8 January 2014

Gangotri glacier is retreating: report

Published: January 7, 2014 
Kavita Upadhyay

The Gaumukh, which is the snout of the Gangotri glacier from where the Bhagirathi river originates. Photo: Virender Singh Negi 

The Gaumukh, which is the snout of the Gangotri glacier from where the Bhagirathi river originates. Photo: Virender Singh Negi 

“The Gangotri glacier is retreating like other glaciers in the Himalayas and its volume and size are shrinking as well,” a report, titled ‘Estimation of retreat rate of Gangotri glacier using rapid static and kinematic GPS survey’, by scientists from the Almora-based G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development has stated.

The institute has been monitoring the Himalayan glaciers, particularly the Gangotri, since 1999. According to the report, “Recessional moraines and broad glacial terrace-like features provide sufficient evidences of shrinking of the glacier in the recent past between Gaumukh and Bhojbasa.”

The Gangotri, one of the largest Himalayan glaciers, is in Uttarkashi district. Originating at about 7,100m above sea level, the glacier is 30.2km long and has a width that varies between 0.5 and 2.5km. The Bhagirathi, one of the main tributaries of the Ganga, originates from the glacier, which has retreated more than 1,500 metres in the last 70 years.

Post-1971, the rate of retreat of the glacier has declined. “ 2000 onwards, the average rate of retreat of the glacier per year has been about 12 to 13 metres,” said Dr. Kireet Kumar of the G.B. Pant Institute.

A fluctuation in the recession rate of glaciers has engendered widespread discussion on the effects of global warming. “The Gangotri glacier is a big glacial body so its glacial response is slow. Also, global warming is not the only factor resulting in glacial retreat. However, it might be one of the factors,” Dr. Kumar said, adding: “The retreat in the past decade was higher than it is in this decade. However, there is some disintegration in the upper regions of the glacier which shows that some tectonic activities are going on in the region. This might be alarming but it is under study.”


Wednesday, 08 January 2014 | Ashok K Mehta |

The contract for the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft needs to materialise more sooner than later. Otherwise, the Indian Air Force will be in deep trouble

With the country transfixed on the ‘pehle AAP’ strategy of subsidised water and electricity and corruption-free governance in an election year, will someone also spare a thought for defence and national security, without which all populist measures will be on shaky terrain ?

In its overzealous anti-corruption campaign, the Union Government has cancelled the AgustaWestland helicopter contract, with unintended consequences for the ongoing modernisation of the Armed Forces which seriously lag behind their twin adversaries — Pakistan and China — in capability accretion. India has evolved a complicated and laborious defence procurement system which has been revised several times since its inception in 2003. In the next five years of the nearly Rs 6,00,000 crore defence budget, Rs 65,000 crore is to be spent on capital acquisitions.

Poor strategic political direction, bad planning, unrealistic expectations from the public sector defence industry and an obsession with corruption-free transactions, especially in this last decade, have led to hollowness in critical operational assets and capabilities. Unable to make and/or buy value-for-money deterrence in time, the Services are forced to live dangerously, stretching the life of equipment through upgrade and jugaad which could prove costly in battle. The barrel of the Bofors Mark II gun, which the Ordnance Factories Board is trying to manufacture on 30-year-old technology, keeps exploding during trials leaving the Army without a new gun for the last three decades.

With most routes closed either due to blacklisting of companies or fear of scandals, the Government has chosen the foreign military sales route of acquisition from the US which is emerging as the biggest supplier of military hardware, replacing Russia. In some 50 years, India bought equipment from the US worth a mere $500 million. Then suddenly in the last five years, purchases shot up to $15 billion with another eight billion dollars on order and five billion dollars planned. Besides annoying the Russians, India’s traditional defence suppliers, has anyone factored the possibility of future US sanctions? In 2004, when the Hawk AJT contract was signed with the UK, the clause, “there will be no US parts” was specifically inserted.

Security in Jammu and Kashmir

IssueCourtesy: www.defenceinfo.com| Date : 07 Jan , 2014

Troops patrol in Kashmir

2013 offered a mixed bag for Jammu and Kashmir so far as security is concerned. This was the third consecutive year when the state witnessed a modicum of peace which translated into unhindered social/economic activity. The going was, however, not totally smooth; many issues came up, some due to circumstances and others most cleverly orchestrated by inimical vested interests.

Infiltration attempts along the line of control are usual, what was unusual is the increased activity along the International border in the Jammu region.

The year started on a sad note with the brutal killing of two brave soldiers while they were patrolling the line of control at Mendhar, Jammu and Kashmir, well within their own territory. Pakistan blatantly denied the incident and continued with its military adventurism through the year. Yet another ambush by Pakistani soldiers on August, 06, 2013 once again in Indian territories led to the brutal killing of six Indian soldiers. Deliberate and constant ceasefire violations by Pakistan were witnessed throughout the year along the line of control and also along the international border. The more than 200 violations constitute the highest in a year since ceasefire was declared in 2003.

Where there are ceasefire violations, infiltration bids cannot be far behind. There were a large number of attempts reported along the line of control; the traditional areas of Karen and Machil in Kupwara, Bandipura, Gurez etc remained active as did areas in Poonch and Rajouri. The biggest attempt took place in Karen in October where massive forces were deployed over almost two weeks to counter the ingress of as many as 30 well armed terrorists. Infiltration attempts along the line of control are usual, what was unusual is the increased activity along the International border in the Jammu region.

Despite sustained efforts the terror mongers across failed to push as many terrorists as they wished to and things have remained in control all through.

China’s Urbanisation Initiative Calls for Change in “Hukuo” Status


The Chinese leadership’s focus on its “urbanisation” campaign brings to light the government’s push towards fuelling domestic demand and attempting to strike a balance between the urban-rural divide. According to a blue book released recently by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a premier academic research organisation in the fields of philosophy and social sciences directly under the State Council, China’s current rate of urbanisation is likely to result in 60 percent urbanisation by 2018. At present this figure tops 54 percent with 2013 drawing to a close.

Boosting domestic consumption and creating employment has been a key focus area for the Chinese government with every one percent of growth in gross domestic product creating 1.3 million to 1.7 million jobs specifically in China’s urban areas in 2012. The CASS study announced that a total of 12.66 million jobs have been added since 2012. What comes across as a dichotomy, however, is that while the income generation of China’s rural and urban residents has witnessed an increase from 2010 to 2012, the increasingly large income gap between the two sections has not gone unnoticed and requires immediate attention. In fact, the annual per capita income in the highest income households is nearly 20 times more than that of lower income families.

China’s new approach to urbanisation will go through a litmus test when it has to cater to the 260 million migrant workers who await the benefits stemming from this policy approach. Following decades of urban expansion, the city dwellers make for 52.6 percent of China’s total population. Interestingly, this figure falls to 35.3 percent of the population if calculated on the basis of household registration, known as hukou.

The hukou system in China ties public services such as health care and education to residential status. Those without local hukou are barred from sending children to public schools, coupled with tougher restrictions on housing and car purchases. The gap between public welfare for the locally registered population and for newcomers unable to register—largely migrant workers, is increasingly proving a disconcerting trend for the government.

“China’s urban areas have demanded labour from rural migrants, but offered little in return, including no public welfare, let alone housing”, says Wang Xiaoguang at the Chinese Academy of Governance, terming it as unfair—thus demanding a change in state strategy. Denial to equal access to public welfare unless one changes his/her hukou status, puts a lot of pressure on the government’s urbanisation campaign, which in the last three decades seems to have focussed on the expansion of city areas while ignoring the needs of migrant workers for equal public services.

Based on the above realities and also acknowledging the drawbacks of the existing scheme of things, the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has advocated for a “new type of urbanisation” in which the people will be accorded first preference. At the third plenum of the CCP’s Central Committee, incorporating human-centered urbanisation into an approved policy termed “core of urbanisation” has been emphasised upon with the primary task of human-centered urbanisation being to help migrants in registering as urban residents. The CCP has set a target of a new hukou status for nearly 100 million migrant workers by the end of 2020. It appears that the foundation of China’s new urbanisation campaign is to grant hukou status to migrants in cities.

GSLV success: A major technology boost

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan
07 January 2014

India’s successful launch of its Geostationary Launch Vehicle (GSLV) on January 5 has placed India in an exclusive club of five countries - the United States, Russia, France, Japan, and China. Given the complex nature of this technology - the use of rocket propellants at extremely low temperatures, as the ISRO Chairman Dr. Radhakrishnan remarked, "only a few in the world have mastered it." 

With the launch of GSLV-D5, India’s indigenously developed cryogenic engine upper stage technology has been proven for the first time, a major feat of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The proven technology demonstrates India’s ability to launch heavier payloads into geostationary orbit. Cryogenic technology is significant due to the thrust gained through burning every kg of propellant that is far higher in a cryogenic engine, which gives the thrust to carry heavier satellites into orbit. In the flight of GSLV-D5, the ISRO also launched a communication satellite GSAT-14 into the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). The test was a make or break situation for the ISRO after two successive failures in 2010 and a mission cancelled in 2013. 

India had undertaken so far seven GSLV launches, including three failures and one mission cancelled hours before the launch. Previous failures included problems such as fuel tank leakage, the mission centre losing control of the rocket with it deviating from predicted flight path, among others. Therefore, the January 5 successful launch is a matter of technology demonstration and a major boost for the Indian space community. 

India’s cryogenic journey has been a long one, going back to the 1980s. In December 1982, a Cryogenic Study Team was established that studied all aspects of the technology and questions such as whether India should develop or buy the technology from outside were examined. In 1983, the team submitted a report that recommended developing the engine capable of generating about 10 tonnes of thrust indigenously as against procuring it off the shelf. In addition to the exorbitant cost to buying from elsewhere, export control mechanisms such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) that denies transfer of such technologies were also contextualising factors in India’s decision. However, in 1991 after a great deal of indecision, Government of India entered into a deal with the Soviet Union for procuring two cryogenic flight stages and the technology to make them in India. The sale of such technology was seen as a violation of the MTCR commitments made by the Soviet Union and thus the deal was scrapped. 

In addition to the prestige factor of being part of an exclusive club of countries that have the proven cryogenic engine technology, the GSLV-D5 launch is important from a commercial and strategic perspective. The growing satellite launch market has a huge commercial angle. So far, this market is dominated by the French and the Chinese to an extent. Given the growing number of countries entering the space domain for a variety of missions from socio-economic and development to military functions, the number of satellite launches is likely to go up significantly in the coming years. India should not lose out opportunities in this ever-growing lucrative foreign satellite launch market. 

Tracing patterns, mapping habits

January 7, 2014
V. R. Raghavan

Special ArrangementINDIAN MUJAHIDEEN — Computational Analysis and Public Policy: V.S. Subrahmanian, Aaron Mannes, Animesh Roul, R. K. Raghavan; published by Springer, Switzerland.

Special ArrangementINDIAN MUJAHIDEEN — Computational Analysis and Public Policy: V.S. Subrahmanian, Aaron Mannes, Animesh Roul, R. K. Raghavan; published by Springer, Switzerland.

Computer analysis can enhance counter-terrorism capabilities, says this study

A hundred security forces personnel are needed to find and defeat one terrorist. That is one approach in which every jungle hideout in J&K, mountain cave in Afghanistan, or an apartment in a town is watched, searched or raided. Another uses technology as the better means to find and eliminate terrorists. Satellite surveillance, wireless interception, infrared photos and drones used in combination lead security forces to terrorist safe houses, meeting places, and vehicles in which they travel. Over the years, the nature of terrorist organisations, camps and weapons, and communication facilities have changed. Terrorists and insurgents rarely work from large jungle camps, or use heavy weapons or use primitive instruments to communicate. Today they are generally one or more steps ahead of security forces in technical capabilities. Indian Mujahideen (IM) has shown that even with simple instruments and low cost strategies it can regularly target and cause damage in Indian population centres.

Since looking for small terrorist groups in cities and metros is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, a new strategy is being used by many states including India. This requires examining information or inputs from multiple sources to identify patterns and habits of terrorist leaders and groups that can provide a lead to impending attacks. These can be families and friends, meeting places, messages on social media and advertisements etc. This also includes contacts across society amongst the youth, colleges, traders and commercial activity.

Every kind of information is churned into the data basket to find early signs of terrorist plans. This is only possible through the use of computers. Nothing is considered unimportant in this quest for clues and leads, which can assist in finding the ‘holy grail’ of the intelligence trail. No wonder almost all states snoop for such information through intelligence and private agencies, even by violating the privacy of their citizens.

Applying to IM

Indian Mujahideen: Computational Analysis and Public Policy, applies this specifically to IM, the organisation which has carried out deadly attacks against innocent citizens in different cities. The study is based on information in the public domain but nevertheless provides valuable insights. The study and its conclusions have been praised by experts in the U.S., Israel and India. The authors note that three advances have revolutionised the study of behaviour of both individuals and groups. First, the wide and rapid information dissemination on internet has made available greater than ever information on terrorist groups. Second, text analysis techniques have enhanced our capability to better search the data. Third, huge advances in ‘data mining’ allow state agencies to track any number of variables used by terrorists for predicting terrorist attacks.

The authors describe policy analytics methods which merge elements of mathematical logic, logic programming, and integer linear programming to evolve a Policy Computational Algorithm. Using this method, the book lays out startling conclusions on patterns of behaviour of both terrorist organisations and state agencies. It recommends specific policy measures which can make a difference in the counter terrorist actions of the government. An examination of conditions which have preceded attacks launched by the IM in public places has been used to find indicators of future attacks. Thus IM attacks on public places have been seen preceded by five months of warming diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan. They are also preceded by IM leaders’ conferences by four months before the attack. IM also starts claiming responsibility for other attacks three months before a next attack. Two months before IM attacks on public sites, IM issues statements about its campaign, intentions and strategy. A pattern of special interest is that about two months before an attack, there seems to be an increase in the arrest of IM personnel.

Why publicity?

As the authors candidly state, these patterns are not necessarily causative. They are however patterns which can be used as ‘canaries in the coalmine’, to be used by law enforcement agencies collaborating against terrorism. These can be used to reset the environment in which the IM operates. It is not as if Indian intelligence agencies are not implementing some of these policy choices, but a logical model reconfirms them and adds more possibilities. An important variable is of the publicity given and credit claimed by state and Central organisations for IM arrests. The authors rightly warn, such arrests do not disrupt IM from carrying out future attacks. On the other hand, publicity to details of arrests only leads to the IM benefiting from the news and learning new lessons.

In a country of India’s size and variety, data sufficiency is not a problem. In fact, surfeit of data is the challenge. States and the Centre have different priorities and perceptions on what can or should be shared between them in law and order and terrorism-related activities. An IM operative arrested while crossing the border from a neighbouring country into Punjab or West Bengal may have a direct link with Karnataka or Tamil Nadu. If data sharing, rapid transmission of information and combined police actions are flawed, IM and other anti national organisations will continue to succeed in their plans. The way to introduce synergy in this is through a national organisation which can coordinate information, without in any way detracting from the powers of state security and intelligence agencies.

The authors, who include a respected former head of India’s CBI, have commended the concept of a National Counter Terrorism Centre. The book rightly posits that intelligence failures are of two kinds. The first is of failure to provide advance information and the second is failure to see the whole picture from available facts. Data appears unrelated when seen in isolation, but when carefully correlated almost illuminates the danger zone. This cannot be achieved without Delhi and state capitals sharing, in other words surrendering, a portion of their dourly defended turfs. It is time political leaders faced with new threats to India — and that is what IM and similar entities amount to — find the way forward.

Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Thinking and the Pakistani Connection

January 7, 2014

Two recent developments have generated concerns among non-proliferation advocates. A recent BBC report allegedly claimed that Saudi Arabia invested in developing nuclear weapons made in Pakistan which are now ready for delivery to the Kingdom nation. The second event relates to the recently concluded nuclear deal between Iran and the global powers. The two developments can be related given Saudi Arabia’s skeptic response to the Iran nuclear deal. Given the apprehension that Riyadh possesses of Tehran, the Kingdom nation believes that the emerging rapprochement between the United States and the Iran will prove inimical to the interests of the ideologically differing Saudi Arabia. Though there has not been any official reaction from Riyadh, there is sufficient anxiety amongst the Saudis that Iran can never be persuaded to give up its nuclear programme.

Saudi Arabia worries that the West will turn its focus away from Iran once the problem over the Iranian nuclear programme is diffused. Riyadh anticipates that in the long run a nuclear Iran will be emboldened in Saudi Arabia’s proxy conflicts with Iran in states like Palestine, Bahrain, Yemen and most recently Syria. Amidst such concerns, Riyadh’s rejection of a coveted seat at the United Nations Security Council in October 2013 followed by the revelation of the BBC news about possible nuclear weapons cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in November 2013 has raised questions whether Riyadh aspires to acquire nuclear weapons capability? What has been the level of nuclear cooperation between the two Islamic nations? This issue brief looks at the factors that might influence Saudi Arabian government to go nuclear. It records the existing news reports and the latest happenings on Riyadh’s ostensible nuclear programme. Based on these reports and indicators the author has made an attempt to draw the attention of the reader that the final outcome of the nuclear deal between the P5+1 countries and Iran might prove to be potent factor weighing Saudi decision to develop its strategic programme. At present, there is enormous skepticism prevailing the nuclear deal will between Iran and the P5+1 countries will persuade Tehran to renounce its nuclear weapons programme. President Hassan Rouhani has already emphasized in an interview to the Financial Times that Iran will not fully dismantle its nuclear programme as part of a comprehensive agreement. Understandably, at this stage, there is no credible evidence indicating a robust Saudi-Pakistan nuclear weapons collaboration. Hence, much of the brief is based on speculations that presumably some understanding for a Saudi-Pakistan secret nuclear commitment has been discussed between the two Muslim nations. This brief emphasizes there is something on. The Iran nuclear deal is yet to reach a comprehensive conclusion on its strategic programme about which Saudi Arabia has expressed its strong apprehension and skepticism. Whether Iran will relinquish its nuclear programme as demanded by the western powers, Israel and the Arab states including Riyadh is not known. It is within this backdrop, that this issue brief seeks to delve into the indications of a possible Saudi-Pakistan nuclear weapons association.

India’s big space stride

Jan 06, 2014

Three cheers to Indian scientists for the successful placing of the two-tonne advanced communications satellite GSAT 14 in space in a launch perfectly synchronised off GSLV D5 from the first domestically-powered cryogenic rocket.

The breakthrough indigenous cryogenic booster launch sends out a strong message that India has joined an elite group of nations, like US, Russia, France, Japan and China, while becoming capable of handling launches featuring heavy payloads. Beyond that, the achievement of self-reliance in space technology when the world has tried to deny India such know-how for commercial as well as strategic reasons is indubitably the finest aspect of Sunday’s success.
Proving the veracity of the dictum that failures are stepping stones to success, Indian scientists overcame the loss of a satellite in a crash into the Bay of Bengal in 2010 and an aborted launch in August 2013 because of a fuel leak. What the launch and the placement of a satellite in geo-synchronous orbit at a phenomenal height of 36,000 km above the Earth means India has really arrived. A Mars orbiter was launched just last November. These are heady times indeed for Indian space science.

A string of successes with PSLV launches over the years represented scientific and commercial success. But had the GSLV capability existed before the Mars mission, India could have placed an even heavier payload on the rover to facilitate more complex scientific studies. The economical rates of the execution of Indian rocket science means India can be a major player in putting heavy communications satellites in orbit besides giving an edge to our defence preparedness.

India, Pakistan and Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Irrelevance for South Asia

Amit Gupta
Visiting Fellow, IPCS 
Email: agupta1856@gmail.com

Tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) have little utility in the South Asian context since neither India nor Pakistan’s nuclear doctrines are based on those of the Cold War superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union. American nuclear analysts used to sit around and talk about limited nuclear wars where countries fired a few warheads and then sat down to negotiate. In actual fact that is all such discussions ever led to for throughout the Cold War the US relied on Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) which involved wiping out large amounts of the opponent’s industry and population. Despite the increased accuracy of nuclear delivery systems and vastly improved command and control infrastructure, the US never varied from the concept of MAD since it became clear that there was no such a thing as a limited nuclear war. 

In the South Asian context, MAD as operationalised by the US and the Soviet Union makes little sense. Nor do TNW, which are the nuclear war fighter’s fantasy weapons. Neither India nor Pakistan has accuracy levels that are similar to those of the superpowers and neither country has a comparable command and control system, or adequate protection for its leadership, to engage in a Western style nuclear exchange. 

Instead, if Pakistan were to initiate a limited nuclear exchange with a few tactical missiles then India, fearing the worst, would have to hit Pakistan with everything it has and here the nuclear logic of Chairman Mao’s China comes into play. Mao’s China recognised that Beijing could not get into an expensive nuclear arms race with the West or for that matter the Soviet Union. What the country required was to have the guaranteed capability to take out a few cities in an opponent’s territory and this would be enough to deter the other side. Thus a minimum deterrent capability that took out 6-10 cities was seen as ensuring deterrence. 

In the South Asian case, the numbers are even smaller. An Indian attack that decimated Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi would essentially leave Pakistan with an economy and society that is in the 19th century. A similar Pakistani attack on Mumbai or New Delhi would put back India’s developmental efforts by a couple of decades as not only would the nation struggle to recover but foreign investors would flee the country. One may argue, therefore, that nuclear deterrence has been achieved by both sides and neither has to worry about feeling vulnerable in this spectrum of conflict. 

So what do TNW give either side? The answer is a higher level of instability and a much lower level of deterrence. For Pakistani TNW to be credible against an Indian attack (the Cold Start scenario), they would have to be armed and ready at the border and have to be handed to fairly low-level military officers who were authorised to use them. This is inherently destabilising since if Pakistani positions were being overrun a major or colonel would be left with the unpleasant choice of either using them and precipitating an all-out nuclear war or surrendering them to the Indian military. Since the latter would be unacceptable to any military command, the former would be the only real option left for these officers. In fact, if faced with a large scale conventional attack one has to expect the Pakistani leadership to fear the worse and launch everything they have rather than let us use a few bombs and face large scale Indian retaliation. 

Further, it should be pointed out that while the IS has spent over US$100 million to help Pakistan safeguard its weapons from Jihadi attacks, it has not given Pakistan the surveillance, reconnaissance, and electronic capabilities to successfully wage a limited nuclear war. (See, David Sanger and William J Broad, ‘US secretly aids Pakistan in guarding nuclear weapons’, The New York Times, November 18, 2007, Available at,http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/washington/18nuke.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. Also see, Paul K Kerr and Mary Beth Nikitin, Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues, Congressional Research Service Report RL 34248, March 19, 2013, pp. 20-21).

If both India and Pakistan want to maintain a stable nuclear deterrent then getting rid of this class of weapons is the way to go since it would not weaken the nuclear deterrent of either side. In fact, it would go a long way to strengthen nuclear deterrence in South Asia.

India, Pakistan and Tactical Nuclear Weapons: What’s in a Name?

7 January 2014
Usman Ali Khan 

Researcher, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-e-Azam Umiversity, Islamabad 

India has chosen to fight at sub-conventional level but evidence in this regard is not taken into account. In a recent article, an author considered Pakistan’s development of the so-called tactical nuclear weapons. ‘Nuclear Insanity’, that is wastage of money and increase in risk of nuclear escalation between Pakistan and India. In making such exaggerated claims, the authors tend to focus only on Pakistan’s reaction and not the triggers. The only lesson to draw here is to check sources and not believe everything written on a webpage. It is easier said than done. Pakistan reluctantly entered the nuclear fray due to repeated Indian provocations. Likewise, its decision to develop short-range-low yield (SRLY) nuclear weapons is not an initiative, rather a measured reaction to the Indian adoption of a dangerous nuclear doctrine to fight a limited war under Pakistan’s nuclear threshold. Islamabad looks at these SRLY weapons as deterrence stabilisers. It is up to the Indians take this capability into account and resist initiating a war with the ‘hope’ that Pakistan would not respond.

Lt Gen Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, the outgoing Director General of Strategic Plans Division, once termed Hatf-IX (Nasr) SRLY as a ‘weapon of peace’. The Nasr missile has poured cold water on the Indian Cold Start Doctrine and is a source of great Indian frustration. India’s large conventional force advantage and a fast growing nuclear arsenal have come to naught because Pakistan has been able to plug the gap India perceived and wished to exploit at the tactical level of operations.

The analogy creates a misperception that American reliance on battlefield nuclear weapons in the European theatre ended with the Cold War. Both the US and Russia still have battlefield nuclear weapons on European soil and thousands in their inventories. Deterrence is still at play in Europe. 

Frustrated, India threatened massive retaliation in April 2013 should Pakistan chose to employ SRLY weapons in response to CSD. Likewise, there were Indian forward dispositions and the development of new cantonments close to the border. Indian conventional force developments indicate that they are creating sufficient means to operationalize the CSD. They have restyled it as the Proactive Operations/Proactive Defence Strategy and have publicly disowned CSD because they have developed ‘cold feet’ from the Pakistani response. It is amazing that India considers Pakistan’s right to defend itself against so-called ‘limited’ incursions unfair. India‘s offensive military doctrine and rapid arming to the teeth affects Pakistan’s calculus. The assumption of initiating war and punishing Pakistan without invoking an appropriate response is foolhardy. Interestingly, India tries to convince that there is a decreasing salience of nuclear weapons in its policies – yet, despite a conventional and nuclear force edge over Pakistan, it does not give up resorting to sub-conventional aggression. It is amazing to see that this has been overlooked.


January 7, 2014 ·

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, recently released a memo regarding the Asia-Pacific Hands Program (APAC). In the memo, General Dempsey states that he has directed the Joint Staff “to begin exploration of a Hands like program focused on the Asia-Pacific region.” The memo directs services and combatant commanders “to see where and how we currently identify and educate our command-path officers, and how we expose them to regional issues.” Cutting to the core of the matter, General Dempsey explains “[a]s we have seen over the last 10 years, the future commanders of our force will need deep regional understanding to execute their missions. . . I remain convinced that we must arm our operators at all levels with deep personal and professional regional expertise.” The path to achieve the worthy goal of a functional and well integrated Asia-Pacific Hands Program will be challenging. In order to mitigate some of these challenges, the Joint Staff should consider leveraging lessons learned from the existing Afghanistan-Pakistan (AFPAK) Hands Program.

Before I continue I must admit that when it comes to the AFPAK Hands Program, I am not a fully objective observer. I am an original Cohort 1 AFPAK Hand, and have put over four years into this program. I am a true believer in its potential and the potential of similar programs. Currently, I am in the last stages of my second and final AFPAK Hand tour as an embedded advisor to the Government of Afghanistan. It is from this perspective that I offer some personal reflections, lessons learned, and suggestions to the architects of the APAC Hands Program.

In May 2010, Admiral James Stavridis wrote that the AFPAK Hands Program “reflects the notion that peace in Central Asia will not likely be achieved down the barrel of a gun, but rather through the lens of understanding.” In that article, he described how the AFPAK Hands Program represented the President’s “shift in strategic focus.” To support this strategic shift, the Secretary of Defense, on 24 May 2010, released amemorandum which, among other things directed the services and the Joint Staff to “Institutionalize and provide sufficient resources to the Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands program to develop and deploy a cadre of regionally aligned, language qualified experts who are proficient in COIN doctrine.” The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction, 1630.01, released in Sept 2010 further explained that the AFPAK Hands Program “…in order to prepare forces for success in Afghanistan…was established to create greater continuity, focus, and persistent engagement.” From conceptualization, the Department of Defense brought the AFPAK Hands Program to boots-on-the-ground operation in less than one year, including nearly six months of pre-deployment training. With such a compressed timeline, the AFPAK Hands is undoubtedly a program built in-flight and as a result it has experienced and continues to experience some problems with implementation and execution. However, I believe members of the AFPAK Hands Program and outside observers too often get stuck on these problems and fail to recognize the many successes the program has experienced and contributed to.

Though I could highlight many successful aspects of the program, I think the two that best define AFPAK Hands are our successes as bridge-builders and scouts. In the role of bridge-builder, we use our language, cultural training, and somewhat increased freedom of maneuver (when compared to most other U.S. Government personnel) to build connections with and knowledge of the Afghan government, security forces, and society. Concurrently, as U.S. military members ourselves, we easily liaise with our fellow Coalition members. Using our connections to and understanding of both Afghan and Coalition organizations, we can often represent the Afghan views to the Coalition and the Coalition views to the Afghans, with the appropriate language and cultural understanding to bring the two perspectives together toward a common solution. We facilitate the flow of information and the creation of relationships between the right people and organizations from the two sides. I have seen Hands do some form of this for years and believe it is one of the more valuable roles we play.

Additionally, we are also scouts, not in a traditional military sense, but we make connections and develop knowledge in areas that are generally not explored by other military members but may nonetheless be crucial to situational understanding. A few years back, a general officer related the Rumsfeldian observation that the most dangerous oversight was “what you don’t know you don’t know.” As a Hand, I have repeatedly found myself filling in gaps of knowledge (on both sides) that nobody knew were gaps. Most westerners who study or work with Afghans understand there are differences between Afghan and Western cultures. However, until a person really becomes involved with Afghans, until they relax and talk to Afghans in their own language and the barriers begin coming down, the true cultural gulf—and its ability to impact the campaign—does not become fully apparent. Our language skills, cultural understanding, historical perspective, and increased access enable us to stand with a foot in both worlds. That vantage affords an opportunity to spot gaps, from small things like event timing, planning procedures, or protocol issues, to large items such as actual organizational structure and operation and underlying/unstated objectives and plans. We can at times help fill in these gaps or at least serve to chart a path around them toward the accomplishment of mutually beneficial objectives.

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Pakistan: Talks about Talks with the Taliban, Again

6 January 2014
D Suba Chandran
Director, IPCS 
Email: subachandran@ipcs.org

Talks about talks with the TTP seem to have become seasonal in Pakistan. There is another effort, this time to initiate a new round of talks with the Pakistani Taliban, now under the leadership of Mullah Fazlullah. This time, not only is Fazlullah in the picture, but there is also another player – Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, the leader of his faction of the JUI and also the chair person of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council.

While this initiative is not the first one in the last two years, the issues and questions remain the same for Pakistan’s leadership and civil society. Is the TTP monolithic, and serious about talks? While there is a larger consensus amongst the political leadership, are the military and the civil society on board? What would these talks be aimed at? And more importantly, are there lessons to be learnt from the previous initiatives and failures?

Broader Political Consensus

There seems to be a broader consensus cutting across party lines in initiating negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban. In fact, this latest round started in 2012 itself, when Hakimullah Mehsud was the leader of the TTP. 

Imran Khan has always remained the most ardent supporter of this initiative. In fact, he even wants to provide an office to the Taliban in Peshawar and perhaps even in Islamabad! Despite the TTP not announcing its support for Imran Khan (remember, they opposed his entry and the proposed march to Waziristan earlier in 2012, to protest against the drone attacks. Though the security forces stopped his march, it was believed there were threats of suicide attacks), he has remained a staunch supporter, favouring talks with Taliban. Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N have also supported such an initiative in public and it was even part of the election campaign in 2013. The Difa-e-Pakistan Council, a conglomerate of primarily right-wing groups, now led by Maulana Sami ul Haq, has also offered its support.

There were numerous all parties’ conferences and discussions within Parliament during 2012 on the subject; at the last meeting of the all parties’ conference held in September 2012, it was unanimously decided to initiate talks with the Taliban. Though couched in politically correct phrases such as ‘sovereignty’, ‘peace’, ‘stability’ and ‘international law’, the September resolution gave the final nod to Nawaz Sharif to initiate a formal negotiation with the TTP.

The intelligence assessment is too pessimistic about Afghanistan

By Michael O’Hanlon, Published: January 3
Source Link

Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “Healing the Wounded Giant: Maintaining Military Preeminence While Cutting the Defense Budget,” among other books.

According to The Post, U.S. intelligence recently predicted a bleak future for Afghanistanafter most international troops leave by the end of 2014. The situation would be worse, of course, if no bilateral security agreement is signed between Washington and Kabul and thus, in a year, no international troops at all remained in Afghanistan. But the tenor of the national intelligence estimate is reportedly pessimistic regardless of such specifics.

From my trips to the region and my former role as a member of the CIA’s external advisory board, I know many U.S. intelligence analysts who focus on Afghanistan. In my experience, they are, without exception, diligent, hardworking, brave and thoughtful. In this case, they also are wrong. Or, to be fairer, a bumper-sticker interpretation of their report that confidently makes fatalistic prognostications about Afghanistan’s future cannot be substantiated.

To be sure, there are numerous scenarios under which Afghanistan could falter or even fail in the years ahead. That could mean a possible return to power of the Taliban and its allies, as well as future sanctuaries on Afghan soil for al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (the terror organization that carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks) and other extremists. But there is little reason to consider this the most likely outcome and no basis for confidently predicting it.

Given the U.S. national mood of fatigue, doom and gloom toward Afghanistan, this kind of report, however well-intentioned and well-informed, requires rebuttal. It is also worth remembering that, as a breed, intelligence analysts tend toward pessimism because it is far less professionally embarrassing to be pleasantly surprised by developments in a given country than to appear complacent as troubles brew. But premature predictions of failure in some places can be as harmful to the national interest as blind optimism. The case for hopefulness on Afghanistan is built largely on what were probably its three most notable developments of 2013:

For Bangladesh, Elections Bring Little Relief

The Diplomat‘s Sanjay Kumar reports from Dhaka on the outcome of the Bangladesh election. 
January 08, 2014 

“I don’t know what is happening in this country. For more than three months, I have been facing problems travelling, commuting from one place to another. I’m so nervous these days,” says Imran Haque, a daily wage earner in Bangladesh. 

“I want to open my shop but every day I have this fear that I will be attacked by protestors if I don’t keep my business shut. Normal life has become difficult for me and I have suffered losses in the last couple of months,” says Amanullah Choudhury, a shopkeeper in the Savar area in Dhaka’s outskirts. 

Anger and cynicism best describe the voices on the streets of Dhaka these days. 

The mood inside Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s residence is different, however. She and her party, the Awami League, are in a victorious mood and claim to possess the people’s support after having won in the general elections. Maintaining the practice of inviting journalists after the poll results, Hasina appeared confident and pooh-poohed any talk of a political crisis in Bangladesh. 

At the press conference, when The Diplomat asked her about the legitimacy of a parliament without an opposition party, she turned the table on her rivals for creating chaos in the country: 

“Twelve parties participated in the elections. Since the fundamentalist Jamaat could not participate in the election as they were banned by the High Court, the BNP, its ally, also boycotted the elections. It does not mean that there would be a question of legitimacy. People participated in the elections and this gives legitimacy. Besides, this is our constitutional obligation, to hold elections. So no question of legitimacy arises,” said Hasina. 

When asked about the possibility of another election, the chief of the ruling party did not rule out that eventuality, but said it all depends on the attitude of the main opposition party, the BNP. 

“The main opposition did not participate in the elections after I offered everything. I told them that if they join I can create a government with the participation of all political parties. I offered any ministry that the Leader of Opposition wanted in return for their participation in elections,” said Hasina. “They also tried to prevent the elections and called [a] general strike and indulged into violence with the help of the terrorist group like the Jamaat,” the 66-year-old PM asserted. 

Hasina further adds that “the BNP does not believe in elections. They have joined hands with the terrorist group. When the elections would be held if at all, it depends on their attitude – what they do and how they behave. Definitely there would be new elections when the time comes.” Hasina’s comments give a broad indication that new elections will not be ruled out if the opposition abjures violence and strikes. 

During her press conference, Hasina did not give off a sense of political crisis in Bangladesh. She appears as defiant as before. 

But certainly she is not in sync with the mood outside and neither is the BNP. 

The BNP demonstrates a disconnect with the people by calling for a shutdown and strike in the country. On Monday, a day after the elections, the BNP called for a nationwide strike, disregarding the reality that in the last three months more than 300 people have lost their lives in violence generally attributed to the highhandedness of the opposition. 

Is the Awami League government with its three-fourths majority in parliament stable enough to govern effectively? 

In an election boycotted by the main opposition, the ruling alliance won 232 seats out of 300. But this grand success is not a guarantee for stability in the country. The instability that was gripping the nation before the elections remains the same as before. The BNP and its alliance partners are continuing with their general strike, pushing the country into a state of virtual house arrest . 

“The election held is meaningless. You have to hold both the government and the opposition accountable of forcing a crisis in the country,” says Nazrul Islam, a Dhaka-based senior journalist. 

In an interview with The Diplomat, Islam asserts that “a dialogue between the two main parties can resolve the political impasse in the country” – a fact that even the BNP leaders don’t deny. 

Speaking with The Diplomat, a senior BNP leader, Mahbubur Rahman, said that “no doubt we need to engage with the Awami League, but for that to take place, the ruling party will have to show certain flexibility which it is not showing at present. We cannot be blamed for the crisis facing the country.” 

The Daily Star holds the premier responsible for the present deadlock. It writes that “the PM is not in sync with the existing political reality. Given her position that this election was a constitutional compulsion, we need to emphasize that it will not by any means resolve the current political instability. It was thus disappointing that the substance and tenor of her comments lacked any direction to resolve the political flux.” 

There are, however, political experts who believe that the main reason the Awami League and the BNP could not reach a compromise was due to the ongoing trial of war-time criminals in Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal. The tribunal was set up almost four years ago to prosecute those who were involved in atrocities during the war of liberation in 1971. 

The BNP’s main ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, is a fundamentalist group which opposed the war of liberation and supported the Pakistani army in killing its own people. The tribunal has already sentenced to death a senior Jamaat leader, Abdul Quader Mollah, and there are others who are on trial. 

“The Liberation War is a very emotional issue. Millions of Bengalis lost their lives in the war and some of the groups actively supported the Pakistani army. People want them to be punished,” says Shehab Sumon, a political analyst. He further adds that “animosity between the Awami League and the two major opposition parties has gone up after the tribunal was set up. That is the reason that despite so many olive branches the BNP leader, Khaleda Zia, refused to participate in the elections.” 

Some of the senior leaders of the BNP The Diplomat spoke to praised Hasina for setting up the tribunal. In an off-the-record conversation, they confided that it suits the interests of the BNP that the Awami League concludes the the work of the war crime tribunal. That way, when the BNP comes to power, it won’t have to work under pressure from Jamaat to disband the tribunal and release the arrested Islamic leaders. 

The Daily Star writes that “it would also be unfair, and indeed unwise to draw a broad brush of ‘anti-liberation or antidemocratic’ on all those who did not participate in the election. We do not believe that nearly 70 percent who chose not to vote are anti-liberation.” 

The elections were supposed to bring relief to the people of Bangladesh. But an election result without a popular mandate raises more questions than it answers. The people of Bangladesh continue to be under house arrest. The only hope now is a new election which is inclusive and has wider democratic participation. 

Blue Means Blue: China’s Naval Ambitions

Numerous articles in Chinese state media suggest it has an ambitious agenda for its navy.

By Henry Holst
January 07, 2014
In a 2012 article published in The Diplomat, Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins claim “China seeks to develop a ‘blue water’ navy in the years to come—but one that is more ‘regional’ than ‘global’ in nature,” and that China does not intend to challenge U.S. naval hegemony. However, analyzing China’s maritime identity, a concept that will be explained below, and it becomes clear that two major long-term goals of the PLAN’s blue-water modernization are to frequently deploy outside East Asia and challenge U.S. naval dominance on the high seas.

Erickson and Collins cite Chinese naval technological inferiority in areas such as anti-submarine warfare and area-air defense vis-à-vis the U.S. navy as evidence that the PLAN does not intend to challenge U.S. naval hegemony, concluding that such a military imbalance would make any challenge futile. Additionally, Erickson and Collins use the small number of PLAN deployments outside of East Asia as proof that in the future Beijing does not aim to frequently outside its immediate environs.

Erickson and Collins represent a popular trend within the China watcher community; many researchers rely on current PLAN armament modernization areas and recent deployment trends as a basis to predict future PLAN strategic objectives. Yet this methodology ignores the possibility that current PLAN research and development patterns may not predict future PLAN capabilities. China has bypassed generations of military technology hurdles through unorthodox means such as theft and espionage. Moreover, military capabilities are not self-deterministic. Analyzing China’s naval modernization in a purely material perspective and overly relying on current PLAN deployment trends does not provide a useful methodology for predicting future PLAN strategic interests.

Maritime Identity

Analyzing China’s maritime identity provides a superior methodology in anticipating future PLAN strategic interests. Maritime identity is a nation’s inherited maritime traditions, responsibilities, prerogatives, self-concept and strategic interests as a naval power. It frames the strategic discussion that occurs at high levels of government and therefore wields enormous influence over foreign policy. Washington’s willingness to employ naval forces in support of Libyan rebels fighting Gaddafi in 2011 reflected America’s maritime identity, which is famous for supporting democracy, human rights and self-determination worldwide. The American maritime identity is perfectly summed up in the U.S. Navy recruiting slogan: “A Global Force For Good.” In a similar way, analyzing the personality of China’s developing maritime identity is a practical method by which to gauge future Chinese naval strategic interests.

The Real China Threat: Credit Chaos

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
January 8, 2014

The spectacle of a game of financial chicken in the world’s second-largest economy is both entertaining and terrifying. Twice in 2013, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the country’s central bank, tried to demonstrate its resolve to rein in runaway credit growth. In June, it engineered a sudden credit squeeze that sent the interbank lending rates to more than 20 percent and caused a short-lived panic in the Chinese financial markets. Apparently, the financial turmoil was too much for the Chinese government, which quickly ordered the Chinese central bank to reverse course. As a result, the PBOC lost both face and credibility.

However, as credit growth continued unabated and activities in the most risky segment of China’s financial sector – the so-called shadow banking system – displayed alarming recklessness, the PBOC was left with no choice but try one more time to send a strong message that it could not be counted on to provide unlimited liquidity to the banking system.

It did so in December 2013 with a modified approach that provided liquidity only to the selected large banks but pressured smaller banks (which are the most active participants in the shadow banking system). Although interbank lending rates did not spike to nose-bleeding levels, as they did in June, they doubled quickly. Most Chinese banks held on to their cash and refused to lend to each other. Chinese equity markets fell nearly 10 percent, giving back nearly all the gains since mid-November, when the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) reform plan bolstered market sentiments.

Unfortunately for the PBOC, the renewed turbulences in the Chinese banking sector were again viewed as too dangerous by the top leadership of the CCP even though it seemed that the PBOC initially received its support. Consequently, the PBOC had to beat another hasty retreat and inject enough liquidity to force down interbank lending rates. Thus, in the first two rounds of a stand-off between the PBOC and China’s shadow banking system, the latter is widely seen as the winner. The PBOC blinked first each time.

For the moment, the conventional wisdom is that, as long as the PBOC maintains sufficient liquidity (translation: permitting credit growth at roughly the same pace as in previous years), China’s financial sector will remain more or less stable. This observation may be reassuring for the short-term, but overlooks the dangerous underlying dynamics in China’s banking system that prompted the PBOC to act in first place.

North Korea: Expect the Unexpected

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
January 8, 2014

Where is North Korea headed? When we last heard from the Boy General, Kim Jong-un, he was rationalizing the sudden and brutal execution of Pyongyang’s No.2, [3]Jang Sang Thaek [3], followed by threats to “strike mercilessly without notice [4]” in response to anti-Kim protests in Seoul.

Now Kim has offered us a glimpse of things to come. Pyongyang’s New Year’s statement, which often contain hints of coming attractions, reiterated all the vitriol about Jang’s alleged misdeeds, but contained few indications of anything except more of the same: Songun, it’s “military first” policy was praised as the way forward.

What was missing from Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s statement was any mention of the core problems leading Pyongyang down a steady, if gradual, path to oblivion. The words “nuclear weapons” and “US” were noticeably absent. Indeed, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye emphatically called Kim out on it in her first 2014 Press conference on January 6th explaining, “a nuclear North Korea is an obstacle to unification and world peace, and can never be allowed.”

The one intriguing element was a hint of possible interest in advancing North-South relations. Kim urged a move away from confrontation and said that, “Respecting and thoroughly implementing the north-south joint declarations is a basic prerequisite to promoting the inter-Korean relations and hastening the country’s reunification.”

Whether Kim is serious, or just seeking more handouts from Seoul remains to be seen. But previous North-South accords, particularly the 1990 North-South Basic Agreement contains – at least on paper – provisions to address all outstanding issues, from denuclearization to North-South reconciliation. Here again, President Park countered Kim in no uncertain terms [5]: “We must prepare for an era of unification. The primary barrier to this is North Korea’s nuclear program.” President Park put Kim to the test, calling for resuming reunions of divided families, after Pyongyang quashed an agreement to do so last year.

If the New Year’s message is any indicator, progress on the nuclear issue and the possibilities of more than marginal improvement in the North Korean economy range from slim to none.

Can’t Have Both

Unfortunately Pyongyang fails to understand the integral linkage between these two fundamental issues. At a Worker’s Party Congress last March, Kim Jong-un adopted the “byungjin” line: simultaneously pursuing nuclear and economic development. The bulk of Kim’s 10 page New Year’s message was focused on the economy, its purported achievements and what needs to be done to advance it. Yet for more than two decades, US-led global efforts to denuclearize North Korea have been based on the premise that the North must choose: it can join the global economy and prosper or it can have nukes. It can’t have both. Pyongyang has chosen self-imposed isolation reinforced by UN sanctions.

Even after several years of modest growth, the North Korean economy is now at roughly the level it was at the end of the Cold War in 1991. Even the Chinese, who account for nearly 90% of the North’s total foreign trade (a miniscule $6.8 billion) have trouble doing business with the North. Indeed, among the alleged sins of the executed Jang was selling resources too cheaply, all but mentioning China by name. Arbitrarily shutting down the Kaesong Industrial Zone operated by South Korea, the one example of opening to outside investment, sent exactly the wrong message: don’t invest here, your investment is subject to our political whims. [6]And holding an 85 year-old American tourist [6] (because he fought in the Korean war) is not exactly a PR strategy for promoting tourism, which Kim’s new ski resort and dolphinariums are intended to do.