29 January 2013

Can India’s Ambitious Direct Cash Transfer Plan Work?

January 23, 2013 

Earlier this month, the Indian government rolled out its much-touted direct cash transfer plan (DCT). Formally named Direct Benefits Transfer, the effort aims to plug leaks in the current system, bring efficiencies and transparency to the delivery of social welfare benefits, and replace subsidies with a direct cash pay-out to beneficiaries. 

According to a recent report in the business magazine Business India, “A confidential study conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in consultation with various ministries has revealed that, based on the actual money spent by the central government during 2010-2011 under various subsidies totaling Rs. 211,474 crore (approximately $38 billion), the scheme can result in a net saving of Rs. 33,000 crore ($6 billion) by way of plugging leakages.” 

But despite the initial hype around the DCT, the actual roll-out itself has been scaled down substantially. Programs covered under the DCT as of now are minor in nature — scholarships and pension plans. The big-ticket items like food, fuel and fertilizer subsidies have been left for later. According to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, the effort was being launched with “caution” to minimize errors. Talking to the media, Chidambaram said direct transfer of subsidies for food, fertilizer and kerosene “is not being contemplated at present. This will take more time as the issues of entitlement are more complex.” 

Also, instead of the original plan of launching the DCT in 51 districts across the country, it has been launched only in 20. Under the new schedule, 43 districts are expected to be covered by March 1. The number of welfare programs expected to come under the DCT has also been reduced from 42 to 26, beginning with less than 10. 

The DCT is expected to be fully rolled out by mid-2014. According to media reports, it is estimated that once that happens, cash transfers of around Rs. 300,000 crore (around $55 billion) will happen annually. 

'Make The Black Swan A White Swan'

25 Jan 2013

Full text of the former President's RN Kao Memorial Lecture

I am indeed happy to deliver the 7th RN Kao Memorial Lecture organised by the Research and Analysis Wing. My greetings to all the participants. When I am with you I would like to share through this lecture a few thoughts on Technology, Strategy and Intelligence.

R N Kao the doyen of External Intelligence

As soon as I agreed to give the annual lecture of R&AW, I studied the life and works of the pioneer in Intelligence network, Shri Rameshwar Nath Kao. Shri Kao, after spending his initial days in the Uttar Pradesh Police, joined the Intelligence Bureau in 1947 and thereafter his services were transferred to the R&AW to head the new external intelligence agency.

After facing many challenges in putting the organisation in a firm foundation, he evolved it as an effective foreign intelligence organisation. Under his able guidance the organisation attained greater heights and new goals and contributed significantly towards safeguarding national security. As a doyen of the Indian intelligence system, he was always available for advice to the government through several critical phases of the country's history.

I am presenting my study results to you in three parts based on the work on my core competence in system design, system integration and system management during my tasks in space programmes and defence strategic programmes.

Part-1: Improbables and their Characteristics

Friends, when I see you all and also the composition of the personalities who hold great responsibilities, I thought of sharing one incident. The incident goes like this: an important event was to take place the next day. Multiple agencies were in action. The next two nights were dark nights with no moon light. The other side, the world was sleeping. At the Chandipur flight test range, a series of 12 Trishuls were launched. Almost every two hours one launch took place.

Submarine missile test a step forward

By Ajai Shukla
Jan 29, 2013

Underwater launch of B-05 missile went according to plan 
Even in the visually spectacular field of missile testing, the sight of a submarine-launched missile breaking through the surface is a breathtaking one. Yesterday, Defence Research and Development Organisation ( DRDO) scientists cheered excitedly as their indigenous, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) leapt out of the water, its rocket motor fired soon after clearing the surface, and it soared off in a white plume to accurately strike a target 700 kilometres away. 

To nobodys surprise, the underwater launch went exactly according to plan. This missile, called in turn the K-15, the Shaurya and now the B-05, had already been launched 10 times from under water and thrice from land. This exacting test schedule is designed for assurance, since this is a missile that cannot afford to fail. Until a better one is developed, this will be the backbone of Indias underwater nuclear deterrence. 

That means it will arm the INS Arihant, Indias first and only nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine, or SSBN. Tipped with nuclear warheads, the K-15 will be launched from the Arihant only after a nuclear attack on India. New Delhis no-first-use nuclear policy prohibits the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons. 

That means Indias land-based and air-based nuclear weaponry, such as the Agni series of missiles, might already have been destroyed by a pre-emptive enemy nuclear attack. The Arihant, and the B-05 missiles that it carries, are far more difficult to tackle, since they lurk underwater in complete secrecy. The underwater leg of the nuclear triad (land-launched, air-launched and submarine-launched weapons) has always been regarded as the most survivable. It is the ultimate currency of a nuclear exchange. 

Going by what the DRDO said about its own test, the B-05 is well up to the task. The missile, developed by DRDO, was launched from a pontoon and was tested for the full range. It met all the mission objectives. The parameters of the vehicle were monitored by radar all through the trajectory and terminal events took place exactly as envisaged, said a ministry of defence release yesterday. 

Duflo, Lynas highlight existential crisis of Indian activism

JANUARY 24 2013

Mark Lynas is right. Completely divorced from research and data Indian activism today is a cesspool of myths and misconceptions

Economist Esther Duflo and environmental activist Mark Lynas

In the world of environmental activism Mark Lynas was god. When he said something it was heard with rapt attention for its sheer gravitas. An ardent and sometimes militant opponent of genetically modified crops, he literally nuked the movement he had once so carefully nurtured by doing a volte face at a farming conference in Oxford. “The GM debate is over… You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food. More to the point, people have died from choosing organic, but no one has died from eating GM,” proclaimed Lynas to a shocked world. “The real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it. I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.” Today Lynas is a heretic.

But lost in the global outrage and accusations of Lynas selling his soul and mind to the rich and powerful multinational corporations is an uncomfortable Indian truth that he let loose during his long speech at Oxford. In a scalding review of Indian environmental activism he said it was based on “widely believed myths, popular misconceptions and conspiracy theorists”. Though he painted his target on the back of activists like Vandana Shiva, who sharply retorted that she is a “PhD in Quantum Theory”, there were several others who were squirming in their seats. To be fair to the likes of Shiva, Sunita Narain, RK Pachauri and countless others, the environmental activism practised by this school is largely based on facts and research. Lynas’ real targets were unintended. He actually held a mirror to other sundry Indian activists, from those supposedly promoting something as amorphous as Indian cultural values to something as specific as pre-natal healthcare.

His admission of being ‘wrong’ and the tendering of an ‘unconditional apology’ brought to the fore two aspects that Indian activists rarely acknowledge, let alone practise – research and the possibility that they might be, after all is said and done, horribly wrong. But in recent years there are quite a few insiders who are pulling the rug and revealing some deep cracks. If Lynas is pointing out the elephants in the room, economist Esther Duflo is the one clearly and loudly saying that there is no place for them in the field of development activism.

The Great Walmart of China!

Mohan Guruswamy
29 January 2013

The Indian Parliament was at its transactional best when it passed the resolution favouring Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Retail when those who would have made a difference spoke against it but voted for it, either by punching the button or by going for a walk. There was debate, but it went according to expected lines. The extreme right and left banded together, as is increasingly wont, and the floating centrists made a deal. Issues involved never got discussed. Name-calling passed off as debate. 

Now let's start with the essentials. Most foreign investment is beneficial as it creates jobs, adds value, and contributes to the GDP. Companies like Hyundai, Ford and Honda have built a giant automobile industry in India now producing over 2 million cars and tens of thousands of new jobs. By 2017, India will emerge as the third largest car making country in the world, producing over 7 million automobiles. This would not be possible without foreign investment, technology and leadership. 

In sector after sector, foreign investment has created huge new capacities catering to domestic and foreign markets. The level of foreign ownership makes little difference to the contribution foreign companies make to the economy. The desirability of foreign investment must never be questioned as long as it creates jobs, adds value and contributes to development. And these are just the factors that go against foreign direct investment in retail. 

The danger of Monopsony 

Study after study in developed and developing countries alike have shown that big box retail rather than creating jobs, destroy jobs. In fact their utility in developed economies is due to the labour savings they achieve. Classical economics was wary of the monopolistic producer who would charge 'too much' from the poor working classes while producing the much-needed 'bread'. The single producer was the dread from which economists sought 'perfect competition', meaning many producers catering to many consumers resulting in fair competition in a perfect market. Adam Smith could never have conceived of a global operator with a huge hoard of cash and instant information becoming a 'sole' consumer. To the economists 'monopsony' was a theoretical concept - to be defined as a construct before belaboring the dangers of a monopoly. The danger of monopsony, seldom thought of by economists as a threat, is now upon us. In the last three decades the advents of giant retailers like Walmart (turnover $422 billion in year ended January 2011) and producers like Nestle (turnover 60.9 billion Euros year on year October 2011) have made monopsony a reality. 

'Kargil Was a '4-Man Show', Sharif Not Kept Totally in Dark'

Rezaul H Laskar

The operation by Pakistani soldiers to capture strategic heights in Kargil sector in 1999 was a "four-man show" orchestrated by former army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf though then premier Nawaz Sharif was "not" kept totally in the dark, a retired general has said.

Lt Gen (retired) Shahid Aziz, who recently created ripples by acknowledging in an article that regular troops were involved in the Kargil operation, said the "misadventure" was a "four-man show" and details were initially hidden from the rest of the military commanders.

When the operation began in the spring of 1999, it was known only to Musharraf, Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Mohammad Aziz, Force Command Northern Areas chief Lt Gen Javed Hassan and 10 Corps commander Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmad, Aziz told the Dawn newspaper.

Though former premier Nawaz Sharif has for long claimed that he had no information about the Kargil operation, Aziz said information he had gathered suggested Sharif was not kept "completely in the dark".

Aziz said he was personally not aware of what information had been shared with Sharif but recalled that another general had told him that Sharif had once asked during an informal discussion: "When are you giving us Kashmir?" This suggested that Sharif was not completely in the dark, Aziz said.

The former general's remarks are the first time someone from the senior military hierarchy has spoken in detail and with frankness about the Kargil conflict, the report said.

Aziz said the operation was a "failure" and the actual figure for Pakistani casualties was still not known.

"It was a failure because we had to hide its objectives and results from our own people and the nation. It had no purpose, no planning and nobody knows even today how many soldiers lost their lives," he said.

A majority of corps commanders and principal staff officers were kept in the dark and even then Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Tauqir Zia learnt about the operation after it had begun, said Aziz, who was the head of the analysis wing of the ISI in 1999. 

Musharraf worked on a policy of "need to know" throughout his tenure as army chief and later President, Aziz said.

Burma’s Kachin War: Renewed Ethnic Strife Threatens Regional Stability

Jan. 28, 2013

Soe Than Win / AFP / Getty Images

A soldier from the All Burma Students Democratic Front, an ally of the Kachin Independence Army, is seen outside Laiza, a town in Kachin state, Burma, on Sept. 22. 2012 

It’s a curious cease-fire that has supposedly settled over the Himalayan foothills of northern Burma. Since June 2011, when a 17-year truce dissolved, ethnic Kachin rebels have been locked in battle with the Burmese army, a conflict that has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced some 100,000 Kachin. On Jan. 19, the office of Burma’s President Thein Sein announced a unilateral cessation of violence in Kachin areas of the country. Yet the peace pledge has gone unheeded. Gunfire still crackles in this borderland with China, where the hills boast jade, timber and hydropower. In fact, over the past few days, the Burmese army has inched steadily toward Laiza, the rebel headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Only a few kilometers now separate the Burmese army from this last KIA stronghold. 

This may seem like a distant war in a remote corner of a remote country. But Kachin is a resource-rich region located at a strategic crossroad between Burma and China. “Because it borders China and because of what’s underground, Kachin is very important geopolitically,” says Matthew Smith, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. “That does not, however, totally explain the way the Burmese army conducts war there. That is related to the complex history of ethnic relations in Burma, and the plight of the Kachin is, ultimately, an ethnic war.” 

The Legacy Of The Silk Road

28 Jan 2013

In an era of tolerance, ancient Silk Road routes opened way to rich cultural exchange 

Despite all the talk in diplomatic circles of a new Silk Road and restoring trade in Central Asia, in actuality, these routes were among the least travelled in human history - possibly not worth studying if tonnage, traffic or the number of travellers at any one time were sole measures. The Silk Road found a place in history because of its rich cultural legacy in written records and artefacts, and because trade and tolerance were so intertwined. 

Trade was not the primary purpose of the Silk Road, more a network of pathways than a road, in its heyday. Instead, the Silk Road changed history, largely because the people who managed to travel along part or all of the Silk Road planted their cultures like seeds of exotic species carried to distant lands. Thriving in new homes, newcomers mixed with local residents and often absorbed other groups who followed. Sites of sustained economic activity, oasis towns like Turfan, Dunhuang or Khotan, enticed still others to cross over mountains and traverse oceans of sand. While not much of a commercial route, the Silk Road became the planet’s most famous cultural artery for the exchange between East and West of religions, art, languages and new technologies. 

We use the term “Silk Road” to refer generally to the exchanges between China and places farther to the west, specifically Iran, India and, on rare occasions, Europe. Most vigorous before the year 1000, these exchanges were often linked to Buddhism. 

And that’s why cities of Khotan and Kashgar in Xinjiang, northwestern China, are famous for their Sunday markets, where tourists can buy locally made crafts, naan and grilled mutton on skewers. As visitors watch farmers fiercely bargaining over the price of a donkey, it’s easy to imagine Xinjiang always this way, but that's an illusion. The predominantly non-Chinese crowds in the northwest prompt a similar reaction: Surely these are the direct descendants of the earliest Silk Road settlers. 

Ferocious, Weak and Crazy: The North Korean Strategy

January 29, 2013

North Korea's state-run media reported Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the country's top security officials to take "substantial and high-profile important state measures," which has been widely interpreted to mean that North Korea is planning its third nuclear test. Kim said the orders were retaliation for the U.S.-led push to tighten U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang following North Korea's missile test in October. A few days before Kim's statement emerged, the North Koreans said future tests would target the United States, which North Korea regards as its key adversary along with Washington's tool, South Korea. 

North Korea has been using the threat of tests and the tests themselves as weapons against its neighbors and the United States for years. On the surface, threatening to test weapons does not appear particularly sensible. If the test fails, you look weak. If it succeeds, you look dangerous without actually having a deliverable weapon. And the closer you come to having a weapon, the more likely someone is to attack you so you don't succeed in actually getting one. Developing a weapon in absolute secret would seem to make more sense. When the weapon is ready, you display it, and you have something solid to threaten enemies with. 

North Korea, of course, has been doing this for years and doing it successfully, so what appears absurd on the surface quite obviously isn't. On the contrary, it has proved to be a very effective maneuver. North Korea is estimated to have a gross domestic product of about $28 billion, about the same as Latvia or Turkmenistan. Yet it has maneuvered itself into a situation where the United States, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea have sat down with it at the negotiating table in a bid to persuade it not to build weapons. Sometimes, the great powers give North Korea money and food to persuade it not to develop weapons. It sometimes agrees to a halt, but then resumes its nuclear activities. It never completes a weapon, but it frequently threatens to test one. And when it carries out such tests, it claims its tests are directed at the United States and South Korea, as if the test itself were a threat. 

The Common Lessons of Benghazi, Algeria, Mali, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Arab Spring

Jan 28, 2013 

We are only beginning to adjust to the reality that we face at least a decade of constant upheavals in the Islamic world and nations with strong Islamic minorities. It is clear, however, that an underlying mix of failed secular regimes, weak economies and poor income distribution, demographic pressures, religious struggles within Islam, social change, and internal tensions specific to given countries will take at least that long to play out and end in some form of stability. 

This means that the US and its allies must seek to influence a series of conflicts and political struggles that will extend from Morocco to the Philippines that will reshape the entire Islamic world, and requires years of consistent US and allied effort to have any chance of success. 

A Decade or More of Struggles for Change and Stability 

The end result will not be war on terrorism, although it will involved many extremists and terrorist elements. It will be dealing with a clash within Islam -- rather than a clash between civilization – although its violence it will often spillover into the rest of the world. It will be a struggle to help nations deal with the broad range of forces that are currently causing so much instability in the Arab world, to modernize and evolve where they can and to help the new political factions that take power move towards as quickly and with as little violence as possible. 

Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present

January 15, 2013

“Historical accuracy and truth, . . . take a second place in Invisible Armies to the book’s highly politicized point of view . . .” 

In an interview shortly after the publication of his book Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present, Max Boot claimed that he did not make a “particular point” in the book, but aimed “simply to tell a story that has never been well told before.” 

After reading Invisible Armies, however, it is hard to take Mr. Boot’s remarks in this interview seriously. 

The story of guerrilla warfare actually has been told quite “well” before. Historian Robert Asprey’s still useful and relevant multivolume work War in the Shadows tells the story well and effectively with a level of embedded primary, archival research that Mr. Boot’s new book does not come close to. 

But the more fantastic remark by Mr. Boot, that his book does not make a “particular point” is pure moonshine. In fact the book does just that: It makes one big whopping point for current American politics and more importantly foreign policy: that guerrilla warfare has been around for thousands of years, as his tome quite aptly chronicles, and since it has been around for thousands of years—here comes the political point he is making—the United States should accept the fact that it must commit itself to fighting numerous guerrilla wars in the future. 

Never mind whether or not American strategy and security interests in the world demand fighting such wars. Instead for Mr. Boot simply because they have been fought in the past, America should keep fighting them in the future. For those American experts and policy wonks like Anne-Marie Slaughter who have been stridently advocating for American military intervention in places like Syria with a “responsibility to protect” local populations, Mr. Boot’s book will read like a policy prescription gussied up with the dash of history. 

Up in the Cloud: Hype and High Expectations for Cloud Computing

January 16, 2013

Cloud computing is a much hyped but often misunderstood technology that is gaining traction in different industries around the world. Businesses are integrating the cloud into countless systems, from HR to finance. Full adoption and acceptance of cloud computing, however, are still far away. 

A recent global survey by Knowledge@Wharton and SAP's Performance Benchmarking team reveals that while the hype and excitement surrounding cloud computing is reaching a fever pitch, many businesses are still expressing concerns over cloud security and IT integration issues. The survey also shows that while many people agree that the cloud is revolutionizing business, they still do not fully understand how it works. 

How will these tensions surrounding the cloud be resolved? How will the cloud transform businesses in the future? What kinds of benefits will the cloud bring, and is it worthy of the current hype? Knowledge@Wharton discussed those questions and the survey results with David Spencer, vice president at SAP, and Don Huesman, managing director at the Wharton Innovation Group. 

An edited transcript of the conversation appears below. 

Knowledge@Wharton: Knowledge@Wharton and SAP's Performance Benchmarking team just conducted a survey about the business value of cloud computing. The survey found that 85% of respondents believe that cloud computing will transform business. Could you speak to us about how cloud computing can make a company more competitive by leading to measurable efficiencies and improving business processes? 

Kashmir: Its Aborigines and their Exodus

January 28, 2013

Two very powerful books on Kashmiri Pandit (KPs) have hit the book stores recently – each complete with detailed historical, emotional and social accounts of the uprooting of a minority community without much succor by the state. South Asian Idea is analysing both the books to explain what they bring to the table. Thus far all accounts of reporting on this issue have been by journalists and authors from afar. These two books, Kashmir:Its Aborigines and their Exodus by Colonel Tej K Tikoo and Our Moon has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita, both written by Kashmiri Pandits of great scholarly credentials and both having left their homes to the violence in the aftermath of the seventh exodus of KPs from the valley post 1989 mayhem, are by far the most well researched and authentic accounts on the subject. Both these would provide the reference points for any further research and direction to scholars, policy makers and students of Kashmir. Both the books make a strong emotional appeal about the “genocide” leading to the exodus and the apparent lack of interest by successive governments in finding a solution due to poor vote bank politics. This post endeavours to review Col Tikoo’s “Aborigines” while we shall take on “Our Moon” in a subsequent post as the two cannot be given a short shift. 

Kashmir its Aborigines and their Exodus by Colnel Tej K Tikoo (Lancer publishers pp 679 Rs 895) traces the repeated historical exodus of KPs from Kashmir since the arrival of Islam in Kashmir in the fourteen century. The book has painstaking chronicled the saga of each of these while spending a great deal of effort on the exodus of over 3,50,000 KPs who were forced to flee en mass leaving their home and hearth. Rightly labeling this as the single largest forced displacement of people of a community after India’s partition, Tikoo laments the indifference of the centre and state apparatus in ameliorating the condition of KPs since 1989. It is here that he questions the Nation’s multi cultural Liberal and secular democracy . 

India sends the right message to Pakistan

Lt Gen Nirbhay Sharma (retd)
29 Jan 2013

The recent incident of the Pakistan Army beheading two Indian soldiers has outraged the nation. To safeguard national interest, our resolution to employ the full spectrum of options at the tactical and strategic levels should be firm and clearly

The recent barbaric act by the Pakistani Army has evoked a legitimately angry response across the country. The disappointment is heightened by the fact that India and Pakistan were working towards normalising relations. After the initial fire and fury, there is now a belief that the situation is relatively under control. This assumption may be misleading, unless the dynamics of the Line of Control (LoC) and its violations are fully comprehended. The drivers of this act and their motivations have also to be clearly identified and a comprehensive response enunciated. Failing this, such tragedies will continue to recur and may even spin out of control beyond redemption.

Indian soldiers patrol the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. The Army has to not only defend it, but also prevent infiltration through gaps in between border outposts, much of it which is in bad weather, difficult terrain and in proximity of the enemy 

The LoC owes its origin to the ceasefire that came into effect in the State of Jammu and Kashmir on January 1, 1949. The two opposing armies then dug in their heels where they were and have stood confronting each other since then. It is a unique situation with no parallels worldwide. The LoC is 740 kilometres long and runs through undulating, forested and mountainous terrain with heights ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 feet and temperatures becoming as low as minus 20 degrees centigrade. To give a sense of scale, the LoC has more than a lakh of armed men in uniform manning it 24x7. While the Pakistani Army, along with its “strategic assets” defends the line, the Indian Army has to not only defend it, but also prevent infiltration through gaps in between the border outposts (BOPs). Much of it is in bad weather, difficult terrain conditions and in proximity to each other. It does not follow a well defined tactical alignment for the most part and is therefore, subject to military vulnerabilities. 

No sweetening this bitter pill

January 29, 2013
K. Sujatha Rao 

Unless the government regulates the growth of the private sector and makes it accountable, the worn-down public health infrastructure cannot be revitalised 

The absence of a well thought out policy framework for strengthening the health system is the most important issue facing the health sector in India. In the government, there is no clarity on what the nation’s health system should be 10 years hence. Should it be a public sector dominated system like Brazil or China; or a regulated private-led like the U.S.; or one where both sectors function but have only one payer as in the U.K.? In Japan, delivery is private but the government sets the prices. Each option has its costs, benefits, tradeoffs and systems to ensure control on costs and quality. 


India is a unique laissez faire model with a private sector-led health system that is unregulated and has no rules of the game spelt out, not even as minimal as those laid down for opening a liquor shop. And so, one can set up a nursing home in a residential colony; throw infectious waste anywhere, charge any amount that the market allows and have no systems of oversight to assure quality. The private sector is further incentivised by excise duty waivers, subsidised loans for establishing hospitals, tax breaks and a liberalised health insurance market with tax exemptions for the premium. 

In the true spirit of democracy

January 29, 2013
By B. Surendra Rao 

Guha asserts his voice as a liberal who would not stay supine, but would fight his corner vigorously 

A sure test and one of the abiding pleasures of democratic living is to be perennially dissatisfied with it. But it needs a clear-headed auditor-chronicler to see how far the experiment has been worth its while, both in terms of appreciating its possibilities or limitations and the sincere energy that has gone into it as investment. 

Ramachandra Guha has been one such chronicler, who, in 15 new or refurbished essays, has once again, tried to show the travels and travails of post-Independence India, or, “explore different facets of the Republic of India’s heroic and flawed compact with nationhood and democracy.” 

A fine historical sensibility of the author has both harnessed and tamed the experiential aspect of it all; and, told in felicitous prose, Patriots and Partisans makes compelling reading. 

But it is not a love-all book. No serious book in search of an Idea of India can be. In fact, it asserts the voice of a liberal, who would not stay supine, but would fight his corner vigorously. 

In many of the essays the author has detailed his disagreements with the Congress, the Sangh Parivar, and the parliamentary Left. His admiration for the Mahatma, Jawaharlal Nehru and Ambedkar as the makers of the Indian nation is loud and clear, and so is his exasperation with the political culture of ‘chamchagiri’ of the Congress under Indira Gandhi and thereafter. 

Indian Scholarship on International Relations and Multilateralism

By  DeepshikhaVol - XLVIII No. 05, 
February 02, 2013

Despite opinions to the contrary, there is much to take away from Indian scholarship in the field of international relations. The originality of Indian scholarship lies in establishing multilateralism as a temporally and spatially contingent concept, the normative and institutional dimensions of which vary in time and space. Indian scholarship views multilateralism as more regional than universal, more dynamic than static and more normative than institutional.

LoC violence a conspiracy by Pak Army to disrupt democracy

January 25, 2013

The Pakistan Army  has indulged in a heinous crime to aggravate tensions with India and use it as a pretext to postpone the forthcoming general election, says Alok Bansal

The recent killing of two soldiers of the Indian Army in Poonch Sector across the Line of Control and subsequent decapitation of one of the bodies has expectedly raised the temperatures in both the countries. 

Skirmishes and firings across the LoC, despite the ceasefire, are nothing new and have been going on for a number of years, but the latest incidents were not ordinary and need greater analysis. 

Firing is usually resorted to by Pakistani troops to facilitate infiltration of militants across the LoC. However, January is not the month for infiltration. The weather does not allow for movement across high mountain passes and this time of the year is generally not used for infiltration. 

More significantly, the Pakistani troops took an extra risk while crossing the barbed wire fence and indulged in the barbaric and inhuman act of beheading an Indian soldier. Although there has been a history of such macabre killings by Pakistani troops, the sheer brazenness of the attack and the timing was unique and was intended to provoke the Indians. 

The Indian response, which led to the alleged killing of another Pakistani soldier, was along expected lines. 

Some Indian and Pakistani commentators have tried to justify the Pakistani action, terming it a response to an alleged Indian attack on a Pakistani post. However, if the intent was just retaliation, that could have been achieved by firing across the LoC. 

He came, he saw, and he did not conquer

By  Sandhya Jain 

29 Jan 2013

Cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri made a sudden landing in Pakistan from Canada, addressed a large gathering and threatened the Government in Islamabad with dire consequences if it did not quit. Then he returned 

Though the ‘Pakistan Spring’, launched with fanfare at Lahore on December 23, 2012, fizzled out when the January 15 Islamabad rally failed to gather momentum, its enduring lesson is that nations targeted for ‘revolution’ by foreign-returned messiahs must subject the putative saviours to close scrutiny. 

Someone in Pakistan would have been alerted that Canadian-Pakistani dual citizen, Tahir-ul-Qadri, founder of the political party, Pakistan Awami Tehreek, and voluntary organisation, Minhaj-ul-Quran, had roused the fury of scholars at the prestigious Al Azhar seminary for assuming the title ‘Shaykh-ul-Islam’. The angry scholars pointed out that Pakistan is not an Islamic state on the lines of Turkey under the Khulafa Uthmani where Shaykh-ul-Islam was also an appointed position endorsed by the Khalifa. Hence, no authority in Pakistan or Egypt can sanction this title. 

Shaykh-ul-Islam, as per authorities such as Allamah Shams El-Din El-Sakhawi, “is a title attributed to that follower of the Book of Allah Most High and the example of His Messenger, who possesses the knowledge of the principles of the Science (of Religion), has plunged deep into the different views of the scholars, has become able to extract the legal evidences from the texts, and has understood the rational and the transmitted proofs at a satisfactory level.” 

Mr Qadri roused scepticism when he addressed the Islamabad rally in English; he also spoke in Urdu. Earlier, in August 2010, he ran a week-long anti-terrorism camp for Muslim youth at the University of Warwick to tackle extremism in the UK. Friends who saw him there noted he spoke in English in an era when jihadis are spewing Arabic! It was obvious he could not attract the youth moving toward the jihadis; he must have been in the UK for some other purpose. 

America's Three Lousy Options in Afghanistan

January 28, 2013

Kabul, Afghanistan :-
Compromise, conflict, or collapse: ask an Afghan what to expect in 2014 and you're likely to get a scenario that falls under one of those three headings. 2014, of course, is the year of the double whammy in Afghanistan: the next presidential election coupled with the departure of most American and other foreign forces. Many Afghans fear a turn for the worse, while others are no less afraid that everything will stay the same. Some even think things will get better when the occupying forces leave. Most predict a more conservative climate, but everyone is quick to say that it's anybody's guess. 

Only one thing is certain in 2014: it will be a year of American military defeat. For more than a decade, U.S. forces have fought many types of wars in Afghanistan, from a low-footprint invasion, to multiple surges, to a flirtation with Vietnam-style counterinsurgency, to a ramped-up, gloves-off air war. And yet, despite all the experiments in styles of war-making, the American military and its coalition partners have ended up in the same place: stalemate, which in a battle with guerrillas means defeat. For years, a modest-sized, generally unpopular, ragtag set of insurgents has fought the planet's most heavily armed, technologically advanced military to a standstill, leaving the country shaken and its citizens anxiously imagining the outcome of unpalatable scenarios. 

The first, compromise, suggests the possibility of reaching some sort of almost inconceivable power-sharing agreement with multiple insurgent militias. While Washington presses for negotiations with its designated enemy, "the Taliban," representatives of President Hamid Karzai's High Peace Council, which includes 12 members of the former Taliban government and many sympathizers, are making the rounds to talk disarmament and reconciliation with all the armed insurgent groups that the Afghan intelligence service has identified across the country. There are 1,500 of them. 

A License to Publish: Burma’s Insurance against a Free Press

By Rob Cuthbert 
January 25, 2013

Aung Naing at an office in Rangoon on August 1 2012. Photo Credit: Chris Davy 

On the surface, Rangoon is a city that is rotting from without. Significant civic investment has been on hiatus for 60 years. Architecturally, the Burmese government and its people have chosen to invest in interiors, rather than exteriors. The exterior of the high-rise I visited on a summer night in 2012 was in a state of conspicuous decay, but within the building, the office in which I sat was clean, and furnished in a way that could facilitate lucrative business meetings. Time and money had been spent on the office that were absent from the building that housed it, the pocked roads that abutted it, and the crumbling city that encircled it. Most capital that is spent in Burma, whether it is financial or intellectual, benefits the few and does not benefit the many. Burma is a country where lack of transparency is manifold, and interiors and exteriors, both literal and figurative, are out of synch. 

However, in Burma, even if the buildings in Rangoon are literally moldering, figurative exteriors are becoming consequential. For example, if Burma wants to take a regional leadership role as the chair of ASEAN in 2014, it needs the conspicuous trappings of a civil society.[1] To this end, in 2012, Burma, one of Southeast Asia’s most repressive governments, unexpectedly repealed some of the more restrictive portions of its oppressive media law.[2]

That night, inside the well-furnished office where I sat, young Burmese journalists held a farewell party for Ko Aung Naing, the 43-year-old editor-in-chief of Education Digest, the sole education journal licensed by the Burmese government.[3] The day before, Ko Aung Naing had resigned his position in protest, ostensibly because of conflict over content with U Win Aung, the owner of Education Digest.[4] As they ate and drank, loyal members of Ko Aung Naing’s staff mourned his departure, and they worried about how they would fare without his leadership. He had run Education Digest for 28 issues without a significant confrontation with the Burmese government. Toward the end of the night, Ko Aung Naing addressed his staff for the last time: 

Myanmar’s Kachin problem needs political touch

January 29, 2013

END THE GUNFIRE: The conflict also damages Myanmar's credibility as it happens when the international community has begun to show interest in its development. The picture is of a peace march in Yangon calling for a halt to the conflict. Photo: AP 

The country can ignore the ethnic minorities’ demand for autonomy only at the risk of hurting its democratic transition 

Almost all ethnic armed groups have successfully signed ceasefire agreements with the Burmese government. The Kachin Independence Organization, with its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA), is the only major armed group still battling the Burmese army. 

Along with the Chins, the Shans and the Burmans, the Kachins signed the historic Panglong agreement to form the Union of Burma in 1947, a year before the country’s independence from the British. However, in post-independence Burma, the Kachins felt betrayed and discriminated by the Burmese central government. 

The Kachins were denied autonomy that was agreed in principle during the Panglong conference. Moreover, the Kachins, who are mostly Christians, opposed the introduction of Buddhism as the state religion by the government of Prime Minister U Nu during the first parliamentary democracy. 

An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove: Reclaiming the French art of Statecraft

28 January 2013


France has now been engaged in Mali for two weeks. The intervention seems to be typical of the “French touch” by combining a degree of initial improvisation, the right amount of aggressiveness and a difficult- but so far successful- integration with the lesser advanced African forces (something Huber called ‘compound warfare’). And for all those in doubt, yesterday’s operation on the Timbuktu airport involving an airborne assault, air and ground support, and an armoured column, shows that the French tactical and operational art is alive and well. I recommend to all those interested to read this story on the air war, and for the French-speaking readers these excellent analysis here and here

Many commentators have already discussed the Sahel’s importance in the fight against Islamist extremism, the medium-term challenges of transferring the bulk of the stabilization effort to African troops, and the long-term challenge of creating a stable Malian state mitigating the ethnical tensions and improving the inhabitant’s conditions of living. No doubt these challenges will prove much more difficult than the current operation, but nobody said that a military intervention would solve the area’s ethnic and social problems: it can only be part of a long-term process. 

Equally interesting is to look at the French diplomatic and strategic concerns and to put them in some perspective. France has a long tradition of articulating military power and diplomacy that dates back at least to Richelieu, and it is worth looking at the way these two elements interact in the recent French interventions. Obviously, the usual crowd of scholars and journalists were quick to dub the operations in Mali as “neo-colonialist.” This vague intellectual category is regularly used by lazy commentators to describe power relations in world politics. A quick look at the evidence (United Nations resolution, calls for assistance by the Malian government, broad regional support even including the yet incredibly short-sighted Algeria) suffices to discard this accusation. 

We Have No Idea if Africa Is Rising

JANUARY 28, 2013

Recent FP contributors have said that Africa is and is not rising. They're both wrong because they don't have the numbers to back it up. 

It's been fascinating to watch FP's recent debate on economic growth in Africa. Some commentators argue that African economies are destined to remain trapped in the bottom billion unless some sort of fundamental change occurs. Others beg to differ, speaking of a continent that's showing every indication of rapid progress. Yet, despite their wildly different interpretations, what's striking is that both camps base their arguments on the same set of numbers. 

Let's start by taking a look at the GDP time series evidence (data collected regularly over time) available from the World Bank and other data sources. According to these numbers, African economies have been growing at a rapid pace for more than a decade. Nor is that a new trend, if we trust the numbers. The statistics suggest, indeed, that Africa has experienced recurring periods of growth throughout its recent history. 

But what if we aren't sure about the GDP statistics? In fact, it turns out that these numbers are eminently debatable. Some recent statistical events remind us that African growth and income evidence doesn't tell us as much as we would like to think. 

Is America Training Too Many Foreign Armies?

JANUARY 28, 2013

Events in Mali show why it’s time to take a fresh look at the Pentagon’s military assistance programs. 

Gen. Carter Ham, the head of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), made an unusually blunt admission last week regarding the failure of U.S. military training to instill respect for human rights in a Malian army now accused of massacring Arabs and Tuaregs as it fights its way north into rebel-held territory. "We didn't spend probably the requisite time focusing on values, ethics, and a military ethos," Ham acknowledged, saying that most U.S. training for the Malians focused on tactics, strategy, and "technical matters." 

Since 1985, the United States has sponsored approximately 156 Malian military officers and non-commissioned officers at U.S. professional military schools and given them training focused on professionalizing the military forces. Over the past three years, this funding has reached at least roughly $400,000 annually, and it is possible U.S. intelligence agencies have also funneled in support as well. Sadly, Mali is hardly an isolated case of U.S. military assistance programs operating with dangerously little oversight and lacking a compelling central rationale. There are many examples of successful U.S. military training programs, but lots of headline cases that have gone badly wrong over the years -- from training Indonesian troops that carried out atrocities in East Timor to the billions poured into the Egyptian military to the scores of tainted graduates from the School of the Americas that ran riot in Central America during the 1980s. 

US Cyber Command gets new teeth for online warfare

Jan 28th 2013

The US Cyber Command division, the Pentagon’s cybersecurity team established to tackle a new age of digital threats, will be considerably expanded with new specialists in both offensive and defensive technologies, the Defense Department has confirmed. A trio of task-forces will be established, populated with a fresh intake of experts, with the division “constantly looking to recruit, train, and retain world class cyberpersonnel” a spokesperson told the NYTimes. Recent attacks on US infrastructure left the Defense Department convinced that it needed to bolster its own forces. 

The three new divisions will deal with more traditional issues of security, as well as toughening up defenses around US infrastructure. The “cyber protection forces” will be responsible for keeping the Pentagon’s own systems secured, while the “national mission forces” will play a similar role for broader infrastructure, such as the US power grid and other essential components vital to keeping the country moving. 

Pentagon to boost cybersecurity force

By Ellen Nakashima,
January 28, 2013

The Pentagon has approved a major expansion of its cybersecurity force over the next several years, increasing its size more than fivefold to bolster the nation’s ability to defend critical computer systems and conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries, according to U.S. officials. 

The move, requested by the head of the Defense Department’s Cyber Command, is part of an effort to turn an organization that has focused largely on defensive measures into the equivalent of an Internet-era fighting force. The command, made up of about 900 personnel, will expand to include 4,900 troops and civilians.

Details of the plan have not been finalized, but the decision to expand the Cyber Command was made by senior Pentagon officials late last year in recognition of a growing threat in cyberspace, said officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the expansion has not been formally announced. The gravity of that threat, they said, has been highlighted by a string of sabotage attacks, including one in which a virus was used to wipe dat a from more than 30,000 computers at a Saudi Arabian state oil company last summer. 

The plan calls for the creation of three types of forces under the Cyber Command: “national mission forces” to protect computer systems that undergird electrical grids, power plants and other infrastructure deemed critical to national and economic security; “combat mission forces” to help commanders abroad plan and execute attacks or other offensive operations; and “cyber protection forces” to fortify the Defense Department’s networks.

Targeting ‘malicious actors’ 

Although the command was established three years ago for some of these purposes, it has largely been consumed by the need to develop policy and legal frameworks and ensure that the military networks are defended. Current and former defense officials said the plan will allow the command to better fulfill its mission.

Is America In Decline May Be Wrong Question

29 Jan 2013

The American Century is dead. Long live the next American Century. 

The subtext of political debate these days is that the United States is in decline - a proposition often portrayed as self-evident. The economy lacks dynamism; unemployment near 8 percent remains at recession levels. The president and his Republican critics barely talk to each other; stalemate seems unending. But what if America isn't in decline? A powerful rebuttal comes from an unlikely place: Wall Street. 

In a report to clients, analysts at Goldman Sachs argue that the United States still has the world's strongest economy - and will have for years. There is a growing "awareness of the key economic, institutional, human capital and geopolitical advantages the U.S. enjoys over other economies," contend Goldman's analysts.

As proof, they deploy voluminous facts. For starters, the U.S. economy is still the world's largest by a long shot. Gross domestic product (GDP) is almost $16 trillion, "nearly double the second largest (China), 2.5 times the third largest (Japan)." Per capita GDP is about $50,000; although 10 other countries have higher figures, most of the countries are small - say, Luxembourg. The size of the U.S. market makes it an attractive investment location. 

Next, natural resources. In a world ravenous for food and energy, the United States has plenty of both. Its arable land is five times China's and nearly twice Brazil's. The advances in "fracking" and horizontal drilling have opened vast natural gas and oil reserves that, until recently, seemed too expensive to develop. The International Energy Agency predicts that the United States will become the world's largest oil producer - albeit temporarily - by 2020. 

In turn, the oil and gas boom bolsters employment. A study by IHS , a consulting firm, estimates that it has already created 1.7 million direct and indirect jobs. By 2020, there should be 1.3 million more, reckons IHS. Secure and inexpensive natural gas also encourages an expansion of U.S. manufacturing, Goldman argues. That's another plus. 

America in Recline

JANUARY 28, 2013 

Obama's foreign policy leans back from the world.

The centuries-long dispute over whether and how much the United States should intervene in world affairs may at last be headed toward a resolution. A prominent early view, held by many of the founding fathers and aptly summarized by John Quincy Adams, enjoined Americans not to "go abroad in search of monsters to destroy." In the 1930s, the "America First" political movement clearly grew from this perspective. The most recent exposition of the case for a far less activist foreign policy has come this month in the form of MIT Professor Barry Posen's admonition in Foreign Affairs to limit commitments, downsize the armed forces, and "pull back" from the world. 

The other side of the debate articulates a view about the crucial need to remain fully engaged in international affairs and has a similarly deep lineage, most notably going back to the Monroe doctrine (1823), which aimed to carve out a de facto hemispheric no-go zone for European colonial powers. President John F. Kennedy's call to in 1961 to "pay any price, bear any burden" in the cause of protecting liberty is also in sync with this perspective. As is the "lean forward" argument currently being advanced by Stephen Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William Wohlforth -- though they are much more cognizant of the need to be attentive to cost issues. 

It is all about the job, not the gender

By Donna McAleer 
January 28, 2013

Best Defense giant slalom correspondent 

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, upon the Joint Chiefs of Staff's unanimous recommendation, last week signed the repeal of the combat exclusion policy of 1994, opening more than 200,000 military jobs to women. This was a military decision endorsed by politicians about military readiness, strategic decision-making, and national security. 

More than a year ago, the Army chief of staff, General Raymond Odierno, said, "We need their talent. This is about managing talent. We have incredibly talented females who should be in those positions." This reflected an October 2010 decision by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to open two classes of nuclear submarines to women. 

Ground combat is paramount in the Army. The Army selects the majority of its senior leaders from ground combat branches. The 1994 combat exclusion policy prohibited women from serving in such units. This meant its most significant jobs, high command positions (division, corps, and chief of staff), only went to men with combat arms unit experience. 

With Secretary Panetta's decision, the law has now caught up to reality. The exclusion policy didn't keep women out of combat. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated this self-evident truth: bullets, RPGs, and IEDs know no gender. The policy did prevent women from officially gaining battlefield experience required for promotion to high command positions directly responsible for national security, e.g., combat command. 

In his letter of recommendation to Secretary Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said work remained regarding proper performance standards for those new military roles. He also listed "goals and milestones," with quarterly progress updates.