30 September 2014

Is the World at the Cusp of a New Dark Age?

September 29, 2014

We appear to have reached one of those extraordinary moments in history when people everywhere, communities and even entire nations, feel increasingly stressed and vulnerable. The same may be said of the planet as a whole.

Whether intellectually or intuitively, many are asking the same question: Where are we heading? How do we explain the long list of financial, environmental and humanitarian emergencies, epidemics, small and larger conflicts, genocides, war crimes, terrorist attacks and military interventions? Why does the international community seem powerless to prevent any of this?

There is no simple or single answer to this conundrum, but two factors can shed much light.

The first involves a global power shift and the prospect of a new Cold War. The second relates to globalisation and the crises generated by the sheer scale of cross-border flows.
Is a new Cold War in the making?

The geopolitical shift has resulted in a dangerous souring of America’s relations with Russia and China.

The dispute over Ukraine is the latest chapter in the rapidly deteriorating relationship between Washington and Moscow. In what is essentially a civil war in which over 3,000 people have been killed, the two great powers have chosen to support opposing sides in the conflict by all means short of outright intervention.

The incorporation of Crimea into Russia, Moscow’s decision to use force in Georgia in 2008 and its support for the independence of the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are part of the same dynamic.

The conduct of Russian governments in the Putin era has been at times coercive and often clumsy at home and abroad. But the United States has also much to answer for. For the last 25 years its foreign policy has been unashamedly triumphalist.

In his 1992 State of the Union address, President George Bush senior declared:

By the grace of God, America won the Cold War.

Since then we have seen the bombing of Serbia without UN Security Council approval, US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the US invasion of Iraq in defiance of UN opposition, overt support for the colour revolutions on Russia’s doorstep (Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan), and the Magnitsky Act singling out Russia for human rights violations. Western military intervention in Libya, which contrary to assurances brought about regime change, dealt a further blow to the relationship.

And now the Ukraine crisis has led to steadily expanding US and European sanctions against Russia and renewed efforts to ramp up NATO deployments and joint exercises in Eastern Europe.


September 29, 2014 
The End of Deterrence?

Ukraine Is At The Mercy of Moscow Now, The West Is Watching Helplessly

With two agreements about the future of eastern Ukraine now in place – one official brokered by the OSCE, one still secret between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Putin-aide Vladislav Surkov – the country’s fate seems sealed. Western-anchored near-neighbors “feel vulnerable.”

Deals struck over the weekend after Washington rejected Kiev’s plea for delivery of modern weapons to resist Russian dismemberment of Ukraine confirm Western acquiescence in the victory of Russia’s direct invasion of Ukraine on August 27 and subsequent truce. The Minsk pact brokered on Saturday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe between the Ukrainian government and secessionists in eastern Ukraine freezes in place Russian and pro-Russian control of Ukraine’s two easternmost oblasts, Luhansk and Donetsk, with a 30-kilometer buffer zone free of heavy weapons between the Ukrainian army and Russian-led forces. Adherence to truce terms is monitored only by unarmed OSCE observers, who have understandably refrained from inspecting areas on the Russian-Ukrainian border whenever pro-Russian forces have said they could not guarantee the inspectors’ safety.

A further, still secret agreement between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Vladislav Surkov, a senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is said by a knowledgeable Western source to contain harsher terms for Kiev than the public Minsk truce. Surkov ranks high on Western lists of sanctions imposed on Russian officials involved in Russia’s land grab of Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine this year. Former Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Chalyi, in Oslo for the annual meeting of the London-based Institute for Strategic Studies, confirmed that Surkov was in Kiev over the weekend and also that the Ukrainian government had not, as of Sunday, published the text of the Minsk agreement that may quickly be superceded by the alleged Poroshenko-Surkov deal.

Chalyi further acknowledged that Ukraine has very little choice – after the Obama administration and American lawmakers gave Poroshenko a rapturous welcome in Washington last week but turned down his urgent appeal for weapons – other than to accede to Russian demands for cooperation with Moscow. He did not confirm the existence of any new pact between Surkov and Poroshenko, however.

As the belligerents on both sides of the ceasefire line now begin pulling back armored vehicles and artillery with a caliber greater than 100mm from the buffer zone, the situation seems to be that for an interim period Kiev can still formally call the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces part of Ukraine. However, Ukraine has already lost control of this region. In the area bordering Russia technicians are ripping out electrical connections with the rest of Ukraine and installing new connections with Russian grids. And in an operation reminiscent of the Soviet stripping of East German industry after World War II, Russians are dismantling Ukrainian weapons plants in the region – which have supplied the Russian army for decades – and hauling them away to Russia in truck convoys.

The Mysterious Disappearance of the Graves of 39 Russian Paratroopers Killed in the Ukraine

Anna Dolgov
September 30, 2014
Defense Ministry Dismisses Reports of Russian Paratroopers Killed in Ukraine

Marko Djurica / ReutersRebels stand in front of what they say is a mass grave with five bodies, in the town of Nizhnaya Krinka, eastern Ukraine.

An opposition lawmaker who inquired about the reported deaths of Russian paratroopers in Ukraine has been told by the Defense Ministry that the accounts are “rumors” and that releasing information about military casualties would violate privacy laws.

State Duma lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov — one of the few critics of President Vladimir Putin’s administration to remain in parliament — asked the Defense Ministry last month for information on whether Russian troops were fighting in Ukraine, the number active or past servicemen who had been killed in the conflict, and the military affiliation of three dozen men whom he identified by name.

The names on Gudkov’s list — 39 of them in all — included soldiers who were buried last month in the western Russian city of Pskov and which disappeared from grave markings after a local lawmaker and journalists started asking questions.

The ministry’s response, which Gudkov published on his LiveJournal social network page Monday, gave little information on any of those issues.

"Your request regarding rumors concerning the activities of Russian servicemen on the territory of Ukraine … has been reviewed," the letter signed by Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said.

"Despite repeated accusations by a range of Ukrainian and Western politicians, quoted by foreign media, the Russian Federation is not a party in the conflict between the government forces of Ukraine and the residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions who disagree with the policies of the country’s leadership."

9 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed in New Round of Bloody Fighting Around Donetsk Airport in the Eastern Ukraine

Andrew Roth
September 30, 2014

Renewed Fighting Around Donetsk Airport Tests Ukraine Cease-Fire

Ukrainian soldiers patrolled near Debaltseve, Ukraine, on Monday. Credit Anatolii Boiko/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

DONETSK, Ukraine — Deadly fighting has broken out again between the government and rebels around the strategically important airport outside Donetsk, a continuing source of friction that is testing the resilience of a recent cease-fire agreement.

Nine Ukrainian soldiers and three civilians were killed during heavy shelling on Sunday, government officials announced. Andriy Lysenko, an army spokesman, said seven soldiers died when a tank shell hit their troop transport. It was the deadliest attack since the cease-fire was announced on Sept. 5.

President Petro O. Poroshenko has called the cease-fire the keystone to his peace plan for the country, and in a nationally televised news conference on Thursday said he had “no doubt that the biggest, most dangerous part of the war is already behind us.”

But at important positions held by Ukrainian forces, like the airport and the city of Debaltseve, a crucial junction between the largest rebel cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, shelling has only intensified in recent days.

The upsurge in violence comes at a particularly critical moment, as Russian, Ukrainian and rebel military officials are meeting to work out the boundaries of a buffer zone of 30 kilometers, about 19 miles, that, when finalized, could mark a neutral area in a new, frozen conflict.

“The line drawn on paper does not correspond to the current positions,” said Andrei Purgin, the deputy prime minister of the rebel Donetsk People’s Republic, who participated in the talks in Minsk, Belarus, that led to the cease-fire.

Terrorism & semantics

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

Sep 30, 2014

No one can or will spell out what distinguishes a ‘terrorist organisation’ from a ‘liberation movement’. There are other complications. Chhattisgarh has demonstrated how gory internal terrorism can be.

It was a cliché of the 1960s, the great age of decolonisation, that one man’s freedom fighter was another man’s terrorist. That duality had earlier produced the possibly apocryphal story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt declaring in 1939 that Nicaragua’s dictator Anastasio Somoza “may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch!”

All that came to mind listening to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spirited demand at the United Nations for the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism drafted in 2002 to be finalised. As the victim of repeated attacks, India is understandably anxious for a global arrangement to criminalise all forms of international terrorism and deny terrorists, their financiers and supporters access to funds, arms, safe havens and political patronage. But Nawaz Sharif’s speech also recalled that 1960s contradiction. Despite claiming to suffer terrorist attacks, Pakistan’s Prime Minister left no one in doubt that he regards people who kill, bomb, maim and destroy in Jammu and Kashmir as freedom fighters.

Hyperbole enjoys a hallowed tradition. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I during which Britain exalted terrorism to an instrument of state policy, thereby setting a global precedent. The British foreign office’s Arab Bureau employed T.E. Lawrence to instigate and lead a secessionist revolt against the Ottoman Empire under cover of archaeological excavations. Lawrence’s guerrillas harried the Turkish Army, sabotaged the strategic Hejaz railway Ottoman troops used to control rebellious Arabs, captured Aqaba port and attacked Damascus and other Turkish garrisons.

Whatever pieties politicians of many hues might mouth in many tongues in New York, no government will surrender the right to mount similar campaigns against perceived adversaries. Indian allegations of Chinese abetment of Naga rebels were matched by China’s charges of Indian complicity in American-sponsored operations in Tibet. If Pakistanis suspect India’s Research and Analysis Wing is active in Balochistan, Indians are convinced the troubles in Jammu and Kashmir are the handiwork of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

Finally, a new govt in Afghanistan An impressive transition to democracy, made against great odds

Anita Inder Singh

AFTER six uncertain months, which saw two constitutionally mandated rounds of voting, much wrangling over fraud which necessitated an audit by the UN of ballot-papers, and mediation by the US, Afghanistan finally has a new government of national unity. Ashraf Ghani, a former Finance Minister, will be Afghanistan’s new President, and Abdullah Abdullah, a former Foreign Minister, will hold a newly created post of CEO — or nominate someone to implement the decisions taken by the President. This power-sharing outcome of the electoral process that started with last April's voting does not look entirely democratic, but the two men must now put aside their differences and meet the expectations of their compatriots.

For Afghanistan’s third presidential election since 2004 demonstrated that war and poverty are not barriers to the wish of people to determine their destiny. And the world should congratulate the Afghan voters who defied Taliban violence and took part in the two rounds of polling on April 5 and June 14. The high poll turnout — nearly 60 per cent in each round — in itself marks the continuation of a decade-old troubled, strife-riven yet impressive transition to democracy, made against great odds.

Hamid Karzai, the mercurial twice-elected President, also deserves credit for steering his country to a peaceful transfer of power. He completed two terms in office, making war-torn Afghanistan a pleasing contrast to neighbouring Pakistan — where only one president — Asif Ali Zadora — completed his constitutional tenure — since independence in 1947. And the leaders of China, Afghanistan's other, more prosperous neighbour, will have no truck with democracy and the elected rulers.

The good news is that both Ghani and Abdullah, who won the first round, are political moderates who seek to bridge ethnic divides, keep Afghanistan on democratic rails and sign a security deal with the US, whose diplomatic intervention facilitated a way out of the electoral impasse.

As the US retreats

Written by Praveen Swami
September 30, 2014 

Freed of its need for gargantuan quantities of West Asian oil and gas by domestic finds the US will be self-sufficient by the second quarter of this century — the world’s pre-eminent power has ever decreasing interest in sacrificing wealth and lives to ensure stability in the troubled region.

He stood alone in 417 BC, against the tide, urging Athens, great power of its world, to war. “Everyone ought to look to this, and not presume to run risks with a state so unsettled, and to grasp at another empire before we have secured the one we have,” Nicias said. “The Greeks in those parts would be most in awe of us if we did not go there at all; and next to that, if after making a demonstration of our power we retired.” “For we all know that what is farthest off is most admired,” continued the great general, “and gives the least room for having its fame tested.”

Educated at Harvard and Columbia, it is probable that United States President Barack Obama encountered Nicias’ oration as a student, and his conduct of foreign policy suggests he learned its lessons well. Hubris led Athens to a catastrophic defeat in Syracuse — and the general who warned against war to his death — setting of a chain of events that would lead to its eventual subjugation by Sparta.

Through the past decade, Obama has slowly disengaged his nation from a world riven by murderous conflicts, understanding that even almost unlimited power and wealth can sometimes achieve but little.

For India, this poses an enormous challenge. Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to breathe life into the long-stalled strategic partnership with the US, there might not be one to be had. Ever since the end of the Cold War, India worked hard to win the support of the US — and largely succeeded. The bad news is that it’s not enough.

Historians warn us that contrafactual speculation is a useless activity: the world is simply too complex and unpredictable to make meaningful guesses about what might have happened if Nicias had won the debate against Athens’s party of war. Yet, it is hard not to see that the world looks a lot as it likely would have if the wars of 9/11 had never happened. In the great arc from Mali to Pakistan, the jihadist movement is in the ascendant as never before. Efforts to construct stable polities and state structures have failed, from Somalia to Afghanistan.

Let the river take its course

Written by Ramaswamy R Iyer 
September 30, 2014 

Let us promote navigation on the Ganga to the extent that the natural flow of the river allows it.
Soon after the prime minister assumed office, he added “Ganga rejuvenation” to the name of the ministry of water resources. But if the Ganga waterway project, much favoured by Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, is implemented, the river, far from being rejuvenated, will cease to exist.

The multiple barrages that the project envisages would turn the free-flowing river into a series of ponds or lakes linked by channels controlled by a system of locks. The Ganga would become a medium for navigation alone and would cease to perform any of the other functions of a river.

The barrages would serve as barriers to the movement of fish, which would be decimated. In the absence of fish, aquatic birds would lose their source of food and go elsewhere. There could be a serious loss of biodiversity. The already threatened Gangetic dolphin could disappear altogether. Fisherfolk would lose their livelihoods. While the system of locks might facilitate the movement of medium-size ships, traditional boat people would no longer be able to ply their boats freely. Their livelihoods, too, would be threatened.

The transportation of sediment is a major feature of Himalayan rivers. One definite consequence of a barrage would be to trap sediment. This is already happening at the Farakka barrage. If the proposed project goes through, this would happen at each of its several barrages. This could have two consequences: one, the flow of nutrients would stop. This would adversely affect aquatic life, if any, downstream and deprive marine life at the estuary of food. Two, the land-building activity at the estuary would be badly affected, leading to a deterioration in its health.

The interaction between fresh and saline water at the estuary may also be affected. The resistance to the incursion of salinity from the sea might be weakened and the coastal mangrove systems and wetlands may be adversely affected by the change in the freshwater-saline water balance. Moreover, the flow of water into the Bay of Bengal may be affected, and this could have an impact on the monsoon.

The Farakka experience suggests that a barrage on the Ganga would result in serious bank erosion, necessitating an annual maintenance budget that could quickly exceed the original project cost. Moreover, a series of barrages would obstruct the passage of heavy floods when they occur, as they will. This is a dangerous game to play with a mighty river. Even if the gates of all the barrages are kept open, the situation would not be the same as with a free-flowing river and an unencroached on floodplain.

Question USA's Pak Policy

By Tufail Ahmad
29th September 2014
Source Link

Days before prime minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in Washington last week, the US announced its decision to give 160 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAPs) vehicles worth $198 million to Pakistan. According to a statement, the sale “will contribute to the foreign policy” of the US. The decision is part of a larger US plan to hand over military hardware from Afghanistan to Pakistan army. It also reveals the deceptive American argument that selling F-16s and other war-fighting weapons to Pakistan is meant to fight militants. Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador and an astute thought leader of South Asia, has described this American thinking as delusional.

India should call this bluff for the following reason: the US foreign policy hampers India’s interests and its efforts to shape South Asia. Diplomacy is relevant when and where it matters the most. The move to sell the MRAPs is timed with Modi’s Washington visit. India must openly debate the US relationship with Pakistan. Also, the Indian media needs to sharpen its focus on how the US’s Pakistan policy undermines India in its neighbourhood. The US counterterror policy on Afghanistan has been flawed throughout by overlooking the Pakistani role, except for when George W Bush ordered the CIA to stop sharing intelligence with Islamabad in 2008 and develop a parallel network of human intelligence in the Pakistani tribal region.

Bush’s move followed the realisation that the Pakistani military’s ISI was protecting jihadists in Waziristan despite actionable intelligence. Soon after its creation in 1947, Pakistan began a policy of using jihadists from the Pashtun-dominated north-west region to advance its external policies. The north-west region had been a hotbed of jihadists from the colonial times. In 1947-48, the newly created Pakistan used jihadists to invade Jammu & Kashmir and Balochistan. The use of jihadists continued through all wars against India and in peace time, as well as against its own people in Bangladesh. Its use of jihadists in the Kargil war was comprehensive.

Tibet is the real source of Sino-Indian friction

Brahma Chellaney
September 26, 2014
Source Link

The sprawling, mountainous country of Tibet was annexed by China in the 1950s, eliminating a historical buffer with India. Today, the region remains at the heart of Sino-Indian problems, including territorial  
An Indian policeman restrains a Tibetan protester in New Delhi on Sept. 19. © APdisputes, border tensions and water feuds. Beijing lays claim to adjacent Indian territories on the basis of alleged Tibetan ecclesial or tutelary links, rather than an ethnic Chinese connection.

So when Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled in mid-September to India -- home to Tibet's government in exile -- Tibet loomed large. The Tibetan plateau, and the military tensions the issue provokes, will also figure prominently in the Sept. 29-30 summit at the White House between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama, who has urged Beijing to reopen talks with the Dalai Lama, the exiled religious leader revered as a god-king by Tibetans.

Xi's visit to New Delhi began with the visitor toasting Modi's birthday. But, underlining the deep divide regarding Tibet, the visit was overshadowed by a Chinese military incursion across the traditional Indo-Tibetan border. It was as if the incursion -- the biggest in terms of troop numbers in many years and the trigger for a military standoff in the Ladakh region -- was Xi's birthday gift for Modi.

Modi's government, for its part, allowed Tibetan exiles to stage street protests during the two days that Xi was in New Delhi, including some close to the summit venue. This reversed a pattern that had held since the early 1990s, in which police routinely prevented such protests during the visits of Chinese leaders. During the decade-long reign of Modi's predecessor, Manmohan Singh, police would impose a lockdown on the Indian capital's Tibetan quarter and beat up Tibetans who attempted to rally.

India and the art of riding two boats


It should play hard to get, as China and US seek to dominate the Asian stage. Both need India’s support

In his first television interview since taking office in May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told CNN on September 21 that India has the diplomatic bandwidth to accommodate both the US and China.

The statement could not have been better timed. Chinese President Xi Jinping only recently concluded his three-day India visit, while Modi’s US tour has just begun. Modi said India doesn’t see rising China as a threat, and added that “India and the US are bound together, by history and by culture. These ties will deepen further”.

The Government seems to be preparing a roadmap for bilateral engagements with great powers based on mutual benefits, and trade and economic cooperation, while keeping itself away from geopolitical power games.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister had visited Japan and signed agreements to deepen economic and defence ties. Economic cooperation was a major theme during Xi’s India visit as well, and is high on the agenda during Modi’s five-day US trip. From an economic point of view, relations with both China and the US — India’s largest and second largest trade partners — are equally vital, while Japan is a major investor in India’s infrastructure sector.

This multidirectional diplomacy driven by economic interests seems to be paying off, at least for now, with key global leaders showing keenness to win over India’s new leader.

During Modi’s visit to Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered to invest $35 billion in India over five years, speed up talks on civil nuclear deals, and step up bilateral maritime security cooperation. The Japanese Prime Minister travelled from the capital Tokyo to the historic city of Kyoto to personally welcome his Indian counterpart, indicating the importance his government gives to the visit.

INDUSTRIAL POLICY REPAIR - Words are not enough, only action can dismantle the barriers

Writing on the wall - Ashok V. Desai 

After having his fill of sushi, the prime minister is back home and in the saddle, and has renewed his campaign to revive industry. This is a departure from his predecessor’s approach of laissez faire. Another change is that Narendra Modi has invited manufacturers from abroad to come and make things in India. That is a bit surprising. His party has always believed in Little India. Indian industrialists have been its supporters; they cannot be enthusiastic about competition from foreigners bringing the latest technology and building brand new factories in India. But Modi must have done his political homework; let me concentrate on how best he can achieve his aim.

According to UNCTAD, India produced about 2½ per cent of the world’s manufacturing output in 2012. The countries above India but close to it, producing about 3 per cent of the world output, were Italy, France and Britain; the leaders were the US (21 per cent), China (18 per cent), Japan (11 per cent) and Korea (7 per cent). India’s ambition should be to leave the Europeans behind and join the Big Four in the next decade. To do so, Indian industry would have to grow at about three times the world growth rate — at 10-12 per cent a year. It is achievable, considering the last decade’s industrial growth rate of 8 per cent. But it would be inconsistent with India’s current GDP growth rate of 4-5 per cent since most of the demand must come from the domestic market. Modi must also address the causes of the downturn and stimulate overall growth. In this column, however, I will confine myself to manufacturing.

A good deal of this growth will be in industries where India has competitive strength. It is revealed by exports. India is the world’s largest exporter of cut gems and jewellery. Since India’s market share is 55 per cent in terms of value, 80 per cent in terms of volume and 90 per cent in terms of carats, it is unlikely to rise much; exports cannot rise much faster than world demand. But if India is to overcome competition from Chinese and East Asian gem-cutters, it must rid gem exports from bureaucratic hurdles and corruption. In particular, it must remove the import duty of 10 per cent on gold and gems, plus various cesses. Self-righteous bureaucrats will say that it would encourage wasteful consumption; but Indian citizens do not consider it waste, and they are the masters.

Obama, the serial interventionist

Published: September 30, 2014
Brahma Chellaney

Barack Obama has been more at ease waging wars than in waging peace. He has proved to be one of America’s most militarily assertive Presidents since World War II

America’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate president, Barack Obama, who helped turn Libya into a failed state by toppling its ruler Muammar Qadhafi, has started a new war in Syria and Iraq even as the U.S. remains embroiled in the Afghanistan war. Mr. Obama’s air war in Syria — his presidency’s seventh military campaign in a Muslim nation and the one likely to consume his remaining term in office — raises troubling questions about its objectives and his own adherence to the rule of law.

While it has become imperative to contain the Islamic State (IS), a Sunni jihadist army that has imposed a despotic medieval order in the territories under its control, any fight against terrorism can be effectively waged only if it respects international law and reinforces global norms and does not become an instrument to pursue narrow, geopolitical interests.

Ever since America launched its “war on terror” in 2001 under Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, the scourge of international terrorism, ominously, has spread deeper and wider in the world. Jihadist forces extolling terror as a sanctified tool of religion have gained ground in a number of countries. Once stable nations such as Iraq, Syria and Libya have become anarchic, crumbling states and new hubs of transnational terrorism, even as the Afghanistan-Pakistan belt remains “ground zero” for the terrorist threat the world confronts.War on U.S. terms

Mr. Obama was supposed to be fundamentally different than Mr. Bush — an expectation that led the Nobel committee to award him the Peace Prize soon after he assumed office. Yet, underscoring the disconnect between his words and actions, Mr. Obama has been more at ease waging wars — that too in breach of international law — than in waging peace. He has proved to be one of America’s most militarily assertive Presidents since World War II, with his readiness to use force driven by a penchant to act as judge and executioner.

Putting people before politicians


PTIX-FACTOR: What commentators perhaps fail to appreciate is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears more interested in people than in politicians. Picture shows him speaking at Central Park, in New York.
At the U.N., in Central Park and at Madison Square Garden, Mr. Modi has reached a population as important as the one in Washington. The key now lies in nurturing this relationship.

In the summer of 1949, a few months before Jawaharlal Nehru was to make his maiden visit to the United States, American and British diplomats were nervous to say the least. As Sir Oliver Franks, the British ambassador to the United States wrote: “No one in Washington had apparently been considering Nehru’s visit as anything but one of courtesy.” After all, President Harry S. Truman found the then 59-year-old Prime Minister “irritating.” India was not important. It was, according to Truman, a nation more associated with people sitting on “hot coals” and found “bathing in the Ganges.”

That an Indian Prime Minister such as Narendra Modi would one day address a crowd of at least 6,000 “global” citizens in the heart of New York was unthinkable, let alone plausible. That he would be compared to the likes of a rock star addressing thousands of Indian-Americans in Madison Square Gardens would be near heresy if suggested at the time of Truman for whom there was something distinctly “ancient” about the recently decolonised nation. Reflecting on the past may in part help frame our understanding of what visits such as this mean in the present. To be sure, the fact that Prime Minister Modi’s speech at Madison Square Gardens was accompanied by a film on the Ganges is a karmic reminder of an ancient civilisation that has a deeper place in America than the likes of Truman could have ever envisaged.Discovering the U.S.

India’s first Prime Minister did not make the journey to win over the likes of Truman, but to win the hearts of an American public that had supported Indian independence. He was soon dubbed the “hope of Asia.” This was, as Nehru told the U.S. House of Representatives, “a voyage of discovery.” Speaking to audiences at press clubs, universities, and America’s oversized financial organisations, the message was simple: “self help,” as he often argued, was the “first condition of success.” Indeed, Nehru’s Harrow and Cambridge schooling may have led him to wince in the company of bankers more than willing to talk about hard cash, but it was the empathy and enthusiasm of the people of America that remained with him for long.

**** The Perils of War From 30,000 Feet; Obama and the Road to Hell in the Middle East

September 27, 2014 ·

The Perils of War From 30,000 Feet

Obama and the Road to Hell in the Middle East

The Economist recently published an article with the curious title, “Brains, not bullets: How to fight future wars.” The essay’s theme is intriguing because it implies that with enough brains in the right places it’s possible for the United States to get things right, to immunize America’s use of force against bad policies, the wrong senior military leadership and the impact of special interests on an uninformed American public.

If this were true, it would be a revelation. Unfortunately, in open ended conflicts with weak opponents, against people with no armies, no air forces, no air defenses and no naval forces the mental and moral qualities of senior military leaders which are all important in war are suppressed in favor of compliant and obsequious personalities.

After 9/11, the willingness of senior officers to endorse the fiction that the wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan were progressing well, that liberal democracy was sinking deep roots in the Middle East was always far more important than demonstrated character, competence or intelligence for promotion to three or four stars. Put differently, having sex with the wrong person or involvement in legally questionable activities could and will destroy careers, but the readiness to go along with policies and plans that made no military sense was and still is career enhancing. Today’s bench of senior leaders are a product of the last 15 years.

New Delhi Has To Be Prepared For New Pakistan-Based Jihadi Threats

By Vikram Sood

The Islamic State of Iraq and Shams (ISIS) is neither a magical nor a mythical creation but the creation of vested interests. The Afghan Mujahedeen, followed by al-Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), were creations of the Cold War. The Taliban followed. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq when US troops landed ostensibly to eradicate it and the non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Al-Qaeda in Arab Peninsula (AQAP) happened subsequently. In short, the ISIS menace today is a result of assaults on Syria since 2011. The organisation may have its ideological territorial battles with AQ fronts like the Jabat al-Nusra in Iraq and Syria, but the truth is that the ISIS was helped along by the West and other Arab nations — notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both close to the West and fearful of Iran — with money and arms training to try and dislodge Bashar Al Assad in Syria.

It may be argued that since the West indirectly created the problem, they should be solving the problem. Unfortunately, this is not how the real world functions. As US President Barack Obama underlined in his strongest statement yet about fighting ‘ISIS’s brand of evil together’ from the UN in New York on Wednesday, ISIS and al-Qaeda now pose a menace to the rest of us, India included. ISIS may be attracting a great deal of attention in the West because of the beheadings and kidnappings of foreigners and other Sunni non-conformists, and is not concentrating on India and other regions yet.

It is more likely that other terrorist organisations could copy ISIS tactics in Afghanistan to frighten Indians away. India will have to be prepared to handle this.

The most lethal weaponry will not ensure a military annihilation of the enemy. But the menace has first to be contained militarily before it can be defeated ideologically. Meanwhile, ISIS has acquired a state, the Islamic State (IS) led by Abu Bakr Baghdadi, who heads a brutal vicious ‘regime’ in the name of purifying Islam. Islamic nations are not sure how they want to respond to this — with military strength or through appeasement and acquiescence. The battle against this is going to be equally brutal.
Switch off their oxygen

The world does not need international real-time coverage of this fight. What the world needs is an international coalition that has an immutable definition of terrorism with no caveats, which ruthlessly starves the ISIS of finances, weapons, recruits, food and propaganda. If a sanctions regime has legitimacy, it is here.

Ghani Sworn In as Afghan President


New Government Is Expected to Sign Security Agreement With U.S.

Former World Bank official Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as Afghanistan's new president Monday. The inauguration marks the exit of Hamid Karzai, who ran the country since 2001.

KABUL—Afghanistan's new President Ashraf Ghani took office Monday in the country's first democratic transfer of power, making a pledge to stamp out corruption and calling for peace with the Taliban insurgents who marked the day with a fresh attack in Kabul.

Mr. Ghani, who won the disputed June 14 presidential election, was sworn in at a ceremony in the heavily guarded presidential palace in Kabul, with foreign ambassadors, visiting dignitaries and Afghanistan's most prominent politicians in attendance.

In his first remarks as Afghanistan's leader, Mr. Ghani said his country was "besieged with problems," and called on the Taliban and other militant groups to come to the negotiating table with Kabul. "War is not the way to solve political issues," he said, adding: "Those who believe in the use of force will be dealt with the same way."

The new president inherits a country that faces a robust Taliban insurgency. Militants have seized on a period of protracted political instability to press an offensive around the country, and the withdrawal of foreign combat troops by the end of the year has raised concerns about the ability of Afghan security forces to hold their ground. The country also remains dependent on billions of dollars in U.S. and allied aid that funds the Afghan army and police and keeps the economy afloat.

Streets throughout the capital were closed to most traffic, and helicopters circled over the city as the Taliban sought to disrupt the historic event. A suicide bomber struck a checkpoint on a road that leads to Kabul International Airport, killing four Afghan troops and three civilians, according to Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesman of Afghanistan's ministry of interior. At least five others were injured in the blast.

Afghanistan's new President Ashraf Ghani, left, shakes hands with Afghanistan's Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi as he takes the oath during his inauguration as president in Kabul on Monday. Reuters

In the eastern province of Paktia, insurgents stormed a district headquarters office, local officials said, who said the casualties weren't immediately clear. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks, and immediately turned down Mr. Ghani's peace overtures. "Ashraf Ghani was appointed by the Americans in the U.S. Embassy. He is a puppet and isn't entitled to invite us for peace talks," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

The Taliban Is Making A Major Offensive As US Troops Pull Out Of Afghanistan

SEP. 26, 2014

Noorullah Shirzada/AFPAfghan security personnel fire at Taliban insurgents in Dur Baba district near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the eastern Nangarhar province on September 25, 2014

A major Taliban offensive in eastern Afghanistan over the past week has left up to 100 civilians and security personnel dead, 12 of them beheaded, officials said Friday, as violence worsens with the withdrawal of US-led troops.

This summer’s fighting season has seen Taliban militants advance in several provinces, exploiting a prolonged political deadlock in Kabul over disputed presidential election results.

The latest series of attacks have focused on Ajristan district in the strategically important province of Ghazni, after recent offensives in Kandahar, Helmand and Logar.

“The militants beheaded 12 civilians in four villages,” Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, deputy governor of Ghazni, told AFP.

“We do not have a precise figure, but we estimate 80 to 100 people were killed over the past one week.

“Heavy fighting has involved hundreds of Taliban against the security forces.

“The condition is very critical in this district. We have been informed by the central government that they have sent reinforcements.”

Ahmadi said Ajristan was at risk of falling into Taliban control, adding that 60 to 70 homes had been burnt down and that communication with security forces in the district was scarce.

Asadullah Ensafi, deputy police chief of Ghazni — which is located between the capital Kabul and the Taliban heartlands of the south — confirmed details of the offensive and said fierce fighting was ongoing Friday.

The interior ministry in Kabul was not immediately available for comment. The government has said that Afghan soldiers and police have successfully beaten back previous Taliban offensives in past months.

The 350,000-strong Afghan security forces have been trained from scratch since 2001 by the US-led NATO coalition, which is now winding down its war in Afghanistan.

All NATO combat operations will finish by the end of this year, with about 12,000 troops staying on into next year on a follow-up training and support mission.

The three-month election stand-off was finally broken Sunday when a “unity government” deal was agreed, with Ashraf Ghani serving as the next president and his rival Abdullah Abdullah taking up the new role of chief executive.

Ghani was declared winner of the fraud-tainted election, but the margin of victory and turnout was kept secret until Friday over concerns that fraud allegations could trigger violence from aggrieved Abdullah supporters.

At an Independent Election Commission (IEC) ceremony, Ghani was presented with a certificate that confirmed he was the clear winner with 55.27 percent of the ballot in the run-off vote on a turnout of 7.12 million voters.

The exact size of the electorate is unknown but estimated at between 12 million and 13.5 million.

The June 14 election was meant to cap the multi-billion-dollar military and civilian aid intervention in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

But it was marred by widespread fraud, repeating serious problems seen in previous elections since the introduction of a nascent democracy after the Taliban era.

The UN-supervised audit invalidated 1,206 of the 22,828 ballot boxes — meaning several hundred thousand votes were thrown out.

The UN mission in Afghanistan described fraud as “significant,” and accusations have been pointed at both campaign teams as well as outgoing President Hamid Karzai and the IEC itself.

Ghani said on Friday he would prioritize electoral reform to prevent future problems, and he vowed to unite the country after fears that the disputes had revived ethnic divisions of the 1990s civil war.

India, Vietnam and $100 Million in Defense Credit

By Amruta Karambelkar
September 28, 2014

Stronger ties will give Hanoi a boost and strengthen New Delhi’s hand.

A visit earlier this month by its President Pranab Mukherjee saw India sign several memorandums of understanding with Vietnam. Among them, the extension of a line of credit worth $100 million on defense procurement is particularly significant. This deal gives defense relations between India and Vietnam another shot in the arm, and has important implications for both countries.

As India enters the third decade of its Look East Policy, its engagement with its eastern neighbors has both widened and deepened. India has comprehensive bilateral partnerships in the region, as well as multilateral relationships through ASEAN. New Delhi’s defense diplomacy in the region has made strides in the last two decades, such that India is now considered an important and welcome security partner in Southeast Asia. India’s regional cooperation in defense has generally entailed high-level visits, participation in multilateral exercises, port calls, assistance in maintaining military hardware, and cooperation in training.

Defense ties with Vietnam are already robust, with India helping Vietnamese forces, especially the navy, build capacity. Bilateral cooperation is comprehensive, facilitated by the fact that both India and Vietnam largely rely on Russian military hardware. For example, India is able to repair Vietnam’s MiG aircraft. Since 2011, India has been providing the Vietnam People’s Navy with submarine training. The Indian Navy has also assisted in technical training and vessel construction, and India may start training Vietnamese air force pilots on the Sukhoi 30-MKI fighter and sell Hanoi the BrahMos cruise missile.

The extension of credit to Vietnam furthers this defense engagement. India is emerging as a credible partner, with frequent requests that it play a more active role in regional security. Through defense cooperation, India can entrench itself in the regional security architecture and assert itself in the east.

Vietnam: A Military Modernization Boost

China Launches Satellites Into Orbit

Andrew Tate
September 30, 2014

China launches latest of military, ‘experimental’ satellites

China launched a Long March-4B rocket carrying the Yaogan-21 remote sensing satellite and an experimental satellite, Tiantuo-2, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre on 8 September.

Tiantuo-2, which was designed and built by the National University of Defence Technology (NUDT), “will be used for scientific experiments, natural resource survey, estimation of crop yields, and disaster relief,” according to Xinhua news agency.

This is the function China ascribes to most of its remote sensing satellites, but analysts believe that the Yaogan constellation is used for ocean surveillance.

The launch was the latest in a series by China. On 9 August a Long March-4C rocket launched the Yaogan-20 mission into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre. While Xinhua reported the payload to be a satellite with the same purposes as the Yaogan-21, other sources indicate that the payload comprised three satellites, which were deployed in such a way that would make them suitable for operating as an ocean surveillance system.

Analysts believe that a range of sensors, encompassing electro-optical imaging, electronic intelligence (ELINT) intercept, and synthetic aperture radars, are carried by Yaogan series satellites. The first of the series, Yaogan-1, was launched on 27 April 2006 and is believed to have deployed China’s first space-based synthetic aperture radar. Yaogan-9, launched on 5 March 2010, was the first deployment of a triple satellite formation, followed by similar deployments from Yaogan-16 in November 2011 and Yaogan-17 in September 2013. The Yaogan-20 triplet, which is possibly a replacement for Yaogan-9, is believed to be for ELINT, detecting ships’ radar emissions, and determining emitter location through triangulation.

Internet sources, citing Xinhua, report that the experimental Tiantuo-2 carries four video cameras capable of streaming real-time data on moving objects. It is speculated that the system will be capable of tracking objects on the earth’s surface using real-time ground-controlled directional alignment of the cameras. An NUDT statement reported that the satellite will be used to test technologies for more advanced video imaging satellites.

The first Chinese satellite launch of 2014 was on 31 March and was of Shijian 11-06 (SJ-11-06). Chinese media reported this as an experimental satellite and provided no further details. However, the positioning of the Shijian 11 constellation, and similarities to the launch vehicle and orbit of Shiyan Weixing 2 (SY-2), launched on 18 November 2004, which tested IR sensors, has led some analysts to believe that the purpose is to support a ballistic missile early warning system, with satellites equipped with infrared sensors to detect missile launches. SJ-11-06 is the fifth satellite in the constellation; SJ-11-04 was lost in August 2011 after failure of the second stage of the launch vehicle.

Two other launches carrying three satellites for non-military space programmes have recently taken place; from Taiyuan on 19 August and from Jiuquan on 4 September. China has a third operational satellite launch centre at Xichang in Sichuan province and a fourth is being constructed at Wenquan on Hainan Island. Chinese media have reported that the Wenquan launch centre “is almost completed and can already launch space vehicles”.

It is anticipated that Wenquan will be used extensively for launches associated with the manned space programme and the Tiangong-2 space station, as it will be able to launch the larger, 5 m-diameter Long March 5 series rockets with heavier payloads. The first launch could take place later in 2014.

Taiwan, Asia’s Secret Air Power

By Ian Easton
September 25, 2014

A look at what Taiwan is doing to ensure its air defense and why it matters for the United States and the region. 

When current and former world leaders, including Bill Clinton, visit Taiwan, they often stay at the Grand Hotel Taipei, an opulent Chinese architectural landmark perched atop Yuan Mountain. With spectacular views of the downtown riverfront and a palm-lined swimming pool surrounded by lush green jungle, guests at the Grand Hotel could be forgiven for thinking they had arrived at one of the most peaceful spots in East Asia.

In fact, just under their feet lies a vast underground command center from which Taiwan’s top leadership would direct their nation’s armed forces in the event of a war with China. This facility, like many around the high-tech island, shows that when it comes to the defense of Taiwan, there is much more than meets the eye.

Known officially as the Tri-Service Hengshan Military Command Center, the sprawling tunnel facility stretches through the mountain in a line that starts near the Grand Hotel and goes down to the giant Ferris wheel in Dazhi. Built to defend against China’s growing fleet of ballistic missiles, this hardened nerve center is designed to allow Taiwan’s government (and thousands of military personnel) to live and work for months, riding out air raids above while organizing the defense of Taiwan from below.

Linked to a large network of subterranean command posts and military bases around Taiwan and its outer islands – as well as the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii – the Hengshan Military Command Center is the ultimate redoubt for Taiwan’s president. It is so important, in fact, that China’s strategic rocket force, the Second Artillery, has actually simulated missile attacks on the bridges that connect it to the Presidential Office.

On the other side of the city, buried inside a wet rocky outcropping near the campus of National Taiwan University, lies another tunnel complex, the Air Operations Center. Known affectionately as “Toad Mountain” by Taiwanese air force officers, this facility oversees one of the most robust air and missile defense networks on the planet. Fed vast quantities of information by airborne early-warning aircraft, long-range radars, listening posts, unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites, Toad Mountain stands constant watch over all of Taiwan’s airspace, ready to scramble fighters or assign surface-to-air missiles to intercept intruders. And, like every other Taiwanese military facility, it has multiple back-ups. Just in case.

One of those back-ups is located on Taiwan’s east coast inside Chiashan or “Optimal Mountain,” not far from the mouth of a gorge cut through pure white marble. Unlike the gorge, however, no tourists are allowed inside this billion dollar bunker complex. According to first-person accounts, the base is an entire military city built inside a hollowed-out mountain. Not only does it have space inside for parking, arming, and repairing over two hundred fighter aircraft, it also has its own hospital and multiple gas stations serving jet fuel. With ten blast doors that exit out to multiple runways via a long taxiway that can itself be used as an emergency runway, it may be toughest airbase ever built.

Ninety miles down the coastline, Taiwan’s air force is further bolstered by the Shihzishan or “Stone Mountain” complex at Chihhang Air Base. Though somewhat smaller than Chiashan, its labyrinthine tunnels can still shelter some eighty aircraft. Both of these facilities benefit from their strategic locations on the far side of the highest mountain range in East Asia. Missiles fired from the Chinese mainland can’t reach them – they would smash into the side of mountains before they got there.

China and India: Asia's Budding Partnership or Growing Rivalry?

Cheng LiJames Tyson 
September 28, 2014 
Source Link

"Though China has raced ahead of India economically and militarily, it must approach its neighbor as an equal participant..."

In his September 17 op-ed in The Hindu, Xi Jinping proclaimed China and India “the two engines of the Asian economy.” He exhorted both countries to push forward on joint economic and strategic initiatives that would cement their leadership roles in an increasingly multipolar world. Through words and deeds, such as his recent signing of concrete bilateral agreements with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, Xi has continued to chip away at the cautious façade that has characterized Chinese foreign policy over much of the past three decades.

Indeed, Deng Xiaoping’s strategy of “keeping a low profile” seems less central to China’s foreign affairs under its new leadership. Xi has taken a more proactive path. In recent years, while not shying from confrontation with adversaries to its east and southeast, Beijing has simultaneously sought to reinvigorate old friendships. Not since the era of Zhou Enlai, who joined with Jawaharlal Nehru to promote the nonaligned movement of the 1950s, has China so assertively built ties with its Himalayan neighbor. In his three-day visit to India this past week, Xi strove to bind up old wounds, promising to seek resolution of the two nations’ territorial disputes, and explored new avenues of economic and diplomatic cooperation that would encourage broader transfer of technology and intellectual capital and further align the two states behind a shared conception of “fair and reasonable” international governance.

Xi and Modi, who have both cultivated far more populist images than their predecessors, Hu Jintao and Manmohan Singh, seem to share a special rapport. Modi visited China four times as Chief Minister of Gujarat, and Xi said that his first meeting with the Indian leader, at the BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, was like being reunited with an old friend. Modi also seems to admire the Chinese model of economic development. He has called for India to pursue similar advancements in infrastructure and manufacturing—areas in which Xi has proven eager to assist. The dozen bilateral agreements signed by the two leaders during Xi’s visit include a pact promising Chinese involvement in a high-speed rail project linking Chennai, Bangalore and Mysore, and a memorandum of understanding that will facilitate development of major Chinese industrial parks in Gujarat. The leaders also pledged to begin talks on civil nuclear cooperation, as well as counterterrorism and other security issues.

The proposed Sino-Indian rail project comes just weeks after Modi and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe resolved to cooperate on a planned high-speed rail link between Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat, and Mumbai. During Modi’s visit to Tokyo, Abe pledged his readiness to provide technical and operational support, which would allow India to build a system similar to its Shinkansen network of bullet trains. Rather than opening a new line, the Sino-Indian agreement provides a blueprint for Beijing’s role in modernizing an existing, ordinary line. Chinese experts will help upgrade tracks to create high-speed corridors, redevelop existing stations and train over 100 Indian Railway personnel in systems-monitoring and rail-traffic control.

The Emperor Far Away

David Eimer

Travels at the Edge of China.

“The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China” is about the borderlands of China, the regions where China meets with its neighbors. China has 55 distinct ethnic groups such as Tibetan, Uighur, Manchu, Zhuang, Mongol, Kazakh and Tujia. But its diversity is swamped by 1.2 billion Han Chinese who comprise 92% of the population. Han Chinese are the majority in every province, region or municipality except for the autonomous regions of Xinjiang (41%) and Tibet (6%). Xinjiang and Tibet occupy 1.6 and 1.2 million square kilometers respectively of China’s 9.6 million square kilometers, and are its two biggest regions. Most writing about China is about the densely populated Han areas, but little is written or shown about its borderlands, which are more exotic and often quite volatile. This book which gets its title from the Chinese proverb “The mountains are high and the Emperor far away” (Shan gao Huangdi yuan) is about where the empire hangs on to its extremities by its claws. Not very surprisingly its only on the borderlands with North Korea does Eimer find happy to be among the Chinese.

Mao Zedong is quoted to have said in a 1956 speech published in the fifth volume of his selected works: “We say China is a country vast in territory, rich in resources and large in population. As a matter of fact, it is the Han nationality whose population is large and the minority nationalities whose territory is vast and whose resources are rich.” This mentality is at the core of the problem. The problem being clash between the struggles to preserve identities, protect geography and conserve resources with the attitudes and wants of the majority. Is it any different in India where the Adivasi’s are battling to keep their homelands and their natural wealth? China’s solution to this is typical. Like it did to the Manchu’s, who till the early years of the last century ruled China. It made them Han. The ruling elite now wants to turn the Central Indian Adivasis into Hindus. Today there are only eighteen Manchu language speakers left in China. Not all of China’s nationalities are willing to undergo such transfusion without resistance. The Tibetans and Uighurs are among the most notable.

The northern frontiers of India are defined largely by the Himalayan mountain range, where the country borders China, Bhutan, and Nepal. It traverses 4,057 km along the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Add to this Nepal’s border with the Tibet region of China, which measures 1,415 kilometers along the Himalayan range. Only the district of Ladakh shares a border with Xinjiang. While Xinjiang is a large territory, it is Tibet that is India’s biggest geographical neighbor and with whom India shares an old and hallowed bond.

The Indo-Tibetan border begins in the eastern most tip of India in Arunachal Pradesh and ends in the icy heights of the Karakoram Range. Tibet’s influence is seen all over India’s Himalayan region where the Tibetan strain of Mahayana Buddhism predominates. There are over 120 Buddhist monasteries in India’s Himalayan region where the Dalai Lama is venerated as the head of the faith. The languages of Ladakh, Sikkim and Bhutan are variants of Tibetan.

Buddhism went to Tibet from India and with it went the best impulses of India’s traditions, philosophy and folklore. Even the Tibetan script is derived from ancient Pali, which was the dominant language of upper India during the period of Gautama Buddha. Lake Mansarovar and Mount Kailash the holiest lake and mountain of the Hindu folklore and tradition, the abode of Shiva, lie in Tibet. Even today the parikrama of Kailas is the highest ritual duty a Hindu can perform in one lifetime, or for that matter even in several.