29 July 2014


India will have to take a realistic view of the scope of its strategic partnership with the United States of America, writes Kanwal Sibal


India’s relations with the United States of America need to be put back on track. The relationship has lost steam in the recent months with many contentious issues surfacing that remain unaddressed. We have now to see whether, with the change of government in Delhi, a new start can be made.

The challenges ahead will not be easy to overcome. The irritants marking the relationship arose when a ‘pro-US’ prime minister, Manmohan Singh, was in power. His government was grappling with problems of development and growth, and sought US participation in building a strong Indian economy. Indeed, the strategic dialogue, with its five pillars — strategic cooperation, energy and climate change, education and development, economy, trade and agriculture, science and technology, health and innovation — was instituted in 2009, under his watch. If, despite four previous rounds, the relationship became somewhat morose, no breakthroughs can be expected from the fifth one.

To begin with, the US must make an extra effort to establish a relationship of confidence with the new prime minister, whom the Americans have treated very shabbily with an obstinacy that makes little political sense. President Barack Obama seemingly established a good personal chemistry with Manmohan Singh; it is unlikely that this will be easily repeated with Narendra Modi, although the US president has reached out to him immediately after his election and welcomed him to Washington, as did the secretary of state, John Kerry. Modi himself has been remarkably large-hearted towards the US, conveying through his decision to visit Washington quickly that he intends to overlook the visa-denial insult and move forward to establish a mutually productive relationship in India’s national interest. It is indisputable that a perception of some malaise developing in the India-US relationship complicates the management of a balance in our foreign policy.

To the extent that these diplomatic signals are watched when a new government takes over in a country headed by a prime minister, whose thinking on foreign policy issues is not known, it would have been noted that the first foreign visit by Modi announced by the government was to the US. As against this, Modi has reached out exceptionally towards China by allowing the Chinese to stage a diplomatic coup of sorts, especially vis-à-visJapan, in having their foreign minister received as the first foreign envoy by him, holding an unusually long conversation over the telephone with his Chinese counterpart and following it with a “very fruitful” meeting with the Chinese president in Brazil, who was invited to visit India in September, programming the Indian army chief’s visit to China, and that of the vice-president to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Panchsheel Agreement along with the Myanmarese president. This boosts China’s “peaceful” credentials and indirectly signals reduced concern about China’s thrust into Myanmar.

Harvest of controversy

Published: July 29, 2014  

Shiv Visvanathan

Decisions on genetically modified crops cannot be left to experts; technicalities need to be supplemented by answers to people’s anxieties

A quirky anthropologist once exclaimed: “Biotechnology is sheer drama.” He explained his cryptic headline by saying all great contemporary philosophical and ethical debates intersect around it. He added that the city might be the basis for the 21st century imagination but it is the fate of Indian agriculture that would trigger some of the great dilemmas of the century. The sociologist added that it was time to see science as political, and claimed that our scientists like Madhav Gadgil, M.S. Swaminathan or Pushpa Bhargava were as critical to political theory as Ashis Nandy or Rajni Kothari. Each has mediated the relation between science and democracy, and each of them knows that nothing is more central to the fate of democracy than the debates around biotechnology and genetic engineering. This essay will try to outline the nature of this debate and link it up to the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee) decision to field test a range of genetically modified crops.

Entry of Bt cotton

The public debates on GM began with the unannounced entry of Bt cotton in Gujarat, where the farmers had grown 21,000 acres of Bt cotton. It was an ironic beginning where an act of smuggling inaugurated the transfer of technology. Monsanto had no idea of this development and was as stunned as the government of India. The Bt cotton debate began as a downloaded debate where Indian journalists and movements discovered the implications of such an introduction. The first concern was whether Bt would enter the food chain and the second centred around empowerment. For centuries, farmers had been custodians of seeds but now they had to obtain seeds from multinationals. Expertise which was once located in the farmer was more focused in laboratories, many of which belonged to private firms.

Two other issues entered the first phase of the debate. One was a memorable battle between two champions of agriculture. Vandana Shiva attacked biotechnology and genetic manipulation claiming that it stunted diversity, disempowered the farmer and skewed intellectual property rights in favour of the multinational. Ms Shiva’s argument centred around alternative forms of farming while Gail Omvedt argued that in this age of liberalisation the farmer needed choice, the freedom to choose the kind of farming he wished to pursue and the seeds he wanted to pick.

Left paid for ignoring caste issue, says expert

Partha Chatterjee

While identifying various defects of the mainstream Leftist parties in West Bengal, eminent social scientist Partha Chatterjee has said that the Left parties have failed to understand the caste-based politics and thus distanced themselves consciously from such politics."

While identifying various defects of the mainstream Leftist parties in West Bengal, eminent social scientist Partha Chatterjee has said that the Left parties have failed to understand the caste-based politics and thus distanced themselves consciously from such politics.”

The Left parties had always felt that the identity-driven politics was “regressive,” said the professor of Anthropology, who was ironically critiqued by many for ignoring the caste question by pushing it under the aegis of Subaltern Studies. However, the need of the hour was to blend identity-based politics with “a politics of ideology, which only the Left can provide,” said the professor.

The seminar, attended by hundreds, was organised by a Leftist platform, Left Collective, mainly formed by breakaway members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

The Left parties of Bengal “ignored” identity politics and thus moved away from politics driven by caste or religion, said Professor Chatterjee, on Sunday. “Leftists had a formidable clout over electors in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and parts of southern India or Maharashtra, but they [Left] are completely erased from those areas for treating identity politics with contempt,” Professor Chatterjee said. However, the regional parties filled the vacuum by “adapting to caste-based politics” and thus achieved a degree of success in electoral politics.

“In this room, at least 90% of the people are from the upper castes. …no State in the country is as fiercely driven by upper castes as West Bengal is, but surprisingly the Left just refused to address the issue,” Professor Chatterjee said. Explaining how the failure of the mainstream Left to address caste-based orientations has severely affected both the Dalits and the Left, Prof. Chatterjee said that the regional parties failed to work for the people.

“What was required was to engage with the Dalits or talk about the people from various religions and also to blend it with economic compulsions of the people….to blend identity politics with politics of ideology, but the Left retracted,” he said. However, Prof. Chatterjee believes that only the Left could engage in “politics of ideology.”

“People joined the Left not necessarily because it was driven by the organisation, but also because it had a motivational ideology,” said Prof. Chatterjee and added, “…it is time to understand that by engaging party officials to conduct election and thus to stay in power over decades is ultimately of no use. Once you are out of power — and we can see that in Bengal — the organisation is turned into ruins. So now is the time to rethink – if the Left needs ideology or organisation-driven politics,” he said.

According to the Professor, it is not difficult, to engage in “politics of ideology.”

“We can start that today,” he said focussing on the immediate need to defend citizen’s rights. “The situation [in Bengal] reminds me of the time between 1971 till the emergency [1977]. These days, like in 1977, people’s right to live and voice their opinion is muted. We do not need a party to oppose this…we can just engage in a politics of ideology and protest,” he said.

Marxist academic, Shobhan Lal Dutta Gupta, emphasised the need to unite Leftists of various ideologies to “search for a Leftist alternative,” which incidentally was the title of the seminar.



By Brig (retd) Anil Gupta

The nation was shocked when the media flashed the news of four young men, residents of Thane district in Maharashtra, reported to be fighting in Iraq along with the Sunni jihadists of ISIS.

Their parents have reportedly met the union foreign minister in Delhi requesting her to get back their wards. Is this only the tip of the iceberg? Are more shocks in store? How many such parents are grieving quietly with the hope that their sons would return one day?

Of the four young men in their early 20s, three are reportedly engineering students and the fourth one is an undergraduate call centre executive. As per some intelligence inputs, there are about 18 such youth fighting in Syria and Iraq. The exact number may be much more and is being ascertained by the intelligence agencies.

Surprisingly, all the 18 youth identified so far belong to the south Indian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu , Andhra Pradesh (could be Telangana) and Maharashtra. Interestingly, none from north India have been identified so far with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

It is further assessed that they do not belong to any particular group but have been radicalised through internet and literature and video on social media. Intelligence agencies also have confirmed inputs of a group of youth from Uttar Pradesh owing allegiance to Indian Mujahideen (IM) fighting jihad in Afghanistan along with Al Qaeda and Taliban.


In my earlier article titled ‘ISIS – A bigger threat than Al Qaeda’, I had dwelt upon the issue of ISIS attracting many foreign jihadists because of its spectacular and lightning successes as well as the huge reserves of cash it holds. The foreign jihadists confirmed to be fighting with ISIS belong to prosperous European countries and Australia. It is also likely that they would have now been joined by those foreign jihadists who were nestled in North Waziristan and have been forced to escape consequent to launching of Operation Zarb-e-Azb by the Pakistan Army. These foreign jihadists include Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighurs of China. The foreign jihadists in the ranks of ISIS are estimated to vary from 2,000-10,000.


The first indication of Indians fighting with ISIS came through a 20-second audio of Abu Bakr-al-Baghdadi, the ISIS chief, released at the beginning of the month of Ramzan. In his recorded message he exhorted the jihadists all over to kill the enemies of Islam. He goes on to appeal to the believers to “take up arms and terrify the enemies of Allah” in various countries he termed as anti-Islam. India was listed by him as one such country. In the same audio he also enumerated the nationalities of fighters who constitute ISIS. In that he mentioned Indians as among a host of other nationalities, including British, American, French, German and Australian.

Maoist Rebellion : Ground Realities

Ground Situation

The end-of-year reports emanating from various Home Departments of the States affected by the Maoist rebellion indicates that the downtrend in violence, as seen during the preceding year, continues. Even if marred by the ambush at the Darbha Ghati (Valley) on the Chhattisgarh-Odisha Border on 25 May 2013, this is a hopeful sign. After all, de-escalatory trends in acts of anti-state insurrection offers the first hint of situational de-conflagration. If handled with sagaciously articulated strategy of hard and soft power, it paves the way for establishment of an environment of peace and stability in which the people may seek amelioration of their grievances, while the government may respond with due alacrity.

Signs, however, could also be misleading, particularly when these point towards what one optimistically wants to believe. Therefore, it would be wise to rely on first-hand ground survey of the situation while strategising for the coming phase of Counter-Maoist initiatives. This report is an attempt towards that end.

Build-up of State Capabilities

It was some time in the Year 2010, when pitted against vicious Maoist onslaught, the policy-makers had to turn their illusionary rhetoric into serious intent. Thus from the time the State Governments came around to accede to the Union Government’s counter-rebellion strategy, haltingly but inexorably, the state apparatus is being strengthened in grappling with the Maoist menace. Even if fraught with glaring slippages, leakages and inefficiency, the build up of the state’s internal security capability has been going up since then.

Build-up of Security Infrastructure

In enhancement of armed capability for the police forces, the elaborate schemes for expansion, training and modernisation continue to be exasperatingly slow in coming. The seven year old ‘Scheme for Fortified Police Stations’, which was necessitated by Maoists’ frequent mass-attacks and loot of weapons, and the public outcry against massacre of their own policemen-folks, proceeds at a languid pace, the constructions inspiring confidence neither in technical nor tactical terms. Between the threats of looming attacks, the commitment to reconstruct 400 of what are but ruins of British era police stations seems to be waxing and waning. As a result, the project has not crossed the half way stage; where construction has been executed, there remain parts left incomplete.

Security infrastructure is also being build-up under the Union Government aided ‘Security Related Expenditure’ and ‘Special Infrastructure Scheme’. The first one caters to expenditure on enhancement of administrative wherewithal, surrender and rehabilitation of rebels, formation of Village Defence Committees, community policing, publicity and motivation, and information gathering; while the second head funds security specific road building, preparation of camping grounds for police details in distant areas, construction of secure policing outposts in vulnerable locations, helipads, communication facilities etc. Progress of project implementation is however very slow, the reasons being as follows:-

a. There is an average time lag of two to three years between a political statement and commencement of the scheme at the point of execution. This lag is on account of budgetary tricks which the government must resort to in funding these schemes through re-prioritisation and re-appropriation from a budget that is already overburdened by the game of voter appeasement. Due to intermittent release of funds, it may take another two to three years before the schemes gather moderate pace, that is, if not diverted or relegated in favour of new expediencies.

After Losing Province in 2010, Afghan Taliban Strike Back

JULY 27, 2014

Insurgents lay dead Sunday in Spinbaldak, where an attack on a home of Kandahar Province’s security chief was part of a Taliban offensive.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A sudden Taliban offensive in the southern province of Kandahar in recent days has led to some of the heaviest protracted fighting there in years, officials said on Sunday. The militants overran a district center on the border with Pakistan, battled government forces near the provincial capital and staged a suicide-bomber attack on a home of the province’s powerful security chief.

Kandahar, a crucial base of Taliban power since the 1990s, had enjoyed much improved security since the surge of American troops pushed the Taliban out in 2010. American forces still maintain a base at the Kandahar airport, but Afghan forces have aggressively taken the lead in the province under the security chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, whose brutal tactics in fighting the Taliban have raised criticism but have nonetheless been seen as effective.

In an annual public statement over the weekend for the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, reiterated his determination to re-establish an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan. The proof was borne out by a multifront offensive in Kandahar involving hundreds of Taliban fighters that was seemingly timed to take advantage of Eid al-Fitr, which closes the holy month of Ramadan.

Up to 100 Taliban, Pakistani and other foreign fighters attacked the district compound of Registan, the southernmost desert district of the province, on Saturday, Afghan officials said.

The battle raged for 10 hours as policemen fought for the compound, but their commander and five of his men were killed in the fighting as they ran out of ammunition, said Dawa Khan Minapal, a government spokesman in Kandahar. The area is remote, and army and police reinforcements were hours away across the red desert that gives the district its name.

General Raziq had set off leading security forces to the south to repel the Taliban and secure the border when news came of an attack by six suicide bombers on his home in Spinbaldak, which borders Pakistan in the east. The bombers occupied a school near his home and aimed rockets and gunfire on the guesthouse where his family was living. The border guards in charge of security of his house fought back, leading to an extended firefight in which one guard was killed and three others were wounded.

The bombers were shot dead or blew themselves up. A civilian boy was also killed, but there were no casualties in General Raziq’s family, his spokesman, Zia Durani, said.

Will the Islamic State Spread Its Tentacles to Pakistan?

By Arif Rafiq
July 28, 2014

Despite talk of Pakistan militants swearing allegiance, so far at least the threat seems overstated. 

The shocking spread of the Islamic State group (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) over Sunni dominated areas of Iraq and its declaration of a caliphate last month has sparked speculation that the group will replace al-Qaeda as the vanguard of the global jihadist movement. Indeed, there is concern that Pakistani jihadist groups, especially the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, the principal anti-state jihadist group), could pair up with the rising ISIS, rejuvenating itself as an insurgent force. But such concerns, while not completely unfounded, are exaggerated.

To recognize the caliphate of the Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the TTP would have to defect not only from al-Qaeda’s ranks, but also sever its nominal (but important) ties with the Afghan Taliban. The costs of such a shift for the TTP currently outweigh the benefits. Though Al-Qaeda has been weakened in Pakistan by U.S. drone attacks and Pakistani military and intelligence operations, it remains an anchoring force for local anti-state jihadist groups, providing them with a broader strategic vision as well as technical expertise. Al-Qaeda has an established supply line of Pakistanis from outside the tribal areas, including urban areas, built over the course of more than a decade. It has effectively fused with elements of the anti-Shia Lashkar-e Jhangvi, which is deeply tied to the TTP. The Islamic State has yet to even remotely approach what al-Qaeda can offer Pakistani jihadist groups.

The indications so far are that Pakistani jihadists are wary of getting involved in the dispute between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Earlier this year, a prominent Pakistani jihadist forum shut down a discussion thread on the Islamic State’s clashes with al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. And in early March, a contributor to the forum claimed that he spoke with Adnan Rashid – a senior TTP commander since arrested – who allegedly said that his group supports neither the “fitna”(internecine strife) in Syria nor the Islamic State group.

According to the Telegraph, the Tehreek-e-Khilafat, a previously unknown jihadist group supposedly based in Karachi, said that it swore allegiance to Islamic State’s al-Baghdadi. But the story has little credibility. It was reported by a journalist with a tabloid bent and has gained little traction in Pakistan’s Internet jihadosphere.

Like al-Qaeda members, the TTP and other Pakistani Taliban factions claim fealty (bay’ah) to Mullah Muhammad Omar, whom they refer to as amir al-mumineen or commander of the faithful – a quasi-caliph status. Importantly, the TTP derives its legitimacy from its association with the Afghan Taliban and inspiration from the group’s five-year rule over Afghanistan, which is seen as an idyllic period.


Even though nuclear security is solely the sovereign property of a state, countries definitely need to ensure and agree upon the collective and mutually agreed steps to guarantee safety and security from the existing evolving threats hanging around them.

The third meeting of the initiative — Nuclear Security Summit 2014 – was participated by 50 countries at The Hague on March 24-25, 2014.

NSS is a summit basically aimed to seek awareness of the threat of nuclear terrorism and how to lock up the world’s nuclear materials more securely, so that they would not be so easy for the terrorists to steal. Moreover, due to the evolving strategic Ukrainian environment, the short-term concerns over Ukraine partly overshadowed the long-term goal of the summit this time. By and large, the NSS outcomes cannot be expected as a binding legal instrument since it is not legally binding and its operating mechanism is political in nature.

Admittedly all the participating countries reached The Hague in order to demonstrate and substantiate their commitment to the goals and foremost aims of NSS, just as Pakistan endeavoured to do likewise by its presence at the NSS this time too. The fact is beyond doubt that Pakistan is committed to and has shown its determination and dedication to nuclear security by participating in all the three meetings of NSS (Washington, DC 2010; Seoul, 2012 and The Hague, 2014).

Its engagement with the international community in promoting nuclear safety and security has been demonstratively admitted at international fora. Moreover, as per the NSS agenda on understanding the risks of nuclear terrorism and nuclear accidents, Pakistani authorities have taken appropriate steps.

Moving ahead, as the NSS calls for regional and collective steps towards improved and enhanced security, Pakistan can adopt a frontline position in proposing a “regional nuclear safety and security arrangement by inviting both India and China to join in an Asian Trilateral – Nuclear Safety and Security Network (AT-NSSN).” The term AT-NSSN, coined by Rabia Akhtar, Kansas State University, proposes in a very rational, coherent and workable manner the need to elevate mutual gains that would, in practical, be beneficial for regional stability along with its nuclear safety and security concerns.

Since all these three countries of the region are nuclear powers, so they need to share and contribute their expert experiences and methods in this regard. It would add to the nuclear knowledge in the region. Akhtar here raised a very critical and paradoxical point that the three countries meet other global leaders at the NSS forum to reiterate their national and international commitments but even then they do not try to talk to each other about their regional commitments, especially when all three are nuclear weapons states. All three share a common border and all three carry historical/political baggage which fosters insecurity and hampers cooperation.

Taliban Making Military Gains in Afghanistan

JULY 26, 2014

Afghan police recruits trained in Kabul on Tuesday. Security forces have been under increasing fire in areas around the capital. Credit Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

MAHMUD RAQI, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters are scoring early gains in several strategic areas near the capital this summer, inflicting heavy casualties and casting new doubt on the ability of Afghan forces to contain the insurgency as the United States moves to complete its withdrawal of combat troops, according to Afghan officials and local elders.

The Taliban have found success beyond their traditional strongholds in the rural south and are now dominating territory near crucial highways and cities that surround Kabul, the capital, in strategic provinces like Kapisa and Nangarhar.

Their advance has gone unreported because most American forces have left the field and officials in Kabul have largely refused to talk about it. The Afghan ministries have not released casualty statistics since an alarming rise in army and police deaths last year.

At a time when an election crisis is threatening the stability of the government, the Taliban’s increasingly aggressive campaign is threatening another crucial facet of the American withdrawal plan, full security by Afghan forces this year.

“They are running a series of tests right now at the military level, seeing how people respond,” one Western official said, describing a Taliban effort to gauge how quickly they could advance. “They are trying to figure out: Can they do it now, or will it have to wait” until after the American withdrawal, the official added, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the coalition has officially ceded security control.

Interviews with local officials and residents in several strategic areas around the country suggest that, given the success of their attacks, the Taliban are growing bolder just two months into the fighting season, at great cost to Afghan military and police forces.

In Kapisa, a verdant province just north of Kabul that includes a vital highway to northern Afghanistan, insurgents are openly challenging and even driving away the security forces in several districts. Security forces in Tagab District take fire daily from the Taliban, who control everything but the district center. Insurgents in Alasay District, northeast of Kabul, recently laid siege to an entire valley for more than a week, forcing hundreds of residents and 45 police officers to flee. At least some of the local police in a neighboring district have cut deals with the Taliban to save themselves.

Violence Against Minority Hindus in Bangladesh: An Analysis


Bangladesh was born in 1971 premised on a secular and democratic ethos as paragraph 2 of the preamble of the first constitution of Bangladesh which was adopted on November 4, 1972 accepted ‘nationalism’, ‘socialism’, ‘democracy’ and secularism as state principles. But “soon after its birth, the political history and politics of Bangladesh found itself within the twists and turns of majoritarian politics (Mohisin, 2009)”. Through the Eighth Amendment to the constitution on 7 June 1988, Islam was declared as the state religion of Bangladesh (Article 2 Clause A) with the provision that other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony. “The above changes were brought about by successive political regimes to consolidate their power base by appealing to the sentiments of the majority. This not only transformed the political identity of the state but also created internal polarization (Mohisin, 2009)”. Since then the minority community (largely Hindus) face discrimination and continuous atrocities and violence as reported by many scholars and world bodies. It is also documented that the political process and the political parties were a major source of discrimination against minorities. Demographic Changes by Religion Source: BBS Population Report, 1991, Ct from, Shishir Moral, Rights of Religious Minorities, in Hameeda Hossain (ed). Human
Rights Bangladesh, 2000, Dhaka, Ain ‘O Salish Kendro, 2001, pp. 160. and Banladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) Literacy Assessment Survey 2011, May 2013, Stastistics and Informatics Division (SID) Ministry of Planning.

Ever since the birth of Bangladesh, the Hindu population grew only marginally and their relative share in the total population declined considerably. According to the 2001 census, the size of Hindu population was 11.6 million which means since the past 27 years only, 1.7 million population was added yielding a 0.6% annual average growth rate. By contrast, the Muslim population almost doubled from 61 million to 111 million and the annual average growth rate was 2.2% during the same period. Therefore, the share of Hindu population to the country’s total population declined from 13.5% to 9.2% during the same period and by 1.79% since 1991, whilst the relative composition of Christians and Buddhist population did not change. Further, the Hindu population declined to 8.2 percent in the country with annual growth rate coming down to 0.05 percent between 2001 to 2011 and it is projected that in 2051 the share of Hindu population will decline to 3.7 percent.

China’s Leaders Draw Lessons From War of ‘Humiliation’

JULY 28, 2014

Chinese cadets taking part in a bayonet drill on the outskirts of Beijing. Mindful of past defeats, President Xi Jinping has embarked on an ambitious program to overhaul the military.Credit Andy Wong/Associated Press

Imagine China beset by domestic and external menaces, its rulers and commanders complacent, decadent and corrupt, humiliated by Japan in a war that pushes the once indomitable power closer to collapse.

This image of China from over a century ago, in the twilight of the Qing dynasty, remains a potent nightmare for Communist Party leaders, and the 120th anniversary of the start of a war with Japan has unleashed a spate of images, speeches and official commentary drawing lessons from the defeat.

The lessons from that time have become all the more pointed today, when Chinese-Japanese ties are tenser than they have been for decades, and President Xi Jinping of China has embarked on anambitious program to overhaul the military and to curtail corruption throughout the military and the party.

“The victory of the aggressors was a humiliation for the Chinese nation,” Chu Yimin, a People’s Liberation Army general and political commissar, said in an interview published on Monday in Study Times, a party newspaper. “The wounds are increasingly healed over, but the scars remain, and what we need most of all nowadays is to awaken an intense sense of humiliation, so that we never forget the humiliation of our country and military, and turn knowledge of this into courage.”

This Friday will mark the anniversary of the formal start of the war, called the Jiawu War in Chinese, and often called the First Sino-Japanese War in English. “Jiawu” refers to the year in the 60-year cycle of the traditional Chinese calendar; 2014 marks another Jiawu year, adding weight to the anniversary.

As if to reinforce the martial message, the Chinese military has announced exercises, extending off the east coast of China, which the civilian aviation authorities have indicated are already causing severe delays for commercial flights.

A professor from China’s National Defense University, Gong Fangbin, said the disruption of air traffic would be a test of citizens’ patriotic support for a stronger military.

Did China Blink in the South China Sea?

July 27, 2014 

"A deep dive into this question will not only shed light on China’s resolve, but also explore valuable lessons for how to cope with Beijing’s aggressiveness."

For seventy-five days starting from May 2, China unilaterally deployed its US$1 billion oil rig HYSY-981 to drill in waters lying within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The platform was originally scheduled to stay until August 15, but on July 15, China announced that the rig had completed its work and would be relocated to Hainan Island. The removal of the drilling rig is as unilateral and unexpected as its deployment. When the platform was parked in the contested area, it sparked the worst crisis since 1988 in Sino-Vietnamese relations.

As with other crises of its kind, this standoff was also a battle of wills. If power is a key to winning international conflict, resolve is equally important. The party with more resolve may win even if it is the less powerful party. With their respective sovereignties at stake, the two states tested each other’s resolve to see who would blink first.

Against this background, China’s withdrawal of the oil rig a month before schedule did not serve to show its resolve. So, did China blink? A deep dive into this question will not only shed light on China’s resolve, but also explore valuable lessons for how to cope with Beijing’s aggressiveness. Out of the numerous possible explanations, let’s examine the three most plausible.

Nature’s Blow

The most simple, and at first glance, most compelling reason for China’s removal of the oil rig is bad weather. The day before the drilling platform’s withdrawal, the weather at its location was getting stormy, forewarning of the coming typhoon Rammasun. Classified as a “super typhoon,” Rammasun was expected to make landfall on the nearby island of Hainan in three days, on July 18. Although the Paracel southwest, where the drilling rig was parked, was forecast to be not directly on Rammasun’s path, nobody could guarantee that the severe storm would not cause damage to structures, ships and people at that place. Although the 981 is said to be able to withstand powerful typhoons, it would be too risky to keep it and the escorting vessels in the middle of the ocean during bad weather.

China faced two choices. One choice was to move the rig farther south to get out of the typhoon’s path. This would have moved the rig deeper into Vietnam’s EEZ, and would have put the protective armada at a larger logistic risk while escalating the conflict with Vietnam. The other choice was to move the platform closer to China’s shore and out of the waters claimed by Vietnam. This would have allowed the rig to be anchored at a shallower place, while not requiring a large number of vessels to protect it from the Vietnamese. China chose the second option, which was less risky, and announced that the rig had completed its work. This announcement was also the better choice for China. Declaring a temporary withdrawal of the drilling platform would have necessitated an immediate return after the storm. This return would have been challenged by a large flotilla of Vietnamese vessels, and China would have risked losing face by not being able to install the rig at its previous site.

Old Scores and New Grudges: Evolving Sino-Japanese Tensions

Asia Report N°25824 Jul 2014


Enmity between China and Japan is hardening into a confrontation that appears increasingly difficult to untangle by diplomacy. Positions on the dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku island group are wide apart, and politically viable options to bridge the gap remain elusive. New frictions have arisen. China’s announcement in November 2013 of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), overlapping that of Japan’s and covering the disputed islands, deepened Tokyo’s anxiety that Beijing desires both territory and to alter the regional order. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s provocative visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in December 2013 triggered a bitter argument as to whether Japan has fully atoned for its Second World War aggression, a still vivid sore in the region. Amid heightened suspicion and militarisation of the East China Sea and its air space, the risks of miscalculation grow. Leadership in both countries needs to set a tone that prioritises diplomacy to calm the troubled waters: November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit might provide such an opportunity.

A perception is gaining ground in Tokyo that the still new administration of President Xi Jinping is particularly assertive and that China seeks to revive its hegemonic “Middle Kingdom” status in the region. China perceives the Abe government as the “troublemaker” that stokes tensions in order to rearm Japan. Insensitive actions and strident rhetoric increasingly appear to be replacing diplomacy. Both sides progressively consider the other as a primary national security threat and are boosting their military capabilities and adjusting their defence postures accordingly.

Although not likely to attempt to wrest control of the islands fully from Japan any time soon, Beijing acts upon the belief that the balance of power is shifting in its favour and that a strength-driven approach can pressure Japan into accepting incremental changes over time. Tokyo, appearing to agree that China has long-term power advantages, seeks to tighten its U.S. alliance and unite regional countries around rules-based opposition to unilateral changes.

Presumably, neither desires an armed conflict, but they face heightened risk of an unplanned clash. The danger spans three theatres – the waters near the disputed islands; the high seas of the Western Pacific; and the airspace over the East China Sea – and involves law enforcement vessels, fishing boats, naval fleets and military aircraft. While it appears that patrol patterns around the islands have stabilised and risky behaviour there has eased since late 2013, military encounters in the other two theatres have become more frequent and dangerous.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has stepped up exercises in offshore waters in its quest for blue water capability, coming as a consequence into increasing contact with the Japan Self-Defence Forces (SDF). The sides have starkly different interpretations of their operational rights and limitations. Japan insists on rights to surveillance in international waters. China has demonstrated a willingness to take risks to keep foreign vessels and aircraft away from its fleets. Repeated close calls have resulted. Since China announced an ADIZ that overlaps with Japan’s, there has been a spike in the number of encounters by military aircraft, with both sides accusing the other of provocative behaviour.

Let Sunnis Defeat Iraq’s Militants

JULY 27, 2014

THE situation in Iraq today is perilous, particularly for Sunni Muslim Arabs. Their prospects for inclusion in Iraq’s government and fair treatment from it have been declining since 2010, when Iraqiyya, the nonsectarian coalition to which we belonged, drew more votes than any other parliamentary bloc but was denied a chance to form a government. We might not have succeeded, but letting us try would have built public trust in democracy.

Instead, Iran and the United States used their influence to insist that Nuri Kamal al-Maliki remain prime minister. A sectarian-minded Shiite Muslim with authoritarian tendencies, he also pressured Iraq’s judiciary to decide in his favor. Since then, Mr. Maliki has detained thousands of Sunnis without trial; pushed leading Sunnis out of the political arena by accusing them of terrorism; stopped paying members of the Sunni Awakening, the movement that fought Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007; and labeled all Sunnis as terrorists.

A request by provincial councils in Salahuddin, Diyala and Nineveh to hold votes on how to reorganize as more autonomous regions — as the Constitution allows — was rejected, and for a year peaceful Sunni protests were met by violence. As Iraqi security forces killed dozens of unarmed protesters, Mr. Maliki again bent the judiciary to his will, leaving Sunnis to feel they could not receive justice.

Now the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has burst onto the stage well organized and funded: In Falluja early this year, then Mosul last month, it seized territory, claiming to defend Sunnis against Mr. Maliki’s Iranian-backed government.

The group’s ideology is a perversion of Islam and an affront to our culture. Yet the group gets local support. The Sunni tribes defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq, its predecessor, less than a decade ago. Today, they cooperate with ISIS (which now calls itself the Islamic State) — not as fanatics, but because they see it as the lesser of two evils, compared with Mr. Maliki.

Meanwhile, the government murders Sunni detainees and bombs civilian areas. The killing of Sunnis by Iranian-backed Shiite militias and the presence of Iranian military advisers on the ground deepen suspicion that Iraq’s government serves Iran, not Iraqis. This pushes more Sunnis toward ISIS, increasing the threat it poses to Iraq’s people and neighbors.

But Iraqis can change that. First, we need a new prime minister. The Shiite parties must nominate a replacement for Mr. Maliki; there are a number of capable candidates. Iraqi politicians also must agree on a new balance between central authority and regional autonomy. The formula should include arrangements satisfactory to Iraq’s Kurds, who already have considerable local power; increased decentralization for the rest of the country; and a new arrangement for managing and sharing the proceeds of Iraq’s natural resources, particularly oil. Any agreement must include amnesty for the tens of thousands of Sunnis detained without trial, the release from detention of the Sunni politician Ahmed al-Alwani, the end of the counterproductive de-Baathification program, and the repealing of the counterterrorism law, which has been used as a pretext to arrest Mr. Maliki’s Sunni rivals.

An Israel Without Illusions
David Grossman: Stop the Grindstone of Israeli-Palestinian Violence
JULY 27, 2014

JERUSALEM — Israelis and Palestinians are imprisoned in what seems increasingly like a hermetically sealed bubble. Over the years, inside this bubble, each side has evolved sophisticated justifications for every act it commits.

Israel can rightly claim that no country in the world would abstain from responding to incessant attacks like those of Hamas, or to the threat posed by the tunnels dug from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Hamas, conversely, justifies its attacks on Israel by arguing that the Palestinians are still under occupation and that residents of Gaza are withering away under the blockade enforced by Israel.

Inside the bubble, who can fault Israelis for expecting their government to do everything it can to save children on the Nahal Oz kibbutz, or any of the other communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip, from a Hamas unit that might emerge from a hole in the ground? And what is the response to Gazans who say that the tunnels and rockets are their only remaining weapons against a powerful Israel? In this cruel and desperate bubble, both sides are right. They both obey the law of the bubble — the law of violence and war, revenge and hatred.

But the big question, as war rages on, is not about the horrors occurring every day inside the bubble, but rather it is this: How on earth can it be that we have been suffocating together inside this bubble for over a century? This question, for me, is the crux of the latest bloody cycle.

Since I cannot ask Hamas, nor do I purport to understand its way of thinking, I ask the leaders of my own country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessors: How could you have wasted the years since the last conflict without initiating dialogue, without even making the slightest gesture toward dialogue with Hamas, without attempting to change our explosive reality? Why, for these past few years, has Israel avoided judicious negotiations with the moderate and more conversable sectors of the Palestinian people — an act that could also have served to pressure Hamas? Why have you ignored, for 12 years, the Arab League initiative that could have enlisted moderate Arab states with the power to impose, perhaps, a compromise on Hamas? In other words: Why is it that Israeli governments have been incapable, for decades, of thinking outside the bubble?

And yet the current round between Israel and Gaza is somehow different. Beyond the pugnacity of a few politicians fanning the flames of war, behind the great show of “unity” — in part authentic, mostly manipulative — something about this war is managing, I think, to direct many Israelis’ attention toward the mechanism that lies at the foundation of the vain and deadly repetitive “situation.” Many Israelis who have refused to acknowledge the state of affairs are now looking into the futile cycle of violence, revenge and counter-revenge, and they are seeing our reflection: a clear, unadorned image of Israel as a brilliantly creative, inventive, audacious state that for over a century has been circling the grindstone of a conflict that could have been resolved years ago.


By Col Rajeev Agarwal

The Israeli ground offensive launched on the night of July 17 is not showing any signs of letting up. Instead, with every passing day, the intensity of attacks, airstrikes and shelling is rising.

Caught in the crossfire are the innocent lives being lost in Gaza having crossed the figure of 750 already, which includes more than 70 percent civilians, killed as ‘collateral damage’. On July 21, an Israeli airstrike even struck a hospital in Gaza killing 5 and injuring over 70. Israel too is feeling the heat having lost 32 soldiers already, a number more than double of combined total of military casualties suffered by Israel in previous two conflicts in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and Operation Pillar of Defence in November 2012).

The increasing intensity of war and killing of civilians prompted the UN Security Council to call for immediate cease fire on July 21. Even the US and UK, which had attempted to support Israel stating that Israel had the right to protect itself from rocket barrages from Gaza are now calling for restraint and immediate ceasefire. There have been two proposals for ceasefire, one by Egypt and other one being worked on by Qatar. But Hamas in Gaza is no mood to relent without obtaining permanent peace guarantees from Israel. There is fear in the international community that the conflict could spiral out of control if not reined in quickly.

In India too, like other parts of the world, there has been strong public reaction to the conflict. Various parts of Jammu and Kashmir witnessed protests and New Delhi witnessed a solidarity march in support of the Palestinians, while the Indian parliament was engaged in fierce debate on July 21 over the issue.

Many members of the opposition accused the government of being a bystander as a humanitarian catastrophe was being unleashed in Gaza, while some even accused the government of siding with Israel. Some members called for a resolution to be passed condemning the Israeli offensive while others called for immediate stoppage of defence purchases from Israel.

The government, on its part has been persisting that Israel and Palestine are both equally important for India and that India enjoys friendly relations with both. Therefore, while calling for immediate cessation of hostilities and extending aid and help, India should not be seen as taking sides.

“India is deeply concerned at the steep escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine, particularly, heavy air strikes in Gaza, resulting in tragic loss of civilian lives and heavy damage to property. At the same time, India is alarmed at the cross-border provocations resulting from rocket attacks against targets in parts of Israel. India calls upon both sides to exercise maximum restraint and avoid taking actions that may further exacerbate the situation, and threaten the peace and security of the region,” the spokesperson in the external affairs ministry said on July 10, clearly articulating the above thought process.

Why You Should Blame Iran For The Gaza Conflict

The Islamic Republic has been propping up terror groups on Israel’s border for years. If they are allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon, the results would be catastrophic.

Israel's ongoing conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip has for the umpteenth time exposed Iran as the true source of instability in the Middle East. 

At a time when Western powers are working to reach a deal with Iran over its illicit nuclear program, events in Gaza need to serve as a warning of what will happen if they fail. 

As the Israeli government has claimed for years, Iran is the main sponsor and one of the main supporters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two terrorist organizations that have fired over 1,600 rockets into Israel over the past few days. 

The M-75 rocket, which has been fired repeatedly into Tel Aviv and beyond, is a copy of Iran's Fajr-5 artillery rocket, manufactured in the Gaza Strip with assistance from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Hamas drones, shot down by the Israeli Air Force, appear to have been the Ababil, an unmanned aerial vehicle designed and manufactured in Iran. 

These Iranian weapons were used against Israel at the same time that Iran's leadership was sitting with the P5+1 in Vienna to negotiate a deal over its nuclear program. While Secretary of State John Kerry sat with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, Hamas was firing barrages of Iranian rockets into Jerusalem. 

For Israel, the message is clear. An Iran that provides, already today, its terror proxies with sophisticated rockets, drones, and other technology could one day hand off a crude nuclear device or dirty bomb to these same terrorists. 

In addition, an Iranian regime with nuclear weapons is a regime more willing to take risks and to test the West's resolve. Deterrence will no longer work. 

That is why Israel's operation in the Gaza Strip needs to be put into the correct context. While the terrorists against whom Israeli soldiers are fighting in Gaza are Palestinian, they are in reality proxies of Iran located on our western border. 

Simply put—Israel is fighting Iran. 

Israeli CyberSec Sector Copes with War

By Eric Chabrow
July 28, 2014

Providers Deal With Hamas Rocket Attacks, Army Call Up

Iron Dome missiles launched to intercept Hamas rockets. Source: IDF

Mark Gazit understands an errant missile fired from Gaza could threaten his cybersecurity business in suburban Tel Aviv. He also ponders the prospect of Israel's enemies causing damage to his company and the nation's economy through cyber-attacks.

"The assumption is that these people are capable and try to do everything in their power to cause damage," says Gazit, chief executive at ThetaRay, a year-and-a-half-old startup that develops and markets an appliance and cloud service to protect critical infrastructure. "You see enormous amount of [cyber] attacks. Luckily for us, a lot of those attacks are not very sophisticated."

Are Hamas' cyber capabilities as potent as its kinetic weaponry? The Palestinian group that rules Gaza has launched more than 2,000 rockets at Israel since July 8, but largely because of Israel Defense Forces' Iron Dome anti-missile system, those rockets have caused little significant damage.

Mark Gazit

Gazit won't dismiss the chance that Israel's enemies could try to breach key cybersecurity companies' computer systems to pilfer intellectual property such as source code. Pilfering such trade secrets conceivably could damage Israeli companies by allowing adversaries to create ways to circumvent the protection provided by the cybersecurity wares that might make them worthless. That, in turn, could devastate an important contributor to Israel's economy.

Though Gazit says he has discussed such potential cyberwarfare against Israeli businesses with other industrial leaders, he expresses overwhelming faith that Israeli cybersecurity know-how can successfully thwart such attacks.

Global Cybersecurity Powerhouse

There's a lot at stake for Israel's cybersecurity industry and the nation if attacks - whether cyber or physical - caused momentous damage. Israel, after the United States, is the world's leading provider of cybersecurity products and services. According to the Israeli government, Israel last year exported about $3 billion in cybersecurity products and services, or 5 percent of the global market. That's three times greater than Britain, the Israeli government touts. And, the government says Israeli companies received 11 percent, or $165 million, of all money raised from global investors for cybersecurity startups last year.