25 December 2013

Indian and Pakistani Military Officials Hold Rare Meeting

The Director Generals Military Operations of each country met for the first time in 14 years.
December 25, 2013

India and Pakistan look to be in for a calm new year on their disputed border in Kashmir – the Director Generals Military Operations (DGMOs) of each country, among the highest military officials, met for the first time in 14 years to “discuss ways to ensure peace along Kashmir’s de facto border,” according to the BBC. According to The Times of India, Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia is leading the Indian delegation and Major General Aamer Riaz is in charge for Pakistan. The two sides met on the Pakistani side of Wagah, the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan.

Little is known about the details of the meeting, but the mere fact that it took place is a reassuring indicator that both sides are serious about resuming the long-stalled bilateral process on Kashmir. The meeting at Wagah resulted in a joint statement in which the two DGMOs stressed their “resolve and commitment” to “continue efforts for ensuring ceasefire, peace and tranquility” on the LoC. Additionally, the two sides ”resolved to work towards improved communications by re-energizing the ‘existing mechanisms,’ establishing a ‘hotline contact’ and ensuring safe return of innocent civilians who cross over inadvertently.”

The Wagah meeting was described as “positive” by both sides – a sincere statement in all likelihood given the content of the joint statement. Military-to-military contact between India and Pakistan is rare and could help in preventing misunderstandings of the sort that lead to skirmishes along the LoC, increasing tensions on both sides.

According to The Hindu, the Indian side “used the opportunity” of the Wagah meeting to ask the Pakistani military to clamp down on militant infiltrators from the Pakistan side. The Indian strategic establishment has well-founded concerns that the Pakistan military and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency foment unrest in Indian Kashmir by abetting the passage of militants across the LoC. The Indian army maintains a huge military presence along the LoC, with around 15 brigades on constant patrol duty. In general, militancy has declined in Kashmir since 2010, but the uptick in military skirmishes in 2013 necessitated a consultation of the sort at Wagah.

As I noted in my retrospective on 2013 in India-Pakistan relations, the year wasn’t particularly positive – marked by skirmish after skirmish along the Line of Control (LoC). While both Prime Ministers Singh and Sharif expressed their interest in pursuing peace, legislators in both India and Pakistan issued resolutions condemning the other over its behavior in Kashmir. India and Pakistan have fought three conventional wars over the disputed territory and domestic resentment remained high in each country, amplified by the events of 2013.

The Ray of Death: Directed-Energy Weapons

IssueVol. 28.4 Oct-Dec 2013| Date : 25 Dec , 2013

Advanced Tactical Laser on Boeing 747-400F

Why do laser guns and other DEW devices seem so much more attractive than conventional projectile weapons such as guns and missiles? For one thing, DEWs can be precisely targeted. It is claimed of some airborne laser weapon systems, that while engaging a moving truck, the attacker may choose whether to simply burn the tyres and immobilise the vehicle, hit the engine and disable it or set the fuel tank alight and trigger an inferno. Similarly, while targeting a person, energy output can be controlled at will, high power to kill or low power to deliver an intensely unpleasant experience and serve as a stern warning: “Get lost, or else…!”

Russia is known to be working on aerial military lasers and it is a safe bet that China and Israel are too…

Ray guns have been the staple of science fiction for almost a century. Star Trek showed characters using handheld laser weapons or ‘phasers’. Star Wars had its ‘blasters’ that fired bursts of particle-beam energy called bolts. And various other books, movies and TV serials have featured disintegrator rays, plasma rifles, pulse rifles and many other outlandish devices, often handheld but also fitted on a variety of machines ranging from flashy motorcycles to alien spacecraft. Common to all these exotic weapons is directed energy, generally in the form of a laser beam, or other mysterious and powerful rays, capable of killing people and destroying objects. The incredible power source that enables such a device to be fired continually without recharging is rarely if ever mentioned.

Back in the real world, it is unlikely that armies of the foreseeable future will be able to completely replace their bullet-firing guns with ray guns. Yet research is on in a number of countries to develop practical weapons based on the principle of the ray gun. These Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) already use laser beams and other concentrated sources to exploit the human body’s natural response to pain and intense heat. While the United States is at the forefront of the technological race to develop laser weapons, it is not the only nation to venture down this path. Russia is known to be working on aerial military lasers and it is a safe bet that China and Israel are too. There are reports that India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) plans to develop high-powered laser weapons technology to shoot down missiles. However, the programme is still in its embryonic stage.

Why do laser guns and other DEW devices seem so much more attractive than conventional projectile weapons such as guns and missiles? For one thing, DEWs can be precisely targeted. It is claimed of some airborne laser weapon systems, that while engaging a moving truck, the attacker may choose whether to simply burn the tyres and immobilise the vehicle, hit the engine and disable it or set the fuel tank alight and trigger an inferno. Similarly, while targeting a person, energy output can be controlled at will, high power to kill or low power to deliver an intensely unpleasant experience and serve as a stern warning: “Get lost, or else…!”

Submarines: Pride of Oceanic Depths

INS Chakra

Aircraft carriers and other warships are all visible platforms on sea. However, navies worldwide operate vessels that are largely unseen, which lurk undetected beneath the sea but are capable of sinking even the mightiest of warships single-handedly. These are submarines, also referred to as boats and never really by any other description. Submarines are considered one of the world’s most powerful military machines. Over 500 submarines patrol the world’s oceans. Nuclear missile capable submarines (SSBNs) carry half the nuclear arsenal of the world.

Nuclear missile capable submarines carry half the nuclear arsenal of the world.

The erstwhile USSR first offered India eight Type 641 ‘Foxtrot’ class submarines in 1964. INS Kalvari was the first Indian submarine to be commissioned in 1967. Three more submarines of this class were commissioned years before the 1971 war, while others joined later. Now, in addition to the conventional ones, the Indian Navy also operates nuclear-powered submarines. Curiously, it may be recalled that the first Indian to have made a passage on a submarine was not a naval sailor, but a civilian. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose made good an escape from Germany to Japan in 1942 on submarines of the two nations, which included a transfer mid-sea.

It is the only recorded civilian passage on board any naval submarines till date. Incidentally, the naval base in Kolkata is named INS Netaji Subhas, as are the airport and few other iconic landmarks in the city and elsewhere. Incidentally, the Naval Republic Day-2014 tableaux at Kolkata will also feature a submarine model. One cannot help but marvel at this intricate black giant metallic shell, which when dry-docked with several umbilical contraptions sticking out, looks like an unseemly sight against the backdrop of other majestic looking ships.

Yet the alluring aura of a submarine attracts intrepid seamen, whose resolve is harder than any known steel alloy, whose grit is far stronger than average mortals and whose ability is to withstand pressures of all unimaginable proportions. Anyone who possesses few of these attributes can hope to fit the bill to be a ‘submariner’, provided he earns the coveted ‘Dolphin’ badge after qualifying the rigorous selection and training and he lives a cherished life ‘sub-marine’ (under water), quite like a dolphin.

Vice Admiral Pradeep K Chatterjee, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff at the Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence (Navy), who is the first-ever Submariner Deputy Chief of Naval Staff and currently the senior most serving ‘submariner’ in the Indian Navy, was a young Sub-Lieutenant in 1977, when he chanced one fleeting glance of a submarine that had just passed by his ship. It was to be his moment of reckoning. Like many others of his ilk, a closer look at the submarine docked in the yard was all it took him to decide and later spend a significant part of his naval career fathoming beneath the sea, a life unparalleled that only a few dare, and qualify.

The submarine is among a country’s most economical weapon. Comprising only 1.6 per cent of the Navy’s World War-II personnel, the submarine service accounted for nearly 55 per cent of all enemy ships destroyed.

India, Pakistan DGMOs break the 14-year-old ice

Navjeevan Gopal Posted online
Dec 25 2013

Attari : The Indian and Pakistani armies vowed to maintain the sanctity of the Line of Control (LoC) as well as the ceasefire agreement at the meeting between the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries on Tuesday — the first since the 1999 Kargil war.

Coming at the end of a year that saw an unprecedented number of cross-border violations since the 2003 ceasefire agreement came into place, the meeting between the two top officers is being seen as a sign that peace may return to the LoC.

At the end of the meeting, which was held on the Pakistani side of the Wagah border, a joint statement was released in which both nations emphasised their “commitment to maintain the sanctity and ceasefire on the Line of Control” and agreed to “re-energise existing mechanisms”.

While it is learnt that the Indian side strongly raised the issue of at least two cross-border raids this year that resulted in the death of seven Indian soldiers and also conveyed that it does not expect a repeat of 2013 that saw over 195 ceasefire violations on the LoC, no new measure was decided at the DGMOs’ meet.

“Consensus was developed to make Hotline Contact between the two DGMOs more effective and result-oriented. It was also decided to inform each other if any innocent civilian inadvertently crosses Line of Control, in order to ensure his or her early return,” the joint statement said. “Both sides reiterated resolve and commitment to continue efforts for ensuring ceasefire, peace and tranquility on the Line of Control.”

Indian DGMO Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia told reporters at Attari that the meeting was “cordial, cordial and fruitful” where both sides were looking forward to “sustaining the ceasefire”. Bhatia said “there were some issues we are moving forward on”. While Lt Gen Bhatia led the Indian side, Maj Gen Aamer Riaz represented the Pakistani side.

The one takeaway of the meeting was that a decision was taken to conduct two flag meetings between the Brigade Commanders on the LoC to “take forward” the points discussed at the DGMOs’ meet. The meetings are likely to take place in the coming weeks in the Uri and Poonch sectors where the Brigade Commanders will discuss local issues at length. The Poonch area in particular has seen repeated ceasefire violations as well as a brutal cross-border raid by Pakistani soldiers.

The meeting of the two DGMOs was aimed at reducing tension on the border and had been agreed upon in September when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his counterpart Nawaz Sharif at the UN in New York.


Predictions for Afghanistan in 2014

By Zachary Laub
December 23, 2013

Afghanistan faces a critical year ahead as the NATO-led war draws down after twelve years and an impasse in U.S.-Afghan negotiations leaves uncertain the future of Western military support. A drop-off in aid and elections slated for April, which could deliver the country's first democratic transfer of power, will also test Afghanistan's stability. Five experts offer their forecasts.

The end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan should not be confused with the end of the Afghan war, writes the International Crisis Group's Graeme Smith, as Afghan troops cannot yet secure the country on their own. Yet even viable security forces cannot ensure stability if President Hamid Karzai's successor lacks broad-based support, writes RAND's Seth Jones, or if state institutions fail to become self-sufficient, says Clare Lockhart of the Institute for State Effectiveness. Nader Nadery, of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, warns that an economic downturn threatens to reverse a decade of social progress, while CFR's Daniel Markey notes that neighboring Pakistan will continue to influence Afghan affairs.

Graeme Smith, Senior Analyst, International Crisis Group, and Author, The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan

Afghan Forces Cannot Go it Alone

The biggest misconception about the Afghan war is that the conflict is ending. President Barack Obama encouraged this view in his 2013 State of the Union address, declaring: "By the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over." He repeated a similar claim on Veterans Day. If the president was reading the Pentagon's reports to Congress, it's easy to see how he got the wrong idea. The U.S. military's assessment is that violence has fallen and "Afghan security forces are now successfully providing security for their own people."

Such rhetoric paves the way for a U.S. exit, but it doesn't help Afghans. If local forces were successfully securing their people, we would not be seeing more civilian deaths. In fact, the United Nations reports that civilian casualties rose 16 percent in the first eight months of 2013.

Fierce battles this year also saw local security forces endure record casualties. Across the country, the UN found a rise in violence—up 11 percent this summer. Other analyses by Western experts show even greater escalation.

This reality on the ground refutes the Pentagon's picture of a war that is cooling down. I've been studying transitional areas for the International Crisis Group as we prepare a report on the insurgency, and have found that security worsened in many places as foreign troops pulled back. The situation has calmed in some locations, but local elders warn that insurgents still control large parts of the countryside and may be waiting for a better time to attack.

Why does this matter? President Hamid Karzai must sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States. The Afghan government may not have the firepower to stand without a deal in the short term. Also, the United States and other NATO countries need to stay engaged on security issues after 2014. Afghan forces have a fighting chance, but they need significant help—helicopters, logistics, and many other kinds of assistance—to keep the insurgents at bay.

Seth G. Jones, Associate Director, International Security and Defense Policy Center, RAND Corporation

The monster that won't die

Al-Qaeda is making yet another appalling comeback

Every time it seems as if it's about to finally outlive its viability, al-Qaeda and its affiliates astonishingly spring back to life. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States, the organization was virtually wiped out. But the war in Iraq brought it back from the brink of oblivion, giving it a new battleground, recruiting tool, training field, and rationale. Following the "Awakening" in Sunni areas of Iraq, al-Qaeda again appeared to be a thing of the past, or at least relegated to permanent irrelevancy.

Yet the Syrian conflict and other "Arab uprising" environments have once again reanimated this monstrous corpse. Its malignancy has been the single biggest contributor in saving the Syrian dictatorship from what had appeared to be a looming defeat. And al-Qaeda in Iraq has also made a huge comeback in the context of the Syrian conflict, with the so-called "Islamic State of Iraq" killing an average of almost 1,000 Iraqis per month in the last quarter of 2013.

There was a time when people using the term "al-Qaeda" thought that they had a more-or-less clear sense of what they were talking about: an organization led by Osama bin Laden that grew out of the Afghan war against the Soviet Union and engaging in or inspiring extreme violence in much of the Middle East, other parts of the Islamic world, and, occasionally but dramatically, the West. It was informed by a paranoid and chauvinistic ideology that held that the Muslims of the world, and indeed Islam itself, were under siege by all non-Muslim powers and even by many Muslims. It sought to obliterate all of the Muslim-majority nation states and replace them with a new "caliphate" running from at least Morocco to Indonesia.

But even in the heyday of its most formalized hierarchy, there was always a wild, disparate, and fly-by-night quality to al-Qaeda. And now the term has become little more than a symbolic marker for the political ideology that usually calls itself "salafi-jihadism."

There have always been differences within al-Qaeda, those who have either successfully seized or been granted permission to use the name as a kind of franchise, and other salafi-jihadi or "takfiri" groups. But while the parent organization based in Pakistan and Afghanistan seems to be increasingly irrelevant, the political ideology and program of mass murder that are now synonymous with al-Qaeda seem at least as robust as ever, if not more so. It is the monster that, for the past decade, simply will not die.

'Zero Dark Thirty’ leak investigators now target of leak probe


McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 20, 2013 

The house where Osama bin Laden was finally hunted down. SAEED SHAH — MCT

WASHINGTON — More than two years after sensitive information about the Osama bin Laden raid was disclosed to Hollywood filmmakers, Pentagon and CIA investigations haven’t publicly held anyone accountable despite internal findings that the leakers were former CIA Director Leon Panetta and the Defense Department’s top intelligence official.

Instead, the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office is working to root out who might have disclosed the findings on Panetta and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers to a nonprofit watchdog group and to McClatchy.

While the information wasn’t classified, the inspector general’s office has pursued the new inquiry aggressively, grilling its own investigators, as well as the former director of its whistle-blowing unit, according to several people, including a congressional aide. They requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues surrounding the 2012 movie “Zero Dark Thirty.”

“I’m concerned that the inspector general’s office is barking up the wrong tree,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who long has championed government whistle-blowing. “There’s no doubt they should look into the ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ fiasco, but they should focus on holding people accountable for leaking highly classified operational material instead of wasting time and money investigating who leaked the report.”

South China Sea and The United States

Paper No. 5621 Dated 24-Dec-2013
By Dr Subhash Kapila

Introductory Observations

On South China Sea disputes engineered by China, the United States as the global superpower and with vital stakes in the Asia Pacific exhibited strategic impotency to uphold and enforce the ‘status quo ante’ against Chinese aggression against Vietnam and the Philippines.

The United States had both the political and military means to checkmate China on its aggression against Vietnam and the Philippines but it elected not to do so.

The United States all along has been oblivious to the strategic reality that Chinese aggression against Vietnam and Philippines were only the stepping stones for China’s intended strategic aspirations to quarantine the Western Pacific against United States projection of power in the region.

This miserable US strategic policy failure in the South China Sea as now witnessed has led China to indulge in similar military adventurism in the East China Sea disputes with Japan and declarations of a provocative ADIZ in that area.

The conflict escalation in South China Sea by China noticeably since 2008 and its related course of events thereafter throw up two major conclusions. Both these major conclusions need serious attention as the entire strategic status quo stands challenged by China and if China’s present trajectories are not checkmated could possibly end up in unimaginable conflicts in the Asia Pacific.

The first major conclusion is that the United States has failed all along to recognise that China’s military brinkmanship in conflict escalation of South China Sea disputes was not limited to enforcing its illegal sovereignty claims over the entire South China Sea at the expense of Vietnam and the Philippines. China’s real target was to visibly project to Asian nations the strategic and military impotence of the United States in dealing with a militarily rising China.

The second major conclusion which the United States is reluctant to admit is that its policy formulations on China over two decades spanning US Administrations of two different political dispensations have been a miserable failure. The United States “China Hedging Strategy” and the United States “Risk Aversion Strategy” in its approaches to China have only strategically emboldened China towards greater military brinkmanship.

The South China Sea conflict escalation, the escalation of the East China Sea disputes with Japan, the declaration of new and enlarged ADIZ in the East China Sea need to be viewed as China’s sequential steps in its Grand Strategy to evict US Forward Military Presence in the Western Pacific and militarily neutralise United States military options against China in the Western Pacific.

Regrettably, the constant and jarring distinguishing feature of United States policy on China is a duality that fools nobody. Mentioned in many of my earlier SAAG Papers, the United States whips up fears on China in Asian capitals and thereafter the same is followed up by despatching US dignitaries to Beijing to assure Chinese leaders that it should not be perturbed as strident US noises on China in Asian capitals were intended for regional consumption and that US policies towards China should not be read as changed because of such declarations.

Further Construction Progress on the Fourth Heavy Water Reactor at Khushab Nuclear Site

December 20, 2013
Serena Kelleher-Vergantini and Robert Avagyan 
Institute for Science and International Security 
December 20, 2013 


Recent satellite imagery of Pakistan’s Khushab nuclear site shows construction progress on the fourth heavy water reactor. Pakistan’s Khushab nuclear site is dedicated to the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. Originally, the site consisted of a heavy water production plant and a heavy water reactor, both of which became operational in the 1990s. However, Pakistan initiated the construction of a second heavy water reactor between the year 2000 and 2002, a third one in 2006, and the fourth one in 2011. Therefore, today, Pakistan’s Khushab nuclear site consists of a heavy water production plant, an original, estimated 50 megawatt-thermal (MWth) heavy water reactor, two heavy water reactors (reactors 2 and 3) that appear to be operational, and a fourth reactor under construction. 

Freeing Pakistan's Economy from the Military's Grip

DECEMBER 24, 2013

Iran and Pakistan are in surprisingly parallel situations this year. Both countries held landmark elections that brought hope for change; both have acknowledged their flailing economies as a key issue; and both have a civilian government that is facing an incredibly powerful military institution. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in one of his many attempts to improve the Iranian economy, has suggested that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) limit itself to only a few economic activities. The IRGC is one of the largest economic players in Iran, with business interests in everything from the state oil company to construction and car manufacturing. 

Rouhani's logic is that constraining the guards to fewer economic activities would strengthen private companies, particularly small ones that cannot compete with the IRGC behemoth and their role in the economy without completely antagonizing the powerful military corps. While Rouhani's idea was just a suggestion, not an actual reform, Iran's eastern neighbor, Pakistan, could learn from it. Just as Rouhani's election and the recent nuclear deal with the West may allow for some important changes in Iran, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has an opportunity to decrease the military's control over Pakistan's economy.

Though Pakistan is financially better off than Iran, the country is still in extremely difficult economic straits. While some progress has been made regarding Pakistan's economy, it is just a start. Pakistan's military has an extensive, albeit indeterminate, amount of economic power; there is little doubt that it is one of the largest economic forces in the country. This has numerous negative implications, not least of which is that it makes long-term successful economic reforms nearly impossible.

However, Rouhani's rhetoric points to an intermediate step between maintaining the status quo, and drastic changes in the military-economy. Rather than forcing the army out of the economic sphere, which would likely be political suicide, Sharif should attempt to contain it by limiting the army to specific projects and spheres of the economy, ideally just those pertaining to defense and weapons procurement. The army and its leaders would retain some economic perks, but their influence over the entire economy would be lessened, and the private sector would be strengthened. 

The Dark Horses of India’s 2014 Election

DECEMBER 24, 2013

Forecasts have already begun with regard to the likely outcome of India's upcoming election in 2014, the largest election in human history. However, even the best psephologists should realize that this will be a tough one to predict.

Most commentators are thinking of the 2014 election as a contest between Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress and Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Most surveys predict that the number of parliamentary seats held by the Congress party will drop dramatically, from its current tally of 206 of the total 543 seats in the lower house to below the 150 mark, due to the dramatic slowdown in the Indian economy, corruption scandals, and an overall policy paralysis over the last three years.

These surveys also suggest that the principal opposition party, the BJP, is likely to emerge as the single largest party. Yet, it remains unclear whether the BJP will be able to muster up enough allies to form a government. (Since 1991, no party has secured an absolute majority of 272 seats on its own, so the dominant parties have had to form coalition governments.) The main reason is the unacceptability of prime ministerial candidate Modi to many regional parties, due to the blot of the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in his home province, Gujarat, one of the worst incidents of Hindu-Muslim violence in modern India. Meanwhile, the Third Front, a group of 14 regional parties, have been trying to position themselves as a non-Congress, non-BJP secular alternative.

In this situation, there is a strong possibility that a group of regional leaders will receive Congress support from the outside to form a government. If that occurs, India could end up with a non-Congress, non-BJP prime minister. A lot will depend on the numbers that regional parties can muster. If the Samajwadi Party or Bahujan Samaj Party of Uttar Pradesh can surpass 30 seats, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, the respective leaders of these parties, may have a chance of leading such an arrangement.

Two other regional leaders are thought to be strong contenders for prime minister, were such a coalition to come to fruition: Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar and a member of the Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) party, and J. Jayalalitha, chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Kumar is perceived as a strong contender because he has publicly taken on Modi and has visibility outside Bihar due to his stellar performance as chief minister. Jayalalitha could emerge as a candidate because she may be in a position to win over 30 seats in the lower house. Her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), may emerge as the third largest party after the BJP and the Congress, making her a natural choice for a coalition supported by the Congress.

More Than a Year Later, Bangladesh Factory Owners Charged in Deadly Fire

Prosecutors face an uphill struggle against powerful garment industry executives with ties to government.
December 25, 2013

On November 24, 2012, a fire alarm sounded inside the bustling eight-story Tazreen Fashions garment factory, situated on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. Concerned workers stopped what they were doing and turned to their supervisors. “Nothing has happened, just keep working,” said one production manager, who pulled down a collapsible gate blocking the exit.

But this was no false alarm. A fire was already raging on the ground floor, dooming many of those who were forced to continue working.

Panicked and trapped, staff scrambled for the smoky, pitch black stairwells. As smoke filled each floor, some workers retreated to the windows – only to find them crisscrossed with iron bars.

When the smoke had finally cleared, revealing the charred skeleton of Tazreen Fashions, 112 of the factory’s workers had died – many had burned alive because of the callousness of their employers.

Now, more than a year after the tragedy, those responsible for the unnecessary loss of life are being held accountable – starting with the factory owner.

“Delowar [Hossain] and his wife Mahmuda Akter and 11 others have been charged with death due to negligence,” police investigator AKM Mohsinuzzaman Khan told AFP. All 13 could face life in prison for culpable homicide.

Khan added that it was likely the first time that a garment factory owner had been charged over a fire, due in large part to the local economy’s reliance on the garment industry.

Bangladesh is the world’s number two exporter of apparel. More than four million workers are employed by the country’s 4,500-plus garment factories. They supply cheap clothing to some of the world’s most popular brands: Wal-mart, the Gap, and H&M, to name a few.

“Factory owners, who are among the wealthiest people in Bangladesh and occupy 10 percent of seats in Parliament, are rarely held accountable for fires and other accidents,” reported The New York Times. “The police initially said they did not have enough evidence to bring a case against [Hossain], but a court ordered officials to investigate in response to a petition by human rights activists.”

Analysis: Even if Foreign Troops Leave Afghanistan, U.S. Has Some Options

December 23, 2013 

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials have warned of the potential for catastrophe if Afghan President Hamid Karzai fails to sign a security pact to permit foreign forces to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. 

Unless a deal is reached to enable a modest U.S. force of perhaps 8,000 to stay in the country, the Taliban might stage a major comeback, al Qaeda might regain safe havens and Afghan forces might find themselves starved of funding, the officials say. The post-2014 U.S. force envisioned would train and assist Afghan soldiers and go after the most dangerous militants. 

But even if the Obama administration abruptly pulls out its entire force of 43,000 a year from now, it would still retain a handful of limited security options in Afghanistan. 

While U.S. officials have not discussed a possible post-withdrawal scenario in public, the United States might still, even under those circumstances, continue to provide small-scale support to local forces, mount some special forces missions, and use drones to counter al Qaeda and help keep the Taliban at bay. 

A narrowed security mission would in many ways track a decade-long shift in U.S. strategy, away from the counter-insurgency campaigns of the 2000s toward the Obama administration's preference for low-profile support to local forces combined with occasional targeted operations. 

Even so, full withdrawal of the main U.S. force would make it more difficult to prevent al Qaeda militants regrouping along the wild Afghanistan-Pakistan border and to stop the Taliban from solidifying control of its southern Afghan heartland. 

"We have a lot of capabilities, but without the (Bilateral Security Agreement), we are very limited," a U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity, referring to the bilateral pact the United States is seeking with Karzai. 

For now, U.S. officials remain hopeful - in public at least - that Karzai will drop last-minute demands and sign the pact well before Afghan elections in April. They say they have not begun to plan for a full withdrawal or a possible post-withdrawal mission in earnest. 

But General Joseph Dunford, who commands international forces in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul recently that, "If there's not an answer in December, I expect that we'll begin to do some more detailed planning about some other eventuality besides the (post-2014) mission." 

To understand what options the United States might have in Afghanistan following a full withdrawal, "you can look to places where we are already active countering terrorism, like Iraq, Libya, Somalia," another U.S. defense official said. 

The International Misrule of Law

Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, is the author of Asian Juggernaut, Water: Asia’s New Battleground, andWater, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis.
DEC 23, 2013 4

NEW DELHI – On the face of it, China’s recent declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) extending to territories that it does not control has nothing in common with America’s arrest and strip-search of a New York-based Indian diplomat for allegedly underpaying a housekeeper she had brought with her from India. In fact, these episodes epitomize both powers’ unilateralist approach to international law.

A just, rules-based global order has long been touted by powerful states as essential for international peace and security. Yet there is a long history of major powers flouting international law while using it against other states. The League of Nations failed because it could not punish or deter such behavior. Today, the United States and China serve as prime examples of a unilateralist approach to international relations, even as they aver support for strengthening global rules and institutions.

Consider the US, which has refused to join key international treaties – for example, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (which has not yet entered into force), and the 1998 International Criminal Court Statute. Indeed, unilateralism remains the leitmotif of US foreign policy, and this is also reflected in its international interventions, whether cyber warfare and surveillance, drone attacks, or efforts to bring about regime change.

Meanwhile, China’s growing geopolitical heft has led to muscle-flexing and territorial claims in Asia that disregard international norms. China rejects some of the same treaties that the US has declined to join, including the International Criminal Court Statute and the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (the first law to establish rules on the shared resources of transnational rivers, lakes, and aquifers).

Indeed, despite their geopolitical dissonance, the world’s most-powerful democracy and its most powerful autocracy have much in common when it comes to how they approach international law. For example, the precedent that the US set in a 1984 International Court of Justice (ICJ) case filed by Nicaragua still resonates in China, underscoring that might remains right in international relations.

Terror in Burma: Buddhists vs. Muslims

Peter A. Coclanis

For a devoutly Buddhist country, Burma has lots of people who hedge their bets. Animism is still a force in the country, especially in the villages, and animist beliefs have been incorporated into Burma’s brand of Theravada Buddhism for centuries (thirty-seven Great Nats, or spirits, are recognized as guardians of Buddhist temples). Fortune telling and astrology are widely practiced, and many Burmese employ astrological charts in naming their children. Numerology has also long figured into decisionmaking in the country, sometimes in ways that to outsiders seem downright bizarre.

On the advice of astrologers, for instance, the country became formally independent from Great Britain at exactly 4:20 a.m. on January 4, 1948 (the Brits had pushed for January 1st). The military leaders who ruled the country from 1962 until 2011—Ne Win and Than Shwe in particular—often seemed obsessed with lucky numbers. Ne Win’s lucky number was nine, the principal reason that he introduced currency in loopy 45-kyat and 90-kyat units in 1987. The number eleven was Than Shwe’s favorite; hence the origin of the sixty-five-year prison sentences handed out in 2008 to fourteen prominent pro-democracy activists. Six plus five makes eleven—get it?

And there is also the so-called “8888 Uprising” that got its name because it was timed to begin on August 8, 1988, a date seen as propitious in Burma (and other parts of Asia). Not to be upstaged, General Saw Maung, Ne Win’s cat’s-paw, crushed the uprising on September 18th. (September is the ninth month, and one plus eight equals nine.) In a disingenuous concession to the activists, the government (then known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council, or SLORC) later scheduled a general election—the first since 1962—for Sunday, May 27, 1990. Why? In the Gregorian calendar, which is used formally in Burma, it was the fourth Sunday of the fifth month. There’s that nine again.

USS Cowpens Incident: Rule Bending in the South China Sea

The incident stems in part from a desire in China to push back against the United States.
December 25, 2013

Unsurprisingly, interpretations of the recent “Cowpens Incident,” in which a PLAN amphib swung across the bow of the cruiser USS Cowpens, have varied dramatically. Nevertheless, most analysts seem to agree that the incident stems in part from a desire in China to push back against the United States, especially in contexts where the PLAN cannot reply to the USN in kind. No Chinese submarines or surface ships, for example, can monitor a new U.S. carrier during the process of undergoing trials. Such games were common in the Cold War, as the Soviet Navy and the USN took a long time to sort through precisely what the rules were, what it meant to bend a rule, and what happened when the rules broke. However, the current situation is a good deal more complex; the PLAN may find that it needs to “push back” against not only the United States, but also India, Japan, Russia, Vietnam, and a handful of other Southeast Asian nations.

The Cold War surely presented its own version of a tense, complex maritime environment, but at least in that case good alliance relations between most of the major navies on either side meant that informal rules of the road could be applied with some confidence. A Russian SSN playing tag with a French, British, or U.S. nuclear submarine had at least some sense that the other side shared a common purpose, if not always particular tactics. The current situation in East Asia is considerably different. As regional powers seek to increase their naval strength, an ever more complex maritime space develops. Sometimes, the increase in complexity does not even require the deployment of a larger number of ships; the “defensive zone” of the Liaoning is necessarily a relatively new concept for the PLAN. But in less than a decade, each of South Korea, Japan, Australia, India, the United States, and China may be operating carrier/amphib battle groups in rough proximity to one another. A shared understanding of the rules is important both to those who wish to live within them and those who want to test them, and the multiplicity of actors in Western Pacific makes coming to such an understanding exceptionally difficult.

Of course, it is possible to over-analyze the incident. Local commanders often make decisions without input from national capitals, and in areas where the rules remain hazy and unclear, these decisions can lead to political incidents. However, as Toshi Yoshihara has argued, some analyses run the risk of letting China off too easily by assuming that provocations are the result of bureaucratic and operational snafus, rather than intentional action. Signaling is extremely complex, and it can be difficult to convey whether one’s intent is to abide by a rule, bend a rule, or break a rule.

Ruffled Relations with Turkey

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
December 24, 2013

The several reasons that Turkey has long been important for U.S. foreign policy, with a significant role in multiple issues, are still valid. It is one of the stronger states in its neighborhood, which is a tough neighborhood. It is a member of the North Atlantic alliance that sits astride the juncture of Europe and the Middle East—bordering, among others, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. It is the historical heir to an empire that once encompassed most of its surrounding region. It is a majority Muslim country, with what is usually described as a “mildly” Islamist government, that has been looked to as a worthy model of moderation and stability for nations to its south that have been beset with a shortage of both moderation and stability.

It thus matters when relations between Turkey and the United States hit rough patches, as has been the case lately. Things have gotten uglier in the past week, with Prime Minister Recep Erdogan evidently choosing to make the United States a diversionary scapegoat [4] for domestic political troubles having to do with corruption cases involving members of his administration. Erdogan voiced vague warnings about meddling in the matter by “foreign ambassadors,” pro-government newspapers made more specific accusations against the U.S. ambassador in particular, and there were demonstrations outside the U.S. embassy. Presumably a basis for thinking the government's domestic audience might find such accusations plausible—besides the United States being a universal scapegoat for many things it has nothing to do with—is the U.S. residence of Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric who was allied with Erdogan in the past but broke with him years ago and whose followers among the police and prosecutors are now seen as behind the corruption investigations.

The United States ought to approach its relations with Ankara today first with an acknowledgment (which would apply as well to its relations with other powers in the region) that Turkey will be partners on some matters but will have divergent views on others. Where views diverge, sometimes this will be for understandable and excusable reasons and it would be appropriate to agree to disagree. Erdogan's gambit of trying to use the United States to explain away his government's corruption problems is not one of those times. The United States does not need to raise the public temperature of relationship over this episode, but it certainly is right to stand tall in non-public exchanges and to make it clear it finds the gambit inexcusable.

U.S.-Turkish differences over the war in Syria, in which Ankara favors more active backing of armed rebels, fit more in the agree-to-disagree category. As a next-door neighbor that has directly felt on its own territory some of the effects of the war, Turkey deserves to have some slack cut in any judgment about its (not altogether consistent) responses to the conflict. But this would not make it any less of a mistake, as events in Syria have made increasingly apparent [5], for the United States to get more directly involved.

Can America Be Fixed? The New Crisis of Democracy

We built that: President Barack Obama visiting the Hoover Dam, October 2, 2012. (Kevin Lamarque / Courtesy Reuters)

In November, the American electorate, deeply unhappy with Washington and its political gridlock, voted to maintain precisely the same distribution of power -- returning President Barack Obama for a second term and restoring a Democratic Senate and a Republican House of Representatives. With at least the electoral uncertainty out of the way, attention quickly turned to how the country's lawmakers would address the immediate crisis known as the fiscal cliff -- the impending end-of-year tax increases and government spending cuts mandated by earlier legislation. 

As the United States continues its slow but steady recovery from the depths of the financial crisis, nobody actually wants a massive austerity package to shock the economy back into recession, and so the odds have always been high that the game of budgetary chicken will stop short of disaster. Looming past the cliff, however, is a deep chasm that poses a much greater challenge -- the retooling of the country's economy, society, and government necessary for the United States to perform effectively in the twenty-first century. The focus in Washington now is on taxing and cutting; it should be on reforming and investing. The United States needs serious change in its fiscal, entitlement, infrastructure, immigration, and education policies, among others. And yet a polarized and often paralyzed Washington has pushed dealing with these problems off into the future, which will only make them more difficult and expensive to solve.

Studies show that the political divisions in Washington are at their worst since the years following the Civil War. Twice in the last three years, the world's leading power -- with the largest economy, the global reserve currency, and a dominant leadership role in all international institutions -- has come close to committing economic suicide. The American economy remains extremely dynamic. But one has to wonder whether the U.S. political system is capable of making the changes that will ensure continued success in a world of greater global competition and technological change. Is the current predicament, in other words, really a crisis of democracy?

That phrase might sound familiar. By the mid-1970s, growth was stagnating and inflation skyrocketing across the West. Vietnam and Watergate had undermined faith in political institutions and leaders, and newly empowered social activists were challenging establishments across the board. In a 1975 report from the Trilateral Commission entitled The Crisis of Democracy, distinguished scholars from the United States, Europe, and Japan argued that the democratic governments of the industrial world had simply lost their ability to function, overwhelmed by the problems they confronted. The section on the United States, written by the political scientist Samuel Huntington, was particularly gloomy.

Who is Air Power’s Alfred Thayer Mahan?

Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans
Air Power is unique in not having a grand theorist on par with Clausewitz or Mahan.
December 24, 2013

This is disturbing. Of late the Naval Diplomat has been praised by air-power groupies air-power-minded colleagues for growing in office. That is, some aviators consider me a convert from the true faith of sea power to their foul creed because I’ve written the occasional kind word about airplanes. Begone, fiends!

For all that, air power is an intriguing beast. It’s interesting in part because — with apologies to Giulio Douhetand Billy Mitchell — there’s no master theorist of aerial endeavors. Clausewitz and Sun Tzu are men for all seasons, supplying insights that span all domains — earth, sea, sky — where warriors vie for supremacy. Sea power has Corbett and Mahan. While there’s no shortage of treatises about aircraft, no thinker of that stature explains how air forces ought to prosecute operations and strategy. Tactics and gadgetry rule.

Absent a theorist of their own, airmen commonly look to sea-power theory for guidance. And for good reason. The two domains share certain traits. Away from land, oceans are a featureless plain where vector mechanics — course, speed — rather than topographic features govern movement. Aviators use similar methods to navigate from point A to point B, except that they add a z-axis. Altitude constitutes that third dimension. Nor must they obey terrain so long as they stay high enough not to clip a mountain. Mahan’s depiction of the sea as a “wide common” traversed by ships in all directions thus maps to the wild blue yonder.

So do his six determinants of sea power — to a point. A society and its government clearly must be predisposed to take to the skies, and amass the skills to do so. Industry must be capable of manufacturing aircraft or, at a minimum, keeping up those purchased abroad. But the relationship starts to fray even on this basic level. For instance, air-power proponents like to contend that air power renders geography moot. No geographic barriers block air forces the way shorelines block fleets. And yet discounting geography would be alien to Mahan, one of history’s foremost geopolitical thinkers. This is something for writers to sort out.

The likeness between air and sea power is even more inexact when you descend to the operational level. For example, Mahan believed concentrated fleets of capital ships were the arbiters of maritime command. Smaller craft were there to act as eyes of the fleet and perform miscellaneous support functions. But the line-of-battle ship was where the fleet’s combat punch, and thus its destiny, resided. What’s the capital ship of the skies? The bomber? Hardly. Can you imagine bombers fighting other bombers? Rather, the smaller craft — the fighters — strive for air superiority and supremacy. Once they’ve scoured important airspace of enemy fighters, then bombers can go in under relatively permissive conditions to project power.

(Incidentally, this seems to be one way sea power is coming to resemble air power, with the aircraft carrier playing the part of the bomber. Like fighters, smaller fleet platforms will win sea control, providing a safe zone close to shore for this mobile air base to launch and recover its air wing. Like the bomber, then, the carrier increasingly exploits rather than fights for command.)

Mikhail Kalashnikov, Creator of the AK-47, Has Died

December 23, 2013 
Mikhail Kalashnikov, Creator of AK-47, Dies at 94 
C.J. Chivers 
New York Times, December 23, 2013 

Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, the arms designer credited by the Soviet Union with creating the AK-47, the first in a series of rifles and machine guns that would indelibly associate his name with modern war and become the most abundant firearms ever made, died on Monday in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic, where he lived. He was 94. 

Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic’s president, confirmed the death, the Itar-Tass news agency reported

Born a peasant on the southern Siberian steppe, General Kalashnikov had little formal education and claimed to be a self-taught tinkerer who combined innate mechanical skills with the study of weapons to conceive of a rifle that achieved battlefield ubiquity. 

His role in the rifle’s creation, and the attention showered on him by the Kremlin’s propaganda machine, carried him from conscription in the Red Army to senior positions in the Soviet arms-manufacturing bureaucracy and ultimately to six terms on the Supreme Soviet. 

Tens of millions of Kalashnikov rifles have been manufactured. Their short barrels, steep front-sight posts and curved magazines made them a marker of conflict that has endured for decades. The weapons also became both Soviet and revolutionary symbols and widespread instruments of terrorism, child-soldiering and crime. 

The general, who sometimes lamented the weapons’ unchecked distribution but took pride in having invented them and in their reputation for reliability, weathered the collapse of the Soviet Union to assume a public role as a folk hero and unequivocal Russian patriot. 

A Soviet nostalgist, he also served as the unofficial arms ambassador of the revived Russian state. He used public appearances to try to cast the AK-47’s checkered legacy in a positive way and to complain that knockoffs were being manufactured illegally by former Soviet allies and cutting into Russian sales.

The weapon, he said, was designed to protect his motherland, not to be used by terrorists or thugs. “This is a weapon of defense,” he said. “It is not a weapon for offense.”

General Kalashnikov’s public life resulted from a secret competition to develop the Soviet infantry rifle for the Cold War. The result was the AK-47 — an abbreviation for “the automatic by Kalashnikov” followed by the year the competition ended.

General Kalashnikov, a senior sergeant at the time who had been injured in battle against German tanks, was credited with leading the design bureau that produced the AK-47 prototype. The Soviet Union began issuing a mass-produced version to soldiers in 1949.