21 August 2014

A QUESTION OF HONOUR - The site for a national war memorial should not cause debate

Brijesh D. Jayal
Kargil Day Commemoration near Fort William, Calcutta, in 2001
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140821/jsp/opinion/story_18726027.jsp#.U_VHdPmSxqo

Before the flicker of the last candle to commemorate those who laid down their lives for their motherland during the Kargil conflict dies out and memories of this 15th anniversary of Kargil Diwas begin to dim, it is perhaps time for the collective conscience of the nation to pause and reflect.



It is fair to say that this anniversary drew more public attention than have the previous ones. It is too early to judge whether this is a collective rekindling of the national conscience, the shadow of a new dispensation in South Block or some other factor, but if this shows a trend it is heartening. Because from the first time when the former prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, lit a candle in 2000, if anything, the celebrations have become pro forma rather than events deserving a few moments of national remembrance of and reflection on the supreme sacrifice made by those who ‘gave their today for our tomorrow’. The reflections are about what makes these sons and daughters of India so unique that self-sacrifice comes as naturally as a daily chore to them and, indeed, what part we, as a nation and a people, have played, if any, in contributing to their making.

But first a reality check. Over the years, neither the supreme commander nor the prime minister has led the event and it is left to the defence minister and the service chiefs. The event in the capital city itself attracts little attention. The army, which lost 527 and had 1363 wounded (including gallant Indian air force officers and men), is left to commemorate the event at the Dras War Memorial, a memorial built on the foothills of Tololing Hill where some of the severest fighting took place, built not by the nation, but the Indian army.

There are also similar functions spread across the country, invariably at small memorials built not by the nation, but through initiatives of enlightened citizens and veterans. One such is at Chandigarh built by a people’s initiative backed by a national daily where, on the given day, schools send children to draw inspiration and rub shoulders with veterans.

It is possible that the solemnity of the supreme sacrifice made by soldiers, sailors and airmen is being diluted by the multiple occasions when such commemorations are held: the others being Vijay Diwas, commemorating the victory in the 1971 war and the prime minister’s homage to “Amar Jawan” on Republic Day. Or is it that by periodic unburdening of our conscience we feel that we are paying our due to these martyrs, making up in frequency what we lack in the sheer depth of our emotions and what we do for their widows. A recent media report even indicated that India has 25,000 war widows.

Address Nuclear Liability

By B B Singh
Published: 20th August 2014
Source Link

It is being reported that the United States will not supply nuclear reactors and technologies to India unless the liability issue is resolved. This cannot be done in isolation since the legislation enabling India to enter global nuclear trade is only 10 years old and none of the Acts have been put to test for justice, equity and fairness. The Hyde Act came into operation on December 18, 2006, with great applause in the US Congress whereas the Indo-US 123 Agreement was passed in the Indian parliament with a thin majority in a turbulent atmosphere. Such events reflected India’s apprehensions about US dominance and interference in India’s sovereignty and foreign and domestic policies leading to mutual distrust which still persists. The nuclear liability issue must therefore be discussed taking into consideration all the relevant facts, Acts and agreements.

India exploded five indigenously developed nuclear devices in May 1998 despite a long global isolation and soon thereafter it declared voluntary moratorium on further testing. India also pledged no-first-use of its nuclear weapons and gained recognition as a responsible state possessing advanced nuclear technology. Yet, the sanctions against it continued.

Facing denial of fuel for its nuclear reactors, India turned in April 1999 to negotiate the decade old India-Iran natural gas project. In June 1999, US deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbot met India’s foreign minister Jaswant Singh in New Delhi and offered nuclear power in lieu of the Iran gas. During the next 15 months they met 14 times. There were two objectives: implementation of the Iran and Libya Sanction Act 1995 and huge employment for US nuclear specialists if India’s market opened. On July 18, 2005, India’s prime minister and the US president signed a joint statement for bilateral cooperation in civilian nuclear energy. India agreed to segregate its defence-oriented nuclear facilities from civilian ones that were to be placed under IAEA safeguards. This arrangement facilitated India to develop its minimum credible deterrence along with civilian nuclear power programme. It was a “win-win” situation but serious legal hurdles remained.

To deal with India, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the US is restricted by its Atomic Energy Act 1954. The Hyde Act 2006, an enabling legislation, provided the way to overcome the restriction. It defines US policy to Southeast Asia in general and provides very clauses specifically applicable to India. Several of these are hurtful to India’s long-term business interest while some are hurtful to Indian sovereignty and are intrusive.

Politics of Kashmir

kuldip nayar 
The Statesman 
21 Aug 2014 

Article 370 is not meant to reflect the liberal tilt in the Indian Constitution. It is specific. It gives a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir ~ a status which the people of Jammu and Kashmir won after waging a long, tough fight for freedom both from the British and the Maharaja ruling the state. 

Sheikh Abdullah was in the lead and achieved what looked impossible at one time, an autonomous status within the sovereign, secular Republic of India. Except three subjects ~ Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications ~ the Indian parliament had no power to legislate without the consent of the state legislature. The state could have merged with Pakistan, but preferred to integrate with secular India because the entire struggle by the Kashmiris was secular. 

The undertakings given at that time are sacred and cannot be written off by the people who are of different thinking. The state had even adopted a separate constitution, passed to make it clear the state would not compromise on its autonomy. 

Watering it down now will amount to betrayal of the confidence which the people of Jammu and Kashmir had reposed in New Delhi. If any change had to be made, it has to be done by them. The Indian Union which the state had joined cannot amend its powers without the consent of the state’s people. 

To give more subjects to Delhi is the prerogative of Srinagar. Sheikh Abdullah joined the Union on that understanding. The elements trying to undo the undertaking accorded to the state's people are neither serving the cause of India, nor that of the state. In fact, most of what is happening in Kashmir is irrelevant and confusing. 

Take the meeting of some Hurriyat leaders with Pakistani High Commissioner Basit Ali in Delhi. Such meetings had taken place in the past too. The Indian government did not raise any objection to them then because they were taken as exercises 

to exchange views from the sidelines. 

No table for three

August 21, 2014 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision this week to cancel the foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan has drawn much political flak at home and generated some international concern that the NDA government might be departing from its proclaimed commitment to improve relations with the neighbours.

Although many motivations have been attributed to the decision, the principal rationale is not difficult to discern — to change the terms of the dialogue with Pakistan on the question of Jammu and Kashmir. Delhi’s main argument is that Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s meetings with Kashmiri separatist leaders amounted to an unacceptable interference in India’s internal affairs.

Pakistan’s spokesperson, as well as the NDA government’s critics in India, point to the fact that Delhi had chosen to live with the engagement between Islamabad and Kashmiri separatists for many years. They argue that Delhi’s decision to cancel the talks is an unfortunate and unexpected departure from two-decade-old Indian policy.

That there is a discontinuity in India’s approach is exactly right. The Modi government appears to have come to the political judgement that it will no longer accept the involvement of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, a collection of Kashmiri separatist groups, in the India-Pakistan dialogue. Delhi wants to put the Kashmir question back in a strictly bilateral, inter-governmental framework with Islamabad.

The continuing turbulence in Kashmir, the frequent military crises with Pakistan and the consequent international pressures to engage Islamabad saw India reluctantly yield some space for the Hurriyat in the peace process nearly two decades ago. Since then, Delhi has often directly engaged the Hurriyat, opened back channel talks with Pakistan on resolving the Kashmir question, allowed contact between the Hurriyat and Islamabad and facilitated the travel of separatists to Pakistan.

Throughout this period, both Pakistan and the separatists pressed for a trilateral dialogue. Delhi rejected a table for three but agreed willy-nilly for three separate bilateral tracks. The Modi government is now saying there is no place for the Hurriyat in the peace process with Pakistan. Delhi’s new approach is a bold gamble, to say the least.

Surprise is a tactic, not a strategy

Suhasini Haidar 
Published: August 21, 2014 

The HinduREACHING OUT: Narendra Modi’s talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made for good optics in both countries. Picture shows the leaders in New Delhi in May this year. Photo: R.V. Moorthy 

Modi has mystified, misled and surprised Pakistan, even giving the impression that he still regards the country as an enemy to defeat, not as a neighbour he wishes to resolve issues with 

In March this year, members of the Pakistani establishment laid out the red carpet for an unusual visitor. The gentleman, who will not be named, was an envoy of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an overseas supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and was said to be carrying a message from Narendra Modi. As a result, the visitor was hosted to lunch by the Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz and the Foreign Office India desk, met with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s key adviser Tariq Fatemi, and was even invited to the Army General Headquarters. 

The message he carried was simple: that once elected, the BJP government would pursue talks and push business engagement with Pakistan. He indicated that an invitation would be sent shortly after Mr. Modi took over, to set the ball rolling. There was, however, a rider. If there was a terror attack, said the RSS envoy, one like Mumbai 26/11 that could be traced back to Pakistan, their hands would be tied. A counter-attack on some part of Pakistan-controlled territory would be inevitable. 

Buoyant relations 

700 Taliban Fighters Battling Afghan Forces for Control of Logar Province Outside Kabul

Hundreds of Taliban fighters battle Afghan forces near Kabul: officials

Reuters, August 19, 2014

As many as 700 heavily armed Taliban insurgents are battling Afghan security forces in Logar, a key province near the capital Kabul, local officials said on Tuesday, in a test of the Afghan military’s strength as foreign forces pull out of the country.

Militants have this summer mounted increasingly intensive assaults across several provinces, often involving hundreds of fighters, as the country braces to stand on it own feet militarily for the first time in nearly 13 years.

"There are some 700 of them and they are fighting Afghan forces for territorial control and they have also brought with them makeshift mobile (health) clinics," Niaz Mohammad Amiri, the provincial governor of Logar province, told Reuters by telephone.

The Taliban have dug-in in Logar, which lies about an hour’s drive south of Kabul, and nearby Wardak province to the west, in recent years. They have used the provinces - gateways to the capital - as launchpads for hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings on Kabul.

The main roads into the capital are all tightly controlled, but the militants have still been able to breach the checkpoints and staged dozens of attacks, killing scores of civilians and soldiers in the city of about five million this year.

Abdul Hakim Esaaqzai, the police chief of Logar province, said the insurgents, armed with heavy machine guns, were fighting Afghan forces from residential areas in Charkh district.

"We are being extra careful not to cause any civilian casualties. We have enough forces to deal with it," Esaaqzai said.

Latest on the Fighting for Control of the Ukrainian Cities of Luhansk and Donetsk

Ukraine street battles in Luhansk as troops advance


David Stern

BBC News, August 20, 2014

Heavy fighting has been reported in rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine, with street clashes in the centre of the key city of Luhansk.

Government forces have regained one district in the city, officials say.

Shelling has been reported near the rebel headquarters in Donetsk, the other major rebel-held eastern city.

Russia says President Vladimir Putin is due to meet Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko next week, as the number of civilian casualties rises.

Pro-Russian separatists in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk declared independence from Kiev and proclaimed their own people’s republics after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March.

More than 2,000 civilians and combatants have been killed since mid-April, when Ukraine’s government sent troops to put down the rebel uprising.

Ukrainian military officials say at least 17 civilians were killed when a convoy of refugees came under mortar and rocket fire south-east of Luhansk on Monday.

Ukraine accuses Russia of arming the rebels and sending Russian soldiers into eastern Ukraine - a claim denied by the Kremlin.

'Block by block'

The city centre of Luhansk was reported to have been shelled on Monday night and video filmed hours earlier appeared to show deserted streets.


The Ukraine army say there are battles on the streets of Luhansk, while footage filmed yesterday show the streets deserted.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled in recent weeks as Ukrainian government forces have advanced on Luhansk. The city is suffering acute shortages of water, food and electricity.

An interior ministry aide told the Interfax Ukraine agency that the military was recapturing the city “block by block”.

At the same time, reports said a convoy of armoured vehicles from Russia had managed to enter Luhansk to help the rebels.

The claim was made by prominent Ukrainian military journalist Dmytro Tymchuk, who said there had been “dozens of pieces of of military hardware”.

Russia has repeatedly denied sending any weapons across the border.

The separatists have lost control of several small towns in both regions in recent days.

TV channels banned

Residents in the centre of Donetsk fled as the rebel headquarters came under shell fire. Cars with gunmen sped through red lights, Reuters news agency reported.

Clashes were also reported in Makiivka, east of the city, hours after government forces said they had taken control of most of the town of Ilovaisk, to the south-east.

A prominent pro-Ukraine commander, Semen Semenchenko, suffered shrapnel wounds when his unit came under mortar attack in Ilovaisk. He is considered one of the most popular of the volunteer commanders in the country.

An aide to Ukraine’s interior ministry, Anton Gerashenko, said that 14 Russian TV channels had been banned from cable networks in Ukraine.
Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence after disputed referendums in May
The channels, including Russia Today and Life News, had been “broadcasting propaganda of war and violence”, Mr Gerashenko said.

India and China Develop Military-to-Military Ties Along Disputed Border

August 19, 2014

The Indian Army invited Chinese troops to participate in Indian Independence Day celebrations in eastern Ladakh.
The Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army met in a ceremonial border personnel meeting on August 15, India’s Independence Day. The two sides met on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the boundary demarcating Chinese-administered land from Indian-administered land in the disputed regions of northeastern Kashmir. Specifically, the troops met in eastern Ladakh, near where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi traveled last week and delivered a speech condemning Pakistan. According to The Hindu, a similar ceremony was held on the Chinese side of the border on August 1.

According to a public relations officer on the Indian side, Col. S.D. Goswami, “Both sides reiterated their commitment in upholding the protocols and agreements signed between the two countries and acknowledged that the peace and tranquility which prevails along the Line of Actual Control should be further strengthened and stabilized.” India and China signed a Border Defense Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) last October following a stand-off in April 2013 where a small contingent of Chinese PLA troops entered the Indian side of the LAC and set up camp for about three weeks. The BDCA was intended to swiftly resolve these sorts of incursions in the future.

According to the Wall Street Journal‘s Live Mint, the meeting was less administrative and more focused on fostering good military-to-military ties between the two sides. Both sides enjoyed “cultural and entertainment shows and sports events.” Col. Goswami noted that the “participation of Chinese delegation in India’s Independence Day celebrations is a gesture which will further foster friendly relations between India and China and build up mutual trust and confidence.”

The effectiveness of this attempt at fostering better military-to-military ties between the border troops on either side of the LAC appears to be questionable given that Chinese troops allegedly entered 25 to 30 km into the Indian side of the LAC in Ladakh. According to Indian reports, “a patrol of Indian troops noticed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) personnel on Sunday while moving from their base towards the higher ‘New Patrol base’ post in Burtse area of North Ladakh.”

Recently, the Chinese military acknowledged the April 2013 stand-off in the Depsang Valley for the first time, leading to hopes in India that future border incursions would be limited. Despite China’s acknowledgment of the incident, there was no official clarification of why the PLA troops set up camp on the Indian side of the LAC. The incident took place shortly before a scheduled visit to India by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

A STRATEGIC REVIEW FOR INDIA – ANALYSIS

By Manpreet Sethi,IPCS

All major nuclear weapon states periodically issue official statements in the form of a Review or a White Paper to provide a peep into their threat assessments and response priorities. The US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is well known. Russia too periodically announces a military doctrine and has used it to signal change in the circumstances of the use of nuclear weapons. Since 1998, China has been bringing out a White Paper on National Defence (WPND) mostly every two years to indicate how it conceptualises its national defence, threat perceptions and security goals, including in the nuclear domain. So do the UK and France.

Most such documents provide general indications on the nation’s assessment of its threat environment and the kind of capability that it wishes to build. For instance, the US NPR of 2010 identified nuclear terrorism and proliferation as the topmost threats facing the country. Accordingly, Washington put its focus on global efforts aimed at securing nuclear materials. It also articulated that countries found guilty of sponsoring terrorists could face US military strikes. Since the threat from near nuclear peers was found of a second order, the US downgraded its nuclear readiness posture by removing its nuclear bombers from 24 hour alert and also de-MIRVing its missiles.

Similarly, the Chinese WPND explains the country’s threat perceptions and national security goals. It provides generic references to the growing advancements in national ability to conduct joint operations with precision, informationised strikes etc. Over the last three White Papers, China has devoted complete sub-sections to explaining the role and capabilities of its nuclear force or the Second Artillery Corps (SAC). While the 2008 Paper had called upon the SAC to “build a streamlined and effective strategic force by raising the informationaisation of its weaponry and equipment systems, build an agile and efficient operational command and control and increase capabilities of land-based strategic nuclear counter-strikes and precision strikes with conventional missiles,” the 2010 Paper stressed modernisation of “capabilities in rapid reaction, penetration, precision strike, damage infliction, protection and survivability.”

Given that the SAC has the responsibility for both conventional and nuclear missiles, the Paper also reveals how China continues to “improve the conditions of on-base, simulated and networked training” including in conduct of “trans-regional manoeuvres” and in “complex electromagnetic environments.” Such disclosures on posture are meant to buttress deterrence.

Crafted along similar lines, an Indian Strategic Review – ISR (or whatever else it may be called: Strategic Policy Review, or a White Paper) – would be particularly helpful in addressing some of the concerns that have been raised in recent times on the credibility of the Indian nuclear deterrent. Of course, the ISR would traverse a range of security issues. But in the nuclear dimension, besides a reiteration of the basic doctrinal attributes of India’s nuclear deterrence, it could highlight some specific issues. Two examples by way of an illustration could be mentioned.

The first could be an articulation of the role of ballistic missile defence (BMD) in India’s nuclear strategy. Going by the recent technological developments, India seems to be surely and steadily moving towards the development and eventual deployment of some kind of a BMD capability. However, if India is to ensure that this capability does not destabilise nuclear deterrence equations with Pakistan and China, it is imperative that certain clarity be brought to the nature and type of BMD that India plans to have. It is evident that perceiving it as eroding its deterrence, Islamabad has begun investing in cruise missiles and other counter-measures to defeat an Indian BMD. In case India is to escape being pulled into an offence-defence spiral, it is necessary that the logic and scope of the Indian BMD is explained as a measure for enhancing survivability of its retaliatory capability (warheads, delivery systems and C2) in view of India’s no first use (NFU). Given India’s missile threat environment, it is virtually impossible to protect its cities unless the BMD is technologically of a very high order and that obviously means expending large amounts of money. But, by explaining the rationale of the BMD for protecting India’s counter-strike capability, its destabilising effects can be arrested. And, the ISR could be one means of such communication.

Yet another issue that could do with some clarity is India’s response to an act of nuclear terrorism. Given India’s experience of Pak-sponsored terrorism, this is a threat that looms large. It would be worthwhile for New Delhi to express its assessment of such a threat and its likely responses. This would showcase resolve that no such act would go unpunished. Doing so through the ISR would enhance deterrence.

Opacity and ambiguity in nuclear numbers and postures has been an attribute of the Indian nuclear strategy. However, an ISR can perform the crucial task of clearing misperceptions through a certain amount of transparency without going into specifics of the arsenal. This is critical given that misperceptions and miscalculations can result in an inadvertent nuclear escalation especially between nuclear neighbours that share border disputes and are prone to border skirmishes.

Such a document would actually be of immense value for two reasons. One, it would aid strategy formulation and action prioritisation within the country while providing assurance to the domestic public. Simultaneously, it would communicate with the adversary, and its content and tenor could create the atmospherics to help stabilise nuclear equations.

Manpreet Sethi

ICSSR Senior Fellow affiliated with the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)

Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir: The Future Trajectory

Date : 18 Aug , 2014

Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) historically belonged to the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Soon after the partition of India in 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession, thereby acceding to the Indian Union. Hence, POK is legitimately an inherent part of India. This territory has been under Pakistan’s unlawful control ever since the Pakistan Army orchestrated the tribal invasion of the territory in October 1947.

POK comprises the so-called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (earlier named as Northern Areas) and has remained an amorphous entity for six decades now. The Trans Karakoram Tract, comprising Shaksgam from Baltistan and Raskam from Gilgit, which Pakistan ceded to China in 1963, is also a part of POK. China promised to assist Pakistan in building the Karakoram Highway as a payoff.

The terrorist attack in Mumbai on 26 November 2008 added a new dimension to the existing discourse on the training camps in POK.

The so called Azad Kashmir (AJK) is governed under the Azad Kashmir Interim Constitution Act passed in 1974. Even though AJK has a President, Prime minister, and a council, the governing structure is totally powerless and dependent on the Pakistani establishment for the smallest issue at hand. Very often AJK is described as a “constitutional enigma” with “trappings of a country”. The Karachi Agreement, which governs the rule of Pakistan over Gilgit-Baltistan, was signed between the President of Azad Kashmir, the Muslim Conference and a minister without portfolio from Pakistan, Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani. Even though there was no formal merger between AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan, the fate of the latter was decided by Prime Minister AJK and Pakistan with no local representative participating in the matter.

The Government of Pakistan announced the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order on 29 August 2009, which reversed the nomenclature of the Northern Areas to the original Gilgit-Baltistan. The order has been widely criticized as it failed to address the basic questions of the rights of the people and the critical issue of provincial autonomy. The order introduced elements that brought Gilgit-Baltistan closer to the structure in AJK in spirit and form but with no impact, as the strings of power were placed with the Government of Pakistan. The order was rejected by the political groups in Gilgit-Baltistan, the pro-independence groups, and the pro-Indian groups. There have been allegations that the order was designed to secure increasing Chinese interest in POK. The development works in POK are heavily dependent on Chinese investments.

POK has been in the news during this decade for wrong reasons. In the wake of the events of 11 September 2001, when the United States launched a massive hunt for the Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, there were reports that he was in Muzaffarabad, the capital of AJK. On 8 October 2005, a devastating earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale hit the region; AJK is yet to emerge from the colossal damage. The region also harbours militant training camps. The terrorist attack in Mumbai on 26 November 2008 added a new dimension to the existing discourse on the training camps in POK.

The Government of Pakistan would find an outsourced option to contrive cross-border terrorism in India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir.

The terrorists travelled from Bait-ul-Mujahideen, the operational headquarters of Lashkar-e-Toyyaba (LeT) in Muzaffarabad, via Karachi to Mumbai. The chief of LeT, Zaki ur-Rehman, the nodal person in the Mumbai conspiracy, was arrested by Pakistani authorities from Muzaffarabad.

Why POK’s Future?

Indo-Pak Talks: The problem is with the Pakistani mindset


19 Aug , 2014


The Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif

Prime Minister Modi extended his hand of friendship to Pakistan immediately after his electoral triumph by inviting Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony and agreeing to hold foreign secretary level talks. This despite the experience of a sterile dialogue with Pakistan all these years and the mixed messages from Nawaz Sharif himself who, while expressing his desire to normalise relations with India, has been emphasising his intention to escalate the Kashmir issue politically .

Frequent cease-fire violations on the line of control have created a background of tension that erodes the seriousness of efforts to resume political level negotiations.

How Nawaz Sharif reconciles these two contradictory strategies is unclear. Pakistan cannot say that it wants to turn a page with India while determined to read from the same well-worn text on Kashmir dating back several decades. If Nawaz Sharif as a Muslim Leaguer cannot disregard his family and party links with jihadi groups and this compels him to agitate the Kashmir issue, then Sharif the businessman, with Pakistan’s economic interests in mind, cannot move very far with India. In dealing with Pakistan we are always caught half-cock between rude reality and wishful thinking and hence the inconsistencies of our policies towards that country.

WINNING OUR OWN WAR


As Pakistan’s military runs through its ground offensive in the federally-administered North Waziristan tribal agency in the punishing July heat of Ramzan, the harrowing homelessness of almost a million tribal people poses the most poignant humanitarian challenge to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government in its labyrinth. The disastrous ordeal of the displaced is by far the most compelling counterpoint to maintaining momentum and morale in this deadly battle, but several other concerns also roil the confused public conversation about the offensive.

The key question begging attention is not just about Zarb-e-Azb itself but about the possibility of its gestation into a full-on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency campaign. In other words, is Zarb-e-Azb going to remain a military exercise or does it signal a new phase in Pakistan’s long encounter with terrorism? Pakistan has carried out several military operations against terrorists in the tribal areas in the past, so how and why would this one be any different?

It is different for more than one reason. Unlike other initiatives, the task and timing of the North Waziristan operation has been discussed threadbare for years by all players, Pakistani and international, including NATO, the U.S., and Afghanistan. North Waziristan, where the U.S. has rained down over 250 Hellfire missiles in search of high-value Al Qaeda targets, has not only been seen as the last holdout of the infamous Haqqani network, it has also been cast as the toughest theater for a military offensive. In fact, the challenge of an offensive there was often seen as so onerous that the costs of terrorist blowback and military overstretch were regularly cited as prohibitive until the timing was seen as right or a broad political consensus urged it on.

Today, after several audacious attacks, including last month’s assault on Karachi Airport, it seems the terrorist advance triggered a tipping point for the military to launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb, but the government conversation around it is still embedded in tactical terms.

For the operation to count, or rather not be wasted as a costly and tough military offensive that flushes out terrorists from one enclave only to have them resurface in another, it will have to go to the next level, which would include baseline transparency about arrests and casualties. The military’s task is to recapture territory, close down sanctuaries, degrade enemy capacity, and weed out militants. But for the operation to sustain the state’s reestablished writ without reversing gains, the civilian-military leadership will have to create internal clarity about the scope, reach, endgame, and strategic objective of this operation.

What must be done? Connecting the dots in a state structure severely compromised by years of poor governance and rickety institutional capacity will not be easy. Yet, Zarb-e-Azb can be seen as an opportunity, an entry point, to begin the long campaign to reclaim Pakistan from the clutches of terrorism and extremism. To begin with, there are at least 10 simultaneous priorities that are urgent and unavoidable—and these require joint resolve, institutional clarity, and strategic focus.

First Relief, then Rehabilitation

Countering Insurgencies: Let the Tail not Wag the Dog

By Shashank Ranjan 
August 18, 2014 

During the third week of July, print media reported on, ‘Fake Surrender Cases in Jharkhand’ wherein the police officials were allegedly involved in misusing funds by inducing surrender of as many as 514 youth who were promised government jobs. These surrenders, as per the report took place between 2010 and 2013 and the surrendered ones had no links with the rebels. NHRC, too has taken suo-motu cognisance of the news report, followed by the Union Home Ministry directing Jharkhand police to submit a detailed report on the purported racket, which according to the media, persuaded desperate tribal youth to pretend being Maoists, eager to surrender and get government jobs and rehab benefits. In exchange, the report alleged, youth had to pay scamsters money ranging from Rs. 40,000- to Rs. 2,50,000/-. The Sunday Express reported on 20 July that the Jharkhand government had asked for a CBI enquiry into the alleged ‘fake surrenders’. The Union Home Ministry, as per the latest reports on 30 July, is however learnt to have declined the request. Sources, as per the report, said that the MHA was of the view that this was a “cheating case between two private parties and therefore not fit for a CBI enquiry”[1].

The stand of MHA doesn’t come as a surprise since the ownership lies with them, owing to direct involvement of CRPF in the matter. Rather than trying to brush the issue under a carpet and / or merely addressing the symptoms, an analytical evaluation of the indicators emerging out of the said issue need to be carried out. Reports like this have far reaching ramifications, shadowing the entire effort of the state towards counter insurgency, which is meant to be people centric.

Fortunately for the government lack of adequate media coverage of the issue, to include the electronic media, was noticeable. It is felt that with each passing year of our security forces’ involvement in counter insurgency, media has grown insensitive towards such news which no longer has a ‘NEWS’ value, especially in face of deluge of high profile scams and crimes that are TRP boosters. Also, such news is more of a routine these days, getting obliterated from the radar horizons of society in no time. Irrespective of the area of deployment, these hollow endeavours have become synonymous with modus operandi of security forces. Worryingly, it is not only the media but also the local population that has started forming an opinion about the security forces indulging in such activities as part of their race to show results and depict ‘tangibles’, that validate performance in counterinsurgency. Given the circumstances, it is the security forces that deserve to be blamed rather than any extrinsic factor, for this misplaced notion. While combat in a conflict zone, in an insurgency / terror affected area is a tough job; the need for recognition pushes units to scout for easy heads to scalp and candidates for surrender. Viciously, it creates a demand for an illegal arms trade, too, since security forces often resort to buying weapons to display as ‘captured’ or ‘recovered’. Signs are more of the tail wagging the dog, wherein the ends that seem to be apparently desirable, are chased with total disregard to means, comprising ‘hows’ of the accomplishment. 

Delimitation of Indo-Bangladesh Maritime Boundary

August 19, 2014

In a landmark judgment, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Attribution (PCA) has awarded Bangladesh an area of 19,467 sq km, four-fifth of the total area of 25,602 sq km disputed maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal with India on July 7. The UN Tribunal’s award has clearly delineated the course of maritime boundary line between India and Bangladesh in the territorial sea, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf within and beyond 200 nautical miles (nm). Now, Bangladesh’s maritime boundary has been extended by 118,813 sq comprising 12 nm of territorial sea and an EEZ extending up to 200 nm into the high seas. In addition, the ruling acknowledged Bangladesh’s sovereign rights of undersea resources in the continental shelf extending as far as 345 nm in the high seas, taking Chittagong coast as the base line.

The verdict has been broadly accepted by both the countries as a positive development for further consolidation of friendly relations especially given the geo-strategic/political significance of greater Indian Ocean region and South Asian sub-region. Moreover, the award has wide security and economic implications not only for India and Bangladesh but also for the entire Bay of Bengal region. Some are of the opinion that the ruling could provide impetus for the new Indian government to ratify the Land Boundary Agreement and reach an understanding on sharing the waters of the Teesta river with Bangladesh.

The verdict would contribute towards establishing strategic partnerships among the nations sharing borders in the Bay. The award is expected to have positive impact on emerging multilateral forum like BIMSTEC. It may be noted that India has already settled its maritime borders with Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. Similarly, Bangladesh’s maritime issues with Myanmar are resolved. The PCA award assumes strategic significance against the backdrop of China’s close ties with Bangladesh and the Asian giant’s growing interests and activities in the Bay region for which India is worried. Now the settlement of maritime disputes between India and Bangladesh may have a restraining influence on the expansionist designs of China.

Both the countries have accepted the award as it will open the door for exploration of oil and gas in the Bay—the site of huge energy reserves. International legal experts have hailed the tribunal’s encouragement to parties to exercise their sovereign rights and perform their duties under the convention with due regard to the rights of the other. The award mentions that it is for India for India and Bangladesh to determine the measures they consider appropriate, including through the conclusion of further agreements or the creation of a cooperative arrangement. The tribunal in its award has noted, “…The sovereign rights of coastal states, and therefore the maritime boundaries between them, must be determined with precision to allow for development and investment”. 

The award has huge economic significance for a small state like Bangladesh. It has cleared the obstacles for Dhaka to open up its waters for foreign firms to explore and exploit hydrocarbons in the Bay. So long, Bangladesh’s maritime dispute with India is believed to have deterred many international petroleum companies to invest in the sea-blocks previously offered by it. The ruling has confirmed Bangladesh’s right to exploit the potentially rich waters in the Bay region. The United Nations Convention of Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) gives a nation 12 nm of territorial control and ensures sovereign rights to explore, exploit and manage natural resources with 200 nm of EEZ. The Awami League government is about to take measures for proper utilisation of resources in the sea areas obtained through the ruling. Reports suggest that the Foreign Ministry is organising an international workshop titled “Blue Economy” from September 1 in this direction. 

BEYOND UKRAINE: HOW TO HANDLE RUSSIA RIGHT? – ANALYSIS

By Sandra Fernandes, IPRIS

In 2005 Dmitri Trenin declared the need to read Russia right. He saw Russia as an economically free country with no democracy; individuals were consumers, but not yet citizens. He also forecast the hyper-presidential form of government, comparing it to a return to the czarist leadership. Concerning the lack of an independent judiciary, he said the rule of law was so deeply damaged that “universal application of justice would land the business class and the entire government bureaucracy in jail”.1 The main elements of Trenin’s analysis, outlined at the beginning of President Putin’s second term, are valid today, although he did not foresee Russia’s involvement in the former Soviet space. Instead, Trenin stated: “Russia is not disengaging from its neighborhood, but its mode of engagement is changing. It is increasingly approaching the new countries as full-fledged states, rather than parts of the long-defunct whole, and is being guided by specific national interests. In the process, imperialistic illusions will be dropped (to the relief of the neighbors), together with the system of imperial preferences (to their dismay). Russian economic expansion will continue, but it will be driven by companies (some of them government-owned) pursuing concrete interests and so will not be territorial”.2

At the time, Russia was starting to reassert itself by taking on a more influential role in external affairs. Today, the problem is not how to read Russia right, but how to handle Russia right. In fact, after key turning-point events – such as the “gas war” Russia initialed in 2006 with Belarus and Ukraine, the August 2008 was with Georgia, and the Ukrainian crisis triggered in November 2013 – Russia’s main partners are confronted with the need to decipher Russian power correctly and, in addition, to elaborate new forms of engagement with this oppositional partner. This essay explores main drivers of Russian empowerment that contribute to explain the country’s confrontational rise since the second mandate of Putin. I argue that the forms of engagement of Western partners have pursued strategic objectives along normative ones, producing limited or even counterproductive capacity to deal with Russian interests.

Additionally, I underline that the issue of Russian re-emergence has to be understood as a product of developments in the Asian fringe.

Russia is a country with vast frontiers, and the fact that it is the biggest country in the world, spanning both Asia and Europe, are core drivers of its foreign affairs. Historic experience related to the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991 has impacted Russia’s development, and it is still important to understand the post-Soviet space. What Moscow calls the “near abroad”, the former Soviet satellite states, is instrumental in Russia’s security perceptions.

Additionally, Russia’s geo-economy helps centre its interests in this space, particularly in Europe. In fact, the European orientation of its core economic assets has contributed to anchor the Kremlin’s choice towards the countries of the EU and former Soviet republics.

A NATO FOR A DANGEROUS WORLD: RUSSIAN AGGRESSION MADE IT CLEAR, WE NEED AN ALLIANCE THAT IS FITTER, FASTER, AND MORE FLEXIBLE

August 18, 2014 

Conclusion:

We are convinced that these measures are necessary to adapt to a dangerous world and to respond to Russia’s double-game.

We continue to urge Russia to make the responsible choice: to pull back its troops, stop using hybrid-warfare tactics, and engage with the international community and the Ukrainian government to find a political solution to the crisis.

But meanwhile we must make the right choices for NATO: to ensure that the alliance remains ready, willing and able to defend our almost one billion citizens. That is our No. 1 job at the Wales summit, and we stand united in our resolve.

We will send an unmistakable message: Today and in the future, NATO means one for all, all for one.

A NATO for a Dangerous World

Russian aggression has made it clear. We need an alliance that is fitter, faster and more flexible.

We both grew up in the shadow of the Cold War, on opposite sides of the Atlantic, and we both remember the extraordinary day when the Berlin Wall came down. Until that day, NATO had kept the Cold War from getting hot. After that day, war in Europe seemed hard to imagine, as former adversaries became NATO allies and we worked to establish a new partnership with Russia.

Now, an unprecedented period of peace has been challenged by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. For the first time since the end of World War II, a European country has grabbed part of another’s land by force. Day after day, we see evidence of a disruptive Russian presence inside Ukraine, the massing of combat-ready troops around its borders and a cynical attempt to rebrand Russia as the provider of humanitarian aid. The tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 showed only too clearly the global consequences of Russia’s reckless actions.

A Russian armored personnel carrier leads a column of military trucks as they leave the Russian-Ukrainian border area some 30 km outside the town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky in the Rostov region, on August 17, 2014. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

But the dangers of 2014 differ from the threats of the Cold War. They are multiple and more insidious. Instability rages to the south, with an arc of crises spreading from North Africa to the Middle East. And Russia is resorting to a hybrid war, with snap exercises, secret commandos and smuggled missiles.

In this changed world, NATO’s fundamental mission remains the same: to defend the territory, populations and shared values of all its members. Our commitment to collective defense remains rock-solid. And our job, as the top civilian and military representatives of NATO, is to make sure that NATO can defend all allies against any threat.

Europe’s Recurring Malaise


AUG. 17, 2014

This story is included with an NYT Opinion subscription.

No one should be surprised that the economy of the eurozone is once more going in reverse. This is an entirely predictable outcome of the misguided policies that European leaders stubbornly insist on pursuing, despite all evidence that they are exactly the wrong medicine.

The acute phase of the financial crisis in Greece, Spain, Ireland and other European countries ended months ago. But the European Union’s insistence, led by Germany, that governments reduce their deficits by cutting spending and raising taxes has continued to impede further recovery. In addition, the European Central Bank has been slow and timid in lowering interest rates and buying bonds, both of which would help. And Europe has allowed problems in its banking sector to fester — witness the emergency bailout of one of Portugal’s biggest banks.

The numbers tell the story. In the second quarter of the year, the 18-country euro area registered no growth, down from a 0.2 percent increase in output in the first three months of the year. The economies of Germany and Italy contracted 0.2 percent, while France registered no growth for the second quarter in a row. Other data released in recent days provide little reason for hope that conditions will get better soon. The inflation rate in the eurozone fell to 0.4 percent in July, down from 1.6 percent in the same month a year earlier. Industrial production fell 0.3 percent in June.

Big changes are plainly needed. As other central banks around the world have done, the European Central Bank should be buying government and other bonds to drive down interest rates and encourage banks to lend more to businesses and consumers. The bank’s president, Mario Draghi, has argued that governments must adopt more pro-growth policies. He’s right, but he cannot ignore his own responsibility. There is little to no risk that more aggressive central bank policies would cause runaway inflation, given that prices are increasing at a far slower pace than the central bank’s target of just below 2 percent.

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It’s true, of course, that monetary policy alone will not be sufficient to revive the eurozone economy. Fiscal policy must also be rethought and reworked. The E.U. (encouraged, again, by Germany) has demanded that nations like France and Italy reduce their budget deficits, while at the same time undertaking “structural reforms” that, for instance, make it easier for entrepreneurs to start businesses and for companies to fire workers.

But it is politically difficult, not to mention counterproductive, for governments to do both of those things at a time when the eurozoneunemployment rate (11.5 percent in June) is so high. Governments need more flexibility. If anything, they should be taking advantage of low bond yields — Germany can borrow money for 10 years at an interest rate of about 1 percent, and France can borrow at 1.4 percent — to increase spending to kick-start their economies. Once the laggards get going again, their leaders can more easily make the case to their legislatures and citizens for tough economic reforms. But far greater patience is needed, as well as a big change in attitude in Germany and among the E.U.’s senior leadership.

Why China Can't Innovate

August 19, 2014

Xi Jinping praises innovation in the abstract, but China’s system is not set up to encourage innovation in practice.
There are plenty of differences between the Xi Jinping and Hu Jintao administrations, but if there is one policy area where they are absolutely in concord, it is the worship of an abstract notion of innovation as the solution to almost all of the country’s great challenges. For the last decade, Hu Jintao’s concept of “scientific development” has served as the seminal statement on innovation. Under Hu, this idea was backed up by steep increases in research and development spending, more resources and efforts devoted to the education sector, and support for enterprises (state-owned and private) that were in the priority areas of information technology, high-tech manufacturing, and computers. This sector even got its own 15 year plan beginning in 2006, a major statement of where the country was heading in terms of developing its own indigenous world class capacity.

China churned out patents under Hu Jintao at almost the same dizzy rate it produced raw GDP growth. But patents alone do not make for an innovative product With irritating effectiveness, largely American and European companies continue to produce the technology everyone else wants to get their hands on. On one level, the vast Chinese efforts to steal intellectual property via cyberattacks or other means are crimes. But viewed another way, these IP thefts are a mass act of flattery and an admission that so far, for all the planning and strategizing, China’s break-through moment remains elusive.

A new book on innovation in the military sphere, Forging China’s Military Might edited by Tai Ming Cheung, helps spell out why this might be the case. Innovation, like reform, is a good word in China. Politicians like to use it in their speeches, and associate themselves with it. Despite this, there is little consensus over what precisely innovation is and what helps to nurture it. For one thing, Tai Ming Cheung and his co-authors make it clear that historical innovations are highly disruptive. True innovations create winners and losers and carry high costs. For every Apple and Microsoft, there are thousands of failures. Out of every scientist at a research institute or university who comes up with a brilliant idea, only a tiny number are able to tap into funding to develop their idea and put it into practical action. Innovation, at least on this reading, is inherently destructive. And it flourishes only with risk takers and a culture that tolerates them.

Based on the evidence in this book, the Chinese government under Xi can pour all the money they want into vast research and development parks, churning out any number of world class engineers and computer programmers. Even with all of this effort, however, China is likely to produce few world class innovative companies. The fundamental structural problem is that the role of the state and government in China is still very strong. Much of the funding comes from the state, and the rewards are eventually meant to flow back to it. Hierarchy, vested interests, and complacency get in the way of anyone who aspires to be the Steve Jobs of modern China. There are brave characters who do get through – people like Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba. But as it stands, the Chinese state-supported system is intolerant of failure, highly punitive to those who venture much and gain little, and demanding of swift returns. The murkier market systems of the U.S. and Europe are better incubators for crazy ideas, a tiny number of which finally get through and succeed.

In recent speeches, Xi Jinping has emphasized innovation as strongly as his predecessor did. He will almost certainly continue this emphasis at the plenum meeting coming up later this year and just as certainly, most of what he says will be rhetoric. The bottom line is that it would be a vast innovation in its own right for the risk averse, highly prescriptive knowledge system that currently dominates China to come up with diverse and challenging new ideas about how to do things differently, design things in a new way, or live in a different fashion — the sort of things innovation involves. The system that China currently has still rewards conformity. To change it would be the act of a brave person. To paraphrase Chen Yun from the 1980s, innovation is fine – as long as it is like a bird in a cage. It has to be controlled.

However, there is one massive incentive that Xi and his fellow leaders need to consider while they contemplate the support for innovation in their current system. For almost every policy challenge China currently faces, from producing growth to addressing climate change, from solving demographic issues to defending Chinese national interests with a modern army, innovation lies at the heart of the needed solutions. No area better shows the complexity and contradictoriness of modern-day China than this battle between risk-averse control and pragmatic engagement with disruptive innovation. This leadership, like the last, cannot afford to walk away from innovation, despite all its intrinsic risks and problems.

Nepal’s Wait for a New Constitution

By Vishal Arora
August 18, 2014

Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh on Nepal’s constitutional journey and relations with India and China. 

Nepal was declared a secular democracy in 2008, after the fall of the Hindu monarchy. Six years later, it is yet to have a new constitution to cement the transition. The nation’s first elected Constituent Assembly (CA) had the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) at the helm, but with its two major rival centrist parties – the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) – having only marginally fewer seats. While contentions and the failure to promulgate a new constitution marked the first CA, the centrist parties have a comfortable majority in the second and current assembly, elected last year. Will this assembly, led by the NC, finally be able to resolve the ideological differences and manage geopolitics with India and China competing for influence? Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh, a leader of the NC, speaks to The Diplomat on questions surrounding the country’s constitutional journey and its relations with India and China.

Freedom of Navigation and China: What Should Europe Do?

It is in Europe’s interests to join in defending the concept of freedom of navigation. 

August 19, 2014

Europe should take note of the challenge that China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi set the United States at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting earlier this month. In remarks to the press, Wang challenged Washington’s advocacy of high seas freedoms byarguing that the “current situation of the South China Sea is generally stable, and the freedom of navigation there has never seen any problems.” The increasingly circuitous nature of this debate suggests that support for the U.S. by third parties such as Europe will be necessary to break the logjam and reinforce a principle that Europe also relies on for its prosperity and security.

What was not apparent in Wang’s remarks is that the dispute between the U.S. and China is not about commercial ships, but military ones. According to Beijing’s interpretation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), military activities within a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – which extends 200 nautical miles seaward from a state’s coastline – are banned. Washington argues that this is a distorted understanding of the law, and is supported in this view by the majority of states worldwide. Only about two dozen countries openly agree with China’s interpretation.

There are many facets of China’s disputes with the United States over the South China Sea, but none generates more rancour than the question of military activities within an EEZ. This dispute has been the source of most U.S.-China flashpoints in the region, including China’s harassment of the surveillance ship USS Impeccable in 2009 and the near-collision of a Chinese vessel with the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens earlier this year. Following China’s announcement of an Air Defence Identification Zone over the East China Sea in 2013, it now appears that Beijing is seeking to exert sovereign control over the skies as well, and given China’s history of harassing and coercive behaviour, mid-air confrontations with the U.S. cannot be ruled out in the future.

Yet while the U.S. has defended its right to conduct military activities during recent crises, Washington is coy about raising the issue on a routine basis, favouring instead the vaguer call for “freedom of navigation,” This could be due to a lack of unequivocal support in the region for the U.S. position. Countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, India and Japan have all expressed reservations over the rights of foreign military vessels to operate in their EEZs. While these countries are all vigorous proponents of UNCLOS, and are sceptical over the legality of China’s historically based maritime claims, they are largely silent over the EEZ issue. This of course adds to the potency of Wang’s recent comments: they suggest that the U.S. is a regional outlier with a policy not recognised by others.

Some countries believe that unfettered military activities in coastal waters may invite gunboat diplomacy or threaten their resource sovereignty. Others, such as Japan, are hedging directly against China. Amid doubts over Washington’s ability to uphold the principle of the freedom of the high seas, Tokyo believes that the proscription of military activities within its EEZ may one day come in useful in deterring intrusive activities off Japan’s own coastline.

Stakes

Meet China's Most Famous Single Dad

AUGUST 18, 2014 
With divorce rates spiraling, the biography of ancient sage Confucius resonates once again. 


The scandal is more than 2,500 years old; but to the Chinese Internet, it feels fresh and exciting. State media People's Daily hascalled it an "ancient celebrity divorce storm," and one reader on microblogging platform Weibo asked, hopefully as a joke, whether it was "just a rumor." This tempest in a fine China teacup is the perpetually surprising fact that Confucius -- the famous Chinese philosopher born in 551 B.C. whose teachings in The Analects emphasized the primacy of family obligations -- was a divorced single dad.

The story of how Confucius married at 19, had a son, and split from his wife has been around for thousands of years. But it found renewed resonance in China when the Ministry of Civil Affairs announced on June 17 that 3.5 million couples had filed for divorce there in 2013, up 12.8 percent from the previous year. The ministry added that this capped 10 years of steadily rising divorce numbers. Less than a month after those figures came out, an essay by Li Jingheng, a young history scholar in the large city of Chengdu, Sichuan, from April 2011 got recycled and began pinging around the Chinese Internet. It showed up on a forum hosted by state-run People's Daily and a popular news feed on mobile chat platform WeChat.

The facts themselves are old news, but Li's essay, which reads more like self-help than scholarship, has won over modern readers. One wrote on Weibo that the piece was "lively and interesting. When the image of the sage is filled out with such detail, it narrows the distance between saints and mortals." Another Weibo user cryptically but movingly wrote, "As someone who has led the life of a restless loser, I took no small comfort in reading this story. For so many years, I've felt that I let my mother and father down."

Because most details of Confucius's marriage and divorce have been lost to history, Li uses a few scant clues -- in Chinese idiom, "spider silk and horse tracks" -- to construct a portrait of Confucius as an open-minded humanist, someone who valued compassion over ceremony. Li writes that Confucius raised his son, Bo Yu, as a single dad after the sage divorced his wife for unknown reasons. (Sam Crane, an expert on ancient Chinese philosophy at Williams College, and others have argued that Li is making a leap to label the arrangement "divorce," but records do indicate that the sage was long estranged from his wife.) After Bo Yu's death many years later, when the scholar was 67, Confucius gave his daughter-in-law permission to remarry. The marriage of Confucius's grandson, Zi Si, also ended in divorce, Li writes, creating three generations of unions that did not fit the socially acceptable norm.