14 November 2014

India’s most promising energy source is free and found nearly everywhere

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This article is part of a six-month BULLETIN series exploring GE’s innovation, technology, and manufacturing initiatives in India. India may be an emerging superpower, but the country’s ever-growing energy demands reveal significant challenges for future growth. An over-dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal, inadequate transmission infrastructure, and counter-productive regulatory hurdles are only a few of the issues India faces. Nearly 300 million people have no access to electricity because roughly 25% of the electricity generated is lost to inefficient transmission.India is now looking to wind energy to overcome these challenges. In fact, wind energy could provide for about 20% of the global electricity demand by 2030, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

Currently, almost 60% of India’s 245 GW of capacity is based on coal and about 82% of the total electricity generated comes from thermal power sources. But India has taken measures to shift at least a portion of its power generation base to renewable energy sources. Earlier this year, India reached an installed renewable energy capacity of 31.7 GW, or over 12% of the total installed power capacity. Wind energy now leads all other renewable energy technologies installed in India with a share of over 66%. 

The relatively low cost of equipment, early introduction of financial incentives from the government, and the fact that wind is a freely available resource have all contributed to the high share of market for renewables. 

For a public policy road map

C. Raj Kumar
November 14, 2014

India’s global competitiveness is inextricably linked to its ability to formulate and implement sound public policies, the making of which is one of the most ignored aspects of governance 

The Global Competitiveness Report 2014-15 published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has ranked India 71 in its Global Competitiveness Index (GCI). This report assesses the competitiveness of 144 global economies based on 12 points. These include institutions, infrastructure, health and education, labour market efficiency, technological readiness, innovation and business sophistication. India was ranked 60 in 2013-14. Now, it occupies the lowest position among the BRICS countries. Russia was ranked 64 in 2013-14, four ranks below India, but is 53 in 2014-15. China is 28. The GCI rankings for 2014-15, followed by , in brackets, the 2013-14 rankings, which were for 148 economies are: Brazil 57 (56); Russia 53 (64); Indian 71 (60); China 28 (29) and South Africa 56 (53). 

India’s global competitiveness is inextricably linked to its ability to formulate and implement sound and effective public policies. Public policymaking is one of the most ignored aspects of governance in India. In fact, we have mastered the art of adhocism for governance, with little or no effort to seek empirical analysis in formulating public policy. While all empirical analyses have their inherent limitations, they are indispensable in weighing different options from the point of view of policy effectiveness. Public policy is critical in every aspect of governance, not least for making laws, rules, regulations, executive orders and administrative directions, and for formulating policies of the government. The purpose of public policy is to not only provide answers to all questions, but also to do so by helping the government to ask the right questions in the first place. 

Using empirical analysis 

In recent times, public policy as a discipline has brought to bear many fields of inquiry with a view to addressing the central problems of governance. Public policy analysis requires a more rigorous approach in which many fields of inquiry, including, but not limited to sociology, political science, law, anthropology, ethics and history besides economics, remain relevant. This kind of analysis and approach to public policy is indispensable for good governance. An example of such a multidisciplinary approach to assessing public policy effectiveness is the recent India Public Policy Report 2014. 

Parrikar's Priority

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar has three things going for him. First, he has prime minister Narendra Modi’s confidence. Two, he is an IIT engineer and able to digest the technical aspects and imperatives of national security better than the generalist civil servants in the ministry of defence (MoD). And three, he may have an instinctive understanding of national security considering he was chief minister of a small coastal state with big naval presence (which, after mining and tourism, perhaps, pumps in the most money into Goa’s economy).

There are many issues he will have to deal with on an urgent basis. But nothing is more important than for this country to produce the weapons it needs. Self-sufficiency in arms has to date been mostly political rhetoric and indigenisation is reduced to passing off licence manufacture of foreign weapons systems by defence public sector units (DPSUs) as a great leap in self-reliance. Instead of the government insisting that the military assist the Indian defence industry to obtain its requirements at home, it has left it to individual services to decide whether to participate in indigenous design, development, and production schemes. Navy showed its earnest long ago with a warship and submarine design directorate.

The air force and army are way behind, with the former displaying distrust in extremis of home-made aircraft even after the Marut HF-24 showed it could be done 50 years back, and the Tejas light combat aircraft is a beautiful fighter plane. According to Pushpindar Singh, agent for Dornier, the German aviation sector was so impressed it offered to jointly develop the latter aircraft. With the lack of foresight the Indian government is known for the MoD, of course, declined just as it had done the offer by Bonn in the Sixties to co-develop the Marut! The import option has proved a bonanza for foreign defence suppliers, providing foreign countries the handle to influence Indian foreign and military policies by manipulating, especially during crises, the supply of spares.

Parrikar’s predecessor, Arun Jaitley, decided boldly on the indigenous manufacture of the Project 75i conventional submarine, rejecting MoD’s attempt to take the private sector major, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), out of the running by suggesting it move its main production base to Hazira—a techno-economic decision it was incompetent to make, had no business to try imposing on L&T, and was plainly designed to favour the low-productivity DPSU Mazgaon Dockyard Ltd (MDL), which has huffed and puffed and run up huge cost and time over-runs in assembling the French Scorpene submarine. It is hardly to be wondered that the ideologically blinkered Congress defence minister, A K Antony, didn’t see the logic of entrusting L&T producing the technically challenging Arihant-class nuclear-powered nuclear ballistic missile-firing submarine (SSBN) with the manufacture of the far simpler diesel submarine!


Narendra Modi would likely discuss the possibility of Indian participation in the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership to develop an economic alliance extending from India to the US, Mexico and Canada

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be setting a new record for an Indian Prime Minister by his participation in four multi-lateral summits in November. It began in Myanmar for two summit meetings, the first with Association of Southeast Asian Nations heads of Government. Then there has been the East Asia summit, which brings him together with leaders of the US, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. He thereafter proceeds to Brisbane to participate in the G20 summit, bringing together leaders of the developed world and emerging markets. This involves interaction with advanced economic powers including the US, Canada, Australia and the leading economies of Europe. Together with the emerging economies of Brics and Indonesia. Towards the end of the month, he will attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Kathmandu — an event with political importance, but showing little economic promise, thanks to Pakistani obduracy.

These meetings are taking place after a successful Brics summit. This summit led to the first tentative step for ending the global economic dominance of the US and its European partners, by the establishment of the Brics Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in China. These institutions should be realistically seen as complementing, supplementing, but not supplanting, institutions like the Wold Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank. India needs to make it clear that a multiplicity of institutions for developmental assistance fits in excellently with its belief in a genuinely multi-polar world. If some countries take serious objection to American unilateralism, an equal number have serious misgivings about increasing manifestations of Chinese hegemony, territorial expansionism and crass mercantilism in developing countries.

Ever since Prime Minister Narasimha Rao set India on the path economic liberalisation, one of the most productive aspects of Indian diplomacy has been the country’s growing economic integration with the fast growing economies in its eastern neighbourhood, extending across the Strait of Malacca, to the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The major security concern of Japan and Asean countries like Vietnam and the Philippines has been the Chinese propensity to use its growing military power to enforce its maritime territorial claims. While India should go along with an Asean consensus on this issue, it has happily put aside the Hamlet-like self-doubt and pusillanimity that characterised the approach of the national security establishment of the UPA Government, in responding to Chinese aggressiveness, not only on China’s maritime boundaries, but also on its land borders with India.

Air Power Can't Counter IS

By Manmohan Bahadur
10th November 2014 
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The use of air power to stop the advance of the Islamic State (IS) rebels in Syria and Iraq does not seem to be succeeding. For one, the IS cadre is battle-hardened, having seen action in Iraq and, some say, in Afghanistan, too, while the other is the limitations of air power. Buoyed with recruits from the West, who bring with them education and sophistication of the modern kind, the IS has slowly advanced up to the Turkish border. That the Turks are playing a double game, ensuring that their own Kurdish problem does not get a fillip, is for all to see—but it has indeed been a sad sight on television to see Turkish Army tanks perched on the hillock overlooking the Syrian border town of Kobane while the killings go on in full view of everyone. Better sense seems to be dawning, as latest reports indicate a change in Turkish thinking to permit Kurdish fighters to go across its borders.

Getting back to air power, it is indeed surprising that it is still being seen as a panacea for all conflicts. While the advantages of the third medium were acknowledged after the advent of the aeroplane in the First World War, air power made a splash in the eyes of the common man on the street after its spectacular showing in Op Desert Storm in 1991 with its precision weaponry videos being broadcast ad nauseam. Its import can be gauged from the fact that even the normally bureaucratic and rule-bound United Nations (UN) went into an overdrive and 15 new peacekeeping missions were started in the following two years whereas only 17 had been commenced in the previous 45 years!

An instrument to bring victory without many casualties to one’s own personnel seemed to have been found, or so the politicians thought. So, one saw Op Deliberate Force being conducted under the UN flag in Bosnia followed by Op Allied Force in Kosovo and the flurry of subsequent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Libyan “segment” of Arab Spring had air power written all over and so was its imprint in the French campaign in Mali against the Al-Qaeda-led Islamic rebels in 2013.

Chinese Perceptions of Modi’s Foreign Policy

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan
November 13, 2014

Alongside growing momentum for reconciliation, significant bilateral problems remain.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in office for almost six months in what has been an active period, especially on the national security and foreign policy fronts. There have been several important international visits during this period, including Modi’s visits to Japan and the U.S. and state visits to India by the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Chinese in particular have been seen to be courting India since the Modi government took charge in New Delhi. India represents enormous opportunities on the economic front and is also important from a security perspective, given the increasing flux and volatility in Asian geopolitics. Xi’s visit to India was an opportunity to take the relationship to a higher level. From China’s perspective, the visit was meant to solidify its interest in bringing out the full potential of the bilateral economic agenda, as it was looking to sign agreements on high-speed rail and major infrastructure projects including ports. The Chinese consul general in Mumbai stated that China “will commit investments of over $100 billion or thrice the investments committed by Japan.” However, what was finally committed was only $20 billion, no small amount, though far smaller than the hype had suggested.

The border standoff that began on the day of Xi’s visit did have a spoiler effect on their interactions. Even though the Indian leadership has always raised the tricky issues of border disputes and the trade deficit with China, Modi went one step further by raising them during the press statement, stating “peace and stability in our relations and along our borders are essential for us to realize the enormous potential in our relations. If we achieve that, we can reinforce each other’s economic growth.” In response, Xi noted that the border issue is “left over from history” but that China is determined “to work with India to settle… at an early date.” He also underlined the fact that the “two sides are fully capable of acting promptly to manage incidents on the border.” However, the Chumur incident has sent mixed signals about China’s message.

The author had the opportunity to discuss these issues extensively with the academic and think-tank community in Shanghai during a recent visit, which offered some insight into how China views the new government in New Delhi.

Oil Falls: Will India Reform?

By Alan Potter
November 12, 2014

Falling oil prices are giving the Indian government a window of opportunity to reform. 

In 2013, the current Finance Minister of India Arun Jaitley stated: “Reform is the art of the possible.” At the time, Jaitley was in opposition and was attacking the slow pace of reforms under the UPA government; effectively arguing that while reforms are difficult because of opposition, there are always some that are possible. Until about a month ago, the new BJP government largely lived up to this statement and limited itself to minor changes, steering clear of reforms that would cause opposition. Then, about a month ago, the pace of reforms suddenly accelerated. During this time, the price of oil also fell dramatically. Has the rapid decline in the price of oil changed the realm of what reforms are possible?

Economic reforms are always hard to implement. There are groups that benefit under current policies and that will oppose reforms, even if the changes would improve the economy in the long term. This is particularly true when the reforms involve populist polices such as fuel subsidies or state-ownership of firms, policies that affect large numbers of voters. How can reform-minded governments overcome opposition from voters who benefit under the status quo? In the case of India, the government has effectively dodged this question for more than twenty years and simply avoided the most contentious reforms. Now, though, the sharp drop in the price of oil may have provided a means of reforming without opposition.

India has minimal petroleum reserves and has always been dependent on oil imports. Rising oil prices have caused the two largest financial crises in India to date. During the 1970s, as oil prices skyrocketed, India bounced from crisis to crisis. Indira Gandhi, the prime minister at the time, responded with a host of populist economic policies including nationalizing coal production and oil refineries. In 1991, during sky rocketing oil prices linked to the crisis in the Persian Gulf, India experienced a massive current accounts deficit caused by a spike in prices of imported oil and was forced to turn to the IMF for a bailout. This crisis is often credited with beginning the gradual reforms that have haltingly continued ever since. The IMF bailout was conditioned on some level of reform, forcing the government’s hand. However, the pace of change has always been extremely slow and, under the previous UPA led government, had effectively stalled. The new BJP-led government came into office, in part, on promising to change this.

Power Strruggle Now Taking Place Inside New Afghan Government

Afghan power struggle seen delaying formation of new government
November 13, 2014

Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani gestures during a news conference in Kabul November 6, 2014.
(Reuters) - Weeks after a new Afghan president was sworn in, a tussle for power means it could be weeks - if not months - before a cabinet is in place, the last thing his government needs as it gears for foreign troops to leave after 13 years of war.

President Ashraf Ghani took office in September after a bitter row with rival Abdullah Abdullah, who initially claimed victory in the presidential election but later agreed to form a unity government.
As part of a U.S.-backed deal, the two agreed to work together, with former foreign minister Abdullah as chief executive, but several weeks on there is still no agreement on the make-up of the government.

Ghani is aiming to assemble a functioning government before a British-sponsored conference in London in early December, where he will seek to convince donors to continue bankrolling Afghanistan with billions of dollars in aid.
But he appears increasingly unlikely to meet that deadline.

Aides to both teams say there is a tussle over 26 positions, with no agreement on who leads the army and police, who heads the intelligence agency and who controls the country’s finances.
"It is impossible for the whole cabinet to be set up before the London conference because of the contradicting views between both camps," said Ahmad Sayedi, a Kabul-based analyst. "We expect the new cabinet to be in place by the spring next year."

The deadlock is a worry for Afghanistan’s foreign backers who spent more than a decade encouraging democratic governance while U.S.-led troops battled the Taliban.

Ghani, seeking to strike a balance in a country long divided along ethnic lines, wants to be seen as a new leader who can honor a pledge to appoint officials based on merit.

At Afghan Border, Graft Is Part of the Bargain

NOV. 11, 2014
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A customs post in Herat, Afghanistan. American officials estimate the country loses half of its customs revenue to corruption. 

TORKHAM, Afghanistan — Some call them “the men who sit on golden chairs” — Afghan customs officials who preside over a vast ecosystem of bribery that stretches from dusty border crossings to the capital.
They have become fabulously wealthy by depriving their aid-dependent treasury of at least $500 million a year, according to the most conservative foreign estimates.

Unseating those kings of customs, or at least stemming their thievery, is now a job for President Ashraf Ghani as he takes up his campaign promise of fighting graft. Customs is a central factor in rescuing the ailing economy, and accounted for 26 percent of government revenue last year.
Yet in interviews with a wide array of Afghan and foreign officials who live with the issue, a picture emerges of such rampant bribery and extortion that corruption can no longer be described as a cancer on the system: It is the system, they say. And it is deeply enmeshed with Afghan politics.

“The water is dirty from the source,” said Khan Jan Alokozai, deputy chairman of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, citing a Pashto proverb. “Governors and ministers, businessmen and bureaucrats — everyone is involved.”Photo

For Afghan officials, every truck entering the country represents an opportunity for enrichment. 
The scale of the problem is evident at Torkham, a major crossing point on Afghanistan’s southeastern border with Pakistan. Every day, up to 500 trucks trundle across the Khyber Pass, kicking up clouds of dust as they cross into Afghanistan and enter a customs apparatus that has been transformed by a decade of foreign assistance.

The trucks pass a giant X-ray machine delivered by the United States military. Western-trained officials assess their cargo for import duties. The paperwork is entered into a computer system paid for by the World Bank. American-financed surveillance cameras monitor the crossing.
Yet for Afghan officials, every truck represents a fresh opportunity for personal enrichment.

Robin Raphel: the female Philby?

Is Ambassador Robin Lynn Raphel a modern-day female counterpart of Harry St John Philby, who converted to the cause of those she had been assigned to engage with diplomatically?

In November 1917, a British political agent, Harry St John Philby presented his credentials to Emir Ibne Saud of Nejd. Ibne Saud was to revive and/or found the present-day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In his book God’s Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad, Charles Allen notes, “Initially Philby toed the British line, but in the months that followed there grew within him an admiration for the Emir, coupled with a growing affinity for the culture to which he belonged, that developed into a state bordering on infatuation, and eventually led to a transfer of loyalties.” Allen describes Philby as “convert to the cause” who adopted Wahhabism, took on the title Sheikh Abdullah and believed that through the efforts of the “prince and the priest”, i.e. Ibne Saud and his Wahhabi cleric cohorts, “the true faith was purged of the dross ecclesiastical pedantry and the salient features of a moribund creed were made to shine forth again as beacons.”

Fast-forward to November 6, 2014 when The Washington Post reported that former US Ambassador Robin Raphel, “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.” The New York Times subsequently wrote that Ms Raphel is “suspected of taking classified information home from the state department” and her residence had been searched. While no country had been named as the potential beneficiary of the alleged information transfer, certain Pakistani analysts and two former Pakistani ambassadors jumped to the ex-US diplomat’s defence. The lame and premature — Ms Raphel is yet to be charged with any wrongdoing — defence ranged from paeans to her diplomatic professionalism and prowess, an all-weather friendship with Pakistan, to her being a relatively small fish in the Washington DC pond to be of any material value to Pakistan. We have no reason to speculate about an ongoing investigation but what is known is that Ms Robin Raphel did help lay the foundations of death and destruction in Afghanistan by supporting the barbaric Taliban regime that was imposed by the Pakistani security establishment on the ill-fated Afghans. 

If and when the probe proceeds further and broadens in scope, it may also shed light on whether Ms Raphel’s Pakistani interlocutors had anything to do with the positions she took in support of the Taliban in the 1990s. Is Ambassador Robin Lynn Raphel a modern-day female counterpart of Harry St John Philby, who converted to the cause of those she had been assigned to engage with diplomatically? We may never know. However, a look back at her stint as the US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs from August 1993 to June 1997 clearly shows that her stance vis-à-vis Afghanistan and India was perilously close to the Pakistani security establishment’s standpoint. Whereas a diplomat’s job is to create a win-win situation between their home and the host country, Ms Raphel left behind a trail of lose-lose conditions in South Asia and Afghanistan. She pleaded within then President Bill Clinton’s administration for engagement with the savage hordes of Mullah Omar. But even more sinister was her advocacy for the Taliban regime at the United Nations. 

Who Is Responsible for Persecuting Pakistan’s Minorities?

By Kiyya Baloch

Islamists in Balochistan are targeting minorities, yet NGOs are beginning to blame the government too. 

The persecution of minorities, especially the Zikri sect, in Balochistan province is not a new phenomenon. Hundreds of years ago, those who resisted conversion to Islam were killed. The violence was repeated during General Zia-ul-Haq’s military rule in Pakistan. The religious zealots of that era would loot the pilgrimage caravans on their way to make offerings in the Koh-e-Murad area of Kech district in the southwest of the province.

Religious extremists suffered a setback during the tenure of the late Nawab Akbar Bugti, minister of State for Interior and governor of Balochistan province, who vowed to protect these groups between 1989 and 1990. Today, however, a wave of violence specifically directed against certain minorities has engulfed the region and seems stronger and more organized than every before.

The recent attack on Zikri minorities this year in Awaran district’s Teertej area, which left six dead and many injured, is yet another dark chapter in the history of this troubled region. Unfortunately, the new government of the provincial Chief Minister Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch has not improved the situation for the Hazaras (Shia) and other religious minorities in the region, with hundreds of people fleeing the troubled province and moving to safer cities in Pakistan like Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Many of those migrants are now reluctant to return to their native areas due to reports of Islamic State and Lashkar-e-Khorasan militants in the province, making them fear new fighting and the government’s obvious inability to protect them.

Hundreds of people belonging to the Hazara community in Quetta and Zikri in Balochistan’s coastal belt have fled the southern cities of Gwadar, Pasini, Turbat and Mashkey and moved thousands of kilometers away, leaving behind their homes and businesses; the newest indication of spreading unease over racial and religious conflict in the province.

Chief Minister Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch told this reporter he doesn’t rule out the presence of militants from outfits like the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, but said that people should not panic.

However, religious minorities from both the Hazara and Zikri sects argue that they don’t feel safe in their native areas, after a wave of attacks and wall chalkings directed at them on the province’s outskirts. A large number of Hazara who have moved to Islamabad now say they are prepared to live in Islamabad and Rawalpindi without food and shelter, but are unwilling to go back to their home in Quetta. A group of Hazara youngsters in Islamabad spend their evenings sitting in a small hotel. Among them is a 22-year-old named Yahya Hazara, who has lost all his friends and a brother in this seemingly unending war. Yahya is a migrant from Quetta now settled in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, who said that due to violence and discrimination against them in Balochistan they can neither study nor work there. “I prepare to stay here without food but I don’t want to go there because they [conservative Muslims as well as security forces] built so much discrimination against us, so much hate.”

Backing Into Yet Another Losing War

November 11, 2014 -

A day after leading his party into an election debacle that was at least partially enabled by his strategic ineptitude in foreign affairs, President Obama trumpeted his success in getting American troops out of Iraq; two days later, he announced that he was sending 1500 more troops into Iraq. American strategy is beginning to more resemble ALICE IN WONDERLAND than ON WAR.

From 1961 to 1965, when Lyndon Johnson finally committed American forces to full scale combat in Vietnam, the United States backed into war by incrementally sending troops to Vietnam in a manner that neither seriously impacted the conflict nor impressed the North Vietnamese. After that, Johnson pursued an equally ineffective bombing campaign in North Vietnam that did even less to impress our adversaries. The result was a loss of confidence in America abroad and at home. Many of my Baby Boom contemporaries refused to participate in an open-ended conflict that had no hope of a reasonable outcome. Johnson wanted the United States to dip its feet in the water in waging war; what he got was a quagmire.

In 1972, I wrote an article for the Marine Corps Gazette advocating a massive raid into North Vietnam that would destroy its military capability to provide a threat to South Vietnam for at least a decade. I believed that if we did not do this, our strategy of merely bombing the North into submission would result in a conventional invasion of South Vietnam. Like most articles by Second Lieutenants, it didn’t influence policy. Three years later, the South fell to the North in a conventional North Vietnamese invasion led by tanks. In fairness to the Nixon administration, it feared that an incursion into the North would lead to Chinese intervention. No such threat exists regarding the Islamic State; it has no protectors willing to take on the United States.

If we go into the areas of Iraq and Syria controlled by the Islamic State with massive force with the vowed limited intent of destroying its conventional military force, and leaving the residue to local forces to deal with, we can accomplish the end state of eliminating the immediate threat in the region and the well- funded existential threat to the United States. That will not solve the problem of how to govern the areas of Iraq that the Islamic State has overrun or the issues raised by the Syrian Civil War; those are problems the Syrians and Iraqis have to grapple with. We can help, but not with the sword of the Islamic State and other jihadist groups hanging over the region.

The Faux US-China Climate Deal

November 12, 2014

In the “historic” U.S.-China climate agreement this week, Beijing simply reiterated previously announced targets. 

The big headline coming out of the second summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama is a climate agreement the two sides reached about cutting carbon emissions in the coming decades. News stories have used sweeping language like the “historic climate change agreement” to describe the deal.

This seems to greatly exaggerate the significance of the deal, at least from the perspective of China. In fact, in the agreement Beijing simply reiterates commitments it had previously announced.

According to the White House, the agreement states that “The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%. China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early and intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030.”

As numerous news accounts have pointed out, this means the U.S. will cut its emissions at a significantly faster rate than it had previously announced. According to the New York Times, under the new deal the U.S. will “double the pace of reduction it targeted for the period from 2005 to 2020.”

This is unimpressive compared to the commitments China made, according to the same article. “China’s pledge to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner, is even more remarkable. To reach that goal, Mr. Xi pledged that so-called clean energy sources, like solar power and windmills, would account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030,” the NYT article stated.

Actually, China does not appear to have committed itself to anything new in the agreement. Indeed, following an Obama speech on U.S. climate policy back in June, China outlined its own future emissions policy. Specifically, He Jiankun, chairman of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing that China would set an absolute cap on its CO2 emissions when it released its next five year plan in 2016. He refused, however, to say what that cap would be.

Further tempering expectations, Reuters paraphrased He as saying at the time that “China’s greenhouse gas emissions would only peak in 2030, at around 11 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent.” China’s emissions are currently around 7-9.5 billion tonnes. Reuters also reported that He said to achieve this goal, “The share of non-fossil fuels in China’s energy mix would reach 20 to 25 percent in 2030.”

The Great Fall from Grace: Is China’s Rise Over?

November 12, 2014 

A combination of inaction and daunting challenges threatens the end of China’s economic rise. Not a delay, the end.

This week marks the two-year anniversary of Xi Jinping’s ascendance to General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. Xi inherited serious economic problems, underappreciated at the time, and his response thus far has been largely cheap talk. The combination of inaction and daunting challenges threatens the end of China’s economic rise. Not a delay, the end.

Last month, China acknowledged a five-year low in growth of gross domestic product (GDP). Casual observers, such as former Treasury secretary Larry Summers, have turned bearish. While the new bears are right, they may not know why they are right. Chinese weakness is not one or two years old, it is eleven or twelve.

The term of Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, is now correctly recognized by some as an economic failure. That term dates to late 2002. In 2003, Beijing began to unbalance the economy with wildly high public investment, especially in heavy industries such as steel. Among other things, this led to pronounced environmental degradation, which limits long-term economic prospects.

In 2006, China shoved aside the possibility of further market reform andendorsed state control of major sectors. In 2009, state-owned banks conducted arguably the biggest stimulus in world history, boosting lending by one-third in a single year, even as their borrowers’ ability to repay plunged due to the global crisis. Debt exploded.

A Changed China Awaits Mr. Obama

Nicholas Kristof
NOV. 8, 2014

PRESIDENT OBAMA hasn’t even begun his state visit to China and he has already been mocked.

“U.S. public opinion has downgraded Obama,” a state-run Chinese newspaper, Global Times, editorialized about Tuesday’s election. “He has done an insipid job, offering nearly nothing to his supporters. U.S. society has grown tired of his banality.”

What a welcome! Global Times is often shrill, but that tone reflects the way President Xi Jinping is tugging his regime in a more nationalistic, assertive and hard-line direction.

The regime also gave a cold shoulder in September to former President Jimmy Carter, initially trying to block Chinese universities from hosting him. Xi and his No. 2 both declined to meet Carter — even though Carter is the one who established U.S.-Chinese diplomatic relations in 1979.

Then there’s something a bit more personal: China doesn’t seem to want to give me a visa.

I’ve been visiting China for more than 30 years and lived in Beijing for five. I speak Mandarin and have been alternately hailed by Chinese authorities and detained by them. But I’ve had cordial relations with the last few foreign ministers, and, until now, I’ve always received visas.

The Chinese leadership is blocking some visas for New York Times employees because it is upset by Times coverage of profiteering by families of senior officials. It was particularly irritated by Times articles showing that relatives of the former prime minister had amassed $2.7 billion.

Xi has been ruling China for two years now, and he has shown some inclination toward economic and legal reforms. Two years ago, I thought Xi might open things up a bit. Boy, was I wrong! Instead, it increasingly seems that Xi may deepen reforms in some areas but, over all, is a tough-minded nationalist who takes a hard line on multiple fronts so as to challenge nearly everything that Obama stands for:

•• In the East China and South China Seas, Xi has taken an aggressive approach to maritime disputes. There may be a thaw, but risk remains of military accidents, escalation and even war.

•• At home, he has overseen harsh repression of dissidents; activists who once were tolerated are now imprisoned. The brave lawyer Xu Zhiyong was this year sentenced to four years in prison, and China not only imprisons the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo but also torments his wife, Liu Xia, with extrajudicial house arrest.

•• The government has tightened controls on the Internet, blocking not onlynytimes.com but also Facebook and YouTube — and making it hard to useGmail, Google Drive and Google Calendar.

Deng Xiaoping accepted technologies that brought political risks because they would help the economy, but Xi seems willing to sacrifice business convenience for more rigid political control.Continue reading the main story

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Coger 12 hours ago

China's economy Deflation, deflated

WHEN people think of a large Asian country on the brink of deflation, they probably have Japan in mind. But China, the biggest of them all, is now skirting close to outright falls in prices across a wide swathe of the economy. Producer prices have been declining for nearly three years and consumer price inflation is mired at its lowest level since 2010.

Deflation is rightly feared by central bankers around the world as a most destructive economic force, making debts more expensive in real terms and leading to a vicious cycle of contraction as consumers delay purchases and companies put off investments. Yet the Chinese central bank has been remarkably laid-back about the downward lilt in prices. The most obvious tool in its kit to arrest the slide would be to cut interest rates, but it has not done so since July 2012; the benchmark one-year lending rate remains lofty at 6%. What explains the central bank’s calm in the face of falling prices, and is it making a big mistake?

Inflation data published on Monday provide the latest evidence of China’s descent towards deflation. The consumer price index (CPI) rose 1.6% in October from a year earlier, the lowest since the start of 2010. Month-on-month CPI inflation was flat, falling back from September’s 0.5% increase. Core inflation, stripping out volatile food and energy prices, ticked down to 1.4% year-on-year in October, below the 1.7% average over the previous nine months. Meanwhile, the producer price index (PPI) ran deeper into negative territory. Prices of goods as they left factory gates fell 2.2% in October from a year earlier, steeper than the 1.8% decline in September. PPI has been in deflation for 32 straight months.

But not all episodes of deflation are created equal. Prolonged falls in prices would normally make an open-and-shut case for policy easing. In China, it is a little more complicated. The decline in PPI, which on the surface is the most alarming of the price trends, has been caused almost exclusively by the slump in global commodity prices. This can be seen in the near-perfect correlation between producers’ output prices and their input costs.

Lower costs have allowed companies to remain profitable even as their selling prices have fallen. Industrial profits slumped badly in 2012, when China’s economy dipped below 8% annual growth for the first time in more than a decade. Over the past two years, though, companies have gradually acclimatised to weaker growth, and profits have recovered. This trend is continuing: while producer prices fell 2.2% year-on-year in October, their input costs fell 2.5%.

Q. and A.: Dennis M. Gormley on China’s Military Capabilities

NOVEMBER 10, 2014

The United Arab Emirates 1st Aerobatic team performed in their BM-339A jets during a test flight on Monday ahead of Airshow China 2014 in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province.Credit Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Every two years since 1996, the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, the largest air show in China, has been held in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, attracting thousands of commercial traders and military enthusiasts. This year its opening was set for Tuesday, the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, or Plaaf, adding to the buzz around the six-day event. For those in commercial aviation, it is an opportunity to show off their wares to a fast-growing aviation market, including an increased appetite for private jets. Nearly 150 military and trade delegations attended the previous exhibition in 2012, which saw $11.8 billion in sales, according to the organizers.

But the exhibition, also known as Airshow China or Zhuhai Airshow, also grants the military enthusiast a closer look at some of the equipment being developed by the Chinese military. China announced a 12.2 percent increase in its 2014 defense budget this year, reporting a total budget of nearly $132 billion. This increased investment comes as China is striking a more assertive stance on the world stage, led by President Xi Jinping, who has moved quickly to establish China as a regional leader since consolidating power last year.

Dennis M. Gormley, a senior lecturer in military affairs at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, is the author, with Andrew S. Erickson and Jingdong Yuan, of “A Low-Visibility Force Multiplier: Assessing China’s Cruise Missile Ambitions,” published in April by the National Defense University Press. In an interview, he discussed highlights of the air show and China’s military development:

Q. What is the purpose of an event like Airshow China?

A. Air shows primarily promote military commerce. In China’s case, these biennial events offer it an opportunity to suggest that it is catching up to the United States. Of course, air shows do not divulge the true capabilities of what is seen on the ground and in the air. That would require substantially greater access to the items on display.

Ukrainian Officials Say Security Situation in Eastern Part of the Country Is Detriorating

Ukraine Warns of Worsening Security Situation

Associated Press, November 13, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine warned Thursday that the security situation in rebel-held areas in the east has steadily worsened as separatist fighters move closer to demarcation lines separating them from government forces.

A cease-fire agreed on in September between rebels and Ukraine’s government has in effect been rendered invalid as intense hostilities proceed on a daily basis.
National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that the Russian army is massing troops, including air defense units, near the border. Ukraine accuses Russia of directly supplying separatist forces.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich on Thursday reiterated Moscow’s denial of that charge.
"There have been and are no military movements across the border or, all the more, any presence of our troops in the southeast of Ukraine," he said.

Ukrainian warnings of potential renewed intense hostilities follow multiple recent observations of large military convoys on the move around separatist-controlled areas. Trucks transporting troops, ammunition, fuel and large-caliber artillery systems have been seen traveling primarily in the direction of Donetsk, the main rebel city.
Ukraine and NATO have said they believe the equipment has been delivered from Russia, although they have yet to provide conclusive evidence for their claims.

Teams from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that are monitoring two Russian-Ukrainian frontier crossings have noted an increase in the number of people in military clothing traveling across the border over the past week, however.
"The (observer teams saw) 665 men and women in military-style dress crossing the border in both directions. This is the highest number observed so far," the OSCE said in a statement Wednesday.

The Hard Truths Obama Needs to Hear


“The four-star commander of war operations in Iraq and Syria said politics is the key to defeating the Islamic militants there — and more U.S. troops will not necessarily help resolve the complex sectarian conflict roiling the two nations.”

Except for the reference to Syria, this sounds like something that General George Casey would have said between 2004 and 2006 when he was the top U.S. commander in Iraq. In fact it is a comment made just last week by General Lloyd Austin, the commander of Central Command.

There is no doubt that Austin is right today, as Casey was once right, that Iraqi politics holds the solution to dealing with Iraqi problems. But what Casey didn’t grasp, as he steadfastly refused to ask for more troops, was that U.S. forces, if intelligently employed, could alter Iraqi politics in beneficial ways, whereas failure to send more forces would lead to greater chaos and increased polarization, making political progress impossible. In fact, the surge of 2007-2008, which Casey opposed, created a breakthrough that allowed Iraqi politics to begin functioning again.

That lesson applies today. As long as Iraq continues to be split between the forces of ISIS and the Quds Force, political progress will be impossible. But if the U.S. can foster greater progress in rolling back ISIS, the resulting sense of security could undermine the support that Iranian-backed militias have gained among Iraqi Shiites.

Such progress will not come about if the U.S. is standing on the lines, however. It will only happen if the U.S. does more to aid the creation of indigenous security forces–especially among the Sunni tribes–that can fight back effectively against ISIS. And that, in turn, is unlikely to happen when the Obama administration is willing to put no more than 3,000 troops on the ground and to prevent them from accompanying indigenous forces into combat where the American presence, however small, could be crucial to success. If the U.S. ramps up its involvement deploying, say, 15,000 advisers and Special Operations personnel and relaxes their rules of engagement, it will not only have a greater chance of achieving battlefield success against ISIS but also of boosting American influence to affect the Iraqi political process.

It is quite possible that the president will refuse to do more no matter what because he is politically and ideologically opposed to greater American involvement in Iraq or the Middle East more broadly. But as a first step it is important that the U.S. commander for the region–that would be Gen. Austin–speak bluntly and forthrightly to the president, telling him that the U.S. will never achieve his objective to “degrade and eventually defeat” ISIS unless it makes more of a commitment. Comments to the effect that it’s all on the Iraqis to make political progress–and that there is little we can do until then–don’t help.

Obama Funds to Fight in Iraq to Help Raytheon, Lockheed

By Tony Capaccio 
November 10, 2014

President Barack Obama’s request for an added $5.6 billion to fight Islamic State includes funds to replace missiles and bombs made by Raytheon Co. (RTN:US), Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT:US)

The funds for defense contractors were included in details of the budget request sent today to congressional leaders. The White House announced on Nov. 7 that Obama was asking Congress to approve the funds, in part to support 1,500 more U.S. troops to train and advise Iraqi forces in addition to the 1,600 already authorized.

The White House funding request includes $3.4 billion for U.S. operations against Islamic State, $1.6 billion to train and equip Iraqi and Kurdish security forces and $520 million for State Department operations against the extremist group that has seized a swath of Iraq and Syria.

Congress would have to approve the request before any additional U.S. troops can be deployed, according to administration and Pentagon officials.

“We need the funding to begin this phase of the operation,” Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters today.

The 1,500 personnel “will not begin to flow until this $5.6 billion is approved,” nor will the U.S. be allowed to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces, he said.

The money would be part of a budget request of $63.6 billion for war operations, largely in Afghanistan, plus $7.8 billion for the State Department and related programs.
Replacing Missiles

The biggest weapons request is $54.3 million to replace 47 Tomahawk missiles launched on the first day of air operations in Syria against targets of the Khorasan extremist group and an unspecified number of laser-guided Maverick air-to-ground missiles, according to the documents released today. The Tomahawk and Maverick are made by Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon.

The request would provide $49.1 million to buy from Chicago-based Boeing (BA:US)additional Joint Direct Attack Munition tail-kits that convert unguided bombs to satellite-guided munitions. The administration also is requesting $21 million for the Air Force to buy more Boeing “Small Diameter Bombs,” satellite-guided munitions intended to minimize civilian deaths, and Lockheed Hellfire laser-guided missiles.

The added funding would give the Air Force $932 million for operating costs including flying hours, fuel and repairs and provide the Navy $122.6 million for its operating costs as well as $55 million to buy “small tactical” drones.
Countering Propaganda

In addition, $51 million is requested for what’s described as Army “counter-intelligence communications and electronics equipment programs.”

There’s also a separate $3 million request for more Army Hellfire missiles fired from Apache helicopters.

For the State Department, the request includes $8.6 million to expand operations of its Center for Strategic Counterrorism Communications.

“Funds would support the creation of outreach and training programs and audiovisual techniques aimed at countering” the Islamic State’s “current volume of propaganda production,” the documents said.

Also $6.3 million is requested for Voice of America Kurdish and Turkish-language services and to “surge and expand activities” of Alhurra and Radio Sawa network programming “to amplify and provide a platform for moderate Muslim voices to disavow extremism over television, radio, and digital (web, social, mobile) platforms.”

The cost of U.S. air operations over Iraq and Syria as of Oct. 16 averaged $8.3 million a day, or $580 million since they began Aug. 8. The U.S and allies have flown more than 8,000 missions through Nov. 3, including combat strikes that have dropped or launched 2,178 munitions, according to U.S. Central Command.

Freud and the Middle East

NOV. 11, 2014

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — When trying to make sense of the Middle East, one of the most important rules to keep in mind is this: What politicians here tell you in private is usually irrelevant. What matters most, and what explains their behavior more times than not, is what they say in public in their own language to their own people. As President Obama dispatches more U.S. advisers to help Iraqis defeat the Islamic State, or ISIS, it is vital that we listen carefully to what the key players are saying in public in their own language about each other and their own aspirations.

For instance, the Middle East Media Research Institute, or Memri, recently posted an excerpt from an interview given by Mohammad Sadeq al-Hosseini, a former adviser to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, which aired on Mayadeen TV on Sept. 24, in which he pointed out that Shiite Iran, through its surrogates, has taken de facto control over four Arab capitals: Beirut, through the Shiite militia Hezbollah; Damascus, through the Shiite/Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad; Baghdad, through the Shiite-led government there; and — while few in the West were paying attention — Sana, where the pro-Iranian-Yemeni-Shiite offshoot sect, the Houthi, recently swept into the capital of Yemen and are now dominating the Sunnis.

As Hosseini said of Iran and its allies: “We in the axis of resistance are the new sultans of the Mediterranean and the Gulf. We in Tehran, Damascus, [Hezbollah’s] southern suburb of Beirut, Baghdad and Sana will shape the map of the region. We are the new sultans of the Red Sea as well.” And he also said, for good measure, that Saudi Arabia was “a tribe on the verge of extinction.”

We might not hear this stuff, but Sunni Arabs do, especially now when the United States and Iran might end their 35-year-old cold war and reach a deal that would allow Iran a “peaceful” nuclear energy program. It helps explain something else you might have missed: Sunni militants burst into a Saudi Shiite village, al-Dalwah, on Nov. 3 and gunned down five Saudi Shiites at a religious event.

Well, at least Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is in the modern world. No, wait, what is the name that Erdogan insists be put on the newest bridge he’s building across the Bosporus? Answer: the Yavuz Sultan Selim bridge. Selim I was the Sunni Turkish sultan who, in 1514, beat back the Persian Shiite empire of his day, called the Safavids. Turkey’s Alevi minority, a Shiite offshoot sect whose ancestors faced Selim’s wrath, have protested the name of the bridge. 

ISIS and Al Qaeda Ready to Gang Up on Obama's Rebels

At a secret meeting in Syria brokered by the dreaded Khorasan group, the terrorist rivals discussed a merger. 

ISTANBUL—Jihadi veterans known collectively as the Khorasan group, which have been targeted in two waves of airstrikes by U.S. warplanes, are trying to broker an alarming merger between militant archrivals the Islamic State andJabhat al Nusra, the official Syrian branch of al Qaeda. 

The merger, if it comes off, would have major ramifications for the West. It would reshape an already complex battlefield in Syria, shift forces further against Western interests, and worsen the prospects for survival of the dwindling and squabbling bands of moderate rebels the U.S. is backing and is planning to train. 

“Khorasan sees its role now as securing an end to the internal conflict between Islamic State and al Nusra,” says a senior rebel source. The first results are already being seen on the ground in northern Syria with a coordinated attack on two rebel militias favored by Washington

All three of the groups involved in the merger talks—Khorasan, Islamic State (widely known as ISIS or ISIL), and al Nusra—originally were part of al Qaeda. Khorasan reportedly was dispatched to Syria originally to recruit Westerners from among the thousands of jihadi volunteers who could take their terror war back to Europe and the United States. But among ferocious ideologues, similar roots are no guarantee of mutual sympathy when schisms occur.