31 October 2013

India Is Completely Adrift

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a busy man these days - on a legacy tour, trying to underscore his credentials as a foreign policy leader of consequence. At home, though, he remains isolated, marginalized by his party, mocked by the opposition and hounded by the national media. Not surprising, therefore, that at the end of his 10-year stint at the helm of Indian politics, he is seeking refuge in foreign lands.

Singh visited the United States in September for the UN General Assembly meeting and then the Association for South-East Asian Nations summit in Brunei, together with a bilateral visit to Indonesia, before heading off again, first to Russia and then to China, two critical states in India's foreign policy matrix. On the surface, New Delhi's foreign policy is doing well - major partnerships look steady and various joint declarations proclaim a convergence of interests. But a closer examination suggests that, in the name of multipolar diplomacy and non-alignment, Indian foreign policy is in danger of becoming rudderless, especially with economic decline and political turmoil at home. India's major relationships are suffering as questions emerge in Washington about India's rise, in Moscow about the gravitation to the West, in the East and Southeast Asia about India as credible balancer - all this emboldens China.

India's ties with the United States, which Singh bolstered with the signing of the US-India civil nuclear pact, are now flagging. There's a sense of despondency about the future of India as a potential strategic partner in Washington, unprecedented in the last two decades. The growing differences between the two today are not limited to one or two areas but spread across most areas of bilateral concern. The United States is unhappy that despite valiant efforts to bring India into the nuclear regime the nation has yet to make headway in selling nuclear reactors there. India is concerned by the US immigration changes and forthcoming withdrawal from Afghanistan.

During Singh's recent meeting with US President Barack Obama, no progress was made on issues apart from strengthening defense cooperation. Singh reiterated concerns stressed during a one-hour meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, both attending the UN General Assembly meeting in September, over terror emanating from Pakistani soil and the need for Islamabad to rein in elements responsible for the violence. Obama politely thanked Singh "for what has been a consistent interest in improving cooperation between India and Pakistan." In a separate meeting with Sharif, Obama urged cooperation, pointing out that "billions of dollars have been spent on an arms race... and those resources could be much more profitably invested in education, social welfare programs on both sides of the border." In turn, Sharif offered "commitment to build a cordial and cooperative relationship with India." The net result of this triangular diplomacy so far has been unprecedented volatility on the Indo-Pak border with the Pakistani Army violating a ceasefire in operation since 2003 in an attempt to once again internationalize Kashmir issue.

Russia and India, meanwhile, are both keen to emphasize that Pakistan's bid to rehabilitate Taliban is not an acceptable outcome in the aftermath of a US drawdown but have yet to figure out a way to influence rapidly evolving realities on the ground.

A tale of two handshakes

Amit Baruah

While the Prime Minister fanned the warmth and strength of India’s relationship with Russia, he also conveyed the message that ties with China can continue to grow if impediments are dealt with speedily

Wittingly or unwittingly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave two different meanings to handshakes when he visited Moscow and Beijing last week. At the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Dr. Singh said on October 21: “Every handshake reveals the warmth of the ties between our two people. Together, they create an unmatched platform for the future.” Two days later, in Beijing, the Prime Minister said after talks with Premier Li Keqiang: “We account for 2.5 billion people. When India and China shake hands, the world takes notice.”

The first handshake referred to the comfort of a strategic relationship that had defined India’s diplomacy over the years; the second placed India and China in the domain of “re-emerged” nations, whose import the world is still contending with.

At a time when considerable time and energy are being expended in pushing China and India to take the stage as rivals, the repeated contacts between the two countries take some of the sting out of this narrative. With the United States keen on curbing Chinese influence, India is seen as the obvious counter-weight to China, a prospect Delhi has rejected time and again in public. In nuanced references, Dr. Singh made it plain last week that the India-Russia handshake was time-tested; the one with China was new and continued to attract global attention given the economic strength of the two Asian nations.

The Prime Minister’s two terms at the helm will be known for a strategic embrace of the U.S. and its policies, but his praise for Russia and what it had done for India was generous and full-throated. “India has benefited enormously from Russian support in every aspect of India’s national development efforts — be it the development of heavy industry, the power sector, our space programme or... our defence needs... Russia has stood by India at moments of great international challenge, when our own resources were limited and our friends were few... it is this last fact that Indians will never forget,” Dr. Singh said.

Special and privileged

Referring to the relationship with Russia as special and privileged, the Prime Minister was generous in his praise for Moscow. “Russia offered us partnership in nuclear energy when the world still shunned nuclear commerce with us. I take particular joy in informing this august audience that the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, built with Russian assistance, went critical in July this year and that the second one should be commissioned early next year. The Indian oil company ONGC’s largest overseas presence is in Russia,” he stressed.

Beyond the comfort zone of Russia, the Prime Minister, who flew to Beijing from Moscow, reflected a new confidence when it came to raising difficult issues in public with China. Given that this was his third meeting in 2013 with the top Chinese leadership, his comments should silence some of his harsh, hawkish critics at home.

After listing a host of common concerns and the need for a joint approach, Dr. Singh possibly became the first Indian leader to put his concerns to the Chinese publicly on Chinese soil. Usually, these concerns are placed off-the-record to accompanying Indian mediapersons.

India, US at odds over Bangladesh policy

Indrani Bagchi, TNN | Oct 30, 2013

As picketing, shut-downs and street violence take over domestic politics in Bangladesh, India and the US have shared concerns regarding its stability.

NEW DELHI: Publicly, India and the US may appear to be on the same page regarding the situation in Bangladesh. But in reality, India is increasingly uncomfortable with the US' positions, and believes it can have negative implications for Bangladesh and the region. 

Last week, US ambassador to Dhaka, Dan Mozena, visited South Block and spent long hours meeting foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and other senior officials. As picketing, shut-downs and street violence take over domestic politics in Bangladesh, India and the US have shared concerns regarding its stability. 

Sources said Sheikh Hasina had invited her rival Begum Khaleda Zia for a meeting and dinner to end the impasse over the caretaker government. But main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is unwilling to end the violence and insisting on a neutral dispensation. 

But India remains more concerned about the colour of politics being pursued by BNP. This is where Indian and the US positions diverge. 

The US appears much more comfortable with the BNP-Jamaat combine, who have made no secret of their radicalized politics. India believes if this succeeds, Bangladesh would be very different as a nation. The politics of BNP and Jamaat have become more radicalized in the past couple of years. 

Indian intelligence has detected influences of both Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and al-Qaida. There is a lot of fundingavailable to these groups from West Asian countries, and some from Pakistan. 

The US is less comfortable with Sheikh Hasina's government, especially after the PM's confrontation with Mohammed Yunus of Grameen Bank — the fracas over funding for the Padma bridge project — and also the war crimes tribunal. There appears to be a part of official thinking in the US that believes, according to sources here, BNP-Jamaat have better free market credentials, and that they would move away from radical Islam once they are in power. "They are too far away to have a realistic view of the street," they said. 

India is haunted by the 2001 Pyrdiwah massacre, when 15 BSF personnel were massacred by BDR troops in an ugly confrontation. BNP had explained Jamaat's place in government thus: it would be better to have them in than out. But once in government, Jamaat occupied the ministries crucial to furthering their radical agenda. Those years saw the flowering of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and other terror groups like HuJI. India is opposed to a return to those days. 

An added regional vulnerability is the Rohingya problem in Myanmar. With heightened communal tensions in Myanmar along with considerable Rohingya population in Bangladesh, New Delhi believes that the situation is ripe for disaster. The implications of increased radicalized politics in Bangladesh would have terrible implications for Myanmar's stability. 

Again, reports of LeT and al-Qaida infiltration among Rohingyas are popping up frequently. The instability as a result of radical politics could spread to India's north-east and even China's Yunnan province.

Pointless cycle of talk and terror continues

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 

Composite dialogue started in 1997, was suspended after Kargil, restarted after the 2003 ceasefire agreement, suspended after 26/11, restarted after Sharm-el Sheikh, and suspended again after the beheadings this year

The ceasefire of 2003 held for so long that the current intensity and frequency of its violations along the Line of Control can only be equated with the fire and spark of Operation Parakram. Neither of the Directors-General of Military Operations has broached the need for restoring peace and tranquillity as agreed by Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif at the New York summit last month. Who will bell the cat? Pehle aap.

In the meantime, the Pakistani Army has upped the ante targetting posts on the International Border which they call the Working Boundary with multiple objectives, among them creating gaps for infiltration and bolstering terrorist capacities for internationalising Kashmir, even as Mr Sharif met US President Barack Obama in Washington, DC, asking him to intervene in Kashmir and seeking nuclear parity with India.

While Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has advocated exploring “other options” to counter Pakistani firing, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid enunciated his pithiest theory: We are talking to Pakistan but it is not a dialogue. National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, one of the biggest votaries of engaging Pakistan and the one who scripted the Sharm-el Sheikh summit statement which said “action against terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue”, lambasted 40 self-styled experts from the strategic community who asked Mr Singh not to talk to Pakistan till ideal conditions exist and all terrorism stops. Actually, they advised not to rush into a conversation and cancellation of the New York summit though not ending dialogue. Still, the summit took place, and the only initiative it produced was on stopping ceasefire violations — an outcome unlikely to fructify enytime soon. The firing will taper down once the passes close.

The debate in India on engaging Pakistan has never been more shrill but evenly divided with the naysayers largely influenced by public opinion. Mr Singh has said India cannot be a great power unless it is at peace with Pakistan. This begs the question: Does Pakistan — its military establishment and its army of jihadis —want to live in peace with India? Saner Pakistanis, the constituency Mr Menon wants to cultivate through talks, and some Americans tell Indians that there has been some change of heart in the Pakistani Army, that militancy and terrorism and not India are the main threats; and the days of military coups are over.

Pakistani Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who frequently spells out his thoughts at the Kakul Military Academy exhorted officer-cadets last month to fight terrorism and support democracy. This must have been music to Mr Sharif’s ears. He has said that he won the election championing improved relations with India and reviving the Lahore Agreement, and was also forced out of office in 1999 for these very reasons.

Mr Singh’s Special Envoy on AfPak, Mr Satinder Lambah, attended Prime Minister Sharif’s swearing-in, and with his counterpart Sharyar Khan backchanneled for weeks to make the New York summit a reality. Unfortunately, a week before the summit, the Pakistani Army opened the Keran front which was an extension of the ongoing ceasefire violations in the Poonch and Mendhar sectors.

Citizens of tomorrow

Pradeep Chhibber , Ashutosh Varshney 
Oct 31 2013

How rapid urbanisation will unravel the politics of caste.

What will happen to caste as India rapidly urbanises? This is one of the most intriguing, and significant, questions for Indian politics and society in the coming two to three decades.

In traditional India, the caste system was a social institution that provided a hierarchical ordering of castes in a geographic area. Upper castes had maximum privileges, and as one moved down the hierarchy, the bundle of rights became lighter. At the lowest level, the Dalits had virtually no rights, only obligations. Despite the inequities, most people ideologically internalised the system, as has historically been the case in all hierarchical societies. Of course, outright coercion also buttressed the system, especially if those lower down violated hierarchical norms.

Given the historically rooted denial of rights to lower orders, caste politics in democratic India has thus far primarily taken the form of sammaan ki rajniti (politics of dignity). All lower caste parties of India, initially in the south, later in the north, have had this as a master narrative of their politics, though there were others issues as well. Such politics has also taken retributive forms, as lower castes, using their numbers, have hit back after coming to power.

Will this mode of politics survive as India becomes increasingly urban? In 1951, only five Indian cities had a population greater than 1 million each. By 2011, three cities — Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata — had more than 10 million people each, and 53 cities had populations of more than one million each. By 2031, six cities are projected to cross the population threshold of 10 million. Depending on what measures are used and how rapid urbanisation is, India's population, 32 per cent urban in 2011, could well be substantially over 40 per cent urban in 2031.

The face of party politics in urban India already looks different from that of rural India. In 2009, the two main national parties — the BJP and Congress — did better in urban areas than in rural ones. Of the 94 seats to the Lok Sabha in urban areas, the BJP and the Congress won about two-thirds of the seats and, in semi-urban areas, the two national parties won just over 70 per cent of the seats. In rural areas, however, the BJP and Congress did considerably less well. Regional parties did better.

Further support for the urban-rural voting dichotomy comes from the 2009 National Election Studies. Those respondents who lived in cities were less likely to vote for regional parties than rural respondents. The BJP and Congress received a majority of the vote in cities with a population greater than 1,00,000 and in metropolitan areas. If the pattern in 2009 is any indication, increasing urbanisation will lead to regional parties becoming less politically relevant in the coming two decades, though this may not be uniform across the nation. We should underline that this is not a prediction for the 2014 elections, but one for the longer run.

Caste should become less salient in electoral politics for some other reasons as well. In most urban constituencies, the effective number of parties that compete is lower than in rural areas. On average, a third party gets a large share of the vote in rural constituencies. In urban India, only two parties are competitive in most constituencies. Further, multiple castes live in proximity to each other in urban areas. From these two facts it follows that no party can win an election using simply caste appeal in urban areas. Parties will need to build cross-caste alliances.

US drone strikes in Pakistan: Ineffective and illegitimate

Author: Shazad Ali and Chris Abbott
Source: Open Briefing and SustainableSecurity.org
Published: 24 October 2013

Strikes by unmanned combat air vehicles, or armed drones, have become the tactic of choice in US counterterrorism efforts in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

But lack of transparency, dubious effectiveness, civilian casualties and negative consequences for US national security means that Washington needs to re-evaluate its approach.

It is the controversy over drone strikes in northwest Pakistan that has bought the issue to public attention. Leaving aside the wider issue of the extrajudicial nature of these killings and the questions over the legality of repeatedly breaching Pakistani airspace, it is the level of civilian casualties that is prompting the most concern.

In a 23 May 2013 national security speech, President Barack Obama asserted that only terrorists are targeted by drones and that ‘there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured’ before any strike is taken. However, independent reports contradict his claims.

From 2004 to date, there have been 376 known US drone strikes in Pakistan. According to the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), 407 to 926 civilians, including 168 to 200 children, have been killed in these strikes. According to a leaked Pakistani government report cited by the BIJ, at least 147 of 746 people killed in the 75 drone strikes in Pakistan between 2006 and 2009 were civilians. Of those killed, about 94 were children.

Controversial tactics

The high level of civilian casualties is attributable to two key elements of the US drone strike programme: double-tap strikes and signature strikes.

Double-tap strikes use follow up strikes to deliberately target rescuers and first responders who are coming to the aid of those injured in an initial strike. The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns, and the UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, have described the use of double-tap strikes as a possible war crime. Ironically, terrorists in Pakistan are now using their own version of the double-tap strike to target law enforcement personnel in cities such as Karachi: an initial low-intensity blast is used to draw in the emergency services, who are then targeted in a second much larger explosion.

Signature strikes target individuals based on predetermined ‘signatures’ of behaviour that US intelligence links to militant activity. In other words, people are targeted merely on the basis of their behaviour patterns. This is different to personality strikes, which use intelligence to target specific terror suspects. In a June 2013 report that cited classified documents, NBC News revealed that one in four people killed in drone strikes in Pakistan between 3 September 2010 and 30 October 2011 were classified as ‘other militants’ by CIA. This means the CIA were unable to determine the affiliation, if any, of those killed.

Intelligence failures

However, even those strikes directed by intelligence are fallible. Such strikes rely on a mixture of signals intelligence and human intelligence from assets on the ground in Pakistan. The local CIA operatives are notoriously unreliable sources of intelligence.

The doubts over the accuracy of US intelligence have some credence, as there are several cases in which a militant was reported killed in a drone strike only to be declared dead again following a later strike.

For example, the alleged al-Qaeda leader in Pakistan, Ilyas Kashmiri, was reportedly killed in a drone strike in January 2009 and then again in September 2009, though he gave an interview to a Pakistani journalist the next month. Civilians are known to have been harmed in these unsuccessful attacks. In the January attack, 14-year-old Fahim Quershi lost an eye and suffered multiple injuries. In the September 2009 attack, 15-year-old Sadaullah Wazir lost his both legs and an eye. Three of his relatives died in the same attack. Kashmiri was again declared dead in July 2011, which is also contested.

The United States has indeed managed to kill many militants in drone strikes in Pakistan, but these have been mostly low-level targets. According to a September 2012 study by Stanford Law School and New York University’s School of Law, only 2% of militant casualties in drone strikes between 2004 and 2012 were high-value targets.

Bacha Bazi: An Afghan Tragedy

By Chris Mondloch 
October 28, 2013

With the looming withdrawal of NATO troops and a persistent insurgent threat, Afghanistan is in a precarious position. Innumerable tragedies have beleaguered rural Afghans throughout the past decades of conflict -- perpetual violence, oppression of women, and crushing poverty have all contributed to the Hobbesian nature of life in the Afghan countryside.

While the Afghan government has been able to address some of these issues since the Taliban's ouster in 2001, archaic social traditions and deep-seated gender norms have kept much of rural Afghanistan in a medieval state of purgatory. Perhaps the most deplorable tragedy, one that has actually grown more rampant since 2001, is the practice of bacha bazi -- sexual companionship between powerful men and their adolescent boy conscripts.

This phenomenon presents a system of gender reversal in Afghanistan. Whereas rural Pashtun culture remains largely misogynistic and male-dominated due to deeply-ingrained Islamic values, teenage boys have become the objects of lustful attraction and romance for some of the most powerful men in the Afghan countryside.

Demeaning and damaging, the widespread subculture of pedophilia in Afghanistan constitutes one of the most egregious ongoing violations of human rights in the world. The adolescent boys who are groomed for sexual relationships with older men are bought -- or, in some instances, kidnapped -- from their families and thrust into a world which strips them of their masculine identity. These boys are often made to dress as females, wear makeup, and dance for parties of men. They are expected to engage in sexual acts with much older suitors, often remaining a man's or group's sexual underling for a protracted period.

Evolution of Bacha Bazi

Occurring frequently across southern and eastern Afghanistan's rural Pashtun belt and with ethnic Tajiks in the northern Afghan countryside, bacha bazi has become a shockingly common practice. Afghanistan'smujahideen warlords, who fought off the Soviet invasion and instigated a civil war in the 1980s, regularly engaged in acts of pedophilia. Keeping one or more "chai boys," as these male conscripts are called, for personal servitude and sexual pleasure became a symbol of power and social status.

The Taliban had a deep aversion towards bacha bazi, outlawing the practice when they instituted strict nationwide sharia law. According to some accounts, including the hallmark Times of London article "Kandahar Comes out of the Closet" in 2002, one of the original provocations for the Taliban's rise to power in the early 1990s was their outrage over pedophilia. Once they came to power, bacha bazi became taboo, and the men who still engaged in the practice did so in secret.

When the former mujahideen commanders ascended to power in 2001 after the Taliban's ouster, they brought with them a rekindled culture of bacha bazi. Today, many of these empowered warlords serve in important positions, as governors, line ministers, police chiefs, and military commanders. 

Afghan officials will travel to Pakistan to meet with former Taliban senior commander

By Bailey Cahall, Emily Schneider
October 30, 2013

Breakthrough in London

After Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the presidential palace announced on Wednesday that senior Afghan officials will travel to Pakistan "in the near future" to meet with former Taliban senior commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (AFP, Pajhwok, Reuters, VOA). Cameron is hosting the two leaders in an effort to re-start the stalled Afghan peace talks and the whereabouts of Baradar were expected to play a significant role in the discussion (RFE/RL). Baradar was the Taliban's deputy leader until he was arrested in Pakistan in 2010. While Pakistani authorities say they released Baradar last month, his whereabouts remain unknown and Afghan officials believe he is still under Pakistan's close supervision.

Speaking ahead of that meeting on Tuesday, Sharif urged the Afghan Taliban to take part in the political reconciliation process and speak with Afghanistan's High Peace Council (VOA). Sharif added that the talks should "promote unity," and said stability would only return to Afghanistan when everyone was involved in the peace process. He also reiterated his belief that Pakistan "should play every possible role" to help achieve stability in the region. 

Surprise visit 

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott made an unexpected visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday to mark the end of the country's involvement in the war (AP, RFE/RL). Speaking at the Australian Defence Forces headquarters at the Tarin Kowt base in Uruzgan province, Abbott said the country's efforts were ending, "not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that is better for our presence here" (Guardian). He also confirmed that most of Australia's 1,000-plus soldiers will be leaving Afghanistan before the end of the year. Australia is the largest provider of troops outside of NATO and over 40 Australian soldiers have been killed during the last 12 years.

Eyewitness account

Rafiq Rehman, a Pakistani schoolteacher, and two of his children traveled 6,000 miles from their village in North Waziristan to brief U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday and share their stories as survivors of an alleged U.S. drone strike that killed Rehman's mother last October (AJAM, Dawn, RFE/RL, VOA). The briefing, the first of its kind, was hosted by Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) and attended by just five representatives - all Democrats. Grayson, who dismissed the seemingly low attendance, said the briefing was a promising start, but doubted that a full committee hearing would be called any time soon. 

Beware Pakistan’s small nuclear weapons


October 22, 2013

When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif meets President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday, their meeting will be critical for the future course of US-Pakistan relations. One issue at the top of the agenda – alongside the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan’s own much-weakened state and attacks by terrorist groups – will be the country’s nuclear weapons programme. Pakistan’s rapid development of battlefield nuclear weapons raises many questions in the region and abroad.

Western analysts estimate Pakistan has between 100 and 120 nuclear weapons, far more than its rival India, which is believed to have 90-100. Pakistan has multiple delivery capability, such as long and short-range rockets and aircraft. It will soon add naval capability with sea-launched missiles.

Less well-known is that Pakistan has one of the fastest growing battlefield or tactical nuclear weapons programmes in the world today, according to senior western officials I have spoken with. The Americans developed the capacity to put miniaturised nuclear bombs on short-range rockets, artillery and tank shells in the 1950s – something Pakistan is apparently doing now and very successfully.

“The most significant development in recent years has been the creation of a battlefield nuclear force ‘in being’ that provides Pakistan the option of a battlefield use of nuclear weapons,’’ writes Christopher Clary in an essay on Pakistani nukes published by the US National Bureau of Asian Research.

Western officials say the dangers of such weapons are many. They are made in large numbers and are small and thus can more easily be stolen or hijacked by extremist groups operating openly in Pakistan; smaller nuclear weapons make it easier to decide to wage a limited nuclear war if Islamabad considers it is being defeated in a conflict with India’s much larger conventional armed forces; and such weapons can be specifically targeted on, say, invading Indian military formations, raising the ante for an all-out nuclear war.

Pakistan refuses to adopt a “no first use” of nuclear weapons in its strategic focus and therefore every crisis the two countries have been involved in since they became nuclear weapon states has forced Islamabad to adopt a threatening and risky posture in order to avoid total war with India, which it would surely lose. “Small nuclear weapons make it psychologically easier for decision makers to use them, rather than having to decide about an all-out nuclear war,’’ says one western expert.

Pakistani officials point out several elements in their favour. Despite attacks on airports, military bases and other sensitive places, terrorists have never stolen or been able to acquire nuclear materials – although there is always a first time.

There is the equally threatening posture of Indian forces who have developed a battlefield plan called “Cold Start’’, which takes advantage of their much larger conventional forces to inflict a quick defeat on specific Pakistani forces or border regions before Islamabad can fully mobilise.

The Pakistan army which has to defend a very long border with India, and does not have the forces or reserves to do so adequately, fears exactly such a strategy. India denies that it even has a Cold Start strategy which makes discussions between the two countries even more difficult.

The real concern for western powers at the moment is not that two rational governments will go to war, but that the proxy wars they wage against each other will get out of hand. Terrorist groups who have been sponsored by the Pakistani military in the past and are not under any control now could create a war syndrome on the border, just as the 2008 suicide attack in Mumbaiby Lashkar-e-Taiba did when 166 Indians were killed. Likewise, India is needling Pakistan by allegedly backing separatists in Baluchistan.

Is Iraq’s Present Afghanistan’s Future?

Max Boot | @MaxBoot 10.28.2013

Back in 2011, President Obama tried briefly and not very hard to attain a Status of Forces Agreement that would have allowed U.S. forces to remain in Iraq past 2011. That effort failed, as we know, with disastrous consequences–the civil war that was all but extinguished by the surge in 2007-2008 has reignited with a vengeance as al-Qaeda in Iraq has come roaring back from the grave. As the Washington Post notes, recent violence in Iraq “has virtually erased the security gains made in the past five years. More than 5,300 Iraqis have been killed this year.”

There are many reasons why the U.S.-Iraq accord failed to be completed. One of the less noticed but more important was Obama’s unwillingness to send more than a few thousand U.S. troops to Iraq in spite of U.S. commanders’ recommendations that he send at least 15,000 to 20,000. Many Iraqi politicians figured that a commitment of fewer than 5,000 U.S. troops would be mainly symbolic and ineffectual and would not be worth the resulting political controversy.

Is history repeating itself in Afghanistan? It’s too soon to say, but there is cause for concern when one reads articles like this one in the New York Times today reporting that “NATO has endorsed an enduring presence of 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with two-thirds expected to be American.” That translates into 5,300 to 8,000 U.S. troops, considerably below the 13,600 that Gen. Jim Mattis, former commander of Central Command, estimated to be necessary–and that itself was a low-ball estimate in the judgment of many military experts.

At some point there is a real risk of Afghan politicos, like their Iraqi counterparts, deciding there is no point in having their sovereignty violated and being exposed to anti-American criticism in return for a token force that can accomplish little. If that were to happen, the future of Afghanistan isn’t hard to imagine. Just look at Iraq today–only Afghanistan will probably be worse off because it faces a more malignant insurgency with more entrenched cross-border bases and its government and security forces are weaker than their Iraqi counterparts.

The Taliban’s new tactic to derail Afghanistan's elections

By Najib Sharifi 
October 29, 2013

The assassination of Amanullah Aman, the Chief Election Officer of Afghanistan's Kunduz province, in September should be taken seriously, as it could mark the beginning of a devastating terror campaign targeting election workers that could potentially paralyze next April's presidential elections. One day after the incident, the Taliban kidnapped two low-level election workers in the other northern province of Faryab. Combined, these events sent a chilling message to election workers across the country and raised alarms about the changing tactics of insurgents for derailing the elections.

An inclusive and transparent election, which is key to creating legitimate results, plays a vital role for the future of Afghanistan. A legitimate election will not only guarantee the first peaceful political transition from one elected leader to another in Afghanistan's history, it will also harden the entrenchment of the roots of Afghanistan's young democracy and political order. More importantly it will increase existential threats against the violent militants and thus will increase hopes for future peace talks with the Taliban. Conversely, any failure to hold proper elections will pose serious challenges to Afghanistan's stability, and will boost the position and rhetoric of the Taliban and other extremist groups who have been relentlessly sabotaging democratic processes.

The Taliban and their benefactors understand the critical nature of the elections and in all probability will spare no acts and means of subversion to sabotage the process. The assassination of Aman, for which the Taliban took responsibility, most likely demonstrates a new tactic of the militants, which is targeting election workers. To make this message clear, the Taliban boasted about the incident onTwitter and declared to the media that they will kill anyone involved in the elections.

In previous elections, Taliban focused on intimidating the public to prevent them from voting. But their disruptive tactics failed to produce the desired outcome. People voted, in spite of the threats that even included chopping off voters' fingers. This failed strategy, combined with the fact that the significant reduction of international troops will add to the security challenges than in the 2009 presidential elections, may have led the Taliban to change their tactic, switching their focus from the public to the election officials.

Noor Ahmad Noor, one of the spokespersons for the Independent Election Commission (IEC), told the media that during the previous elections, the Taliban did not explicitly threaten election workers and that IEC officials were not singled out. He added that prior to the Aman incident, there had been no attacks on commission staff for the past two years.

According to Farid Afghanzai, another senior IEC official, Aman spent the last 10 years of his life organizing elections in the country's north, and he managed four elections in the area: three in Kunduz province and one in Badakhshan province. He added that Aman was respected by all ethnic groups in the provinces and it will be almost impossible to find another person as professional, capable, and widely respected as he was.

Cyber Kleptomaniacs: Why China Steals Our Secrets

When President Obama expressed “serious concern” about the cyber espionage being conducted against America by its “enemies” in his February 12th State of the Union message, he did not name names. But the statement came just two days after leaks from a US national intelligence estimate identified China as the most serious culprit. In recent months, the administration has been more direct. During his summit with China’s new President Xi Jinping in California in early June, Obama elevated commercial cyber espionage to one of the two leading issues (a nuclear-armed North Korea being the other) that divide the two countries. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had struck a similar chord a few days earlier at his opening address at the Shangri-La Dialogue meeting of defense ministers in Singapore, when he referred bluntly to the Chinese state and military entities that are stealing commercial secrets from American firms in cyberspace. And, in a speech to the Asia Society in New York in March, outgoing national security adviserThomas Donilon said that cyber espionage by state-based or state-funded entities is now at the “forefront” of American-Chinese relations, adding that “US businesses are increasingly speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale.”

The decision by the administration to publicly and explicitly criticize China from the highest levels for its state-sponsored cyber industrial espionage program comes at the end of a long trail of numerous government, congressional, and think tank reports that have documented and measured China’s massive and growing investment in its cyber espionage infrastructure and organization and noted that this activity targets private industry in the US as well as government agencies. This new approach comes in the wake of an explosive report, released in February by the highly respected cyber security firm Mandiant, which accused the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of funding and orchestrating an extensive program of cyber espionage and theft against American firms.

The Mandiant report estimated that there were more than twenty “advanced persistent threat” (APT) groups operating from China with the government’s support and funding. It designated one of these groups as APT1, describing it as “one of the most prolific cyber espionage groups in terms of sheer quantity of information stolen” and asserting that APT1 alone has stolen hundreds of data terabytes from at least one hundred and forty-one mostly private firms spread across twenty industries. Two of APT1’s four large networks are located in a PLA compound in Shanghai’s Pudong New Area. Given that the compound is host to the PLA’s Unit 61398, whose mission is to engage in “harmful computer operations,” including obtaining commercially valuable data from foreign enterprises, the report reasonably concludes that APT1 is virtually indistinguishable from Unit 61398. This unit reports to the PLA General Staff Department, which, in turn, reports directly to the Central Military Commission—the country’s top military decision-making body, chaired by President Xi himself. If the report is accurate, it can be safely assumed that China’s top civilian leaders in the Standing Committee of the Politburo are well aware of Unit 61398’s activities—and of APT1’s as well.

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The Mandiant report concludes that the material stolen from US industry includes electronic data on product development and use, test results, system designs and product manuals, manufacturing procedures, business and strategy plans, negotiation and pricing strategies, and details of joint ventures and collaboration with other entities. Minutes of board and executive meetings and the e-mail content of senior employees have also been targeted.


Westminster Gleanings - Anabel Loyd

So the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, is selling this country to China. It is easy to see why he is encouraging Chinese investment; mainly because the Chinese have got pots of money and we haven’t. Osborne wants to make it easy for Chinese banks to set up shop in the City of London, bringing in lots of Chinese cash, and then to invest in our nuclear power industry. We can’t afford to build new nuclear stations for ourselves so why not let the Chinese come in and hold controlling stakes? They should be able to recoup their costs by charging well above market prices for the power they produce with the government’s blessing and they’ll have us all over a barrel. Does anyone think the chancellor has read Martin Jacques’s book, When China Rules the World, The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order? Well, perhaps he doesn’t care if China does rule the world so long as he can balance the British books a bit better. The Chinese, to all intents and purposes, already own most of Africa and Chinese tentacles are creeping across the globe every which way since they can afford to buy all the things everyone else just dreams of.

The Chinese, of course, have complete belief in their superiority. The Chinese state has existed for over 2,000 years. Other civilizations may have been there earlier but they have also disappeared. In China, dynasties have fallen but others have invariably taken their place; the state, sometimes in disunited unity, has remained. The threads of Chinese culture, written language, belief and custom, tie the present to the distant past to an extraordinary extent, and, modern political upheavals notwithstanding, China’s belief in itself as top dragon has been unwavering. In fact, as Jacques noted, there are more similarities between Chinese Confucian society and Chinese communist society than differences. Now China has the dosh to underline its self-belief and bring its stature to the notice of inferior consumerist barbarian societies; it doesn’t need to do anything as uncivilized as conquering countries, it can simply buy them.

A great many years ago, just before I went to live in Hong Kong for six years, the former prime minister and foreign secretary, Alec Douglas-Home, who knew the likes of Zhou Enlai very well and liked him, reminded me that however charming individual Chinese might be, the Chinese were communists. I think what he actually meant was that the Chinese thought completely differently about the world to the way we did in the United Kingdom. A note from the early 1970s, held in the Nixon Library, quotes his observations of China and his comments on conversations with Zhou Enlai: “China was found to be even more primitive economically than expected, although with notable social and political discipline.” It continues: “The country’s leaders repeatedly emphasized the self reliance theme in their national development approach and their desire to avoid indebtedness to other countries.” That social and political discipline certainly paid dividends and now we are all about to be in hock to them to the extent that they rule the world; just as they probably expected even when the Chinese economy was “more primitive” than expected.

I have been just short of the Chinese border in Northeast India so I suppose mutterings about Chinese banks and power stations in the UK may seem decidedly petty but those costly enterprises are a very powerful foot in a door which the chancellor and the prime minister are anyway throwing off its hinges. Even Osborne’s travelling companion, the mayor of London, is buying into the Chinese takeover and his well known charm is unlikely to have pulled any wool over clearsighted Chinese eyes. Boris Johnson offered up swathes of London Docklands to make up a Chinese business district and now thinks all schoolchildren here should learn Mandarin. That will make it so much easier for the next generation to integrate into the society of global domination and just think, it’s not 20 years since the UK, amazingly, still held part of China as a colony.

Meet the Makers

Published: October 29, 2013 
TENGCHONG, China — I never thought I’d have to come to China for a breath of fresh air.
Josh Haner/The Nw York Times
Thomas L. Friedman

But that is exactly what I got last week by traveling to the China-Myanmar border area to visit Chinese village schools with the leaders of Teach for All, the network of 32 countries that have adopted the Teach for America model of recruiting highly motivated college graduates to work in their country’s most underprivileged schools. What was so refreshing about spending four days with leaders of Teach for Lebanon, Teach for China, Teach for India and all the others was the fact that, since 9/11, I’ve spent so much time writing about people who are breaking things and so little time covering people who are making things. This was a week with the makers.

Indeed, I could not help but remark to Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America and C.E.O. of Teach for All, that Teach for All is “the anti-Al Qaeda.” It is a loose global network of locally run teams of teachers, who share best practices and target young people in support of a single goal. But while Al Qaeda and its affiliates try to inspire and enable young people to be breakers, Teach for All tries to inspire and enable them to be makers. Yes, plenty of terrorists are also well educated, but their ability to resonate and enlist followers diminishes the more people around them have the tools to realize their full potential.

Groups like Teach for China, which hosted the Teach for All network at village schools here, are too new to determine whether they can make a difference in helping their lowest-performing schools succeed. But if raw idealism and willingness to take up the hardest challenges count for anything, you have to be hopeful. Traveling here last week was like spending four days with 32 Malala Yousafzais from 32 different nations.

Lu Li, 23, who graduated from the University of South Carolina in May, returned home to teach math as a Teach for China fellow here. It was not easy, she said: “My parents could not understand the choice I made” after getting a degree. “They have never been exposed to this sort of community service. They are kind people, but they don’t think it is necessary to go to rural China to do education for two years, and, especially as a girl, my father expects me to marry. ... My father is still struggling to understand my choice. I want to work hard and show him that my choice is right.”

Sandeep Rai, 28, is an Indian-American who did Teach for America in Washington, D.C., and then became a leader of Teach for India. “In India, we’ve had 750 fellows sign up [to teach] this year, and when we started in 2009, people said you will not get anyone to sign up. It is a testament to the power of building things. I think people are waiting to be inspired. National governments have not figured out how to tap into the idealism of young people. I thought that after two years I would be in and out, and eight years later I’m still here.”

Mohammed Fakhroo, 28, of Teach for Qatar said he started his organization because average students in Qatar are three years behind their peers in industrialized nations. With so much oil and gas money in their country, many Qataris believe they don’t need education to be prosperous. “Teachers in the Arab world come from the bottom third of their classes,” he explained. “If you weren’t smart, you became a teacher. ... Our theory of change is that by getting the smartest in our society — who would [normally] go into the oil and gas sector — to become teachers, they will be the new role models and be advocates for changing the norms” because Qatar will eventually need “a knowledge-based society.”

China Is Now the OPEC of Rare Earths

October 29, 2013

A funny thing happened last week on the way to world government: The U.S. registered a win in the World Trade Organization (WTO) tribunal, which ruled that China's rare earths export policies violate the international trade regime.

Good news for those worried by China's near-total dominance of global supply for these critical metals, essential for high-tech, green-tech and advanced military applications -- right?

Wrong. The WTO win is far more likely to distract U.S. policymakers from the larger challenge of developing a strategic resource policy -- and prolong U.S. resource dependencies to the detriment of our economic strength and national security.

China's WTO loss masks a strong position for Beijing, which has at least three paths forward that will result in no compelled changes whatsoever in China's rare earths export policy.

Put simply, China will win on appeal, case closed. Or it will lose -- and thereupon make modest changes to its rare earths regulatory and export regime, changing the fact-pattern and leaving the U.S. and its fellow complainants Japan and the European Union to bring a new WTO action.

Or China will simply ignore the WTO altogether.

Whether it's Column A, B or C, the user-nations will fail in their attempt to compel China to feed their earths addiction.

To see how even the worst case for China -- a WTO ruling condemning China's resource export policies -- won't help the U.S., consider the OPEC parallel. A two-thirds majority of the OPEC oil cartel's membership -- eight nations -- belongs to the WTO. So why hasn't there been a WTO action against OPEC for oil price collusion? Because it's clear that OPEC would ignore any WTO cease-and-desist order, and there is no WTO enforcement division -- armed with weapons or subpoenas -- that could make OPEC decide otherwise.

For its part, China has more options than simply ignoring the WTO. First, there's the appeals process, which will be the first response to this week's ruling. Then there are the mechanisms within the WTO charter itself that can be used to color any alleged market manipulation with benign and even laudable explanations.

In China's case, the go-to clause would be WTO's Article XX, which allows -- in the inelegant language of the WTO lexicon -- "GATT-inconsistent" policies so long as they are:

"necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health (paragraph (b)) or

relating to the conservation of exhaustible natural resources (paragraph (g))."

History is why China is provocative

Oct 30, 2013

The Economist restates a truism often applied to Rajiv Gandhi post Bofors — that the “more embattled a leader is at home, the brighter the lure of foreign horizons.” The magazine refers to the recent peregrinations of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, topping a trip to Indonesia and Brunei for the Asean and East Asia Summits, with one to Russia and China. It is the last one, on October 22-24, that I examine here.

Relations with China are not just an Indian preoccupation. Since 2008, when international banking crisis and Chinese assertiveness, vis-a-vis most neighbours and on issues of global governance, have raised the question whether China was ending the Deng Xiaoping injunction: tao guang yang hui (hide one’s capacities, bide one’s time). In other words, as obvious in that warning, time was now ripe for Chinese ascendancy. As regards India, the post-2005 agreement on the “Political parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question”, when final resolution of the major stumbling block to full normalisation of bilateral relations appeared inevitable, progress in the Special Representatives meetings have been stalemated. A common-sense interpretation was that perhaps this was due to the India-US engagement, symbolised by the India-US nuclear agreement in 2005, with China seeking to keep India from siding with the US and possible China balancing in Asia and then punishing it for going ahead.

However, after 2008 and the adoption of a more aggressive stance by China all along its periphery in the East and South China Seas, including the nine dash claim in the latter which encompasses most of that sea, it began to emerge that the problem lay elsewhere. A recent book, The Rise of China and the Logic of Strategy, by E.N. Luttwak, examines Chinese diplomacy in the context of their historical and cultural experience. He surmises that Chinese dependence on ancient treatises like the seven texts of the Son dynasty, the most famous of which being The Art of War by Sun Tzu, has often led them to make strategic mistakes. Principles applicable to intra Han conflicts, amongst people sharing a cultural and historical context, when applied to people from other historical and cultural experiences can have unpredictable consequences. Luttwak explains that the Chinese believe in dispute resolution through provoking crises, expecting thus to force a settlement.

Returning to the Indian context, this explains the by now predictable raking up of the border issue by China, either through stapled visas or intrusions across Line of Actual Control (LAC), on the eve of high-level contacts between the two countries. The conduct is also opportunistic. For instance, in May 2007, first an IAS officer from Arunachal Pradesh was denied a visa, leading to India cancelling the trip of the entire group, while in December China quietly granted it to others. Similarly with Japan, with the election of Ozawa Ichiro as Prime Minister in 2009, a new detente began with the slogan, “China up America down”, until China decided to bring the focus on the Senkaku islands. Henry Kissinger claims in his book, On China, that Mao Zedong explained the 1962 attack on India as forcing India to settle the border issue.

How They Think: PME in the Modern PLA

Journal Article | October 22, 2013
John D. McRae


The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can be thought of first and foremost as the tool by which the Communist Party of China (CPC) retains power. As Mao Zedong succinctly put it, “Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun will never be allowed to command the Party.” (Jan, 1999, p. 1241) As potentially broad as this “protection’ mission is, it defines the framework of how the Party and the PLA understand one another, and in turn how the PLA operates. In conjunction with this core function, the PLA serves the familiar purpose of most modern armies, the defense of its borders, be they maritime, aerial, or land. The PLA also finds itself in the midst of a new evolution in combat, the so-called “Cyber domain”. Given this broad and evolving mission set, the accession, training, and educational system of the PLA must adapt to develop the leaders necessary to counter a variety of threats in the service of the CPC. Although its track record has historically been spotty with regard to modernity, the PLA has undergone a transformation in the past decade aimed at keeping pace with peers; an effort that has yielded clear dividends.

In the wake of the Cultural Revolution, CPC leaders sought to decentralize control of the PLA to an extent in an effort to avoid future interference in political-civil relations. Used as both an agent of implementation and order during the Cultural Revolution with arguably disastrous results, the PLA stood as an impotent force both internally and externally in the early 1970’s.

This de-fanging came about via the carefully orchestrated rotation of PLA units and their leaders and the exodus of PLA members from leadership roles within the CPC. (Whiting, 1974, p. 2) Of course, this effort also had the destabilizing effect of diminishing unit cohesion and effectiveness given the traditionally localized nature of PLA units. The destabilizing effects of this initiative were readily apparent in the lackluster Chinese showing in the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979. (Saghal, 2011)

A New Way Forward

The modernization of the Chinese military subsequent to the Sino-Vietnamese War was predicated on a new set of assumptions, namely that the nature of warfare that the Chinese would be most likely to face was now a “local, limited war” rather than the “early, major, and nuclear war” that Mao foresaw. (Blasko, 2005, p.68) The decline and breakup of the Soviet empire was one significant factor enabling the Chinese to develop a PLA more focused on quality than sheer volume of troops. As a part of that effort, the PLA overhauled many facets of the force in an effort to further professionalize, strengthen, and streamline the organization, an effort that is still ongoing. Among these efforts were:

• Reduction in force size.
• Changes in force structure.
• Reform of the structure and missions of the reserves and militia.
• Changes in the personnel system.
• An influx of new equipment.
• Doctrinal revision to prepare the PLA to fight and win Local Wars Under Modern High-Technology Conditions or Local Wars Under Informationalization (sic) Conditions.
• Improvements in the frequency, content, and methods of military training, with emphasis on joint operations.
• Transformation of the PLA logistics system.
• Enhancement of all soldiers’ standard of living, pay, and lifestyle.
• Modification of the professional military education system.