12 May 2015

Chinese takeaway: Modi in Mongolia

May 12, 2015 

With barely three million people deep inside the Eurasian steppe and sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia is an unlikely destination for Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week. China will certainly loom large over Modi’s three-nation tour, beginning Thursday. For, Modi is trying to move the Sino-Indian relationship out of the stasis that it finds itself in. Given his focus on “Make in India” and attracting foreign direct investment, Modi would want to end India’s prolonged political neglect of South Korea, one of the world’s leading economies, located at the heart northeast Asia. But Mongolia? Why has Modi chosen to be India’s first prime minister to visit Mongolia?

Some point to Mongolia’s potential as a source of natural uranium and other valuable minerals for India. But New Delhi already has agreements on uranium supplies with many countries from where it is easier to ship uranium than the landlocked Mongolia. Others would see rivalry with China as the driver behind Modi’s brief sojourn in Mongolia. If China spends so much political energy in cultivating India’s neighbours in the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean, it has been argued, Delhi should be doing the same on China’s periphery.

Mongolia is indeed a very sensitive neighbour of China, and the investment of the PM’s time in Mongolia seems worthwhile. To be sure, there has been a geopolitical dimension to India’s engagement with Mongolia. Over the last few years there, India and Mongolia have steadily expanded their defence exchanges and security cooperation.

41 years in the making

Farooq Sobhan
May 12, 2015 

The ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) of 1974 was warmly welcomed across the political divide both in India and Bangladesh. The Lok Sabha showed rare unanimity in passing the Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill to settle its 41-year-old border dispute with Bangladesh. The implementation of the LBA will enable the two countries to exchange lands known as enclaves or chhitmahal in each other’s territory. The bill will also help in resolving the long-standing problem of land in adverse possession.

Bangladesh and India share a 4,096-km international border, the fifth-longest land border in the world. From 1947 till now, the unresolved problem of enclaves and adverse possession has been a source of constant friction. It was hoped that the Indira-Mujib LBA in 1974 would settle both these problems but, for a variety of reasons, it has taken four decades to resolve all the pending issues and for the Indian Parliament to finally ratify the agreement. There is certainly a sense of hope in Bangladesh that the ratification will open up a new era in Bangladesh-India relations. The people of Bangladesh are now looking forward not just to the visit of the Indian cricket team in June but also the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

LAC not ripe for settlement

A solution probably favoured by Beijing would be to ‘exchange’ Aksai Chin against recognition of Arunachal as being a part of India... If India does agree, would the border issue be resolved? No!

Invariably, when an Indian Prime Minister goes to China or a senior Chinese leader visits India, the Indian media goes berserk speculating, “this time” the border dispute between the two Asian giants will be resolved.

Unfortunately, it is not an easy proposition.

We have recently seen that it takes time and patience to solve differences, even for a relatively minor dispute, like the one between Bangladesh and India. The Sino-Indian divergences are major.

The Chinese are not completely wrong when they say that the border imbroglio has been “inherited from history”. But, while Beijing cites British imperialism, the facts are different: there was no “border issue” between India and Tibet before 1951 simply because the Roof of the World was a peaceful independent state. Unfortunately for India, the then Prime Minister was a romantic.

To China with a clear strategy

May 12, 2015 

The combination of an excess of nationalism, belief in exceptionalism, and of the inevitability of a Sino-centric world is an aspect India cannot overlook during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China. He must focus clearly on the strategic aspects of the relationship, and less on trade and economic ties.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit to China, beginning May 14, is of considerable interest not only to peoples inhabiting the two countries, but also to leaders and strategic analysts globally.

In China, Mr. Modi will be visiting Xian, Beijing and Shanghai over three days, before leaving for Mongolia and South Korea. Mr. Modi’s visit follows Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to India in September 2014. There is a great deal hinging on its outcome with China being viewed today as a pivot-state, and India the only nation in the region capable of maintaining the balance in the region.

For his part, Mr. Modi has, no doubt, indicated that trade and economic ties with China would be his main priority. However, there is much more to an Indian Prime Minister’s visit to China than economic relations — unstated though this may be. This visit is again taking place at a time when China has unveiled a new strategic vision, and elements of the strategy conform to Sun Tzu’s principle of “winning without fighting”. It implicitly includes rewarding nations that it perceives as “friends” and, by implication, excluding nations that stand in its way.

Yemen crisis: More than Shia-Sunni battle

KC Reddy
May 12 2015

FOR the last few weeks, Yemen has been hitting headlines in the global media for the wrong reasons. It has become a cauldron of insurgencies —by the Shias, people of south Yemen and finally the Islamic State. The Shia insurgency in North Yemen, popularly known as “the Houthis” is carried out by Zaydi Muslims (a sub sect of Shia) constituting 35-40 per cent of Yemen's Muslim population.

Oversimplifying the issue

Attributing the present day Yemeni crisis as a mere Shia-Sunni power struggle amounts to oversimplification of the issue as Yemen is largely a tribal society and around 400 Zaidi tribes are operating mostly in the North Yemen area. Inter- tribal and intra-tribal tensions crop up in the control and distribution of economic resources and power-sharing arrangements as well. The internal struggle for power between long-competing factions remains at the core of the Yemeni crisis. Subsequent support by countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran etc. to the fighting factions either directly or indirectly and emergence of terrorist outfits like Al Qaida and the Islamic State provide a unique and complicated dimension to the Yemeni crisis.

Reviewing India’s Foreign Policy: From Struggling Regional Power to Potential Super Power

11 May , 2015

After the end of World War II, the political dynamics of the world changed from a multipolar to bipolar world. Those nations that were gripped in war were experiencing severe economic hardships and in the midst of this, two superpowers emerged, The United States of America and the then USSR (United Soviet Socialist Republic). For decades we witnessed neck to neck competition between the two in every sphere, from sports to military powers. The World was thus divided into two blocs- the western bloc (NATO) and the Eastern bloc (Warsaw Pact). The era was quite passive; mostly war like, due to its intensity came to be known as Cold War era.

The viewpoint of India’s foreign policy was “no role, no involvement”, hence India distanced itself from any of the major superpowers of the world, USA and the former USSR.

The first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru equipped the nation not only with a domestic vision but also a vision to see international arena. He was a national leader with a global view and also the founding father of independent India’s foreign policy. His policy, his structured way to interact on the international arena is relevant to us still today, till some contexts.

Kashmiri Pandits— Return of the Native

Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak (retd)

The three-month old ideologically antithetical PDP-BJP coalition continues to be dogged by unending controversies, accompanied by a combined fusillade of the opposition, ultra hard-line right-wing forces, with their hyper-patriotic TV anchor associates, and separatists of all hues. Prospective return of Kashmiri Pandit (KP) migrants has been the latest provocation. The trigger being Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in Parliament last week, citing Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s promise to earmark 400 kanals (50 acres) of land as a first instalment for rehabilitation of the displaced community. In the absence of unambiguous specifics, vocabulary tended to drive the narrative, opposition leveraging the same to raise the political temperature! Encouragingly, the response from Jammu has been mature and restrained. Not to miss an opportunity to stir the pot in J&K, Pakistan’s Foreign Office speedily remarked that the proposed settlements would violate UN resolutions.

The short point is that the coalition has initiated a process to identify in the valley, land (the equivalent of 15 Bungalows on less than half of Akbar Road in New Delhi) on which migrants of all communities would be resettled. Of the earmarked land, 50 percent would be reserved for the majority community. So, how does this constitute ‘exclusive Pandit townships’, and why the furore? Because for naysayers in Kashmir “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts” is an article of faith. Opponents of the proposal, who insist on KPs ‘returning to their original homes’, are either disingenuous or oblivious to the existential reality that, over the years, 90 per cent of KP migrants have disposed off their homes, invariably in distress sales.

Tactical or strategic: all nuclear weapons are political by nature

by Pranay Kotasthane and Rohan Joshi 

Why Pakistan’s claims to “full spectrum” deterrence are meaningless in the subcontinental context.

Two disparate triggers in March 2015 turned the world’s attention to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, yet again. The first was a Stimson Center essay Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Operational Myths and Realities by Jeffrey D McCausland which concluded that the induction of short-range, nuclear-capable delivery vehicles in Pakistan’s arsenal is both dangerous and problematic.

The second trigger was a speech by Gen Khalid Kidwai at the Carnegie conference on Nuclear Policy where he gave a glimpse of Pakistan’s nuclear philosophy — Pakistan moving to what he described as “full-spectrum deterrence,” the desire for a sea-based deterrent and how “having tactical nuclear weapons would make a war less likely”. These occurrences have been interpreted as Pakistan’s attempt at lowering the nuclear threshold by using short-range, battlefield “tactical” nuclear weapons. The fear that these tactical nuclear weapons might be inducted into Pakistan’s armed forces triggered concern among the nuclear non-proliferation observers, multilateral organisations and states.

Exclusive Interview With Narendra Modi: ‘We Are Natural Allies’

May 7, 2015

On May 2, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat down for an exclusive two-hour interview with TIME editor Nancy Gibbs, Asia editor Zoher Abdoolcarim and South Asia bureau chief Nikhil Kumar in New Delhi. Speaking mostly in Hindi, Modi talked about everything from his ambitions for India to the global war on terrorism to what personally moves him. Translated and condensed highlights, followed by the full interview: 

On what he has learned so far about ­running India: The biggest challenge was that I was new to the federal government structures. Different departments tend to work in silos—each department seems to [be] a government in itself. My effort has been to break these silos down, [so that] everybody … looks at a problem in a collective manner. I see the federal government not as an assembled entity but as an organic entity. 

On how he sees the U.S.: We are natural allies … [It’s not] what India can do for the U.S., what the U.S. can do for India … The way we should look at it is what India and the U.S. can together do for the world … strengthening democratic values all over. 

On India’s sometimes tense relations with China: For nearly three decades there has been, by and large, peace and tranquility on the India-China border. Not a single bullet has been fired for over a quarter-century. Both countries are showing great maturity and a commitment to economic cooperation. 

On the possibility of the Taliban’s returning to power in Afghanistan: The drawdown of U.S. troops is, of course, an independent decision of the American government, but in the interest of a stable government in Afghanistan, it would be important to hold consultations with the Afghan government to understand their security needs as the U.S. troops draw down. 

On Victory Day in Moscow, Indian soldiers make a point

May 10, 2015

President Pranab Mukherjee takes part in the Russian military parade along with Chinese President Xi Jinping
As President Pranab Mukherjee took part in the Russian military parade in Moscow alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany, India — for the first time — was represented at the parade with an Indian Army contingent, the Grenadiers.

While the Western community, including the US, Europe, Canada and Australia, boycotted the celebrations in the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine, New Delhi has chosen to stand with Moscow at this point.

While India’s presence has raised some eyebrows in the Western diplomatic community, the Indian strategic establishment says that New Delhi has been represented previously as well — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attended the 60th anniversary in 2005 and Mukherjee, in his earlier avatar as external affairs minister, had attended the 50th anniversary.

Officials underline the fact that this should not be seen as an endorsement of Russian actions in Ukraine, since India did not support Russia at the United Nations on the issue.

Air Defense: India Loots The Dead To Save A Carrier

May 6, 2015: The new Russian built Indian aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, was supposed to be fully operational by mid-2014 and it was, sort of. What was missing was its primary anti-aircraft missile system; the Israeli LRSAM/Barak 8. Also missing was the short range AK-630 Russian made six-barrel 30mm close-in weapon systems (CIWS), for defense against anti-ship missiles. A year later (Vikramaditya arrived from Russia in January 2014) a temporary solution was found. A 32 year old Indian frigate is about to be retired and had an older version of Barak installed a decade ago. This Barak system will be removed and installed in Vikramaditya as will two AK-630 systems from the frigate. It will likely take at least a year to move the Barak and AK-630 systems from the Godavari class frigate to the Vikramaditya. Long range anti-aircraft missiles are a major part of the carrier air defenses and Barak 1 will do until Barak 8 is ready. Barak 1 was installed as an upgrade for an older Indian carrier that is supposed to be decommissioned in 2016 and served well.

The original Barak 1 missile was introduced in the 1980s and was purchased by the Indian Navy in 2000. Each Barak 1 missile weighs 98 kg (216 pounds) and has a 21.8 kg (48 pound) warhead. These missiles were also mounted in an eight cell container. The radar system provides 360 degree coverage and the missiles can take down an incoming missile as close as 500 meters away from the ship. The missile has a range of ten kilometers and is also effective against aircraft. India has bought over $300 million worth of these systems.

India’s staggering wealth gap in five charts


How does inequality in India really look? How much share does the country’s poorest 10 per cent have in its total wealth, how much does the richest, and are the rich getting richer?

We’ve been able to answer some of these questions from new estimates that came out of Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Databook 2014.

For one, the difference in the wealth share held by India’s poorest 10 per cent and the richest 10 per cent is enormous; India’s richest 10 per cent holds 370 times the share of wealth that it’s poorest hold.

India’s richest 10 per cent have been getting steadily richer since 2000, and now hold nearly three-quarters of total wealth.

India’s 1 per centers – its super-rich – have been getting richer even faster. In the early 2000s, India’s top 1 per cent held a lower of share of India’s total wealth than the world’s top 1 per cent held of its total wealth. That changed just before and after the global recession – though the world’s super-rich are recovering - and India’s top 1% holds close to half of the country’s total wealth.

Not surprisingly, India then dominates the world’s poorest 10 per cent, while China dominates the global middle class and the United States the world’s rich.

The world’s super-rich – the top 1 per cent – is overwhelmingly American. Indians make up just 0.5 per cent of the world’s super-rich.

'We are under silent invasion from China': Rights activist Sering claims Gilgit-Baltistan has been 'left to the wolves'

4 May 2015

Skardu-born rights activist Senge Hasnan Sering claims the native people of Gilgit-Baltistan are suffering rape, torture and economic exploitation at the hands of non-state actors from Pakistan, as well as China, which has been given free access to the region by Pakistan for mineral exploration.

People in Shia-dominated GB are staring at an impending ethnic cleansing by the joint efforts of Pakistan and China, he added. 

Skardu-born rights activist Senge Hasnan Sering says Gilgit-Baltistan is suffering a "cultural assault"

GB is constitutionally and legally a part of India and part of Pak-occupied Kashmir (PoK). However, China has been given free access to the region by Pakistan to allow for the economic exploitation of the mineral-rich region, known for its gold reserves. 

Avoid diplomacy over ‘Operation Maitri’

May 10, 2015

The recent earthquake has struck Nepal a mortal blow, flattening many areas of Kathmandu and its adjoining heartland, and also, as the world is gradually discovering, much of the mountainous regions which had initially remained outside the focus of international media. The death toll stands at 7,500 and climbing, the exact figures will perhaps never be known. Road communications, critical to a mountainous, laterally disposed country like Nepal, especially major east-west trunk axes like the Mahendra Rajmarg have been severely affected over long stretches. As a result, it has affected the bulk movement of goods, relief materials and personnel from one part of the country to another, leaving heli-borne relief as the only alternative for many villages in the interior.

India has been the first and the most massive responder to the SOS from its stricken neighbour. India launched “Operation Maitri” to dispatch relief to Nepal, which included specialist rescue teams of the National Disaster Relief Force, supplies, medical facilities, transport aircraft, helicopters, road transport, backed up by engineer regiments of the Indian Army to open up road communications and rebuild the bridges, Nepal’s lifeline.

India’s spontaneous response generated a strong feeling of warmth in Nepal where this country is often regarded as a domineering “big brother”. Nevertheless, with all the faults ascribed to it, India still remains the one country in the world which the vast majority of Nepalese consider a home away from home.

What the Pentagon Thinks of China’s Military

May 11, 2015

On Friday, May 8, the United States Department of Defense released its annual report to Congress on China’s military and security developments. The full report isavailable in PDF form here. The report offers helpful insight into the U.S. government’s threat perception of China’s military and the issues that are primarily shaping U.S. strategic thinking. After reading the report, the one major takeaway is that the United States is primarily concerned with China’s naval modernization. In fact, such is the emphasis on China’s navy, its maritime activities, and modernization, the People’s Liberation Army’s ground forces receive little mention, relegated to a few scattered paragraphs here and there. In this sense, the Pentagon’s 2015 report appears to be heavily influenced by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence’s earlier reportfrom this year (released for the first time in six years) which outlined China’s naval modernization in considerable detail.

The report is a sobering reminder that, despite China’s headline-grabbing land reclamation activities in the South China Sea and its ongoing dispute with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea, the primary driver of China’s military modernization continues to be “potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait.” To this end, the Pentagon’s report outlines the situation in the Taiwan Strait, including the military balance across the strait (spoiler: it heavily favors China). China’s defense budget is roughly ten times that of Taiwan’s, and continues to grow.

China's Strategy for Self-Defeat

May 11, 2015

Mao Zedong, as he made his desperate escape from the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek during the Long March in the 1930s, brought only one book with him, Michael Pillsbury reports in The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower. It was a “statecraft manual” with lessons, stories, strategies and maxims from as far back as 4000 BC.

“Chinese strategy is, at its core, a product of lessons derived from the Warring States period,” writes Pillsbury. As the Pentagon insider tells us, Beijing’s approach to the world was set more than two millennia ago, when “China” as a unified state did not yet exist.

There is a sense today that the Chinese are the maestros of statecraft, long-term thinkers and masters of the arts of both diplomacy and war. But is it true, as Pillsbury suggests, that China’s strategists think in longer time frames than those from other societies—decades instead of years, centuries instead of decades—or more effectively than others? The answer is probably “no.”

Much rides on this question. At the heart of his important new work, Michael Pillsbury refers to a warning from military officer Liu Mingfu in The China Dream. “China’s grand goal in the 21st century,” wrote Liu, “is to become the world’s No. 1 power.”

China Is Building 42,000 Military Drones: Should America Worry?

May 10, 2015

China may be building an army of almost 42,000 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

On Friday, the Pentagon released its annual report to Congress on Chinese military power. The Pentagon’s assessment is that China has incredibly ambitious plans for building up a fleet of both sea and land-based UAVs in the coming years.

“China is advancing its development and employment of UAVs,” the report— entitled Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015— said. “Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023.”

This would be an astronomical rate of growth. Indeed, by way of comparison, the Pentagon itself only operates 7,000 aerial drones, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, although others have estimated it has more. The estimate of 7,000 drones also doesn’t include underwater UAVs.

Golden hour

Gwynne Dyer 

The picture of the two Asian giants that most people carry around in their heads shows China racing ahead economically while India bumbles along, falling ever further behind. People even talk about the 21st century as 'China's Century', just as they called the 20th century the 'American Century'. But it may turn out to be only China's 'Quarter-Century'. The headline economic news this year is that India's economy is growing faster than China's. Not much faster yet, according to the official figures - a 7.5 per cent annual rate for India versus 7.4 per cent for China - but there is reason to suspect that the real Chinese growth rate is considerably lower than that.

Anybody who goes to both countries can see that India has a huge amount of catching up to do. The contrast in infrastructure is especially striking: China has 100,000 km of expressways; India has only 1,000 km. But the differences in income and productivity are also very big: gross domestic product per capita in China is between three and five times higher than in India.

But that is a snapshot of now. It was very different 35 years ago, when per capita income in India was still higher than it was in China. It was Deng Xiaoping's decision in 1978 to open up the Chinese economy that unleashed the spectacular economic growth rates of the recent past, and an economy growing at 10 per cent a year doubles in size every seven years.

Interactive Map: Follow the Roads, Railways, and Pipelines on China’s New Silk Road


Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Kazakhstan on Thursday to solidify new deals for Beijing’s ambitious plan to revive the old Silk Road as a modern-day trade hub. Beijing has already spent billions of dollars on roads, railways, and other infrastructure and intends to invest billions more to connect China to Europe in what it calls the “Silk Road Economic Belt.”

Xi’s visit comes as other major powers have launched economic integration projects in Eurasia. Russia launched the Eurasian Economic Union in January and the United States is plugging its own infrastructure project, the “New Silk Road.” But Beijing has outshined both countries in investment and execution. Now both Washington and Moscow are trying to hitch their wagons to China’s massive project.

Here at Foreign Policy, we’ve put together an interactive guide tracking Beijing’s victories and obstacles along the new Silk Road. The list of participating countries is still not finalized, but with China forking out billions in trade deals and preferential loans, its appeal as an economic benefactor is only set to grow.

Could China's Renminbi Rival the Dollar as the Next Reserve Currency?

May 11, 2015 `

"There are no givens in economics or politics, but it appears that China and the United States are on the precipice of an economic and political duopoly with all the benefits and perils that come with it."

China has made a request of the International Monetary Fund (IMF): It wants the IMF to recommend the Chinese renminbi as a reserve currency. Being a reserve-currency economy would give China easier and cheaper access to capital (something an indebted China is likely to cheer). But there are also drawbacks. Reserve currencies tend to be in high demand, pushing up the value of their currency relative to where it would otherwise trade. This makes exports less competitive and imports more competitive. China is unlikely to welcome such an outcome. Whether or not the IMF says “yes”—and to what extent—has the potential to shift the global economy toward a duopoly with two dominant reserve currencies—the U.S. dollar and the Chinese renminbi.

The odd thing about the above statement is that the renminbi is not yet considered a reserve currency. The IMF would confer this honor by adding the renminbi to its Special Drawing Right (SDR). The SDR is a sort of IMF reserve currency consisting of specific allocations to stable, global currencies—a guide to what global central banks should hold for reserves. Currently, this is the yen, euro, pound sterling and U.S. dollar. There are a couple reasons the IMF could decide that the renminbi should not have reserve status—such as its nonfree floating status or the role of the state in the Chinese economy, or the potentially destabilizing effects of disturbing global central banking in a time of extraordinary monetary policies. Regardless of the near-term issues, the renminbi is likely to be a reserve currency at some point—officially or not.


9 May 2015

The Wall Street Journal’s tech blog sees the new anti-hacking mutual defense treaty between Russia and China as a headache for United States intelligence analysts. Not only will the two notoriously aggressive cyber war powers be able to concentrate their hacking fire on other targets while pooling defensive resources, but the Internet balance of power continues to shift away from the U.S., just as critics of the Obama administration’s decision to hand over Internet domain control to a nebulous international body predicted.

“Russia and China signed a cyber-security deal on Friday, which experts say could firm up Russia’s ties with the east and may become a foundation for binding cyber security ties in the future,” writes the WSJ.

The two super-powers “agree to not conduct cyber-attacks against each other, as well as jointly counteract technology that may ‘destabilize the internal political and socio-economic atmosphere,’ ‘disturb public order’ or ‘interfere with the internal affairs of the state,'” according to the text of the agreement, which Russia has posted online.

The agreement also promises cooperation between Russian and Chinese law enforcement and cyber-security experts.

China’s military budget over 3 times that of India: Pentagon

May 10, 2015

China has over the past several decades significantly increased its defence budget which is now more than three times that of India and the country could pose a threat to the US security interest in the region, the Pentagon has said.

China’s official defence budget last year was USD 136.3 billion while that of India was USD 38.2 billion, the Pentagon said today in its annual report to the Congress based on its annual assessment of military and security developments involving the giant Asian country.

China has significantly increased its defence budget over the past several decades and now has reached a position to pose threat to the American national security interest in the region, the report said.

Having established a modern defence industry, China has now began exporting arms with Pakistan being its top importer.

“Pakistan remains China’s primary customer for conventional weapons,” the Pentagon said yesterday.

China Plans to Build 42,000 Drones In Coming Years, Report

Bill Gertz
May 8, 2015

China Preparing for Drone Warfare

China’s military plans to produce nearly 42,000 land-based and sea-based unmanned weapons and sensor platforms as part of its continuing, large-scale military buildup, the Pentagon’s annual report on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) disclosed Friday.

China currently operates several armed and unarmed drone aircraft and is developing long-range range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for both intelligence gathering and bombing attacks.

“The acquisition and development of longer-range UAVs will increase China’s ability to conduct long-range reconnaissance and strike operations,” the report said.

China’s ability to use drones is increasing and the report said China “plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023.”

Four UAVs under development include the Xianglong, Yilong, Sky Saber, and Lijian, with the latter three drones configured to fire precision-strike weapons.

“The Lijian, which first flew on Nov. 21, 2013, is China’s first stealthy flying wing UAV,” the report said.

China's Strategy for Self-Defeat China's Strategy for Self-Defeat

May 11, 2015 

Why Beijing might want to take some of its own ancient advise. 

Mao Zedong, as he made his desperate escape from the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek during the Long March in the 1930s, brought only one book with him, Michael Pillsbury reports in The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower. It was a “statecraft manual” with lessons, stories, strategies and maxims from as far back as 4000 BC.

“Chinese strategy is, at its core, a product of lessons derived from the Warring States period,” writes Pillsbury. As the Pentagon insider tells us, Beijing’s approach to the world was set more than two millennia ago, when “China” as a unified state did not yet exist.

There is a sense today that the Chinese are the maestros of statecraft, long-term thinkers and masters of the arts of both diplomacy and war. But is it true, as Pillsbury suggests, that China’s strategists think in longer time frames than those from other societies—decades instead of years, centuries instead of decades—or more effectively than others? The answer is probably “no.”

ISIS: The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning?

11 May , 2015

When the Allied forces landed in North Africa in 1942, Winston Churchill was asked if this was the beginning of the end of the Axis. He replied to the effect that it was perhaps not the beginning of the end but it was certainly the end of the beginning of the Second World War. The same can be said of the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham; Daech in Arabic). Currently, Kurdish ground forces, aided by air strikes from a coalition of states led by the U.S., France and Britain, are moving to take Tikrit, an oilrich area of Iraq. Tikrit also has symbolic meaning, being near the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, and is an important post on the road to Mosul, the second-largest city of Iraq and perhaps the next major objective of the Kurdish troops.

March 2015 is also the anniversary of the start of what has become the civil war in Syria, which began in March 2011, with youth-led demonstrations in Syria appealing for a Syrian republic based on equality in citizenship, democratic rule of law, respect for human rights and respect for religious and political pluralism. The ISIS has unified the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, making the possibilities of good-faith negotiations and compromises more difficult. The fast-changing scene merits close attention as the outcome will impact the wider Middle East.

3 Big Trends That Will Shape the Arab World

May 11, 2015
"The negative consequences of these three trends will continue until Arab governments and elites identify ways to rebuild their relationships with citizens."

Arab countries are in the midst of violent convulsions that are fundamentally reshaping the region. While it’s impossible to predict exactly how the chaos will unfold, there are three major trends that will define the future. All three promise more catastrophic scenarios over the next few years unless governments reverse course.

First, political violence is remaking Arab societies.

The violent onslaught of the self-declared Islamic State (IS) and the loss of state control over national territories have uprooted millions of individuals, families, and entire communities mainly in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. Today, more than 53 percent of the world’s refugees are in the Arab region, which is home to only 5 percent of the global population, and conflict has affected at least nine countries.

Saudi Arabia's Yemen War Unravels

Riyadh—Saudi Arabia's plunge into the civil war next door in Yemen to keep Iranian-backed factions from taking over is hugely popular at home right now, and the general public mood is decidedly hawkish. But after more than five weeks of a daily bombing campaign, some Saudis are beginning to wonder privately whether the declared goal of restoring their ousted allies to power is a step too far.

After whipping up nationalistic and anti-Iranian sentiment to a fever pitch, the government has toned down somewhat media touting of the Saudi-led intervention by eight Arab states and also forbidden any public questioning of a pounding air war that has provoked a nationwide humanitarian crisis and thousands of casualties.

Even some of the government's staunchest supporters have been shaken by the initial erratic shift in Saudi military strategy from an all-out bombing campaign, to a sudden halt and then an immediately resumption of it. These doubts have been exacerbated by the fact that a general uprising of Yemeni tribes hostile to the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels has failed to materialize.

Saudi Arabia Says King Won’t Attend Meetings in U.S.

MAY 10, 2015 

WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday that its new monarch, King Salman, would not be attending meetings at the White House with President Obama or a summit gathering at Camp David this week, in an apparent signal of its continued displeasure with the administration over United States relations with Iran, its rising regional adversary.

As recently as Friday, the White House said that King Salman would be coming to “resume consultations on a wide range of regional and bilateral issues,” according to Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman.

But on Sunday, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said that the king would instead send Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi interior minister, and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the defense minister. The agency said the summit meeting would overlap with a five-day cease-fire in Yemen that is scheduled to start on Tuesday to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Nuclear deal could help Iran fund cyberwar

By Cory Bennett 

A diplomatic deal with Iran to limit its nuclear program could inadvertently jumpstart the country’s cyber warfare efforts.

Experts say Tehran might use the economic sanctions relief from the nuclear pact to buttress its growing cyber program, which has already infiltrated critical networks in over a dozen countries, including the U.S.

Negotiators appear to be in a catch-22 when it comes to Iran’s online aggression.

If the deal falls apart, Tehran is expected to retaliate aggressively against U.S. companies through cyberspace.

And while Iranian cyber warriors might spare the U.S. if a deal is reached, they would also gain access to better technology and training, speeding the already rapid pace at which the country is becoming a major cyber power.

“We’re in a lose-lose situation from that standpoint,” said Fred Kagan, a national security scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and co-author of a recent report on the Iranian cyber threat. “Would you rather have them do that with more resources or fewer?”

3 Big Trends That Will Shape the Arab World

May 11, 2015 

"The negative consequences of these three trends will continue until Arab governments and elites identify ways to rebuild their relationships with citizens."

Arab countries are in the midst of violent convulsions that are fundamentally reshaping the region. While it’s impossible to predict exactly how the chaos will unfold, there are three major trends that will define the future. All three promise more catastrophic scenarios over the next few years unless governments reverse course.

First, political violence is remaking Arab societies.

The violent onslaught of the self-declared Islamic State (IS) and the loss of state control over national territories have uprooted millions of individuals, families, and entire communities mainly in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. Today, more than 53 percent of the world’s refugees are in the Arab region, which is home to only 5 percent of the global population, and conflict has affected at least nine countries.

The significance of this process goes far beyond its humanitarian implications. On the one hand, the rich mosaic of religions and ethnicities that has characterized Arab societies for thousands of years is being recast in favor of unitary homogeneity. The forced exile of the Yezidis, Christians, Shabak, and other ethnic and religious communities from the plains of Iraq are but one example. On the other hand, these population movements are reshaping the countries where people are fleeing to, namely Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia.

Within countries, regional and domestic responses to political grievances are fueling societal polarization on a scale not witnessed before. In Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and other countries, the political process is subjugated to a virulent form of identity politics that is breaking bonds of trust within societies. Ideological, religious, sectarian, ethnic, and tribal fractures are emerging, resulting in societal scars that may never truly heal.

Second, the legitimacy and authority of Arab states is disintegrating.

The uprisings reflected widespread discontent with prevailing governance systems. The response to these popular movements in a number of countries was a mixture of violence and the pushing away of core grievances.

A First: North Korea Tests 'Polaris-1' SLBM

Kim Jong-un couldn’t head to Moscow to celebrate Russia’s Second World War Victory Day so he settled for the next best thing: overseeing the first-ever test-firing of a North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The regime’s mouthpiece, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), noted that Kim watched as North Korea’s Bukkeukseong-1 (“Polaris-1”) SLBM “soared to the skies.”

The physical design of the missile, as seen in a few clear images released by KCNA, resembles the Soviet Union’s R-27/SS-N-6 Serb SLBMs, which suggest a single-stage, storable liquid-propellant design. KCNA’s images, upon preliminary analysis, appear to be authentic and presented without any manipulation.

Neither KCNA nor any secondary sources have verified the location of the missile launch. KCNA noted that the launch was carried out far away from the land. In images shared by the agency, Kim Jong-un is seen observing the launch from the deck of a boat. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency suggests that the launch likely took place on Friday off North Korea’s Sinpo South Shipyard, a facility on the country’s eastern coast. (Based on satellite imagery analysis, Sinpo was strongly believed to be the site of North Korea’s ongoing SLBM research and development.)

Did North Korea Conduct a Secret Nuclear Test in 2010?

May 10, 2015

North Korea continues to rattle the nuclear saber. Just how potent is the DPRK’s nuclear arsenal? Can North Korea hit the United States with a nuclear weapon? In order to do any of this, proper testing would need to be done. It is with these questions that we present the latest from our friends at38 North, where this piece first appeared, who ask the question: Did North Korea test a nuclear device in 2010?

In 2010, two radionuclide stations in Northeast Asia detected radioactive particles that seemed to indicate that a nuclear explosion had taken place. While there are other possible explanations, other evidence seemed to suggest that North Korea had conducted a very small and otherwise undetected nuclear test. In the past few years, there have been a number of studies of radionuclide data, seismic data and now, on 38 North, satellite imagery.

While some of the evidence is intriguing, I don’t buy it. My objections are largely methodological—and methodological objections are important to me. Everyone who does analysis will be wrong from time-to-time. I try to be methodologically cautious so that, when I inevitably get it wrong, I will still feel like I made the right judgment based on the evidence available to me.

Forces: Russian Combat Brigades In Ukraine

May 5, 2015: In April Ukrainian Army officials revealed that they were tracking the Russian units operating in eastern Ukraine. At that time Ukrainian intelligence had identified portions of the Russian 15th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, 8th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, 331st Airborne Regiment and the 98th Airborne Division operating inside Ukraine. It was noted that Russia moves these units in and out, rarely keeping Russian units in eastern Ukraine for more than a few months. There are some attempts to hide the fact that these Russian soldiers are Russians, but these efforts are not diligently carried out and given all the cell phone cameras around it is easier for anti-Russian civilians in rebel controlled areas to collect and pass on evidence.

NATO intelligence analysts earlier noted that the Russians have been forced to use most of their few capable combat units to support their attempt to seize portions of eastern Ukraine. Thus the Russians have sent in about twenty percent of their combat brigades, usually the most effective (Spetsnaz and airborne) and experienced (ones recently in the Caucasus). For most of the last year parts of at least three of these brigades have been detected inside eastern Ukraine at any one time. At least fifteen combat brigades have had some of their troops in Ukraine during 2014. These brigades represent the best Russia has, as the rest of the army is crippled by inexperience and shortages of personnel and equipment. Russia is still trying to replace obsolete and worn out Cold War era weapons and equipment.

Without immigrants, none of us would be here

The migration of early Africans into the Middle East, then across the Mediterranean into Europe and Asia – and eventually into the Americas and Australia and the Pacific Islands – is the origin of today’s humanity.

In almost every country across the globe anti-immigrant sentiment is high. Already this year it is estimated that more than 1750 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean. Some days ago, ten people died and an estimated 5800 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast. Yet Europe’s callous attitude to immigrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa is not only unethical but also ill-informed and counterproductive.

It’s a hostility echoed 7000 kilometres away in South Africa, where deadly attacks on immigrants have been contained by the military.

Yet, without immigration from Africa, none of us would be here. Experts now believe that migration across Africa between 60,000 and 70,000 years ago saved homo sapiens from climate-induced extinction.