18 December 2012

‘Rahul Gandhi is completely mediocre, he should find another profession’

by Vivek Kaul Dec 17, 2012 

The New York Times has referred to him as ‘perhaps the best among India’s non fiction writers’; Time magazine has called him ‘Indian democracy’s preeminent chronicler’. 

Meet Ramachandra Guha, one of the few intellectuals in India, who is a liberal in the classic sense of the term. 

He has pioneered three distinct fields of historical inquiry: environmental history (as in The Unquiet Woods, 1989), the social history of sport (A Corner of a Foreign Field, 2002), and contemporary history (India after Gandhi, 2007). He is currently working on a multi-volume biography of Mahatma Gandhi. 

His latest book Patriots and Partisans (Penguin/Allen Lane Rs 699) is a collection of 15 essays based mostly on all that has gone wrong in modern India. 

Rahul Gandhi is completely mediocre… He has no original ideas, no heart for sustained and hard work. He should find another profession,” he says in this interview to Vivek Kaul. Here are some excerpts: 

You write that “Indian constitution had always been impalatable to the Marxist-Lenninists since it did not privilege a particular party (their own), and Hindu radicals since it did not privilege a particular faith (their own).” Can you discuss that in a little detail?

Marxist-Leninists the world over believe in a state run for and by a single party, their own. Hence the problems encountered by the Communist Party of China, which is paranoid that a call for freedom and democratic rights will lead to the dismantling of their monopoly. Indian Marxist-Leninists are no exception. The Naxalites fantasize about planting the Red Flag on the Red Fort. Even the CPI(M) still somewhere believes that one day it will be the sole party in control in India. 
Eminent historian, Ramachandra Guha 

And what about the Hindu radicals?
A core belief of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh) is in a Hindu Rashtra, a state run by and for Hindus. Muslims and Christians in this scenario have always to prove their loyalty, in fact, they have to acknowledge their distant or proximate, real or fictitious, origins in a Hindu family and in Hindu culture. When the NDA came to power, under the influence of the RSS they constituted a Constitutional Review Commission. Knowing that the former Chief Justice, MN Venkatachaliah, was a practising Hindu with a profound knowledge of the scriptures, they asked him to head the Commission, hoping he would advocate amendments in the direction they desired. To their dismay, Justice Venkatachaliah said the secular Constitution of India was completely sound. 

The other face of Indian Islam

By INI Broad Mind on December 18, 2012

By SN Ravichandran 

Neil Padukone’s article “The Case for Indian Islam” in this month’s Pragati-The Indian national Interest Review can be called a good article. It encompasses a commendable idea to project the moderate version of Islam as practiced in India on to the world stage and position it in between the two radical versions of Islam as practiced in Iran and Saudi Arabia. The fly in the ointment is that the moderate version of Islam itself is under siege in India and is increasingly being confined to small pockets. The radical segments of the Muslim community have asserted themselves, with no small help from the above two countries and also from that part of the sub-continent which opted for an Arabic identity forsaking its native origin. To realise the dream of the author, moderate Islam must first find its moorings and project itself as the face of Islam in India before attempting to become an acceptable alternative to the radical face of Islam. And that will be a tall order. 

Has ‘Indian’Islam reconciled itself with nationalism, justice, and democracy? Has it accepted the differences in religious practices of those within its fold without trying to impose a standardised form of religious practices interpreted by the two dominant factions and enforced physically and by threats of violence and ostracisation? One doubts it. Being a minority in a tolerant majority region is the best defence that the various sects of Islam can have to practice religion in their own fashion without much interference from one another. It is for this reason that we find in areas where one faction of Islam is dominant or almost equal to the other and where the tolerant majority is in a minority that they set themselves up on one another’s throats. Islam moderated by the majority culture has to show itself to be a progressive viable and better alternative rooted in the best practices of the religion as it formed in the desert sands of Arabia and at the same time showing a willingness to adapt and adopt the best practices of the land where it is being practiced. 170 million Muslims living in this great democracy have to realise this and find the courage to confront those who would like to shackle them to the past. Only when this is done and intra-communal and inter-communal riots and killings cease will the concept of Indian Islam find acceptance abroad. 

Contours of India’s national security

by Narayan Ramachandran — December 14, 2012 4:59 pm 

A strong India needs to reimagine its national security fundamentals 

This is the first article in my new column series In-Security. The series will concern itself with matters of national interest from the perspective of India’s economic development, internal security and inclusion. I approach the issue of national interest from the point of view, that a grounded, stable and internally strong India is a necessary condition for projecting that strength externally. I hope to explore some profound questions and some practical ones under these broad areas. 

Economic growth is the centerpiece: Pursuing the national interest with independence and vigour will remain a dream if we do not have the resources to go after it. Consistent and strong growth and the consequent national savings it generates is the bedrock upon which to build India’s framework of realpolitik. In a recent article for Pragati, I referred to prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s speech at the Red Fort on the occasion of our 65th Anniversary of Independence. The Prime Minister explicitly linked (fast) growth with security. His words translated into English were: “If we do not increase the pace of the country’s economic growth, take steps to encourage new investment in the economy, improve the management of government finances and work for the livelihood security of the common man and energy security of the country, then it most certainly affects our national security.” To many this will seem obvious and commonsensical. Yet it bears repetition because too often India forgets this and begins to redistribute the gains for social programmes before we make enough from the point of view of national security. 

India needs a narrative: This is what the French call – raison d’etat – which literally means the reason of state. It is widely known that the political contours of historical India rarely occupied the full footprint of today’s India. Alas, this new large, diverse India lacks a cohesive common idea. We correctly celebrate our diversity, but our common threads are not nurtured in a growing ambiance of regionalism, parochialism and religious intolerance. Ask what we mean by the “idea of India” and you will get a thousand different answers. Most great nations are built on a common idea – a strong anchor that supports the aspirations of a nation and its people. The Chinese have grown up with the idea that they are the “Middle Kingdom” – the land around which everything else is organised. The occupation of China by foreign powers during the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries has been translated into “a need to avenge national humiliation”. And their contemporary purpose is to get back to their status as the Middle Kingdom. India has some possible themes it can get behind – secular republic or deep-seated tolerance for instance – but it will have to adopt and give contextual meaning to these and make them signify something to every Indian. The American idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a unifying theme that among other things calls young Americans to service when it is perceived that the country is in danger. 

The missing prophets of 1857

by Jayakrishnan Nair — December 7, 2012

Evidence proves that the “Anglo-Indian War” of 1857 was a carefully planned operation. 

From the late eighteenth century to mid-nineteenth century, as the world changed through conquest, colonialism and capitalism, a set of people rose around the world, reacting against such changes. Ironically, global historians – historians who look beyond regional and local causes – call these men prophets in an ode to Abrahamic religions. During this period of encounters and social changes, these charismatic leaders revitalised traditional ways and reorganised societies to challenge foreign institutions and ideas. Garnering support of broad swaths of society, they promised to restore lost harmony, bring in a new moral order, and a bright future. While global historians were able to find leaders for such movements in China, Middle East, United States, Mexico and Europe, they missed the leaders of the First War of Independence in India and fell back on the same old narratives. 

As we look at examples from around the world, we get to see some of the qualities and methods of these leaders who influenced fields as diverse as economics, politics and religion. Due to encounters with the Western world, new ideas circulated in the Islamic world and alarmed by the lax religious practices and attempts by rulers in Saudi Arabia and sub-Saharan Africa to model their administration along European lines, leaders arose to return Islam back to its pure form. In Saudi Arabia, this led to the rise of Wahhabism under the leadership of Ibn abd al-Wahhab (1703 – 1792) whose work still influences the modern world. In West Africa, Usman dan Fodio (1754 – 1817) too attacked unbelievers and false religions and his movement led to Islam becoming a majority religion in the Nigerian region. 

During this period, leaders also provided political leadership and created larger states from tribal clans. As Africa became overpopulated and there was competition for cattle-grazing and farming lands, small family clans found themselves overwhelmed. This traditional structure which had existed for centuries could no longer cope with the changes brought by long distance trade. It was the right moment for a cruel and powerful leader like Shaka (1787 – 1828) to rise up, wipe out other clans and unite the winners into a large monarchy, which in turn led to the creation of the Zulu kingdom. In the United States of America, Native Americans had to compete for land with the European colonisers who forcefully took over their land. As a reaction, groups under leaders like Tenskwatwa (1775 – 1836) and Tecumseh (1768 – 1813) exhorted their followers to renounce European goods and shun the missionaries. They tried to forge unity among native Americans, but were eventually betrayed by the British and left to perish. 

In China, after a humiliating defeat in the Opium War that forced the country to open other ports to foreign merchants, there rose a fear of western power. During that period, as the rulers became inefficient, masses of people joined what is known as the Taiping Rebellion, motivated by a Christian leader named Hong Xiuquan (1813 – 1864). Like the Islamic leaders in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, his goal was to return China to an era before it was corrupted by human conventions. Their war was not against the Europeans, but against the Chinese leaders who they thought were the main obstacle in obtaining God’s kingdom on earth. Hong came up with a radical new system which basically countered all the established Chinese traditions, but in the end it was defeated. 

Water Scarcity: The Real and Virtual Problems

15 October 2012 
Woman with water vessel

Climate change is likely to remain the major factor behind water insecurity over the coming decades. Yet, as Ben Zala reveals, a number of ‘virtual’ factors, ranging from industrial-scale production to perceptions of scarcity, may also contribute to water conflicts in the near to mid-term. 

By Ben Zala for the ISN 

Water security – alongside 'climate security', 'energy security' and 'food security' – has become one of the buzzwords shaping global security discourse. It is anticipated that in the coming decades, the key drivers of water insecurity will include physical or 'real' demands on water as well as 'virtual' factors. These demands may, in turn, lead to competition and even conflict over water resources and require new ways of thinking about security in order to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. 

The Global Water Picture 

No matter how one looks at it, there is no escaping the fact that the overall picture of the world's supply of freshwater is one of growing scarcity. Global demand already outstrips a sustainable level of supply, and, if business continues as usual, this trend will only get worse. 

Over the last fifty years, the extraction of groundwater has tripled worldwide, while supplies have remained relatively constant. A recent study published in Nature found that just under a quarter of the world’s population lives in areas where groundwater is being depleted faster than it can be replenished. While some areas are worse than others, many of the regions where demand for water is greater than the supply are major agricultural regions, including the Egypt’s Nile Delta, the Upper Ganges, and even California’s Central Valley. In the latter case, research by the University of Texas has identified groundwater depletion in this region as a serious threat to food security for the United States as a whole. 

India Lost $123 Bn in Black Money in 10 Yrs: Report

Lalit K Jha | Washington | Dec 18, 2012

India lost a whopping USD 123 billion in black money in 2001-2010, making it the eight largest victim of illicit financial outflow, a US-based research and advocacy organisation said in a report.

However, India's black money loss of USD 123 in 10 years is far less that China, which according to the report suffered a loss of USD 2.74 trillion during the same period (2001 to 2010), followed by Mexico (USD 476 billion), Malaysia (USD 285 billion), Saudi Arabia (USD 201 billion), Russia (USD 152 billion), the Philippines (USD 138 billion) and Nigeria (USD 129 billion).

India is the eight largest victim of black money loses, said the report 'Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2001-2010,' released by Global Financial Integrity (GFI). India is the only South Asian country to figure in the top 20 list of such nations.

In 2010 alone, the Indian economy suffered USD 1.6 billion in illicit financial outflows.

"USD 123 billion is a massive amount of money for the Indian economy to lose," said Dev Kar, GFI lead economist and co-author of the report.

"It has very real consequences for Indian citizens. This is more than USD 100 billion which could have been used to invest in education, healthcare, and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure. Perhaps last summer's electrical blackout would have been avoided if some of this money had remained in India and been used to invest in the nation's power grid," he said.

While progress has been made in recent years, India continues to lose a large amount of wealth in illicit financial outflows, said GFI director Raymond Baker.

"Much focus has been paid in the media on recovering the Indian black money that has already been lost. This focus is for naught as long as the Indian economy continues to hemorrhage illicit money. Policymakers and commentators should make curtailing the ongoing outflow of money priority number one," he said.

India Loses US$1.6 Billion in Black Money in 2010, Loses US$123 Billion from 2001-2010 

Latest Global Financial Integrity Research Places India as Decade’s 8th Largest Exporter of Illicit Capital

Are We Destined to Fight over Scarce Water Resources?

16 October 2012 
Blue Nile Falls

Are current international agreements strong enough to prevent future conflicts over water? Scott Moore argues that if conflict is defined as interstate warfare, then international agreements have effectively contained disputes in the past and will continue to do so in the immediate future. 

By Scott Moore for the ISN 

Conflicts over and involving water resources are not new; ancient empires continually fought over the rivers of the arid Middle East, and some analysts believe that the 1967 Six-Day War was sparked by attempts to divert the waters of the Jordan River. Yet in the past decade the notion that water scarcity is likely to stoke inter-state warfare has gained ever-greater credence. In a 1993 article, Peter Gleick wrote that “water and water-supply systems are increasingly likely to be both objectives of military action and instruments of war as human populations grow, as improving standards of living increase the demand for fresh water, and as global climatic changes make water supply and demand more problematic and uncertain.” 

Gleick’s statement reveals two key elements of the “water wars” hypothesis: that water scarcity will serve as a driver, and that organized inter-state violent conflict will result. Understood this way, the question of whether the world is likely to experience future water wars can be based on past experience. And the evidence generally indicates that the proposed outcome - violent inter-state conflict over water - is extremely rare. For example, a landmark 2003 study of some 1800 inter-state “water-related events” between 1946 and 1999 found that although rhetorical hostility was pervasive, only 37 involved violence, and none resulted in inter-state warfare. 

A Blueprint for Managing Water Conflicts

19 October 2012 
Salman MA Salman

The number of international water conflicts is increasing, raising questions about how governments can effectively manage them. In today’s podcast, Salman MA Salman shares his insights on this issue from more than 30 years of working as a water lawyer. 

Prepared by: ISN staff

Editor's note: Due to the bad quality of the phone line, we have published a transcript of the interview.

Managing the use of trans-boundary waters is probably one of the oldest issues on which states have had to cooperate. In most cases cooperation has prevailed. But, if we are to believe certain analysts, conflicts over water resources will increase in the future. On the one hand, the demand for fresh water will rise. On the other, the supply will decrease, at least in certain areas. In this situation it is crucial that international conflicts over the use of water are managed peacefully. 

How can international institutions help us do this? Today we discuss this question with Salman MA Salman, a consultant and researcher who was previously the World Bank’s advisor on water law. 

Billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala's advice to youngsters

Last updated on: December 18, 2012

The story of how a middle-class IT officer's son came to be featured on the Forbes' list of billionaires is as amazing as the man himself. At EVOKE 2012, an idea-sharing event organised by the US Consulate in Mumbai earlier this month, Indian investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala explained why he believes that India is a rich country, what money means to him and why he's not burdened with guilt about the country's poverty. Read on. 

If you ask me what money means, I'd say it's used as a means of exchange, among other things. 

But J Paul Getty, one of the world's richest men, said: If you can count it, you don't have enough of it. 

Money is the harsh reality of life. Some love for it, some die for it, some use it well, some waste it, most fight for it, but most others desire it. 

After having earned so much, I have realised one thing -- that money cannot be an end to itself. 

Money has got five crore good things, just one really bad thing: you can't take it with you. 

Take me as an example. At the age of 50, for a man who smokes 25 cigarettes a day and drinks six pegs of whiskey, doesn't exercise and eats like a pig, there is limited life. 

For the last 25 years, I have fought day and night to earn this money, but what is it doing for me? 

Having a closer look: Here are a few simple tests to know the construction quality of your house

PUBLISHED: 21:13 GMT, 16 December 2012 | 

When you buy a property, you obviously want to be sure about its construction quality. New materials and technologies have improved the construction process a lot in the past few years. 

However, it's not uncommon to find house-owners complaining about construction and workmanship.

"An inefficient construction system beset by project delays, corruption and bureaucracy, coupled with rampant violation of building codes, has resulted in compromises with quality, making structures more susceptible to structural and safety malfunctions. 

View of House furnishing, Furniture, Decoration and other accessories at Mani Mann's Residence at South End Lane in New Delhi, India 

This is a potential danger not only to inhabitants but also people living in the immediate surroundings," says Sachin Sandhir, managing director, RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) South Asia, a professional body for qualifications and standards in real estate. 

To make matters worse, all the defects might not be even visible. For instance, a lay person will not be able to find out if the building is structurally unsound. 

The only option he has is getting the structural and architectural details reviewed by an independent architect. 

'Peanuts' pension plan for army men: An ex-havaldar with 24 years of service will get just Rs 461 a month

PUBLISHED:16 December 2012

The Central government has set aside Rs 2,300 crore to meet the demands of ex-servicemen, fighting for increment in their pension and other retirement benefits. 

Of this sumptuous amount, however, the share of an ex-army havaldar with a service of 24 years (and equivalents in the navy & air force) will be a measly Rs 461 per month.

This arithmetic was revealed after this correspondent accessed the current internal working sheets of the ministry of defence. 

The government plans a measly hike for ex-servicemen's pension demands 

The government, without revealing the precise calculations in its announcement on September 24, 2012, had claimed that it was setting aside Rs 2,300 crore to meet the demands of the ex-defence personnel. 

The break-up of this big promise, however, has been a shocker for ex-servicemen who were hoping for remarkable improvement in their pension and other benefits. 

What's more distressing is the fact that three months have passed since the announcement but the government is yet to pass an order to operationalise even this miniscule a rise.

The work sheets are divided between officers and those below, referred to as other ranks (OR). 

The plan, when implemented, will allow a monthly hike of Rs 1,500 to Rs 4,105 in the pension of officers, depending on their ranks, who retired before 2006. 

The ORs who retired before 2006, meanwhile, would be entitled to a monthly hike between Rs 377 and Rs 461.

"It is shameful. These men fought the LTTE in Sri Lanka in the 80s, militants in J&K in the 90s and the Kargil War," said an officer aware of the internal workings. 

Don't let down our heroes

PUBLISHED:18 December 2012

Ruthless: General Tikka Khan, the martial law administrator of East Pakistan, was nicknamed the 'Butcher of Bangladesh' 

In many senses, December 16, Vijay Diwas, commemorated the anniversary of an event that makes Indians believe the best in themselves. 

On the surface, this is the date in 1971 on which the War ended in Dhaka and the Pakistani army surrendered. That surrender of 93,000 troops marked the most comprehensive military triumph anywhere since World War II. 

Yet, the date is not just about military victory and defeat; it is about principles and idealism, and the prism through which India sees itself - of a democracy prevailing over a dictatorship. 

In the late 1960s and in 1970-71, the Punjabi establishment in Pakistan began brutalising its Bengali compatriots. 

General Tikka Khan, the martial law administrator of East Pakistan, was so ruthless and so infamous that he was nicknamed the 'Butcher of Bangladesh'.

Even so, due to Cold War exigencies, alliances with the generals in Rawalpindi or sheer apathy for poor, deprived people without a voice, the world didn't care. 

When others with more resources turned a blind eye, India stood up ramrod straight. It provided a generous home to millions of refugees. 

Finally, its soldiers went to battle to liberate a nation crying for freedom. India stood up for what it felt was right, never mind if it stood alone. 

West Bengal: Maoists on the Mat

Fakir Mohan Pradhan 
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

In 2010, when Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress (TMC) had formed a covert alliance with the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) in the run-up to the State Assembly elections to unseat the then ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-Marxist) Government, Maoist violence in West Bengal had peaked. With 425 Maoist-linked fatalities, the State secured the dubious distinction of recording the highest insurgency-linked killings in the country in that year. Fatalities had mounted continuously since 2008, when Banerjee’s mischievous alliance with the Maoists commenced, before which West Bengal was, at worst, a State only marginally afflicted with Left Wing Extremist (LWE) violence. Fatalities dropped precipitously after Banerjee was sworn in as Chief Minister, after the TMC swept the elections, and a collusive arrangement with the Maoists was put in place, resulting in the suspension of operations against the rebels by the State Police.

Unsurprisingly, the arrangement did not last, as the Maoists quickly began to target TMC cadres in their areas of dominance, and Banerjee was forced to order the resumption of operations against the Maoists after a succession of high profile killings of TMC leaders. The Security Forces (SFs) delivered a body blow against the Maoists, with the killing of Maoist politburo member Mallojula Koteswara Rao aka Kishanji, on November 24, 2011. As the SFs followed through with a number of other successes, including key arrests and surrenders, Maoist violence in West Bengal ground to a near complete halt, with just four fatalities recorded in the partial data collected by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), through 2012 (till December 16), including two civilians and two Maoist cadres. 53 persons (41 civilians, two SF personnel and 10 Maoists) were killed in the State in 2011. The State has not recorded any major incident (involving three or more fatalities) in 2012, as against three such incidents in 2011.
Fatalities in Left-wing Extremist Violence in West Bengal: 2005-2012

The ‘Kids’ Behind IDF’s Media

Young Israeli soldiers have pushed older commanders into adopting a more aggressive social media strategy 

By Allison Hoffman|November 20, 2012

Former Sgt. Talia Wissner-Levy of the New Media desk. (Jonathan Ben David/IDF) 

After the first night of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, now almost a week ago, a photograph began circulating around Twitter of a grinning 11-month-old who had been killed by an Israeli missile that landed on his house. Within hours, Avital Leibovich, an Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman, posted a reply of sorts: a photograph of another infant, this one an Israeli girl, wounded by a Hamas rocket in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi. It wasn’t the first skirmish of the virtual war being waged across social media networks by both the Israeli government and Hamas—the real-world hostilities were announced Nov. 14 by the IDF in a tweet trumpeting the death of Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari—but it was an early indication of how the awful life-and-death stakes of war have been reduced to Internet fodder. 

The first Twitter non-war

by Sushobhan Mukherjee — November 30, 2012

The social web in the Gaza conflict 

It is ironic how social media, a tool primarily of individuals, brands and businesses, has made its way into the latest armed conflict in Gaza. Especially when a social media command centre was used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to mount their cyber-war. Since this is a war of narratives, words become central to the discourse. 

Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz left his magnum opus, On War, unfinished, when he died in 1831 at the age of 51. Militaries across the planet used his work as a textbook and even adversaries who usually lined up against one another, were ardent students. About 150 years later, Clausewitz entered the marketing arena, with the publication of Marketing Warfare: How to Use Military Principles to Develop Marketing Strategies. After this publication On War had a new set of disciples- businesses building brands, using the lexicon of the military to devise strategies to wrest market share. When social media arrived, big businesses borrowed another military term: Command Centre, to describe where and how brands waged marketing warfare in a new arena. Life, theories and lexicons do come full circle. 

Armies and states in conflict have used propaganda for time immemorial. As newer forms of technology emerged, armies modified their messages to fit these channels. One can recall embedded journalism, the CNN war and the Second World War radio broadcasts from Berlin. Bengalis and Azad Hind Fauzis would remember the Aami Shubhash Bolchi broadcasts from Singapore; others can recall leaflets dropped from the air… larger than life condoms shipped by the USA to the then USSR. All of these were one way – from one state agent to their enemy. This has seen a significant change with social media. Propaganda is now a two-way, indeed a multi-channel affair. 

The latest armed conflict in Gaza was the first Twitter non-war. Even though Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube were all vehicles, it was Twitter that earned the naming rights. Interestingly, each of these is a vehicle of messages as well as a discussion platform. 

Let us take a quick look at the opposing forces in this war of words played out in real time. In one end, there was the IDF. On the other, the military arm of Hamas and the al-Qassem Brigade. Alongside, individuals on both sides of the conflict who got into the act and thereafter, the entire world along with the section of the neutrals. (In case you missed the action, here is a great collection of the most significant moments on Twitter.) 

Exercise caution in dealing with Pakistan

by Rohan Joshi — December 7, 2012

Normalisation of relationship with Pakistan must also yield tangible benefits to India 

Over the last few months, there has been substantial momentum in engagement between India and Pakistan. Visa regimes have been liberalised and a Joint Business Council has been established, involving business leaders of both the countries. The newly inaugurated check post at Attari provides another avenue for trade between the two countries and Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari even hosted a Diwali dinner for the visiting chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar. 

Given these developments, one could be persuaded to thinking that Pakistan’s antagonism towards India has decreased, thus behooving India to be more accommodating of Pakistan. There are suggestions that India can further gain Pakistan’s confidence through an official visit by prime minister, Manmohan Singh, or by being more conciliatory on border or territorial issues. Supporters of such narratives argue that India and Pakistan can gradually build on each other’s trust through trade. Indeed, some in India already see Pakistan’s acquiescence to discussing trade, independent of its stated “core issue” of Kashmir, as a sign of a changing mindset in Pakistan. 

When crisis is the identity

by Mohammad Taqi — December 14, 2012 4:59 pm 

What started as an identity crisis has culminated with Pakistan’s only identity being a jihadist crisis 

As we inch closer to the end of combat operations in 2013 by the United States troops in Afghanistan followed by their withdrawal in 2014, anxiety within Afghanistan and the region is palpable. As the US and its allies rush for the exit, the Afghans and the regional powers are scrambling to make sense of not just what the post 2014 era would look like but also what exactly went wrong in the region, over the last decade. 

One thing that no one is willing to say out loud is that a modest-sized regional power has all but outmaneuvered and outwitted an international military and diplomatic coalition in Afghanistan. Pakistan appears set to have stared down the US in Afghanistan and that too on the US dime for the most part. Apparently the Pakistani policy of coming to the negotiating table with a nuclear suicide vest strapped on has paid off. No one in the US, the region, or the world for that matter has been willing to call this nuclear bluff. The twin gimmicks of using foreign money and domestic jihadists to pursue its foreign, and domestic policies have been perfected by Pakistan since its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah sought to milk the US and also let the jihadist irregulars loose in Kashmir. 

Margaret Bourke-White notes in Halfway to freedom: A report on the New India:
“(Mr. Jinnah said) America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America. Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed— he revolved his long forefinger in bony circles— the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves.” He leaned toward me, dropping his voice to a confidential note. ”Russia,” confided Mr. Jinnah “is not very far away”…“America is now awakened,” he said with a satisfied smile. Since the US was now bolstering up Greece and Turkey, she should be more interested in pouring money and arms into Pakistan.” 

Illicit Outflows Cost Developing World US$859 Billion in 2010, Rebounding Rapidly from Financial Crisis

December 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Indian economy suffered US$1.6 billion in illicit financial outflows in 2010, capping-off a decade in which the world’s largest democracy experienced black money loses of US$123 billion, according to the latest report released today by Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based research and advocacy organization.

The GFI study, titled “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2001-2010,” ranks India as the decade’s 8th largest victim of illicit capital flight behind China, Mexico, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the Philippines, and Nigeria, respectively.

“While progress has been made in recent years, India continues to lose a large amount of wealth in illicit financial outflows,” said GFI Director Raymond Baker. “Much focus has been paid in the media on recovering the Indian black money that has already been lost. This focus is for naught as long as the Indian economy continues to hemorrhage illicit money. Policymakers and commentators should make curtailing the ongoing outflow of money priority number one.”

“$123 billion is a massive amount of money for the Indian economy to lose,” said Dr. Dev Kar, GFI Lead Economist and co-author of the report. “It has very real consequences for Indian citizens. This is more than $100 billion dollars which could have been used to invest in education, healthcare, and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure. Perhaps last summer’s electrical blackout would have been avoided if some of this money had remained in India and been used to invest in the nation’s power grid.”

Space Station Keeps Watch on World's Sea Traffic

Ever wonder what the world's sea traffic would look like from space? If so, here's an interesting piece from NASA and the ESA, "Space Station Keeps Watch on World's Sea Traffic":

As the International Space Station circles Earth, it has been tracking individual ships crossing the seas beneath. An investigation hosted by the European Space Agency (ESA) in its Columbus module has been testing the viability of monitoring global maritime traffic from the station's orbit hundreds of miles (kilometers) above since June 2010.

The ship-detection system being tested is based on the Automatic Identification System, or AIS, the marine equivalent of the air traffic control system.

All international vessels, cargo ships above certain weights and passenger carriers of all sizes must carry "Class A" AIS transponders, broadcasting continually updated data, such as identity, position, course, speed, ship particulars, cargo and voyage information to and from other vessels and shore.
The results of the analyses have been very good. On a good day, approximately 400,000 ship position reports are received from more than 22,000 different ship identification numbers (Maritime Mobile Service Identity, or MMSI). In a summary made in Oct. 2011, the total number of position reports received exceeded 110 million messages from more than 82,000 different MMSI numbers. 
The Vessel Identification System, or VIS, could potentially be beneficial to many European entities, particularly in assisting them in law enforcement, fishery control campaigns, maritime border control, maritime safety and security issues, including marine pollution surveys, search and rescue and anti-piracy. Various service entities have already been asking to get access to the VIS data, which is continuously acquired on Columbus. Here's the image of one day's traffic:

Ship position reports received with the NORAIS Receiver during 24 hours, 29th June 2010. (FFI) 
Sea commerce, sea lines of communication, choke points, oh my!

Prospects for Shale Gas Development in Asia

Examining Potentials and Challenges in China and India 

By Jane Nakano, David Pumphrey, Robert Price Jr., and Molly A. Walton 

Aug 28, 2012 

The development of unconventional gas resources, especially shale gas, in China and India—two of the world’s fastest-growing economies—warrants close observation because of the potential economic and energy security benefits that successful development could bring to the two nations. An April 2011 assessment of international shale gas resources by the U.S. Energy Information Administration cited technically recoverable shale gas resources (not reserves) in China at 1,275 trillion cubic feet (tcf) and in India at 63 tcf, compared with 1,250 tcf for the United States and Canada combined. China and India have already begun exploring their substantial indigenous shale gas resources, but the question of how well they can replicate the U.S. experience—and over what time period—still looms large. The geological characteristics of shale deposits can vary widely, affecting the potential production profiles. Factors discussed in this report suggest that the pace of development of China’s and India’s shale gas resources could be significantly slower than the North American experience. 

Publisher CSIS 
ISBN 978-0-89206-742-8 (pb) 

Next Steps for U.S. Natural Gas Exports

Dec 17, 2012 

On December 5, the long-awaited study on the domestic economic effects of U.S. natural gas exports was released. The study, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is the latest development in the ongoing deliberation on what the nation should do with abundant natural gas resources. DOE currently has 15 export permit approvals pending. For much of 2012, the permit review process was suspended while this study was completed. Now that the report has been released, speculation is rife as to when the next export authorization may be issued, and how many of the projects may ultimately be approved. 

Only a decade ago, a mention of exporting U.S. natural gas would have been met with a great deal of skepticism. In fact, early in the last decade, the United States was expected to become increasingly reliant on natural gas imports. The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2003 forecast suggested nearly a 50 percent increase in domestic natural gas demand to 34.9 trillion cubic feet (tcf) in 2025, but a decline of domestic production to 22.5 tcf in the same year. Accordingly, EIA projected that U.S. gas imports would nearly double from 3.7 tcf in 2001 to 7.8 tcf in 2025. 

The outlook could not be more different today. Recently, both the EIA and the International Energy Agency suggested that the United States could become a net gas exporter by 2020. This sea change in the U.S. natural gas outlook is a result of successful development of shale gas resources in the United States brought about by the combination of innovative technology applications, high gas prices, mineral rights ownership/development on private lands, the right mix of industry players, and availability of infrastructure. 

Conference Report: Can Think Tanks Make a Difference?

Ian Darragh 
Thursday, November 24, 2011 

How can think tanks increase their positive influence on governments and international organizations in the digital age? How can think tanks develop a culture that produces innovative policy ideas? These were among the questions addressed at a conference on September 20, 2011 marking the tenth anniversary of the founding of The Centre for International Governance Innovation. Panellists included distinguished researchers, former politicians, public servants, journalists and think tank executives from around the world. The consistent theme throughout the conference was that communications — and leveraging social media — are critical if think tanks want to maximize their impact. 

Read the report in the viewing pane below, or click here to download

Mobile Technologies for IR, Defense and Security

2 August 2012 
Christian Glahn

The impact of ‘smart’ mobile technologies continues to grow throughout the international system. To illustrate the point, the ISN’s Christian Glahn assesses their particular impact on the teaching and training of IR professionals. 

By Christian Glahn for the ISN 

Mobile technologies have been key facilitators of political and economic change around the world. Technological innovations have impacted upon how people handle information and what they perceive as knowledge. Such advances have inevitably impacted upon the myriad activities of security and defense organizations. This in turn warrants a closer inspection of the influence that mobile technologies have on professional education and training activities in the spheres of defense, security and international relations (IR). 

Every defense and security professional requires adequate training, development and evaluation to ensure that they are capable of fulfilling key tasks. Technology has made a valuable contribution to satisfying these demands for many years. Training simulators using virtual reality and computer-based training, for example, form part of the educational activities of these organizations. Yet, a host of external factors - such as overseas operations or civilian emergency planning – often mean that training and development requires more flexibility in terms of timing, accessibility and course structure. In professional contexts offering face-to-face instruction alone cannot satisfy such requirements. Instead, the technologies of the Worldwide Web provide flexible ways for distributing and monitoring learning opportunities that assure the timely and cost-effective diffusion of relevant organizational information and knowledge. International standards and specifications that are part of the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) assure the interoperability of training material across systems, infrastructures, and organizations. The related technologies are typically summarized under terms such as E-learning or "Advanced Distributed Learning" (ADL). 

Think Tanks: Influential or Inconsequential?

1 August 2012 
Chess pieces in starting position

The number and popularity of think tanks continue to grow but has this growth actually translated to greater influence? Today we explore this question with our partners at CIGI. 

Prepared by: ISN staff

If we are to believe The Economist, most think tanks aspire to combine intellectual depth, political influence and a flair for publicity into a neat and digestible package. But how much influence do think tanks really exert? As a recent paper produced by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) suggests, the answer for ‘traditional’ think tanks increasingly may be ‘not that much’. Indeed, because of the rise of the internet, social media, and a growing appreciation that complex problems require interdisciplinary solutions, the ODI paper argues that emerging concepts such as ‘think nets’, in which the ‘human capital’ provided by others is managed by small, policy-focused ‘secretariats’, represent the logical next step beyond traditional think tanks.