4 September 2014

Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahari announces new front to wage war on India

Written by Praveen Swami,New Delhi
September 4, 2014 

In a 55-minute video posted online, Zawahri also renewed a longstanding vow of loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. (source: Reuters/file)
Zawahri described the formation of "Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent" as a glad tidings for Muslims "in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam and Gujarat.

“I bring you good tidings”, al-Qaeda’s third-in-command Said al-Masri said in a macabre speech that was released online four weeks after a Hellfire missile blew his body apart near Pakistan’s Miramshah on 21 May, 2010. “Last February’s India operation was against a Jewish locale in the west of the Indian capital [sic., throughout], in the area of the German bakeries—a fact that the enemy tried to hide—and close to 20 Jews were killed”.

Now, four years on, that disembodied, incoherent boast has turned out to be prophecy.

Early on Thursday morning, Indian time, fugitive al-Qaeda commander Ayman al-Zawahari announced the formation of a new wing of the feared terrorist group dedicated to waging jihad in the Indian subcontinent.

In the videotape—the first released by the al-Qaeda chief since August 2013—al-Zawaheri promises that al-Qaeda will now expand its operations throughout the region: “Our brothers in Burma, Kashmir, Islamabad, Bangladesh”, he says, “we did not forget you in AQ and will liberate you form injustice and oppression”. The new branch, he says is in particular “a message that we did not forget you, our Muslim brothers in India”.

He says al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, “break all borders created by Britain in India”, and called on all Muslims in the region to “unite under the credo of the one god”.

The new organisation, named the Jamaat Qaidat al-jihad fi’shibhi al-qarrat al-Hindiya, or Organisation of The Base of Jihad in the Indian Sub-Continent, also released online manifestos written by al-Zawahiri, spokesperson Usama Mahmoud, and organisational chief Asim Umar.

Little information is available on the men who lead the new organisation, but both are believed to be Pakistani nationals serving with al-Qaeda’s command in that country. Umar has issued several manifestos and articles on al-Qaeda platforms, critiquing democracy and calling for armed jihad.

Last year, Umar issued an appeal directed at Indian Muslims: “You who have ruled India for eight hundred years, you who lit the flame of the one true God in the darkness of polytheism: how can you remain in your slumber when the Muslims of the world are awakening?” the al-Qaeda ideologue Asim Umar asked India’s Muslims last summer.

“If the youth of the Muslim world have joined the battlefields with the slogan ‘Shari’a or Martyrdom,’ and put their lives at stake to establish the Caliphate, how can you lag behind them? Why is there no storm in your ocean,” Mr. Umar demanded to know.

Experts note that the formation of AQIS comes at a time the organisation has seen significant reverses in West Asia, with the Dawlah Islamiyyah, or Islamic State, displacing its forces in large swathes of Syria and Iraq. The declaration of a Caliphate by the Islamic State was intended to signal that it now claims leadership position of the global jihadist movement—a position long held by al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda has also suffered losses in funding and legitimacy among financial backers of the global jihad, who now see the Islamic State as a more credible organisation.

Lessons from China

Santosh Mehrotra
September 4, 2014 

The HinduON THE TABLE: Abolishing the Planning Commission and creating a new institution in its place requires a redefinition of the old organisation’s functions. Picture shows former Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, addressing a meeting in Guwahati. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

In contrast to China, India remains one of the most fiscally centralised federal systems in the world with a one-size-fits-all design of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes

The new government is to abolish the Planning Commission and create a new institution in its place. This requires a redefinition of the functions of the old organisation. Transferring the project appraisal function and the erstwhile Planning Commission staff to line ministries would be good moves. However, the following new functions for the new Planning Commission should be considered in the light of concerns expressed by the new government.

The Planning Commission has barely managed to perform the function of systematically collecting best practices in policy or programme design from States and replicating successful models. The new body and not line ministries would be the appropriate body for this purpose. Even without a major financial allocation function (which is likely to go to the Ministry of Finance), the new government can change the design for centrally sponsored programmes that have not performed despite decades of being in place (such as sanitation, Integrated Child Development Services) if the Prime Minister wishes to take this role seriously, by mandating solutions on the line ministries and following up with incentive funds for the purpose. Leaving the task of programme redesign to line ministries if they have historically not delivered outcomes is risking continuation of unreformed programmes. On the other hand, encouraging redesign of programmes through fund allocations would especially encourage States to make significant programme readjustments within broad parameters laid down by the new Planning Commission/line ministry.

Reforms after experiments

Second, in China, Five Year Plans continued to be prepared after the economic reforms just as they had been prepared before 1979. They did not move to a mere long-term perspective plan. A long-term perspective plan has little practical value other than laying out a vision. It is not a usable document. Of course, the current Five Year Plans may also be criticised for not being used for practical purposes. However, that can be changed if the new National Democratic Alliance government so decides. It would then become an important tool in the hands of the Prime Minister, as Chair of the new body, to monitor progress (well beyond the mere collection of data that is put on the Prime Minister Office’s Delivery Monitoring Unit) and go beyond the Results-Framework Document currently agreed by each Ministry with the Cabinet Secretariat’s Performance Management Division. Since the Prime Minister (and consequently the PMO) can instruct the line ministry to either redesign the programmes that are not delivering or scrap them, this role is consistent with the transfer of the Planning Commission’s annual Plan financial allocation function to the Ministry of Finance (together with the much-awaited distinction between Plan and non-Plan funds).

Why do Indians want to study abroad?

Philip G. Altbach
September 4, 2014 

The HinduGREENER PASTURES: A degree from a top foreign university tends to be valued more in the Indian job market than a local degree, a perception based on facts too. 

When bright students look around India for a place to study for an advanced degree, they find few top-quality programmes

Post-graduate students from India are increasingly choosing to study abroad. The U.S. Council of Graduate Schools’ new statistics show that offers of admission to Indian post-graduate students are up 25 per cent for 2013-14 from the previous year, compared to a 9 per cent increase for all countries. Numbers from China showed no increase compared to last year. While these statistics are only for the U.S., India’s most popular destination, it is likely that other countries such as Germany, Canada and the U.K. are also seeing significant increases from India.

Reasons for departure

Why? There are, no doubt, many reasons why Indians are choosing to study abroad. Two of these factors are troubling for India’s universities and for prospects for the high-tech economy. When bright students look around India for a place to study for an advanced degree, they find few top-quality programmes. In the social sciences and humanities, there are a small number of respectable departments, but absolutely none that are considered by international experts as in the top class of academic programmes. In the hard sciences, biotechnology, and related fields, the situation is more favourable with a few institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology, the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and some others, despite limited acknowledgement from abroad,being internationally competitive by most measures. But the numbers of students who can be served by these schools is quite limited.

Thus, if a bright Indian wants to study for a doctorate or even a master’s degree at a top department or university in most fields, he or she is forced to study overseas. Further, a degree from a top foreign university tends to be valued more in the Indian job market than a local degree — a perception based not only on snobbery but also on facts. While master’s degrees can be quite costly in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and elsewhere, doctorates are in fact quite inexpensive because of the likelihood of securing a research or teaching fellowship or assistantship that pays for most or all of the costs.

Not only are overseas programmes and departments more prestigious, they also have far better facilities, laboratories and a more favourable culture of research. Top faculty members are often more accessible and it is easier to become affiliated with a laboratory or institute. Academic politics exists everywhere, and Indians may suffer from occasional discrimination abroad, but overall academic conditions are likely to be better than at home.

For a WTO stand with PDS in hand

Deepankar Basu, Debarshi Das
September 4, 2014

India should continue with its stand at the WTO to demand a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding for food security before the protocol on trade facilitation is signed. It should also resist efforts to dismantle the Public Distribution System

In December 2013, two important items among the many others adopted at the Ninth World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Bali were the decisions respectively on the Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TF) and on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes. The former relates to the reduction of administrative barriers to trade — like dealing with custom barriers, documentation and transparency — while the latter concerns the procurement and storage of food grains by state agencies for the public distribution of food.

Recently, global attention was focussed on these two items as India argued that the adoption of the protocol on trade facilitation should be postponed till a permanent solution to public stockholding for food security had been worked out. Despite intense pressure from the developed countries, including the United States, India stuck to its stand even as the deadline for adopting the protocol on TF passed on July 31.

Even though the developing countries have generally backed measures to enhance food security, support for India’s stand was not easy to come by this time round. Only Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela stood with India at the WTO. Later the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development came out in support of India’s position. Many countries have openly criticised this step as India’s intransigence. But is India’s stand unreasonable?

Hunger and under-nutrition

India faces serious problems of hunger and under-nutrition. According to National Sample Survey data, average calorie and protein intake have been steadily declining over the past few decades. In rural areas, the average calorie intake per person per day declined from 2,221 kcal in 1983 to 2,020 kcal in 2009-10. Over the same period, the average protein intake per person per day declined from 62 gm to 55 gm. One sees a similar pattern in urban India; the average calorie and protein intake declined from 2,089 kcal and 57 gm in 1983 respectively to 1,946 kcal and 53.5 gm in 2009-10. The vast majority of the population remains seriously undernourished.

Why Australia selling India uranium is a big deal

The Australian PM is expected to sign a deal to sell uranium to India. The impetus for this change in policy came from the increased importance of bilateral ties and not commercial calculations
Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s initiative may prove to be a game-changer because of its psychological boost to bilateral sentiments. 

DURING his visit to India this week, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to sign a deal to sell Australian uranium that will be the single-most significant advance in bilateral relations with India in decades. The journey to get to this point has been tortuous and the controversy is unlikely to fade anytime soon. The main impetus for the change in Australia’s policy came from geopolitical changes and the increased importance of the bilateral relationship with India, rather than commercial calculations.

Nuclear energy is used by about 30 countries to generate 11 per cent of the world’s electricity, with almost zero greenhouse gas emissions. Currently there are 437 operating reactors and around 70 under construction. Nuclear energy is tipped to grow between 23-100 per cent by 2030 (the long-term impact of the 2011 Fukushima disaster remains impossible to predict with certainty, hence the wide range in the estimates). Most of the growth in nuclear energy will be in Asia (China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam).

Uranium needs
India’s uranium requirement is 900 tonnes.
The world’s current total requirement for uranium is 66,000 tonnes.
Australia holds 31 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves but its share of the global uranium market is only 12 per cent.
Uranium processed at Australian mines must go through conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication before it can be used in a nuclear reactor.

The world’s current total requirement for uranium is 66,000 tonnes. The biggest users are the US (18,800 tonnes) and France (9,900 tonnes). India’s uranium requirement is 900 tonnes, compared to 6,300tU for China and 5,500 tU for Russia. In Asia, the other big uranium consumers are South Korea (5,000 tonnes) where nuclear energy accounts for 28 per cent of electricity generation, and Japan (2,100 tonnes in 2014) where nuclear energy produced 29 per cent of electricity before the Fukushima accident in March 2011 but has fallen to below 2 per cent.

Securing India and resetting the national security strategy

Anil Chait
Aug 25, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to Army and Air Force personnel at Ladakh on 12 August, when read closely, reveals multi-fold implications for India and gives a peek into India's approach towards its belligerent western neighbour. By emphasizing that Pakistan had no strength to fight an open conventional war with India and hence is taking recourse to indulging in a proxy war by exploiting the Stability-Instability paradigm in our Sub Continent, Prime Minister Modi was highlighting the preferred strategy of the weak for generating asymmetric tools. Highlighting the sacrifices of our soldiers and that of the Armed Forces, which has suffered more from terrorism rather than from war, he gave a clarion call to all humanitarian forces to unite and combat the global scourge of terrorism. He also added that India is committed to strengthening and uniting with these humanitarian forces. 

How does this translate into policy examination and consideration there-of? It seems to suggest that Pakistan has lost its strength to fight a conventional war. It needs to be evaluated if this lack of appetite is derived out of Pakistan's inability to bear the costs of garnering up adequate conventional forces and equipment to meet the rising capabilities on the Indian side, or whether after its many past misadventures, the futility of the conventional war option has been realized and accepted or whether, it expects the involvement of its forces in resolving other situations both within and on its own western borders to be for a long or very long duration. Whatever be the reasons, in theory Pakistan is truly left with no other option but perception-ally, to ratchet up the level of conflict to the nuclear sphere to maintain stability under conditions of tactical instability, and not much imagination is required to understand this since it is a self-destruct button. Carrying forward its intended purpose of bleeding India through the unconventional but yet more effective, 'terror' route is the deduction and the assessment that the statement reinforces. 

Prime Minister Modi in linking this terror to all terror across the globe and terming the war as a 'humanitarian' battle, is probably seeking to build a new consensus and this needs to be seen in what is happening not only in Af-Pak region but also in Middle East or for that matter in Ukraine. It needs recalling, that post 9/11, India had sought to stress to all those nations which joined up in the 'GWOT that it too was a victim of the same cardinal sin. Yet they did not come on board, either due their own reluctance or the deft manoeuvring by Pakistan which managed to place itself as a more forceful and dependable ally or a victim which was suffering even more since it shared a direct border with Afghanistan, the then terror epicentre. 

Over the past decade, a tectonic shift has brought this epicentre within the territory of Pakistan itself. Indirectly PM Modi's remark emphasizes this and when read along with the plea that all 'humanitarian forces' should join, it is obvious that he is willy-nilly suggesting that India should be ready to play a greater role in the GWOT. If this be an issue on the table at Washington, it would give him opportunity to twist the umbilical cord than binds the US to the Pakistan Army. This hence is a far reaching remark beyond the realms of rhetoric and Indo Pakistan relations which he just chose to nurture. 

Sea-basing threatens India's minimalist nuclear strategy

1 September 2014

Both the draft nuclear doctrine released in 1999 and the official nuclear doctrine released later in 2003 state India's commitment to a minimalist nuclear posture.

This nuclear minimalism was best advocated in the policy of credible minimum deterrence (CMD). Two assumptions inform the concept of CMD. First, that deterrence can be projected at low numbers, and second, that a ready arsenal – delivery vehicles mated with warheads at continuous alert – is unnecessary. The commitment to low numbers of warheads meant that CMD could help avoid unnecessary 'vertical proliferation'. Such a posture was therefore considered propitious for nuclear stability.

But will CMD remain valid as India shifts its nuclear arsenal to the sea? The coming of the Arihant, India's first nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), constitutes a formidable challenge to India's posture of credible minimum deterrence and therefore, also to strategic stability in the region.

The present configuration of INS Arihant allows it to carry 16 nuclear-tipped missiles. By the end of this decade, India plans to deploy five to six such SSBNs. Clearly, the warheads required to arm these submarines would alone be close to the current estimates of the total number of nuclear weapons (between 90-110) in India's arsenal. This increase in numbers would not be alarming if India was to shift its entire nuclear arsenal underwater as France and Britain have done. In fact, in 2000, in a well argued and equally well received book on India's nuclear strategy, Raja Menon – an influential strategic analyst and a retired rear admiral – suggested precisely this course.

Various factors militate against such a prospect, however.

War-War Looms In Ukraine; Hagel Says US Stays Globally Engaged

August 28, 2014 

WASHINGTON: ISIL has battled its way to the Golan Heights, putting its mad troops opposite battle-hardened Israel. NATO says satellite imagery prove Russian troops and materiel are flowing into Ukraine.

The president of Ukraine cancels a trip to Turkey and announces mandatory conscription. “Columns of heavy artillery, huge loads of arms and regular Russian servicemen came to the territory of Ukraine from Russia through the uncontrolled border area,” President Petro Poroshenko said at the start of an emergency meeting of Ukraine’s Nation Security and Defense Council in Kiev, according to his official website.

“Columns of heavy artillery, huge loads of arms and regular Russian servicemen came to the territory of Ukraine from Russia through the uncontrolled border area to save the terrorist gang,” Poroshenko says on the site. “The situation is certainly extremely difficult and nobody is going to simplify it. Still, it is controlled enough for us to refrain from panic, keep a cold mind, a common sense and a hard math.”

Ukraine TV released this video of what it says is a captured Russian tank.

So They also posted this video purporting to show where Russian forces have opened a “new front in the war.

At the ceremony today celebrating the change of command at Special Operations Command, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pointed to SOCOM’s operations as proof that the US is not being passive or withdrawing from its global responsibilities. “In Iraq, special operators on the ground are helping strengthen Iraqi security forces in their fight against ISIL. And in Eastern Europe, they are reinforcing NATO allies in light of Russian aggression in Ukraine,” Hagel noted.

President Obama stated categorically this afternoon that Russian forces are operating in Ukraine and the United Nations Security Council met in emergency session to discuss the crisis. Obama was careful to note the US will not take military action to help Ukraine but will increase “pressure” on Vlad Putin and his chums.

Obama will head next week to the annual NATO summit, this one being held in Britain. President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Francois Hollande are expected to attend. In his remarks today, he noted that Ukraine is not part of NATO, adding that the US took its Article 5 responsibilities — collective defense — very seriously. So — message to Vlad — don’t even think of trying a Ukraine with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania or Poland.

The Real Ukraine Crisis is Coming: The "Day After" Dilemma

September 1, 2014

Get ready Europe: When peace comes to Ukraine the ultimate challenge begins...

As NATO’s Wales Summit approaches—and Russia’s support for Ukrainian separatists grows—the Obama administration and U.S. allies face increasing pressure to act. Most attractive are the simple-sounding solutions, like additional sanctions against Russia or military assistance to Ukraine. Unfortunately, commendable and appropriate desires to deter Moscow and help Kyiv in the short-term are obscuring some unfortunate realities and some painful lessons from other civil wars. The bottom line is that even if Moscow allows Ukraine’s military to defeat the separatists—an outcome that does not seem likely at this point—finding a sustainable solution will be costly and quite difficult.

Ukraine’s weak economy gets worse with every day the fighting continues. Ukraine’s economic problems will be very expensive and challenging to fix in the best of circumstances; even before Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the bloody fighting in and around Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukraine was an economic basket case. For over two decades, the country’s political elites were content dividing and re-dividing the spoils of Ukraine’s largely unreformed economy rather than making tough choices. The results included high foreign debt and deficits, failed international assistance plans, vulnerability to external economic leverage, a largely paper military, and public resentment.

What will this look like when the current conflict eventually ends? Let’s take the best case and assume that current U.S. and Western policies succeed—Moscow gives in, abandons the separatists and allows Ukraine’s military and militias to defeat them quickly. Kyiv’s agenda on the morning after highlights just how bad Ukraine’s situation really is.

In this most favorable of futures, Ukraine will add the reconstruction of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to its existing economic burdens. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk has already acknowledged that this will cost “billions of dollars.” He has directly accused Russia of directing the separatist forces to destroy infrastructure in the region to “strangle” Ukraine’s economy. According to Ukrinform, Ukraine’s state media service, Yatseniuk said that the separatists are destroying “mines, power plants, electrical grids, railways, bridges and communications.” Ukrainian government forces have done great damage too. And Apartments, houses, schools, shops and hospitals are also in ruins.

Beyond its considerable economic cost, the mounting destruction in eastern Ukraine is significant in two other respects. First, it may well be among the strongest deterrents of any Russian effort to annex the region—taking into account that Moscow has had to allocate about $14 billion over the next five years to integrate Crimea (excluding a $6 billion bridge to connect it to Russia), why would the Kremlin want to pay for any new territory? The Donetsk and Luhansk regions together had over two times Crimea’s population at the beginning of the year, have relied heavily on old-style heavy industry with all its expensive problems, and are in much worse shape today than Crimea was. Mr. Yatseniuk’s charges, if true, only add to the price.

War in Europe is not a Hysterical Idea

War in Europe is not a Hysterical Idea

August 29 -- Over and over again — throughout the entirety of my adult life, or so it feels — I have been shown Polish photographs from the beautiful summer of 1939: The children playing in the sunshine, the fashionable women on Krakow streets. I have even seen a picture of a family wedding that took place in June 1939, in the garden of a Polish country house I now own. All of these pictures convey a sense of doom, for we know what happened next. September 1939 brought invasion from both east and west, occupation, chaos, destruction, genocide. Most of the people who attended that June wedding were soon dead or in exile. None of them ever returned to the house.

In retrospect, all of them now look naive. Instead of celebrating weddings, they should have dropped everything, mobilized, prepared for total war while it was still possible. And now I have to ask: Should Ukrainians, in the summer of 2014, do the same? Should central Europeans join them?

I realize that this question sounds hysterical, and foolishly apocalyptic, to U.S. or Western European readers. But hear me out, if only because this is a conversation many people in the eastern half of Europe are having right now. 

In the past few days, Russian troops bearing the flag of a previously unknown country, Novorossiya, have marched across the border of southeastern Ukraine. The Russian Academy of Sciences recently announced it will publish a history of Novorossiya this autumn, presumably tracing its origins back to Catherine the Great. Various maps of Novorossiya are said to be circulating in Moscow. Some include Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk, cities that are still hundreds of miles away from the fighting. Some place Novorossiya along the coast, so that it connects Russia to Crimea and eventually to Transnistria, the Russian-occupied province of Moldova. Even if it starts out as an unrecognized rump state — Abkhazia and South Ossetia, “states” that Russia carved out of Georgia, are the models here — Novorossiya can grow larger over time.

Russian soldiers will have to create this state — how many of them depends upon how hard Ukraine fights, and who helps them — but eventually Russia will need more than soldiers to hold this territory. Novorossiya will not be stable as long as it is inhabited by Ukrainians who want it to stay Ukrainian. There is a familiar solution to this, too. A few days ago, Alexander Dugin, an extreme nationalist whose views have helped shape those of the Russian president, issued an extraordinary statement. “Ukraine must be cleansed of idiots,” he wrote — and then called for the “genocide” of the “race of bastards.”

Hot Issue – Lies, Damned Lies and Russian Disinformation

August 13, 2014

The Russian Federation uses extensive propaganda, outright lies, and—most importantly—disinformation as part of the hybrid warfare it is waging against Ukraine and the West. Disinformation combines truth, what people want to be true, and cleverly disguised outright falsehoods. Moscow has been actively using such disinformation as part of a conscious broader policy on Ukraine, and it readily changes or rejects elements of the false narrative it has been spinning as political events on the ground shift. Russian disinformation has landed on fertile soil domestically because it plays on Russians’ deep rooted emotions and serves to turn people’s attention away from more immediate political and economic concerns. Abroad, Moscow’s message is given undue exposure and lack of questioning due to some Western journalists’ misunderstanding between balance and true objectivity, as well as the existence of a large constituency whose jobs rely on the West maintaining strong relations with Russia. In order to limit the spread and impact of disinformation, Western governments will need to recognize the difference between simple lies and actual disinformation, acquire expertise to identify disinformation and parse the truths and falsehoods within it, as well as develop methods to answer and counteract such disinformation both at home and abroad. The policy changes necessary to achieve this will require political will and some costs, but the costs of doing nothing may be even greater.


Writing in The Moscow Times on July 30, Andrei Malgin pointed to just how differently the Russian authorities behaved after the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 airliner compared to how the Soviet ones reacted when they shot down KAL Flight 007 in 1983. At that time, he writes, “Soviet media did not deny the incident but focused all its propaganda efforts on explaining the context of how it happened” (The Moscow Times, July 30).

This time, however, “the Kremlin-controlled media has repeatedly [and variously] claimed that: the airplane was not shot down at all, but fell out of the sky by itself; a bomb exploded aboard the airplane; the airplane was hit by a Ukrainian missile fired from the ground; a Ukrainian air force fighter pursued and then attacked the plane; the [United States] shot down the plane in order to damage Russia’s reputation; no living people were aboard the plane as it flew on autopilot from Amsterdam, where it had been pre-loaded with ‘rotting corpses.’ ”

The Moscow commentator argued that under President Vladimir Putin, “it was not enough to simply twist the facts to their own purposes” because “when propaganda is based on nuances of interpretation, the chance always remains that someone with a fresh perspective or a critical mindset can cast doubt on those claims.” But, Malgin says, “when the authorities base their propaganda entirely on lies, they achieve their desired result faster and leave no room for doubt” (The Moscow Times, July 30).

Malgin is clearly on to something with his suggestion that Putin is attempting to create “an alternative reality” with lies. But more is going on than that. Indeed, the scale of Moscow’s dishonesty about Ukraine over the last six months has been so unimaginably large that many have been driven to compile constantly updated lists of the 40, 60 or even 100 most outrageous things Vladimir Putin and his minions have said about Ukraine. [1] These observers are shocked that so many people in the Russian Federation appear to accept what Putin’s regime is saying as true. And at the same time they are outraged that so many in the West appear to have fallen victim to Moscow’s lies as well—either out of a confusion between balance and objectivity, a conviction that all governments lie and that no one should be surprised, or a commitment to maintaining good relations with the Russian government no matter what it does.

Such reactions are understandable if not particularly laudable. But they have combined to distract attention from the fact that what Putin has been doing, while it has its roots in past Russian state practice, represents a dramatic expansion. This upsurge includes not just a greater number of lies and damned lies, but also more thoroughness in Moscow’s carefully considered use of disinformation to advance Russia’s interests at home and abroad. No other government has ever employed this type of policy with such effectiveness; and few have ever had a greater need to counter it if they are to defend both their values and their interests.

What Putin is doing prompts three questions: What is disinformation as compared to simple lies and even damned lies? Why is it so effective? And how can it be identified and countered? Those are the subjects of this essay.

Disinformation Is Not the Same Thing as Lying

Pro-Russian Rebels Push South From Donetsk Toward Black Sea Port Town

The strategic coastal city of Mariupol is bracing for attack as pro-Russian rebels move south—and brag that Kiev is next.

NOVOTROITSKE, Ukraine — The front line moved south from Donetsk on Monday as pro-Russian separatists pushed toward Mariupol, a strategic coastal city on the Sea of Azov.

Shortly after 5 p.m., two covered military trucks heading south pulled up to a gas station along the main highway to Donetsk at the village of Novotroitske, 45 miles north of Mariupol. Four heavily armed men and one woman in camouflage jumped out and set up a roadblock, aiming automatic weapons at vehicles, forcing them to stop.

Mariupol has been bracing for an attack since pro-Russian separatists seized Novoazovsk to the east on the Russian border last week. 

The roadblock was an example of how quickly the reality on the ground is changing. Even locals aren’t always sure who is in control along the front line.

"First I was in Sloviansk, then I'll go to Mariupol and after that I'll go to Kiev,” said one of the gunmen at the roadblock. He was a Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) soldier in Novotroitske, who identified himself as “Vologda,” which he said was the city in Russia where he’s from.

"First I was in Sloviansk, then I'll go to Mariupol and after that I'll go to Kiev.”

Vologda said he joined the fight for an “independent Donbass” referring to the contested region where separatists and the Ukrainian army have fought for months.

“We are against oligarchs and against fascists,” he said.

Vologda’s presence was a stark example of how Russia is operating in its stealth invasion, or “incursion,” as NATO likes to call it. There is no blitzkrieg. Instead, it’s a piecemeal Russian and rebel offensive against an increasingly beleaguered Ukrainian military and its NATO supporters. And it’s widening. Russia has continued to deny involvement in Ukraine despite mounting evidence. Last week separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko claimed that Russian soldiers were volunteers on vacation.

The Ukrainian army had been steadily advancing on the battlefield in recent weeks, but the opening of a third front in the southeast has put them on the defensive. Separatists encircled Ukrainian troops in Ilovaisk who reportedly suffered heavy casualties while withdrawing and the separatists have pushed to retake territory they had lost.

Two of the male soldiers on the road to Mariupol wore the black, red, and blue insignia of the separatists, and the woman wore a patch resembling a U.S. confederate flag without the stars as well as separatist insignia. Vologda said the other two soldiers were also Russians. A fourth soldier was too far away to see his insignia.

How Does Russia’s Military Intervention in the Ukraine Change the Situation

Leonid Bershidsky
Bloomberg News
September 1, 2014
Russians change game in Ukraine

BERLIN – Regular Russian troops are fighting in Ukraine, and it’s a whole new game. The capture of Russian paratroopers in eastern Ukraine, and the quiet burials of other Russian solders, provided enough evidence that the nature of the conflict had changed. Now, though, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has officially announced that “Russian troops were actually brought into Ukraine.”

A second front has been opened against the Ukrainian Army in the rebellious Donetsk region. The Ukrainians were forced to give up the town of Novoazovsk on the Sea of Azov, not far from the strategic port of Mariupol, used by Kiev as the supply base for its anti-rebel operation.

Ukrainian military commanders say Russian troops entered the town. Although such claims have been made before, there’s more reason than ever to believe them today.

It’s highly unlikely that the pro-Russian rebels, whom the better-equipped Ukrainian troops had confined to the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, could have suddenly showed up at the Ukrainians’ rear and attacked the seaside towns. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which had never before accused Russia of sending in troops, now says there are at least 1,000 Russian service members fighting in Ukraine.

Judging from anecdotal information about troops’ funerals and from reports from the Russian Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee, the Russian troops are elite airborne units.

They will be the most formidable opposition the Ukrainian military has faced since the conflict began five months ago — a far cry from the untrained local separatists, assorted war re-enactment enthusiasts and nationalist fanatics they’ve dealt with so far.

By rotating a few thousand elite troops in and out of Ukraine, the Kremlin can keep up the fighting indefinitely. Now that Russia’s direct involvement is getting impossible to deny, a broader invasion becomes a possibility.

Ukraine’s understaffed, undertrained forces would be no match for the Russian Army, in which Russian President Vladimir Putin has been making a major investment. In 2013, Russia was the third biggest defense spender globally, after the U.S. and China.

As Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk correctly put it, Ukraine can “handle Russian terrorists but not the Russian Army.”

Afghan Army Killings Threaten U.S. Aid


The Afghan army is struggling both to provide security and prosecute illegal killings carried out by its own soldiers, officials say—and millions of dollars hang in the balance.

The White House has called on the Afghan government to investigate up to 15 suspected cases of illegal killings by its security forces—with seven incidents this year, according to U.S. and Afghan officials in Kabul and Washington.

The incidents occurred in units in virtually every regional area of Afghanistan, with two of this year’s alleged extrajudicial killings reported by U.S. soldiers who witnessed the events, one of the officials said. The seven incidents were winnowed down from more than 30 suspected cases, with a cluster of the reports concentrated in eastern Afghanistan and units of the 201st Corps near Kabul, which just received human rights training, several U.S. officials said.

The officials said many of the suspicious killings were reported by locals or Afghan soldiers themselves, in units that U.S. troops had largely left as part of their staged departure in preparation for an almost complete troop drawdown by the end of 2016—which could be accelerated to a drawdown by the end of this year, if an Afghan president isn’t chosen in time to sign a security agreement with the U.S.

If the Afghan government fails to act quickly enough to find and punish those responsible—or prove the charges groundless—it could losing millions, if not billions, of dollars in U.S. aid under the terms of the Leahy Amendment of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act. It faces a similar provision in the Defense Department Appropriations Act, which essentially blocks American aid to governments or security units that commit human rights abuses.

The incidents could also spur other NATO members to reconsider their commitment to the country, with the NATO security agreement with Afghanistan expiring at the end of this year and NATO leaders meeting this week to discuss what they’re willing to invest in money and manpower going forward.

The reported killings also strengthen the arguments of critics of President Barack Obama’s drawdown plan, who say it shows the quarter-million-strong army still has not developed the “higher order” functions of a modern military. The Afghan army still lacks experienced investigators or military prosecutors able to ferret out abuse and make charges stick, in addition to lagging on even more pressing needs like logistics.

The Pentagon budget passed for 2014 tightened Leahy Amendment restrictions, triggering a review of allegations stretching back to a single incident in 2011, as well as seven reported killings last year and seven more this year.

None of the officials would estimate how many people may have been killed, although the number of incidents being looked into indicates it’s at least 15. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The reports of possible abuse were enough to spur U.S. military commanders to reach out to their Afghan counterparts and tell them they needed to act. Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph Dunford also sent out a reminder to all troops in early spring to watch for such abuse, and to report it.

Is Pakistan On Way from Failing to Failed State?

Sushant Sareen, Senior Fellow, VIF

A theatre of the absurd is on display in Islamabad with the street-fighters of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri breaching the barricades to storm the Parliament and lay siege to the Prime Minister's House. The denouement of this clear collapse of state authority in the face of a marauding mob is not yet clear. What is clear is that democracy has been grievously damaged, the civilian government has been reduced to a mockery and the political and administrative system has been brought to the verge of a meltdown. The question is no longer about whether or not Nawaz Sharif survives, but of what sort of a caricature he will be reduced to if he survives and what will replace him if he doesn't survive. Even more important will be the impact of the political implosion underway on the security, stability and economic viability of Pakistan.

To be fair to Nawaz Sharif, neither Imran Khan nor Tahirul Qadri have a real case against him. Nor for that matter do they have a cogent and coherent plan on how to run Pakistan, if indeed they manage to force Nawaz Sharif out of office and take over power. Sloganeering is one thing, fixing a broken down country like Pakistan quite another. Given the brainlessness, belligerence and anarchic demagoguery on display, both Imran Khan and Qadri don't inspire any confidence whatsoever that they are up to the job. Their main demand for now is to see the back of Nawaz Sharif. Chances are that if they achieve what they want, it will be a pyrrhic victory, one in which they will also be left out in the cold.

The single most dangerous trend that both these people have unleashed is that they have crafted a new template on how to make and break governments in Pakistan. Anyone who can now manage to gather a committed crowd of 10-20 thousand can hold a government hostage and even pull it down by causing chaos and anarchy in the seat of government. What Imran Khan and Qadri have done today, some other political party or even religious party can do tomorrow, making governance by a political government next to impossible. To an extent, this template of political terrorism or mobocracy has been on display in other parts of the world – Egypt (Tehrir Square), Ukraine, Georgia etc. come to mind. Even in India, the AAP tried something similar when they decided to besiege the PM House some months back. The AAP's antics on Raj Path on the eve of the Republic Day parade were also somewhat similar to what Khan and Qadri have done in Islamabad. But while India's mature polity snuffed out the AAP's anarchist approach to politics, Pakistan is being put through a political churning that could easily escalate into a political implosion which at the very least will deal a body blow to the fledgling democracy in that country.

What is most shocking is how things have reached such a pass in just over an year since Nawaz Sharif won a resounding verdict in the 2013 General Elections. Although Imran Khan's main grouse against Nawaz Sharif is that he stole the election – Khan has deluded himself into believing that he had won the elections – the fact remains that it was by and large a clean election and Nawaz Sharif was always the front runner. In other words, Imran has absolutely no case as far as the elections go. Imran Khan's screaming and shouting over the elections hasn't received much traction except among his die-hard supporters. While there is some merit in some of the criticisms (coming from Imran Khan's foul-mouth, these are more invectives than criticisms) that Imran has made of the Sharif brothers – their style of governance, the rampant nepotism, allegations of deal making on mega projects etc. – there wasn't anything like a mass upsurge against the Sharifs. In the one year and more that he has been in office, Nawaz Sharif hasn't exactly worked any miracles in terms of putting the economy back on the rails, ending the crippling power shortages, creating jobs, reining in prices or any of the other tall promises he had made during the election campaign.

‘Pak infiltrators out there somewhere in the forest…waiting, just like us’

Written by Praveen Swami,Khanaba
September 2, 2014.
The LoC fence must be rebuilt every year. 

The Indian Express travels to the frontline in Macchel, scene of the biggest counter-infiltration operation in five years.

He looked out into the grey shroud blowing off the cauldron of cloud below, watching two dark dots move up the Bhui nar — a stream leading up to the wall of concertina wire, battlefield radar and thermal sensors on the Line of Control (LoC). They were just bears, playing on a small patch of ice that had survived the summer. Sipahi Vaibhav Kumar’s fingers didn’t, however, come off the trigger guard on his assault rifle.

“They’re out there somewhere,” he said, “waiting, just like us”.

Last week, seven men, camouflaged inside the cloud, made their way up a stream just like this, their backpacks stuffed with packets of Sooper Egg and Milk Cookies, Nimko masala-mix, medicines, grenades and ammunition, sparking off the biggest counter-infiltration operation since 2009.

Five of the terrorists, and three soldiers, have since died in the fighting that continues to rage in northern Kashmir’s dense Kalaroos forest — a battle that is part of a larger war sparked by growing infiltration across the LoC ahead of elections to Jammu and Kashmir’s legislative assembly.

Exchanges of fire at forward posts have become more frequent through August; exchanges the Army says result from the Pakistan military’s support for infiltrating groups.

The LoC, many in the Army fear, might be about to catch fire — and Vaibhav Kumar and his comrades, stationed at the 4,100-metre post on top of the Khanabal ridge, are manning the ‘great wall’ that is meant to keep the flames out of Kashmir.

The Kalaroos battle

Last week, when rifleman Ghulam Ahmad pushed open the door of an earth-and-stone shepherds’ hut near the Gurdaji stream, not far from his hometown in Kupwara, he started a battle that now involves hundreds of troops.

Local residents had seen strangers moving up the stream, and the 53 Brigade despatched troops to search the area. The patrol saw frightened women and children fleeing the meadow around the hut.

Minutes later, as Ahmad entered it, he would learn why.

Naik Neeraj Kumar, a resident of Khurja in Uttar Pradesh, was standing next to Ahmad when the bullets hit his buddy, shattering the soldier’s hip. Kumar fired back, killing three terrorists. But as Kumar dragged Ahmad out of harm’s way, he was himself shot at from up the hill — and killed.

Extremist Narratives in Pakistan's Schools

02 Sep 2014

In their report, 'Education Reform in Pakistan', the International Crisis Group finds that at the heart of the religious extremism and sectarian violence that plagues Pakistan lies a broken school curriculum that perpetuates divisive and discriminatory narratives.

A report from International Crisis Group (ICG) finds that Pakistan's education system is in crisis, with millions out of school in a "dilapidated and dysfunctional" public education sector. In a large number of cases madrasas (religious schools) fill this gap, many of which propagate religious extremism.

The current situation is linked back to the historically integral role of political Islam in the public education curriculum. According to ICG, this decision was just one facet of a more general process of Islamisation in Pakistan, aimed at legitimising authoritarian rule, and fostering a sense of what it meant to be Pakistani defined almost entirely in terms of Islamic identity. An example of this tendency picked out by the report was the narrative fostered in public schools that resistance to Indian rule in Kashmir was a religious duty and that all Hindus were enemies of Pakistan.

More recently, militant violence has exacerbated the dismal state of education

More recently, militant violence has exacerbated the dismal state of education, with jihadi groups destroying buildings, particularly at girls' schools, where terrorised parents have been forced to keep their daughters at home. The attack on schoolgirl and education activist Malala Yousafzai in October 2012 made headlines around the world, but the report claims that little has been done by Pakistan to curb these trends.

This situation is detrimental not just to the rights of children, but ultimately to the state's ability to combat extremism. ICG suggest that this neglect can only be reversed by overhauling a Pakistani curriculum that cultivates intolerance and xenophobia in young people.

The International Crisis Group recommends a number of urgent measures that would enable the Pakistani public education system to foster a more tolerant citizenry, encouraging peaceable attitudes both domestically and towards the outside world.

Key Findings

The eighteenth constitutional amendment devolved legislative and executive authority over education to the provinces to make it more responsive to local needs. 
However, Pakistan's school curriculum still largely reflects an overly centralised state's priorities, emphasising national cohesion – within a rigid ideological framework – at the expense of regional and religious diversity. 
Private schools, emerging largely in response to shortcomings in the public school system, account for 26 per cent of enrolment in rural areas and 59 per cent in urban centres but vary greatly in methodology, tuition and teacher qualifications. 
The madrasa (religious school) sector flourishes, with no meaningful efforts made to regulate the seminaries, many of which propagate religious and sectarian hatred. 

Policy Recommendations

An Equal and Opposite Reaction? Xi’s Grand Tour of the Americas

August 22, 2014
An Equal and Opposite Reaction? Xi’s Grand Tour of the Americas

This July, Chinese President Xi Jinping embarked on state visits to Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela and attended a summit of the loose group of major developing countries known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in Fortaleza, Brazil. This was his second trip to Latin America in less than two years in office, following a previous tour of the Americas in 2013 which included Mexico, Costa Rica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

China’s influence in the region has grown rapidly in recent years, facilitated by the rapid increase in bilateral trade and investment, which as of 2013 stands at $252 billion, second only to the United States. China also appeals to the antipathy of many Latin American leaders toward the United States. Illustratively, this past January the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Havana established a China-CELAC forum excluding the United States and Canada.

Historically, China has shown little inclination to engage politically or strategically with Latin America, conceding leadership to the United States due to its manifest advantages, such as proximity and long historical involvement in the region’s affairs. This ambivalence, however, has rapidly evaporated due to China’s growing commercial interests, U.S. interference in East Asia and fears of encirclement through bodies such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Although China and the countries visited this year signed a large number of deals, many in Latin America have expressed doubts about the benefits of Chinese participation in the region. In the long-term, this skepticism may impede China’s ability to form strategically significant partnerships.


Venezuela appears to offer the most fertile ground for Chinese efforts to exert influence and expand profits in Latin America. Antagonistic to the United States, energy-rich and in need of new export markets due to decreasing U.S. demand, Venezuela is also beset by rampant inflation, a chronic shortage of consumer goods and capital, partly as a result of President Nicolás Maduro’s commitment to increase public spending to secure his election. China may also displace the United States as the nation’s largest trading partner next year. These factors have encouraged Maduro to attempt to consolidate a “strategic future alliance” with China (El País, September 25, 2013).

During Xi’s visit to Venezuela this year, the two countries signed 38 agreements in the areas of technology and innovation, petroleum, mining, industry, finance, housing, construction, transport and agriculture. The accords mainly reiterate previous agreements reached when Maduro visited Beijing in September 2013, which also included a $5 billion credit line to be incorporated into the China-Venezuela fund and a 60,000-hectare land concession to a Chinese agricultural company. Additional agreements include a mineralogical survey of the country and a feasibility study of development at the Las Cristinas gold mine. Maduro also proposed the creation of a China-Venezuela commission to plan Venezuelan development for 10 years.

The main destination of Chinese investment is Venezuela’s oil sector. On September 19, 2013, oil minister Rafael Ramírez announced that the China National Petroleum Corporation would invest $28 billion in projects at the Orinoco Petroleum Belt. This was boosted by another announcement by Ramírez that Sinopec and Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. would establish a joint venture to develop the Campo Junín 1 oil field in the region, with China promising to invest $14 billion (El País, September 25, 2013).

Information Warfare: China Versus God

September 1, 2014

In China the government is now taking on Christianity, treating some practitioners as potentially dangerous to the state. Christianity has been in China for centuries and currently is about five of the population and growing fast. In some provinces where Christians are prominent (lots of churches) and numerous the government is shutting down churches and arresting clergy and prominent Christians for the least infraction of the law. This effort is most visible on the North Korean border, where foreign Christians (some of them ethnic Koreans or Chinese) have been assisting North Koreans who have escaped from North Korea. Another hotspot is the southeastern city of Wenzhou, long known as a “Christian city” (because about 15 percent of the population is Christian) where local authorities are shutting down dozens of Christian churches. 

Even before the communists took over in the late 1940s Chinese governments had long seen religion as a constant threat. What is especially alarming is any religion that attracts too many members and become more visible, especially as critics of the government. Some Christian sects are doing this and now comes the usual government response. 

While Chinese are free to worship any way they want, the government picks religious leaders and imposes discipline. Thus the ongoing war against Falungong and Tibetan Buddhism. Both of these religions refuse to accept government control and are persecuted for that. This included sending thousands of practitioners to slave labor camps and often using some of those prisoners for organ donors. These victims never survived this process. But the persecution has not wiped out these two movements, and this, government officials know, sets a dangerous example for other Chinese. Throughout Chinese history governments have been overthrown by religious movements that harnessed and directed mass discontent. 

China began going after Falungong in 1999 after thousands of Falungong practitioners silently demonstrated by standing and staring at a government building. Falungong was developed in the 1980s as a combination of Buddhist practices and ancient Chinese (Taoist) philosophy. It is basically very spiritual and that includes ignoring the government. The Chinese government does not like to be ignored and despite fifty million or more Falungong practitioners in China, the government has been arresting, jailing and killing them by the thousands each year since 1999. China even tried using diplomatic pressure against Falungong, especially in the case of small and poor nations. China insisted that these countries expel or suppress Falungong activity in their country (usually by Chinese migrants or tourists.) This has often backfired. At times, the police seem to be more diligent in going after unruly religious activists, than in taking down corrupt officials and businessmen. Chinese notice this, but most don't care. 

In 2006 the governments’ ongoing campaign to crush the Falungong religious movement had extended to the United States where several raids on pro-Falungong writers by thugs who appeared to be Chinese took place. The U.S. government did not react well to this sort of thing and the Chinese backed off. Meanwhile Falungong only wanted to be able to practice their religion openly. Because police continue to hunt down members and arrest them Falungong has gone underground but is still very much around. And so are thousands of police assigned to stamp out the organization. China expects religious groups to be very responsive to government wishes. Falungong refuses to submit. 

There is some truth to Chinese claims that Falungong survives because of foreign support. The Falungong leader lives in the United States, as do many of his key aides. Then, back in 2010 the U.S. government donated $1.5 million to an Internet freedom group GIFC (Global Internet Freedom Consortium), whose main function was producing software that enabled Chinese Internet users to get around Chinese government censoring software. GIFC was one of several similar groups. But what really got the Chinese steamed, and angry at the United States, was that GIFC was supported and heavily staffed by members Falungong. The Chinese also accuse Falungong of being behind several hacker attacks on the Chinese government and Chinese communications (as in control signals for communications satellites.) Falungong has used hacking and Internet based efforts to embarrass the government and China has not been able to stop this sort of thing. 

The last thing China wants is any religion in China constantly demonstrating that it cannot be destroyed and can still fight back.