10 October 2014


10 October 2014

New Delhi cannot remain sanguine. A priority of the Obama Administration will be to smoothly take out its military equipment from Afghanistan, through Pakistan. The Taliban will then be viewed more benignly

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was cautioning Americans in New York against any precipitate withdrawal, Afghanistan was preparing for a momentous change in Kabul. Mr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was taking over as Afghanistan’s President from Mr Hamid Karzai, who had ruled Afghanistan for 12 turbulent years. Despite efforts to malign him and destabilise his Government by worthy Americans like Peter Galbraith and Richard Holbrooke and a vicious propaganda barrage from Pakistan, President Karzai succeeded in establishing a measure of effective governance in Afghanistan. He also skilfully brought together the country’s fractious ethnic groups, to deal with the challenge posed by the Pakistani-backed Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, together with their Islamist allies, including the Al Qaeda.

The change of guard from Mr Karzai to Mr Ghani has been anything but smooth. The first round of elections in April produced no clear winner. The second round in June, which was expected to be close, produced a stunning result. It gave an unexpectedly large victory margin to Mr Ghani, over his rival, Mr Abdullah Abdullah, a former Foreign Minister and close aide of the legendary Ahmed Shah Masood. Mr Abdullah had a substantial lead in the first round of elections, securing 46 per cent of the votes, against 32 per cent for Mr Ghani. A Report by the European Union declared the second round of voting as “massively rigged”. A US report held that it was mathematically impossible for Mr Ghani to have secured the margin of victory that he did. With controversy over the electoral result spiralling out of control and assuming volatile ethnic dimensions, the Americans stepped in to broker and virtually impose an uneasy and tenuous compromise between Mr Ghani and Mr Abdullah.

Following the agreement between the rival candidates, Mr Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as President and Mr Abdullah as ‘Chief Executive’, a post which has no constitutional sanctity. The roadmap for this transition includes the convening of a Loya Jirga to convert the post of ‘Chief Executive’ into that of an ‘Executive Prime Minister’. It remains to be seen whether the contemplated changes, with two separate centres of executive authority, can provide stable and effective governance, in a country beset with the ethnic rivalries and tensions, which have long characterised its politics. Within 24 hours of the assumption of power by President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, Afghanistan and the US inked a security agreement, which will result in the US stationing 9,800 troops in a training and counter-insurgency role in Afghanistan, beyond 2014. A ‘status of forces agreement’, giving immunity to foreign forces against prosecution in Afghan courts, was also inked. The agreements will also allow the Americans to retain air bases across Afghanistan. 

Pakistan has welcomed these developments. Apart from formal statements by National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz and the Foreign Office, a meeting of the top brass of the Pakistan Army also welcomed this development as a “good move for peace in Afghanistan”. This is an astonishing turnaround for the Pakistani establishment, which has all along made its unease with the American presence in Afghanistan known. It comes at a time when an estimated 80,000 Pakistani troops and paramilitary, backed by air power, are pounding positions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban in North Waziristan — an operation resulting in an estimated one million tribal Pashtuns fleeing their homes. At the same time, the Mullah Omar-led Afghan Taliban have been on the rampage this year across Afghanistan, prompting the soft-spoken President Ghani to say, “We ask the opponents of the Government, especially the Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami, to enter political talks”.

Time for a more sober approach

seema mustafa
The Statesman
10 Oct 2014

Perhaps journalists can be excused for having become a little cynical over the years about reports of Pakistan and India border skirmishes. Both sides have shown the tendency to report firing incidents from the border according to the larger messages they have decided to send out. So when there is talk of peace, the border falls silent; when there is talk of war, the border acquires a will of its own as troops on both sides reportedly indulge in irresponsible acts that can trigger off a conflict at any point in time.

So this writer who has been reporting on India-Pakistan relations for a while can be excused, along with many others of her tribe, for not getting overly excited about reports of border firing, deaths, anger and "we warn you" rhetoric. And it seems rightly so as in the midst of the war of words Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that “everything will be fine soon” and one presumes that this will not be achieved through war, but levels of dialogue that really remain the only option for civilised nations.

The Prime Minister of course did not say how it would be fine really, although there has been sufficient posturing from both sides over the past several days. Both have been speaking out against each other, reporting firing and acts of aggression by the other, with India now having served a demarche to Pakistan through the High Commission here, by lodging a protest at the increase in shelling and cross-border firing by Pakistani rangers. Twenty civilians have been killed on either side of the border.

While it is difficult to say how bad the situation is as reporters have no means of independent verification except army and government reports on both sides, it is clear that the political will is frayed, and some decision has been taken to keep the tensions alive. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India for the oath-taking ceremony of PM Modi was unable to bridge the gap, or decrease the wariness and inherent suspicion between the two governments. The Pakistan army made it clear it was not particularly supportive of the visit, and by supporting the large-scale protests by Imran Khan in Pakistan made it obvious that the Sharif-led government could not act on issues of strategy as a completely independent entity. A chastened Sharif has since shed the friendly neighbourhood look, and seems to be one with the Pakistan Army on India at least insofar as rhetoric is concerned.

Pakistan that used to express open worry till a few months ago about a confrontation with India, given the high voltage border it shares with Afghanistan, seems to have changed course again. That worry is no longer expressed by Islamabad, and there have been no statements by political leaders or the Army urging Washington to mediate, and ensure that India does not make its border with Pakistan hostile. In fact, Pakistan seems to have adopted a "we don’t give a damn" approach now, and while most of its army remains involved in tackling militancy in the northern areas and the border with Afghanistan, it has started needling and responding militarily on its eastern border as well.

To accept the reports being fed to the media by both governments, it is clear that the India-Pakistan border has turned hostile. And that both countries are firing at each other in a tit-for-tat approach. Islamabad has obviously had to increase its presence on this border, but this time around is not raising the issue at all. In fact both sides are matching each other in hostile rhetoric and if reports are to be believed, in military action against each other along the Line of Control.

Cultivating conspiracies

October 10, 2014 

Beg’s conspiracy is an interpretation of what Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri did in London in June, before deciding in July to hit Pakistan with an agitation to dislodge Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power. (Source: AP)

Pakistan has once again unsurprisingly succumbed to the lure of a conspiracy to explain why Imran Khan is making the country miserable these days. Former army chief General (retired) Aslam Beg came on TV on September 21 saying that the current army chief, General Raheel Sharif, “has foiled a conspiracy to create anarchy in the country and bring about martial law”.

No one challenged the lack of factual logic in the statement of a retired man, with the case of a big-money rip-off called “Mehrangate” pending against him at the Supreme Court. This was anticipated even by Beg, because the Pakistani mind prefers to understand life through conspiracies. He laid it on thick: “The US, the UK, Canada and Iran are hatching conspiracies to destabilise Pakistan.” Why leave India out, some of us India-centrics may ask?

If your mind is not used to inductive logic — a scrutiny of events without a “categorical”, prejudging, initial statement — you cannot join the dots of probability as a normal person would. As an instrument of demystification, conspiracy enables the primitive man to survive a life he can’t understand. Muslims suffer from life-explaining conspiracies collectively and have become dangerous for the rational world.

Beg’s conspiracy is an interpretation of what Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri did in London in June, before deciding in July to hit Pakistan with an agitation to dislodge Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power. What was not a mystery in Pakistan was the spoiled relationship between the country’s powerful army and the Sharif government. Some thought that the Khan-Qadri duo was egged on by the army as the latest trigger of regime change in Islamabad.

Then a leader of Khan’s party revealed more: that a retired ISI officer was writing the script for the overthrow. It envisaged the gathering of a mammoth crowd in Islamabad’s central square, paralysing the government. Even the murder of a “prominent Pakistani” was planned as a curtain-raiser. The climactic moment came after a “dharna”, but the army chief didn’t stage the coup.

Now ex-army chief Beg throws in another conspiracy, which primarily bails out the current army chief by piling kudos on him and pleads subliminally for some help in bailing Beg out of his big money-grab case. Forgetting his past shoddiness as a thinker, the media has swallowed his latest gem, hook, line and the entire fishing rod.

Now join the dots if you can. America and the UK invited Khan and Qadri to London and asked them to derail democracy in Pakistan because they expected Pakistan under Sharif to become a pain in the neck after Nato’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The taming of a cantankerous Pakistan would thus facilitate India into a commanding regional position against China.

This is not enough. Throw in Iran too. Beg said “unfortunately” Iran was no longer the Iran of his time, when he had made an illegal secret pact worth billions of dollars for nuclear-tech transfers from Pakistan without telling then PM Nawaz Sharif, who balked on knowing about it. Beg was not strong enough as army chief to topple Sharif then. He tends
to go nuts when talking about global politics.

A new Panchsheel

October 9, 2014 

If Modi’s instincts on Nepal turned out to be right, he has a much bigger challenge in implementing the agreements already signed.

When Narendra Modi was within striking distance of power in Delhi a few months ago, there was little expectation that a provincial leader would inject much new dynamism into Indian diplomacy. Nor did the BJP’s record on foreign policy issues, when it sat on opposition benches between 2004 and ’14, inspire confidence.

Yet after more than four months in power, Prime Minister Modi’s most impressive performance appears to be in the diplomatic realm. A change of government does not produce a change in foreign policy objectives for large countries like India. That happens only when the change is revolutionary. But new leaders have the freedom to bring fresh perspectives to foreign policy and organise new ways of doing business with the outside world.

The fact that he represents a government with a majority in the Lok Sabha, capable of taking difficult decisions, has given Modi an edge over his predecessors of the last three decades. Modi’s energy and vigour also stands in contrast to the dysfunction and lack of energy in the UPA government in its second term. Modi has brought at least five new emphases to the conduct of India’s external relations.

For one, he has put domestic economic development at the top of India’s foreign policy goals. Contrary to the perception that Modi is spending too much time on foreign policy, the PM has viewed diplomacy as an integral part of his strategy to restore international confidence in India’s economic prospects and mobilise external resources for the modernisation and expansion of infrastructure and reviving the manufacturing sector.

Although the estimates of potential foreign investments — for example, more than $35 billion from Japan, $20 billion from China and $40 billion from US companies — should be taken with a pinch of salt, there is no denying the PM’s impressive effort to spread the message that India is now open for business. Few of his predecessors have spent as much time engaging the leaders of international business at home and abroad.

Second, Modi has recognised the urgency of revitalising India’s relations with its neighbours in the subcontinent. Whether it was the invitation to the leaders of the SAARC nations to attend his inauguration or the choice of Bhutan and Nepal as his first foreign destinations, the new emphasis was unmistakable.

In Nepal, the PM demonstrated the ability to understand Nepali grievances, connect with its political classes as well as its masses, and signal the will to redefine India’s regional strategy. If Modi’s instincts on Nepal turned out to be right, he has a much bigger challenge in implementing the agreements already signed with Bangladesh, persuading Sri Lanka to deliver on Tamil minority rights, cautioning the Maldives not to play the China card beyond a point and developing a sustainable strategy for Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of international forces.

North-East: Accepting the idea of India

Sanjoy Hazarika

WHEN the North-East of India comes up for discussion in a public forum or figures in media coverage, the stock phrases used in conversations or dialogue usually give the impression that the entire region is engulfed in strife and confrontation. I am willing to bet that a majority of stories would be inspired by phrases such as “ethnic tension”, “racial discrimination”, “trouble spot”, “conflict zone”, “insurgents strike again”, or road blockades and bandhs. The grievances are both genuine and imagined, not to forget the annual floods which disrupt movement, life and commerce for three to four months.

HRD Minister Smriti Irani holds a Garo warrior sword while campaigning in the Meghalaya assembly elections. The media does not portray the varied culture of North-Eastern states.

As a result, the region which we call the North-East rarely gets space on its own as a place of interest, with remarkable stories and fascinating people, both ordinary and extraordinary, beyond either the conflict, corruption, disaster or tourism themes. These themes basically coalesce into the “Terrible North-East” or “Incredible India” silos.

Looking beyond nuances

The Shillong Choir performs on KBC. Youth from the North-East accept the idea of India.

One reason which militates against a more nuanced approach in columns, articles and news stories is the real challenge of explaining and dealing with the daunting complexity of the region: Over 220 ethnic groups. located in eight states. Barring three states – Manipur, Assam and Tripura, which have a history of kingdoms going back several centuries – the other states are new, created between 1963 (Nagaland) and 1986 (Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh). Yet, communities in all states – barring migrants from Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet and Myanmar — have continued to live in broadly the same areas for hundreds of years. In addition, there’s the issue of physical location: The region’s borders with four other countries take up 96 per cent of its land frontiers. Many have cross-border cultural, linguistic and ethnic connections such as the Kukis, Chakmas and various Naga tribes like the Konyaks.

To understand some of these “conflicts” which media pundits harp upon, we need to understand that it was the entry of colonial rule in the 19th century which placed defined political borders along ethnic lines.

For a place on the world stage

Arun Kumar
October 10, 2014 

India seems to be happy to get from the big economic powers things such as surplus capital, technology, trains, cleanliness, education and so on. This also spells its weakness 67 years after Independence. We rejoice at getting the basics from others while giving in return our best minds and yoga

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while campaigning in Mumbai recently, declared that India has arrived on the world stage. Election rhetoric apart, what does it imply? We have been on the world stage but are not treated as equals. So, the question is this: after Mr. Modi has become the Prime Minister, are we now being treated as equals? Mr. Modi’s visit to Japan and the United States, and the visits by the Chinese President and the Australian Prime Minister to India, would suggest that India is being wooed by the major world economic powers. The Mars Orbiter Mission signifies India’s growing space prowess, though the credit for that goes to the United Progressive Alliance.What are we getting?

Japan has offered India $35 billion of investments in the next five years and China, $20 billion. This includes a Japanese offer of a bullet train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai and a Chinese offer of cheaper and faster trains. Australia has proposed the supply of nuclear material and investments, while the U.S. has promised investment in defence production and cooperation in defence ties and energy. There have been offers as well of teaming up with Indian cities to make them clean and hi-tech, which would help fulfil Mr. Modi’s dream of creating 100 new/smart cities. That all this is happening in the first 120 days of Mr. Modi having taken over is creditable.

The importance of the Modi visit to Japan can be gauged by the fact that the Japanese Prime Minister accompanied him during much of his programme there. The Chinese President landed in Ahmedabad and went sightseeing with Mr. Modi. In the U.S., there was a grand welcome by the Indian-American community and where Mr. Modi’s speech in Madison Square Garden was a grand show. He met the CEOs of some of the biggest U.S. companies and got commitments for further investments in India. There was movement on jointly fighting terrorism in South Asia. Collaboration between some key Indian and U.S. institutions of higher learning has been proposed. The U.S. is also to help India in its fight against poverty and cleaning up its cities.

These promises need to be balanced with reality such as the Japanese refusal to relent on the nuclear issue till India signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Chinese committed much less investment than was expected given the rapidly rising trade with them, and which is skewed in their favour. It is not yet clear how the commitments to more balanced trade would work. The dampener was the confrontation between Chinese and Indian troops at Aksai Chin a few days before the arrival of the Chinese President in India and which continued much after. The Chinese also did not resolve the problems India faces in the production of oil in the South China Sea.

The biggest surprises were in the U.S. No big ticket investments were immediately announced. As the largest world economy, the U.S. could invest more in India but this trend may not reverse any time soon. It did not commit to supporting India on the food security issue in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Perhaps India’s reluctance to join the fight against IS is a major reason for why the U.S. did not commit to more.The three “D’s” on offer

Turkey’s Dangerous Bet on Syria

OCTOBER 9, 2014


Turkey’s policy of conditioning its anti–Islamic State engagement on support for an anti-Assad campaign will be at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive.

WASHINGTON — With the Islamic State just miles from its border, Turkey is now facing its most severe security challenge in decades. In response, the Turkish government is seeking to accomplish the impossible; Ankara wants to fight the Islamic State, carry out regime change in Syria and roll back Kurdish autonomy all at the same time.

The risk of this overambitious approach is that it could end up accomplishing none of these objectives while squandering the opportunity to contribute to the stabilization of the region. Underpinning this risky strategy is a questionable assumption and an equally dubious policy decision.

Turkey assumes that remaining indifferent to the fate of the besieged Kurdish enclave of Kobani will not imperil its peace negotiations with Turkey’s own Kurds. Ankara has done little to assist the Kurdish enclave, ruled by an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party, or P.K.K. In Ankara’s eyes, the Syrian Kurds fighting there are essentially allies of Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.

Moreover, Turkey is uncomfortable with the degree of autonomy obtained by the Kurdish region in Syria as it could eventually become a stepping stone for the creation of a larger and independent Kurdish entity in the Middle East, which could in turn fuel secessionist tendencies among Turkey’s own Kurds.

Finally, Turkey seems to believe that despite its policy of active neglect as the Islamic State shells the Kurds in Kobani, the P.K.K. will not terminate the prevailing cease-fire and decide to fight both Turkey and the Islamic State at the same time.

This assumption is now undergoing a stress test. Many Kurds have decided to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with violent street protests, forcing the government to declare a curfew, for the first time in many years, in five predominantly Kurdish cities in Turkey’s southeast. They blame the Turkish government for not doing enough to save Kobani and for hindering Kurdish efforts to bring aid and fighters to the enclave from across the Turkish border. The Kurdish leadership even threatened to pull out of the talks should Kobani fall to the Islamic State. Indeed, the peace talks with the P.K.K. that until recently seemed on track are now at risk of derailing.

Even riskier is the policy decision Turkey’s leaders have taken in the past week. The Parliament adopted a bill allowing the government to send troops to Iraq and Syria to fight terrorism. This was rightly interpreted in the West as a belated commitment by Turkey to be part of the anti-Islamic State coalition. But Ankara is demanding Washington’s support for regime change in Syria before engaging itself more substantively in the fight against the Islamic State.

Turkey sees the Islamic State as a symptom rather than the cause of the problems that bedevil the Middle East. It believes that only a comprehensive and ambitious campaign targeting the Assad regime can help to stabilize the region in the long term. Hence Turkish leaders are demanding safe havens and no-fly zones within Syria. These protected areas would cater to the accommodation needs of future waves of refugees but also serve as an assembly and training zone for more moderate Syrian opposition fighters.

In God and the US Dollar We Trust?

8 October 2014

Imagine living on an island a part of a small group, and in this group people are assigned specific vocations and tasks. In this system one-person makes clothes, another shoes, some one pots and pans, some one grows food and someone else prints money to facilitate exchange of goods and services. So the shoemaker exchanges his goods with another for money and in turn pays with that money for food or whatever. Since everybody in this system can produce as much as possible, the person who prints the money will be best off among all because he can buy whatever he wants and pay for it with his own money. Take this one step further then. Producers who come to hold more paper than they need then start leaving it with the person who prints them to hold. Expand this to the global scale and we pretty much have a similar world system.

In 2012 the World GDP totaled about $71.83 trillion ($45.73 trillion in 1990 US dollars) and the per capita GDP was $12400. During the past eight years the WGDP grew at about 4% a year. In 1960 the WGDP was $6.85 trillion (1990). The WGDP was just $1.1 trillion in 1900 and took half a century to grow fourfold to $4.01 trillion and grew ten fold to $41 trillion (1990). The big leaps began after US President Richard Nixon unilaterally delinked the US dollar from the international gold standard. 

The total world trade in 2013 was $37.7 trillion, with China (including Hong Kong) the biggest player accounting for $5.31 trillions. The top five global traders account for $19.11 trillions or 50.6% of global trade. Almost a quarter of the global trade is accounted by the USA, Germany and Japan. The EU share of world trade is $4.49 trillions and the USA’s is $ 3.91 trillions also accounting for about a quarter of world trade. 

The total world reserves in 2014-Q2 was $12.00 trillion, of which 60.7% was held in US dollars, 24.2% in Euros, 4% in Yen and 3.9% in UK Pounds. Almost all of these reserves are held by individual countries in the form of bonds, mostly earning very small interest rates. This is like money invested in a bank, but in reality it is money being lent to the issuing country. Since the reserves are mostly in US dollars and Euros, the issuing countries have little reason to hold much as reserves. The USA’s total reserves amount to about $138 billion. Contrast this to India’s $298 billion and China’s $4055 billion. This last figure will tell you how much China is invested in the USA, and also how much leverage the USA can exercise over China to ensure complaint behavior. In 1995, advanced economies held around 67% of total foreign exchange reserves, with 82% of these being allocated reserves. By 2011, the picture had been flipped on its head: emerging and developing countries held 67% of total reserves, with less than 39% allocated. Emerging countries now hold roughly $6.8 trillion in reserve currency. 

The purpose of sharing these three world economy snapshots is to provide a general backdrop to how we have come to this pass. A situation where the rest of the world invests in the USA, so that it in turn can splurge on itself. When it is short, it can just print some more dollars, which the rest of us lap up quite happily. Every time the USA goes into convulsions due to its innate profligacy and economic mismanagement, the world economies go into a tail spin, because the USA is the world’s biggest importer and the it is where the world keeps its money. 

There can be no denying that the international financial system is in a shambles. The world barely escaped a melt down when bank after bank either failed or were on the verge of failing in the USA. The US Administration of President Barack Obama fashioned out a rescue by pumping in almost a trillion dollars to shore up the banks and save the giant US automobile industry, which is still that country’s major industrial driver. This money was made available by putting the printing presses of the various US Federal Reserve Bank’s on overdrive. While the USA is the world’s preferred banker, if it continues with its profligate ways and keeps adding to the supply of dollars, they value of dollar reserves will keep dwindling.

But for China!

08 Oct , 2014

The decade of 50s was characterized by romanticisation of communism in India. Such was the romance that many leaders of the post-Independence dispensation, most of who claimed to have made huge sacrifices for India’s Independence, hailed the Communist takeover of China. It may be underscored that India was the first non-communist country to accord diplomatic recognition in January 1950 to China consequent to the establishment of Mao’s rule.

Sardar Patel warned of a two-front situation after the disappearance of Tibet as a buffer country.

Amongst the exceptions, who did not romanticize and saw the writing on the wall very clearly, was Sardar Patel. In his letter dated 7 November 1950 to Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel wrote: “… outside the Russian Camp, we have practically been alone in championing the cause of Chinese entry into the UNO… it (China) continues to regard us with suspicion and the whole psychology is one, at least outwardly of skepticism perhaps mixed with little hostility… it looks as though it is not a friend speaking in that language but a potential enemy…” Further Sardar Patel warned of a two-front situation after the disappearance of Tibet as a buffer country. He said: “Thus, for the first time after centuries, India’s defence has to concentrate itself on two fronts simultaneously. Our defence measures have so far been based on the calculations of superiority over Pakistan. In our calculations, we shall now have to reckon with Communist China…” How prescient!!!

Why did the dispensation ignore Sardar Patel’s warning? Why did the dispensation, which prided itself in having achieved independence only by Satyagraha, did not find it abominable that the Communism was foreign ideology and had travelled from Russia to China after murder of more than three million and two million people in the respective countries. Finally, when it arrived in India, the same worshipers of non-violence were so indulgent with the Communism and the Communists!

The communist leadership in India were not ideologically and physically bred in underground manner. Nor did they go through the hardship of jungles. Most of them were privileged lot, who received their education in Oxford and Cambridge in UK. It is here that they were indoctrinated by the erstwhile British masters and returned to India as diehard Communists. These so-called Communists were perfectly married to the British agenda in the pre-colonial period. Left-liberalism was the perfect tool to legitimize the colonial rule as it robbed Indians of any sense of pride in India’s past. This phenomenon was not confined to India alone.

During that period, Ayub Khan in Pakistan, Sukarno in Indonesia and King Mahendra in Nepal, abandoned Western pattern of multi-party democracy and opted for ‘grassroots democracy’. The victim of the insecurity of the Indian leadership was the Indian Army.

Post Cold War the mantle of patronage to left wing extremisms has gradually shifted to European countries which are using it as leverage to pursue their economic and religious agenda.

Later, these very communists, who abused Indian history, religion and Indian social structure, captured academic institutions and intellectual space in India. Educational institutions in Bengal, which at one time produced such brilliant scientists, began to churn out purposeless graduates steeped in denial and negativity. Communism, in fact, robbed Bengal of its scientific and productive temper and intellectual capital. Such was the momentum of communists that hardly any university in India was left un-impacted by their diabolical onslaught. Even a newly established university like the JNU, far from promoting pioneering research, sunk into leftist cynicism and sterilepseudo -intellectualism.

'4 men, a dog and a tent are no military threat'

October 08, 2014 

What does Shiv Shankar Menon, one of India's most brilliant diplomats and the former National Security Advisor, think of the Modi visit to the US, the Chinese stand-off in Ladakh and the situation on the LoC?

Aziz Haniffa/Rediff.com listens in. 

What India, Shiv Shankar Menon, who served as India's ambassador to Beijing in the mid-2000s, was seeking from China, "is very much what the US is seeking." 

"We don't want confrontation; we are trying to build a cooperative relationship in which both sides have stakes in producing an improving climate of relations and responsible behaviour." 
"Now can we manage the boundary dispute? We've shown over the last 30 years that it can be managed." 

"It is still a political issue with potential to actually cloud the rest of the relationship." 
"Frankly, four men, a dog and a tent are no military threat. I mean, this is political and we need to look at it in that way. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets fans outside the Indian embassy in Washington, DC. Photograph: MEA/Flickr 

"It (Prime Minister Modi's visit to the US) was clearly a good visit in several senses. It cleared some of the cobwebs and at least, in the minds of the public, the drift in the ties has been arrested." 

India's climate change strategy: Expanding differentiated responsibility

Samir Saran and Will Poff-Webster
07 October 2014


As the world prepares for the upcoming climate change negotiations in Lima in 2014 and Paris in 2015, there is an expectation that the talks be more decisive than previous attempts at consensus from Kyoto to Copenhagen. Yet the assumption that the undeniable science of climate change will by itself compel action on an issue that has thus far proved the mother of all collective action problems ignores the failures of past conferences. For Lima and Paris to succeed in achieving consensus, the issue of equitable response to the climate crisis must be creatively reimagined. Equity has been a challenge for climate consensus since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit first articulated that, "In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities."1 

In meeting this challenge of articulating responsibilities for a climate that all share but only some have impacted substantially, India's challenge is increasingly the world's challenge. How can India acknowledge and respond to existing trends—the increasing urgency of confronting climate change, the energy-intensive process of achieving a semblance of development, and widening wealth gaps between rich and poor—while maintaining its focus on bringing its hundreds of millions of citizens out of poverty? In a larger sense, how can the world prevent climate degradation amid existing inequality and the aspiration of billions to rise out of poverty? 

Maintaining equity between India and earlier developers 

For India, the actualisation of differentiated responsibility remains central to any climate agreement. Developed countries and China have already undergone energy-intensive industrial development (and largely coal-fired electrification) to bring their people out of poverty, consuming much of the world's carbon budget in the process. From Britain's use of the steam engine in the early nineteenth century to China's exponentially increasing coal capacity over the last decade, carbon-polluting energy has been essential to providing jobs for the millions who seek them in each successive industrial revolution.2 India's coming industrial revolution and necessary shift to manufacturing, with twelve million new workers entering the workforce each year, cannot be avoided lest those millions lose the possibility of a better life.3 India's economic transition, coming at a time when the world is finally moving toward a collective response to climate change, represents a great challenge to maintaining economic equity between India and previously industrializing powers. After all, the cost of access to prosperity must not be the highest for latecomers to industrialization. In other words, poverty cannot be frozen by a dateline. 

India has acted to engage these contrasting priorities, by committing to a 20-25 percent reduction in carbon intensity by 2020—a natural consequence of increasing efficiency in the energy sector, but also a step to ensure the government's promise that India's per capita emissions will not go above those of wealthy countries.4 But equity suggests that India resist any effort to tie its energy intensity reduction to China's, as the two countries have vastly different existing energy consumption and generation footprints. India starts from a lower polluting baseline compared to China and even to developed economies that have shed manufacturing—India's use of energy per purchasing power parity dollar of economic output is 0.33 kg CO2, compared to China at 0.60 and developed countries like the United States at 0.48.5 The tendency to see China and India in hyphenated terms as large economies with growing emissions ignores the fundamental differences in their current contribution to climate change and to their vastly different economic and development landscapes. 

Is the Afghan Army Ready for 2015?

Army death rate spikes 30 percent

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan army desperate for more advanced military equipment is suffering death rates 30 percent higher in the 2014 fighting season, the army's first against the Taliban without large-scale assistance from the U.S.-led international military force, officials said.

A bigger worry than the increased deaths, though, is the havoc the military could unleash on the country if the army rips at its ethnic seams, an increased possibility as U.S. and other NATO forces continue to draw down their forces, Afghan and American military experts say.

When the U.S. and other NATO-led forces withdraw all combat troops by Dec. 31, the Afghan army will truly be on its own on the battlefield for the first time since the 2001 U.S. invasion. America has spent $62 billion since then to train and equip the country's security forces, but Afghan military experts remain concerned that the army doesn't have enough men or materiel.

"They're fighting, but they are suffering," said Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, Afghanistan's former minister of defense and a current adviser to the president's office.

Some of those worries were mitigated on Sept. 30, when the United States and Afghanistan signed a bilateral security agreement allowing about 10,000 American troops to remain in Afghanistan to train, advise and assist Afghan forces past the end of the year. America's NATO allies are expected to contribute a further 5,000 or so troops. A smaller U.S. Special Operations forces will also remain and actively go after extremists such as al-Qaida.

More importantly, signing the deal assured the Afghan government of about $4.1 billion in U.S. and foreign funding that pays for everything from soldiers salaries, to their bullets and the fuel they use in their vehicles. Without the money, the Afghan security forces would have fallen apart in months.

The Afghan Air Force Rises from the Ashes

October 7, 2014

Air support will be a critical mission for Afghanistan

As the U.S. and its coalition partners prepare to withdraw all combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the vital question that needs to be answered is, will the Afghan security forces will be able to defend their nation against the inevitable resurgence of the Taliban?

Starting quite literally from scratch, the coalition rebuilt the Afghan National Army and National Police into a force of nearly 400,000. While they have demonstrated basic competence in the conduct of security operations, independent assessments of these forces warn of considerable persistent weaknesses in critical enablers such as air support, mobility, logistics, intelligence, communications, medical support and joint operations.

As we learned recently to our great regret, building partner security forces is about a lot more than just creating and training combat forces. If soldiers and police are not supported properly, including receiving food, mail and medical care, they may simply refuse to fight. Not only did the coalition have to generate the fighting portion of the Afghan security forces, it also undertook the equally difficult task of helping the Afghan government build competent management structures and functioning logistics and sustainment systems, finance, accounting and contracting capabilities, and medical services.

Of the enablers for the Afghan security forces, arguably the most important is air support. Given Afghanistan’s difficult terrain and lack of roads, air transport has been critical to the operations of the Afghan government and security forces for decades. Airpower provides critical intelligence, responsive firepower for ground forces, the movement of high value personnel and supplies, and rapid medical evacuation.

5 priorities for Afghanistan

By Ahmad Majidyar, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Ahmad Majidyar is a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute. He also teaches senior U.S. military officers on security and politics in Afghanistan. The views expressed are his own.

Late last month, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was inaugurated as president of Afghanistan after signing a power-sharing pact with his electoral rival Abdullah Abdullah, ending a protracted political standoff that threatened to thrust the country into another civil war and complicate the U.S. exit strategy. To the relief of its foreign allies, the new government also concluded long-delayed security deals that will allow 12,000 American and NATO troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

But while the peaceful and democratic transfer of power marks a milestone in Afghanistan’s tumultuous history, the country faces mounting security and governance challenges as international support is diminishing. To ensure long-term stability, the following five priorities should top the new government’s agenda.

Fostering national unity: The American-brokered deal to form a government of national unity was the best outcome for Afghanistan and its international partners alike. This year’s election campaign divided Afghans on ethnic and factional lines like never before, and without the power-sharing deal, the winner of the fraud-tainted vote wouldn’t have enjoyed broad-based legitimacy to maintain stability and govern effectively. Leaving election season acrimony behind, the two leaders must now devise a national agenda that promotes unity among all Afghans, ensure the new government makeup is inclusive, and marginalize warlords and ultra ethno-nationalists who may attempt to undermine the unity government.

Improving governance: Although the new government is more the outcome of a political compromise than a credible election, Afghans will ultimately judge the government’s legitimacy and popularity by its ability to deliver basic services. Last year, Afghanistan ranked the world’s most corrupt nation; state institutions remain weak; and governance conditions are likely to further deteriorate as foreign funding is drying up. Additionally, the United States and other foreign donors have made it clear that future financial aid to Afghanistan will be conditioned on the government’s measures to curb corruption and improve accountability.

Bolstering economy: Over the past decade, the United States and its allies have failed to build an indigenous, sustainable economy in Afghanistan, as foreign aid and spending still account for more than 90 percent of the country’s $20 billion GDP. The drawdown of foreign troops has already had a significant impact on the Afghan economy: economic growth last year plummeted to 3.6 percent from 14.4 percent in 2012; the Kabul government has reportedly run out of money to pay for its bills; real estate prices have declined by up to 50 percent; inflation and unemployment are soaring; and business conditions have deteriorated. To shore up the economy, the new government has to implement institutional reforms to attract foreign investment, strengthen tax and customs administration, and root out corruption.

Will Afghanistan Become the ‘Forgotten War’ Again?

October 6, 2014


On Oct. 7, 2001, nearly a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, the State Department sent a cable to Pakistan asking Islamabad to pass a message to the Taliban warning that “it is in your interest and in the interest of your survival to hand over all al-Qaeda leaders.” The message also included a warning to Taliban leader Mullah Omar that “every pillar of the Taliban regime will be destroyed.”

Stephanie Gaskell is deputy editor and senior reporter for Defense One. She previously covered the Pentagon for Politico. Gaskell has covered war, politics and breaking news for nearly 20 years, including at the Associated Press, the New York Post and the New York Daily News. She has reported from ... Full Bio

Thirteen years later, Omar is alive and kicking despite a $10 million bounty on his head, the Taliban is still targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to be part of the problem—and the solution.

The U.S. military operation began that same day. And after nearly $800 billion, and more than 2,300 American lives, the war in Afghanistan will officially come to an end this year. But the mission is far from over. Whatever military ambitions that defined the war’s original name, “Operation Enduring Freedom,” have now been reduced to a far less ambitious—and more lasting—approach with the mission’s new name: “Operation Resolute Support.”

Another fighting season is coming to an end, but U.S. troops have largely been out of the fight for some time now. There have been 47 American casualties this year, compared to 499 in 2010, at the height of the war. Still, Gen. John Campbell, the former Army vice chief who took over as the top U.S. and NATO commander six weeks ago, said the fight isn’t over, noting that two U.S. soldiers and a Polish soldier were killed this month, and another U.S. soldier was lost last week. He also pointed out that Afghan forces are still struggling with aviation, logistics and intelligence issues. “This continues to be a very tough environment for our soldiers, for all of NATO and for the Afghan security forces,” he said during a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon. As the U.S. death toll drops, it’s clear Afghan security forces have begun to bear the brunt of the fight, with as many as 9,000 injuries and fatalities this year alone.

Now that newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has signed the bilateral security agreement (BSA) that allows U.S. troops to stay past the end of the war, Campbell has begun the transition from 13 years of combat to a post-war “train, advise and assist” mission.

‘Transition, Transition, Transition’

There are currently just under 40,000 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan, including approximately 23,000 U.S. forces. That number will drop to about 12,500 NATO forces—of which 9,800 will be American—by the end of the year, according to a timeline set out by President Barack Obama in May. By the end of 2015, that number will be cut again, by about half, and by Jan. 1, 2017, all U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan except for a small number assigned to the U.S. embassy in Kabul. 

Despite a protracted political process that delayed the seating of the new Afghan president and put a security agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan in limbo for months, Campbell said the drawdown is on track so far. At the height of the war, ISAF had about 300 combat outposts and forward operating bases. There are now just 30.

“If I had one word to tell you what I’ve seen so far in the six weeks, it’s transition, transition, transition. And that is transition from ISAF to the mission of resolute support. It’s the political transition with a new president, the BSA signing, the SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement] signing, and this really complete political transition,” Campbell said.

China: The Next Shale-Gas Superpower?

October 9, 2014
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"The United States took two decades to achieve its 'overnight' success in shale gas. For China, the shale revolution will not be delivered any more quickly..."

Shale gas sparked an energy revolution in the United States, helping end a reliance on imports and making the nation an energy superpower. Yet while China eyes its own shale revolution, the world’s largest energy consumer is seeing its production targets rapidly evaporate as it confronts enormous technological and market challenges.

Shale’s potential to deliver much-needed energy for China is obvious. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2013 estimate, China has an estimated 31.6 trillion cubic meters (tcm) of technically recoverable shale gas resources, almost as much as the United States and Canada combined.

China has already invested more than a billion dollars in shale-gas exploration, completing more than eighty reservoir appraisal wells, including more than twenty horizontal wells as of 2013. Yet of the 117 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas produced by China last year,only 0.2 bcm was from shale.

While domestic gas consumption has increased rapidly, production has lagged behind, hit by a lack of investment and pipeline constraints. China became a net gas importer in 2007 and since 2009, domestic gas production has expanded at an annual compound rate of 9.3 percent, well below that of demand, which has grown by 19.1 percent over the same period.

Under its 12th Five-Year Plan, China set a target of doubling natural gas in primary energy consumption to 8.3 percent by 2015, producing 6.5 bcm annually and as much as 60 to 100 bcm by 2020.

The move is part of a shift away from its heavy reliance on coal-fired power, which accounts for around 70 percent of energy consumption. Gas-fired power stations generate around half the emissions of equivalent coal-fired power stations, making gas an important part of the government’s push to clean China’s polluted cities.

Xi Jinping's Anti-Corruption Campaign Is Doomed to Fail

October 07, 2014

Xi Jinping’s corruption crackdown won’t succeed unless he acknowledges the system is the problem — not a few “bad apples.” 

[Editor's Note: This is the second part in a series by Aaron Friedberg on Xi Jinping's leadership in China. The first installment is available here.]

History will remember Mikhail Gorbachev as the man who destroyed Soviet Communism by trying to save it. Despite his subsequent veneration by some Western liberals, Gorbachev was no liberal himself. A true believer in state socialism, he nevertheless recognized that the Soviet system was grossly inefficient and that an entrenched and unchecked Party-State bureaucracy posed a fundamental obstacle to meaningful economic reforms. After a few false starts, Gorbachev concluded that the only way to achieve “perestroika” (reform) was to permit a measure of “glasnost” (openness). Like many an out-of-touch autocrat, he believed that he could anticipate and control popular sentiment, directing it against the hidebound apparatchiks who opposed his vision of a “kinder, gentler” form of Communism. Instead Gorbachev unleashed a torrent of criticism and resentment that quickly weakened and then destroyed the very foundations of the Soviet system.

Xi Jinping is no Gorbachev. He presides over an economy that is still growing rapidly, a population whose expectations continue to rise, and a political elite that has not yet lost faith in itself and in its right to rule. But,like Gorbachev, in his zeal to defeat his opponents and bolster the questionable legitimacy of a one party authoritarian system, Xi may have tugged on a thread that could cause things to unravel with surprising speed.

As discussed in a previous post, since taking power at the end of 2012, Xi has raised the stakes of political combat in China by leveling charges of corruption not only against relatively low-ranking officials, but against people in the highest reaches of the Party, State and military hierarchies. While he seems to be winning, at least for the moment, the long-term effects of these tactics on elite cohesion and regime stability are difficult to determine and could be deeply damaging. Whatever their differences, in the 25 years since the Tiananmen Square crisis China’s leaders have accepted that they must hang together if they do not wish to hang separately. Now the rules of the game are better summed up in a phrase that is sometimes translated as “life-and-death struggle” but which, as journalist John Garnaut points out, actually means “you die, I live.”

Xi’s anti-corruption campaign is one part of a wider effort to destroy his enemies and consolidate political power. But it is also an acknowledgement that the problem of high-level corruption has become too big to ignore. Since the 2012 arrest and subsequent trial of Bo Xilai, the former boss of Chongqing who was once considered a leading contender for a spot on the Politburo Standing Committee and perhaps even for the position of Party leader, there has been a steady stream of revelations regarding the financial dealings of current and former officials and their families. Some have been embarrassed by stories in the foreign media; others have been arrested, tried and, predictably, convicted. The current campaign is an attempt to “rectify” the Party, reclaiming its virtue and shoring up its legitimacy by demonstrating a willingness to go after “tigers” (powerful figures) as well as “flies” (low-level officials).

China Just Overtook The US As The World's Largest Economy

By Mike Bird 

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton Sorry, America. China just overtook the US to become the world's largest economy, according to the International Monetary Fund. 

Chris Giles at the Financial Times flagged up the change. He also alerted us in April that it was all about to happen.

Basically, the method used by the IMF adjusts for purchasing power parity, explained here.

The simple logic is that prices aren't the same in each country: A shirt will cost you less in Shanghai than in San Francisco, so it's not entirely reasonable to compare countries without taking this into account. Though a typical person in China earns a lot less than the typical person in the US, simply converting a Chinese salary into dollars underestimates how much purchasing power that individual, and therefore that country, might have. The Economist's Big Mac Index is a great example of these disparities.

So the IMF measures both GDP in market-exchange terms and in terms of purchasing power. On the purchasing-power basis, China is overtaking the US right about now and becoming the world's biggest economy.

We've just gone past that crossover on the chart below, according to the IMF. By the end of 2014, China will make up 16.48% of the world's purchasing-power adjusted GDP (or $17.632 trillion), and the US will make up just 16.28% (or $17.416 trillion):

IMF, Google Public Data Explorer Adjusted for purchasing power, the IMF thinks China's economy is now the world's largest. It's not all sour news for the US. It'll be some time yet until the lines cross over in raw terms, not adjusted for purchasing power. By that measure, China still sits more than $6.5 trillion lower than the US and isn't likely to overtake for quite some time: 

IMF, Google Public Data Explorter But in terms of the raw market value of China's currency, it still has a long way to go.