30 May 2016

*** ‘President’ Modi’s Office

06 June 2016 National Opinion
All right-thinking citizens should cherish how the PMO is game-changing India, and that too with just watchful eyes and invisible hands
Srivatsa Krishna

As one takes a hard look at the last two years of the Modi administration, while there have been some disappointments in terms of pending promises, there have been significant achievements, which would be of huge value to any economy. This piece looks at these achievements through the lens of IAS officers in the all-powerful PMO and check whether it is indeed “the worst PMO ever”, as was averred by one of India’s most influential commentators, Arun Shourie. Moreover, it tries to, as an outsider with some inside perspective, analyse the major leitmotif underlying the working of the PMO, what drives it and what its drawbacks may be.

First, unarguably, this PMO is a reflection, and has the unmistakable stamp, of India’s first presidential prime minister, Narendra Modi. The campaign he led was a remarkable success. It was a presidential campaign and as such it is no surprise that the broad complexion of the PMO is of a strong and presidential one that excels in driving the ministries to perform.
One example alone would drive home the point of the benefits of the PM’s strong, aut­hentic leadership. His global outreach is not just giving India the moral high ground abroad, which has significant benefits at the global roundtable, but is also powering economic diplomacy of a rare kind. It is hardly known that the Rs 90,000-crore Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail Link is happening as a result of a loan at 0.1 per cent interest over a 50-year time period from Japan, and this is because of the personal relationship that the PM fostered with the Japanese!

Second, for the first time ever, the PMO is a collection of officers and private sector staff of extraordinarily high integrity—high performers who bring to the table skills that are mutually exclusive but collectively exhaustive. Each has been handpicked for a certain skill or specialised knowledge and given the freedom to conceive and deliver. So, while the PM paints the big picture, takes quick decisions and debottlenecks obdurate ministries (and ministers), the officers build consensus and persuade the ministries to own projects and deliver. These are all firsts for any PMO ever. PMOs in the past have usually followed the bell curve when it comes to officers, but in this one, almost all of them exceed it.

Third, almost every single officer in the PMO is like electricity, invisible but indispensable, and they are on all the time. Each one has performed exceptionally, and that should be recognised and quietly appreciated.
Principal secretary to prime minister Nripendra Mishra, 72, works 24x7x365—untiringly, more than most officers half his age. His strengths are his ability to bang heads inside a room and take quick decisions on file. For example, in a matter of four meetings, he restarted the famous Enron power project by getting RGPPL, railways, power ministry and the Maharashtra government to come on one page. Today, the plant produces 500 MW. More importantly, this prevented IDBI and SBI loans of over Rs 5,000 crore from becoming NPAs!
It took the PMO just four meetings to restart the Enron power project by getting RGPPL, railways, power ministry and Maharashtra on one page.

Additional principal secretary P.K. Mishra, regarded as the PM’s alter ego, and additional secretary Bhaskar Khulbe make a kind of Kohli-Gayle partnership, where the latter is the resident Wikipedia on everything human resources. They do what Jim Collins called “Get the wrong people off the bus, get the right people on the bus”. Their unique 360-degree multi-source feedback model is exceptional and has led to ano­ther major achievement of this government: almost zero corruption in high places. Be it government or judiciary or defence or PSUs or banks or the CBI, they have ensured officials of integrity and competence occupy key decision-making positions, leading to a massive clean-up of large procurements. For the first time, officials sitting anywhere in India can aspire for key positions, without need for patronage. They have been wringing out corruption like muck from a dirty towel and this government has not got as much credit for eradicating corruption as the preceding ones got criticism for the corruption.
T.V. Somanathan, A.K. Sharma, Tarun Bajaj, Anurag Jain and Debashree Mukherjee form the brains trust of the PMO. Their exceptional intellect and attention to detail powers the PMO’s ideas, coordination among ministries and outstanding execution.

Why Reliance is struggling to launch its 4G service

Reliance's famed project management skills are being severely tested as its strains every sinew to roll out its mammoth broadband wireless network. At its core, questions are being raised about its centralised organisational model for managing its new ventures Indrajit Gupta
May 27, 2015
It may not be long before India's telecom market is shaken up by the launch of Reliance Industries' 4G wireless broadband service. No one is quite sure when the soft launch is likely, but one thing is certain: there will be plenty of hoopla and hype as the launch date draws near. The project is being watched around the world, given that Reliance has committed Rs 70,000 crore to build an ultra-modern telecom network that could help India leap-frog into the forefront of the communications revolution. The formidable technological challenges of building a broadband wireless network, spread across 5,000 cities and towns, will test even Reliance, which prides itself on its superior project execution capabilities.

Beyond these technological challenges, the project will be a crucial test for Reliance's top-down, centralised decision making model. Employee engagement and empowerment, a company-wide culture of innovation and a high trust environment are the cornerstones of the modern day enterprise. Reliance's new ventures, on the other hand, have typically relied on a different and unique operating philosophy.

The project will be a crucial test for Reliance's top-down, centralised decision making model.
It is a culture which places emphasis on results, where the end is far more important than the means. Almost all key decisions on vision and strategy are taken at the very apex of the organisation. Every employee, irrespective of their seniority, is expected to carry out a given set of tasks and is evaluated rigorously at a periodic level. There's plenty of chatter about these no-holds barred review meetings, where it isn't uncommon for senior executives to be publicly upbraided for missing deadlines. Reliance also follows an old practice of assigning the same project to two separate project teams, without either of them being aware of that.

This operating style has been a leitmotif of Reliance's new venture forays. Yet, like Pied Piper, Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani has been consistently able to attract top-level leadership talent from India and abroad. And the conglomerate has gained a global reputation for project management and execution.
It is another matter that many of these marquee hires earning multi-crore salaries seldom stay very long; or even if they do, the early promise of a blank canvas to paint on evaporates even before the first couple of months are over. They quickly reconcile themselves to being cogs in a large wheel. That Reliance isn't seen to be a great place to work is no secret. It isn't as if attempts haven't been made in recent times to change the culture. But they've been superficial at best. Inspired by Google, RIL got a designer to paint its walls in bold, new colours and adorn them with inspiring posters. Last year, it planned a big company wide webcast and press conference to announce new employee engagement initiatives, involving the chairman and his top team. As it turned out, someone forgot to tell employees and even their HR leaders across many group companies and they got to know about it from newspaper reports the next morning.

All India ex-servicemen association demands abolition of AFT benches

"These institutions have become source of re-employment for retired Judges as well Retired Lt Generals and Major Generals who cannot act against the government,” said Sehgal.
Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | Published:May 27, 2016 

The All India Ex-servicemen Welfare Association has demanded the abolition of Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) benches functioning in various part of the country, including its principal bench at New Delhi, on the plea that these have failed to provide relief to defence services litigants and are instead acting in favour of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The association’s chairman, Bhim Sen Sehgal, has written to the President, Prime Minister and the defence minister saying that the instead of providing help to the defence services litigants, AFT has done immense damage to the cause of justice to defence personnel, ex-servicemen, pensioners, war widows and disabled soldiers. According to Sehgal, a practising advocate at the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the AFT, retired Generals, who constitute the members of the bench have are not acting fairly for the reason that the AFT benches are functioning directly under the MoD instead of Ministry of Law and Justice.

“These institutions have become source of re-employment for retired Judges as well Retired Lt Generals and Major Generals who cannot act against the government,” said Sehgal. He added that latest representation with regard to abolition of AFT in absence of corrective measures has been acknowledge by office of the Prime Minister.
“How can justice be expected from retired defence officers who were, till some months ago, a part of the same system? The AFT was created in terms of judgement of the Supreme Court where it was directed that the Tribunal should be manned by ‘civilians’ and not from people associated with defence. The AFT should be a temple of justice, not a post-retirement home for facilities and salary,” the association chairman said.

He added that the AFT should only be manned by sitting judges or legal luminaries and not by retired military officers since all orders by the AFT are to be passed against the military and defence establishment. “In fact, in certain cases it is a mockery of justice, for example, in case of criminal appeal in death sentences, the appeal of a civilian goes to a division bench of two sitting judges of a High Court while in AFT it goes to a retired judge of a High Court who is sitting with a retired military officer. Can a retired military officer comment on legality of death sentence or other complicated legal issues? he questioned.
The association was also pointed out that the AFT has not been given any power of civil contempt which is available to all similar tribunals, such as the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). In its representation, the association has said that the MoD and defence services continue to ignore AFT decisions and there is no power to punish them. Most of the judgments/orders of the AFT given since its formation have not been implemented till date by the defence services, the association claims.

Cutting nose to spite face

Friday, 27 May 2016 | Deepak Sinha | i

To reduce revenue expenditure, look at civilians paid from Defence Estimates, not Services’s non-combat manpower
The Minister for Defence has recently announced the formation of an 11-member committee, led by Lieutenant General DB Shekatkar (Retd), to look into areas of overlap and convergence within the three Forces — the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. The committee will also identify areas to “rationalise manpower”, examine possible areas of multi-tasking by troops and suggest ways to “optimise” combat potential by bringing in more technology instead of more boots.
This is to ensure that the burgeoning revenue expenditure, the monies spent on pay, allowances and pensions among other things, is brought under control so that more funds are available for capital expenditure, especially acquisition of modern weapon systems. As Bhartendu Kumar Singh of the Indian Defence Accounts Service points out, “The Accounts Branch of the Indian Air Force, for example, has 492 commissioned officers and 7,000 men catering to the pay matters of 1,60,000 officers and men in the Air Force. On a competitive note, the same can be provided by 300 people on the civilian side very easily.”

There can be no two opinions that such a detailed examination is necessary and must be undertaken periodically, except to suggest that the period of three months given to the Committee to complete its task seems grossly insufficient, if it is to do justice to this critical issue. In fact, one may even suggest that by restricting this examination only to the military, the Defence Minister has not gone far enough. The reasons for this are not far to seek. The MOD, for example, has sanctioned posts of 5, 85,000 civilians, which is more than the active strength of the Pakistan Army. The MOD spends more than Rs1,000 crore annually on pay, allowances and establishment of the Ministry of Finance personnel who are attached to it. The civilian-manned Military Engineering Services spends nearly double the amount of the work it does on its own establishment costs. The Defence Research and Development Organisation only utilises 39 per cent of its budget on research and development while the remainder is spent on establishment costs.
The burgeoning pension bill, which is expected to touch Rs60,000 crore this year after taking into account the sanctioning of One-Rank-One-Pension, is another problem. While reduction of manpower will certainly go some way in controlling this issue, the fact is that the per capita expenditure on 25 lakh military veterans and their kin amounts to approximately Rs1.5 lakh annually, while the four lakh civilians paid from the defence pension budget receive an average of Rs5.38 lakh a year, which will shoot up astronomically as and when the Seventh Pay Commission report is implemented.

Quite Possibly the Dumbest Military Concept Ever: A 'Limited' Nuclear War

May 27, 2016
In the event of a rapidly escalating conflict with the Russians, should the United States conduct a “limited” nuclear strike to coerce the enemy to back down? Or, in Cold War nukespeak, should the United States “escalate to deescalate” the situation?
Believe it or not, that is a real question that is being debated in the Pentagon today. And the answer is no. Thinking we can use nuclear weapons in a “limited” way without inviting nuclear catastrophe is a dangerous fantasy.

Here is the hypothetical scenario. Russia decides to annex part, or all of, NATO ally Latvia, much like it did with the Crimean Peninsula. Russian forces cross the border, and NATO is forced to respond with a mixed force of U.S. Army brigades, U.S. Marines, air wings, special forces and allied personnel.
All of the sudden, a full-fledged war is threatening to engulf Northern Europe.
Fearing that the fighting will spill over into the rest of Europe, or even break out in Poland or the Ukraine, the United States launches a “tactical” nuclear strike against Russian forces on the border of Latvia.
The hope is that this will cause Russian commanders to pause amidst the destruction, and take a second to reconsider their options now that nuclear force has been used.

In theory, that pause would be enough time for cooler heads to prevail — and for the State Department to cable the Kremlin and hammer out some kind of ceasefire.
To Pentagon planners, this scenario is a legitimate one.
The Air Force already has plans to field a new, low-yield, air-launched nuclear cruise missile that it refers to as the Long Range Standoff Weapon, which critics argue is tailored for limited nuclear war fighting.
“Beyond deterrence, an LRSO-armed bomber force provides the president with uniquely flexible options in an extreme crisis, particularly the ability to signal intent and control escalation,” Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons-buyer,told Congress.
But once we’ve opened Pandora’s Box, is it possible to close it again? With thousands of Russian soldiers dead or dying on the Latvian border, would the Russians really just stand down?

Would the United States?
There’s no way to know for sure. But the little data that exists suggests no.

The Desperate Plight Of Petro-States

27 May 2016 Business Book Extract

Once so wealthy from oil sales, petro-states are now beset by internal strife or are on the brink of collapse as oil prices remain at ruinously low levels
Michael Klare
The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources
By Michael Klare
Metropolitan Books | Pages: 320 | Rs. 699
Pity the poor petro-states. Once so wealthy from oil sales that they could finance wars, mega-projects, and domestic social peace simultaneously, some of them are now beset by internal strife or are on the brink of collapse as oil prices remain at ruinously low levels. Unlike other countries, which largely finance their governments through taxation, petro-states rely on their oil and natural gas revenues. Russia, for example, obtains about 50% of government income that way; Nigeria, 60%; and Saudi Arabia, a whopping 90%. When oil was selling at $100 per barrel or above, as was the case until 2014, these countries could finance lavish government projects and social welfare operations, ensuring widespread popular support. Now, with oil below $50 and likely to persist at that level, they find themselves curbing public spending and fending off rising domestic discontent or even incipient revolt.
At the peak of their glory, the petro-states played an outsized role in world affairs. The members of OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, earned an estimated $821 billion from oil exports in 2013 alone. Flush with cash, they were able to exert influence over other countries through a wide variety of aid and patronage operations. Venezuela, for example, sought to counter U.S. influence in Latin America via its Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a cooperative network of mostly leftist governments. Saudi Arabia spread its influence throughout the Islamic world in part by financing the efforts of its ultra-conservative Wahhabi clergy to establish madrassas (religious academies) throughout the Islamic world. Russia, under Vladimir Putin, used its prodigious oil wealth to rebuild and refurbish its military, which had largely disintegrated following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lesser members of the petro-state club like Angola, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan became accustomed to regular fawning visits from the presidents and prime ministers of major oil-importing countries.

That, of course, was then, and this is now. While these countries still matter, what worries these presidents and prime ministers now is the growing likelihood of civil violence or even state collapse. Take, for example, Venezuela, long an ardent foe of U.S. policy in Latin America, but today the potential site of a future bloody civil war between supporters and opponents of the current government. Similar kinds of internal strife and civil disorder are likely in oil-producing states like Algeria and Nigeria, where the potential for the further growth of terrorist violence amid chaos is always high.
Some petro-states like Venezuela and Iraq already appear to be edging up to the brink of collapse. Others like Russia and Saudi Arabia will be forced to reorient their economies if they hope to avoid such future outcomes. Whatever their degree of risk, all of them are already experiencing economic hardship, leaving their leaders under growing pressure to somehow alter course in the bleakest of circumstances — or face the consequences.

A Busted Business Model
Petro-states are different from other countries because the fates of their governing institutions are so deeply woven into the boom-and-bust cycles of the international petroleum economy. The challenges they face are only compounded by the unnaturally close ties between their political leaderships and senior officials of their state-owned or state-controlled oil and natural gas industries. Historically, their rulers have placed close allies or even family members in key industry positions, ensuring continuing government control and in many cases personal enrichment as well. In Russia, for example, the management of Gazprom, the state-controlled natural gas company, and Rosneft, the state-owned oil company, is almost indistinguishable from the senior leadership in the Kremlin, with both groups answering to President Putin. A similar pattern holds for Venezuela, where the government keeps the state-owned company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), on a tight leash, and in Saudi Arabia, where the royal family oversees the operations of the state-owned Saudi Aramco.

*** Red against Red – China’s Failed 27 Day Invasion Of Vietnam

VIETNAM WAR, May 16, 2016 Shahan Russell

In 1979, China invaded Vietnam because Vietnam had invaded Cambodia, whose rulers were backed by China. The conflict lasted a month and resulted in tens of thousands of casualties. The Chinese army withdrew from Vietnam but despite this, China claimed a victory.
To understand this, we have to go back in time and further north. China and Russia used to be friends, so when the Vietnam War broke out in 1955, they supported the communist North against the capitalist South. By the time it ended in 1975, however, the Chinese and the Soviets were at each other’s throats.
 Vietnamese forces shelling Chinese positions on 23 February 1979

The Soviets were exhausted from decades of war, so they wanted peace with the West. But Mao Zedong (China’s leader) wanted a more aggressive approach toward “decadent” capitalist nations, which is why he attacked Taiwan from 1954 to 1955, and again in 1958.
Mao (left) and Kruschev (right) in Peking, China in 1958. Despite their smiles, the two are already at loggerheads

The US went to the Taiwan’s aid, but the Soviets didn’t want to get involved. This angered Mao. Then in 1959, the Soviets offered moral support to Tibetan rebels after the latter’s failed uprising against China. The following year, Mao and Soviet Premier Nikhita Kruschev were yelling at each other at the Romanian Communist Party Congress. Still, they needed each other, so they kept their alliance.

Then came the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. With the world’s focus on Cuba, China invaded and occupied India’s Aksai-Chin province. And what did the Soviets do? They withdrew their missiles from Cuba and sold weapons to India. For Mao, that was the last straw. Soviet capitulation to the US was bad enough, but what kind of ally sells weapons to your enemies? Sino-Russian relations took a nose dive.

By 1969, they were having skirmishes along their borders. Realizing he couldn’t confront the Soviets and the Americans at the same time, Mao began wooing the Americans. It worked. President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972 and reestablished diplomatic ties. The PLA crossing over into Vietnam on 17 February 1979

The Chinese and the Soviets were now engaged in their own Cold War within the communist world. In 1975, Vietnam and Laos sided with the Soviets, so China reached out to Cambodia. Mao died in 1976, but the Sino-Soviet Cold War continued.

Vietnam and Cambodia had had border skirmishes since 1975, so the Vietnamese decided to end it once and for all. On 3 November 1978, they signed a 25-year mutual defense treaty with the Soviets, then invaded Cambodia on December 25. By 7 January 1979, they took the capital at Phnom Penh and drove the Khmer Rouge out.

With the Soviets to their north and the Vietnamese to their south, the Chinese felt trapped. China (now under Deng Xiaoping) visited the US on January 1 and told President Jimmy Carter that Vietnam needed to see a show of force to prove that China could protect her client states.

*** China’s Pakistani Outpost

MAY 26, 2016 

BERLIN – Like a typical school bully, China is big and strong, but it doesn’t have a lot of friends. Indeed, now that the country has joined with the United States to approve new international sanctions on its former vassal state North Korea, it has just one real ally left: Pakistan. But, given how much China is currently sucking out of its smaller neighbor – not to mention how much it extracts from others in its neighborhood – Chinese leaders seem plenty satisfied.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has declared that China and Pakistan are “as close as lips and teeth,” owing to their geographical links. China’s government has also called Pakistan its “irreplaceable all-weather friend.” The two countries often boast of their “iron brotherhood.” In 2010, Pakistan’s then-prime minister, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, waxed poetic about the relationship, describing it as “taller than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, and sweeter than honey.”

In fact, wealthy China has little in common with aid-dependent Pakistan, beyond the fact that both are revisionist states not content with their existing frontiers. They do, however, share an interest in containing India. The prospect of a two-front war, should India enter into conflict with either country, certainly advances that interest.

No Idea What Is Big Bang Reform, Says Modi: Here Are 5 Big Bangs To Look At

May 26, 2016

Five big-bangs for the remaining three years of NDA-II

That Narendra Modi is not Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan is now well-established. His most enthusiastic backers before 2014 are now asking whether NDA-2 is any different from what a UPA-3 would have been, had Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh not lost the last elections. In particular, it is said that the Modi government is into incremental change, not “big bang” reforms

In an interview to The Wall Street Journal, Modi himself appeared perplexed about the term big bang. He is quoted as saying: “When I came to the government, I used to sit down with all the experts and ask them to define for me what is ‘big bang’ for them. Nobody could tell me.”

Well, he is right. The pink press tends to link big bangs only with ideas about privatisation and hire-and-fire labour laws. These ain’t happening as of now. 

However, at least two things Modi has begun would amount to big bangs if he carries them through to their logical conclusion.

#1: The first big bang is subsidy reform through financial empowerment. The JAM trio – Jan Dhan banking, Aadhaar unique IDs, and Mobile money transfers – provide the infrastructure to implement the biggest subsidy reforms in Indian history by eliminating leakages and corruption. In stage one, the cooking gas subsidy has been shifted to cash, saving thousands of crores. The next phase – which means doing the same with kerosene, food and fertiliser subsidies – is stalling, as vested interests are threatened by this radical change. If Modi presses on and defeats these vested interests, he will have given us one big bang in far-reaching subsidy reforms. 

Assessing the North Korean Hazard

MAY 23, 2016 | 
Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a five-part series examining the measures that could be taken to inhibit North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The purpose of this series is not to consider political rhetoric or noninvasive means of coercion, such as sanctions. Rather, we are exploring the military options, however remote, that are open to the United States and its allies, along with the expected retaliatory response from Pyongyang. Part two of this series looks at what targets would need to be struck to derail the North Korean nuclear program. 
Few countries intrigue and perplex like the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Isolated by choice from the ebbs and flows of the international system, North Korea is an island of its own making. It is often painted as a weak, fearsome lunatic with delusions of grandeur and aspirations to become a nuclear power, but the truth is a little more complicated. Despite outward appearances, Pyongyang is not reckless in its ambition. Nor does it foolhardily invite destruction. It walks a fine line, hoping to quietly attain a credible nuclear deterrent without inciting world powers to take decisive action.
Deterrence has always been a part of North Korea's survival strategy. Pyongyang's calculated disarray is primarily for the benefit of potential aggressors, advising caution should provocation lead to a disproportionate response. Thriving on contradiction, Pyongyang simultaneously depicts itself as fragile to the point of collapse yet immeasurably strong. This act has served the Kim dynasty well, gaining concessions from major powers that normally would not have been afforded.
North Korea has a good read on the world's inability and unwillingness to respond, not only because of upcoming U.S. elections but also because of the risk of pre-emption: Pyongyang's conventional deterrent raises the cost of intervention far higher than it is at most other places. The window for a military option to stem Pyongyang's nuclear program is closing, but that does not necessarily mean a strike is more likely now than before. Still, the balance is delicate, and should Pyongyang overplay its hand, the repercussions could be catastrophic.

North Korea's biggest fear is to be coerced into a position of subservience, having to prostrate itself before China (its primary benefactor) or another powerful country. Its carefully curated image of aggressive unpredictability is intended to preserve its authoritarian and regulated society and, as a result, its isolation. The North is unlikely to expose itself to the international community unless it can guarantee two things: the primacy and security of its leaders, and an effective military deterrent. And there are few deterrents as effective as nuclear weapons. Pyongyang's unswerving progress toward developing a nuclear capability reflects the singular obsession with which it chases its goals and why the West takes its threats seriously.

Lt. Col. Daniel Davis: The U.S. Has Failed ‘Spectacularly’ in Afghanistan

May 26, 2016

Mohammad Sharif Shayeq—NurPhoto/Getty ImagesA Afghan National Security Force soldier in Badakhshan Province on May 19, 2106.

According to its official website, the U.S. Department of State seeks to help promote “a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.” That is a praiseworthy objective to be sure. Unfortunately, when it comes to the U.S.’s government’s effort in Afghanistan, it has failed to achieve this. Spectacularly.

Instead of acknowledging its shortcomings in appropriate humility and making necessary changes to repair the damage, the U.S. government chooses to shape public opinion by tirelessly spinning the mission to appear as a success. This fact-spinning has resulted in keeping Afghanistan unstable.

For example, the Afghan governing institutions set up by the U.S.-led Bonn Agreement in December 2001 and the political deal brokered by the Secretary of State for a Unity Government in 2014, have unwittingly served to keep the state weak and dysfunctional. The resulting high levels of corruption are having a destructive effect on Kabul’s ability to govern.

Why India Must Support A Free Baluchistan

May 26, 2016

In addition to human rights abuses and killings in Baluchistan, India has many strategic reasons to support the Baluch national movement. 
A free Baluchistan would likely shatter the backbone of transnational Islamist extremism to a large extent. 
In the immediate future, India could begin with lobbying for a UN declaration against genocide in Baluchistan. 

In early April this year, Prof Naila Qadri Baloch conducted a presentation at Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Delhi. A simmering smolder which has hitherto remained more or less unexposed to geopolitical pressures – either because of Indian docility or Pakistan’s deft foreign policy, or because it was not useful to the West – holds the potential to emerge as a new flash point, largely involving India and Pakistan and a range of external stakeholders like Afghanistan, Iran, the US, China and Russia.

Baluchistan, an independent entity ruled by the Khan of Kalat, was forcibly occupied by the Pakistani army in 1947, violating all international norms of sovereignty and human rights. Since then, it has seen a continuous freedom struggle led by the Baluch National Army, in which thousands of innocent civilians including women and children have been mercilessly butchered by the Pakistani army. Every year, thousands of local civilians disappear. Later, their dead bodies are recovered from the road side with bullet holes in their heads, making clear the fact that they were shot at point-blank. 

China Says It Will Send Its Missile Subs to Sea Because New American Air Defense Missiles Have Hurt Its Nuclear Deterrence Force

China to send nuclear-armed submarines into Pacific amid tensions with US
Julian Borger,The Guardian,May 26, 2016
Beijing risks stoking new arms race with move although military says expansion of the US missile defence has left it with no choice
The Chinese military is poised to send submarines armed with nuclear missiles into the Pacific Ocean for the first time, arguing that new US weapons systems have so undermined Beijing’s existing deterrent force that it has been left with no alternative.
Chinese military officials are not commenting on the timing of a maiden patrol, but insist the move is inevitable.
They point to plans unveiled in March to station the US Thaad anti-ballistic system in South Korea, and the development of hypersonic glide missiles potentially capable of hitting China less than an hour after launch, as huge threats to the effectiveness of its land-based deterrent force.
A recent Pentagon report to Congress predicted that “China will probably conduct its first nuclear deterrence patrol sometime in 2016”, though top US officers have made such predictions before.
China has been working on ballistic missile submarine technology for more than three decades, but actual deployment has been put off by technical failures, institutional rivalry and policy decisions.
Until now, Beijing has pursued a cautious deterrence policy, declaring it would never be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict and storing its warheads and its missiles separately, both strictly under the control of the top leadership.

Deploying nuclear-armed submarines would have far-reaching implications.
Warheads and missiles would be put together and handed over to the navy, allowing a nuclear weapon to be launched much faster if such a decision was taken. The start of Chinese missile patrols could further destabilise the already tense strategic standoff with the US in the South China Sea.
Last Tuesday, a US spy plane and two Chinese fighter jets came close to colliding 50 miles of Hainan island, where China’s four Jin-Class ballistic missile submarines are based. A fifth is under construction.
The two countries’ navies have also come uncomfortably close around disputed islands in the same region, and the chance of a clash will be heightened by cat-and-mouse submarine operations, according to Wu Riqiang, an associate professor at the School of International Studies at the Renmin University in Beijing.
“Because China’s SSBNs [nuclear missile submarines] are in the South China Sea, the US navy will try to send spy ships in there and get close to the SSBNs. China’s navy hates that and will try to push them away,” Wu said.
The primary reason Chinese military officials give for the move towards a sea-based deterrent is the expansion of US missile defence, which Moscow also claims is disturbing the global strategic balance and potentially stoking a new arms race.
The decision to deploy Thaad anti-ballistic interceptors in South Korea was taken after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, and the stated mission of the truck-launched interceptors is to shield the south from missile attack.

But Beijing says the Thaad system’s range extends across much of China and contributes to the undermining of its nuclear deterrent. It has warned Seoul that relations between the two countries could be “destroyed in an instant” if the Thaad deployment goes ahead.
“No harm shall be done to China’s strategic security interests,” the foreign ministry declared.
Behind the ominous warnings is growing concern in the People’s Liberation army that China’s relatively small nuclear arsenal (estimated at 260 warheads compared with 7,000 each for the US and Russia), made up mostly of land-based missiles, is increasingly vulnerable to a devastating first strike, by either nuclear or conventional weapons.
Missile defence is not their only worry. They are anxious about a new hypersonic glide missile being developed under the US Prompt Global Strike programme, aimed at getting a precision-guided missile to targets anywhere in the world within an hour.


* Recent Developments in Chinese Missile Technology

Strategic Weapons: China Boosts Range And Accuracy
May 28, 2016
Recent developments in Chinese ballistic missile and warhead technology indicate that China not only has a missile warhead that is maneuverable but can, when mounted on new, longer range missiles, can hit U.S. carriers or small land targets over 3,000 kilometers away. The various components of such a system began to surface over a decade ago. By 2010 the U.S. believed that China had a version of their DF-21 ballistic missile with a conventional warhead that could hit a moving American carrier at a distance of 1,500 kilometers. There was no proof that such a system actually existed in a workable form. But over the last few years the necessary pieces of this mystery weapon began show up in working condition. The latest threat is not just to carriers at sea but to major American bases in the Pacific, particularly Guam.
This situation got serious in 2014 when China revealed (apparently by accident) the existence of the DF-26 IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile.) This one had a range of 3,500 kilometers and was based on the earlier DF-21. There had been reports of such a missile since 2007 and the DF-26C appears to have entered service sometime after 2010. The DF-26C is notable because it has the range to hit American military bases on the Central Pacific island of Guam. Armed with a maneuverable conventional warhead a DF-26 could take out key American military installations on Guam if enough of them were used at the same time. That would overwhelm existing American anti-missile systems there. .

In early 2016 China revealed that they had perfected the technology for a maneuverable ballistic missile warhead. This came a little after it was revealed that since 2014 China had conducted six tests of a maneuverable gliding warhead for ballistic missiles. Five of the six tests were successful and this “hypersonic glide vehicle” is officially known as the DF-ZF. In effect this hypersonic glide vehicle is a warhead that can glide rather than simply plunging back to earth and is maneuverable enough to hit small moving targets in space or down on the surface. The DF-ZF was initially developed as China sought to perfect a version of the DF-21 ballistic missile that could hit moving warships at sea. DF-21 is a 15 ton, two stage, solid fuel missile that is 10.7 meters (35 feet) long and 140cm (4.6 feet) in diameter. The DF-21D (the carrier killer version) missile using the DF-ZF warhead is also more difficult for anti-missile missiles to hit and can also be used against low orbit satellites as well as land targets and moving warships.
As far back as 2008 there were rumors that the Chinese had reverse engineered, reinvented or stolen the 1970s seeker technology that went into the U.S. Pershing ballistic missile maneuverable warhead. This 7.5 ton U.S. Army missile also had a range of 1,800 kilometers and could put its nuclear warhead within 30 meters of its aim point. This was possible because the warhead was maneuverable and had its guidance system using radar. This kind of accuracy made the Russians very uncomfortable as it meant many of their command bunkers were suddenly very vulnerable. The Russians eventually agreed to a lot of nuclear and missile disarmament deals in order to get the Pershings decommissioned in the 1980s.

Until 2013 there was no evidence that the DF-21D system had been tested using a maneuverable warhead. Then satellite photos showed a 200 meter long white rectangle in the Gobi Desert (in Western China) with two large craters in it. This would appear to be a “target” for testing the DF-21D, and two of the inert practice warheads appear to have hit the target. American carriers are over 300 meters long, although the smaller carriers (amphibious ships with helicopter decks) are closer to 200 meters long. It appeared China was planning on using the DF-21D against smaller warships, or perhaps they just wanted to see exactly how accurate the missile could be. Then in 2014 an even more maneuverable and gliding version of the carrier killer warhead appeared in the form of the DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle.

Mapping the Battle for Fallujah in Iraq

The Campaign for Fallujah
Institute for the Study of War
May 27, 2016
By Patrick Martin and Emily Anagnostos
Excerpt: The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the Popular Mobilization launched a major operation on May 23 to recapture Fallujah from ISIS. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced Operation Breaking Terrorism late on May 22 following weeks of force build-up in the area. The ISF and Anbar Sunni tribal fighters carried out shaping operations to the south of Fallujah in the weeks prior, recapturing al-Salaam Junction and moving along the southern road on May 7. Iranian proxy Shi'a militias, including Kata'ib Hezbollah and Harakat al-Nujaba, deployed heavily to the vicinity of Fallujah beginning on May 17. Progress of the actual operation has been rapid, with the joint ISF-Popular Mobilization forces recapturing key locations within the first 24 hours. These included Garma sub-district, a small town northeast of Fallujah, and Naimiyah on the southern edge of Fallujah City on May 23. Even before ISIS, Sunni militants including Jaish al-Mujahideen, the 1920 Revolution Brigades, and Jaish Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandiyah (JRTN) used Garma as a support zone. As of May 26, security forces have captured much of the Garma area and have pressed on Fallujah’s northern, eastern, and southeastern flanks, though the progress of the ISF and Popular Mobilization in Albu Shajal and Saqlawiyah, on the northeastern axis, remains limited. These areas need to be controlled in order to complete the encirclement of Fallujah. 

Will ISIS and al-Qaida always be rivals?

Daniel L. Byman | May 27, 2016 
Editors’ Note: Understanding the importance, extent, and duration of the rivalry between the Islamic State and al-Qaida is vital for combating terrorism in the future, writes Dan Byman. This post originally appeared on Slate.
More than 80, and possibly up to 120, people died Monday in ISIS attacks on regime-controlled territory near Russian bases in Syria. And new reports show that earlier in the month, ISIS took out Russian helicopters working out of a base in central Syria. But Russia and the Syrian regime are hardly ISIS’ only foes. ISIS is engaged in a deadly conflict with al-Qaida in Syria and elsewhere in the Muslim world. Al-Qaida itself sees the threat from the ascendant Islamic State as so serious—and its own position in its base in Pakistan so weak—that it is reportedly moving senior leaders to Syriaand considering emulating the Islamic State by establishing its own emirate there.
Understanding the importance, extent, and duration of this rivalry is vital for combating terrorism in the future. Because as dangerous as the groups are separately, it’s frightening to think of what they could accomplish if they were to unite, and the possibility is not as far-fetched as it seems.

[A]s dangerous as the groups are separately, it’s frightening to think of what they could accomplish if they were to unite, and the possibility is not as far-fetched as it seems.
Even though they have different aims—with al-Qaida focused more on attacking the United States while ISIS seeks to consolidate and expand its state—the movement as a whole is bound by numerous personal ties, often based on shared fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other fronts. Many of the individuals involved, particularly outside the Iraq and Syria core, see themselves as brothers-in-arms and are not eager to choose sides. Not to mention that both sides are reaching for the same funding sources and recruits, giving them an incentive to pursue similar paths.

Some of the world’s leading terrorism scholars, such as my colleague Bruce Hoffman, argue that a merger may be coming. Hoffman correctly warns that al-Qaida has repeatedly, and wrongly, been counted out many times in the past. And he emphasizes that the ideological similarities between al-Qaida and ISIS are far greater than the differences, unsurprising considering one is an offshoot of the other. Although I agree that the two movements may come together at some point, their differences are profound and a real challenge to any unity.
Divisions have always plagued the modern jihadist movement. Rival jihadists probably were behind the 1989 assassination of Abdullah Azzam, the Pied Piper of the Afghan Arab movement, and other jihadists tried to kill Osama Bin Laden himself during his time in Sudan. Al-Qaida emerged as a splinter movement from the broader Arab-Afghan cause, and it often had difficulty working with, let alone controlling, fellow jihadists.

This Is Why Americans Should Fear China's Ballistic Missile Submarines

May 26, 2016 

As the United States continues to struggle with adequately funding its armed forces, other nations around the world are developing impressive military capabilities.

Case in point: In a recent article published by The Guardian, China is set to deploy nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines, or what many in the naval community affectionately call “boomers,” armed with the most deadly of weapons—long-range, nuclear tipped warheads that can travel thousands of miles and potentially target U.S. territory.

To be fair, many other nations around the world have developed atomic submarines that are armed with long-range, nuclear missiles. In fact, the United States developed such technology back in the 1950s while China has worked to develop a comparable capability for decades.

So why should the average American actually care if Beijing is developing military technology the U.S. pioneered many decades ago or is upgrading its forces in other areas?

Indeed, China’s development of nuclear submarines is part of a bigger, more worrying trend: The creation of a truly modern military that, in many respects, aims to defeat America’s armed forces if conflict were ever to occur.

Beijing is developing a suite of weapons platforms that were once thought to be reserved for only the U.S. or would take nations like China and Russia decades to develop. In fact, Beijing seems to be closing in on cutting-edge weapons systems that seem more out of the pages of science fiction than reality.

9 features you probably didn't know exist in WhatsApp

There are features many users haven't yet discovered
Max Slater-Robins, Business Insider
Wednesday 25 May 2016

There's currently over 1 billion groups on WhatsApp
WhatsApp, the app Facebook bought for $19 billion (£12 billion), is used by more than 900 million people around the world and has become one of the best ways to connect with people in different countries or have group conversations.
Unlike with text messaging, WhatsApp uses a data connection, which means sending a message is essentially free, especially for those with unlimited data plans.
While the app is reasonably simple, there are features many users haven't yet discovered.
Here are the top nine "hidden" features in WhatsApp that everyone should know about and use.
1. See how many messages you and your friends have sent to each other.
To find out whom you communicate with most on WhatsApp, go to Settings > Account > Network Usage.
A number appears next to each contact that represents the total number of messages sent back and forth. Selecting a person reveals more information, including how many messages have been sent by whom.
2. Mute group chats.

(Business Insider)

Group-chat notifications — especially in a big group — can become annoying, particularly if you aren't involved in the conversation. While muting group chat may seem drastic, sometimes these things have to be done.

Go to the group chat in question, click on its name and select “Mute,” where you will be presented with three options: eight hours, a week, and a year.

ISIS Will Not Get Far in Asia

May 26, 2016

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)’s stated end goal is to establish a Caliphate (Dar-al-Islam) where Sharia laws apply, across Africa, Asia and Europe. In a map released in July 2014, ISIS identified countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia where it aims to establish its rule in the next five years (by 2019). The establishment of the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria was announced by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in July 2014 from the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraq. ISIS chief spokesperson, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani stated that the goal of ISIS is to establish an Islamic state that doesn’t recognize international borders. ISIS aims to revert its Caliphate back to the 7th century, the times of the Prophet, and asserts that the Koran, distorted by years of technical interpretations, should be instead literally read. This argument is similar to the Salafis (Wahhabis) of Saudi Arabia, who also encourage a literal reading of the Holy Koran. ISIS’s headquarters is situated in the Syrian city of al-Raqqa, and it controls important Iraqi cities like Mosul, and is able to move freely in cities like Irbil, Tikrit, Ramadi, and Falluja, close to Baghdad. While it recently lost control of Palmyra in Syria to Russian and Assad forces, it still has the ability to move freely between Raqqa and Aleppo, as well as in areas close to Palmyra.

This means nearly 10 million people (the size of Sweden) live in ISIS controlled areas, where Sharia law is being applied. According to ISIS, Sharia law has been severely misunderstood due to its faulty application by regimes like Saudi Arabia, who while beheading murderers and cutting off hands of thieves, does little to implement its social programs like free housing, food and clothing for all. Astute in propaganda, ISIS constantly releases videos on the internet that provides snapshots of life under its regime, while at the same time, targeting the West for mistreating fellow Muslims. The use of violence in its videos with graphic details of its beheadings have shocked the world. These videos have the intended effect that ISIS wants: to make it look lethal and inflexible with regard to religious theology. Muslims, who do not fall within ISIS’s interpretation of Islam, are termed kafir (infidel) and to be killed. Thus,Shiites, Alawites, Yezidis, Kurds, are targets as they are not Sunnis. ISIS runs an online magazine titledDabiq, in which it documents the lives of its members and explains future plans for expansion.

Goals of ISIS Propaganda

Profiling Muslims Is Bad. So Is Ignoring Radical Islam.

May 25, 2016 

The West and its allies aren't paying enough attention to Salafi jihadism.

In a thought-provoking article penned in concerned words, one of the finest retired generals in the U.S. Army, Gen. David Petraeus, underscored his anxiety about “inflammatory political discourse that has become far too common both at home and abroad against Muslims and Islam.” He believes that, given the great danger of Islamist extremism, politicians “who toy with anti-Muslim bigotry must consider the effects of their rhetoric.” He asserts that demonizing a religious faith and its adherents is both contrary to fundamental American values and corrosive to U.S. national security interests. He emphasizes that statements of blanket discrimination against Islam directly undermine the United States’ ability to defeat Islamist extremists by alienating and undermining its Muslim allies. General Petraeus lays out his concern and arguments so as to inform the national debate about the stark reality of terrorism and the importance of the choice the country will make in electing the future commander-in-chief.

I fully agree with General Petraeus’s concern and broad arguments. Profiling Muslims, discriminating against Islam or lumping Muslims as radicals or terrorists is indeed abominable, contrary to American values and damaging to the war against Islamist extremism and/or terrorism. This attitude, however, should absolve neither radical Muslims who justify their violence on the basis of certain events in Islamic history or on Islam’s holy scriptures, nor Muslim regimes or rulers who encourage or promote certain variants of radical or fundamentalist Islam for domestic purposes.

Russia, Ukraine and European energy security

Written by Nataliia Slobodian
26 May 2016

An interview with Natalia Slobodian, a National Centre for Strategic Studies energy expert living in Kyiv. Interviewer: Wojciech Jakóbik. 

In what way is the energy sector part of the “hybrid war” waged in Europe by Russia? Who are the actors and what are its consequences?

One of the key tools in Russia’s “hybrid war” taking place within Europe is the energy component. Russia is a state heavily reliant on energy and raw materials, where hydrocarbons are not just a commodity, but also a tool for achieving geopolitical objectives. To achieve its political goals, Moscow has used the energy tool against Ukraine on three levels: political, economic and information. Ukrainian energy infrastructure has become a matter of special attention for the Kremlin, since its occupation or destruction does not only cause significant economic losses to Ukraine, but also threatens European countries’ energy security.

I would like to draw your attention to the Russian “gas aggression” that occurred against Ukraine in 2006 and 2009. In 2006, Russia demonstratively conducted so-called “punishment actions”, cutting off gas supply to Ukraine and reducing the volume of gas transit via Ukraine to the EU. As a result, Ukraine was punished for its 2004 Orange Revolution and Europe was punished for having supported Ukraine. The crisis in 2009 also had a specific purpose. It was meant to provoke an internal political crisis in Ukraine and worsen the country’s relationship with the EU. Moscow’s basic idea was that in case gas supply to Ukraine would completely stop, Kyiv’s authorities would be unable to deliver gas from western storage to the main industrial centers in the east and south of Ukraine and thus would leave them without heating. This was meant to provoke a “social explosion” within Ukraine.