31 August 2013

More nuclear claptrap from another ex-diplomat ***

Posted on August 28, 2013

I suspect that whenever former civil service types, ex-diplomats, and growingly even retired militarymen feel the inner tug to be in the public eye, they should mightily resist the urge to pronounce on things manifestly beyond their ken and areas of expertise, revealing their quite appalling ignorance on strategic, especially nuclear, matters in the process, and otherwise to strive to be K. Subrahmanyams! Now, Subbu (IAS) to his acolytes, KS to this analyst, had years of reading and learning from the great masters of N-deterrence theory of the 1950s and Sixties behind him, and even then got things wrong in the last phase of his life when he compromised his message to ensure his influence on policy (to wit, the India-US nuclear deal). Less gifted civil servants,foreign service retirees, ex-Generals and that lot, who are habituated to at most reading and drafting two-page policy briefs — and can never be accused of cluttering up their minds by delving too deeply on any particular topic, leave alone reading the vast literature on N-deterrence before expounding on the subject are, understandably, all at sea. (On the reading habits of Foreign Service officers, for instance, Natwar Singh, former MEA Minister and IFS-man, candidly informed me that 80 percent of Indian diplomats do not read books once they enter service!) The latest to go public with the usual misinformed, uneducated, confused and confusing take on nuclear weapons, deterrence, and national security is Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, a onetime Indian Perm Rep at the UN in NY.

His piece “Nuclear weapons, costs and myths” — a more bureaucratic-sounding title is hard to conjure up, is dismissible as so much claptrap. Plainly, one wishes he’d stick to safe material — Arab Spring, stuff like that, as he has been doing — than venture into a combustible area, where there’s the danger — albeit slight — of his being taken seriously. The trouble is his kind of nonsense is heard in certain sections of the Establishment, and in some ways is a more extreme expression of Shyam Saran’s expostulation, and needs to be shown up for what it is — an attempt at intellectual over-reach! (Refer my ‘India’s nuclear amateurism’, June 28, 2013).

The main point of Gharekhan’s appears to be that becoz India is “miles behind” China in the nuclear weapons department, there’s no possibility of N-conflict with that country and therefore one needn’t strive to neutralize it. On the other hand, ‘coz India is supposedly on on the same level as Pakistan, that New Delhi should try and reach a nuclear arms limitation agreement with Islamabad. More fatalistic and defeatist thinking is hard to imagine because, at a minimum, it consigns India to the also-ran category of great powers; worse, it lends credence to Islamabad’s longtime policy thrust that the world and New Delhi acknowledge Pakistan’s “strategic parity” with India (hence, an N-deal like the one India secured, etc). It means — in the context of his making much of the geographic proximity aspect — that if tomorrow Mexico acquires nuclear weapons, that it ought immediately to think of itself on the same strategic plane with the US. (Ridiculous analogy? Consider that India’s GDP — even in its present straitened circumstances, is 8 to 10 times that of Pakistan, its territory and population five time as large, etc.; Mexico’s GDP is some $2 trillion compared to US’s $14 trillion — only seven times as large! And so on…)

Trust Deficit

The last decade has not ironed out the differences between India and Pakistan despite a growth in trade
By Kanwal Sibal

Pakistan remains a perennial problem for us. It is a unique situation in which the animosity of 65 years has not been overcome despite vast changes in the international arena, with former implacable adversaries like the US and Russia moving, despite serious differences, towards fundamental reconciliation. It is not surprising, therefore, if the last decade has not produced normalisation of relations between the two countries.

The fundamental problem is the mindset of the ruling Pakistani elite towards India. This has not changed in the last decade. The basic antipathy, distrust and sense of rivalry towards India conditions Pakistan’s policies towards us. The Islamic roots of Pakistan and differences with India rooted in religious ideology remain a huge obstacle. If Pakistan’s hostility is anchored in the ‘idea’ of Pakistan, unless that ‘idea’ evolves, burying of differences will not be possible. 

The Pakistani mindset has an organic linkage with the military’s domination of Pakistan’s polity. The Pakistani armed forces provide the physical and moral muscle to confront India. With Pakistan becoming nuclear, its capacity to confront India, despite other weaknesses of the country, can be sustained longer than might have been the case otherwise.

India has been unable to craft a policy that through threats of retaliation, engagement and deterrence moves the relationship towards a form of normalisation. In the last decade India has given priority to dialogue, overlooking serious Pakistani provocations, but without the expected results.

On the central issue of terrorism India has played for time, hoping that at some stage the problem may go away or become more manageable. In 2004, Pakistan committed itself to not allow terrorist attacks against India from territory under its control. As against this, India agreed to restore the composite dialogue. A clear linkage was established between dialogue and terrorism. This linkage was discarded in the years that followed as the dialogue continued despite a series of Pakistani abetted terrorist attacks against India, whether in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Benares or Mumbai. India played along in obscuring harsh realities by formally agreeing to delink the two by proclaiming in a joint statement with Pakistan at Sharm el Sheikh in July 2009 that action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these two should not be bracketed. 

Such a concession coming after the monstrous terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 was difficult to explain. If the assumption was that this would give the Pakistan government political space to try those responsible for the Mumbai massacre as a first step towards the elimination of terrorism from its soil directed at India, then that assumption has proved wrong. Pakistan has exploited every procedural legal trick to delay the trial. 

Pakistan: Peace remains a Chimera

The successful holding of elections in Pakistan earlier this year marked a significant forward movement in the country’s politics with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) handing over power to the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), based on the people’s verdict. Nawaz Sharif’s victory and assumption of office as Prime Minister on 5 June 2013 was widely heralded by many in India as representing a changed dynamic, which would facilitate rapprochement in the strained India–Pakistan relations. However, the more circumspect in India’s strategic circles questioned the euphoria, because the fundamentals within Pakistani polity had not changed. These related to the de facto control exercised by the Pakistani military over certain aspects of foreign and domestic policy, internal conflict arising out of ethnic, sectarian and ideological fault lines and an almost bankrupt economy.

The economic indicators within Pakistan remain grim and many believe that the state is on life support, dependant on financial assistance from the US and western donors. Karachi, the economic hub of Pakistan is a tinderbox, all set to explode. The PML(N) manifesto had specifically promised to limit government borrowing, but its record for the first three months in office holds little hope for such an outcome. The future looks grim with the State Bank of Pakistan planning to raise a colossal Rs1.6 trillion during the 1st quarter of FY 2014 through T-bills and an additional Rs175 billion through Pakistan Investment Bonds. The government’s efforts to turn around ‘loss making state enterprises’ have also been a non–starter, though three months is perhaps too short a period to make a valid assessment. Moreover, individuals heading these enterprises are political appointees, their selection having no relevance to considerations of merit and professionalism. It would be difficult if not well nigh impossible for them to come out of the red. While the energy sector has shown improvement in the three months since Sharif assumed power, multiple challenges in the sector remain. From an installed capacity of 23,538mw, production has increased to 13, 600mw, a quantum leap from the earlier abysmally low figure of 8000mw. However, this is still far short of the consumption requirements, which stand at about 16,800mw.

The security situation remains forbidding. Over 1,100 people have been killed in the last three months in terrorist violence, averaging about 14 fatalities per day. The country remains hostage to bomb blasts, which occur on a daily basis, and to suicide attacks occurring at a frequency of three to four per week. The Nawaz Sharif government has no strategy in place to curb terrorism despite tall claims made in its election manifesto. The Pakistan Army has neither the will nor the capacity to defeat the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which means that the country’s security situation will remain grim for some time to come. Perhaps this realisation prompted the Sharif government to extend the olive branch to the TTP. In his maiden televised address to the nation on 19 August, the premier stated that his government would prefer talks to end the nagging insurgency. Later, Pakistan’s Defence Cabinet Committee put the laying down of arms by the extremists as a pre-condition for talks, but speaking in a different voice, the interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said in a television interview that the government had set no preconditions for talks with militants. Asmatullah Muawiya, the chief of Punjabi Taliban welcomed the offer for talks but was sacked by the Taliban Shura, which met under their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud. However, Muawiya rejected the TTP decision, saying that the group has no authority to sack him as ‘the Punjabi Taliban has its own Shura which makes its own decisions’. Muawiya’s offer is seen as a split in the Taliban ranks but this must be viewed in context. The Punjabi Taliban, unlike the Taliban in FATA is close to the PML (N), to whom it gave active support in the recent elections. It is now payback time. Perhaps there is an unannounced deal with the Punjabi Taliban as stated in a news report published by ‘The News’ on 26 August 2013, which quotes confirmation of the deal through Malik Ishaq of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), who actually commands the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Many however, see such a deal as appeasement, which points to a lack of ability by the security forces of Pakistan to rein in the militants and bring them to the negotiating table.

Defence Industrial Base in India: Public Private Partnership Model

The Indian economy is calibrating its priorities and resources towards becoming an economic superpower. A prerequisite for any emerging nation to become a true power is to possess a well-developed defence industrial base. Self-reliance in defence is essential for a nation for strategic as well as economic reasons. An analysis of history and associated trends reveals that indigenous military development programmes in India have been constantly marred by time delays, bureaucratic hurdles, corruption scandals, failures and cost overruns. Some examples of unsuccessful critical projects are the Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT), the Tejas Light Combat Aircaft (LCA) and the Kaveri engine; all of which are running decades behind schedule. This has led to a state of affairs in which there is a high degree of dependence on imports[i] and till recently (2001), the responsibility of defence manufacturing was completely rested with the public sector. The issues which have accounted for India’s slow progress towards the ultimate goal of self-reliance are low production rate, minimal innovation, lack of transparency and accountability, limited R&D capability and manufacturing expertise.

While the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2013 provides stress on indigenous development, India’s current manufacturing base has limited capacity to support the implementation of the improved policies and to transform noble ideas into reality. The last two decades have witnessed the Indian private sector’s exponential growth trajectory and its capacity to innovate, develop and produce world class solutions in fields of cutting edge technology. Thus, it is reasonable to assume and necessary to utilise the immense potential of the private sector in the domain of defence. Proper harnessing of this resource will help India to create an indigenous defence manufacturing hub. One of the implementable mechanisms is the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. PPP is a tried, tested and benchmarked method to achieve self-reliance in defence and is in use in various countries. PPP is a contractual agreement between a public agency (federal, state or local) and a private sector entity. Through this agreement, the skills and assets of each sector (public and private) are shared in delivering a service or facility for the use of the general public. In addition to the sharing of resources, each party shares in the risks and rewards potential in the delivery of the service and/or facility.[ii]

In India, the PPP model has worked with satisfactory results in the building of complex and large scale infrastructure projects like roads, airports etc. The same approach if adapted to defence R&D and manufacturing has the potential of bearing fruitful results. Though, it is common understanding that national defence being a strategic and sensitive sector must be within the ambit of the state, but there are several non-critical areas where the private sector can play an active role to build trust. Countries like United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK) and South Korea have successfully inducted and implemented the PPP model in their defence industry to deliver defence solutions. India is in a situation where it needs to modernise its armed forces on a large scale, but within budget constraints. PPP can play a big role as it is a pragmatic model to synergise the strengths of both the public and private sectors to deliver quality results in meaningful timeframe and resource constraints. Some of the advantages of the PPP model are long term committed relationships, improved efficiency and cost effectiveness, greater transparency, optimum combination of competencies, capabilities and expertise of commercial sector and government agencies, shared resources and risks.

U.S., China and an Unthinkable War

August 26, 2013

PLA soldier plays "Glorious Mission Online" an online game that allows players to defend contested islands in the East China Sea

The specter of economic doomsday makes war between China and the United States as unthinkable as fear of nuclear doomsday made Soviet-U.S. war. Or does it? In fact, Chinese and American military planners are thinking in exquisite detail, as they are expected to do, about how to win such a conflict. The problem is that the specific plans being concocted could make hostilities less unthinkable, and two great powers with every reason to avoid war could find themselves in one.

Having been impotent against two U.S. aircraft carriers during the Taiwan crisis of 1996, the People's Liberation Army has concluded, as Chinese military writings show, that the best way to avoid another such humiliation is by striking U.S. forces before they strike China. While not seeking war, the Chinese especially dread a long one, in which the full weight of American military strength would surely prevail. So they are crafting plans and fielding capabilities to take out U.S. carriers, air bases, command-and-control networks and satellites early and swiftly.

China now has the economic and technological heft such a plan requires, and it is China's top defense priority. The Chinese military is deploying vast numbers of missiles (including carrier killers), hard-to-find submarines, long-range sensors to track and target U.S. forces, anti-satellite weapons, digital networks to coordinate attacks and cyberwar weapons to crash U.S. networks. When the Department of Defense announced its “Asia pivot” last year, it made it clear that defeating such capabilities is now a major focus of the U.S. military.

Because defending U.S. forces against such capabilities is so hard and expensive, Pentagon strategists have come up with the idea (known as air-sea battle) of crippling such forces — missile launchers, air bases, submarine pens and command-and-control centers — before they can be unleashed. Most of these targets are in China. As with the Chinese war plan, the idea is to strike with speed, fury and little warning.

Such China-U.S. reciprocal planning implies a textbook case of “crisis instability” in which the price for failing to attack before the opponent does is defeat. Each side knows the other is thinking the same way and so has all the more incentive to act preemptively if war seems imminent. Or probable. Or maybe just possible. Given the penalty for attacking second, such spiraling logic can turn confrontation into conflagration.

Still, it would take a spark to ignite conflict. Moreover, generals and admirals do not make the decision to go to war; presidents do. While there is some comfort in thinking that political leaders on both sides would tamp down tensions and not order preemptive attack, it does not take much imagination to see how circuit breakers could fail in the heat of a crisis.

More Megaprojects? What China’s Rebalancing Means for Asia

August 30, 2013

China’s growth may be slowing, but that doesn’t mean its economic presence in Asia will diminish.

The China boom has changed far more than China itself: its impact has been felt right across the global system, from the wealthiest states to the poorest.

But for China’s neighbors, there has been a particular implication—an opportunity for relatively poor economies to develop themselves, to a greater or lesser extent, in China’s own image.

The megaproject is the pièce de résistance of the Chinese development model: huge dams, high-speed rail networks, highways, mines, ports—anything so long as it’s big enough to resonate with vision and prowess. China has given other countries in the region, especially those in developing South and Southeast Asia, the chance to have their own impressive Chinese-style infrastructure or to tap once-unreachable resources by providing the money, the expertise, and in many cases the labor needed to deliver projects way beyond the capacity of the recipient countries.

Chinese companies, usually deep-pocketed state-owned enterprises (SOEs), have naturally been involved in hundreds of regional projects that don’t merit the “mega” tag. But the really big projects—the ones that no other investor had the ambition or the capital to undertake—have mattered the most. These have tended to go ahead in places where China has a strategic interest: locations that offer access to critical resources, where new infrastructure can help spur development of China’s own western interior, or where China can develop an extraterritorial west coast via projects in Myanmar and Pakistan, for example. It’s the familiar “win-win” approach, at least in theory: China achieves its regional objectives, while its partners acquire infrastructure and revenue which they would not otherwise have been able to obtain.

And these near-abroad investments differ significantly from China’s investment model in developed economies. While China has certainly invested heavily in Europe and the U.S., its activity there has been corporate in nature: acquiring companies, or stakes in companies, that offer value. In contrast, there are often multiple facets to China’s regional ventures, which may include:
  • Boosting energy security
  • Securing access to raw materials
  • Generating profits
  • “Diplomacy projects” that boost China’s prestige or buy influence with the local regime (but which may well entail a financial loss)
  • Funding projects as a way of generating business for Chinese companies
  • Opening up future markets for Chinese goods
  • Boosting bilateral trade in general
  • Helping to develop China’s western interior by improving links with contiguous states
  • Long-term strategic advantages, possibly including military access to key facilities

(Detailed studies on the motivation behind China’s regional investments are available here, here, here, and here).

However, China’s newfound status as developing Asia’s paymaster, architect and master-builder may already be set to change. The country is at a crossroads as it abandons its old export-led economic model in the hope of achieving a more “balanced” economy. There are many ifs and buts. Though the broad strokes of the government’s new-look “Likonomics” have already been widely discussed, little official detail about Beijing’s new blueprint will emerge until the Third Plenum of the CCP’s Central Committee, which is due in November.

These deliberations could have important implications for China’s regional partners. Will the new economic model seek to expand, curtail or in some way evolve Beijing’s regional investment activities? Or, if the rebalancing of the Chinese economy becomes a crisis rather than a well-managed transition, as some arepredicting, will Chinese SOEs even have the cash and the confidence to sustain their ambitious regional interests?

Syria - Sitrep

August 30, 2013

The answer from the beginning has been made clear: Bomb Syria. Now what are your important, intelligent questions?

Why would the US bomb Syria?

It began when it was revealed that Syrian government military forces used chemical weapons in Damascus during a military operation on August 21, 2013. According to NGO sources, at least 100 people died in the initial attack, and many more have died since. The attack appears to have exposed between 300 - 1000 people to chemical agents (depending upon source), overwhelming NGO health organizations working in Syria. The UN has not officially confirmed the use of chemical weapons, and Syria has not exactly been cooperative in helping the UN teams assess the situation.

Both President Obama and Secretary Kerry describe the evidence in the hands of the US intelligence services proving the use of chemical weapons as conclusive, but the intelligence with the most credibility that is accessible to the average American came from the Violations Documentation Center in Syria. This outstanding Foreign Policy story tells their story.

Activist Razan Zaitouneh, who runs the Violations Documentation Center in Syria, tells FP that her team sped to the Damascus suburb of Zamalka immediately after a chemical weapons attack was reported there on Aug. 21. The media staff of Zamalka's local coordination committee, which is responsible for filming videos in the area and uploading them to the world, also sped to the scene. According to Zaitouneh, all but one of them paid with their lives.

"The chemical attacks, on the first day of the massacre, claimed the lives of many media activists in Zamalka coordination because they inhaled the chemical toxic gases," Murad Abu Bilal, the sole survivor, told Zaitouneh in an interview uploaded to -- what else -- YouTube. "[T]hey went out to shoot and collect information about the chemical attack, but none of them came back."

The videos quickly removed any doubt for U.S. intelligence analysts that chemical weapons were used in the Aug. 21 attack. They showed children with constricted pupils who were twitching and having trouble breathing -- classic signs of exposure to sarin gas. They also showed the remnants of the rockets reportedly used to deliver the gas, which were largely intact. If they had delivered conventional explosive munitions, more of the rocket would have been destroyed on impact.What does the US hope to achieve by bombing Syria?

The objective, goal, or "ends" of strategy for Syria is where the Obama administration has detoured into a ditch, because apparently the use of military power isn't the way the Obama administration will execute strategy, using military power - as in the action of using of military force - is the "ends" of the strategy itself... at least according to the New York Times.

The goal of the cruise missile strikes the United States is planning to carry out in Syria is to restore the smudged “red line” that President Obama drew a year ago against the use of poison gas.

If carried out effectively, the strikes may also send a signal to Iran that the White House is prepared to back up its words, no small consideration for an administration that has proclaimed that the use of military force remains an option if the leadership in Iran insists on fielding a nuclear weapon.The Obama administration apparently plans on using military power in Syria so they can set a precedent for using military power next time someone uses chemical weapons, with a focus on Iran. I have no problem with any President of the United States using military power to follow through on a threat to use military power when a red line is crossed. The credibility of the President of the United States in foreign policy is the same thing as the credibility of the United States.

First They Came for the Islamists

Egypt’s Tunisian Future
August 28, 2013
Former Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Argentina, 1997 (Courtesy Reuters)

An Islamist political party does well at the polls, and an authoritarian regime goes after it with a vengeance, killing its activists and arresting its leaders. The party is driven underground while secularists and other political groups applaud the government’s harsh measures, all taken in the name of eliminating a terrorist threat. Meanwhile, the regime and the non-Islamist parties assure the world that once the Islamists have been dealt with, the regular political process will resume again.

So it has happened in Egypt, but it is also the story of Tunisia in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when hopes for a democratic transition were smashed after a campaign of repression that first targeted Islamists but eventually grew into a much wider effort to eliminate all political opposition. Tunisia’s experience offers a glimpse of what may be yet to come in Egypt -- and suggests that Egyptian secularists should think twice before supporting the army’s efforts to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood.

After replacing President Habib Bourguiba in a bloodless coup in November 1987, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, a military officer, embarked on a program of liberalization and democratization that was at that point unprecedented in the region. His government released all political prisoners and gave them amnesty, revised the laws governing the press and political parties, and got every political bloc -- including the Islamist Ennahda Party -- to sign a national pact guaranteeing civil liberties and free elections.

Those elections were held on April 2, 1989, and were at the time the most competitive in the country’s history, if not in the entire Arab world. Although the winner-take-all system guaranteed that Ben Ali’s party would carry the day, given its organizational advantages developed over decades of unopposed rule, the president and most observers assumed that the secular opposition parties would emerge as the dominant opposition. Instead, the Islamists received the highest share of the opposition vote, 14.5 percent, a figure that was likely deflated due to fraud. 

Once Ben Ali finished with the Islamists, he trained his sights on the rest of the opposition.

Just after the election, The New York Times declared, “Tunisia is undergoing a transition from a one-man dictatorship to a much more open society with a sleight of hand that could furnish lessons for Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader.” The article went on to quote the head of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights saying, “I am absolutely certain of Ben Ali’s good will.”

As it turned out, though, the prospect of a strong Islamist opposition, and especially of an Islamist government at some point down the road, was too much for Ben Ali and the Tunisian state to bear. The government launched a brutal crackdown, killing 1,000 Islamists, jailing another 30,000, and forcing into exile the leader of Ennahda, Rachid al-Ghannouchi. The regime justified its actions by claiming that the Islamists were terrorists out to sow discord and tear Tunisia apart. Only because of the national security threat that they presented, Ben Ali argued, were the Islamists being targeted.

Sri Lankan Claims to Kachchatheevu: A Rejoinder

V Suryanarayan
Former Senior Professor, Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Madras 

Vivekananthan’s arguments can be summed up as follows: I) Kachchatheevu was part of Sri Lanka well before the boundary agreement of 1974 II) Sovereignty over Kachchatheevu is not only based on a maritime boundary agreement but also on historical documentation, by effective occupation and user, legislation for Kachchatheevu and publication of the acts of sovereignty without protest by India. Vivekananthan refers to the decisions of the 1921 conference to justify his contention. III) Indian claims to Kachchtheevu are based on zamindari rights which are not valid IV) The demarcation of the maritime boundary was based on the median line. 

The island was a part of the zamindari of raja of Ramnad and the island and the surrounding seas were leased out to various parties for exploiting the rich marine resources. While a zamindar is not sovereign, the British sovereign had delegated the power of collecting revenue to the zamindar. And when zamindari was abolished after Independence, the island became a part of the Madras Presidency. It should be highlighted that on the eve of Independence, large parts of India was under the zamindari system. In the nine provinces of British India, the zamindari system covered 57 per cent, the ryotwari system covered 37 per cent and the mahalwari system, 5 per cent. If we accept the Sri Lankan argument that the zamindari system was ‘ill defined’, the very existence of India as a united country will be at stake. 
When was Kachchatheevu included as part of Sri Lanka? In a conversation with the author, KP Ratnam, who was elected to Parliament from the Kayts constituency as a TULF candidate in the 1977 elections, he mentioned that Kachchatheevu was included in his constituency only after the conclusion of the 1974 Agreement. 

Can the proceedings of the 1921 Conference be used to justify Sri Lanka’s claim to Kachchatheevu? The 1921 Conference was convened to delimit the fisheries zones and not to decide the ownership claims of Kachchatheevu. The leader of the Ceylon delegation raised the issue of ownership; the Indian delegation was unprepared to face such a contingency because they had no instructions to ‘contest or admit such a claim’. However, the Indian delegation pointed out that the raja of Ramnad had zamindari claims over the island. Horsburg, the leader of the Ceylon delegation, resorted to brinkmanship, which paid Ceylon rich dividends. It was decided that delimitation for fishing purposes could be decided independent of the claims of ownership. The delimitation, therefore, was fixed ‘three miles west of Kachchatheevu’. However, a rider was added ‘so as not to prejudice any territorial claims’, which India might wish to make at a future date. What is more interesting, the Secretary of State for India questioned the validity of the agreement. As a result the agreement was not ratified by the Colonial Office. 

On the question of the median line, it has been pointed out by SP Jagota, then Director, Legal and Treaties Division, Government of India that adjustments were made so that Kachchatheevu would fall on the Sri Lankan side. To quote, “The boundary line between India and Sri Lanka followed the median line, except as adjusted in the Palk Bay, in relation to the settlement on the question of the Island of Kachchatheevu.” DP O’Connel, another distinguished authority in International Law, also underlined the point that the principle of equi-distance was adopted, but ‘modified for pragmatic purposes’. Dr Nirmala Chandrahasan, the well known Sri Lankan academic, has also written that ‘delimitation was based on agreement rather than on equi-distance principle’. 

The 1974 maritime boundary agreement is an illustration of personal friendship determining bilateral relations. Despite strong historical claims, Indira Gandhi ignored them and ceded the island to Sri Lanka. Perhaps it was an offshoot of her desire that Kachchatheevu should not degenerate into a source of discord between the two countries. 

China and Myanmar: The Great Game of the Gas Pipeline

Teshu Singh
Senior Research Officer, CRP, IPCS 

The first phase of a China-Myanmar-South Korea-India gas pipeline venture was started in July 2013. Together, they will explore the resources of ‘Shwe Fields’. The pipeline will start from Kyaukryu port in Rakhine State on the west coast of Myanmar and enter China at Yunnan’s border city of Ruili. In addition to the gas pipeline, for almost the entire distance across Myanmar, a crude oil pipeline will run parallel to the gas pipeline. This pipeline is designed to transport the 22 million tons of oil per year (440,000 barrels per day) that China imports from the Middle East and Africa to Southwest China. The commencement of the pipeline raises some questions; what is the significance of the pipeline for China? What are the larger interests of China in the region vis-à-vis the pipeline? How will Maynmar benefit?

The pipeline is of immense importance to China as it caters to its domestic energy needs, ensures a smooth supply of gas and oil, and also a viable alternative to the Strait of Malacca. China is expecting 12 bcm of natural gas from this pipeline every year. Once fully operational, the crude oil will be shipped from the Middle East via the Indian Ocean through this route. The consortium expects to extract 500 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. 

Related to the pipeline’s construction are other infrastructure developments by China in Myanmar. It is constructing river, road and rail transport infrastructure across Myanmar to connect the landlocked Yunnan province as a bridge with the Andaman Sea, Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal. Two routes have been envisaged in this regard; one route will be created by constructing road/railways to connect Ruili (Yunnan), Kyaukphyu (Rakhine State) and a deep sea port near Kyauphyu. The second route will be created by constructing a river port on Bhamo in Kachin State, from which the Irrawady River will lead to Yangon and Thilawa Port.

These infrastructure projects will add to the economic restructuring of the south western region of China. The pipeline is a key element in governmental plans to transform Kunming into a petro-chemical refining and production base as stated in the 12th five year plan. The project will be a major part of China’s plans to promote inland economic development in the south western provinces of Yunnan, Tibet, Guizhou, and Guangxi as well as Chongqing Municipality. These are the areas in China which have had difficulties receiving stable fuel supplies from the refining centres at Lanzhou and Guangzhou. 

Today, almost eighty per cent of China’s oil tankers pass through the Strait of Malacca. The pipeline will help in significantly reducing the distance from Middle East and Africa through the Strait; thus changing the energy map of the region. Thus this route is the first alternative route to the Strait of Malacca for China. This is a major breakthrough in China's strategy for energy diversification and in further reducing the cost of transportation of oil and gas. In fact this will be the fourth corridor to supply oil and gas. 

The U.S. Government Report on Syrian Use of Chemical Weapons

August 30, 2013

The White House just posted on its website the four-page unclassified report on the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons in east Damascus on August 21, 2013. If you wish to download a copy of the report, it can be found here.

For those of you who do not wish to end up in a National Security Agency (NSA) database, here is the text of the report.

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
August 30, 2013

Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013
The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.

Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21

A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.

A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.


The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents.

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to ensure security and loyalty. The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) – which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense – manages Syria’s chemical weapons program.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.

U.S. Strikes and Military Involvement in Syria: The Need to Keep Action Limited and Conditional

Aug 29, 2013

It seems likely that during the next few days, the U.S. will carry out a limited strike on Syria. So far, the only strategic rationale for that strike has been tied to the use of chemicals weapons and enforcing barriers against the use of these and other weapons of mass destruction. The Obama Administration has gone out of its way to avoid any implication that it might also tilt the balance in the Syrian civil war, restrict the growth of Iranian and Hezbollah influence, reduce the pressure on an Iraq sandwiched between Iran and Syria, and reestablish U.S. credibility with our other regional allies while helping to protect them.

There is something to be said for the politics of the Administration’s narrow approach. It severely limits the U.S. commitment to the use of force, it may well deter Syrian gas and more conventional attacks on civilian populations, and it will have some effectiveness in reducing the risk of any use of chemical weapons or weapons of mass destruction in the future. No ally has to publically commit to any broader form of intervention, and the U.S. can claim it is acting under a provision of the Chemical Weapons Convention and to deal with crimes against humanity to legitimize its action in international law.

The Key Issue is Not the Tactics of the Strikes but the Strategic Aftermath

The real issue, however, is what happens afterwards. A series of strikes on key Syrian facilities and command and control capabilities might alter the balance in the civil war, but the impact seems likely to be limited. There is a chance of some form of Syrian retaliation, or action by Hezbollah and other non-state actors that support Syrian and Iran.

More importantly, the civil war will go on – killing, wounding, pushing refugees out of their homes and often into neighboring states, and the Syrian economy will move further towards collapse. Sectarian and ethnic tensions will get worse and push all involved towards extremes. The risks Sunni extremists will gain advantage over the vast majority of Sunni moderates will grow. Alawites will grow more violent and extreme, and the forces behind Kurdish separatism will grow.

The morning after any U.S. strike, the world will start asking “what next?” What is the role if the U.S. is now going to be dealing with the Syrian civil war? What is the U.S. strategy for the Levant, the Gulf, and the region? The U.S. may earn some broader credibility for its strikes, although it may also face Syrian challenges in the UN over “illegal aggression,” real and false claims of collateral damage and civilian deaths, and charges that its act increases regional instability and “chaos.” Its critics and enemies will do everything possible to discredit U.S. action, backed by all those who oppose the use of force in the U.S. and the West, and its friends and allies will immediately start asking “what now?”

No amount of spin and victory claims can get around these issues. Nothing can stop critics from validly raising every past U.S. mistake in past interventions in the region and the world. If the Administration differs, studies, and argues internally – rather than presents a clear picture of the future – the benefits of even the most successful strikes will vanish within weeks.

No U.S. Action Can Control the End State, but Every U.S. Action Can Influence It

The Administration does face critical problems. The United States faces serious uncertainties in choosing any course of action in Syria. Nothing the U.S. does can predictably control the end state in Syria much less in any other part of the MENA region. The internal forces in these given countries will dominate the outcome in a nation that must now work out the consequences of half a century of incompetent authoritarian leadership, failed economic development, and suppression of tensions between an Arab Alawite elite, an Arab Sunni majority, a Kurdish minority, and other Christian and Druze minorities.

The Legal Consequences of Illegal Wars

What Will Follow Obama's Foray Into Syria
August 29, 2013
President Obama at a White House press conference (Courtesy Reuters)

The United States, by all indications, will soon become a belligerent in Syria’s civil war. The Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons to kill hundreds crossed a redline that U.S. President Barack Obama claimed a year ago would be the game changer, and the game for Washington, London, and Paris has clearly changed. Yet one thing has not: the international law governing when states may use force.

That is not to suggest that government lawyers won’t eventually try to offer some sort of legal benediction. News coverage suggests that administration officials are pushing them to do just that. And the lawyers will want to be helpful, particularly if the policy consensus for force is strong and the evidence for the regime’s responsibility for the attacks is beyond reproach.

But they should also be clear: It is the lawyers’ duty to provide their clients -- senior U.S. officials -- with legal, not moral, advice and counsel. The lawyers’ remit is not to say whether attacking Syria is the right thing to do, but to state what the law is, explain the positions adopted by the United States in similar circumstances in the past, and predict what the legal and institutional consequences of law-breaking might be.

So what is the law? The black-letter law on the use of force is quite simple: Under the United Nations Charter, the central treaty of the modern era and largely the handiwork of the United States and its World War II allies, states are generally prohibited from using force against other states unless they are acting in individual or collective self-defense or pursuant to an authorization of the UN Security Council. Over the post-war history of the charter, self-defense claims have proven most controversial. States -- especially the United States -- have sought to expand the situations that fall under the definition of self-defense.

But a case for self-defense in Syria would break the concept of self-defense beyond recognition. What concerns the administration, according to official statements, is the “moral obscenity” of a chemical attack on one’s own citizen. As awful as it is, there has been no attack (or the threat of attack) on the United States to justify individual self-defense or on allies to justify collective self-defense as a matter of law.

Given that a Security Council resolution seems unlikely, the United States is left without strong legal arguments for force. Some states, non-governmental organizations, and scholars have sought to craft exceptions to the requirement for Council authorization, usually under the rubric of humanitarian intervention or its contemporary form, the Responsibility to Protect (or R2P). Both exceptions spring from a moral position that states owe their citizens a duty of care, and when they violate it by committing grave crimes, force should be an available mechanism to halt or deter them. But neither exception has the force of law. The United States itself rejected humanitarian intervention as legal justification for the Kosovo war in 1999 even as the United Kingdom espoused (and still espouses) it, but the UK has few allies on the matter. R2P was blessed by the United Nations in 2005, but even there the United Nations decided that Security Council authorization was necessary for any intervention to qualify as legal.

Obama has also evoked norms against the use of weapons of mass destruction, such as the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibiting use of poison weapons (to which Syria is a party). This prohibition may be strongly stated, but the treaty itself provides no basis for using force. Like many instruments of its time, it does not talk about the consequences of violation.

No 10 curses, but Britain's illusion of empire is over

The Syria debate has exposed the fact that, while Cameron wasn't looking, both his country and his party changed

29 August 2013

'David Cameron should be effing and blinding instead at his own party, for it's they who have changed without him noticing.' Photograph: Satoshi Kambayashi

Last night in the Commons a great switch was thrown in the national psyche and nothing may ever be quite the same again. This is not a left-right shift, but a long-delayed acceptance that Britain is less powerful and poorer than it was, weary of wars and no longer proud to punch above its weight. No more pretending, no more posturing.

Next week Rule Britannia will belt out loud as ever at the Proms in that partly ironic parade of cheerful patriotism. But the great game is over. Poor David Cameron has been the one left stranded when the music stopped, still singing as everyone else falls silent. From Number 10 came effing and blinding at Ed Miliband, calling him, as reported in the Times, a "f****** c*** and a copper-bottomed s***". But it wasn't Labour, it was Cameron's whole country who had changed while he wasn't looking. Cue last-minute key change in Downing Street's unconditional promise to the US, but he's still out of tune with a country that doesn't want to go to war.

As the true meaning of end of empire sinks in, great questions follow. Why continue to spend more than comparable countries on defence? Why do we (and France) still squat in UN security council seats? What is the point of Trident, dependent entirely on the closest allegiance to America?

Consider the breadth of opposition to a Syrian intervention. First come the British people, two to one against war, with YouGov finding opinion hardening. Outside the gates of Downing Street stand Stop the War demonstrators. Biting at the heels of anxious Tory MPs comes Ukip's Nigel Farage accusing Cameron of "his greatest misjudgment yet" and gloating that his anti-war stance is "the single most popular thing Ukip's ever said". Now add in warnings from the assemblage of military top brass (retd).

Inch nearer to the core of conservatism and yomping, Sir Max Hastings is against, as is our own Sir Simon Jenkins, always for the state doing less. The Mail opposes: "If MPs have the slightest suspicion that attacking Syria will cause more suffering than it can prevent they have a fundamental duty to vote 'No'." They roll out the erstwhile warhorses, with Simon Heffer asking, "How does this relate to Britain's interest?" and Stephen Glover, "We should not trot along obediently as the ever-loyal poodle … We were a global power for 250 years but that period is past … Let's concentrate on our national self-interest." The Express takes the same line, as does the Telegraph, where Peter Oborne calls this "a catalyst and a deadly error" while praising Stop the War for showing "far more mature judgment on these great issues of war and peace than Downing Street, the White House or the CIA". Only Murdoch's Sun and Times hold the Cameron line, minding their owner's US interests. In the FT, Janan Ganesh, George Osborne biographer and confidant, opposes an attack, in line with his forecasts of what a future triumphant small-state Tory party would do, ruling out the expense of military adventures.

Labour's determination to make strict conditions on legality and objectives is what you would expect under a leader whose first act was to repudiate Iraq. Behind him sit benches of MPs bitterly regretting their vote for that war. Let Dame Tessa Jowell, one-time passionate Blairite, stand as bellwether for that sore lesson: she has been re-reading her verbatim notes of the cast-iron but false assurances ministers were given back in 2003. For many who were there, as for Miliband who was not, this is the chance to show that solemn lessons have been learned. Contrary to charges of cheap opportunism, this hasn't been easy for Miliband, wrenching his close links with Obama's Democrats. Labour's left always had an anti-American reflex, but not Ed Miliband's entourage.

Syria and the Limits of Comparison

Because so many war plans simply do not survive the reality of war itself, each war is a unique universe unto its own and thus comparisons with previous wars, while useful, may also prove illusory. One of the many wrong assumptions about the Second Gulf War before it started was that it would somehow be like the First Gulf War, in which the pessimists had been humiliated by the ease of the victory. Indeed, the Second Gulf War unfolded in vastly different ways, this time proving the pessimists right. That is why the recent media refrain comparing a military operation in Syria with the one in Kosovo in 1999 worries me.

There are profound differences.

Syria has a population ten times the size of Kosovo's in 1999. Because everything in Syria is on a much vaster scale, deciding the outcome by military means could be that much harder.

Kosovo sustained violence and harsh repression at the hands of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, which was met with a low-intensity separatist campaign by the Kosovo Liberation Army. Violence was widespread but not nearly on the scale of Syria's. Syria is in the midst of a full-fledged civil war. The toppling of Milosevic, moreover, carried much less risk of ever-expanding anarchy than does the toppling of Syrian ruler Bashar al Assad.

Kosovo was more or less contained within the southern Balkans, with relatively limited chance for a spillover -- as it turned out -- into neighboring countries and territories. Full-scale sectarian anarchy in Syria threatens to destabilize a wider region.

The Kosovo Liberation Army may have been a nasty bunch by some accounts, with criminal elements. But it was not a threat to the United States like the transnational jihadists currently operating in Syria. For President Bill Clinton to risk bringing to power the Kosovo Liberation Army was far less of a concern than President Barack Obama possibly helping to midwife to power a Sunni jihadist regime.

Kosovo did not have a complex of chemical weapons facilities scattered throughout its territory as Syria does, with all the military and logistical headaches of trying to neutralize them.

The Kosovo war campaign did not have to countenance a strong and feisty Russia, which at the time was reeling from Boris Yeltsin's incompetent, anarchic rule. Vladimir Putin, who has significant equities in al Assad's Syria, may do everything in his power to undermine a U.S. attack. Though, it must be said, Putin's options should Obama opt for a significant military campaign are limited within Syria itself. But Putin can move closer to Iran by leaving the sanctions regime, and ratchet-up Russia's anti-American diplomacy worldwide more effectively than Yeltsin ever wanted to, or was capable of.

The Kosovo war did not engage Iran as this war must. For all of the missiles that America can fire, it does not have operatives on the ground like Iran has. Neither will the United States necessarily have the patience and fortitude to prosecute a lengthy and covert ground-level operation as Iran might for years to come, and already has. A weakened or toppled al Assad is bad for Iran, surely, but it does not altogether signal that America will therefore receive a good result from this war. A wounded Iran might race even faster toward a nuclear option. It is a calculated risk.

One Great Big War

August 29, 2013

What’s the biggest threat to world peace right now? Despite the horror, it’s not chemical weapons in Syria. It’s not even, for the moment, an Iranian nuclear weapon. Instead, it’s the possibility of a wave of sectarian strife building across the Middle East.

The Syrian civil conflict is both a proxy war and a combustion point for spreading waves of violence. This didn’t start out as a religious war. But both Sunni and Shiite power players are seizing on religious symbols and sowing sectarian passions that are rippling across the region. The Saudi and Iranian powers hover in the background fueling each side.

As the death toll in Syria rises to Rwanda-like proportions, images of mass killings draw holy warriors from countries near and far. The radical groups are the most effective fighters and control the tempo of events. The Syrian opposition groups are themselves split violently along sectarian lines so that the country seems to face a choice between anarchy and atrocity.

Meanwhile, the strife appears to be spreading. Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq is spiking upward. Reports in The Times and elsewhere have said that many Iraqis fear their country is sliding back to the worst of the chaos experienced in the last decade. Even Turkey, Pakistan, Bahrain and Kuwait could be infected. “It could become a regional religious war similar to that witnessed in Iraq 2006-2008, but far wider and without the moderating influence of American forces,” wrote Gary Grappo, a retired senior Foreign Service officer with long experience in the region.

“It has become clear over the last year that the upheavals in the Islamic and Arab world have become a clash within a civilization rather than a clash between civilizations,” Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote recently. “The Sunni versus Alawite civil war in Syria is increasingly interacting with the Sunni versus Shiite tensions in the Gulf that are edging Iraq back toward civil war. They also interact with the Sunni-Shiite, Maronite and other confessional struggles in Lebanon.”

Some experts even say that we are seeing the emergence of a single big conflict that could be part of a generation-long devolution, which could end up toppling regimes and redrawing the national borders that were established after World War I. The forces ripping people into polarized groups seem stronger than the forces bringing them together.

It is pretty clear that the recent American strategy of light-footprint withdrawal and nation-building at home has not helped matters. The United States could have left more troops in Iraq and tamped down violence there. We could have intervened in Syria back when there was still something to be done and some reasonable opposition to mold.

At this late hour, one question is whether the sectarian fire has grown so hot that it is beyond taming. The second question is whether the United States has any strategy to limit the conflagration.

Right now, President Obama is focused on the imminent strike against the Assad regime, to establish American credibility when it sets red lines and reinforce the norm that poison gas is not acceptable.

Bad Mandates ****

August 19, 2013
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The US Army’s incorporation of mission orders into its combined arms doctrine described in an earlier post was an example of a government agency that was delegated an appropriate degree of bureaucratic autonomy, a delegation that extended down to the lowest levels of the organization. This kind of delegation is extremely rare in government operations, however, and could occur only because of the importance and visibility of combat operations. It does not characterize other aspects of the peacetime Army, for example, or military procurement more broadly. The former is highly rule-bound, and the latter both rule-bound (under the Federal Acquisitions Regulations, or FAR) and at the same time highly politicized. In the case of the procurement of big-ticket items like the Air Force’s F-22 or F-35 programs, Congress, working in cahoots with the prime contractors, has seen fit to divvy the work up across multiple legislative districts and subcontractors so as to make the projects virtually unkillable. The Defense Department thus has virtually no autonomy with regard to how the planes are built, or even in how many to buy.

The detailed procurement rules in the FAR run to thousands of pages. Compliance with these rules vastly drives up the cost of government contracting, and requires large contractors like Lockheed Martin and Boeing to maintain huge legal staffs in their compliance departments. This in turn serves as a barrier against spin-on technologies, since smaller companies that could bid on government contracts don’t want the hassle of dealing with all the red tape. No procurement department in any private company would ever operate so inefficiently.

So why does the FAR exist? It’s not because government bureaucrats somehow enjoy writing and living by mindlessly detailed rules. The FAR exists because Congress has mandated a zero-defects approach to contracting, in which rules substitute for discretion in response to some long-forgotten scandal. Congress has also seen fit to pile on requirements for small-, minority-, and women-owned businesses to get a piece of the action, and mandated as well an almost endless right of recusal for losing contract bidders. There’s a famous story about an RFP put out to provide US troops in Kuwait with Christmas cakes prior to the 1991 Gulf War, which wasn’t finally contracted and fulfilled until several months after the war’s ceasefire the following year.

When many Americans think about what’s wrong with their government, they usually conjure up out-of-control bureaucrats writing detailed and pointless regulations that interfere with the private sector’s ability to innovate and grow. That is, they imagine that the problem lies with the bureaucratic agents being givenexcessive degrees of autonomy. The entire Public Choice approach of James Buchanan and company is predicated on the idea that bureaucrats are self-interested, maximizing individuals who will inevitably seek to expand their perks and authority at the expense of everyone else.

I would argue, however, that that is not the fundamental problem with most bureaucracies. Bureaucratic dysfunctions can almost always be traced back to a badly-conceived mandate from the political principal to the bureaucratic agent, which prevents the agent from exercising an appropriate degree of autonomous judgment.

The American Interest recently published a good case of this in thearticle by Mario Loyola and Richard Epstein on the regulatory nightmare created by the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA. The underlying problem with the ADA was in the mandate from Congress, which essentially directs the government to compensate disabled Americans for their disadvantages with no offsetting considerations of cost or efficacy. Loyola and Epstein point out how burdensome compliance with these regulations is for small businesses, which are prevented from choosing more efficient ways of serving the disabled by the open-ended character of the mandate.