8 July 2014

Clear and present danger

Jul 08, 2014

Shankar Roychowdhury

India should keep its sights fixed on its own near neighbourhood in the AfPak region, and the likely impact of ISIS on the Taliban there, after the withdrawal of the US troops. Are ISIS and the Taliban, Pashtun or Punjabi (Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Taliban), two sides of the same coin?

Both politics and religion have long been known as the last refuge of scoundrels, which is becoming increasingly apparent as toxic waste from the Shia-Sunni conflict in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, aka ISIS, inexorably creeps towards India like a smoking flow of molten lava.

The threat posed by ISIS echoes in the slogans raised by motley groups of shrill demonstrators on the streets of Delhi, exhorting volunteers from India to proceed to Iraq and join in the defence of Shia shrines at Najaf, Karbala, Samarra and elsewhere in Iraq, some of which, like the Imam Hussain shrine in Najaf, were devastated by Sunni suicide car bombers in 2003.

The headlong military offensive of ISIS has overrun large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq where their shadowy leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has proclaimed an Islamic Khilafat under his supreme leadership. Meanwhile, Russia, understandably chary of stepping into another foreign quagmire after their Afghanistan experience, has sent a few Su-25 ground attack aircraft to Iraq to be flown by Iraqi pilots, while the United States is still holding out for a more inclusive governance and a change in the Nouri al-Maliki regime in Iraq before making up its mind about providing F-16 fighters to the beleaguered Iraqi armed forces.

Whether the presence of “volunteers” of Indian origin, who might have made their way to Iraq disregarding travel advisories issued by the Indian government, can be construed in any way as official acquiescence, stated or unstated, the tangled thicket of thorny sectarian issues pervading that country requires to be examined with the utmost circumspection.

The communally-tinged law and order problems triggered throughout India not all that long ago following an inflammatory “protest meeting” organised at the Azad Maidan in Mumbai in August 2012 by a little known fringe fundamentalist Sunni group calling itself the “Raza Academy”, allegedly to condemn atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, are warnings that “agitational intervention” in foreign countries can have serious repercussions on the internal security of India itself.

The Indian government is reportedly examining despatch of Indian forces to Iraq to assist in the evacuation of Indians stranded in that country, some of whom have reportedly been abducted and held for ransom by elements within ISIS. In the event Indian troops and aircraft are at all permitted to enter that country, they would be utilised solely for rescue and evacuation of Indian nationals. Protection of religious shrines in foreign countries does not fall within their mandate, no matter how revered these might be to their faithful in India.

However, it is also true that religious and sectarian issues are at the origin of many if not most of the current flashpoints on which international attention has been focused. Reports from Iraq about the intensifying Shia-Sunni conflict and stories of the gross atrocities said to have been perpetrated by the advancing ISIS have been brought back by Indian pilgrims returning from Karbala, Samarra and other holy places of Shia Islam. Some of these will undoubtedly have been embellished in the telling, but the net effect of any intervention will be to stoke the myriad internal stresses and strains already festering.

Legalising intelligence gathering

Published: July 8, 2014 
Rana Banerji

AP Language expertise, knowledge of strategic issues, cultural mores of countries, computer know-how and other technological skills may be needed to assess intelligence inputs. File Photo: AP

Intelligence reform cannot succeed unless it is dovetailed with police modernisation and both technological and human capabilities of State police personnel are upgraded

The appointment of a seasoned Intelligence professional as the National Security Advisor (NSA) perhaps augurs well for the neglected issue of Intelligence reform. This is the second time this has happened, though the first occurred more by accident and was not bereft of turf wars. This time, either by accident or design, the government may adopt a wiser approach, keeping options open to seek diplomatic advice from professional diplomats who have better geo-strategic vision and a world view, while focussing more urgently on priority areas of homeland security.

Enthusiasm for intelligence reforms in India has been sporadic. Some years back, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) commissioned a Task Force for the purpose, but after the report was written the then Director, though initially eager, sensed winds of disapproval and sat over it for well over a year before it was published, after a leadership change in IDSA. The late B. Raman, one of the doyens of external intelligence who had been privy to the report during drafting, was mildly supportive of its findings while commenting on the Naresh Chandra Committee on Defence and Security reforms’ access to it. He felt it remained peripheral at best.

The former Information Minister tabled a private member’s Bill on the subject in Parliament and acknowledged later that ‘there was traction’ in the Cabinet Secretariat on many recommendations of both these texts. However, it is not known to what extent this traction may have converted to deeds.

Reform priorities

Simply put, the agenda of intelligence reforms in India should have three or four main priorities. First, activities of all major intelligence agencies should be founded on a legal basis. There should be a law or separate laws to specify the existence, functions and jurisdiction of all such organisations. Though emerging initially from clandestine origins, this has been the pattern of evolution of all modern intelligence organisations functioning in democratic countries. The CIA in the U.S. was provided legal status by the National Security Act, 1947, the Russian FIS by the Law on Foreign Intelligence Organs, 1996, the MI-5 in U.K. by the Security Services Act, 1989 and the MI-6 by the Intelligence Services Act, 1994. In Harman &Hewitt vs U.K., the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 1992 that the ‘lack of a statutory basis could be fatal to claims’ of an intelligence agency to justify that its actions ‘were in accordance with the law.’ With the Right to Information Act having become a reality in India, though some aspects of intelligence activity and operations remain protected outside its ambit, unless we quickly provide legal status protection to our agencies we could be waiting for a Harman & Hewitt to happen here as well.

A GREEN OPPORTUNITY - Indian agriculture needs some radical policy reforms

Writing on the wall - Ashok V. Desai 

The Bharatiya Janata Party government has been friendly to private industry; the relationship has paid off, as shown by Gujarat’s growth rate and share of industry in GDP — close to a fifth by the last count. India is an underdeveloped country; it lags far behind the industrial world. And in the past two decades, it has lagged far behind China. This is depressing. I had hoped that the rise to prime ministership of Manmohan Singh, who came with a reputation as a liberal reformer, would reverse the trend. But it did not. He appointed incompetent ministers, and exercised little control over them. His years as prime minister were a wasted decade, in which the growth rate of the economy nearly halved. For this reason, I welcomed the change in government.

It, however, gives early reasons for doubt. Ram Vilas Paswan, minister of consumer affairs, food and distribution raised import duty on sugar from 15 to 40 per cent. The first question that should be asked is, who is he to raise import duty? Taxes are entirely in the domain of the finance minister; it is he who should raise or reduce them. Even coalition politics does not make it necessary for him to cede power, for his party has an absolute majority in Parliament. If Aya Ram Gaya Ram Vilas Paswan walks out of the government, it would make not the slightest difference. In fact, it is odd that this famously uninfluential old politician should have got a ministership; there must be some reasons that are not easily discernible.

Next, Jaitley should ask himself whether there is any reason for an import duty on sugar. It is a necessity, especially for sweet-toothed Gujaratis; he is wantonly taxing the common man. And the leading producers of sugar are Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, both ruled by parties opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party; there is no reason for Jaitley to help them. Narendra Modi would want to make India a strong industrial nation like Japan, which he admires. The way to do so is to abolish all import duties. No country can become an industrial leader by protecting its industry and making it less competitive internationally.

One of Jaitley’s biggest worries is inflation in consumer prices; and yet, he condoned it when Paswan pushed up sugar prices by taxing their imports. Either he is not thinking straight, or he is not in control. He should look back to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, under whose prime ministership the government brought down import duties to a negligible level. The BJP has been the liberal party in India. It was under the long decades of Congress rule that India saw the world’s highest import duties and lost the industrial race first to East Asian nations such as Taiwan and Thailand and then to China. Then, finally, it agreed in the Uruguay round to reduction of import duties when it was faced with the loss of the textile market to other developing nations. But it insisted on retaining import duties on agricultural goods. That was a stupid thing to do, for nothing could be more essential to the poor people than foodgrains; a country that cares for its poor should keep grain prices as low as possible. There will always be political parties that want to bribe the wheat farmers of Punjab and rice potentates of Andhra; but there are many more consumers of wheat and rice, even in villages, than farmers. Zero tariffs are good populism. India does not need foodgrain protection. Ten per cent broken parboiled Sarna rice is the cheapest in the world, and India is the price leader in long-grain rice. We could dominate the world market if only we let the prices be determined by the market; we could develop a huge market in the Middle East and Africa.



Tuesday, 08 July 2014 | Abhijit Iyer-Mitra |

Sixty years of socialism have not just ruined our country; they have destroyed our human capital. When seen from this angle, 100 per cent FDI is not an investment just in defence, but in our strong youth power that we have let down

For some reason or the other, the issue of 100 per cent foreign direct investment in defence keeps getting muddied by the day, with various industry bodies such as the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry apparently flip-flopping on an hourly basis.

To grasp this issue we need to understand three aspects of the defence trade — the nature of internal markets and export; the role of and impact on industry; and, possibly most important, the state of education in the country.

In terms of national security and indigenisation, this entire debate is moot, because no amount of FDI is going to fix the sorry state that 60-plus years of babudom have brought us. The reality today is our defence budget hovers around the $35 billion mark. Despite the brouhaha that is made about India being one of the biggest defence markets, let us put this figure in context.

The US, which has a $650 billion budget, exports less than three per cent of its value in defence products every year. The US does not depend on the lucrative export market to sustain its industry. Britain and France have a defence budget of around $60 billion each, around 1/10th of the US and exports account for between 15 and 20 per cent of the value added in defence products. Clearly exports are critical to them. Israel, which has a defence budget of around $15 billion to $20 billion, depends to the extent of about 45 per cent on exports to sustain the value added to its industry.

India has to hit the ground running with exports between 25 per cent and 40 per cent to make any indigenisation effort feasible. Anything else defies the laws of economics. Period. This is where 100 per cent FDI makes sense. It brings in foreign companies into a defence market that may be large, but is fundamentally unsustainable as a purely indigenous enterprise. Essentially this is a reality check on the flights of fancy we seem to have with regards to our so-called defence sector.

On the other hand, some of the harm to Indian industry can be quite real, but it can also be ameliorated. For example, despite the utter vicious and step-motherly way it has been treated (by the Government), Larsen and Toubro has sunk enormous amounts of its own money into developing cutting-edge technologies like air independent propulsion for conventional submarines. The entry of foreign AIP suppliers would obviously make L&T’s entire investment in this sphere unviable. On the other hand, it is important that we understand that no original equipment manufacturer actually makes the entire system on its own.

The fiercest of wars lies ahead


As Shia shrines are targeted and Tikrit is strangled, a demoralised army is hoping that the US will step in with drones. However, their use could bring devastating revenge attacks
Patrick Cockburn

THE meltdown of American and British policy in Iraq and Syria attracts surprisingly little criticism at home. Their aim for the past three years has been get rid of Bashar al-Assad as ruler of Syria and stabilise Iraq under the leadership of Nouri al-Maliki. The exact reverse has happened, with Mr Assad in power and likely to remain so, while Iraq is in turmoil with the government's authority extending only a few miles north and west of Baghdad.

Iraqis Shiite Muslims who have joined the Marsh Mujahideen Brigade (refering to the Marsh Arabs from this region) gather in the southern city of Basra on July 5, as they ready to move north to fight against Jihadist militants. AFP

By pretending that the Syrian opposition stood a chance of overthrowing Mr Assad after the middle of 2012, and insisting that his departure be the justification for peace talks, Washington, London and Paris have ensured that the Syrian civil war would go on. “I spent three years telling them again and again that the war in Syria would inevitably destabilise Iraq, but they paid no attention,” the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told me last week. I remember in the autumn of 2012, a senior British diplomat assuring me that talk of the Syrian war spreading was much exaggerated.

Now the bills are beginning to come in, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), declaring a caliphate in northern Iraq and Syria. He has effectively denied the legitimacy of Muslim rulers throughout the world. No wonder Saudi Arabia has moved troops to guard its 500-mile-long border with Iraq. There is a certain divine justice in this, since until six months ago the Saudis were speeding jihadists in the general direction of Syria and Iraq but is now dreading their return. The success of Isis depends on its ability to win spectacular victories against the odds and not on its primeval and brutal ideology. Victory in battle is what makes it attractive to young Sunni recruits and it can also afford to pay them. It cannot sit on its laurels for long but needs to secure the territories it has taken and make sure that its Sunni allies – tribal, Baathist, former members of Saddam's army – who joined it to fight against Mr Maliki will not find the new masters worse than the old and change sides. Isis has moved swiftly to prevent this by demanding that the allies swear allegiance to the caliphate and give up their weapons. But beyond that Isis must show that success at Mosul was not a flash in the pan. As Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi put it last week: "There is no deed better than jihad, so to arms, to arms, soldiers of the Islamic state, fight, fight.” The Baghdad government is hopeful that the White House will ultimately use drones against Isis convoys even if it will not allow air strikes by fixed wing aircraft called in by American forward air controllers on the ground. Drones are particularly appealing to politicians because they appear to maximise damage to the enemy without American loss of life which might anger voters back home. It is true that roving Isis columns of trucks packed with fighters and heavy machine guns have proved effective so far. One Iraqi official compared them to “Arab raiders of old who would strike at caravans and then quickly withdraw”. But the core Isis military leadership is experienced Iraqi military professionals who will make sure their men don't make easy targets. Even so, any American military action, however, limited will buoy up the faltering morale of the Iraqi army.

Saudi Arabian troops on border with Iraq

Patrick Cockburn

SAUDI ARABIA has sent 30,000 soldiers to its 500-mile border with Iraq after claims that Iraqi soldiers had abandoned their positions along the frontier, though this is denied by Baghdad. The Saudi-backed al-Arabiya channel said it had obtained video footage in which an Iraqi officer said 2,500 troops had been ordered to pull back from the border. The Iraqi army still appears to be dissolving after its retreat from the northern half of the country when Mosul was captured by Isis in June.

A brief counter-offensive to retake Tikrit, north of Baghdad, on the day of the opening of parliament on July 1, failed to make any ground. Tikrit is without water and electricity and has been largely abandoned by its people.

Kurdish “peshmerga” troops transport wounded men after clashes with militants of the Isis in Jalawla, Diyala province. Reuters

Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region looks set to take advantage of the turmoil to declare an independent state. The region’s President, Massoud Barzani, asked the parliament to prepare to hold a referendum on independence, saying, “The time has come for us to determine our own fate”. In declaring the Islamic State and demanding that all Muslims pledge allegiance to it, Isis has challenged the legitimacy of all Muslim rulers – including those of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, who have fostered the opposition in Syria and been sympathetic to it in Iraq. Studies show that where Isis takes over a district it can often recruit five or 10 times the number of fighters it used to secure control. It is offering about £400 a month for recruits with military experience, and Iraq is full of jobless young men of military age.

Iraq is also facing a political crisis as it tries to form a new government after the parliamentary election in April. Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, did well in these by presenting himself to Shia voters as a man who was tough on security and who knew how to cope with a Sunni counter-revolution. Discredited by military defeat and loss of control of most of the country north and west of Baghdad, Maliki still clings to power. He is helped by the deep divisions within the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities, which have not been able to pick which of their leaders should be chosen as candidates. The speaker of parliament is normally a Sunni, the president a Kurd and the prime minister a Shia, but no decision on choosing them is likely within the next three or four weeks, say MPs. After the 2010 election it took 10 months to choose a new government.

Football fervour scores over Isis fear

Iraqi football fans are continuing to gather and watch the World Cup together, in defiance of Sunni militants and the dangers facing a country rapidly descending into all-out war. Fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) have taken over large areas of western and northern Iraq and their raids have come within an hour's drive of Baghdad — but this has not deterred many from going to local cafés to watch the matches. Mr Hussein said: “I remember in 2007 everyone was celebrating in the streets, and you wouldn’t know who was Sunni and who was Shia.” Isis launched its military campaign last month, capturing Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and effectively dissolving the border with Syria, before declaring a new Islamic state.

One fan, Raad Abdulhussein, told AFP that he has been going to the capital's “Facebook Café” every day with his friends to watch the matches, even though there are clearly risks. Café owner Ali Hussein said that “a lot of clients” visit his establishment to watch the tournament, particularly for important matches, and that he regularly caters to a full house. Although Iraq did not qualify for this year’s tournament in Brazil, the national team has had previous successes. In 2007, they won the AFC Asian Cup and the 2009 UAE International Cup. —AP

Isis crisis

* The Isis announced recently that it has unilaterally established a caliphate in the areas under its control. It declared the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of its new self-styled state governed by sharia law, and demanded that all Muslims pledge allegiance to him.

* Isis now controls land stretching from northern Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad. That has sent tremors across the region, particularly in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iran

* Talks on forming a national government will continue inside the heavily defended Green Zone. Tribal and Sunni militants who are not part of Isis are less likely to be able to oppose the jihadis or split from them.

* The US-backed Sahwah movement had divided the Sunni insurgency in 2006-07.

— The Independent

India's Mega-Disruptive Social Innovation? A Tiny Car

by Navi Radjou
June 4, 2008

I recently caught up with senior execs from various business units at the Tata Group, India’s leading conglomerate. They were all rightfully proud of the $2,500 Nano, the world’s cheapest car. We discussed how, before it has even been released, the Nano is already a disruptive product innovation. The Nano offers a safer alternative to families riding dangerously on bikes in big Indian cities like Mumbai. Similarly, Nanos converted into taxis will be more comfortable and environmental-friendly than the unstable and polluting autorickshaws (there are more than 60,000 autorickshaws in Bangalore alone). Finally, middle-class young couples can opt for two nanos instead of buying a single expensive midrange car.

Despite the fact it won’t hit the streets until October, 2008, Nano has forced two- and three-wheel autorickshaw makers like Bajaj Auto and midrange car makers like Maruti to rethink their strategies. Bajaj just launched the development of a Nano rival, and Maruti, seeing the writing on the wall, recently announced that it will abandon its “small car” image and focus more on high-end customers.

That’s disruptive innovation. But I believe it will also turn out to be a disruptive social innovation. At the bottom half of India’s socio-economic pyramid, the Nano flattens the market. Suddenly lower- and middle-class buyers can afford mobility. Shiny new Nanos will literally create opportunities for Indians who previously did not have access to safe, reliable transportation. Mobility will beget upward mobility. For the bottom of the market, the Nano is empowering.

This empowerment will in turn broaden the minds of India’s elite at the skewed top of that pyramid. Let me elaborate a bit.

In business terms, Nano doesn’t directly threaten Mercedes, Audi and Toyota Lexus that cater to the top-of-the-pyramid buyers. But it does affect them. I bet this powerful new product, is already creating insecurity among the users of those luxury cars. How come? Well, visualize this scenario: India’s business execs, politicians, and Bollywood stars, who all ride chauffeured Benzes and Lexuses, will soon see their premium cars surrounded by shiny Nanos (instead of decrepitautorickshaws or clumsy bikers) whenever they stop at traffic lights.

I bet members of this elite will suddenly feel like a bulky Gulliver encircled by tiny, nimble Lilliputians! But more startlingly, their own chauffeurs will show up in the morning at their house in a Nano, rather than taking the bus to work. Soon India’s elite will need to widen their garages to accommodate their chauffeurs’ Nanos and maybe even their cooks’ and personal assistants’ Nanos. And if they don’t? Well those chauffeurs and cooks and assistants will drive their little cars to an employer who will accomodate them. What a cultural shock that could be!

I brought up this notion when I met Dr. Mashelkar, an eminent scientist and the lead architect of India’s science and technology policies and its national innovation agenda. Dr. Mashelkar, who grew up as a poor boy on the streets of Bombay and went to school barefoot, insightfully pointed out: “The Nano will force the Indian elite to create not only more physical space, but also mental space.”

250,000 Nanos will hit the road in a few months; millions more will follow in the coming years. As Nanos proliferate, they will invariably put pressure on the Indian government to widen the roads, while forcing the Indian elite to widen their minds. Who would have thought that a tiny car could unleash a mega social revolution?

Taliban Destroy Hundreds of Trucks Carrying Fuel for U.S. and NATO Forces in Afghanistan

July 5, 2014
Taliban torch hundreds of fuel tankers in Kabul
Bill Roggio
The Long War Journal

Late last night in Kabul province, the Taliban destroyed hundreds of tankers and supply trucks carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The attack took place as the vehicles gathered at a trucking terminal in the Paghman district of Kabul province. Claiming credit for the attack, said the Taliban said they planted bombs on the trucks and then detonated the devices remotely.

"Mujahideen first planted the huge trucks, the tankers other vehicles with magnet, sticky and plastic bombs which were later detonated, triggering a huge fire that spread form [sic] one vehicle to another one and soon engulfed the entire supply terminal," the Taliban said in a statement released on Voice of Jihad.

The district police chief for Paghman told Pajhwok Afghan News that more than 400 trucks were destroyed in the blaze. Another 250 trucks were moved to safety, the police chief said.

The Taliban claimed that more than 600 trucks were destroyed and “a large number of the local security guards and the US-Nato invaders were killed.” No casualties were reported by Afghan officials. The Taliban routinely exaggerate the effects of their operations.

The Taliban said last night’s attack on the trucking terminal was “the fourth in a series of attacks targeting US-NATO supply terminal [sic] since the operation Khaibar began.” Operation Khaibar is the Taliban’s name for their spring 2014 offensive.

The Taliban also carried out two other successful high-profile attacks in Kabul this week. On July 2, a suicide bomber killed eight members of the Afghan National Air Force in an attack on a bus in the capital of Kabul.

And on July 3, a Taliban rocket team hit the military side of Kabul International Airport. Three Afghan helicopters were hit in the attack, including one used to transport President Hamid Karzai, which was destroyed. The attack caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.

In the south, the Taliban have gone on the offensive as part of an effort to retake key areas lost during during US and NATO military operations from 2010 to 2011. The Taliban still control much of Sangin, a strategic district in Helmand province, after launching an operation with more than 1,000 fighters on June 19.

As the Taliban step up their operations in Kabul and in the provinces, the US is preparing to withdraw its combat troops from Afghanistan. The US hopes to keep 9,800 troops for advisory and special operations missions in the country until the end of 2015. That number will be halved by the beginning of 2016, and then withdrawn by the end of that year. Currently there are an estimated 30,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

Ukrainian Military Pressing Its Offensive Against Separatist Rebels in the Eastern Ukraine

July 5, 2014
Ukraine Claims Winning Ground in Rebellious East
Associated Press

KIEV, Ukraine — Fighting in eastern Ukraine left at least nine Ukrainian soldiers dead Friday, as government troops pressed their offensive against pro-Russian insurgents using heavy artillery and combat jets and prospects of a truce appeared dim.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine was ready to conduct another round of talks between representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the rebels on Saturday, but didn’t name their venue. Two previous rounds of such negotiations held during a 10-day cease-fire have yielded no visible progress, but they brought the warring parties together for the first time.

Moscow strongly pushed for extending the truce and holding more talks in an apparent hope to negotiate a settlement that would allow it to secure a degree of influence over the neighbor. The continuing fighting is putting more pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been facing increasingly angry nationalist demands to send troops to help the insurgency — a move that would inevitably trigger crippling Western sanctions.

Ukraine’s National Security Council chief Andriy Parubiy said Friday that Russia was massing troops near the Ukrainian border and claimed that it let insurgents attack the Ukrainian border posts from its side. The statements could not be independently verified.

The two neighbors, who share a 2,000-kilometer (1,250-mile) border that is unmarked and unguarded outside of a few checkpoints, have been trading claims and counterclaims ever since Ukraine began fighting pro-Russia separatists in April.

The government said nine troops were killed and 13 others were wounded in Friday’s fighting in the east, according to the Interfax news agency. It did not elaborate on where or how the deaths occurred.

Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, the head of Ukraine’s SBU security service, told journalists that over the past four days 20 Russian tanks or armored vehicles had illegally crossed the border to take part in the insurgency.

Ukraine says Russia is arming and supporting the separatists, a charge that Russia denies. For its part, Moscow has repeatedly accused Ukrainian troops of firing shells that landed on the Russian side and on one occasion last month hit a Russian border post, wounding one customs officer. Russian border guards said 10 artillery shells flew from the Ukrainian side Friday, but no one was injured.

Thousands of Refugees and Pakistani Taliban Fighters Fleeing Into Afghanistan to Escape Pakistani Offensive

July 6, 2014
Pakistan fighting reverses flow of refugees, stirs unease in Afghanistan

Thousands of refugees fleeing an offensive by Pakistan’s army have poured across the lawless border into ramshackle camps on rugged hills in Afghanistan, stirring unease that Taliban militants may be hiding among them.

The mass departures over the porous border, which many in any case do not recognise, mark a change. For the first time in more than 30 years beleaguered residents are escaping into Afghanistan and not out of it, an irony not lost on local officials or refugee agencies.

Authorities in Khost province are offering a warm welcome and what little they have to shelter the newcomers. But intelligence officers and the army are uneasy - some refugees from North Waziristan province could be Islamist activists of thePakistani Taliban, the target of Pakistan’s offensive.

"These communities for decades have been the ones benefiting from support from tribal communities in North Waziristan when they had to flee," said Bo Shack, the top official in Afghanistan of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

"Today they want to provide these families with equal help."

Refugees poured over the border in the other direction after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979. More followed after Moscow’s pullout a decade later sparked mass disorder and still more fled after Afghanistan’s own Taliban took power in 1996.

Some 3.8 million Afghans have returned to Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted by a U.S.-led coalition of forces in 2001, while 1.6 million remain there as refugees.

Circumstances are now different.

The Pakistani Taliban, stronger and more audacious but with few aims in common with their Afghan brethren, last month attacked Pakistan’s largest airport outside Karachi. The military, weary of negotiations, told residents in the Taliban’s Waziristan stronghold to get out in advance of a crackdown.

A two-week bombing campaign gave way to a ground offensive. Pakistani officials say all civilians have left and anyone still there is classed as a militant.

The governor of Khost province applauded the hospitality of Afghan border villages last week at a gathering of Afghan officials and U.N. representatives at the refugee camps.

"People displaced from the other side of the border are our friends," said governor Abdul Jabbar Naeemi. "People are trying to help families, even though they themselves haven’t much."

Mohammad Akram Khpalwak, the minister for tribal and border affairs, promised help: “We will not give them weapons. We will help give them education.”

The NDS intelligence agency, on guard against attempts by the Afghan Taliban to stage armed attacks to dislodge the Kabul government, is less sanguine.

"The NDS and the governor believe the Taliban have infiltrated the camps with weapons and could use them at any time," said a security official at the camps, declining to give his name. "Most of the families belong to the Taliban and will cross back if an operation starts here."

Arms Trafficking: Residual Networks

Veronica Khangchian
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

In perhaps, the single biggest arms seizure since the April 2, 2004, Chittagong arms haul case where 10 truckloads of weapons had been seized, a huge arms cache was recovered by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) of Bangladesh, over several days, from the Satchari National Park in the Chunarughat Sub-District of the Habiganj District in Bangladesh, adjoining the West Tripura District in the Indian State of Tripura. Officials disclosed that they recovered 184 rocket shells (40mm) and 153 chargers for rocket launchers abandoned inside one bunker on a hillock in the reserve forest, some 130 kilometers from the capital, Dhaka, during the raid on June 3, 2014. Another six more empty bunkers were located on the same day. On June 4, the RAB found another two bunkers and recovered 38 rocket shells, four machine guns, 95 rocket chargers, 1,300 rounds of machine gun ammunition, and over 13,000 bullets of different calibres. RAB recovered more arms and ammunition, including four machine guns in a bunker on June 8, and also found oil used for cleaning firearms. Another two empty bunkers were also located. As it resumed a search operation deep into the reserve forest on the eight consecutive day, RAB made additional recoveries, including one machine gun barrel, 633 rounds of ammunition, and 54 anti-tank shells, from three newly discovered bunkers, on June 9.

The area from where the arms were recovered was once the base camp of the now-defunct Indian insurgent outfit, the Tripura-based All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF). The camp was later captured by insurgents belonging to the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT). The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), with its principal theatre of operations in the Indian State of Assam, abutting Tripura, and ATTF had earlier smuggled a huge quantity of Chinese-made weapons from the Southeast Asian grey market by sea, landed them around Cox's Bazar or Chittagong, and transported these to rebel bases such as Satchari, from where arms were smuggled into India's troubled northeast.

However, some confusion prevails over the present recoveries. Indian security agencies are yet to ascertain whether these belong to any militant outfit active in India's Northeast. Media reports have speculated on the distant possibility of ULFA 'chief' Paresh Baruah asking ATTF to store the weapons in its one-time bases, and this cannot be ruled out. Reports also indicate that ATTF leader, Ranjit Debbarma (now in Tripura jail), who had close ties with Paresh Baruah, had stocked the cache in collaboration with ULFA militants. A June 4 media report suggested that the arms and ammunition belonged to ULFA leader Baruah. Information gleaned by Indian intelligence agencies from Debbarma, and provided to Bangladesh authorities, led to the recovery of the ammunition on June 3, three kilometers off the border. According to the report, arms smuggled from China by Baruah were kept in the Satchari Forest and were sent to Indian militants at opportune moments.

However, Bangladesh State Minister for Home, Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, asserted that the haul was based on intelligence collected by local Bangladesh agencies. RAB Media Wing Director Habibur Rahman added that the arms and ammunition recovered in the Satchari Forest were apparently similar to those recovered in Chittagong in 2004, and to a truckload of ammunition recovered at Bogra in June 2003. It is significant, moreover, that investigators of the Bogra ammunition haul had determined that the ammunition was bound for the Satchari Forest, and had also confirmed its linkages with NLFT and ULFA.

China’s Strategic Rocket Force: Sharpening the Sword (Part 1 of 2)

Publication: China Brief Volume: 14 Issue: 13
July 3, 2014

DF-31 training photos (Source: China Military Online) 

The Second Artillery has made significant progress, particularly in modernizing its hardware, but also operations and training. 

Its main mission remains deterrence, especially toward U.S. intervention in a regional conflict. 

This deterrence mission increasingly emphasizes conventional capabilities, but nuclear weapons have also been modernized to ensure their continued effectiveness. 

On January 22, the website Chinese military newspaper PLA Dailypublished photos of a People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Force (PLASAF) unit engaged in field training with a DF-31 road-mobile ICBM launcher (China Military Online, January 22). The photos did not reveal a new capability (China began deploying road-mobile ICBMs more than seven years ago), nor were they likely intended as a warning to a particular state, although some regional media interpreted them as a threat (South China Morning Post, January 23;Chosun Ilbo, January 26). However, their publication highlights an important trend: increased confidence in the conventional and nuclear capabilities of China’s strategic missile force. As context and military missions change, PLASAF has remained relevant by developing growing conventional deterrence through demonstrating capability to prevail in a regional conflict and preventing U.S. intervention therein.

PLASAF, which controls the country’s land-based nuclear and conventional ballistic missiles and ground-launched land-attack cruise missiles, is an increasingly formidable force. Cutting-edge industrial capabilities and long-term strategic prioritization make it the world’s “most active and diverse ballistic missile development program” (National Air and Space Intelligence Center [NASIC],Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat, 2013 [PDF], p. 3). China is increasing missile numbers and diversity; testing and introducing longer-range, more accurate, improved-payload missiles, while simultaneously upgrading older systems; and establishing new units. The latest U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) report on military and security developments involving China, released in early June, underscored the continuing modernization of China’s nuclear and conventional missile capabilities. Reflecting the impressive progress China has made in this area, it described China’s ballistic and cruise missile development programs as “comparable to other international top-tier producers,” an impressive achievement that is giving China a variety of new and increasingly potent capabilities (DoD,Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2014[PDF], June, p. 46).

Substantial, rapid improvements have yielded not only a sophisticated, survivable arsenal of nuclear missiles capable of putting regional and continental U.S. targets at risk, but also the world’s most numerous, diverse and comprehensive conventional, ballistic and cruise missile force. Today, these capabilities make PLASAF “China’s core force for strategic deterrence” (Zhongguo zhanlüe weishe de hexin liliang). [1]

Pro-Moscow Separatists Inted to Make a Stand in City of Donetsk After Losing Their Stronghold of Slovyansk

July 6, 2014
Pro-Russia Rebels Regroup to Fight On in Ukraine
Associated Press

DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Russian insurgents driven out of their stronghold in eastern Ukraine have converged on the city of Donetsk, where their commander says they will regroup to continue their fight against the Ukrainian government.

Ukrainian troops forced the rebels out of their stronghold of Slovyansk on Saturday, suggesting the government may finally be making gains in the months-long battle against the insurgency.

Rebels from Slovyansk and other towns taken over by the Ukrainian army were seen Sunday milling around central Donetsk, a major industrial city in the eastern region where the insurgents have proclaimed the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic.

Igor Girkin, the defense minister of the separatist republic, said in a video interview with the Russian television channel Life News that he was in Donetsk and would lead the fight from there.

South China Sea Tensions

South China Sea Tensions
Author: Beina Xu, Online Writer/Editor
Updated: May 14, 2014 Nguyen Huy Kham/Courtesy Reuters


Territorial spats over the waters and islands of the South China Sea have roiled relations between China and countries like Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei in recent years, and tensions continue to escalate in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama's announced "pivot" of focus to the region. A handful of islands comprise the epicenter of the territorial dispute, making up an area known as the "cow's tongue" that spans roughly the entire South China Sea. The region is home to a wealth of natural resources, fisheries, trade routes, and military bases, all of which are at stake in the increasingly frequent diplomatic standoffs. China's blanket claims to sovereignty across the region and its strong resistance to handling disputes in an international arena have mired attempts at resolving the crises and intensified nationalist postures in all countries involved, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines. Experts say the potential for an escalated conflict in the South China Sea—while seemingly distant for now—presents an ongoing crisis for the region, as well as for U.S. interests in the area. 

What territories are involved and disputed? 

The South China Sea comprises a stretch of roughly 1.4 million square miles in the Pacific Ocean that encompasses an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan, spanning west of the Philippines, north of Indonesia, and east of Vietnam. The South China Sea islands number in the hundreds, although the largest and most contentious territories include the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, Pratas Islands, Macclesfield Bank, and Scarborough Shoal, to which all of the six major Southeast Asian nations lay various claims. The islands are mostly uninhabited and have never had an indigenous population, making the issue of historical sovereignty a thorny one to resolve.

The disputes aren't limited to land, however; each country has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), over which it has special rights to marine resources and energy exploration and production. An EEZ spans outward 200 nautical miles from the coast of the each state's territorial sea, and may include the continental shelf beyond the 200-mile limit. These zones come into play during disputes over sea territory, as displayed in China's December 2012 spat with Vietnam over oil and fishing activity in the waters near the Paracel Islands. 

Asia’s Military Revolution

JUL 3, 2014

SEOUL – A vast revolution in military affairs is taking place across East Asia. The latest signs are Chinese President Xi Jinping’s purge of General Xu Caihou, an ex-Politburo member and former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, on charges of corruption, and Japan’s “reinterpretation” of Article 9 of its constitution to permit the country to provide military aid to its allies.

Despite the rising regional tensions that inspired these moves, China’s relations with its neighbors and the United States are not fated to lead to direct confrontation. But the relentless march of new initiatives to meet the perceived “China threat” will require the region’s political leaders, including the Chinese, to address their disputes in new and more creative ways if that outcome is to be avoided.

In general, there are three ways to foster international peace: deepening economic interdependence, promoting democracy, and building international institutions. Unfortunately, because East Asia’s political leaders have failed to pursue the latter objective, they now find themselves playing dangerous balance-of-power games reminiscent of Europe a century ago.

Deepening economic interdependence in the wake of Asia’s 1997 financial crisis has not generated political momentum for peace and cooperation. The region’s business leaders have been unable to prevent deteriorating foreign relations from harming their interests. By contrast, military lobbying now deeply influences foreign and defense policies – witness China’s double-digit increase in defense spending and rising US arms sales in the region.

What explains this failure? International-relations theorists since Immanuel Kant have held that democracies rarely (if ever) fight one another; as a result, political leaders, such as US President Woodrow Wilson, have tried to promote democracy as a means to spread peace. Until recently, the US seemed to have assumed that China’s engagement with Western democracies would bolster peaceful ties.

But, since the 2008 financial crisis, China’s confidence in its authoritarian development model has grown stronger. Its leaders now increasingly appear to believe that a new “Beijing Consensus” of mercantilism and state intervention has replaced the old “Washington Consensus” of free trade and deregulation.

China’s ideological incompatibility with the US thus is making the shift in their relative power difficult to achieve peacefully. In the late nineteenth century, a rising US was able to cooperate with a declining Britain, owing to their shared culture and values. China’s leaders, however, tend to suspect that the US is deliberately trying to undermine their country’s political stability by questioning its record on human rights and political freedoms. Meanwhile, Xi’s domestic policies seem to be taking the country ever further from Western norms.

Have The Islamist Militants Overreached In Iraq And Syria?

July 05, 2014

Fighters from the Islamic State hold a parade in Raqqa, in northeastern Syria, displaying equipment captured from the Iraqi army. The group has declared a caliphate, or a single Islamic state, in the parts of Syria and Iraq it controls. This undated image was posted by the Raqqa Media Center, a Syrian opposition group, on Monday.

The Islamist radicals who have declared an Islamic caliphate on land they control straddling Iraq and Syria are waging an audacious publicity stunt, according to some analysts.

While it may bring them even greater attention, it's also likely to be an overreach that will open riffs with its current partners, the Sunni Muslims in Iraq who welcomed the militant group in early June. They all share the goal of overthrowing Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his sectarian rule, but the more secular parts of the Sunni coalition didn't sign up for an Islamic state.

"By announcing the caliphate, they are picking a fight with everybody," says David Kilcullen, a guerrilla warfare expert and former chief counter-terrorism strategist for the U.S. State Department.

The militants were known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. But in announcing a caliphate, which is a single, unified Islamic state, they are now simply calling themselves the Islamic State.

The group has been taking territory since last year, first in Syria and now in Iraq. They grabbed international attention last month when they seized the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, one of the largest and most important population centers in Iraq.

But so far, at least, the Islamic State has not tried to make the city the centerpiece of the declared caliphate.

"No, no, there is nothing like that in Mosul," insists a former Iraqi military officer when reached by phone. He dismisses the caliphate with a snort, because, he says, "the other groups object."

The former officer says he fears retribution from the Maliki government and didn't want his name published. He says he is part of the Sunni alliance in Mosul that originally welcomed the Islamic State. Now, he has some doubts.

People walk through the market area in Erbil, Iraq. Tens of thousands of displaced Iraqis and Syrians have converged on the ancient city after fleeing fighting in their hometowns.

"We will soon name one of our people to be the boss in Mosul," he says. "There is no caliphate here."

A Sunni Alliance Of Convenience

The Islamic State declared the caliphate on June 30, three weeks after a successful sweep across northern and western Iraq in a land grab that includes strategic border posts.

A small group of IS fighters served as the "tip of the spear" in this Sunni alliance of convenience. In the first thrust of the spear, IS was supported by tribal chiefs, village elders, Islamist groups, former military officers from an army disbanded by the U.S. in 2003, and former members of the outlawed Baathist party that governed Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

The New Mesopotamia — A New Spatial Order: Report Released

Posted on June 23, 2014 by wikistrat

The future of Iraq will be informed by the interaction between four significant geopolitical axes, a Wikistrat report released today argues. What Wikistrat calls the “New Mesopotamia” will be shaped by the radical Sunnis, the Shi’a, the Kurds and the world powers.

Last week, Wikistrat ran a two-day speed simulation in which its analysts were asked to identify and explore the geopolitical axes that are likely to emerge in Iraq over the next two years, and to forecast a range of scenarios for how each axis will shape the region.

Rather than exploring the region’s dynamics from the perspective of the Iraqi state, the simulation looked at four significant geopolitical axes — each represents a system of actors sharing similar values and objectives regarding its future.

In the report released today, Wikistrat Senior Analyst Jeffrey Itell argues that Iraq has essentially broken down into three component parts that are relatively homogenous in ethnic and religious terms. Each is capable enough to defend its territory but too weak to encroach on any of the others.

The radical Sunni axis is concentrated between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and seeks to carve out a polity that stretches from what is now Syria to the gates of Baghdad. While some factions within this axis are backed by the Sunni monarchies in the Persian Gulf, the more extreme elements, notably the Islamist group ISIS that took Iraq’s second city, Mosul, earlier this month, lack foreign support. As a whole, it is therefore unlikely to be able to menace the Shi’a heartland in the southeast of Iraq.

Lacking popular support for its purist interpretation of Islam, Wikistrat predicts ISIS will also struggle to govern a landlocked “Mesopotamian Caliphate”. Repeated rounds of internecine conflict and suppression within the Sunni axis are likely. Two years from now, Iraq’s Sunni heartland may look just as complicated as Syria’s.


Territory controlled by the ISIL as of June 2014 in Syria and Iraq. 

When ISIL – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – announced its independence from Al Qaeda inFebruary 2014, most analysts understood such a divorce within the Islamic radical family as a clear sign of the group disintegration along contradictory terror narratives.

More fundamental in its view than its sister group in Syria, Al Nusra, ISIL has advocated a harsher stance against those it labelled the “enemies of Islam”, seeking not to negotiate but to annihilate.

A breakaway, a splinter group of Al Qaeda, no analyst could have predicted that ISIL would, within months of its establishment, sweep across northern Iraq with the speed and military accuracy it demonstrated over the past few weeks. Strong of thousands of hardened jihadists ISIL has proven so far to be an unstoppable force, much more powerful and potent than Al Qaeda itself since it managed to establish its own caliphate, succeeding where Al Qaeda had failed.

But what makes ISIL so different than al Qaeda, safe from its unforgiving radical narrative? Enamoured with grand punitive displays – the group has often staged gruesome public executions to strike fear at the heart of is subjects and erode the moral of its enemies – ISIL has been often dubbed the evil child of Al Qaeda, the epitome of what Islamic radicalism is – intransigent hatred and bigotry.

Why has ISIL succeeded where Al Qaeda could not? One thing – ISIL has money.
Not just a brutal machine of war

While ISIL fighters might have proven ruthless warriors, quite capable of successfully engaging Iraq armed forces in frontal attacks, the group’s leadership has shown incredible management skills when it comes to handling the group’s finances, something Al Qaeda never quite mastered.

Dubbed the richest terror group in the Middle East since ISIL has de facto established control over Mosul vast oil resources and gained access to Mosul central bank vast reserve of cash – just below half a billion dollars Iraqi officials have confirmed – it is likely this breakaway will continue to feed its war machine by asserting its territorial gains with petro-dollars.

A cunning stratege, ISIL has clearly learned from Al Qaeda’s past failures and experienced. A sound mind on sound shoulders, ISIL could soon prove to be the perfect terror storm, a force which might prove too great for any one country to fight alone.

ISIL financial empire