3 July 2014

Dealing with Pakistani Taliban Government, military differences surface

G Parthasarathy


WHEN Nawaz Sharif was first elected to power in 1991 one expected that, unlike Benazir Bhutto, he would have a cosy relationship with the Army establishment. He had, after all, been brought into politics and patronised by Gen Zia-ul-Haq. He was voted to power as part of an Islamist alliance put together and funded by Gen Aslam Beg and the ISI chief, Lieut-Gen Asad Durrani. After having an uneasy relationship with his first Army Chief, Gen Asif Nawaz, Sharif was unceremoniously thrown out of office by the succeeding Army Chief, Waheed Kakkar. In his second term, Sharif forced his first Army Chief, Gen Jehangir Karamat, to quit for suggesting the constitution of a National Security Council. He was then deposed by General Musharraf following differences over who should take the responsibility for the Kargil fiasco.

Nawaz Sharif now has an uneasy and indeed hostile relationship with his present Army Chief, Gen Raheel Sharif. The attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat was executed just on the eve of the arrival of Nawaz Sharif in New Delhi. It drew international attention as having been executed by Lashkar-e-Taiba with the backing of the ISI. It is no secret that for two generations Hafeez Mohammed Saeed has been patronised by the Sharif family. The attack was a message to the world, to India and to Mr. Sharif himself that even Hafez Saeed was a creature of the Army establishment. It is self-evident that the sponsorship of terrorism in India and in Afghanistan is managed by Raheel Sharif and not Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif’s present differences with the military have arisen earlier than in his previous two terms. Within a year these differences escalated over the house arrest and trial of General Musharraf on charges, including his suspension of the Constitution. When the Sind High Court cleared the way for Musharraf to leave the country, Sharif immediately responded by an appeal to the Supreme Court. Any conviction of Musharraf would not only reduce the stature of the Army nationally and internationally, but also serve as a deterrent to future coups -- something the Army would just not tolerate. To add insult to injury, Nawaz Sharif backed the influential Jang group in its tirade against Army excesses in Balochistan together with a campaign against the ISI for allegedly attempting to kill its star TV anchor Hamid Mir. The Army responded with a programme of vicious intimidation of the media.

Nawaz Sharif and the Army also have serious differences on measures to deal with Tehriq e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). With political and parliamentary backing, Sharif decided to commence dialogue with the TTP and a ceasefire was put in place. The Army was unhappy as it sought to wreak revenge for the “cardinal sin” of the TTP in killing a Major General. While negotiations between the TTP and the government interlocutors were under way, the Army engineered an escalation of tensions with the TTP, compelling Nawaz Sharif to end the negotiations. Even before Sharif could make a formal announcement, the Army proceeded with a massive assault in North Waziristan, using air power (F 16 fighters), artillery and mechanised infantry. It is evident that the targets of the military wrath are exclusively the TTP and their Uzbek and Uighur allies. Predictably, the Haqqani network has been spared as they remain allies of the Pakistani military to destabilise and overthrow the government in Kabul.


Thursday, 03 July 2014 |

The first round of action in the Islamists' bid to rule the world is on dangerous display in Iraq. Worse can happen if things aren’t checked

The war against the Maliki regime is the first round in the Islamists' bid to dominate the world. Should they win, the next round will be against India. Not surprisingly, a television channel reported recently that the Al Qaeda wing that goes by the name of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria wants to set up a State called Khurasan which includes Gujarat.

The agenda was first outlined most clearly by Syed Saleem Shahzad, the outstanding Pakistani journalist who was savagely tortured and killed by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate in May 2011. In Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond bin Laden and 9/11, he wrote that according to a saying attributed to Prophet Muhammad, the “End of Time” battles would start after victory in the East, which then meant Khurasan. According to him, geographically, Kurasan included part of modern Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. To these, ISIS has included not only Iraq, parts of Syria as well as Gujarat in India.

Shahzad further pointed out that after victory in Khurasan, the army of Islam would launch Ghazwa-e-Hind — a term also used in Prophet Muhammad's sayings — or the battle for India, which then included what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh. Muslims believe, according to Shahzad, that following victory in India, Islamist forces would march to the Middle East, where they join forces with the promised Mahdi and fight to liberate Palestine. Success in this campaign will pave the way for the final triumph of Islam and the worldwide imposition of sharia’h rule.

As elaborated in my book, Endgame in Afghanistan: For Whom the Dice Rolls, Al Qaeda wants not territory but an end to the United States' global hegemony, the subjugation of the West and the establishment of a global Muslim Caliphate which would implement its version of reductionist Islam. The US, which enjoys formidable military prowess, had to be enfeebled by being drawn into a prolonged, exhausting war in Afghanistan, which would take it to the verge of collapse as happened with the Soviet Union. Thus it would combine the beginning of the Khurasan battles with the undermining of the United States.


Thursday, 03 July 2014 | Claude Arpi


Even as the Vice President of India travelled to China to celebrate 60 years of Panchsheel, Beijing published a map that showed large parts of Indian territory as its own, while its troops sailed into Indian waters at Ladakh

Is China taking India for a ride? On the surface, everything seems good. The Vice President of India, Mr Hamid Ansari, accompanied by the Foreign Secretary, visited China to celebrate 60 years of Panchsheel. Mr Ansari estimated that the visit was “good, productive gestures of friendship were made by the host.” He added: “Chinese President Xi Jingping said he is looking forward to meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the BRICS summit… I was told that the Chinese leadership regards a vibrant relationship with India as a critical element of their policy.”

Around the same time, Beijing published its first official vertical national map of China, incorporating vast areas of the South China Sea… and India’s northern borders. Embarrassed, the Ministry of External Affairs decided to take note of the new map which showed Arunachal Pradesh as part of China. The spokesperson was, however, quick to dismiss the new depiction of China’s borders by stating that “cartographic depiction did not change the reality that Arunachal was part of India.”

What is more shocking is the fact that the spokesperson omitted to mention that the Central Sector (parts of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh) where large chunks of Indian territory (such as Barahoti and Nilang) appear on the Chinese map too. Similarly, there was not a word for the Aksai Chin and areas around the Pangong Lake in Ladakh! Why has the MEA nothing to say about these vast areas of India’s territory? There is one more ‘detail’, which is vital for India’s defence: On the new Chinese map, the size of the Chumbi Valley, located between Sikkim and Bhutan, is extremely bloated. Does China plans to grab more territory from Bhutan?

The geopolitics of the Islamic state

Vijay Prashad
Published: July 3, 2014 

Both the West and the Gulf Arabs suggest that the terrorism that they dislike against themselves is acceptable to others.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi welcomed this Ramadan by declaring the formation of the Caliphate, with him as the Caliph — namely the successor of the Prophet Mohammed. It is the first return of a Caliphate since Kemal Atatürk’s Turkish National Assembly abolished it in 1924. Al-Baghdadi, the nom de guerre for the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), has now announced that borders inside the dar al-Islam, the world of Islam, are no longer applicable. He has been able to make this announcement because his fighters have now taken large swathes of territory in northern Syria and in north-central Iraq, breathing down on Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258).

Al-Baghdadi’s declaration comes after ISIS threatened to make its presence felt outside the territory it now controls. Bomb blasts in Beirut, Lebanon, hinted at ISIS’ reach. Jordanian authorities hastened to crack down on “sleeper cells” for ISIS as soon as chatter on social media suggested that there would be a push into Zarqa and Ma’an. Private Kuwaiti funding had helped ISIS in its early stages, but now Kuwait hinted that it too is worried that ISIS cells might strike the oil-rich emirate. When ISIS took the Jordan-Syria border posts, Saudi Arabia went into high alert. There is no substantive evidence that ISIS is in touch with al-Qaeda in Yemen, but if such coordination exists (now that al-Baghdadi has fashioned himself as the Caliph) it would mean Saudi Arabia has at least two fronts of concern. “All necessary measures,” says the Kingdom, are being taken to thwart the ISIS advance.

Jihad hub 

Several months ago, two intelligence agencies in the Arab region had confirmed that ISIS is a genuine threat, not a manufactured distraction from the war in Syria. Many of those associated with the rebellion in Syria had suggested that ISIS was egged on by the government of Bashar al-Assad to allow his preferred framing of the Syrian war — that his is a war against terrorism and not against a civic rebellion. While it is true that Assad’s government released a number of jihadis in 2011, there is no evidence to suggest that he created ISIS. ISIS is a product of the U.S. war on Iraq, having been formed first as al-Qaeda in Iraq by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Deeply sectarian politics, namely an anti-Shia agenda, characterised al-Qaeda in this region. Funded by private Gulf Arab money, ISIS entered the Syrian war in 2012 as Jabhat al-Nusra (the Support Front). It certainly turned a civic rebellion into a terrorist war. Political support from the West and logistical support from Turkey and the Gulf Arab states allowed it to thrive in Syria. It became a hub for international jihad, with veterans from Afghanistan and Chechnya now flocking to al-Baghdadi’s band of fellows. By the start of 2014, ISIS held two major Iraqi cities (Ramadi and Fallujah) and two Syrian cities (Raqqa and Deir Ezzor). Their push to Mosul, then Baghdad was on the cards for at least a year.

Could this year’s El Niño be like the 2009 one?

Published: July 3, 2014

Since 1901, the June rainfall had a shortfall of over 40 per cent in only four previous years. Photo: Kommuri Srinivas

With the classical El Niño, the tropical eastern Pacific near the South American coast becomes warmer than usual while the western side of the ocean cools.

This year, the monsoon has got off to an unpropitious start, with last month's nationwide rainfall showing a deficit of 43 per cent. Since 1901, the June rainfall had a shortfall of over 40 per cent in only four previous years. The last time this occurred was in 2009 when rains were poor in the following three months as well and the monsoon ended in a drought.

Some scientists are seeing similarities between the El Niño, the exceptional warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, that is occurring this year and one that turned up five years back.

With the classical El Niño, the tropical eastern Pacific close to the coast of South America becomes warmer than usual while the western side of the ocean, near Indonesia, cools. In recently years, scientists have drawn a distinction between this sort of El Niño and ones where the warming is principally in the central Pacific. The latter, it is argued, has a greater impact on the monsoon, reducing rains over India, than the former.

But the El Niño that manifested in 2009 was unique, according to K. Ashok of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune. That year, from around June to almost October, the entire Pacific basin turned abnormally warm, with no cooling anywhere.

An assessment

In an assessment issued a week back, the World Meteorological Organization noted that this year's developing El Niño has a “somewhat unusual pattern” with sea surface temperatures that are above average across virtually the entire tropical Pacific, not just in the eastern and central portions.

In a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters in 2012, Dr. Ashok, along with T. P. Sabin, and P. Swapna, both of them also at IITM, as well as Raghu Murtugudde, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Maryland in the U.S, examined the effect that basin-wide warming in the Pacific could have. A climate model run with the Pacific sea surface temperatures of 2009 reproduced many features seen that year, including reduced rainfall over India.

“The tricky question is how the El Niño will evolve this year, whether the basin-wide warming will persist in the coming months and the impact that will have on the monsoon,” remarked Dr. Murtugudde.

Kashmir: Finding Lasting Peace

June 26, 2014

The bustling boulevard around the Dal Lake is witnessing yet another peak tourist season. For a casual onlooker, the crowded markets could well be mistaken for any other hill station in the coun-try. Peace and prosperity seems to be an unmistakable reality, with gunshots and violence merely the reflection of a nightmarish past.

There have been consistent seasons of relative peace since the large scale protests on the streets of Srinagar in 2010, providing hope for stability and predictability, both for the local people as well as the visitors. However, a careful look below the tranquil surface, reveals the fragility of reality, which can potentially be disturbed, as a result of misalignment of competing interests.

Events in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) are not merely a product of local factors. Nor is the state im-mune from trends across the region and perhaps beyond. Separatists and terrorists have traditional-ly attempted to seek support for their cause not only from within the state, but more importantly, from without. The statement by Al Qaeda on June 15, 2014 to fight its jihad in Kashmir, was the first declaration, focussed sharply on the state of J&K. The attack on the Indian Consulate in Afghani-stan on the eve of Prime Minister Modi’s swearing-in, was yet another indication of the influence and control of terrorists, potentially supported by the ISI, which can impact the situation in J&K. Fur-ther, recent events in Iraq and the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) indicates that terror-ist groups with state support have the ability to change status quo, especially if the security and so-cial equilibrium of a region is already disturbed.

J&K is impacted by a number of influences, exerting pressure to attain their respective objectives, which can often end up at cross purposes. While the Central Government in New Delhi, would pre-fer political status quo, a secure environment and an economic upswing in the fortunes of the state, for Pakistan, having lost out on Punjab, J&K is the last opportunity to wrest a face saving settle-ment. The possibility of war as an option to snatch Kashmir having failed on a number of attempts, an honourable exit strategy on the state, is the only option. This Pakistani strategy, abhors status quo as an end state, and therefore it will employ terrorism and civil disobedience as means and will be open to explore all potential ways below the threshold of war to keep the issue alive. Hence the potential for conflict between two nuclear powers remains.

Strategic Himalayas: Republican Nepal and External Powers

Publisher: Pentagon Press
ISBN 978-81-8274-761-6
Download E-Book

The ten years of Maoist insurgency followed by the political vacuum after the abolition of the monarchy and the delay in the drafting of the Constitution has given credence to the role of external powers in shaping the domestic politics in that country. The book examines the nature of external powers’ role during the political transition in Nepal since 2006. It analyses Nepal’s relations with external powers’ in the framework of ‘small and major powers’.

The book tries to explore the nature of their engagements by discussing the strategic significance of Nepal in regional power politics and the latter’s response to it. In the absence of any in-depth scholarly work thus far, the book tries to fill the gap by addressing the following questions: Is Nepal going to face a new round of strategic competition in the Himalayas? Has there been any visible change in China’s relationship with Nepal after the end of the monarchy? How does the US look at the political transition in Nepal? What is the strategic relevance of Nepal for major European countries? How will India balance the Chinese and US presence in Nepal? Does Nepal figure in Pakistan’s Look East Policy to counter-balance India’s Look West Policy? How will Nepal deal with the competing strategies of the major powers—regional and extra-regional?

Is the Pakistani Military Really Going After the Haqqani Network This Time???

July 1, 2014
Is the Pakistani military really targeting the Haqqani Network?
Bill Roggio
The Long War Journal

Pakistani military officials are now claiming that the North Waziristan operation, which began on June 15, will target the Haqqani Network. Sorta. Reuters reports on a press briefing with a general and government official. A cursory read of the report might lead you to conclude that yes, the Pakistani military is now indeed serious about squaring off against the Haqqanis. But see the following excerpt from the Reuters report:

But Major General Asim Bajwa said all civilian residents of North Waziristan, a mountainous region on the Afghan border, had left and the military would target anyone still there.

"They cannot escape," he told a press briefing. "It’s very clear that those who left inside are only terrorists."

Nervous laughter rippled around the room as Bajwa faced aggressive questioning about whether the military was pursuing the Haqqanis or allied Taliban commanders who stage attacks inside Afghanistan but leave Pakistani forces alone.

Although Bajwa did not refer specifically to the Haqqanis, he promised that the military would go after “terrorists of all hue and color” and there would be no discrimination between Taliban factions.

Abdul Qadir Baloch, the minister for states and frontier regions and a close ally of the prime minister, was more blunt.

"Haqqani or no Haqqani … no one who tries to terrorize in Pakistan will be allowed. Our government has been saying time and again that the soil of Pakistan will not be allowed to be used against anyone," he said.

Note how General Bajwa can’t even bring himself to name the Haqqani Network. He does promise to target “terrorists of all hue and color,” but if you don’t consider the Haqqanis to be terrorists, that solves that problem.

Also note how Minister Baloch claims that “no one who tries to terrorize in Pakistan will be allowed” [emphasis mine].

That carefully crafted statement gets to the heart of the “good Taliban” vs. “bad Taliban” issue. The Haqqanis (and Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s Taliban faction) are good Taliban because they don’t advocate “terrorizing” the Pakistani state. And they were given ample time to clear out of North Waziristan before the military launched its operation.

Is Afghanistan the Next to Crumble?

Afghan security forces leave the site of burning NATO supply trucks after an attack by militants near the Pakistani-Afghan border, June 19, 2014

Amid the stunning rout of Iraqi forces in northern Iraq, many have asked whether a similar reversal of American foreign policy goals is possible in Afghanistan. The answer is a qualified yes.

Of course, Iraq and Afghanistan have a number of differences, urbanization, wealth, history, and geography among them. They have in common a lengthy U.S.-led intervention combining efforts to build a military force with the creation of a government. Iraq, like Afghanistan, held elections in the waning days of American involvement, to form a multi-ethnic government. As with Iraq, the U.S. military is announcing plans to leave Afghanistan on a note of cautious optimism.

In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, there is widespread disaffection with the government. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear Afghans refer to their government as a mafia. Corruption and patronage dominate both governments, ranking among the world's worst according to Transparency International. The defense and security sectors of both countries are assessed at a high risk (PDF) of corruption, ranking in the bottom third worldwide. Moreover, the absence of a coherent political strategy in Afghanistan to address issues of factionalism, patronage and corruption has contributed to the development of a government that few seem willing to fight for.

In both countries, a persistent bias toward combat operations over institutional capacity-building and governance prioritized the here-and-now over the long haul. As a result, efforts to develop intelligence, logistics and sustainment capabilities lagged far behind efforts to reach manpower and equipment goals.

Of course, it is too early to say that these failures will lead to a collapse of the military, but few attempts have even been made to ask the question. There is at least a basis for concern: A 2010 audit (PDF) by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction found that both corruption and infrastructure failures had a corrosive effect on morale within the Afghan National Security Forces.

The preparation of the force is only half of the equation. Equally important is the nature of the threat faced by the military. In Iraq, the insurgents are the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIL or ISIS, brutal actors with an agenda of disruption and dreams of a caliphate. They resemble the Taliban of the nineties, who wanted power without the shackles of actually governing a state.

The Taliban today are very different. They have honed their skills at local government, as evidenced by the sophistication of their judicial system (PDF) and the existence of shadow governments in districts across the country. The Taliban probably have less interest in random violence, and more desire to coopt institutions of government compared to ISIL.

A Taliban takeover in the hinterlands might not involve much more than targeted assassinations to allow supporters step into the shoes of local governors. A political takeover of this type would be equally damaging to Kabul, but not obvious to outsiders until it is poised to fall.

Welcome to Stanistan

Behold the power of Central Asia's new superstate.
JULY 1, 2014

At a signing ceremony in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on May 29, the presidents of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan ratified the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) into existence. An EEU modeled on the European Union was first mooted back in 1994 by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, but took off only after his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, seized upon its potential as a Moscow-centered, Asia-oriented alternative to the EU. The groundwork was laid in 2010 by a customs union among the three signatories.

Armenia intends to join the EEU in July, and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are also on the fast track toward membership. Already, though, the three-nation EEU has created a single trade zone of 170 million people with a GDP of $2.7 trillion. Although the integration initially is purely economic, if Putin has its way the EEU could become a more overtly political project over time -- like the EU itself.

But whether the fledgling EEU and its first inductees are planting the seeds of a new world empire remains to be seen. Putin's dream to restore Russia to its former glory may falter at the EEU's inherent contradictionsand shortcomings: Its members themselves seem more interested in trading with Europe and China than with each other, and, even combined, their economies measure less than one-fifth of either the EU or the U.S. economy.

If Putin's new Eurasia is to be more than re-demarcating the shrunken limits of the Kremlin's regional influence, it will eventually need to attract a few crucial states on its eastern and western flank as EEU members: China and Ukraine, for example. Or even Turkey, which is officially still waiting for the green light from Brussels to join the European Union. None of those three countries seems likely to accede to the EEU (though Turkey at least has been officially invited by Kazakhstan). So for now, the EEU consists of Russia and the most Moscow-friendly of the former Soviet republics -- its nearest abroad, so to speak.

Belarus was always going to be the most willing partner in Russia's attempts at self-aggrandizement. Having languished under President Aleksandr Lukashenko since 1994, Europe's last dictatorship is isolated from the West and totally dependent on Russian oil and natural gas, and thus has no other geopolitical options. And like Belarus, Kazakhstan is landlocked and somewhat lacking in democratic credentials -- Nazarbayev has been running the show since 1989, even before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But unlike Belarus, whose main exports include tractors and meat, Kazakhstan is resource-rich. With 30 billion barrels still in the ground, it has the world's 11th-largest crude oil reserves. Gas, coal, and uranium are also plentiful. The country's stated aim is to use its mineral wealth to join the club of 30 most developed nations and become a "Singapore of the steppes."

Kazakhstan is neither poor nor insecure -- which seem the two main reasons for other former Russian satellites to want in on the EEU. In fact, despite signing the accord, the Kazakhs seem wary of Moscow's intentions and could strike out for an empire of their own -- if only they looked south for inspiration instead of west for reassurance. But that runs counter to the instinct of its present leadership.

In February 2013, Nazarbayev proposed changing his country's name to Kazakh Eli, to differentiate it from the "stans" on its southern border. The change (which hasn't gone through yet and might never be adopted) illustrates a mindset popular among the nouveaux riches, be they individuals or countries: Dissociate yourself from your poor, backward, violent cousins.

Sri Lankan perceptions of the Modi government


July 01, 2014

There is a common perception in Sri Lanka that India’s policy towards the island nation is greatly influenced by Tamil Nadu. This perception gained ground during the days of coalition politics in India over the last two decades, when political parties from Tamil Nadu formed part of the ruling coalitions at the centre. Therefore, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) succeeded in securing an absolute majority and its leader Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, a section of the commentators in the Sri Lankan media, particularly from the Sinhala community, heaved a sigh of relief that Tamil Nadu would no longer be able to dictate India’s Sri Lanka policy.

The turn of events after the elections seemed to strengthen this perception. Prime Minister-elect Modi ignored protests by Vaiko and Jayalalitha against extending invitation to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new government in New Delhi. In fact, Vaiko, who is an alliance partner of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), was arrested along with other activists while protesting against Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit in Delhi on May 26.

However, the Sri Lankans were in for a shock when Modi reiterated the previous government’s position on the ethnic issue and requested President Rajapaksa to ‘expedite the process of national reconciliation by fully implementing the 13th Amendment and going beyond’, during their bilateral discussions in Delhi on May 27, 2014. Following this, hundreds of activists, led by the National Freedom Front (NFF), a coalition partner in the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government, protested in Sri Lanka against Modi over his advice to Rajapaksa to step up post-war reconciliation with the Tamils. The Lankan government spokesman and Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said that the government would cooperate with India but no one should interfere with the internal affairs of the country.
Sinhala Nationslist Perceptions

The Sinhala community, particularly the Sinhala nationalists had their reasons to be hopeful about a shift in India’s Sri Lanka policy under the new government. Modi was seen as a nationalist leader and therefore, it was believed that there could be better understanding and cooperation between Modi and Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was also argued by some in the media that Modi, who was allegedly responsible for human rights violations during Godhra riots in India, would not raise the issue of human rights in Sri Lanka. It was also argued that since, Modi was denied visa to the US as a private citizen, he would not cooperate with the US on any issue detrimental to Sri Lanka’s interests.1 Further, it was perceived that Modi would not have to listen to Tamil Nadu on his decisions on Sri Lanka, as his party had a majority (282 seats) in the parliament. Although Jayalalitha’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) got 37 seats out of 39 in Tamil Nadu, it would not play any decisive role in the Lok Sabha far from influencing Modi government’s policies towards Sri Lanka. Extending the same logic the optimists in Sri Lanka also hoped that the other two Tamil parties, most vocal on Sri Lankan issues— Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK)— despite being alliance partners of the BJP, would also not be able to carry much influence in this regard. Therefore, Sri Lankans saw in Modi a reliable ally and partner. However, after the bilateral discussions, Modi was seen, like previous Prime Ministers of India, as interfering in the domestic affairs of Sri Lanka.

Renewed Violence in West Asia: Rising Instability


After having overrun Mosul and Tikrit, armed militants of the al Qaeda-linked militant organisation the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS; also called the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham and ISIL – Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), are close to knocking on the gates of Baghdad. They have seized key border crossings with Syria and Jordan. Meanwhile, forces of the Kurdistan government have captured Kirkuk, regarded as the Kurd capital.

The civil war in Iraq and Syria is only the latest manifestation of conflict in West Asia that is driven by unstable states and deep-rooted divisions in society on sectarian lines. Stretching from the edge of the Indian Sub-continent in the east to the Horn of Africa in the west, West Asia has often been called the ‘Arc of Crisis’. The popular image of West Asian instability is that of a chaotic world, crumbling everywhere and always falling apart, an area governed by abrupt, sweeping changes and unpredictable developments. The West Asian states are locked in internecine quarrels due to religious, ethnic or historical rivalries and inherited colonial legacies such as boundary disputes. West Asia is a house divided, an Islamic world divided against itself despite the strongest possible motive for unity – a shared hostility towards Zionism.

The long-standing Arab and Palestinian opposition to the existence of Israel as a nation-state and senseless terrorism directed against the Jews, have led Israel to pursue a belligerent foreign and national security policy that is not conducive to peace in the region. Israel’s annexation of the whole of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in Syria in the 1980s remains unacceptable to the Arabs and the Muslim world. Israel’s excursion deep into Lebanon in 1982, all the way up to Beirut, created more problems than it solved. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), whose evacuation from Lebanon was secured by Israel at great cost, was soon back in strength. Palestinian and Hizbollah terrorism has abated somewhat after Israel’s pull-out from the occupied territories in Gaza and South Lebanon, but sporadic violence continues; and, Israel’s on-off rocket, missile and air attacks against Hamas militiamen remain in the headlines.

The continuing deadlock over Palestine remains a vexatious issue. Though the world accepts the Palestinians’ right to an autonomous state, the issue is still to be finally resolved. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s historic handshake with Chairman Yasser Arafat in September 1993 had changed the course of history but has so far led only to a temporary reprieve. The installation of a Hamas-supported Palestinian government has further exacerbated the situation.

Beyond RIMPAC: 3 Ways to Engage China on Security

China’s participation in RIMPAC is a good start. Now, the goal must be to sustain and expand security cooperation.

By Natalie Sambhi & Nicole Yeo
July 02, 2014

With the 2014 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise now underway, commentators have once again begun toquestion the usefulness of the U.S. and its allies and partners engaging China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at all, given the America’s legal limitations on the level of interaction that is allowed between its armed services and the PLA and the generally limited scope of such exercises.

Such skepticism needs to be framed in the context of what the goals of security cooperation with China are. In its latest annual report to Congress on military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China, the U.S. Department of Defense placed strong emphasis on “building a military-to-military relationship with China that is sustained and substantive.” The report highlighted the importance of using military-to-military ties with China as a way to “encourage China to contribute constructively to efforts with the United States, [America's] allies and partners, and the greater international community to maintain peace and stability.”

Contrary to the view that international military exercises, particularly with China, are meaningful in name only, there are long-term benefits to such engagements that can only be gained through a sustained commitment to slowly building up personal relationships and communication channels with the PLA. Furthermore, security cooperation can encompass paramilitary or constabulary-level cooperation and does not always have to come in the form of large-scale RIMPAC-style interactions. It is important for commentators to calibrate their expectations of individual exercises and for policymakers to sustain their efforts at fostering broader and deeper security cooperation. While deepening security ties could involve consistent repetition of existing exercises to reinforce their place in institutional culture, broadening the scope of such interaction (while still working with the United States’ NDAA FY 2000 constraints) requires some creative thinking. Here are three alternative approaches for engaging the PLA that the United States and its regional allies and partners should consider:

1. Using “Non-Aligned” Countries As Conduits

Given recent tensions in the South China Sea, it is imperative that ASEAN members explore creative options to engage China as well, including through military exercises. Over time, as an Asian Pacific power, the U.S. might seek invitation to these activities, first as an observer. These kinds of low-level interactions are another interface between regional military members — one that can also circumvent the kinds of political sensitivities and legislative challenges on both sides in rushing to broaden the existing repertoire of U.S.-China bilateral exercises.

China Won’t Be a Different Kind of Global Power

July 02, 2014

Like the U.S. before it, the China of today will be the hegemon of tomorrow.

The Diplomat is blessed to have a wealth of excellent regular contributors. Even among this distinguished group, however, Chen Dingding is particularly notable. Week in and week out he writes insightful, thought-provoking articles that challenge the conventional wisdom on some of today’s most important issues.

Last week was no exception as Dingding took to Flashpoints to challenge David Shambaugh’s new article in The National Interest challenging the notion that China is a global power. Much as he did in his latest book, Shambaugh claims instead that Beijing is at most a partial power and there is good reason to think it will never ascend to the ranks of great powers.

Dingding made a number of damning criticisms of Shambaugh’s arguments including that there is usually a lag between a country’s economic rise and it becoming a military, diplomatic and political power. Overall, however, the main thrust of Dingding’s criticism is that Shambaugh’s definition of global is based almost exclusively on how the U.S. behaves on the international stage. This is problematic, according to Dingding, because “the U.S. is not just a global power, it is a global hegemon in many ways.” Other great powers act differently, and “It is impossible for China to become another U.S. for a variety of historical, cultural, and social reasons.”

Similarly, as Shannon noted over at China Power yesterday, Chinese President and long-time Diplomat reader Xi Jinping used the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” to reiterate Dingding’s points. Specifically, Xi claimed that China will not be like previous great powers in the international system because “No matter how strong China gets it will never become a hegemon.” That’s because, Xi insisted, the “Chinese people do not have the gene for hegemony or militarism.”

China’s Hurdle to Fast Action on Climate Change

JULY 1, 2014

A coal heating plant in Beijing. China is the world’s top greenhouse gas polluter. Credit Image by How Hwee Young/European Pressphoto Agency.

When the Environmental Protection Agency published in June its new rules to combat carbon emissions from power plants, the American political class lit up in debates over what this meant for the country’s carbon emissions, its coal industry and its economic growth.

But a more relevant discussion was taking place some 7,000 miles away. In Beijing, He Jiankun, an academic and deputy director of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference that China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas polluter, would for the first time put “an absolute cap” on its emissions.

His comments, and the brief flurry set off over whether they represented government policy, highlight a little-appreciated feature of the long-running, often acrimonious debate over how to slow climate change. The most pressing issue is not whether the United States will manage to wean itself from coal, or even about how quickly the American economy can reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

The most pressing issue is to what extent and under which conditions China will participate in the global effort to combat climate change. Any hopes that American commitments to cut carbon emissions will have a decisive impact on climate change rely on the assumption that China will reciprocate and deliver aggressive emission cuts of its own.

Full Article click here

Protecting China’s Overseas Interests: The Slow Shift away from Non-interference

Mathieu Duchâtel, Oliver Bräuner and Zhou Hang
SIPRI Policy Paper No. 41
ISBN 978-91-85114-85-6

Non-interference is one of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence that is core to China’s foreign policy and to its self-image. But in a pragmatic and incremental adaptation to its globalizing economic and security interests, Chinese foreign policy is slowly shifting away from a strict interpretation of this principle. However, the debate on China’s overseas interests and noninterference is far from over. There is still a degree of uncertainty regarding whether China will continue on the path of pragmatic adaptation within the non-interference framework, and the degree of change in concrete policy outcomes that such an evolution would entail.

The authors show that the possibility of a dramatic policy change cannot be ruled out, as dramatic and unforeseen events could precipitate change. China’s foreign policy could also strictly remain within the boundaries of non-interference. Its ultimate strategic choice will certainly have far-reaching effects on global governance and international security.


1. Introduction
2. Chinese debates on non-interference 
3. Protecting China’s energy interests overseas 
4. Protecting Chinese nationals overseas 
5. Conclusions

About the authors

Dr Mathieu Duchâtel (France) is head of SIPRI’s China and Global Security Project and is SIPRI’s representative in Beijing. His research interests include China’s foreign and security policies in North East Asia and Europe–China relations.

Oliver Bräuner (Germany) is a Researcher with SIPRI’s China and Global Security Project. His research interests include China–EU security relations and the protection of Chinese citizens in the Middle East.

Zhou Hang (China) is a Researcher with SIPRI’s China and Global Security Project. His research interests include Africa–China relations and maritime security.


July 1, 2014 · in Analysis
Recent advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (which recently renamed itself the Islamic State) in Mosul and Tikrit captured the attention of many analysts, many of whom were surprised at the stunningly weak performance of the Iraqi Security Forces. But those forces did not collapse overnight: they had been failing for over a year before they finally crumbled on June 10th. There is no doubt that ISIL has grown militarily in the past four years, but that was not the sole cause of their recent gains. In areas such as Fallujah, it took extended guerrilla operations and urban warfare to keep out government forces, but in Mosul, Tikrit and other recent ISIL offensives, retreat was voluntary and disorganized rather than forced by heavy fighting. Based on interviews with a variety of active and former Iraqi soldiers, along with civilians living in their area of operations, and supplemented with open-source research, we identified a number of institutional and political challenges that left the 2nd Division of the Iraqi army vulnerable to the sudden collapse it experienced in early June. Corruption, neglect, and a shortfall of combat-effective resources and personnel crippled the Iraqi military’s capability and widened ISIL’s range of strategic options in Nineveh province. Many problems the 2nd Division faced are widespread within ISF and likely to complicate its counterinsurgency effort.

The 2nd Division of the Iraqi army bears primary responsibility for military operations against ISIL in Nineveh province. It shares security duties under Nineveh Province Operations Command with the paramilitary 3rd Division of the National Police, which falls under the Interior Ministry. In late 2013 and early 2014, as ISIL launched major offensives in Anbar and declared an Islamic government in Fallujah, Mosul suffered a significant increase in violence. Gunmen, ambushes, and suicide attacks aimed at security personnel in Mosul were a frequent problem, although soldiers did not describe intense or territorially-oriented contestation from ISIL as had occurred in Anbar. On June 6 and 7, car bombings and firefights precipitated an increase in deaths in southern and eastern areas of Mosul. Following that, forces under Nineveh Province Operations Command retreated in disarray, with many soldiers reporting their positions collapsed without a shot fired. They left behind weapons, vehicles, uniforms, and no government opposition to ISIL within Mosul itself.

Map of Iraq’s provinces. The 2nd Divisions area of responsibility is in the country’s north. (Click to enlarge.)

Although the collapse of forces in Mosul shocked many in the region, many causes of their collapse can be attributed to systemic internal factors throughout the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) generally, and forces under Nineveh Operations Command in particular. Despite facing a lower tempo of enemy operations through June 2014 compared to the earlier Anbar offensive, Iraqi forces under Nineveh Operations Command struggled to implement an effective counterinsurgency strategy. Low capacity and poor relations with the population created a feedback loop compromising ISF’s ability to push ISIL out of Nineveh. ISF choked Mosul with checkpoints, seeking to prevent militants from maneuvering about the city, while Iraqi National Policemen frequently detained local citizens. These approaches alienated the local population while catering to relatively low capabilities within the 2nd Division. Checkpoints put minimal strain on poorly-trained and disillusioned soldiers but resulted in the mistreatment of the local population, without serving as an active measure for seeking out and dismantling insurgent groups. Corrupt military and police practices, such as soliciting bribes for the release of detainees or extorting business owners, only compounded this problem.

Bioterrorism is Already Here

It just doesn't look like we expected.

This is a story of unconnected dots.

On October 17 2013, a strain of polio endemic to Pakistan first appeared in Deir al-Zor province, Syria. This virus presumably hitched a ride on a ne’er-do-well from Balochistan who thought supporting the Nusra Front would be a good use of his time and likely had no idea he was infected.

On February 12, the U.S. Department of State launched a new Global Heath Security Agenda. The highlight Secretary Kerry’s op-ed on the launch? The 2003 outbreak of SARS, hyped scourge of Asia, with 8,000 known infections and 775 known deaths. The famed Anthrax attacks of 2001, with 17 infections and five deaths, also made an appearance.

On March 11, an infant in Lebanon presented with paralysis. Unlike Jordan, Lebanon has refrained from establishing formal camps for its refugees in an effort to deter permanent residence — a lesson, perhaps, learned from the influx of Palestinians half a century ago.

The fact that our “global health security agenda” focuses on future pandemics and deliberate bioterror threats is laughable in the face of reemerging infectious diseases and slaughtered immunization workers. True health insecurity is present globally, and it should not require a mystery test tube and ill intent to be perceived as valid and pressing threat.
Disease distributions in three countries, with red representing infectious disease. Images from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Data obtained from 2012 State Department budget and CIA Factbook population statistics.

The least health-secure areas are often conflict zones, where the U.S. is heavily invested militarily but where health assistance often lags far behind. There is no better example than the Middle East, where poor health access tends to be masked; statelessness, migrancy, and the sheer law of averages merge oil conglomerates and marginalized masses into a bland middle-income yellow.
View from the Taybeh Health Center in Amman, Jordan, which serves a catchment area of 18,000 Palestinian refugees. Though a model clinic in the region, Taybeh is managed by UNRWA, which is struggling to absorb Palestinian-Syrian double refugees.

27 polio cases have surfaced in Syria since October. That may seem negligible compared to the SARS numbers cited by Kerry, but it represents the tip of an iceberg. When polio “appears,” this often means the case expresses symptoms in the iconic FDR sense — otherwise, it’s rather difficult to tell you have it. The cases easiest to detect, where the virus enters the central nervous system and causes paralysis — obviously signaling a need for prompt medical attention even for people with so much else on their plates — represent roughly 5% of all infections.

27 identified infections imply over 500 total infections. That’s 27 identifiedinfections in a war-torn nation with a decimated capacity for disease surveillance, a barely-existent ability to prevent further spread, and fighters pouring in from an estimated 83 countries. And to top it all off, that same state is hemorrhaging hundreds of refugees by the day.


July 1, 2014

Istanbul, Turkey – Nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire has been on the rise as of late. The Ottoman Sultan’s seal can be found on T-shirts, advertisements, and jewelry everywhere in its old imperial capital of Istanbul. More alarmingly, the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are now proclaiming a new Islamic caliphate in former Ottoman provinces.

The shadows of history over the Middle East bring back images of 1916, when the current lines of the Middle East were drawn by the British and French empires in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement. Four years later, the Treaty of Sevres was intended as the fait accompli, dismantling as it did what remained of the Ottoman Empire. The effects of these nearly hundred-year old events are being felt and bitterly remembered in Turkey today. Yet it’s not just the ancient past, but more recent history that should trouble Ankara. With the fall of Mosul and the kidnapping of the Turkish Consul General and over 80 Turkish citizens, the painful shadows of Al-Qaeda’s attacks in Istanbul a decade ago hover over Ankara once again. In the 1920s, Mosul was claimed by the new Turkish Republic and was the subject of one of the League of Nation’s first major arbitrations, thereby assuring itself a special significance in Turkish historical memory.

Turkish policymakers who once hoped that their shared Sunni faith and pragmatic (and often laissez-faire) dealings with the ISIS would protect them have painfully re-learned Lord Palmerston’s maxim: there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. And the interests of ISIS have little overlap with Ankara’s, despite Turkey’s largely romantic longings for the days of yore. Ankara has few good options in response to the worst hostage crisis since the 1979 seizure of America’s embassy in Tehran (and despite its relatively low level of coverage in the Western press, that’s what it is) and is dependent on how the United States and other regional powers decide to weigh in on the future of Iraq for the safe return of its citizens. Yet, Ankara has made one critical bet, throwing support behind the ambitions of the Kurdish Regional Government over those of Baghdad.


JULY 1, 2014

Apologies to all you World Cup fans, but today I am concentrating, briefly, on less uplifting matters. In Iraq on Sunday, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham proclaimed the establishment of a caliphate extending from western Iraq through parts of Syria, areas it already largely controls. “This is not the first border we will break, we will break other borders,” a jihadist boasted in an English-language video called “End of Sykes-Picot,” which was posted on (and subsequently removed from) YouTube. Meanwhile, here in the United States, intelligence experts warned that terrorists trained in Syria and Iraq may be preparing to launch attacks on Western airliners with new hard-to-detect bombs.

These events came a day after the citizens of Sarajevo marked the hundredth anniversary of the shot that led to the outbreak of the First World War: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, of Austria, by Gavrilo Princip, a young Serbian nationalist. After the Archduke’s murder, it took about six weeks for Germany and Austria (the members of the Dual Alliance) and Britain, France, and Russia (the members of the Triple Entente) to declare war on each other, and another two years of unimaginable bloodshed for the British and the French to finalize the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, which laid out a division of the Arab provinces of the teetering Ottoman Empire into French and British zones. These eventually became the countries we now know as Syria and Lebanon (the French bits), and Iraq and Kuwait (the British bits). The road linking Sarajevo to Baghdad was a long but direct one.

So, it was historically fitting for the propagandists of ISIS to mark the hundredth anniversary of Archduke Ferdinand’s death by tearing down—or, at least, saying that they’d torn down—one of the last vestiges of what became known as the Great War. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was exposed by the Bolsheviks in 1917, and has been, ever since, a symbol of Western imperialism and perfidy for many in the Middle East. Prior to the war, the British government, in the personage of Colonel T. E. Lawrence and others, had promised Arabs a homeland of their own in return for taking Britain’s side against the Ottomans. But, when push came to shove, the colonialists acted true to form.

The Real Red Line in the Middle East

If ISIS attacks Jordan, neither the United States nor Israel will be able to stay out of the fray.

BY DAVID ROTHKOPF JUNE 30, 2014 SHARE +JORDANWARMIDDLE EASTThere is a Sarajevo somewhere in Jordan. It lies well outside Amman, somewhere in the hostile terrain to the east or the north. Were the armed ISIS extremists -- who now call themselves representatives of the Islamic State and soldiers of the new caliphate -- to cross this line, the current conflict that engulfs Syria and Iraq would likely explode and grow more complex and costly by quantum degrees. This is not the sort of red line that is the product of an ill-considered, halfhearted burst of presidential bravado. This is the type of red line that triggers historic change and is worth considering as we mark the epoch-making events in Sarajevo that spawned World War I 100 years ago.For now, the wars in Syria and Iraq seem almost to be inviting the United States to remain more or less on the sidelines. Once an amorphous mess, it has seemed to take on something of a shape and symmetry. In both countries today, alliances featuring the ruling governments working in collaboration with Iran and Russia are taking on the extremists. 

With the announcement this weekend of Russian planes and munitions being shipped to the government in Baghdad, the orchestrated bombings last week of ISIS targets by Syrian jets in Iraq, and the active role of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in both places, it almost seems like a traditional conflict with two sides vying against one another.Further, with Moscow and Tehran willing to take up the fight against ISIS, it might be tempting for Washington to effectively sit this one out. After all, if the United States wants promises of political reform and the Iranians and Russians clearly don't require it to intervene, the Iraqis will be even harder for America to deal with. Intransigent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may simply opt for the support of Tehran and Moscow, as well as a tacit alliance with Syria's Bashar al-Assad, avoiding the hard work of creating a truly representative Iraqi government -- which also happens to be the most self-serving possible choice. Unfortunately, for the world, the route of "letting others fight our battles for us" might be "easier" -- but it's exceptionally dangerous.The two wars that have spilled into one another do not represent a simple two-sided conflict. In Syria, not only is the opposition still fragmented, containing extremist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra that are themselves bitter enemies (usually) of ISIS, but it also involves more moderate groups, like the Free Syrian Army. You remember them? That's the collection of rebels the United States has effectively resisted supporting thus far because it was uncertain of their allegiances or trustworthiness. 

Three years later, of course, now that ISIS has gone from terrorizing northern Syria to marauding across Iraq, the United States has somehow discovered that it is possible to "vet" suitable partners among them and start offering training and aid. The $500 million that Barack Obama has pledged to this effort is a good thing, though it's diminished by its lateness. Meanwhile, in Iraq, it is not just Sunni extremists versus an out-of-touch Shiite regime in Baghdad. There are more moderate Sunnis who don't relish the prospect of living in ISIS's 13th-century self-declared caliphate. And there are the Kurds who seek and deserve independence -- a fact not appreciably advanced by the declaration of support they received over the weekend from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is not exactly the ally of first resort you want in that neck of the woods.Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that in its current configuration -- and absent a constructive move toward effective political resolutions in Iraq or Syria -- the conflict offers a panoply of unappetizing potential conclusions.