6 August 2014


By Barry Desker and Pradumna Bickram Rana
AUGUST 6, 2014

Unlike the 2001 default which shook the world, last week’s Argentinian default has had more muted impacts and bondholders are sanguine. Has global finance finally been tamed?

LAST WEEK, Argentina defaulted for the second time in 13 years after failing to reach a deal with a group of so-called “holdout” creditors. Unlike the December 2001 default which had reverberated around the world and created panic everywhere, the adverse impacts this time around have been more muted and are being felt mainly at home. Has global finance finally been tamed? No, a lot has been done to reform the global financial architecture, but yet more remains to be done.

Financial crises of the past three decades have underscored the dangers of unfettered finance and led to major reforms. Global financial architecture has emerged firmly as the fourth pillar of the rules-based international economic architecture established at Bretton Woods, complementing the monetary, trade, and development architectures. Mirroring the efforts to promote global financial safety nets for crisis prevention and crisis management, reforms of the global financial architecture have been multi-pronged: multilateral, regional, and national.
Multilateral efforts

A key multilateral level effort in the post-Global Financial Crisis (GFC) period has been the upgrading of two institutions established in response to the Asian financial crisis (AFC). The dominant powers moved quickly to (i) create the G20 Summit by upgrading the G20 finance ministers and central bankers forum which had started since 1999 and (ii) upgrade the Financial Stability Forum (FSF) to the Financial Stability Board (FSB) with the responsibility for financial sector oversight.

Tagore’s Gitanjali part of WWI commemorative event at UN

Published: August 5, 2014


The Hindu“When I go from hence, let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable,” reads the first stanza of verse 96 of The Gitanjali.

A poem from Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s masterpiece The Gitanjali was recited by Indian Ambassador to the U.N. Asoke Kumar Mukerji as part of a commemorative ceremony held here marking 100 years of the outbreak of the World War I.

Mr. Mukerji was among the 15 UN envoys who chose, recited and recorded poems related to the war by authors from their respective countries.

The poems and their recordings were displayed at an interactive exhibition organised by the U.K.’s mission to the U.N. on Monday as it took over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of August.

Mr. Mukerji read verse 96 from The Gitanjali, a collection of Tagore’s poems originally published in 1910.

“When I go from hence, let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable,” reads the first stanza of the poem by the legendary Indian philosopher.

The Indian delegation said as the shadows of an impending world war were gathering, Tagore’s poems encapsulated a simple faith in man and divinity, a refuge from the crass materialism that was engulfing the world.

It said the spirit of Tagore’s poems appealed to an entire generation, affording solace, faith and hope by rediscovering truth and beauty in the world.

Among the poignant instances of the popular appeal of Tagore’s poetry in war-torn Britain is the story of trench poet Wilfred Owen.

After the death of her son on the warfront, Owen’s mother Susan got his personal possessions back.

In the notebook that Owen carried in his pocket, he had written poem 96 from Gitanjali with Tagore’s name inscribed below.

Owen had recited lines from the poem when he had bid goodbye to his mother.

Owen’s mother had written to Tagore in August 1920 recounting the experience, moved by the power of the poem that reverberated in her mind in the voice of her lost son.

As part of its presidency of the Security Council, the U.K.’s mission to the U.N. would be focusing on conflict prevention and commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the war.

In July, India had co-sponsored a commemorative event on the World War I at the world body’s headquarters.

The courage and sacrifice of millions of soldiers, including thousands from India, who fought in the war was remembered at the event titled ‘Learning from War to Build Peace’.

The event highlighted the importance of reconciliation through diplomacy and dialogue.

During the event, a short film showing images of the World War I was screened.

The film had particularly moving images of the Indian soldiers fighting in the battlefield across the world.

U.N. chief Ban ki-Moon had said that as the world marks the 100th anniversary of the “war to end all wars,” nations continue to see horrific violence on many fronts.

Mr. Mukerji had said apart from the soldiers and medical personal from India who played a key role in the war, a large number of technical support troops during the war also hailed from India.

During the event, excerpts from letters and diaries of soldiers and nurses as they lived through the war were also read by U.N. interns and staff.

Among the three letters that were read was one by Indian soldier Gholam Rasul Khan, who was one of over a million volunteer Indian soldiers serving in the war as part of Indian Expeditionary Forces.

Khan had written the letter from France on May 24, 1916 to his father Mahmood Navas Khan in which he had said he hoped to soon return to his homeland.


Needed: Dialogue, statesmanship

Fali S Nariman | August 6, 2014

In the Constitution of India, 1950, the appointing authority for judges in the higher judiciary is the government of India, acting in the name of the president of India. Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed after consultation with the chief justice of India (CJI) and other judges of the Supreme Court (or high courts) as the appointing authority deems necessary for the purpose; judges of high courts are appointed after consultation with the CJI, the governor of the concerned state and the chief justice of the concerned high court. This simply worded prescription — expressed in Articles 124(2) and 217(1) — worked well in practice for the first two decades. By convention, whosoever the CJI recommended as judge was, almost invariably, appointed; whom the CJI did not recommend was not appointed.

But in 1981, in the S.P. Gupta case, much later known as the “first judge’s case”, a bench of seven judges of the Supreme Court presided over by Justice P.N. Bhagwati held (4:3) that the recommendations of the CJI for judges to be appointed in the higher judiciary were, constitutionally, not binding on the government of India. The (Congress) government, then in office, was delighted. It was now payback time. So when Bhagwati assumed office as CJI, the Congress government, still in office, declined to appoint judges recommended by him, since it was he who had judicially declared (in the S.P. Gupta case) that “consultation” in Article 124 did not mean “concurrence”.

It was much later, with the accumulated experience of the deleterious consequences flowing from the majority judgment in the first judges case, that new faces on the bench decided to take a “fresh look” at Article 124(2). In what has now become known as the “second judges case” (1993), a bench of nine judges held (by a majority, 7:2) that a collegiate opinion of a collectivity of judges was to be preferred to the opinion of the CJI. It also said that if the government did not accept the “recommendation” of the “collegium” (then consisting of the three senior-most judges), it would be presumed that the government had not acted bona fide.

Even after the judgment in the second judges case, recommendations made by the collegium were not made in the spirit in which the new doctrine had been propounded, since the collegiate of the three highest constitutional functionaries (the senior-most judges of the court) could not see eye to eye in the matter of appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. So when (again, by convention) the then senior-most judge, Justice M.M. Punchhi, became the CJI in January 1998 and recommended, with the concurrence of his two senior-most colleagues, that a particular list of five named persons be appointed to fill the vacancies in the highest court (all strictly in accordance with the methodology laid down in the second judges case), the government took exception to some of the names — justifiably, according to disinterested and knowledgeable persons.

Great Indian backtrack

August 6, 2014

By: Devashish Mitra

At the WTO, India just vetoed the Trade Facilitation Agreement that it had agreed on six months ago along with 159 other countries. The reason being given by the Indian government is food security and concern for the poor in a country that has more than a quarter of the world’s poor. In order to understand what India just did and whether it makes sense, we need to know the answers to a number of questions. What is the TFA and what does it try to achieve? How can India have the power to veto something that affects 160 countries (almost the entire world)? How is food security affected by this agreement? Why did India accept the TFA in the first place in Bali if it wasn’t in its interests to do so? In addition, there are questions about India’s current policies themselves — whether they are efficient or distortionary.

The TFA is about removing red tape from customs procedures in all 160 member countries of the WTO. It aims at reducing customs-related paperwork, making customs procedures more transparent, reducing customs clearance delays at ports, providing clearer and timely information about customs rules, tariffs and procedures through printed publications and the internet, establishing a system of appealing customs decisions, and provisioning for information to be shared with involved parties in case their goods are being detained at ports etc.

In the age of the internet, most of these things can be done quite cheaply. Also, for the implementation of these provisions in the poorer countries, financial assistance would be provided, both through the WTO and the World Bank. It is difficult to imagine how any sensible government could be opposed to these changes, which are primarily aimed at reducing friction in the movement of goods across countries and increasing their flow by minimising inefficiencies and increasing transparency in the “governance” of international trade. It is especially shocking when opposition to such an agreement comes from a government whose motto is “minimum government, maximum governance” and given that over the last few decades trade has been the main engine of growth and has lifted millions out of poverty, especially in China and India.

So what is the problem with the TFA with respect to food security? The government of India guarantees farmers a minimum support price which is higher than the market price, and sells foodgrain to consumers at a price much lower than the market price through its public distribution system. Developing countries are allowed a margin of up to 10 per cent between the MSP and the world market price for their domestic procurement policies to be consistent with their WTO obligations, to which they had agreed in 1994 at the Uruguay round of trade negotiations. The prices being used to calculate the 10 per cent subsidy cap are the prices whose real values equal those in the late 1980s.

Waking up to the BRICS

Published: August 6, 2014 00:32 IST |

Samir Saran

BRICS members should democratise the New Development Bank’s functioning if new stakeholders are included in the future. If anything, the NDB must be a template for change, not a mirror to the existing hegemony of money

In his 2001 paper titled “Building Better Global Economic BRICs”, economist Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs calculated that “if the 2001/2002 outlook were to be extrapolated, over the next decade, China would be “as big as Germany” and Brazil and India “not far behind Italy” on a current GDP basis. Cut to 2013; Jim O’ Neill’s expectations seem modest. Last year, China was the world’s second largest economy, Brazil ahead of Italy and India just one rank behind in terms of current GDP. In purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, all the BRIC countries were within the top 10, with China and India at second and third position respectively. BRIC, in Wall Street lingo, is an “outperformer.”

Despite the crippling financial crisis, BRIC has done better on pure economic terms than most expectations. But the acronym is today representative of much more than an investment narrative alone. With the inclusion of South Africa, BRIC became BRICS, giving a pluralist and inclusive veneer to an economic idea. This group now has a significant political dimension, as is evidenced by the increasing number of converging positions on political issues.

In a follow-up paper in 2003, titled, “Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050,” Goldman Sachs claimed that by 2050, the list of the world’s largest 10 economies would look very different. It is remarkable then, that in 2014 the list already looks radically different, and it is clear that it is time to “wake up” to the BRICS.

NDB versus existing banks

In this context there were at least two concrete arrangements inked at the sixth BRICS Summit in July, which will have a large economic and political impact. These were the Contingent Reserve Arrangement and the New Development Bank (NDB). Conversations and reportage on these two were shrill, coloured and obtuse in the run-up to the Summit. It continues to follow in the same vein. Indeed the NDB is at once the most celebrated and critiqued outcome of the Fortaleza Summit. Now that we are a few weeks away from its public conception, it is time for a reality check on this widely discussed BRICS achievement.


Wednesday, 06 August 2014 | Ashok K Mehta

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recently concluded visit to the Himalayan nation demonstrates that country’s strategic centrality for India, and its importance within the larger regional security calculus

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has broken in the perception of the highly suspicious and equally sensitive Nepalese the 17-year-old taboo on an Indian prime ministerial visit to Kathmandu. By praying at the Pashupatinath temple, he has apparently atoned for an omission: Nepal’s historic grouse of being taken for granted. “Why doesn’t India give sufficient importance to Nepal?” King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah had once asked of the then Indian Ambassador to Nepal, General SK Sinha. “Your Majesty, look at the map of the Indian subcontinent. Nepal lies at the top and is its head. All key functions are performed by the head and so Nepal is vital for India’s well-being and stability”, Gen Sinha had replied.

In the late 1970s, I wrote a paper on Nepal, titled ‘Exercise Tribhuvan’. It predicted, among other developments, a Maoist insurgency and noted that Nepal was India’s most important neighbour as it controlled lead avenues for China from Tibet into the strategic Indo-Gangetic plains. With the Chinese having exploited political instability following 10 years of insurgency, the dismantling of the monarchy, and the elusive quest for a new Constitution, by expanding their presence and influence manifold in Nepal, New Delhi has good reason to re-evaluate its security concerns. The hijack of Indian Airlines flight 814 from Kathmandu ended ignominiously at Kandahar for the previous BJP-led Government

To contain the China challenge, Mr Modi first visited Bhutan whose border dispute with Beijing is intrinsically linked with India’s. Reaching out to the neighbourhood is part of the Modi mantra of making India internally strong. When Modi met his Nepalese counterpart Sushil Koirala on the sidelines of his inaugural in May, he told him: “Nepal will be the first foreign country I will visit” even though Indian Embassy officials expressed difficulties in organising two prime ministerial visits in the same year. The Summit for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation will also be held in Kathmandu in November.

Clearly, Mr Modi overruled the foreign office, and demonstrated that Nepal policy had shifted from what the Nepalese call “spooks and bureaucrats” to politicians. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj preceded Mr Modi in Kathmandu by reviving a long-defunct inter-Government commission and charting out the Modi visit.

Force Projection and Rapid Deployment Forces: Need for Reassessment

03 Aug , 2014

As India’s regional and global aspirations grow with its increasing economic clout, it will be forced to build up its capacity to project power in its national interest to ensure that the region is not destabilised by outside elements that may be inimical to it. The establishment of an effective and responsive RDF towards this end is inescapable. To be able to do so requires that India take a long hard look at its requirements and reassess its capabilities. It needs to quickly put in place structures that will ensure that its RDF is able to provide what is required of it so that in the words of Rahul Gandhi, “We stop being scared about how the world will impact us, and we step out and worry about how we will impact the world.”1

Nation states aspiring to be regarded as regional or global powers, fully understand the necessity for an effective strategic force projection capability…

All skilled professionals, be they cardiac surgeons, car mechanics or carpenters, always have their own personalised tool kits from which they can choose the appropriate instrument with which to successfully complete their task. Similarly, “our national security system is the toolbox with which we navigate through an ever-changing international environment: It turns our overall capabilities into active assets, protects us against the threats of an anarchic international system and makes it possible to exploit its opportunities.”2

From within this toolbox, nation states aspiring to be regarded as regional or global powers, fully understand the necessity for an effective strategic force projection capability in time critical contingencies. This will provide them the requisite muscle when other diplomatic initiatives aimed at protecting national interests are not as effective as they need to be. This inescapable and essential requirement is best met by a suitably organised and capable Rapid Deployment Forces (RDF).

So what exactly does force projection imply? The US Department of Defense defines power projection as being, “the ability of a nation to apply all or some of its elements of national power – political, economic, informational, or military – to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces in and from multiple dispersed locations to respond to crises, to contribute to deterrence, and to enhance regional stability.”3

As Dr. Ladlow puts it, “Military power projection has been divided into nine different aspects based on the political goals being sought and the level of force employed. Four of these relate to the employment of ‘soft’ military power (securing sea lanes of communication, non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian relief and peacekeeping), and five are primarily concerned with “hard” military power (showing the flag, compellence/deterrence, punishment, armed intervention, and conquest).”4

The air assault element must be based on the new generation of recently acquired air assets, the C-17s and the C-130s…

Kerry’s Visit: India and America need each other

 04 Aug , 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Minister for External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs Sushma Swaraj with the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

The Potomac and the Ganges are nature’s bountiful gifts. The former is witness to the evolution of modern America just around 240 years. The latter is holy, mystical and emotional to India for over 5000 years. Material wealth and metaphysics, even when disregarded have an immutable, overarching influence in the ways humans deal with each other. Often times diplomacy tend to overlook this in their transactions.

India cannot comprehend the aspect of continuing US aid and support to Pakistan despite all its internal and external transgressions.

Before one gets to read about the, Kerry, India trip, 5th strategic dialogue and the much hyped up US visit of Prime Minister Modi, it is necessary to know the statics, stagnancies, kinetics of flow Up the Potomac and down the Ganges in the context of Indo-US relationship. 
Statics & Stagnancies 

The sub-continent presents an intransigent impasse across sovereignty, security, trade and inter/intra-regional relationships. On the ground, illegal migrations, smuggling of goods, NGO and cultural interactions continue unabated. A notional SAARC now and then inches up to dialogue and some discussion. Yet it is nowhere near bringing in a consensus on acceptable effective changes for the greater good of the region. India and America are at different if not on opposite sides on matters “South Asia”

American Awkwardness

American awkwardness in the region is never as dire as it is today. Pakistan feels betrayed and let down by US actions. The Bin Laden killing in its own soil by navy seals, The Af-Pak and US led NATO forces contrarian positions in Afghanistan, drone strikes and growing Indo-US cooperation are illustrative examples. Antagonism or ambivalence about America is the prevailing sentiment of the Pakistani people!

John Kerry Just Visited. But Should We Just Forget About India?

Here’s how bad things are between Washington and New Delhi these days: It’s news that Kerry even made the trip. Why this reluctant partnership might be best left to wither.

So low is the bar in U.S.-India relations right now that the best thing that can be said about John Kerry’s two-day hop-over to New Delhi was that he went there at all. A relationship that burst into true blossom under George W. Bush, one that held for many Americans the promise of a mold-breaking alliance for the 21st century, lies shabbily dormant. Indeed, the only memorable episode in Kerry’s visit was his scolding by India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, for the NSA’s spying on her political party.

Should America care? India has little or nothing to contribute to American efforts to tackle the crises in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq. It is a reluctant partner, at best, in Washington’s efforts to rein in Iran and will have no truck with the West in any showdown with Vladimir Putin and Russia. Its incessant push for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council, while understandable for a country that is the world’s second-most populous, isn’t exactly in America’s interests: New Delhi and Washington frequently find themselves on different sides of votes on U.N. resolutions.

The two countries converge in their legitimate fears of Chinese aggression and expansion in Asia, but even here, India has been loath to embrace any formal alliance that would act as a check on Beijing, for fear of provoking the Chinese into military incursions into Indian territory that New Delhi is shamefully unprepared to counter. Besides, in recent weeks, India has been party to the setting up of a BRICS Bank, with Brazil, Russia, China, and South Africa. This institution was conceived as a way to break America’s global financial hegemony—a word beloved in bureaucratic Delhi, where America is still regarded with a suspicion that is as potent as it is irrational. The BRICS Bank looks, for all its founding rhetoric, like a platform for Chinese hegemony instead. Once more, China appears to have taken India for a ride. But that is another story.

India offers America nothing of concrete strategic value that Washington cannot, currently, live without. Not only does it balk at an alliance of any kind, its political and intellectual elites are wedded still to nonalignment, that antediluvian credo from the years of the Cold War. Intellectual worthies in New Delhi have cooked up something called “Non-alignment 2.0,” by which “India must remain true to its aspiration of creating a new and alternative universality.” For those masochists who want to acquaint themselves better with this Cold War mummy come to life, I suggest a visit to this website. It will swiftly become clear that there is no room in this starry-eyed arrangement for a compact with Washington.


By Horace G. Campbell, Pambazuka News

At the end of the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil on July 16, 2014, the leaders of the BRICS countries announced the “Fortaleza Action Plan.” This plan is in the context of the Fortaleza Declaration, where the leaders reinforced their position that BRICS would be an international force in challenging the neo-liberal policies of the Washington Consensus. Touching on areas of major destabilization in the world – from Syria to Sudan and from Ukraine to Iraq – the leaders spelt out the need for new paths to peace and for strengthening the United Nations to resolve the outstanding questions of war and insecurity. The most daring aspect of the Fortaleza Declaration was the announcement of a new financial architecture to intervene in relation to the international tensions that have arisen since the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States announced the monetary policy of Quantitative Easing This policy allows a central bank, like the Federal Reserve System, to purchase government or other securities from the market with the goal of lowering interest rates and increasing the available money supply. The BRICS summit announced two new pillars in a new financial architecture that is to be anchored with the headquarters of the New Development Bank in Shanghai, China.

The Fortaleza Action Plan and the outcomes of this summit represented a major step in breaking the Exorbitant Privilege of the US dollar as a the dominant international currency. Along with the formal establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB), the leaders announced the launch of a Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA), which in 2013 was approved to receive a $100 billion fund to combat currency crises. The first president of the Bank will be from India, the inaugural Chairman of the Board of directors will come from Brazil and the inaugural chairman of the Board of Governors will be Russian. It was stressed in the Fortaleza proclamations that the BRICS Bank would be organized on the basis of equality unlike the current IMF and World Bank where the leader of the IMF is always a European and the head of the World Bank is always a U.S citizen. The proposal for the BRICS bank had been announced at the BRICS summit in New Delhi in 2012 and at the summit in Durban in 2013 the plan for the CRA was also outlined. The long term goal of the CRA will be to provide emergency cash to BRICS countries faced with short term credit crisis or balance of payments problems. Ultimately, in the context of the present currency wars, the CRA will replace the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the provider of resources for BRICS members and other poor societies when there is balance of payment difficulties.

When the announcement was made of the bank to be capitalized with the US$ 50 billion and the CRA with US$100b, it was also announced that the leaders of BRICS were also considering the establishment of a BRICS Exchange Alliance to challenge the opaque derivatives market of the Wall Street oligarchs and an energy alliance to challenge the speculative activities of the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). These four institutions (a) the New Development Bank (b) the Contingency Reserve Arrangement (c) The BRICS exchange alliance and (d) the BRICS Energy Alliance – when fully operational will engender a tremendous change in the direction of creating a New International Economic Order. For as we will outline, the NDB and the CRA will not simply be like other regional development banks such as the European Investment Bank or the Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF), also known as the “Development Bank of Latin America.” The bank is emerging at a moment when the entire international financial system continues to be in a state of instability because of the recklessness of the predatory speculators of Wall Street. In the midst of this recklessness, the ruling class of the United States is stoking warfare to deflect working peoples from the crisis of global capital.

Since the establishment of the Bretton Woods Institutions (the IMF and the IBRD) in 1944 the US dollar enjoyed the position as the dominant currency in the world. Even after the devaluation of the dollar in August 1971 when the dollar was no longer backed by gold, the dollar still maintained its position as the dominant reserve currency and as the main currency for settling international transactions. After 1971, in order to escape the domination of the dollar the Europeans had come together to establish their own currency but the Euro never emerged as a serious challenge to the dollar, since it was ‘a currency without a state.’ France and Germany had colluded to create the Euro and it was the French who had coined the phrase the exorbitant privilege to describe the unipolar position of the US dollar in the world economy.

Under this privilege, more than 65 per cent of the countries in the world keep their foreign exchange reserves in the US dollar. The privilege of the dollar as the dominant reserve currency provides cheap finance to the United States so that the citizens can enjoy a very high standard of living while the poor countries of the world subsidize the military spending of the US to enable the military management of the international system.

Turning India into an Arms Exporter

04 Aug , 2014

While dedicating the formidable Indian warship INS Virkamaditya, the retrofitted Russian aircraft carrier to the nation at an impressive ceremony held in June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch for an all round self-reliance in the defence production sector with a view to meet the growing and diverse needs of the Indian defence forces.

…49% FDI may not be alluring for global companies to invest in India. It would only sustain the continuation of the status quo situation.

Rightly and appropriately, Modi wondered why should India, which has many impressive technological strides to its credit, import defence equipment at first place. Elaborating on the need for self-sufficiency in defence production, Modi drove home the point:”We need to give immense importance to latest technology. We must be self sufficient. Why can’t we send our defence equipment to other countries?”

The logic of Modi was that India which has already sent probes to Moon and Mars cannot forever depend on imported defence hardware. Moreover, the need for self reliance in defence production projected in the election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the largest and dominant partner of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, can by no means be taken lightly by Modi. There is no denying the fact that Modi is all for giving a big push to the creation of a vibrant Indian military industrial complex that would not only meet the needs of Indian defence forces but also turn India into a major exporter of arms and ammunition.

Taking a cue from the spirited advocacy by Modi of the need to position India as a leading arms exporter – from being a major importer now – Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) has made it clear that there is a huge potential for the export of missiles, fighter aircraft and related defence hardware from India.

However, DRDO chief Avinash Chander said that the country would need to adopt a new “policy mechanism” to facilitate the large scale exports of defence equipment. ”We have a list of equipment that includes the Light Combat Aircraft(LCA) Tejas, Akash air defence system, Prahar class of missiles and Indo Russian supersonic cruise missile BrahMos along with a number of systems that can be exported” stated Chander. According to Chander, the biggest advantage that India could derive in the defence export market is the “competitive and affordable price tag” of Indian defence and aerospace products.

…the control on the dual use items with both defence and civilian applications have been relaxed.


By Col. R. Hariharan , SAAG

China’s President Xi Jinping has accepted a long-standing invitation from President Mahinda Rajapaksa to visit Sri Lanka sometime this year. The first-ever visit by a Chinese President to Sri Lanka will no doubt be hailed alas a crowning achievement for President Rajapaksa’s foreign policy which had been under siege for some time now.

The Chinese President’s Sri Lanka visit will be an emphatic statement of the growing strategic relationship between the two countries since the two countries signed a “Strategic Cooperative Partnership (SCP)” agreement during President Rajapaksa’s visit to China in May 2013.

The SCP covers a whole range issues including bilateral trade, investment, financial assistance and strategic cooperation providing to benefit both the countries. Sri Lanka’s recent selection of a Chinese firm a strategically important project for setting up a maintenance workshop for Sri Lankan air force in the vicinity of Trincomalee is an example of such cooperation.

But its progress could be cramped by positive turns in China’s uneasy relations with India. India’s newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasised trade and development in his agenda has whetted the appetite of China. It is probably discovering that its strategic and commercial stakes and expectations from India are much higher than Sri Lanka.

President Xi has been keen to cultivate the Narendra Modi-led BJP government as China is keen to enter India’s huge market for its products and invest in capital-starved infrastructure projects. As a result China’s strategic and commercial stakes and expectations from India now are much higher than from Sri Lanka. So we can expect President Xi to bear in mind India’s sensitivity to China’s expanding influence in Sri Lanka while planning his visit Colombo.

After Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping met for the first time during the recent BRICS summit meet in Fortaleza, Brazil a positive mood appears to have been created. Xi’s statement after the 80-minute meeting summed up the readiness of both China and India to build on the positive aspects of their troubled relationship.

Terming China and India as “long lasting strategic and cooperative partners, rather than rivals, Xi said he was “willing to work together with Prime Minister Modi to constantly enhance the China-India strategic and cooperative partnership to a higher level, and jointly safeguard our strategic period of opportunities, as well as peace and stability of the region and the world at large.”

Prime Minister Modi within the first month of assuming office has shown his eagerness to use China to kick start India’s development story. Modi conveyed his willingness to “maintain close and good working relationship” with President Xi. The Chinese President accepted Modi’s invitation to visit India. The visit is now scheduled for September 2014.

Indian business and industry are expecting a breakthrough in India-China economic relations during the Chinese President’s visit particularly in manufacturing, infrastructure and tourism industries. It is reasonable to expect China to ease restrictions on Indian business in China as a reciprocal gesture.

If this process is earnestly pursued, it could impact their relations with other South Asian countries also, despite their competing interests. And Sri Lanka will be one of the countries which will have to come to terms with it. Of course, it is probably too early to talk about it because both India and China have many more bridges to cross in their relationship.

President Rajapaksa expectations from Xi’s visit are likely to be manifold. Foremost among them would be an endorsement and assurance of support from the Chinese President for Rajapaksa’s stand against the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) sponsored international investigation on Sri Lanka’s alleged human rights aberrations and war crimes.

Though China’s support to Sri Lanka is well known, Rajapaksa needs Xi’s reiteration of support as the UNHRC investigation now under way is gaining more international attention despite Sri Lanka’s vehement objections. Rajapaksa’s diversionary tactics at home to whip up Sinhala nationalist sentiments seems to have ended disastrously after Buddhist fringe elements continued their attacks on Muslim minority. These added further fuel not only to the incompetence of the rulers to protect the minority but also showed the indifference of Rajapaksa administration to fundamental freedoms.

President Rajapaksa also needs the Chinese dignitary’s appreciation to boost his national image as more and more political leaders are demanding a reduction in executive president’s powers.

China emerged as an “all time friend” of Sri Lanka after it stepped in to provide arms and equipment to Sri Lanka during the Eelam War when India could not do so due to internal political compulsions. Since then both China and Sri Lanka have found increasing convergence in their strategic perceptions in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Sri Lanka has positively responded to China’s keenness to promote ‘Maritime Silk Route’ (MSR) through the Indian Ocean as it strengthens Sri Lanka’s strategic identity to emerge as a maritime and finance hub and play pivotal role in the Indian Ocean region.

On the other hand China hopes to improve the economic viability of Chinese investments in ports like Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Gwadar in Pakistan while legitimising its increased strategic role in IOR. Despite both China and Sri Lanka stressing the commercial nature of these developments, there is no doubt MSR would help PLA Navy to enhance its strategic reach and sustenance in the Indian Ocean.

In the post war period China attended to Sri Lanka’s huge financial needs for desperately needed finances for rebuilding the infrastructure in war torn areas. China liberally extended loans on commercial terms. Though India’s large economic aid was on much better terms, it was China that helped execute grandiose projects close to Rajapaksa’s heart. These include the Hambantota port and industrial complex, Matale airport etc. Colombo port capacity is being improved with a $500 million investment by a Chinese firm and Chinese assistance is on the cards for second phase development of Hambantota.

China is now poised to overtake India as Sri Lanka’s biggest trading partner despite Sri Lanka benefitting from the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India which has helped India-Sri Lanka trade to grow to $ 5 billion by 2011. But even without the FTA, China’s bilateral trade figures reached nearly 50 per cent of the Indian figure.

However, trading with India is still advantageous for Sri Lanka as its export to India has grown six fold by 2013 unlike its minuscule share in trade with China. Sri Lanka hopes to rectify its lopsided trade with China when the SCP agreement comes into fully play and the FTA with China is signed.

China had been strictly adhering to its policy of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries. This has enabled it to consistently support Sri Lanka in the UNHRC over the war crimes allegations. As opposed to this India’s support had been hesitant and subject to internal pressures from Tamil Nadu. This has created a mental bias in Sri Lanka in favour of China. In the long term, increase in China’s role in Sri Lanka’s trade and diplomacy could affect India’s strategic prospects well beyond Sri Lanka in the IOR.

India has certain advantages in its complex relations with Sri Lanka. They are conditioned by their shared social, religious and cultural traditions over hundreds of years. Thanks to this, they have developed good understanding of each other’s needs and priorities. Over the years they have evolved large areas of cooperation in strategic security, trade and commerce, development assistance, communication, and in securing the national interests of both nations in the Indian Ocean.

This has enabled Sri Lanka to carefully balance its relations with both India and China. However Rajapaksa’s inability to see the big picture could make Sri Lanka’s balancing act more difficult particularly when India comes up with a holistic response designed to meet the Chinese challenge in IOR. Sri Lanka would require a greater level of understanding between China and India, for it to successfully continue its balancing act.

With Sri Lanka entering into the SCP Agreement with China and eager to join the MSR, ideally India should take advantage of the increased opportunities for cooperation with them, rather than being overawed by the negative aspects.

To move towards this ideal, in the near term India will have to overcome a number of security and political challenges. These limitations apply to China and Sri Lanka as well.

Prime Minister Modi will have to recalibrate India’s policy in Sri Lanka to protect Indian interests even if he has to concede some space for China. This would require minimising Tamil Nada’s influence in shaping Sri Lanka policy and coming to some amicable arrangement on the Tamil Nadu fishermen’s problem. This may well be on the cards if we go by the recent political indications given by the BJP.

So we can expect the triangular relationship between India, China and Sri Lanka to remain an uneasy one till its angular contours are smoothed with patience and understanding.

[Col R Hariharan is a retired MI officer associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the South Asia Analysis Group. He served in Sri Lanka as the Head of Intelligence of the Indian Peacekeeping Force (1987 to 90). E-mail: haridirect@gmail.com Blog: http://col.hariharan.info]

Pakistani Government Still Bans Online Websites That Cover Terrorist Activities in Pakistan

Pakistan’s ban of LWJ enters 3rd year

Bill Roggio

The Long War Journal , August 3, 2014

The Pakistani government’s censorship of The Long War Journal has entered its third year. Sources in Pakistan have said that the website has been banned from viewing due to LWJ's reporting on the preferential treatment given by the Pakistani military and government to “good Taliban” factions such as the Haqqani Network.

LWJ first learned its website was blocked inside Pakistan in July 2012, when journalists from newspapers such as The New York Times, employees at the United Nations and NGOs, and readers living in Pakistan emailed LWJ to note that the website was unavailable. Some some reporters, such as Rob Crilly from The Telegraph and Mehreen Zahra-Malik from Reuters, mentioned the ban on Twitter.

Some of those attempting to visit the website received a generic message that did not indicate why the reader could not access the page. “This webpage is not available. The connection to www.longwarjournal.org was interrupted,” one such message read, according to an LWJ reader inside Pakistan.

The denial message has changed over the years. In October 2013, Jonathan Boone, a journalist for the Guardian, noted on Twitter that LWJ was blocked on “PTCL [Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd], Warid and Mobilink,” and published an image of the message received when attempting to access the site via Mobilink.

"Surf Safely. This website is not accessible. The site you are trying to access contains content that is prohibited from viewership within Pakistan," the message read. That same message was encountered by Hassan Abdullah, a journalist based in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Pakistani government has not commented on why it has censored LWJ.

Several requests for comment from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington have thus far proven unsuccessful. Official inquiries to the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority, which is responsible for implementing the ban, have also gone unanswered.

Cyril Almeida, an assistant editor, writer, and columnist at Dawn, one of Pakistan’s oldest and largest English-language newspapers, confirmed in June 2013 that the Pakistan Telecommunication Company has blocked LWJ's website.

LWJ has also confirmed, via sources inside the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd and the Ministry of Information, that the government has blocked the website.

Book Review | Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War

Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War Christine Fair’s excellent scholarship makes it amply clear how dangerous Pakistan’s deep-rooted convictions are Gayatri Chandrasekaran 1 inShare 21 Comments Subscribe to: Daily Newsletter Breaking News Latest News 06:14 PM IST Pipavav Port to spend $100 million to increase capacity by 50% 06:13 PM IST At least 33 dead, dozens injured in China earthquake 05:45 PM IST US Ebola patient under care as African situation is at risk 05:36 PM IST RBS India pre-tax profit jumps 58% to Rs662 crore in FY14 05:14 PM IST Steel ministry to appoint consultant to boost SAIL profit Editor's picks Monetary Policy: 

RBI may hold rates IOA secretary general, wrestling referee arrested in Glasgow Indian drug makers to pay higher facility fees to USFDA Farmers’ interest paramount, cannot be compromised in WTO: Arun Jaitley Narendra Modi to address UN General Assembly on 27 September Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint In an interview with The Economist in 1981, General Zia ul-Haq said: “Pakistan is, like Israel, an ideological state. Take out Judaism from Israel and it will fall like a house of cards. 

Take Islam out of Pakistan and make it a secular state; it would collapse.” Thankfully for Zia, Pakistan never made any attempt to be secular before or after he was in power. Pakistan, the land of the pure (pak), was created for Islam and till date, the country’s administration (read its army), has shown unwavering resolve in protecting its Islamic ideology. But in reality, from the demand underlying the two-nation theory to the country’s ideological outlook and its changing nuclear weapons posture, all are aimed at one goal: 

parity in every respect with India, however unrealistic that goal may be. Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War by Georgetown University scholar C. Christine Fair is a study of how the country’s army has sought to achieve this. Fair argues that the Pakistan Army’s revisionist agenda is restricted not only to wresting Jammu and Kashmir from India but also in preventing India’s “inevitable if uneven ascendance” in South Asia and beyond. Unlike conventional armies which seek only to protect territorial boundaries, the Pakistani Army, Fair argues, has taken upon it to protect the country’s ideological frontiers as defined by Islam.

How this has come to be is a question that has been researched, discussed and debated by many. One compelling view has been put forth by Faisal Devji in Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea. Devji argues that Pakistan’s nationalism is founded on negation coupled with religion: rejecting old land for new, dismissing Hindu India for Muslim Pakistan. Therefore, “for Muslim nationalism…religion was conceived of not as a supplement to geography but as an alternative” (Muslim Zion, chapter 1, p. 47). Seen from Pakistan’s perspective ceaseless attempts at taking Kashmir by force appear rational even if they are not so in terms of the real world challenge it faces from India.

Fair argues that for the Pakistan Army, defeat does not lie in its failure to win Kashmir despite its numerous unsuccessful attempts; defeat will be the point when it stops trying. Therefore, failed attempts are just “honourable and brave Muslims” fighting against “meek, pusillanimous and treacherous Hindus”. Fair, who has extensively researched the Pakistan Army’s publications, has found this to be the common theme in writings of senior army officers. Pakistan Army Green Books are replete with arguments of why the Hindu Indian army poses a threat to a resource-wise weaker, but conviction-wise stronger Muslim Pakistan. Even though this portrayal is incorrect, as the Indian army is multi-religious, it is accepted and propagated because it fits in perfectly with the Pakistan Army’s ideological fight. 

These are age-old prejudices that lay behind the quest for electoral parity with Hindus in the British Raj, then moving on to being treated equally with India internationally (“hyphenation”) after 1947 and to “equality” in nuclear weapons. This misguided quest has infected Pakistan’s nuclear posture to the point of irrationality. Fair highlights the two ways in which nuclear weapons enabled risk-taking against India. 

First, possession of these weapons allows it to engage in “minor” trespasses—the odd terrorist attack against New Delhi—that will go unpunished. Second, if things begin to get out of hand, it can count on the US to prevent a nuclear exchange. Between these extremes, Pakistan is free to do as it pleases. That has not worked. In fact if India has not been able to deter Pakistan from launching terrorist attacks, Pakistan, while having succeeded in “internationalizing” the Kashmir issue, has been able to do precious little to acquire what it wants. At one time, it could indeed use nuclear weapons to bring in the US to sort things out. Now, out of frustration, it wants to dominate each offensive option against India—

from terrorist attacks all the way to a first nuclear strike or what scholars call “escalation dominance”. Pakistan’s refusal to agree to a no-first use of nuclear weapons, its development of tactical nuclear weapons and its refusal to sign the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty indicate that its nuclear adventures are indeed madcap plans. Fair is not optimistic about the chances of the Army changing its outlook. 

Her conclusion on the final pages of the book should sober anyone who thinks that Pakistan will give up its mindlessness. Fair’s excellent scholarship makes it amply clear how dangerous Pakistan’s deep-rooted contradictions and convictions are. Pakistan is “stable in its instability”, says Fair, but for India this is a cause of extreme worry. Gayatri Chandrasekaran is Staff Writer (Views), Mint.


By Niall Ferguson
August 2, 2014 

It is dangerous to believe that the skirmish in Ukraine will not develop into a calamity

A century has passed since the guns of August 1914 ended the era of European predominance with a deafening bang. Could such a catastrophe recur in our time?

The sequence of events since the Malaysian jet MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine is remarkably similar to the one that followed the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914. Now, as then, the crisis begins with an act of state-sponsored terrorism. Now, as then, Russia sides with the troublemakers. Even the request by the Dutch government for access to the site where so many of their nationals perished is reminiscent of the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia. Now, as then, ownership of a seemingly unimportant region of eastern Europe is disputed.

In 1914 it was Bosnia-Herzegovina, formerly an Ottoman province, annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908, but claimed by the proponents of a united South Slav state. Today we have not only the annexation of Crimea by Russia but also the potential secession from Ukraine of Donetsk and Lugansk, where pro-Russian separatists have proclaimed independent “people’s republics”.

And now, as then, the crisis is escalating. Even before the downing of MH17, Washington had tightened sanctions against Russia. This week both the US and the EU have taken the next step, imposing sanctions on whole sectors of the Russian economy, rather than just individuals and specific firms. The tighter the economic squeeze, the more President Vladimir Putin is cornered. In effect, the west is now confronting him with a choice between capitulation – ending his support for the separatists – or escalation – making sure that they are not crushed by the forces of the Kiev government. For a man like Mr Putin, the first option does not exist.

The July crisis of 2014 therefore looks ominous. At the very least, the hope has now been dashed that a post-Soviet Russia could peacefully be integrated into a western world order based on free markets and democracy. At worst, what began as a little local difficulty in eastern Ukraine could be about to explode into a much larger struggle for mastery in Europe.

So how to explain the relative equanimity of financial markets in the face of this gathering storm? Blame the historians. To those who subscribe to the view that the first world war had its origins in distinctive pathologies of early 20th-century Europe such as imperialism, militarism, nationalism and secret diplomacy, today’s crisis is nothing to worry about. For modern Europeans have renounced imperialism, have all but disarmed themselves, feel embarrassed by nationalism and conduct their diplomacy via Twitter rather than secret telegrams.

Even more complacent are those who insist on laying all the blame for 1914 on Germany. Today’s Germans prefer winning world cups to losing world wars. In almost every respect, Angela Merkel, their chancellor, is the historical antithesis of Kaiser Wilhelm II: female, democratically elected, supremely cautious and almost comically circumspect when asked what makes her feel proud to be German. (“Our well-sealed windows,” she once told Bild newspaper.)

Militants Gave Iraqi Christians a Choice—Convert, Pay, Leave or Die Christians flee ISIS-held Mosul

Since taking over the Iraqi city of Mosul in June, fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria systematically have expelled the city’s Christian population—which had endured in the city for more than 1,600 years.

ISIS gave the Christians just days to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or leave. Most fled. Militants robbed many of them on their way out.

Hundreds of families sought refuge in the nearby Christian enclave of Hamdaniya. Kurdish Zeravani troops defend the town, making it a relative safe haven.

Yohanna Petros Mouche is the Syriac Catholic archbishop of Mosul. He resides in Hamdaniyah, where he has an office at the Seramir Christian Academy.

There currently are no students at the academy. Most left fearing ISIS. Today the academy houses refugees from Mosul. Mouche estimates that around 750 families have fled Mosul for Hamdaniyah.
“We think that there are no Christians left in Mosul,” Mouche says. “When ISIS act and think the way they do, I do not think we can stay in Iraq.” By that, he means the Arab regions outside Kurdistan.

Kurdish forces halted ISIS’ advance in mid-June. First Zeravani troops drove back militants’ artillery that had been shelling the Christian town. Then the Kurds established a defensive line between Hamdaniya and Mosul.

Mouche says he’s indifferent to Kurdish independence. Nor is he interested in the feud between the Kurds and Iraq’s central government. He says all he cares about is his people’s safety.

Islamic State Captures Iraqi Oil Field, Defeating Kurds

Reuters, August 3, 2014

BAGHDAD — Islamic State Sunni insurgents have captured the northern Iraqi town of Zumar and a nearby oil field in their first major defeat of Kurdish fighters, witnesses said on Sunday.

The al-Qaeda offshoot, which swept through northern Iraq in June almost unopposed by the U.S.-trained army, poses the biggest challenge to the stability of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

After thousands of Iraqi soldiers fled the Islamic State offensive, Shi’ite militias and Kurdish fighters emerged as a key line of defence against the militants, who have threatened to march on Baghdad.

Kurdish forces had poured in reinforcements, including special forces, to Zumar, where they battled Islamic State fighters who had arrived from three directions on pickup trucks mounted with weapons, residents said.

Militants hoisted the Islamic State’s black flag on buildings, a ritual that has in the past been followed by the mass execution of captured opponents and the violent imposition of an ideology that even al-Qaeda finds excessive.

Islamic State has stalled in its drive to reach Baghdad, halting just north of the town of Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of the capital.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) changed its name earlier this year and declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria. The group has already seized four oil fields, which help fund its operations.

It has been trying to consolidate its gains, setting its sights on strategic towns near oil fields, as well as border crossings with Syria so that it can move easily back and forth and transport supplies.

The group has capitalized on sectarian tensions and disenchantment with Iraq’s Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Critics describe Maliki as an authoritarian leader who has put allies from the Shi’ite majority in key military and government positions at the expense of Sunnis, driving a growing number of the minority to support the Islamic State and other insurgents. He is also at odds with the Kurds.


The Kurds have long dreamed of their own independent state, an aspiration that angers Maliki, who has frequently clashed with the non-Arabs over budgets, land and oil.

After the Islamic State arrived, Kurdish forces seized two oil fields in northern Iraq and took over operations from a state-run oil company.

Ottomans and Zionists

July 31, 2014 
Blogging about Turkey and Israel, the two most interesting countries in the Middle East
Dealing With The World That Is Rather Than The One We Want

I’ve been purposely keeping quiet as Operation Protective Edge rages on, which for someone who writes about Israel seems like a counterproductive move. The problem is, I have seen very little to convince me that writing anything will actually be productive in a real sense because everyone is living in a bubble. I have rarely been so disheartened by anything as much as I have by reading what friends and acquaintances are expressing as Israel and Hamas go at each other. My Facebook feed is a good illustration of this, being split between very different demographics.

On group is comprised of lots of Jewish friends from growing up in New York in an Orthodox community, attending Jewish day schools, currently living in a place with a large and engaged Jewish community, etc. and nearly all of them subscribe to the view that Israel is entirely blameless for its current predicament, the IDF is the most moral army in the world, and that Palestinians of every stripe are ceaselessly working toward Israel’s destruction. Among this well-intentioned group (and I am not saying that sarcastically or facetiously) there is a smaller subset of people who express extreme and odious views. Some examples from the past couple of days have been friends ruminating that perhaps Meir Kahane was right and shouldn’t have been demonized; a refusal to refer to Palestinians or use any word that has Palestine as a root and to instead only refer to Gazans or pro-Gazan rallies “because Palestinian is a made up word;” a conviction that the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas and so deserve anything that happens to them as a result; and deep concern over the fact that there is an Islamic center in the neighborhood which might present a physical danger because any and all Muslims are presumed to hate Jews.

Another group is comprised of very liberal friends from various educational stops and Turkish friends and colleagues, and nearly all of them subscribe to the view that Israel is the party most at fault for the fighting in Gaza, the IDF does not take any care at all to avoid civilians, Netanyahu is a liar who used the kidnapping and murder of the three Israelis as an excuse to execute a war that he had been planning all along, and that Israel intends to subjugate the Palestinians forever. Among this well-intentioned group (and again, I am not saying it sarcastically or facetiously), there is a smaller subset of people whose views are more extreme and odious. Some examples are that Israel is committing genocide; Israeli behavior is no different than that of Nazi Germany; and that Hamas is not in any way a terrorist group and is not even targeting civilians but is instead intentionally only using WWII-era rockets that it knows will fall into empty fields. Amidst all of this, I just throw up my hands in despair. I mean it when I call these friends and acquaintances well-intentioned; the first group is genuinely and legitimately concerned with Israel’s safety and survival and is terrified by the anti-Semitic outbursts and attacks around the world under the cover of the Palestinian cause and sees no other rational response to the nihilistic and eliminationist rhetoric from Hamas but IDF operations in Gaza, while the second group genuinely cannot abide to see hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed and images of dead children on the beach and blames the Israelis for bringing a tank to a knife fight and using it in ways that cause indiscriminate death despite Israeli civilians being relatively safe from Hamas rocket fire. Neither group is going to ever come over the other side or change its views, but that is to be expected. The despair comes from the fact that neither group even empathizes with the other side or remotely understands how someone can possibly arrive at a position different from its own. There is barely any acknowledgement that there are two sides to every story and that, without creating a false moral equivalence, there is indeed some gray involved here. It is cliche to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict creating polarization, but never have I seen it worse than this. So I have kept my mouth shut and hoped that the fighting will end and everyone can go back to posting pictures of their kids and videos of baby animals.

Nevertheless, there is a point that I am itching to make, which is that this deep ideological bubble that so many are in leads to unrealistic expectations on all sides, because everybody wants to deal with a world that they want rather than the world as it is. Possibly my all-time favorite quote is the Pat Moynihan line that everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts, and there is a worrisome trend going on of people ignoring reality in favor of ideology and attempting to make policy as if the world can be bended to their will, or suggesting that either Israel or Hamas act in a certain way that disregards facts on the ground.


August 4, 2014 · 
Iran’s Elite Guards Fighting in Iraq to Push Back Islamic State

Smoke rises during clashes between Iraqi security forces and militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Ramadi, July 26, 2014.

(Reuters) – In early July, hundreds of mourners gathered for the funeral of Kamal Shirkhani in Lavasan, a small town northeast of the Iranian capital Tehran. The crowd carried the coffin past posters which showed Shirkhani in the green uniform of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and identified him as a colonel.

Shirkhani did not die in a battle inside Iran. He was killed nearly a hundred miles away from the Iranian border in a mortar attack by the militants of the Islamic State “while carrying out his mission to defend” a revered Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra, according to a report on Basij Press, a news site affiliated with the Basij militia which is overseen by the Revolutionary Guards.

Shirkhani’s death deep inside Iraq shows that Iran has committed boots on the ground to defend Iraqi territory.

At least two other members of the Guards have also been killed in Iraq since mid-June, a clear sign that Shi’ite power Iran has ramped up its military presence in Iraq to counter the threat of Sunni fighters from the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that seized much of northern Iraq since June.

Iraqi security forces largely dissolved in the path of the Islamic State’s advance on Baghdad, proving that the Shi’ite-led government could hardly defend itself.

In late June, a spokesman for the militant group, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, announced that it was shortening its name to the Islamic State and would rule its territory as a Sunni Muslim caliphate overseen by its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Islamic State considers Shi’ites to be heretics deserving of death, and made a point of filming its fighters gunning down Shi’ite prisoners as it advanced. Iranian and Iraqi Shi’ites see it as an existential threat.

Iran, with deep ties both to the Iraqi government and to a number of Iraqi Shiite militias, stepped in to stop it.

Senior Iranian officials have denied that any Revolutionary Guard fighters or commanders are inside Iraq. But there’s no doubt that prominent politicians and clerics in Iran have been rattled by the rapid gains of the Islamic State and the threat it poses, not only to the Iraqi government but to Iran itself.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani pledged his government’s support to help counter the threat posed by the Islamic State if the Iraqi government requested it.

In late June, a senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, said in a statement that waging jihad to defend all of Iraq, particularly holy shrines that are visited each year by millions of Shi’ite pilgrims, is “obligatory,” according to a report from the semi-official Fars News agency.

Samarra, a city on the Tigris north of Baghdad where Colonel Shirkhani was killed, is site of the first of those major Shi’ite shrines to land in the path of the Sunni fighters’ advance. Iraqi government forces and Shi’ite militia swiftly mobilized and have so far succeeded in defending it. The deaths of Shirkhani and two others is proof that Iranians were part of that successful response.