28 May 2014

New sheriff in town

May 28, 2014

Shankar Roychowdhury
Change is always easier promised in political speeches than is actually delivered, particularly economic transformation which has its own inherent inertia

“It’s the economy, stupid.”
— James Carville, campaign strategist for Bill Clinton, US Presidential election 1992

India’s general elections 2014 are over, and the vigorous, experienced and sophisticated electoral process has generated a total change in management this time around, placing an entirely new government in office.

In American parlance, “there’s a new sheriff in town”, led by a conservative Right-wing political party, generally disparaged as “Hindu nationalist” by commentators in the West, and their Indian acolytes at home. The party and its leader, the new Prime Minister of India, have been accused of engineering communal riots, pogroms and practicing religious discrimination against minorities, charges which, as expected, have all been vigorously denied. This, of course, is par for play in all political discourse, but in all fairness it must also be noted that a Special Investigation Team, established under orders of the Supreme Court of India to investigate large-scale communal riots in Gujarat in 2002, do not appear to have found any credible evidence of personal culpability or involvement of the present Prime Minister who was the state chief minister at the time.

The recent general elections were contested amidst an atmosphere of unprecedented viciousness, in which high-decibel, no-holds-barred mud-slinging was freely indulged in, which did succeed in polarising and influencing public and societal perceptions to an appreciable extent. At the end of it all, the so-called Right-wing “Hindu nationalists” swept to power in no uncertain terms, under a forceful but controversial chief executive with an earlier record of brisk, no-nonsense governance as chief minister in his parent state. India’s vox populi had pronounced its verdict.

Now that the heat and dust have settled somewhat, it is vitally important to remember that time is at a premium, that people are impatient, and India is a country in a hurry for the promised “good days ahead”. The new administration will have to hit the ground sprinting. The next general elections are due in 2019, distant yet not all that far away if one considers that when the new Prime Minister is scheduled to present his report card as promised. A lot of work needs to be done in the meanwhile.
Change is always easier promised in political speeches than is actually delivered, particularly economic transformation which has its own inherent inertia. To be effective in the context of argumentative India, where perpetually squabbling political parties are obstructive often to the point of sheer cussedness, there is no reason to expect sanity to prevail now that the roles are reversed.


Wednesday, 28 May 2014 |
 Raj Kaushal |

The developments being played out in Afghanistan and the neighbourhood offers much to our understanding of the post-2014 situation in the India-Pakistan and the regional context. We must be prepared to take on challenges

Afghanistan is a nation that has been beset by invasions, external pressures since before the time of Alexander the Great and internal upheaval due to its multi-ethnic population. Afghanistan remained an area of strategic competition because of its unique geopolitical location — being the link between Central Asia, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.

In the 19th century, the British feared that the Tsar’s troops would subdue the Central Asian Principalities and the Emirate of Afghanistan might then become a staging post for a Russian invasion of India. ‘The Great Game’ was a term coined for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British and the Russian Empires for supremacy in Central Asia. In the post-colonial period, the term continues to be used to describe the geopolitical machinations of the Great Powers.

The modern day ‘Great Game’ is playing out once again in Afghanistan, but for different reasons. It has geo-strategic and geo-economic dimensions. The spread of Islamic terrorism represents the geo-strategic dimension, while the lure to tap its hitherto unknown mineral wealth represents the geo-economic dimension. China, India, Russia, and the United States are the major powers embroiled in competition but Pakistan and Iran are also very much in the game.

The spread of global terrorism can be attributed to the creation of a Frankenstein’s monster by way of the mujahideen, by the United States in 1979, through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, to undermine Soviet power in Afghanistan. Once the Soviet troops left in 1989 and the Najibullah regime collapsed in 1992, the Taliban dropped off the US radar. The Taliban swept into Kabul in 1996 and provided a safe heaven to the Al Qaeda; an epicentre of international terror. The 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers made the US realise that its own creation had hit their ‘impenetrable fortress’. Thus began Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001 by the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. All these years, though the ISAF has not been able to eliminate the Taliban, it was able to keep them on the run and engaged.


Wednesday, 28 May 2014 | 

While it is not mandatory to follow only the existing models from other countries, India could at least make a start by adopting some of the successful approaches that the other countries use for their Foreign Services, write TRIDIVESH SINGH MAINI & SRIDHAR RAMASWAMY

In a country where ‘reform’ is a favourite word used frequently in the media and by the people who discuss and debate the need for economic changes, police reforms and judicial reforms etc, there is not much discussion on the need for reforms in the foreign service of the country. There has been little discussion on this area in the public domain. The Indian Foreign Service is often perceived by the ordinary citizen as a service more for the elite class in India which has access to the corridors of power. This perception needs to change.

The Pillai Committee in 1966 undertook one of the most comprehensive exercises since Independence to reform the Indian Foreign Service. Very little of the recommendations the committee made have been implemented till date. Mr Shyam Saran, as former Foreign Secretary to the Union Government, tried to reform the service by moving the Cabinet for expanding the cadre strength along with other structural and administrative reforms.

One of the biggest problems the Union Ministry of External Affairs faces is the severe understaffing in the ministry. Among the major countries in the world today, India has the smallest diplomatic corps. India, with around 900 Indian Foreign Service officers to staff India’s missions and consulates abroad, is also the lowest among the other emerging powers as well. China is known to have more than 4,000 Foreign Service officers, while Brazil has around 1,200. Japan, which is a much smaller country in terms of area and has a much lower population compared to India, has the largest Foreign Services in Asia, with around 5,500 members.

India, which has the second largest population in the world and also has one of the largest bureaucracies in the world, has a small diplomatic corps which is equal to that of Singapore. Contrast this with the European countries which have a sizable diplomatic staff, or the US which has a massive size of 20,000 foreign service personnel deployed worldwide to look after their missions.

It shows the seriousness and importance these countries give to their Foreign Service by having a sizeable diplomatic staff. Some of the reforms suggested over the years were to bring in lateral entry into the Foreign Service, get experts who have specialised in certain areas such as climate change, trade and commerce, etc. These ideas have run into troubled waters with different power centres.

There is not much coordination between different ministries. As a result, the diplomatic corps feels handicapped. Also, the not-so-compatible relationship between the IAS and the Foreign Service often leads to stagnation or delay.

There are many reasons given as to why the Indian Foreign Service is not ready for the reforms that have been suggested by various experts. One of the major reasons stated is that the Indian Foreign Service officers feel they may further lose their prominence to the other services if they bring about some of the reforms suggested, such as the lateral entry in the Foreign Service.

Some reports and articles in the media have spoken about the fall in preference for the Indian Foreign Service, as it is no longer the first preference given by many who end up joining the service. Most of them prefer the Indian Administrative Service or even the Indian Revenue Service over the Foreign Service. Many aspirants end up joining the Foreign Service as they don’t qualify for the other services of their choice. Also, another interesting trend that has been noticed is that most people joining the Indian Foreign Service had a background in engineering and natural sciences, while there was hardly anyone from the social sciences background.

It was noticed that those who gave the Indian Foreign Service as their first choice were more from the social sciences or liberal arts background than the others who gave preference to the other services over the Foreign Service. The cause of concern here is that people getting into the Indian Foreign Service are not primarily interested in joining the Foreign Service.

The Union Ministry of External Affairs does not have even a mission statement or a strategic plan for a certain time-frame. India can take a cue from the US State Department, which does have a strategic plan for a certain time-frame of around five years or more.

While it is not mandatory to follow only the existing models from other countries, India could at least make a start by adopting some of the successful approaches that the other countries use for their Foreign Services.

(Tridivesh Singh Maini is associated with the Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal GlobalUniversity, Sonepat. Sridhar Ramaswamy is a final year Master’s student of Foreign Policy at the Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat)


Wednesday, 28 May 2014 | Rohit Bansal |
I wasn’t just surprised when the epic $400-billion deal among Russia and China last week went relatively unnoticed among our strategic community. I felt frustrated and worried.

Well, here’s the ‘why’ for those who just landed from the moon:

As Bank of America Merrill Lynch put it, China, the world’s largest polluter, is now a partner of Russia, the world’s largest gas exporter. This signals “a turn in Chinese energy policy away from coal, setting the stage for becoming the largest gas markets on the planet by 2035.”

$400 bn for 38 bcm per year over 30 years is 105 mmscmd or, for context, 80 per cent of the entire domestic production in India! And just so that the oil companies remain healthy to fight for another day, price at current levels there is around $11/ mmbtu.

This price, ex Chinese border, has made BankAm Merryl Lynch analysts to believe that “($11) will likely become the long-term floor for Asian and probably global LNG prices.”

“With LNG supply set to increase in coming year, it is likely that spot Asian LNG prices will end up moving to a band composed of a Chinese floor at around $11 and a Japanese ceiling at $16/MMBTu,” they aver.

Last week’s deal isn’t an isolated one. While our TV channels have been busy chasing petty domestic stories, Beijing’s leadership has forked twenty such LNG contracts world-wide and pipeline import agreements with 5 countries.

Despite such a massive import linkage set to quadruple in the next decade, China’s domestic sourcing will remain just as robust – the latter’s aggregate poised to continue exceeding the import number.

While our strategic community remains notoriously insular, Dharmendra Pradhan, the incoming minister for petroleum and natural gas, and Ajit Doval, the national security advisor, should check how poorly we have chosen to fare in the last 10 years of UPA rule.

Our primary energy consumption is about is Rs 1500/ kgoe against global average of Rs 2500 kgoe and Rs 8000 kgoe in US and other developed countries.

Our energy elasticity is about 0.8. So, for 10 per cent GDP growth, energy supplies need to grow by 8 per cent.

Our total primary energy consumption is about 600 mmtoe. Coal accounts for about 50 per cent of our demand, but coal production has stagnated and hostage to high ash content.

Result? We now import 20 per cent of our coal.

Meanwhile, oil and gas account for about one third of our primary energy consumption.

We remain highly import dependent in both. In oil, our dependence is 80 per cent, in gas we are at about 40 per cent.

Domestic gas consumption is around 130 mmscmd. The TAPI deal (under prolonged discussions) would cost around $13/mmbtu at our borders – as against a paltry $8.4 that the Rangarajan Committee recommended. Out of this, our share would be around 35 mmscmd. Transnational pipeline imports from Iran/ Turkmenistan/ Oman have languished for over 20 years and there is nothing in sight.

So, here’s the parting question for Mr Pradhan and Mr Doval – if India’s own oil and gas resources are not developed, who will fuel the NaMo script of the India Story?

Are reckless imports a sustainable solution?

(The columnist works at the intersect of media, regulation and strategy on RIL. The views are personal. Tweets @therohitbansal).

Complete Afghan troop pullout by 2016-end: USAP

Published: May 28, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama, seeking to turn the page on more than a decade of war, announced plans on Tuesday for greatly reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan by the end of the year and then ending the U.S. military commitment by the end of 2016.

“We have now been in Afghanistan longer than many Americans expected,” Mr. Obama acknowledged during an appearance in the White House Rose Garden. “Now we’re finishing the job we’ve started.”

Even as Mr. Obama set a timetable for the drawdown, he said he would keep nearly 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan after the U.S. combat mission formally ends later this year. Those troops would focus on training Afghan security forces and on counterterrorism efforts.

The President said his plan was contingent on the Afghan government signing a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the accord, but the U.S. is optimistic that the two candidates seeking to replace him in the ongoing Afghan elections will finalize the agreement. Both have pledged to sign it.

Mr. Obama’s blueprint calls for cutting the current U.S. force of 32,000 to 9,800 by the start of next year. Those troops, dispatched throughout Afghanistan, would not be engaged in combat missions.

Over the course of 2015, the number of troops would be cut in half and consolidated in the capital of Kabul and at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan. Those remaining forces would largely be withdrawn by the end of 2016, with fewer than 1,000 remaining behind to staff a security office in Kabul.

Noting the complexity of his drawdown plan, Mr. Obama said, “It’s harder to end wars than to begin them.”

Mr. Obama’s decision is largely in line with what military commanders have been seeking and will allow the president to fully end the American-led military effort by the time he leaves office in January 2017.

A SAD CHRONICLE - The story of the Left’s disappearance from Bengal

First Person Singular: A.M. 

The scale of the triumph of Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party exceeded even what the opinion polls could dare to predict. Otherwise, the rest of the predictions concerning the outcome of the Lok Sabha polls have come true, even the comic drama of the mother and the son resigning together from their respective positions as president and vice-president of the Congress owning responsibility for the rout and their immediate change of mind following sobbing appeals from their henchmen. It was high entertainment, but there was one element in it which evoked both abhorrence and pity, abhorrence because the dynasty did not have the grace to spare the last ignominy for Manmohan Singh; he was made to move the resolution at the party meeting imploring noble madam and her equally noble offspring not to quit, they had not an iota of responsibility for the inglorious party performance, it was his abject failure as prime minister and of the government he presided over; pity, because even now Manmohan Singh continues to be so shamelessly obsequious to the family.

Anyway, that chapter is finally over and all speculation at the moment centres on how the BJP handles its super performance. It would be good if its leaders take account of the fact that even though it has won close to 55 per cent of the Lok Sabha seats, barely one-third of the electorate is with it. Even so, those who do the manoeuvrings in the stock markets are dizzy with Modi’s dream win; this is what they wanted and had worked for.

The Sensex, however, is not the real economy. The persistence, in recent years, of recessioning conditions in the developed countries, particularly the United States, has severely affected India’s exports; the hope of an early revival of export-based growth is dependent on whether the American economy would be back on course and refloat Indian exports. The current buoyancy in the stock exchanges, though, has led to a gush of speculative capital from overseas, leading to a boost in the country’s foreign-exchange holdings. It has, however, also caused an appreciation in the external value of the rupee, which is likely to further retard exports. The hard, harsh truth will continue to stare policy-makers in the face: a country with such a huge load of population as ours can hardly expect sustained economic growth merely on the prop of exports; even China, with its far superior technological base and its workers’ innate skill owes to export earnings at most a quarter or thereabouts of its aggregate GDP growth. As long as thoroughgoing redistribution of income and assets does not take place, adequate employment opportunities are not provided to the mass of the people, and a buoyant domestic market for goods and services does not emerge in the country, the economic crisis is most unlikely to resolve itself. True, this is a long-range issue.

It is worthwhile to spare a few paragraphs on the poll outcome in West Bengal. The Left Front there has met with total disaster; sorry to say it, never was such a disaster more richly deserved. The Front leaders initially attributed the poll results to large-scale terrorization and electoral malpractices in a number of constituencies by Trinamul Congress which the Election Commission failed to prevent. Even if the commission were a little less passive, it would frankly not have made much of a difference to the overall poll outcome, it was the general failure of the Front, particularly its main constituent, the CPI(M) to mobilize enough support which is at the root of its abysmal failure. Otherwise, how does one explain the complete wash-out of the Left in terms of seats won from the entire stretch of southern Bengal, considered even till a few years ago the impenetrable stronghold of the CPI(M)?

A coming together of dreams

 May 28, 2014 01:27 IST |
Wei Wei

IMPROVING TIES: China is willing to import more products from India for a balanced trade relationship between India and China. Picture shows Chinese traders coming to India after opening of the Nathu La Pass trade route in 2006. Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

The Chinese and Indian dreams are interconnected and mutually compatible representing the shared aspiration of 2.5 billion people

In March 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Ashok Kantha, when he accepted the latter’s credentials as India’s new Ambassador to China, that cooperation between two great nations like China and India is contribution to the world and it is our common historical mission to push forward China-India relations.

On May 26, 2014, I had the honour of attending Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony and witnessing a historical moment. On the same day, Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China sent a warm message of congratulations to Prime Minister Modi. On behalf of the Chinese government and people and in his own name, Premier Li extended sincere congratulations and best wishes to the Indian Prime Minister.

Expanding cooperation

In his message, Premier Li said that China and India are important neighbours and the top two emerging markets in the world. China-India relations have moved beyond the bilateral scope and taken on global and strategic significance. China has all along regarded India as a natural cooperative partner whose development brings opportunities to China, and has viewed China-India relations as one of its diplomatic priorities. In this new century, the two sides have found a way to actively expand cooperation while properly handling disagreements. China-India relations have matured and entered the track of healthy and rapid growth. Premier Li pointed out that both China and India are now facing the historical mission of deepening reform, growing the economy and improving people’s livelihood. We also share the goal of seeking domestic development and a peaceful external environment. By working together for peaceful, cooperative and common development, China and India will not only bring benefits to their own peoples but also contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asian region and beyond. This year is an important one for China-India relations to build on past achievement and usher in new progress. It is also the Year of China-India Friendly Exchanges. China-India relations face new development opportunities. China stands ready to work with India in order to take the China-India strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity to a new level.

One year ago, Premier Li Keqiang paid an official visit to India in his first outgoing visit after assuming premiership. All of these show that the Chinese government and leadership attach great importance to India as well as to China-India relations, and regard the relationship as an important part of China’s foreign policy for good-neighbourly friendship. This also reflects that it is a set policy for the Chinese government to develop strategic and cooperative partnership with India. The China-India friendly cooperation is an irreversible historical trend which conforms to the common interests of our two countries and to the common aspirations of our two peoples.

Response Options for India to Externally Abetted Terrorist Strikes

Policy Brief:
2014 | Pages. 8

India in the coming years will face new challenges, foremost amongst these is the instability and disruption due to externally abetted acts of terror and asymmetric war. This must be appreciated and India needs to unleash its potential in keeping with Vegetius’s dictum “Si vis pacem, para bellum”, i.e. ‘if you want peace, prepare for war.


Ambreen Agha 
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

Exploiting the restive and conflict ridden environment in Balochistan, terrorist outfits that share their ideology with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are spreading their influence in the Province. The TTP and its proxies, as SAIR has noted earlier, have long had a strong base in the northern part of the Province. In the recent past, however, they have extended their networks into the Makran Division, including Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar Districts, which lies deep in the South Balochistan. Significantly, the region has witnessed attacks on private schools with the extremists professing abhorrence for western and girls' education. 

On May 21, 2014, at least six people, including a Government school teacher, identified as Master Hameed, were shot dead when terrorists entered his residence and opened fire, killing him and five of his relatives in the Dasht area of Turbat District. The attack came in the wake of threatening letters sent to private schools by a newly surfaced terrorist group, Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan (Organisation of the creation of Islam) in Panjgur District, warning the people to completely shut down girls’ education or to prepare themselves for “the worst consequences as prescribed in the Quran”. 

Earlier, on May 13, 2014, four armed TIF terrorists, wearing headbands with Allah-o-Akbar (Allah is Great) imprinted on them, set ablaze the vehicle of Major (Retired) Hussain Ali, owner of The Oasis School, in the same District, while he was driving girls to school. The masked terrorists asked him and the girls to de-board the vehicle, before setting it ablaze. 

On May 7, 2014, TIF threatened 23 English Language Learning Centres in Panjgur to shut down and stop imparting co-education and teaching in English, which they referred as “Haram (forbidden) in Islam”. In their letter, TIF warned, “Private schools should completely stop girls’ education, both co-education and separate education. We urge all van and taxi drivers to refrain from taking girls to schools. Otherwise, they will also be targeted... Any institution or persons defying the warning will be deemed as an enemy of Islam and therefore punished.” On the same day, masked terrorists barged into a language centre, threatening the teachers and young male and female students against co-education and learning English, and destroyed the school’s furniture and textbooks. 

The Old Order Collapses, Finally

May 22, 2014

There has been something both conclusive and convulsive -- and yet sustaining -- about the crisis in Ukraine that has caused people to believe we have now entered a new chapter in international relations. As other commentators have noted, the old order has collapsed. By that they mean the period erstwhile labeled the Post Cold War.

This is a stunning formulation because it means at face value that all the blood and tragedy in Afghanistan and Iraq were not enough to signal a new phase in history, while the past few months in Ukraine were. But how can that be? The answer is that historical periods evolve very gradually -- over the years, during a decade of fighting in the Middle East, say -- whereas our recognition of these changes may happen only later, in an instant, as when Russia annexed Crimea.

Let me define what others have referred to as the "old order," as well as where I think we stand now.

In Asia, the old order, or the Post Cold War, meant American naval dominance, in essence a unipolar military world where the Chinese were developing a great economy but not yet a great military and the Japanese were safely entrenched inside a semi-pacifistic mindset. That Post Cold War order actually started decaying only a half-decade after the Berlin Wall fell, in the mid-1990s, when Chinese naval development first began to be demonstrably noticed. Over the past two decades Chinese naval power has grown steadily to the point where that American unipolar military order is giving way to a multipolar one, even as Japan, as a response to the Chinese threat, has slipped out of semi-pacifism and has rediscovered nationalism as a default option. The old order, in a word, is collapsing -- though we have only recently noticed it. The recent Chinese-Vietnamese naval standoff in the South China Sea has only punctuated the matter.

In the Middle East, the Post Cold War initially meant that the Americans kept Saddam Hussein's Iraq in check by ejecting him from Kuwait and then suffocating him with a no-fly zone. Saddam's Iraq, in turn, helped keep the mullahs' Iran in check. The American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11, and America's subsequent acceptance of stalemate in those wars, certainly undermined Washington's credibility and allowed Iran to expand its geopolitical influence. But with the American Navy and Air Force in the eastern Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea and elsewhere -- not to mention the deployment of drones and Special Operations Forces to a place like Yemen -- American power is still not wholly to be trifled with. Indeed, the Persian Gulf -- whose security is underwritten by U.S. sea power -- has always been safe for hydrocarbon transport, relatively unaffected by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Of course, state collapses and partial-state collapses in Syria, Libya and Yemen have weakened American influence in those countries, but they have also weakened great power influence there in general. Nevertheless, we can say that as anarchy has increased over the years in the region, the ability of America to influence things has diminished. Thus, we have the slow-motion demise of the old order.

Fixing India’s Healthcare System

A. K. Shiva Kumar
MAY 13, 2014MINT 


With India at a crossroads, with a new government expected soon, the time is ripe to put healthcare reform at center stage, with the goal of pressing the next central government to achieve meaningful universal health coverage.

Life expectancy in India has more than doubled since independence, to 65 years, from just 32 in 1950. The infant mortality rate has been cut by two-thirds since 1971. Smallpox and guinea worm have been eradicated, the spread of HIV/AIDS has been contained, and the World Health Organization has declared India polio-free. 

Yet for all of that, India’s healthcare system in many respects is on life support. The country trails behind sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh and Nepal on numerous health fronts, despite higher per-capita income and two decades of spectacular economic growth. Inequities in the availability and outcome of care abound, determined in large part by gender, socioeconomic status and geographical location. And most Indians seeking care are confronted by two unpalatable choices—a public health system that is almost entirely free but of poor quality if it is accessible, and a largely unregulated private-sector system that provides world-class service to some but too often charges ruinous prices, dispenses inappropriate or unnecessary care, and is riddled with practitioners with little or no formal training. 

The costs of these failings fall disproportionately on the poor, especially women and children, but are borne by all. High rates of infectious diseases compete with a large and growing burden of chronic illness. Cardiovascular disease has become a major cause of morbidity and mortality, more than a million deaths a year are attributed to smoking, and nearly 65 million Indians are known to have diabetes. Mental illness and occupational health and safety suffer from neglect. 

With India at a crossroads, with a new government expected soon, the time is ripe to put healthcare reform at centrestage, with the goal of pressing the next central government to achieve meaningful universal health coverage. Four key steps are necessary to reach that goal. 

First, the government must embrace the idea of tax-funded universal coverage, as opposed to contributory or subsidized private insurance schemes. Second, it must incentivize preventive care by setting up more robust primary-care facilities, especially in underserved rural areas. Third, it must pursue substantive public-private partnerships with trustworthy private actors; this step should be supported by a stronger regulatory framework from the central government. Fourth, it must encourage state governments to function as laboratories to produce better outcomes. 

India –Pakistan Relations: Look to the Future Not the Past

Paper No. 5709 Dated 25-May-2014
By Dr Subhash Kapila

India and Pakistan, if both desirous to forge a friendly relationship in the years to come, and to erase the severe strategic distrust that exists need to look to the future and not the past.

Years back I had written a Paper on this site that ‘Pakistan’s Democracy is a National Security Interest for India’ and the Paper advised various steps that should be taken to assist democracy taking firm roots in Pakistan. In particular the Indian media was advised a big role in this direction. Besides other things, the Indian media was advised neither to go euphorically overboard nor heighten expectations on a single development. This also applies to the current visit of PM Nawaz Sharif to New Delhi tomorrow.

On May 27 2014 as PM Narendra Modi of India and PM Nawaz Sharif sit down for their first ever talks, following the Swearing Ceremony on May 26 evening which the Pakistani Prime Minister has graciously accepted to attend despite known odds, the cardinal principle that should dominate the proceedings is that both “India and Pakistan Should Look to the Future and Not the Past”.

The ‘past’ in India-Pakistan relationship is riddled with adversarial, conflictual and acrimonious exchanges chiefly arising from the flotsam and debris of the 1947 Partition of the Indian Sub-Continent. Such a pattern and record can hardly provide the basis for eradicating the accumulated ‘Strategic Distrust’ of six decades.

India and Pakistan need to follow the ‘Mantras’ that China advances in similar contexts that such problems are the left-overs of history and should be left to succeeding generations to solve them over time and with patience.

PM Modi and PM Sharif would be well advised to adopt this approach as they sit down to get a measure of each other and since this is an occasion of Swearing-in of the new Indian Prime Minister who has come into power with a massive mandate, the meeting on May 17 should be restricted to establish a working personal relationship and not an occasion to score ‘brownie points ‘for respective domestic audiences.

The Indian interlocutors and the media should refrain from the chant of ‘Talks and Terror’ should not go together. This is now being chanted by Congress Party spokespersons obviously for political reasons. India knows as to which elements in Pakistan are behind such state-sponsored terrorism and that requires a separate strategy other than introducing positivity in India –Pakistan relations.

Pakistan must shed its ‘past pattern’ of insisting on the ‘left-over problems of 1947’ to introduce positivity in its policy formulations on India. The Kashmir issue has been flogged ad nauseum both within Pakistan and international forums and can continue for another 1000 years with no outcome. Same applies to other contentious issues that comprise the so-called Composite Dialogue.

Pakistan 2014: A Reality Check for India’s Foreign Policy

Paper No. 5708 Dated 23-May-2014
By Dr Subhash Kapila

Prime Minister Designate Narendra Modi’s political reachout to SAARC nations to attend his swearing-in ceremony is a bold and imaginative foreign policy initiative especially in relation to Pakistan.

Scheduled interaction between PM Modi is due to take place the day after the swearing-in ceremony. This would enable PM Modi and the SAARC heads to take a measure of each other. In the process of these interactions PM Modi would be able to dispel the negative images of him projected by India’s Opposition parties during the 2014 Election Campaign.

It would be a pity therefore that the Pakistan Prime Minister is unable to attend especially when no other external engagements stand scheduled for him. PM Sharif is reputed to have friendly inclinations towards and keen to enhance economic and trade ties with India. If he is dissuaded in declining PM Modi’s invitation when the new Indian Prime Minister is on the threshold of initiating foreign policy changes, Pakistan would have missed a significant opportunity towards moving Pakistani relations to a new footing.

PM Nawaz Sharif is now in office for a year now in what was the first democratic change of regimes in Pakistan. I had written last year and articulated on TV debates that PM Nawaz Sharif would require a year at least to bring about major changes as at that time Pakistani political dynamics were in a flux with impending changes of the Pakistan Army Chief and the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Indian establishment and media were advised not to be euphoric.

It needs to be noted that Pakistan’s India and Afghanistan foreign policies are controlled by the Pakistan Army and the new Pakistan Army Chief seems disinclined to let go of this hold to sustain the institutional significance of the Pakistan Army in Pakistani domestic political dynamics and also as leverage with the United States and China. 

While all SAARC nations have accepted the invitation, Pakistan is dithering for the last two days indicating the serious institutional divide within Pakistan over its approaches to India. 

A reality- check on Pakistan is therefore contextually relevant both for PM Designate Modi and the foreign policy establishment which would need to break-out of the earlier appeasement mode of the last ten years.

Pakistan: Ground Operations Against TTP Begin.

Paper No. 5710 Dated 26-May-2014
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

It looks that finally the Pakistan Army had its way in going against TTP camps in South Waziristan despite genuine reservations from the political leadership led by Nawaz Sharief and his Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

On 23rd May, the Security Forces made a major assault on the Machis camp of the militants on the outskirts of Miranshah. Official reports say that 4 Uzbek militants were killed and many others captured. The security forces also suffered casualties. The next day helicopter gun ships and Jets bombed the suspected concentration of TTP militants in Dera Ismail Khan area too.

Two days earlier on 21st May, Pak jets pounded suspected hideouts in North Waziristan. 60 militants including some senior militant commanders were reported killed. There were strikes in and around Miran shah. There were strikes again on 22nd . In all 80 militants were reported to have been killed. It is possible that many civilians would also have been killed, but the press has not made any mention. It is to be recalled that the Press is now terrified after action against three of the Geo channels and therefore cannot be expected to give a truthful account.

The offensive against the TTP who are not far from the camps of the Haqqani group that are friendly to the Pak army, was said to have been taken at a high level meeting on 20th May of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, Interior Minister Nisar Ali and the Army Chief. 

Pressure had been mounting on Nawaz Sharief to go for an offensive for quite some time. On January 27, the parliamentarians from PML (N) had voted in majority for operations against the Taliban as opposed to the peace talks the government was pursuing. The Army had all along pressed for a “full-fledged operations” to curb sectarian violence and terrorism.

Earlier in the beginning of January the Government had formed a negotiating team which interestingly had a retired ISI Major Amir as one of the members. The TTP on its part was led by Jamaat-e Islami leader Ibrahim Khan. 

With the cease fire having lapsed it was inevitable that offensive operations would begin. Yet Nawaz Sharief had set store on continuing the talks as he still felt that there was no alternative to the talks. In early May, despite some serious incidents, Interior Minister Nisar Khan said that he still believed that the talks were the way forward. 

It looks that Nawaz Sharief has been finally over ruled by the Army who were itching to go after the TTP ( Tehrik-e Taliban). Yet one cannot explain the ferocity of the assault of the Army on areas suspected to be holding the TTP and the foreign militants. Whole buildings have been razed to the ground in the operations. The reasons could be 

* There is a view that the immediate provocation was a major ambush of May 12, on the 12 Frontier Corps patrol when 12 personnel were killed and many more injured.

* In another incident one Chinese was kidnapped and there could have been Chinese pressure. Just a few days ago in the city of Urumchi four Uighur militants rammed two SUVs right into a crowded market killing many. The ETIM continues to be active in Xinjiang.

A Russian Strategy for Afghanistan After the Coalition Troop Withdrawal

MAY 22, 2014

Twenty-five years after Soviet troops left the country, Afghanistan is facing another historical crossroads, this time on the eve of the withdrawal of U.S.-led international coalition combat troops, the International Security Assistance Force, scheduled to depart by the end of 2014. The country’s present is unstable, and its future is uncertain—will it develop progressively, or is it bound for chaos and regression, as was the case after the Soviet troop withdrawal?

Potential threats and risks associated with post-withdrawal Afghanistan are a matter of concern for neighboring countries and the international community. In addition, reduced American military presence and weaker U.S. interest in the country will increase the role other great powers and neighboring nations—mainly Russia and China, as well as Pakistan, Iran, India, and states from both the Gulf and Central Asia—will play in Afghanistan.

The future stability and development of Afghanistan will affect the interests of the Russian Federation. As coalition troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, Russia should consider a strategy that helps maintain stability in the region but that does not require Moscow to intervene in the domestic disputes that will likely characterize post-withdrawal Afghanistan.


Afghanistan faces two major milestones in 2014: presidential elections, which took place on April 5, 2014, and the withdrawal of coalition combat troops by the end of the year.

Presidential elections have not significantly strengthened Afghan statehood or definitively resolved the question of who will control the country. They may, however, help clarify the current ethno-political and clan balance of power in the country. The top brass of the regime may reconfigure itself after President Hamid Karzai leaves office, even if he remains an influential political figure. Essentially, the elections will trigger a power struggle in post-American Afghanistan.

The question of continued foreign military presence in Afghanistan after coalition combat troops leave remains open. Complete withdrawal of foreign troops, as was done in Iraq, is still possible unless Washington and Kabul reach an agreement on the status of American troops in Afghanistan. However, unlike oil-rich Iraq, one of Afghanistan’s primary sources of income is foreign aid, and a complete troop withdrawal would do away with most of this international assistance. In this case, the onset of large-scale instability in Afghanistan would be quite likely, with internal Afghan conflicts becoming more intense and the country’s political forces radicalizing.

The retention of a limited U.S. military contingent and continued U.S. support for the Afghan government would therefore help avoid instability and facilitate a softer resolution to the question of the country’s future regime. For Russia, which prioritizes a stable Afghanistan, this would be the most desirable solution, provided that foreign troops remain in the country under a UN Security Council mandate.



By Riffath Khaji

On 7 November 2013, following the death of Hakimullah Mehsud by the US’ drone strikes, Mullah Fazlullah, popularly known as Mullah Radio was elected as the new chief of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The geographic profile of their targets, and the objectives of the attacks, can be outlined as follows:

Geographic Profile

Most of the attacks carried out by the TTP have been executed in different parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces. Parachinar has been battered by ethnic and sectarian violence for many years. The region has witnessed near continuous violence between Shia and Sunni sects especially.

Other oft-targeted regions are Bajaur Agency, Kurram Agency, and South and North Waziristan. Major cities of KP such as Peshawar, Charsadda, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat and Bannu have also been targeted. Fazlullah is originally from Swat, which was his operational base before he assumed leadership of the TTP.

Who are the targets?

The TTP have targeted law-enforcing agencies; the military; the politicians; minority sects such as the Shias, the Ahmadiyyas, the Christians, and private school owners. This shows that their targets are both the State and civil society. Initially they began attacking the State and its agencies, and proceeded to attack the minorities such as Shias and Ahmaddiyas. Though most of the attacks have been reported in the aforementioned provinces, the TTP has also been accused of other prominent attacks that took place in Karachi, Rawalpindi, and Lahore. This shows that they have the wherewithal, network and the means to carry out attacks at anywhere in Pakistan.

What are the Objectives of Carrying out the Attacks?

Mullah Fazlullah is completely different from the two previous chiefs of the TTP – Baitullah and Hakimullah Mehsud. He had consistently propagated his version of Islam in Swat before 2013. He believes in implementing the Sharia. The leadership of the TTP has connections with the Afghan Taliban who want to implement Sharia in Pakistan and administer the country like the way the Taliban did during their rule of Afghanistan. The TTP has, in several occasions, signalled to the government, that they are unwilling to compromise on declaring Islamic rule.

The objectives of the attacks are multi-faceted: to unite against coalition forces in Afghanistan; carry out offensives against the Pakistani Army; demand the release Imam Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid; the abolition of all military checkpoints in the FATA; and refuse future peace deals with the Government of Pakistan.

The TTP never considered the minority Shias as Muslims due to ideological differences. They list them as heretics; and the Ahmaddiyas too are categorised in a similar fashion. Their justification is that violence against Shias and Ahmaddiyas is to avenge the atrocities committed by the Shias against the Sunnis in Syria, Iran and Iraq. However, this justification isn’t strong because sectarian violence existed in Pakistan even before civil war broke out in in Syria and Iraq.

On 3 March, militants attacked a court building in Islamabad, killing 11, including the judge. The attack began with gunfire followed by two suicide bombings. It marked the first suicide bombing in Islamabad since the 2011, and the TTP claimed responsibility.

The policemen too haven’t been spared by the TTP. Recently, in a major attack on Fazlullah’s command, five policemen and a civilian were killed at the Zangli Checkpost on the Kohat Peshawar road in Peshawar – the provincial capital of KP. The police arrested several injured people from Peshawar hospitals in connection to the attack. Reports have stated that the suspects belonged to the Khyber Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). On 22 April, Nasir Khan Durrani, Inspector General of Police, KP, stated that the aforementioned attack was a repercussion of the police force’s search operation against terrorists on the outskirts of Peshawar.

In March 2014, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif initiated direct talks with the Pakistani Taliban, sending a four-man team to North Waziristan near the Afghan border, to meet members of the TTP’s shura. A TTP spokesman stated that they wanted the release of all non-combatant prisoners, a peace zone in South Waziristan for future talks, and a halt to operations against the Pakistan Taliban, and added that so far they haven’t been granted any concession.

There is near-complete consensus among all the political parties in Pakistan vis-à-vis the talks with the TTP. The talks, however, have been far from fruitful. It appears that the military intelligence has no control over these frontier-based violent groups, unlike their counter parts in eastern Pakistan, especially in Punjab.

While the frontier-based groups consistently attack both state establishments and minority communities, the government is clueless and appears confused over devising potential solutions.

Riffath Khaji

Research Intern, (IReS) IPCS

China’s New President Wants to Expand and Modernize China’s Military

May 25, 2014
China’s Leader, Seeking to Build Its Muscle, Pushes Overhaul of the Military
Jane Perlez and Chris Buckley
New York Times

China’s military budget is the second largest in the world, behind that of the United States. 

BEIJING — Driven by ambitions to make China a great power, President Xi Jinpingis staking his political authority on a huge task: overhauling the Chinese military, which is still largely organized as it was when a million peasant soldiers mustered under Mao Zedong.

Mr. Xi wants a military that can project power across the Pacific and face regional rivals like Japan in defense of Chinese interests. To get it, he means to strengthen China’s naval and air forces, which have been subordinate to the People’s Liberation Army’s land forces, and to get the military branches to work in close coordination, the way advanced Western militaries do.

China’s military budget has grown to be the second largest in the world, behind that of the United States, and the country has acquired sophisticated weapons systems. But Mr. Xi has told his commanders that is not enough.

“There cannot be modernization of national defense and the military without modernization of the military’s forms of organization,” Mr. Xi told a committee of party leaders studying military reform at its first meeting in March, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, reported. “There has to be thoroughgoing reform of leadership and command systems, force structure and policy institutions,” he was quoted as saying.

It will not be easy. Reorganizing the People’s Liberation Army, or P.L.A., will pit Mr. Xi’s ambitions against the entrenched power of the land forces, with about 1.4 million troops, and he will have to manage the overhaul while ensuring that the military remains a reliable guardian of the Communist Party’s hold on political power, experts said.

“Military reform is part of the larger program that Xi Jinping is putting in place to put his imprimatur on the Chinese party-state,” said David M. Finkelstein, vice president and director of China studies at CNA Corporation, a research organization in Alexandria, Va., concentrating on security and military affairs.

“ ‘This time, we’re serious’ — that should be the subtext of this new tranche of reform,” he said. “It will be five years before you see the fruits of it. But 10 years from now, you might see a very different P.L.A.”

The Crisis of Confidence in U.S. Hegemony

Chen Jimin, Assistant Research Fellow, Party School of CPC 
May 20, 2014

Since the 21st century, the United States has suffered a series of internal and external challenges. At the beginning of the new century, the United States faced security threats from non-state actors and suffered during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which completely changed America’s traditional security concept of the U.S. homeland as an absolutely safe haven. Subsequently, the Bush administration launched the global war on terrorism. But this made America’s fiscal situation and international reputation fall into trouble, rather than help the United States achieve the stated objectives. Meanwhile, the U.S. has also faced challenges from the rise of non-Western countries. To some extent, the challenges will have a deeper impact on U.S. hegemony. When President Obama took office, he found that the distribution of global power has been experiencing a subtle yet irreversible restructuring, which is the new face of the international system. Thus, in the report of U.S. National Security Strategy (2010), President Obama stated that the current international system needed to be adjusted to accommodate the demands of new centers of power.

While the United States was trapped in two wars, the U.S. domestic economy faced serious problems with the 2008 financial crisis. Meanwhile, a new political and social movement emerged in the United States. The Tea Party and “Occupy Wall Street” movements have served as political agitators and enhanced the political struggle between the two parties. In fact, during the Obama administration, the U.S. parties disagreed on many domestic issues, such as health care, immigration reform, and the debt ceiling. All of this has affected U.S. diplomacy. For instance, President Obama was absent from the APEC meeting last year largely because of the government shutdown.

To attain the goal of fiscal austerity, the U.S. Department of Defense was required to cut $487 billion in military spending over the next decade. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said “these cuts are too fast, too much, too abrupt, and too irresponsible,” and that they would seriously restrict America’s readiness and the ability to respond to challenges. Actually, the U.S. has felt the impact of weakening military power. For example, the United States adopted the so-called “leading from behind” strategy in the Libyan war, which reflected the limits of the U.S. armed services. Currently, the U.S. Ukraine policy is also in the same situation. President Obama has made ​​it clear that “We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine.” He also stressed that the U.S. would not make unfulfilled promises to Ukraine when attending the joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on March 27. In fact, in both cases, the United States found itself in a “defensive” position in the geo-strategic game, with its allies questioning the U.S. ability to fulfill its commitments. The distrust could cause larger negative impacts on the U.S. ability to maintain its global leadership, because the international order created and dominated by the United States is largely dependent on the broad, reliable U.S. alliance and partner network in the world. The elements to support the network are United States’ comprehensive strength, as well as allies and partners’ confidence that the U.S. would provide security protection at a critical moment.

The Budget This Time: Taking the Measure of China’s Defense Spending

April 11,2014 Open Forum

The Budget This Time: Taking the Measure of China’s Defense Spending 1

Early last month, China announced its projected 2014 defense budget of 808 billion yuan (roughly USD 132 billion), a 12.2 percent increase over the previous year. This continues the double-digit spending increases in nominal terms since 1989 (2010 was the exception, most likely because of priorities adjusted in the wake of the global financial crisis). China’s rapid rise in national power across the board and the pace and scale of its increasing investment in the PLA, together with its limited willingness to release a breakdown of how this money is spent, ensure that the annual announcement of its official defense budget for the forthcoming fiscal year attracts considerable attention. Annual multibillion-dollar increases suggest strong interest in furthering core strategic objectives, such as upholding island and maritime sovereignty claims in the East and South China Seas.2

By any measure, China already has the world’s second largest defense budget. While US aggregate military spending remains much higher, unlike the globally distributed US military the PLA is focused primarily on its immediate region, while seeking gradually to project military power globally. When thinking about a possible conflict on China’s periphery a comparison of aggregate defense budgets is not especially useful—the potential flashpoints are much closer to China. Fundamentally different US and Chinese military force postures and priorities likewise limit the usefulness of direct comparisons of force structures for assessing relative capabilities for peacetime influence or scenarios in a military conflict: in the Yellow, East, and South China seas and the airspace above them. The PLA has acquired growing numbers of increasingly capable weapons with this proximate theater in mind, as it strives to strengthen its ability to wield them effectively to uphold its unresolved island and maritime claims if the leadership judges it necessary to do so. Yet critical uncertainties remain concerning Beijing’s capabilities and intentions. While China’s limited budget transparency leaves much unknown, this article analyzes what is known about its military spending and suggests some implications.
Funding the PLA

While China’s official defense budget does not reflect all defense-related spending, given the absence of any consensus about how “defense spending” should be defined, the same is true (if often to a lesser degree) for all nations, including the United States. Nor should the official PLA budget be expected to include at least one of the major categories that are included in the calculations of two organizations that produce some of the best analysis available on China’s defense spending. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) include the budget of the 660,000-strong People’s Armed Police (PAP) in their estimates of China’s military spending.3 This inclusion is puzzling, as the PAP is tasked primarily with domestic, stability-oriented security and its budget is therefore included elsewhere in official statistical yearbooks on government spending. It is also significant for assessments of China’s defense budget transparency, as the PAP budget is one of the largest expenditures for which China is frequently criticized for “inappropriately” excluding from the official defense budget.4 In short, while transparency (or lack thereof) remains a major issue, there is little consensus even outside China over what should, or should not, be included in measurements of China’s defense budget. While typically devoid of specifics, official Chinese statements accurately reveal the basic drivers of the PLA’s rapidly expanding resources:

America, China and the Hacking Threat

MAY 24, 2014 

Over several years of trying to persuade China to stop cyberattacks against corporate America, the Obama administration has gotten nowhere. What officials say is the most aggressive effort by any country to steal secrets from some of the most prominent and successful American companies is still going strong. Losses are estimated at billions of dollars in profits and thousands of jobs.

In this context, the Justice Department’s decision to indict five members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for fraud is understandable as a feel-good gesture and seems within the parameters of American law. As a matter of substance, though, it is pointless and perhaps counterproductive.

The indictments reflect the administration’s frustration with China’s resistance to proposals that differences about cybersnooping be discussed through diplomatic channels and that rules of the road be worked out. To underscore American seriousness, President Obama raised the issue with China’s president, Xi Jinping, at last year’s summit meeting in California, but that seemed to have little effect.

The 31-point indictment, in the works for two years, named members of Unit 61398, which was publicly identified last year as the Shanghai-based cyber unit of the People’s Liberation Army. It alleged that since 2006, the hacking unit invaded the networks of American corporations, including Westinghouse Electric and the United States Steel Corporation, copying their emails and infecting computers with malware. Such behavior cannot go unchallenged. Hacking deprives firms of proprietary intellectual property that they have spent billions of dollars and countless hours developing. It compromises an Internet that depends on the free flow of information.

Mr. Obama is always under political pressure, some of it no doubt from American corporations, to act tough with China. Still, the Justice Department’s unprecedented legal action has serious weaknesses — and is largely symbolic.

It is hard to imagine, first of all, that the indicted men will present themselves in the United States for trial. The administration also has drawn a tenuous distinction between spying for national security reasons and spying on foreign companies for economic advantage, which it says must not be permitted. But America’s own practices are a problem. As National Security Agency documents made public by Edward Snowden revealed, the United States regularly uses cyberspying to gain economic advantage in trade talks. Many other countries, including France, are also aggressive in spying to benefit domestic companies.