10 November 2014

ENEMY IS NOT UNSEEN; HE’S HERE


Regarding defence procurements, no one can disagree with indigenisation as the preferred way. But as wishes cannot be horses, the abysmal state of India's defence industry requires a lot of things to be set right before India embarks on the ‘Make in India' voyage

The Modi Government’s model of running defence without a full-time Minister seems to be doing well. It is both centralised and broad-based, and if you will, with a discernable division of labour. Instead of one, India now has five defined and two extraneous functionaries to ensure that a muscle is available to support its assertive foreign policy. Topping the list is the Prime Minister himself who meets the three defence services chiefs for a one-on-one each month. As the super Defence Minister, he exchanges notes with services chiefs on operations, procurements, morale of servicemen and veterans and so on.

Next, there is the part-time Defence Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, who being the full-time Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister, is focussed on defence procurements through the indigenous ‘Make in India’ mantra, never mind what it can deliver. Take the case of the Navy’s long pending second line submarine project-75 India, which given the pro-active Chinese Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines already snooping in the Palk Strait, is a dangerous operational gap. In one stroke, Mr Jaitley has overturned the Indian Navy’s suggestion of taking the ‘Buy and Make’ route — buy two submarines from the chosen foreign collaborator and build the rest with technology transfer — and has settled for a completely indigenous route. Where and how will the submarines be made, when will they be delivered and at what cost to national security and exchequer are questions which has got subsumed in the indigenous euphoria. Then, there is the Minister of State for Defence, Mr Rao Inderjit Singh, who, though heading India’s defence procurement, is completely at sea, overshadowed by the large Jaitley persona. He survives on the fringes and is left to perform ceremonial duties with a few aware of his existence within South Block.

Next, the National Security Advisor, Mr Ajit Doval, an intelligence and police officer by training, is the de factoDefence Minister responsible for generating ideas on warfare. He has concluded that state-to-state third generation conventional warfare is passé and India faces the menace of fourth generation (terrorism) warfare. Mr Doval’s script on warfare was read out by the Prime Minister while recently addressing the combined commanders' conference, the highest conclave that annually brings the Generals, Air Marshals and Admirals together to know what the Government wants them to do. Mr Modi left India’s top military brass perplexed by saying that while ‘threats are known, the enemy is invisible’ alluding to terrorists or non-state actors unleashed by Pakistan.

‘Imagine a future where everyone could express himself…’

Rukmini S.
November 10, 2014 

Deb Roy in a January, 2014 photo. Photo: Joi Ito via Wikimedia commons

Twitter’s Chief Media Scientist on the need to bridge the digital literacy gap

Deb Roy founded and leads the Laboratory for Social Machines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which studies human interaction online to create more responsive governments and systems. He is also Chief Media Scientist at Twitter. He spoke to Rukmini S. in New Delhi about the lab’s plans in India

For the laboratory’s work on governance change, I believe that two of the main issues you’re looking at are gender inequality and literacy?

Yes. My view from the outside is there is a lot of attention these days in India to gender inequality in general and safety for girls and women in particular, and to the degree to which there is an intersection between those issues and the public sphere, we may have relevant work.

To give you a very simple example: look at the share of men versus women in the public sphere. Take the elections in India and all the conversation on Twitter, of which I know there was a significant scale — tens of millions of tweets reaching far more people. One could ask the question — whose voices are being heard in an important event like that and what’s the share of voice?

Let’s say you believe that the share of voice should match the share of feet on the ground, then maybe there are things that can be done to start moving that. Our little lab at MIT is not going to move share of voice of India, but we may be able to analyse and shed some light on what it looks like and why and there might be interesting, actionable insights for people who do have their hands on levers.

When you talk about effecting governance change through the internet, the most marginalised Indians are also the ones without access. In addition to connectivity, you’ve talked of alternatives to text to bring in these people.

Yes, definitely. Say you set the goal of universal access to the internet for every person in India. Then you work backwards: what are all the barriers to having universal access? There’s a set of technological and economic barriers, and then there’s a set of human skill barriers.

On the technology side, it is things like connectivity. What I’ve been learning over my last week here is that there are massive changes in the works for the footprint of 3G and 4G connectivity.

That still leaves standing the economics of what it would take to access that data. From what I’m learning of the shifts in the government in India with the Narendra Modi transition, there’s probably going to be a lot of support to have universal access so that may help with the economics. So that’s connectivity.

Then there’s the actual device that you connecting with. The good news there is you can now get a smartphone that runs apps on a serious operating system that connects to the internet for under Rs.2,000 and we all know which direction those prices will move and the speed. On the technological barriers, you can see the right direction for change for both data and hardware.

Black money: More here than there

Mohan Guruswamy
Nov 10, 2014

Despite the advent of plastic money and more payments by cheque, India still is an economy that transacts mostly in cash. If most transactions are by cash, evasion and concealment are easy and possibly inevitable.

The term black money is all encompassing for income on which no taxes have been paid to the state. This income may be from legitimate sources or patently illegal activities such as smuggling, counterfeiting, corruption and narcotics. The estimates of how much black money is generated each year vary widely. But a widely cited, but still supposedly confidential study by the National Institute for Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), commissioned by the government estimates the black economy in 2013 to be equal to about 75 per cent of the gross domestic product.

The previous NIPFP official study commissioned by the government in 1985 estimated it be equal to about 21 per cent of the GDP in 1984 or Rs 364,182 crore out of a total GDP of Rs 173,420 crore. In 2014, India’s GDP is estimated to be over $2.047 trillion corresponding to $7.277 trillion PPP. In 2014, the Government of India is expecting to collect taxes and duties amounting to Rs 13.64 lakh crore. This only means it is not collecting additional taxes and duties amounting to about 75 per cent of this, in other words about Rs 10.4 lakh crore. This is a huge sum and any government will drown in salivation thinking about all the good it can do with that money. We can then contemplate investment to GDP ratios higher than China’s. What this will do for GDP growth and the expansion of prosperity can well be imagined.

India has only 35 million taxpayers of which 89 per cent declare incomes in the 0-5 lakh slab. That means only 11 per cent declare incomes above Rs 5 lakh a year, an absurd figure considering Indians now purchased over 2.2 million new passenger vehicles and SUVs last year, by all accounts a slow year. Clearly, most people who should be paying taxes are not.

Securing Kabul


Written by Christophe Jaffrelot 
November 10, 2014 

Will the Afghan National Army (ANA) be able to resist the Taliban, which has already rejected Ghani’s invitation for peace talks?

NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will not have the impact some observers were fearing. The new rulers of Kabul, President Abdul Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, have signed the agreement with the US that former President Hamid Karzai kept rejecting for months.

According to this agreement, US forces can stay in Afghanistan “until the end of 2024 and beyond”, mostly in nine major land and air bases. But this Bilateral Security Agreement, as it is called, is mostly intended to enable the Americans to train the 3,50,000 Afghan security forces. Not only will American troops be reduced to 9,800 over the course of the next year, but most of the remaining sophisticated arms that the US had brought to Afghanistan will also return home.

Will the Afghan National Army (ANA) be able to resist the Taliban, which has already rejected Ghani’s invitation for peace talks? Once Nato pulls its air assets out of the country, the Afghan air force will not be in a position to sustain military operations. Not only because it does not have the needed modern military aircraft (including helicopters), but also because it will have trouble obtaining working replacement parts.

Western countries may provide some help, but they are already channelling vast funds into the country’s defence. And there are other problems. The legitimacy of the ANA is somewhat affected by its ethnic character — a majority of its officers are of Tajik origin — and the desertion rate remains very high because of the low pay, especially given the risks taken by security personnel and compared to what the Taliban sometimes offers. Already, many regions are de facto in the hands of the Taliban, which exercises administrative power, levy taxes, regulate opium cultivation/ transformation and dispense some form of justice. This is true not only in the south and in the east, but also in the north, at least in the Kunduz area.

A new banking alternative Developing countries to rely less on ADB, World Bank and IMF


BY all accounts poor infrastructure is the biggest stumbling block for achieving higher economic growth. Lack of roads, highways, power, ports, airports and water has acted as the main deterrent to attracting foreign direct investment, especially in the South Asian region.

The first initiative to address the needs of developing and emerging market economies for infrastructure was the establishment of the New Development Bank by BRICS in Shanghai. This was announced at Fortaleza, Brazil, in July 2014 and marked a paradigm shift in the global financial system towards a new economic order in which the role of the IMF and the World Bank will be considerably diminished. And now the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has reinforced the trend.

The AIIB was announced October 24, 2014, by China along with 20 other Asian countries which signed the MoU. The bank will be functional from 2015. Undoubtedly China wants to be the global leader in the global financial architecture and has the means to do so. It has huge forex reserves ($3.3 trillion) and has experienced steady growth for more than three decades. In the past, developing countries relied on Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the IMF for their financial needs which dominated the multilateral lending operations in the world.

The IMF and the World Bank especially laid down conditions for their loans given to developing countries which often meant deviating from their own development agenda. Reforms included strict adherence to fiscal deficit goals, privatisation, opening up the economy, cutting subsidies and government expenditure. But today the developing countries are increasingly turning towards China to aid them in their quest for building infrastructure. And China has been helping Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh in building roads and ports.

Jinnah’s dream in tatters

Abbas Nasir
10 Nov 2014

Jinnah’s dream is in tatters. Of that there is no doubt. Even more alarming is the fact that we have had to hang our heads in helpless shame countless times in recent years ~ so much so that the ability to look up and find a way forward seems beyond us now.
The Wagah border crossing is the scene of a jarring exercise by the Pakistani and Indian border guards which must damage the spines and brains of the soldiers who take part (for slamming their heels into the concrete floor like they do could hardly be a healthy activity) in a display of futile one-upmanship.

But to several thousand who gather to watch the spectacle staged regularly, you can be sure, it isn’t an exercise in futility. Like so many fictional sources of strength and pride in our lives, it must allow all those gathered to escape the reality of existential threats facing the country and rejoice in how great and mighty we are at soldiery.
So, there was method in the madness of the militants, who used a suicide bomber to target the ‘flag-lowering’ or ‘retreat’ gathering at Wagah border and kill or maim people in multiples of dozens. In one strike, the takfiri militants targeted not just the innocent civilians and spread terror but, in this instance, also exposed the ‘inability’ of the mighty military machine to protect its own showpiece event.

While I may not agree with the purpose of this staged exercise, it was pleasing to see terrorism roundly condemned by one and all. And the very next ‘ceremony’ saw several thousand people gathered at the venue in defiance of the terrorists’ message.
Sadly our outrage, not on social media or op-ed pages of newspapers, but in its manifestation on the ground, is insignificant where it isn’t in consonance with the view of the security state.

India in South China Sea?


With the Vietnamese prime minister’s visit to Delhi earlier this week, the Narendra Modi government has underlined its intention to take the Hanoi-Delhi ties forward from the momentum it has gained in the last few years.

The two sides agreed to enhance bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2020 and signed seven agreements in key areas of defence, trade, security, and counter terrorism.

India agreed to operationalise a $100 million line of credit for Vietnam, and provide support to modernise its security forces. Vietnam offered two more oil blocks for exploration in the South China Sea to India. They were among the five blocks Hanoi had offered earlier. India made it clear that these blocks fall in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone contrary to China’s claims.

New Delhi maintained that legitimate rights and interests of nations in the sea must be guaranteed and all disputes must be solved by peaceful means on the basis of international law, especially the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the full and serious implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) towards the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea.

This was a forceful message to China as was Prime Minister Modi’s articulation that India remained “committed to the modernisation of Vietnam’s defence and security forces. This will include expansion of our training programme, which is already very substantial, joint exercises and cooperation in defence equipment... We will quickly operationalise the $100 million Line of Credit that will enable Vietnam to acquire new naval vessels from India.”

Beijing made its displeasure quickly by suggesting that no third party should involve itself in the tense maritime tussle between Beijing and Hanoi: “China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha islands. Any lawful oil exploration activity in the South China Sea is fine by us. But if such activity undermines sovereignty and interests of China, we are firmly opposed to this."

Did the US turn a blind eye to the Taliban till...

November 09, 2014 
Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir's remarks about Benazir Bhutto, Robin Raphel and the Taliban, published in the Indian Expressnewspaper some weeks ago, Kolkata's The Telegraphnewspaper reported on Sunday, provoked the investigation of the controversial American diplomat whose home and office were searched by the FBI last week.

Twelve years ago, in a column published on Rediff.com, Hamid Mir, who escaped an assassination attempt in Pakistan in April, made stunning revelations about America, Afghanistan and the Taliban.

'It is important to note that American officials were trying their best to use the Taliban for their oil games till December 1997 when Mullah Ghous was invited to America,' Mir then wrote. 'State Department officials did not show any interest in capturing or killing Osama bin Laden even at that time.'

We reproduce Hamid Mir's 2002 column, Afghanistan's 'pipeline police':

It was in October 1996 that I first came to know about a link between Afghanistan, America, and oil. I was travelling with the then prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, to England and America as the editor of Daily Pakistan, Islamabad.

Bhutto was lobbying hard against elections in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which had been rejected by the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference. She was, however, facing many embarrassing questions on her government's open support for the Taliban.

During one of her lectures in London, Asma Jahangir, a famous Pakistani human rights activist, asked her: "Madam, you are talking about the human rights of Kashmiris, what about the human rights of Afghan women who were recently stopped from attending educational institutions by your blue-eyed Taliban boys?"

A More Aggressive India

By Ali Ahmed
November 07, 2014

Recent events along the Line of Control underline a new approach to defense. 

With the dust having settled after the heaviest artillery and mortar exchange of the past decade on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, the situation is now clearer. India has intimated a change in policy, from merely having a shield to also wielding a sword. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley insisted that Pakistani “adventurism” would meet with “pain.” However, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval also promised that if Pakistan behaved then India would be willing to let the rising tide of its economy lift all regional boats.

For its part, Pakistan has used its prime minister’s foreign policy and the NSA to spell out that it will not accept India’s hegemonic designs and will settle only for “meaningful” talks that lead to a settlement on the outstanding issue of Kashmir. Its army chief has vowed an “effective” response, while the more colorful former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf called for “inciting” rebellion in Kashmir.

So, not much has changed.

One thing looks different, however: India appears more aggressive on the LoC, in one report firing more than1000 mortar rounds in one day. And the reasons for this go beyond a mere shift in policy.

Ukraine rebels seen moving large military convoys in hint of possible renewed hostilities

Published November 08, 2014


Unmarked military vehicles parked on a road outside the separatist rebel-held eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne, 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Donetsk on Saturday Nov. 8, 2014. AP reporters saw more than 80 military vehicles on the move Saturday in separatist-controlled areas, indicating intensified hostilities may lie ahead. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov) (The Associated Press) 

SNIZHNE, Ukraine – Associated Press reporters saw more than 80 unmarked military vehicles on the move Saturday in rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine, indicating that intensified hostilities may lie ahead.

Three separate columns were seen — one near the main separatist stronghold of Donetsk and two outside the town of Snizhne, 80 kilometers (50 miles) further east. The vehicles were mainly transportation trucks, some of them carrying small- and large-caliber artillery systems, and at least one armored personnel carrier. One truck outside Donetsk was seen to be carrying troops.

Ukrainian officials said this week that they believe rebel forces have received substantial consignments of weaponry and manpower from Russia. Moscow denies such claims.

It was not immediately possible to establish the provenance of the vehicles seen Saturday. Separatists have always insisted they are armed with equipment captured from Ukrainian forces, but the sheer scale and quality of their armaments have strained the credibility of that claim.

Despite a cease-fire being reached in September, Ukrainian and rebel troops engage on a regular basis, with some of the heaviest fighting focused on Donetsk airport.

One government paratrooper was killed Friday by a sniper at the airport, military authorities said in a statement.

The statement added that Ukrainian positions came under artillery fire in several towns and villages east of Donetsk, including Debaltseve, which has begun to be increasingly encircled by rebel forces.

Earlier this week, Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko said that additional troops were being deployed to the east to defend cities still under government control against possible incursions. That followed rebel statements of intent to expand the amount of territory under their control.

The truce signed in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, by Russia, Ukraine and the separatists stipulates the pullback of heavy weaponry.

In Beijing, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference for what was expected to be a discussion about the unrest in eastern Ukraine.

Asked if Russia still respects the legitimacy of the cease-fire agreement, Lavrov said it is for the "rebels and the government" of Ukraine to finalize a disengagement line — a process that he said is continuing.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia rose further after the rebels held an election last Sunday that Ukraine and the West denounced as a violation of the truce. Russia, however, quickly lent its support to the vote.

Ditching Israel, Embracing Iran

Lee Smith
November 10, 2014

Last week, the Obama White House finally clarified its Middle East policy. It’s détente with Iran and a cold war with Israel.

To the administration, Israel isn’t worth the trouble its prime minister causes. As one anonymous Obama official put it to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, what good is Benjamin Netanyahu if he won’t make peace with the Palestinians? Bibi doesn’t have the nerve of Begin, Rabin, or Sharon, said the unnamed source. The current leader of this longstanding U.S. ally, he added, is “a chickens—t.” 

It’s hardly surprising that the Obama White House is crudely badmouthing Netanyahu; it has tried to undercut him from the beginning. But this isn’t just about the administration’s petulance and pettiness. There seems to be a strategic purpose to heckling Israel’s prime minister. With a possible deal over Iran’s nuclear weapons program in sight, the White House wants to weaken Netanyahu’s ability to challenge an Iran agreement. 

Another unnamed Obama official told Goldberg that Netanyahu is all bluster when it comes to the Islamic Republic. The Israeli leader calls the clerical regime’s nuclear weapons program an existential threat, but he’s done nothing about it. And now, said the official, “It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”

In other words, the White House is openly boasting that it bought the Iranians enough time to get across the finish line. Obama has insisted for five years that his policy is to prevent a nuclear Iran from emerging. In reality, his policy all along was to deter Israel from striking Iranian nuclear facilities. The way Obama sees it, an Iranian bomb may not be desirable, but it’s clearly preferable to an Israeli attack. Not only would an Israeli strike unleash a wave of Iranian terror throughout the region—and perhaps across Europe and the United States as well—it would also alienate what the White House sees as a potential partner. 

Russia Preps Its North Pole Invasion


Dave Majumdar 

With fighter jets, bombers, and nuclear-powered icebreakers, the Vladimir Putin regime is staking its claim in the Arctic. Dosveydanya, Santa Claus. 

Russia is rapidly building up its military forces in the Arctic in an effort to secure its claims in the frigid region. Starting in 2017, the country will base MiG-31 Foxhound long-range interceptors in long-abandoned Soviet-era bases that it is currently renovating, according to Russian state media. 

But basing Foxhound interceptors, which are capable of flying at nearly three times the speed of sound, in the Arctic is just the beginning. Russia has far grander plans to secure its claims in the north as the permanent ice caps recede. “We are planning to build 13 airfields, an air-ground firing range, as well as ten radar and vectoring posts,” Lt. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, commander of Russia’s National Defense Management Center told Russian news service RIA Novosti late last month. The radar stations would be used to guide interceptors to their targets while the training range would be used to train pilots. 

In addition to the interceptors, Russia has started to base nuclear-capable Tupolev Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers in the region to patrol those vast and desolate reaches. “The crews of Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bombers at the Arctic long-range aviation base in Amur Region, have tripled their flying rate this year,” Col. Alexander Gordeyev told RIA Novosti in July. 

What Can A Republican Senate Majority Do For Ukraine?


11/06/2014

The Republicans’ victory in the mid-term elections gives them control of the U.S. Senate and a greater voice in foreign policy. With a Republican senate majority, legislation opposed by Obama’s Democratic anti-war wing can no longer be kept from the floor, as it was under the outgoing Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid. The expected new Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, indeed vowed, in his first post-election press conference, to expeditiously move legislation to the president’s desk for his signature (or veto). Ukraine can hope that pending pro-Ukraine bills will go to the front of the queue, especially if Ukrainian, Baltic and Polish Americans make their voices heard, let alone those who understand the global threat that Putin’s Russia poses.

The two bills to provide Ukraine with defensive and lethal weapons that are poised to be taken up by the new Republican senate majority are: 
H.R. 5190, the Ukraine Security Assistance Act of 2014, helps Ukraine “neutralize the military-support advantage that separatist rebels are using to target civilian and military aircraft in eastern Ukraine,” and would authorize the president to “provide adequate and necessary assistance to protect Ukrainian democracy and sovereignty.” 
S.2828, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, calls for military and security assistance to Ukraine, designates it as a Major Non-NATO Ally, and imposes further sanctions on the Russian Federation. The bill was introduced by the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), and was passed unanimously by the committee. 

Barack Obama can scarcely veto a bi-partisan pro-Ukraine bill. He can no longerrefuse to supply weapons to Ukraine because of his “long-standing concern that arming Ukraine would provoke Moscow into a further escalation that could drag Washingtoninto a proxy war.” The Kremlin has little more to escalate other than an outright attack on Kiev or a NATO country. His support of the illegal Donetsk and Luhansk elections, moreover, makes clear that Putin has no interest in a peaceful solution of the Ukraine crisis.

An Obama rejection of Ukraine military aid would put him at odds with powerful Congressional foreign policy voices from both parties (Ben Nelson, Sander Levin, Jim Gerlach, Gerland Connoly, Robert Menendez, John McCain, Bob Corker, to name just a few), with American foreign-policy experts (Mike McFaul, Strobe Talbot, to name just two), and with military establishment figures (Generals Martin Dempsey, Philip Breedlove et al.). They agree with former CIA chief and defense secretary, LeonPanetta that we must give Ukraine “the means to defend itself.” Likely presidential candidate and former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, also sees the anti-Putin writing on the political wall. She has described Putin as “a mortal threat to sovereign European countries and U.S. interests,” to whom we “have to stand up” and “encircle” and “choke off his ability to be so aggressive.”

The Ukraine military aid bill may even come from the new Congress with a veto-proof super-majority, leaving Obama with no choice in the matter, even if his anti-war faction is outraged.

Ukraine Says Russian Military Force, Including 32 Tanks, Has Crossed Border Into Luhansk Region of the Eastern Ukraine

Neil MacFarquhar
November 7, 2014

Ukraine Accuses Russia of Sending Tanks and Troops Across Border

MOSCOW — Ukraine accused Russia on Friday of dispatching tanks, troops and other weaponry across the border to bolster separatists who control a small eastern portion of Ukraine, the latest in a series of charges and countercharges that are gradually undermining a tenuous peace plan signed two months ago.

Speaking in Kiev, the capital, Col. Andriy Lysenko, a Ukrainian military spokesman, said 32 tanks, 16 howitzers and 30 trucks hauling ammunition and fighters crossed into the Luhansk region from Russia.

He presented no clear evidence to support the claim, nor did the wealth of social media outlets in eastern Ukraine display any footage of a tank convoy. The Kiev government frequently made such claims during intensive periods in the fighting between Ukrainian government troops and separatists earlier this year that could not be substantiated.

Neither NATO nor the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is monitoring a cease-fire, could confirm the report. NATO issued a statement in Brussels saying it had noticed increased military activity along the frontier.

“We can confirm a recent increase in Russian troops and equipment along the eastern border of Ukraine,” the statement said. “Russia continues to demonstrate its lack of regard for international agreements and its determination to further destabilize Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian military issued a separate statement saying it had killed up to 200 rebel fighters, and destroyed a variety of military equipment, in the continuing battle over the airport outside Donetsk, which Ukrainian government forces control.

Andrei Purgin, the deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, accused the government forces of starting an “all-out war” against the separatist fighters, according to a report from Russia’s state-controlled RIA Novosti news agency on Thursday.

More than 4,000 people have been killed since the fighting erupted in April, according to United Nations figures.

Tensions escalated in the region after the two separatist city-states, Donetsk and Luhansk, held leadership elections on Sunday.

The government in Kiev, which called the elections illegal, moved to start cutting off the regions physically and financially. It revoked a law that would have given the two regions some autonomy.

The Cost Of Putin’s Ukrainian Adventure: Russia’s Currency Is Plummeting


Matthew ZeitlinBuzzFeed Staff

The Russian ruble is worth 41% less, in dollar terms, than it was on January 1. U.S. and E.U. sanctions, plus a big drop in oil prices, are to blame.posted on Nov. 7, 2014, at 3:31 a.m. 

The Russian currency, the ruble, has plummeted this year, hitting fresh lows of 46 rubles to the dollar on Thursday. It traded at 40 rubles to the dollar just in the last month, and has depreciated 41.8% this year.

That means that if you had $100 worth of rubles on January 1, they would be worth less than $60 today.

The ruble-to-dollar exchange rate has risen fast this year, meaning holders of the Russian currency need to spend more on imported goods priced in foreign currencies. Bloomberg

This rapid fall in the value of the currency is thanks largely to sanctions imposed by the E.U. and U.S. in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and interference in Eastern Ukraine.

Israel: Poisonous Passions


November 6, 2014: Over a month of anti-Israeli violence in East (Arab) Jerusalem has led to several hundred arrests and Palestinian leaders (especially from Fatah and Hamas) encouraging more of it and praising those who kill Israelis. The casual violence (rock and fire bomb throwing) against Israelis has been going on for a long time. Most of this (nearly a hundred attacks a week) takes place in the West Bank, where Israeli security forces do not crack down as effectively as they do inside Israel. Israelis living in the West Bank have been striking back, with about eight attacks a week. Israeli police will use lethal force if an attacker is using a weapon (like a fire bomb) that will likely seriously injure or kill someone. For example, throwing a fire bomb at a vehicle can geat you shot. Police also pursue offenders more effectively inside Israel, making it far more risky to throw things at people and vehicles. Despite that, these attacks are becoming more frequent in East Jerusalem. The dispute here is over Israeli claims that Jerusalem is (as it was in antiquity) the capital of Israel. Palestinians insist that Jerusalem belongs to them and is the capital of a non-existent Palestinian state. 

A lot of this latest anti-Israel violence has been triggered by violent encounters in and around the al Aqsa mosque (which is just above the Wailing Wall, a popular Jewish holy place and tourist attraction) in Jerusalem. The last time the violence got out of hand was in 2010 when Palestinians threw stones at people below. The Palestinians were protesting Israeli settlers and Israeli policies in general. This happens periodically, even though Israeli security forces try to keep Palestinian troublemakers out of al Aqsa. Israeli police sometimes have to go into al Aqsa to deal with these disturbances before they lead to serious injuries. This usually results in even more violence before the police can haul everyone out. This is then denounced as an Israeli atrocity against Palestinians and Islam. 

It’s not just about al Aqsa. The Palestinians feel it is a religious obligation to attack Jewish religious shrines everywhere (especially in the West Bank where some are also Islamic holy places.) This attitude is common throughout the Islamic world but especially among Arabs. Another irritation for Moslems is Israelis who call for the rebuilding of the ancient Jewish temple, which originally occupied the post where the al Aqsa mosque was built. Even calling for allowing Jews to worship on the temple mount is considered anathema. 

The problems with al Aqsa are not unique. Moslems frequently built mosques on the ruins of places where other religions had temples or even religious shrines. This still causes resentments, and sometimes violence (as in India where many mosques were built where Hindu temples originally were.) This sort of thing is an ancient practice and many Christian churches are built on the sites of older temples. The difference is that there is no problem when there are no more followers of the religion whose temple sites were built on. Moslems did destroy some religions during their conquests, and still want to wipe out Hinduism and even Judaism (which is supposed to be respected, according to Moslem scripture). This institutional antagonism against other religions is a root cause of most of the religious violence involving Moslems. Many in the West are either ignorant of this or would prefer that is was not true and deny it. But anyone reading the mass media in Moslem nations gets the “kill the non-believers” message loud and clear. While leaders of most Moslem majority nations realize that this hatred is not a sane basis for foreign policy, they still have to show support for it at home, while trying to be nice to foreigners, especially more powerful ones. 

Pakistan: The State of Terror

NOVEMBER 7, 2014 

Terrorism is alive and well in Pakistan, despite sustained military operations against the militants in the tribal areas. 

This Sunday's suicide attack at the Wagah crossing on the Indo-Pakistan border, which killed well over 60 people, confirms yet again that terrorists' potency has not diminished. Three separate groups claimed responsibility for the attack: Jundallah, an al-Qaeda off-shoot, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Jamaatul Ahrar (TTPJA), a break-away faction of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP), and the Hakimullah Mehsud faction, another TTP splinter group. A spokesman for the TTPJA claims that it was carried out in retaliation for the on-going military operation in North Waziristan and the killing of innocent civilians.

The four-month old military operation in North Waziristan -- Operation Zarb-e-Azb -- and the smaller, more recent one in the Khyber Agency -- Operation Khyber-I -- against the various militant groups holed up in those areas have been successful, but only in a limited way. While the military capability of the Tereek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the umbrella grouping for a large number of Pakistan-based militant organizations, has undoubtedly been degraded, many of the fighters have either fled across the border into Afghanistan, or they have found refuge in Pakistan's urban centers, particularly in Karachi. So, while in the short-term, terrorism may have been held at bay (at least until this latest attack), in the long-term Pakistan's terrorism problem is far from being resolved.

According to official military sources, well over 1000 militants have been killed. And over 100 tons of ammunition and explosives have been recovered. Of course, there is no independent source to confirm these figures. But what we can correctly assume is that apart from Mohammad Hassan, a senior TTP commander, none of the top commanders or militant leaders has been killed because, had this happened, their corpses would have been almost certainly displayed by the military as war trophies.

While none of the politically important members of the TTP havae been captured or killed, the operations have undoubtedly disrupted their network, especially in North Waziristan. As a result many of these fighters have fled across the border, where they have established safe havens. While it may be good news in the short-termthat these terrorists have left Pakistani soil, in the long-term this is bad news for Pakistan since militants will have the opportunity to re-group and re-arm in order to cross back over into Pakistan in the future. 

Among those who were able to flee across the border were the high-value commanders from the Haqqani Network and the Gul Bahadur group. They were able to do so because of the much-publicized lead time that signaled a major military operation was about to be launched. This jeopardizes the future stability of Afghanistan because they will have joined their brothers-in-arm to fight the Afghan security forces and the departing Western troops. 

U.S. diplomat and longtime Pakistan expert is under federal investigation

November 6 

Robin L. Raphel testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in 2004. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A veteran State Department diplomat and longtime Pakistan expert is under federal investigation as part of a counterintelligence probe and has had her security clearances withdrawn, according to U.S. officials. 

The FBI searched the Northwest Washington home of Robin L. Raphel last month, and her State Department office was also examined and sealed, officials said. Raphel, a fixture in Washington’s diplomatic and think-tank circles, was placed on administrative leave last month, and her contract with the State Department was allowed to expire this week. 

Two U.S. officials described the investigation as a counterintelligence matter, which typically involves allegations of spying on behalf of foreign governments. The exact nature of the investigation involving Raphel remains unclear. She has not been charged. 

A spokesman for Raphel said she was cooperating with investigators but has not been told the “scope or nature or that she is the target” of any probe. 

U.S. officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Spokesmen with the FBI and the Justice Department’s National Security Division declined to comment. 

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its South Asian Connection: An Indian Perspective

November 5, 2014

80p na Lieutenant General Joseph Anderson. Commanding General, XVIII Airborne Corps

The U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division formally concluded its operations in Afghanistan on Tuesday, another sign that the war is drawing to a close even as American commanders are evaluating whether they will have enough resources to support the fledgling Afghan military. 

WASHINGTON — At the current casualty rate, the Afghanistan National Security Forces cannot be sustained, according to a top officer within the international coalition.

Since the beginning of 2013, the ANSF have suffered almost 9,000 fatalities, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

In comparison, the U.S. has lost 2,346 troops in Operation Enduring Freedom since the war began in 2001.

The ANSF “have to also work everything fundamentally, particularly on the police side, with tactics, techniques, procedures for how they protect themselves … to make sure they have less casualties,” Anderson said.

In addition, they need to replace their losses and lower the number of troops going AWOL. Only 89 percent of Afghan police and 81 percent of Afghan army slots are currently filled, according to Anderson.

“Their first priority right now is to get their recruiting back up,” he said.

He also mentioned counter-IED, medevac, and medical treatment as areas where the ANSF need to get better.

“All those things have to continue to improve to reduce those [casualty] numbers, because those numbers are not sustainable in the long term,” he said.

Concerns about casualty rates come at a time when U.S. and coalition forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan and handing over security to the Afghans. There are about 20,000 American troops there, but that number is slated to drop to 9,800 by the end of this year. Only 2,500 NATO troops are expected to remain. The international troops will be there to advise, train and assist the ANSF, as well as perform some counterterrorism missions.

By the end of 2016, almost all U.S. troops are slated to pull out.

The Unfinished War in Afghanistan: 2001-2014

Vishal Chandra

Publisher: Pentagon Press

ISBN 978-81-8274-762-3

Price: Rs. 1495 [Download E-Book] [Buy Now]
About the Book

This book makes a modest attempt to contribute to the ongoing debate on future challenges for Afghanistan as the largest ever coalition of Western forces prepares to withdraw. It seeks to examine key political developments within Afghanistan over the last one decade in response to the US-led Western military and political intervention. Perhaps, much more is still to come in a war that could aptly be termed as the last big war of the twentieth and first long war of the twenty-first century. The emerging social and political narratives are unmistakably old and echo the sentiments of the past. Though a 'New Afghanistan' has emerged in the meanwhile, it remains fundamentally an urban phenomenon. The diversity of narratives and perceptions, and failure of past political transitions to build a sustainable internal balance of power, based on changed social and political realities, have turned Afghanistan into a complex entity that defies established theoretical formulations and explanations. The evolving security and political scenario suggests that elections alone may not help bring stability and order to Afghanistan. The next dispensation in Kabul, irrespective of its composition, is most likely to be confronted with a host of old and familiar challenges to its legitimacy and survival.
About The Author


Vishal Chandra is Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi. His core area of research is politics of Afghan conflict, with special interest in Taliban resurgence, politics of reconciliation, making of the Afghan National Army, role of political opposition, shaping of regional perceptions, past political transitions and trends in Indo-Afghan relations.


He has travelled widely in Afghanistan and has attended various international conferences and workshops on Afghanistan. He regularly lectures on Afghan affairs and is member of several policy groups on Afghanistan. With more than a decade of research experience, he has over 40 publications on Afghanistan, including 15 book chapters and several articles and commentaries, to his credit. He has edited the book, India's Neighbourhood: The Armies of South Asia (Pentagon Press, New Delhi, 2013). Click here for details profile
Contents

Foreword
Acknowledgements
Abbreviations
List of Tables and Maps Afghanistan: Key Socio-Economic Indicators
Introduction 
New Order, Old Politics An Abandoned and Forgotten War
Recasting Old Fault Lines
Mujahideen within Local Structures
Return of Old Militia Networks
Debating the New Constitution 
Tryst with Democracy The First Election (2004-05)
President Elect and the First Cabinet
Assessing the Bonn Process
Karzai’s Re-election: Chaotic Exercise
Prospects of Democracy 
Opposition Politics and Karzai the Master Survivor
Evolution of NFA
The National Understanding Front Composition and Agenda of NFA
Reactions to the Emergence of the NFA
NFA and the Taliban
New Turf War Begins
Karzai the Master Survivor 
Taliban Back into Power Play
War on Terror: Losing while Winning
Taliban No More on the Fringe
Gaining Strategic Depth in Pakistan
Changing Face of the Afghan War
Western Mission Going Nowhere 
Politics of Taliban Reconciliation and Reintegration 
Growing Ambiguity
Making of the Idea
Key Challenges
Future Prospect 
Quest for a National Army
Origin/Evolution of the New National Army
Training and Mentoring
Structure/Formation of ANA Afghan National Army Air Corps (ANAAC)
Ethnic Representation
Funding
Rushing for Numbers
The Weaponry
Multiple Challenges
Future Prospects 
The ‘Other’ Key Neighbours – Iran, India, China and Russia Pakistan: Terrorism without Terrorists!
Iran: A Dominant Factor
India: Partner in Development
China: Pretending Distance
Russia: Hesitant but Concerned
Awaiting ‘Post-2014’ Afghanistan 
The Unfinished War 
Beyond 2014: Continuing Concerns and Challenges
(i) Historical Conflict Dynamics
(ii) Post-Karzai Leadership
(iii) US’ Missing Future Strategy
(iv) Survival of the National Army
(v) Resilience of the Taliban 
APPENDICES 
Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-establishment of Permanent Government Institutions 
North Waziristan Peace Pact 
White Paper of the Interagency Policy Group’s Report on U.S. Policy Toward Afghanistan and Pakistan 
Status of ANAAC (as of April 2010) 

Index

Europe's Perennial State of Fragmentation

November 5, 2014

Europe is overcrowded with people and with nations. Six decades ago, the need to suppress the dangerous forces of nationalism led to the unprecedented political, economic and social experiment now known as the European Union. The hundreds of thousands of EU citizens working across the Continent and the lack of border controls between member states show that the experiment has been successful in many ways. However, rising nationalism, pervasively high unemployment and a growing sense of frustration with governing elites also highlight the serious limitations of the European project. Over the past 12 months, I have traveled extensively throughout Europe, observing firsthand how the global economic crisis is reawakening dormant trends along the Continent's traditional fault lines.

The crisis is having an uneven effect on EU member states because the eurozone locks countries with different levels of economic development into the same currency union. Europe's geography helps explain these differences: Countries in the south have traditionally dealt with high capital costs and low capital-generation capacity, while countries in the north have seen the opposite.

In December, I drove from Barcelona to Madrid. The endless succession of mountains along the route encapsulates Spain's traditional struggle against geography: Merely moving people and goods from point to point on the Iberian Peninsula has always posed formidable challenges for governments and traders. This rugged geography also led to the development of small pockets of populations with strong national identities, creating tension between Madrid and the Basque Country as well as Catalonia. Spain has traditionally been a resource-poor country that has had to look to the Atlantic to find wealth while frequently resorting to violence to secure unity.

Artillery: Precision That Backfires


November 4, 2014: During the recent war with Hamas a unique Israeli artillery unit, Meitar, fired over 250 Tamuz guided missiles. What made this special was the Tamuz, with a range of 25 kilometers, has a radio link and a camera in the nose that enables trained operators to “drive” the missile to a very specific target. This could be a moving vehicle, or a window into a room where there is something you want to destroy. Meitar is considered an elite units as the Tamuz missile requires skilled operators to make sure the final moments of flight take the missile to the target. Aside from the time and effort to recruit and train the operators, Tamuz is also expensive ($200,000 each). In the Israeli military there is an ongoing debate as to whether it is worth the additional cost to use Tamuz to avoid enemy civilian casualties when a 155mm artillery shell, costing $1,200 could be used. During the recent Hamas war 19,000 high-explosive 155mm shells were fired (plus another 15,000 dispensing smoke or flares). Tamuz missiles caused few, if any, civilian casualties while the 155mm shells caused a lot. The Palestinians regularly lie about their civilian casualties and encourage their civilians to act as human shields for Hezbollah men with guns or launching rockets at Israel. Even if Tamuz replaced all 155mm shells, there would still be Palestinian backed stories of civilian casualties. But the Palestinians would have a lot less to work with. 

Israel is not going to replace all 155mm shells with Tamuz missiles because they cannot afford it. With the Israeli defense budget under constant pressure, why buy more Tamuz missiles when there are other items you need to save Israeli lives. After all the main job of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is to protect Israelis, not civilians enemy fighters are hiding amongst. Despite that many critics of Israel consider 155mm shells a war crime and insist that only precise guided weapons should be used when the enemy is using civilians for human shields. 

It was not until 2011 that Israel revealed this special, and until then secret, version of their Spike missile. Tamuz is based on the Spike ER, with a range of 25 kilometers. Israel released videos of Tamuz in action, showing the missile being flown into the window of a distant building. Israel used a few Tamuz in 2006 during the war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. During the 2008 war in Gaza only 26 Tamuz were used. 

“Make In India” in Defence: Embedding Industry-wide Dialogue and Consultation

November 07, 2014

The “Make In India” mantra requires a refreshingly new attitudinal change to India’s policy-making processes—namely, fostering a culture of trust between government and industry/ business stakeholders1.. It may, therefore, be useful to envision how India’s Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) could be retrofitted with this new vision by incorporating a culture of dialogue and consultations into the defence acquisition process itself, as a necessary prerequisite for building enhanced confidence and trust in MoD’s procurement systems in the longer-run.

While the DPP mandates its own revision once every two years2., the provision is silent on external consultation protocols for the same. To that extent, it may be useful to incorporate mechanisms for formal public consultations with the Indian defence industry on drafts of proposed changes before their adoption by the Defence Procurement Board (DPB)and the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC). The suggestion is not really new and has been practiced earlier on a few occasions by the MoD: present “Make” procedures were based on recommendations of an inter-disciplinary group closely involving the Indian defence industry3.; and more recent changes relating to indigenous content determination and for streamlining of “Buy and Make (Indian)” category of defence acquisitions4.relied extensively on industry consultations for fine-tuning the initial drafts. In a more general context, the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) had also supported the idea of prior public consultations for important policy formulations5.; and these CoS recommendations, together with useful past experiences in the MoD, could therefore provide a ready basis for mandating circulation of proposed DPP changes for industry comments and suggestions prior to DPB and DAC consideration.

Such engagement would also ensure better alignment of the process of DPP amendment with international best practices: every single EU Directive related to public procurement, defence acquisitions and PPP contracts routinely undergoes multiple rounds of stakeholder discussions on proposed drafts6.. Similarly, under the US public procurement system—both defence and non-defence—initial drafts of proposed regulatory changes are mandatorily published7. with a standard 30-day notice period; and the final regulations necessarily indicate how certain public suggestions have been incorporated therein, or why certain stakeholder suggestions have not been accepted in the final rules: indeed an exceedingly high degree of transparency and consultations for refinement of procurement regulations practiced worldwide. This spirit of openness in the US procurement rule-making system permeates in its task-force functioning as well: the Acquisition Advisory Panel for procurement reforms8. in the US setup in the mid-2000s was mandated by the US Congress to conduct its proceedings in public, and the Panel invited suggestions from all stakeholders on its draft report before finalising its suggestions. In contrast, the report of the Dhall Committee on public procurement reforms in India, as well as the more recent suggestions on defence acquisition reforms made by the Naresh Chandra Committee and the Rabindra Gupta Committee, have remained unavailable to Indian industry stakeholders, virtually ignoring the latter’s potential for contributing meaningfully to the important reforms process.