31 May 2013

'Paramilitary action should not be the driving force in Naxal areas'


The might of the Indian State is in the Naxal-affected areas. 71 battalions of central paramilitary forces, amounting to some 71,000 personnel, have been deployed. They have a vital role to play in backing the state police and in developmental activities.

The Collector of LWE-affected Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh told me recently how the presence and approach of the CRPF in the area had a considerable psychological impact enabling villagers to come out in large numbers to seek employment under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

But let us be clear, paramilitary and police action cannot and should not be the driving force.

The driving force has necessarily to be development and addressing the daily concerns of the people, of people who have every reason to feel alienated.

Massive reform of the police and the forest administration at the cutting edge is the need of the hour.

A more humane policy of land acquisition with focus on effective rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) is the need of the hour.

I think it was Walter Fernandes, the noted sociologist, who estimated that over 50 million people in central and eastern India have been displaced over the past five decades due to developmental projects. R&R for very large numbers of people has yet to be completed.

Worse, there are large numbers of tribals who have been subjected to repeated displacements.

It is not the Naxals who have created the ground conditions ripe for the acceptance of their ideology -- it is the singular failure of successive governments, both in the states and governments to protect the dignity and the Constitutional rights of the poor and the disadvantaged that has created a fertile breeding ground for violence and given the Naxals space to speak the language of social welfare but in reality use that as a cloak to construct their guerrilla bases and recruit most tragically women and children in large numbers.

So where do we go from here?

Let us not underestimate the seriousness of the threat we are faced with. I, for one, do not believe that a 'developmentalist' strategy alone, so eloquently advocated by the Planning Commission's Expert Group, will do.

I also do not believe that a strategy based on the primacy of paramilitary and police action will yield long-term results. The two must go hand-in-hand deriving strength from each other.

We are combating not just a destructive ideology but are also confronted with the wages of our own insensitivity and neglect, especially in so far as the central Indian tribal population is concerned.

Simply put, we need to rise above partisan political considerations and set aside old Centre versus state arguments and work concertedly to restore people's faith in the administration to be fair and just, to be prompt and caring, to be prepared to redress the injustices of the past, and to be both responsible and responsive in future.

Only then will the tide of Naxalism be stemmed.

'We need a renewed sense of urgency and a get it done attitude'

May 29, 2013 

In my current ministerial assignment, I consider the PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana) to be the single-most important rural development intervention that can significantly transform the ground-level situation in the (left wing extremism) LWE-affected districts.

This is not to minimise the importance of other programmes, but the PMGSY stands apart.

The first target of Naxals is roads, that is why PMGSY works are severely lagging in the LWE-affected districts.

Some innovations have been made to maximise the involvement of local contractors, for instance. But there have been frequent instances of these contractors being killed.

Some degree of security cover by paramilitary agencies like the CRPF will be essential to expedite PMGSY works. But we have a long way to go.

There are 25 districts out of the 60 LWE-affected districts where the expenditure levels are lower than the overall national average.

And within these 25, there is a core of 10 districts where expenditure levels are lower than the average for the LWE-districts themselves. These to me appear to be the districts where Naxal activity is most intense.

These ten districts are Bijaipur, Narayanpur and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Khammam in Andhra Pradesh, Lohardaga, Gumla, Latehar and Simdega in Jharkhand and Malkangiri in Orissa.

It is here that we need the synergy between the security forces and implementing agencies on the ground in order to speed up connectivity without which nothing else worthwhile is really possible.

We have estimated that in order to complete all PMGSY works covering habitations with a population of 250 to 500 in these 60 LWE-affected districts about Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion) will be needed.

Another Rs 19,000 crore (Rs 190 billion) will be needed to complete road connectivity to habitations with population less than 250.

In addition, we will need additional funds to complete small and minor bridges (unlinked with PMGSY roads per se) which have an importance of their own in these LWE-affected districts.

I am optimistic that these resources will be forthcoming -- the challenge really will be to ensure project completion in the next three-four years at most.

We need a renewed sense of urgency and a 'get it done' attitude. And we are battling huge odds.

One small bridge -- the 1 km Gurupriya bridge -- that is crucial to fighting Naxalism in Malkangiri district in Orissa has been talked about for almost three decades and it still remains to be constructed.

Along with PMGSY, I consider interventions to ensure the speedy settlement of land-related disputes to be high priority in the LWE-affected districts.

'A transformed forest administration lies at the very core of an effective anti-Naxal strategy'

May 29, 2013 

Given poor connectivity and infrastructure to begin with, this is a huge handicap to contend with by administrators.

Rationalisation of administrative units is entirely within the domain and powers of state governments. The Chattisgarh government has very recently decided to create five more districts in the Naxal-affected regions of the state and this is a good step.

On the tri-junction nature of these districts, Debu Bandopadhyay, one of the key administrators responsible for land reforms in West Bengal in the seventies and early eighties, has an interesting story to tell.

When I mentioned this dimension to him recently in Kolkata he recalled that this was very much part of Hare Krishna Konar's considerations while working out the strategy in the early 1960s before the CPI-M came to power in West Bengal.

I was told that Konarbabu focussed on three specific areas as epicentres for class struggles -- Naxalbari, Jangalmahal and Hasnabad -- all three of which are in tri-junction areas.

Today the key tri-junction areas are Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra-Andhra Pradesh, Orissa-Chhattisgarh-Andhra Pradesh, Orissa-Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh, Orissa-West Bengal-Jharkhand.

The challenge is to quickly improve infrastructure -- roads and bridges more specifically -- that enables basic developmental activities to be carried out.

My own view is that there is no alternative to the central government stepping in for financing and executing these tri-junction infrastructure works. It is not happening at the speed at which it is required.

Realising the need for smaller units accompanied by a broader pan-state approach to dealing with the administrative aspect is an important first step to deal with the problem.

But the real challenge is how do you transform administration in tribal areas so as not only to give people a sense of participation and involvement, but more fundamentally, to preserve and protect their dignity?

How do you prevent or address their continued victimisation, first by the State and now by the Naxals?

Empowering the tribals, who are essentially victims, by giving access to basics, by giving them what is theirs by right and by securing their livelihoods is, to my mind, an absolute undiluted must.

Here, issues related to land ownership and land alienation must receive over-riding priority.

On the minerals issue, the Union Cabinet has very recently approved the repeal of the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1957 and its replacement by a new law. This new law will establish a District Mineral Foundation in each of the mineral-rich districts into which will flow every year an amount equal the royalty paid (for minerals other than coal) and equal to 26% of net profits as far as coal is concerned.

'The tribals themselves want peace, not war'

May 29, 2013 

It is my good fortune to have two outstanding IAS officers working with me now; both have had the misfortune of being abducted by the Naxals.

One was kidnapped in 1987 in Rampachodavaram in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh along with S R Sankaran and kept captive for four days. The other was held hostage for nine days in Malkangiri district of Orissa.

Both the officers are very strong advocates of the S R Sankaran approach of development and sensitive governance in tribal areas. But in my continuing conversations with them, two things have emerged.

One, the Naxals are exploiting the tribals and two, the tribals themselves want peace, not war. The Naxals are using the tribal areas and issues for their tactical purposes.

The terrain and the forests suit them for guerrilla warfare. They have spread their terror and ensured that the developmental activities are obstructed.

The tribal cause, which the Naxals espouse, is only a mask to further their own agenda. The Malkangiri incident is a clear message from the tribals of the region that they want development and not Naxal terror.

What is clear is that we need a two-track approach -- one that deals with the leadership of the Naxals, who wish to overthrow the Indian State and the other, which focuses on the concerns of the people they pretend/claim to serve.

There is clearly a need to recognise tribal populations as victims -- first of State apathy and discrimination and then of the Naxal agenda.

My firm belief is that a complete revamp of administration and governance in tribal areas, especially in central and eastern India, is the pressing need of the hour.

Andhra Pradesh has attempted to do this through its ITDA (Integrated Tribal Development Agency) model, but much more needs to be done.We must also come to grips with the sad reality that affirmative action programmes like reservations have had a very marginal impact on the welfare of the central and eastern Indian tribal communities.

The Union government has identified 60 districts in seven states that are affected by left-wing extremism. Of these, 15 are in Orissa, 14 in Jharkhand, 10 in Chattisgarh, 8 in Madhya Pradesh, 7 in Bihar, 2 each in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and one each in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. 18 more districts are being considered for inclusion.

States have said that the 'block' and not the district should be the basic unit for identification and I quite agree with this demand. There are a few districts, for instance, Guntur in Andhra Pradesh and Raipur in Chattisgarh, which are not part of this 60 but where certain blocks are badly affected.

I am hopeful that when we get into the XIIth Five Year Plan from April 2012, we would have made this change from the district to the block.

When you look at these 60 districts on a map of India, five characteristics stand out. I should, however, mention straightaway that the 7 districts of Bihar are an exception to these generalisations.

Bihar has its own dynamics embedded in caste and land-related structures.

First, an overwhelming majority of these districts have substantial population of tribal communities.

'Their basic ideology is a complete rejection of Parliamentary democracy'


More recently, three years ago the Planning Commission published the report of its 17-member expert group on development challenges in extremist-affected areas. And what a group this was.

It had all the people you would want for such an exercise, people who have spent a life time thinking, speaking, writing and working on this subject—people like Debu Bandopadhyay, S R Sankaran, K Balagopal, B D Sharma, K B Saxena, Ram Dayal Munda, Dileep Singh Bhuria and Sukhadeo Thorat, to name just eight of them. As was only to be expected, the report of this group was extraordinarily detailed.

It gave the historical, political, social and economic context to the issue, reviewed government efforts to deal with the problem and recommended a number of key policy and programme measures and changes to vastly and visibly reduce, if not totally eradicate, the effects of Left-wing extremism in different states.

Running into 95 pages, this report may lack the lyrical beauty and sheer poetry, misleading though it may be, of Arundhati Roy's now famous 33-page essay in Outlookmagazine, but for sheer comprehensiveness and depth of analysis and for showing a practical way ahead it has no peers.

Please permit me to inject a personal note here. As a student of India's political dynamics I have always had an intellectual interest in this subject, but over the last seven years, my involvement has grown and has become increasingly more direct.

First, since 2004 when I became a Member of Parliament from Andhra Pradesh, I have used my MPLADS funds mostly in Adilabad, Warangal and Khammam -- three Naxal-affected districts -- to strengthen women's self-help group organisations and reduce the trust deficit between tribal communities and the civil administration.

Second, between June 2009 and July 2011 as minister in charge of environment and forests, it fell on me to bring about changes in forest policy and administration since this has been identified as a key factor in dealing with the issue of Naxal violence.

Third, since July 2011 as minister in charge of rural development covering key programmes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, watershed management, drinking water supply, housing, social assistance and modernisation of land records, an opportunity has been afforded to me to address the development deficit in the Naxal-affected areas that the 17-member Planning Commission expert group so tellingly identified.

Before I go any further on the development route, I wish to pause and reflect on something that the Union home minister has so forcefully said on more than one occasion, quite in contrast to his predecessor, who described the Naxals as 'our wayward and misguided younger brothers' (and I should add increasingly sisters) who have to be gently persuaded and cajoled to give up the cult of violence and wanton killings.

Both in Parliament and outside, the present home minister has said that on the basis of material gathered from captured left-wing extremist groups, it is unequivocally clear that their objective is the violent overthrow of the Indian State and that their basic ideology is a complete rejection of Parliamentary democracy as enshrined in our Constitution.

Knowing the home minister as I do, I can attest to the fact that he believes very much in the 'developmentalist' approach, the strategy and approach advocated, for instance, by the expert committee of the Planning Commission to which I referred earlier. But he does raise a fundamental point that should not be brushed aside summarily.

Of course, the Indian State has confronted many groups in the past that reject its very basis and rationale. And in many cases, these very groups that have fought the might of the Indian State for years have finally come around and become a peaceful part of our polity.

'The tribal cause is a mask to further the Naxal agenda'


'We need a two-track approach -- one that deals with the leadership of the Naxals, who wish to overthrow the Indian State and the other, which focuses on the concerns of the people they pretend/claim to serve.'

'There is clearly a need to recognise tribal populations as victims -- first of State apathy and discrimination and then of the Naxal agenda.'

We again highlight Union Minister Jairam Ramesh's Sardar Patel memorial lecture, organised by Prasar Bharati, 'From Tirupati to Pashupati: Some Reflections on the Maoist Issue'.

The title comes from the popular image in the media that a "liberated" red corridor is sought to be created extending from Andhra Pradesh to Nepal and cutting across the very heart of India.

This has been described by the prime minister to be India's most serious internal security challenge and by the home minister to be even graver than the problem of terrorism.

Armed Communist insurgency is something that the nascent Indian nation-State -- of which Sardar Patel was the home minister -- confronted in Telangana even as the Constituent Assembly was debating the architecture of our Republican democracy founded on adult suffrage and positive discrimination in favour of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

The modern-day Maoists see themselves as legatees of this uprising, which Sardar Patel dealt with firmly but sensitively.

The phenomenon of Naxal violence has been studied by official committees from time to time. I recall that in the early 1980s, then prime minister Indira Gandhi sent a team headed by the-then member-secretary of the Planning Commission to conduct field-level studies of Naxal-affected areas in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh and recommend solutions, both for the Centre and the States to adopt. The author of this report is, incidentally, now our prime minister.

The recommendations were many, but the main point made was that urgent and long-festering socio-economic concerns of the weaker sections of society must be addressed meaningfully if the influence of Naxal groups is to be countered effectively.

The Ballistic Missile intercept problem

By Sunil S 
May 10, 2013 

India must seek to constantly expand its envelope of missile intercept options and technologies. 

Recent disclosures in the Japan Times about the Nodong/Ghauri missile’s INS being not up to the mark may alter the threat perception from Pakistan’s missile program. While the Pakistani missile program has contributions from sources other than North Korea, the Ghauri missile is the longest-range delivery option in Pakistan’s arsenal. The Ghauri missile lends unique capability to Pakistan’s strategic weapons forces.

For the purpose of this discussion, it is preferable to frame the ballistic missile issue in a way that focuses on the warhead trajectory and the launcher survivability. If one has a longer-range missile, one gets two things, the ability to position the launcher further away from the target and a higher warhead velocity. The higher velocity can be crucial in the terminal phase of the missile’s trajectory.

Placing the launcher farther away from the target allows for better survivability. The most effective place to terminate an enemy missile launch is at the launch point itself, either by a direct assault on the launcher or via interference in the post launch navigational correction period. During the first Gulf War, a number of Special Forces teams from the US, UK, and Israel wandered around Iraq seeking out Scud missile launchers. When they could not disrupt the launch, they provided launch warning to Patriot missile batteries in Israel and Saudi Arabia. These forward observer teams were the key to the success of the Patriot missile system and their timely actions saved thousands of lives.

According to reports in the media, India allegedly does not possess the ability to deploy long-range reconnaissance patrols deep within the Pakistani territory. If we assume that somehow this peculiar disability can be overcome in times of crisis, by placing the missiles in heavily guarded Pakistani bases deep in Baluchistan, Pakistan could significantly limit India’s observation capabilities. In a more general sense, a longer-range missile platform can be placed farther away from regions where interference can be easily carried out.

Once the missile is launched, the enemy stands to gain a lot if a depressed trajectory or ‘lofted’ shot is used. Such a shot would dramatically affect the time allowed for the target country to react to the launch. Even if a Special Forces observer team is able to provide intimation of the launch, the exact computation of an intercept trajectory relies on getting accurate information from surveillance radar. The accuracy of trajectory calculations for a depressed trajectory or ‘lofted’ shot is poor.

At present the exact trajectories attempted by Pakistani missile tests is not in the public realm. In news reports of the tests, the Pakistanis maintain a deliberate ambiguity about the exact location of the launch. For example, the Ghauri missile launch complex is commonly referred to as “Tilla Jogian”, “Tilla Satellite Launch Complex” or the “Mashood Test Firing Range”. It is said that missiles launched from this complex, land in “Jiwani, Balochistan” – but the exact location has never been disclosed to the public. It is also unknown if any Indian radar system can track Pakistani missile trajectories during such tests. Clearly Pakistan is adept at using deception at the strategic level and keeping its enemies in the dark about its true capabilities.

Whither cyber strategy?

By Srikanth R 
May 24, 2013 

Indian government’s vague resolutions to build capacity for cyber security with little to no specifics are unlikely to meet the requirement.

The increasing role of networked computers in running infrastructure (such as cell phone networks and critical business processes) in recent decades has seen a rise in crimes related to compromising the integrity of these networks. An event such as Chinese hackers taking down a large part of the Indian telephone networks, that are mostly based on Chinese Telephony Hardware, is not unlikely. A report prepared by Pentagon for the US Congress identifies targeted cyber attacks by the Chinese military on US government and private networks. Such plans have been announced by other governments targeting competitor nations with targeted cyber attacks to steal intellectual property or to cripple critical infrastructure in case of hostilities. Such concerns have prompted the Indian government to study the scope and nature of threats arising from such cyber attacks.


The recommendations of various Joint Working Groups (JWG) last year were consolidated and released in a report by the National Security Council Secretariat titled Recommendations of JWG On Engagement with Private Sector on Cyber Security, towards charting a plan for securing networks and computers of public and private sectors by creating a permanent mechanism for a Public-Private Partnership in cyber-security. The document recognises the importance of creating trained professionals required for securing the goals mentioned in the document. Newspapers had reported plans to create 500,000 cyber security professionals by 2015, which amounts to graduating roughly 250,000 security professionals annually until 2015. These numbers appear to be arbitrary given the lack of facilities to teach that many individuals in such a short time span. This news has already attracted operators of unknown antecedents offering cyber security training for a hefty fee, and doing little more than providing documents towards the preparation for cyber security certifications like CISSP. The set of recommendations in the JWG report for training the required personnel, amount to innovative recruitment and placement procedures, specialised training in PPP mode, joint work by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and Ministry of Human Resource Development with the private sector to establish a cyber security capacity building framework, running awareness campaigns for general public, and similar vague resolutions to build capacity with little to no specifics. These organisation are to be coordinated under the leadership of the Deputy NSA. The implementations of all these recommendations have been left to a permanent JWG at some unspecified point in the future. It is not clear how the Deputy NSA plans to coordinate with MHRD and MCIT in their plans for training people, should the requirements change down the line.

The US government has similarly recognised the need for large numbers of trained security professionals in the government, based on a set of 11 recommendations by the DHS Advisory Council in Cyber skills Task Force Report. This report recognises the vulnerability of government networks and SCADA systems used to control industrial machinery such as power generators. Secretary of the DHS, Ms Janet Napolitano identified the development of a workforce capable of meeting cyber security challenges in June 2012, before the JWG submitted its report to the NCSC in August 2012. Specifically, Secretary Napolitano recognised the need to improve its capability to recruit large numbers of sophisticated cyber security professionals.

Can India be Shale-&-hearty?

By Jaspreet Singh 
May 17, 2013 

A clear policy on exploration and production of shale gas is the first step to tap the potential of shale gas in India.

Even until a decade ago LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) re-gasification terminals were being planned along the US coast in anticipation of US being a large importer of natural gas. However, in 2012, approvals were granted to construct LNG terminals at the very same sites for export to gas hungry markets in Asia. Over the last five years, the price of natural gas in US has fallen sharply, from about US $12/ mmbtu in the first half of 2008 to an average of US $3/mmbtu in 2012. The reason was the boom in production of shale gas i.e. natural gas adsorbed in fine-grained sedimentary rock, which has very low permeability and is spread over large territorial areas. Technological advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have made shale gas production commercially viable.

Lower gas prices have given a boost to petrochemical, fertiliser and other manufacturing units where natural gas is the key feedstock. It has also helped US move away from using coal for power production thus reducing its carbon footprint as natural gas emits 40 – 50 percent less carbon dioxide compared to coal. The result of this success has led other nations to explore and develop local shale gas reserves. Leading the race is China, which has the largest estimated reserves of 1275 tcf (trillion cubic feet) (the estimated reserves in the US is 862 tcf).

In comparison, India holds technically recoverable shale gas reserves of 61 tcf in 4 out of its 26 sedimentary basins. The exploration of remaining basins to estimate the potential reserves is in process in partnership with the US Geological Survey. Some industry estimates are hopeful of reserves upward of 600 tcf within India.

India’s demand for natural gas is estimated to increase three fold within the next five years. Natural gas is also expected to be the preferred fossil fuel for power generation and as feedstock for petrochemical and fertiliser plants. In order to meet this shortfall in the immediate future, the Indian government is pushing for construction of more LNG re-gasification terminals along the western and eastern coast and also exploring the possibility of cross country pipelines to bring home natural gas from Central Asia. Neither option is however attractive as the current price of importing LNG is upward of US$ 14/ mmbtu (it has ranged from US$ 12 to 15 /mmbtu in the Asian markets) while the pipeline route is via geographically and politically challenging landscape. It is therefore imperative for India to aggressively explore and develop local resources, both conventional and shale gas reserves.

However, even increasing shale gas production is no less challenging. There are technological, regulatory, infrastructure and environmental hurdles that need to be crossed to leverage the potential of shale gas in India. It took the oil and gas industry in US over 30 years to achieve commercial success in shale gas production. While this time-frame can be reduced to replicate success in India, the government will have to be open and offer incentives to attract foreign investment in the sector.

Chinese assertiveness

It's time for introspection

By Rakesh Datta 
30 May 2013


Describing India's relations with China is no less than a "Eureka moment", said one senior Admiral. Despite the fact that the two trace their relations to ancient times, India's knowledge, assessment, experience and understanding of Chinese political and military mind is not what it ought to have been.

They confronted each other openly in 1962 when India's military capability was not found up to the mark. Things have not changed much during these more than five decades. It may not be prudent to say that we have been watching idly China adding to its military muscle, and Indian politico-military thinking towards strategic decision-making on China remaining frightful.

It was more or less in public domain when former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee asked General Padmanabhan, the then Army Chief, the required marching time for undertaking Operation Parakram. The reply was "twenty days". General Manekshaw during the 1971 war insisted for six months. While Kargil was no different, the recent standoff too was underplayed as merely of tactical value by the present Army Chief. 

It may be pointed out that the tactical action proposed at Rakhi Nala during the latest dispensation was actually no different from what Mr B.N. Mullick, then IB chief, predicted --- that Chinese would not interfere with Indian posts once those had been established. It was acted upon as late as July 10, 1962, when Chinese surrounded the Galwan post. They withdrew when threatened with the use of force. Logistically, the Army was unable to supply its men with suitable equipment and provisions for the Himalayan conditions.

On September 8, 1962, Chinese forces crossed the McMahon line in the Kemang division of NEFA. The Government of India (GOI) confirming the report officially on September 13 underplayed the attack, saying that Chinese forces had appeared in the vicinity of one of the posts. 

Unfortunately, the GOI always had the strong conviction that the border problem would be solved amicably. In fact, all border incidents during that time — at Barahuti, Damzan, Nilang, Kurik, Walong, Khurnak posts, etc — were between the Chinese army on one hand and Indian police personnel on the other. It was only in April 1960 that the responsibility of the northern frontier was handed over to the Indian Army. Interestingly, now it was the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) which was managing the frontiers at selected places with not much coordination with the local army commanders. Things are only routed through New Delhi. 

The Chinese leadership in its relations with India continued to maintain an attitude of being gullible. While at Durban on March 25 this year the new Chinese President, Xi Jing Ping, met the Indian Prime Minister with all the cordiality expected, but during the next fortnight the Chinese dream of strategic thinking and protecting national sovereignty and security was realised by crossing the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. The incursion could only have been to empower the new Chinese leadership in their dealings with India from a position of strength.

Increasing trade with China and the growing business ties with a target of reaching $100 billion bilateral trade level in the next two years is a prudent strategy, keeping in view the new geo-economic realities. But will it help circumventing Chinese military designs on India in the long run? One has to read Chinese history to understand its expansionist policy spread over four dynasties --- the Hans, Tangs, Mongols and Manchus -- taking Chinese arms to the four corners of central and eastern Asia. During the Hans dynasty, the traditional expansionist policy was known as "t' san shih", which means to eat gradually. In Beijing's view, all boundary questions are the legacies of the past as a result of unequal treaties and need a satisfactory settlement.

In a wider perspective, China also considers all disputed areas belonging to it, which also points to its blatant contempt for any agreement signed with its neighbours for resolving disputes through negotiations. A major constituent of the Chinese foreign policy has been territorial and military expansion at the cost of its weak neighbours with a view to ensuring security and gaining power to challenge them. In Chinese understanding of international politics, there are no friends but only enemies and vessel states. 

THE GULF MILITARY BALANCE Volume III: The Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula

By Anthony H. Cordesman, Robert M. Shelala II 
May 27, 2013 

The Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula is the most important single theater in the US-Iranian strategic competition. The proximity of the Arab Gulf states to Iran; the region’s geostrategic value to the stability of the global economy; the shifting military balance; and the social, demographic, and economic tensions that threaten to create political upheavals in several key states make it a potential flash-point in tensions between Washington and Tehran. 

While each state in the region has unique challenges, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE all share many of the same strategic priorities and security interests, and are allied together in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). They all must react to the same major changes now taking place in their strategic environment: 
The Security and Strategic Importance of Petroleum Exports: The large reserves of oil and natural gas in the Arabian Peninsula make the security and stability of the region of vital importance to the US. 

Estimates of oil and gas reserves as a percent of the world total are highly uncertain – and are changing rapidly as more unconventional sources of oil and gas come to play a far greater role in global supply. However, the size of proved oil reserves in these states ensures that these countries will continue to be major players in the global oil trade so long as there is demand. 

Three of the world’s top 10 producers of oil are located on the peninsula – Saudi Arabia (1), the United Arab Emirates (7) and Kuwait (9). 1 According to reserves data from the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) and country rankings from the Central Intelligence Agency, as of May 2013 Saudi Arabia had the largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world, with 267.91 billion barrels or 18.17% of the world total. Kuwait (104 billion barrels) and the UAE (97.8 billion barrels) followed with the sixth and seventh-largest proved reserves, comprising 7.05% and 6.63% of the world total, respectively. Iran has 154.58 billion or 10.48%; Iraq has 141.35 billion or 9.59%.

While other estimates differ in detail, sources like the BP Statistical Review of Energy for 2012 produce broadly similar estimates. It estimated that the GCC states alone had 19.2% of the world oil reserves versus 9.1% for Iran and 8.7% for Iraq.3 Some estimates put the GCC shares of the world’s proven conventional oil reserves as high as 45%, with the potential to rise steadily in the future.

The region also has key natural gas producers – namely Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The BP Statistical Review of Energy for 2012 estimates that the GCC states have 20.4% of world gas reserves versus 15.9% for Iran and 1.7% for Iraq. 5 Some estimates indicate that the GCC has 17% of the world’s conventional gas reserves. 6 In terms of proved reserves of natural gas, Qatar has the world’s third-largest and Saudi Arabia the fourth-largest – 12-13% and 3.9-4% of the world total, respectively.7 Saudi Arabia also has extensive mineral resources. 
Geography and Strategic Competition with Iran: The Arab Gulf states are in close range of rapidly growing Iranian missile, air, and naval capabilities, and their exports and many of their imports move by sea. The presence of US military assets and facilities throughout the Arabian Peninsula offers them security in terms of both deterrence and warfighting capability, but the states that host US bases may also be treated as targets for retaliation in the event of a conflict in the Gulf or a preventive US or Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear infrastructure. 

The Strait of Hormuz – which passes between the UAE, Oman, and Iran – is an essential passageway for maritime commerce from the east coast of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE to the outside world. Roughly 35% of all oil moved via ocean and 20% of all internationally traded oil passes through the Strait – some 17 million barrels daily. According to the EIA, “[t]he Strait of Hormuz is by far the world’s most important chokepoint [for oil trade]. 8

Iran’s Nuclear and Missile Programs: Iran’s steady progress towards developing the capability to deploy nuclear weapons confronts the ArabGulf states with the need to find a new form of deterrence and defense that can deal with a nuclear-armed Iran. This has led the US to offer its Arab Gulf allies “extended deterrence” of the kind it once offered its NATO allies in dealing with the nuclear threat posed by the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Senior Saudi officials have publically noted that the Kingdom has studied nuclear options. The nuclear threat has also given missile defense an even higher priority, and led to debates over containment versus preventive strikes to deny Iran a nuclear capability. 

The Challenge of Containment and Preventive Strikes: All the Arab Gulf states have supported US, EU, and P5+1 efforts to use sanctions and negotiations to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear efforts, and all are actively building up their own conventional air and sea forces to deter and defend against Iran and doing so in partnership with the US and other outside powers like the UK and France. Each, however, must also consider whether to back the US in preventive strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities, the relative merits of such strikes versus containment, and how they would react to an Israeli preventive strike on Iran. 

Sunni versus Shia and Alawite Tensions: Iran is a Persian Shia state with a different language than the Gulf Arab states, and is an ambitious foe seeking regional and religious dominance. With the exception of Oman, all of the Arab Gulf states have Sunni leaders, and most have a strong Sunni majority in their native populations. All, however, also have a significant number of Shia citizens, including Bahrain, which has a Shia majority. These sectarian differences affect both their internal stability and competition with Iran. 

In several Arab Gulf countries, the Shia portion of the population sees itself as being socially, politically, and economically discriminated against by the regime, and less well-off than their Sunni counterparts. Iran has been politically active and has sometimes used covert elements to try to win support from such Shia and use them in putting pressure on Arab Gulf regimes. This has led the governments of Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemen to tighten their internal security policies, resulting in clashes between native Shia and internal security forces in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and fighting between Shia tribes and the government in Yemen. 

The Arab Gulf governments are also concerned about Iranian links to these communities, and possible Iranian efforts to use their native Shia to undermine the Sunni leadership. The Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese Hezbollah are seen as key elements of such threats. 

Does the US Really Want To Pick A Side In A Sunni/Shia War?

20 May 2013. 

Robert Kaplan had a real thought-provoker at RealClearWorld over the weekend – his thesis, that the US and its Western allies would be poorly served by picking a side in the growing Sunni/Shia feud which has already changed the Syrian revolution into a sectarian civil war and now threatens to spill over into Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and beyond. 


Don’t defeat Iran. Shi’ism is not America’s enemy. It is not in the long-term interest of the United States to side with the Sunni Arab states against Iran or vice versa. Doing so produces an imbalance of power in the region as we learned with the collapse of the Iraqi state in the aftermath of the American invasion of 2003. 

Kaplan’s callous-as-hell realpolitik is that the US certainly shouldn’t be backing the Sunni side of that imbalance – the side that gave us Salafist extremism, Al Qaeda, 9/11 and a host of dictatorial governments – when the Shia-dominated states of Iran and Iraq have at least a “semblance of a democratic foundation”. Instead, he writes, that as Syria collapses into chaos the West should be looking to give Iran and Shiites some help. 


Weakening central authority — not the continuation of autocracy — remains the greatest danger to the region. Keep in mind that stability in the Middle East has never been a matter of democracy. To date,Israel has only signed peace treaties with Arab autocrats, men who ran strong states and who could purge members of their own power structures who disagreed with them. It is not democracy that the United States should primarily want, but a regional balance of power that will reduce the risk of war. 

Now that Iran is being weakened by the slow-motion collapse of Bashar al Assad’s Alawite regime, a chaotic Syria will likely become — even more so — the fulcrum of a power struggle between Iran and the Sunni Arab world for years to come, preventing either side from being able to dominate the region. 

Cold wars are tolerable precisely because they are cold. And a new cold war in the Middle East, assuming sectarian violence can be kept down at a reasonable level, will be something that policymakers in Washington may see as being in the American interest. A region balanced at least has the possibility to be a region at relative peace, with a Shiite bastion composed of Tehran and Baghdad facing off against a belt of Sunni revivalism stretching from Egypt to Anbar in western Iraq. It is for this reason that Barack Obama’s administration should not be in favor of a zero-sum result in Syria. 

The problem here is that any taking sides – even taking both sides and trying for a balance of powers – is dangerous meddling with unforeseen consequences. “First, do no harm” might be a good principle to observe instead. That principle says we should stay the hell out of the Levant. There are already worrying signs of the Syrian war spilling over into other areas – most notably in Iraq where the Saudis and Qataris are funding resurgent Sunni militias but now too in Lebanon, with Hezbollah openly crossing the border to help the Assad regime just as Saudis are joining the rebels. The situation simply isn’t as clear cut as Kaplan would like either. While the Sunni/Shia feud is certainly the main power struggle going on, there’s also a feud for Sunni leadership between the Saudis and Qatar

No, the best course for the US would be to not meddle, to stay the hell out of the Sunni/Shia feud even if it becomes a region-wide civil war. Unfortunately, the Beltway conventional wisdom has the US on a glide-path to intervention on the Sunni side. 

Are Insurgencies “Antifragile”?


I have been reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s latest book, Antifragile . It’s a highly intriguing book and I will give it a full review soon, but Taleb’s core concept of antifragility is important and lends itself to wide application. Here’s Taleb on what constitutes “antifragility” – things that gain or improve with disorder – which he was careful to distinguish not just from “fragility” but also from “robustness” and “resilience”: 


Almost all people answer that the opposite of “fragile” is “robust”, “resilient” , “solid”, or something of the sort. But the resilient, robust (and company) are items that neither break nor improve, so you would not need to write anything on them – have you ever seen a package with “robust” stamped on it? Logically, the exact opposite of a “fragile” parcel would be a package on which one has written “please mishandle” or “please handle carelessly”. It’s contents would not just be unbreakable, but would benefit from shocks and a wide array of trauma. The fragile is the package that would be at best unharmed, the robust would at best and at worst unharmed. And the opposite of fragile is therefore what is at worst unharmed. [31] 

Italics in original. 

Taleb uses a number of metaphors – the Phoenix, the Hydra – as well as examples to get across the point that an antifragile entity overcompensates in reaction to stress/damage/disorder by becoming better, growing stronger, more powerful, adaptively improving itself. Think of the effects of weight training in building muscle or a wildfire spurring bountiful growth in an ecosystem. There’s more to Antifragile than this but the gist is sufficient for now. 

Which brings me to the question, “Are insurgencies antifragile?” 

The study of insurgency, terrorism and revolution, while important and useful tend to suffer from several drawbacks. One is compartmentalization and academic specialization. As Robert Bunker pointed out in Narcos Over the Border, a problem like “criminal-insurgency” attracts very different reactions from Law enforcement, intelligence analysts, the military, counter-terrorism officials and other experts (to say nothing of politicians) which makes consensus over a common analytic framework very difficult. Sometimes even defining the problem across domains is frustrating. As a result, many studies are too narrow and the few admirably ambitiously broad ones are deeply stamped in the political lens of the era in which they were researched and written – i.e. imperialist Small Wars, the Cold War, the War on Terror, Pop-centric COIN of Iraq and Afghanistan wars etc. It is a subject that requires both more (and more intellectually creative) scholarship and a greater degree of synthesis. 

In the meantime, I’d like to offer some speculation in an effort to answer the question: 

Is 4GW magnifique?

22 JUNE 2012
By Chet

Summary: FM writer Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired) describes what our military refuses to see, that 4GW has become the dominate form of warfare in our age. That others are mastering it, while we spend vast sums preparing for wars that will not occur again during our lives. And, like all war, 4GW is Hell. See the links at the end for more information. 

I don’t understand it; our 4GW foes don’t need to. From Prof Sam Liles @ Selil.

We therefore repeat our proposition, that War is an act of violence pushed to its utmost bounds; as one side dictates the law to the other, there arises a sort of reciprocal action, which logically must lead to an extreme. This is the first reciprocal action, and the first extreme with which we meet (first reciprocalaction).

Clausewitz’s observation was made in the context of state-vs-state warfare, where, as he notes, the aim is to “disarm the enemy.” In the form of warfare common today (called fourth generation or non-trinitarian warfare) that conclusion may not be so straightforward. For example, in the original paper on the subject, which introduced the term “fourth generation warfare,” Bill Lind and his colleagues noted that: 


First generation warfare focused tactically and operationally (when operational art was practiced) on the enemy’s front, his combat forces. Second generation warfare remained frontal tactically, but at least in Prussian practice it focused operationally on the enemy’s rear through the emphasis on encirclement. The third generation shifted the tactical as well as the operational focus to the enemy’s rear. 

Fourth generation warfare, like terrorism, might well move the operational focus back even further:

4GW sweeps the planet


Terrorism takes this a major step further. It attempts to bypass the enemy’s military entirely and strike directly at his homeland at civilian targets. Ideally, the enemy’s military is simply irrelevant to the terrorist. 

In fact, the will of the enemy population might become the “operational focus,” as it was for the North Vietnamese.

So what does this suggest for the role of violence, and in particular, the tendency of the level of violence to escalate? Difficult to say. On the one hand, 4GW opponents, like the insurgents, terrorists, and narcotrafficking organizations from whence they sprang, see violence as a tool for influencing civilian (another term that needs to be reexamined in this type of conflict) populations. More may not necessarily be better, as one may awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve, to coin a phrase. 

Update about one of the seldom-discussed trends shaping our world: 4GW

25 MAY 2013

Summary: One of the great stories of 21st century looks to be the conflict between nations using conventional military methods (2GW and 3GW), and forces using 4GW. So far the latter are winning almost every time. America’s inability to adapt to this new world, part of our larger #FailureToLearn, is another strike against the Second Republic (that built on the Constitution). Here’s a brief status report on the war, concluding with a new article by William Lind, our Thucydides. 

Source: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid website

One of the interesting aspects of recent history is the coincidence of 
the collapse of discussion about 4GW in US military and geopolitical circles, 
victories by insurgents using 4GW methods over foreign armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, &
most important, the perhaps history-making victory by Bin Laden’s al Qaeda.

The second point is important to us, but the usual outcome since WW2 (after which 4GW became the dominate form of military conflict; see section C below). The third point is the big one. Based on the available information, one of Bin Laden’s goals was to destabilize the US political regime. Massive increase in military spending (using borrowed funds). The bill of rights being shredded (note yesterday’s House vote to tear another strip from the 4th amendment). Our Courts holding show trials of terrorists — recruited, financed, supported by our security services. Torture and concentration camps. 


Bin Laden’s other goal, more clearly stated, was to incite a war between the USA and Islam — perhaps as Bismarck used wars to unify small States to create Germany. We took the bait: invading Iraq and Afghanistan, attacking Pakistan, Yemen. And now spreading our war into Africa. We see the domestic fruits of this in the hysterical reaction of the US people to the Boston Bombing. 

9-11 might join the roster of history’s great battles, perhaps as the most effective single military operation in history. It cost bin Laden his life and destroyed his organization. He probably considered the result well worth the cost. And like the head of the hydra, new offshoots of al Qaeda have appeared to replace the old. 

We — the Second American Republic — have engaged in a war with nationalistic, Islamic forces using 4GW. So far we are losing. For various reasons we are unable to even perceive the nature of the threat. In DoD the hot dot is again procurement of high-tech weapons — new ships, the F-35, the hypersonic cruise missile, etc. All useless in the wars we’ve fought for the past 50 years, and probably in those of the next 50 years.