders, with its editor in chief arguing that it was important to maintain his reporters’ access to the country.

If You’re Not Worried About Dengue Fever, Here’s Why You Should Be

Nov. 18, 2013

Aided by global warming, the potentially deadly mosquito-borne virus is spreading around the world to an alarming extent

Dengue-fever patients rest in bed as they receive medical treatment at a health center in Managua, Nicaragua, on Oct. 31, 2013

It doesn’t have its celebrity fundraisers, unlike AIDS. It hasn’t made the headlines in the way that bird flu or SARS have. It isn’t feared in the way thatpolio or TB are, and yet dengue fever can kill and is spreading around the world to an unprecedented degree.

The latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that annual transmissions of the disease may breach 390 million. This year, infections are breaking records all over Asia and Latin America — from sweeping epidemics in Nicaragua to the worse outbreaks in six years in India, 20 years in Thailand and the first homegrown case in Western Australia in seven decades. Even temperate climates are now stalking grounds for dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

Almost 3 billion people, or 40% of the world’s population, live in areas where there is a risk of dengue transmission. Previously known as breakbone fever, owning to the excruciating muscle and joint pain inflicted, dengue first came to the fore in Southeast Asia during World War II, when large numbers of troops were afflicted with it. Up until the 1960s the disease was largely controlled with DDT, which decimated mosquito populations. But the mosquitoes crept back after the chemical was banned for its severe side effects and ever since “we have seen an ever increasing march of the virus into new territories and new recipient populations,” says Paul Young, professor at the University of Queensland in Australia and president of the Australian Society for Microbiology, who has been researching dengue for almost three decades.

Mention dengue and most people will think of aches and chills. But the disease is far more dangerous than that. Dengue causes white-blood-cell counts to plummet, making the body susceptible to secondary infections; even more alarmingly, it has a similar effect to platelets, impairing blood’s ability to clot. If left untreated, and particularly on a second infection, dengue hemorrhagic fever can take hold, and patients can suffer internal bleeding, shock and death.

While malaria rates have fallen 25% worldwide since 2000 — including a 35% drop in Africa, according to the WHO — dengue is seeing a dramatic upsurge. “South America is gearing up for a huge epidemic,” says Young. Asia has been particularly hard-hit, with 51,000 dengue cases in Cambodia and Laos; 96,000 in the Philippines; 135,000 in Thailand; 18,000 in Malaysia; and 15,000 in Singapore by the start of September. The U.S. has not been spared either, with the first case in a major city in Houston and “serious levels” in Florida.

Russia Flies Strategic Bombers Close to Japanese Airspace (Again)

By Ankit Panda
November 19, 2013

The Japanese Air Self-Defence Force (ASDF) was placed on high alert and scrambled jets after two Russian long-range Tu-95 strategic bombers (comparable to American B-52s) flew the length of the Ryukyu Island chain on Sunday. According to Ria Novosti, the bombers did not violate Japanese airspace.

The Moscow Times, citing Japanese defense officials, further added that the two Tu-95s "flew northward along a group of islands near Okinawa Island in the direction Hokkaido.” The jets headed north toward Sakhalin Island. It further reported that the ASDF scrambled jets to respond to a Tu-142 long-range maritime reconnaissance anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft which also flew close to Japanese airspace.

The Japanese reaction to this sort of Russian activity has been observed for a while now. The ASDF has scrambled jets 105 times between July to September 2013 due to close-proximity Russian fly-bys.

Although the fly-by did not violate Japanese airspace during this particular incident, Russian jets have been known to do so in the past. Su-27 jets allegedly entered Japanese airspace earlier this year, marking the first time since 2008 that Russian jets entered Japanese airspace. A similar incident involving a pair of Tu-95 strategic bombers occurred in August of this year. Japan’s Defense Ministry is conducting an analysis into Russia’s intentions with these fly-bys.

The fly-by incidents cast a shadow over warming relations between Russia and Japan, who held a 2+2 joint consultation between their foreign and defense ministers. The talks, widely seen as successful, resulted in a commitment to comprehensively deepen ties in security matters. The two committed to develop their bilateral cooperation on maritime and cyber-security matters. Russia and Japan have also discussed the possibility of conducting joint military exercises.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a press conference after the 2+2 meeting: "To boost cooperation in the field of security, and not just in the field of economic and people exchanges, means that we are improving overall Japan-Russia ties."

Earlier this year, in September, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin came to an understanding that the nearly 70-year old territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands should be resolved via a draw. According to Putin’s spokesman “Both sides expressed an understanding that the solution to the problem of the peace agreement can only be based on the principle that there are no victors or losers.”

Japan and India: Watch This Space

November 18, 2013



MUMBAI, India-For all the world's focus on China's ascendancy, the developing strategic and economic entente between Japan and India may be just as important in shaping Asia's future as the rise of their giant neighbor. "India and Japan have a shared vision of a rising Asia," said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a speech earlier this year. No region has seen a similar "rise in freedom, opportunity, and prosperity over the last half century." But nowhere else are threats to these values more at risk, given the instabilities posed by China's emergence, and the potential for conflict among distrustful Asian powers.

In many respects, India and Japan could not be more different. One has more poor people than any other nation on earth. The other was the first non-Western society to fully modernize. The order and discipline of Japanese society contrast vividly with the hustle and bustle of India's cities. India is the world's youngest big country, while Japan is aging more rapidly than any other developed society. India's traditional foreign policy of non-alignment and opposition to Western hegemony in world affairs contrasts with Japan's status as a model U.S. ally for over 60 years. Japan remains shackled by its postwar pacifist constitution and normative constraints on the use of military force; India is a state with nuclear weapons that is engaged in one of the world's largest conventional military buildups.

Yet the complementarities between the two powers on opposite ends of the Asian landmass are equally striking. Japan is a capital-rich, technology superpower; India has teeming supplies of human capital and the world's largest labor pool. Japan has the world's most advanced infrastructure, while India's own requirements exceed in scale those of any other country. Unlike many other Asian societies who suffered the effects of Japanese militarism before 1945, Indians comfortably acknowledge that they do not have "history issues" with Japan of the kind that color Tokyo's relations with nations across East and Southeast Asia.

In many respects, a strategic and economic partnership with India could catalyze Japan's renewal as a 21st century great power - one no longer as dependent on the United States, and one better diversified to compete with emerging economies. For India's modernizing leaders, few countries afford a better prospect for a development partnership than the nation at the forefront of the industrial and technological revolutions that have transformed the face of Asia. Perhaps most fundamentally, as rival civilization-states to China and victims of territorial conflict with it, Japan and India have the most to lose from potential Chinese hegemony in Asia - and the most to gain from working together, and with the West, to ensure that the future Asian order remains pluralistic rather than Sinocentric.

Like Japan, India has a strong interest in sustaining and strengthening the liberal international economic order that will allow it to deepen flows of trade and investment abroad in order to catalyze development at home. As Singh said in Tokyo last May, "India needs Japanese technology and investment. In turn, India offers increasing opportunities for the growth and globalization of Japanese companies for the overall prosperity and growth of Japan.... There are strong synergies between our economies, which need an open, rule-based international trading system to prosper."