4 December 2015

SMART CITIES India’s Smart City vision is part of a larger agenda of creating Industrial Corridors between India’s big metropolitan cities in India.


Smart Cities India is all set to become the most-populous country in the world by 2030, making it the home to the biggest and the most under-penetrated market for global manufacturers and service providers. Unlike its preceding generations, this growing population is also shifting to top tier cities of the country giving rise to new megacities estimated to generate 80% of economic growth, with potential to apply modern technologies and infrastructure, promoting better use of scarce resources.

As per estimates, about 25–30 people will migrate every minute to major Indian cities from rural areas in search of better livelihood and better lifestyles. With this momentum, about 843 million people are expected to live in urban areas by 2050. To accommodate this massive urbanization, India needs to find smarter ways to manage complexities, reduce expenses, increase efficiency and improve the quality of life.
With this context, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision “Digital India,” has set an ambitious plan to build 100 smart cities across the country. Modi in his speech quoted, “Cities in the past were built on riverbanks. They are now built along highways. But in the future, they will be built based on availability of optical fiber networks and next-generation infrastructure.”

The Government of India allocated INR70.6 billion (US$1.2 billion) for Smart Cities in Budget 2014–15. Given the sheet scale of the development plan, the public resources would largely be insufficient and the government is working on envisaging new financing routes to boost the program.
The government machinery is working on putting together the standards for executing this mega plan, and identifying the cities to be developed in consultation with states. A few smart cities are already coming up across the country, including Kochi Smart City, Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) in Ahmedabad, Naya Raipur in Chhattisgarh, Lavasa in Maharashtra and Wave Infratech's 4,500-acre smart city near New Delhi.

India’s strategic diffidence


Reproduced below is my chapter “India’s strategic diffidence” in the European Council on Foreign Relations compilation of essays titled ‘What Does India Think?’ and is available athttp://www.ecfr.eu/what_does_india_think/analysis/indias_strategic_diffidence

India has not had a truly strategic foreign policy since before its 1962 war with China – if “strategic” means focusing on major issues of international import that concern Asian equilibrium and global security. The military humiliation India suffered on that occasion sucked the self-confidence out of the country, turning it inwards.
Before the war, India’s “Third World” status had not prevented it striding like a giant on the world stage in the period 1947–1961, led by Jawaharlal Nehru. India advocated nuclear disarmament in the First Committee of the United Nations; led the charge in international forums against colonialism and racism, winning the gratitude of recently freed peoples of Asia and Africa; facilitated disengagement from the Korean conflict; participated in the Geneva talks to restore peace in Indochina; and established itself as the leader of the non-aligned group – the key balancer in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

India viewed itself as so indispensable to the wellbeing of the world that Nehru (in a fit of startling self-abnegation for which the country continues to pay dearly) blithely rejected a permanent seat on the UN Security Council offered by Washington and Moscow to replace Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese government.[1] Nehru believed such membership would continue to be India’s for the asking, and argued that the seat should go to the then-pariah communist China instead! It was a period of splendid gestures, grand pretensions, and matching hubris.
However, it was also a time, and this is not widely appreciated, when Nehru planted the seeds for India’s emergence as a great power – both in its nuclear weapons capability and in the conventional military field. For example, he imported the renowned designer Kurt Tank to design and produce the HF-24 Marut – the first supersonic combat aircraft to be built outside Europe and the US.

Battle Of Minds: Radicalization Growing In Kashmir Valley – Analysis



By Brig Anil Gupta*

Radicalisation in Jammu & Kashmir has three dimensions: regional, ethnic and religious. The theme of this article is limited to religious radicalisation because its growing influence is considered as a threat to national security. The disturbing trend is that Hurriyat, on the directions of its masters in Pak, is trying to spread Salafism/Wahhabism in the region South of Pir Panjal; a region which has been peaceful ever since the terrorism was rolled up the Pir Panjal into the Valley and was contained there by the security forces (SFs) more than a decade ago.

The youth in particular is being targeted. “If the youth in J&K become victims of new Salafised version of Islam, the consequences for entire India would be grave.” This warning has been sounded by M.K. Narayanan, a former National Security Advisor in his recent widely published article. He further goes on to say, “that radicalisation is gaining ground is no longer a secret. Radicalisation, rather than militancy and alienation, should thus be seen as the new threat in Kashmir. The danger is real.”
On the other hand the Indian Army commander in Kashmir, Lt Gen Subroto Shah, in an interview on the eve of his departure stated “radicalisation is getting unnecessary hype in Kashmir.” What is the truth? Is the situation critical as perceived by the former NSA or there is a ray of hope as seen by the former military commander?

Radicalisation is not new to Kashmir. Ever since the advent of Islam in Kashmir Valley, it has been through phases of radicalisation depending upon the attitude of the ruler. But the silver lining is that every time it emerged out of that phase successfully without causing immense damage to its social fabric. The major credit for this goes to the Muslim Rishis (a Sufi order in Kashmir) and Pirs of the Valley who preached pluralism and tolerance towards other religions. The net consequence was the emergence of Kashmiriyat, the backbone of the philosophy of co-existence in the Valley.

Democracy and Freedom


posted on 01 December 2015,  Written by Frank Li

Americans revere freedom. Anything labelled, even falsely, as freedom is always considered good. For example, for many years, any attempt to legalize same-sex marriage was a losing cause until it was portrayed as an issue of freedom, which finally won it approval by the Supreme Court (Same-Sex Marriage)! Another example: depending on the perspective of the viewer, a Syrian freedom fighter may be considered good while a Syrian terrorist is bad, despite the fact that they may literally be the same person!

Americans also revere democracy, despite the fact that democracy has been a proven failure throughout human history without a single example of lasting success. But democracy proponents often link it with freedom, thus defusing any challenge from democracy doubters.

The truth of the matter is that democracy and freedom are two entirely separated ideologies, and must therefore not be used synonymously!

1. Democracy

According to Wikipedia - democracy,
Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows citizens to participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.

2. Freedom

Freedom, liberty, license mean the power or condition of acting without compulsion. Freedom has a broad range of application from total absence of restraint to merely a sense of not being unduly hampered or frustrated <freedom of the press>. Liberty suggests release from former restraint or compulsion liberty>. License implies freedom specially granted or conceded and may connote an abuse of freedom license>.

3. Individual freedom vs. rule of law

Every living thing (e.g. a human being, bird, or even plant) yearns for freedom! We, the human race, used to wander the earth without any constraint - We had total freedom! Then we settled down and formed communities, often with some form of law, righteous or not. Since then, individual freedom and the rule of law have been diametrically contradictory! Individual freedom achieves its maximal degree without law, while the rule of law achieves its maximal effect without individual freedom!

In short, everything is relative, including freedom!

4. Freedoms

Freedom comes in multiple forms, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But what is ultimately the most important freedom for mankind? How about the freedom to live, including freedom from starvation and poverty? Here is an excerpt from 11 Facts About Global Poverty:
Nearly 1/2 of the world's population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. 1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.

India’s Evolving Maritime Strategy


India shifts its focus from ‘using’ to ‘securing’ maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.
By Darshana M. Baruah
December 03, 2015

On October 26, 2015, the Indian Navy released its latest maritime strategy, titled “Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy.” This edition is a revised and updated version of the previous outlined strategy “Freedom to Use the Seas: India’s Maritime Military Strategy,” published in 2007. The title itself is indicative of the changing tone of the Indian navy’s interests and intentions from the 2007 strategy. The previous strategy did not take into consideration the changing geopolitical environment and its strategic implications on India’s maritime interests. The 2015 maritime security strategy addresses this gap by complementing the evolving security dynamics in the Indian Ocean region and reflecting a bold Indian navy with a renewed outlook on India’s maritime security needs.

The security architecture in maritime Asia along with the rise of China is compelling India to define its strategic interests and review its maritime policy. The maritime security strategy precisely does the same. It carries a larger strategic angle than its predecessors and attempts to embody an Indian naval vision for the region.
There are three key points that underpin the shift in India’s naval strategy as per this document.

One, this is the first time that an Indian government document is formally acknowledging the implications of the evolving and increasingly accepted concept of the “Indo-Pacific” on India’s maritime security. The geographic extent of this concept has multiple variations but in the contemporary world, the notion essentially brings the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific — theaters of geo-political competition — into one strategic arc. The concept has been formally endorsed by Australia, and Canberra outlines the strategic implications of this region in its 2013 Defense White paper. Regional countries such as the United States, Japan, India, and Indonesia prefer to use the term Asia-Pacific in their official documents but different sections of the leadership from these countries have used the term Indo-Pacific in their speeches and remarks.

Sino-Indian Border Talks Not Enough to Defuse Tensions


Unless India and China can take positive actions, they risk drifting into a growing conflict on their disputed border.
By Sarah Watson and John Chen
December 03, 2015

India hosted its highest-ranking Chinese military delegation in ten years November 15-17 for talks on the Sino-Indian border dispute. Despite the unusually high status of the participants in this year’s talks, the visit appears to mark only a brief pause in gradually rising tensions on the border between the two countries.

The 26-member Chinese delegation, headed by General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), met with India’s chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh, Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Included in the Chinese group was Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China’s representative to this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, and possibly the next chief of the PLA Navy.

In spite of the “star power” of the Chinese delegation, expectations were not particularly high. Following the talks, Indian media reported that both sides agreed the border was “generally stable” and that they had endorsed “concrete actions to implement the consensus reached by the two leaders on border issues.” These sensible suggestions gloss over the fact that China and India have been searching for “concrete” ways to enact that consensus, the Border Defense Cooperation Agreement, since that document was signed by then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Li Keqiang in October 2013. The Agreement alone was not able to prevent multiple flare-ups along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the past two years.

Eurasian Economic Union And Pakistan-Belarus Free Trade Engagements – OpEd



The newly created Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has shortly got the momentum as an economic hub for the countries of the region. The EEU includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia as its members, whereas; the Organization is a continuation of contemplation for establishing the integration projects by the Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia since 2007. The Organization fundamentally promotes the ideas of streamlining the flow and transportation of services and goods between the member states, therefore, it greatly attracts the interests of many stakeholders and according to the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, many international organizations and the economic giants like China has shown great interest in the creation of free trade zones through the EEU.
The present political and economic importance of the South and Central Asian region along with free trade and economic potential across the Eurasian region greatly appeals almost every regional and international country, whether may they be developed or developing nation seems eager to come in bilateral and multilateral engagements with these organizations and the states in the region. The cooperation that is vital to the many states’ national interests consists of the fields of security, economic, energy, bilateral, free trade, scientific education and cultural interactions. Most particularly, the Russian Federation and China have leading ambitious roles in region’s economic and infrastructural developments. In addition, the growing significance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the present scenario has further enabled China and Russia to become a dominant player on the global economic and political arena. This in turn has also provided small or developing nations to benefit from the mutual benefit efforts of the SCO, EEU and other forums for their industrialization and national economic development goals.

The security issues in Afghanistan are the main obstruction in EUU’s direct trade with South Asia. Alternatively, there are two other options which connect the free trade activities with the regional market either through the North¬-South corridor between Russia¬, Iran and India by way of the Caspian and then the Arabian Sea and or the China¬ Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan is also ardent to benefit from the free trade engagements of the EEU and willing to sign free trade agreement with the EUU. Given its geopolitical location, Pakistan could gain huge economic and trade benefits. Pakistan has also offered Belarus to sign a Potential Trade Agreement (PTA) to facilitate trade connections between the two countries.

Lest Nepal go the Tibet way...


Dec 02, 2015, S.K. Sinha

Not only geography but also Nepal’s economy being dependent on millions of jobs in India cannot be compensated by China... Nor can India afford to have China take over Nepal as it swallowed Tibet in 1950.
No two countries have as much in common as India and Nepal in terms of history, geography, religion, culture, intermarriage and ethnicity. I have served for over a half a century with Gorkha troops, trekked in that country, done a lot of development work for our ex-servicemen and served as India’s ambassador to Nepal at a critical time in 1990. I am emotionally attached to Nepal, a second home to me.

After the 1857 uprising, portions of some districts in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were given by the British to Nepal in return for its military assistance. This territory is called Madhes and its inhabitants Madhesis.
The Nepal Congress, under the leadership of B.P. Koirala, launched a movement for replacing the Rana regime with a democratic government and the king continuing as a constitutional monarch. He, and many Nepal Congress leaders, took part in the Quit India Movement of 1942. He was imprisoned in Hazaribagh central jail along with Jayaprakash Narayan. Quite a few Nepal Congress leaders were taken prisoners during that movement. India helped the Nepali Congress establish democracy in Nepal.

Indo-Nepal relations have been very cordial with open borders and no visa regime. Millions of Nepalese have jobs in India and are treated at par with Indian citizens. This applies also to Gorkha soldiers in the Indian Army. A few Gorkhas have reached the rank of lieutenant general. There is no bar a Gorkha becoming Army Chief of India.
King Mahendra Shah scrapped democracy in 1960, introducing partyless Panchayati rule with nominated Prime Minister and ministers. He played the China card, seeking Chinese aid for projects. Nepal remained neutral during the India-China war in 1962. King Birendra Shah continued with panchayati raj and the tilt towards China. Due to personal differences between Rajiv Gandhi and the king, both India and Nepal allowed the Indo-Nepal Trade and Transit Treaty to lapse in 1989. India thought that Nepal would be brought down to its knees and Nepal felt that with aid from other countries, it could defy India. China could not replace India in Nepal due to poor surface communication. China’s then Prime Minister Lee Huan, on a visit to Kathmandu, stated that Nepal must come to terms with its geography. Nepal was suffering great hardship due to shortage of essential commodities like petrol, kerosene, salt, medicine and so on. The economy had faced deficit growth and there were demonstrations against India.

A crown of thorns It will be a tightrope walk for Suu Kyi


Posted at: Dec 3 2015,  G Parthasarathy
There are murmurs that Suu Kyi wants a rubber stamp President.

THE November 8 elections in Myanmar reaffirmed that its people, cutting across religious and ethnic differences, have an abiding faith in the abilities of the charismatic Aung San Suu Kyi to lead them to an era of ethnic peace, prosperity and democratic freedoms. Administering a stunning rout of the ruling military dominated Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in 135 out of the 168 seats contested in the Lower House and 255 of the 330 seats contested in the Upper House. These results assured her a comfortable majority in both Houses of Parliament, where 25 per cent of members are nominated by the armed forces. The army continues to play a significant role in national affairs, especially on issues of internal and external security.

Ruling Myanmar inevitably involves wearing a crown of thorns. Ever since its independence in 1948, Myanmar has been torn apart by a number of ethnic insurgencies. There are 135 different ethnic groups in the country, with the majority Burmans (Bamars) constituting 68 per cent of the population. But, in substantive terms, the country comprises seven states, representing the seven major ethnic nationalities and seven regions, of majority Bamars. The basic problem of Myanmar has been its inability to fashion a constitution based on “unity in diversity”. Just before independence, Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, who was the hero of the country’s independence struggle, reached an agreement in February 1947, known as the Panglong Agreement, which proclaimed that “citizens of frontier areas shall enjoy rights and privileges, which are regarded as fundamental in democratic societies”. Aung San also promised: “Full autonomy in internal administration for the frontier areas”.

Seven decades later, Myanmar is still being torn apart by ethnic insurgencies, along its borders with Thailand, China and India. While the Thein Sein government reached “peace accords” with eight ethnic groups, the most powerful armed groups in Shan state, bordering China, and the Kachin state bordering India and China, remain recalcitrant. Ethnic insurgencies have periodically received support across Myanmar’s borders with Thailand and China. China withheld support for cross-border insurgencies in Kachin and Shan states, ever since Deng Xiao Ping so ordained in the 1980s. Beijing has, however, recently resumed providing logistical and military support to the 8,000-strong Kachin Independence Army astride the India-Myanmar-China frontier and the 20,000 strong United Wa State Army, along the borders of its Yunnan Province with Shan state.

Too quiet for comfort - The looming political crisis in Bangladesh

Politics and Play - Ramachandra Guha

In the 1970s and 1980s, Bangladesh was widely regarded as a paradigm case of a nation whose poverty was a direct consequence of over-breeding. It was the proverbial 'basket-case', kept (barely) afloat by periodic shipments of wheat from the West. Influential biologists like Garrett Hardin urged that all aid be stopped, and the Bangladeshis be left to die, as perhaps they deserved to.

It is just as well that the aam admi (and aam aurat) of Bangladesh did not read the New York Times, still less the learned journals in which the biologists and ecologists issued their predictions. They just went about rebuilding their newly-won nation. As I argued in my last column (see The Telegraph, November 28), the Bangladeshis have shown a surprising resilience over the decades. They have made impressive strides in manufacturing, done far better than India with regard to health and women's rights, all the while renewing their literary and cultural traditions.

Given the inhospitable conditions (civil war, cyclones, and sectarianism) in which it came into being, the economic and social advances made by Bangladesh are noteworthy. What remains a worry, however, is the lack of progress on the political front. Bangladesh was created only because West Pakistan did not give adequate space to the major political party of East Pakistan, the Awami League. Now, in a bitterly ironic twist, the selfsame Awami League stands in the way of the development of a multi-party system in Bangladesh.

China’s Latest Five-Year Plan


Martin Feldstein, Professor of Economics at Harvard University and President Emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research, chaired President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984. In 2006, he was appointed to President Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and,… read more

CAMBRIDGE – I was in Beijing last month when the Chinese government released a preliminary summary of its 13th Five-Year Plan. This is an important document for understanding where China is headed in the 2016-2020 period. And yet China’s five-year plans just aren’t what they used to be.

The Chinese economy is no longer the state-owned and state-managed system that it was when I first visited more than 30 years ago. In those days, there was no private enterprise, and it was illegal for anyone but the government or a state-owned enterprise to hire an employee. Today, only 20% of employees in China work for SOEs. The rest of the Chinese economy is dynamic, decentralized, and privately owned. American multinational companies and other foreign firms are an important part of the economic scene.

So the five-year plan is no longer a detailed blueprint for industrial expansion; rather, it provides a picture of what the Chinese leadership hopes will be achieved under the government’s general guidance. The aim is to improve the overall standard of living – achieving moderately strong growth, raising the share of consumption in GDP, and improving air and water quality – through a combination of Western-style monetary and fiscal policies, state-financed infrastructure development, and changes in environmental and other regulations.

One of the key goals was set back in 2010: doubling real GDP and real personal incomes by 2020. The government now officially estimates that achieving this target will require average annual GDP growth of 6.5% over the next five years. Given that China is still a relatively poor country, with per capita GDP only about 25% of the level in the United States, maintaining such a rapid pace of growth certainly is not impossible.
But many observers are skeptical about China’s official GDP data and dubious of its ability to sustain 6.5% growth. That skepticism reflects a variety of recent news indicating weak output in parts of the Chinese economy – for example, headlines about reduced industrial production, declines in manufacturing exports, and shutdowns in particular industries.

China And The Changing Global Economic Order

from STRATFOR, -- this post authored by Mark Fleming-Williams

It may not be the top subject of discussion around the average family dinner table, but China's Nov. 30 entry into the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights (SDR) currency basket marks the start of a new era in the global economic structure. The accession will not immediately bring about seismic changes in the yuan's usage, rocketing it up to international reserve currency status in one glorious surge. That kind of usage growth, if indeed it ever does happen, will take years to come about.

The more immediate change is actually subtler and has more to do with what China is - or more specifically, what it is not. The yuan has become the first SDR basket currency to belong to a country that is not a clear U.S. ally - the other slots are filled by Japan, the United Kingdom and the eurozone. This is important because it is part of a wider trend, reflecting increased economic power in new parts of the world. The IMF (along with the World Bank) is the key institution of the world order that was designed by the United States and its allies at Bretton Woods in 1944. The IMF's including the yuan in the SDR coincides with an attempt to reform this system in favor of these new powers - an attempt that the United States has stalled with a veto for five years. The important question, then, is how the United States, as the architect and leader of the existing system, will cope with these new challenges.
Origins of the SDR

But before we get into the Nov. 30 developments, it is important to first understand the basis of the current system. When the United States crafted today's economic order at Bretton Woods in 1944, it was acting, as is so often the case, with an eye toward avoiding the mistakes of the past. The United States is blessed with the most favorable real estate and geographical positioning of any country in the world, with extensive fertile lands and river systems, access to both major oceans and sizable barriers against any major threats. But these gifts have been both a blessing and a curse, for while they enable immense productivity, and hence power, they also create a temptation toward isolationism; Americans tend to retreat behind their ocean buffers and enjoy their continental paradise. This temptation was so strong that for the first 150 years of its history, the United States did exactly that - fighting engagements to protect trade routes and secure its own strategic position, but rarely interfering in the politics of other continents. It was forced out of this comfortable position by World War I and again by World War II. By 1944, the lesson the United States had learned was that it needed to be present to prevent these situations from arising in the first place, and the most sensible strategy was to exert its own power to block the rise of any single large challenging bloc or competitor. With some estimates putting U.S. gross domestic product at 50 percent of the world share in 1945, the United States was in a position to do so.

China’s Currency Goes Global


What are the implications of the recent IMF decision on the renminbi?
By Anthony Fensom, December 03, 2015

The International Monetary Fund’s decision to include the Chinese currency in its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket from October 2016 has been viewed as a major step forward in Beijing’s international economic aspirations. The first change in the SDR’s currency composition since 1999 could result in the yuan eventually replacing the euro as the main alternative currency to the dollar, with an estimated $1 trillion in global reserves expected to be converted to yuan-denominated assets.

Pacific Money spoke to Roger Bridges, chief global strategist for interest rates and currencies at Nikko Asset Management Australia, on the IMF’s move and its implications for global markets.
How do you see the significance of the IMF’s decision for China and the world?

It’s an acknowledgment by the IMF of the importance of China and the importance of the yuan in the international system. One of the issues the Chinese are very skeptical about is that the IMF, the World Bank, and a lot of the infrastructure was set up by the U.S. and the West at the end of World War Two, and it’s been developed since then and they’ve had no say in it.
That’s one of the reasons they set up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, so they have more control over it than they have over the other institutions. Although the IMF tried to get the Chinese more involved in the decision-making process, it hasn’t been ratified by the U.S. Congress, so this is a way for the IMF to say that it recognises the yuan as a global currency and we’re going to give you a weighting higher than the pound and the yen but in line with your percentage of global exports.
I think it’s a very important signal to China that it’s in their interests to be part of this infrastructure, which has been managing international financial relations for the last 50 plus years.
The IMF has set the yuan at 10.9 percent of its currency basket, ahead of the Japanese yen at 8.3 percent and the British pound at 8 percent. Does this suggest a downgrade for the yen and pound in terms of their international usage?


Thursday, 03 December 2015 | Claude Arpi

India, with a population of over one billion souls, has obviously some fools, some big-mouths and even some intolerant individuals. But in my 41 years in this country, I always experienced a very, very tolerant country
In India, one debate follows another; the latest is about ‘tolerance’. I never really understood what this ‘tolerance’ issue was about. It appeared rather to be a new ideology for settling political scores, but after it culminated in a ‘national’ debate in Parliament, I became more curious.

The dictionary says that it is “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own.” It also means “the act or capacity of enduring”.
There is, however, something strange in the current wave. A bunch of ‘eminent intellectuals’ started returning national awards. It is odd because these type of awards are usually given by a state (specifically India in this case) for meritorious actions or behaviour; they are not presented by a particular political party (they are usually given by the President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan); so, why return an award to the state simply because one is not happy with the present Government? It does not make sense. The only explanation is that these ‘eminent intellectuals’ were not aware that it was not the present-day Government which honoured them, but the nation.

In my country of origin, France, The Legion d’Honneur is conferred by the President of the French Republic, who is the Grand Master of the Order. It is said that this highest award should not be asked for, should not be refused and should not be returned. For a Cartesian mind, it seems logical; but it is probably not so for the ‘eminent’ Indian intellectuals. However, it does not mean that ‘intolerance’ does not exist in India and elsewhere in the world. However, in any such debate, it is important to avoid double standards. Today, we are witnessing this, particularly when it concerns China.
Take a recent post on the UN official Weibo account in China: The UN Committee Against Torture questioned China insistently over issues such as judicial independence and the use of ‘black jails’.

Putin’s Syrian Misadventure


DEC. 2, 2015, Thomas L. Friedman

When President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced he was setting up an air base in the middle of Syria to take on the Islamic State and bolster President Bashar al-Assad, more than a few analysts and politicians praised his forceful, game-changing, strategic brilliance, suggesting that Putin was crazy like a fox. Some of us thought he was just crazy.
Well, two months later, let’s do the math: So far, Putin’s Syrian adventure has resulted in a Russian civilian airliner carrying 224 people being blown up, apparently by pro-ISIS militants in Sinai. Turkey shot down a Russian bomber after it strayed into Turkish territory. And then Syrian rebels killed one of the pilots as he parachuted to earth and one of the Russian marines sent to rescue him. Many of the anti-Assad rebels in that area are ethnic Turkmens, with strong cultural ties to Turkey; Turkey was not amused by Putin bombing Turkmen villages inside Syria, because it weakens Turkey’s ability to shape Syria’s future.

Meanwhile, in Crimea, Ukraine, which Putin annexed, pro-Turkish Tatars apparently cut the power lines, plunging Crimea into a near total blackout. And in October dozens of Saudi clerics called for a “holy war” against the governments of Syria, Iran and Russia.
In sum, Putin’s “crafty” Syrian chess move has left him with a lot more dead Russians; newly at odds with Turkey and Iran; weakened in Ukraine; acting as the defense lawyer for Assad — a mass murderer of Sunni Muslims, the same Sunni Muslims as Putin has in Russia; and with no real advances against ISIS.

Other than that, it’s been a great success.

Truth be told, I wish Putin had succeeded. It would have saved us all a lot of trouble, because ISIS is not the “J.V. team” President Obama once called it. It’s actually the Jihadist All-Star team. It combines the military efficiency of Iraqi ex-Baathist army officers with the religious zealotry and prison-forged depravity of its “Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” the Web-savvy of Arab millennials and a thrill-ride appeal to humiliated young Muslim males, who’ve never held power, a decent job or a girl’s hand.

Muslim Imams Should Unveil Faces Of Extremism In Friday Sermons – OpEd



“The terror outfits such as ISIS are shedding blood of innocent civilians loudly proclaiming to be Islamists and chanting “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the great). Obviously, this has defamed Islam, the religion of peace and tranquillity. The acts of terror perpetrated by the extremist fighters of the ISIS fall into the category of Ashad Haram (severely forbidden in Islam)”.
These views were expressed by the Sunni-Sufi leader in India, Syed Muhammad Ashraf Kichhochhawi, founder president of All India Ulama Mashaikh Board in his most recent press release.

Syed Muhammad Ashraf further said that “any extremist organisation waving Islamic flags and misusing the holy Qur’an such as Daesh have actually no endorsement in the ambit of Islam. They are nothing but terror outfits which are tarnishing the image of Islam in the very name of Islam.”
Ashraf appealed to the Muslim clerics, particularly imams of mosques, to categorically denounce and refute the terrorist ideologies in their Friday sermons and other religious talks. He said that any open or tacit support to extremist activities through any means is forbidden according to the basic principles of Islam and that their extremist interpretations of Islam are only aimed at serving their nefarious political agendas.

Syed Muhammad Ashraf appealed to the Mosque Imams and Muslim preachers across India to unite against terrorism and devise new strategies to tackle, eradicate and refute terrorism and its ideologies. He said: “It’s time for us to seriously ponder over the radical interpretations of political Islam and the damages it has done to Muslims across the world since its inception.”
Addressing the mosques’ imams and Islamic clergy, Syed Muhammad Ashraf said: “we need to restore the respect for mankind instilling essential humanitarian values in the minds of people, particularly Muslim masses.”

Terrorist Attacks are Strategic The Response Should Be, Too


December 1, 2015 

The wave of horrific attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Sinai have defined an important part of the international agenda for the next year. Western societies must face fundamental questions: Is it possible to be open and safe? When does pluralism become separation, separation beget alienation, and alienation turn into violence? And, above all, what is the best way to respond to the current tragedies and lower the chances of future ones? 
The attacks have also called into question, notably but not only in the U.S. presidential campaign, the wisdom of Western commitment to the rights of refugees. As Congress considers measures that would effectively end refugee resettlement from the Middle East (including of oppressed minority communities like the Yazidis in Iraq), it is important to address this head on. 

For terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Islam, death and destruction is only a secondary goal. The carnage is an end in itself but it is also a means to a larger end, which is to provoke or further a defining, multi-generational conflict between those committed to violent jihad and their enemies (both Western and Islamic). Every aspect of the response needs to be informed by the challenge of frustrating this larger goal. 
A mounted policeman leads a group of migrants near Dobova, Slovenia, October 20, 2015.When terrorists bombed the London transportation network in July 2005, killing 52 people and injuring more than seven hundred, I was serving as the United Kingdom’s Minister for Communities and Local Government. I remember well the searching self-criticism triggered by such home grown terrorism. "Keep calm and carry on" was the widespread popular mood, even as policymakers across the political spectrum recognized that we had to do a better job with intelligence, homeland security, and the integration of minorities more fully into the national community, steering a course between the false choices of complete assimilation or separation. 
As the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary from 2007-2010, I spent a lot of time thinking about how the fight against international terrorism could be conducted in a way that undermined rather than reinforced the argument of violent jihadists, that they were the only people who could adequately defend the interests of Muslim populations. I never bought the “clash of civilizations” argument—because al Qaeda was symptomatic of a clash within Islam as much as between Islam and the West and because I never accepted al Qaeda as a civilization. (One of the dangers of the proclamation of the war on terror was that it aggregated disparate grievances into a singular whole, when defeating violent jihadism required the winnowing of its support base.) 

These experiences left me under no illusions about the dangers that exist for Western societies (although the 10th anniversary of the Amman bombings is a good moment to remember that most of the victims of violent jihadism are Muslims), and about the connections between foreign policy and domestic policy in an interconnected world. Today I bring those experiences to my job as leader of a non-governmental organization working in humanitarian emergencies around the world and for refugee resettlement in the United States. 

If attackers are strategic, so must be the response. This applies as much to the debate about refugee resettlement as it does to foreign policy. Sanctuary for refugees and safety for Americans are complementary, not competing. 


A Syrian refugee kisses his daughter as he walks through a rainstorm towards Greece's border with Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 10, 2015.Refugees have (hard-won) rights in international law, and countries have obligations to them. The US, along with over 140 other countries, adhere to the tenets of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol appended to it. These instruments are the cornerstone of international refugee law. All signatories must provide refugees the same educational opportunities they provide to citizens, allow refugees to move freely within the country, and, most importantly, not return refugees to states where their life or freedom would be threatened. The fulfilment of these obligations is what Germany is doing so impressively at the moment. By the latest count, over a million refugees will arrive there this year. 

Because of its geography, the United States is largely insulated from the surge of refugees pouring out of today’s refugee hotspots: Afghanistan,Somalia, and Syria. But this does not excuse the United States from acting on its obligations, interests, and values when it comes to refugee resettlement. 

Historically the United States has taken at least 50 percent of the refugees referred by the UN High Commission for Refugees, with the high water mark for resettlement occurring during the 1970s and 1980s with the admission of over a million people from Vietnam. In contrast, the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States since 2011 is a mere 2,200. Washington can and should take more, for four reasons. 

The first is simple decency. The United States can make a life-changing difference for some of the most vulnerable victims of the war, and so it should. Less than two percent of all U.S. Syrian refugee admissions to date are single men, unattached to families; the vast majority admitted have been those who are weakest and most in need. The UN identifies these people and the United States vets and admits them, a humanitarian service Americans should be proud of providing. 

The second reason is for the message it would send, telling Syria’s neighbors that they are not alone in bearing the refugee burden and telling Muslims around the world that America stands open to the most vulnerable, of all religions (and of none). Developing countries house 86 percent of the world's refugees. Jordan, with a total population of around 6 million, now hosts 650 000 registered refugees; Lebanon, with a population of between 4 and 5 million, hosts over a million Syrians; and Turkey, with a population of around 75 million, hosts over two million. It is true that refugee resettlement will only help a small proportion of those afflicted by the crisis in Syria. But symbols matter; just remember the symbol that is Guantanamo. 

The third reason is that the United States has a proven system for successful integration of refugees. The evidence shows that the combination of language classes, jobs, education for kids, and the prospect of a path to citizenship is a good recipe for creating generations of productive and patriotic citizens. There are successful Syrian-American communities around the United States to welcome compatriots. In fact, family reunification beyond parent-children relationships would allow for faster increases in resettlement. Public-private partnerships across the country point to the important role of employers and state and local authorities in making the system work. 


an African migrant sits on top of a border fence covered in razor wire between Morocco and Spain's north African enclave of Melilla, during a latest attempt to cross into Spanish territory, June 14, 2014.The U.S. model for refugee integration starts with an effective security vetting system. Standing by the strength of the system, former homeland security secretaries Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano note that the vetting involves background and biometric checks, with about half a dozen government agencies participating. Current Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson explains: "It is always the applicant's burden of proof to demonstrate that he or she qualifies for refugee status in this country...If we do not have information to reach a sound decision, or the applications raises questions not satisfactorily addressed, the case is put on hold until we have more, or is denied." 

The seriousness of the current vetting process is actually one reason the process takes so long, and so few have been admitted. And there are follow up checks once refugees have arrived—after a year, to test the case for permanent residence, and after five years, to test the case for citizenship.It is true that three refugees have been arrested for terrorism related offenses (before they came to fruition). This stands next to the 750,000 refugees admitted to the country since 9/11 and prompted upgrades in the systems. 

Finally, accepting more refugees would provide support for Europe and especially Germany as they try to devise an enlightened response to the Syrian crisis. Europe has far more exposure to both refugees and jihadists than the United States, and is dangerously divided about how to deal with the challenge. If Washington expresses panic about vastly smaller flows, it would set a poor example for others. 

Humanitarian action, of course, should not stop at refugee resettlement. Just as geographic isolation is no excuse for the United States to avoid taking refugees, so it is no excuse for shortsightedness in helping front-line nations shoulder their burdens. Washington has pledged over $4.5 billion so far during the Syria conflict, but the scale of the need is massively greater. The United Kingdom has announced that half of its overseas aid budget of around $18 billion will be devoted to fragile and conflict states; the United States has a bigger budget and greater capacity therefore to make a difference. 

But this is not just about public aid. It is also about mobilizing private sector capacity. As I recently wrote in these pages, there is no excuse for the World Bank to limit its work in Jordan and Lebanon just because they are middle income countries. Fortunately, the president of the World Bank and the UNSG's High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing have tabled this issue for the World Humanitarian Summit next May. They need strong support. 

Americans are tired of being deeply enmeshed in the Middle East. But in a global village, you do not get to choose your challenges; they choose you. Defeating violent jihadists is a challenge for everybody. Approach it the wrong way and the result will be to strengthen the very forces that would threaten us.

Is Russia fighting ISIL or occupying Syria?


SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ, serkan.demirtas@hurriyet.com.tr

The ongoing crisis between NATO member Turkey and Russia over the former’s downing a Russian warplane over an airspace violation has obviously escalated tension in the region, amid fears that it could lead to unwanted consequences.
Ankara seems ready to reconcile and to start a new dialogue with Moscow to establish a mechanism to avoid any similar future incidents, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is deliberately trying to escalate the tension with harsh accusations and new military deployments in Syria.

There is sufficient evidence to prove that the Russian leadership is using this ongoing crisis as a pretext to further strengthen its military presence in Syria, begun in early October. It is thus fortifying its position ahead of Jan 1, 2016, when the implementation of the Vienna agreement on Syria is due to begin.
The ultimate objective of Russia is clear: Keeping Bashar al-Assad and his regime intact and strong in the territories it controls until the end of the transitional period, so that Moscow’s top regional ally does not lose power. It also wants to maintain its military presence as the guarantor of al-Assad’s life-long rule. Recent military developments taking place in Syrian territories should be evaluated from this perspective.

There are reports in both the Russian and the international media about the country’s plans to build a new air military facility near Homs, known as the al-Shayrat Base, which has already been used by Russian attack helicopters. It should be noted that Russia has already been using the Tartus naval station and an airbase near Latakia, both along the Syrian coast, for its military operations.
The airbase in Latakia was believed to host more than 30 warplanes, but the number has seemingly increased since the downing of the SU-24 last week. Russian media suggests that the number will soon increase to 100 warplanes, deployed to the new airbase that for now has just 45 hangars.

The Democrats’ Problem with ‘Radical Islam’


Migrant CrisisIran Nuke Deal2016 RaceThe Islamic State

It’s time to get past terminology and political correctness, and move on to real solutions of dealing with the Islamic State menace.


In the wake of the Paris attacks, there’s plenty to be written about the inflammatory comments and factually incorrect statements that Republican presidential candidates are making about Islam and Muslims — from comparing them to rabid dogs to ambiguous calls for a database of Muslim-Americans. And with reports about hate crimes against Muslims on the rise in Western countries, there’s reason to worry about how the debate is fanning the flames of hatred.

But the Democrats’ rhetoric is problematic too, for very different reasons.
When Hillary Clinton was asked whether she would use the term “radical Islam’’ during the Democratic debate on Nov. 14 in Des Moines, Iowa, she demurred. She had referred to “radical jihadist ideology” in her opening statement, and then invoked President George W. Bush. She quoted him speaking after the 9/11 attacks saying “we are at war with violent extremism.” The same term is used often by President Barack Obama’s administration.

During the debate, Bernie Sanders never uttered the word Islam. When pressed about whether he would use the term radical Islam, he said, “I don’t think the term is what is important.” Martin O’Malley spoke mostly about American-Muslims’ sense of belonging in the United States and settled on the term “radical jihadis” when pushed about defining the problem as radical Islam.
During a speech a few days later in New York, Clinton took another stab, referring to “an ideological movement of radical jihadism.” Although she went further than President Barack Obama in addressing the issues at hand, she also took several jabs at Republicans for obsessing about “a clash of civilization or repeating the specific words radical Islamic terrorism.”

The Changing Face of Europe


Posted by Kaj Leers on December 2, 2015
Where is leadership in the European Union? Who dares to don its trappings, now that German Chancellor Angela Merkel no longer seems to command the authority she did up until the end of the summer? After the attacks in Paris, and with refugees still knocking on the door in their thousands everyday, voices that speak with authority are necessary. Yet it is not certain whether anyone will really listen.

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the European Union as we know it? It sure seems like it. As the Netherlands takes up the rotating chairmanship of the European Union in the first half of 2016, the country's leaders are taking every opportunity to voice dire warnings.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned that the European Union should circle the wagons and finally close and guard its external borders to stem the refugee tide. If EU nations fail to live up to their commitments, said Rutte -- commitments such as actually wiring the money promised to frontier organizations such as Frontex, and actually sending the trained border guards they have promised to that effort -- the European Union will suffer the fate of the Roman Empire.

Rutte's historical comparison was ill-conceived in many ways, but one -- probably unintended -- was right on the money. Rome did not crash and burn because the empire couldn't protect its borders, but rather because of unimaginable corruption and egotism among its leading folk and regions. The northern tribes were able to invade and pillage only because of festering inner weaknesses.

Do 20% of British Muslims really sympathise with jihadists?


By James MelleyBBC News
1 December 2015 ,
Last week, the UK's most popular newspaper, the Sun, ran the headline "1 in 5 Brit Muslims' sympathy for jihadis". Where did that statistic come from and how reliable is it?

The Sun's headline immediately caused a backlash - angry videos of British Muslims disputing the "1 in 5" figure soon appeared on social media and Twitter users took up the hashtag #1in5muslims to make fun of the story. The newspaper regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, received more than 2,600 complaints.

The Sun's figures came from research carried out by polling company Survation, which conducted phone interviews with 1,000 British Muslims after the recent attacks in Paris. One of the questions was: Which of the following statements is closest to your view? 
I have a lot of sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria. 
I have some sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria. 
I have no sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria. 
Don't know. 

The word "jihadis", which is used in the headline, does not appear in the question. This might be significant because not everyone who travels to Syria is necessarily going to fight for the so-called Islamic State or other militant Islamist groups - some could be going to join rebel groups opposed to IS.
When people answered the question, 4% said they had a lot of sympathy and 14% said they had some sympathy - a total of 19%, which is the figure the Sun used.

Putin's Game of Chicken And How the West Can Win


As Russia slaps sanctions on Turkey in retaliation for the November 24 downing of a Russian fighter jet over the Turkish-Syrian border, the standoff between Russia and the West has taken a dangerous new turn. One day, Russian President Vladimir Putin is courted by Western leaders reeling from the Paris attacks; the next, he’s locked in a confrontation with a NATO member that prompted a spike in social media posts raising the possibility of World War III.

Unpredictability has been a hallmark of the Kremlin’s foreign policy since before Russia invaded Georgia almost eight years ago. Although the current course of events may appear confounding, however, it follows a consistent logic dictated by Putin’s spinning of his global role. His moves toward rapprochement, no less than his hostility, are aimed not at building a genuine anti-terror coalition but at challenging the West to a high-stakes game of chicken. His zero-sum reasoning is dangerous for all, and Western countries must understand it to craft their response.


Putin’s swagger is an integral part of the Kremlin’s formula for manufacturing the truth. In this latest case, evidence that the Russian plane violated Turkish airspace is irrelevant. When the Russian military trotted out a man it claimed was the surviving crew member, he denied receiving any warnings to leave Turkish airspace. Never mind that the orchestrated-looking video showed him only from behind and failed to conceal him from appearing to read his answers from cue cards.

Russia Must Reconsider Its Role in the Fight Against ISIS


01 December 2015
Hassan Hassan Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme

It is hard to imagine bridging the increasingly profound disagreements between the foreign forces inside Syria, especially as Russia fails to achieve progress for the regime on the ground.
Nearly two months into the Russian military intervention in Syria, it should be already clear this involvement has been toxic on multiple levels. So far, the move has caused at least two high points of polarization not only inside Syria but also in the region at large, with little to show in terms of reversing the rebels’ gains on the ground.

Moscow’s decision to intervene on the side of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had a unifying and galvanizing effect for the ­anti-government forces. In a rare show of support for the Free Syrian Army, for example, individuals affiliated to extremist forces praised Western-backed groups for destroying around 20 regime tanks during the first ground offensive assisted by Russian air cover. Armed factions seem to have increasingly adjusted to the merciless Russian bombardments and managed to make a number of significant gains against the regime, primarily in southern and northern Aleppo.

Meanwhile, the only major achievement for the regime forces has been to break the siege of the Kweiris airbase between Aleppo and Raqqa, although the base was not completely secured and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) returned to carry out suicide attacks outside it.

Russia Says That It Has Proof that Turkey Secretly Buying Oil From ISIS

Reuters, December 2, 2015
Russia’s defense ministry said on Wednesday it had proof that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his family were benefiting from the illegal smuggling of oil from Islamic State-held territory in Syria and Iraq.
Moscow and Ankara have been locked in a war of words since last week when a Turkish air force jet shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border, the most serious incident between Russia and a NATO state in half a century.

Erdogan responded by saying no one had the right to “slander” Turkey by accusing it of buying oil from Islamic State, and that he would stand down if such allegations were proven to be true. But speaking during a visit to Qatar, he also said he did not want relations with Moscow to worsen further.
At a briefing in Moscow, defense ministry officials displayed satellite images which they said showed columns of tanker trucks loading with oil at installations controlled by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and then crossing the border into neighboring Turkey.

The officials did not specify what direct evidence they had of the involvement of Erdogan and his family, an allegation that the Turkish president has vehemently denied.
“Turkey is the main consumer of the oil stolen from its rightful owners, Syria and Iraq. According to information we’ve received, the senior political leadership of the country - President Erdogan and his family - are involved in this criminal business,” said Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov.

Europe’s Deepest Crisis – Analysis



By Britta Petersen*
Eastern European countries have been in the headlines since the beginning of the refugee crisis for a variety of reasons. The controversy about burden sharing and the question how to distribute the more than 850.000 people, who have applied for political asylum in 2015 so far in the European Union, has split the continent.
A talk by Dr. Igor Luksic, Professor for Political Science at the University of Ljubljana and a former Minister and Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia here at ORF in Delhi, offered an opportunity to discuss the different perspectives in Europe on how to deal with the problem.

After a controversial decision by EU ministers to set up a quota system for the distribution of refugees, countries that opposed the plan such as Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic threatened to challenge the EU at the European Court of Justice. However, some of them abandoned the idea in order to deescalate tensions. But also the UK opted out.
Professor Luksic explained that many of the former communist countries in the EU are afraid that they would not be able to deal with a large number of migrants. Some of them are “discontent about their economic situation after the fall of communism” and most of them “are ethnically very homogenous” after decades behind the iron curtain – unlike Britain, France and Germany. ” Poland, for example, is 98 % white and 94 % Catholic”, said Luksic.

Warsaw, however, initially supported the quota system. Luksic’s own country, Slovenia has comparatively little relevance in the discussion since it has only 2 million people and received not more than 86 asylum seekers, but the political scientist emphasized that it has been welcoming.
The countries at the Southern and Eastern periphery of Europe are getting the lion’s share of refugees (who are in their majority from Syria) through the Mediterranean or the Balkan. But many of them actually do not want to stay there but are headed for Germany and Scandinavia. The surge of people arriving in Hungary made it the country with the highest number of asylum applications in proportion to its population (1450 refugees per 100,000 in Hungary compared with 323 in Germany and 30 in the UK).

OPM Just Now Figured Out How Much Data It Owns



Months after it announced it was hacked, the agency has finally put together an inventory of its own servers. 
When the government announced this summer that more than 4 million federal employees had their personal information stolen—likely by Chinese hackers—lawmakers and victims were outraged. Officials pointed fingers, the FBI threatened retaliation, and the government handed out meager compensation: a free year of credit monitoring for the affected workers.
Things only got worse from there. It soon became clear that the Office of Personnel Management had been breached more than once, and that the agency’s original estimate of the damage could be low.

Government workers who hadn’t heard from the government about the first breach began to wonder if their data was caught up in a potentially much bigger hack. It took four weeks, but the answer finally came, and the difference in scale was astounding.
More than 22 million people—government employees, retirees, and their relatives—were affected by the data breaches atOPM. Of those people, the agency initially said, about 1 million also had their fingerprints revealed. Months later, it returned with another update: The number of fingerprints lost to hackers was in fact more than five times higher than initially estimated.

Why did this agency, which functions as the federal government’s human-resources department, have so much trouble protecting its data? For one, it didn’t know how much it had to begin with.
According to its inspector general, at the time of the breaches,OPM did not have a complete inventory of the servers, databases, and network devices that it owns, maintains, and operates.