11 January 2016

Pathankot attack aimed at probing Modi govt's red lines: Christine Fair

Q&A with C Christine Fair, associate professor, Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
Bhaswar Kumar | New Delhi January 9, 2016
C Christine Fair

The Pathankot attack is not a spontaneous response to recent developments; it is a manifestation of the Pakistani national security strategy to pursue its revisionist agenda against India, says C CHRISTINE FAIR, author of Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War, and an associate professor in the Peace and Security Studies Program at Georgetown University’s Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service. Fair, who earlier served as a political officer to the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul, tells Bhaswar Kumar in a telephonic interview that there is a consensus within the Indian security establishment that India lacks the offensive capability to defeat Pakistan in a short war.

The January 2 attack on an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot was allegedly carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) operatives. What are the dynamics between organisations like JeM and Pakistan’s military and civilian establishments?
Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) set up JeM as a competitor to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which the ISI had formed earlier. Prior to the formation of JeM, three Pakistani terrorists – Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Okmar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar – were released by Indian authorities in return for hostages taken during the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight 814 in December 1999. Azhar and the two other terrorists, upon their release in Kandahar, were ferried to Pakistan under ISI escort. Within a few weeks, Azhar announced the formation of JeM in Karachi.

LeT and JeM are ideologically distinct organisations. JeM, like the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, is Deobandi; LeT is Ahle Hadees. Besides, JeM generally conducts suicide attacks, while LeT conducts high-risk missions where the goal is not to die but its operatives would still rather die than be taken captives.
These terrorist groups have an army major assigned to them. It is the majors’ responsibility to ensure the groups’ operatives are trained and they get the required resources. A major can, for example, authorise a small-level attack in Kashmir against an Indian army unit – an offensive that does not have major strategic implications. On the other hand, every attack outside of Kashmir has to have the army chief’s imprimatur, given the likely strategic implications – after all, if the Americans get upset and hold up coalition support funding, it is the army chief who will have to answer.
The Pathankot attack came within a week of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lahore and the resumption of talks with Pakistan. Have the terrorists and their handlers achieved their goal by creating a hurdle for the peace process?

Raid on Air Force Base Reveals India’s Dysfunction

By John Elliott On 1/7/16

Update |When Narendra Modi was elected India’s prime minister, the main hope was that he would transform the muddled and inefficient way in which many of the country’s institutions and organizations are run.
Economic reforms, which dominate media and parliamentary debate, are also important, but Modi was primarily seen as a capable regional politician and leader who could produce administrative change nationally.

Twenty months after last year’s landslide election victory, his failure to make significant changes was graphically demonstrated by an attack last weekend on an Indian Air Force base at Pathankot in the state of Punjab.
The base was not properly protected or capable of being defended against terrorism, despite being just 25 kilometers from the border with Pakistan, and the response by security forces was muddled and badly organized.
The event threatens to undermine Modi’s more innovative approach to foreign affairs, which led him on Christmas Day to drop in on the Pakistan prime minister in Lahore for a few hours when he was flying back to Delhi from Russia and Afghanistan.

Though sourly criticized by opposition politicians for being more of a photo-op than measured diplomacy the visit, the first by an Indian prime minister to Pakistan in 11 years, could help improve the two countries’ tortuous relationship.
The attack is seen in India as an attempt by extremists, probably supported by Pakistan’s military and secret Inter-Services Intelligence agency, to undermine any progress that the Modi visit might have generated. It coincided with an attempted raid by gunmen on the Indian consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of Mohammad), an Islamist group with close links to the Pakistan military, is believed to have been responsible, and, significantly, Pakistan has not tried to deny that the attackers crossed from its territory into India.

Save national security from the establishment

January 9, 2016,  Josy Joseph
AP GAPS IN THE GRID: “Pathankot has shred to pieces the cycle of terror responses in India: from processing intelligence alerts, mobilising first responders, carrying out counterterror operations under a well-defined command-and-control system, minimising casualties and, finally, obtaining maximum intelligence to thwart possible future attacks.” Picture shows soldiers on watch at the perimeter fence of the Pathankot airbase.
The bungled response to the Pathankot attack underscores the need for a three-pronged revamp: parliamentary oversight, a well-defined national security doctrine and an independent federal commission of accountability.
Most terror attacks in India are characterised by three critical missteps: ignored intelligence inputs, inconsistent security response, and heavy casualties.
Consider, for instance, the Pathankot and the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks. A few days before the boat with terrorists actually landed in Mumbai, the Intelligence Bureau had details of the specific location of a satellite phone used by terrorists on a boat moving towards the Mumbai coast. In the run-up to the attacks, there were at least two more specific alerts Indian agencies had about a possible attack on Mumbai.

After 166 people were killed, hundreds injured, and India held to ransom for days and humiliated on the global stage by 10 terrorists, no one was held accountable. Those who were supposed to act on the terror alerts, those who were supposed to guard the seas and those who were supposed to protect Mumbai, all carried on with their professional lives.
In Pathankot the story just got worse. The U.S. agencies had alerted their Indian counterparts around Christmas about a group of half-a-dozen terrorists planning to target the city. By early morning of January 1, a senior police officer reported his ordeal with the terrorists. Despite several hours available to intercept the terrorists in a limited space, New Delhi, in its wisdom, decided to waste time by flying in National Security Guard (NSG) commandos from the national capital, while thousands of trained army soldiers were already stationed all over Pathankot.

As with 26/11, the criminal neglect by those responsible for acting on the information would again be whitewashed. The Central government would again come to the conclusion that no one was responsible for the lapses that resulted in the humiliating attack and the mismanaged counterterror operation.
In all of its contemporary history, India has only been going around in a loop in its inability to tackle armed non-state actors. Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Pakistan-based terror group suspected to be behind the Pathankot attack, was founded by Masood Azhar, who was one of the three terrorists freed by India in yet another embarrassing episode of terrorism on another year-end: on December 31, 1999, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee decided to release three terrorists after Indian Airlines flight IC814 was hijacked to Kandahar, to secure the lives of the passengers.

Why Terrorists Will Continue to Beat Us
By Raghu Raman on 09/01/2016
Asymmetric warfare, the blue book of terrorists, is as old as warfare itself. Sun Tzu mentions this form of war in his 300 BCE treatise, and history is replete with countless instances where numerically smaller organisations have beaten vastly superior adversaries fighting asymmetrically.

Asymmetry in war means one side is by definition substantially weaker than the other. Predictably, it is this side which resorts to asymmetric war in one variant or the other – guerrilla warfare, insurgency, internal resistance and, in contemporary times, terrorism. As Clausewitz observed ‘war is a mere continuation of politics by other means’. His aphorism highlights two key components of any conflict – military victory and political will. Since the weaker player cannot possibly ‘invade’ the territory of the larger one, nor destroy any significant war waging capability the superior enemy may have, they have no choice but to attack the adversary’s political will. And in that arena they have some advantages.

Whether it was the French and then the Americans who were beaten out of Vietnam, the Soviets who were driven out of Afghanistan by the Mujahideen, or, most recently, the American withdrawal from Iraq, all narratives have one common thread. That while the larger invader or occupier scored higher in military victories, they lost in sustaining the political will to continue the fight. In fact, each of these defeats or withdrawals continued to have a domino effect in the politics of their own countries, with several political leaders losing their positions and, in the case of the Soviet Union, losing the Union itself. This paradox was addressed by Andrew Mack way back in 1975 in his paper aptly titled “Why big nation lose small wars: The politics of asymmetric conflict”. The reasons remain valid even today.

The terrorist’s advantage

Firstly, the weaker player focuses purely on attacking the political will of his adversary. Terror attacks are never launched with the intent to destroy or degrade an adversary’s armies or war waging capabilities. Even in the devastating attacks of 9/11, there was no intent or capability to affect the US war machinery. Instead, the attacks were intended to demonstrate that the political leadership of the country has failed to protect their citizens. Similarly, the 1983 Beirut attack that specifically targeted US and French soldiers and killed 300 of them hardly dented the US war machinery but compelled the peacekeeping force’s withdrawal from Lebanon by demolishing the political will of American leaders to continue. The 26/11 attack in Mumbai saw its own share of political decimation and recriminations against the government, giving fodder to the opposition as well.

In defence of intelligence

THE HINDU I SPY: “The world has become too complicated a place in the past few years for traditional intelligence collection.” Picture shows vehicle checking in Chandigarh after the Pathankot attack.
The Pathankot attack was certainly not an intelligence failure. While there can’t be inputs right down to the last detail, clear warnings had been issued by the IB and State intelligence.
While many dedicated officers worked day and night for years to piece together the growing body of evidence on al Qaeda and to understand the threats, in the end it was not enough to gain the advantage before the 9/11 attacks.

R. K. Raghavan, D. Sivanandhan
 Every terror strike anywhere in the world is invariably followed by a tirade against intelligence agencies for their alleged failure to alert the police on the field. The history of the CIA/FBI (9/11 attacks on New York’s Twin Towers), the MI5 (July 7, 2005 attacks on London’s public transport system) and our own Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (26/11 Mumbai attacks) is replete with instances in which the police could not be tipped off about an impending assault on specific targets. The criticism of intelligence agencies after the recent Pathankot incident, in which at least six terrorists strongly suspected to belong to the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) sneaked into an Indian Air Force (IAF) base, followed the same pattern.

Many reports have conclusively established that in this instance, both the IB and the Punjab State intelligence had sent out clear communications down the line, five days ahead of the terrorist incursion, that there was a huge threat to installations on the border with Pakistan, and therefore the need for extreme preparedness. An impression has gained ground, rightly or wrongly, that the warning had not been taken seriously, either by the local police or the defence installations in the area. As a result, the terrorist group was able to smuggle themselves into the Pathankot airbase and launch a daring attack.

Intelligence and inaction
In our view, here is one instance in which intelligence agencies were not to be blamed. The lapse was most probably on the part of the defence and police personnel in the area in not plugging every possible hole to avert the incursion. The airbase, a little more than 20 sq. km. in extent, is situated close to the border with a hostile neighbour. It did not require any extraordinary vision therefore to reach the conclusion that it was extremely vulnerable to enemy designs at all times, and particularly after information had been received of the incursion of a specific group. There was apparently a chink in the physical security arrangements. This was certainly not an intelligence failure.

When It Comes To Bad Loans Of Banking, The Big Boys Are The Bad Boys

Vivek Kaul, Vivek Kaul is the author of the 'Easy Money' trilogy.
8 Jan, 2016
When it comes to the bad loans of banking large industries have been responsible for a major part of the trouble.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) released the Financial Stability Report on 23 December, 2015. One of the key themes in this report was the fact that large borrowers are the ones who have landed the banking sector in trouble. As the RBI governor Raghuram Rajan wrote in the foreword to the report:
..corporate sector vulnerabilities and the impact of their weak balance sheets on the financial system need closer monitoring….

That is a euphemistic way of saying that corporates are essentially responsible for the rising bad loans of banks. As on 30 September, 2015, the bad loans (gross non-performing advances) of banks were at 5.1 percent of total advances [i.e. loans] of scheduled commercial banks operating in India. The number was at 4.6 percent as on 31 March, 2015. This is a huge jump of 50 basis points in a period of just six months. One basis point is one hundredth of a percentage.
What is the problem here? The inability of large borrowers to continue repaying the loans they have taken on in the years gone by. As on 30 September, 2015, loans to large borrowers made up 64.5 percent of total loans. On the other hand, bad loans held by large borrowers amounted to 87.4 percent of total bad loans.

What this means is that for every Rs 100 of loans given by banks, Rs 64.5 has been given to large borrowers. At the same time of every Rs 100 of bad loans, large borrowers are responsible for Rs 87.4 of bad loans. Hence, large borrowers are clearly responsible for more bad loans.
As on 31 March, 2015, bank loans to large borrowers made up 65.4 percent of total bank loans. At the same time, the bad loans of large borrowers constituted 78.2 percent of the total bad loans. What this means is that for every Rs 100 of loans given by banks, Rs 65.4 was given to large borrowers.

Despite Stalled Reforms, India Is an ‘Oasis of Opportunity’ in 2016


The Make in India lion has not yet begun to roar. Unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2014, all the initiative has attracted so far are foreign direct investment (FDI) promises. Modi has been globetrotting; his end of December excursion was, according to the rival Congress Party, “breakfast in Kabul, tea in Lahore (an unscheduled stopover to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) and dinner in Delhi.” That was cheap political sniping, but Modi’s trips to other capitals — Washington, Moscow, Paris — have been far more expensive. Big-budget defense deals were signed in all three places; the high-cost imports seem to negate the Make in India philosophy of promoting domestic manufacturing.
At home, meanwhile, the reforms process has hit a major roadblock. The key Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill has been delayed thanks to a filibustering Opposition, which dragged in all sorts of peripheral issues — among them, Modi’s “intolerance,” the alleged financial irregularities of finance minister Arun Jaitley and the “vendetta politics” of the government — to hold up proceedings in Parliament. The GST would impose a tax on the manufacture, sale and consumption of goods and services across India and replace the indirect taxes that are currently collected on goods and services by the state and federal government.

“The GST bill, everybody agrees, has substantial benefits to all segments of the economy namely the government, the industry, the intermediaries and, more significantly, the ultimate consumer,” says Ashvin Parekh, managing partner of Ashvin Parekh Advisory Services.

Made in Spite of India
The GST bill delay is one more example of what Ravi Aron, professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School, calls the “made-in-spite-of-India” business model. Work on GST started in 2000 when Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee (of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP) set up a committee to design a model. The committee submitted its report in 2009. By then, a Congress government was in power. But it, too, backed the GST, setting a schedule for implementation by April 1, 2010. The BJP-led Opposition boycotted Parliament and the bill never saw the light of day.

India: Trouble in the Air

Residents of New Delhi are literally choking to death. Can authorities solve the pollution problem?
By Neeta Lal, January 08, 2016
On December 24, 2015, people in India’s capital city of New Delhi – already considered the world’s most polluted city – woke up to a nightmare. Pollution levels across this city of 25.8 million had reached such alarming levels that they were classified in the most “severe” category of PM 2.5 and PM 10. The former had shot up to 295 micrograms per cubic meter and the latter 470, against the recommended upper limits for the two pollutants at 60 and 100 micrograms per cubic meter, respectively.

These toxic levels of pollution exceed those of the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai, internationally notorious for their pollution, and have some severe ramifications for human health. Delhi’s air is redolent of diesel fumes from motorized vehicles, which are now designated as a class I carcinogen by the World Health Organisation and can lead to lung cancer.
According to medical experts, the city’s pollution has also led to a startling spike in the cases of respiratory illness, skin and eye allergies, cardiac arrest, memory loss, depression, and chronic lung damage. Four out of every 10 children in the capital also suffer from severe lung problems.

“The city’s air is a slow poison that is ruining people’s health,” states Dr J.C. Suri, HOD of pulmonology and sleep medicines, Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi. ”The current scenario is extremely worrisome as the citizens are getting exposed to noxious air on a daily basis and for long hours. Vulnerable groups like children are the worst off.”

Can ISIS Gain a Foothold in Balochistan?

There is growing evidence that it is trying to do just that.
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
January 07, 2016
On August 28, 2014, Abdul-Rauf Rigi, alleged to be leading a Sunni sectarian organization called Jaish-al-Nasr, was assassinated in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. The motive for his killing could not be ascertained, but Jaish-al-Nasr had been accused by Iranian officials of carrying out attacks on Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Soon after Rigi’s assassination in Quetta, Iranian Press TV was claiming that he had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS).

A reliable source told The Diplomat that the Jaish-al-Adl is a splinter group of Jundullah, which was spearheaded by Rigi’s brother Abdul-Malik. While on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan in 2010, Abdul-Malik Rigi was arrested by Iranian authorities and subsequently hanged. The source added that soon after his execution in Iran, Jundullah, which Abdul-Malik Rigi had founded in 2003, split into three groups: the Jaish-al-Adl, the Jaish-al-Nasr, and the Lashker-e-Khorasan.
Iranian authorities have accused Jundullah of carrying out a series of attacks, including a suicide bombing on October 18, 2009, which killed six commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Of the three splinter groups, Jaish-al-Adl is believed to be the stronger, and has been blamed for a number of high profile attacks in the wake of the execution of Abdul-Malik Rigi.

For example, on April 8, 2015, the state-run Iranian news agency of Iran reported that eight Iranian border guards had been killed in clashes with militants near the border with Pakistan. On the same day, Jaish-ul-Adl claimed responsibility for the assault through a Facebook account believed to be linked to the organization. According to media reports, Jaish-al-Adl has accepted responsibility for other attacks on Iranian territory. One of deadliest took place in October 2013, when 14 Iranian guards were killed near the Sarawarn area, which is situated on the border. Jaish-al-Adl said that the attack was in retaliation for an alleged Iranian “massacre” in Syria, and was also in response to atrocities Iran is alleged to have committed against Sunni communities, including Baloch youths.

Tashkent syndrome Unable to apply transformative pressures, subjected to strong external pressures ourselves, we reverted to the status quo ante.

Written by K. SHANKAR BAJPAI, Published:Jan 9, 2016, 0:00
About Author
K. Shankar BajpaiThe writer is former ambassador to Pakistan, China and the US, and secretary, MEA
We were surprised into war, ignoring a contingency obvious in the most rudimentary planning; we planned for Tashkent, but concluded without achievement.
On January 10, 1966, the Tashkent Declaration brought an inconclusive war to an inconclusive end. Pakistan failed in its objective without confronting any need to change it. We foiled Pakistan without any lasting effect. We were surprised into war, ignoring a contingency obvious in the most rudimentary planning; we planned for Tashkent, but concluded without achievement.

Arguably, we made the best of a poor job: Stalemate on the ground means stalemate at conference tables. Unable to apply transformative pressures, subjected to strong external pressures ourselves, we reverted to the status quo ante. The opposite case, that we muffed things from start to finish, is equally sustainable. That presumes options, which can only be conjectural but, clearly, we showed deficiency in anticipation and deficiency in handling – two equal weaknesses in statecraft.
Initially rejecting Moscow’s proposed summit, we soon realised it was better than facing the Security Council. Delegations need a dogsbody; returning from three years in Pakistan, I was chosen presumably for that intense experience. Dutifully preparing ordered briefs on all outstanding India-Pakistan issues, I couldn’t imagine discussion of refugee properties, abducted women or even Farakka. What were we really expecting?

Such decision-making was, of course, at more stratospheric levels but the privilege of access to them elicited the answer. We aimed at revising the ceasefire line to retain our gains beyond the old one, and get it accepted as the equivalent of an international frontier — precision of objective, at least. But Pakistan had suffered no setback that could extract such surrender of determined ambition. How to gain our aims, and what if we couldn’t?
The intention was to stick it out, but we ran into a difficulty. Moscow’s initial plea that Tashkent would only be a start, we could keep talking at more Tashkents, proved a ruse. Once there, we found the Russians determined on success. Worse, any fond hopes that our old “friendship” would help us yielded to their deft evenhandedness. Moscow’s illusions of weaning Pakistan away from its then pet hate, China, actually made it rather softer on Ayub Khan, but such are the ways of the world.

The Pakistan-Afghan Nexus: The Culture of Drugs Among Pakistan’s Youth

A growing culture of drug trafficking and use needs strong action.
By Mahboob Mohsin, January 07, 2016
Along its western front, Pakistan shares a 2250 km long border with the war-torn country of Afghanistan. The fact that the border is porous and poorly managed has contributed to multifarious problems for Pakistan. One major problem that does not usually make headlines is the export of opium to Pakistan, with the drug now making its way deep into Pakistani society.

The statistics of opium production in Afghanistan should be truly worrisome for its southeastern neighbor. According to the latest Afghanistan opium survey, the area under cultivation in 2015 is around 183,000 hectares and potential opium production in Afghanistan amounts to 3,300 tons. If we were to rely on the figures provided by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium production in comparison with 2014 has decreased. Yet the number of poppy-free provinces fell in 2015.

Helmand province, which borders Pakistan, tops the list of poppy producers. It represents 47 percent of the total area under cultivation in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, as The Guardian reports, the Taliban presence in Helmand is returning.

Implications for Pakistan
On the other side of the border, as it looks, the culture of substance abuse appears to be of grave concern to no one, with the authorities having virtually made peace with the inflow of various forms of drugs. The supply and demand side of this phenomenon makes it a workable business which benefits many and feeds into terror financing and narco-terrorism. It is a massive cross-border drug trade with enormous sums of money involved. For instance, a U.N. report valued 2014’s crop at $22 billion in Afghanistan (or 4 percent of the country’s GDP). Now the business has taken root in Pakistan.

A False Start for Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder?

Malaysia publically declares that it is not considering the JF-17. How come?
By Benjamin David Baker
January 09, 2016
Not again. The jointly developed Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder has apparently suffered another false start. As the Diplomat reported last month, Malaysian officials previously indicated that they were considering the JF-17 as a contender to its fighter replacement program. Kuala Lumpur’s interest in the aircraft was signaled last month by its High Commissioner to Pakistan, Dr. Hasrul Sani, who, according to the Associated Press of Pakistan, discussed the fighter against the backdrop of boosting the bilateral relationship in general. “I think the Malaysians might be genuinely interested because Pakistan has a respectable defense industry, with the products being considerably cheaper compared to the West due to cheap labor.”

However, Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein has publically denied media reports that the country is considering the JF-17 as part of its Air Force modernization plans last Tuesday. Whether this discrepancy is due to a mistake or speculation on the part of Sani, or whether Kuala Lumpur has changed its mind, is currently unknown. One possibility is that China has requested that Pakistan withdraw its offer to Malaysia, due to tensions in the South China Sea.

Prior to Tuesday’s denial, author, analyst and former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad Brian Cloughley believed the Malaysian interest to be genuine, but cautioned there was more to consider. “Heads of diplomatic missions don’t usually say things publicly that aren’t accurate,” he said. “So there is probably something in this, in that interest appears to have been expressed, but the devil is as always in the detail, and there will have to be agreement by Beijing to any movement toward a deal.”

How South Asia Will Save Global Islam

The South Asian traditions of Islam offer a compelling alternative to the religion’s practice in the Middle East.
By Akhilesh Pillalamarri
January 08, 2016
The Middle East and indeed much of the Islamic world is on fire, driven by the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and worsened by their politicization of Sunni and Shia communities. As Muslim communities come under increasingly radical influence, it sometimes seems to those from other regions that the Islam–at least as seen in the Middle East–is especially austere and harsh. In order to overcome this, one solution advocated by some is the “Turkish model,” which not only attempts to create a secular state but uses the state to intervene in and rework religion to suit the state’s purposes. Yet this too has deleterious effects.

But the world of Islam is not monolithic, nor is it limited to the Middle East, as is often pointed out. The largest population of Muslims in the world lives in South Asia. Per a 2009 survey, an estimated 484 million Muslims live in South Asia, mostly in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, more than the 315 million inhabitants of the Arab world. Over half of Muslims in the Asia-Pacific region and a third of all Muslims are South Asian. India and Pakistan together have as many or more Shia than Iran, and some of the largest Sunni populations in the world. Sunni-Shia tension was rare in South Asia until a few years ago and grew due to increased Saudi influence in mosques. Nonetheless, pluralism is highly valued by South Asian Muslims, 97 percent of whom believe it to be a good thing for there to be freedom of religion for different faiths. This is the greatest percentage of Muslims who believe this in any region of the world, including the West.

While Southeast Asian Islam, primarily represented by Indonesia, the largest majority-Muslim country in the world, is considered culturally and intellectually peripheral to the Muslim world, with few scholars or thinkers of influence and no major centers of Muslim world wide learning, South Asia is, on the other hand, along with the Middle East, the most important region of the Muslim world in terms of influence and importance. There is a very large corpus of religious literature in Urdu. The South Asian tradition of patronage and pilgrimage led to a large presence of Hindustanis, as the Persians called them, and Hindis, as the Arabs called them, in the port cities of the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. Soon enough, these South Asian Muslims came to Mecca by the 19th century, where they constituted 20 percent of the population.

China firm to build mega dam in PoK despite India’s strong opposition

Published January 8, 2016
A Chinese state-run company on Thursday announced plans to go ahead with a mega dam in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), the latest indicator of Beijing moving forward with major projects in the region despite India’s strong opposition.
One of China’s biggest state-run hydropower companies, the China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC) which manages the 22,500 MW Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze river – the world’s largest dam – has signed an agreement to develop the Kohala hydropower project in PoK, the firm said in a statement posted on its website.
This 1,100 MW dam will come up on the Jhelum River, downstream from Muzaffarabad in PoK. The total investment in the project is estimated at $2.4 billion. Both countries had agreed on a 30-year tariff for the dam, according to Pakistani media reports.

The deal for the dam underlines China’s willingness to go forward with major projects in PoK, despite India’s consistent opposition.
Indian officials have pointed out China’s objections to joint exploration projects between India and Vietnam in the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by Beijing.
Beijing, however, has said the ‘purely commercial’ projects were without prejudice to the Kashmir issue and that it was not taking a position on territorial disputes between India and Pakistan.

Why China's Next Aircraft Carrier Will Be Based on Soviet Blueprints

James Goldrick, January 8, 2016

China has at last formally acknowledged that it has a new aircraft carrier under construction, the first to be built in China and the second in the People's Liberation Army-Navy's order of battle.

The PLA Navy appears to have embarked on a substantial carrier program, probably with the intention of creating four and perhaps up to six carrier battle groups (Chinese commentators have publicly acknowledged the need for at least three units in order to have an effective carrier capability). The rehabilitated ex-Russian carrier Liaoning, designated Carrier 16, has been the start of this effort, although its reliability has yet to be confirmed.
Experience gained with the ship will be used to evolve the follow-on units which are entering production. However, the challenge involved with these new carriers will not so much be the build, but the design. That the first new-built carrier will be in most respects a copy of the Soviet designed Liaoning should be no surprise. This is China's only practicable course of action if it is to get another unit into service in good time.

The PLA Navy was able to extract eight truckloads of detailed plans of the Liaoning from the Ukrainian vendors. These will have to be the foundation of the present activity because China is now facing the same reality that has dogged the efforts of all the major navies of the last century. The greatest restraint on naval expansion in the industrial age has been neither budgets nor disarmament treaties. It has in fact been the lack of drafting expertise to translate the design concepts of naval architects into the detailed compartment-by-compartment drawings that allow the shipbuilders to do their work (arguably, this has been a key problem for Australia with the new Air Warfare Destroyers). The scale of the effort involved is demonstrated by the report that the Liaoning's documentation amounted to many tons of paper.

Revealed: China's Lethal Low-Cost Fighter Goes Global

Dave Majumdar, January 8, 2016
Beijing and Islamabad have officially signed on their first export customers for the Chengdu/Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) JF-17 Thunder—which is also known as the FC-1 Xiaolong in its native China. Nigeria and Sri Lanka are set to become the first customers for the Chinese jet.

According to Nigeria’s Punch, the oil-rich African nation expects to buy three JF-17 in 2016. “Giving details of the weapons to be acquired for the operation of the Navy, the fiscal document states that the sum of N5bn ($25 million) is budgeted for the procurement of three JF-17 Thunder multirole combat aircraft,” the paper reported citing a leaked budget document.
Meanwhile, Defense News reveals that Sri Lanka has sign on to buy an initial eight JF-17 jets during Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif's three-day visit to Colombo. News of the deal is likely to be met with fury from India, which has been actively discouraging its neighbor from forging stronger defense links with Islamabad and Beijing. The JF-17 would be used to replace a portion of Sri Lanka’s existing fleet of Chengdu F-7s, Israeli Kfirs and Soviet-built MiG-27 strike aircraft.

The JF-17’s success on the export market thus far reveals that there is demand for a low-end, low-cost fighter aircraft that is build without U.S. components—which are subject to Washington’s export controls. It’s a part of the fighter market that has largely been ceded by Western manufacturers who are focusing their efforts on extremely expensive high-end combat aircraft, including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale.

Chinese Grand Strategy: Interests, Institutions, Influence

http://thediplomat.com/2016/01/chinese-grand-strategy-interests-institutions-influenceBy Mercy A. Kuo and Angelica O. Tang
January 06, 2016
The Rebalance authors Mercy Kuo and Angie Tang regularly engage subject-matter experts, policy practitioners and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into the U.S. rebalance to Asia. This conversation with Dr. Tom Kane – Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Security Studies, University of Hull, United Kingdom and author of numerous publications, including Strategy: Key Thinkers, Understanding Contemporary Strategy, and Chinese Grand Strategy and Maritime Power, among others – is the 26th in “The Rebalance Insight Series.”
What are the core elements of Chinese grand strategy and how have they evolved from the ancient period to the present day?

The founder of China’s Zhou Dynasty established the principle that his country should be a large state defined by its cultural ideals. Although China has split up at numerous points throughout its history, its leaders have consistently returned to this principle. They hold to it today. Moreover, as China has come into contact with powerful outsiders, Chinese leaders have become increasingly aware that, for their country to thrive as an independent state, they need to take full advantage of its geographical position and economic capabilities. These are the core elements of China’s grand strategy, and the government of the People’s Republic appears to be carrying out a successful long-term program of responding to them.

The most widely recognized parts of this program have been the economic reforms of the 1980s, and Beijing’s subsequent attempts to achieve national prosperity. As the PRC’s growing role in international trade has made it more influential, it has displayed an increasing willingness to engage with international organizations, and to lobby within them for its own interests. The PRC has also used its wealth to modernize its armed forces. Although its military capabilities remain modest when compared, for instance, to those of the United States, Beijing appears to be borrowing another concept from Chinese tradition and practicing the “empty fortress” tactic of using assertive behavior to achieve a reputation for power. Since neither China nor its potential opponents wish to escalate their disputes to actual war, this reputation often becomes reality – a concept examined in my Parameters analysis on China’s power projection capabilities.

China's Economy: A Bump in the Road or the End of the Road?

The debate on China’s economy, plus more on the new aircraft carrier and China-North Korea relations. Friday links.
By Shannon Tiezzi, January 09, 2016
Time for your Friday China links, starting with the great debate over the health of China’s economy…
Bill Bishop, editor of the Sinocism China Newsletter, gives his take on the current state of the Chinese economy. For Bishop, the major problem is not the current troubles in the stock market per se, but what those difficulties say about the ability of Chinese leaders to make smart economic policy. “[S]o long as Xi is making it clear that politics, not markets, are in command (政治挂帅), the odds increase that the upcoming Year of the Monkey will turn out to be the Year of the Bear,” Bishop writes.

Bishop’s piece came out just before the news that China was suspending its new “circuit-breaker” mechanism (though he predicted that move). As the Wall Street Journal reports, the China Securities Regulatory Commission admitted that the mechanism wasn’t working as expected, but instead was exacerbating the volatility it was meant to control. That’s a sharp departure from Tuesday, when the CSRC was still trying to claim the circuit breaker had successfully “calmed down investors and played a positive role in protecting their rights,” as per Xinhua.
Meanwhile, Xinhua’s new “Economic Watch” column debuted with a surprisingly pessimistic look at the state of the Chinese economy. However, it framed the current difficulties as necessary growing pains before reform kicks in and the economy stabilizes. “China is braced for unavoidable pains which it expects to precede future gains,” Xinhua said. The piece has more details on what 2016’s reforms are likely to be – notably attacking “zombie companies” as part of China’s emphasis on “supply-side reforms.”

The Great Economic Recasting: Can China Pull It Off?

Jan 07, 2016
The year 2016 started with a bang in China, but unfortunately, not with traditional firecrackers. Instead, economic data showing the 10th-straight month of slowing domestic manufacturing sent China’s stock markets into a downward spiral, triggering the market’s newly instituted circuit breakers and shutting down trading on January 4 and again on January 7. The Shanghai Composite Index dropped 6.9% on January 4, triggering a worldwide selloff and a dour start to the year in global equity markets. On January 7, stocks dropped by more than 7% after just 29 minutes of trading.
In addition to jitters about the domestic economy, says Marshall Meyer, an emeritus professor of management at Wharton, the “perpetual low level conflict in the Mideast” is rattling China. “Disruption of energy resources in China poses real difficulties for them and tells you where their real Achilles heel lies.”

With that stunning debut, in many ways China’s economic outlook in 2016 might not be so difficult to predict. The forecast calls for continuing slowdown — with the Chinese central government likely to declare an official GDP target of around 6.5% for the New Year, down from around 7.5% for 2015. The government is likely to announce actual GDP growth for the old year at 6.8%, according to experts, while the International Monetary Fund anticipates 6.3% for 2016.
But despite the overall trajectory, in many other respects, China’s 2016 economic outlook is entirely unpredictable — perhaps more so than at any other time in recent memory, say Wharton and other experts. “Uncertainty is the watchword for investors, developers or anyone doing business in China in 2016 Twitter ,” says Minyuan Zhao, a management professor at Wharton. “Of course, slowdown is the biggest theme. But after 30 years of fast growth, no one should be surprised by that, especially with China’s demographic change [to an aging population] and over-investment since the 2008 financial crisis.”

Where the Iran-Saudi Showdown Will Erupt Next

From Syria to Bahrain, the Tehran-Riyadh rivalry has plenty of flashpoints.
Matt Purple, January 8, 2016
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have soured before.

There was the time during the Iran-Iraq War when two Iranian warplanes crossed the so-called Fahd Line and were shot down by Saudi F-15s, triggering an air standoff. And there was the 1987 outburst of violence in Mecca that killed 275 Iranian pilgrims, leading angry demonstrators in Tehran to occupy the Saudi embassy—having your facility ransacked by mobs, possibly rent-a-mobs, is a feature of Iranian diplomacy.
The difference this time is the stakes are much higher. Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was likely intended as a sop to restive conservatives. The government wanted to reaffirm its commitment to anti-Shia civic religion and distract from the death sentence it gave to forty-three alleged Al Qaeda members. But Nimr’s killing predictably infuriated Tehran, so those mobs reappeared to storm the Saudi embassy, and Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties with Iran last weekend. All this, as the West is trying to cajole Iran back into the international community and stem a refugee crisis. The consequences could be enormous.

Start with Syria, where Saudi Arabia and Iran are essentially fighting a proxy war. Riyadh is trying to marshal the disparate rebels into a coalition while Tehran backs Bashar al-Assad. The two sides have since sat down for peace talks—a miracle in itself—but the negotiations have been rocky. One of the biggest stumbling blocks is simply that the Saudis and Iranians don’t trust each other. Expect the disdain at the negotiating table to be heightened, even as Saudi Arabia insists the talks will go on.

Experts Weigh In: What is the future of al-Qaida and the Islamic State?

Barak Mendelsohn and William McCants | January 7, 2016

Will McCants: As we wind down another year in the so-called Long War and begin another, it’s a good time to reflect on where we are in the fight against al-Qaida and its bête noire, the Islamic State. Both organizations have benefited from the chaos unleashed by the Arab Spring uprisings but they have taken different paths. Will those paths converge again or will the two organizations continue to remain at odds? Who has the best strategy at the moment? And what political changes might happen in the coming year that will reconfigure their rivalry for leadership of the global jihad?
To answer these questions, I’ve asked some of the leading experts on the two organizations to weigh in over. The first is Barak Mendelsohn, an associate professor of political science at Haverford College and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). He is author of the brand new The al-Qaeda Franchise: The Expansion of al-Qaeda and Its Consequences.
Barak Mendelsohn: Al-Qaida attacked the U.S. homeland on 9/11, unprepared for what would follow. There was a strong disconnect between al-Qaida’s meager capabilities and its strategic objectives of crippling the United States and of bringing about change in the Middle East. To bridge that gap, Osama bin Laden conveniently and unrealistically assumed that the attack on the United States would lead the Muslim masses and all other armed Islamist forces to join his cause. The collapse of the Taliban regime and the decimation of al-Qaida’s ranks quickly proved him wrong.

Can Germany Face the Hard Truth About the Refugee Crisis?

The nation and its politics are being violently divided by the influx.
Malte Lehming, January 8, 2016

No country is experiencing greater difficulties in dealing with the Middle East refugee crisis than Germany. The big political parties are all at odds. The Christian Social Union, the sister party of Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, wants an upper ceiling on immigrants, compulsory integration for refugees and protection of borders. The Christian Democratic Union wants to police Europe’s borders more effectively and to combat the sources of the stream of refugees. Meanwhile, the Social Democratic Party is warning conservatives against fomenting panic, but doesn’t explain how. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière is condemning general suspicions about refugees, but wants to deport the bad apples among them more quickly. Merkel continues to proclaim, “Wir schaffen das”—“we’ll get it done”—but is convincing fewer and fewer Germans that she will. Capping all the nonsense is the constant refrain of all the parties that a European solution is imperative, when they all know it will never happen.

In fact, Germany cannot find any support in Europe for its stance on the refugee question: in 2015 alone it accepted 1.1 million. Its partners are demonstratively distancing themselves from Berlin, a tendency that will become even more pronounced following the untoward events in the city of Cologne, where dozens of German women were sexually assaulted during a melee by over a thousand North African and Arab men on New Year’s Eve. Now everyone in Europe is talking about “the Cologne atmosphere,” which they would prefer to avoid.

The debate in Germany is being further stoked by all those who have to enforce the government’s wishy-washy line. The police, for example, are sounding alarms because they are understaffed and overwhelmed. Educators are sounding alarms because there aren’t enough instructors for introductory courses about living in Germany. Towns are sounding alarms because they’ve run out of room for more refugees. And it’s unclear how long sports facilities will be used as temporary hostels, because no one knows how many more refugees will arrive.

The result is dire: Europe’s Schengen system is on its deathbed. Asylum homes are attacked daily. And the authorities are shutting down online forums because of the viciousness of comments about asylum seekers.

Nuclear weapons risk greater than in cold war, says ex-Pentagon chief

William Perry lists a series of factors that he says mean the chance of a ‘calamity’ is higher today than in the 1970s and 80s
The first US test of a dry fuel hydrogen bomb, which took place on Bikini Atoll in 1954. Photograph: US Air Force/Corbis
Julian Borger World affairs editor
Thursday 7 January 2016
The risks of a nuclear catastrophe – in a regional war, terrorist attack, by accident or miscalculation – is greater than it was during the cold war and rising, a former US defence secretary has said.
William Perry, who served at the Pentagon from 1994 to 1997, made his comments a few hours before North Korea’s nuclear test on Wednesday, and listed Pyongyang’s aggressive atomic weapons programme as one of the global risk factors.

He also said progress made after the fall of the Soviet Union to reduce the chance of a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia was now unravelling.
“The probability of a nuclear calamity is higher today, I believe, that it was during the cold war,” Perry said. “A new danger has been rising in the past three years and that is the possibility there might be a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia … brought about by a substantial miscalculation, a false alarm.”

Alongside the risks stemming from cyber-attack, North Korea’s nuclear programme and volatility between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, Russia’s military interventions in Ukraine and Syria and the increasingly assertive posture of its air and sea patrols have brought Russian forces into close proximity to their western counterparts.
A new danger has been rising … the possibility there might be a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia William Perry, former US defence secretary In a new study, the arms control advocacy group Global Zero analysed 146 such incidents over the past 21 months, classing two of them as high risk. It deemed 33 provocative in that they “stray from the norm of routine incidents, resulting in more aggressive or confrontational interaction that can quickly escalate to higher-risk incidents or even conflict”.

Some Random Thoughts On Inequality

07 January 2016
by Dirk Ehnts, Econoblog101
I am reading some articles on inequality to see where the debate is today. Let's start with last year's review of Piketty's Capital in the 21st century by Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft:
I very much agree with Piketty that:
High levels of inequality are a problem - messing up economic incentives, tilting democracies in favor of powerful interests, and undercutting the ideal that all people are created equal.
Capitalism does not self-correct toward greater equality - that is, excess wealth concentration can have a snowball effect if left unchecked.
Governments can play a constructive role in offsetting the snowballing tendencies if and when they choose to do so.

My feeling is that most economists - those that are on the scientific side, and not on the ideologically bound side - would agree with Piketty (and Gates) as well. Economic textbooks of the neoclassical kind tell us that wage equals marginal product of labour. That, however, is fiercely disputed by many economists. There is an article on Crooked Timber that makes this point under the title of It's bargaining power all the way down:
But when we realize that changes in the value of existing assets are central not just to the decline in wealth ratios in the mid-20th century, but to their whole evolution - including their rise in recent decades - then the mid-20th century decline no longer looks like a special case. It's bargaining power, it's politics, all the way down. The same kind of redistributive projects - the decommodification of basic services like healthcare, pensions, and education; the increased bargaining power of workers within the firm - that were responsible for the fall in the capital share in the mid 20th century were responsible, in reverse, for its rise since 1980. In which case we can learn as much about our possible futures from the 20th century decline in the claims of property over humanity, as from their recent reassertion.

The New Generation of Operational Concepts

by George M. Gross
Journal Article | January 8, 2016

The Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) is the first in a new generation of operational concepts that envisions a change in the American way of war to respond to the challenges of anti-access/ area denial (A2AD), hybrid, and ambiguous warfare. The new concepts have several striking features in common: they envision a dramatic increase in the levels of military activity in the early phases of operations as well as increased modularity, agility, and flexibility across the functions of war; they herald a tighter integration of intelligence and operations and a renewed emphasis on deception, stealth, and ambiguity to complicate enemy calculations; they imply new concepts of combined arms and sea power; and they facilitate a philosophic return to the roots of war.

Yet in a sense the members of the new generation of concepts are not operational concepts at all. After almost forty years there is still no formal definition of an operational concept in Department of Defense, Joint, or Service publications. Instead doctrine now folds operational concepts under the rubric of the Joint Operating Concept. The change in nomenclature involves a shift in the focus of operational concepts from their relationship to the operational art to their consequences for military capabilities development with a greater emphasis on technology and material systems than before. With this change, operational concepts are directed less exclusively to operational commanders and more to the phalanx of capabilities developers across the four services, including the institutions of war-gaming and experimentation and the science and technology enterprises.

In this paper, I’ll describe features of the new family of concepts, highlighting aspects that set them apart from the previous generation of concepts; I’ll discuss the idea of operational art in order to provide a broader framework for considering the evolution of our military operational concepts; and I’ll consider whether the shift in the language of concept development from the operational concept to the joint operating concept makes the former term obsolete or whether it leaves out something important.