20 January 2015

Mars needs its orbiter, and India its fighter planes

January 20 , 2015
Achievements in aerospace have marched ahead in India while aeronautics is still plagued by bureaucratic inertia, writes Brijesh D. Jayal

Perhaps nothing summarizes the Indian Space Research Organization's achievement more succinctly than a report in the New York Times under the banner, "On a Shoestring, India Sends Orbiter to Mars On Its First Try".

It is befitting that during those nail-biting final moments of suspense on Wednesday morning, when the Mangalyaan was in the shadow of Mars and out of communication with its control centre, and when none knew whether it would emerge captured in Martian orbit or career uncontrollably into the deep space beyond, the prime minister of India was at hand to lend personal and moral support.

So palpable was the tense atmosphere within the mission control room at the ISRO headquarters in Bangalore that it seemed to hypnotize millions of ordinary citizens, who were glued to their television screens. When success came it was almost as if the entire nation had risen in a spontaneous cheer to mark not just the success of the mission, but to applaud the very professional culture of Isro and those within its fold.

Make chiki for export!- Modi cannot do without the counsel of economists

Ashok V. Desai
January 20 , 2015

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was an imaginative politician; but in some respects he was quite conventional. When he met his Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council in the late 1990s, he gave its members cashew nuts with tea and coffee. He listened to us for a couple of hours, thanked us, and then went back to prime ministering.

Narendra Modi is imaginative and unconventional. I understand he gives people chiki to munch in meetings. I am fond of it, having often partaken of it in the train when I travelled between Bombay and Poona as a child. Chiki is a block, just like chocolate, of peanuts or sesame seeds embedded in gur (unrefined sugar). It is a balanced food containing both calories and proteins; it is a perfect cure for starvation or undernutrition.

I suggested in my Telegraph column of May 14, 2013 that the government should wind up its foodgrain distribution scheme, which entailed carrying 50 million tonnes of wheat and rice from 120 million farmers to half a million ration shops. Instead, it should give cash to poor people without conditions, and simultaneously promote production of chiki by means of a negative excise duty - in effect, a subsidy - so that they could get nutritious food with the cash should they need it. It would be egotistic of me to think that my idea travelled from the middle page of The Telegraph to the Prime Minister's snack planners. But it is a good idea nevertheless.

True colours

20 Jan 2015

Appearances are deceptive. A white American President will be received next Sunday by a white Asian President. Superficially however, it’s a coincidence that an American President’s first visit as chief guest at a Republic Day parade is taking place while the American ambassador in New Delhi is also what white Americans would call coloured. But there all resemblance ends. Barack Obama is the son of a Kenyan father and a white American mother. Richard Rahul Verma, his ambassador, is the son of a Punjabi who was the first literate person in his family but taught English at the University of Pittsburgh for 40 years. Both testify to the grand success of the American Dream.

Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, paid tribute the other day to this realised ideal. The first Indian-American (a term he rejects) governor of an American state, he said he didn’t believe in hyphenated identities. “My parents came in search of the American Dream, and they caught it. To them, America was not so much a place, it was an idea. My dad and mom told my brother and me that we came to America to be Americans. Not Indian-Americans, simply Americans.”

Far be it from me to decry their ambition. But I cannot help but wonder if white Americans see Mr Jindal (or Mr Verma or even their President) as quite the full-blooded all-American guy of Mr Jindal’s self-view. I am not saying they don’t, but I just wonder. It’s not something of which I have direct knowledge and must therefore fall back on the views and experiences of others who are fortunate or unfortunate enough to find themselves straddling two or more ethnicities.

Monitoring cyberspace: Tough, but must be done

N Balakrishnan
Jan 19 2015 

If you look at the creators of the Internet, the world wide web and the social media, they would never have imagined that their creations would touch every aspect of human life, the corporate world and the government, besides altering the way they interact within and between them. They also would have never imagined that the two complex worlds — the physical world that we live in and the cyber world into which we transit in and out — would become intricately intertwined. 

In the cyber world, it is impossible to distinguish the medium, the user and the computer. Hence, it becomes a cauldron of conflicts between all the actors and the task of combating it can only be accomplished with a directed international effort and cooperation, effective training and capacity building within the member-states, highly intellectually intensive dynamic policies and planning, and heavy investments.

It would require a huge investment of about Rs 6,000 crore to monitor the entire cyberspace. In the agrarian era, wealth was created by the movement of people while in the industrial era, it was generated through materials, or atoms. But in the world of information, wealth is created by the movement of photons and electrons, which is simply knowledge codified as bits and bytes. This transition to a manmade silicon-based structure makes it a complex world, and even more so when the cyber world interacts with the physical world. In the world of science, it is known as the revenge of silicon. So, all the notions of security in the physical world have been transplanted to the cyber world, namely cyber crime, cyber security, cyber terrorism and cyber espionage — all manifestations of the physical world phenomenon. 


20 January 2015

The attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris not just brought out the worst in Islamist terror. It also exposed the hypocrisy of those who promote double standards in dealing with militancy and freedom of expression of different kinds

If the Peshawar school massacre saw an outpouring of schizophrenic and hypocritical grief, then the January 7 Charlie Hebdo attacks topped the melodrama and hypocrisy quotient still further. Hypocrisy? Specifically the North Atlantic Treaty Organization hypocrisy. For example, take some of the statements made by the Al Qaeda in Yemen, when, claiming responsibility for the attack, it calledCharlie Hebdo an extension of the crusader alliance, clubbing it with France and American actions in the Muslim world. Now, compare them with statements made by the White House — specifically the ‘liberal-Democrat’ Clinton White House and equally ‘liberal’ Tony Blair in 1999, when Nato bombed Serbian Radio and TV.

Sample these gems in support of free speech: “Serb TV is as much a part of Milosevic’s murder machine as his military”, said Pentagon Spokesman Kenneth Bacon. “The media is one of the pillars of Milosevic’s power machine. It is right up there with security forces and the military.”

Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, said, “This is a war, this is a serious conflict, untold horrors are being done. The propaganda machine is prolonging the war and it’s a legitimate target.” Nato’s military spokesman, Air Commodore David Wilby, described the RTS, the Serbian state broadcasting station, as a “legitimate target which filled the airways with hate and with lies over the years”.

Can Obama break the nuclear ice with India?

Suhasini Haidar, Dinakar Peri
January 20, 2015

U.S. President arrives on Four-day visit on January 24

Taking the salute at the Republic Day parade, bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and a major speech on the future of Indo-U.S. ties will be the highlight of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to India this Sunday, even as he is expected to pack in some time for sightseeing with his family.

Officials in New Delhi and Washington remain tight-lipped about the details, but the contours of his agenda are becoming clear. He is scheduled to land in New Delhi on the night of January 24 on a four-day visit, his second as U.S. President, and while officials are yet to confirm it, he is expected to be accompanied by First lady Michelle Obama, and his daughters Sasha and Malia, who weren’t here in 2010.

Forge closer ties on cyber securityOn January 25, he will review the presidential guard of honour and visit Rajghat with many speculating that Mr. Modi would accompany him there, just as President Obama accompanied Mr. Modi to the Martin Luther King memorial when he was in Washington last year. Later, both leaders will have a bilateral meeting where they are expected to review the entire gamut of the relationship and also touch upon regional and international developments.

Redefining national security in complex new world

Lt Gen SS Mehta (retd)
Jan 20 2015 

In his avatar as a futurologist, Henry Kissinger in his thought-provoking book “World Order” draws a few conclusions relevant to India’s national security situation. Firstly, Kissinger notes that the world is spinning out of control with no designated caretaker. Secondly, he predicts that India will be the fulcrum of the 21st century world order because of its cultural cohesiveness. Thirdly, he notes with his patented asperity that foreign policy cannot be held hostage to domestic policies. Lastly, he notes the dichotomy that while economic structures are rapidly globalising, political structures remain enslaved to the Westphalian nation-state construct which is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

An explanation is warranted here. The Westphalia Treaty came about in 1648 after incessant war drove the degutted participating states to sign up for what was formalised as ‘peace by exhaustion’. It also led to the creation of a politico-strategic structure identified as the nation-state. Over 350 years later, the global knowledge explosion underscored by the ubiquitous, all-pervasive social media and IT-driven technology platforms providing instant, affordable communications and convergence has raised serious questions about the continued relevance of the Westphalian model. 

Upgrading Westphalian model 

Alvin Toffler got this phenomenon right in his “Third Wave” analogy of the 1980s when he listed the everywhere (globalisation), nowhere (cyberspace), and out there (outer space) paradigm as the greatest turning point of the modern era. Driven by ‘techno-rebels’, this Third Wave has given a new meaning to national security by underscoring the increasing ease and anonymity of asymmetric threats to it by state and non-state actors and the resultant challenges now faced by the citizen. Thus, it is fair to say that national security will increasingly signify the security of the nation and its citizenry.

India & climate change: Need for updated plan

Chandrashekhar Dasgupta
Jan 20 2015 

Excerpts from the presentations at the Roundtable on National Security Key Challenges Ahead organised by The Tribune National Security Forum in collaboration with the Indian Council of World Affairs

The recent Sino-US joint communiqué on climate change has triggered off a spate of media articles and comments on the question of our own climate change policy and our contribution to the climate change agreement that is expected to be finalised this year in Paris. 

The Sino-US communiqué has been described as “a historic deal,” paving the way for an “ambitious agreement in 2015”. In fact, the communiqué is not a deal at all, nor is it historic in terms of the levels of ambition. The targets were independently determined by the United States and Chinese authorities. It was not the outcome of a negotiated deal. Moreover, the US target is essentially a projection based on existing regulations and the existing administrative executive regulations in the country. In other words, it is really a business-as-usual scenario. 

The target also reflects a level of effort that is much below the level of commitment of the European Union, which itself falls severely short of the required level. The Chinese target is certainly noteworthy since it includes a new element in the form of an approximate peaking date for carbon emissions, namely 2030. 

It must be borne in mind, however, that by 2030, the identified peaking date, China’s per capita emissions will be comparable to the current level of European emissions. So there is nothing startlingly new about it. In fact, for the past several years, there has been an ongoing debate among Chinese specialists as to whether China will peak by around 2025 or 2030 and the Chinese authorities decided on the more conservative target. 

India’s Afghan dilemma

Rakesh Sood
January 20, 2015 

A decade of democracy has opened up Afghan society and India’s cooperation programmes have helped develop sustainable links around a shared vision. Dialogues with Afghanistan’s neighbours will become important as these countries start feeling nervous about the return of instability

By the end of 2014, two important transitions in Afghanistan had taken place. A political transition to a post-Karzai period had begun after a difficult election process. Second, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) flag had come down marking the end of the 13-year-long ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’, transferring primary responsibility for security to the Afghan Army and police forces. Neither has been a smooth transition despite the fact that the timelines for both transitions were known for the last five years. This poses questions about the stability of these transitions and the interests and role of the key external actors.

Political and security transition

The first phase of the two-stage Presidential election took place on April 5, 2014 with a turnout of 58 per cent. Expectedly, Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani led the race with 44 per cent and 32 per cent of the votes respectively, but since neither crossed the 50 per cent mark, a run-off was held on June 14. The turnout went up to 60 per cent and preliminary results indicated Dr. Ghani winning with 56 per cent of the votes cast. Dr. Abdullah rejected the outcome alleging electoral fraud and raising a number of valid questions. Realising the implications of a flawed outcome, the United States resorted to diplomatic heavy lifting with multiple visits by its Secretary of State John Kerry to Kabul. Election results were set aside and a National Unity Government was sworn in on September 29 with Dr. Ghani as President and Dr. Abdullah assuming charge as CEO, a new position of a coequal but with distribution of powers yet to be defined. The first challenge for the two leaders was the formation of the Cabinet. Last week, a list of 27 names (25 Ministers, Central Bank Governor and an Intelligence chief) was finally submitted after numerous deadlines had lapsed, but it remains to be seen whether these candidates will clear the confirmation hearings in the Wolesi Jirga (Assembly). There are rumblings of discontent from Dr. Abdullah’s camp that he is not too happy with the current, ambiguous power-sharing arrangement which is supposed to be formally settled in a two-year time frame by constitutionally creating the position of a Prime Minister. And two years is a long time in Afghan politics!

DRDO: A misguided missile in defence

C. Uday Bhaskar
Jan 19, 2015

The defence minister’s intent, that DRDO needs a shake-up, is more than timely but the fact that he chose to effect it in this manner may be counter-productive

The unceremonious sacking of DRDO chief Avinash Chander on January 13 well before the end of his current tenure and the shabby and graceless manner in which it was done was further compounded by the statement of defence minister Manohar Parrikar that even he came to know of this decision only through the media although he had recommended it earlier to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. It was suggested that the services of the DRDO chief were being abruptly terminated since the government wanted to induct someone younger from within the organisation “with an urge for development.”

The Delhi grapevine refers to sordid intrigue and factional rivalry within the DRDO for this seemingly arbitrary and impetuous decision. However the manner in which the highest levels of governance in this case, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet are being perceived in the public domain brings little credit to the Modi government.

Defence boffins need a leg up

V.K. Aatre
Jan 19, 2015 

For some reason, DRDO has turned the favourite punching bag of all and sundry in recent days. The organisation has been slammed for cost and time overruns, for not excelling in design and development of advanced weapons and systems required by the armed forces, and of course for not planning the line of succession both at the top and in selection of directors of different laboratories.

It is true that several projects are delayed, some even beyond acceptable limits, but one must understand that defence projects are never accomplished on time even in countries like the United States because the technologies involved are extremely complex.Besides, nobody acknowledges the fact that the organisation lacks the support of indigenous industry when it comes to sourcing certain devices, components, and subsystems for some of its projects, and therefore has to develop them because advanced countries are not ready to part with them.

Despite denial of technology and critical components and subsystems, the DRDO has managed to design and fly the Tejas, the light combat aircraft, which has logged more than 3,000 hours of flying without a single snag. The same is the case with sonar systems, radars and communication systems. And yet, some people ask why other organisations are doing well, and DRDO has no achievements to talk of.

Can’t build it? just import it

Jan 19, 2015 

Delay in its projects leading to a steep escalation in cost has proved to be the bane of the DRDO. The delays have led to the country being left with no option but to equip the armed forces with expensive foreign equipment.

A report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on defence tabled in Parliament just last month let the cat out of the bag.

“The committee notes that there are about 530 ongoing projects in different DRDO labs and out of them 136 are in mission mode. Some of these include Agni IV, Agni V, Nirbhay cruise missile, K-15, Nag, Astra, AWACS, Arjun main battle tank, Tejas light combat aircraft, etc. The committee also note that out of 44 major ongoing projects (more than Rs 100 crore), there have been cost revisions and time revision in case of eight and 12 projects respectively. Besides, 10 projects are more than five years old i.e. sanctioned before 2009. Eighteen major projects (more than Rs 50 crore) were sanctioned during the 10th Five Year Plan (April 2002 to March 2007) but none has yet been completed. Two of them have been closed, five are awaiting closure and one under evaluation.

Out of 43 major projects (more than Rs 50 crore) initiated during the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12) none has reached completion.”“The committee notes that many projects including development of cargo ammunition, development of GPS based system as an alternative to fire direction radar, development of 30 mm fair weather towed AD gun system, development of 30 mm light towed AD gun system have been closed thus wasting a considerable amount of public money.”

A few years ago, the then Parliamentary Standing Committee had observed, “The committee is of the view that the delays in development of weapon systems, MBT Arjun, LCA II, Integrated Guide Missile Development Programme i.e. Prithvi, Akash, Trishul, Nag and Agni, Kaveri engine for the LCA etc., not only has caused significant loss of revenue but also delayed the timely procurement of weapon systems from foreign sources that were needed to keep the forces fighting fit and modernised.”

The Arjun was one of DRDO’s main “indigenous” projects, cleared by the government over four decades ago, in 1974. But the inordinate delay in its execution meant that the cost escalated from about `15 crore in 1974 to `306 crore a decade ago, drawing severe criticism for the DRDO.

The Army too was unhappy with the tanks during trials, citing several flaws such as “failure of power packs, low accuracy and consistency, failure of hydropneumatic suspension units, shearing of top rollers and chipping of gun barrels. But in the past few years, the DRDO has made several improvements and modifications that has resulted in the Army accepting 124 Arjun MBTs. The DRDO is also developing the more improved Mark-II version of the tank.


By Alok Bansal

2014 ended with India-Pakistan relations hitting a new low, there have been allegations of cross border firings and even worse, Indian security forces have alleged that there have been attempts by Pakistan to push in terrorists through the sea routes, a replication of Mumbai.

As the year was coming to a close, a boat carrying suspicious cargo was intercepted off Gujarat coast and destroyed itself when challenged to stop. Sources have claimed that the crew on board had been in touch with Pakistan’s security forces. It appears as though the ties have hit rock bottom with the year coming to an end.

India-Pakistan relations have gone through a rollercoaster during 2014, which began with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif firmly in saddle, with a new Army Chief and Chief Justice. Like all other political leaders in Pakistan, Nawaz knew that Pakistan’s salvation lies in good relations with India. It would also help him to reduce the salience of the Pakistan Army, in the body politic of the state. He accordingly tried hard to improve trade relations with India.

The first two months witnessed lot of discussions on trade, including importing electricity through Amritsar. To bypass the terminology “Most Favoured Nation”- offensive to hardliners, a new term Non-discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) was coined and it appeared as if NDMA would be granted to India by Feb 15. However, the army ensured that this step, which had the potential to permanently change the dimension of India-Pakistan relations, never came about.


By Noorrahman Rahmani

One hundred days after Mohammad Ashraf Ghani came to power, Afghans feel betrayed and dissatisfied with his performance so far. They say the compromises their new president has made could be devastating for Afghanistan and the future of its fledgling democracy.

Most of the several dozen Kabul residents interviewed across the capital say that in his first 100 days in office, the new president has done the opposite of what he promised before he was elected.

As part of his election bid, Ghani set out an ambitious programme of actions he would take during his first 100 days. But as that expired, a web-based initiative called Sad Roz, which means “100 Days”, set up to monitor the Ghani administration’s performance, said that of the 110 election promises, only four had been fulfilled, 23 were in progress, and work on the remaining 83 had not even started.

“During campaigning, he said he would not create a ‘corporation’ where ministerial jobs and other senior posts were distributed to various political factions as was the case during his predecessor’s time; instead, ministers would be chosen based on merit and qualifications,” said Shapur Ahmad, 27, a Kabul university student. “But the recent announcement of the cabinet members, which took him more than 100 days, showed that he’s worse than his predecessor in terms of bringing unqualified people and those associated with war criminals to power.

Protesting in Pakistan

January 17, 2015

Mohammad Jibran Nasir is a young Pakistani activist from Karachi, leading the popular#ReclaimYourMosques campaign in Pakistan after the brutal Peshawar attack in which more than 130 children were killed in cold blood by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Nasir’s movement was initiated after the Lal Masjid’s imam, Abdul Aziz, refused to condemn the atrocity on a local channel. The staging of protests outside the mosque with Pakistan’s civil society was followed by the lodging of a First Information Report (FIR, a police complaint) against Aziz. Nasir vows to continue his campaign until Aziz is arrested. Jibran’s Abdul Aziz Challenge – in which Pakistanis urge the government to arrest the cleric – has gained momentum via social media.

In an exclusive with The Diplomat, Nasir speaks about the power of social media for change, his movement, and the way forward.

You were in the capital when the Peshawar attack took place; please run me through the day’s events leading up to your call of action for the Pakistani civil society to come together and protest outside the Lal Masjid [Red Mosque] in a bid to get Aziz arrested.

I was coincidentally in Islamabad a day before the Peshawar attack for a conference, and when I learned about the attack I thought I’d stay on in Islamabad because I wanted to go to Peshawar the following day and see if I could be a part of anything organized there. But the same night Abdul Aziz was on television saying the most absurd and perverse things. So the following day there was a vigil in Islamabad that I went to. I’d never been to the Lal Masjid before and I asked everyone at the vigil why not go to the Lal Masjid and have a vigil over there because you need to raise your voice and let those people know that those children who died in Peshawar are dear to us and that we don’t have any room for Taliban apologists. Only three women volunteered to come along with me in addition to a friend of mine, so the five of us went and held a small vigil there. I then posted a picture on Facebook and made a Facebook event for the following day. A lot of people showed up and that is how the movement started.

CENTCOM deputy gives grade of B+ to military effort against Islamic State

By Howard Altman
January 16, 2015

Speaking to an audience full of University of South Florida academics and students, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command was asked to grade military efforts to date against the Sunni insurgent group Islamic State.

"B-plus," said Mark Fox, the first of seven speakers addressing the issue of extremism in the Middle East at a conference put on by the USF Center for Strategic & Diplomatic Studies.

But Fox, who took the No. 2 slot at the MacDill Air Force Base headquarters command back in August 2013, offered a caveat during his conversation with Mohsen Milani, the center's executive director.

"We can be absolutely successful at the tactical and operational level, but let me go back," said Fox. "When the U.S. left Iraq, we had no forces in Iraq after 2011. That was a policy decision, driven by the Iraqi government, which did not want us to stay, and a political sense that it was time for us to leave. The military advice that was given was not implemented. That was the way it was."

Fast forward to the summer, said Fox.

"We went back and checked on a number of Iraqi Security Forces," he said. "Many had not had effective training since we left, so there was a lot of dry rot. And there was a lot of cronyism. So (former prime minister Nouri al-) Maliki was not effective in terms of creating a cohesive society."


(EurActiv) — EU member states have reacted in different ways to the security threat highlighted by the Paris terrorist attacks, pointing to how difficult it would be to put in place a common European response to the challenge. The EurActiv network reports.

EU ministers are devising ways to respond to the Paris killings, which range from the confiscation of travel documents of people considered dangerous, to speeding up agreements for the exchange of traffic data of passengers, and strengthening, or reforming the borderless Schengen Area.

The European Commission is reluctant to take a leading role, saying that only member countries are equipped with intelligence services and can assess the security threat. What follows is an overview of measures taken in across the bloc.

In France, military forces and police are “everywhere” since 7 January, when the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo took place. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that 122,000 law enforcement personnel were tasked with the protection of the French population.

The Ministry of Defense decided to deploy 10,500 soldiers to sensitive areas, with nearly half of them assigned to the protection of the country’s 717 Jewish schools. In front of each of these schools, military vehicles are stationed, along with several armed soldiers.

China stole plans for a new fighter plane, spy documents have revealed

Philip Dorling 
January 18, 2015 

Chinese spies stole key design information about Australia's new Joint Strike Fighter, according to top secret documents disclosed by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. 

German magazine Der Spiegel has published new disclosures of signals intelligence collected by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and its "Five Eyes" partners, including the Australian Signals Directorate. The intelligence reveals new details of the directorate's efforts to track and combat Chinese cyber-espionage. 

According to a top secret NSA presentation, Chinese cyber spies have stolen huge volumes of sensitive military information, including "many terabytes of data" relating to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) - also known as the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. 

China’s New DF-21 Nuclear Missiles Deployed to Mountain Launch Sites in Northeastern China

January 18, 2015 

China’s Dong-Feng 21 ballistic missile may have been deployed at the Changbai Mountains in the northeastern region of the country as a deterrent against Japan and Taiwan, reports the International Herald Leader, a newspaper under the auspices of the official news agency Xinhua.

Before the New Year, state broadcaster CCTV aired footage of a major People’s Liberation Army winter drill which revealed a missile transportation vehicle of the Second Artillery Corps, the PLA’s strategic missile division. Military analysts believe the vehicle was carrying the DF-21, a two-stage, solid-propellant, single-warhead medium-range ballistic missile developed by the China Changfeng Mechanics and Electronics Technology Academy.

Based on other publicly available information, analysts speculate that the DF-21’s launch position is now situated in the Changbai Mountains, along China’s border with North Korea.

Photos released publicly by the PLA reveal that the DF-21’s current missile launch position lies in a place that recently experienced significant snowfall. This is believed to match up with cold weather warning reports in northeast China between Dec. 25 and 27. The types of trees depicted in the photos are also said to be found predominantly in the Changbai range.

More importantly, military experts say the Changbai Mountains is the only place in China from which the DF-21 can cover all key targets in Japan. In the event of a maritime conflict with Japan, Chinese experts say the DF-21 will be able to effectively seal off entry and exit points in the Sea of Japan, allowing the PLA to make up for relative weakness in naval power.

China in Africa One among many

ACROSS Africa, radio call-in programmes are buzzing with tales of Africans, usually men, bemoaning the loss of their spouses and partners to rich Chinese men. “He looks short and ugly like a pygmy but I guess he has money,” complained one lovelorn man on a recent Kenyan show. True or imagined, such stories say much about the perceived economic power of Chinese businessmen in Africa, and of the growing backlash against them.

China has become by far Africa’s biggest trading partner, exchanging about $160 billion-worth of goods a year; more than 1m Chinese, most of them labourers and traders, have moved to the continent in the past decade. The mutual adoration between governments continues, with ever more African roads and mines built by Chinese firms. But the talk of Africa becoming Chinese—or “China’s second continent”, as the title of one American book puts it—is overdone.

The African boom, which China helped to stoke in recent years, is attracting many other investors. The non-Western ones compete especially fiercely. African trade with India is projected to reach $100 billion this year. It is growing at a faster rate than Chinese trade, and is likely to overtake trade with America. Brazil and Turkey are superseding many European countries. In terms of investment in Africa, though, China lags behind Britain, America and Italy (see charts).

It’s On: Asia’s New Space Race

James Clay Moltz

While NASA and the European Space Agency gets most of the world’s attention, China, Japan and India are racing for the heavens.

The general public in the West largely views the exploration of space as dominated by the United States and perhaps Russia. Sometimes, as in the case of the Rosettamission, they may give thought to Europe’s capabilities. Few people think of India when it comes to missions to Mars, but popular joy erupted across India in September 2014 after its Mangalyaan scientific spacecraft successfully achieved orbit around the red planet. One Indian reader responded to the story on a major online news outlet by posting: “It is [a] moment of pride as India becomes [the] 1stAsian nation to reach Mars.” And understood to all Indian readers was the point that China had—after a series of Asian firsts in space—finally been surpassed. 

Since China’s first human spaceflight in 2003 and its threatening anti-satellite test in 2007, Asia has seen a surge in space activity, with budgets increasing rapidly across the region. While few officials admit to the term, a “space race” is emerging in Asia

China and Japan's Great Clash over the Senkakus

January 18, 2015 

Within the pages of the National Interest, I have had the privilege of being part of a recent discussion about the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea with Robert Manning and Ryan Scoville, two very accomplished and fair-minded scholars. After my earlier article, “A Six-Point Plan to Solve the Senkaku Island Dispute,” published on December 29 and summarizing an earlier essay that Akikazu Hashimoto, Wu Xinbo and I had penned, Robert Manning rebutted our argument in a post earlier this month. Ryan Scovillethen wrote an article partly in response to my earlier piece.

I would like to respond briefly to the central argument of both Manning and Scoville. I disagree fundamentally with neither. But I stand by my guns, and our earlier argument, that a balanced proposal for trying to solve the island dispute can be a constructive force in the current Japan-China relationship.

In brief, Manning argues that history, national pride, and honor of the type that Thucydides wrote about millennia ago in regard to Athens and Sparta would prevent Tokyo and Beijing from responding favorably to any rationalist plan that treated the island issue as a simple, straightforward disagreement over relatively small and unimportant land formations. Manning claimed that the difficulties in the complex Japanese-Chinese relationship, with all of its baggage and tensions today, would trump any analytical attempt to cleverly bridge the divide between these two countries through a form of arbitration. His advice was to manage the problem and try to cool it down rather than to go for a Hail Mary attempt at solving it.

ISIS Looks for Foothold in Central Asia

By Shawn Snow
January 18, 2015

A video has recently surfaced in Tajikistan of Tajik ISIS militants calling for jihad against the central government. The video has been condemned by the Islamic Center of Tajikistan (ICT), an organization that works in conjunction with the Tajik government and controls the country’s Imams. The ICT stated ,”How is it possible to wage jihad in a state whose population is 99 percent Muslim? With whom do they want to wage jihad?” The video is part of a series of efforts by ISIS militants to gain a foothold in the Fergana Valley.

The Fergana Valley represents a melting pot of Islamic militant groups, but this was not always the case. Sufism, a more moderate form of Islam, once dominated in the Central Asian region. However, oppressive tactics against Muslim groups by Soviet security forces eventually gave rise to Salafism, a more conservative form of Islam.

The power vacuum created by the collapse of the Soviet Union bolstered the rise of Islamic extremist groups. Aided by the mountainous geographic terrain, a natural buffer against Chinese and Russian influence and control, these semi-autonomous organizations were given the space to grow. Regional governments have had a difficult time reigning them in and maintaining a monopoly of force.

Is Corruption Within the PLA Diminishing China’s Military Preparedness?

January 18, 2015

On January 15, Chinese officials announced on China Military Online the names of 16 senior military officers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who were under investigation for “seriously violating party discipline,” a euphemism for accusations of graft. The Global Times notes that the officers under investigation are at the corps level and above and include one general, four lieutenant generals, nine major generals, and one senior colonel.

In July 2014, The Diplomat reported on the indictments of Chinese general Xu Caihou, the former Vice-Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, and Gu Junshan, Deputy Head of the PLA General Logistics Department, considered the most corrupt of all PLA departments. Xu so far, has been the most senior military officer investigated in President Xi Jinping’s anti-graft campaign.

As my colleague Shannon Tiezzi pointed out, one of the reasons for this growing focus on investigating the PLA leadership is a genuine concern by Party officials that corruption can undermine the military preparedness of China’s armed forces. Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption efforts appear to be linked to overcoming parochial interests within the PLA leadership, and to (forcefully) garner support for much needed military reforms. However, as previously noted by The Diplomat, the Chinese president has to be careful not to overplay his hand.

In November 2013, during the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Party, Xi Jinping announced the most sweeping and ambitious military reform plan in more than three decades. The principle objective behind these reform efforts is to increase the warfighting capabilities of the PLA. The PLA still lags other major military powers in many aspects, such as modern joint command systems, joint forces interoperability, modern unit training, and the modernization of military equipment.


By Boaventura de Sousa Santos

The heinous nature of the crime against the journalists and cartoonists from Charlie Hebdo makes it extremely difficult to offer a cool-headed analysis of what is entailed in this barbaric act, its context and precedents, as well as its impact and future repercussions. Still an analysis is urgently needed, lest we fan the flames of a fire that one of these days may well hit our children’s schools, our homes, our institutions and our consciences. Here are some thoughts towards that analysis.


One cannot draw a direct connection between the Charlie Hebdo tragedy and the fight against terrorism waged by the US and its allies since September 11, 2001. It is a known fact, however, that the West’s extreme aggressiveness has caused the death of many thousands of innocent civilians (mostly Muslims) and inflicted astounding levels of violence and torture on young Muslims against whom all suspicions of wrongdoing are speculative at best, as attested to by the report recently submitted to the US Congress. It is also well known that many young Islamic radicals claim that their radicalisation stems from their anger at all that unredressed violence.

In view of this, we must stop and consider whether the best way to bring the spiral of violence to a halt is to pursue the same policies that have driven it so far, as has now become all too evident. The French response to the attack shows that democratic, constitutional normalcy is now suspended and an undeclared state of siege is in place; that this type of criminal should be shot dead rather than incarcerated and brought to justice, and that such behaviour in no way seems to contradict Western values. We have entered a phase of low-intensity civil war. Who in Europe stands to gain from it? Certainly not the Podemos party in Spain, nor Greece’s Syriza.

Israel Targets Japan in ‘Look East’

By Alvite Ningthoujam
January 19, 2015

Israel has been busy of late, strengthening its ties with East Asia, and Japan is no exception. The flurry of diplomatic initiatives by both countries come after a period of prolonged silence. While the magnitude of cooperation with Tokyo is not on a par with that of Israel’s engagements with China and South Korea, emerging developments may well take the bilateral ties to a new level.

Israel’s rapidly rising importance to Japan has come at an opportune time for Tel Aviv, with an evident decline in the strength of its ties with the European Union and its major partner, the United States. In the Middle East too, there has been a further widening of Israel’s isolation, particularly after the Gaza crisis last summer.

How to explain the warming of relations between Israel and Japan? There are several factors. From Japan’s perspective, stepping up cooperation with Israel has been a priority for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Tokyo wants to benefit from Israel’s military industries in enhancing its defense capabilities, particularly against anincreasingly defiant North Korea. Another enticing factor is Israel’s continuing stability at a time of turbulence in the Arab world that began with the uprisings in late 2010. For Japan, Israel appears an attractive partner. The more positive sentiment towards Israel in East Asia has meanwhile encouraged Tel Aviv to give more attention to this part of the world, and particularly the world’s third largest economy.

World Bank Warns on Global Growth

January 17, 2015

The World Bank has cut its global growth forecasts again for 2015, warning of further downside risks despite the benefit of cheaper oil. However, mixed fortunes are seen for Asia’s biggest economies, with growth slowing in China but accelerating in Japan and India.

In its latest “Global Economic Prospects” report, the Washington-based lender said it expected the world economy to expand by 3 percent this year, up from a “disappointing” 2.6 percent in 2014. Growth is forecast to improve next year, rising to an estimated 3.3 percent, according to the twice-yearly report.

Developing countries expanded by 4.4 percent last year and are expected to post 4.8 percent growth in 2015, rising to 5.3 percent next year, the bank said.

Nevertheless, the latest estimates reflect another downgrade to the bank’s 2015 growth forecasts. In October, it predicted 3.2 percent global growth this year, itself another cut from its 3.4 percent forecast made in June.

Underlying the weaker forecasts is an increasing divergence between the global economy’s winners and losers. The United States is back in the box seat as the world economy’s major driving force, but the eurozone and Japan continue to move slowly out of recession.

Pro-Moscow Rebels Claim to Have Captured Donetsk Airport From the Ukrainian Army

New York Times
January 17, 2015

MOSCOW — Leaders of a Russian-backed rebel movement in eastern Ukraine claimed on Friday to have captured the Donetsk city airport, a symbolically important and long-sought prize, although central government officials denied this was the case.

A senior leader for the rebels, the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, described the fight as the start of a new offensive to push Ukraine out of the east.

Despite a cease-fire that was signed on Sept. 5, the sides have fought in the rubble of the airport terminals for months. The rebels have repeatedly claimed to have captured the site, even though Ukrainian forces have been able to hold onto pockets inside the terminal. A major escalation in shelling preceded the latest claim.

If the claim is true, it would signal the first significant territorial advance by the rebels since the signing of the cease-fire pact.

The Digital Arms Race: NSA Preps America for Future Battle

By Jacob Appelbaum

The NSA's mass surveillance is just the beginning. Documents from Edward Snowden show that the intelligence agency is arming America for future digital wars -- a struggle for control of the Internet that is already well underway.

Normally, internship applicants need to have polished resumes, with volunteer work on social projects considered a plus. But at Politerain, the job posting calls for candidates with significantly different skill sets. We are, the ad says, "looking for interns who want to break things."

Politerain is not a project associated with a conventional company. It is run by a US government intelligence organization, the National Security Agency (NSA). More precisely, it's operated by the NSA's digital snipers with Tailored Access Operations (TAO), the department responsible for breaking into computers.

Potential interns are also told that research into third party computers might include plans to "remotely degrade or destroy opponent computers, routers, servers and network enabled devices by attacking the hardware." Using a program called Passionatepolka, for example, they may be asked to "remotely brick network cards." With programs like Berserkr they would implant "persistent backdoors" and "parasitic drivers". Using another piece of software called Barnfire, they would "erase the BIOS on a brand of servers that act as a backbone to many rival governments."

French Prime Minister: 'I Refuse to Use This Term Islamophobia'

JAN 16 2015,

The prime minister of France, Manuel Valls, has emerged over the past tumultuous week as one of the West’s most vocal foes of Islamism, though he’s actually been talking about the threat it poses for a long while. During the course of an interview conducted before the Charlie Hebdo attacks, he told me—he went out of his way to tell me, in fact—that he refuses to use the term 'Islamophobia' to describe the phenomenon of anti-Muslim prejudice, because, he says, the accusation of Islamophobia is often used as a weapon by Islamism's apologists to silence their critics.

Most of my conversation with Valls was focused on the fragile state of French Jewry—here is my post on his comments, which included the now-widely circulated statement that, “if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France”—and I didn’t realize the importance of his comment about Islamophobia until I re-read the transcript of our interview.

“It is very important to make clear to people that Islam has nothing to do with ISIS,” Valls told me. “There is a prejudice in society about this, but on the other hand, I refuse to use this term 'Islamophobia,' because those who use this word are trying to invalidate any criticism at all of Islamist ideology. The charge of 'Islamophobia' is used to silence people. ”

On Russia’s New Military Doctrine

Joshua Noonan
January 17, 2015 

On 26 December 2014, the Russian Federation released its newest military doctrine. This doctrine has shifted five times since the collapse of the USSR, changing twice in the first years of the country under President Boris Yeltsin seeing a simulacrum of Soviet military doctrine and then three times under the Presidency of Vladimir Putin with more dramatic changes following each iteration of policy showing the restoration of Russia’s initiative to act, the hubris that followed, and the nemesis of the current standoff and economic hardship.

In 2000, territorial integrity, Russia’s role in conflict mediation, a privileged sphere of influence in its “near abroad”, as well as the desire for Russia to participate as a pole in an emerging multipolar global order. In 2010, the focus shifted from a massive NATO-led attack to specific threats the of anti-ballistic missile systems to Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal, NATO’s encroachment on Russia’s borders, color revolutions as a source of destabilization, and the violation of the UN charter in actions against states such as Iraq. These were driven by the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, theOrange, Rose, and Tulip revolutions, and the proposed placement of anti-ballistic missile systems inPoland and the Czech Republic. 2010 was the first time that the Russian federation stated that they reserve the right to use nuclear weapons against an existential conventional attack against the Russian Federation. The later of these policy developments was foreshadowed by the 2009 simulated nuclear strike on Warsaw by war-gaming Russian and Belorussian forces in “Operation West”.

The 2014 doctrine was published in light of the annexation of Crimea, the Ukraine conflict breaking-out again, and the paranoia of color revolutions continuing throughout the post-Soviet space. In the 2014 document, US military attempts to expand superiority via platforms such as global strike and space weapons were singled out as a threat to strategic stability. Another focus of the document was the highlighting of subversive elements seeking to undermine youth in Russia. Dovetailing with the Russian foreign agent act of 2012, foreign actors i.e. NGOs and military special forces via hybrid warfare were seen as a serious threat.