25 June 2014

Higher indignity

Pratap Bhanu Mehta 
June 25, 2014

Indian higher education continues to be crushed under a mountain of bad faith. Just contemplate the spectacle in its awful enormity. The regulator, the University Grants Commission, takes out a front-page notice against India’s foremost public university, warning against admissions in its four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP), as if this university were just another of those fraud universities against whom the public needs to be warned. This very same regulator sat silent when issues where raised about the four-year programme when it was first introduced. Delhi University itself had engaged in a travesty by introducing a potentially defensible change in its undergraduate programme in such ill-considered haste. The government, as always, spoke in forked tongues. The previous government refused to intervene on the ground of university autonomy, while secretly pushing this travesty through. The current education minister claims to want to restore autonomy to both the UGC and universities. But the UGC order clearly states that the the FYUP is being cancelled at the behest of the Central government. How much more duplicity can we have over autonomy?

But it gets worse. If the measures and counter-measures display a callous disregard for both procedure and substance, the men behind the measures have brought more indignity to higher education. Think of how offices have been denigrated: a vice chancellor who refused to listen to even reasonable voices on reform (and this government’s stupidity will now turn him into a martyr for autonomy), a UGC whose mediocre abdication has turned it into a post office of the government, educrats, that peculiar species which will tick off every programme so long as it is fashionable with government, and bureaucrats who do not understand the first thing about pedagogy have all conspired to create this morass.

The academic community has also presented an unseemly spectacle. There are some excellent and dedicated academics. But as a group, we come across as unbearably small-minded. We do not know how to handle disagreement and come to workable compromises that help progress. Our own divisions destroy our credibility in the eyes of the public, which sees us as self-serving, obdurate fossils. Our sheer ideological over-commitment belies belief. Some of the very same constituency that would have been glad for the UPA to use the UGC to overturn the universities order are upset that the NDA has done it; and some of the constituency that supported the FYUP has turned against it because the government has so decided.

And think of the laughing-stock we have made of ourselves. Would any half-serious education system treat such momentous decisions with such causal whimsy? Would you expect a major university to keep its students in such suspense, subject them to every consideration but pedagogy? The private universities that take non-refundable deposits for applying will be laughing to the bank as Delhi University delays its admissions processes. Debates over education reflect a third-rate brawl masquerading as high-mindedness. And which political culture in the world so crudely politicises higher education by putting one university’s course structure on election manifestos? What else do you need to signal that universities are about plebiscitary politics, not education?

***** Does India Still Fear China's Growing Military Might?


Almost a decade later, China's so-called "string of pearls" strategy has lost much of its shine. Why?
James Holmes
June 24, 2014

At one point in the movie Beaches, Bette Midler's rather egotistical character C. C. Bloom inquires: "But enough about me, let's talk about you. What do you think of me?" In Beaches, it was all about C. C. Bloom.

It's all about China in Asia these days. But enough about China and its dominance of the headlines. Let's talk about India. What does India think of China?

One thing is clear: Indians do think about China, which has steadily expanded its strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean. And they worry about Asia's would-be Big Brother. Indian strategists see ulterior motives at work even in such nondescript endeavors such as the counterpiracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, where by most accounts, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) has been a valuable partner. Angst-ridden words have issued from New Delhi at times. Yet Indian leaders have modulated their rhetoric in recent years. They appear increasingly comfortable with the strategic outlook in South Asia. Anxieties have receded, though they haven't evanesced entirely and probably never will. And the leisurely pace (and fitful progress) of India's naval and military buildup belies any worried talk from officialdom.

That's all good. All in all, New Delhi's more relaxed attitude toward Chinese naval expansion fits the strategic circumstances better than the anxieties of a decade ago. Then, Indians saw a Chinese naval juggernaut barging into their maritime environs, ringing the subcontinent with a network of hostile naval bases, and assuming command of Indian Ocean waters and skies—to the detriment of Indian primacy. Now, they seemingly understand that India commands enduring advantages in nearby seas and skies, never mind that it remains weaker than China by economic and military metrics; that Beijing has challenges aplenty to occupy its military resources in the China seas, and less to spare for South Asian adventures; and thus, that any truly menacing Chinese naval presence remains far off in the distance. Sobriety prevails.

To track the evolution of India's posture, consider the Strange Case of China's String of Pearls. Ten years ago, the defense consultancy Booz Allen compiled a classified study for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Titled Energy Futures in Asia, the study garnered instant fame when it went public in 2005. Why? Because the study's framers hit upon a catchy phrase for Beijing's ambitions in the Indian Ocean. China, they opined, was pursuing a "string-of-pearls" strategy along the southern rimland.

Its goal: to gain access to port facilities in countries such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan for merchantmen and PLA Navy warships. China courted diplomatic ties with South Asian governments, bankrolled seaport development at sites such as Gwadar in southwestern Pakistan, and proffered economic and infrastructure assistance of various types to sweeten bargains for access—and in turn for energy security. Such overtures appeared ominous to Indian strategists who worried that China would assemble a network of full-blown naval bases to project power into South Asia—much as Western sea powers did during the heyday of imperialism.

*** The United States Has Unfinished Business in Ukraine and Iraq

By George Friedman
June 24, 2014

In recent weeks, some of the international system's unfinished business has revealed itself. We have seen that Ukraine's fate is not yet settled, and with that, neither is Russia's relationship with the European Peninsula. In Iraq we learned that the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the creation of a new Iraqi political system did not answer the question of how the three parts of Iraq can live together. Geopolitical situations rarely resolve themselves neatly or permanently.

These events, in the end, pose a difficult question for the United States. For the past 13 years, the United States has been engaged in extensive, multidivisional warfare in two major theaters -- and several minor ones -- in the Islamic world. The United States is large and powerful enough to endure such extended conflicts, but given that neither conflict ended satisfactorily, the desire to raise the threshold for military involvement makes logical sense.

U.S. President Barack Obama's speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point sought to raise the bar for military action. However, it was not clear in the speech what Obama meant in practical terms when he said:

"Here's my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don't, no one else will. The military that you have joined is and always will be the backbone of that leadership. But U.S. military action cannot be the only -- or even primary -- component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail."

Given events in Ukraine and Iraq, the president's definition of a "nail" in relation to the U.S. military "hammer" becomes important. Military operations that cannot succeed, or can succeed only with such exorbitant effort that they exhaust the combatant, are irrational. Therefore, the first measure of any current strategy in either Ukraine or Iraq is its sheer plausibility.
The Ongoing Ukraine Crisis

In Ukraine, a pro-Russian president was replaced by a pro-Western one. The Russians took formal control of Crimea, where they had always had overwhelming military power by treaty with Ukraine. Pro-Russian groups, apparently supported by Russians, still fight for control in Ukraine's two easternmost provinces. On the surface, the Russians have suffered a reversal in Ukraine. Whether this is truly a reversal will depend on whether the authorities in Kiev are able to rule Ukraine, which means not only forming a coherent government but also enforcing its will. The Russian strategy is to use energy, finance and overt and covert relationships to undermine the Ukrainian government and usurp its power.

It is in the interest of the United States that a pro-Western Ukraine emerges, but that interest is not overwhelming enough to warrant a U.S. military intervention. There is no alliance structure in place to support such an intervention, no military bases where forces have accumulated to carry this out, and no matter how weakened Russia is, the United States would be advancing into a vast country whose occupation and administration -- even if possible -- would be an overwhelming task. The Americans would be fighting far from home, but the Russians would be fighting in their backyard.

Ukraine is not a nail to be hammered. First, its fate is not of fundamental American interest. Second, it cannot be driven into the board. The United States must adopt an indirect strategy. What happens in Ukraine will happen. The place where the United States can act to influence events is in the countries bordering Ukraine -- most notably Poland and Romania. They care far more about Ukraine's fate than the United States does and, having lost their sovereignty to Russia once in the last century, will be forced to resist Russia again. Providing them support with minimal exposure makes sense for the United States.
The Complexities of Iraq

Iraq consists of three major groups: Shia, Sunnis and Kurds. The United States left Iraq in the hands of the Shiite-dominated government, which failed to integrate the Kurds or the Sunnis. The Kurdish strategy was to create and maintain an autonomous region. The Sunnis' was to build strength in their region and wait for an opportune moment. That moment came when, after the recent election, Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki failed to quickly form a new government and seemed intent on recreating the failed government of the past.

The Sunnis did not so much invade as arise, taking control of Sunni areas and to some extent coordinating activities throughout the region. They did not attack the Kurdish region or predominantly Shiite areas. Indeed, the Shia began to mobilize to resist the Sunnis. What has happened is the failure of the central government and the assertion of regional power. There is no native power that can unite Iraq. No one has the strength. The assumption is that the United States could hold Iraq together -- thus the demand by some in Iraq and the United States that the United States massively intervene would make sense.

** Ignorance is not bliss with cybersecurity

June 23, 2014

It's time to close the the cyber-awareness gap and improve cybersecurity, according to a Brookings Institute Fellow. 

"There's probably no issue that has become more crucial, more rapidly, but is less understood, than cybersecurity."

That statement was gleaned from an interview Oxford University Press had with P.W. Singer, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, cybersecurity expert, and coauthor of Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know. Singer's point above will not be refuted by too many. It's later in the interview where Singer mentioned something that may rub a few the wrong way. Singer said, "There is an alarming cyber-awareness gap."

Singer came to that conclusion while researching his newly-released book. He likened what is happening today in cyberspace to an invention that disrupted the world during the 17th century. The coming of the printing press changed everything by disseminating knowledge and facilitating mass communication in a way previously unknown. Singer also mentioned that the printing press spread disorder, sparked the Reformation, and fueled a series of epic wars that left eight million dead in Europe.
Kingdoms lost control

Back in the 1600's, the world was governed by crown royalty and confederations. With constant warfare and strife, it became clear the rulers were losing control. This awakening led to the now famous 1648 Peace of Westphalia, and the creation of what Singer calls the modern bureaucratic nation-state, and he said, "Each nation's sovereignty was embodied by a government that monopolized legitimate force within its borders and ensured that the national economy ran smoothly, setting up everything from national currency to taxes."

Singer said today's governments are the evolutionary results of decisions made back then. And like before the Peace of Westphalia, today's governments are having trouble keeping up with a certain disruptive technology and those who employ the technology for nefarious reasons. Singer offered the following examples:

● The rise of transnational threats such as terrorism

● The global financial crisis

● The effects of climate change

● The current lack of cybersecurity
Today's nation states and cybersecurity

India Promoting Lower-Cost Military Exports

JUNE 23, 2014 

Kuni Takahashi for The New York TimesModels of cruise missiles being displayed during during a defense exposition earlier this year in New Delhi, India.

HONG KONG — India’s ambitions to increase its domestic military industry may have grown a little more expansive.

On Sunday, the head of the country’s Defense Research and Development Organization told the Press Trust of India news agency that a ‘‘list of equipment,’’ including long-range missiles and the domestically developed Tejas light fighter, could be sold as exports in direct competition with countries like China.

Avinash Chander, the agency’s chief, argued that India’s advantage would be in production cost. ‘‘Many times Indian weapons are a lot cheaper,’’ he told the news agency. ‘‘There are various other systems, like if you take strategic missiles, the long-range missiles that China sells to Saudi Arabia and the cost at which we produce, it would be one-third or one-fourth.’’

The defense agency confirmed the comments by phone on Monday.

Whether there would be a market for India’s weaponry is unclear. A heavy importer of weapons, the country has been struggling for years to manufacture arms reliable enough for its military to use, the Times’s Gardiner Harris reported in March.

The Hindustan Aeronautics Tejas jet, in particular, took more than three decades to develop and its capabilities already lag behind those of its contemporaries, analysts say. The project suffered from poor project oversight, a lack of access to key systems and avionics technology because of embargoes, unrealistic deadlines and changing requirements, Ben Moores, a senior analyst with IHS Jane’s, said Monday.

It is estimated to cost $31 million per unit, compared with more than $30 million for an American-built F-16 or $29 million for a Russian MIG-29.

India to Open Nuclear Program to Greater IAEA Scrutiny

India will sign an additional protocol allowing the IAEA greater oversight over its civil nuclear program.
India is currently in the process of ratifying an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that would allow the international nuclear watchdog to oversee New Delhi’s civilian nuclear program with greater access than in the past. Specifically, India will ratify an additional protocol to the IAEA Safeguards Agreement it agreed to in 2009. ”I can confirm that we are ratifying the Additional Protocol to the IAEA Safeguards Agreement,” noted Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the ratification by India furthers a process under way for several years designed to allow India to have commercial relations with other countries in the civilian nuclear field.”

Following widespread international sanctions and condemnation for its nuclear weapons tests in 1998, India managed to normalize itself as a nuclear power outside of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2008 following a civil nuclear cooperation deal with the United States and receipt of a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. India currently holds a unique position among world nuclear powers given that is allowed to engage in normal civilian nuclear commerce despite its position outside the NPT regime. India currently abides by a self-enforced moratorium on nuclear testing and is engaged in civil nuclear cooperation with several countries.

The primary significance of this new deal with the IAEA is that it will serve to bolster the level of confidence other states will have in India’s ability to pursue civilian nuclear development in a responsible manner. While India has maintained a relatively clean record on nuclear proliferation, it has a long way to go in terms of nuclear materials security. In the Nuclear Threat Initiatives 2014 Security Index, India scored worse than both Pakistan and China for nuclear materials security. This agreement with the IAEA should, in theory, allow India to begin addressing some of its nuclear security deficits. Currently, India’s primarily lacks in the area of regulatory safeguards — many of its nuclear regulations are written as guidance instead of enforceable law.

Remembering India’s Forgotten Holocaust

British policies killed nearly 4 million Indians in the 1943-44 Bengal Famine

June 13, 2014
Scorched earth By 1943, hordes of starving people were flooding into Calcutta and a huge number of them died on the city streets. Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Bengal Famine of 1943-44 must rank as the greatest disaster in the subcontinent in the 20th century. Nearly 4 million Indians died because of an artificial famine created by the British government, and yet it gets little more than a passing mention in Indian history books.

What is remarkable about the scale of the disaster is its time span. World War II was at its peak and the Germans were rampaging across Europe, targeting Jews, Slavs and the Roma for extermination. It took Adolf Hitler and his Nazi cohorts 12 years to round up and murder 6 million Jews, but their Teutonic cousins, the British, managed to kill almost 4 million Indians in just over a year, with Prime Minister Winston Churchill cheering from the sidelines.

Australian biochemist Dr Gideon Polya has called the Bengal Famine a “manmade holocaust” because Churchill’s policies were directly responsible for the disaster. Bengal had a bountiful harvest in 1942, but the British started diverting vast quantities of food grain from India to Britain, contributing to a massive food shortage in the areas comprising present-day West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Bangladesh.

Author Madhusree Mukerjee tracked down some of the survivors and paints a chilling picture of the effects of hunger and deprivation. In Churchill’s Secret War, she writes: “Parents dumped their starving children into rivers and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains. Starving people begged for the starchy water in which rice had been boiled. Children ate leaves and vines, yam stems and grass. People were too weak even to cremate their loved ones.”

Why the existence of Pakistan is not in India’s interest


By Dr Amarjit Singh
Issue Net Edition | Date : 22 Jun , 2014

Pakistan has been a thorn in India’s left side for 65 years, and amazingly, India has tolerated its pain and irritation, against most odds of human nature. After four wars and multiple proxy wars waged by Pakistan, it still doesn’t count as much for India – a big elephant that is difficult to move. India’s Pakistan policy practices restraint and constraint against an enemy that hates it, that was born in conflict against India in brutal bloodshed, and even now hopes one day to overcome a weak India.

Pakistan still has the energy and gumption to promote proxy wars in India via Nepal, Bangladesh, and, of course, Kashmir.

Despite all the difficulties that Pakistan has faced and faces – internal political turmoil and terrorist threats, external issues in Afghanistan, an economy that is on the verge of collapse, and being condemned around the world for its export of terrorism – Pakistan still has the energy and gumption to promote proxy wars in India via Nepal, Bangladesh, and, of course, Kashmir. Which concept of rationality in the modern world can accept Pakistan’s belligerent and incongruent worldview, at a time when the civilized world wishes peace and economic prosperity against a threatening climate, growing population, an oncoming oil crisis, and worldwide economic woes?

By all facts and accounts, Pakistan has been sapping India’s productive and psychic energy every day for 65 years. It is somewhat true that Pakistan has been bleeding India by a thousand cuts. Look at the billions of hours of productive time and newspaper print and headlines wasted on a Pakistan that is an affliction for India and perhaps the world. None of the energy spent on Pakistan counts towards India’s GDP or improved industrial productivity, nor does it improve the economic position of India. The industrial production of India, creativeness of its engineers and thinkers, and ability to gain a foothold in the world has been compromised because a Pakistan exists that threatens war on the subcontinent, distracts national pursuits for excellence, and thereby diminishes foreign investment and confidence in India. For India to grow and have peace and confidence, it must get rid of the Pakistan that obstructs it in many ways, even standing against it in its quest for a rightful position on the permanent Security Council, and one that tried vehemently to oppose the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Pakistan is more dangerous as an independent state positioned to be taken over by terrorist elements supported by a manipulative ISI than under Indian control. In fact, the USA must find merit in the argument that it can better contain the terrorists and Taliban with India controlling them than they themselves. While the USA realizes that Pakistan is duplicitous with its terrorists, the USA is unable to see through the haze that can only be seen by those who have lived with Pakistan and in Pakistan’s neighborhood forever, such as India. Neither does Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai trust Pakistan, nor do the Iranian Shia’s have much love for Pakistan’s Sunnis, even though the Iranians acquired nuclear technology from A Q Khan. A Pakistan that doesn’t exist is safer for the world than a Pakistan that does.


June 24, 2014 

Washington has descended into a familiar battle: the blame game. The issue is Iraq and a major territory grab by the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), but that is unfortunately secondary to the brawl itself. Many Republicans, foremost among them Sen. John McCain, lambast President Barack Obama for failing to keep American troops in Iraq beyond the end of 2011. The president’s defenders counter that America was treaty bound to withdraw its troops by December 2011, and efforts to negotiate a new arrangement foundered on the realities of Iraq’s internal politics.
Whether or not an American military contingent could have been left behind, there are people on both sides of this debate who look at Iraq today and agree that the situation might be better if there were some American troops in country who had been tasked with counter-terrorism, security force assistance, and coordinating continued air support to the Iraqi Security Forces.

In a few years, whoever occupies the White House might wish he or she still had the same in Afghanistan. However, under Present Obama’srecently announced plan, American military forces will be completely withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, leaving behind only a miniscule presence at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

This isn’t the first time that President Obama announced a premature, non-conditions based withdrawal deadline from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, he hasn’t learned from past experience. In his December 2009 speech at West Point, Obama not only announced the Afghan surge of 30,000 American troops, but also signaled when it would end: beginning July 2011 security responsibility would be transitioned to the Afghans. That may have been a sensible goal, but announcing it to the world—and thereby signaling an unconditional withdrawal at a specific date—was foolish.

As it turned out, I was working for the Department of Defense in Afghanistan in 2011. My job was, in essence, to talk to Afghans from all walks of life in the southern province of Helmand—from farmers to shopkeepers to soldiers. In every conversation about the course of the conflict, Afghans dreaded the drawdown of Western troops that would follow the end of the surge. Even Afghans who were otherwise very critical of ISAF operations expressed that sentiment. Why? Many of them remembered the chaotic aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal that saw their country descend into civil war. While they certainly had grievances against Western troops, very few Afghans I spoke with wanted those troops to quit the country entirely.

Three Questions About the Deployment of American Advisors to Iraq

Kenneth M. Pollack 
June 20, 2014 

At first blush, President Obama’s decision to deploy 300 American special forces soldiers to Iraq seems to be a small, but smart step to take in the current, exceptionally challenging circumstances. It may well be. There are unquestionably intelligent and positive aspects to it
However, because it is a small step, any value it will have will be limited—although there is value in that too. Perhaps of greater importance, there are some very important aspects of this move that remain unknown, at least outside the U.S. government. Indeed, to come to any more meaningful judgment about this move, either positive or negative, the public would need to have several critical additional questions answered. Without that information, it is ultimately impossible to judge it properly.

This is not a criticism of the Administration’s decision per se. Washington may have already addressed all of these questions and may have good answers to them. The Administration may also have good reason to keep those answers secret for now. It is simply to note that these questions are among the most important in trying to assess just how beneficial or detrimental this move might be.

The Known Knowns

We should start with what we know, or at least can reasonably assume. First, there will be benefits to the deployment almost regardless of other considerations. These include: 
The presence of American advisors will probably help solidify the defense of Baghdad and other cities in central Iraq that have not yet fallen to the Sunni militant coalition. 
They will provide some greater insight into the situation in Iraq, and particularly the situation with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and its new Shi’a coalition partners. (The extent of this may vary widely, however. See below.) 
They may help to counterbalance Iranian influence. The commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qasim Sulaymani, arrived in Baghdad last week and there are reports that he brought Iranian advisors with him. While the United States may or may not be able to engage in tacit cooperation with Iran in Iraq, and it is unlikely that 300 advisors can outweigh Iranian support to the Maliki government, it is important not to cede the field to Iran altogether, and these U.S. soldiers will be a visible symbol of Washington’s continued interest in Iraq. 
In a similar vein, having American advisors present may remind the Maliki government’s officials and officers of how helpful and powerful U.S. military support can be. That could serve as an incentive to Prime Minister Maliki to agree to the kinds of political changes that Washington has been rightly demanding as a condition for broader American military assistance. It may well be a vain hope, but that is pretty much what we have left at this point. 

The Energy Context behind China’s Drilling Rig in the South China Sea

June 4, 2014 
On May 3 China placed the Haiyang Shiyou 981 deep water semi-submersible drilling rig 119nm off the coast of Vietnam and 180nm from Hainan Island. The rig lies 17nm from Triton Island, part of the Paracel islands that China occupied by force from then South Vietnam in 1974. Vietnamese and international condemnation was swift and strident. Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Bing Minh called the move a violation of Vietnamese sovereignty and the U.S. State Department described the move as “provocative”. Chinese Foreign Ministry (FMPRC) Spokesperson Hua Chunying said the rig was normal part of regular offshore resource exploration activities China is entitled to conduct in its territorial waters off of the Paracel islands (FMPRC press conference, May 6 and 12). The move is in fact a deliberate Chinese escalation of its territorial and maritime dispute with Vietnam. This marks the first time that any claimant has unilaterally explored for hydrocarbon resources in a disputed part of the South China Sea, although Chinese officials maintain the activity in question is a decade old, and claimants have previously granted concessions to international energy companies to explore disputed areas (FMPRC press conference, May 14).

From a messaging standpoint, the timing of the move seemed counterproductive. China clearly intends to keep the pressure on its rival claimants through a series of moves that sit below its rivals’ threshold for the use of force, but against which a weaker state has little recourse. But this move broke a year of relative calm in the Sino-Vietnamese relationship on the eve of a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and seemed to undermine the message of regional cooperation and shared security that Xi delivered later in the month at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building in Asia (Xinhua, May 21).

However, the move was not a sudden decision, but the realization of a years-long effort to develop acquire deep-water technology and deploy it to the region. China deployed the Haiyang Shiyou 981 when it did because it was when it could. The move supports China’s ultimate goals both by asserting China’s ability to tap resources in the disputed area, and by discouraging international companies from working with Vietnam and other claimants. Nevertheless, despite considerable advances in deep water drilling technology, China lacks the capability to produce natural gas so far from its shores, suggesting that the move is driven as much by strategic considerations as by energy considerations.

Why Now?

China’s Information Management in the Sino-Vietnamese Confrontation: Caution and Sophistication in the Internet Era

June 4, 2014
Protests and rioting against foreign companies in Vietnam created a challenge for China's information control system.
After the worst anti-China violence for 15 years took place in Vietnam this month, it took China’s propaganda authorities nearly two days to work out how the story should be handled publicly. However, this was not a simple information blackout. The 48-hour gap between the start of the riots and their eventual presentation to the country’s mass audiences exemplified some of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) sophisticated techniques for managing information during fast-breaking foreign affairs incidents in the Internet era. Far from seizing on incidents at sea to demonstrate China’s strength to a domestic audience, the official line played down China’s assertive actions in the South China Sea and emphasized Vietnamese efforts to stop the riots, effectively de-coupling the violence from the issue that sparked them. This indicated that, rather than trying to appease popular nationalism, China’s leaders were in fact reluctant to appear aggressive in front of their own people. [1]

By framing the issue in this way, China’s media authoritiescultivated a measured “rational patriotism” in support of the country’s territorial claims. In contrast to the 2012 Sino-Japanese confrontation over the Diaoyu Islands, when Beijing appears to have encouraged nationalist outrage to increase its leverage in the dispute, [2] during the recent incident the Party-state was determined to limit popular participation in the issue, thus maximizing its ability to control the escalation of the situation, a cornerstone of the high-level policy of “unifying” the defense of its maritime claims with the maintenance of regional stability 

The crisis began on May 2, when China positioned a massive oil drilling platform in disputed waters 220km from the Vietnamese coast, in the South China Sea. Dramatic on-water confrontations ensued, with numerous collisions and water cannon battles resulting in damage to vessels and injuries to personnel (Xinhua, May 11; Tuoi Tre, May 12). This was the clearest example of unilateral escalation by China in years, but the CCP made no attempt to use this aggressive maritime behaviour to impress its domestic mass audience. On May 7, as the clashes raged on the water, an order from propaganda authorities instructed online media to rigorously find and delete reports on Sino-Vietnamese collisions and “immediately report on work progress” (China Digital Times, May 7). Two days later, when PRC media finally began reporting the issue, coverage was dominated by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) official Yi Xianliang’s remark that China was “stunned” to have had its ships rammed 171 times during “completely normal” operations (Beijing Evening News, May 9). Since then, officials have repeatedly emphasized that such operations have been carried out in the area for more than 10 years (Beijing Times, Xinhua, May 9; MFA, May 12; Xinhua, May 16). Rather than making an unprecedented move to assert its claims in the area, China was simply the innocent victim of Vietnamese aggression.

Many in Vietnam saw things differently, and protests against China’s action took place in cities around Vietnam on the weekend of May 10–11 (Tuoi Tre, May 11). International media observed that the Vietnamese government appeared at least tacitly to approve of the protests (AP, Christian Science Monitor, May 10; Guardian, May 11; Economist, May 17). The weekend’s demonstrations had been largely peaceful, but reports of rioting involving thousands of workers in factory areas began to appear in English-language media on the evening of Tuesday, March 13. Vietnamese media reported that “as of 3 am on Wednesday, 460 companies [had been] infiltrated by vandals” (Hong Kong Standard, May 14; Tuoi Tre, May 16; Thanh Nien, May 14). In the worst incident, a mob numbering around 1,000 attacked a Taiwan-owned steel mill that was being constructed by PRC state-owned enterprise China Metallurgical Group Corporation. According to a statement from the company, four Chinese workers were killed and 153 injured, 23 seriously (CMGC, May 20). Yet until late on May 15 the major Chinese media said almost nothing about these dramatic and terrible events. With such a volatile mix of territorial disputes, maritime clashes, riots and bloodshed, how did the CCP manage to keep control?

Channelling a Media Wave

Xinjiang Work Forum Marks New Policy of ‘Ethnic Mingling’

June 2014 
The recently concluded Central Work Forum on Xinjiang (zhongyang Xinjiang gongzuo zuotanhui) marked a subtle yet significant departure in the Chinese Communist Party’s approach to ethnic policy. Economic development remains a top priority; yet the new generation of Party leaders understands that money alone will not mollify ethnic and religious tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang. Instead, Chinese President Xi Jinping is seeking a more comprehensive solution to the problems confronting these long-restive frontier regions.

The official Xinhua summary of the Forum’s proceedings outlined a number of priority areas for Xinjiang (Xinhua, May 30):

Boosting employment and income levels among Uighurs in Southern Xinjiang through a new round of fiscal transfers and investment.

More urbanization and interregional migration aimed at expanding the contact and cooperation between different ethnic groups.

Fortifying Party organs and personnel at the grassroots level in order to eliminate the “three evil forces”: splittism, extremism and terrorism) and shore up social stability.

Strengthening state education and bilingual instruction so that all minority youth are conversant in the national language and culture.

None of these proposals are particularly new. Yet, the Forum frames them around a new strategic intent: the erosion of ethnic differences, the removal of obstacles to the free “mingling” (jiaorong) of Chinese citizens and the forging of a shared national identity.

For over a decade now, a group of intellectuals and party officials have called for “adjustments” to current ethnic policies, some even speak of the need for a “second generation of ethnic policies” that would eliminate ethnic-based rights and autonomy (China Brief, July 6, 2012). The Xinjiang Work Forum reveals their burgeoning influence on top Party leaders; yet it remains unclear how far the new Chinese administration is willing or able to pursue this contentions agenda.

New Policies for New Conditions

The Second Xinjiang Work Forum, attended by the entire Politburo and over three hundred top Party officials in Beijing from 28–29 May, came a mere four years after the first gathering in 2010. Unlike the Central Work Forum on Tibet, which has been held five times (each roughly a decade apart) since the 1980s, Xinjiang is a far more recent, and now more pressing, concern for the post-Mao Party-state.

Since the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, Xi Jinping has chaired seven Politburo meetings on Xinjiang, while issuing over thirty directives on Xinjiang work (Xinjingbao, May 30; Xinhua, May 3). In April, he personally toured the region. Fellow Politburo Standing Committee member Yu Zhengsheng, who is the Party’s point man on ethnic and religious issues, has made four official visits to Xinjiang, compared to only one to the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Iran Asks China to Play Larger Role in Nuke Talks

China’s new ambassador to Iran previously headed Beijing’s delegation to the P5+1 talks. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on China to play a bigger role in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 powers (the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China).
“Iran and China have had valuable cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear technology since the past, and today, we want China to make more efforts within the framework of the negotiations between Iran and the G5+1 so that both sides can reach a comprehensive and final agreement,” President Rouhani said on Monday,according to Fars News Agency, a semi-official media outlet with ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Rouhani made the remarks during a meeting with the new Chinese Ambassador to Iran, Pang Sen.

For his part, Pang said that, “We have been, and are, opposed to the unilateral sanctions and dictating (them) to the countries outside the NPT (the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), and I ensure that we will back Iran’s stance in the upcoming negotiations with the (Group) 5+1.”

The P5+1 and Iran recently wrapped up the fifth round of negotiations towards a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. In the interim deal signed back in November, the two sides established a July 20 deadline for reaching a comprehensive agreement. That deadline can be extended by six months by mutual agreement. So far, the two sides have said they remain committed to reaching a deal by July 20 and plan to restart talks in Vienna on July 2.

Iraq: Everyone Hates ISIL


June 24, 2014: ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria) began as Sunni Arab nationalists who lost their jobs, power and wealth when Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party were overthrown in early 2003. Saddam Hussein was a secular dictator, who tolerated Islamic terrorists if they attacked his enemies and behaved while hiding out in Iraq. After Saddam’s forces were thrown out of Kuwait in 1991 his policy changed and he declared that he was actually religious and he backed Sunni Islamic terrorist groups as long as they helped him keep the Shia Arab majority of Iraq under control. Sunni Islamic terrorists were willing to do this because Sunni conservatives consider Shia heretics worthy only of torture and death. The Iraqi Shia had staged a major rebellion against Saddam right after Saddam’s army get chewed up trying to hang onto Kuwait in 1991. That rebellion festered throughout the 1990s. Saddam and his key associates developed relationships with Sunni tribal leaders and Sunni Islamic terrorist groups, who had for decades been forced to keep their heads down. Once Saddam was out of power in 2003 the Sunni tribes and Islamic terrorists lost the financial and military support Saddam provided for over a decade. The Sunni Arab minority (about 20 percent of Iraqis) also lost control of the Iraq economy and all that oil money. This came as a big shock. Many of these Sunni Arabs wanted their wealth and power back and were willing to do anything to accomplish that task. That led to support for Islamic terrorist groups. The Sunni Arab minority in what is now Iraq has long dominated the area and feels that this domination is a right and a responsibility. They were always wealthier, better educated, more organized and prone to ruthlessness. By merging with Islamic terrorists they acquired the belief they had divine approval for their goals.

Sunni Islam is what the majority (over 80 percent) of Moslems believe and in Arabia itself (where Islam first appeared in the 7th century) the locals believe they are more Islamic than other Moslems. After all, the Koran was written in Arabic and all the founders of Islam were Arabs. For over a thousand years there has been a tradition of different factions in Arabia trying to be more Islamic than each other. One of those factions is the Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam in what is now Saudi Arabia. Wahhabis are very conservative and very hostile to non-Moslems and Moslems who are not Sunni. This meant little to the non-Moslem world until lots of oil wealth appeared in Arabia after World War II. Suddenly it became possible for Moslems to show how pious they were by funding Wahhabi missionaries going to other Moslem (and many non-Moslem) nations and to preach, establish Wahhabi religious schools and mosques and create the current Islamic terrorism problem. Billions was spent on this and the policy of getting the young boys into these free religious schools and turning many of them into hateful (of non-Sunni) Islamic religious fanatics led to a major outbreak of Islamic terrorism in the late 20th century. Saddam had kept this out of Iraq until 1991. Many secular rules of Moslem countries (like Syria and Libya) had also resisted the Wahhabi and regretted it when they ran into problems with Islamic terrorism.

After 2003 many Iraqi Sunnis were always certain they could regain power. They considered that the natural order of things, temporarily interrupted by evil and ignorant foreigners. They had history on their side. Even when the Turks controlled the area for centuries before the Turkish Empire fell apart after World War I (1914-18) it was the Sunni Arabs of Baghdad the Turks depended on to keep the Shia majority under control. The oil wealth and independence came in the 1930s and for the next 70 years the Sunnis did quite well for themselves. Losing it all in 2003 encouraged the Islamic terrorist groups to make common cause with the Sunni nationalists (including the Baath Party) to put Sunni Arabs back in charge. What was left unresolved was whether the new Sunni dictatorship would be secular (like Saddam) or religious (like neighboring Iran).


23 May 2014

Higher Defence Orientation Course Ser 8 from Army War College, Mhow visited CLAWS on 23 May 2014. The course was given two presentations. The first was on “UN Peacekeeping Operations” and the second on “Shaping the Information Environment”, followed by an interactive session.

Modern Trends in United Nations Peace keeping and its Challenges including Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration - Lt Gen Chandra Prakash (Retd)

Peacekeeping has a sense of different views, misconceptions and a sense of ignorance. The cost of conflicts has changed, previously there were border disputes, wars and you went as a military observer, you patrolled and then came off. Today, multiple factors such as oppressive regimes, instability, military coup, economic instability etc. contribute to issues, which require the deployment of peacekeeping forces. Previously, conflict was managed between two states and that was easier to do. In traditional peacekeeping, you only supervise a cease fire between two belligerent. The presence of UN peacekeepers was the only deterrent. Today, the job also involves protecting the civilian population. Humanitarian assistance is also required for beleaguered populations. In addition, for peace to be established, stability in governance is required, which in turns requires national capacity to bring in the rule of law and security. We are hence looking at multi layered, broader areas of responses and not just one aspect. Present day conflicts also cause a lot of internally displaced people and refugees and cross border movement of arms. This has regional ramification, necessitating cross border cooperation.

We tend to confuse between two terms peacekeeping and peace building. In the modern day peacekeeping mission, you are expected to do both peacekeeping and peace building. Peacekeeping is an activity of preventing war and violence between hostile parties by maintaining peace between them. Peace building is an activity which goes beyond crisis intervention and focuses on long term development. The ultimate goal in both cases is to eliminate human suffering and create conditions for self sustaining peace and security. When we talk about the Peace Keeping Mission in the Dominican Republic of Congo, there were 52 tasks for a peacekeeping mission to perform. The challenge, which arises as a mission leader, is that you have to maintain peace while implementing other programmes such as providing humanitarian assistance, building infrastructure among other things. If you do not have roads, how can you provide accessibility, which provides security? Therefore, there is an overlap between peacekeeping and peace building.

Four critical areas need to be addressed; restoring the rule of law, support to the emergence of the legitimate political institution, participatory process, and promoting social and economic development. These are also the big challenges. Both peacekeeping and peace building have to be addressed simultaneously through short and long terms agendas, need for force enablers and force multipliers and inter mission operations.

Peacekeepers have to deal with a humanitarian situation that continues to severely affect the civilian population, persistence of high level of violence, violation and abuse of human rights and violation of international law. At times, the degree of violence being tackled is beyond one’s expectations. There is also targeted attack on civilians, wide spread gender based sexual violence, recruitment of children by the parties in conflict and displacement of significant number of civilians. These issues affect the reconstruction and development efforts of peacekeeping mission. Let us take the example of the Dominican Republic of Congo whose size is approximately that of Western Europe. Here we have about 20 armed groups and many more individual groups operating. The National Army should be addressing this problem, but the Army itself is part of the problem. The soldiers are not paid, and hence live of other means. The peacekeeper is expected to protect about 77 million people of which about 10 million are high risk and 2.9 million people are displaced.

While the mandate is challenging, it is not impossible. Today there is a change that is happening, previously the peacekeeper was not expected to use his weapon, he did not even have a weapon but today he is carrying a weapon and ammunition ranging from small arms to attack helicopters. He is expected to protect the civilians with weaponry attack and that’s what they call the Chapter VII of peace keeping, it was previously under the category of Chapter VI. Chapter VII also has its connotations; it does not give you a free hand. It however permits you to use force in self-defence or in support of the mandate for which the UN has framed the rules of engagement.

Here, it is important to understand the difference between robust peacekeeping and peace enforcement. In the former, one can use force in self-defense. Peace enforcement has pro-active implications. Robust peacekeeping is at tactical level whereas peace enforcement applies at the statutorily international level. The traditional peacekeeping even if it is talking about robust peacekeeping needs to have the consent of both the parties and the courts. This is actually enshrined in the basic principles of United Nations. But under peace enforcement, you may not have the consent of parties in conflict so for that there needs to be special authorisation by the UN Security Council. The UN Security Council extends the mandate of MONUSCO on an exceptional basis and without creating any prejudice to the elite principle of peacekeeping if intervention began under the UN Security Council resolution 2147. That means that it is sanctioned to undertake the peace enforcement task. Even if you have all of this resource, challenge is that troops come without any proper reinforcements; they lack the basic skills of peacekeeping. When you have the peace enforcement mandate, you have to keep in mind the humanitarian aspect. There is a thinking that we should employ organisation which utilises resources of the region but then we should provide standardised peace keeping training both bi-laterally and through regional training centres to increase the global peace capacity.

For global peace operation initiatives, many countries cannot provide troops to the peacekeeping missions and they end up providing support through financing the mission. They do this under the head global peace operations initiatives wherein billions of dollars are spent which are given to the troop contributing country and some organisations involved in imparting knowledge to the troops. Here the challenge is that people who provide you training have never been in peacekeeping missions themselves or have not been exposed to different environments. Not many countries have the capacity to provide the kind of resources that peacekeeping requires and then there are the financial implications. Peacekeeping needs political fuel and engagements at every level. People are willing to deploy if there is peace to keep, but people are not willing to deploy if it is conflict management because of domestic pressures. Therefore, for the sake of humanity much more can be achieved provided we have the right mindset and approach.

Interactive Session

Why UN Missions in some parts have not been successful despite being engaged in the area for such a long time?

The problem of UN missions, particularly in Darfur, Syria and Congo is not of peacekeeping but the role of parties involved in the conflict that do not help in solving the problem. There is a lack of flexibility in movement of UN peacekeeping forces in the conflict zones. The magnitude of the problem and the natural resources are limited. There is little help from the local population in national capacity building and thus, the results of the UN missions aren’t as expected. Peace cannot be restored unless the people contribute positively in solving the problem.

At times, contingents of some nations find problems in operating under UN. What are the reasons?

The UN administration works on a tight budget and anything not catered for in the budget is not provided for. But the UNSC supports the troops with the flexibility to operate in the conflict areas and there is availability of technological and logistic support to the forces. However, there arises a conflict of interest when the force commanders refer the issues back to their national leaders who take decisions without knowing the situation in the conflict zones and purely on political considerations.

What are the arrangements for training of troops for UN Missions prior to their deployment?

The UN training department gives out training packages, which are generic in nature and are mission-specific to the recognized and certified countries. However countries from South Asia, particularly India, having a vast experience in UN operations and contributing troops largely for missions, the armies have developed training centres for UN peacekeeping and there is no need for an external agent to control these. There are concerns that each country has developed its own training modules with regard to peacekeeping missions but the need is to have consistent standards with regard to the training and deployment.

Please elaborate 2013 Peace Accord in Congo and problem of security reforms there?

Apart from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), a special envoy of the Secretary-General, Mary Robinson was appointed for Congo and there was a peace accord signed at Addis Ababa in February 2013 which also included 11 neighboring countries basically to ensure peace in the region. But whenever there are national interests involved, the signatories find it difficult to adhere to the agreement. The problem with the Security Sector Reforms (SSR) is of finances. The government in Congo was averse to the UN taking SSR and training of local armed forces. They felt they only needed finances and material and were keen to make their own decisions keeping in mind their interests. The truth behind this is based on perception. The Congolese government preferred to operate bilaterally. 

Shaping the Information Environment- Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch,SM, VSM (Retd), Director, CLAWS.

Information warfare is a term commonly used in the Armed Forces across the world. For long, information warfare consisted of three major elements - denial and protection of information, exploitation and ability to attack enemy information and data systems and deception by various means. To this a fourth element has now been added - The ability to influence attitudes, whereby opinions of target populations are favourably shaped or influenced through Perception Management. The methods, procedures and techniques applied to achieve the above are termed as psychological operations (psyops). Psyops could hence be thought of as tools to shape perceptions. Psyops missions are delivered as information for effect and are used during peacetime and conflict to inform and influence both within and outside the country. Psyops relates to the delivery of information through various mediums such as the print and electronic media and human contact. In its implementation, psyops should enjoy wide leeway in the manner in which selected information is conveyed and in the specific actions taken to influence the emotions, reasoning, and behaviour of target audiences. This can be accomplished through multimedia messages, civic action programmes and other types of civil affairs projects and by face-to-face communication with the local population and their leaders. Influence however is not just about what is said. It is also very much about what is done.

While words can be drafted and communicated in very short order, the deeds of individuals, organisations, and even the nation tend to have the strongest and most enduring message that is understood by audiences. The Indian Army’s excellent human rights record while combating insurgency over six decades gets sullied with a few incidents. In a sense then, everything a military force does in a conflict zone has a psychological impact, favourable or negative, whether intended or not. The behaviour of every soldier affects public perception of the Army. Because of the globalisation of media, how a single soldier or small sub unit handles a tactical situation in an out-of-the-way location still has the potential to make global headlines and have strategic impact. Indigenous individuals with whom troops interact form favorable or unfavorable impressions and spread those impressions by word of mouth throughout surprisingly large networks. The behaviour of troops with the local population in conflict zones would thus form a critical input in how they and the organisation they represent are perceived. While economic and other assistance rendered to the local population by the military through civic action and other programmes contributes to building goodwill, it must be remembered that best practices are simply avoidance of worst practices.

Psyops functions

Psyops functions relate to disseminating information through various means to further own objectives and to counter an adversary’s propaganda, misinformation and disinformation to correctly portray friendly intent and actions. Psyops also advises the supported commander through the targeting process regarding targeting restrictions, psychological actions and psychological enabling actions to be executed by the military force. It is mostly truth-telling and good behaviour.

Another important aspect is audience profiling and messaging. Analysis of audiences is a better way to look at this task, for there are multiple audiences with which one would have to deal. These could be the local public, groups with particular religious leanings and beliefs, groups based on language and other cultural facets, women and children in an insurgency affected area, local government officials, politicians, own soldiers, their families and so on. Developing audience analysis and profiles is both an art and a science. Each of these audiences is important. Each is radically different. And each must be understood.

After developing audience profiles, the next step is determining the content of the message that needs to be delivered. Here, we must understand that a message which appeals to one group may well be a turn-off to the other. Each group thus needs to be delivered the message in a manner that it gets them to follow through with the desired response. Specialists such as psychologists, sociologists and scholars must be co-opted in preparing appropriate messages. The challenges of messaging are the need to have a diversity of messages and yet not seem inconsistent. The solution here is to create a set of diverse yet complementary messages. More importantly, as we create messages, we must back them up with action. Without ‘mutually supportive words and deeds’, the entire communications efforts will be counter-productive. Or as they say in advertising jargon, ‘Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising’! The message must hence fit in with the execution plan of a campaign and with the capabilities of the troops. It has to be sent to the right audiences, and must be done with ‘reach’ and frequency.

Strategic Imperatives

Today, the most interesting types of power do not come out of the barrel of a gun, and much bigger payoffs can be achieved by ‘getting others to want what you want’. Perception management operations can be one of the primary ways of achieving that objective.

While engaged in counter insurgency or counter terrorism operations, a key component of perception management is the requirement to reach out to the hearts and minds of those people who directly or indirectly support the terrorist or who are simply sympathetic to the ‘cause’. At the strategic level, this would involve addressing causative factors through political, social and economic tools. Without this effort, a network can actually be defeated military, but still maintain support for the ‘cause’ whilst in a period of hibernation. At the operational level, activities which foment divisions within a terrorist network, undermine the morale of its members (particularly those on the fringe), and drive a wedge between the network and its support base will pay dividends. While direct action (military, law enforcement, intelligence, political, economic activities) will assist in this effort in the short term, long-term success will only come about when such support is withheld willingly because the people providing it have been convinced that it is no longer in their best interests to do so. Perception Management however is not a substitute for capability. In advertising terms, the product has to live up to its brand image otherwise it will lose its credibility. The Army’s actions on the ground will thus have to conform to the image that it wishes to create. Capabilities too have to be real otherwise the projection of deterrence will not succeed.

The strategic narrative must not be lost sight of while formulating a perception management campaign. While the tactical and operational level narratives are important, they must not run counter to the long term aims of the country. Whatever themes the Indian Army chooses to propagate must be backed by appropriate troop response from the ground. It is the soldiers who come into daily contact with the people and their actions and conduct must be consistent with the stated policy to be followed. It is also well to remember that truth and accuracy are vital components of any perception management campaign and must not be lost sight of. In addition, the goals set must be clear and achievable. Acceptance and approval of the final goals by the chain of command is also essential and must be based on the situation. In future conflict, perception management will play an increasingly important role. The concept must hence be understood and should be coopted into all military plans.

Interactive Session

While shaping the information environment at the tactical level, there are two parts. One is the perception management activity and second is giving it wide publicity through fastest dissemination mode. There is long chain of command when it comes to publicising the information. Does the information lose its relevance and should it be done at the tactical level by the entity responsible for the perception management activity?

Publicising the good work done by the armed forces is a separate aspect. We should shape the information environment by giving a particular narrative to the people we are dealing with and that has to be top-down driven. There has to be a plan at the Command HQ level looking into various facets of it and then how the information can be disseminated to the concerned people. The leadership of the Army needs to take a call over the dissemination of information and the need is to be proactive lest the other narrative takes precedence.