24 November 2013

How Croatia Defines Europe

November 21, 2013


The Cold War split Europe into two camps: a liberal, capitalist western half of the Continent and an authoritarian, communist eastern half. The violent dissolution of Yugoslavia, along with concomitant political and economic stagnation in Romania and Bulgaria, redivided the Continent in the 1990s between a stable, democratic Northern and Central Europe and a chaotic Balkans, the latter with Near Eastern-levels of underdevelopment. The accessions of Slovenia into the European Union in 2004, of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, and now of Croatia in the summer of 2013 seemingly help to unite Europe at last, but in reality hint at new, albeit more subtle, divisions.

First of all, the European Union's economic core has itself been undergoing serious divisions between a relatively healthy north (Scandinavia, Germany and the Low Countries) and a crisis-ridden south (Italy, Spain and Portugal) with almost Depression-levels of unemployment and staggering debt crises. Meanwhile, Greece in the extreme southeast of the eurozone is experiencing the equivalent of a Great Depression, even as France threatens to move in the direction of Southern European standards of economic agony.

Atop these divisions within the Eurozone itself are more divisions within the larger European Union. Romania and Bulgaria may be in the European Union, but they are not in the eurozone: nor, more crucially, are they parties to the Schengen treaty, which allows the citizens of more than two dozen European countries to cross each other's borders without passport and immigration controls. In other words, there are still divisions between these former communist Balkan countries and Central Europe, albeit less profound than during the 1990s.

Now let's look at Croatia. Croatia has become the newest member of the European Union, bringing the number of countries within the organization to 28. Some EU officials have hailed the latest expansion as a sign of continued European vitality. Hardly. Croatia merely becomes a new, sick member of Europe. It has more than 50 percent youth unemployment, helping to give it the third-highest unemployment rate within the European Union after Greece and Spain. It has been in recession for half a decade, with an economy smaller than it was five years ago. It will be neither in the eurozone nor a party to the Schengen Agreement in the foreseeable future.

As for its politics, Croatia has an unstable center-left coalition with an abysmal approval rating of 24 percent. One should add that Croatia is among the most corrupt states in Europe, riddled with organized crime and inefficient state companies difficult to privatize. With 4.4 million people, it will be a relatively minor problematic addition to the already-fragile alliance. The biggest practical effect of Croatia's accession will be -- on account of Croatia's relative poverty -- its access to EU development funds, constituting a further drain on Brussels.

Of course, the fact that Croatia will not be in the eurozone makes its stunningly beautiful Dalmatian Coast affordable to many tourists. So there is admittedly one bright spot. Another bright spot may be that with high unemployment and a relatively weak currency, Croatia may create opportunities for entrepreneurs from within the eurozone to relocate some manufacturing and other forms of business there. This is not to be underestimated.

Croatia has been trying to escape its Balkan geography by seeking to build an import terminal for liquefied natural gas in order to service its own energy needs and those of the region around it. Croatia is attempting to interest natural gas-rich Qatar (in the Persian Gulf) in the project. Under this plan, Qatar would help finance the terminal as a hub for its own energy exports to Central and southeastern Europe. But with Europe's continued economic downturn, and with Russia planning to use neighboring Hungary and other countries in the region as a hub for its own "South Stream" energy pipeline, it is uncertain how interested the Qataris are in the Croatian offer.

Toward a uniquely Indian growth model

By Anand Mahindra
November 2013 | 


India can’t afford to emulate China. Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra says the country’s states must compete, not march in lockstep, if India is to develop its own path to sustainable prosperity.

When I listen to pundits, economists, and multinational CEOs talk about India, often I detect a familiar note of frustration. India, they insist, should be blasting upward like a rocket, its growth rate ascending higher and higher, bypassing that of a slowing China’s. India’s population is younger than that of its Asian rival and still growing. Its democratic government enjoys greater legitimacy; its businesspeople are more internationally adept. And yet the Indian rocket continues to sputter in a low-altitude orbit—growing respectably at 5 to 7 percent each year but never breaking through to sustained double-digit growth.

Reimagining India: A conversation with Anand Mahindra

In this video, Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra explains why India’s states must drive the country’s economic growth.


According to this way of thinking, India is an underachiever, perversely holding itself back—and needs only to fire some particular afterburner in order to get its rocket to full speed. The government needs to go on an infrastructure building spree, or open the door to big-box retailers. Political parties need to crack down on corruption and nepotism. Farmers need to adopt smartphones. Something will trigger the long-awaited boom, and the billions in foreign direct investment (FDI) that have flowed to China over the last two decades will at last head south.

If we continue to judge India’s progress by China’s, using metrics like FDI and GDP growth, or statistics like the kilometers of highway and millions of apartments built, we will continue to be branded a laggard. India’s messy coalition governments are not suddenly about to become as efficient and decisive as China’s technocrat-led Politburo. Nor should that be the goal.

Moreover, India simply cannot afford to grow like China has over the last two decades. In authoritarian, tightly controlled China, the costs of that headlong economic expansion are obvious. Unbreathable air and undrinkable milk, slick-palmed officials and oppressive factory bosses provoke tens of thousands of protests each year. In a society as diverse as India’s—riven by religious, community, and caste divides—those kinds of tensions can easily erupt in violence and disorder. Already the battle between haves and have-nots is driving a powerful rural insurgency across nearly a third of the country. Labor riots can turn into religious pogroms. Farmer protests can turn into class wars.

3 Indias at war: Sensex India, Maoist India, and Bharat

By Rajiv Malhotra
Jun 17, 2013

In order to understand India’s present dynamics, it is helpful to think of three competing forces at work internally, each with its distinct support bases and strategic ambitions. Of these forces, Sensex India and Bharat are pro-nation forces even though they fight each other, while Breaking India opposes the unity of India. This article summarises some key kurukshetras within India where these forces are at war with one another. I want to make it politically correct to discuss this in the mainstream.

I have coined the term Sensex India to refer to the western-style institutionally organised economy and lifestyle. This includes all those Indians who relate to the corporate sector as investors, producers or consumers. The major metros and second-tier towns are now largely taken over by this segment, and belonging to it is considered synonymous with being “modern”. The proportion of Indians who belonged to this category during colonial rule was tiny, but has mushroomed after independence, and especially in the past decade of India’s “globalisation”. Sensex India uses Western models that are based on centralised governance, extreme materialism, greed and short-term thinking in matters of environment and sustainability. It continues the legacy of cultural disruption that was started by European colonialists, even though now it is brown-skinned Indians performing the white man’s roles.

The Indians leading this tend to be directly or indirectly integrated with their fellow western elitists, not only in business transactions but also in media, lifestyle, literature, fashions, brands, etc. What is being touted as globalisation is largely the westernisation of the globe. All too often, cricket, Bollywood and a few traditional symbols (carried forward from Bharat, discussed below) comprise the shallow sense of Indian identity among this class. They crave mimicry of the west. A person’s westernisation has become the measure of superiority over his fellow Indians.

While Sensex India seeks to unify India using top-down development, there are opposing centrifugal forces tearing it apart. I have discussed these in numerous talks and in my book, Breaking India. These fissiparous forces include regional ethnic identities, foreign religious nexuses, and so forth. Because I have discussed many of them elsewhere, in this brief article I shall focus on one such divisive force that I refer to as Maoist India, the rebellious insurrections that confront approximately one-third of India’s districts, according to government sources.

There are many disparate revolts against Sensex India, being provoked on the grounds of feeling exploited and marginalised. Maoist Indians allege that they are victims of cultural genocide which is being carried out behind the smokescreen of “progress”. While Sensex India is run top-down with elitist centralised structures and mostly English-speaking governance, Maoist India is grassroots and bottom-up. Here the local languages predominate and the support base is very grounded and bonded with the native soil of a given geographical locality. This means that Maoist India is not one unified movement, but several disparate movements spread across the country, each fighting a local war against local authorities. Often the local police or even symbolic presence of “India” is used as a target to unleash their frustrations.

There are growing alliances emerging across the different geographies, including cells of revolt in neighboring countries. Some of the leaders of these movements include well-educated modern Indians who have turned into revolutionaries, drawing inspiration from similar leftist movements in other parts of the world. China’s Chairman Mao is commonly used as the mascot and political ideologue; hence the term Maoists is used to refer to all such movements.

Their prime enemy is Sensex India and the Indian government seen as its guardian. Many local battles have erupted over the appropriation of lands and natural resources by Sensex India and its foreign collaborators. The Hollywood movie, Avatar, depicts a fictional account of the capitalist exploitation of natives, which resembles many of the issues at stake here. When I saw that movie, I was also imagining the story of the genocide of Native Americans by Europeans after the so-called “discovery” by Columbus (which was really a conquest of the cruellest kind).

Long Night in Malé

Nov 23 2013

For security reasons, the first aircraft was stated to be just a cargo flight to Trivandrum. The second aircraft, piloted by Wing Cdr. (later Group Capt.) Amardeep Gill, following one kilometre behind, was to maintain radio silence throughout the journey.

During the flight, Arun Banerjee explained to Subhash Joshi and Bulsara the geography of the islands, the layout and location of important buildings in Male, and how to go from Hulhule airfield to Male. In between, Joshi kept passing last-minute instructions on the drill to secure the airfield, for distribution of ammunition, and so on. In 'Friendly Two', KKK Singh explained the problems of artillery deployment on the small airfield, movement to other islands if that became necessary, and the state of ammunition supply. Amardeep Gill kept me informed about the ground stations that we crossed below and also of any important radio conversations he heard in the cockpit.

When the aircraft passed over Trivandrum at 37,000 ft altitude, the air traffic control was quite surprised that these two planes, instead of landing at Trivandrum, were going towards the Maldives. They were apprised of the reasons and asked to maintain secrecy.

The significance of "no information or instructions" from Delhi sank home. There was to be no contact thereafter till we reached Hulhule...

Around 9.25 pm, Anant Bewoor's plane, about 25 km from touch down, came down to 20,000 ft and made radio contact with the air traffic control at Hulhule, identifying itself as 'Friendly One'. To our pleasant surprise, the air traffic staff responded immediately. They gave the codeword 'Hudia' as clearance for landing. That was quite a relief. However, despite that, we knew that even a small obstruction on the runway, unseen at night, could cause a disaster. 'Friendly One' asked the staff if they could switch on the runway lights. Promptly, the runway lights came on. They were as quickly switched off lest the rebels got alerted and rushed to the airfield. 'Friendly One' descended using two amber lights against a black background in the moonless night...

The aircraft stopped slightly short of the runway end at 9.50 p.m. It was a daring and highly skilled action, rarely witnessed. The engines of both planes were kept on. Paratroopers started jumping out of the aircraft. Their sub units, on the run, took position around the airfield. Medium machine guns, recoilless rifles, rocket launchers and infantry mortars were deployed. The runway lights were off. Except for minimum lights from the aircraft, it was dark at Hulhule airport. There was no sound of firing from Male, the lights of which were visible across the water channel.

While the unit equipment was being unloaded, I walked across, along with two escorts, to the small hut-like airport building. Two locals, very scared, were hiding in a corner. I went and asked them if they knew English or Hindi. Seeing me standing without arms, they felt less afraid and said, "Thora thora". One of them was holding a transistor. I asked him to switch it on. Instead of news about the armed rebels, I heard a Hindi film song. That made all of us smile...

By this time the rebels had come to know of the Indian troops' arrival. Luthufee and several PLOTE mercenaries got into a panic and decided to escape with some hostages in a hijacked merchant vessel, M.V. Progress Light, anchored at Male harbour under the cover of darkness. Seven hostages taken on board Progress Light included the Maldives' minister of education, Ahmed Mujuthaba, his Swiss wife and his mother-in-law...

Why Does India Have So Many 'Strategic Partners' and No Allies?

Why doesn’t India just call them alliances?

November 23, 2013

It took a long time, but over the past decade, India demonstrated that it was finally comfortable shedding the old vestige of Cold War strategic thinking that was non-alignment. A witness to colonialism and victim to external exploitation, India eschewed alliances and all-weather partnerships for most of the 20th century. It spent its early years as an independent sovereign actor in Asia fomenting the so-called Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which persists to this day.

Of course, India hasn’t swung full-force into any alliances in the past decade – it has to walk before it can run in that regard. Instead, Indian foreign policy has embraced the concept of “strategic partnerships.” India currently conducts bilateral relations on the level of “strategic partners” with the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Indonesia, Australia, Vietnam, South Korea, Iran, ASEAN, Afghanistan and several others. At this point, I wouldn’t fault a reader for wondering what the deal is with these “strategic partnerships.” India’s relations with the aforementioned laundry list of countries vary greatly. Why does India – at least formally and rhetorically – grant the same level of diplomatic elevation to its relationship with China as it does to its relationship with the United States and Japan?

It’s a matter on which there is little consensus, scholarly or otherwise. India has yet to officially define the objective standards for a “strategic partnership.” I’m by no means the first observer of Indian foreign policy to ponder these questions. Nirupama Subramanian over at The Hindu wrote last year that “Strategic partnerships are commonly associated with defense or security related issues, but a survey of formal strategic partnerships around the world reveal they can also be quite a hold-all, covering a wide range in bilateral relations, from defense to education, health and agriculture, and quite commonly, economic relations, including trade, investment and banking.”

Hence the addition of the “strategic” qualifier to the “partnership.” The method is a way for India to get its foot in the door for further diplomatic engagement on military and defense issues should circumstances change. In the meantime, acknowledging that its foreign policy is driven primarily by its economic priorities, the proliferation of such partnerships begins to make more sense.

A former Indian foreign secretary and career diplomat, Kanwal Sibal, attempted to address the dearth of understanding in foreign policy circles on the issue. Acknowledging the lack of objective consensus around the term, Sibal notes that “strategic partnerships” are declarative instruments of policy for India – an effort to “underline its commitment to build a longer-term relationship … by deepening ties and promoting convergence in external policies on issues of mutual interest.” Sibal’s definition seems closer to the truth in terms of what India tries to do in actuality with its strategic partners. After the declaration of a strategic partnership, India doesn’t immediately fast-track relations to expand along all axes – it is rather more prone to take its time and weigh the pros and cons of deeper engagement very seriously.

India’s mission to Mars

Red planet, red rival
To boldly go, with China in mind

Nov 2nd 2013

MUCH goes bang over India at this time of year, amid celebrations for Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. By one estimate, Indians spend over $800m a year on fireworks. But, in cosmic terms, they barely leave the ground. How much more exciting that a single, 4.5 billion-rupee ($74m) rocket is set to whoosh high into the sky on November 5th.

This one is not intended to explode, though in December 2010 scientists had to blow up a rocket that went haywire after a launch. Instead the idea is to send a craft to Mars. If all goes well, the rocket will lift Mangalyaan (“Mars vehicle”), which looks like a big box of gold foil, into orbit round the Earth. After stretching its solar wings and fiddling with its trajectory, it will set off on the nine-month trip to Earth’s neighbour.

Koppillil Radhakrishnan, head of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), says all is ready, weather permitting. Scientists aboard two ships in the South Pacific will track the launch, then Americans will help to watch. One point of the trip, he says, is to sniff out any methane in the Martian atmosphere. When the mission was first conceived the possibility of methane on Mars, where it might signal life, was attracting a lot of attention; proving its presence would have been a big deal. Since then, alas, NASA’s Curiosity rover has more or less ruled such a discovery out. But even without a scientific breakthrough, getting a spacecraft into orbit round Mars will demonstrate Indian prowess. Most bits of the launch rocket are home-made, along with 50-60% of the orbiter.

Indeed, the mission has the air of trying to outdo the Chinese. Mr Radhakrishnan waves away talk of rivalry, declaring that “we are only in a race with ourselves to excel in this area”. Yet Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, announced the project last year shortly after a joint Chinese-Russian mission to Mars had failed.

ISRO, with a budget of 67 billion rupees and a decent pool of 16,000 scientists, engineers and other staff, would indeed brag if all goes well. Generally, though, the agency is cautious. Dreams of launching an astronaut by 2016 have been scrapped; there is a new emphasis on commercial launches. With economic growth slowing and sharp cuts in government spending, the race to space is proving more modest, too.

AN UNQUIET FLOW

Cooperating on the Teesta would benefit Mamata Banerjee

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

Teesta River, Jalpaiguri

She may not realize it, but Mamata Banerjee has been presented with an opportunity to carve out a place for herself in history. Unlike M. Karunanidhi and other Tamil Nadu politicians who have given a jolt to India’s neighbourhood diplomacy, she can help a process of regional consolidation that will in turn further the Look East strategy that underlies New Delhi’s foreign policy. India can’t look very far east if the blank wall of a disgruntled Bangladesh blocks the view. Cooperation instead of competition over water resources would also bring handsome benefits to the 250 million people of West Bengal, Sikkim and Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi fears of being starved of water are possibly exaggerated. More efficient dredging in the Hooghly would probably have spared Calcutta port the silting that the chief minister now blames on the Centre’s generosity to Bangladesh. Bengalis and Bangladeshis can both complain that Sikkim’s dozens of hydro-electricity projects drain the Teesta before it enters West Bengal. Many Sikkimese, especially the Lepcha minority, mobilizing under the banner of Affected Citizens of Teesta, object that these projects are destroying the environment and causing calamitous floods and earthquakes. These points of view can’t be ignored. But genius lies in the management of differences so that they don’t cause irreparable damage. In this case, a reconciliation of Sikkimese, Bengali and Bangladeshi claims can revitalize the Indo-Bangladeshi partnership that had been “cemented...through blood and sacrifices” in Indira Gandhi’s memorable words.

The subcontinent suffers scarcity amidst plenty. It is as prone to floods as to drought. It was to correct this imbalance that experts going back to Arthur Cotton, the 19th-century irrigation engineer and army general, suggested a network of canals, reservoirs, dams and lift mechanisms linking the river system to store water during the wet months and release it when fields are parched. That remains the ultimate answer to the problems of a world in which nature recognizes no borders. Highly commendable in themselves, the Indus water treaty that India and Pakistan signed in 1960 and the Ganges water treaty of 1996 between India and Bangladesh were valuable mainly for identifying the problem and indicating the way forward. Such palliatives cannot be the final answer to a problem that can only be solved through a permanent means of redistribution and reconstruction. Mamata Banerjee and Sheikh Hasina Wajed would get the credit if that is now attempted in the east. Their initiative might even create a precedent for collaboration in the west.

India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers with an annual flow of 1,200 billion cubic metres of water. The Teesta accounts for only 60 bcm. Since 20 per cent of the water (12 bcm) must be guaranteed until the Teesta joins the Brahmaputra, we are left with 48 bcm to be divided between the two countries. The various formulae discussed by the Central Water Commission, probably on the basis of the report submitted by Kalyan Rudra, the river expert whom West Bengal appointed to investigate the matter, include sharing on a 65:35 or even 60:40 basis during the rains. The basis of division during the dry season from October to March, when north Bengal suffers as much as the north-western districts of Bangladesh, is 70:30. But it has been suggested that this could be 50:50 if at least 10 large reservoirs are constructed along the Teesta’s banks in a mini version of the Cotton plan that K.L. Rao and M.N. Dastur expanded in detail many decades later.

End Of Indian Middle Class Dreams

Warren Buffett's 'Siamese twin' Charlie Munger is widely admired for his acute understanding of human behaviour. In one of his famous lectures, he talked about an interesting concept called the boiling frog syndrome. 

What would happen if you were to throw a frog into hot water? The frog would instantly jump out to save dear life. But what would happen if the frog was placed in water at room temperature and then heated up at a very slow rate? The frog would most likely fail to jump out in time and hence, get boiled. 

Of course, you must have guessed by now that this syndrome is more telling about errors in human cognition than about the anatomy of a frog. Like the frog, people, businesses and governments too fail to notice gradual but definite deteriorations in the external environment. It is only when things reach the 'boiling point' that they tend to realise the quantum of the crisis. But by then it's already too late. 

With the way things are going in the Indian economy, we're afraid a similar boiling frog syndrome is unfolding in India. And that India's future could be in grave danger!

Chart 1: Acute Rupee Devaluation Against US Dollar
Source: Reserve Bank Of India (www.rbi.org.in)

In short, the rupee has lost around 16% in 2013, and 44% in the last 3 years.

Chart 2: Fuel Price Inflation - Skyrocketed
Source: Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell 
(Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Government of India)

So maintaining a car has already become a huge burden. 

Chart 3: Highest Price Rise In India Explained By CPI
Source: International Monetary Fund(IMF) (www.imf.org)

So this really leaves us worried about how much we'll have to spend in the future just to keep our house running and meet our basic monthly expenses. 

Chart 4: India's Decelerating Economic Growth
*2011-12 - Quick estimates, 2013-14 - Projected growth 
Source - Planning commisson of India (www.planningcommission.nic.in)

BREACH OF TRUST

While Nawaz Sharif talks of peace, Pakistan’s army strives to escalate tensions with India, writes Abhijit Bhattacharyya

By now, the style and substance of Pakistan’s diplomacy have become open secrets. Diplomacy there is characterized by denial, duplicity and deceit. Indeed, the universally acknowledged story is that Pakistan has turned into a global hub ofjihadis. That the country has lost credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of the international community is a known fact. And yet it moves, or manages to move, because of several factors — its geographical location; its nuclear blackmailing tactic; the fraud committed by its scientists; the doles distributed by the United States of America and the International Monetary Fund; theft and cheating by its elite; its diplomacy of denial and deceit; State sponsorship of cross- border terrorism and the influence and control exerted by the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence.

September and October have been the favourite months for Pakistan to violate its western and north-western borders with India. It began with the invasion of Kashmir in 1947. It recurred in 1965 in Kashmir and on the Punjab front. More than 200 attempts have already been made to breach the Indian border as well as the Line of Control in 2013. While talking peace, Pakistan, simultaneously, prepares the ground to violate its borders with India. Such a dual policy comes naturally to those who rule Pakistan.

The seeds of infiltration and hostility since the last week of September — characterized by the heavy firing on 25 Indian villages in Jammu, for instance — were sown the day Narendra Modi was addressing a mammoth rally of former servicemen in Rewari. The same day, major- general Sanaullah Khan Niazi, the commander of 17 infantry division, and his lieutenant colonel were killed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban near the village of Ghatkotal, Upper Dir, under the Malakand division. The killings shook the entire administration — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain, interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, reportedly, personally rang up the army chief to express solidarity and support anti-terror actions conducted by the army. (One wonders how India’s civilian leaders would have reacted under similar circumstances? Would they have spoken to the army chief directly and expressed their support for the army’s action against infiltration by terrorists? Or would they have ordered the army to exercise restraint?)

Pakistan’s army is seething with anger at the unprecedented, ‘peace time’ killing of senior commanders. A serving officer was ambushed in broad daylight in a country where the army has been the ruler for numerous years. In fact, it continues to be the de facto ruler even today. Expectedly, the prime minister has not been in peace since these developments. After all, he remembers the bitter experiences of two truncated tenures as head of state. Sharif certainly does not want his third tenure at the helm to be as unlucky. His powers automatically got curtailed with the killing of Niazi and the army chief is, once again, back on the driver’s seat. Yet, when Ashfaq Kayani thundered “Terrorists cannot coerce us”, he was partly correct. This is because he referred to those elements that seem to be battling the State in Pakistan.

Kayani’s outburst (bordering on a battle cry against insurgency) got a favourable response from the Peshawar High Court, which halted the proposed pull-out of troops from Malakand. The army, which is in charge of the law and order situation in the Malakand Division since 2009, was ordered to stay put to deal with militants.

Book review: ‘Magnificent Delusions ’ by Husain Haqqani, on U.S.-Pakistan relations

November 23, 2013

Richard Leiby, a Washington Post staff writer, was the paper’s Pakistan bureau chief from 2012 to 2013.

Read his book and you might think Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington from 2008 to 2011, is no friend of his homeland. Its leaders are liars, double-dealers and shakedown artists, he says. They have been this way for decades, and, as Haqqani ably documents, the United States often has served as Pakistan’s willing dupe. But for all its criticism of Pakistan,“Magnificent Delusions” is a necessary prescriptive: If there’s any hope of salvaging what seems like a doomed relationship, it helps to know how everything went so wrong. Haqqani is here to tell us.

These days Haqqani lives in virtual exile in Boston. A liberal academic and player in Pakistani politics since 1989, he has long been a critic of the country’s all-powerful military and intelligence apparatus. In 2011, in a curious episode dubbed “Memogate,” he was accused of seeking U.S. help to subdue the Pakistani military. He denied the allegations but lost his post. Later, a commission established by Pakistan’s Supreme Court tarred him as a traitor, making it dangerous for him to return to the country once he left.

“Magnificient Delusions: Pakistan, the United Nations, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding” by Husain Haqqani (PublicAffairs Books).

“My detractors in Pakistan’s security services and among pro-Jihadi groups have long accused me of being pro-American,” he writes; “they failed to see that advocating a different vision for my troubled nation was actually pro-Pakistan.”

Owing to an earlier book, which bored into the links between the military and Islamic extremism, Haqqani is no stranger to political retribution. This may color his views, and sometimes he goes into tedious historical detail, but even so, “Magnificent Delusions,” which traces 67 years of the ill-matched partnership between the United States and Pakistan, stands as a solid synthesis of history, political analysis and social critique.

But why read it? Most Americans have made up their minds about Pakistan, and vice versa. We don’t trust them; they don’t like us. You might, however, want some answers: Where’s the payoff for that $40 billion in aid (Haqqani’s figure) we’ve showered on the country since it was formed in 1947? Why does it remain an economic basket case and a snakes’ nest of Islamic terrorism?

Having reported there, I see the problem with Pakistan — with its leaders, anyway — in simple terms. It’s like a shiftless, sort-of friend who comes around periodically for a handout, swearing that self-reliance is just around the corner. But he just might mug you if it serves his interest. So do you hand over more cash? Sure, if you don’t mind being fleeced again.

Why they hate Malala

2013-11-23 

SUDDENLY this week it dawned on me just why Malala Yousafzai has so many enemies and detractors in Pakistan.

As she received the European Union’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize at the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week, Malala was as always poised, dignified and inspirational.

Of course, her international fame and celebrity make many jealous. But when she addressed the packed European Parliament — and received a standing ovation — I realised just why Malala makes so many people uneasy in the country she still loves.

Quite simply, she is a potent and visible reminder of a ‘would-be, could-be Pakistan’ of lost dreams and aspirations, the way the country used to live and think before extremism and intolerance took over.

She stands for a ‘could-be’ Pakistan of educated children, empowered women and decent, active citizens which could still emerge if real efforts are made to defeat terrorism and bring extremists to heel.

Malala’s real power as demonstrated so vividly in Strasbourg is her belief in the power of education, a commitment which can strike fear into the hearts of those who would rather keep the ‘masses’ in the darkness of ignorance. And it’s not just because education is a fundamental human right, it’s also because educated people are a threat to the forces of evil which roam so freely across Pakistan.

Doing some research ahead of a high-level discussion on education in Brussels next week, I was reminded of why successive governments in Pakistan and other fragile states continue to pay so little attention to building schools and colleges. While mosques of all sizes spring up across the Muslim world, spending on education remains relatively low — in Pakistan it is shamefully low. Insecure rulers want their citizens — the ‘masses’ — to stay illiterate for as long as possible.

Education is not only essential for the exercise of all other freedoms, it is a driver of inclusive growth, poverty reduction and of the empowerment of women. Significantly, education is also the key to nation-building, tolerance and progress.

Education reduces the likelihood of conflict and is a prerequisite for democratic development, active citizenship and better living standards. Quite simply, education has enormous transformational power. And that is exactly what scares the forces of obscurantism.

The statistics are impressive. Here is some of the more striking data that I trawled through.

According to Unesco, if all children in low-income countries could read, poverty levels could drop by 12pc. Every extra year of education in poor countries adds about 10pc to a person’s income on average and even more for women. Although many more children attend schools and girls’ education has markedly improved in recent years, there are still an estimated 57 million children who are out of school.

There’s no doubt: education empowers girls and young women, in particular, by increasing their chances of getting jobs, staying healthy and participating fully in society — and it boosts their children’s chances of leading healthy lives.

Education saves mother’s lives. Every day, almost 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, including pre-eclampsia, bleeding, infections and unsafe abortion. Educated women are more likely to avoid these dangers by adopting simple, low-cost practices to maintain hygiene, by reacting to symptoms and ensuring a skilled attendant is present at birth.

Educated women are in control of their fertility. In Pakistan, while only 30pc of women with no education believe they can have a say over the number of children they have, the share increases to 52pc among women with primary education and to 63pc among women with lower secondary education.

Maternal education improves children’s health and nutrition. According to Unesco, India and Nigeria account for more than a third of child deaths worldwide. If all women in both countries had completed secondary education, the under-five mortality rate would have been 61pc lower in India and 43pc lower in Nigeria, saving 1.35 million children’s lives.

And there’s more: education increases women’s and men’s job opportunities, helping households to escape poverty. Educated men and women are more likely not just to be employed, but to hold jobs that are secure and provide good working conditions and decent pay.

Lessons that need to be learnt from Mumbai Mayhem

23 Nov , 2013

Mumbai policemen confer outside the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers, November 26.

At about 0800 hrs on 29 Nov 2008 after 60 long frightening and uncertain hours of the ‘fidayeen attacks’ on Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, the National Security Guards (NSG) commandos victoriously embraced each other with a faint smile playing on their faces while the DG NSG on the electronic media stated that the Taj Mahal Hotel was clear of the terrorists and sanitization operations were being carried out in the premises. Needless to say, the whole nation anxiously remained glued to their TV sets for hours together and had a sigh of relief with pride and jubilations. Almost at the same time my mobile blinked and I had the sms I was waiting for from Brig Bobby Mathews, Commander Mumbai Sub Area who was in thick of operations saying dutifully typically in army lingo ‘Operation over. All OK. Regards – Bobby’. Bobby was my adjutant when our Battalion 2 KUMAON (Berar) was deployed in Ahmadabad riots in 1984.

Sadly it was again often repeated intelligence failure as we refuse to learn from our past mistakes or else ‘why and how’ could with unprecedented stealth, sweep and speed, the terrorists attacked 10 different locations…

Notwithstanding the brave and committed effort put up by the local police, the armed forces, especially the NSG and the Marine commandos, the appreciation of the magnitude and handling of the crisis by the political masters and bureaucracy both at the Centre and the State levels were inept with uncoordinated knee jerk responses as if routine localized tragedy had occurred. It is felt our response lacked the leadership qualities of the type exhibited by the Mayor of the New York when twin towers were struck on 9/11.Our responses in spite of the repeated terrorist attacks and disasters suffers from ‘routine chalta hai’ syndrome and need to be handled in more professional maturity and proactive way.

Sadly it was again often repeated intelligence failure as we refuse to learn from our past mistakes or else ‘why and how’ could with unprecedented stealth, sweep and speed, the terrorists attacked 10 different locations and then moved into three iconic buildings – the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Hotel Trident-Oberoi and the Nariman House of the Jewish Community for indiscriminate killings in pitched battles that left 187 killed and over 300 injured which included 22 foreigners. Twenty two security personnel also laid their lives in this avoidable tragedy. The brazen grit, determination and the doggedness with which these terrorists fought, and the range of arms, ammunition, explosives, technical gadgetry like sat phones and global positioning systems with which they were equipped, underlined their high morale, motivation and months of careful preparations. While Mumbai was maimed our prestige as emerging global power was put to shame internationally with cancellation of England’s cricket tour and numerous other mega events. It is debatable as to who carried out these attacks.

Bhutan Goes Electric

The tiny kingdom’s capital city, Thimpu plans to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles.

November 23, 2013

Traffic circle in Thimpu 
Pacific Money normally focuses on the important economic and financial stories of the Asia Pacific region. The economic affairs of China, India, Japan, Australia and the ASEAN states can have significant regional and global impacts. Rarely is there an opportunity to draw attention to what is happening in the tiny, isolated mountain kingdom of Bhutan.

The small and exotic kingdom, with a population of around three quarters of a million people, rarely makes news headlines, even in its region. This week Bhutan, however, announced plans to convert the capital city’s entire vehicle fleet to electric cars, according to the Financial Times. This would make Thimpu the first capital city in the world to go electric.

The plan involves the participation of Renault-Nissan, and specifically the company’s electric car, the Nissan Leaf. The Bhutanese government’s entire fleet of official vehicles will be replaced by Nissan’s electric model by March 2014. Then, the city’s population of 120,000 will gradually have their vehicles (and the many taxis that most people rely on to get around) converted to electric alternatives after this initial target is completed.

The plan makes quite a bit of sense for Bhutan. The country produces a surplus of electricity from abundant renewable (hydroelectric) sources, and exports a significant amount of this electricity to India. A significant portion of the foreign exchange earned from this is used to import fossil fuels back into the country – much of which is used for the old fashioned gasoline-powered vehicle fleet. Using electricity directly for this task is an entirely rational plan.

As the Financial Times article reports, Bhutanese government officials report that taxi drivers in Thimpu currently spend around 800 ngultrum ($13) a day on fuel, whilst switching to electricity (and presumably ignoring the costs of installing the infrastructure and electric vehicle grid) would slash the daily price to no more than 10 ngultrum.

Will China’s New Stealth Drone Fly From Aircraft Carriers?

Beijing’s first “UFO-like” stealth combat drone conducted its first flight test on Thursday.

November 22, 2013

China conducted the maiden test flight for its first stealth combat drone, state media reported on Friday.

The reports said that the Lijian or Sharp Sword took off from an undisclosed location in southwest China on Thursday at 1 PM and flew for about 20 minutes. Images of a Sharp Sword prototype first appeared online back in May. At the time, state media referred to it as “China’s UFO-like stealth drone.”

China Daily compared the Sharp Sword to the United States’ Northrop Grumman X-47 series and the European nEUROn stealth drones. In this sense, the Sharp Sword may be intended to act as China’s first carrier-borne unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV).

Indeed, China Daily quoted a Chinese military analyst as saying of the Sharp Sword:

“The drone can be used for reconnaissance and an air-to-ground strike, but more importantly, it has a huge potential for aircraft carriers. I think the size and technological capability of the Sharp Sword make it a suitable choice for the navy if it is to select an unmanned combat platform for its aircraft carrier.”

Despite China’s claim that the Sharp Sword is its equivalent of the X-47, Defense Update reported back in May that China’s UCAV has a wingspan of “46 feet (14 meters), smaller than the 62-foot wingspan of the U.S. Navy’s X-47B demonstrator.” It also noted that the “the Lijian’s ordnance payload might not exceed the 2,000-kg (4,400-pound) capacity of the Northrop Grumman X-47B.”

However, that estimation was based on the assumption that the Lijian was powered by the domestically made Shenyang WP7 engine. But the China Dailyreport on Friday said that the Sharp Sword that was flight tested on Thursday was equipped with the Russian made RD-93 turbofan engine. The RD-93 is traditionally a fighter jet engine (as is the WP7) and is used in China and Pakistan’s joint fighter jet project. This suggests that the Sharp Sword is intended to have an extended flight range.

The inclusion of the Russian made engine would make sense given China’s continued struggles in designing and manufacturing reliable aerospace engines. Still, the use of an RD-93 engine didn’t stop Chinese state media from bragging: “Lijian’s successful test flight has made China become the fourth country, after the United States (X-47B), France (Dassault nEUROn) and Britain (Taranis), to have independently developed a UCAV.” Israel also maintains combat drones and Iran claims to have domestically manufactured combat drones.

China Imposes Restrictions on Air Space Over Senkaku Islands

By establishing the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, China is trying to create new facts in the air.

November 23, 2013

In a move certain to escalate tensions with Japan, China’s Ministry of Defense on Saturday issued what amounts to a heavily regulated air zone over much of the East China Sea, including the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

In a statement today China’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced the creation of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, which went into effect 10 AM Saturday Morning local time. A second statement by the MND laid out the Aircraft Identification Rules for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone.

The latter statement outlines six rules aircraft flying in the zone must follow, starting with rule number one, which reads “aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must abide by these rules.”

The second rule contains four ways aircraft must identify themselves and keep in communication with Chinese authorities while flying over the zone. These include clearly marking the nationality of the aircraft and maintaining two way communications with China’s Foreign Ministry and Civil Aviation Administrative.

The third rule states that “aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone should follow the instructions of the administrative organ of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone.” The next rule identifies China’s Ministry of National Defense as the administrative organ. The statement also empowers the MND to explain the rules.

Many of the identification procedures are similar to the ones used by Canada and the U.S. in the North American ADIZ that they jointly administer. The rules for that ADIZ appear to be a lot more precise, however.

Notably, rule number three in the new East China Sea ADIZ warns “China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions.”

While the language is vague, it appears to be consistent with how other countries handle potential violations to their ADIZ. For instance, in two separate incidents over the summer, Russian strategic bombers entered into America’s 200 km ADIZs around the Pacific and Alaska. They were met by U.S. interceptor jets though the Pentagon refused to specify which type of aircraft the U.S. had used.

The first statement announcing the East China Sea ADIZ’s creation laid out the precise coordinates of the zone, and was accompanied by a hard to see map outlining it.

The Emperor’s New Goal

By Brahma C
 22/11/13


Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, in a rare overseas trip, are scheduled to begin a tour of the Indian cities of New Delhi and Chennai on November 30. The imperial couple’s weeklong visit is likely to mark a defining moment in Indo-Japanese relations, fostering closer economic and security ties between Asia’s two leading democracies as they seek a pluralistic, stable Asian order.

Traditionally, a visit from the Japanese emperor – except for a coronation or royal anniversary celebration – signified a turning point in a bilateral relationship. While the emperor is merely the “symbol of the state” under Japan’s US-imposed postwar constitution, he retains significant influence, owing to Japanese veneration of the imperial dynasty – the world’s oldest continuous hereditary monarchy, the origins of which can be traced to 660 BC. Indeed, the emperor’s overseas visits remain deeply political, setting the tone – if not the agenda – for Japan’s foreign policy.

Consider Akihito’s 1992 visit to China – the first such visit by any Japanese emperor. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s government – grateful for Japan’s reluctance to maintain punitive sanctions over the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and eager for international recognition, not to mention Japanese capital and commercial technologies – had extended seven invitations over two years.

Akihito’s trip, which came at the height of Japan’s pro-China foreign policy, was followed by increased Japanese aid, investment, and technology transfer, thereby cementing Japan’s role in China’s economic rise. The improved diplomatic relationship lasted until the recent flare-up of territorial and other bilateral disputes.

Although no Japanese emperor has visited India before, the bilateral relationship runs deep. In traditional Japanese culture, India is Tenjiku (the country of heaven). Today, Japan is India’s largest source of aid and has secured a key role in supporting infrastructure development, financing projects like the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, and the Bangalore Metro Rail Project.

With these natural allies seeking to add strategic bulk to their rapidly multiplying ties, Akihito’s tour is the most significant visit to India by any foreign leader in recent years. Indeed, it is expected to be one of the last foreign trips for the 79-year-old emperor, who has undergone several major surgeries in the past decade.

Akihito’s travel schedule contrasts sharply with that of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Despite having had open-heart surgery during his first term, India’s 81-year-old leader has sought to offset his low domestic political stock by flying more than one million kilometers on overseas trips – including visits to Japan, China, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, and the United States in the last six months alone.

Re-thinking conflict early warning: big data and systems thinking

by Helena

[This post is part of a series on re-thinking conflict early warning.]

Let me give you the punch line first: peacebuilders should engage with big data, but not (only) to build predictive conflict early warning models. We should also use big data to inform systems thinking for conflict analysis.

There’s only been a little work done on how big data could be used to create predictive models for conflict early warning. Much of it is so far is either tentative (explorative pilots) or theoretical (explaining potential applications). Emmanuel Letouze, Patrick Meier, and Patrick Vinck published an article as part of this review of new technology for conflict prevention that makes two concrete suggestions for uses of big data in conflict prevention. One is the use of data to understand population movement, mainly through CDRs. In situations where migration patterns or group movements are known to affect conflict dynamics, such data provided in real-time could be very valuable to operational conflict prevention activities. Second, big data can help understand sentiment in a population by providing a source of perceptions data. UN Global Pulse has piloted a project to analyse perceptions expressed on Twitter in Indonesia.

Big data is typically defined as the digital traces of human activity. Although it doesn’t quite fit this definition, the Global Data on Events, Location and Tone (GDELT) dataset developed by Kalev Leetaru is similar to many big data feeds. The dataset comes from a “cross-section of all major international, national, regional, local, and hyper-local news sources, both print and broadcast, from nearly every corner of the globe, in both English and vernacular.” Events are coded by actors involved, the type of event, location, time and tone. The dataset is updated daily. In Kalev’s own words:

Measuring the global news tone essentially conducts a passive “poll” of the press across the world, summarizing their combined views on the likely outcome of the event, recording whether a bombing results in only a few isolated factual reports, or widespread extreme negativity.

I bring up GDELT because UNDP is carrying out two pilot studies (in Tunisia and Georgia) to look into how this kind of passive poll from GDELT can inform conflict early warning for UNDP Country Offices. Preliminary results from the Tunisia study suggest that looking at the changes in tone over time offers some insights on conflict-related trends. There is still more work to be done on looking at the predictive power of these trends in tone and examining whether they through up too many false positives or false negatives. But in general, it looks like GDELT’s passive poll could serve as one indicator in a conflict early warning system. Furthermore, the UNDP studies point to the potential for predictive conflict early warning models using other big data sources. And with tools like theArtificial Intelligence and Disaster Response platform (which currently works for Twitter, but may be extended to take in GDELT data), it will soon be relatively simple for non-technical staff to process and make sense of these big datasets.

The question that bothers me is not whether we can build more accurate predictive models, but rather whether the predictions they offer can really help peacebuilders. Changes in tone in the GDELT dataset tell us that something is about to go very wrong, that tensions are rising, that conflict is brewing. So now what? Perhaps this kind of warning is useful for a large organization like UNDP, as a way to keep an eye on a whole region and decide on strategic priorities for budgets and staffing. Perhaps some local peacebuilders could find this kind of passive poll useful as a more efficient way of keeping up with the news. But does any of this provide actionable data for conflict prevention or peacebuilding?

I think it could, but we need to look at the analysis differently. The part of the UNDP study on GDELT data from Tunisia that is most interesting to me is the preliminary actor analysis that breaks down who was saying what and to whom it was addressed. In fact, it’s always the analysis of interactions between actors that catch my attention in big data analysis for conflict. Last May at SXSW, CrimsonHexagon spoke on a panel about their Foresight platform, which is being used to look at Twitter conversations in Libya and Egypt and examine how social media is used after the revolution to build democracies and institutions. The research shows that people use Twitter in two ways post-revolution: instrumental (to tell social networks what’s going) and integrative (to express the meaning of their socio-political conditions). Google Ideas built this fascinating network map of Syrian defectors. And yesterday morning at ICCM, when Patrick Meir presented his analysis of tweets during the Westagate attack, I found the exploration of actors tweeting, being tweeted to and being referred to very thought provoking. In a recent commentary, Sanjana Hattotuwa refers to the interactions between and opinions expressed by different actors through big data as the “Track Two social hubbub”. Big data can provide actionable data for peacebuilding if we focus on unpacking the dynamics of this track two hubbub, and understand how they plug in to other tracks.