18 January 2013

Chinese Air Force way ahead of IAF


The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 proved to be a boon to China and the PLAAF. Apart from a formidable enemy being neutralised, many displaced scientists, engineers and technicians from the erstwhile Soviet Union found employment in the Chinese military industrial complex. The Russian aircraft industry struggling to survive, was more than willing to sell modern aeroplanes and technology to China. And the booming Chinese economy could afford to import the best that was on offer. 

PLAAF : An Emerging Aerospace Power 

A visionary, long-term and time-bound approach to military modernisation, supported by a strong and innovative military-industrial capability has transformed the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force(PLAAF) of China, from an antiquated, derelict, poorly trained and over-sized force to a modern aerospace power with increasing proficiency to undertake its stated missions in the 21st Century. The Indian establishment, especially the Indian Air Force (IAF), needs to absorb this reality and restructure its modernisation plans. The Indian security environment is being continuously impacted by China’s rise, militarily and economically as a global power. 

The foundations of China’s long term plan for its modernisation programme were laid in 2010 and aims at major progress by 2020. By 2050 China would accomplish its strategic goal of building an ‘informatized’ (net-centric warfare enabled) armed forces capable of winning wars. Perhaps the unstated objective of the plan is to expand China’s ‘comprehensive national power’ beyond the existing regional status. China’s plan to ‘lay a solid foundation by 2010’ appears to have been achieved as demonstrated by the large-scale exercise ‘Stride-2009’ held to coincide with 50 years celebration of communist rule in China. 50,000 troops were moved from regions in the West to the East. The objective of Stride-2009 was to test the ability to move forces on a large-scale from the areas they had trained in to areas they were unfamiliar with. Another aim was to subject the massive rail, road and air infrastructure created over the years to heavy military movement pressure and examine if such pressure adversely affected civilian population. The PLAAF played an important role in this exercise. 

Salman Khurshid: India 'not to rush' into Kashmir talks

18 January 2013 

Both Pakistan and India deny provoking recent clashes in Kashmir 

India's foreign minister says he will "not rush" into talks with his Pakistani counterpart to defuse military tensions in Kashmir. 
Salman Khurshid's remarks came after Hina Rabbani Khar's call for a dialogue between the two ministers. 

The two armies have agreed to "de-escalate" tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) after a meeting of their chiefs of operations. 

Tensions have risen following deadly exchanges along the border last week. 

The violence has plunged the neighbours into the worst crisis in relations since the Mumbai attacks of 2008, blamed on militants based in Pakistan. 

Ms Khar said on Thursday that the recent border clashes had "created questions", adding that Pakistan was "open" to dialogue between foreign ministers to end the dispute. 

"Let us not rush into the matter and [let us] move step by step," Mr Khurshid said. 

"Direct talks between countries don't come up in a jiffy; you sort of work up gradually or work towards something," the Indian foreign minister was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times newspaper. Fragile ceasefire 

On Wednesday the Pakistani army's director of military operations agreed to the de-escalation after calling his Indian counterpart to "protest strongly" against a "ceasefire violation" by Indian soldiers that killed a Pakistani soldier along the LoC on Tuesday night. 

India's Artillery Modernisation Programme

17 Jan 2013

As part of its modernisation programme, the Army is acquiring artillery guns in large numbers. This has been necessitated by the fact that since 1980’s there has been limited or rather near zero procurement of new guns. Accordingly, in 2012, the defence ministry floated tenders for the armed forces for 1,580 towed guns of 155mm/52 calibre, 100 tracked guns of 155mm/52 calibre, 180 wheeled and self-propelled guns of 155mm/52 calibre, and 145 ultra-light howitzers of 155mm/39 calibre to fulfil the demands of the Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan.

India’s stock of operational 155mm FH77 howitzers has dwindled down to around 200. Even in the Kargil conflict, concentration of artillery in this sector rendered other critical border areas vulnerable, both on the Eastern and Western Sectors. The extreme steps taken to ensure probity in the acquisition process and the tendency to re-tender when the competition boils down to a single vendor has not helped matters. The main problem with re-tendering is that it takes too much time and by the time new tender is floated the General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs) become outdated. The only silver lining in the dismal gun acquisition process is the upgrade of 180 pieces of 130mm/39 calibre M-46 Russian guns to 155mm/45 calibre, with the ordnance and kits supplied by Soltam of Israel. Though not the ideal solution this has been a successful venture giving an enhanced range of 39 km from the original 26 km. technologically, artillery guns have stabilised at 155mm. This is believed to be the optimum barrel bore for the best mix of range, lethality and platform mobility. The barrel length is in range of 45-52 calibre. The main highlight of artillery transformation is the advent of the mounted gun system and wheeled self propelled artillery platforms. The mounted gun systems has a high level of autonomy, shoot and scoot capability and has a distinct advantage in the mountains due to its shorter turning radius compared to the towed gun.

Towed Howitzers
The biggest requirement is of towed howitzers. As of now, 400 guns of 155/52 calibre are to be procured through direct sale and a further 1,180 guns are to be domestically produced with $1.8 billion allocated for procurement only. A matter of concern is that earlier when India procured the Bofors gun in 1980s, the Swedish company had also given the Ordinance Factory Board (OFB) the design blue prints as part of Transfer of Technology (ToT) arrangement for the guns. Till date, OFB has not been able to produce a single piece worthy of withstanding field trials. The MoD’s procurement procedures have a “Make” category, which has been envisioned just for such projects. Although the OFB has been directed by MoD to produce two prototypes of 155/39 calibre guns for winter field trial in December 2012 and summer trials in 2013, the pace of indigenous production is not enough given the fact that OFB had the technology for nearly 25 years. It is worth considering the participation of private players such as Bharat Forge, Tata etc in the manufacturing process, either singly or in collaboration with the OFB. The Managing Director of Bharat Forge, Mr. BN Kalyani has enthusiastically stated that “There are the DRDO (Defence Research & Development Organisation), the OFB and other excellent organisations that have design talent and capability. What India lacks is the ability to convert designs into manufactured products. This is where the Kalyani Group comes in. Building an artillery gun system is largely about materials, forgings and manufacturing. Bharat Forge has the capacity to deliver.”

Tahir-Ul-Qadri: Need to Reserve Judgement

Paper No. 5369 
Dated 18-Jan-2013 
By B. Raman 

1. It is difficult to satisfactorily analyse and assess Allama Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Canadian cleric of Pakistani origin, who has suddenly returned to Pakistan to start a street movement against the civilian Government and traditional political parties on grounds of widespread corruption and bad governance. 

2. A self-projected Sufi, his rhetoric and methods tend to be confrontational and to be comforting to the Army and the judiciary. He does not call for a return to the Army rule, but wants the Army to have a role in ensuring free and fair elections by being a part of the interim Government under which the elections to the National Assembly due later this year will be held. 

3. I do not agree with the conventional perception that his return from Canada to start a street movement was engineered by the Army in order to pave the way for a return to Army rule. I do not tend to see the hand of the Army or its Chief of Staff, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani in the Allama’s street movement. There is little evidence to show that his movement has been inspired by the Army. 

4. At the height of the global war against terrorism, the US and other Western countries sought to use the Allama in their attempts to de-radicalise and de-wahabise Islam. One does not know to what extent he was able to help them in this exercise. But his advocacy of Sufism and his disapproval of jihadi terrorism and Wahabi-Deobandi rhetoric impressed sections of Western policy-makers. 

5. During his visit to India in the beginning of last year with no difficulty in getting an Indian visa, one noticed a difference from the normal run of Wahabi-Deobandi clerics like Maulana Fazlur Rehman who visit India from Pakistan from time to time. He was allowed to widely travel in India, visiting Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. He complied with restrictions imposed on his meetings such as not referring to Jammu & Kashmir. 

China to issue new official map of ‘full’ territory

By J. Michael Cole / Staff reporter 
Jan 15, 2013
A new map to be released later this month by China’s National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation increases from 29 to 130 the number of disputed areas marked as officially part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) claimed by Taiwan and Japan.

Previous editions of the “Wall Map Series of National Territory,” which presented China’s claimed territory in horizontal format, only included the larger contested islands in the South China Sea in a separate box at the bottom right of the map, Xinhua news agency said at the weekend. The territories included in the box were half scale and not clearly detailed.

The new map is vertical and is to be distributed by Sinomaps Press on behalf of the Chinese authorities starting next month. It will for the first time display the entirety of the PRC’s claimed territory on the same scale as continental China.

“The new map will be very significant in enhancing Chinese people’s awareness of national territory, safeguarding China’s marine rights and interests and manifesting China’s political diplomatic stance,” Xu Gencai (徐根才), editor-in-chief at Sinomaps Press, told Xinhua.

In all, the map includes 130 disputed areas, including Taiwan, islets and coral reefs in the Spratlys (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), the Paracels (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島), the Pratas (Dongshan Islands, 東沙群島), the Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands, 中沙群島) and the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island (黃岩島), which are the object of disputes between Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia. It also includes the Diaoyutais, in the East China Sea.

In another first, an inset shows the northern tip of Taiwan and detailed mapping of the eight major islets comprising the Diaoyutais, known as the Senkakus by Japan.

Tensions in the area escalated last week, with China and Japan dispatching fighter aircraft after Chinese aircraft penetrated Japan’s Air Defense Identification Zone near the islets on three occasions.

The murky motives behind Mali's crisis Military operations in Mali by France are meant to stop the Islamist rebels, who are perceived as a threat to France and Europe because they might establish a Taliban-type regime in Mali

Patrick Cockburn

French soldiers walk past a hangar they are staying at Mali’s army air base in Bamako. France plans to increase its troops in Mali. Photo: Reuters 

France's intervention to stop the advance of Islamic Jihadi in Mali has similarities with French action to protect the people of Benghazi from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya two years ago. In both cases the motives of all players in the crisis are more complicated than they publicly pretend.

Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) is demonised as threat to France and Europe because it might establish a Taliban type regime in Mali.

But Aqim has never launched a single attack in France or Europe since it was established in 1998. Its activities in the vast wastelands of the Sahel have been confined almost entirely to smuggling cigarettes and cocaine and kidnapping foreigners.

How the fighting escalated

January 10, 2013: Islamist groups capture Konna. Mali's interim President calls on France to help. Witnesses report arrival of foreign troops and weapons at military base in Sevare, 37 miles to the south.

January 11: Government troops launch counter-offensive against Islamists backed by France, Nigeria and Senegal. President Hollande confirms French troops are 'actively supporting' operation.

January 12: Dozens of Islamists killed as Konna is retaken by Malian army. French pilot is killed after helicopter is shot down in the fighting.

January 13: France targets Islamist bases around the northern city of Gao. Niger, Togo and Benin say they will send troops, while Britain pledges logistical support. French warplanes target rebel positions near Daibaly, 250 miles from Bamako.

U.S. Sees Hazy Threat From Mali Militants

January 16, 2013 

WASHINGTON — As Islamic militants methodically carved out a base in the desert of northern Mali over the past year, officials in Washington, Paris and African capitals struggling with military plans to drive the Islamists out of the country agreed on one principle: African troops, not European or American soldiers, would fight the battle of Mali. 

But the surprise French assault last Friday to blunt the Islamists’ advance upended those plans and set off a cascading series of events, culminating in a raid on Wednesday by militants on a foreign-run gas field in Algeria. That attack threatens to widen the violence in an impoverished region and drag Western governments deeper into combating an incipient insurgency. 

And yet the rush of events has masked the fact that officials in Washington still have only an impressionistic understanding of the militant groups that have established a safe haven in Mali, and they are divided about whether some of these groups even pose a threat to the United States. 

Moreover, the hostage situation in Algeria has only heightened concerns that a Western military intervention could transform militant groups that once had only a regional focus into avowed enemies of the United States — in other words, that the backlash might end up being worse than the original threat. 

Largely for these reasons, the Obama administration adopted a strategy over the past year to contain the Islamists in Mali until African troops were ready to confront them, rather than to challenge them directly with an American military campaign of drone strikes or commando raids. 

During Congressional testimony in June, Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, played down the terrorist threat to the United States from Mali, saying that the Qaeda affiliate operating there “has not demonstrated the capability to threaten U.S. interests outside of West or North Africa, and it has not threatened to attack the U.S. homeland.” 

Some Pentagon officials have long taken a more hawkish stance, and they cite intelligence reports that fighters with ties to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has a loose affiliation to the remnants of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, played a role in the deadly attack in September on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. They have pushed for targeted strikes against Islamist leaders in northern Mali, arguing that killing the leadership could permanently cripple the strength of the militants. 

This Is the Arsenal Hitting Mali’s Militants

17 Jan 2013

By air and by land, the French military is on the attack in the embattled West African state of Mali. Ten months after the takeover of the country's north by al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic militants, a sudden assault by rebel forces toward the capital of Bamako on Friday provoked a powerful response by France, Mali's former colonial ruler. 

French drones scouted targets as warplanes dropped bombs and helicopter gunships launched missiles. Tanker planes supported the aerial armada while rented and borrowed airlifters hauled in troops and armored vehicles to Bamako. On Wednesday French and Malian ground forces headed north from the capital to do battle with the militants. 

"The real question is, now what?" said Army Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command. The Pentagon is considering adding it own drones and support forces to the French "Operation Serval," but U.S. leaders are understandably reluctant given the tenacity of rebel resistance and the potential for a drawn-out conflict. 

What follows are the 10 most important weapons of the fighting so far in Mali. Most of them are French, although Paris' allies and one private company have also contributed hardware. If the war drags on much longer and the U.S. gets involved, the major weaponry of the Mali war could start looking a lot more familiar to American audiences. 

Japan's New Eyes on the Senkakus

January 18, 2013 

Japan’s new government recently decided to raise [3] the national defense budget and committed [4] to spending additional stimulus money on military modernization. It also received [5] a ministry of defense review that explored a variety of scenarios for future regional conflict. Given these and other recent developments, tensions over enduring territorial and historical disputes in East Asia are unlikely to subside soon. In fact, Japan under returning prime minister Shinzō Abe may be looking to significantly develop its ability to stand off against China in the ongoing situation in the East China Sea. 

Japan’s Kyodo News agency recently reported [6] that the government, on top of new spending on radar and other systems announced on January 8, may plan to deploy Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft by 2015. The U.S.-made UAV would be a useful early-warning and intelligence asset for the Self Defense Forces. Much like China’s fledgling UAV force [7], it could be mobilized to provide effective monitoring of ship movements near the disputed Senkaku Islands. 

Those islands, which the People’s Republic of China labels the Diaoyu, are the fulcrum of an ongoing dispute over territorial and maritime integrity between mainland China, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Taiwan. However, while it is certainly the case that high tensions in the East China Sea have consistently seen the deployment of new hardware as the norm in recent years, an advanced unmanned force could actually give Japan a significant new edge in capabilities going forward—at least diplomatically. 

The present domestic nationalist environment in Japan, much like that in China, has evolved and been shaped directly by regular incidents related to the disputed islands. Recent months have seen spiking public outrage as the result both of organized incursions into the waters around the islands by Chinese fishermen and of the transfer [8] of significant hardware from the PLA Navy to the country’s maritime surveillance agency, an outfit that has been central in orchestrating ongoing incursions into waters claimed by the government of Japan. 

And, of course, fishing fleets and new surveillance ships come on the back of Japanese nationalization of the small island chain, a mid-Autumn testing of China’s new aircraft carrier and significant anti-Japanese protests in Shenzen, Chengdu and elsewhere. 

Lawbreakers at War: How Responsible Are They?

Jan. 18, 2013

Japanese commander Tomoyuki Yamashita surrenders to U.S. troops in the Philippines at the end of World War II. 

Anybody around here remember Tomoyuki Yamashita

He was an Imperial Japanese Army general during World War II. In terms of battles he was most famous for conquering the British colonies of Malaya and Singapore

But his historical legacy comes from being tried in late 1945 by an American military tribunal in Manila for war crimes relating to the massacre of civilians in Manila, and atrocities in Singapore against civilians and prisoners of war, such as the Sook Ching massacre

Even though the massacre in the Philippines was carried out by a subordinate commander, Imperial Japanese Navy Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi, against Yamashita’s specific order – and without his knowledge or approval – a U.S. military tribunal held Yamashita responsible for the conduct of his troops. He was executed on February 23, 1946. 

Nowadays most legal scholars acknowledge that Yamashita’s execution was a case of victor’s, not legal, justice. Nevertheless his case become a precedent regarding the command responsibility for war crimes and is known as the Yamashita Standard. 

An interesting tidbit of history, you’re thinking, but what’s its relevance to today’s U.S. military? 

The exercise of authority by military superiors over their subordinates in wars or stability operations, as some like to euphemistically call them, is an essential tool to ensure respect of international humanitarian law, and to prevent the commission of serious crimes. 

Thus, for starters, those serving in the regular military, whether active or reserve, understand that they are all part of a strict chain of accountability and that people at the top can suffer severe consequences for the actions of those beneath them. Thus, people in leadership positions have an understandable interest in ensuring people at the bottom of the combat food chain act properly, so the people at the top don’t suffer Yamashita’s fate. 

Snow Bird

Jan. 18, 2013

Army photo / Sgt. Duncan Brennan 

An Army UH-60 Black Hawk warms up amid a snowstorm at Bagram air base, Dec. 27.

Obama Doctrine, Reagan Doctrine

January 18, 2013 

As his second term is about to begin, we may finally be seeing the emergence of an Obama Doctrine in foreign policy. It's one that looks very much like the Reagan Doctrine. 

In his 1985 State of the Union address [3], Reagan asserted that "we cannot play innocents abroad in a world that's not innocent; nor can we be passive when freedom is under siege." He urged that "we must stand by all our democratic allies. And we must not break faith with those who are risking their lives—on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth." 

A few months later, Charles Krauthammer dubbed this "overt and unashamed American support for anti-Communist revolution" the Reagan Doctrine in a Time [4] magazine essay [4]. Its essence was use of proxies rather than direct American intervention. If a legitimate popular uprising was taking place against a communist regime in the developing world, Reagan reasoned that it was both morally right and in America's interests to help it with arms and material support. 

President Obama has quietly adopted a similar strategy, one using NATO allies, France in particular, as a proxy. First, we had the March 2011 intervention in Libya, in which American forces played a heavy role in the initial strikes, providing our “unique capabilities,” but then quickly transitioned to a supporting role, providing suppression of enemy air defense; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and air-to-air refueling assets to enable the mission. We appear to be on a similar path in Mali, quietly providing combat enablers in a mission with France in the driver’s seat. 

Unfortunately labeled as "leading from behind" by a staffer during the Libya intervention, critics have charged the president with weakness—ceding America's rightful leadership role to others. Viewed through the lens of the Reagan Doctrine, though, it's prudent risk management. 

While Republican neoconservatives and Democratic liberal interventionists alike urged Obama to take decisive action early on in Libya, Syria, Mali, and other cases the fact of the matter is that the United States simply does not have vital interests in those conflicts that would justify putting American troops into harm's way. On the other hand, even realists have to admit that getting rid of Gaddafi and Assad and preventing Islamist takeover of a West African country would be good outcomes for the US. So, if France and other allies want to bear the brunt of fight but can't pull it off without American communications, intelligence and logistical assets, there's a strong argument to be made for providing that assistance. 

The Pentagon's Public-Affairs Battle

January 15, 2013 

The Pentagon’s chief of public affairs recently announced that the Department of Defense would abandon the term “strategic communication.” The banishment has one advantage: It cuts through the Kafkaesque contortions in which the Pentagon has ensnared itself by treating the art of communication as a process. The public affairs staff proposes a vague new term, “communication support.” No wonder government makes people wary. The actual practice of strategic communication remains necessary and vital, while its absence in a world of asymmetric threats is dangerous. 

In the military, many see public affairs as informing – just the facts, ma’am – not influencing. In politics and the corporate world, where that notion is well understood, public affairs is conducted specifically to influence. Any brief examination of how the Pentagon handled the Abu Ghraib controversy (for which former official BG (Ret.) Mark Kimmitt’s adroit strategy and tactics merits praise)—or the rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, an exercise in hype—shows that public affairs folks don’t flinch from casting the military’s actions in the most favorable light. 

Much of the controversy over strategic communication at the Pentagon was the bitter fruit of a controversy that exploded in 2001 when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld established the Office of Strategic Information (OSI) within the office of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. Feith grasped that after 9/11, neither the Pentagon’s public affairs office nor the State Department’s public diplomacy, in his words, were “equipped to promote initiatives to fight jihadist ideology.” 

Heated debate and misinformation about OSI fed to the press caused Rumsfeld to shut down OSI. An unfortunate decision, it hamstrung the Pentagon’s ability to develop and execute a workable communication strategy in dealing with challenges from hotspots including Egypt, Iran and China. 

Too often bureaucrats seek simple solutions to complex and often shifting challenges. What matters is that the Pentagon recognize that it has the right, responsibility and duty to forge communication strategy. The art of strategic communication is critical. That art is the use of words, actions, image or symbols to influence the attitudes and opinions of target audiences, shaping their behavior in order to advance interests of policies, or to achieve objectives. 

Talking Democracy In India

The Good and the Bad of Modi's Reelection

January 15, 2013

Modi supporters in Gujarat. (Amit Dave / Courtesy Reuters)
When the controversial Indian politician Narendra Modi sailed to reelected victory last month in regional elections in Gujarat, it was difficult to find anyone who didn't have the urge to cry. Some shed tears of joy and others of despair, but any reaction in between was rare. Modi, a member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is at once celebrated for his dedication to good governance and economic growth and reviled for his autocratic style of governing and alleged role in the brutal violence waged against his state's minority Muslim community in 2002. Given the passionate feelings that surround him, Modi's emergence on the national political scene as India's attention turns to countrywide elections in 2014 could open up a rare substantive debate about the role of government in the world's largest democracy. 
After the results of Gujarat's election were announced, Modi delivered a fiery acceptance speech in Hindi (as opposed to Gujarati, his native tongue). It was a tell-tale sign that he is setting his sights on national politics. Modi is widely expected to try and stand as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate in upcoming parliamentary elections. The role is likely his for the taking: The BJP has long languished on the opposition benches in New Delhi, its leadership is seen as weak and incoherent, and the party rank and file are demanding a campaign built around competent, efficient governance. Even those within the party and among its coalition partners who find the idea of a Prime Minister Modi abhorrent recognize that there are few plausible alternatives. 

Although Modi's entry into national politics could further polarize India, it also carries a silver lining -- one even his detractors should acknowledge. For perhaps the first time in recent memory, an Indian election campaign promises to focus on substantive issues of development and democracy instead of the usual fare of caste politics and clientelism. 

Very little to cheer about

January 17, 2013

The World Bank estimates India’s growth rate will inch up towards that of China by 2015. This may sound like news to cheer about till you read the fine print that says this is because China’s economy is slowing and not due to any Herculean feat by India’s policymakers. China’s growth rate over 

the past 40 years has been unrivalled in human history, and it was bound to taper off as the economy grew to become the biggest after the US. Despite this, China’s growth will remain higher than what the World Bank estimates India can achieve in the medium term. The fastest we have grown is a five-year spell of close to 9%, well short of the 10% plus China was clocking over most of the previous decade as it overtook France, Britain, Germany and Japan. It can now afford a sedate trot at 8%, which on current indications appears to be the outer limit of India’s potential to grow.

Slice China’s growth and the contrast gets starker. Its manufacturing-driven economy has piled up foreign exchange reserves in excess of $3 trillion, half again as much as India’s current GDP. And this mountain will keep growing as its trade surplus endures, despite Beijing — like New Delhi — having to scour the globe for energy. India, on the other hand, is grappling with mounting fiscal and trade deficits. More importantly, its recent high growth has been jobless, a big chunk of its population trapped in agriculture as factory employment simply did not keep pace. This strains government finances as poverty reduction is driven by handouts rather than new employment avenues. The advantages of outsourcing are self-limiting and no country has broken into the ranks of developed nations without an industrial revolution. 

The alternative development paths chosen by Beijing and New Delhi have a bearing on the physical and social infrastructure of the two Asian neighbours. China has most of its ports, highways and power plants in place to sustain a steady state of growth. It is touch-and-go for an India beset by shortages in its electricity grid and transport networks. Life is indeed better across the Wall with gains in poverty reduction, health and education that India can only fantasise about. It is 33 notches above India in the World Bank’s latest human development index. This is a yawning gap given the populations of both countries. The message is clear: social engineering can’t hope to match economic growth in improving the lives of the people. Although their political compulsions differ, China has provided India with a template for development that holds key lessons.

We tripped too often in 2012. Let’s be careful

18 Jan 2013

The year gone was tragic in many ways and is best forgotten. But it must still be remembered for the lessons that it provides to our political class and society in general. A repeat of the errors could be disastrous for the country 

While the world celebrated the advent of the New Year and firecrackers lit the skies, people across India heaved a sigh of relief that 2012 had finally ended. The last year was marked by a declining economic growth rate, continuing high inflation, anger at growing corruption and a gang rape in Delhi that shamed the country, for being insensitive to the safety and security of women. More importantly, what irked people most was the belief that they were being ruled by a Government and political class which is insensitive to their aspirations and concerns on corruption, inflation and the growing crimes against women. The credibility of the political class is not enhanced by the fact that 162 Members of Parliament face criminal charges, with two of them charged with sexual assault and abuse. 

While public anger at the decline in the standards of governance grew, India saw a decline in its own international standing, as a fast growing, ‘emerging’ economy. There was considerable international attention on corruption scandals like ‘Coalgate’. But, India had to face the ignominy, for the first time in its history, of a virtual censure by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who condemned violence against women and called for “steps and reforms to deter such crimes and bring perpetrators to justice”. This was all the more agonising as it came for an individual who had lived three years in India and has an Indian son-in-law. The New York Times described India as a country “which basks in its growing success as a business and technological Mecca, but tolerates shocking abuses of women”. But, the most telling comment came from Pakistan’s ‘Braveheart’, the 15 year old Malala Yousafzai. Alluding to the suffering of the victim, Malala remarked: “The rapists dumped her on the road. The Government dumped her in Singapore. What’s the difference?” 

Out of control on the Line of Control

By editor
18 Jan 2013

There will continue to be tensions and cross-border firings, which should be left to the DGMOs and flag meetings to deal with

There will continue to be tensions and cross-border firings, which should be left to the DGMOs and flag meetings to deal with

In the wake of the beheading of a slain Indian soldier by 29 Baloch Regiment regulars on the ceasefire line, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, warned about “other options”, implying something stronger by way of a reaction than the usual harrumphing by New Delhi. 

Such expectations were toned down by the Army Chief, General Bikram Singh, on January 14, who said the Army would choose the time, place and type of retaliation. This latter statement is actually the right response. The Indian Army will go punitive, do whatever it has to do, whenever it chooses to do it.

Provocative acts can be the result of plain cussedness, or bad blood owing to particularly aggressive actions by this or that unit on the LoC, marking it out as an entity to be “dealt with” by units on the other side. Straying soldiers, who would be waved off in more placid times, become targets in these situations. This is an aspect of the blood sport the two Armies have engaged in for the last 42-odd years since the Line of Control (LoC) formally came into existence. The trouble is that India-Pakistan relations have always occupied the indeterminate grey area between intimacy and enmity. The organic links of kith and kinship, ethnicity, religion, and culture have tied up the two countries in a difficult embrace, and their relations in knots. Reflecting this affinity are the “wars” the Armies of India and Pakistan have fought, which the late Major General D.K. Palit, director, military operations in the 1962 China conflict, memorably described as “communal riots with tanks”. These essentially counter-force engagements are space, time and scale-constrained affairs which, in peacetime, transform into a sort of ill-natured intra-mural blood sport involving the occasional gruesome act, sniper kills and localised special forces-created mayhem.


January 18 , 2013
Malvika Singh

The hysterical sabre-rattling led by the electronic media and supported by the leading opposition party, whose leader responded to the brutal decapitation of a jawan at the LoC by calling for 10 heads if the one was not returned to India, was further compounded by the lack of a substantive response from the government. Consequently, the country is, yet again, being forced to witness a clumsy display of feeble reactions and positions. It is disconcerting to have the prime minister issue a delayed statement on an emotive issue that has been hyped up by a myriad anchors. What is worse though is to see those holding senior positions in the government backtrack from that statement on the small screen. It makes one wonder if there is anyone in control. Why is it so difficult for a government to sit down and thrash out a calibrated response to Pakistan, and for the benefit of the citizens of this federal republic? Surely the most important priority for a leader is to lead from the front and convince his ‘subjects’ that he is conscious and ahead of every move that the Opposition or the enemy may be planning. Why is India being denied this basic need to feel safe and confident?

The saving grace was the explanation given by the general in charge of the Northern Command, who set down the ground realities in a calm and controlled manner that gave the impression of the army being in control at a time when the executive was coming across the footlights as confused and agitated. But it is certainly disturbing to see the army speaking more coherently than the executive. India is looking for a strong, committed leader, not a dictator or a fascist, and there is no reason whatsoever for political parties not to present desirable candidates to the people who must then elect the individual. We have, over the last many decades, suffered at the hands of vote-bank politics and politics determined by numbers that determine coalitions. There is thus no place for ideology or commitment to deliver initiatives and policies that will lift the poor out of the prevailing morass and offer clean and user-friendly practices and governance for the burgeoning entrepreneurial class. India has lost two decades, at least, in which the political class has worked only for its survival.

Deep unrest

While our television channels raise the decibel levels, Pakistan has entered a volatile phase. Anger and frustration are manifest in the form of protests on the streets that are being led by a cleric. The prime minister is under orders of arrest and another party in the opposition, led by the former captain of the Pakistan cricket team, Imran Khan, is raising its flag. Where does the army stand in this melee? Whom will the mullahssupport? What is the intention of the Inter-Services Intelligence? What will be the impact on India when the United States of America pulls its troops out of Afghanistan? Is the conservative civil society — comprising professionals and ordinary citizens — ready to take on a corrupt establishment? Is there a popular democratic leader with a passion to liberate the country out of anarchy? Or is Pakistan headed towards military rule?

India must get in on the ground floor

January 18, 2013

New Delhi needs to think strategically about the next generation of Millennium Development Goals

At the end of 2012, India completed its seventh two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. In a period that proved unexpectedly challenging for the principal organ of the U.N. system, India was actively involved in debates over crises in North Africa and the Middle East. On the more mundane but no less fundamental issue of international development, however, New Delhi has sat largely on the sidelines, paying insufficient attention to opportunities for addressing domestic priorities and enhancing India’s standing in international affairs. 


Indeed, there is a fundamental disjuncture between India’s overwhelming domestic imperatives of equitable growth on the one hand and the nation’s external policies on the other. Too often we are content to act the part of a powerful and technologically sophisticated nation without actually pursuing a foreign policy that might serve our basic developmental goals. Nowhere are such failures more evident than on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Signed into existence in 2000 by 190 countries, they represent a historic global framework and universal goals (with specific targets and indicators) in the areas of poverty, gender, health, education and the environment for all signatories to achieve by 2015. Powered in part by the MDGs, 600 million people have been lifted out of poverty, 56 million more children go to school and 14,000 children escape death each day. 

Work on next goals

With the 2015 deadline approaching, the international community is now starting to develop a framework for the next generation of development goals. The U.N. Secretary-General has appointed a 26 member high-level panel to advice on the new framework. Simultaneously, the U.N. is facilitating national consultations in 100 countries (including India) to make the process as participatory as possible. The panel and consultations will feed into inter-governmental negotiations preceding the adoption of a new framework in September 2013. 

This process is clearly important for both poor and rich countries, yet most members of India’s foreign policy establishment and the informed public remain oblivious to its significance. It is easy to dismiss a largely U.N.-driven negotiation that could set arguably unrealistic targets for all countries to meet. India is a sovereign nation that need not take direction from any constellation of international actors. The goals themselves are not immune to internal inconsistencies and contradictions, and will be variably relevant to India. Moreover, a fixed set of overarching goals may constitute an unwise approach to development policy in general. 

Japan as partner in the East

By editor
18 Jan 2013

If Japan is keen to enhance strategic cooperation, it could consider offering the Soryu-class submarines to India, with complete transfer of technology for building in India.

A resurgent China is busy shaping the strategic arena with a combination of its sea power and diplomacy in the areas of its declared core national interests (the East and South China Seas) with the aim of converting almost 80 per cent of this oil- and mineral-rich region, as part of its territorial sea. 

Regional powers are looking to counterbalance the Chinese moves, and some, like Vietnam and now Japan, are beginning to look at India as a “strategic partner” as a hedge against any of the present skirmishes in the Asia-Pacific region. India, given its geostrategic location astride the sea lanes in the Indian Ocean region, is in a position to ensure safety of shipping lanes on which Japan and the Asia-Pacific region nations, including China, depend for trade and energy imports. These nations are also aware of India’s interests in the Asia-Pacific region (50 per cent of Indian trade by sea passes through the region), and are conscious how growing Indian sea power can contribute to stability in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific regions. 

Japan and India, which have had historically good relations, should now deepen their cooperation. At present, Indo-Japan trade is about 15 per cent of the $74 billion India-China trade, and Japan has, in the last 20 years, invested hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign direct investment (FDI) in China, while hesitant to export nuclear power plant machinery to India. Hopefully both nations will now move towards a genuine “strategic partnership”. 

Regular high-level visits between the leaders of the two nations have taken place in the last decade. Now that China’s GDP is larger than the $5 trillion Japanese GDP, and the Chinese Navy has begun flexing its muscles in the South and East China Seas, and with the Chinese-Japanese dispute over the eight Senkaku islands (Japanese-controlled, but claimed by China) reaching dangerous levels, the Japanese, under their newly elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have begun to look at India as a strategic counterweight to China. 

Trying to make sense of Pakistan

Change will come to Pakistan – it has to. But it won't be soon and it won't be painless 

The blast in Quetta last week was just one of many incidents

Even by Pakistan's standards, it has been an exceptionally busy week. Terrorist attacks targeting the Hazara Shia community in Quetta killed over 100, leading to widespread protests and the subsequent sacking of Baluchistan's elected assembly and the imposition of Governor law. Tensions flared up on the border with India with troops from both sides being killed. 

A moderate cleric, Tahur ul Qadri, is holding a long march in the capital, demanding the dissolution of the current elected government and the installation of a neutral caretaker government leading to elections. Finally, the Supreme Court has ordered the arrest of the current Prime Minister on corruption charges. Yes all of that happened in just one week. 

Many filed Pakistan under 'basket case' years ago and stopped trying to rationalise developments in that country. Sadly, for others, that isn't an option. What is taking place is tragic, absurd, and frightening. It also needs to be spoken about. 

Pakistan is a country in which hardly a week can go by without news of a spectacular terrorist attack. If it's not random terrorism targeting ethnic, religious or political minorities, it is school girls being shot for going to school, polio vaccinators being killed for doing their work or a Christian being lynched after being accused of blasphemy. The perpetrators are rarely caught and victims quickly forgotten as news of new, even more despicable events unfold. 

The country seems to be imploding. It is tearing itself apart in a fit of violence, intolerance, and hate. Yet this is no small, insignificant statelet; it has a population 170 million, is strategically positioned at the confluence of Iran, India, and China, and has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world. It is a country with significant potential for tourism, agriculture, business, and sports and it has a long and illustrious history of art, poetry, music, and architecture. Yet, all these things only make its current predicament all the more lamentable. 

Pakistan has a military that is more powerful than the civilian government and always has been. It has over 166 terrorists groups operating within it, some of which are backed by the powerful military and used as proxy forces in neighbouring Kashmir and Afghanistan. Crucially, its judiciary and media are also highly politicised; no-one is content with remaining within the confines of their defined remit, all seek more power and control. 

Derailing Democracy in Islamabad

Qadri, the Brass, and the Judges Take on the Government

January 17, 2013

A Foreign Affairs roundtable discussion on the causes of instability in Pakistan and what, if anything, can be done about them.

This month, Pakistan's government is fending off a needless political crisis. On 14 January, Allama Tahir ul Qadri, a pro-military cleric turned revolutionary who once claimed to have a direct line to the Prophet Mohammad, marched into the capital with tens of thousands of supporters. He has since threatened to use whatever means necessary to implement his demands, which include the removal of the "corrupt" Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government, the disbandment of the current parliament, and the implementation of constitutional clauses that lay down strict financial, religious, and moral qualifications for election to parliament. The move follows on an unusual media blitz last month, during which Qadri took to the streets and airwaves to save the state by demanding the creation of a clean technocratic government backed by the army and the judiciary. 

The timing couldn't be worse. In 2013, Pakistan is expected to undertake its first transition of power from one elected civilian government that has completed its tenure to another. When the current government came to office in 2008, reaching that milestone had seemed unimaginably difficult. All of Pakistan's previous transitions to democracy had been cut short by military takeovers. As the date for the handover neared, many Pakistanis had started to hope to avoid that scenario this time. As it turns out, though, even cautious optimism might have been too much. It appears that Pakistan's powerful military, aided by an aggressive Supreme Court, might well have just put a spanner in the works. 

Some in the Pakistani media maintain that the United States is complicit in this week's chain of events, although there is no evidence that it is directly involved. Meanwhile, many writers, including the prominent rights activist Asma Jehangir, and opposition politicians say that the timing of Qadri's political surge, just a few months ahead of parliamentary elections, has Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence written all over it. According to Jehangir, "the [military] establishment is the director of Qadri's film. People of Pakistan have already watched such films in the past." In this view, Qadri, a resident of Canada, was imported to sow instability as a prelude a military attempt to establish a guided democracy, or at least, influence the composition and duration of the next caretaker administration. The judiciary, meanwhile, is playing helpmeet. 

There is, as yet, no smoking gun linking Qadri to the Pakistani military or judiciary. Still, it cannot be a coincidence that Qadri has directed his indignation at the civilian government, while lauding the judiciary and the military as the only two institutions "performing their duties to fulfill the needs of the people," which, he says, are hamstrung by the government's corruption and inefficiency. 

Pakistan’s Wave of Crises: Ahead of Elections, Islamabad Struggles to Put Out the Fires

Jan. 17, 2013

A supporter of Sufi cleric and leader of the Minhaj-ul-Quran religious organisation Muhammad Tahirul Qadri chants slogan during the third day of protests in Islamabad Jan. 16, 2013.
Leaders in Pakistan were thrown into crisis management mode this week as tensions over border skirmishes with India spiked and observers worried aloud whether large protests in the capital were setting the stage for a soft coup ahead of elections. On Thursday, tens of thousands of protestors camped for the fourth day in front of Parliament in Islamabad, gathered under tarps and blankets in cold temperatures and heavy rain to listen to religious scholar Tahirul Qadri address the crowd. The Canadian-Pakistani anti-graft crusader, who issued a fatwa against terrorism in 2010, led a march from Lahore to the capital earlier in the week. Calling the country’s leaders too corrupt to continue to rule, Qadri called for, among other things, the government to immediately dissolve its legislative bodies and set up a caretaker administration ahead of national polls scheduled for May. “This corrupt ruling mafia don’t want to listen to the poor people of Pakistan,” he tweeted out to some 22,000 followers on Thursday. 

The sit-in, beset by increasingly unsanitary conditions and reports of illness, was expected to disband by Thursday night as a government delegation reportedly entered talks with Qadri by late afternoon. According to several journalists’ tweets, power went out during the talks in the metal container where Qadri has been based for the week. With or without electricity, what will come out of the conversation is unclear, as is what – or who – prompted Qadri to start this sudden people’s movement, given the fact that the cleric lived in Canada for the last several years. The fact that he emerged in 1999 to publicly back the coup by former military chief Pervez Musharraf has some wondering aloud whether he has shown up now with the military’s backing to help orchestrate a similar ouster. 

Both Qadri and the military have denied such speculations, and some analysts say sudden talk of a so-called “soft coup” took shape a little too quickly. “The military is bogged down in counter terrorism,” says Hasan Askari Rizvi, a security expert based in Lahore. “If they do anything they will do it from the sidelines.” 

Still, he says protests have served the military’s interests by putting the government of President Asif Ali Zardari on the back foot. Rizvi says the Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry also sensed an opportunity to strike, ordering the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and other officials earlier this week on charges of corruption. Ashraf has denied any wrongdoing, and on Thursday, the head of the government’s anti-corruption agency said it would not act now on the arrest, citing rushed paperwork.

It’s too soon to tell what will come out of the talks being held tonight in Islamabad. Rizvi says the results will likely be a “compromise,” designed in part to help Qadri save face after he didn’t get the political backing he may have expected from opposition parties. The government was due to set up a caretaker government ahead of elections anyway, as per Pakistani law, and the government may simply urge the cleric to accept that the process he was calling for will take place later. 

Negotiating that deal is not the only crisis that Pakistan’s government has been fielding this week. The nation’s commitment to protecting religious and tribal minorities has been called into question in large protests in the southwestern city of Quetta and the northwestern city of Peshawar, where demonstrators amassed after security forces allegedly killed 18 members of the Bara tribe. 

Relations with India are have been strained after a series of skirmishes at the Line of Control that separates Pakistan and India-controlled Kashmir sent both nations’ media in a frenzy and led leaders to exchange some chilly words. Though the 2003 ceasefire has been periodically violated in the last decade, the reported deaths of five soldiers this month threatened to unravel the fragile peace there. On Wednesday, military leaders met and agreed to exercise mutual restraint, and no firing was reported at the border on Wednesday night. 

In New Delhi, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid was reportedly considering bilateral talks after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar proposed to meet. “Instead of issuing belligerent statements by the military and political leaders from across the border and ratcheting up tension, it is advisable for the two countries to discuss all concerns related to Line of Control (LoC) with a view to reinforcing respect for the ceasefire, may be at the level of the Foreign Ministers to sort out things,” she said in a statement on Wednesday. “Continued tension along the LoC is not in the interest of peace and stability in the region.”