23 November 2016

***** Modi’s Strategic Choice: How to Respond to Terrorism from Pakistan

by George Perkovich and Toby Dalton
May 01, 2016

Indian decision makers face a strategic conundrum: how to deter and/ or respond to future terrorism emanating from Pakistan. The dilemmas are manifold: punitive action may assuage the desire of an angry public for revenge, but too heavy a response may motivate actors in Pakistan to escalate attacks in India; while a weak riposte is unlikely to convince Pakistan's civilian and military leaders to alter their long-standing embrace of conflict against India by proxy. Both the Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Manmohan Singh governments faced this conundrum in January 2002 and November 2008, respectively, following the attacks by Pakistan-based militants in Delhi and Mumbai. Both chose to exercise restraint rather than strike back.

The groups that conducted the Delhi and Mumbai terror attacks in those years continue to operate in Pakistan. It is reasonable to assume that the Narendra Modi government, like its predecessors, will face a major attack on Indian soil attributed to such groups. Modi's self-styled reputation as a tough man and strong leader— borne out by his decision to disproportionately retaliate to Pakistani shelling across the Line of Control in Kashmir in fall 2014 —increases the perception that, this time, the Indian government will choose a military response.

By now, Prime Minister Modi should have been briefed on the military options, if there is another major terrorist attack on India attributed to militants operating in Pakistan. The Indian Army chief will have described a ground campaign, perhaps characterized by a sharp armored and infantry thrust into Pakistani Punjab, intended to punish the Pakistan military and hold territory as leverage until Pakistan verifiably prosecutes Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and like groups. The Naval chief would offer a maritime exclusion of Pakistan's major port at Karachi to pressure Pakistan's economy. And the Air chief presumably briefed limited air strikes against terrorist-linked facilities and perhaps also Pakistani military or intelligence targets believed to support terrorist operations. These are, essentially, the available punitive options involving military force.1 Which might Modi select? The odds-on favorite among defense analysts in Delhi is air power. For instance, retired Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur stated that as a matter of doctrine, air power will maintain “prima donna” status in India because of its “reach, flexibility, fire-power, and quick response capability in the complete spectrum of conflict.”2

** Demonetisation and Beyond: Addressing the Finance of Terrorism

By Vivek Chadha
22 Nov , 2016

The impact of the demonetisation policy as related to curbing the finance of terrorism announced on November 08, 2016, is gradually emerging from the shadow of its surprise announcement. It is becoming abundantly clear that this is unlikely to remain a one off decision taken in isolation and will in all probability be accompanied by additional measures against the financing of terrorism and corruption. Even as the rollout takes place, it provides an opportunity to assess its potential fallout in the mid and long term, as also possible future options available to the government to further build upon the ongoing initiative.

Nature of Threat

Prior to attempting this analysis, it is important to outline the nature of threat faced by India as part of the ongoing fight against the finance of terrorism and its linkage with other internal challenges. It is also relevant to determine its implications, as this becomes the basis of future policy options.

The finance of terrorism in India follows a hybrid model, which includes terror funding from within and beyond the country’s borders. An assessment of past cases that have come to light suggests that terrorists have employed a variety of formal and informal channels to fund their activities. Amongst formal channels, money has been moved through the banking channels, as was witnessed prior to the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts.1 It can also involve the use of money transfer service scheme (MTSS), as has been resorted to repeatedly by the Indian Mujahideen (IM) to finance their operations in India.2 Benefactors in Pakistan transferred money to innocuous middlemen not previously suspected of terrorist linkages in India. This money was later withdrawn and handed over to IM cadres to fund their activities. There have also been attempts to exploit the barter trade between India and Pakistan through over or undervaluing the invoice, thereby creating a surplus value, which was then diverted for funding terrorism.3

** 1962: The Nehruvian Blunder

By Bharat Verma
21 Nov , 2016

In any future conflict, New Delhi’s political will and the capabilities of the Indian military should be such that China and Pakistan are hard-pressed to defend Tibet and Lahore respectively instead of threatening Arunachal and Kashmir.

This is the foremost lesson of the humiliating defeat in 1962.

The oft-repeated rhetoric that ‘We will not allow 1962 to repeat itself,’ is a defeatist refrain revealing a sense of acute anxiety. Indian history is witness to the fact that defensive warfare is a loser’s game. We continue to hide behind the fortress mentality of the past. And therefore, in the event of conflict in the future, despite the rhetoric, India is doomed to face another humiliating debacle.

…if we generate offensive capabilities and flaunt it with an aim-plus to liberate large areas of Tibet, China will stand deterred.

In the last fifty years, the government did not build infrastructure in the Northeast or alternatively provide aerial wherewithal to enhance the mobility of the troops. Chinese, therefore will score goals by over running a fair amount of Indian Territory, simply bypassing major Indian defenses. However, if we generate offensive capabilities and flaunt it with an aim-plus to liberate large areas of Tibet, China will stand deterred. In the Indian Ocean, the message by the Indian Navy should be similar on transit.

To win, one must always take the war to the enemy on multiple fronts by military, economic and diplomatic means. Also, the threat can be minimised by creation of alliances based on the Principle of ‘an enemy’s enemy is a friend’. Exploit the opportunity as the national interests of India and the USA in this respect coincide – both need to contain China. The Western Alliance, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and countries such as Vietnam boast of similar synergy of purpose.

** Pakistan’s tenuous relationship with violent non-state actors in Afghanistan

by Pranay Kotasthane 
September 4, 2015

Understanding this dynamic is critical to a path to peace in Afghanistan.

Following the news confirming Mullah Omar’s death, analysts have evaluated that internal rifts in the Taliban would derail the on-going peace negotiations. However, little has been said about Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban factions or with militias outside the Taliban fold in Afghanistan. Also missing is an understanding of the direction each of the Taliban factions is likely to take in the changed environment.

It is important to make sense of Pakistan’s tenuous relationship with the various non-state actors in Afghanistan, by overlaying Pakistan’s influence on these groups. A simplified diagram depicting this relationship is given below.

The violent non-state actors in Afghanistan can largely be divided into two groups — those under the Taliban fold and those outside of it. A subset of actors in both the groups is under Pakistan’s influence, represented as the inner rectangle in the figure. Even those within Pakistan’s coterie are of two types: one, who are publicly acknowledged by Pakistan and two, who fall under the realm of plausible deniability for Pakistan’s military—jihadi complex.

It is important to categorise these groups in the current scenario as the strategies for engaging each of them is different. Let us now go under the hood of each of these sections to understand their terms of engagement with Pakistan.

Black Money And Terror

Vappala Balachandran

Quality of counter-terrorism, not currency crackdown, will prevent terrorism.

Global research has now found that terrorists seldom use tax dodgers or Hawala agents of target countries as they are known to local agencies.

On November 10 our prime minister said that demonetisation of high value currency notes was “a decisive war against the menace of corruption, black money and terrorism”. Social media claimed that the “PM had nuked terror funding”. Subsequent discourses saw official assertions that a “cashless economy” would end “black money” to make us “terror-free”.

But a “cashless economy” need not be “terror-free”. In November 2014, CNBC conducted a survey of the 10 top “cashless” societies. It found Belgium to be the world’s top cashless society with 93 per cent non-cash consumer payments and 83 per cent debit card use. France was second, then Canada, the UK, Sweden, Australia, Holland, the US, Germany and South Korea.

Hoping for the best - What the presidency of Donald Trump could mean for India

S.L. Rao

Many in the United States of America are worried about the future of the country after Donald Trump assumes charge as the president in January. In India, we should try to forecast the direction that the US will take as a world power, in terms of its economy, society and immigration.

Starting with President Ronald Reagan, the US has spent massively on defence and foreign aid. Reagan stimulated the breakup of the Soviet Union with competitive military spending. That did nothing to stop Saudi Arabia (the principal supplier of oil and gas and the major buyer of American arms) from exporting Islamic fundamentalism. It allegedly inspired and supported the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Subsequent American presidents fighting Osama bin Laden and al Qaida have unsettled stable but ruthless governments in Iraq, Libya and now Syria. They used sanctions to squeeze Iran. They engaged in a lasting war in Afghanistan. The US gave large financial and military aid to Pakistan so that there was an easy entry into Afghanistan. The American government establishment is tied to these policies.

* Pakistan's Delicate Democratic Balance

November 21, 2016

The year 2008 marked the beginning of Pakistan’s third democratic transition. Next year, it will enter its tenth year, as the second civilian government, of this transition, limps toward completing of its five-year term in mid-2018. It will be a symbolic milestone for Pakistan’s evolving democratic process and its checkered constitutional history.

In retrospect, the first democratic transition (1973–77, the era of socialist-populist democracy) took place when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto became Pakistan’s prime minister, after the dismemberment of the former East Pakistan (present Bangladesh). In 1977, the military dictator Gen. Zia-ul-Haq overthrew Bhutto’s government in a military coup; later Bhutto was given a death sentence in a murder case.

The 1990s, the era of electoral democracy, marked Pakistan’s second democratic transition when four civilian governments (two each from the leading parties, PPP and PML-N) ruled the country consecutively. However, their stints were cut short on one pretext or the other, until then army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf imposed martial law in October 1999.

Like the first two democratic transitions, the third—the era of democratic consolidation—has also been turbulent and prone to crisis. According to Samuel P. Huntington, a budding democracy goes through two stages to become a mature democracy: the power transition and a consolidation phase. Pakistani democracy in its current form can be categorized somewhere between transitioning and substantive democracy. The power transition in Pakistan has been smooth; however, the consolidation phase has been bumpy. The democratic consolidation requires functional civilian institutions, competent bureaucracy, strong and robust opposition, political choice, a vibrant civil society, and better socioeconomic conditions.

* General Raheel Sharif: Self Serving, Unscrupulous and Un-Gentlemanly

By Col Jaibans Singh
22 Nov , 2016

How the mighty fall!! General Raheel Sharif, the larger than life chief of the Pakistan Army, has reduced himself to a mere Public Relations Officer (PRO) in his desperation to do something that would build on his post-retirement plans.

On Wednesday, 16 November, he gave a statement to the media that 11 Indian soldiers were killed on November, 14, after Pakistan Army responded to unprovoked firing along the Line of Control (LOC). “India should “show courage” and own the deaths of its security personnel,” He added while also rendering the statutory warning that Pakistan would deliver a “befitting response” to any hostile enemy action.

Hiding of casualties regularly happen in Pakistan under the watch of dishonourable senior officers. General Musharraf hid the Kargil casualties and Gen. Sharif, has not made public the casualties that his army has suffered…

It is silly on the part of the Pakistan Army Chief to insinuate that India would hide such a fact. Firstly, India has no policy of keeping the martyrdom of her brave soldiers a secret. Secondly, even if the government or the Indian Army does try to do something like this, the proactive and free media of the country would not allow the same. India has, very rightly, denied such casualties having taken place.

Hiding of casualties, however, regularly happen in Pakistan under the watch of dishonourable senior officers. General Musharraf hid the Kargil casualties and Gen. Sharif, has not made public the casualties that his army has suffered in the ill fated Operation Zarb-e-Azb, against the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) in the North West Frontier Province of the country.

India Commissions New Stealth Warship

November 22, 2016

The Indian Navy commissioned its latest warship, the stealth guided missile destroyer INS Chennai, at a ceremony held at the Mazagon naval dockyards in Mumbai on November 21, according to an Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) press release.

India’s Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar presided over the ceremony. “The ship represents a significant ‘coming of age’ of our warship building capability and defense preparedness,” Parrikar stated in his remarks.

“With the induction of INS Chennai, a new benchmark has been achieved for our warship design and construction endeavors, with the sophistication of systems and equipment, and utilization of advanced ship building techniques,” he added. According to the Indian MoD, the ship “can rightfully be regarded as one of the most potent warships to have been constructed in India.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

The INS Chennai is the third and final 7,500-ton Kolkata-class (Project 15A) guided-missile destroyer constructed for the Indian Navy. The new destroyers are multi-mission ships capable of engaging in anti-submarine/anti-ship warfare, land attacks, and air defense and can be deployed to defend surface strike groups.

The new warship has a crew of 45 officers and 395 non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel. It is powered by four gas turbines and can reach a top speed in excess of 30 knots. The Chennai has an estimated range of approximately 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 kilometers, 9,200 miles). As I reported elsewhere (See:“India Commissions Largest Warship to Date”), Kolkata-class (Project 15A) guided-missile destroyers feature some of the Indian Navy’s most advanced weapons systems:

What Demonetisation Says About And Does For Modi – Analysis

By Ashok Malik
NOVEMBER 21, 2016

Close to two weeks into the demonetisation exercise, how does one assess it? Frankly, there are several aspects to the episode: the execution, the aspiration, and the medium to long term political impact. It is important to see all of these separately, and not let perceptions of one aspect cloud assessments of another. After all, despite the noise in social media, the alarmism in sections of the media, and the rhetoric of the judiciary — which has used this as one more battleground for its entirely unrelated turf war with the government — demonetisation is being seen very differently by different stakeholder groups.

Let us start then with the execution. No doubt many questions can be asked of the government. For a start, why weren’t ATM machines recalibrated to dispense Rs. 2,000 notes well in advance, without those new notes being issued or the existing Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 500 notes being demonetised or even a hint being offered of that happening? Why did the government have a sub-par communication plan and fail to anticipate everyday situations — weddings, medical emergencies — that have subsequently led to partial exemptions?

The crowds outside the banks comprise both genuinely affected citizens as well as people hired by well-heeled individuals to exchange their cash reserves piecemeal. This too should have been accounted for. That some opposition politicians and even chief ministers are fuelling paranoia, for their own reasons, should have been expected. This could have allowed all efforts to be directed at those who were actually inconvenienced — a significant number — but making little noise, as against those who are less inconvenienced but making the most noise.

Trump’s Election A Critical Moment For India-China Ties – Analysis

By Arun Mohan Sukumar 
NOVEMBER 22, 2016

A week into the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States, the world has seen the remarkable spectacle of China publicly endorsing the core values of the liberal, international order. In his congratulatory call to Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly suggested his country is ready to fight climate change “whatever the circumstances.” In Marrakesh, at the first conference of the parties after the Paris accord came into effect, Beijing’s chief climate negotiator underlined the “global responsibility” to work under the UN framework to tackle greenhouse gasemissions. In Latin America, where Xi is on state visits to Ecuador, Peru and Chile ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Community summit, the Chinese president has dusted off a decades-old trade proposal and sought renewed discussions on it. The Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) proposal, Xi said, is key to building an “institutional mechanism” that ensures an “open economy” in the region. On the sidelines of an APEC ministerial meeting, Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen spoke out against trade protectionism and the need to remove trade barriers for the flow of goods and services.

Meanwhile, at the World Internet Conference hosted here in the Chinese town of Wuzhen, the country’s leading entrepreneurs invited immigrants to work and innovate for China’s tech giants. “I read that an advisor to President-elect Donald Trump complained that three-quarters of engineers in Silicon Valley aren’t Americans,” said Baidu’s CEO Robin Li in his speech. “So I myself hope that many of these engineers will come to China to work for us.”
Sensing the virtues of the liberal order

One more Airport on the Plateau

By Claude Arpi
22 Nov , 2016

Karze (or Garzi or Kardze) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is situated in Western Sichuan, in the historical Kham province of Tibet.

Today, the so-called autonomous prefecture covers an area of 151,078 square kilometres with a population of approximately 880,000 (according to Chinese census). The Tibetans are said to represent some 78% of the total population. The capital city of prefecture is Kangding (traditionally known as Dartsedo or Tachienlu).

In the fall of 1950, the People’s Liberation Army took over area. It was one of the bases chosen by Mao for the Battle of Chamdo (October 1950).

It has always been one of the most restive areas of the plateau inhabited by the Khampa tribes; Karze still has large monasteries such as Dzogchen, Dzongsar, Palpung, Sershul and more recently the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute, which has recently been in the news.

For Beijing, the best way to pacify the area is probably to bring millions of tourists.

The ‘restive’ Khampas will be then be used as tourist guides.

The immediate solution is to make Karze accessible by air.

Karze (Garzi) Gesar Airport

The new Karze (Garzi) Gesar Airport is located at the border of Laima Township of Karze County and Cuo’a Township of Derge County.

Parrikar Is Right In Keeping India’s Nuclear Policy Ambiguous; In Fact, He Is Duty-Bound To Do So

21 Nov, 2016

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Dread is at the heart of successful nuclear deterrence,” wrote Bharat Karnad, a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, in his 21 November column, ‘More, Mr Parrikar’, for the Indian Express. Karnad made a strong case for more opacity, more ambiguity and more unpredictability in the sphere of discussing India’s nuclear capabilities and philosophy.

...pronouncements emanating from official quarters that obfuscate matters and generate unease, especially about India’s nuclear weapons-use initiation and nuclear response calculi, enhance the sense of dread in the minds of adversary governments.

Clarifying India’s nuclear issues, Karnad argued, will make it easy for its adversaries – “as much the obvious ones — China and, to a lesser extent, Pakistan — as the “friendly” countries, such as the US” – to measure out the country’s political will and read its strategic intentions.

If we tread back briefly to a recent time, we see that the country’s defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, has been doing exactly as Karnad argues. Speaking at the launch of Brigadier (retd) Gurmeet Kanwal’s book The New Arthashastra, Parrikar said over a week ago:

Why a lot of people say that India has No First Use policy. Why should I bind myself to a… I should say I am a responsible nuclear power and I will not use it irresponsibly. This is my thinking... As an individual, I get a feeling sometime, why do I say that I am not going to use it first. I am not saying that you have to use it first just because you don’t decide that you don’t use it first. The hoax can be called off.

India’s Nuclear-Armed Submarines: Deterrence or Danger?

by Diana Wueger
October 05, 2016

The INS Arihant is India’s first nuclear ballistic missile submarine, aiming to help provide a secure, assured second-strike capability. But contrary to prevailing wisdom, sea-based deterrence in South Asia is unlikely to contribute significantly to strategic stability, and may even increase crisis instability and fuel the regional conventional and nuclear arms races already underway.

Pakistan: More Smoke And Mirrors – Analysis

By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty*
NOVEMBER 21, 2016

Three Shia students at Karachi University (KU) came under sectarian attack on November 11, 2016, when unidentified assailants opened fire on them in Block 4 of the Gulistan-e-Jauhar area in Gulshan Town, Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. One student, identified as Murtaza, died instantly while his colleagues Shahid and Ehsan were critically injured. Gulistan-e-Johar Police Station officials confirmed the sectarian nature of attack.

On November 4, 2016, three cadres of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a front organization of the erstwhile Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), were shot dead while returning from a rally organised by the outfit in the Shafiq Mor area of North Karachi. Elsewhere on the same day, two persons were shot dead near Fatima Bai Hospital in Patel Para area under the Jamshed Quarters Police Station in Jamshed Town. An unnamed ASWJ spokesman claimed that all the five victims were associated with their group. Further, a prayer leader, Shafiq Rehman (30), was shot dead in North Nazimabad. The victim was a Pesh Imam (prayer leader) of a mosque.

These sectarian killings came in the aftermath of the October 30 attack on a Shia woman’s mourning Majlis (gathering) in Nazimabad Town, in which five persons were killed when motorcycle borne unidentified assailants opened fire. Pakistani British national Naiyyar Mehdi Zaidi (60) from London and two of his brothers were shot dead, along with another man and a woman, while another six people sustained injuries. Senior Police official Tayyab Muqaddas Haider disclosed, “Two attackers on a motorbike opened indiscriminate fire on the participants coming for the gathering.” Al-Alami (international) group of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan Unveils VLF Submarine Communications Facility

By: Usman Ansari, 
November 16, 2016 

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan on Tuesday unveiled a very low frequency (VLF) communication facility that will enable it to communicate with deployed submarines.

Mansoor Ahmed, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center and expert on Pakistan’s nuclear program and delivery systems, said the facility is vital for command and control of submarines carrying a nuclear deterrent patrol, and the announcement essentially confirms Pakistan has established a preliminary, sea-based arm of its nuclear deterrent.

"The Naval Strategic Force Command inaugurated in 2012 is now closer to being the custodian of the country's second-strike capability," he said.

According to an official news release by the military’s Inter Services Public Relations media branch, the VLF facility is at a new base, PNS Hameed, near Pakistan’s main port of Karachi, and is the first of its

kind in the country.

“The secure military communication link in the VLF spectrum will add new dimensions by enhancing the flexibility and reach of submarine operations," the news release said.

China Missteps Disrupt Coal Supplies – Analysis

By Michael Lelyveld
NOVEMBER 22, 2016

After a series of miscalculations, China’s government has called on mining companies to supply more coal and sell it for less as the threat of shortages takes precedence over pollution concerns.

For much of 2016, the government has been pressing coal companies to move faster on cutting their huge surplus of production capacity, which has been blamed for slumping prices over the past four years.

In February, the cabinet-level State Council ordered the industry to slash 500 million metric tons of annual production capacity in three to five years and consolidate an additional 500 million tons under more efficient operators.

China’s top planning agency warned for months that the mines were cutting too slowly to meet their reduction targets for 2016.

At mid-year, the industry had achieved only 29 percent of its goal. By the end of August, the closures had reached 60 percent of the target, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said.

That was when officials started worrying about the opposite problem. China, which accounts for about half the world’s coal output, might have too little on hand rather than too much.

Inventories sank at China’s coal-fired power plants to less than 20 days’ supply before the winter heating season started and prices began to climb.

“Efforts initially aimed at reversing a four-year collapse and help miners repay debts have pushed coal higher and faster than anyone anticipated,” Bloomberg News reported after prices at China’s main coal port jumped to 672 yuan (U.S. $97.40) per ton on Oct. 31, the highest since 2012.

Implications Of Emerging Chinese Surveillance And Strike Complexes – Analysis

By Austin Hale and Frank G. Hoffman*
NOVEMBER 21, 2016

(FPRI) — China appears determined to assert itself throughout the Asia Pacific region and undercut United States’ alliances with potentially destabilizing effects on regional security.[1] Its increasingly aggressive actions in the Western Pacific, coupled with rising defense spending—an increase of 7.6 percent in 2016—have elevated the possibility of conflict between the United States and China.[2] Thus, U.S. analysts and defense scholars have been trying to identify the potential form a future conflict between the two powers may take. In the available literature, this potential conflict is characterized and operationalized as a competition between the U.S. AirSea Battle (ASB) operational concept—now referred to as the Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons—and China’s Anti-access/Area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities.[3]

In their recent article, “Future Warfare in the Western Pacific,” in International Security, defense scholars Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oerlich argue that while advancements in reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) have allowed China to field more advanced sensor, guidance, and communication technologies, the Chinese A2/AD approach is not a decisive, long-term threat to the United States or its allies in the region.[4] This conclusion would suggest that the U.S. Defense establishment need not concern itself with this challenge, undercutting its emphasis in recent Pentagon publications, such as the Quadrennial Defense Reviews and the Pentagon’s emerging Offset Strategies narrative.[5]

We contend that Chinese A2/AD capabilities are more asymmetric than Biddle and Oerlich presented and can be a decisive long-term threat to the interests of the U.S. and its allies in the region. Furthermore, a mature A2/AD system would allow China to project power throughout the region largely unchecked. Underestimating developments to extend and diversify Chinese intelligence and targeting assets could lead to erroneous conclusions and strategic failure.

One more airport on the plateau

November 20, 2016

Karze (or Garzi or Kardze) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is situated in Western Sichuan, in the historical Kham province of Tibet.

Today, the so-called autonomous prefecture covers an area of 151,078 square kilometres with a population of approximately 880,000 (according to Chinese census). The Tibetans are said to represent some 78% of the total population. The capital city of prefecture is Kangding (traditionally known as Dartsedo or Tachienlu).

In the fall of 1950, the People's Liberation Army took over area. It was one of the bases chosen by Mao for the Battle of Chamdo (October 1950).

It has always been one of the most restive areas of the plateau inhabited by the Khampa tribes; Karze still has large monasteries such as Dzogchen, Dzongsar, Palpung, Sershul and more recently the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute, which has recently been in the news.

For Beijing, the best way to pacify the area is probably to bring millions of tourists.

The ‘restive’ Khampas will be then be used as tourist guides.

The immediate solution is to make Karze accessible by air.

Hot' visit in Ulaanbaatar

'Hot' visit in Ulaanbaatar 

China is again upset.


Simply because the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious leader, has been invited for a four-day visit to Mongolia.

According to China Radio International (CRI), Beijing has strongly urged Mongolia “to stick to its commitment to Tibet-related issues for maintaining the sound development of bilateral ties.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang too sees red: “the Dalai Lama is a political refugee who has long been engaged in activities to split China and alienate Tibet from China in the name of religion.”

Geng added:

China resolutely opposes the Dalai Lama visiting any country to carry out anti-China separatist activities in any name or in any capacity. We also stand firmly against all forms of contacts between officials from any country and the Dalai Lama. We strongly demand that Mongolia, for the purpose of maintaining the general picture of a sound and steady development of bilateral ties, earnestly stick to its commitment on Tibet-related issues, do not allow the visit by the Dalai Lama and do not provide any form of support and convenience to the group of the Dalai Lama.

It usually works: it is enough to persuade leaders of Buddhist countries to desist inviting Tibet’s popular religious leader.

No visit takes place.

Not this time.

Associated Press quoted Davaapurev, a monk from the Gandan monastery in Ulaanbaatar, saying that Dalai Lama was on a four-day visit “with purely religious purposes.”

The Trump Team: Veering Right On Iran And Islamic State – OpEd

By Joyce Karam 
NOVEMBER 22, 2016

Reading the tea leaves of US President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, experts see a common thread in national security and foreign policy appointments pivoting in the direction of escalation in the war against Daesh and a harder line on Iran.

As Trump zeroes in on key foreign policy posts at the State Department and the Pentagon, the front-runners for the first being former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and for Secretary of Defense retired Gen. James Mattis — a shift to the right is expected in the Middle East.
Loyalists vs. rivals

The Trump appointments so far are retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser, Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff, Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General with Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist.

These are “rewards for the loyalists,” says Josh Kraushaar, Politics Editor at the National Journal.

Kraushaar explains that Trump so far is “rewarding the small group of supporters who stood by him through the campaign. The Secretary of State choice will be a key test of whether he is willing to bring in a prominent critic and establishment-minded Republican like Romney or whether he will continue to rely on loyalists if he chooses Giuliani.”

Donald Trump, Guantánamo And Torture: What Do We Need to Know? – OpEd

NOVEMBER 21, 2016

So the bad news, on Guantánamo, torture, Islamophobia and war, is that, as Charlie Savage explained in the New York Times this week, “As a presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump vowed to refill the cells of the Guantánamo Bay prison and saidAmerican terrorism suspects should be sent there for military prosecution. He called for targeting mosques for surveillance, escalating airstrikes aimed at terrorists and taking out their civilian family members, and bringing back waterboarding and a ‘hell of a lot worse’ — not only because ‘torture works,’ but because even ‘if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway.’”

As Savage also noted, “It is hard to know how much of this stark vision for throwing off constraints on the exercise of national security power was merely tough campaign talk,” but it is a disturbing position for Americans — and the rest of the world — to be in, particularly with respect to the noticeable differences between Trump and Barack Obama.

The outgoing president has some significant failures against his name, which will be discussed in detail below, but America’s first black president did not, of course, appoint a white supremacist to be his chief strategist and Senior Counselor, as Trump has done with Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, an alarming far-right US website. Nor did he call for a “total and complete shutdown” of America’s borders to Muslims, as Trump did last December, and nor did he suggest that there should be a registry of all Muslims, as Trump did last November.

The video evidence of Trump calling for the registry of Muslims, by the way, completely undermines his team’s claims in recent days that the president-elect “never advocated” for a registry tracking individuals based on their religion. That claim was made in response to a statement by Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, “reportedly a key member of Trump’s transition team, that the president-elect’s advisers are already considering the Muslim registry,” as the Guardian described it.

Syria war: Rebel group supplied with anti-air missiles#SyriaWar

21 November 2016

Ansar al-Islam Front says it has 'good number' of man-portable missiles in south Syria, in first apparent relaxation - or breach - of US ban

A member of Ansar al-Islam Front hold an SA-7 anti-aircraft missile (screegrab)

A Syrian rebel group has paraded a cache of shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, the first evidence of the weapons being supplied to opposition forces after an expected relaxing of US restrictions.

Members of the Ansar al-Islam Front were shown in a video posted on 20 November testing SA-7 Strela-2 missiles.

The group said they had a "good number" of the weapons, which were being deployed among Ansar and Free Syrian Army forces to counter government aircraft in Daraa and Quneitra, to the south of the country.

The first fighter in the video can be heard saying: "We, in Ansar al-Islam Front, have distributed several points of air defence to counter any attempt by the Syrian warplanes or helicopters which bombs points in Quneitra province. We have good number of these missiles."

A second fighter, named as "Abu Bilal" in the video, says: "We, in Ansar al-Islam Front and factions of the FSA, are distributing equipment and soldiers toward Tal al-Hara, Mashara, Sandaniya and Jabata. And in the coming days you will hear good news from Quneitra and its surroundings.


NOVEMBER 21, 2016

With President-elect Donald Trump’s chaotic transition underway, the U.S. foreign policy establishment and the international community have begun contemplating the dangerous uncertainties created by this transition and the potential contours of future American policy. This is quite obviously a particularly difficult task based on candidate Trump’s lack of policy specificity, his lack of previous thinking on international affairs and U.S. strategy, and his inchoate and often contradictory impulses about the world on display during his campaign. To the extent that Trump has offered hints about his worldview, they are mostly disturbing in that they reflect an affinity for authoritarian governance and a lack of appreciation for the liberal international order. These biases are even more disturbing as we now collectively contemplate a President Trump wielding the broad authorities of executive power in the international arena.

Yet Trump has displayed a basic but unswerving consistency on two issues, namely U.S.-Russian relations and U.S. policy on Syria. Trump has made clear repeatedly that he wants to decisively shift policy on Syria to align with Russiadespite contradictory views on Syria from much of his own party, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence. In President-elect Trump’s first telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two spoke about Syria and noted “the need to work together in the struggle against the No. 1 common enemy — international terrorism and extremism.” But a sudden, cost-free, wholesale, and non-negotiated U.S. realignment with Russian policy on Syria would be a setback both for longer-term stability in Syria and for stable relations with Russia. Adopting Russia’s war in Syria would represent a different form of escalation that would intensify the worst effects of the current conflict and undermine U.S. counter-terrorism goals. Instead, the United States should continue to prioritize negotiated de-escalation that seeks to restrain the murderous excesses of the Assad regime while sharpening focus on terrorist groups intent on harming the United States, its allies, and their interests. The war waged by Assad and Moscow in Syria is not the American war in Syria.


NOVEMBER 21, 2016

In a combative exchange with State Department spokesman John Kirby at a press briefing last week, a representative from RT, a Kremlin-directed outlet, stated that “If you give specifics, my colleagues would be able to ask Russian officials.” It was an interesting statement to make and suggested that RT would only question Russian officials if the State Department did their research for them. This is not how journalists work, but RT is not an organization that produces journalism.

RT, the media organization formerly known as “Russia Today” until a rebranding effort to feign distance from the Kremlin, has a long record of scripted coverage instead of journalism. A cursory review of online and on-air stories, insider reporting from former RT anchor Liz Wahl, and other reviews of the outlet all readily confirms this. My personal favorite: Watching RT last year, I learned that badgers in the United Kingdom “do not have rights” and that the cull to reduce their number was symbolic of the hypocrisy exercised by Whitehall and other Western governments across Africa. This was the assertion by the RT presenter to a confused guest, who muttered “I guess so.”

The request for specifics in the State Department briefing room was a baited question. It was a follow up from the prior day’s briefing on Russia’s resumption of airstrikes on civilian targets in Syria and whether the matter should be referred to the International Criminal Court. When pressed by RT for specific targets, Kirby repeatedly stated that credible relief agencies operating in Syria, including Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization (WHO), publicly provided the information. Since U.S.-led coalition aircraft do not fly over the areas being bombed, it is obvious that Russian aircraft or their Syrian clients are responsible for these strikes. Kirby also added that “we have other sources of information that back up what we’re seeing from some of these — from some of these reports.”

Will Trump's Presidency Overturn the Fragile Peace in Russia's Backyard?

November 21, 2016

After the collapse of the USSR, the Transcaucasian countries became a focus for American political and economic elites. This region was attractive to the United States for several reasons. First, Washington understood that Russia would use the Caucasus as a geostrategic bridge to the Middle East. Many outstanding experts noted that the United States needed to expand relations with the countries of the region in order to prevent excessive strengthening of the Russian factor. In this regard, the administrations of both Bushes, Clinton and Obama considered the Caucasus an important element of the long-term Middle East policy. Second, U.S. oil corporations sought to gain access to the oil fields of the Caspian Sea. America, seeking to reduce its European allies’ energy dependence on Russian gas, lobbied for the construction of energy projects that bypassed Moscow. In addition, Washington was involved in the settlement of ethnopolitical conflicts, becoming a permanent member of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Over the past twenty years, U.S. leaders have said that the South Caucasus is an important element in American foreign policy in the greater Middle East. Will America’s attitude change with the new president?

First of all, it should be noted that the United States considers each country of the region, namely Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, not only in the context of the region-wide policy in Caucasus, but also in terms of bilateral relations. Thus, Georgia plays the role of an agent of America’s political interests in the region. The United States supported Georgia’s territorial integrity, and condemned Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Every year, Congress increases its external allocations for Tbilisi’s humanitarian, economic and military needs. Moreover, next year, Georgia will receive up to $90 million, which is twice the total amount of equivalent assistance to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Besides that, Tbilisi has made the greatest progress in the process of European integration. It is also the region’s most active country in terms of military-technical cooperation with the United States. In July of this year, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry and Georgian prime minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili signed a memorandum on deepening of partnerships in the field of defense and security between the two countries. It provides cooperation in border, maritime and airspace security.