31 January 2013

India should Contribute Troops for Afghan Peace

By Gurmeet Kanwal 
January 31, 2013

The security situation in Afghanistan has gradually but perceptibly begun to slip out of control due to the rapid draw-down of coalition forces. The NATO-ISAF strategy to “clear-hold-transfer-exit” has only partially succeeded in achieving its political and military goals. Due to structural as well as functional deficiencies, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF, army and police) are unlikely to be capable of assuming independent charge of security by the end of 2014. 

Counter-insurgency operations are small-team operations in which success is heavily dependent on very high quality junior leadership. The standards of junior leadership in the ANSF leave much to be desired. Not only are the ANSF ill-trained and badly led, they are also poorly equipped. 

The ANSF lack high mobility vehicles like the US ‘humvees’ and are incapable of launching quick reaction teams to either come to the aid of besieged patrols and ambush parties or to exploit fleeting opportunities. The Afghan army lacks firepower resources as it has not been given any artillery. In fact, combat service support elements like light helicopters for casualty evacuation are almost completely non-existent. 

The rapid raising of new infantry battalions almost invariably results in a dilution in the quality of intake of recruits as the catchment area is limited. It also results in low standards of initial or basic training as the training period is reduced. Newly raised battalions in the best of armies take three to five years to settle down and build internal unit cohesion and esprit de corps. 

The Justice JS Verma Committee Report and the Armed Forces

31 Jan 2013

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) came under public gaze yet again when the Justice JS Verma Committee, set up to suggest amendments to criminal laws relating to crimes against women, submitted its 644 page report to Union Home Ministry on 23 Jan 13. The committee was mandated to submit its report within 30 days since it was convened under very challenging circumstances. This schedule was in keeping with the requirement to debate its recommendations along with the debate on amendments in criminal laws during the ensuing session of Parliament. 

The Committee commendably accomplished what it set out for within the given time. However, it is surprising and strange that the Committee chose to comment on the legitimacy of AFSPA. While it has recommended criminal liability on commanders for breach of command responsibility, the Committee did not think it prudent to interact with any of the serving / retired Armed Forces personnel or with anyone from the Ministry of Defence or the Army Headquarters or the Judges and Advocate General Department of the Army, who could have submitted their views on this sensitive subject. On the other hand, before formulating its recommendations, the Committee interacted with various serving and retired individuals from police, bureaucracy and judiciary as well as groups from length and breadth of country, of which 100 such individuals and nine government institution find mention at Appendix 2 of the report. The Armed Forces and the AFSPA have thus been condemned without being heard, a procedure definitely violative of the principles of natural justice. 

Coming to the specific issues which find mention in the report and which need special scrutiny by the Armed forces keeping in view the peculiar circumstances and situations of their deployment in conflict / border areas, the Committee has claimed to have noticed in Chapter Five, under the sub section ‘Offences against Women in Border Areas / Conflict Zones’, that “impunity for systematic or isolated sexual violence in the process of Internal Security duties is being legitimised by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which is in force in large parts of our country”.

The United States and Central Asia after 2014

By Jeffrey Mankoff , Contributor: Foreword by Andrew C. Kuchins 
Jan 30, 2013 

The war in Afghanistan has led the United States and its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) partners to pay unprecedented attention to Central Asia as a staging ground and strategic rear. With the impending drawdown of international forces from Afghanistan, Central Asia will cease being on the front lines of U.S. global strategy, particularly as Washington shifts its focus to the Asia-Pacific region and reins in defense spending after more than a decade of war. These shifts threaten to undermine Central Asia’s precarious stability, which could in turn create new problems for the United States and the broader international community. As the United States transitions away from its decade-plus focus on the Afghan war, it will need to remain engaged not only in Afghanistan but also next door in Central Asia. U.S. engagement should focus on strengthening intraregional cooperation and bolstering the resiliency of Central Asia’s weak states. 

In the short run, Central Asia will continue to matter to the United States because of its internal fragility and the potential for state breakdown, which could increase the dangers posed by conflict, refugee flows, crime, radicalization, and terrorism. Central Asia’s weak states are at odds among themselves and are incapable of addressing the threats of crime, drugs, and extremism coursing through the region. Central Asia is also at risk in the longer term of again becoming the focal point for great power rivalries involving the West, Russia, and increasingly China. A renewed geopolitical “Great Game” would, however, only distract these outside powers from the dangers that Central Asia’s fragility poses to all of them as transnational criminal groups and jihadists increasingly secure a toehold. Renewed strategic competition between the outside powers would further undermine stability within Central Asia. Uncertainty surrounding the future of Afghanistan and the role of the United States exacerbates the problem.
Publisher CSIS 


Is Pakistan's Behavior Changing?

By Frederic Grare 
January 30, 2013 

Islamabad has been trying to send signals over the last few months indicating that it is pursuing a new course of action, both internally and externally, that is more in line with international norms. Pakistan has tried to improve its relationship with India. It has also indicated a preference for a negotiated peace in Afghanistan and demonstrated a new attitude toward terrorism. 

Of course, claims that Pakistan’s policies are changing in one way or another are not new. And in the past, the status quo ante has almost always prevailed. But this could be different. 

Subscribe The context is different this time. The looming international troop withdrawal from Afghanistan brings considerable risks for the region in general and for Pakistan in particular. Islamabad fears that, come 2014, it will face an unstable Afghanistan and find itself isolated regionally and globally. 

For the United States, as new faces enter the Departments of State and Defense, reasonably good relations with Pakistan are a prerequisite for a dignified and safe exit from Afghanistan. Politically, their main challenge will be to work out necessary compromises with Islamabad without risking further deterioration of the regional situation, which could affect Washington’s larger strategic objectives in Asia. 

In this context, understanding Pakistan’s new policies and their limits is key. Change in Pakistan’s relations with India and Afghanistan and in its sponsorship of terrorism for political purposes is real but does not yet indicate a fundamental shift in strategic thinking. The shift thus far has been prompted by short-term considerations and reflects Pakistan’s weakness and isolation. However, if the tentative changes lead to improvement in the country’s economy and security, a meaningful shift in Pakistan’s strategic character could take hold. 

Revolution in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

31 Jan 2013

Saudi Arabia is the world’s last absolute monarchy. Like Louis XIV, King Abdullah has complete authority to do as he likes. But while a revolution in Saudi Arabia is still not likely, the Arab Awakening has made one possible for the first time, and it could come in President Obama’s second term. 

Revolutionary change in the kingdom would be a disaster for American interests across the board. Saudi Arabia is America’s oldest ally in the Middle East, a partnership that dates to 1945. The United States has no serious option for heading off a revolution if it is coming; we are already too deeply wedded to the kingdom. Obama should ensure the best possible intelligence is available to see a crisis coming and then try to ride the storm. 

Still, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a proven survivor. Two earlier Saudi kingdoms were defeated by the Ottoman Empire and eradicated. The Sauds came back. They survived a wave of revolutions against Arab monarchies in the 1950s and 1960s. A jihadist coup attempt in 1979 seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca but was crushed. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda staged a four-year insurrection to topple the Sauds and failed less than a decade ago. Saudi al Qaeda cadres remain in the kingdom and next door in Yemen. 

Today the Arab Awakening presents the kingdom with its most severe test to date. The same demographic challenges that prompted revolution in Egypt and Yemen, a very young population and very high underemployment, apply in Saudi Arabia. Extreme gender discrimination, long-standing regional differences, and a restive Shia minority add to the explosive potential. In recognition of their vulnerability, the Saudi royals have spent more than $130 billion since the Arab Awakening began to try to buy off dissent at home. They have made cosmetic reforms to let women sit in a powerless consulting council. 

Abroad they have sent tanks and troops across the King Fahd Causeway to stifle revolution in Bahrain, brokered a political deal in Yemen to replace Ali Abdullah Salih with his deputy, and sought closer unity among the six Gulf Cooperation Council monarchies. They also have invited Jordan and Morocco to join the kings’ club. But they are pragmatists too and have backed revolutions in Libya and Syria that fight old enemies of the kingdom. 

Another US mini-base for Africa (big surprise)

By Thomas P.M. Barnett
January 29, 2013

Harkening back to my favorite piece of on-the-ground journalism for Equire (The Americans Have Landed), recall that I spoke then about a network of mini-bases that was coming. It was naturally derided by officials as hype back then, but it continues to unfold with each passing year. 

Of course, my imagined network was more capacity-building in orientation, per the work of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, and yet, in telling that story I had to mentioned why CJTF-HOA was created in the first place - namely, as a picket line to catch bad actors exiting the PG for Africa. I also started the piece with a description of how an FOB (forward operating base) in Kenya was used to launch a SOF strike package against a wanted AQ character in southern Somalia (just across the border). 

So no illusions about the driver back then, just some hope that the mini-bases would contain more than just the essential strike package assets. 

But AFRICOM has evolved since then, and the harder focus is clear: killing bad actors comes first, second and third. In that, this story is a microcosm of Obama's symmetricizing impact on the Long War: they want us dead and he wants them dead. As a strategy of limited regret (and costs), it cannot be beat - sad to say. It just still puts us in the business of a silent and limited-liability partnership with the Chinese - as in, we clear and they hold. 

My argument in this regard remains unchanged: there is a cynicism in only clearing and not caring all that much about what holds (or just falls apart again). There is also a missed opportunity in not working more explicitly with the "holder" of note, especially when you're setting the stage for possible great-power war with the same in another region (actually the center of gravity right now in globalization). If that combination is not "required" by history (the Obama argument), then the resources are there for a more responsible effort in the Long War - especially if the Chinese are slowly enlisted in protecting their own national interests. 

Managing Risks: A New Framework

By Robert S. Kaplan and Anette Mikes 

31 Jan 2013

Editors’ Note: Since this issue of HBR went to press, JP Morgan, whose risk management practices are highlighted in this article, revealed significant trading losses at one of its units. The authors provide their commentary on this turn of events in their contribution to HBR’s Insight Center on Managing Risky Behavior. 

When Tony Hayward became CEO of BP, in 2007, he vowed to make safety his top priority. Among the new rules he instituted were the requirements that all employees use lids on coffee cups while walking and refrain from texting while driving. Three years later, on Hayward’s watch, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, causing one of the worst man-made disasters in history. A U.S. investigation commission attributed the disaster to management failures that crippled “the ability of individuals involved to identify the risks they faced and to properly evaluate, communicate, and address them.” Hayward’s story reflects a common problem. Despite all the rhetoric and money invested in it, risk management is too often treated as a compliance issue that can be solved by drawing up lots of rules and making sure that all employees follow them. Many such rules, of course, are sensible and do reduce some risks that could severely damage a company. But rules-based risk management will not diminish either the likelihood or the impact of a disaster such as Deepwater Horizon, just as it did not prevent the failure of many financial institutions during the 2007–2008 credit crisis. 

In this article, we present a new categorization of risk that allows executives to tell which risks can be managed through a rules-based model and which require alternative approaches. We examine the individual and organizational challenges inherent in generating open, constructive discussions about managing the risks related to strategic choices and argue that companies need to anchor these discussions in their strategy formulation and implementation processes. We conclude by looking at how organizations can identify and prepare for nonpreventable risks that arise externally to their strategy and operations. Managing Risk: Rules or Dialogue? 

The first step in creating an effective risk-management system is to understand the qualitative distinctions among the types of risks that organizations face. Our field research shows that risks fall into one of three categories. Risk events from any category can be fatal to a company’s strategy and even to its survival. 

A Missile in the Monkey’s Shadow?

January 31, 2013 

Iran has successfully sent a monkey to space and also retrieved it back alive. Has Iran thereby “made a ‘monkey’ of its adversaries”? Or was this demonstration just a smokescreen to experiment with its ballistic missile capabilities? Or is it actually a signal to the rest of the world about Iran’s technological progress? 

On January 28, 2013 Iran’s space agency launched a monkey into space and brought it back safely to earth. Iran claims that the rocket carrying the monkey reached an altitude of 120 km. This makes Iran a state with a monkey astronaut! Iran attained this success in its second attempt. Earlier, in 2011, it had unsuccessfully tried to send a monkey into space. For the latest demonstration, Iran used the Kavoshgar rocket capsule named Pishgam (Pioneer). This was a relatively small rocket and the monkey's journey in space probably lasted between 12 and 15 minutes. But the fact remains that this successful mission has boosted the confidence of Iran’s scientific community, which views it as a prelude to sending humans into space by 2020. Iran’s love for sending animals into space is not new. Last year, it had dispatched a mouse, a turtle, and several worms into space. Incidentally, the Iranian monkey is not the first simian to visit space. During the Cold War era, the United States, USSR and France had sent monkeys into space. The first simian to visit space was a US monkey way back in 1959. 

Iran has been a late beginner in the business of space. Its space programme was established only in 2004, and its first satellite was launched only in 2009. Iran’s space programme has always been looked at with great suspicion by its adversaries mainly because of the missile angle attached to it. 

Rocket technology is a dual use technology. The technology used for launching satellites also has significant utility for the development of ballistic missiles. Hence, Iran’s ambition in space has always been challenged. The United Nations Security Council has imposed an almost total prohibition on Iran’s activities in the nuclear and space arena since 2007. Also, UNSC resolution 1929 (2010) prohibits Iran from undertaking activities that could lead to the development of platforms used in the delivery of nuclear weapons. 

Did Israeli Strike Target Syrian Chemical Weapons?

By Dan Ephron
Jan 30, 2013 

Israel attacked a convoy of trucks allegedly a shipment of nontraditional heavy weapons meant for Hezbollah at the Syrian border last night. 

Were the trucks that Israel targeted at the Lebanese border overnight transporting chemical weapons from Syria to its ally, the Islamic Hezbollah group? 

Not necessarily.

An Israeli F-15 Eagle fighter jet takes off from an Israeli Air Force base in November. Israel attacked a convoy of trucks at the Syrian border overnight. (Jack Guez/AFP, via Getty) 

Israeli officials have kept quiet since reports of the strike surfaced earlier today, neither confirming nor denying them. Reuters and other news agencies, citing Western diplomats and regional security sources, described a heavy presence of Israeli jets over Lebanon for much of the night. At least 12 Israeli planes took part in the attack, according to the reports. 

Israel is certainly worried about leakage from Syria’s vast arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, as the civil war there rages on and the regime continues to disintegrate. A top Israeli official said earlier in the day that the Air Force would respond at the first sign the nonconventional weapons were being moved. “Any development which is a development in a negative direction would be something that needs stopping and prevention,” Israel’s vice premier, Silvan Shalom, told Israel Radio. 

The Guerrilla Myth

18 Jan 2013
The Guerrilla Myth 

Unconventional wars are our most pressing national security concern. They're also the most ancient form of war in the world. Max Boot on the lessons of insurgency we seem unable to learn. 

Author Max Boot discusses his new book, "Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present," with WSJ weekend Review editor Gary Rosen. 

For a student of military history, the most astonishing fact about the current international scene is that there isn't a single conflict in which two uniformed militaries are pitted against each other. The last one was a brief clash in 2008 between Russia and Georgia. In our day, the specter of conventional conflict, which has dominated the imagination of the West since the days of the Greek hoplites, has almost been lifted. 

But the world is hardly at peace. Algeria fights hostage-takers at a gas plant. France fights Islamist extremists in Mali. Israel fights Hamas. The U.S. and its allies fight the Taliban in Afghanistan. Syria's Bashar al-Assad fights rebels seeking to overthrow him. Colombia fights and negotiates with the FARC. Mexico fights drug gangs. And various African countries fight the Lord's Resistance Army. 

These are wars without front lines, without neatly defined starting and end points. They are messy, bloody affairs, in which attackers, typically without uniforms, engage in hit-and-run raids and often target civilians. They are, in short, guerrilla wars, and they are deadly. In Syria alone, more than 60,000 people have died since 2011, according to the United Nations. In Mexico, nearly 50,000 have died in drug violence since 2006. Hundreds of thousands more have perished in Africa's civil wars. The past decade has also seen unprecedented terrorist attacks, ranging from 9/11 to suicide bombings in Iraq. To understand today's world, you have to understand guerrillas and the terrorist movements that are their close cousins. 

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images 

Fidel Castro gave firing instructions to guerrilla fighters in the Sierra Maestra, a mountainous region in the heart of Cuba. After a long guerrilla war begun in 1953, Fidel Castro overthrew the dictator Batistsa in 1958 and set up a socialist regime in Cuba. 

The Utility of Risk in International Security: Quo Vadis?

31 January 2013 

I want to speak a little about the idea of risk in the arena of international security. Current events, and a recent publication, have me thinking about this complicated topic. I am afraid, though, that my thoughts are not constrained by a singular focus, and are rather ambitious in their scope. So, Dear Reader, I invite you down the rabbit hole as we explore the twisted labyrinth that is my mind, at least as far as it concerns this topic. 

Risk is not a new subject, but it is not widely understood. This means that there are many offers of new wine, which often turn out to be nothing more than old plonk. Differences in meaning of key terms (such as threat, vulnerability, likelihood, and mitigation) often mean that eureka moments on the part of one author (or policy wonk) are nothing more than ‘bubbles in the tub’, to coin a phrase of which Archimedes would be proud. 

Look inside, as well as out 

That said, a helpful (if not genuinely novel, despite titular claims otherwise) way of looking at risks was recently published in the Harvard Business Review (written by Robert S. Kaplan and Anette Mikes). While the focus of the article is “The Firm”, I believe it has applicability to states and international security. The authors divide the risks facing an organization into three categories. The first are labeled ‘preventable risks’. While this moniker is somewhat unfortunate, these risks are the kind of ‘own goals’ that organizations should strive to eliminate. Rogue traders, crooked officials, unsafe work practices—these all represent internal, and therefore supposedly controllable, risks to success for companies. 

The second category of risks is labeled by Kaplan and Mikes as ‘strategy risks’. These risks are based on the choices made by Firms as they carry out their business. This kind of risk derives from the ways in which companies try and capture value within the market. Should a company commence operations in Myanmar? Or partner with BlackBerry? Should a company give away its online content for free or put it behind a pay-wall? Each of these choices carries with it opportunities for success and failure. These risks, too, are supposedly controllable, in that a company is able to take the initiating decisions itself. The ‘no risk, no reward’ mantra operates within this space. Taking the safe route problem means a company may miss out on some potential for profit. As Pliny the Elder opined, “audentes fortuna iuvat”. Of course, there are no guarantees: the outcomes or impacts of the decisions made by firms are neither predictable nor controllable. If they were—if perfect knowledge of the market as imagined by economists actually existed—I (and everyone else) would be rich instead of being a wage-slave. (But then you wouldn’t be able to enjoy my scribbling, either, as I am lazier than I am greedy. And wouldn’t we all be the poorer for that?) 

Death of irony in the age of media

Sankaran Krishna 
January 31, 2013

Although Ashis Nandy has explained the context in which he made his corruption remark, the furious pace of TV and Internet does not allow space for a re-evaluation 

As I watched the clip of Ashis Nandy, at the Jaipur Literature Festival, belligerently asserting that most of the corruption in India was the work of the Scheduled Castes (SC), the Scheduled Tribes (ST) and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), I thought to myself: “Okay, what is the sly old fox up to this time?” It was obvious to me that the statement was not meant to be taken literally but rather to make some other point. And sure enough, a few minutes of trawling the web furnished me with an adequate context. Having first pointed out that middle and upper class India’s exclusionary and nepotistic practices have been thoroughly normalised through a discourse of merit and just desserts, Mr. Nandy was asserting that the “corruption” stick was now wielded exclusively when lower castes and other marginalised groups engaged in practices similar to what the twice-born had been doing for centuries. He welcomed such corruption as to him, in a highly unequal and deeply hierarchical society, corruption may be a form of upward mobility for the disadvantaged. With characteristic flourish, Mr. Nandy declared that lower caste corruption gave him faith in Indian democracy and its future. 

Irritating reminder 

When the home minister speaks, every word has to be carefully chosen

By C Uday Bhaskar.
January 30, 2013

Distorting facts in relation to politics and religion and appeasing extremist ideology has grave long-term implications for India's security, feels C Uday Bhaskar.

Two recent developments in different parts of India draw attention to the very complex and troubled linkages in the corelation between politics, religion and the abiding challenge of terrorism. 

On January 20, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde made reference to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ] running terrorist training camps to incite Hindu terrorism during the Congress party's Chintan Shivir in Jaipur [ Images ]. 

In the course of the remarks, Shinde also dwelt on the BJP's cultural nationalism and felt this was a divisive approach that would weaken India's social fabric. 

In the predictable uproar that followed, both from the BJP and non-partisan citizens, Shinde sought to clarify his remarks by noting that what he had said was not startlingly new and that this was the dominant refrain in the national media. 

Specific attention was drawn to the Hyderabad and Malegaon terror attacks where innocent Muslim youth were apprehended with little evidence -- and later the involvement of right-wing Hindutva elements was revealed. 

The national response to Shinde's remarks and the linkage with 'saffron terror' was predictably irate and the Congress party was clearly on the defensive in the matter, though a few voices were seen to be supporting the home minister. 

In another incident, a local gurdwara in Panchkula, Haryana, refused the late Lieutenant General R S Dyal's family permission to conduct the bhog ceremonies related the distinguished soldier's death anniversary. 

Deep waters beckon Coast Guard

Jan 31, 2013 

By 2020, the Indian Coast Guard should be in a position to double its present 12 nautical miles territorial waters patrol zone to the 24 nautical miles contiguous zone

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG), which celebrates its 36th anniversary on February 1, 2013, is still trying to fulfil its originally mandated tasks. It was founded with the intention of creating a low-cost seagoing paramilitary force so as to police the vast 2.01 million square kilometers of the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which came into force under the Maritime Zones of India Act of 1976. 

This EEZ was created after the 1972 United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS), which awarded EEZs to all states with coastlines. The interim ICG was founded on February 1, 1977, when two small frigates, five small patrol boats and a few hundred Indian Navy officers and sailors were “transferred” to the newly formed service. The ICG was formally created by an act of Parliament on August 19, 1978. The first few Chetak helicopters were inducted in 1982, followed by a few fixed-wing F27 aircraft. This fledgling force was initially tasked with numerous responsibilities, which included enforcement of maritime laws in the EEZ, safety of life and property at sea, collection of scientific data, protection of fishermen, assistance to fishermen in distress at sea, protection and preservation of marine environment, prevention and control of marine pollution, assistance to customs and other authorities in anti-smuggling operations, safety and protection of artificial islands and offshore terminals. In addition, the ICG forms part of the Navy during wartime.

Despite the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts (in which Dawood Ibrahim’s gang had brought the explosives by sea from Pakistan), the ICG did not get the wherewithal it needed to secure India’s maritime zone and carry out other tasks. In 2005, force levels comprised 50-odd ageing vessels, six hovercraft and 44 aviation units (helicopters and aircraft), 22 shore stations, manned by a paltry 6,500 sailors and 700 officers.

Worry about Kerry

Harsh V Pant,
Jan 30, 2013

It is for Indian leaders to pursue strategic partnerships with like-minded nations and advance India’s interests.

As the US president, Barack Obama embarks on his second term, New Delhi is once again feeling the chill of a new administration in Washington. Sections of the Indian foreign policy making community are once again doing what they do best – crying hoarse over a possible change in the tone and tenor of US foreign policy.

Obama has a new cabinet line-up with John Kerry being nominated for the post of secretary of state, Chuck Hagel for the secretary of defence and John Bremmer as the head of the CIA. The US foreign policy is in a state of flux and some very significant changes are likely over the course of the next few years under the second Obama presidency. The most important issue in the short to medium term will be withdrawal of around 66,000 US troops from Afghanistan after more than a decade battling al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Like most nations around the world, New Delhi will also be impacted by the impending changes in the foreign policy priorities of Washington. But instead of debating the larger ramifications of these changes, the discussion in India today is reminiscent of the discussion in the country when Obama came to office for the first time in 2008. There were widespread concerns about Obama’s attitudes towards India after eight years of privileged position under George W Bush administration. 

George W Bush, deeply suspicious of communist China, was personally keen on building strong ties with India. Hence, he was willing to sacrifice long-held US non-proliferation concerns to embrace nuclear India and acknowledge it as the primary actor in South Asia, de-hyphenated from Pakistan. The Obama administration’s concerns in its initial months with protecting the non-proliferation regime, dealing with the immediate challenge of the growing Taliban threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and solving the unprecedented economic challenge led it to a very different set of priorities and an agenda in which India seemed to have a marginal role. The only context in which Obama mentioned India in his early months was related to the need to resolve Kashmir so as to find a way out of the west’s troubles in Afghanistan. To many Indians, the new administration seemed intent on sidelining India.

Zardari in difficult straits

Many factors may hit his party’s poll prospects

President Asif Ali Zardari appears set to go down in Pakistan's history as the first head of a democratically elected government to complete its full term, without having been destabilised, dismissed or ousted by a military coup. President Zardari was under constant siege not only from his hawkish Army Chief, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, but also from the country's mercurial Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry. The Chief Justice bears a deep grudge against the President because of the latter's disinclination to restore him to office after he was summarily sacked by President Musharraf in 2007. 

The empathy between the Chief Justice and General Kayani goes back to the days when as DG (ISI), then Lt-General Kayani was the only army officer close to Musharraf who did not harangue the Chief Justice when Musharraf summoned and summarily sacked him in 2007. Moreover, while pretending to be a champion of democratic freedoms, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had the dubious distinction of being among the first judges to sanctify the military coup by General Musharraf in October 1999. He was then Chief Justice of the Baluchistan High Court. 

While haranguing the elected government and seeking the arrest of two prime ministers, the Chief Justice has treaded very warily in dealing with serving army officers. His decision to order the arrest of the present Prime Minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, came even while he looked the other way at allegations of kickbacks and illegal cash transfers in shady property deals by his son Arsalan Iftikhar. Moreover, General Kayani himself now has a tainted reputation even within the ranks of the army because of serious allegations of corruption and irregularities on the transit of NATO supplies against his brother.

President Zardari's troubles were compounded by the strange and unexpected return to Pakistan Maulana Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Barelvi cleric, who controls a vast network of charities, running hundreds of schools, colleges, libraries and medical facilities, primarily in the populous army-dominated Punjab province. A majority of Pakistanis are Barelvis and constitute a powerful, though leaderless and disorganised, vote bank. 

A US-China entente in Afghanistan

By M K Bhadrakumar 
31 Jan 2013

The involvement of China in the decade-long war on terror in Afghanistan by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been virtually nil. This was so despite the Western alliance's repeated urgings on Beijing to raise its head above the parapet and become an active participant. 

The United States doggedly kept at arm's length persistent Russian overtures to become involved in NATO's war - except ruthlessly exploiting them to its selective advantage - but it kept an open mind on a role for China, which, incidentally, used to be its ally supporting the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s during the "jihad" against the Soviet army. 

Yet, while Moscow responded with alacrity to Washington's need 

for opening a Northern Distribution Network, Beijing did not even respond to the US's demarche to open the Wakhan Corridor as a transit route for supplying NATO troops in Afghanistan. 

The big question is whether all that is going to change now that the Western troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is a foregone conclusion. The signs point towards a more hands-on approach on the part of Beijing over the enterprise of stabilizing Afghanistan in the post-2014 period. In some ways, this also forms part of a reassessment of Chinese policies toward Central Asia. 

In retrospect, the visit by Zhou Yongkang, China's security chief and member of the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, to Kabul last September signified a shift in the Chinese stance from one of extreme wariness and reserve to one of willingness to become engaged. Zhou's visit was, of course, the first by a senior Chinese leader in 46 years and, indeed, Beijing pays much attention to formalism in its political culture. 

While in Kabul, Zhou signed agreements on increased security and economic cooperation between China and Afghanistan, which included a deal to "train, fund and equip" the 149,000-strong Afghan police, which was until then trained almost exclusively by NATO. Zhou's visit also followed talks held by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Beijing in June and the agreement reached during the visit on Sino-Afghan cooperation in combating terrorism in the region. 

Remembering 1960s Afghanistan, the photographs of Bill Podlich

By Dr. William Podlich 
Jan 28, 2013 

In 1967, Dr. William Podlich took a two-year leave of absence from teaching at Arizona State University and began a stint with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to teach in the Higher Teachers College in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he served as the “Expert on Principles of Education.” His wife Margaret and two daughters, Peg and Jan, came with him. Then teenagers, the Podlich sisters attended high school at the American International School of Kabul, which catered to the children of American and other foreigners living and working in the country. 

Outside of higher education, Dr. Podlich was a prolific amateur photographer and he documented his family’s experience and daily life in Kabul, rendering frame after frame of a serene, idyllic Afghanistan. Only about a decade before the 1979 Soviet invasion, Dr. Podlich and his family experienced a thriving, modernizing country. These images, taken from 1967-68, show a stark contrast to the war torn scenes associated with Afghanistan today. 

“When I look at my dad’s photos, I remember Afghanistan as a country with thousands of years of history and culture,” recalls Peg Podlich. “It has been a gut-wrenching experience to watch and hear about the profound suffering, which has occurred in Afghanistan during the battles of war for nearly 40 years. Fierce and proud yet fun loving people have been beaten down by terrible forces.” 

More of Dr. Podlich’s images are available on a website maintained by Peg’s husband Clayton Esterson. “I have taken on the role as family archivist and when Bill Podlich gave us his extensive slide collection, I immediately recognized the historical significance of the pictures.” says Esterson. “Many Afghans have written comments [on the website] showing their appreciation for the photographs that show what their country was like before 33 years of war. This makes the effort to digitize and restore these photographs worthwhile.” 

1 "I grew up in Tempe, Arizona, and when my dad offered my younger sister, Jan, and me the chance to go with him and our mother to Afghanistan, I was excited about the opportunity. I would spend my senior year in high school in some exotic country, not in ordinary Tempe... Of course, there were loads of cultural differences between Arizona and Afghanistan, but I had very interesting and entertaining experiences. People always seemed friendly and helpful. I never got into any real difficulties or scrapes, even though I was a fairly clueless teenager! Times were more gentle back then." - Peg Podlich (Pictured at right). #

Intolerant regime talks of love and compassion

By  Claude Arpi
30 Jan 2013

The Tibetan plateau received 11 million tourists in 2012, and the dose is expected to double. Meanwhile, China continues to make it difficult for the Tibetans to obtain even passports. Instead, it preaches humanity to them 

On the 18 day of the first month of the Water-Ox Year (in February 1913), Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, proclaimed the ‘independence’ of Tibet. 

He recalled his years of exile, first in China, after the Younghusband expedition entered Lhasa in 1904 and then in India, when a Chinese warlord occupied Tibet. Then the 13th Dalai Lama mentioned his triumphant return to the Land of Snows, the last Chinese having been chased away. He told his countrymen: “Tibet is a country with rich natural resources; but it is not scientifically advanced like other lands. We are a small, religious and independent nation.” 

For the Dalai Lama, it was crucial to militarily protect Tibet: “To keep up with the rest of the world, we must defend our country. In view of past invasions by foreigners, our people may have to face certain difficulties to safeguard and maintain the independence of our country; one and all should voluntarily work hard…” It was 100 years ago. 

When one looks at the situation in the Land of Snows a century later, one is shocked by the prevailing situation. After 99 recorded self-immolations, the Chinese authorities are daily strengthening their grip on the land and people of Tibet. They use different tactics for the purpose. First they speak of development, equating development with happiness. Most of the time, they use Tibetan puppets to convey their message. Take the small village of Metok, a few kilometres from the Indian border (north of the Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh). 

In an interview with a Chinese website, Dorji Wangdark, the deputy head of Metok County (and a delegate to the Regional People’s Congress presently being held in Lhasa), praised Beijing for having brought a road to his border village: “great chances have been brought to Metok since the highway linking Bomi County and Metok opened [in December 2010].” But Beijing does not only invest in roads and airfields; according to Xinhua “more than US$563 million will be used for major forestation projects and for compensating and rewarding locals who protect and grow grass and forests and conserve wetlands, lakes and water resources.” At the same time, natural resources such as minerals are extensively looted. 

LeT seeks foothold in Myanmar

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times
January 30, 2013 

The Indian government is sharing information with its eastern neighbours  Myanmar and Bangladesh  about the increasing role of Pakistan-based terrorists groups in events like the 2012 sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in the coastal Rakhine state of  Myanmar.

Among the most prominent groups is the Lashkar-e-Taiba. 

Senior Indian government sources say that intelligence inputs available to them indicated that Rohingya Muslim extremist activity was being funded mainly from groups in Saudi Arabia. 

The militant cadres were being trained by Pakistan-based terror groups and the weapons being sourced from Thailand. 

“Economic and social hardships faced by Rohingya refugees apart, the involvement of the minority group in arms smuggling. narcotics, safe sanctuaries for terror elements including setting up of training camps is going to be a major counter-terrorism challenge in the regional context,” said a senior Indian official. 

New Delhi’s primary concern is that the Pakistani militant groups will use recruits and cells in Myanmar and Bangladesh to carry out terrorist activities in the Northeast and try to encourage communal violence in places like Assam. 

India and Bangladesh, both of which have significant Rohingya Muslim refugee communities, have exchanged notes on the stepped-up operations by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and the Lashkar. 

China and Japan: the other side of the story

By Robert H Wade 
30 January, 2013

The current dispute between China and Japan over a few barren islands inhabited by goats — called Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese — looks at first sight to be a mere territorial spat. But it has escalated to a very dangerous level in recent months — first words, then actions of police forces, now actions of air forces, and, behind all these, both sides have mobilised all their military, political, economic, diplomatic, and cultural energies to engage in the dispute. It is more fundamental than normal territorial disputes, because the very identities of the two countries are at stake. 

A strong narrative has taken hold in the West and much of East Asia about China’s behaviour, which starts with the proposition that China is the provocateur. Examples include, “China sows new seeds of conflict with neighbours”; China has adopted an “increasingly sharp-elbowed approach to its neighbours, especially Japan”; “China...has launched a new campaign of attrition against Japan over the Senkaku islands.... Beijing has sought to challenge Japan’s decades-old control, despite the risk that an accident could spiral out of control”. 

Proposition two is that China’s more “sharp-elbowed” approach is driven by the government’s wish to divert public attention from China’s internal problems, notably slowing economic growth; not by actions of other states. 

Proposition three is that China’s “bold, brash, and brazen” behaviour has prompted the United States’ recent high-profile “pivot to Asia” as it winds down wars in West and Central Asia. In the words of an International Herald Tribune report, “the United States forges ahead with efforts to counter China’s influence in Asia...”, now welcomed in by previously more ambivalent allies. “In both Japan and South Korea, the perception of China has changed to being a threat and that has made the U.S. seem much more favourable as a source of security...”. The allies are also expanding security ties with each other “as a way to offset China’s growing presence.... But analysts say Japan will need to reverse a decline in military spending before Washington is convinced Tokyo is doing enough to keep China’s aspirations in check”. 

Unseen, all-out cyber war on the US has begun

By Bob Violino
29 January 13 

Security pros and government officials warn of a possible cyber 9/11 involving banks, utilities, other companies, or the Internet 

There's a war going on, and it's raging here at home -- not in the streets or the fields, but on the Internet. You can think of it as a war on the digital homeland. If you work for a power company, bank, defense contractor, transportation provider, or other critical infrastructure type of operation, your organization might be in the direct line of fire. And everyone can become collateral damage. 

A cyber war has been brewing for at least the past year, and although you might view this battle as governments going head to head in a shadow fight, security experts say the battleground is shifting from government entities to the private sector, to civilian targets that provide many essential services to US citizens. 
Also in this channel 

The cyber war has seen various attacks around the world, with incidents such as Stuxnet, Flame, and Red October garnering attention. Some attacks have been against government systems, but increasingly likely to attack civilian entities. US banks and utilities have already been hit

Is America in Decline ?

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. 

Life in a G-Zero World

By Francis Fukuyama
28 Jan 2013

The nature of world politics has changed more rapidly in the past four years than anyone expected. From the fall of the Berlin Wall up to the financial crisis of 2008, the United States had enjoyed a unprecedented period of hegemony. A decade ago, the US defense budget by itself was larger than the combined defense budgets of all other countries in the world combined, and the US felt free to launch a “war of choice” in Iraq. 

While the US remains the dominant military power, its weakened financial condition today means that it is much less willing to use it. The Obama administration’s reluctance to take leading roles in the crises in Libya, Syria, and now Mali are evidence of a shift to a much more passive role. And with the ongoing euro crisis, it is not clear than the European powers are going to fill in this void anytime soon. 

What is world politics in this G-O world going to look like? The issue is most acute for Japan and other countries that have been close US allies, that will face critical choices as American power retreats. 

After the end of the Second World War, the United States constructed an international system in which it unilaterally provided a number of key international public goods. This system began with its network of alliances in Europe and Asia, built to contain the Soviet Union. By paying for the lion’s share of military security in both regions, it allowed its allies to focus on economic growth–something particularly true for Japan, which was able to keep military spending under one percent of GDP throughout this period. But the US provided other public goods as well. These included the open system of world trade that started with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and evolved into the World Trade Organization, as well as a host of regional and bilateral trade liberalization measures. 

It is clear that no other power is going to step in to fill this role of structuring world politics on a grand scale. It does not necessarily imply, however, that the world will turn into a chaotic free-for-all. What occurs after the retreat of US hegemony will depend critically on the behavior of American partners and their willingness to invest in new multilateral structures. The dominant role of the US in years past relieved American allies of the need to invest in their own capabilities or to take the lead in solving regional problems. They now need to step up to the plate. 

The G20: In Need of a Reboot

By Mike Callaghan 

January 31, 2013 
If the G20 is to live up to its potential, it must confront the forces that could see it slide into irrelevancy. The forum should build on what has worked, and avoid what has not. 

The G20 has achieved a great deal, beyond what is widely acknowledged as its high point at the London G20 leaders’ summit, which President Obama described as “a turning point in our pursuit of global economic recovery.” But criticism is growing. It is being described as little more than a talk shop. 

Do we still need the G20? 


We live in an increasingly interconnected world. We need a forum that brings together the leaders of the major advanced and emerging economies. But we need more than a talk shop. We need a forum where leaders can deal with some of the most pressing challenges confronting the global economy. This is the potential that the G20 offers. 

But if the G20 is to live up to its potential, it has to confront the forces that could see it slide into irrelevancy. The forum has to build on what has worked, and avoid what has not. In this regard there are nine lessons from the G20 summits to date. 

1. Recognize the importance of leadership. All forums require leaders, the G20 is no exception. It took the leadership of George Bush to call leaders together in Washington in 2008. And the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, enthusiastically chaired the London summit. But while the chair can achieve much, it will need to cultivate champions for reform both within and outside the forum to get things done. 

So When Are Women Joining the NFL?

Jan. 30, 2013

ISAF photo, A member of a U.S. military female engagement team in Afghanistan. 

Should the National Football League allow women on the playing field? After all, they can kick and carry a ball, and professional football is one industry in which women are sorely under-represented, to say the least. 

It’s not that likely to happen, is it? 

The reality is Americans would be horrified to see a 220-pound strong safety drive over a female wide receiver running toward the goal line. There’s simply too great a disparity in body mass and strength between NFL players and women, and the physical demands are too great. 

Amazingly, what is common sense on the football field has now been completely abandoned on the battlefield. 

With the Pentagon’s recent announcement that combat positions will be open to women, we see the latest misguided effort to achieve “equality” where it cannot be achieved—and it may cost military women in the long run. 

Women have long served in support of combat missions, frequently near the front lines. As a woman and a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps, I know first-hand how difficult combat field operations are. 

I carried in excess of 100 pounds of gear over difficult terrain for 10-15 mile marches throughout my 20-year career. This was done only with an M-16 rifle or pistol, not with the additional ammunition or heavier weapons our ground units carry. The fatigue was extreme and it was difficult to imagine how an infantryman overcame the difficulty of field movement for weeks or months at a time. 

The Economics of Immigration: Who Wins, Who Loses and Why

Jan. 30, 2013

 JASON REED / Reuters

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on immigration reform at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas on Jan. 29, 2013. 

Washington’s focus has shifted to immigration reform this week as a bipartisan group of Senators put forward a comprehensive plan on Monday and President Obama followed with a proposal of his own yesterday. The debate thus far has been anchored around the bipartisan Senate proposal, the President’s support for a “path to citizenship,” and House Republican’s opposition to it. The opposition to the plan so far has centered around concerns about such a deal inviting a new influx of undocumented workers, or its rewarding those who have violated the law. These are important discussions to have, but with the economy here at home still so fragile, many are wondering what sort of effect immigration has on the American economy. 

Here’s a look at four big questions concerning the economics of immigration: 

Does immigration reduce wages for native-born Americans? 

It might seem like a no-brainer that increased immigration would reduce the wages of native-born Americans. A simple supply and demand model would tell you that more workers means lower wages. But the story is actually more complicated than that. According to a 2010 survey of the economic literature on the subject, the Brookings Institute concluded that, “The most recent academic research suggests that, on average, immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices.”