19 April 2014

India’s Worsening Water Crisis

India’s Worsening Water Crisis
114 million Indians will soon face desperate domestic, agricultural and industrial shortages borne of a water crisis.
What is causing this? “Human activities”: primarily wasteful water use (mainly agricultural over-exploitation), a lack of sustainable water-management policies and insufficient public investment. These failings have each been exacerbated by rapid population growth, increasing population density and climate change.
South Asia is a desperately water-insecure region, and India’s shortages are part of a wider continental crisis. According to a recent report authored by UN climate scientists, coastal areas in Asia will be among the worst affected by climate change. Hundreds of millions of people across East, Southeast and South Asia, the report concluded, will be affected by flooding, droughts, famine, increases in the costs of food and energy, and rising sea levels.
Groundwater serves as a vital buffer against the volatility of monsoon rains, and India’s falling water table therefore threatens catastrophe. 60 percent of north India’s irrigated agriculture is dependent on ground water, as is 85 percent of the region’s drinking water. The World Bank predicts that India only has 20 years before its aquifers will reach “critical condition” – when demand for water will outstrip supply – an eventuality that will devastate the region’s food security, economic growth and livelihoods.
Analysts fear that growing competition for rapidly dwindling natural resources will trigger inter-state or intra-state conflict. China and India continue to draw on water sources that supply the wider region, and a particularly concerning flashpoint is the Indus River Valley basin that spans India and Pakistan. The river’s waters are vital to the economies of areas on both sides of the border and a long-standing treaty, agreed by Pakistan and India in 1960, governs rights of access. But during the “dry season,” between October and March, water levels fall to less than half of those seen during the remainder of the year. The fear is that cooperation over access to the Indus River will fray as shortages become more desperate.
Public health is also seriously at risk. The demand for safe drinking water in India is already high, and the situation will only grow more acute as levels drop further. The World Health Organization reports that 97 million Indians lack access to safe drinking water, while 21 percent of the country’s communicable diseases are transferred by the use of unclean water.
In their 2013 Outlook Report, the Asian Development Bank calculated India’s water security based on household, economic, urban and environmental needs, and concluded that India’s water prospects are “hazardous.” According to the report, a comprehensive and immediate program of investment, regulation, and law enforcement is necessary. Private-sector groups agree.

Interview: Adrian Levy

The Diplomat’s Gautham Ashok speaks with Adrian Levy, coauthor with Cathy Scott-Clark of The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel. 
April 18, 2014

The Diplomat’s Gautham Ashok spoke recently with Adrian Levy, coauthor with Cathy Scott-Clark of The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel, about the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai and what lessons have been learned. 

In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks on 26/11, a lot of people especially in government circles said that such an attack could have occurred in any city, in any part of the world. Your book seems to indicate that something like this could have been prevented had certain measures been taken. Could you walk us through a few of the said measures? 

First of all those two things are not mutually exclusive, it is possible for an attack of this kind to happen in any city of the world, and it’s possible that it could have been prevented. The question here is, how could have this attack been prevented? 

It’s difficult to say really, you will remember that there was a huge amount of intelligence before the London bombings of 7/7, there was significant intelligence before 9/11 and yet those attacks were carried out. The reason being, government and intelligence agencies are not omnipresent. Having intelligence is not the same as catching the thieves. Having said that, what is clear with 26/11 is that a huge amount of intelligence was accrued. Much more than has ever been admitted, and that intelligence was either disregarded or in fact lay dormant until June 2008. Which means that there was two and half years’ worth of intelligence that was stockpiled somewhere and wasn’t acted upon. 

Why did that happen? I suppose that question should be leveled at the new government that comes in next, because the current government has obviously refused to answer that question. One could hazard some guesses as to why this happened, educated guesses would point to competition between intelligence agencies, external and internal, a lack of honesty and forthrightness by the American intelligence community in dealing with India, their failure to communicate for narrow reasons of self-interest. 

This leads to questions as to who was at the heart of American intelligence gathering, and what this meant. The fact that they had David Coleman Headly working for them was hidden and so on and so forth. There was also a culture that developed within intelligence circles, within the subcontinent in particular, where entrepreneurial spirit is not rewarded. The culture that has now developed within the Intelligence Bureau (IB) is one of paranoid back watching and extreme politicization. Free thinking is not encouraged or allowed. 

After 9/11 and 7/7, extensive inquiries into intelligence failures were undertaken by governments in America and Britain. In India no such measure was undertaken. Do you think that the extreme secrecy that goes into the Research and Analysis Wing and the Intelligence Bureau makes them complacent in a way? 

China Threatens Taiwan’s Reputation

It is China’s unification agenda that threatens Taiwan’s international reputation, not the Sunflower Movement. 
By Michal Thim
April 19, 2014 

Last Thursday, Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement exited the Legislative Yuan – which it had occupied for full three weeks – but the debate over its impact, both domestic and external, is still brewing. And rightly so. In a counter-offensive, Taiwan’s government, its de facto embassies, and supporters of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA, also know as the Trade in Services Agreement, TiSA) argued that CSSTA opponents are wrong about the Taiwan Government’s lack of transparency and that the protests (and Taiwan’s inability to proceed with a signed agreement) will harm its international reputation as a credible economic partner. 

I have argued otherwise. In my opinion, Taiwan’s relations with China are unique and other states that negotiate with Taiwan are very well aware of this fact. Protests over the cross-strait deal won’t concern them as long as their own negotiations with Taiwan are not similarly affected. Charles I-hsin Chen, in a partial response to my piece, argues that this observation is superficial. Unfortunately, in the pursuit of a more in-depth analysis, Dr. Chen fails to bring more substance to the arguments that have been already claimed by the current administration. 

However, Dr. Chen is raising a couple of arguments that deserve greater attention. Dr. Chen, for example, has joined Taiwan’s Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch in arguing that the Philippines, Israel, India and Indonesia, among others, are reconsidering bilateral talks with Taiwan because of the protests and the legislature’s inability to ratify the service pact. More interestingly, Dr. Chen argues that the major obstacle for Taiwan’s FTA negotiations is that potential partners want to make sure that there will be no political interference from China. 

Dr. Chen refers to authorities like Richard C. Bush (Brookings Institution), Bonnie Glaser (CSIS) and Rupert Hammond-Chambers (U.S.-Taiwan Business Council) to support the point that China may block Taiwan’s FTA aspirations if the CSSTA is not concluded. Glaser indeed argued in a recent interview with The Diplomat that “China can use its influence to pressure one of the twelve TPP negotiating countries to not permit Taiwan to join.” It is unfortunate that the part of the interview where Bonnie Glaser argues that protests won’t affect bilateral negotiations is omitted. 

China Slows – Will Asia Follow?

As the region’s largest economy slows, what impact will it have on the rest of Asia? 
April 18, 2014

China Slows – Will Asia Follow? 

As the region’s largest economy slows, what impact will it have on the rest of Asia? 

China’s slowdown has been confirmed, with the world’s second-biggest economy reporting its weakest expansion in more than a year on slumping property construction. But the rest of Asia won’t be following its lead just yet, according to the world’s bankers. 

On Wednesday, China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported annualized growth of 7.4 percent for the first quarter, down from 7.7 percent in the previous period and its slowest pace in six quarters. The weakest first-quarter property investment rise since 2009 weighed on Asia’s largest economy, although the rise was still above market forecasts of a 7.3 percent expansion. 

While the gross domestic product (GDP) data buoyed financial markets, ANZ economist Liu Ligang was not alone among economists in questioning the high number. 

“If you look at monthly indicators then I think growth was really around 7.2 percent, given retail sales and fixed asset investment have been weak,” the bank’s chief China economist told the Australian Financial Review. 

He pointed to the “significant slowdown” in housing construction, which plunged by more than 27 percent during the January-March quarter, compared to the same period last year. New home sales also dropped 7.7 percent, while there was a 23 percent rise in new dwellings yet to be sold. 

Real estate’s impact on the economy has been shown by official data, which indicated that investment in urban development accounted for around 14 percent of GDP in 2012. In 2013, house prices rose nationwide by 27 percent, sparking moves by Beijing to curb speculative investment. 

As noted by The Diplomat, the results have been seen in China’s emerging ghost towns of empty apartment towers. Property prices have dived particularly in second and third-tier cities, with developers slashing prices to attract buyers. 

NO CHEERS FOR THE IPL - It does leave behind a bad taste in the mouth


Politics and play - Ramachandra Guha 
Sri Lankan players celebrate after winning the ICC T20 World Cup 

When the Indian Premier League was launched in 2008, I wrote a column in these pages disparaging this newest form of the game. I compared Test cricket to single malt whisky, 50 overs a side to Indian made foreign liquor, and Twenty20 to the local hooch. Like individual sips of the best whisky, the highlights of each Test remained imprinted in one’s memory — the strokes that featured in a long innings, the ways the wickets fell, even how some crucial catches were taken. Of a 50-over match, one at least marked the turning points. But of a T20 tamasha all one remembered was getting smashed. 

My article was read by the sports economist, Stefan Szynmanski, who then came to visit me in Bangalore. He was advising the IPL on scheduling, and hoped to convince me of the merits of the new tournament. I remained unpersuaded; but, before he left, Professor Szynmanski pulled out of his bag a gift he had carried for me all the way from the United States — a bottle of rare Scotch whisky. 

It was a kind and well-meaning gesture. In the event, I kept the whisky, and kept to the Test cricket. My opposition to the IPL was, to begin with, cricketing — Twenty20 was simply not my game. Then I began to criticize it from a political point of view as well. I observed that India’s most populous states — such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — did not have a single IPL team. On the other hand, the state of Maharashtra had two. It was evident that the distribution of franchises was heavily biased towards the richer parts of India. The IPL teams were all based in cities and states that had benefited most from India’s economic boom. 

The franchise auctions were shrouded in secrecy, with allocations made at the discretion of the BCCI. Firms respected for their entrepreneurial drive and managerial excellence — such as the Tatas, Infosys, Mahindras and so on — had stayed away. On the other hand, firms notorious for cultivating politicians and getting preferential state contracts had acquired teams. Several IPL owners had chequered careers. One ran an airline into the ground, refusing to pay its employees their salaries for months on end, while simultaneously acquiring expensive cricketers for his team (as well as expensive yachts and mansions for himself). Another had the assets of several of his companies frozen for illegal dealings; he was also widely believed to be the ‘bag man’ of one of the most corrupt politicians in northern India. 

No entry into Lhasa for India

We must partly blame ourselves
Inder Malhotra 

DURING her visit to Beijing Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh has just concluded the sixth round of the annual strategic dialogue with her Chinese opposite number, Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, and also had a meeting with the host country’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Even though the relationship between Asia's two largest powers remains complex, complicated and not without tension, a few gains made during the latest talks deserve a welcome.                                                                                                                                 Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh 
In the first place, China feels reassured that irrespective of the outcome of the ongoing Indian elections there would be “continuity” in India-China ties. Ms Singh conveyed to the Chinese leadership that there was a “broad consensus” across the political spectrum in this country on "engagement" with China, a situation that dates back to the path-breaking visit to Beijing of the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in December 1988. For his part, Mr Liu declared that he was “confident that to promote China-India friendship is a shared interest of all Indian political parties”. Secondly, the two sides did not merely indulge in comforting rhetoric but also did the ground work for “a series of high-level engagements set to take place” in the coming year. 

As it happens 1915 has been marked as a “year of friendly exchanges” between the two neighbours. Officials on both sides are, therefore, promising a “packed calendar”. What is most important, however, is that President Xi Jinping does not want to wait that long. He has expressed a desire to visit India later this year. When the visit takes place, it would be the first Chinese presidential visit to this country in eight years. Prime Ministers of China have come here several times. But it was in 2005 that the last Chinese President (Hu Jintao) came to New Delhi.

In Ms Singh’s words, the dialogue in Beijing covered the “entire length and breadth” of the India-China relationship. High on the list of the subjects taken up was "cooperation" in Afghanistan where both countries have shared interests. India has warned the world about the grave danger of the Af-Pak region becoming a hotbed of terrorism after the withdrawal of the American and NATO troops from the rugged, war-ravaged country by the end of 2014. China also has made no secret of its worry that the Uighur militants in its western province of Xinjiang will exploit the security vacuum. In August China is hosting a "Heart of Asia" conference on Afghanistan. 

If the talks on Afghanistan were a source of satisfaction, the same cannot be said, alas, about the Chinese response to India's concern over China's huge investment in developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor right up to Gwadar port close to the Strait of Hormuz. 

In some ways the most depressing news to emanate from the strategic dialogue was China's firm and final refusal to let this country reopen its consulate-general in Lhasa that was established way back in the British days and shut down during the 1962 war in the Himalayas together with other consulates the two countries had in each other's territory. The embassies in each other's capital were headed by Charge d'Affaires, who were later replaced by Ambassadors in 1976.

Nearly a decade later the Chinese showed interest in reviving the consulates the two countries had maintained earlier — in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Bombay (now Mumbai) by China, and in Lhasa and Shanghai by us. This was a golden opportunity to re-establish our presence in the “Tibet Autonomous Region of China" in which Indian stakes are too high to be overstated. The tragedy is that we declined it for reasons that are nothing short of ridiculous. China experts within the government and outside had pleaded hard that all the four consulates should start functioning again at once. But the idea was vetoed by the Intelligence Bureau, which had then, as before and during the 1962 war, an undue say in the making of Indian foreign policy, especially on China.

During the recent uproar over the leakage of the Henderson Brooks Report on the 1962 war every participant in the discussion has lamented that the intelligence czar of that era, B. N. Mullik, instead of collecting intelligence on China, was busy playing an important role in the making of China policy. Sadly, this grievous malaise hasn't yet disappeared from the Indian system. In the mid-1980s, as in Mullik's time, the IB was able to dictate to the foreign policy establishment not to accept the proposal under discussion. Its argument which that the government at the highest level bought was typical. An Indian consulate-general in Lhasa, it argued, would be dysfunctional because of the enormous Chinese control on whatever happens in Tibet. By contrast, a Chinese consulate-general in Calcutta could do huge damage, especially at a time when the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front was in power and the suppressed Naxalite movement was showing signs of being reborn. Nobody asked the spymasters what it was that the Chinese could not do in Calcutta without having a consulate of theirs there. So it was decided that only the consulates-general in Bombay and Shanghai should be reopened for the present, and others considered later.

As China's power increased fast, together with its problems in Tibet and Xinjiang, it decided not to allow any foreign presence in Lhasa other than Nepal's. All attempts by the United States to seek entry into the strategic region were regularly rebuffed.

Nearly a decade ago, when the Chinese needed to have a consulate in Chennai, we had an opportunity to link it with the reopening of the Indian consulate in Lhasa. But this idea wasn't even broached and we accepted an additional consulate in China only a short distance away from the one in Hong Kong. The official explanation was that this was done at the suggestion of the Dalai Lama. 

Now that we have woken up to the importance of Lhasa the Chinese are saying an emphatic NO and offering us a choice between Chengdo and Kunming.  


Pak-TTP talks: A hiatus for reinforcement?


Saturday, 19 April 2014 | Swarn Kumar Anand

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan's decision to cancel the ceasefire deal is a setback for the Sharif Government, which came to power with a vow to end terrorism through peaceful means instead of military operations

In the run up to parliamentary elections in Pakistan a year ago when Nawaz Sharif had promised to usher in a new era of peace in the war-torn Islamic state by seeking reconciliation with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he would not have imagined the situation will come to such a pass which will call for review of his policy. With deep divisions within the TTP over sluggish progress in talks leading to the collapse of ceasefire agreement, the Pakistan Government is in a fix over how to go ahead with its plan of“mollycoddling” medieval Islamists. It is an uphill task for the Sharif Government to formulate a course of action in the wake of the “double-meaning” announcement of the TTP — talks amid resumption of terror attacks.

Pakistani intellectuals have been at odds with one another on the nature of treatment the TTP merited from the government. While Sharif has always avoided military option against religious extremists, liberals still believe that the only feasible solution to the scourge is surgical removal of the malignant elements. They believe concessions like negotiations will only embolden the radicals. And therefore, from the outset of deliberations between the Sharif Government and the TTP, there has been little expectation from the futile exercise.


While the TTP has ascribed its out-of-the-blue resolution to call off ceasefire to the violation of agreements by the Pakistani military in northwestern tribal areas, this is half truth. In fact, there was never a serious attempt by the TTP to reach a peaceful consensus. The TTP has not yet recognised the Constitution of Pakistan and it abhors secular parliamentary democracy in the Islamic country. On the other hand, even though there has been lack of clarity among government agencies about how much to expect from the dialogue with the militant group, the Sharif Government somehow managed to persuade the US to halt drone strikes on TTP terrorists to bring Islamist insurgents to the negotiating table.

***** Why Obama Can't Explain Himself

April 17, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry evidently runs a tight ship, given the paucity of leaks that emerge from his office. So we know he is organized and disciplined. He is also an energetic risk-taker, jumping into high-wire negotiations with Iran, and forcing the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table -- enterprises that could likely end in failure and ruin his reputation. This is a man with character. By contrast, his predecessor at State, Hillary Clinton, appeared to take few risks and has been accused of using the position of secretary of state merely to burnish her resume in preparation for a presidential run.

But there is one thing that Kerry has not been good at: explaining what he is doing and why to the public. How do these high-wire negotiations fit into a larger strategic plan? What do the Iran talks have to do with those between Israel and Palestine? What is the relationship between the two sets of Middle East negotiations and American strategy in Asia and Europe? The Obama administration has provided the public with little insight on any of these matters.

Why can't the administration explain better what it is doing? I believe the reason is that the administration cannot own up to the philosophical implications of the very policy direction it has chosen. It is as though top officials are embarrassed by their own choices.

The administration has refused to intervene in Syria in a pivotal way, and it has very awkwardly still not managed to make its peace with Egypt's new military dictatorship -- though it does not oppose the new regime in Cairo outright. But it is embarrassed that it has done these things. The Obama team wants to pursue a foreign policy of liberal internationalism, in the tradition of previous Democratic administrations. It wants to topple a murderous dictatorship in Syria. It wants democracy in Egypt. But instead, it finds itself pursuing a foreign policy of conservative realism, in the tradition of previous Republican administrations, like those of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush. It is doing so because realism is about dealing with the facts as they exist on the ground with the goal of preserving American power, whereas liberal internationalism is about taking risks with the facts on the ground in order to seek a better world.

President Barack Obama and Secretary Kerry are afraid that if they intervene militarily in Syria they will help bring to power a jihadist-trending regime there -- or conversely, Syria will disintegrate into even worse anarchy, with echoes of Afghanistan in the 1990s. So they do little. Obama and Kerry must know that the choice in Egypt is not simply between dictatorship and democracy, but between military authoritarianism that can be indirectly helpful to Western interests and an Islamist regime that would be hostile to Western interests. So they quietly, albeit angrily, accept the new order in Cairo. The administration knows that if it wants to pivot toward the Pacific, it must also attempt to put America's diplomatic house in order in the Middle East: thus, it seeks a rapprochement with Iran and a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Of Secular Imams and Economists

By Ram Jethmalani
Published: 17th April 2014

An unusual combination of communal incidents occurred recently. The first, Sonia Gandhi’s shopping spree for “secular” votes from a religious head, Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari—the ultimate in surrealism—and in complete contempt for the Election Code of Conduct. As if the Imam is a wholesale dealer of vote banks, and she a bulk buyer. Yes, this is the same Imam who called upon Muslims to boycott the Anna movement against corruption, saying that Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai are against Islam.

The second was a strangely uncharacteristic article in The Economist, Bagehot’s child, universally respected for its erudition, analysis, and unbiased reporting. For reasons unknown, but full of sinister possibilities, the magazine thought it appropriate to give unsolicited advice to the people of India about who they should elect as their leaders. Almost, as if they were still the imperial power with complete authority to interfere in the election of their colony. Their lead article “Can anyone stop Narendra Modi?” arrogantly hectors that “though Modi will probably become India’s next prime minister, that does not mean he should be”. Unseemly, to say the least, that a respectable magazine straight from the mother of democracy, believes its diktat can substitute for the democratic will and mandate of the people, as it did in the days of the Raj and Viceroys, when the white man thought he knew best what was good for his burden.

Why does The Economist disapprove of Modi? The reasons stated are almost a verbatim reproduction of the tired, Goebellsian broken record, repeated ad nauseam by Congress party spokespersons and their communal allies during the last decade—that “he is a man who has thrived on division” and that he is “still associated with sectarian hatred”. The usual unsubstantiated, false propaganda, or perceptional accusations without evidence, smacking of prejudice, which lead one to conclude that it could only be Goebellsian infection, if not mutation of the Murdochian virus.

The Economist, like its Congress party counterparts, blame Modi for the Godhra riots, showing no concern whatsoever about the 59 Hindu victims burnt alive by Muslim miscreants in the Godhra train; for the Ayodhya aftermath; for making communal speeches “early in his career”, without even verifying that his early speeches reflect only patriotism and secularism, without a trace of communalism—the common cause of Gujaratis, the power of oneness, Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas.

Indian democracy vibrant, but flawed

We are seeing the blooming of an election. But there is a strange stillness in the air – the doldrums. The word signifies a stupor, in which everything is listless, stagnant and immobilised.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi 

The In India, in ever so many ways, this is the best of times. Our democracy is blossoming. While in countries around us, democracy has taken bruising and even battering, our elections are in progress. Millions are participating in the proceedings. They know how to re-endorse earlier verdicts; equally, how to reverse them. We are a democracy with a powerful monarch – the voter. And our media is the monarch’s security guard. 

A lot of progress has taken place across the country, but the fruits of development have not percolated down to the lowest denominator. Tribune file photograph

And yet, our democracy is deeply flawed. Size and scale do not in themselves validate a democracy. Quality is must. The voter is powerful but his power is subverted by blandishment. Money is at our democracy’s throat. It originates either legally, through licit company donations, or comes from myriad sources which go back to our natural resources such as mines, forests and land. Illegal transactions in all these yield harvests of black cash and this is disgorged on people in ‘jhopad-pattis’. It is on these that politicians descend at election time, laden with cash and hooch, to buy votes. Dr Ambedkar had spoken of how this India may well explode and blow up our constitutional edifice. 

There is a quote from Mark Hanna: “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is”. The second thing is bullying. Certain kinds of services are co-opted near election time by candidates. These are ‘goonda’ services. ‘Goondas’ are a part of society. They are a floating resource, and their skill is intimidation. Their wherewithal, via money and narcotics, is the illegal firearm. By an estimate, there are 40 million illegal small arms floating around all over the land. 

The money game

The Election Commission has to be congratulated for being fearless despite all this. Our uniformed services, headed by the police and various paramilitary agencies, need to be saluted for keeping law-breakers in check. But who is to check the collapse of true, far-sighted leadership and its degeneration into ‘leaderbaazi’? 

We are seeing the blooming of an election. But there is a strange stillness in the air. Marine geographers have a word for it – the doldrums. The word signifies a stupor, in which everything is listless, stagnant and immobilised. 

Taliban Victory in Afghanistan Would Pose Problem for Pakistan

April 17, 2014

As the world awaits the outcome of the Afghan elections and the beginning of NATO withdrawal, it's generally assumed that Pakistan would welcome Taliban victory in post-2014 Afghanistan. This assumption is based on the perception that Pakistan supports the Taliban, yet a deeper look into intertwined demographic makeup of the two neighbors, the rugged geography and long history of conflict might lead to another conclusion.

The Pashtun make up about half of Afghanistan's population and have long regarded themselves as the "core" of their ethnic homeland. But that only tells part of the story. The Pashtun nation consists of around 42 million, and only 14 million live in Afghanistan with the rest living in Pakistan, where they represent about one sixth of the population. The Pashtuns straddle both sides of the Durand line, the international border between the two countries, which Afghanistan has never recognized. The Pakistani Pashtun areas now are the center of revolt against the Pakistani state. During the proxy war between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1980s, Pakistanis were encouraged by the United States to allow the Mujahidin to seek refuge in Pashtun areas of Pakistan - the very areas devastated by the US-NATO and the Pakistani military campaigns against the Taliban insurgents. These areas have borne the brunt of the US drone attacks.

Pakistan treads a delicate tightrope. The Pakistani state is not hostile to its Pashtun population and has considerably sympathy towards the Afghan Pashtuns struggle to regain political power in Afghanistan. Given that Afghan Taliban are the most powerful Pashtun group, Pakistan has sought political alliance to appease Pakistani Pashtun and prevent more Pashtun from joining the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Pakistan also seeks such an alliance to have political and strategic influence in the post-2014 political configuration of Afghanistan. At the same time Pakistan does not want the Afghan Taliban as a sole political power in Afghanistan because that would encourage Pakistani Taliban to resurrect the old Afghan dream of Pashtunistan uniting the Pashtun of Pakistan and Afghanistan, this time led by Taliban under the banner of jihad.


A regional storm is brewing, and Pakistan could well be at its centre.

As Pakistan faces off its darkest moment of terrorist challenge, citizens are asking how long they will have to wait for a consistent policy response from the state and government. The drumbeat and din are growing; the pressure to act is also upped by gunship helicopters and Air Force jets pounding previously untouched terror spots in the federally-administered tribal areas.

There is little disagreement in the policy community—or elsewhere, for that matter—that much of what Islamabad has to contend with is home-grown, complex, and not easily reversible. With the prolonged dialogue-dance between the government and the Pakistani Taliban, out-of-the-bottle genies such as proscribed terrorist groups are now claiming space as legitimate actors. This in itself represents a serious challenge to a state whose soldiers and law enforcement agencies stand confused. Their targets have now been recast as interlocutors for peace.

On March 18, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif finally approved the National Internal Security Policy. This document estimates the threat to Pakistan as existential and assures that some coordination among Pakistan’s myriad security agencies is actually on the agenda. But whatever the policy’s merits or otherwise, violence-fatigued Pakistanis want to know whether and when the government will actually act decisively against terrorism. The scale of Pakistan’s internal threat seems hard to top for the harvest of blood it draws. But a number of global and regional conflict trends looming on the horizon look set to add to the toxic combination of conflict-triggers that, if unmitigated, could present a perfect storm for Pakistan.

Deus ex Machina

The new global unresponsiveness to weak states is a worry. Such countries will have no choice now but to rely on mining domestic resources—through taxing evasive elites, executing policy, and bridging governance gaps—to crutch and secure their future. Given its abiding models of patronage and dependence, Pakistan has much reason to worry on this score.

What Germany Can Teach Japan

APRIL 16, 2014
Jochen Bittner

TOKYO — Imagine a postwar Germany that had never managed to become friends with its neighboring countries. Imagine a Germany that, despite all the remorse it had shown for its belligerence during World War II, had been excluded from the European Union. Imagine, even, that this Germany had been excluded from NATO, because it had forever been denied the right to engage in a defense alliance.

On top of all of this, imagine the following: Your economy is in decline; a mighty, nondemocratic neighbor is increasing military spending while denouncing you as an aggressive, militaristic nation, even as it and other nearby countries are grabbing parts of your territory.

If it’s hard to imagine such a scenario, just hop on a plane to Japan.

The comparison with my own country is certainly a compassionate reading of the new, assertive tone that Japan’s government has adopted toward its neighbors. It’s hard not to sympathize after speaking with the many Japanese officials I’ve met here, who say they have just one wish: that Japan, almost 70 years after the end of World War II, could become a “normal country” like Germany.

Normal? At first the idea sounds humble, understandable. But “normal” is a tricky concept: No country is truly “normal,” even boring old Germany. And this desire comes at a time when being normal — including the right to militarize — may contribute to the spiral of mistrust underway among the major players in East Asia.

My conversations with Japanese officials and observers persuaded me that, for all the differences between the countries, there are instructive parallels between Germany’s experience and Japan’s current position — above all, that normalcy is not something that is granted; it must be sought out and earned.

Of course, there are good reasons that Germany and Japan followed divergent courses after the war. Japan has obviously had greater problems with coming to terms with its past: A foreign affairs official in Tokyo frankly told me the Japanese public was experiencing “apology fatigue” — something most Germans would never admit to, even if they felt it.

This is partly understandable. China is an undemocratic neighbor that has never seriously been interested in reconciliation; on the contrary, it uses Japan’s guilty past — the massacre at Nanjing, the widespread enslavement of “comfort women” — to stir up its own neo-nationalism.

China on the Edge

April 16, 2014

There is something very wrong in China at the moment. China, I believe, has just passed an inflection point. Until recently, everything was going its way. Now, however, it seems all its problems are catching up with the Chinese state at the same time.

The country has entered an especially troubling phase, and we have to be concerned that Beijing-out of fundamental weakness and not out of strength-will lash out and shake the world.

So what happened in the past decade?

To understand China's new belligerent external policies, we need to look inside the country, and we might well start with the motor of its rise: its economy.

Everyone knows China's growth is slowing. Yet what is not obvious is that it is slowing so fast that the economy could fail.

The Chinese economy almost failed in June. There were extraordinary events that month including two waves of bank defaults. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the country's largest bank-the world's largest bank-was obviously in distress: it even had to shut down its ATMs and online banking platforms to conserve cash. The Bank of China, the country's third-largest lender, was also on the edge of default.

There was panic in China in June, but central government technocrats were able to rescue the economy by pouring even more state money into "ghost cities" and high-speed-rail-lines-to-nowhere.

Doing so created gross domestic product-economic output-but that was the last thing Beijing should have been doing at that-or this-moment. China, at every level of government, is funding all its construction with new debt. You think America has a debt problem; China's is worse.

As one economist told us recently, every province in China is a Greece.

China, after the biggest boom in history, is heading into what could end up as the biggest debt crisis in history. This is not a coincidence.

Soon, there must be a reckoning because the flatlined economy is not able to produce sufficient growth to pay back debt. If we ignore official statistics and look at independent data-such as private surveys, corporate results, and job creation numbers-we see an economy that cannot be expanding in the high single digits as Beijing claims.

How fast is the country really growing? In 2012-the last year for which we have a full set of employment statistics-the number of jobs in China increased 0.37% over 2011. This indicates that China could not have grown by more than 2.0%

In 2013's third quarter, preliminary surveys show the number of jobs decreased 2.5% from Q3 in 2012 and 4.0% from Q2 2013. That is an indication that China's economy has already begun to contract both year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter.

Ukraine's Army Is Too Broke to Challenge Russia

As the country's currency weakens, so do its armed forces.
APR 16 2014

A toy soldier holding a Ukrainian flag lies on the ground during a 2007 political rally in Kiev. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

Ukraine, and its military, is running out of money. Ukrainian officials estimate that they need up to $30 billion in loans from the International Monetary Fund and Western allies over the next two years. Ukraine hopes to sign a deal this month to unlock $7 billion from the IMF.

The funds can’t come soon enough. Even before its ongoing clash with Russia, Ukraine was an economic basket case. Now, having lost Crimea and facing the prospect of losing swaths of land in its industrial east, Ukraine’s new government faces Russian gas debts of more than $2 billion, among other expenses. The economy will shrink by at least 3 percent this year, according to official sources, although some analysts think that it could contract by as much as 5 percent.

Kiev's defense ministry is fundraising with text message donations, 5 hryvnia at a time.As Ukrainian and pro-Russian troops edge closer to all-out war, there is increasing desperation in Kiev. Today, the defense ministry trumpeted its 100-million-hryvnia ($8.9 million) fundraising drive, a big chunk of which came from mobile users donating 5 hryvnia at a time via a special text number. Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry also announced the issue of 1.1 billion hryvnia ($97 million) in war bonds to help finance the cash-strapped military.

The two-year bonds, which carry a 7-percent coupon, will attract only the most patriotic investors. After all, last week Ukraine’s government issued three-month bills with a yield of nearly 10 percent. Of course, this also implies that investors are keen to hold hryvnia-denominated assets at all. “You’ll find more liquidity in the Sahara,” an analyst told The Wall Street Journal.

Ukraine Crisis: Russia's Neighbors Are Worried

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)

April 17, 2014

Moscow's aggression against Ukraine has spawned not only an international crisis, but fears throughout Russia's neighborhood. Even countries that cooperate closely with Russia worry they could be next in line for creeping annexation. No former Soviet country endorsed “independence“ of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, and the lack of support for Moscow's annexation of Crimea is striking. Those former Soviet neighbors that lag in economic development or freedoms are more vulnerable. The West should help those willing to help themselves.

The seizure of Crimea on fabricated pretenses of threats to ethnic Russians and the most recent provocations in eastern Ukraine by Russian forces and proxies have sent shock waves from the Baltic states to Central Asia. Kyiv has initiated an “antiterror” security response in the Donetsk region. Even as the outcome of the current crisis in Ukraine remains uncertain, it and the other former Soviet countries are looking at what more they can do to steel themselves against Russian coercion.


In some ways, Crimea was special. Russia has major strategic interests because its Black Sea fleet resides there. Despite a treaty giving it basing rights until 2042, Moscow could not be sure a future Ukrainian government would not seek the fleet’s ouster. Nearly three-fifths of Crimea’s population, or 1.5 million people, are ethnic Russians.

On the other hand, even the relatively pro-Western Yushchenko government, in power from 2005 to 2010, did not jeopardize the Black Sea fleet’s basing rights. Ethnic Russians living in Crimea, as in other areas of Ukraine, have faced no systematic threats or violence before or after President Yanukovych fled his office in February.

The remainder of Ukraine has nearly 7 million ethnic Russians, most of whom reside in the eastern regions, where they are minorities. Ethnic Russians make up only two-fifths of the population in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, one-fourth in Kharkiv and Zaporizhya, and one-fifth in Odessa. Elsewhere they are less than one-fifth of the population (in the Kyiv region only 6 percent, and less than 5 percent in every western region). Ethnic tension in Ukraine has been almost nonexistent. Most people are bilingual, and many, whose mother tongue is Russian, identify themselves as Ukrainians.

The Deep Policy Failures That Led to Ukraine

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)

April 17, 2014

Now that there's a crisis in Ukraine [3], American politicians and foreign-policy experts are fast and furious in rolling out the policy proposals. Supply Ukraine's military with advanced weapons to blunt a possible Russian offensive; promote new economic-development projects that will generate prosperity in Ukraine's industrial east and decrease reliance on Russia; wean Europe away from its dependence on Russian supplies of oil and natural gas. The problem is that all of these are long-term projects, which would take months and years to reach fruition. Yet the crisis is now being measured out in hours and days. The provision of arms to the Ukrainian military, for instance, presupposes a force that's already been trained to use such equipment, and that protocols are in place which will ensure that weapons will not be diverted to purposes that are askance of other U.S. policy priorities—things which cannot be done overnight.

Ukraine is just the latest demonstration of a systemic weakness in the U.S. foreign-policy apparatus [4]—the seeming inability to plan and be proactive, especially across presidential administrations from different parties. The narrative that there has been a new "intelligence failure" because the White House did not have forty-eight hour notice of Russian plans to take over the Crimean peninsula misses the point that even if early warning had been provided, the U.S. didn't have the policy tools in place to make much of a difference.

But Ukraine also cannot be categorized as a black-swan event. The talks to conclude an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union had been going on for years—and Russian objections to various provisions in those arrangements had been vocal and on the record. And once outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had put down a very clear marker at the end of 2012 that the United States would take a vigorous stance opposing the Moscow-driven Eurasian Union project as an attempt to "re-Sovietize" the region, the planning should have begun to ensure that that was not simply empty rhetoric.

Ukrainian Military and Security Forces Not Ready to Take on Russian Military

April 16, 2014
Ukraine Is Not Ready for the Consequences of Taking Russia’s Military Bait
Simon Shuster


Like many of the leading men in Ukraine’s new military pecking order, Petr Mekhed wasn’t exactly ripe for the task of fending off a Russian invasion when he assumed the post of Deputy Defense Minister in February. His last tour of combat duty was about 30 years ago, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, after which he reached the rank of colonel in the Red Army. When revolution in Ukraine broke out this winter, his wartime experience made him better equipped than most at defending the barricades of the Maidan protest camp in the center of Kiev. But it was not as useful in preparing him to lead his country into war. “For some issues I’ve had to sit down with a book and study up,” he says.

His conclusion so far is an unsettling one for Ukraine’s political leaders. If they want to find a way out of their conflict with Russia, which edged closer on Tuesday to military confrontation in the eastern region of Donetsk, they have only one way to do it, Mekhed says, and that is to negotiate. “We’ll never get anywhere through the use of military force,” he tells TIME. It would be much more effective to undercut Russia’s support for the local separatists by meeting them halfway, Mekhed suggests, with an offer of more autonomy for Ukraine’s eastern regions. “Our chances of saving Donetsk are now in the hands of our politicians and their ability to sit down with the people there and talk to them.”

But those politicians don’t seem to agree. On Tuesday morning, Ukraine’s interim President, Oleksandr Turchynov, launched the first military action against the pro-Russian gunmen who seized parts of Donetsk over the weekend. The assault, which the central government in Kiev termed an antiterrorist operation, reportedlyinvolved more than a dozen armored personnel carriers, as well as helicopters and military trucks that faced off against 30 gunmen for control of an airport near the town of Kramatorsk.

So was Ukraine ready for that kind of standoff? Maybe. But some of its top military and intelligence officials highly doubt it that it is ready for the likely fallout, and whatever support Tuesday’s operation garnered from the White Housewill probably not translate into much military assistance from the West. More likely, it will provoke a Russian counterstrike, not from the small group of Russian special forces who have apparently been leading the separatists in Donetsk, but from the full weight of the Russian military. That would mean game over pretty quickly for Ukraine.

So far, its leaders seem to be enjoying their taste of victory. When reports came back to Kiev that Tuesday’s operation was a success — that the Ukrainian forces had managed to repel the separatist attack on the airport — Turchynov made a self-congratulatory statement to parliament. “I’m convinced that there will not be any terrorists left soon in Donetsk and other regions and they will find themselves in the dock — this is where they belong,” he said.

Satellite Imagery Study of Russian Military Activities Around Naval Base of Sevastopol

April 15, 2014


The Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has undertaken analysis of the crisis between Ukraine and Russia in Crimea using high-resolution satellite imagery. This analysis forms part of a broader study aimed at investigating cross-border conflicts to identify early warning signs to aid in future conflict prevention efforts. High-resolution satellite imagery provides a particularly useful tool for monitoring and quantifying key metrics in border conflicts, such as troop deployments and the movement of military vehicles. By documenting these indicators, geospatial analysis can provide clarity in circumstances where other data are ambiguous, incomplete, disguised, or concealed.

The situation in Crimea fits this description, and has been defined by conflicting narratives regarding events on the ground. Following months of protest in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, which culminated in the ouster of former president Viktor Yanukovich, pro-Russian protests in the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea emerged in early 2014. These quickly escalated on 27-28 February, when uniformed armed troops lacking identifying insignia seized Simferopol International Airport and a military airfield in Sevastopol.1 Russian government officials denied involvement in these events. At the same time, the vehicles and military hardware associated with the unidentified armed groups led many observers to suspect that they were Russian troops acting as part of a coordinated military campaign. According to the U.S. Department of State:

“Strong evidence suggests that members of Russian security services are at the heart of the highly organized anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea. While these units wear uniforms without insignia, they drive vehicles with Russian military license plates and freely identify themselves as Russian security forces when asked by the international media and the Ukrainian military. Moreover, these individuals are armed with weapons not generally available to civilians.”

-U.S. Department of State, 5 March 2014 2

Due to the volatile situation and the high level of uncertainty related to events on the ground, AAAS is examining multiple locations within Crimea using high-resolution satellite images obtained in 2013 and 2014. The subject of this report is the port city of Sevastopol (Figure 1), and focuses on the period from 10-18 March 2014. Sevastopol is the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Because of the concentration of Russian military equipment and personnel in the city, reports alleging Russian movement outside its own military facilities, and claims that many Ukrainian military sites were under siege, it was determined that an in-depth analysis of the area was warranted. The dual objectives of this investigation are to clarify the situation on the ground and to identify features that could serve as warning signs should the crisis escalate into a broader armed conflict.3


April 15, 2014 

Does American vacillation over Crimea bode poorly for Japan? Some observers think so.

Recent media coverage has revealed that some officials in Japan see the U.S. response in Crimea as a litmus test for its willingness to intervene in a Senkaku contingency. According to this narrative, Washington’s failure to uphold the 1994 Budapest Memorandum portends U.S. complacency if Japan faces an attack in the East China Sea. It is tempting to attribute this to an acute case of “resolve anxiety,” but it is also important to parse why the failure of one international agreement does not imply the frailty of them all. If the United States is to remain powerful and engaged in the world at a time of great resource constraints, it will need to choose its battles wisely. This, in turn, requires that we acknowledge that not all international commitments are created equal.

The 1994 Budapest Memorandum guaranteed Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity after it inherited and then relinquished the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal. The document, signed by Ukraine, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation, was a multilateral, negative security assurance—the signatories agreed amongst themselves not to infringe upon Kiev’s sovereignty. The Budapest Memorandum, like many negative assurances, had no real mechanism for enforcement. It promised only “consultation” among the signatories in case “a situation arises that raises a question concerning these commitments.” Because negative assurances proscribe unwanted actions, but do not usually explain how violators will be punished, they may embody important principles, but are difficult to enforce.

Contrast this to the 1960 U.S.–Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. Originally signed in 1951, this bilateral defense commitment has a similar Article V commitment to all of the United States’ other defense treaties, including NATO, the U.S.–ROK alliance, and ANZUS. It is a positive security commitment and promises that an attack on Japan will be treated as a threat to the security of the United States. It also includes standard Article IV and Article VI provisions, which provide for peacetime defense consultation and the forward deployment of U.S. troops on Japanese soil. It therefore includes both a positive defense commitment and the mechanisms that make the agreement credible, and gives Washington every incentive to act if Tokyo does become the victim of an attack.