28 December 2012

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2013

From Turkey to Congo, next year's wars threaten global stability. 

Every year, around the world, old conflicts worsen, new ones emerge and, occasionally, some situations improve. There is no shortage of storm clouds looming over 2013: Once again, hotspots old and new will present a challenge to the security of people across the globe. 

There is, of course, an arbitrariness to most lists -- and this list of crises to watch out for in 2013 is no different. One person's priority might well be another's sideshow, one analyst's early warning cry is another's fear-mongering. In some situations -- Central Asia, perhaps -- preventive action has genuine meaning: The collapse into chaos has yet to happen. More complicated is anticipating when it will happen, what will trigger it, and how bad it will be. In others -- Syria, obviously -- the catastrophe is already upon us, so the very notion of prevention can seem absurd. It has no meaning save in the sense of preventing the nightmare from worsening or spreading. 

What follows, then, is a "top 10" list of crises that does not include the ongoing, drug-related violence in Mexico, the simmering tensions in the East China Sea, or the possibility of conflict on the Korean peninsula after a rocket launch by Pyongyang. As if this mix wasn't combustible enough, there are new leaders in China, Japan, and on both sides of Korea's de-militarized zone who may well feel pressured to burnish their nationalist credentials with aggressive action. Nor do I mention the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe, the ongoing trauma in Somalia, or the talk of war in response to Iran's nuclear program. Any of these could credibly make a top 10 crises list. 

The cyber threats to watch in 2013

Posted By John Reed 
December 27, 2012

Happy almost 2013. IT security firm McAfee has just released a report on what it thinks will be the biggest trends in cyber for the new year. The report list several broad trends that we'll mention here, as well as a number of specific threats to operating systems such as Windows 8, OS X, and mobile software like Google's Android OS.

Perhaps most important from a national security standpoint is McAfee's prediction -- echoing that of the Pentagon -- that destructive cyberattacks along the lines of Stuxnet will increase in 2013.

Keep in mind that in 2012, we saw the U.S. government acknowledge that U.S. energy companies have been penetrated by hackers who may be trying to access the software that controls things like power turbines -- a possible precursor to a destructive attack against the U.S. power system. We also saw the Shamoon virus destroy 30,000 computers belonging to Saudi Arabia's Aramco oil company, an episode that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called one of the most destructive cyber attacks to date. Whether released by nations or hacktivist groups, attacks seeking to destroy the victim's networks and physical infrastructure will grow, McAfee predicts.

"Destructive payloads in malware have become rare because attackers prefer to take control of their victims' computers for financial gain or to steal intellectual property. Recently, however, we have seen several attacks-some apparently targeted, others implemented as worms-in which the only goal was to cause as much damage as possible. We expect this malicious behavior to grow in 2013." the report reads. "The worrying fact is that companies appear to be rather vulnerable to such attacks. As with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, the technical bar for the hackers to hurdle is rather low. If attackers can install destructive malware on a large number of machines, then the result can be devastating."

McAfee Labs – Latest Virus Alerts and Security Threats

McAfee Reveals the Top Threats Around the Globe

Cutting Edge Security as It Happens

About McAfee Labs 

Today's security threats are more sophisticated and targeted than ever, and they’re growing at an unprecedented rate. Malicious URLs, viruses, and malware have grown almost six-fold in the last two years, and last year saw more new viruses and malware than all prior years combined. With the increased threat of criminals mining for consumer and corporate data, the efficiency of your Internet security must be a priority. 

With a global research footprint, McAfee Labs provides the most comprehensive Global Threat Intelligence in the industry. Backed by a portfolio of more than 400 patents and a network of millions of sensors spanning the Internet, McAfee Labs delivers unparalleled protection against both known and emerging security threats via a complete suite of products and solutions.

India's Education Sector: Moving Toward a Digital Future

Published: July 19, 2012 in India Knowledge@Wharton 

The typical Indian classroom was once characterized by students sitting through hour-long teacher monologues. Now, technology is making life easier for both students and educators. Schools are increasingly adopting digital teaching solutions to engage with a generation of pupils well-versed with the likes of PlayStations and iPads, and trying to make the classroom environment more inclusive and participatory. 

Take Smartclass from Educomp Solutions, one of the first Indian companies in this space. Smartclass is essentially a digital content library of curriculum-mapped, multimedia-rich, 3D content. It also enables teachers to quickly assess how much of a particular lesson students have been able to assimilate during the class. Once a topic is covered, the teacher gives the class a set of questions on a large screen. Each student then answers via a personal answering device or the smart assessment system. The teacher gets the scores right away and based on that, she repeats parts of the lesson that the students don't appear to have grasped. 

"Technology makes the teaching-learning process very easy and interesting," says Harish Arora, a chemistry teacher at the Bal Bharti Public School in New Delhi who has been using Smartclass since 2004. "For instance, [earlier] it would easily take me one full lecture to just draw an electromagnetic cell on the blackboard. Though I could explain the cell structure, there was no way I could have managed to show them how it really functions. This is where technology comes to our aid -- now I can show the students a 3D model of the cell and how it functions. Instead of wasting precious time drawing the diagram on the blackboard, I can invest it in building the conceptual clarity of my students." 

According to Abhinav Dhar, director for K-12 at Educomp Solutions, more than 12,000 schools across 560 districts in India have adopted Smartclass. More importantly, the number is growing at almost 20 schools a day. On average, in each of these schools eight classrooms are using Smartclass. 

Educating India’s 'Demographic Dividend': The Role of the Private Sector

Published: February 09, 2012 in India Knowledge@Wharton 

The growth prospects of the Indian economy depend to a large extent on how the country tackles certain issues of intellectual capital today. The concern largely centers on the much-debated demographic dividend, or the rising proportion of working-age people in India. The recent One Globe 2012 "knowledge conference" in New Delhi emphasized the role that industry needs to play. 

Some 54% of India’s 1.2 billion people are under the age of 25. The TeamLease Indian Labor Report 2009 estimates that 300 million will enter the labor force by 2025, and by then, 25% of the world’s workers will be Indians. The National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) is already grappling with the challenge of providing training and retraining to 500 million people by 2022. The non-negotiables to meet the challenge include fundamental education reform across primary, secondary and higher education, and significant enhancement of supplementary skills development. 

These were the key concern areas addressed at One Globe 2012: Uniting Knowledge Communities, a conference held in India’s capital recently. Organized in partnership with the United States India Business Council (USIBC), India Knowledge@Wharton, and The International Herald Tribune, the two-day conference provided a platform for policymakers, entrepreneurs, industry associations and academia from across the world. The discussion was largely in line with the philosophy that knowledge and skills are the critical determinants of a country’s economic growth and standard of living. Also, quality, merit-based, equitable and efficient tertiary education and research are essential parts of this transformation. 

“The government is not able to keep pace with the kind of solutions emerging in education,” said Kapil Sibal, union minister for human resource development and communications and information technology. “In the next 10 years, the nature of education will change. People across the globe are communicating with each other seamlessly, universities are collaborating digitally…. There are no territorial boundaries to hold back the mind. We are working on the concept of a meta-university, which should hopefully be in place in the next academic session.” 

How Relevant Are Leadership Lessons from an Ancient Indian Classic?

Published: November 15, 2012 in India Knowledge@Wharton 

With iconic corporate leaders like Rajat Gupta, former managing director of consulting firm McKinsey & Co., being convicted of insider trading, notions of leadership and corporate ethics are once again in the spotlight. In his recent book, Timeless Leadership: 18 Leadership Sutras from The Bhagavad Gita, Debashis Chatterjee, director of the Indian Institute of Management in Kozhikode, has tried to glean universal principles of leadership from the ancient classic. 

The Bhagavad Gita, also referred to as The Gita, comprises about 700 verses and is part of the ancient Indian classic,The Mahabharata. While The Mahabharata centers on the power struggle between two groups of royal cousins and their battle in Kurukshetra in North India, The Gita is a conversation between two of its main characters, Arjuna and his mentor Krishna, in the battlefield. Faced with the dilemma of waging war against his kin, Arjuna is paralyzed into inaction and turns to Krishna for counsel. Responding to Arjuna's confusion, Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and a prince and also expounds on a range of practical and philosophical issues. The setting of The Gita, in the midst of a battle, is widely considered as an allegory for the ethical and moral struggles of human life. 

Chatterjee has taught leadership classes at Harvard University and at the Indian Institutes of Management in Calcutta, Lucknow and Kozhikode for nearly two decades. He says the lessons from The Bhagavad Gita continue to be very relevant in the boardrooms of the 21st century across the world. In a conversation with India Knowledge@Wharton, Chatterjee notes, "The idea ofThe Gita is fundamentally a global idea. It just happens that it originated in India." 

An edited version of the transcript follows:

India Knowledge@Wharton: In the introduction to your book, you have said that it is an attempt to "trans-create" rather than to translate The Bhagavad Gita for insights into leadership. Can you share your thinking on this? 

Debashis Chatterjee: The Gita was written in Sanskrit a few thousand years ago. Actually, it wasn't written -- it was a spoken text, and it was in a particular context, which is The Mahabharata and the battle of Kurukshetra. If I had just translated the work, most readers would find it very difficult to connect. The point of conveying the truth of the work was to recreate the context in the corporate world. So I've looked at Kurukshetra as a corporate battle.... There is a land grabber, and there is a tragic hero, who despite all of his capabilities has a performance breakdown in the field. [The Gita] is a timeless classic, but it has to be revisited for each generation, for each context.... Trans-creation became very important because it tries to rescueThe Gita from the religious connotations. 

'The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching'

Published: August 20, 2008 in Knowledge@Wharton 

In their book, Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track, authors Russell L. Ackoff and Daniel Greenberg point out that today's education system is seriously flawed -- it focuses on teaching rather than learning. "Why should children -- or adults -- be asked to do something computers and related equipment can do much better than they can?" the authors ask in the following excerpt from the book. "Why doesn't education focus on what humans can do better than the machines and instruments they create?" 

"Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught." 
-- Oscar Wilde

Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught. However, most of what we learn before, during, and after attending schools is learned without its being taught to us. A child learns such fundamental things as how to walk, talk, eat, dress, and so on without being taught these things. Adults learn most of what they use at work or at leisure while at work or leisure. Most of what is taught in classroom settings is forgotten, and much or what is remembered is irrelevant. 

In most schools, memorization is mistaken for learning. Most of what is remembered is remembered only for a short time, but then is quickly forgotten. (How many remember how to take a square root or ever have a need to?) Furthermore, even young children are aware of the fact that most of what is expected of them in school can better be done by computers, recording machines, cameras, and so on. They are treated as poor surrogates for such machines and instruments. Why should children -- or adults, for that matter -- be asked to do something computers and related equipment can do much better than they can? Why doesn't education focus on what humans can do better than the machines and instruments they create? 

When those who have taught others are asked who in the classes learned most, virtually all of them say, "The teacher." It is apparent to those who have taught that teaching is a better way to learn than being taught. Teaching enables the teacher to discover what one thinks about the subject being taught. Schools are upside down: Students should be teaching and faculty learning. 

Can Free Online Courses Transform the Higher Education Industry?

 Published: June 20, 2012 in Knowledge@Wharton

When Bilal Shah got his doctorate in computer science from the University of Southern California back in 2010, the job market wasn't exactly welcoming. "I graduated into the Great Recession. Nothing would test my mettle more," says Shah. 

Around that time, he heard about a free massive online open course (MOOC) on machine learning -- a branch of artificial intelligence related to the design of certain computer algorithms -- taught by Stanford's Andrew Ng. Since Shah had plenty of spare time, he gave it a try. Every morning for three months, he sat in Peet's Coffee & Tea in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood, drinking coffee and watching lectures on his laptop. He took pop quizzes, did programming assignments and checked his work on the course's online discussion board. "It was an easy, convenient way to learn something new," notes Shah, who is in his early 30s. 

Soon after getting certification from the class, he landed a job interview with ID Analytics, the San Diego-based identity fraud and credit risk modeling company. "They prodded my knowledge [of machine learning] and they could tell I knew the material well," he says. "I got the job. It was a great feeling." 

Amid a sputtering recovery that has shone a spotlight on the dearth of qualified workers in particular segments of the economy, many in the business community view MOOCs as a key part of the solution. And at a time when rising college costs and growing income inequalityoccupy the national debate, some say the platforms that offer MOOCs could potentially transform higher education. Giving millions of students around the world access to high quality classes could help shrink the gap between the haves and the have-nots. 

A number of start-ups and prominent colleges have recently gotten in on the game. Coursera, an online learning system created by Ng and Daphne Koller, both Stanford computer scientists, has partnerships with four universities: Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton. Coursera delivers MOOCs in math, science and the humanities. Udacity, another online education company, launched in February by Sebastian Thrun, a former Stanford professor, offers MOOCs mainly in computer programming and software design. Harvard and MIT recently announced edX, a joint online education partnership, which begins classes this fall. 

Was It a Good Year in Afghanistan?

Looking back at a troubling 2012 filled with progress and peril, it's hard to determine whether the United States is winning this war. 


As 2012 draws to a close, we should all cast a thought to the roughly 68,000 American living in dusty military outposts in places such as Kabul and Kandahar who are celebrating the holiday season far from their loved ones. It has been a busy year in Afghanistan -- U.S. forces have downsized by one-third, Afghans have assumed much more responsibility for the security of their country, NATO supply lines through Pakistan were reopened, and the U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement was signed. But the question remains: Are we really winning this war? 

When assessing the facts and figures, it's hard to separate spin from substance. Reaching any hard conclusions about where Afghanistan is heading is no easy task. For those who want to believe the mission is going badly or who believe the war is a distraction from more pressing American national priorities, it is easy to find dismal trends to make their case. For those still hopeful, it is comparably easy to identify signature successes that put the United States on track to achieving President Barack Obama's stated goal of ending the current mission by 2014. 

Beyond GDP

How our fixation with growth blinds us to broader measures of a society's health -- or lack thereof. 

Would you rather have the economy grow at 12 percent or 5 percent? 

That's not a trick question. An interesting new report by the Boston Consulting Group tries to measure not just the rate of economic growth around the globe, but the relative quality of that growth and how effectively governments are able to translate expanding economies into improvements in their societies' overall well-being. 

While politicians and economists focus on per capita income and annual growth rates with an almost religious fervor, these numbers can mean very little to people in the real world. The study suggests that the answers to questions asked around the average dinner table -- Can I afford to send my kids to school? Is the water safe to drink? Do I have access to health care? -- tell us just as much about a society's living standards. So, in addition to traditional macroeconomic indicators, the study examined 10 other dimensions of social and economic development that it argues are good indicators of a nation's well-being, including health, education, employment levels, environmental protection, and civil society activity. 

For example, looking at income inequality was a key factor in relative well-being in the study because it provided an important barometer of how widely economic progress was spread across a population, and how likely economic gains were to translate into better living standards for large numbers of people. Issues like education were included not only because education remains a core value in most societies, but because education has such a significant impact on income, health, and overall quality of life. Each of these 10 dimensions of well-being were undergirded by multiple data sets, ranging from mortality rates to levels of gender equality, with a heavy emphasis on information routinely collected by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. 

Wanted: A Few Good Leaders

Fewer veterans are serving in high office in the United States. It's no coincidence that America is going off the rails. 

Looking back at a decade of war -- with $3 trillion spent pursuing victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, millions of our citizens plucked from home for combat deployments, and more than 50,000 of our brethren wounded or killed in action -- Americans need to ask themselves a single blunt question: Are our current military and civilian leaders fit to lead us in the next war? 

There's a reason our national experience since 9/11 has been mixed with confusion, pride, trying developments, ruinous expense, and fleeting successes. We have lots of leaders but a national deficit in true leadership. Two trends have brought us to this crisis. 

First, the vast majority of our current leaders have only a theoretical, intellectual, and abstract knowledge of the military and war -- not an experiential, visceral, and personal understanding. The proportion of our key decision-makers who have served in the military and have personal experience with defense is in steady decline. 

Before 1993, nearly every modern president had served on active duty in uniform, most in wartime, and a few were war heroes. At one point, 77 percent of Congress were veterans. Come 2013, veterans will make up a mere 19 percent of Congress -- and many among this 19 percent have "military service" in their record purely because they sought to avoid the draft and Vietnam combat; they volunteered between 1966 and 1975 for what was then safe, part-time service at home in the National Guard or Reserve. 

Face it, Goldwater-Nichols hasn’t worked

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks 
December 27, 2012

By Col. Gary Anderson (USMC, Ret.) 
Best Defense department of defense de-organization 

Three decades ago, when the military reform movement was beating the drum for what became the Goldwater-Nichols legislation, a number of us in uniform and out, were trying to sound a cautionary note. We got outvoted and the legislation passed. "Jointness" became the new mantra, and arguing against it became heresy, if not hate speak. Based on recent events, it may be time to reassess Goldwater-Nichols. 

The proponents of the elevation of jointness to absolute military supremacy claimed that it would prevent long open ended wars such as Korea and Vietnam by giving the President and Secretary of Defense better military advice than they got in such conflicts. The reformers also promised more competent and professional military leadership and less cumbersome command arrangements. The results of the wars in Kosovo and Operation Desert Storm in the immediate aftermath of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation seemed to confirm the validity of those promises; but somewhere in the ensuing decades, the wheels came off. 

Instead of fast and clean conflicts, we got Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only were they long and strategically muddled, they were also poorly executed by the joint institutions that Goldwater-Nichols was supposed to fix. In his new book, The Generals, Pulitzer Prize winning author Tom Ricks ruthlessly exposes the myth that our generalship was improved by Goldwater-Nichols. He argues that the generalship of the likes of Tommy Franks and Ricardo Sanchez was marked by absolutely mediocre planning and strategic leadership. In Afghanistan, we have had averaged one supreme leadership change a year. In addition the Navy relieved more commanders than in any time in its history, and the other services have been plagued by instances of misconduct by senior officers. 

Is It Over Yet?

Haunting photos of a year in the life of the war America is still fighting. 
DECEMBER 27, 2012 

Maj. Matt O’Donnell of Glenelg, Md. squints as Ospreys carrying U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lift off from the Forward Operating Base in Shukvani, Afghanistan on March 14. Panetta met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during his two-day visit. 

Scott Olson/Getty Images 

On April 16, Afghan policemen stand outside a building in Kabul where insurgents -- likely members of the Haqqani network -- launched an attack the day before. The attack was part of a series of coordinated assaults targeting the Afghan capital and central cities in the three eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Paktia, and Logar. A Taliban spokesman described the attacks, which occurred near the peak of the U.S. troop surge in the country, as the opening of its spring offensive. 

Gen. Trainor, you need to listen harder to what that departing lieutenant is saying

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks
December 24, 2012

By Lt. Cdr. Victor Glover, USN 
Best Defense office of JO retention 

This is a great debate of great importance. The topic of leadership writ large and the risk management strategies of our leadership culture are national security issues that don't receive much media attention until tragedy befalls us. Instead we ought to be searching for root causes and details whenever we can. The letter from the Anonymous Lieutenant who is resigning his commission and the responses to it, specifically the retired Marine General's, highlight the very disparity that the young officer elucidated (very eloquently I might add). 

The responses to this young warrior have been one-sided in attempts to paint a picture that, although precise in argument, is offset from the actual target. I agree that there is a way to criticize the military enterprise as Captain Brett Friedman points out and that, as Capt. Doug Pelletier states, "junior leaders need to be actively involved in the debate about the future of our organizations." This articulate LT is doing just that and meeting standard intuitional (and dated) responses. Unfortunately the responses have overlooked a trend of risk aversion that is affecting our leadership department-wide. 

In the Navy the numbers of Commanding Offices relieved in recent years has garnered attention in the media and academia. As US Army War College faculty member Navy Captain M. F. Light notes in his analysis of recent Navy CO firings, we have a "small but steady tradition-fed stream of misconduct at all levels-misconduct that is more likely than it once was to be detected, more harmful to the Navy's mission, and more likely to make headlines when it involves a CO." This very public trend of firings is changing the risk management capacity of our services. Technology constantly changes, the enemy has changed, our acceptance of risk has therefore changed and often it is this aspect of change that impacts our junior officers and their perceptions of the organizations they have volunteered to serve. It is important to understand this perception and the impact it has on retention. More needs to be written on risk management and its impacts on job satisfaction and retention. 

WAPO WonkBlog: "What will we smuggle in the future? Drones, coal, and honeybees."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Psst, got any HCFC-22?Everybody’s making predictions for 2013 right now, but why not aim farther? Recently, the consultancy group Wikistrat ran a large crowd-sourced simulation to try to figure out what sorts of items would be smuggled in 2050. 

That’s right, smuggled. The idea is that you can tell a lot about a society by what’s available on its black markets. And over the next four decades the combination of new technologies, environmental pressures and shifting consumer preferences is likely to lead to a whole slew of products and behaviors being banned or restricted. 

So here’s what Wikistrat expects will thrive on the black market by 2050. Note that the group mainly focused on identifying new types of contraband — no doubt old crowd favorites like drugs and guns will still be trafficked for decades to come: 

Read the entire post at WAPO's WonkBlog

The pic and caption are apt. I got the idea for designing the sim from reading a newspaper account of how freon is now a smuggle-able item. Of course, we used it for decades in air conditioning units, but then, about 20 years ago, it was ordered phased out by an international treaty. So voila! Two decades later it's perfectly illegal - in some parts of the world, thus the smugglers' market. 

Well, that got me thinking: If we project ahead to 2050, which of today's legal items would become illegal? (And no, I disagree with the blog author noting that we "omitted" foreign arable land sales and leasing as "unconventional" smuggling, because that's an abuse of the term when the item in question cannot be moved across sovereign borders. Although the concept makes me laugh to remember Woody Allen's "Love and Death" where his Russian father carries around a chunk of sod, pulling it out for friends and declaring, "Someday, I hope to build on it!") 

Several dozen analysts cranked a few dozen ideas. I then grouped them and wrote up the report. It was a pretty good sim, and it generated (as I suspected it might) the right kind of material that a MSM outlet might like to publicize. 

Access the full Wikistrat report (PDF) here and the executive summary too. 

A New Kind of Carrier Air Wing

By Daniel Goure 

What types of aircraft will be deployed on tomorrow’s flattops? 

What should the carrier air wing (CVW) of the future look like? This rather abstruse topic has taken on new significance of late as a consequence of the article in the July issue of Proceedings by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert. The title of the article, “Payloads over Platforms: Charting a New Course,” the discussion in it of the diminishing value of stealth, and the positive mentions of both the F/A-18 Hornet and unmanned systems such as the Scan Eagle and Fire Scout led some observers to accuse the CNO of somehow being secretly opposed to the carrier variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Under intense criticism, Admiral Greenert and his staff appear to be employing the “Humpty Dumpty” defense (“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”), asserting that the article did not refer in any way to the F-35 but instead to stealth in the future.

The F-35 non-controversy aside, Admiral Greenert made a profound statement that could have dramatic implications for the character of U.S. air power in general and the future CVW in particular. The CNO declared that “we need to move from ‘luxury-car’ platforms—with their built-in capabilities—toward dependable ‘trucks’ that can handle a changing payload selection.” Why? Well, by definition “luxury car” platforms are expensive both to buy and maintain. In addition, they tend to look good and have great performance but can be of limited utility. A dependable “truck” has a wider range of uses, particularly if one doesn’t mind riding in the back. A payload-centric approach also allows for more rapid technological refresh at lower cost as well as the ability to tailor forces for the conflict du jour. 

One conclusion to be drawn from the CNO’s assertion is that the value of the performance characteristics associated with so-called luxury-car platforms is declining. Those include stealth, speed, maneuverability, perhaps even survivability. There are several reasons for the Navy’s tastes in tactical aircraft to be changing. Obviously, two related ones are declining defense budgets and the high cost of advanced manned platforms. Another is concern regarding the anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) threat. 

Road to Naxalbari


The book is a treasure trove of information and anecdotes on the Naxalbari movement. 

IT was April 1967. The peasants’ movement had not yet taken a definite shape but was on its way to becoming part of history by the name Naxalbari movement. Its architect, Charu Majumdar, had already written the historic Eight Documents that were to be the guiding principles of the planned revolution. With the movement about to be unleashed, Majumdar wanted the views of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on the documents. He entrusted his Nepali comrade, Krishnabhakta Sharma from Kalimpong, with the task of carrying the documents to China. Though fully aware of the extreme dangers involved in the expedition, Krishnabhakta was willing to do the bidding. Years later, he recounted his conversation with Majumdar: “I shall have to confront death at every step. Therefore, if this work is to be done, then subsequently other comrades will also have to be enterprising. I am ready to go.” He set off the very next morning with the documents and a letter to Mao Zedong from Majumdar. Majumdar’s parting words to Krishnabhakta were: “It hardly matters if you are caught, but if these papers are discovered then we are finished.” Krishnabhakta’s journey was the stuff adventure stories are made of. He was apprehended by a gang of Tibetan dacoits called Khampa. He managed to escape from them. For 52 days he travelled, encountering innumerable obstacles until he was caught, fortunately for him, by the People’s Liberation Army of China in Tibet, and thus he found himself in the office of the CPC. Eight Documents thus reached China. Krishnabhakta returned to India with a Red Book signed by Mao Zedong, which was given to him by the CPC. When the Naxalbari uprising broke out, in April 1967, the CPC mouthpiece, People’s Daily, published in its July 5 edition the famous article titled “Spring Thunder Over India”, in which it said: “Armed struggle in Darjeeling are terrifying the reactionaries in India. They have realised that a disaster is imminent and have started crying.” 

The Naxalbari movement continues to interest not just academics and sociologists but also the general masses. Whatever one’s political leaning, there is no denying the fact that the movement was a historic social phenomenon that impacted different aspects of social, cultural and academic life and left an indelible mark on the very fabric of society. A lot has been written about it in different genres—memoirs, novels and essays. Revolution Unleashed: A History of Naxalbari Movement in India 1964-72 by Amar Bhattacharya gives a well-researched, objective and uncomplicated account of the initial years of the movement. 

Though the author himself had joined the movement as a student in the late 1960s, and later assumed the leadership of a pro-Charu Majumdar faction of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the book betrays no subjective bias. It is rather a detached account presenting all important perspectives and substantiating with documentary evidence the various points of view and accounts from various people. 

An Arthashastra for our times

Rukun Advani 

The Hindu THE SYSTEM: The citizen is a bacterium, the citizens’ mob is a virus, a protest movement is Japanese encephalitis. Allow the plague to spread and a system of management perfected over long years disintegrates. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar 

The lynchpin of our rule is a dysfunctional criminal justice system. It has taken us years to ensure that wrongdoing is allowed to flourish — and we are now being asked to dismantle this system! 

There has been a furore in our national capital. What is most apparent within the furore is that the politician’s voice has not been heard. Why have our politicians fallen silent? The reason is that they now lack the courage to state their beliefs. Therefore, though I am only an ordinary elected Indian politician, I would like to speak out. Our voice too must be heard and understood on this matter of rape and related issues. The mistrust, outrage, and helplessness of the citizenry is shared by people in my profession — only, for reasons very far from those expressed by the people out in the streets. 

Still comrades after all these years Kanwal Sibal

Published: December 28, 2012

The India-Russia summit saw positive formulations on many issues, while providing an opportunity to address difficult questions like Kudankulam 

Russia was the first country with which India established a strategic partnership in 2000 when Vladimir Putin became President and reversed the drift in ties under Boris Yeltsin when Moscow veered westwards and lost interest in its Soviet-era friendships. The declaration of a strategic partnership with India was a pragmatic step, calculated to restore Russia’s role in international affairs by linking up with independent-minded, friendly, economically resurgent countries like India that could help promote multi-polarity and resist United States-led policies of regime change and intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. 

Since then, India has signed strategic partnership agreements with several countries, including the U.S. whose unilateralism was the motive for espousing multipolarity in the first place. The India-U.S. strategic partnership agreement shifts the balance in India’s foreign policy as its logic is both to deepen bilateral ties and build convergences in policies on regional and global issues. Because of the disparity of power between them, the U.S. has more capacity to influence India’s policies than the reverse, with the result that changes in India’s stance on some domestic and foreign issues is often attributed to U.S. influence, causing misgivings about India’s U.S. tilt. 

Perceived westward tilt 

If before 2000 it was Russia’s westward tilt that unsettled our bilateral relationship, it is now the perceived westward tilt of India that is causing some unease in Russian thinking. 

To underline the claim that the India-Russia relationship is in fine fettle and distinguish it from India’s other strategic partnerships, the two countries declared last year that theirs was a “special and privileged” one. But such well meaning rhetoric does not match reality. 

Master of Rhythm


Pandit Ravi Shankar (1920-2012) will be remembered as India’s first and most successful cultural ambassador to the West, who opened the door of opportunity for other Indian musicians after him, and for being a brilliant sitar player. 

PANDIT Ravi Shankar’s passing away on December 12 in far off La Jolla, California, in the United States provoked an avalanche of praise, most of it well deserved. He was impeccably tuneful and the most versatile sitar player of his generation, having imbibed music from the many gharanas of sitar-playing in India in his years of learning from the mid-1930s to the early 1950s or slightly later. He came from a family of non-professional musicians. His father, Shyam Shankar Choudhury, was a barrister-at-law and the Diwan of Jhalawar, a princely state in Rajasthan. The gentleman is said to have been a philosopher, Sanskrit scholar and an amateur musician. The family came from Jessore in East Bengal. Shyam Shankar Choudhury’s eldest son, Uday Shankar (1900-1977), put Indian dance on the world map. Ravi Shankar’s guru, Ustad Allauddin Khan, a sarod maestro, aka “Baba”, played many instruments and trained some of the most eminent instrumentalists in the last eighty years, including Timir Baran, daughter Annapoorna Devi and son Ali Akbar Khan, Pannalal Ghosh, nephew Bahadur Khan, Nikhil Banerjee and Sharan Rani Backliwal. Baba Allauddin Khan Saheb, like his pupil Ravi Shankar, came from a non-professional musician background; he was from a peasant family from Comilla, East Bengal, in undivided India. His patron, the Maharaja of Maihar in Madhya Pradesh, saw to it that he lived in a calm ashram-like atmosphere. It was there that Ravi Shankar found his true musical self when he was initiated formally as a pupil ( shagird) in 1938. 

He began his professional career as a musician in 1945, tremendously well equipped technically, having emulated Baba and practised the tonic scales and multiple note-combinations assiduously, though not like Baba, who did nothing else but practise these exercises for seven long years. In later years, it made Ravi Shankar the greatest practitioner of the Tantrakari tradition where the percussive element played an important part. While the Tantrakari Baaj remained his mainstay and enabled him, along with former brother-in-law, the genius Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, to bring daring innovations in laya or rhythm, Ravi Shankar did use the meend or glide as well as certain gamaks or vibrating notes with virtuosity, especially in his introductory aalap presenting a raaga. His gift of laya probably came from his early training as a boy-dancer with his elder brother Uday Shankar’s troupe touring Europe and America in the early 1930s. Though he did learn to play the surbahar well, it was his first wife, Annapoorna, his guru’s daughter, who had mastered the instrument and was known for her flowing, melodic playing. She certainly was an important influence in the first part of his career. A private tape recording from 1954 of a traditional bandish in Raaga Jhinjhoti bears out this contention. 


Uday Shankar put Ravi Shankar on the path to fame 

In the heap of obituaries and appreciatory notices on Ravi Shankar’s life and works that have appeared in the past few weeks, there is one glaring omission. Not one reference is to be found to the role Uday Shankar, the brother 20 years Ravi Shankar’s senior, played in shaping the latter’s destiny. There would be no Pandit Ravi Shankar had not the senior brother, already on his way to be a legendary figure, taken charge of young Robu from the very beginning. None of the obituary notes acknowledge this datum; one is left wondering whether this is an instance of collective amnesia. 

Banaras, the early 1930s. Robu, the youngest of the brothers, was a problem child. He was unmindful of studies, a habitual truant from school, given to prankish ways, which included stealing fruits and flowers from neighbours’ gardens. Uday Shankar persuaded their mother to let Robu accompany him during his first professional foray into the United States of America, the brat would learn a great deal more from exposure to the big, wide world than what a conventional school education could impart. The senior brother was right. Always indulgent to the youngest sibling, Uday Shankar wanted him to grow in his own manner without let or hindrance and yet find a footing in life. After America, it was time for Uday Shankar’s ambitious European tour in 1934. Robu became the youngest member of the troupe, which crisscrossed the major cities in the continent, presenting to the stodgy inter-war European bourgeoisie Uday Shankar’s synthesized narrative of India’s classical music and dance forms. Ravi Shankar would be a demure junior constituent of the Hara Parvati ballet ensemble that featured in the programme. It was only a brief interlude. Ustad Alauddin Khan, Baba to one and all, joined the group as its music director. Baba, always effusively affectionate in spite of occasional bursts of fury, playfully introduced young Robu to the tambura, the sitar and the sarod. Robu was not yet an instrumentalist, but was half-ready to take the plunge. 

Travelling across Europe from Belgrade at one end to Stockholm at the other, with halts in between in Rome, Basle, Dresden and Paris, was itself a tremendous liberal education for the teenager. Was he not travelling with greatness? For, besides Alauddin Khan, such soon-going-to-emerge-as-luminaries as Vishnudas Shirali and Timir Baran Bhattacharya, too, were with the troupe. Robu listened as the senior members performed with their instruments. He felt the stirring inside. Stirring by itself meant little. The hard grind, which is the passage to worthwhile creative work, lay ahead. 

Paying Dividends: The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal Four Years On

December 28, 2012 

By Yogesh Joshi 

Four years after a historic nuclear deal was signed, many in American policy circles deride the agreement as a failure. They're wrong. 

The 2008 Indo-U.S. Civilian Nuclear Agreement was supposed to mark a watershed moment for India – U.S. relations, ending the two democracies long-standing estrangement and ushering in a new era where New Delhi and Washington would be “indispensable partners.” But four years after the deal came into effect, much of the initial enthusiasm that it engendered has dissipated. Especially in American foreign policy circles, many feel that the nuclear agreement has failed to meet expectations. 

From India's perspective, nuclear cooperation was a sine quo none for any meaningful growth in India-U.S. ties in other areas. That being said, there was also a genuine expectation in the U.S. that assimilating India into the nuclear mainstream would reap enormous economic, political and strategic dividends for the country. However, many of the deal’s strongest proponents at the time of its signing now claim that these gains failed to materialize. 

Economically, the U.S. was attracted to the vast potential India’s large and growing nuclear energy market had for domestic nuclear firms. This viewpoint failed to take into account India’s domestic nuclear liability law, which obliges nuclear suppliers to be liable for damages their equipment results in. Many U.S. companies have balked at this requirement, and the economic gains of the deal have failed to materialize accordingly. 

For many in Washington, the nuclear deal similarly failed to tie India closer to the U.S.-led global non-proliferation and arms control architecture. India has defied American expectations by making no concerted effort to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and has shown no interest in voluntarily halting its production of fissile materials (enriched uranium or plutonium). More troubling for many in Washington is India’s continued refusal to parrot the American line regarding Iran’s nuclear program. 

29 Indians and Indian-Americans named 2013 IEEE fellows

27 December 2012

Twenty-nine Indians and Indian- Americans were among 297 people who were nominated to serve as '2013 Newly Elevated IEEE Fellows' of the Institute for Electronic and Electrical Engineers, the world's largest technical professional association. 

The nomination is a distinction reserved for select IEEE members whose extraordinary accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields of interest are deemed fitting of this prestigious grade elevation.

Those honoured include Om Prakash Narayan Calla from Rajasthan,
Jayant Ramaswamy Haritsa from IIS-Bangalore, Sreenivasa S Murthy from IIT-Delhi, Pradeep K Sinha from Pune University and Bayya Yegnanarayana from the IIIT-Hyderabad.

Others include Raja Chatila from France, Ramachandra Achar from Canada and Lalit Kumar Goel from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

The Indian-Americans in the list include Sanjoy K Baruah from University of North Carolina, Kannan Krishnan from University of Washington, Subhasish Mitra from Stanford University, Suman Datta from Penn State University and Suhas Diggavi from the University of California.

Prof Sushil Jajodia, Swarn Singh Kalsi, Ravi V Mahajan, Kadaba R Lakshmikumar, Prof Madhav V Marathe, Bikash C Pal, Prof Kameshwar Poolla, Sanjay Raman, Prof Sudeep Sarkar, Associate Prof Gaurav Sharma, Prof Prashant Shenoy, Subhash L Shinde, Ramasamy Uthurusamy, Prof Pramod Viswanath, Harish Viswanathan and Randhir P S Thakur.

Report of the Secretary-General's internal review panel on United Nations action in Sri Lanka

On 22 June 2010 the United Nations’ (UN) Secretary-General established a "Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka" (Panel of Experts) to advise him on accountability during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka. Click here for the panel report.

Taliban sets 1971 war revenge term for truce

Outfit says it was dragged into war with Pak 

A file picture of Taliban militants with their weapons in Jalalabad 

Islamabad, Dec. 27: The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan have outlined conditions for a ceasefire that includes an end to Pakistan’s participation in the Afghan war, “revenge” for the 1971 war with India and reshaping of the Constitution and foreign policy according to the Quran. 

The Taliban, in a letter sent to daily The News, demanded that Pakistan stop its involvement in the war pitting Afghan insurgents against the Kabul government and refocus on a war of “revenge” against India. 

“Instead of taking out guns against Muslims, the Pakistan Army should prepare to take revenge for the 1971 war (with India). This will also add the potential of Kashmiri mujahideen to our forces,” the Taliban letter said. 

the move comes as the focus in Afghanistan shifts from a military push by Nato troops to potential peace talks amid speculation of a rift between top Pakistan Taliban leaders. 

Military officials said last month that Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud had lost operational command to his deputy, Wali ur-Rehman, considered to be more open to reconciliation with the Pakistani government. 

The Pakistani Taliban are a separate entity allied to the Afghan Taliban. Known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, they have launched devastating attacks against the Pakistani military and civilians. 

Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told The Telegraph that the Taliban proposal had the full backing of the group. 

The letter says that the Taliban was dragged into a war with Pakistan from the Afghanistan and Kashmir fronts. The government and the Pakistani army were responsible for this, the letter added. 

Pakistan Taliban spokesman outlines conditions for ceasefire

By Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Jibran Ahmad

ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The Pakistani Taliban have outlined conditions for a ceasefire, including the adoption of Islamic law and a break with the United States, a spokesman said Thursday, an offer dismissed out of hand by the interior minister. 

The Taliban, in a letter sent to the Pakistan daily The News, also demanded that Pakistan stop its involvement in the war pitting Afghan insurgents against the Kabul government and refocus on a war of "revenge" against India. 

The letter from Taliban spokesman Amir Muawiya comes as the focus in Afghanistan shifts from a military push by NATO troops to potential peace talks, and amid speculation of a rift between top Pakistan Taliban leaders. 

Military officials told Reuters last month that Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud had lost operational command to his deputy, Wali ur-Rehman, considered to be more open to reconciliation with the Pakistani government. The Taliban deny Mehsud has lost command. 

The Pakistani Taliban are a separate entity allied to the Afghan Taliban. Known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), they have launched devastating attacks against the Pakistani military and civilians. 

The ceasefire conditions, confirmed by spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan in a phone call to Reuters, said Pakistan should rewrite its laws and constitution according to Islamic law. 

Interior Minister Rehman Malik rejected any offer of a ceasefire unless it came from the Pakistan Taliban leader. 

"I reject all these offers, and any future claims, of Ihsanullah Ihsan, unless and until Hakeemullah Mehsud owns them himself," Malik said. 

A second government official, who asked not to be identified, dismissed the proposal as "preposterous". 

"They are a bunch of criminals. This is not the Afghan Taliban. They are not open to talks," The official said. 

"No one can take such an offer or terms seriously. The TTP is not a proper entity, certainly not one any government can negotiate with." 

CIA’s Global Response Staff emerging from shadows after incidents in Libya and Pakistan

By Greg Miller and Julie Tate, Published: December 27 

The rapid collapse of a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya exposed the vulnerabilities of State Department facilities overseas. But the CIA’s ability to fend off a second attack that same night provided a glimpse of a key element in the agency’s defensive arsenal: a secret security force created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. 

Two of the Americans killed in Benghazi were members of the CIA’s Global Response Staff, an innocuously named organization that has recruited hundreds of former U.S. Special Forces operatives to serve as armed guards for the agency’s spies.

The GRS, as it is known, is designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.

But a series of deadly scrapes over the past four years has illuminated the GRS’s expanding role, as well as its emerging status as one of the CIA’s most dangerous assignments.

Of the 14 CIA employees killed since 2009, five worked for the GRS, all as contractors. They include two killed at Benghazi, as well as three others who were within the blast radius on Dec. 31, 2009, when a Jordanian double agent detonated a suicide bomb at a CIA compound in Khost, Afghanistan. 

GRS contractors have also been involved in shootouts in which only foreign nationals were killed, including one that triggered a diplomatic crisis. While working for the CIA, Raymond Davis was jailed for weeks in Pakistan last year after killing two men in what he said was an armed robbery attempt in Lahore. 

The increasingly conspicuous role of the GRS is part of a broader expansion of the CIA’s paramilitary capabilities over the past 10 years. Beyond hiring former U.S. military commandos, the agency has collaborated with U.S. Special Operations teams on missions including the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and has killed thousands of Islamist militants and civilians with its fleet of armed drones.

CIA veterans said that GRS teams have become a critical component of conventional espionage, providing protection for case officers whose counterterrorism assignments carry a level of risk that rarely accompanied the cloak-and-dagger encounters of the Cold War.

Spywork used to require slipping solo through cities in Eastern Europe. Now, “clandestine human intelligence involves showing up in a Land Cruiser with some [former] Deltas or SEALs, picking up an asset and then dumping him back there when you are through,” said a former CIA officer who worked closely with the security group overseas.