6 May 2015

‘Monuments Men’ needed in Nepal

May 6, 2015

The April 25 earthquake in Kathmandu Valley in Nepal has not only killed more than 6,000 lives and injured more than 14,000 people but has also impacted severely the country’s most iconic edifices and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We now know that centuries-old pagoda temples have crumbled, statues have been thrown off high pedestals, and watchtowers have been reduced to fragments. Even as volunteers dig through rubble to locate survivors, and officials continue to devote their energies to feeding and sheltering the injured, the fate of the unguarded architectural fragments remains uncertain. Despite the Nepal government’s pleas that people should refrain from stealing what is left of these structures, a few pieces are likely to be picked up by individuals aspiring to profit from their sale. What will happen to the vast majority of these fragments in the months to come? Will they remain unprotected and begin to disappear in the face of development pressures? Or will they be assiduously gathered and transported to godowns?

Robert Bevan, an architectural critic, recently wrote in The Art Newspaper, “If a group’s cultural identity is eradicated, this has a similar end result to eradicating that group physically; they cease to exist as a distinct cultural entity.” Yet, preserving settlements and edifices that have shaped and reflected a group’s cultural identity are not easy tasks. The efforts to reconstruct European cities that were bombed in World War II and to restore Buddhist enclaves that the Taliban destroyed in Afghanistan in 2001 have demonstrated that such projects pose enormous intellectual challenges, logistical demands, political complexities, and economic strain.

Pakistan Army charges India with whipping up terror

May 6, 2015 

Top Pakistan Army Commanders expressed serious concern at the alleged involvement by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in “whipping up” terrorism in Pakistan. The issue came up for discussion at the corps commanders conference headed by Army chief General Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi on Tuesday.

“The conference also took a serious notice of RAW’s involvement in whipping up terrorism in Pakistan,” a statement by Inter-Services Public Relations said. The statement comes days after the arrest of two Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) workers in Karachi for allegedly inciting violence at the behest of RAW.

Welcome to the new era of cohabitation

Cyril Almeida
May 6 2015 

It is hard to know if what is playing out at any given moment is a redefining of the rules in favour of the boys or just the bumbling of the civilians

IT’S been a while and stuff's been going on, so time to check in on the state of civilian-military. It's not going very well for the civilians. But well into this new era of cohabitation— the boys won't take over, they won't let the civilians rule either — it's hard to know if what's playing out at any given moment is a redefining of the rules further in favour of the boys or just the bumbling of the civilians.

Take this business down in Karachi. Back in September 2013, when the operation was launched, there seemed to be a genuine civilian component. Nawaz owned it, Nisar prattled on about it and the IB showed off.

No one really thought Karachi was going to be a civilian-run affair, but the civilians were in the game, playing it and shaping it to some extent. Now, 18 months on, the N-League is wandering around outside the stadium, lost and pitiful.

Even when they do react or try to participate, it just exposes the N-League's irrelevance. Smarter players would have known that Altaf's harangue this week would elicit a fierce response from the army. Smarter players would have known a quick decision was needed: either stay out of it altogether or get in before the boys said something first.

The unsung Indian presence in the Great War

Zarar Khuhro
May 6 2015 

When World War I broke out, the British army faced a manpower crisis. It was then decided to send troops from the British Indian army. These first landed in France on September 26, 1914

World War I ended with little by way of concessions for India. 75,000 men were killed.

THE 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign provides an interesting opportunity to examine the impact of the world wars on the Indian independence movement, and to make a larger point about how any nation's history cannot be truly studied in isolation. 

One of the bloodiest campaigns of World War I, Gallipoli pitted Turkish forces led by Kemal Ataturk against Russia, Great Britain and France. The campaign gave Ottoman Turkey one of its only major victories in the war and one can draw a somewhat straight line from Gallipoli to the establishment of the Republic of Turkey eight years later and the end of the Ottoman caliphate. That latter event is just about the only time that World War I figures in our local historical narrative, in the form of the political debacle that was the Khilafat movement. 

The colours of timidity - India's silence on the American race riots


The race riots in Baltimore took me back to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a stunningly beautiful California town of less than 4,000 people. The majority of this town's population was associated with the arts a century ago. Nowadays, during most of the year, especially in summer, tourists hugely outnumber local residents. An enterprising search in the style of similar American small cities can still locate watering holes patronized by locals in Carmel-by-the-Sea to the exclusion of shorts-and-T-shirts-clad, flip-flop-wearing seekers of sun and sand from far.

It is among elbow-lifters in such quaint establishments that I picked up stories about the town's one-time non-partisan mayor, Clint Eastwood, the actor and the rationale for Carmel's curious law banishing high-heeled shoes from footpaths. In the 1920s, the people of Carmel opted to preserve their town's uneven pavements rather than give in to ladies who wished to wear high heels to match their elegant dresses as they walked to its annual three-day celebration of Bach, the Carmel Shakespeare Festival or to the town's gourmet restaurants.

Not only this town, but all of the neighbouring Big Sur and the Monterey Peninsula - where Carmel nestles along with the impressionable Henry Miller Library in Nepenthe - is liberal. In 2003, as George W. Bush prepared to "shock and awe" Baghdad, I was greeted by a large banner as I drove up to the picture-postcard location of the Camaldoli Hermitage, a Benedictine monastery in Santa Lucia. The banner read: "Who Will Jesus Bomb?"

To Make in India, Look East

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his Make in India campaign, it was to considerable fanfare. However, the idea has yet to really take off. The perception is that while the central government is trying to do its bit to make India a better place to do business, there are numerous issues that need to be solved at the local level. Doing business in India still requires the entrepreneur to be familiar with the morass of rules issued the central government, state governments, and municipalities.

Indian policymakers must therefore address the domestic constraints that diminish India’s trade competitiveness and that make it difficult to participate in global production networks. This is particularly relevant at a time when India’s trade figures are slowing (for fiscal 2015, exports are already down 1.2 percent, to $310.5 billion, in spite of rupee depreciating).

In this respect, India should learn from its Southeast Asian counterparts, a number of which have been to successfully implement Made in ASEAN. They have been able to do this by participating in the Southeast Asian production network. When a computer or cell phone is assembled, the constituent parts come from across the Southeast Asian region. Although the ASEAN community is diverse, and companies in many ASEAN countries compete fiercely and often lobby against their rivals, there are trading complementarities. Southeast Asia has been able to make good use of these complementarities.

India vs. China: A 21st Century Economic Battle Royal

Christopher Whalen
May 5, 2015 

"Innumerable analysts have predicted that the twenty-first century will belong to China, yet it seems worth considering whether the current millennium will not belong at least equally to India."

Back in August of last year, TNI described why India’s economic prospects are brighter than those of China (“Beware, China: India's Economy Could Have an Even Brighter Future,”). That judgment seems to have been confirmed by subsequent events. As we noted at the time, "When all is said and done, the difference between India and China can be summed up in one word: freedom."

India is now clearly outperforming the other emerging nations, particularly China, a nation hobbled by a command economy and one of the most corrupt political systems on the planet. “As Brazil, Russia and China hit hurdles, it’s the poorest member of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s emerging-market group that’s proving a darling of global investors,” Bloomberg News reported in February. “The International Monetary Fund is predicting India will next year grow faster than each of its BRIC counterparts for the first time since 1999.”

In January of this year, we noted that Western hopes of an economic “rebalancing” by China, from state-directed investment to a demand pull economy based upon private consumer activity, was without basis (“The False Hope of Chinese Economic Rebalancing”). India, on the other hand, has not needed to stoke private demand because it already has a vibrant private-sector economy, albeit one that still struggles with bureaucracy and official corruption on a large scale. Yet even with all of India’s structural problems, the fact that its people are free to compete economically and express themselves politically puts them light years ahead of their counterparts in authoritarian China.

Nagaland: Rudderless Process, Aimless Violence

Giriraj Bhattacharjee

Nagaland: Rudderless Process, Aimless Violence 
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

As the violent incidents of last few months suggest, NSCN-K's decision to unilaterally call off the ceasefire, the split within its ranks, and the Union Government’s failure to make any progress with regard to talks with NSCN-IM, could lead to greater violence in Nagaland and neighboring northeastern states. SFs, who had enjoyed clear respite from terror, will, in particular, face the brunt of escalating violence, if these developments continue. Intelligence inputs predict a spike in hit-and-run attacks on SFs over the coming days, particularly by NSCN-K militants operating from across the Indo-Myanmar border.

SAIR Volume 13, No. 41, April 13, 2015 

Twin ambushes by Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) resulted in the death of eight Security Force (SF) personnel - seven of them from the ‘C’ company of 23 Assam Rifles (AR) and another from the 164 Naga Territorial Army (TA) Battalion – in the Mon District along the Indo-Myanmar border on May 3, 2015. Nine other troopers were injured in the ambushes.

Reports indicate that the first ambush occurred at around 14:45 hrs [IST] when the AR personnel in a truck were escorting a tanker to fetch water from Changlangshu to Tobu town. Three troopers died in the attack. On learning of the ambush, an AR reinforcement party, rushed to the spot, where NSCN-K cadres were lying in wait and launched the second ambush. Another five troopers were killed. The AR reinforcement party reportedly retaliated, killing one NSCN-K cadre, identified as Ngamwang Konyak, while another was injured and dragged away by the rebels. According to Nagaland Director General of Police L.L. Doungel, another four troopers are reported missing after the incident.

US To Offer India New Tactical Aircraft

By Franz-Stefan Gady
May 05, 2015

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is expected to offer India a new U.S. made tactical aircraft for sale during his two day visit to the subcontinent in June 2015, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported last week.

Additionally, Carter will sign a 10-year India-U.S. Defense Framework Agreement, which outlines concrete steps to bolster Indo-U.S. defense ties including the co-production of weapons in India. The U.S. defense secretary also plans to accelerate the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) and review progress on defense technology transfers from the United States to India.

IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly notes:

Industry sources said that under the DTTI, which Carter initiated as deputy defence secretary in 2012, the US was expected to offer the Textron AirLand Scorpion light-attack and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft currently being developed to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

With a unit cost of less than $20 million the Scorpion has been dubbed the ”world’s most affordable tactical jet aircraft.” According to the developers one Scorpion flight hour only costs $3,000 in comparison to $25,000 for a F-16.

Can India and China Both Court Afghanistan?

By Harsh V. Pant
May 04, 2015

While welcoming Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in India last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi underlined that “the relationship between India and Afghanistan is not just between two countries or governments. It is a timeless link of human hearts.” With that spirit Modi made it clear that India would support Afghanistan’s security forces and open the Attari check-post in Punjab to Afghan trucks in order to increase trade between the two countries. Modi stated: “India will walk shoulder to shoulder with you and the Afghan people in a mission of global importance.”

In addition to proclaiming India’s support for Afghanistan’s security forces, Modi announced that India is “prepared to join the successor agreement to Afghan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement” which will “re-establish one of the oldest trading routes of South Asia.” For his part, Ghani signaled his disappointment with Pakistan over its refusal to allow direct trade with India via the Wagah border, and suggested that if the deadlock continues Afghanistan “will not provide equal transit access to Central Asia [for Pakistani trucks].”

The Great Game Folio: Mukherjee in Russia

Written by C Raja Mohan
May 5, 2015

President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Moscow to join the celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory in World War II is important for more than one reason. The president’s presence at the Victory Day celebrations in Russia on May 9 for the first time is in part about extending New Delhi’s solidarity with Moscow at a time when many Western leaders have decided not to show up in protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy in Ukraine. It is also about reclaiming India’s expansive but forgotten role in WWII. Mukherjee will not be the only Indian at the parade. A contingent of the Indian army’s Grenadiers Regiment will march with the troops of Russia down the Red Square. This is the first time that an Indian army unit is joining the commemorative ceremonies of WWII.

In 2009, France invited an Indian army unit to march down the Champs Elysees in Paris on Bastille Day. Paris was reminding the people of France and Europe of India’s massive participation in World War I. The Indian armed forces played a decisive role in winning the two World Wars, with more than a million troops seeing action. But national amnesia about India’s role in the two wars tended to diminish the subcontinent’s massive contributions to the shaping of the 20th century international order.

The presence of the Indian army and its commander in chief in Moscow this week reflects the long overdue change in Delhi’s attitude to the two World Wars.

Balochistan: Shooting the Messenger

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

One more messenger of peace fell prey to Pakistan’s Mullah-military nexus in the night of April 24, 2015, when unidentified assailants shot dead Sabeen Mahmud, a prominent Pakistani women’s rights activist, in the Phase-II area of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. According to reports, Sabeen, accompanied by her mother, was just returning home after organizing a discussion on ‘Unsilencing Balochistan’ at ‘The Second Floor’ (T2F), a café that had been developed as a forum for open debates, of which she was Director. The event, “Un-Silencing Balochistan (Take 2)” was organized after the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) cancelled the talk due to security threats allegedly from Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. The panelists in the discussion included ‘Mama’ Abdul Qadeer Baloch, the President of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), who had led a ‘long march’ to protest forcible disappearances in Balochistan; Baloch activists Farzana Baloch and Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur; and journalists Malik Siraj Akbar and Wusut Ullah Khan.

Sabeen sought ‘an open and honest debate’ on Baloch disappearances and, acknowledging that there were strong opinions on the issue, she urged a debate that was mutually respectful. She joked that, while LUMS had been forced to cancel its event, she had received no such warning about the talk at T2F, knowing little that she was crossing a critical red line by organizing an event highlighting the Baloch issues. Zohra Yusuf, Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) observed after the killing, “It appears that an attempt is being made to silence human rights defenders or those who take up the causes of the people.”

Reducing Disaster Risk in the Himalayas

By Dhanasree Jayaram and Ramu C. M.
May 05, 2015

Nepal is reeling under the effects of the worst earthquake in more than 80 years. Nepal’s Prime Minister Suhsil Koirala has warned that the death toll in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which struck an area between the capital Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara, could touch 10,000. Hopes of further rescues are fading, and the focus is now switching to relief. This major disaster has affected even Nepal’s neighbors – India, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan – with the death toll in India crossing 60 and that in China reaching 25.

The bigger worry at this point in time is that the aftershocks continue to jolt the Himalayan region. The magnitude 6.7 tremor on the following day created absolute alarm among the people of Nepal, forcing them to leave all the buildings and seek shelter in open spaces and tents as well as hampering rescue operations to a great extent. A vast majority of the old buildings (including heritage sites) have collapsed and many new ones have developed cracks. Avalanches triggered by the earthquake and the aftershocks on Mount Everest have taken at least 18 lives, including that of foreigners. Seismological data has revealed that Kathmandu could have moved about 10 feet southward. International aid from countries across the world, particularly India, has poured in to assist Nepal in this desperate situation.

Nepal’s Earthquake and International Aid

By Arjun Claire
May 05, 2015

The swift international response in the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal testifies to the spirit of global solidarity. Within hours of the earthquake striking this landlocked Himalayan nation on April 25, which along with a series of aftershocks has claimed more than 7,300 lives and injured thousands more, several countries had ferried in aid workers and relief supplies. They rushed in experts to assist in search and rescue operations and supply medicines, meals, blankets and tents.

The media narrative played out the devastating effects of the earthquake alongside the magnanimity of international donors. Report cards were soon published detailing the relief efforts of the most generous countries. Social media accounts of humanitarian organizations were abuzz with pictures of experts being dispatched to Nepal. Appeals for funds followed shortly thereafter.

In contrast, the Nepalese government came in for immediate scorn. Reports emerged of disgruntled Nepalese lamenting the government’s lethargic efforts to mobilize relief, while expressing gratitude for the international aid swarming the country. This frustration is clearly not without justification. The scale of the destruction caused by the earthquake is massive. More than eight million people have been severely affected and around one million are in need of urgent food assistance, according to the UN. And as reports emerge of the damage caused in remote regions, needs and tempers are only set to rise.

Saving Nepal: the information revolution

Communities impacted by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake (and subsequent aftershocks) that struck Nepal on April 25th have a variety of needs, stemming from immediate protection of physical safety and security, access to life saving services, and basic subsistence (food, clean water, shelter) and psycho-social support in the aftermath of an extremely traumatic event. In the case of Nepal and the city of Kathmandu, recent reports suggest that the capital city’s critical infrastructure and services were not sufficiently resilient to protect against an earthquake, that the topography of the region is such that landslides remain a concern, and that socio-cultural factors like caste-based discrimination makes some communities more vulnerable than others.

The scope of the natural disaster

According to the April 30 Situation Report of the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), search and rescue and aid agencies responding to the crisis in the coming days are focused on providing shelter to the displaced--government reports suggest over 130,000 homes were destroyed and 85,000 partially damaged. In Kathmandu alone there are an estimated 24,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) registered in tented settlements, although many more are likely seeking refuge in informal settlements and in the rubble of partially damaged—and still vulnerable—homes. Identifying missing persons, and effectively and ethically managing dead bodies are still a major part of the response. Tents and food are among the highest prioritized areas of need (over 3 million are in need of food aid in the region), and health remains a primary concern as hospitals near the capital have reportedly run out of supplies.

The Legacy of China's May Fourth Movement

By Ankit Panda
May 05, 2015

May 4, while ironically celebrated as “Star Wars” Day in the West, carries a different connotation in China. 95 years ago today, Chinese university students from across Beijing met and united to launch a movement that changed the cultural and political trajectory of contemporary China.

In what came to be known as the May Fourth Movement, Chinese student leaders demonstrated against the Chinese government’s perceived capitulation to the whims of Western powers at the Treaty of Versailles. More specifically, China had joined the First World War on the side of the allies with the expectation that German holdings on its territory—mostly significantly the Shandong peninsula—would be returned to China in a post-war settlement.

Now, the Treaty of Versailles is regarded as a phenomenally poor treaty, encapsulating the arrogance of the allied powers in their time of victory. Normally, this is discussed in the context of the treaty’s effect on Germany’s disaffection and eventually rearmament in the 1930s, following the collapse of the feeble Weimar Republic.

For China, the Treaty of Versailles was a similar debacle. None of China’s demands were taken seriously by representatives of the allied powers, including U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, the great idealist, who arrived in Paris with his Fourteen Points in tow. China demanded an end to extraterritoriality for foreign powers on its soil, a cancellation of Japan’s exploitative ‘Twenty-One Demands,’ and the return of Shandong from the Germans. (At the end of the war, Shandong fell under Japan’s administration after it defeated the Germans at Shandong.)

Exposed: The Real Reason China & America Could Clash in Asia

Merriden Varrall
May 4, 2015 

China and the US have both been described as countries that consider themselves to be exceptional. China, so much so, that some analysts argue it sees itself as "uniquely unique." What this means in China is that most Chinese understand themselves to be part of a culture that no-one else can truly understand, let alone ever be a part of.

This sense of “us versus them” is politically expedient, and serves to build and reinforce a powerful sense of national identity. Indeed, so strong is the adherence to an exceptionalist national identity in China that when I was doing my PhD research on Chinese foreign policy, I seriously considered using the methodological approaches offered by the anthropology of religion to analyze and interpret my findings.

Another country that has been the subject of examination through the anthropology of religion is of course the US, for similar reasons.

The sense of national identity in the US is just as powerful and unquestioned as in China. Both 'flag waving' as well as more banal forms of nationalism is ubiquitous. Just as in China, where there exists a powerful logic of Chinese-ness, including the narrative of victimization and humiliation at the hands of Western powers, in the US the commitment to values like freedom and democracy as being central to how the world should work are apparently largely unquestioned and unwavering.

Problem: China Still Wants Russia's Deadly Su-35

Zachary Keck
May 4, 2015 

China still wants the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighter jet despite launching a new fighter jet last week.

As noted last week, China conducted the first test flight of the J-11D on April 29. The plane is an upgraded version of the J-11B fighter jets, which themselves are copies of the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27. Perhaps most notable of the J11-D’s upgrades is that it reportedly incorporates the J-16’s advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.

As Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer have saidof the AESA, “The AESA radar allows the J-16 to intercept enemy aircraft at longer ranges than either of its predecessors, and to attack multiple surface targets simultaneously. The AESA radar would also be datalinked to other Chinese platforms, including unmanned vehicles, to increase their situational awareness.”

As I mentioned in last week’s article, some analysts have been comparing the J-11D to Russia’s Su-35.

However, according to Want China Times, which cites an article in the Beijing-based Sina Military Network, China will still look to acquire Russia’s Su-35 even with the new J-11Ds.

New bank, new friends and old routes made new

The Chinese AIIB and its attendant plans may achieve a shift of power that the US may find difficult to counter, writes Subir Bhaumik 

The China-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Development Bank has witnessed an unprecedented rush from American allies to join it as founding members. Countries like Brazil and Russia were expected to join, so was India, having already supported the China-powered BRICS bank initiative last year. But who would expect the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, even Denmark, falling head over heels to join a China-sponsored bank seen as an alternative to the World Bank-International Monetary Fund combine? The AIIB has now officially approved 57 nations as prospective founding members, making Sweden, Israel, Poland and South Africa the last group of nations to be included.

The founding members have priority over other nations that sign up later, as they possess the right to establish the rules for conducting the bank's activities. The AIIB is the first Asian bank to have a new international banking system that is independent of the dominance of the founding member states of the international Bretton Woods one. It may be too early to see an end of the Bretton Woods system but the clamour for that has already started. Several African and Asian leaders, gathered at the recent Jakarta conference to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Bandung conference, actually called for an end to the Bretton Woods architecture of the global monetary system.

Book Excerpt Why China’s consumers will continue to surprise the world

By Jeffrey Towson and Jonathan Woetzel

Fears about China’s slowing economy are overblown, authors Jeffrey Towson and Jonathan Woetzel argue in this adapted excerpt from the follow-up to their The One Hour China Book.

China has an awesome consumer story. Yet lately you can’t pick up a newspaper, go online, or watch television without hearing continual moaning about the country’s slowing economic growth and the need for “rebalancing.” The reality is that Chinese consumers are going to continue to increase in wealth and complexity. And if you’re worried the country’s economic importance is declining, you’re probably looking at its performance the wrong way.

Don’t worry about consumer spending as a percentage of GDP

As in most developing Asian economies, China’s early growth was based on savings, investment, and exports. You get your population to save, move to the cities, work in factories, and make stuff. This is sold, and cash is brought back home for investment. Plus, you get some foreign investment as well. This process enabled China to develop its infrastructure largely with its own cash. That, by the way, is not the norm. Developing economies typically borrow from foreigners and then default—for example, American states such as Mississippi and Florida were chronic defaulters on foreign debt as they initially developed.

One of the downsides of this investment-first approach is that it makes consumption look small and often like it’s shrinking. Chinese consumption decreased from approximately 51 percent of gross domestic product in 1985 to 43 percent in 1995, 38 percent in 2005, and 34 percent in 2013. By comparison, consumption is around 61 percent in Japan and about 68 percent in the United States. In fact, China’s small and decreasing consumption percentage is one reason why people keep talking about “rebalancing”—the need for the economy to become driven more by consumer spending than investment and exports.

Improving Order in the East China Sea

The accidental escalation of interstate incidents at seahas the potential to pose a serious threat to maritime security and stability in the Asia-Pacific Region. Competing territorial claims and disputes over freedom of navigation have generated a growing number of standoffs at sea involving military, law enforcement, and civilian vessels. With aircraft playing chicken, fishing vessels ramming coast guard ships, and naval forces intimidating one another’s auxiliaries, there is a growing potential for an accident that could escalate into conflict.

Statesmen in the region have sought to reduce this risk through a maritime security order undergirded by confidence-building mechanisms. The most recent development in this order is the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES). Adopted a year ago in April 2014 by the West Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), CUES institutionalizes a set of suggestions for prudent behavior and clear communication at sea. As highlighted at a recent CSCAP meeting, however, the CUES agreement has some significant limitations.

Four major problems keep CUES from constituting an effective regime for maritime stability and order: 

Chimerica in Decline?

China’s resilient authoritarianism – or at least Beijing’s continued adherence to a distinctively non-Western polity – has for the moment refuted the democratic “end of history.” Still, the first part of Fukuyama’s polarizing thesis, the liberal part in the “liberal democracy” declaration, has been celebrated by political pundits around the world as the irreversible path of humanity.

The term “Chimerica” has been the epitome of the wishful thinking of liberal intellectuals around the world who deterministically infer that U.S. and Chinese economic interdependence ensures a peaceful hegemonic transition. According to this argument, as both Washington and Beijing engage in a positive sum economic relationship and enhance their material position ad infinitum, the Gates of Janus will be sealed by two prosperous societies who prefer commerce to conquest; consumption to cannons; goods to gunboats. Neither American nor China will dominate the 21st century the liberals ardently declare. Instead, Chimerica – a hybrid state – governed by the invisible hand of the market or by the very visible hands of cosmopolitan business elites will create perpetual prosperity and peace.

Realists have long challenged this liberal orthodoxy. China and the U.S. are on a collision course, they argue, and both states engage in comprehensive balancingeconomic, military, technological and diplomatic. Chimerica is a phantom that defies reality and fails to observe the unabated securitization trend in Sino-U.S. relations, realists declare.

ISIS Tactics Are Similar to Nazi Germany's

May 4, 2015

In January, Kurdish troops launched a major offensive that broke Islamic State’s lines in northern Iraq. In response, the jihadist group sent 14 giant tanker trucks loaded with explosives and bolted-on armor to launch a counter-attack.

Kurdish fighters have faced terrifying attacks like that before — though not on this scale. Fortunately, before any of the trucks made it to the Kurdish positions, the soldiers on the ground — and U.S. and coalition warplanes — destroyed them from a distance.

It was a mad, desperate — and yes — suicidal tactic. But it’s also a revealing example of the group’s combat tactics and strategy during the past year.

The jihadist group is now on the defensive, but it’s still deadly on the battlefield and its fighters are willing to die in brief counter-attacks. The main feature — even if the group is losing the war — is to practice a “cult of the offensive” with a heavy cost in human life.

Why and how is the interesting part, and it’s the subject of a sweeping new essay by Alexendre Mello and Michael Knights in CTC Sentinel, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point’s newsletter.

Exclusive: Pentagon Admits Our Anti-ISIS Strikes Killed Civilians

Nancy A. Youssef

For months, officials have said a relentless bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria isn’t killing innocents. But now an internal military investigation concludes otherwise. 

An internal military investigation has concluded that two civilians were killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, two defense officials confirmed to The Daily Beast, marking the first time the U.S. military has acknowledged killing a civilian since the air campaign began nine months ago. 

In that time, the U.S.-led coalition has conducted more than 3,500 strikes and either destroyed or damaged more than 6,000 targets, according to the Defense Department. Previously, the U.S. military had said it had no evidence that a civilian had ever been killed in the air campaign against ISIS, a claim that even military officials privately acknowledged was hard to believe, given the high odds of unintended mistakes. 

Indeed, with no U.S. soldiers on the ground to assess the damage inflicted by airstrikes, the coalition’s air campaign is built on U.S. intelligence collected from drones, satellites, and reconnaissance aircraft, as well as information from local troops. 

Is ISIS Behind Threats in Uzbekistan?

By Catherine Putz
May 05, 2015

Last week, Uzbekistan’s National Security Service (SNB) responded to a series of bomb threats in the Parkent district, outside of the capital, Tashkent.Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, based on the reporting of its Uzbek service–Ozodlik–said at the time that on April 25 “a leaflet was found plastered to the window of a secondary school in Parkent. The leaflet, in the Uzbek language but written in Arabic script, contained a threat to blow up the school.”

RFE/RL did not attribute the leaflets to any particular group.

The Fergana Information Agency, a Russian news outlet covering Central Asia, did make an attribution in its coverage: ISIS. For its part, Fergana was repeating claims made on Uzmetronom, which it called an “independent Tashkent-based” website.

How valid are these reports? It’s tremendously difficult to say, but Fergana (and Uzmentronom) call the attribution into question:

Meanwhile, experts interviewed by Uzmetronom completely reject [the theory] that ISIL members or supporters are behind the leaflet distribution. The experts say an unregistered underground cell of a destructive nature could be behind this to sow panic and anxiety in the population’s life. Several experts Fergana interviewed also doubt the ISIL was directly involved in the incident. Our experts also suggest the Uzbek secret services could be the actual distributors of the leaflets in question. After all, given almost unlimited powers police and army enjoy, no underground terrorist organisation can exist in Uzbekistan.

Europe's Next Ukraine Nightmare: A Massive Financial Default

Yuri Poluneev
May 4, 2015 

Ukraine's economy is in crisis. Experts warn that the country's gross domestic product could shrink by 6 to 12 percent and inflation could exceed 40 percent in 2015, although one prominent economist put that figure in triple digits already. The war in eastern Ukraine has throttled the country's industrial capacity. To prevent the country from default, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in with a $40 billion international rescue package in March. 

As the government of Ukraine and the IMF inked the deal, Moody's Investors Service and the Standard & Poors rating agency downgraded Ukraine's credit rating. The bad marks signal the obvious: the loan failed to convince investors that Ukraine can restore its creditworthiness in the near future.

The rescue package consists of an IMF loan of $17.5 billion ($5 billion of which has already been disbursed), $7.2 billion in commitments from other multilateral and bilateral creditors, and a prospective $15 billion in savings to be negotiated as debt restructuring with Ukraine's sovereign bondholders.

In exchange for the package, Ukraine agreed to maintain exchange-rate flexibility, monetary policy aimed at restoring price stability, overhaul the country's energy sector, and fight corruption.

Syria's Changing Strategic Landscape

Robert G. Rabil
May 5, 2015 

Syria's regime is now an Iranian proxy, while Saudi Arabia and Turkey support some questionable opposition groups.

Two astute observers of the Middle East Robert Ford, former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, and Frederic C. Hof, senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, recently wrote two consequential articles on Syria. Both underscored that the Syrian regime has lately faced serious setbacks. Whereas Ford argued that increased dissent within the inner circle of the regime manifest signs of weakness that may spell the beginning of its end, Hof argued that the time has come for United States to exercise its leadership to put Syria on a path to stability and legitimacy. He explained that sustained U.S. diplomacy and leadership is required to assemble regional ground forces to sweep ISIL from Syria, permit a real government to emerge in free Syria, build a Syrian National Stabilization Force and stop Assad from terrorizing his population.

Ford and Hof’s arguments are sensible. But they leave out important questions related to not inconceivable plans concocted by Iran on one side and Turkey and Saudi Arabia on the other. These questions deal respectively with the future nature of both the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition, and by extension the future of the Syrian state. These apparently coterminous and simultaneous ongoing plans are consequential not only for Syria but also for the region.

The Islamic State and Hamas Compete for Gaza

MAY 4, 2015

The Islamic State and Hamas Compete for Gaza

For years, Islamic militants have portrayed Israel as the greatest threat to Palestinians on the Gaza Strip. But a weekend mosque attack signals that Palestinians living on the strip may be caught in the crossfire of competing militant factions — both of which call themselves the protectors of Gaza residents.

Palestinian forces operating under Hamas on Sunday reportedly destroyed a mosque allied with the Islamic State. Hamas took seven Salafists hostage in a move the Islamic State said “is going too far.”

If the Islamic State has much of a presence in the Palestinian territories, it has remained relatively quiet over the last year, even as it has bolstered its reach across Syria, Iraq, and more recently, Libya. The extremist group beheaded several Palestinians in Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria last month, spurring a vow of revenge from both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Responding to the mosque attack, militants that claim to be supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem said they would give Hamas 72 hours to release the Salafist hostages or face unspecified violent consequences, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online jihadist messaging.


Frank Hoffman
May 5, 2015

In Washington at least, no pastime is more common and American than the debate over whether the United States is in decline. It is fitting that America’s most prominent scholar of international power should chime in. In this concise and soothing little booklet, Joseph Nye attempts to convince an increasingly pessimistic world that its reluctant protector, the United States, is not in decline. I doubt readers will be convinced. Instead, this reviewer found Nye’s complacency understandable but startling.

Nye’s book is the latest in this subgenre. Edward Luce writes about America in what he calls the age of descent. Fareed Zakaria speaks of thepost-American world. Charles Kupchan penned a book titled No One’s World. In keeping with the tradition of British expatriates living in the United States, Harvard’s Niall Ferguson opines on the demise of the West overall and American decline more specifically. Amitav Acharya does not care about the decline of the United States itself but argues that the world order established and underpinned by the primacy of the United States is slowly but surely dissolving. What replaces the United States and many existing global institutions in a pluralistic world is unclear, but of greater concern to Acharya.

U.S.-Japan: A Pacific Alliance Transformed

By Jeffrey W. Hornung
May 04, 2015

All eyes were on Washington last week, for the visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. One of the focal points was a document that altered security ties between the U.S. and Japan. On Monday, the two countries released new guidelines for defense cooperation, outlining the general framework and policy direction for the roles and missions of the two countries’ militaries. This new document lays out a vision for the alliance that is rooted in bilateralism but is global in scope. Importantly, Japan has emerged as a willing partner in many roles it once considered taboo. Together, this translates into a stronger alliance with broader functions and geographical scope. To quote U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the updated guidelines will “transform the U.S.-Japan alliance.”

The U.S.-Japan defense guidelines had become antiquated. First written in 1978, they specified the alliance division of labor during the Cold War in defense of Japan. The fall of the Berlin Wall meant the logic and assumptions behind them no longer held, as multipolarity replaced Cold War bipolarity and America’s brief unipolar moment. As the Soviet threat to Japan evaporated, broader regional concerns over the Taiwan Strait or renewed conflict on the Korean Peninsula emerged. The allies recognized that their relationship was not adapted to this post-Cold War security environment, as there was no operative framework for Japan to support the U.S. in these scenarios. This led to their revision in 1997.

Get Ready, America: High Oil Prices Could Be a Good Thing

Samuel Rines
May 5, 2015 

Newsflash: The U.S. economy does not have the same relationship it once had with high oil prices.

In the second half of 2014, oil prices plummeted, and most of the United States—and the world—cheered. Now, oil may have bottomed, possibly marking the beginnings of a comeback. The vaunted "tax break" from lower prices, and its positive economic effects, may be evaporating. But it does not appear the U.S. economy realized the majority of the benefits from lower oil. This is why if higher oil prices are on the horizon, it might actually be a good thing for the U.S. economy.

To date, lower oil prices have not been all that helpful. In the first quarter of 2015, GDP showed lackluster consumption growth. This should not be surprising. Before consumers are willing to spend the “gasoline stimulus,” they need to have confidence lower oil prices will stay low. For a decline in oil to matter, it's not enough for the price of oil to fall. It needs to remain low. Since oil has not been low enough for long enough, the economy has yet to feel the stimulus. There is some evidence households are using the savings to pay down debt, but little evidence that it's increasing economic growth. Households have yet to believe that oil will remain low. And there are reasons to believe households will be harder to convince today than in previous cycles.

Avoiding an Oil-Climate Collision

Deborah Gordon
May 5, 2015 

On the road to Paris, don’t bypass oil. This warning sign looms large as the world’s nations map out their future climate targets over the next month ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference later this year.

The greenhouse gas emissions associated with the nearly 100 million barrels a day that flow through the global oil supply chain—from extraction to refining to consumption—rivals that of other fossil fuels. Despite America’s Clean Power Plan, Germany’s Energiewende, and other strategies that center on coal, gas, and renewables, oil is projected to remain the world’s number one energy source that must be managed anew.

While oil is expected to dominate,alternative oils will increasingly fill the void as conventional crudes dwindle and once-unreachable resources are tapped. Alternative oils look and behave very differently than twentieth century oil—and one another. It turns out that oils’ climate impacts are as highly diverse as the resources themselves.

In a sampling of global oils, there is more than an 80-percent difference in total greenhouse gas emissions per barrel when comparing the lowest-emitting oil and the highest. These estimates are based on modeling 30 test oils run through the first phase of the Oil-Climate Index—a new open-source tool developed by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and its partners at Stanford University and the University of Calgary.