16 December 2014

Is India prepared for terror threat?

T.V. Rajeswar
Dec 16 2014 

The large turnout of voters in Kashmir, ignoring the boycott call of the pro-Pakistani elements, must have come as a big disappointment to the Pakistan government and jihadi outfits

Hafiz Sayeed, chief of Jammat-ud-Dawa, convened a two-day convention at Lahore on December 5 and 6. He claims to have paid Rs 50 lakh for the arrangement of special trains to transport supporters. Hundreds of buses were also used to bring people to the rally. Hafiz announced that the rally was meant to promote unity in Pakistan against India's alleged efforts to destabilise Pakistan “through terrorism and sectarianism”.

It is well known that right from the time of the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008, Lashkar-e-Toiba and its twin organisation, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, headed by rabid jihadist Hafiz Sayeed, have been working for the Pakistan army and the ISI with the full backing of the Pakistani government itself.

It is obvious that the large turnout of voters in Kashmir, ignoring the boycott call of the pro-Pakistani elements, has come as a big disappointment to the Pakistan government and terrorist organisations. By holding the convention and talking of India's "atrocities" in Kashmir, the jihadi organisations want to demonstrate that the people of Pakistan are not happy with the way the events have taken place in Kashmir.

Both Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa have been specifically mentioned by the US government as violent terrorist organisations allied with Al-Qaida as well as Haqqani's Taliban. The US had announced a bounty of $10 million for any viable evidence against Hafiz Sayeed. A spokesman of the US government had also said that any assistance given to Hafiz Sayeed or his organisation would be termed as a violation of the UN Security Council's resolutions.

On an appeal by Hafiz Sayeed, the Punjab High Court in Pakistan has directed the Pakistan government to take up the matter with the US government and get the $10 million offer cancelled. The Pentagon of the US came out with a report in October that militants in Pakistan continued to infiltrate into Afghanistan and India with a view to destabilising these countries. A former Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff told the US Congress that Pakistan's ISI and army were backing Lashkar-e-Toiba which had attacked the Indian Consulate in Herat. 

Forty-three years of denial

December 16, 2014

The commission led by Justice Hamoodur Rehman examined more than 200 witnesses, including Niazi. It had recommended a public trial of several senior army officers and a court martial for Niazi. But no government dared to try him. 

December 16 is a national holiday in Bangladesh to commemorate the joint victory of Bangladeshi freedom fighters and the Indian military over the Pakistani armed forces in 1971. This victory day is called Bijoy Dibas in Bangladesh and Vijay Diwas in India. The then commanding officer of the Pakistan army, Lieutenant General Ameer Abdullah Khan Niazi, had surrendered his weapon to the Indian army commander, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, on December 16, 1971.

December 16 is considered to be a day of grief in Pakistan because of the country’s dismemberment. Ordinary Pakistanis have been made to believe that India broke up their country in 1971 with the collaboration of a Bengali traitor, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Most Pakistanis are unaware that Mujib of the Awami League had supported Fatima Jinnah (sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah) in the 1965 presidential election against the then military dictator Ayub Khan. Few young Pakistanis know that Mujib had won a majority in the first ever general election in Pakistan in 1970, but the then military ruler Yahya Khan did not transfer power to him.

Damned by development

Kavita Upadhyay
December 16, 2014 

Reuters“Residents blamed muck deposition from the Srinagar hydroelectric project for raising the Alaknanda river bed, which flooded the downstream areas of the town.” Picture shows soldiers repairing a footbridge during the 2013 floods.

Though the Union Environment Ministry acknowledges its damage, Uttarakhand’s hydroelectric project-driven development agenda remains unchanged

Chaaen, a village atop a hill in the picturesque Alaknanda Valley, is infamous for getting a hydroelectric project into trouble. I first visited the village last year while covering the worst flood disaster Uttarakhand had witnessed.

On June 26, 2013, as I stood at Narendra Singh’s verandah in Chaaen, I noticed how the walls had developed cracks and the verandah itself stood at a minor angle.

“The reason,” Narendra explained, “is that the land beneath is sinking. In 2007, the tunnel of the Vishnuprayag hydroelectric project (400 MW) that passes under the hill, on which Chaaen stands, had started leaking.”

Creating a global classroom

December 16, 2014

The Hindu“Foreign students promote diversity in university campuses.” Picture shows foreign students on a visit to New Delhi for an exchange programme.

Internationalisation of higher education is a priority in much of the world. India needs to join the race, but it neither has world-class universities, nor an effective policy

The success of the Mars Orbiter Mission is yet another example of how India is approaching great power status. But the problem is that India generally does not act like a great power, nor does it have the necessary infrastructure. Let us take an example to demonstrate this: higher education. India dramatically under invests in its universities and colleges. Most large countries not only have world-class universities, but also an effective international higher education “foreign policy,” which some people call soft power. India has neither.

The establishment of Nalanda University and SAARC’s South Asian University are some small initiatives in the right direction. But are they sufficient when compared to India’s aspirations to be recognised on par with China’s rising global stature?

Internationalisation of higher education is at the forefront of academic thinking globally. Providing local students with some kind of international consciousness and knowledge is considered important for employment as well as citizenship in a globalising economy. Educating students from abroad helps bring international students to local classrooms and assist future cooperation, economic ties, and so on. Some countries such as the U.K., the U.S., and Australia earn significant sums from educating international students.

New wars on the Cold War relic

T. P. Sreenivasan
December 16, 2014 

Revisiting the Indian Ocean zone of peace concept, which has led to long debates since 1971, may prove hazardous in the present context, because the rivalry that is taking shape in the region is between the U.S. and its allies, and China.

The National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, has sought to revisit the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 2832 (XXVI) declaring the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace, and which has called upon the great powers not to allow an escalation and an expansion of military presence in the Indian Ocean. (The Hindu, December 1, 2014). The expectation is that it can be used as a device to prevent China from holding sway in the Indian Ocean.

While the Indian Ocean Zone of Peace (IOZOP), in its original form, appears relevant in the present context, the innumerable problems India has faced on account of the resolution and the U.N. Adhoc Committee on the Indian Ocean must be recalled before we take any formal initiative in this regard. Sri Lanka, our comrade in arms in the IOZOP initiative, has played games with us even in the happier days of India-Sri Lanka relations and when China was not in the picture. The new narrative in the Indo-Pacific may not be congenial to depending on Sri Lanka or any other neighbour to deliver on the IOZOP in accordance with our interests.

The formulation

The idea of IOZOP goes back to the days of the 1964 Cairo Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, which had expressed concern over the efforts of the imperialists to establish bases in the Indian Ocean and declared that the Indian Ocean should not be a battleground for the big powers. The Lusaka Declaration (1970) refined the idea further and it led to the UNGA resolution, which proposed the IOZOP strictly in the context of the raging Cold War at that time.

Business as usual- Russia remains a key strategic partner for India

Kanwal Sibal
December 16 , 2014

President Vladimir Putin's visit has served an important purpose at this juncture, that of underlining politically that Russia remains a key strategic partner for India. With perceived stagnation in India-Russia ties, improving India-US ties and a sharp deterioration in US-Russia relations, for us it was opportune to signal this internationally.

In perspective, the listlessness in India-Russia ties is not new. Since the Soviet Union's demise, India-Russia economic exchanges have remained low, arms trade has excessively dominated bilateral ties, commercialization of Russian technologies has not succeeded except in the nuclear sector, educational ties have been limited, and people-to-people contacts, barring the rising numbers of Goa-bound Russians, have not expanded. Nonetheless, we have persevered with regular annual summits since 2000 when Putin took power and in 2013 declared a "special and privileged strategic partnership".

It is more in contrast with the upsurge of our ties with the United States of America and mounting exchanges with China that India's relations with Russia seem sluggish. The India-US relationship has acquired a positive strategic content after the nuclear deal in particular; our dialogue agenda has become highly diversified, the educational and people-to-people ties have grown, and economic exchanges are now touching $100 billion. China has become our largest trade partner in goods and now visualizes sizeable investments in India.

For India, the relationship with Russia is larger than the sum total of its parts. It remains valuable because of high levels of mutual trust, Russia's historic contribution to building India's defence capabilities and giving us access to some highly advanced technologies. Russia has not pitted our neighbours against us. Our geopolitical interests and views on principles that should govern international relations are largely convergent. For India to have a stable and reliable relationship with at least one major power centre is important.

US wakes up to China challenge

The Statesman
16 Dec 2014

Hugh White
Is China backing off? Some people think so, after the recent flurry of regional summitry from Apec in Beijing via the East Asian Summit in Naypyitaw to the Group of 20 (G-20) in Brisbane.
In moves like the climate deal with US President Barack Obama and the handshake, however awkward, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, they detect signs of a more accommodating diplomacy from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But not Mr Obama, who seems more worried about China than ever. In Brisbane during the G-20 meeting, he delivered his sternest warning yet about China's threat to peace and stability in Asia. In a remarkably toughly-worded speech, he urged regional countries not to accommodate China's leadership ambitions by compromising their core values and interests simply in order to curry favour and build trade with Beijing.

Two days later, as if to underscore US concerns, Australia laid out the red carpet for Mr Xi when he visited Canberra after the G-20. There, he finalised a new free trade agreement, and delivered a major speech of his own to the Australian Parliament. He spelt out in confident and reassuring, but quite uncompromising, terms his vision of China's future and its new role as "the big guy" in Asia.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott responded very warmly to Mr Xi's speech. He praised Mr Xi's commitment to democracy and his respect for international norms of good conduct, and rejected any suggestion that China's regional vision might give cause for any concerns. "When I listened to the President today," he commented later, "some of the shadows over our region and over our world lifted and the sun did indeed shine brightly."

“Afghanistan and Pakistan are two faces of one soul”

General (retd) Hameed Gul
DEC 14, 2014

The News on Sunday: How do you see Pakistan’s policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan? Is there a revision of the strategic depth policy?

General (retd) Hamid Gul: Our policies were anti-Afghanistan neither in the past nor today. A united and peaceful Afghanistan would be in Pakistan’s favour. A divide among the Afghan people in the name of ethnicity will never serve our purpose. Peace in Afghanistan would open the Central Asian market. This has been a natural trade route for centuries. We have a shared history with Afghanistan. They helped us in the past when the Hindus tried to overpower Muslims in the region. Whether it was Shahabuddin Ghauri, Mehmood Ghaznavi, or Ahmed Shah Abdali, they always helped us against the tyrannies of Hindus. We did the same during the Russian invasion and helped our Afghan brothers against the invading force. Afghan people are part of our culture. Apparently, Afghanistan and Pakistan are two countries but in reality they are two faces of one soul.

It was so unfortunate that we decided to help the US invade Afghanistan; we should not have had taken that decision. When the USSR attacked Afghanistan, we stood with the Afghan brothers and we competed against the USSR with courage.

We have a long border with Afghanistan and before the US invasion of Afghanistan; we never deployed soldiers on that part of the border. But after the US came to Afghanistan, it paved way for India to come to Afghanistan in a big way which forced us to deploy soldiers on the Pak-Afghan border.

As we grow closer to the US, let's not forget our ties with Russia

8 December 2014

President Putin must be told that Indo-Russian ties remain unaffected by our closeness with the US

President Putin’s visit to India for the 15th India-Russia summit is timely for several reasons. 

It will put the spotlight back on India- Russia relations, seemingly suffering from some neglect. Our relations with immediate neighbours, China, Japan, the US, and Australia have drawn considerable attention after Prime Minister Modi took power because of his high-profile diplomatic engagement with all of them. 

Although Modi met Putin at the BRICS summit in Brazil and with Prime Minster Medvedev at the East Asia Summit in Myanmar, and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin has visited India in June and November this year, other relationships, have overshadowed our ties with Russia and created an impression that these have declined in relative importance. 

Putin’s visit will be an occasion to correct this misconception. 

The unexpected invitation to President Obama to be the chief guest at our R-Day celebrations in January next is seen as reflecting our new foreign policy priorities. This initiative comes at a time when US-Russia relations have deteriorated, with the US determined to isolate and punish Russia over Ukraine and Putin excoriating US policies, to the point of accusing America of seeking Russia’s break-up. 


While Modi’s gesture to Obama is independent of the state of US-Russia relations, observers will watch the outcome of Putin’s visit and the space that Putin gets in India to show that he is not isolated and that India’s special relationship with Russia remains unaffected. 

The State Department spokesperson’s remarks, in the context of Obama’s visit, cautioning against business as usual with Russia were inopportune. 

Our challenge will be to ensure that while we add warmth to India-US ties, those with Russia do not lose warmth. This adds to the salience of Putin’s visit. 

For India, it is increasingly difficult to understand the rationale of US/EU policy towards Russia, which - among other consequences - is throwing the latter into China’s embrace. 

The strategic winner in this needless confrontation between the West and Russia is China, whose challenge to the West’s hegemony is now backed by enormous financial strength and expanding military capability. 

Complacency Results in Avoidable Casualties

Chief of Army Staff General Dalbir Singh Suhaag at the funeral of the soldiers killed in the Uri ter

The last fortnight has been troublesome for the security forces involved in counter insurgency operations. Two major attacks by different group of insurgents in two areas far apart, have left a large number of personnel martyred. There have been avoidable casualties of security forces personnel in both. Except for the large number of casualties in both incidents, there is no other commonality between the two and hence it is best to discuss them as separate, albeit serious, incidents.

The first incident involving the officers and constables of the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force), deployed in the Maoist-infested areas of Sukma in Chhattisgarh State appears to be a clear case of once again not adhering to Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s), and in many ways is a repetition of previous similar incidents. In this incident on 01 December, the Maoists killed two officers and 12 constables of the CRPF and 16 constables of the Force were wounded in the attack. The Maoists melted away in the dense forest, taking away the weapons and equipment of the casualties. It may be recalled that in 2010, the Maoists had killed 76 CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada District, but no lessons seem to have been learnt.

New Media’s Moment in Mumbai

January 15, 2009 

Talk to some in the national and homeland security environment, and they will tell you — perhaps a bit defensively but usually with a false sense of authority — that they cannot leverage the powerful tools of New Media because to do so might threaten their internal security. Others simply give you a puzzled look, as if you are asking them whether they go online and share pictures of their families with anonymous college kids. Meanwhile, the world of communications and intelligence — not to mention history’s most deadly generation of terrorists — is passing them by.

Al Qaeda’s propaganda and recruiting capability has obtained an almost mythical status. The group communicates worldwide via the Internet with a miniscule budget and deprived of the complex IT infrastructure available to the United States. There is no question that its brazen acts of violence and its new brand of terrorism that seeks not to negotiate but simply to kill has placed al Qaeda at the top of the list of terrorist threats. But while the national security apparatus in the United States has acknowledged the new operational tactics put into play by al Qaeda, there is a disconcerting lack of recognition of the group’s unprecedented use of intelligence, communications and propaganda. This is a critical failure given that the real power of any terrorist act is not the act itself but the capability to transform that act into a powerful message to advance an agenda.

The latest gruesome example of New Media’s darker role in changing global communications emerged, immediately and with powerful effect, last month in Mumbai when a handful of terrorists armed with automatic weapons and Blackberries held the world hostage. The men who stormed the Taj hotel knew they could not outgun Indian security forces. However, they capitalized on the element of surprise, their position of strength inside the hotel, and, most importantly, their intent to die while killing as many innocents as possible.

They had something else, though, that simply cannot be ignored. The terrorists also had better preparation, better coordination, better communication and more effective, albeit lower budget, technology. Foreign to the city of Mumbai, the terrorists navigated through the city and coordinated their actions with one another , as if they had trained there for years. How? By using technology available to anybody with even a meager budget. They could map out their routes via satellite imagery available on Google Maps, and a host of other such mapping sites. They could communicate via satellite and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to avoid giving away their locations. They could text message on their Blackberries, allowing for real-time coordination. And who knows what other applications were installed on the Blackberries that would allow them to monitor the deluge of information pouring forth on the Internet via sites like Twitter, Flickr and online media.


Al Qaeda Forces Capture Syrian Army Base in Northwestern Syria

December 15, 2014

Jihadis Capture Army Base in Northwestern Syria

BEIRUT — Jihadi fighters captured a Syrian army base Monday in the northwestern province of Idlib after two days of intense fighting that killed at least two dozen gunmen, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and an Idlib-based activist who goes by the name of Mohammed al-Sayid said members of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and other rebel factions captured the Wadi Deif base Monday morning.

A Twitter account run by the Nusra Front in Idlib province said fighters are now removing mines from the area after the “Wadi Deif camp was liberated.”

The capture of Wadi Deif is a blow to the Syrian government that has managed to hold the besieged post for more than two years and repelled repeated attacks by opposition fighters. Rebels and the Nusra Front control much of the countryside of Idlib province while government forces dominate the provincial capital city — also called Idlib.

The capture came a day after rebels and Nusra Front fighters took over seven government checkpoints around Wadi Deif and the nearby base of Hamidiyeh. The Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh bases outside the town of Maaret al-Numan have long been prized targets for the rebels, who have launched multiple sieges since 2012.

The Observatory said that at least 15 pro-government troops and eight opposition fighters have been killed in the clashes on Sunday alone.

Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan

Sushant Sareen
Senior Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation 

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of activity taking place in various parts of Pakistan in the name of the abominable, but also ineluctable, Islamic State (IS). Apart from some senior commanders of the Mullah Fazlullah-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction who have announced their allegiance to the IS’ Caliph Ibrahim a.k.a. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, there are reports of other smaller groups of militants who have cast their lot with the pestilential IS. Graffiti and posters of the IS have appeared in Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Bannu, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Wah, Hangu, Kurram, Bhakkar, Dera Ismail Khan and other towns and cities of the country. 

While these developments have caused a flutter in the media, official circles are quite nonchalant about the IS’s presence in Pakistan at present, or even its potential for establishing a presence in the future. Despite a classified report of the Balochistan government about the ‘growing footprint’ of IS, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has confidently claimed that the IS doesn’t exist in Pakistan.

Considering that just a few days after Nisar declared that there was no danger of terrorism in Islamabad an attack was launched on Islamabad courts and the city’s vegetable market, he shouldn’t be taken seriously. Although there is no sign of a major presence of the IS in Pakistan, the threat of the IS establishing itself is very real. There are eerie parallels that can be drawn between how the IS is registering its presence in Pakistan with how the Taliban network was established in the country. In the mid-1990s, more so after the Taliban captured Kabul, there were a spate of gangs and groups, especially in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), who declared themselves local representatives or chapters of the Taliban movement.

The sort of graffiti that today proclaims the arrival of the IS had back then done the same for the Taliban. No one had imagined at that time that the Taliban would manage to establish such a robust presence in the country or attract so many fighters, supporters and sympathisers for its cause. More importantly, at that time, hardly anyone outside the liberal fringe in Pakistan believed that the Taliban would be able to occupy the mind space of Pakistanis the way they did. Today, there are people from all walks of life in Pakistan –traders, soldiers, politicians, journalists, doctors, teachers, labourers and techies – who identify with the Taliban. It is therefore not too farfetched to imagine that something similar may happen with the IS, more so given the manner in which this ghoulish outfit has managed to strike resonance among certain sections of Muslims around the world and become a magnet for them, much more than the Taliban or their predecessors in Afghanistan had managed to do ever since violent jihad became fashionable.

Burying the Past: A New Beginning for Pakistan and Afghanistan

Dateline Islamabad 

Salma Malik
Assistant professor, Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University 

The newly-elected President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, while addressing a joint press conference at the end of his two-day visit to Pakistan, said “We must overcome the past…we will not permit the past to destroy the future.” It was indeed a very optimistic and pragmatic message for interested and watchful audiences not only in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but for all those keenly monitoring the transition Kabul is undergoing. 

A three-pronged track that entails political, security and economic transition has already witnessed some progress on the political and security front, with the unity government finally coming into power after a months-long electoral impasse. On the security front, the signing of the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) has provided a sense of certainty and laid to rest the speculations that there would be a complete troop withdrawal post 2014. Though US President Barack Obama had stated that 9800 troops would remain in Afghanistan from December 2014 till the 2016 complete withdrawal deadline, the final decision was dependent on the signing of the BSA.

Pakistan had strived to stand by its pledge regarding non-intervention and non-interference in Afghan affairs, and would have whole-heartedly accepted and honoured whatever the election outcome. Yet, many considered Ashraf Ghani as a more favourable candidate, primarily due to his relatively apolitical stature and technocratic background. Now, with Ghani as the president and Abdullah Abdullah as the chief executive officer (CEO) of Afghanistan, the biggest political challenge Kabul faces is the successful power balance between the two. The entire success of Afghanistan’s internal as well as external relations hinges on this single factor. Any crack in this relationship will strengthen the negative forces that are ever on a watch to exploit such opportunities. 

Correspondingly, if there is political instability in Kabul, a factor the US has and will try its level best to prevent and secure, it will impact the physical security and economic situation – a scenario that neither Kabul nor any state party linked with Afghanistan can afford, least of them being Pakistan. A stable, secure and peaceful Afghanistan is as much in Islamabad’s interest as militancy-free, secure Pakistan is in Kabul’s.

The Afghan president’s visit to Pakistan was preceded by the Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif’s brief visit to Kabul, and Pakistani National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz’s day-long trip to Kabul, during which he extended Ghani an invitation to visit Pakistan. All three visits carried a similar tenor: overcoming the trust deficit, building positive relations and a common vision for a strong, enduring and comprehensive partnership between the two counties. These are not mere words but the key to the future of stability and peace between the two countries the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai termed as conjoined twins. 

Out of my mind: The idea of Pakistan

December 14, 2014

On the anniversary of the defeat of the Pakistan army in the war to liberate Bangladesh, it may be worth remembering what Pakistan was meant to be.

Hafiz Saeed has just said that Pakistan was set up to be an Islamic state which would implement sharia. He is impatient with the existing order which refuses to make Pakistan an Islamist state. Imran Khan is unhappy with the system for different reasons, but even he wishes Pakistan was different.

On the anniversary of the defeat of the Pakistan army in the war to liberate Bangladesh, it may be worth remembering what Pakistan was meant to be. It may also tell us how nations can ruin themselves. More than anything else, it shows how nations construct their narratives of nationhood, which reveal deep flaws in their history.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah was an active member of the Congress. He was a liberal constitutionalist in the tradition of Gopal Krishna Gokhale and he also defended Bal Gangadhar Tilak in court. He was hailed as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity at the Lucknow meeting of the Congress in 1916. He got disenchanted with Gandhi’s launch of the Khilafat movement. He did not support the retention of the Khilafat just as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He was a modernist first and a Muslim second. He left politics and went back to London to practise as a barrister.


By Dean Cheng

The "ceremonial" South Pole, at Amundsen–Scott Station, Antarctica 

The U.S. and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have diametrically opposed interests on several critical issues, particularly outside the economic sphere. Taiwan’s defense, freedom of the seas, and American advocacy for universal liberal democratic values are just a few. There is no prospect that the two governments will come to an agreement on any of these political and security issues in the near or even medium term.

However, there are other limited areas, physically far from Chinese sensitivities, where agreement and cooperation are possible. One example is anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. Another could be scientific cooperation in Antarctica. The Obama Administration ought to explore these possibilities as a means of promoting mutually beneficial cooperation.

The Chinese have demonstrated growing interest in the Antarctic. This level of interest has been of fairly low visibility, as there are few immediate benefits that are likely to accrue. Unlike the Arctic, no trade routes traverse the frozen seventh continent. Nor is this region likely to conceal major strategic weapons systems, unlike the Arctic where the Soviets deployed their ballistic missile submarines under the polar ice cap.

It is this low strategic priority and visibility that make the Antarctic an attractive target for U.S.–China cooperation.
China’s Growing Antarctic Presence

China is now completing its fourth Antarctic research station, in Antarctica, while conducting surveys on where to build a fifth station.[1] Once completed, it will give China one of the largest Antarctic presences. With its Antarctic budget growing from $20 million to $55 million, China clearly has the wherewithal to expand its presence even further.[2]
The NSA Listened as Chinese MiGs Shot Down American Warplanes
Declassified docs detail Vietnam War air clashes

It was Sept. 20, 1965 when the navigation equipment aboard Capt. Philip Smith’s F-104 Starfighter failed.

Smith’s mission was to escort an airborne early-warning plane patrolling above the Gulf of Tonkin. Instead, his supersonic jet strayed over Hainan Island—through airspace belonging to the People’s Republic of China.

Chinese radars detected the incoming F-104. MiGs raced towards the American jet, shooting it down. Smith survived the incident. China imprisoned the captured pilot, freeing him 1973.

Now there’s new information about the shootdown from the National Security Agency and the Pentagon’s Central Security Service. On Dec. 11, the agencies released 170 out of 1,600 soon-to-be-declassified documents involving Americans captured or deemed missing in action during the Vietnam War.

Many of the partially-to-heavily redacted documents are signals intelligence reports written in the aftermath of aircraft losses.

Most of the trove references American pilots lost over North Vietnam. But Chinese fighter jets intercepted and shot down American aircraft on several occasions, killing several pilots. It’s a little known and politically sensitive aspect of the war in Vietnam.

Some of the details are still classified.
“It appears that possible as many as 10 Chicom fighters … reacted to the hostile aircraft over Hainan Island,” noted a Sept. 20 report following Smith’s capture, using an abbreviation for Chinese communists.

“This shootdown of a U.S. aircraft intruding over Hainan Island represents a sharp departure of policy on the part of the Chicoms from that demonstrated during a similar intrusion of 9 April 1965,” the report added.

This is reference to an April clash between Navy F-4 Phantoms and Chinese MiG-17s. During the dogfight, a MiG gunned down an F-4, killing both pilots. The report suggests the Chinese were more aggressive during the later September incident, reflecting a “sharp departure of policy.”

“On this [April 9] occasion the Chicoms appeared to be exerting considerable effort to avoid an engagement,” the report states. “Although presented with apparently favorable circumstances for an attack on the intruding hostile aircraft.”

Complicating efforts to find out what happened during the September shootdown, a U-2 spy plane handling signals intelligence—known as Trojan Horse—was busy over Laos.

At top—Air Force F-104s in 1960. Air Force photo. Above—Chinese MiG-17 fighters at the Datangshan China Aviation Museum in Beijing on Oct. 19, 2012. Photo via Wikimedia

The Pacific Rim’s Future Wars Belong to Marines

To counter China, Asian militaries build up amphibious forces

Across the Pacific Rim, regional powers are creating new marine infantry units.

Fast, highly-trained and designed for military missions originating from the sea, marines are invaluable for the kinds of conflicts Asian and Pacific nations might fight in the future.

Since 2009, India, Australia and Japan have all announced the creation of seagoing infantry forces.

These units are tiny in comparison to the U.S. Marine Corps. But Asia’s regional powers are not just creating mini-marine forces of their own, they’re buying the landing ships and transport aircraft to carry troops to danger zones and—if necessary—into battle.

It’s an expensive insurance policy for a region where Pacific Ocean shipping lanes serve as economic lifelines. Losing control of these sea lanes will havedire consequences for billions of people.

But as these three countries are discovering—there’s a lot to learn when it comes to amphibious warfare.

Naval infantry have existed for thousands of years, and specialized marine units date to the 16th century Spanish Empire. But it’s Asia that spurred the creation of modern marines.

In the years before World War II, Imperial Japanese troops struggled to digest China. The country’s tough coastline—crisscrossed with river systems and water that was much too shallow for harbors—prompted Japan to invent flat-bottomed landing craft, capable of delivering ground forces directly to shore.

After the war, Japan disbanded its entire military, and passed the torch of amphibious operations to the U.S. Marines. As the world’s preeminent amphibious force, the USMC acts as a go-to expeditionary army designed to operate far beyond America’s borders.

The budding Asian marines will likely work in the same fashion, but with a more regional—and less global—focus. Many Asian nations rely on shipping lanes to sustain their economies. These lanes reach through the Straits of Malacca, the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf.
These lanes need security. The marines’ likely scenarios include fighting pirates, conducting peacekeeping operations and responding to natural disasters.

The Bay of Bengal: The Maritime Silk Route and China’s Naval Ambitions

By David Brewster
December 14, 2014

With its Maritime Silk Route initiative, China is rapidly developing a presence in the Bay of Bengal. 

Since late 2013, Beijing has been promoting its “Maritime Silk Route” (MSR) initiative as a proposed oceanic complement to its various overland “Silk Route” projects. Details remain sketchy, but the proposal appears to envisage a system of linked ports, infrastructure projects and special economic zones in Southeast Asia and the northern Indian Ocean. While much of the public discussion to date has focused on ports and infrastructure, probably of greater significance is the development of new production and distribution chains across the region, with China at its center. The concept might be seen as akin to Japan’s “flying geese” strategy of the 1970s when Japanese companies outsourced component production to successive tiers of lower-cost states in Southeast Asia.

If implemented, the initiative would bind countries in the Bay of Bengal and the northern Indian Ocean much closer to the Chinese economy. Several states in the region, including the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have indicated an in-principle agreement to participate in the MSR and are keen to encourage Chinese investment in port and transport infrastructure and manufacturing facilities. India has been much more circumspect about the proposal, and the visit of President Xi Jinping to Delhi in September 2014 failed to elicit an endorsement of the project from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Although China has long claimed that its interests in the Indian Ocean region are purely economic, it’s increasingly clear that the MSR could have a major impact on the strategic balance in the Bay. For some years there’ve been concerns in Delhi and Washington about the security cooperation between China and various Bay states and the strategic significance of Chinese control over port infrastructure in the region. We’re now seeing considerable maneuvering among China, India, the United States and even Russia in building defence relationships in the region.

Al-Shabaab Redeploying Forces Along Somali-Kenyan Border

December 15, 2014

More and more al Shabaab groups are leaving central Somalia and heading for the Kenyan border, where they have access to the large number of Somali refugees (in well supplied Kenyan camps) and ethnic Somalis long resident in northern Kenya. These Somali Kenyans are easier to convince or coerce into cooperating with the Islamic terrorists than the Kenyans belonging to one of the many black African tribes native to East Africa south of Somalia. Al Shabaab is still angry at Kenya for sending troops into southern Kenya and, with the aid of local clan militias, set up a new government in the area that had long been under al Shabaab control. Traditionally Somalis invade Kenya not the other way around and the fact that the Kenyans got away with their “invasion” of southern Somali still annoys al Shabaab (and a lot of other Somalis.) 

So al Shabaab is moving south for revenge as well as to get away from peacekeepers, anti-al Shabaab militias and the trained soldiers the government now has available. The al Shabaab forces along the border are not yet strong enough to go to war with the Kenyan Army and the local Somali militias, but terrorism is another matter. So groups of al Shabaab gunmen have been crossing the border and murdering non-Moslem civilians they come across. This has angered Kenyans who are demanding that their government do something. In response Kenyan warplanes have bombed suspected al Shabaab camps and Kenyan troops are aggressively seeking out al Shabaab men on both sides of the border. Despite that there is panic among non-Moslem Kenyans living near the Somali border and thousands are leaving.

Kenya currently has 3,000 troops on the Somali side of the border and even more on the Kenyan side (in addition to police). The government is apparently going to send more troops and police to the Somali border and Kenyans up there who are ethnic Somalis are being asked to help. Some do, but many do not and a few actually support al Shabaab. At the moment the Kenyan security forces are held in low esteem by most Kenyans and political and military leaders are under a lot of pressure to actually do something.

The UN and other foreign aid groups gave become increasingly strident about foreign donors not providing enough money to deal with growing food shortages in Somalia. So far only about a third of the money (over 800 million) needed to handle the coming food crisis has been pledged. There are 20 percent more Somalis in need of aid this year than last. Foreign donors are reluctant to spend a lot of money on Somali aid because over the last two decades so much aid has been stolen by Islamic terrorists, warlords, bandits and whatever passes for government. The drought in 2011 killed a quarter of a million, largely because al Shabaab banned the “un-Islamic” food aid from those needing it. But the donor nations note that the aid groups play down the theft and subsequent investigations revealed this and the fact that the aid groups simply paid off the thieves, often with a portion of the aid. Donor nations want better security before they provide all that is demanded.

ISIS Has Captured Iraqi Town of Al Wafa in Al-Anbar Province

Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss
December 15, 2014

Islamic State overruns town in Anbar, executes Awakening fighters

The Islamic State took control of a town in Anbar province in western Iraq yesterday and executed 21 members of the Sunni Awakening tribal movement in another town late last week.

Islamic State fighters launched an assault on al Wafa, which is west of the provincial capital of Ramadi, on Dec. 12 and defeated Iraqi security forces and local tribal fighters. Nineteen policemen were killed in the fighting. Reutersreports:
Police forces backed by few members of government-paid Sunni tribal fighters tried to prevent the militants from crossing the sand barrier surrounding the town, but were overwhelmed when sleeper cells from inside opened fire on them, the mayor and a police officer said.

Police forces and the pro-government Sunni fighters were forced to retreat to a nearby police-brigade headquarters bordering their town.

"We are trapped inside the police 18th brigade. Islamic State managed to surround us today. If no government forces were sent to help us then we will be exterminated," the mayor, who was with the police forces that withdrew from al-Wafa, said by telephone.

Additionally, near the town of Baghdadi, which is just outside of Al Asad Airbase, the Islamic State captured 21 Awakening fighters on Dec. 10 and executed them two days later. “All the bodies had bullet wounds to the head and chest and were dumped inside an orchard near the Islamic-State controlled town of Kubaisa,”Reuters reported.

The Islamic State’s Anbar division released photographs of the fighting in Baghdadi on Dec. 11. The photos show its fighters firing on Iraqi personnel, then displaying the bodies of dead security personnel. Additionally, the Islamic State showed photos of captured vehicles and weapons, including US-made Humvees, mortars, rockets, heavy machine guns, and assault rifles. Some of the photographs are reproduced below; the images of the dead Iraqi security personnel are too graphic to display.


December 12, 2014 

ISIS: The Inside Story

One of the Islamic State’s senior commanders reveals exclusive details of the terror group’s origins inside an Iraqi prison – right under the noses of their American jailers. Report by Martin Chulov

Detainees in Camp Bucca, in southern Irag. Photograph: David Furst/AFP/Getty Imageshttp://www.theguardian. com/world/2014/dec/11/-sp- isis-the-inside-story

In the summer of 2004, a young jihadist in shackles and chains was walked by his captors slowly into the Camp Bucca prison in southern Iraq. He was nervous as two American soldiers led him through three brightly-lit buildings and then a maze of wire corridors, into an open yard, where men with middle-distance stares, wearing brightly-colored prison uniforms, stood back warily, watching him.

“I knew some of them straight away,” he told me last month. “I had feared Bucca all the way down on the plane. But when I got there, it was much better than I thought. In every way.”

The jihadist, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed, entered Camp Bucca as a young man a decade ago, and is now a senior official within Islamic State (Isis) – having risen through its ranks with many of the men who served time alongside him in prison. Like him, the other detainees had been snatched by US soldiers from Iraq’s towns and cities and flown to a place that had already become infamous: a foreboding desert fortress that would shape the legacy of the US presence in Iraq.

The other prisoners did not take long to warm to him, Abu Ahmed recalled. They had also been terrified of Bucca, but quickly realized that far from their worst fears, the US-run prison provided an extraordinary opportunity. “We could never have all got together like this in Baghdad, or anywhere else,” he told me. “It would have been impossibly dangerous. Here, we were not only safe, but we were only a few hundred meters away from the entire al-Qaida leadership.”

It was at Camp Bucca that Abu Ahmed first met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of Isis who is now frequently described as the world’s most dangerous terrorist leader. From the beginning, Abu Ahmed said, others in the camp seemed to defer to him. “Even then, he was Abu Bakr. But none of us knew he would ever end up as leader.”

Abu Ahmed was an essential member of the earliest incarnation of the group. He had been galvanized into militancy as a young man by an American occupation that he and many like him believed was trying to impose a power shift in Iraq, favoring the country’s larger Shia population at the expense of the dominant Sunnis. His early role in what would become Isis led naturally to the senior position he now occupies within a revitalized insurgency that has spilled across the border into Syria. Most of his colleagues regard the crumbling order in the region as a fulfillment of their ambitions in Iraq – which had remained unfinished business, until the war in Syria gave them a new arena.

He agreed to speak publicly after more than two years of discussions, over the course of which he revealed his own past as one of Iraq’s most formidable and connected militants – and shared his deepening worry about Isis and its vision for the region. With Iraq and Syria ablaze, and the Middle East apparently condemned to another generation of upheaval and bloodshed at the hands of his fellow ideologues, Abu Ahmed is having second thoughts. The brutality of Isis is increasingly at odds with his own views, which have mellowed with age as he has come to believe that the teachings of the Koran can be interpreted and not read literally.

His misgivings about what the Islamic State has become led him to speak to the Guardian in a series of expansive conversations, which offer unique insight into its enigmatic leader and the nascent days of the terror group – stretching from 2004, when he met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Camp Bucca, to 2011, when the Iraqi insurgency crossed the border into Syria.

Fight ISIS? You're Kidding, Why?

December 13, 2014

With a political eye on an electorate understandably reluctant to get involved in another foreign war, the Obama administration waited until after the mid-term elections to announce the deployment of an additional fifteen-hundred "non-combat" combat troops to Iraq in an attempt to halt the advance of ISIS.

And ho-hum, the announcement made nary a ripple in the public consciousness. It's as if, a thousand here, a thousand there, another thousand hither and yon, as long as none of those troops are coming home on litters or in caskets—with video topping the evening newscasts—no one really cares, and whatever America is doing over there in Iraq really isn't war. Is it? 

The president sure isn't calling it a war, not America's part. Rather, it's just a bit of tactical advising and surgical bombing, a minimalist approach to war-making, for any of which the president has little stomach. It's not difficult to read President Obama's mind and heart, that he's wishing ISIS could be relegated back to their once-JV status, at least for another two years, at which time he can pass off the problem to the next president.

Today, no one is calling ISIS the JV squad, and the president's additional fifteen-hundred advisers may keep ISIS from storming through the gates of Baghdad in the coming months, but no one is making the argument that this tiptoeing, combat-free strategy will push ISIS from the territory they have captured nor eliminate their threat to the rest of the Middle East.

And again, it's ho-hum, as if Americans don't even want to think about an oppressive and expanding Islamic State. The occasional beheading that pops up in the media startles us, but only for a moment, as we immediately tune it out. If we were to consider seriously the jihadists' barbaric actions in the name of the Caliphate, then we would have to accept that the Caliphate is by definition uncompromising, and as such we would have to steel ourselves to vanquish those fighting for it. Steel ourselves for war, complete war, not a couple of thousand non-combat bootless troops here and there willy-nilly.

Former British Government Officials May Be Called to Testify Before New Parliamentary Investigation Into UK Involvement in CIA Torture

Rowena Mason
December 15, 2014

UK torture inquiry could summon Blair and Straw
Tony Blair and his former foreign secretary Jack Straw could be summoned before a parliamentary inquiry in an attempt to determine the extent of any British involvement in torture of terror suspects.

The two senior figures from the last Labour government may be asked to give evidence to the intelligence and security committee (ISC) in the wake of the publication of a US Senate report confirming that the CIA used brutal and ineffective methods after 9/11.

However, pressure is growing on the government to announce a separate, judge-led inquiry, amid concerns that the ISC is too closely associated with the Westminster establishment.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the ISC chairman and a Conservative former foreign secretary, said on Sunday he would investigate “without fear or favour” regardless of whether it might embarrass the security services, ministers or Whitehall.

He said his committee would not shy away from saying that the evidence pointed towards the possibility of prosecutions if it thought that was appropriate.

Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether senior figures from the last government such as Blair and Straw could be asked to give evidence, Rifkind replied: “Certainly we would request any former minister or serving minister who has a contribution to make to our inquiries, to give evidence. If they refuse to do so that itself would imply they had something to hide. So we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

He said no decisions had yet been taken about who would be called as witnesses. It was reported over the weekend that Straw was questioned by police as a witness in 2012 over allegations that British MI6 agents were involved in the renditions of Libyans back to the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, where they were subsequently mistreated. The police inquiries are expected to conclude within the next few months, enabling the ISC to start investigating the allegations as its top priority.

Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route

Manpreet Sethi
ICSSR Senior Fellow affiliated with the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) 

The tenacity of nuclear weapons to continue to exist is evident. At the end of the Cold War, many wrote obituaries claiming that these weapons would soon be the “detritus of the Cold War.” Nothing however, could have been further from the truth. Half a century later, the weapons are still around in large enough numbers to pose dangerous risks to humanity. 

It is in this context that it is interesting to examine a two-year old development that has taken a new approach to the challenge of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. This is the initiative that was primarily spearheaded by Norway, Mexico, Austria, Ireland, Switzerland and New Zealand. It hit headlines in March 2013 when the first conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons was held in Oslo. It focused on the impact of nuclear weapons on human life. Based on testimonies of the hibakushas (survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), and presentations from factual studies on effects of nuclear explosions, 128 countries reached the conclusion that effects of the use of nuclear weapons were not constrained by borders and that no single nation or international body had the resources or the capability to deal with the consequences. Interestingly, India and Pakistan were the only nuclear-armed states that chose to participate in the conference. The five NPT nuclear weapon states, and Israel and North Korea, ignored the congregation.

Eleven months later, in March 2014, an even larger number of nations, 146 this time (though still not the NWS) came together in Mexico to further highlight the humanitarian challenges of nuclear weapon explosions. More and detailed studies were presented on the long term socio-economic impact of use of nuclear weapons. It was established that reconstruction of infrastructure and regeneration of the socio-economic parameters on which we today measure quality of life would take decades to rebuild if the world were to witness a nuclear exchange. However, the only possessors in the Conference were from India and Pakistan. Seven other nuclear-armed states, two of which own more than 90 per cent of the global nuclear stockpile, evinced no interest in the subject!

Ten months from then, on 8-9 December this year, a third Conference on the subject is being hosted by the government of Austria in Vienna. It proposes to specifically focus on the impact of nuclear explosions on human health, climate, food security and infrastructure. Also included are sessions on inadvertent nuclear use as a result of human and technical factors such as error, negligence, miscalculations, miscommunications, cyber interference, technical faults etc. 


December 14, 2014 

Meals ready to eat isn’t cutting it; but, this isn’t going to happen under this POTUS. RCP

James Stavridis said during a visit to London: “I think we should provide significant military assistance to the Ukrainian military. I don’t think we should limit ourselves to, non-lethal aid. I think we should provide ammunition, fuel, logistics. I think cyber-assistance would be very significant and helpful, as well as advice and potentially advisers.

“I don’t think there needs to be huge numbers of NATO troops on the ground. The Ukrainian military can resist what’s happening, but they need some assistance in order to do that.”

Former Commander Urges NATO To Send Arms To Ukraine

James Stavridis, ex-Nato supreme allied commander in Europe, says non-lethal aid insufficient in fight against separatists

A former commander of NATO in Europe has called for the alliance to send arms and military advisers to Ukraine to help it fight Moscow-backed separatists.

James Stavridis said during a visit to London: “I think we should provide significant military assistance to the Ukrainian military. I don’t think we should limit ourselves to, non-lethal aid. I think we should provide ammunition, fuel, logistics. I think cyber-assistance would be very significant and helpful, as well as advice and potentially advisers.

“I don’t think there needs to be huge numbers of NATO troops on the ground. The Ukrainian military can resist what’s happening, but they need some assistance in order to do that.”

Ukraine announced on Friday that it would conscript 40,000 more soldiers next year and double its military budget, in an attempt to counter the separatist threat in the east.

The US and European states have offered only non-lethal assistance, despite Kiev’s appeals for weapons to help it reassert control over areas in eastern Ukraine currently under the sway of pro-Russia separatists. However, on Thursday the US Senate passed a bill authorizing Barack Obama to provide military training and arms including anti-tank and anti-armor weapons.

Bob Corker, the senior Republican member of the Senate foreign relations committee, said: “The hesitant US response to Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine threatens to escalate this conflict even further. Unanimous support for our bill demonstrates a firm commitment to Ukrainian sovereignty and to making sure [Vladimir] Putin pays for his assault on freedom and security in Europe.”

This month NATO established trust funds to help finance assistance to Ukraine in reforming its armed forces, but that too was limited to non-lethal help.

In August Putin told a group of young supporters that Russia was one of the world’s leading nuclear powers, adding: “Russia’s partners … should understand it’s best not to mess with us.”Stavridis, a retired US Navy admiral who was NATO supreme allied commander in Europe from 2009 to 2013, and is now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the US, also expressed concern about Putin’s recent rhetoric emphasizing Russia’s nuclear arsenal.