17 September 2014

Cleaning Up the Ganges

By Sudha Ramachandran
September 15, 2014

Narendra Modi will need more than just rhetoric to clean up India’s most important river. 

Already, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cleanup plan for the Ganges river has come in for criticism from various quarters. The sharpest censure came recently from India’s Supreme Court, which observed that the government’s action plan may not result in a clean Ganges “even after 200 years.”

The apex court has ordered the government to provide a cleanup plan with stages and a schedule.

Promises to clean the Ganges figured in Modi’s election speeches and in his party’s election manifesto. Soon after coming to power in May, he signaled that the Ganges would be a priority by creating a Ministry for Water Resources, River Development and Ganges Rejuvenation. A flurry of meetings followed. In July, the government announced “Namami Ganga,” (in Sanskrit it means “obeisance to the Ganges”), an Integrated Ganges Development Project, and allocated around $334 million for it. It promised a clean Ganges in three years.

However, little is known about the Ganges project or what it entails.

“All we have are some indications in a statement here and a report there of some of the likely elements of the plan: cleaning the Ganges, removing the pollution, environmental flows, at least one branch of Ganges to be free-flowing, construction of ghats [steps leading to the river] at some selected points, and making the Ganges navigable from Allahabad to Haldia,” observes Shripad Dharmadhikary, founder of Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, an NGO that works on water-related issues. “But there is no clarity about each of these components and how they would fit together,” he told The Diplomat.

Modi’s Clean Ganges crusade, while rich in rhetoric, seems parsimonious on details.

Al-Qaida jihad call unlikely to echo in India

D. Suba Chandran
The call for jihad in South Asia by Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is to augment his falling fortunes within the jihadi infrastructure, rather than expanding the focus of the operations of the Al-Qaida.

HOW real is Zawahiri’s threat to have an Al-Qaida base in India? Will he succeed in establishing a jihadi base in India for the Base? Perhaps, Zawahiri is buoyed by Al-Qaida’s success and reception in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the region, and believes he could repeat the performance of his organisation in India and the rest of South Asia as well. Zawahiri’s enthusiasm is misplaced and his strategy is unlikely to succeed, for the following reasons.

First, Al-Qaida today is not what it was until few years ago. Especially, after the killing of Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida has lost much of its lethality and sheen. In fact, the erstwhile franchisees of the Al-Qaida have become more powerful and have formed their own franchise independently, as in the case of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq. Even within Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Al-Qaida network has been hounded by the American intelligence on the ground and by the drones and attack helicopters. Most of the top leadership belonging to the Al- Qaida has been neutralised by military and covert operations.

Weakened Al-Qaida

MATTER OF FAITH: Sufi shrines in India are the greatest inter-faith laboratories, and will remain the centre of Islamic practices in the country. Devotees at the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, New Delhi. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui 

The fact that the Al-Qaida has to consider starting an operation elsewhere in South Asia in itself shows its growing weakness. The Islamic State (IS) is able to better attract a section of the radicalised Muslim Youths. From US and Canada to Philippines and Indonesia, a substantial number within the radicalised section have joined the IS, and not the Al-Qaida. Perhaps, Zawahiri fears that the IS becoming the “real base” today to lead the radical Islamic movement, and not the Al-Qaida.

There are more Muslims living in India and Bangladesh combined, than most of the other regions — either the Middle East or Southeast Asia. The Al-Qaida needs human resources to fight jihad, though it may have adequate financial support. Hence, the call for jihad in South Asia by Zawahiri is to augment his falling fortunes within the jihadi infrastructure, rather than expanding the focus of the operations of the Al-Qaida.

Establishing a network

A 2012 file photo of Ayman al-Zawahiri 

Second, India is remarkably different from Pakistan, and most of the other countries where Al-Qaida has succeeded in establishing its own network. It has not been the policy of the State in India to promote radical groups – either to achieve an internal political objective or to pursue a foreign policy agenda, as has been the case in Pakistan. The military leadership under Zia, needed political legitimacy, hence used the Islamic groups, which paved way for radical groups get entrenched within the Establishment. Externally, the use of jihad in Afghanistan and also in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1980s and 1990s, provided a base to radical groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to establish themselves closely with the ruling regime and intelligence agencies.

Osama bin Laden’s entry into Pakistan, establishment of “the Base” and his final hiding before being neutralised by the Americans few years before by the Neptune Spear – none of them would have happened without the knowledge and links with the Pakistani intelligence agencies. In other words, Al-Qaida could find its place and become a success subsequently, mainly due to an active State support – both overt and covert. In the case of India, Bangladesh and other countries such as Nepal and Sri Lanka, Zawahiri is not likely to receive any such support – either for domestic or external reasons. Without the State support, it is difficult to accept that the Al-Qaida would have survived in Pakistan until now; and without a similar support, it would not be easy to establish a network in India.

India a stable state

A brief intermission

The ceasefire holds uneasily, but tension in eastern Ukraine will still trouble the governments in both Kiev and Moscow Sep 13th 2014 | DONETSK, KIEV AND MOSCOW

Time for a cigarette break, at least
THE war in eastern Ukraine has quietened, for now. Its disparate factions have as much reason to keep fighting as to put away their guns. But a ceasefire signed on September 5th in Minsk is so far mostly holding. Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, does not want to fight an unwinnable war against Russia, which is the situation he would have been in had he pressed on with Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation” in the east. His Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, is happy to see Donetsk and Luhansk turn into breakaway territories that can serve as instruments against Kiev.

From the outset the Kremlin has been advocating a permanent ceasefire, not from humanitarian impulses but because it likes the idea of frozen conflict-zones in the east of Ukraine. The political mood in Kiev spurred Mr Poroshenko to press on as long as Ukrainian forces had momentum. But the incursion by Russian troops with heavy weapons in late August showed that Mr Putin would not allow Kiev a military victory. Without direct NATO aid, Mr Poroshenko felt forced to make a deal.

In the short term this will seem like a victory for Moscow. It has a mechanism to influence Ukrainian politics, much as it has in Moldova and Georgia. For as long as the status of Donetsk and Luhansk are undefined Ukraine cannot possibly join NATO. Mr Putin will have noted that his insertion of regular Russian soldiers met criticism but little action from abroad. Barack Obama declined to call it an invasion, but rather “a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now”. The European Union will apply new sanctions next week, but describes them as “reversible”, perhaps to show that it is reluctant to isolate Russia. This week Russia’s Gazprom cut gas supplies to Poland in an effort to stop resupply back to Ukraine.

The war has felt distant to most Russians. State television has manipulated its narrative of the conflict to soothe viewers’ feelings of inadequacy and imperial nostalgia, while talking up Western plots and machinations. A poll by the Levada Centre found that 77% of those surveyed said America was the main initiator of Kiev’s operations in the east. The secret burials of Russian paratroopers killed in Ukraine, only to be disavowed by the Russian state, have proved uncomfortable. But compared with the short-lived season of protest three years ago, Russian society seems docile and unthreatening. Another Levada poll found only 8% willing to join protests if they started, against 21% in 2011.

Yet Mr Putin’s adventurism and revanchism will create new dangers for his regime. A falling rouble and a Kremlin-imposed ban on food imports from America and Europe means that inflation could hit 8% next year. That may spur a level of social discontent which the war itself has not. Existing sanctions, and the prospect of more to come, are dragging down Russia’s already faltering economy. Morgan Stanley forecasts a recession in 2015. Rosneft, Russia’s biggest oil producer, has asked the government for $40 billion to refinance its debts. Global oil prices have dipped below $100 a barrel, whereas the Russian budget is calibrated to balance at a price between $110 and $117 a barrel. Plugging those holes will be costly: Mr Putin must make awkward choices over what interests to offend. His likely response to economic hardship will be to blame Russia’s enemies abroad for starting a new cold war.

$1 Trillion Trove of Rare Minerals Revealed Under Afghanistan

By Charles Q. Choi
September 5, 2014 

In this undated photo released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are rare-earth oxides, clockwise from top center: praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium, and gadolinium. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer. (AP Photo/U.S. Department of Agriculture, Peggy Greb)

Despite being one of the poorest nations in the world, Afghanistan may be sitting on one of the richest troves of minerals in the world, valued at nearly $1 trillion, according to U.S. scientists.

Afghanistan, a country nearly the size of Texas, is loaded with minerals deposited by the violent collision of the Indian subcontinent with Asia. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began inspecting what mineral resources Afghanistan had after U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban from power in the country in 2004. As it turns out, the Afghanistan Geological Survey staff had kept Soviet geological maps and reports up to 50 years old or more that hinted at a geological gold mine.

In 2006, U.S. researchers flew airborne missions to conduct magnetic, gravity and hyperspectral surveys over Afghanistan. The magnetic surveys probed for iron-bearing minerals up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) below the surface, while the gravity surveys tried to identify sediment-filled basins potentially rich in oil and gas. The hyperspectral survey looked at the spectrum of light reflected off rocks to identify the light signatures unique to each mineral. More than 70 percent of the country was mapped in just two months. [Facts About Rare Earth Minerals (Infographic)]

15 September 2014 INDUS-TAN Pakistan: Why is Army against Nawaz Sharif?

Sushant SareenSenior Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation 

It appears Nawaz Sharif has managed to survive the first major attempt to oust him from office. A series of fortuitous developments – the whistle-blowing by Javed Hashmi about Imran Khan’s links with the Pakistan Army stands at the top of the list – coupled with not just the uncharacteristic flexibility displayed in conceding most of the demands being raised by his adversaries but also the characteristic obstinacy in refusing to resign, have all helped Nawaz Sharif to come out on top in the latest round of Pakistan's unending, but also sinister, political drama. 

While the ‘establishment’ might have failed to decapitate the Nawaz Sharif government, they have definitely succeeded in degrading it to a point where the Prime Minister is reduced to no more than a chairman of a municipality.

Even if Nawaz Sharif reconciles to a subordinate role to the military, it will not address the fundamental problem that the ‘establishment’ has with him. In other words, the army cannot reconcile to Nawaz Sharif’s political primacy and prominence because his core constituency – Punjabi, right-wing, conservative, religiously inclined, business-trader community – is also the constituency that the army cultivates for pushing its own political and national agenda. This is a constituency that the army has consciously built and nurtured to gain political legitimacy and counter forces that it perceived as hostile to its interests. 

Nawaz Sharif himself is a product of such a political engineering. Today, not only has he has effectively split, nay captured, this natural constituency of the army, but has gone a step further with his anti-establishment stance – insistence on civilian supremacy. If Sharif is allowed to get away with this, it will have far reaching implications for civil-military relations. The clear and present danger for the Army is to allow the core constituency to turn against itself (in terms of its role and interference in politics). Then the balance of force will tilt against, which the army is simply not ready to accept. 

Hence, the army wants to get rid of the Sharif brothers, which will create the space for retrieving control over its constituency. In many ways, the military’s aversion to Sharif and PMLN is similar to its aversion to Zulfikar Bhutto and the PPP. The latter posed a threat to the army’s political position but was countered by building up and strengthening the right-wing. With the right-wing now sliding out of control, the Army finds itself in a bit of a bind. 

Compromise with political Islam is impossible

14 September 2014

On the 20th anniversary of the fundamentalist assassination of Algerian educator Salah Chouaki, Karima Bennoune translates his warning - so relevant today - about the need to be uncompromising in the battle against the very ideology that motivated his murder.

Salah Chouaki, noted education expert and dedicated leftwing activist, murdered on September 14, 1994Algerian educator Salah Chouaki published this article in the newspaper El Watan on 15 March 1993 as Algeria headed into its “dark decade” of fundamentalist violence and state counter terror abuses. He was amazingly prescient about the rising threat of political Islam. The day after this article appeared a campaign of fundamentalist assassinations of Algerian intellectuals escalated with the killing of former Minister of Education Djilali Liabes. Just eighteen months later, on 14 September 1994, after receiving threats which failed to silence him, Chouaki himself was gunned down by the Armed Islamic Group. During the subsequent decade, as many as 200,000 Algerians were killed.

The feminist activist Ourida Chouaki said that one of the most important ways to remember is by combatting the fundamentalist ideology which motivated his killing, and by discrediting jihadist terrorism. His article is translated into English for publication today in that spirit, and to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the killing of this progressive North African thinker and activist. Salah Chouaki wrote, that “the most dangerous and deadly illusion… is to underestimate fundamentalism… the mortal enemy of our people.” His brave words and warnings – that like so many other Algerian intellectuals he gave his life to articulate - remain tragically relevant today around the world.

Compromise with political Islam is impossible

Final stage of leaving an Army base in Afghanistan

September 12

Forward Operating Base Lightning is in its final days. The small base near the city of Gardez in Paktia province, Afghanistan, is down to its final stages as an operational hub for U.S. troops, set to end combat operations in December. Lightning itself is attached to the considerably larger FOB Thunder, home to around 4,000 Afghan National Army (ANA) personnel.

How does a FOB wither? It starts with the luxuries.

The contracted caterers left a week ago, so the Army has gone back to feeding itself. (Thursday night is Meals Ready to Eat night). The Post Exchange (PX) where soldiers could shop for non-essential items like candy and deodorant closed up the week before that. The garbage guys are no longer picking up. By the end of this week, Sniper Hill, the Afghanistan-wide FOB internet service provider, will remove its routers, equipment and personnel. Across the base, soldiers can be seen dumping those luxuries that they won’t be carrying home. Everything from rugs to lamps is piling up around the dumpsters. Everything that exits the base goes by helicopter, or by road, and everything that leaves needs to be provided protection.

Early one morning last week I took a ride along with the Quick Reaction Force on hand for convoy support. The QRF group of armored vehicles filled with Third Cavalry infantry leapfrogged ahead of the draw-down convoy at various points to be ready to assist in case the convoy came under attack.

Like all things ‘Army,’ the QRF team liked to get a jump-start on the day, so we set off into the pitch dark at around 2 a.m. in advance of the convoy. Inside the armored vehicles all white lights are off. Conditions are cramped. Every spare space is filled with ammunition, and what remains is stuffed with soldiers. Drawing in the pitch black is not an easy thing for obvious reasons, but I managed these thanks to my red headlight. Sometime in the middle of the night we heard over the radio that five rockets had been fired at the FOB we had just left.

The scourge within Pakistan

Huma Yusuf
16 Sep 2014

Perhaps it is the shocking violence in Iraq. Or it might be the growing brutality of the attackers, who now pursue the relatives of previous victims and do not hesitate to slay women and children.

It could also be the growing allegations against a political party. Whatever the trigger, there has been a growing realisation in recent weeks of how drastic the issue of sectarian violence has become in Pakistan.

More than 160 members of the Shia community have been targeted in Karachi alone this year, and national tolls continue to soar.

We refer to the attacks as targeted killings, but there is nothing targeted about them: scholars, doctors, teachers, school­children and shopkeepers have all been hit with equal disregard.

Each attack claims a victim or two (though the cumulative effect is horrifying), so it is easy to forget that sectarianism is Pakistan’s greatest security ~ and societal ~ challenge.

There are many reasons why sectarianism should be acknowledged as arguably the greatest threat facing our country.

The human rights implications of sectarian violence are obviously immense, but regard for the freedom of religion and the sanctity of life count for little in today’s Pakistan.

Which brings us to other reasons: sectarian affiliations are deeply felt, and this form of violence has the potential to involve large swathes of society.

In a cultu­rally diverse context, sectarianism offers the false promise of social cohesion across ethnic and linguistic divides, all while creating new schisms.

The diversity of sects in Pakistan also means that such violence is never-ending.

Sectarianism is Pakistan’s greatest security and societal challenge.

New STAR in the East may Herald an India-China Partnership

A new Star is rising over the East, and it may herald a world changing era of partnership between Asia’s two giants and a corridor of prosperity to Europe.

This corridor, still in the conceptual stage, has been named the Trans-Asian Railway (STAR), running from Kapikale in the European part of Turkey to Kunming in southern China. In the audacity of its ambition, it aims to secure a European bridgehead for the great production centres of Asia. For Europe, its manufacturers would gain easy and convenient access to the great Asian markets.

By 2030, Asia is expected to account for about 60% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With much of the fast growing territories of Asia in its south, any transport link with southern China,Vietnam, Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asia will integrate a region that now accounts for the bulk of the world’s population; and in due course the much of its GDP too. Thus, there can be few questions about the desirability of STAR.

China’s Finger Problem – will President Xi cure?

15 Sep , 2014

The Maurya Empire of India was one of the largest empires of its time. At the pinnacle of its glory, this empire stretched to the north right up to the natural boundaries of the Himalayas and to the west right beyond Baluchistan to the Hindu Kush Mountains of what is present day Afghanistan. The Empire included India’s central and southern regions of the Deccan Plateau by Emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara. The only small region of Kalinga (present day Odisha) too was conquered by Emperor Ashoka. Internal and external trade, agriculture and economic activity thrived through the expanse of the empire and beyond.

…the five fingers strategized by Mao Zhedong and Deng Xiaoping – Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and NEFA, claims to which have been baseless but erratic.

Emperor Ashoka having embraced Buddhism, laid the foundation not only of a reign of social and political peace and non-violence across all India but also spread the thoughts of Buddhism ideals to Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, West Asia and even into Mediterranean Europe and Siberia. The population of the Mauryan Empire was estimated to be in the region of 60 million. The Arthshastra was written in that period and the Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka is the national emblem of India.

Then was the Chola Dynasty, one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the history of Southern India spanning five centuries, the earliest reference to which are found in the inscriptions left by Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Empire. The heartland of the Chola Empire was the fertile valley of the Kaveri River but at the height of their empire spanning five centuries, the Chola Dynasty became a military, economic and cultural power in South Asia and South East Asia. Cholas were the first to develop naval infantry, which was put to good use. The Chola territories spread from the islands of Maldives in the South and Sri Lanka, also successfully invading cities of Srivijaya of Malaysia, Indonesia and Burmese kingdom of Pegu. Temples built by Chola kings are seen in Bali in Indonesia and Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka today. According to the Malay chronicle Sejarah Melayu the rulers of the Sultanate of Malacca were descendants of the kings of the Chola Empire.

Why Modi-Jinping talks should also focus on CoK - China-occupied Kashmir

By Sanjeev Nayar
Sep 14, 2014 

The common perception in India is that we have a problem with Pakistan over Kashmir, with our western neighbour not only sitting on large chunks of our territory (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, or PoK) but also sending jihadis over to create mayhem on this side of the line-of-control (LoC).

What Indians do not so readily acknowledge is that we also have a CoK problem in addition to the PoK one. CoK is China-occupied Kashmir, and this part of real estate grabbed un China accounts for nearly a fifth of the original Jammu & Kashmir state that joined the Indian Union in 1948 after its Maharaja Hari Singh signing the instrument of accession.

So when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits India from 17-19 September, the Indian side will not only have to focus on trade, investments and the broader issues that strain the relationship (the unsettled border row over which we fought a war in 1962), but also on CoK. Narendra Modi will have to bring CoK also in his discussions with Jinping - even though the border problem is not going to be solved in a hurry.

The problem with Indians is that we tend to forget what the Kashmir issue is really about as the decades pass. This writer will thus like to refresh memories on what the issue is really about, and on what China is up to (the full monograph on Kashmir will soon be published by Firstpost in a downloadable ebook shortly).

Chinese President Xi Jinping. AFP

Let’s start with a brief chronology of key events in Jammu and Kashmir. The problem became a formal India-Pakistan flashpoint when Pakistan, in a bid to force the ruler to join Pakistan, sent in around 5,000 Pathan tribesmen to invade J&K starting on 21 October 1947. That set off a chain of events of which the highlights are the following:

China Creates New 'Asia for Asians' Security Forum

September 15, 2014

By inviting the Japanese and North and South Korean defense chiefs, Beijing hopes to create its own Shangri-La Dialogue. 

In a sign that China is looking to increase its leadership role in regional security, Beijing invited the defense chiefs of South Korea, North Korea, and Japan to the Xiangshan Forum regional security conference later this year. The conference will be organized by the Chinese Defense Ministry and will take place from November 20 to 22. The Xiangshan Forum is a bi-yearly track-II defense exchange that mostly involves defense scholars. During its last iteration, in November 2012, over 60 defense experts from 21 states were present. Beijing’s decision to invite regional defense chiefs to this year’s conference is a first for the forum whose theme will be ”cooperation and win-win, build Asian community of destiny.”

According to a South Korean government source who spoke to Yonhap News, China sent invitations to “South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo, North Korean Defense Minister Hyon Yong-chol and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.” The Xiangshan Forum remains fairly obscure owing to its relatively small size and track-II status, but it looks like Beijing is attempting to transform it from an academic exchange “into a high-profile security and defense forum.” Indeed, in comments earlier this year, Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesman Yang Yujun noted that the Xiangshan Forum will be “upgraded” this year, though he did not specify how. By inviting top regional defense officials, we now have a better idea of how Beijing sees the future of the forum.

In many ways, what Beijing is doing with the Xiangshan Forum resembles a China-hosted version of the Shangri-La Forum (a track 1.5 security summit hosted annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies). The Xiangshan Forum is supported by the Chinese Defense Ministry but is hosted and organized by the China Military Sciences Society (CMSS), a government-affiliated academic organization. Beijing has been taking the initiative with security multilateralism in Asia under President Xi Jinping who sees the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), and other China-led groupings as the future of a security order that reflects an “Asia for Asians,” sidelining the United States and its allies in the process.

Beijing’s decision to invite officials from across the region comes after the first trilateral meeting between high-level Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean in 11 months. If both the South Korean and Japanese defense ministers attend this forum, it would represent the second high-level trilateral exchange between China, Japan and South Korea in a two month span. Additionally, at last week’s trilateral meeting, which took place at the deputy foreign minister level, all three countries agreed to hold a trilateral summit before the end of the year. These develops could signal that the once-moribund Northeast Asian diplomatic scene could temporarily spring back to life.


China Created ISIS, Too

September 15, 2014

Don’t just blame the U.S. China helped support the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s rise as well. 

In recent days there has been a lot of attention given to the potential role China could play in suppressing the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq.The Diplomat has not shied away from this, featuringa diverse array of articles on China and ISIS.

Much of this interest has been spurred by the Obama administration announcing that it has requested China’s help in fighting ISIS in Iraq. Even among the Chinese analysts supportive of Beijing playing a direct role in the war on ISIS, many have suggested that China should do it at least in part to earn goodwill from the United States.

This is preposterous. Not only does ISIS pose a greater threat to China and Chinese interests, but Beijing has had a large role in ISIS’s rise as well.

As I’ve noted before, ISIS did not directly threaten the United States before America began conducting airstrikes against it last month. The same cannot be said of ISIS’s stance toward China. For instance, in a speech he made back in July, ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi noted to his followers that “Muslim rights are forcibly seized in China, India, Palestine” and elsewhere around the world. A five-year expansion map released at the same time showed ISIS’s aspirations to swallow up Xinjiang province.

Then, after returning from a trip to the region later that same month, Wu Sike — then China’s Middle East envoy — revealed that at least 100 Chinese citizens were training with ISIS in the Middle East. He said most were members of Uyghur separatist groups who have stepped up their own terrorist attacks against the Chinese state over the past year. “After being immersed in extremist ideas, when they return to their home country they will pose a severe challenge and security risk to those countries,” Wu said at the time.

The past week has seemed to offer confirmation of this, as the Iraqi Ministry of Defense announced the capture of a Chinese national fighting with ISIS. This is a serious threat to China given that, largely unlike the United States, China actually experiences frequent terrorist attacks from its disenfranchised Muslim population.

Besides the security threat ISIS poses to China, the group also threatens Beijing’s energy security. It’s no secret that while the U.S. fought the Iraq War, it was China and Iran who won it. Since the 2003 U.S. invasion, Chinese energy companies have invested some $10 billion in Iraq’s nascent oil industry. In recent years, China has been the destination for around half of Iraq’s oil exports. This is not insignificant from China’s perspective either. China’s oil imports from Iraq have doubled since 2011 and grew by 50 percent in 2013 alone, the largest growth of any country last year. This made Iraq China’s fifth largest oil supplier after Russia, with Iraqi oil accounting for roughly 10 percent of China’s imports (the U.S. imports far less of its oil and only 4 percent of its imports came from Iraq last year). Moreover, China is the largest importer of Middle Eastern crude, with over 50 percent of its imports coming from the region last year.

Although China clearly has more at stake in countering ISIS, some may charge that the U.S. and its allies should bear the full burden since they helped fuel ISIS’s rise by invading Iraq in 2003. These same observers might also rightly point out that China opposed this invasion.

You won’t find an argument with me about this. I’ve already written that the U.S. did more than any other outside power to fuel ISIS’s rise. This point seems indisputable to me.

That being said, China is also directly culpable for ISIS’s rise. Although America’s 2003 invasion directly contributed to the creation of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) — the predecessor of ISIS — the group was largely a spent force after the U.S. surge and the Anbar Awakening. Even after it refashioned itself as the Islamic State of Iraq, the group remained a marginal force at best.

It was the Syrian civil war that fueled ISIS’s revival. The sectarian nature of the Assad regime and its brutal crackdown, which played into ISIS’s own strategy, was what helped the group revive itself. That war, as well as the Nouri al-Maliki government’s sectarian nature, gave ISIS the chance to rise from the ashes of history.

Of course, it was China who joined Russia and Iran in propping up the Assad regime over America’s strident objections. That policy has now backfired, as China itself has implicitly admitted. Had China, Russia, and Iran listened to the U.S. and not continued to back Assad, it’s unlikely his regime could’ve stayed in power. And without the outside threat presented by the Alawites and Shia, Syrian and Iraqi Sunnis would’ve never gotten behind ISIS.

If anything, then, it is China who should be appreciative of any role the United States plays in fighting the jihadist group, not the other way around.


Challenging Uyghur Muslim Identity: More Enforcement, Worse Results

September 10, 2014

Following deadly attacks in Beijing, Kunming and Urumqi over the last year, the Xinjiang government has intensified its efforts to regulate Uyghur religious activities. The provincial government has once again reinforced its ban on Ramadan fasting for Uyghur civil servants and students in 2014, as it has frequently done since at least 2001. Xinjiang has been developing its own policies to discourage Uyghur religious activities and decrease their observance of Islam since 1994, with the promotion of Wang Lequan to provincial Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Secretary. However, these policies have become increasingly counterproductive, as Uyghurs have reinforced their religious identity as a way of resistance, either peacefully or violently.

Ramadan Ban

During this year’s holy month of Ramadan in June and July, the fasting ban focused mainly on Uyghur elites, such as civil servants, Party members and students, as local government agencies, state-run companies and public schools required or encouraged Uyghurs to break their fast by eating during the day. At the beginning of the holy month, ethnic-religious and United Front officials in Hami (Qumul in Uyghur) held meetings on how to strengthen control over fasting during Ramadan (Hami Government, June 30). Leveraging their control over Uyghur Party cadres, local governments provided free meals for lunch, while cadres monitored them for compliance, namely, observing whether the Uyghurs ate their meals and thus broke their fast. Furthermore, these government institutions organized parties and celebrations offering food during the daylight hours throughout Ramadan. For example, the Tarim River Basin Management Bureau celebrated the anniversary of the founding of the CCP by holding a dinner party for its predominantly Uyghur employees on June 28, the first day of Ramadan this year (Tarim Basin Management Bureau, June 30). Similarly, the Pishan County (Guma nahiyisi in Uyghur) Industry and Commerce Bureau held “sincere conversation” meetings to prevent its Uyghur employees from fasting during Ramadan Xinjiang Administrative Bureau for Industry and Commerce, July 3). Additionally, Uyghur business owners were punished if they closed their shops or restaurants during the day, as is customary in many parts of the Muslim world during Ramadan.

Prior Crackdowns

Undocumented Uyghur Migrants Find New Route to Southeast Asia

September 10, 2014 

The Jamestown Foundation invites you to attend a conference exploring the profound effect the Russia-Ukraine conflict has had on Moldova and the South Caucasus. Our panelists will examine current.

Since 2013, increasing numbers of Uyghurs from Xinjiang Province have attempted to migrate illegally through China’s South Asian neighbors—Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia—to Thailand and then Malaysia, often with the hope of flying to Turkey. This trend marks a change from the 1990s and mid-2000s, when disaffected Uyghurs most often left Xinjiang through Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia. The cooperation of Central Asian governments with Chinese authorities in extraditing undocumented Uyghurs, especially dissidents, likely spurred Uyghurs to abandon that migration route in favor of Southeast Asia in recent years.

The uptick in migration to Southeast Asia coincides with rising levels of violence in Xinjiang since 2013. In July 2014, militants assassinated Jume Tahir, the pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) head imam in Kashgar, only two days after 100 people were killed in an attack in nearby Yarkand (South China Morning Post [SCMP], July 30). There have also been terrorist attacks by Uyghur militants in China that were praised by the Pakistan-based and Uyghur-led Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), including a car bombing in Beijing in October 2013; a mass stabbing in Kunming, Yunnan Province, which borders Burma and Laos, in March; and suicide and car bombings in Urumqi in May. Like the earlier groups of Uyghurs who migrated to Central Asia in the 1990s, many of the more recent groups of Uyghur migrants to Southeast Asia appear to have been connected to the ongoing violence in Xinjiang, thus spurring their decision to leave.

This article reviews the reasons behind the migration of Uyghurs to Central Asia in the 1990s and mid-2000s and the more recent trend of migration to Southeast Asia. The article also analyzes the likelihood of this trend to continue and the security and geopolitical effects of Uyghur migration to Southeast Asia on China and its relations with Southeast Asian countries.


After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the five newly independent Central Asian countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan—had minimal capacity to regulate cross-border migration. Uyghurs who were dissidents because of their participation in “separatist” uprisings or who sought economic opportunities outside of Xinjiang were able to cross illegally into Central Asia with relative ease. The human geography of Central Asia also made it an attractive destination for Xinjiang’s Uyghurs: Southeastern Kazakhstan and northeastern Kyrgyzstan have indigenous Uyghur communities; Uyghur language is mutually intelligible with Uzbek and similar to Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Turkmen; and from 1996 until the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban allowed Sunni Muslims to enter the country without formal documentation (about 99 percent of Uyghurs are Sunni Muslims).


By Prof. B. R. Deepak

Indian Prime Minister, Narendera Modi has successfully wooed our Asian economic giants to invest in India.

During his Japan visit a fortnight back, Japan committed an investment of 35 billion USD over five years. If the third largest economy in the world can commit such an amount, then how can a head of the second largest economy of the world, and one of the most powerful persons on earth not commit more than the Japanese investment? It has been revealed by the media that President Xi Jinping, would be leading an extremely powerful business delegation to India between 17th and 19th instant and sign business deals worth billions of dollars. The Chinese prospective investment over a period of five years has been estimated at over 100 billion dollars. Is the foreign investment alone the answer?
Can we overcome red tape?

It is not! Forget about the Chinese business operations in India, which has been held hostage by our ‘security’ ghost; many global investors including Honda’s global Chairman Fumihiko Ike and British telecom giant Vodafone has expressed that doing business in India is difficult. First and foremost, while Modi offering the investor ‘red carpet in place of red tape’ is a welcome gesture, however, the reality is different on ground. It would be a herculean task to eradicate the red tape, which according to Akhil Gupta, the author of Red Tape (2012) is a structural violence. Gupta calculates that poverty results in over 2 million excess deaths per year in India. The inclusion of the poor in social development through various welfare and poverty alleviation schemes systematically produces arbitrary outcomes. Channelizing the files, reports, orders, and complains through clerical levels to the highest levels has bred corruption, delays, inefficiency, status quoits etc. approaches. If the people have to receive the public services, these have increasingly become ‘paid’ as a result of rampant corruption. And imagine the plight of 400 million poor people – one third of the population according to World Bank that earns less than $ 1.25 per day paying for such services! If it is not the structural violence then what is it?

We sincerely need to take a leaf out of the Chinese experience in effectively managing the large population. Here, it is got nothing to do with the forced ‘one child’ family planning, rather the way they have benefitted from the globalisation. China, perhaps is the largest country in the world that has benefitted its people in the shortest ever time whether it is the question of alleviating over 300 million people from poverty in a span of 30 years or the neck breaking speed of its modernisation.

Can we reap the population dividend?

India-China Ties: Between Personalities and Principles

September 15, 2014

The Significance of Xi’s Visit

President Xi Jinping will visit India from 17-19 September in the course of travelling to Dushanbe in Tajikistan to attend the 14th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and also visiting Maldives and Sri Lanka. This is Xi’s first tour to India as head of state and comes at a time when India’s recently elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just concluded his official visit to Japan and is set to travel to the US. The two leaders had met exclusively in Fortaleza on the sidelines of the recent BRICS summit in Brazil. The trajectory of India-China relations is keenly watched worldwide because, “when India and China shake hands, the world takes notice”.1

Conventionally speaking, “Where the Chinese President goes, so goes the Chinese world”.2Under Xi’s leadership, China looms larger than ever today as an economic and political powerhouse. Therefore, Xi’s visit to India is expected to create space for serious engagement. Prime Minister Modi enjoys an impressive political clout and in this context one needs to inquire whether the India-China discourse will be more “personality” driven in the coming times or whether rhetoric and “political” feelings will continue to largely shape their bilateral ties.

India-China relations are central to Asia as well as global power politics. While the political and economic engagements between the two Asian neighbours are on the upswing, there is also a concurrent drive of both the powers in regional and global power structures and its decision-making processes.

II. Revisiting the Official Course

Political leaders’ acumen matters greatly in India-China relations. Leadership shapes the political course in populist societies. Post-1947, the political trajectory of India and China was driven by strong personalities like Mao Zedong and Jawaharlal Nehru. The Panchsheel too was largely a culmination of the strong personal interaction between Premier Zhou Enlai and Nehru.3 In the light of history, it would appear that given their strong leadership position in their respective countries, Xi and Modi chemistry is likely to influence India-China politics in the near future.

INSIGHT-Vietnam building deterrent against China in disputed seas with submarines

By Greg Torode
Sun Sep 7, 2014 

* Vietnam taking delivery of Kilo-class submarines from Russia

* Part of naval expansion that has caught China's eye - experts

* China will have to reassess Hanoi's capabilities - experts

* Vietnam's ties with China strained over South China Sea claims

* Russia and India helping train Vietnamese crews

HONG KONG, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Vietnam will soon have a credible naval deterrent to China in the South China Sea in the form of Kilo-class submarines from Russia, which experts say could make Beijing think twice before pushing its much smaller neighbour around in disputed waters.

A master of guerrilla warfare, Vietnam has taken possession of two of the state-of-the-art submarines and will get a third in November under a $2.6 billion deal agreed with Moscow in 2009. A final three are scheduled to be delivered within two years.

While communist parties rule both Vietnam and China and annual trade has risen to $50 billion, Hanoi has long been wary of China, especially over Beijing's claims to most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Beijing's placement of an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam earlier this year infuriated Hanoi but the coastguard vessels it dispatched to the platform were always chased off by larger Chinese boats.

The Vietnamese are likely to run so-called area denial operations off its coast and around its military bases in the Spratly island chain of the South China Sea once the submarines are fully operational, experts said.

That would complicate Chinese calculations over any military move against Vietnamese holdings in the Spratlys or in the event of an armed clash over disputed oil fields, even though China has a much larger navy, including a fleet of 70 submarines, they added.

"Sea denial means creating a psychological deterrent by making sure a stronger naval rival never really knows where your subs might be," said Collin Koh of Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

"It is classic asymmetric warfare utilized by the weak against the strong and something I think the Vietnamese understand very well. The question is whether they can perfect it in the underwater dimension."


Vietnam is not wasting time getting to grips with its biggest ever arms purchase, the centrepiece of a naval expansion programme that state media has kept largely under wraps.

From the sheltered harbour of Cam Ranh Bay - home to a massive U.S. military base during the Vietnam War - the first two submarines have recently been sighted plying the Vietnamese coast on training runs, according to regional diplomats.

A Vietnamese crew is training aboard its third Kilo in waters off St Petersburg ahead of its delivery to Cam Ranh Bay in November, Russia's Interfax news agency reported last month.

And a fourth vessel is undergoing sea trials off the Russian city's Admiralty Shipyard while the last two are being built.

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Fight Against Islamic State Influence

By Stefanie Kam and Robi Sugara
September 11, 2014

With ideology spreading via social media, authorities need to consider a ‘soft’ approach as well as traditional tactics. 

The Indonesian government recently banned the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) also released a statement that it was “haram” or forbidden, for Muslims to participate in IS activities. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak also recently issued a strongly worded statement condemning the IS for its actions, which run counter to Islamic faith, culture and to common humanity.

These are all positive steps. But they have been inadequate, given the spread of the ideological beliefs of IS via social media tools to preach and recruit others to join the extremist group.

Rise in Social Media Support

Following IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s message for Muslims worldwide to join the Jihadist cause in Syria and Iraq, new jihadist recruitment videos have surfaced from Southeast Asian terrorists. In July, a picture of firebrand Muslim cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir in his maximum security prison in Nusakambangan, Central Java, with an ISIL flag as its background, was widely circulated on Indonesian social media. Bashir had reportedly instructed his followers to support their “fellow brothers” who were part of the IS group. Another prominent jailed jihadi leader, Aman Abdurrahman, had also conveyed support for IS and had reportedly been translating and distributing IS publications over the Internet.

A video by the IS released in July featuring an Indonesian fighter named Abu Muhammad al-Indonesi showed him delivering an impassioned appeal to fellow Indonesians to “join the ranks.” A number of Indonesian IS fighters are reportedly also using social networking platforms such as Facebook to recruit fighters. A growing number are young individuals who are drawn to the cause. Among them is al-Indonesi, a 19-year-old Indonesian student who studied in Turkey and later joined the IS in Syria. According to Indonesia’s National Agency for Combating Terrorism (BNPT), 34 Indonesians have joined the IS. These numbers do not include Indonesians who have joined other groups in Syria and Iraq in the jihadist cause.

Malaysian authorities meanwhile say that IS sympathizers are attracting a small number of Malaysians from a wide variety of backgrounds through social media, particularly Facebook, and have also managed to raise funds through the same channels. In early August, photos of a dead 52-year-old jihadist Malaysian fighter who was formerly a member of the Kumpulan Mujahiden Malaysia (KMM) were uploaded and circulated via social media and blogs. The man allegedly died while defending the town of Arzeh with several other jihadist fighters. The photo was liked by thousands of online users, with some congratulating him on his “successful transaction.”

Radical Narratives

India-Vietnam Supersonic Missile Talks in 'Advanced Stage'

September 15, 2014

Vietnam may soon import the BrahMos cruise missile from India. 

According to a report in India’s Deccan Herald, citing comments made by a senior Indian diplomat, talks for the sale of the joint Russia-India-developed BrahMos supersonic cruise missile platform to Vietnam are in an “advanced stage.” Vietnam first expressed interest in acquiring in the platform in 2011. The decision to sell these cruise missiles to Vietnam will require approval from both the Indian and Russian governments.

According to The Asian Age, Vietnam was already deemed to be a “friendly country” according to a joint Indo-Russian supervisory council in 2011, allowing formal negotiations to move forward in the first place. In late 2013, Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of the Vietnam Communist Party, proposed formal negotiations during his visit to New Delhi. While the fact that India and Vietnam have been talks over the BrahMos has been known for some time, the latest reports suggest that a deal may come to fruition sooner rather than later.

Indication that New Delhi and Hanoi may be closer to closing a deal on the BrahMos came ahead of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s four day trip to Vietnam. Notably, it also comes as New Delhi prepares to receive Chinese President Xi Jinping on his inaugural trip to India. China, a major claimant of territory in the South China Sea, will not welcome the deal as it will improve Vietnam’s deterrence capabilities. As some analysts have noted, India’s interest in strengthening relations with Vietnam is driven both by its stated “Look East” policy and by a desire to check Chinese interests in the South China Sea. New Delhi also benefits directly from Vietnamese overtures. For example, ahead of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s trip to Vietnam earlier this month, Hanoi renewed India’s lease of two oil blocks in the South China Sea.

Airstrikes Against ISIS Are Tactics. Here's a Strategy

A U.S. Army officer with plenty of on-the-ground experience suggests the talking heads think through the consequences of their calls to action.

We’ve heard a lot lately about a “strategy” to take on the barbarous horde of the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL. At a White House briefing on August 28, President Barack Obama remarked that “we don’t have a strategy yet” and that as “our strategy develops we will consult with Congress.” Last week the President announced that we now have a “comprehensive strategy.” His critics, meanwhile, had been declaring for weeks that they were sure what should be done. Their talking-head “strategy,” expressed on countless cable news and radio talk shows, was “airstrikes,” and virtually nothing else. As it turned out, item one on the president’s four point plan was “a systematic campaign of airstrikes.” Many of those same critics were gratified. 

As a soldier who’s spent a fair amount of time on the ground in conflict zones, I find this popular focus on the power of Hellfire missiles and precision bombing a little disconcerting. What many of the talking heads who’ve filled the airwaves since the savage murders of American journalist James Foley (then Steven Sotloff, and this weekend, British aid worker David Haines) apparently fail to understand is that tactics are not strategy. Without first establishing the latter, they advocate a tactic in the dark that, even if successfully attained, could worsen the situation with perverse consequences. 

One especially memorable commentator to encourage bombing ISIS was the editor of the Weekly Standard, William Kristol. Appearing on the Laura Ingraham radio show on August 26, the conservative critic gave his expert opinion on how to deal with ISIS. “You know, why don't we just [bomb them]?” he advised. “We know where ISIS is. What’s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens? I don’t think there’s much in the way of unanticipated side effects that are going to be bad there.”