30 January 2014

Whither Special Forces?

IssueNet Edition| Date : 28 Jan , 2014

Compact deadly sub unit

While discussing a monogram on Special Forces at a prominent Think Tank in New Delhi last month (December 2013), one of the discussants (a former Brigadier) opined that the “entire Parachute Regiment should form part of the proposed Special Forces Command.” It is not the stupidity and absurdity of the proposal alone but the dogged pusillanimous pursuit with which this idea of converting all Parachute Battalions to Special Forces has been followed over the years – stymieing the Special Forces; pulling them down any which way so that the Parachute Battalions can wear the Special Forces badge and more importantly, get the Special Forces allowance in the process. That this Brigadier was a former paratrooper requires no guesses. But it so happened, that he was a last minute substitute to the two-star officer in Military Operations Directorate of the Army. The latter’s name had already been mentioned in the program for the said event circulated to all concerned by the Think Tank. Why the two-star ducked was obviously to avoid uncomfortable questions since he has not served for a single day in a Special Forces unit and was probably advised to stay away by the Director General of Military Operations who happens to be Colonel of the Parachute Regiment and has never served with Special Forces either. So the Brigadier was commandeered all the way from Kolkata to do their bidding.

At such an international seminar hosted by the United Services Institution (USI) of India, New Delhi during 2005, the Deputy Defence Attaché of the US Embassy in India expressed surprise about suggestions by some veteran paratroopers that Special Forces operations should be limited to about five kilometers across the borders.

In the past, the military has been regularly participating in Special Forces seminars in both national and international levels. At such an international seminar hosted by the United Services Institution (USI) of India, New Delhi during 2005, the Deputy Defence Attaché of the US Embassy in India expressed surprise about suggestions by some veteran paratroopers that Special Forces operations should be limited to about five kilometers across the borders. In fact, he drew the attention of the audience that the Defence Minister speaking at the inaugural session stating that India’s areas of strategic interest included the Straits of Malacca, the Cape of Good Hope, the Middle-East and beyond. Later, in 2013, the USI planned a Special Forces seminar for exclusive participation by the military Special Forces, as prelude to a larger seminar at international level. However, this had to be called off because the Army refused to participate. The reason was very much obvious; the two-star officers heading the Additional Directorate General (Special Forces) under Military Operations (MO) Directorate, right from its establishment in 2006, and even the one-star deputy have continued to be those who have not served one single day in Special Forces. Naturally, answering questions in seminars implies exposure. The façade of secrecy just does not hold because nothing classified is ever discussed in Special Forces seminars at national or international levels.

No place to lay the wreath

Published on The Asian Age (http://www.asianage.com)
29 Jan 2014
The need for a National War Memorial for soldiers, sailors and airmen has been under examination for over half a century, but nothing has materialised so far thanks to bureaucratic hassles and political indecisiveness

The need for a National War Memorial for soldiers, sailors and airmen has been under examination for over half a century, but nothing has materialised so far thanks to bureaucratic hassles and political indecisiveness

This Republic Day, I watched the Indian high commissioner ceremonially lay a wreath at the impressive Indian Peace-Keeping Force war memorial in Colombo. Sri Lankan Navy buglers suitably participated in the solemn function.

The names of 1,000 Indian soldiers killed in Sri Lanka are inscribed in golden letters on black granite at the IPKF memorial. I knew some of the officers whose names are inscribed there. They made the supreme sacrifice at the altar of the folly of our political leadership. This war was not in defence of our nation nor for promoting our national interests.

Irrespective of any faulty decision of the political leadership, the soldier acting on it in his line of duty and making the supreme sacrifice is a national hero and his memory must be honoured. The IPKF contingent returning from Sri Lanka faced hostile demonstration and black flags in their home country when they landed in Tamil Nadu.

J.R. Jayawardene, the late President of Sri Lanka, had asked for Indian help in dealing with the LTTE and that set a chain of events in which the Indian Army was fighting the Tamil Tigers. President Ranasinghe Premadasa wanted the IPKF to quit Sri Lanka and the IPKF was withdrawn. In 1993, he invited India to put up an IPKF war memorial in Colombo for which he earmarked a site. Little later he was assassinated by the Tamil Tigers. The IPKF memorial was completed in 2010. The memorial for Sri Lankan soldiers killed in the war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is not far from this site.

For their soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice for their country, the US has Arlington in Washington, the UK has the Cenotaph in London, France has the Arc de Triumph in Paris and in our neighbourhood, Bangladesh has one in Dhaka and Sri Lanka has a memorial in Colombo.

The British not only included the Indian soldiers in their war memorial in London, but also memorials near battlefields in countries like France, Italy and Egypt. When the capital of India was shifted to New Delhi, they built India Gate in the heart of Lutyens’ New Delhi to honour the memory of Indian soldiers killed in the Third Afghan War and the First World War. They quit India soon after. But they built war memorials for the soldiers who laid down their lives near the battlefields at Kohima and Imphal. The former is perhaps the prettiest war memorial in the world. It is on a terraced well-maintained lawn with names of soldiers along with their religious symbols inscribed on small brass tablets in rows in lush green grass. The entrance has an arch with the following touching words inscribed on it: “When you go back home tell them of us, for their tomorrow we gave our today.” Over 80,000 Indian soldiers have died in various wars we have fought since Independence. There is no National War Memorial for them in New Delhi. The need for a National War Memorial for soldiers, sailors and airmen has been under examination for over half a century, but nothing has materialised so far thanks to bureaucratic hassles and political indecisiveness. As deputy adjutant-general in early Seventies and, five years later, as adjutant-general in late Seventies, I was closely associated with the National War Memorial project at a prime place in the heart of the capital, where both our and foreign dignitaries could place wreaths.

My mother and the Mahatma

January 30, 2014 
Shankar Kistayya, standing extreme left, was an accused in the assassination of Gandhi (Wikimedia commons)


92-year-old Kamalamma is one of the few living witnesses to Gandhi’s murder trial.

Shankar Kistayya, standing extreme left, was an accused in the assassination of Gandhi (Wikimedia commons)

The young lady was just leaving the magistrate’s office to go home when a breathless attendant caught up with her to inform her that the sahib wanted her to return to his office. She was surprised, and a bit concerned — she had come here to meet Oscar Brown, chief presidency magistrate, Bombay, to get a domicile certificate that would enable her to apply for a job at a higher grade in government. The meeting had gone unexpectedly well. The Scotsman was delighted to hear she was born in Bellary, a town where he had spent several years, and was curious about how the place had changed over time. He had assured her that she would get the certificate. So, was there some unforeseen hitch?

Back in the magistrate’s office, she found that he had a proposal for her. Just after she left his office, he had been asked to find a native Telugu speaker, since Shankar Kistayya, one of the accused in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, required a court interpreter during the course of the trial. Brown had immediately thought of her as a possibility (educated, fluent in Telugu and English, a government employee), and so asked her if she could go forthwith to Delhi. Kamalamma said she needed to inform her cousin and pack her clothes. The magistrate said he would send a constable ahead to her house, inform her cousins and bring them and her bags to the railway station while she did the necessary paperwork for being seconded to the trial.

The 26-year-old Kamalamma was nothing if not adventurous. Married off after she lost her father at age 13, she stayed on at home tending to her cancer-stricken mother, who encouraged her to complete school. After her mother’s death, she refused to consent to the marriage, and with the help of friends, went to Mysore’s Maharani’s College and studied psychology. In 1942, she had participated in the Quit India Movement, and had been arrested for picketing. Feisty, attractive and with a quick wit, she made an impression on her teachers and college contemporaries.

The trial was being held in one of the army buildings within the premises of the Red Fort. The proceedings were being presided over by Special Judge Atma Charan of the ICS. Kamalamma and many other staff members involved in the trial were accommodated in the same premises. The investigative officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police J.D. Nagarwala, had made proper arrangements for their accommodation and took good care of his assisting staff. The accused were also being held in one of those buildings, which had been designated a prison. This gave Kamalamma an opportunity to meet and talk with the accused outside the courtroom as well.

The prosecution was led by C.K. Daphtary, advocate-general of Bombay, assisted by lawyers Petigara and others, including a young J.C. Shah, whom Kamalamma was later to encounter when she worked for the solicitors firm Kanga & Co. A battery of lawyers from all parts of the country had been pressed into service in the defence of Savarkar, of whom she particularly recalls Bhopatkar, Mehta and a plump lawyer called Banerji. (When I asked her why the prosecution, the investigative team and others like her had been sent for from Bombay, she felt that this was because Sardar Patel did not have enough confidence in the police in Delhi — after all, they had not followed up on the earlier abortive attempt by the conspirators and had failed to prevent the assassination of his beloved leader — and also that the conspiracy had been hatched in the Bombay Presidency.)

In strategic interest, and for self-respect

January 30, 2014


India must resist the unilateral US control of internet governance.

President Barack Obama’s remarks on the review of signals intelligence at the US department of justice on January 17 deserve close attention.

President Barack Obama’s remarks on the review of signals intelligence at the US department of justice on January 17 deserve close attention.

Two conclusions suggest themselves. First, it is only “our close friends and allies” or “with whom we work closely”, the communications of whose heads of state and government would not be monitored. Clearly, unless we are explicitly told so, India cannot presume inclusion in this category. Second, the declaration by the president applies only to heads of state and government. It does not cover other leaders, such as the ministers of defence, home affairs, external affairs, finance, communications, the national security advisor, chiefs of armed forces, security and intelligence agencies and other functionaries handling sensitive portfolios — those who could be expected to be covered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and its various subsequent revisions. Again, unless specifically advised to the contrary, there would be no basis to believe that the aforementioned are not covered.

India’s deafening silence on the Edward Snowden disclosures has been noted and commented upon by observers the world over. Almost a year after the disclosures, a few reports appeared in the Indian media, based on official briefings and apologetic in tone, about how India had indeed made low-level noises both in New Delhi and Washington, DC, expressing concern.

Strong encouragement from internet majors, both global and Indian, and industry associations, probably explains our silence. The matter has also received scant attention in Parliament or from other stakeholders; clearly, the damage that such silence can cause to the long-term strategic interests of the nation has not been fully comprehended.

India-South Korea Relations: A New Beginning

January 29, 2014

India and South Korea enjoy warm and friendly relations. However despite its strong economic foundation, the relationship has so far failed to realize its full potential. South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s recent visit to India was hoped to rectify that situation and add depth to the bilateral relations. In fact, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, after his meeting with President Park on January 16, 2014, averred that her visit would enable to impart further substance, greater content and new momentum to the ‘Strategic Partnership’.

President Park four-day state visit was accompanied by a high level delegation which included the foreign, trade, ICT and science ministers. During the visit, both Park and Manmohan Singh presented the following three elements as a common vision: stronger high level political cooperation, open economic and trade environment and deeper cultural understanding. In order to implement the common vision, they agreed to set the following policy directions: strengthening bilateral strategic communication channels in the political and security field; consolidating the institutional framework for economic cooperation and creating more favourable conditions for further expansion of trade and investment; deepening mutual understanding by expanding cultural exchanges and people-to-people interactions and last but not the least, closely cooperating with each other as partners on the regional and international stages to address common challenges of mankind so as to usher in a new era of prosperity for the international community. Both the countries signed nine pacts, including the Agreement on the Protection of Classified Military Information, the MoU on Joint applied research, the conclusion of negotiations for revision of the existing Double Taxation Avoidance Convention, etc. Both sides are hoping that this would not only intensify the bilateral relationship but also open up new opportunities for engagement.

One of the major focus of Park’s visit was to discuss about the final clearance for the multi billion dollar POSCO Steel Plant and the Port project in Odisha, which is one of the major South Korean ventures in India. In 2005, the project was initially proposed to be set up in the coastal town of Jagatsinghpur (Odisha). Not much progress could be achieved due to several factors like environmental clearance, delay in land procurement and popular protest. However just few weeks ahead of Park’s visit, the Ministry of Environment and Forests gave the go ahead for the POSCO plant. The Odisha government too has managed to provide about 2700 acres of land and instead of setting up a 12 million tones per annum steel plant (as proposed originally), it has been decided that the project would go ahead with 8 million tones. India has assured South Korea that grant of mining concession for the project is at an advanced stage and so the project could finally move ahead.

New scourge in Assam

January 30, 2014

Northeastern India has seen a pattern for long: when one terror outfit is neutralised, another pops up in hydra-head fashion. The most recent such organisation is the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland. On the ascendant in terms of strike potential, it has gone on a killing spree in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts in Lower Assam over the past few weeks. In one recent series of attacks, eight persons were killed, including Muslims and Hindi-speaking Bengalis. While the NDFB (S) has come out with statements accusing the security forces of targeting Bodo civilians, its plan is clearly to drive a wedge between Bodos and non-Bodos. The turmoil that engulfed Lower Assam in July 2012 that claimed 96 lives and left lakhs of Muslims and Bodos traumatised and displaced, is fresh in memory. While the Ranjan Daimary faction of the NDFB signed a ceasefire agreement with the Central and the State governments in November 2013, the faction led by I.K. Songbijit refused to join the process. Songbijit, who was the Daimary’s faction’s ‘commander-in-chief’, broke away in late-2012. Remaining in Myanmar, he is now believed to be in league with Paresh Baruah of the ULFA (I), and S.S. Khaplang, chief of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (K). The prospect of the three teaming up with the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation, poses a new challenge.

As the movement demanding a homeland for the Bodo people runs its course through its second decade, it remains one of the most serious potential sources of violent political confrontation in the region. Even admitting that the Bodo cause stems from the perception of their not being a part of the composite indigenous population of Assam, extortions, kidnapping and other atrocities have over time undermined any legitimacy the movement could claim. The State government has made clear its resolve to clamp down on violence, and the Assam Police have declared 15 leaders of the NDFB (S), including Songbijit himself, as “most wanted”, even putting a price of Rs. 95 lakh on them. Considering that the outfit is estimated to have less than 250 cadres, firm enough action does not appear to be a tall order. Inter-State intelligence cooperation will be key. At a point when sustained and aggressive action by the government, with some help from across the border in Bangladesh, has substantially broken the back of militancy at large in northeastern India, the latest threat should be met with a firm hand. Meanwhile, the process of peace involving the two other dominant Bodo groups, led respectively by Dhiren Boro and Ranjan Daimary, should be handled with fairness and magnanimity.

© The Hindu


30 January 2014
SN Kaul

The policy of ‘credible minimum deterrence', which was framed by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government, has been altered surreptitiously, with dangerous implications, under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s watch

When the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government conducted nuclear tests in May 1998, it made two unambiguous statements on nuclear weapons: China was the reason for India’s tests, and, India would maintain a ‘credible minimum deterrence’. The Government’s interlocutor with the United States, Mr Jaswant Singh, clarified that ‘minimum’ could not be defined in terms of capability and numbers, and would remain a flexible concept — the implicit sense being that if China enhanced its nuclear arsenal, India would be compelled to review its ‘minimum’.

Unfortunately, this nuclear weapons policy has been altered surreptitiously, with dangerous implications, under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In a series of articles, the Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board, Mr Shyam Saran, has placed India’s nuclear weapons programme in a global context. India, he has argued, needs a peaceful global environment shorn of all nuclear weapons for its economic rise and inclusive well-being. Thus, the ‘minimum’ has purportedly been pitted against ‘maximum’ nuclear weapons capability nation, which is the US. While it will be preposterous to suggest that India needs deterrence against the US, the question that begs an answer is: Why did Mr Saran make India’s ‘minimum’ open-ended, knowing well that it could lead to an unnecessary, wasteful, devastating and extremely expensive arms race?

The answer probably is simple. Given the opacity surrounding every aspect of India’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems, this gives leeway to both the Department of Atomic Energy and the Defence Research And Development Organisation to continue spending finances on what they wish to do and not what is necessary for ‘minimum’ deterrence. For instance, Mr Saran has sought to justify the need for the DRDO’s pursuit of ballistic missile defence and multiple independently re-entry vehicles for ballistic missiles as being compatible with India’s no-first use nuclear policy. Taking advantage of the Government’s hands-off approach, DRDO chief Avinash Chander has announced that he is ready with the design of an over 5,000km range Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile, Agni-6 missile.

Therefore, as long as India’s political leaders do not care to understand military power in totality, they will be taken for a ride by vested interests. And, the adversary, instead of getting deterred, will get provoked. Specific to nuclear weapons, the questions that the next Government needs to delve into are: What was the need to shift the nuclear weapons goal-post from ‘minimum’ for China to the global ‘minimum’? Should the DRDO focus on BMD, ICBMs and MIRVs? Or should it concentrate on long-range cruise missiles, the future game-changers? Does India need to review its stance on tactical nuclear weapons considering that both China and Pakistan possess them? Does India require revisiting its no-first use nuclear policy? For these reasons, India urgently needs a strategic defence review, which, to recall, the Vajpayee Government had promised to undertake and make public before conducting the May 1998 nuclear tests.

Afghanistan's Oversized Army Can't Read or Fight

By James Gibney - Jan 28, 2014

Clint Eastwood is no Clausewitz -- or even much of a convention speaker -- but he was onto something when he intoned, in "Magnum Force," that "a man's got to know his limitations."

That lesson seems to have been lost on planners for Afghanistan's post-occupation security forces, envisioned at a strength of 352,000 in the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. The latest evidence of the gap between vision and reality comes from a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction on the force's level of literacy: According to one Bloomberg News story, more than half the force's members will probably still be illiterate after a $200 million literacy program.

In a country where only one-third of the population, and just slightly more than one-tenth of military recruits, can read or write, building a literate army was going to be a tall order. Back in 2009, when force levels were initially pegged at 148,000, NATO trainers set a not exactly lofty goal of graduating 50 percent of recruits with a 3rd-grade literacy level. Then, planned force levels more than doubled, and funding for literacy training stayed the same. Notwithstanding the program's catalogued defects, you can see where this unhappy math is going.

And of course it points again to larger questions about the wisdom and efficacy of the effort to build a huge army. Never mind Vice President Joseph Biden's fevered ramblings that the insurgency has largely been contained, and that the existing Afghan force is effective -- assertions undercut by inspector general's last quarterly report. Afghanistan's history offers little support for the idea that the country can be controlled militarily: As the historian Thomas Barfield has noted, "the Afghan state's physical control of a specific territory has never been a valid reference point in assessing its ability to govern. Instead, the stability of the government was judged by the ability of its leaders to balance their interests against local needs and priorities."

More pressingly, especially for the U.S., Afghanistan cannot pay the billions of dollars needed each year to support such a large force -- its total government revenue in 2011 was less than $2 billion. And the U.S. taxpayer, who has already ponied up $54 billion to build the ANSF, is not in the mood to keep paying more: in a Dec. 2013 Pew Research report, only 31 percent of respondents believe the war in Afghanistan has made the U.S. safer. 

An ideological battle in Bangladesh

India has rightly called for political reconciliation
G Parthasarathy

Sheikh Hasina is secular and protective of the minority Hindus and Buddhists

WHEN the subcontinent was partitioned on August 15, 1947, what emerged was the issue of whether religion alone could be the primary basis of nationhood. Gandhiji envisaged the creation of a pluralistic nation state, cherishing its ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural diversity, Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah equated unity with uniformity, holding that religion (Islam) constitutes the primary basis of what he called his "moth-eaten" Pakistan. Within six months of Pakistan coming into being, Jinnah showed scant regard for the sentiments of the Bengali-speaking majority in the country, declaring: "Urdu alone will be the sole official language of the State". Proud of their Bengali literary and cultural ethos, the people of East Pakistan rose in revolt against Jinnah.

The fault lines in Jinnah's Pakistan ultimately led to a civil war in 1971 and the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation. In the course of the bloody civil war in 1971, the Pakistan army and its fundamentalist Islamist allies like the Jamat-e-Islami and the Razakars resorted to an orgy of pillage, violence and rape. An estimated three million people perished in the civil war. The Pakistan army used mass resort to rape as an instrument of State policy. Most of those responsible for the atrocities of 1971 got away unscathed. They are finally being brought to justice with the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee indicting 1,597 people for war crimes in 1971. A number of leaders of the Jamat-e-Islami have been indicted, with one senior leader sentenced to death and hanged.

There has been a battle for the "Soul of Bangladesh" since its birth between the secularists led by the Awami League founded by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and the Right Wing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), founded by military ruler, General Zia-ur-Rehman. Zia-ur-Rehman abrogated the secular provisions of his country's Constitution. The BNP is now led by Zia-ur-Rehman's widow, Khaleda Zia, who has made no secret of her kinship with Islamist causes and parties. The Jamat Islami, which does not enjoy large public support, draws its muscle and firepower from financing and supporting extremist Salafi organisations worldwide. The Awami League led by Sheikh Mujib's daughter, Sheikh Hasina, is secular and protective of the minority Hindus and Buddhists. It has ensured that the Jamat-e-Islami is banned from participation in electoral politics because of its advocacy of the Sharia law, which violates the country's Constitution.

Given their intense personal and ideological differences, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda are barely on talking terms. The run-up to recent elections was marked by unprecedented violence, following a call for boycott by Khaleda Zia. Sheikh Hasina went ahead with the elections and her party has been returned with a two-thirds majority. The fight between the secularists and the Islamists has now entered a new phase, with the BNP and its Islamist allies like the Jamat-e-Islami resorting to violence. Complicating the internal political situation is the role of external powers. While India has remained correct and urged political reconciliation, the refusal by Begum Zia to even talk to her opponent has hardened positions in New Delhi. India has endorsed the legitimacy of the recent elections and called for talks to end the political impasse.

International Reactions to the Parliamentary Elections in Bangladesh


January 28, 2014

The largely boycotted January 5 Bangladesh election has generated wide attention in the international community. The international reactions to the parliamentary elections assume significance since Bangladesh heavily depends on a number of developed countries and global organisations for development assistance, loans and trade concessions. But the tenth Jatiya Sangsad election has not succeeded to evoke positive response from them largely due to its non-participatory and violent nature.

A total of 390 candidates, predominantly from the ruling Awami League (AL) and its allies contested for 147 seats. The remaining 153 seats were uncontested as 27 political parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – led 18 party alliance boycotted the polls. As expected, the AL gained three fourth majority winning more than 230 out of total 300 parliamentary seats. The Election Commission (EC) claimed a 40% voter turnout whereas the local media reports indicate it varied between 20% and 30%.

The European Union (EU), Commonwealth, the US, the UK and many other nations had refused to send election observers. However, a South Asia- based electoral management group, Forum for Election Management Bodies – South Asia, has observed that the elections had been conducted “smoothly” and “quite peacefully”. One of its members said they noticed “good’ turnout in some polling booths while in some others it was “not so high”. The voting was low in the northern and western strongholds of the BNP and Jamaat-e Islami where polling booths had been torched and poll officials and ruling party activists attacked. But in other regions of the country such as greater Chittagong, Dhaka and Barisal, high turnout was recorded.

The fear of violence at polling stations had kept away many voters despite the EC sending a text message to the voters – “Please go to cast your vote without any fear and hassle”. On the polling day, more than twenty persons, including security personnel, poll officials and ruling party activists were killed and 200 polling stations set on fire. It was also reported that some BNP and Jamaat supporters and anti-social elements associated with them “physically prevented voters from reaching” several polling booths.

All these aspects have been severely criticised by the foreign nations particularly in the west and major international forums. The US, which is the largest trading partner and a key ally of Bangladesh on counter-terrorism and global security, has clearly spoken about its disappointment over the low turnout and violence- marred elections. In a statement, the US State Department said the just-concluded elections did “not appear to be credibly express the will of the people”. It also called for fresh elections “as soon as possible’. However, the US pledged to continue its alliance with the Sheikh Hasina government.

Nuclear entente

Published on The Asian Age (http://www.asianage.com)
By editor
 28 Jan 2014

China’s transfers of sensitive technology to Pakistan in violation of the nuclear nonproliferation regime is receiving flak from the US. But Islamabad cites US’ civilian nuclear agreement with New Delhi to claim parity.

The recent revelation that China is negotiating to build three new nuclear plants worth $13 billion in Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan’s Punjab province reinforces the longstanding reality of the former purposefully undermining India’s national security.

Even though China’s mega nuclear deals with Pakistan are dressed up as responses to acute electricity shortage crippling the latter, the dualistic civil-cum-military nature of nuclear technology and the history of Sino-Pakistani collusion in nuclear weapons and missiles leave little to the imagination about their true strategic intent.

Claims that Chinese-aided nuclear power will address Pakistan’s electricity blackouts are exaggerated and only believable in a long-term perspective. It is more timely and cost-effective if Pakistan imports power from India, a prospect under discussion between the two neighbours — it could lead to India supplying 2,500 megawatts to relieve Pakistan’s struggling economy.

The real reason behind Sino-Pakistani nuclear energy cooperation is containment of India. India has always been in the crosshairs of the “all-weather alliance” between China and Pakistan since the 1950s. The alliance encompasses conventional and non-conventional military quid pro quos, material and diplomatic assistance to each other during Chinese and Pakistani wars against India, critical infrastructure construction such as the Chinese-built deep-sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan province, tacit understandings for Pakistan to moderate Islamic extremism in China’s restive Xinjiang region, and general foreign policy coordination at multilateral forums with a view to countering India’s positions and opportunities.

To cite Hussain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, “for China, Pakistan is a low-cost secondary deterrent to India”, while “for Pakistan, China is a high-value guarantor of security against India.” Notwithstanding the tectonic shifts in global geopolitics that accompanied the end of the Cold War, the utility of China to Pakistan and vice versa remains entrenched to this day because of their shared animus towards India.

China has nuanced its hardline pro-Pakistan stance on the Kashmir dispute, but the fundamentals of the Beijing-Islamabad axis are rock solid and manifesting in new avatars like nuclear energy cooperation. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif mentioned the proposed three new Chinese-aided nuclear plants within closed doors to his Cabinet earlier this month. The announcement came on the heels of a prior agreement for China to provide two separate nuclear power reactors worth $9 billion in the southern metropolis of Karachi.

Nuclear Umbrella

C. Raja Mohan
29 January 2014

Chinese Takeaway / use this ribbon 

There was some flutter recently at reports that China was opening a "nuclear umbrella" for Ukraine. "Nuclear umbrella" is about a nuclear weapon power protecting a non-nuclear weapon state, usually a very close ally, against atomic threats from others. In nuclear jargon it is called "extended deterrence". China has in the past tended to avoid alliances and insisted that its nuclear arsenal was meant for national defence and not for securing the interests of any other nation. It had always denounced the US nuclear umbrella extended to its neighbours, Japan and South Korea. Given this background, there was much speculation if China was changing its policy on extended deterrence. 

The speculation was triggered by a joint statement issued by Chinese President Xi Jinping after a meeting with the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, last month. The joint statement said: "China pledges unconditionally not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the nuclear-free Ukraine and China further pledges to provide Ukraine nuclear security guarantee when Ukraine encounters an invasion involving nuclear weapons or Ukraine is under threat of a nuclear invasion." 

The confusion appears to have been caused by a misreading of the statement in a section of the Chinese media and mistranslation and over-interpretation by a few Western analysts. A closer reading of the statement, however, suggested China was merely offering boiler plate assurances to Ukraine, which had given up its claim to nuclear weapons after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. 

Since the mid-1990s, all nuclear weapon powers had been issuing similar assurances, both negative and positive, to non-nuclear weapon states. Under the "negative assurances", the five permanent members of the UN Security Council promise non-nuclear weapon states that they will not attack or threaten to attack them with atomic weapons. Under the "positive assurances", the P-5 offer to come to the aid, the nature of which is deliberately left ambiguous, of non-nuclear states threatened by atomic weapons. Few in the world take these statements seriously. 

Pak Connection 

From New Delhi's perspective, the Western speculation on China offering nuclear protection to Ukraine is largely academic. India's problem is rather different. It has long struggled to come to terms with China's sustained nuclear and missile cooperation with Pakistan. 

Beijing has gone way beyond offering a nuclear umbrella to Islamabad, by actively assisting the Pakistan army to build nuclear weapons in the 1980s and manufacture missiles in the 1990s. The depth of the connection has led some to argue that the Pakistani atomic armoury is but an extension of the Chinese arsenal. 

China's determination to maintain Pakistan's nuclear parity with India has also been underlined by Beijing's opposition to the US decision to facilitate an end to India's nuclear isolation. When it could not block the US-India civil nuclear initiative, Beijing chose to offer additional nuclear power reactors to Pakistan in violation of its non-proliferation commitments. 

India is now warily assessing reports that Pakistan is seeking the lease of a nuclear powered submarine from China to match India's acquisition of a nuclear attack submarine from Russia. As India develops its under-water deterrent capability with the "Arihant" nuclear missile submarine, Pakistan is reportedly trying to build similar capability and asking for Chinese help. China and Pakistan have already signed a deal to build six conventional submarines in the shipyards of the two countries, but there is no official word on the nuclear dimension. 

Pacific Pivot? More Like Retreat

January 29, 2014

In a future update of The Devil's Dictionary, the famed Ambrose Bierce dissection of the linguistic hypocrisies of modern life, a single word will accompany the entry for "Pacific pivot": retreat.

It might seem a strange way to characterize the Obama administration's energetic attempt to reorient its foreign and military policy toward Asia. After all, the president's team has insisted that the Pacific pivot will be a forceful reassertion of American power in a strategic part of the world and a deliberate reassurance to our allies that we have their backs vis-à-vis China.

Indeed, sometimes the pivot seems like little less than a panacea for all that ails U.S. foreign policy. Upset about the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan? Then just light out for more pacific waters. Worried that our adversaries are all melting away and the Pentagon has lost its raison d'être? Then how about going toe to toe with China, the only conceivable future superpower on the horizon these days. And if you're concerned about the state of the U.S. economy, then the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the regional free-trade deal Washington is trying to negotiate, might be just the shot in the arm that U.S. corporations crave.

In reality, however, the "strategic rebalancing" the Obama administration has been promoting as a mid-course correction to its foreign policy remains strong on rhetoric and remarkably weak on content. Think of it as a clever fiction for whose promotion many audiences are willing to suspend their disbelief. After all, in the upcoming era of Pentagon belt-tightening and domestic public backlash, Washington is likely to find it difficult to move any significant extra resources into Asia. Even the TPP is an acknowledgment of how much economic ground in the region has been lost to China.

There's also the longer arc of history to consider. The U.S. retreat from Asia has been underway since the 1970s, although this "strategic movement to the rear" -- as the famous military euphemism goes -- has been neither rapid nor accompanied by "mission accomplished" photo ops.

How Will Japan’s New NSC Work?

The National Security Council brings welcome changes, but will it be able to overcome Japanese bureaucracy?
January 29, 2014

The administration of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe implemented its long sought-after National Security Council (NSC) last December. The creation of the NSC was surrounded by the release of other security-related documents such as revised National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) and a first-ever National Security Strategy (NSS). While the publication of these documents and the creation of the NSC had been planned for several months, their release still set off some alarm bells across the international press and resulted in some predictable cautioning from Beijing, which raised concerns that Japan was returning to its militarist past. Abe’s bold move in visiting Yasukuni shrine, on the anniversary of his first year in office, provided yet another golden opportunity for his detractors to question Japan’s strategic intentions.

The intentions behind the new security apparatus in Tokyo is another debate unto itself. But lost in the furor of this discussion is the actual operations and purpose of Japan’s new centralized approach to national security. Specifically, there seems to be confusion over the newly minted NSC and its role in Japan’s foreign policy – especially with regard to the simmering dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands. As noted in a previous article on the necessity of an NSC in Japan, the concept is not new or merely an outgrowth of souring ties with Beijing. Indeed, during Abe’s first administration in 2007, he proposed legislation that would enact an NSC but the bill was discarded due to unfinished deliberations.

Tokyo has also used other forms of security and defense councils for several decades, but they have been dogged with inefficiencies caused by information silos and bureaucratic red tape. Abe’s failure to procure accurate and timely intelligence during the hostage taking of several Japanese citizens last year in Algeria seemed to mark another tipping point justifying the need for swifter and more centralized national security decisions.

A worrying map of the countries most likely to have a coup in 2014

January 28

Click to enlarge. Data source: Jay Ulfelder coup forecasts for 2014. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

Coups are bad news for any country. They weaken the rule of law, throw governments into chaos, undermine or outright jettison democratic norms and institutions, and can lead to violence, oppression or worse. They can also be tough to see coming, particularly since the people looking for them tend to focus on a single country, which can lead them to overemphasize local events and understate the broader dynamics that make coups happen, or not.

That's a big part of why political scientist Jay Ulfelder has, for the past three years, maintained a mathematical model to predict the likelihood of coups in almost every country around the world. By tracking over a dozen variables – from political system to years of independence the presence of absence of an "elite" ethnic group – Ulfelder's model roughly estimates the likelihood that each country will experience a coup this year. He "trained" the model by applying it over the years 1960 to 2010, further developing its ability to predict future coups by looking at past ones.

Ulfelder kindly shared his full dataset with me, which I've mapped out above. The redder countries are at higher risk for a coup and the yellower countries at lower risk. You can read his post here for much, much more about how he designed this model and what makes it work.

Here are a few notes to help you read this map. First, even the most extreme cases are well below a 50 percent likelihood of a coup, meaning that a coup probably won't occur. Those would be the West African countries of Guinea and Mali (26.5 percent and 22.7 percent likelihoods of coups) and Madagascar, at 23.9 percent likelihood. Those numbers are high enough, though, to be appropriately alarming. Second, the numbers drop off quickly, with the vast majority of countries less than 5 percent likelihood of a coup, and half of them less than 1.5 percent. So the difference between a dark red country and a light orange or yellow country is very significant.

There are a few immediately obvious trends in the data. First, it doesn't look good for sub-Saharan Africa, which has the top nine most at-risk countries. Not all of Africa, to be clear, much of which is quite stable, but the risk is heavily concentrated in Africa's Sahel region (that east-west strip just below the Saharan desert) and in West and Central Africa. There are complex political, ethnic and post-colonial reasons for this,which I wrote about here. Looking forward, political instability and competition risks holding back a part of the world that is otherwise poised for long-overdue economic growth.

EU unemployment is likely to continue

Pooja Suri
29 January 2014

Unemployment usually moves in a cyclical way depending on the business growth cycle. However, the European Union (EU) has caught a longer lasting and more ominous form of unemployment -- structural unemployment which has been caused and exacerbated by extraneous factors like low growth and austerity measures. Compared with figures from November 2012, unemployment in the EU rose by 452000 in November 2013 in the euro area. Since then, the EU unemployment rate has remained steady at 12.1%, but the euro zone remains a place of economic tension as it continues to face a crisis with states coming to the rescue of banks, competitiveness of economies being threatened by the old age population coupled with strict austerity measures. While there is a strict recovery plan in place, the next few years continue to remain sensitive and the scope of the EU making a full recovery is still a wait and watch situation. 

The euro zone was brutally struck with the aftermath of the global crisis of 2008 which originated in the US. Since then, the EU has faced continuous debt pressure and economic instability and has been on the path of a slow recovery. The EU's macroeconomic policy is not entirely conducive to a sustained economic recovery. With a growth rate of 1.3% and persistent austerity measures, credit crunch and a restrictive monetary stance, the EU now struggles with a stubborn rate of unemployment of 12.1%. This continuous rise in unemployment and in particular, youth unemployment, in most of the European countries over the last three years has been a source of continuous worry and is considered to be one of the greatest consequences of the crisis. Currently, the EU unemployment level stands at 12.1% and youth unemployment reaching a record high of 24.4%. The focus in the EU has now shifted to mitigating this pressing issue of unemployment that is stagnating the economy. The spread of unemployment is uneven with 4.8% and 5.2% of the workforce in Austria and Germany respectively; whereas in Spain and Greece the percentages are 26.4 and 27.4, respectively. 

The euro area has had a very modest recovery so far of about 0.7% and this trend is expected to continue throughout 2014. Thus, the EU has registered its second recessionary phase in the last four years. Given the lack of growth in the economy, the level of unemployment is expected to remain stagnant if not rising. The European view on these trends remains optimistic as they believe that the combination of fiscal austerity coupled with structural reforms is working well. It is a popular belief in the EU that these policies need more time and flexible application at the country level in order to produce results. While the EU has seen positive results of this approach with countries like France and Spain, the external adjustments of current account deficits are not sustainable and the fiscal deficit is expected to persist. Improving these deficits results in a fall in domestic demand which has happened in all the highly - indebted countries like Greece and Ireland and somewhat in Italy, Spain and Portugal. This fall in demand is also one of the main reasons behind the unemployment faced by the EU and the deflation that has been looming. 

2014: A Risky Year in Geopolitics?

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
January 29, 2014

What are the biggest political risks for 2014?

There are plenty of potential crises to keep us up at night in 2014. [3]There are tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea [3] and elite-level executions in North Korea. Violence continues to worsen in the Middle East with a resurgence of a more localized Al Qaeda, [4]a deteriorating security environment in Iraq [4], and 2014’s biggest geopolitical pivot point: [5]the make-or-break Iran nuclear agreement [5]. If the P5+1 and Iran strike a deal, it would be a huge boon for the Obama administration, but it would leave Iran economically emboldened and looking to backstop Shia initiatives across the region, putting it even more at odds with Saudi Arabia. A deal is, on balance, more likely than not. But if it falls through, it means a spike in oil prices, in addition to the likelihood that Israel strikes Iran before it can sprint to nuclear-breakout capacity. All of these geopolitical concerns are front and center for the coming year.

But above all, two essential questions best categorize the major political risks of 2014. For many of the world’s predominant emerging markets, it’s an internally focused question: How will key developing countries adapt to upcoming elections or implement ambitious agendas—and what does it mean for their behavior beyond their borders? For the United States, the question is externally focused. The international community perceives America’s foreign-policy behavior as increasingly unpredictable. Is the United States disengaging internationally? How will policymakers define the role that the US should play in the world? Much depends on these concerns, as America’s relationships with its allies become increasingly fraught.

When you add these two questions to the more conventional geopolitical security uncertainties, there is one clear answer: the erosion of global leadership and coordination will become more apparent and pronounced in 2014.

How will emerging markets respond to internal challenges?

This year, we will see domestic distractions in emerging markets, from election cycles to unprecedented reform agendas; do not expect them to play a significant role internationally that does not cohere with their more pressing priorities at home. We are in the midst of a new era of political challenges for emerging markets, as slowing growth, sputtering economic models, and rising demands from newly enfranchised middle classes create heightened uncertainty. As recent protests in Brazil, Turkey, Thailand, Colombia, Ukraine and Russia have shown, new middle classes have new demands—and are willing to take to the streets if they go unmet.

Political Alienation in Russia and the West

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
January 29, 2014

President Vladimir Putin is seeking to position Russia as an ascendant world power that defends traditional moral, family and religious values. In so doing he casts an air of superiority over the United States and Europe, supposedly mired in moral and economic decline. In fact, Russia confronts severe challenges to governance and central authority, with significant segments of its population alienated. America and Europe face some of the same challenges, albeit less dramatic.

In America, conservative insurgents feed on declining public trust in central government (Washington) and seek to roll back its power. Only one in ten Americans has a positive view of Congress, which is often politically polarized or gridlocked in dealing with major issues, such as immigration reform and fiscal policy. In a Gallup poll released last week, 65 percent of Americans voiced dissatisfaction with the nation’s system and efficacy of government, up five percentage points from last year. The United States has fought two unpopular wars in the last decade, and the public is mistrustful of rationale for new military engagements abroad, such as in Syria.

In Europe, there is popular frustration with the accretion of European Union power in Brussels. Opinion polls indicate that anti-EU forces are gaining ground. The United Kingdom's planned referendum on EU membership is another manifestation, although driven by an internal party dispute with right-wing Conservatives. In some regions, such as Scotland and Catalonia, politicians seek referendums on national independence. Another sign of alienation is the growth of far-right parties throughout Europe. In November, a continental anti-EU alliance was formed, and its rallying cry is to “slay the monster in Brussels." These parties are strongly nationalist, oppose immigration and, in some cases, are homophobic or anti-Semitic. They are likely to win major representation in next May’s European parliamentary elections.

Europe's Role for Security in a Multipolar World: Views from India and China

This report of a conference, hosted by the NFG Research Group "Asian Perceptions of the European Union" at ORF and JNU on September 26-27, 2013, provides a summary of the key themes which emerged from the conference.

Ukraine: The Perpetual Buffer State

January 28, 2014

A few months ago, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was expected to sign some agreements that could eventually integrate Ukraine with the European Union economically. Ultimately, Yanukovich refused to sign the agreements, a decision thousands of his countrymen immediately protested. The demonstrations later evolved, as they often do. Protesters started calling for political change, and when Yanukovich resisted their calls, they demanded new elections.

Some protesters wanted Ukraine to have a European orientation rather than a Russian one. Others felt that the government was corrupt and should thus be replaced. These kinds of demonstrations occur in many countries. Sometimes they're successful; sometimes they're not. In most cases, the outcome matters only to the country's citizens or to the citizens of neighboring states. But Ukraine is exceptional because it is enormously important. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has had to pursue a delicate balance between the tenuous promises of a liberal, wealthy and somewhat aloof Europe and the fact that its very existence and independence can be a source of strategic vulnerability for Russia.

Ukraine's Importance

Ukraine provides two things: strategic position and agricultural and mineral products. The latter are frequently important, but the former is universally important. Ukraine is central to Russia's defensibility. The two countries share a long border, and Moscow is located only some 480 kilometers (about 300 miles) from Ukrainian territory -- a stretch of land that is flat, easily traversed and thus difficult to defend. If some power were to block the Ukraine-Kazakh gap, Russia would be cut off from the Caucasus, its defensible southern border.

Moreover, Ukraine is home to two critical ports, Odessa and Sevastopol, which are even more important to Russia than the port of Novorossiysk. Losing commercial and military access to those ports would completely undermine Russia's influence in the Black Sea and cut off its access to the Mediterranean. Russia's only remaining ports would be blocked by the Greenland-Iceland-U.K. gap to the west, by ice to the northeast, by Denmark on the Baltic Sea, and by Japan in the east.

This explains why in 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power and sued for peace, the Germans demanded that Russia relinquish its control of most of Ukraine. The Germans wanted the food Ukraine produced and knew that if they had a presence there they could threaten Russia in perpetuity. In the end, it didn't matter: Germany lost Word War I, and Russia reclaimed Ukraine. During World War II, the Germans seized Ukraine in the first year of their attack on the Soviet Union, exploited its agriculture and used it as the base to attack Stalingrad, trying to sever Russia from its supply lines in Baku. Between the wars, Stalin had to build up his industrial plant. He sold Ukrainian food overseas and used it to feed factory workers in Russia. The Ukrainians were left to starve, but the industry they built eventually helped the Soviets defeat Hitler. After the Soviets drove the Germans back, they seized Romania and Hungary and drove to Vienna, using Ukraine as their base.