3 March 2015

Talking again - The Indian foreign secretary's visit to Pakistan

Kanwal Sibal

Our policy towards Pakistan has been marked by flip-flops and lack of coherence because an adequate answer to the complex and enduring challenges that we face from that country has evaded us so far. We have repeatedly reached out to Pakistan in the hope that in its own interest it will see the wisdom of ending its confrontation with India, and we have not been deterred from doing so even when our expectations have been repeatedly belied. Like a gambler we keep placing bets, keep losing, but keep hoping we might win one day.

We are again reaching out to Pakistan, with the prime minister, Narendra Modi, speaking to his counterpart in Pakistan and deciding to send the foreign secretary to Islamabad. The cloak of SAARC and cricket has been given to this initiative, so that it is not too glaring that we are reversing course and resuming foreign-secretary-level talks with Pakistan that we called off in August, 2014, because Pakistan's high commissioner in Delhi met the Hurriyat leaders first.

Of course, if Pakistan had sent us encouraging signals in the intervening months, we would be right in re-connecting with it. Permanent tensions with Pakistan are not in our interest. But we cannot normalize relations unilaterally; Pakistan must want that too, and this should be visible in its actions and not in mere affirmations of peace meant for diplomatic consumption, especially in the West.

In actual fact, Pakistan has not changed its hostile attitude towards India. Nawaz Sharif has been notably aggressive over Kashmir by repeatedly invoking the United Nations resolutions and self-determination, and calling it - very recently again - the "jugular vein" of Pakistan. If so, then it is a territorial, life-and-death issue for Pakistan, not one of "self-determination", as it spuriously claims. He constantly seeks third-party intervention in Jammu and Kashmir, contrary to the Simla Agreement, which he studiously ignores in his references to past India-Pakistan accords. He sees no contradiction in his supposed commitment to peace with India while seeking a solution to Kashmir at India's expense.

Prime minister’s Pakistan project

Written by Praveen Swami
March 3, 2015 

Narendra Modi’s Pakistan project isn’t, as his more war-like election-time speeches might suggest, to end Pakistan’s covert war against India. It is to make sure it doesn’t begin again.

From the throne he had specially erected on Mount Aigaleo, over the straits of Salamis, Xerxes, the emperor of Persia, prepared to view his greatest triumph. His armies had already overcome the Greek rearguard at Thermopylae. For a century, the Greeks had been spitting at Persian power, backing insurrections and executing the emperor’s ambassadors. Xerxes’ father, Darius, had failed to punish them — but now, imperial retribution was at last at hand.

Instead, the emperor watched a lethal trap close. The emperor and his generals knew the Greeks could defeat the bigger Persian ships in narrow waters. Yet, Xerxes ignored the risk, deceived by Greek double agents who told him his fractious enemies were preparing to flee. The lie succeeded since it preyed on his deepest hopes.

Late tonight, when foreign secretary S. Jaishankar reflects on his day of meetings in Islamabad, he could do worse than consider the three lessons in the poet-warrior Aeschylus’ account of the Salamis battle.

In war, Aeschylus tells us, there is no weapon so sharp as insight into the enemy’s mind. Second, the stronger side does not always win. Third, seeking ambitious solutions is dangerous — had Xerxes not sought to conquor Greece, after all, he may well have secured the individual subjugation of its city-states.


03 March 2015 

The strategic community wants us to believe that the defence Budget is not enough — it isn’t — and that the Finance Minister is to be blamed for the Armed Forces’ lack of preparedness. He isn’t. The military must reduce wasteful expenditure to get more bang for the buck

This year’s Budget seems almost entirely lacklustre, focussing as it does, on nudges and incrementalism and, in some cases, just holding the fort. Here’s why this is not necessarily a bad thing. The clearest case of holding the fort has been the Defence Budget of Rs2.46 lakh crore. In real terms, this has meant that the Defence Budget has shrunk to 1.75 per cent of the gross domestic product from previous year’s 1.78 per cent.

Also, it may seem that there has been a 10 per cent hike in dollar terms — from last year’s slightly over $38 billion to this year’s just over $40 billion — but this is not exactly the case. The less than two billion dollar raise has been possible only because the Government could not spend its 2013-2014 allocation and returned just over a billion dollars back to the exchequer.

Predictably, the strategic community has started howling about how these expenditure levels are pre-1962 levels in terms of percentage and leave the country vulnerable since the Armed Forces need so much more equipment etc. The facts are undisputable, but the analysis, sadly, is way off the mark.

The fundamentals point here are that neither Finance Minister Arun Jaitley compensate for the failure of the Armed Forces to streamline themselves nor can a country that has spent the last 10 years in economic doldrums suddenly afford to divert vast additional sums to what is basically a non-productive parasitic expenditure.

Essentially, what people who demand a larger Defence Budget are saying is this: First, ignore the fact that the three Forces have haywired notions of modern combat and refuse to rationalise procurement. So, just give them whatever big guns and toys they want.

People's solidarity - Face-off

Dipankar Bose

The Russian economy may have been badly hurt, but it is not crippled

The United States of America has been waging an economic war against Russia from last June onwards by dragging down oil - Russia's main foreign exchange and revenue earner - from $115 to less than $50 between June and January. Saudi Arabia was the US's main ally that refused to cut oil output to raise the price. The US and its European allies also declared 'economic sanctions' against Russia to isolate it. But the whole thing has backfired. Russia has come closer to Asia and even the Middle East and is not relenting on Ukraine at all.

Predictably, Russia's dollar earnings and reserves and also the rouble fell sharply along with the oil price, and consumer inflation spiked to over double-digit, since Russia has to import a host of consumer goods. Its capital flew out and the central bank raised the interest rate from 10.5 per cent to 17 per cent in mid December and lost $88 billion in trying to defend the rouble. It failed. Russia is now set for a full-scale recession with a contraction of 4.5 per cent in 2015. So, Russia is badly hurt. But is it crippled?

Not quite. First, oil analysts have reported that output will fall, leading to rise in price, thanks to the biggest ever strike in the US oil industry recently, significant drop in the number of shale oil rigs in the US and the fall in the investment and expenditure of the major oil companies around the world. They expect oil to stabilize at $70-75 at least by the second half of 2015. Second, despite Western sanctions, Russia is strengthening bilateral trade relations with China, India and Egypt. China and Russia have come closer. So much so that trade settlements in yuan between the two have increased nine- fold in the first nine months of 2014 and their trade is growing. Third, though its reserves dropped $124 billion last year, Russia had a $368.3 billion reserve on February 13, enough to see it through for more than a year even if oil remains at $50 or a little less. Last, the European Commission has announced that though recession-bound in 2015, the Russian economy will stabilize next year, thanks to a rise in demand for oil from growing economic activities around the world leading to higher price.

Clearly, the US and its allies had misread Russia. They had underestimated the degree of solidarity the Russian people have achieved since the Soviet break-up that enables them to withstand economic hardship. The West also forgot that Vladimir Putin came to power after the chaotic 1990s promising to restore order at home and to re-establish Russia's status as a world power. Easing his singular grip over the political and economic leverages of power or pulling it back on Ukraine would threaten the very foundations of his presidency. Putin and his close advisers remain wary of 'too much economic freedom,' given Russia's bitter experience of opening up its economy before modernizing its manufacturing sector adequately. It had inherited a well-diversified economy from the Soviet era, but the prodding of the International Monetary Fund and the US treasury department and the slavish following by the then Russian leadership landed it in a state where its major revenue-earning source became oil and other minerals. Its manufacturing industries were not competitive at all vis-à-vis the West, since they used old technologies and too much resources. Once it opened its gates, Western competitors simply engulfed its manufacturing industries, raising its import bills enormously, forcing it to export more oil.

Have money, won’t spend

Written by Sushant Singh
March 3, 2015 

Budgetary space for big-ticket acquisitions will be limited. Capital allocation of Rs 31,481 crore for air force means signing amount needed for Rafale deal isn’t budgeted for.

In a clear indication of where our national security priorities lie, the only post-budget question put to the finance minister was about the one rank one pension (OROP) scheme for the veterans. The OROP is an emotive issue, and with the prime minister himself having promised to implement it, expectations of an announcement in this budget were understandably high. The finance minister reiterated his commitment to implementing the OROP, stating, “The methodology of calculating one rank, one pension is an issue pending between the services and the defence ministry”.

Veterans are worried because they have been promised the OROP a few times now, only to be let down. They realise that whatever the methodology, keeping the OROP promise would need money, which would have to be allocated in the budget. The budget for defence pensions has been increased by Rs 4,500 crore to Rs 54,500 crore for the coming year. This increase, much less than the estimate of Rs 8,400 crore required to implement the OROP, is sufficient only to maintain the status quo.

But the non-provision of funds for the OROP is not the biggest concern about the defence budget. That would be the government’s failure to spend last budget’s allocation of Rs 2,29,000 crore in the current year. The revised estimate of Rs 2,22,370 crore means that the defence budget was underspent by Rs 6,630 crore. And the spending shortfall under the capital head — meant for buying weapons and military platforms — was even greater, at Rs 12,623 crore. It means that the defence ministry transferred another Rs 6,000 crore from the capital head, that is, from money meant for buying weapons and military equipment, to the revenue head for routine running expenses.

Northwest turbulence

Written by C Raja Mohan
March 3, 2015

The Saarc yatra also gives Jaishankar an opportunity to engage Afghanistan, which is at a decisive moment in its political evolution.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had good reasons to frame Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s visit to Pakistan as part of a “Saarc yatra”. Having suspended talks with Islamabad last August, the government needed a diplomatic device to renew the engagement with Pakistan. The appointment of a new foreign secretary and the tradition of India’s top diplomat beginning his or her tenure by travelling first to neighbouring capitals have provided a useful setting to make a fresh start with Pakistan. The Saarc yatra also gives Jaishankar an opportunity to engage Afghanistan, which is at a decisive moment in its political evolution since the ouster of the Taliban by the American forces at the end of 2001.

For centuries now, developments on India’s northwestern frontiers have decisively influenced the security environment of the large territorial entities in the subcontinent built around the Ganga and Yamuna. That geopolitical logic has held true for the Mughal Empire, the British Raj and independent India. While there are many bilateral issues that will figure prominently in Jaishankar’s talks with Islamabad and Kabul, the foreign secretary is acutely conscious of the new regional dynamic shaping India’s relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The nature of the turbulence on India’s northwestern frontiers today is comparable to the developments in 1979-80, including the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the promotion of a jihad against the Moscow-backed regime in Kabul by America, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi sought to respond to the new dynamic by diversifying India’s great power relations away from Moscow, strengthening ties with America, normalising relations with China, which had just come out of the Cultural Revolution, reaching out to Saudi Arabia and, above all, seeking improved ties with Pakistan.

‘Class’ify the Railways

Mar 03, 2015

We need to increase general class accommodation, and distinctly separate compartments for those who can pay for comfort. Equality does notmean downgrading the rich. 

Listening to Suresh Prabhu presenting the Railway Budget, I wondered whether he was really promising to bring back the halcyon days of luxury on the rails. But no, he can’t and won’t. No politician dare admit that a successful railway system must reflect the social divisions of everyday life.

However, Mr Prabhu must be complimented for resisting the temptation (so far at least) of trying to earn popularity like some of his predecessors. He hasn’t yet set up railway workshops in his constituency or diverted trains there. There’s no Duronto Express to commemorate him. Instead, he made the welcome announcement of substantially higher spending on safety, infrastructure modernisation and network decongestion. He also agreed to make stations more passenger-friendly with lifts and escalators. I’ll be quite happy, too, if trains that “save 20 per cent of journey time” only mean returning to the old realistic timetable instead of aping bullet trains, which could spell disaster here. It’s no secret that as the railways became more and more inefficient, the running time of trains was extended so that they appeared to be on time.

It remains to be seen, however, if a qualified chartered accountant with links to the World Bank, Berlin’s Free University and the Wharton School will make a qualitative difference to railway travel.

The present dereliction betrays the perception and lifestyle of ministers like Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mamata Banerjee. Actually, the rot set in with the austere Morarji Desai who regarded the lounge in first class air-conditioned Rajdhani bogies as unnecessary indulgence. Mercifully, he didn’t make passengers spin yarn, munch nuts, and drink worse. But Mr Yadav ensured tea was served in little clay bowls as in the wayside stalls he felt at home in. Madhavrao Scindia, with a railway chugging round the edge of his dining table, was too pragmatic to impose his princely vision on others, but he did introduce fresheners.

American Sniper spurs ‘Make in India’

Mar 03, 2015

American Sniper is perhaps an endorsement message for the Indian defence industry, particularly for the government departments concerned with indigenous defence production to ‘Make in India’ 

Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now, who knows the azimuth bearings on which American boots-on-the ground will march out next? The hunt for the ISIS is turning out to be wider and longer ranging than anybody visualised or bargained for, and the show is still far from over.

The movie American Sniper is an uber-patriotic film set in Iraq, and reflects this geopolitical setting. The film created huge waves of intense ideological debate, with ripples washing outwards worldwide from its epicentre in the US.

The film is based on the true story of Chris Kyle, an American Marine, drafted to serve in Iraq. It was considered for an Oscar award which, however, ultimately did not come its way, with many in the US, and elsewhere criticising the film as a disquieting endorsement of the growing jingoism and everyday violence in present-day American society, as well as for its in-your-face glorification of American militarism.

Chris Kyle, the central character in the film, is a US Marine sniper, a fraternity sometimes regarded even within the military itself almost as practitioners of the dark arts, like venomous vipers coiled up amongst dry leaves, all sensors on alert for the unwary footfall.

Unfortunately, lost in the backscatter of these passionately intense philosophical debates has been the movie itself and its devastatingly accurate portrayal of the deadly world of the military sniper in wartime. The only other comparable “sniper classic” has been the Russian film Enemy At The Gates. It is about a Russian sniper operating amidst the ruins of Stalingrad in the Second World War, which did not generate any controversies given its background of the “war of necessity” against the “forces of evil” of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. American Sniper, however, is set against the backdrop of the Bush-Rumsfeld War in Iraq, widely regarded as an American private venture to secure Iraqi oil resources, and as such cannot make claims to any moral pretensions.

A ‘Pak yatra’ as ‘SAARC yatra’?

March 3, 2015 

APINTIMATE ENEMY: “A turning point in the past few months in Pakistan is the Peshawar massacre, given the intense anger it has generated, and the push from the Pakistan government to fight ‘the terror within’.” Picture shows a grieving mother in Peshawar who lost her son in the massacre by Taliban gunmen.

The core issues during Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s visit to Pakistan remain India’s concerns on terrorism and Pakistan’s concerns on Kashmir

Six months after talks with Pakistan were called off Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar lands in Islamabad today to kick off a new attempt to engage their government. While Indian officials have taken care to downplay the visit’s significance, calling it a “SAARC yatra not a Pak yatra”, it seems clear that the trip has been made with a special emphasis on Pakistan. The decision to re-engage with Pakistan, through whichever means, signifies two things: one that the decision to cancel talks in July 2014 was only a temporary one for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the assumption that talks could be restarted at a later point, and two, that engaging Pakistan is the norm, rather than an aberration.

However, the last six months have also seen several significant shifts inside Pakistan observed during a recent visit by this writer;the foreign secretary may, therefore, find picking up the threads of the talks more complex than it was perhaps last July.

Shift in power balance

Private sector in defence resurgence

March 3, 2015

With the Prime Minister outlining a new vision for defence resurgence, there is a need to acknowledge at every level of government that the private sector can be trusted to play as important a role in the modernisation of India’s defence capabilities as the public sector

When I once met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, I was struck by a telling comment he made during our conversation. He said, “Anil, do you know that even the tears we shed in this country are not our own? Every tear gas shell used by our security agencies is actually imported!”

The Prime Minister’s anguish was entirely genuine and for me, an eye-opener, literally.

It left me in no doubt about the Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ initiative and what a remarkable change of mindset it represented when compared to earlier governments, particularly in relation to the defence sector. For me, it was an extraordinary and personal glimpse into the Prime Minister’s thinking, his larger strategic vision, and his determination to make India a leading global player in defence manufacturing. This was reinforced by his choice of Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar.

“ For far too long, indecisiveness in defence procurements, based on a play safe approach, has resulted in the armed forces suffering with suboptimal hardware. This is truly a travesty.””

Mr. Parrikar is among the most talented, intelligent, hardworking and ethical leaders India has seen. His brief, from what I have seen so far, is to push the ‘Make in India’ agenda, and provide our armed forces with the best possible, cutting-edge equipment and armaments. His reputation for being a man of principle and probity and one who is ready to change existing norms and systems for greater efficiency and transparency — are the two elements that will transform our defence sector into one that is modern and world class.

Troubled neighbourhood

‘Jihadi John’ best employee we ever had, says former boss

APThis undated image shows a frame from a video released on Oct. 3, 2014, by Islamic State militants that purports to show the militant who beheaded of taxi driver Alan Henning. Mohammed Emwazi has been identified by news organizations as the masked militant more commonly known as “Jihadi John”.

In fresh revelations about the journey from normality to infamy of the man known as “Jihadi John”, it has come to light that Mohammed Emwazi, the Briton identified as an Islamic State (IS) executioner, was once a star salesman for a Kuwaiti IT company.

Emwazi, the Kuwaiti-born but London-raised graduate who features in IS videos apparently beheading hostages in the Syrian desert, was quiet and rather withdrawn but had a natural gift for his work, a former boss in Kuwait City told the Guardian.

“He was the best employee we ever had,” the former boss said of the then 21-year-old.

“He was very good with people, calm and decent, he came to our door and gave us his CV.”

Where vision meets veracity

March 3, 2015

The HinduCULTURE OF DEPENDENCY: “A welfare state built on free handouts for all, without holding their citizens accountable, is seldom a path to prosperity.” Picture shows people waiting for kerosene at a government ration shop near Erode in Tamil Nadu. Photo: M. Govarthan

The bold decision to level the playing field for Indian corporations in the 2015 Budget demonstrates the government’s strategic vision and inherent confidence

The budget announced by the Narendra Modi-led government may well clinch the top spot for India as the “Emerging Market” destination of choice in the eyes of global investors. This budget has lots of “vision” but more important, it is balanced with “veracity”.

In a country used to hand-outs and freebies, it’s always a balancing act for an incoming administration to walk the fine line between “screaming leftists” that want everything given for free and the “extreme conservatives” that want the total elimination of subsidies. This budget threads this proverbial needle.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget aims at expanding the productive capacity of the economy — a vital undertaking, if India wishes to attain its goal of non-inflationary and all-inclusive growth. A smart way to build this growth is by constantly focussing on the factors that improve potential GDP. Giving consumers and businesses the essential tools such as critical road networks, uninterrupted electricity, sensible transportation and storage logistics which connect the country will be crucial to accelerating progress. The 2015 Budget clearly delivers on this count. An incremental $12bn in targeted infrastructure spending proposed in this Budget is just what the doctor ordered.

Laudable decisions

India, Israel To Build Missile Defense System

By Vivek Raghuvanshi
February 26, 2015

NEW DELHI — India and Israel agreed to jointly develop a medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) system for the Indian Army to replace Russian-made air defense systems, said a source in the Indian Defence Ministry.

The land version of MRSAM would be an extension of the ongoing Air Force MRSAM project, which is expected to begin induction by 2017, three years behind scheduled. The Army has an immediate need for one regiment (18 systems) of MRSAMs at a cost of $1.5 billion, but the total requirement for these systems is estimated to be more than $6 billion, said an Army official.

The agreement to jointly develop the land version of MRSAM, which will have a range of up to 70 kilometers, emerged during a Feb. 22 meeting here between visiting Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar, the source added.

Negotiations for developing the land version had been put on hold two years ago following delays in the Air Force project. However, several rounds of negotiations between Indian and Israeli officials during the last six months have finalized the joint development agreement for the land version, the source added.

The Army mobile MRSAM systems will be jointly developed by India's state-owned defense research agency, the Defence Research and Development Organization, and Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) of Israel. Both sides will develop subsystems although the details of that arrangement have yet to be finalized. The system will be produced by India's state-owned Bharat Dynamics Ltd., in participation with domestic private sector companies Tata Power SED and Larsen & Toubro, the source added.

IAI has declined to comment on the program.

An Indian Army official said the service has needed a new surface-to-air missile system for more than a decade to replace Russian-made Kvadrat and OSA-AKM systems bought between 1970 and 1980.

The Army wants to use the MRSAM to defend mechanized formations operating in the plains and desert regions of the country.

Core Concerns in Indian Defence and the Imperatives for Reforms

Vinod Misra

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

India's current defence imperatives transcend the ideeological 'defence vs. butter' debate. Even while there may be no profound existential concerns, the geo-political reality of a deeply troubled neighbourhood, long legacy of border disputes with neighbours in the north and west and a widening spectrum of potential warfare from conventional and strategic to the asymmetric can be ignored at our own peril. Given the current capability gaps and infrastructure inadequacies, India requires a far more focussed pursuit of the objective of comprehensive national power with an optimal blend of fully deterrent state-of-the-art and readily deployable capabilities potentially on more than one front. Likely out-of-area contingencies and our legitimate aspirations as an emerging regional and world power further fuel this need.

While there has been a significant stepping up of the public discourse in the recent years on the myriad concerns in defence, there is precious little in the public realm on the hard core issues confronting defence decision - makers in critical areas such as the long range geo-strategic environment, higher defence management and civil military relations, defence industrialisation, acquisition, research and development, logistics, manpower, planning, financial management and oversight.

Possibly for the first time ever, this book seeks to put together the perceptions, views and recommendations of a host of past practitioners at the highest level from the civil and military bureaucracy who have had some unmatched insights into the complex world of Indian Defence and its decision-making structures and processes. For obvious reasons, the cause of reliable, efficient, and affordable defence brooks no further delay in terms of a potent capability basket encompassing the land, sea, air, space and cyber-space domains. This would call for some long overdue reforms covering organisations, policies and processes to enhance professionalism, synergies arising from jointness, drastically curtail decision - making time frames, and, above all, enforce accountability for the attainment of stated goals. Hopefully, this book would contribute in some measure to this worthy task.
About the Editor

A sensible and innovative budget.

There always comes a time when you have to heed Jesus who said:” Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” So this time I will render unto the Finance Minister what is due to him. Or better still “give the devil his due.” This budget is eminently sensible and innovative. His speech was also mercifully brief and to the point. The budget is an annual exercise that generates great expectations, and this one generated more than the usual for it was the first budget prepared by the BJP government.

But the expectations of any major changes in how money will be raised and how it will be spent are quite unreal given that a budget is pretty well set weighed down by past commitments to programs; plan allocations, fixed expenses and interest. Interest takes up almost a quarter of any budget, while defence too is an imperative, as are salaries and other expenses. But this year we have a new joker in the pack. The Finance Commission’s recommendation that the States should henceforth get 42% of the taxes collected, imposes severe constraints on the central governments ability to keep, let alone improve on old spending levels. Many of the social schemes have therefore witnessed a drop in proposed expenditures. The message is clear. If you want decentralization then the discretion to spend money also moves statewards.

The only other big item is subsidies that take up a good Rs.3.77 lakh crores. This is the big enchilada that those who seek a big bang budget eye. But the nature of India’s political economy precludes any major slashes. Here every government confronts powerful lobbies. The farm lobbies will not countenance any reduction in the fertilizer subsidy or reduction in procurement, which gives the producer a ready bulk purchaser buying at above the market prices. Similarly subsidized supply of food grains to people subsisting below the poverty line is also a strict No No.

Where Is India's Carrier Fleet Going?

February 27, 2015

India should think long and hard about the logistics necessary to operate a nuclear propulsion carrier. 

Reports have emerged that India’s second indigenously built carrier, expected to be the third carrier to enter service in the next two decades, may utilize nuclear propulsion. This is alongside a set of other innovations that the Vishal might adopt, including EMALS catapult technology (possibly developed in association with the United States). India has taken strides on nuclear propulsion recently, with the launch of INS Arihant, its first domestically constructed nuclear submarine.

Why would India need a nuclear powered aircraft carrier? Nuclear power doesn’t eliminate the need for local basing (even the all-nuclear task forces the USN assembled in the 1970s and 1980s required support vessels for repair and munitions), although it does reduce a task force’s overall requirements. Countries that build nuclear aircraft carriers (a group that currently includes only the United States and France) typically have either worldwide military responsibilities or worldwide military ambitions. By decreasing fueling requirements, nuclear power increases range and improves operational tempo.

But that’s only particularly useful if India expects to conduct high intensity carrier operations at some distance from its home waters. And as of the moment, it’s hard to envision missions in which nuclear power would prove decisive. The most plausible contingency might involve some kind of extended deployment in the Pacific, but it’s a struggle to figure out why the Indian Navy would seek to decisively engage the PLAN (or whomever else it might want to fight) in the Pacific, rather than astride China’s maritime supply lines in the Indian Ocean.

It also means that the maintenance, training, and operational requirements of India’s three carriers will diverge even more. India is effectively pursuing a naval aviation program that will struggle to share aircraft, pilots, and sailors. And until India’s second nuclear carrier comes on line (some sources suggest interest in an overall fleet of five flattops), INS Vishal will be the only of the three ships capable of conducting the missions that nuclear propulsion allows.

India’s Non-Policy on Pakistan: U-Turn to Square One

February 26, 2015

If, apart from either a limited or an all-out war, dialogue is the only weapon in your arsenal to deal with an openly hostile country, then it stands to logic that it must be used sparingly, judiciously, creatively and in a way that it yields something tangible. India has, however, mastered the art of frittering away its sole weapon against Pakistan on a whim and a fancy of the powers that be. False premises built on an inadequate and incomplete understanding of Pakistan, future assurances by silver-tongued emissaries that are invariably dishonoured, and a bit of nudge and push by international powers, also play a role in India’s glaring inability to have a coherent and consistent policy on Pakistan. The ill-thought U-turn made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on its principled position of not engaging Pakistan at the political level until that country addresses India’s concerns and respects its red-lines fits in this sordid pattern that has defined India’s non-policy on Pakistan. Quite clearly, the government has not worked out the serious diplomatic, political and security implications of this U-turn.

The fig leaf of the new Foreign Secretary visiting Pakistan as part of a purported ‘SAARC Yatra’ is not being bought by anyone, least of all the Pakistanis who are crowing with delight over the unseemly climb-down by the Modi government. They were quite confident that it was a matter of a few weeks, or at best a few months, before the Indians come scurrying back to the dialogue table, partly as a result of Pakistan's aggressive diplomatic posturing and political rhetoric, partly because of the clamour that would steadily be built up inside India through the pro-Pakistan lobby, and partly as a result of the pressure that the Americans and their Western allies would exert on the Indian government. Past experience has taught the Pakistanis that India’s grand-standing against their country has a rather short shelf-life – a few months after the Parliament attack, Prime Minister Vajpayee extended his infamous ‘hand of friendship’; about six months after 26/11, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did a Sharm-el-Sheikh; and six months after Prime Minister Modi put his foot down on Pakistani hobnobbing with the Hurriyat, it is back to the talks table.

There is nothing unusual about making a U-turn, whether in politics or in diplomacy. But the thumb rule is that the U-turn is made either to minimise damage or to maximise advantage. What is extraordinary about the Modi government’s U-turn is that it maximises losses and minimises advantages. Further, the factors that prompted the current government to make an about turn on Pakistan remains shrouded in mystery. From what is available in the public domain, the following are the possible factors that made the government embark on the desultory path of re-engaging Pakistan: 

WAR Council supporting the study of the use of Force

By Rich Stowell

*Disclaimer: The materials published on WarCouncil.org are unofficial expressions of opinion; views are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the US Military Academy, Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or any agency of the US (or any other) government. *Note: Link to online cite guide

At the conclusion of OEF, have we won in Afghanistan?

It has become fashionable to denigrate the accomplishments, or rather the prospects, of the Afghanistan War.

Soldiers—both enlisted and officer—returning from Afghanistan are often heard complaining that the country is doomed, destined to go the way of Iraq vis à vis ISIS.

Is the pessimism warranted? Is Afghanistan lost? Can we say that we have accomplished anything of substance there? In short, after 13 years of combat in Afghanistan, did we win?

At the risk of sounding too optimistic, the answer according to any objective measure has to be yes. To understand the degree to which we have been successful, it is critical to identify those standards by which we should judge the war.

Blogger Avijit Roy’s Killing Shows Bangladesh’s Culture of Violence

March 01, 2015

More than 100 have been killed in political violence in recent weeks. 

The recent killing of Avijit Roy, an atheist blogger known for opposing religious extremism, did not occur in a vacuum. It was facilitated by the nature of the politics being practiced by Bangladesh’s two most influential women, or the “two begums.”

Roy, a Bangladesh-born U.S. citizen, was killed on a crowded sidewalk as he and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University on February 26. It brought back the memory of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was killed in a similar fashion in 2013.

Roy’s targeting came amid street clashes, firebombings and shootouts, which had taken the lives of more than100 people over the last two months, part a fierce rivalry between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League party and her longtime rival, Khaleda Zia, leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Zia’s supporters have been seeking to paralyze the Hasina administration with strikes and blockades since last year’s general election, which was boycotted by opposition parties after their demand that Hasina and her government step down shortly before the polls was not met. Hasina’s government has also been responding by arresting and violently cracking down on protesters.

It’s not that Hasina doesn’t believe in street protests or a caretaker government before a parliamentary election. In 1996, when she was in the opposition and Zia was prime minister, Awami League workers likewise resorted to strikes to try to force Zia to step down before the election took place.

Feuding between Hasina, the daughter of assassinated Bangladeshi independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and Zia, whose party is an ally of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist party in the country, dates back to the 1971 war of liberation from Pakistan.

China's Muhammad Ali Military Strategy

February 18, 2015

So China has no good strategy to counter American intervention—and may not even care that much about doing so—because Chinese officialdom and commentators seldom use the word “counterintervention”? Ah. Glad we straightened that out.

Or at least that seems to be the message coming from MIT professor Taylor Fravel and Naval Postgraduate School professor Chris Twomey, writing over at The Washington Quarterly.Read the whole thing. In brief, the twosome maintain that counterintervention is a Western term for describing Chinese strategy, that it’s so commonplace in Western commentary as to rank as a “meme” or “trope,” and that Chinese strategists rarely use it except to relate what Westerners are saying about China.

Projecting the term onto China, they say, implies that Beijing’s military strategy aims solely at deterring or defeating American intervention, whether in the Taiwan Strait or elsewhere in maritime East Asia. In turn, imputing a U.S.-centric view of Chinese maritime strategy to Chinese strategists obscures other purposes that impel China’s words and deeds.

The Wolves of Zhurihe: China’s OPFOR Comes of Age

By: Gary Li
February 20, 2015 

The PLA's "Stride" exercise in 2014, with "Blue Force" helicopters and "Red Force" ground forces. (Credit: China Military Online)

Between May 31 and July 28, 2014, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began the annual large-scale exercise codenamed “Stride 2014.” The Stride exercises have been a regular occurrence, focusing largely on the rapid deployment of large field formations into unfamiliar territory and conducting confrontation drills. The 2014 version, however, was different in its scale, unit composition, intensity and the nature of the opponent the units faced. No fewer than seven of the PLA’s top brigades from seven different group armies (GA) were deployed to the Zhurihe Training Base in Inner Mongolia, under the Beijing Military Region. During the six confrontation exercises that followed, only one resulted in a victory for the visiting “Red Forces” (REDFOR), and at heavy cost. The drubbing received by the REDFOR actually reflects a new age in PLA training that is closely linked with the unit that taught them the lesson, China’s first dedicated opposing forces brigade (OPFOR). 
“Stride 2014” Exercises Participants and Results 

The visiting forces were under simulated attacks from the moment they arrived at their marshalling areas, and then placed under continued nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) as well as air attack throughout the exercises (Xinhua Net, June 24, 2014). The OPFOR possessed total dominance in the air and artillery arenas as well as tactical advantage due to advanced reconnaissance being denied to the visiting units. Most of the units lost 30–50 percent of their forces by the time they came into contact with the OPFOR, and some lost up to 70 percent by the time their exercise segment ended. Never before has the PLA been given such a test by such an opponent, and the Zhurihe experiment sent shockwaves throughout the officer corps.

The Birth of “Blue Force”

Dispatch from Beijing: PLA Writings on the New Silk Road

February 20, 2015  

Major General Ji Mingkui, a professor at China's National Defense University and a prolific writer on the New Silk Road.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “New Silk Road” has become a signature policy initiative, with over 50 countries participating and a new $40 billion Silk Road Fund to ensure its success (see China Brief, December 19, 2014; Xinhua, February 5). First espoused in 2013 by President Xi, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, also known as “one belt, one road,” places China’s growing economy at the center of a global trading network. While there is no public military component to the New Silk Road, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has become an active participant in China’s internal debate over its future shape and implications.

By far the most prolific PLA author on the New Silk Road is Major General Ji Mingkui, a professor at China’s National Defense University (NDU). Ji’s writings see the New Silk Road as an economic panacea to the vast majority of China’s diplomatic and security problems with its neighbors, and also carry an underlying current of strategic competition for influence with the United States and Japan. Ji claims that the “Maritime Silk Road will promote regional security and cooperation, cool the South China Sea issue and be beneficial to realizing the Asian Dream” (China.org, November 19, 2014). Reflecting the role the New Silk Road plays in Ji’s version of U.S.-China competition, he notes that increasing Chinese investment in the region will be good for “creating a new image of China,” and that as the U.S. Rebalance to Asia “loses energy, Beijing is winning influence in Asia, and Beijing is already the main economic driving force in the region.” Ji later wrote that the China-Thailand railway project functions as a “bridge” between the land and maritime silk roads, and since Thailand is the transpiration hub of Indochina, all other high-speed rail projects must comply with this railroad building standard. This, argues Ji, will “restrain Japanese influence in Indochina—if Japan wants to strengthen cooperation with Vietnam, it will be forced to consider cooperation with China to join the standard” (China.org, December 12, 2014; China.org, December 24, 2014). In order to overcome geopolitical risks and historical or cultural issues that might impact its success, Ji suggests that China “should mobilize the forces of overseas Chinese in countries along the route and encourage them” to use their “social resources to promote official and personal multi-level international cooperation” (China.org, December 1, 2014).

Following President Xi’s visit to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, Ji wrote that the trip “built the foundation for the Silk Road Economic Belt,” while also saying China and India can turn the New Silk Road into the “Community of Common Destiny Road” (China.org, September 19, 2014). Turning to Central Asia, Ji contends the Silk Road Economic Belt provides new momentum for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) development and that the recent 2014 heads of government meeting “started the process of Silk Road Economic Belt security building” (China.org, December 16, 2014). Reflecting this linking of economic and security issues, Ji added that the Silk Road provides an opportunity for the SCO to expand from the security field to economic development and realize the benefits of both.

“Serve in a Company” and “Switch Posts”: Mix of Old and New in Recent PLA Personnel Policies

February 20, 2015 

On January 11, 2015, Xinhua reported that a directive issued by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Political Department (GPD) and endorsed by Central Military Commission chairman Xi Jinping ordered military and political officers to rotate posts at the grassroots level (jiceng) (Xinhua, January 11). In the PLA, “grassroots level” generally refers to subunits (fendui) at the battalion level and below. [1] Xinhua’s report stated that, as the GPD circular noted, the new policy is aimed at helping “train quality grassroots officers who excel as military and political officers in charge.” The new policy also applies to the People’s Armed Police (PAP) and is being implemented after a pilot program was carried out at the battalion and company level in 2014 (Beijing Youth Daily, January 11; Ministry of National Defense [MND], January 12). The grassroots position rotation policy follows a separate GPD directive from April 2013 requiring senior field-grade officers to conduct short tours as a first-year enlisted soldier in a grassroots-level position (Xinhua, April 21, 2013). Both policies come at a time when the PLA is looking to fulfill the goal of achieving the “strong army dream” in the Xi Jinping era, while at the same time facing old problems such as broad gaps in understanding between officers and grassroots soldiers. A mix of new and old grassroots personnel policies appear to target some of these problems while providing opportunities for the PLA’s political component under the GPD to shape the training of the next generation of PLA political and military leadership.

Historical Continuity: The “Serve in a Company” Campaign

Although some of the recently proposed policy changes are new, grassroots personnel policies have strong historical roots within the PLA and can be placed in the broader context of its development. PLA leadership emphasizes the importance of the grassroots level for two reasons. First, because most soldiers in grassroots units are not Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members, political and ideological training of soldiers via Party grassroots organizations helps “ensure the Party’s absolute leadership over the military and earnestly grasp the military’s thinking, politics and organization [as well as] ensure the Party guidelines and policies [are] carried out and implemented among grassroots units” (PLA Daily, October 18, 2000). More recently, a “Military Grassroots Construction Outline” (jundui jiceng jianshe gangyao) released in February 2015 reiterated the importance of political thought work for grassroots troops (PLA Daily, February 4). Second, grassroots-level units are the ones largely carrying out military operations and, hence, are seen as the foundation upon which PLA combat power is based; a July 2014PLA Daily article noted that “we must consistently do a good job in strengthening grassroots force building... and truly lay a strong and solid combat power groundwork for our armed forces as a whole” (PLA Daily, July 4, 2014).

Without Lips Teeth Feel the Cold? Chinese Support for Russia in the Ukraine Crisis

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meets with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during Li's October 2014 visit to Russia. (Credit: Xinhua)

Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, China has been remarkably forthright in its consistent opposition to the imposition of sanctions against Russia following the country’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and support for separatist movements in the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. China, along with Brazil, India and South Africa, abstained from voting on United Nations (UN) General Assembly Resolution 68/262, which affirmed the UN’s commitment to recognize Crimea within Ukraine’s international borders. More recently, on February 2, in Beijing, the foreign ministers of China, Russia and India issued a joint statement condemning interference in the internal affairs of other nations through the use of United Nations General Assembly resolutions, attempts at regime change and the unilateral imposition of sanctions on the basis of domestic law alone in a clear rebuttal of the United States and its sanctions against Russia (Xinhua, February 2). These strong statements in favor of Russia, albeit without official statements of support for its actions in Ukraine, suggest that China is actively formulating trade and economic cooperation deals with Russia to circumvent Western sanctions and in extremis may consider providing emergency aid to Russia should it be requested by Vladimir Putin. Beijing’s support for Russia, evident in increased bilateral state-run investments, ministerial pronouncements and wide-ranging media coverage, appears to be motivated by economic concerns and a desire to preserve Russia as a bulwark against U.S. dominance in the international community.

Sino-Russian Economic Cooperation

Following the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia, and especially as the Russian economy deteriorated in the second half of 2014, the Chinese government stepped in with numerous agreements for economic cooperation to support the Russian economy. Russia’s quest to alleviate its economic distress by finding alternative export markets and investments as well as using its foreign currency reserves to support the Ruble has likely motivated an upsurge in Sino-Russian diplomacy and trade in 2014. Prominent examples of recent Sino-Russian economic cooperation include 49 agreements signed by President Putin during his May 2014 visit to China, including two major deals for Russia to deliver a total of 68 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to China beginning in 2018 (see China Brief, January 23; Xinhua, May 24, 2014). Xinhua explained that Russia is seeking to “look east” by strengthening its cooperation with China and other Asia-Pacific states in order to compensate for the departure of Western investors following the imposition of sanctions (Xinhua, May 24, 2014).

How Scholars Can Help Solve the South China Sea Disputes

February 28, 2015

Researchers should look to provide creative and concrete proposals for addressing South China Sea tensions. 

The disputes over the South China Sea have already become a focal point of diplomacy in this region. Any possible escalation of these tensions into conflict could have a major impact on the region’s security and economic development. Given the situation, it is extremely important to conduct research on this issue. The rising tensions in the South China Sea have warranted a good deal of research, but this research so far has some major limitations.

First, even though the research conducted by scholars from the claimant countries comes from a direct source of information, it is often difficult to avoid preconceptions due to the authors’ affiliation and position. Second, as much of the research is focused only on the positions and strategies of one country, there is a significant void of comprehensive research focused on the interactions of the participant countries. More importantly, much of the research tends to focus on the actual disputes and geopolitical analysis; subsequently, there have been very few developed proposals providing concrete plans and roadmaps for peaceful resolutions.

There are several reasons why concrete proposals for conflict resolution are important. First, while the concrete proposals may not solve the issues outright, they could stimulate creative thinking and spur other constructive proposals to resolve some of the conflicts. Second, most international conflicts, including the South China Sea disputes, are complicated. Concrete proposals could help to break down a complicated issue into several sub-issues and provide a road map for resolutions over time, rather than struggling to tackle all the issues simultaneously. Third, concrete proposals could provide the preliminary agendas and plans needed to pave the way for formal negotiations for the involved parties of an international conflict to arrive at a finalized solution.

As an important step of dispute resolution, there should be more research focused on creating concrete proposals to bring to the table. For example, in 1978 when Jimmy Carter mediated the Camp David Negotiation between Egypt and Israel, the concrete proposal regarding Sinai (which required Israel to return Sinai to Egypt on the condition that it remain demilitarized) played a critical role for reaching the final agreement of the Camp David Accords. Many international disputes were solved based on concrete proposals, such as the Dayton accords and the Good Friday Accords, among others. If the countries involved want to solve the South China Sea disputes, concrete proposals will be a very important precondition for success.