11 February 2013

India’s Foreign Policy 2012: A Critical Review in Relation to China and Pakistan Military Threats

Paper No. 5388 Dated 11-Feb-2013 
By Dr Subhash Kapila 

Introductory Observations 

India’s foreign policy successes cannot be measured by the number of foreign dignitaries visiting India annually, from Presidents to Prime Ministers, or hosting international conferences in New Delhi. This would be a delusionary deduction to draw as such beelines were visible also in the hey-day of the equally delusionary days of the Non Alignment era. What was the end result? 

China’s military aggression in 1962 militarily humiliating India not because the Indian Armed Forces were professionally incompetent but because the Indian policy establishment went grievously wrong in assessing the China threat, keeping the country in the dark about it and being oblivious to India’s war-preparedness. Down the line Pakistan too resorted to military aggression twice in 1965 in the Rann of Kutch and Jammu and Kashmir. Foreign policy failures in both cases were obvious. 

India’s foreign policy today can be analysed as effective and successful only when measured against three critical determinants of whether the Indian foreign policy establishment has accurately assessed India’s security environment, accurately assessed and articulated precisely the threats to Indian security, and crafted India’s responses in terms of policy formulations to deal with the threats existent. Regrettably, in the year 2012 that just faded into history, the Indian foreign policy establishment failed to measure upto any of the determinants stated above. 

In the last eight years India has lost political influence over its South Asian peripheral neighbours and India seems adrift in not applying course corrections to regain that influence and control despite the much leverage available at India’s command today. Presumably in 2012 this may have arisen from external readings of India’s uninspiring internal dynamics in terms of political corruption and the governing dispensation not attempting obtaining of bipartisan support for its foreign policy initiatives. 

China and Pakistan continue to be India’s main military threats to its security and in the year 2012 while their rhetorical barrage of peaceful intentions towards India may have been noticeably vocal, their demonstrated policies and actions should have convinced India’s foreign policy planners that no peaceful intentions exist as part of China’s and Pakistan’s armoury of conduct of relations with India. 

Defence Budget 2013-14: An upcoming tight spot

IDSA COMMENT, By Amit Cowshish
February 11, 2013 

Speaking at the Aero-India 2013 in Bengaluru, the Defence Minister is reported to have said on February 6, 2013 that the defence budget for the coming financial year will see a cut, both under the revenue and capital segments. He is also reported to have said that the expenditure in priority areas will not be reduced and that it would be left to the armed forces to choose the priority areas without any interference from the ministry. The general budget for the FY 2013-14 is less than a month away. The Ministry of Finance would have already made up its mind about sector-specific budgetary allocations. It would, therefore, be futile to speculate about the size of the defence budget for the next fiscal but it is not difficult to foresee the kind of dilemma that the Services would face in trying to make the most of what the budget has in store for them. 

It is somewhat difficult to understand what the Defence Minister meant when he said that the budget for the coming financial year will see a cut, assuming that this is precisely what he said. A cut can be imposed on something that already exists. The defence budget for the next fiscal does not exist as of now and, therefore, there cannot be any cut in that budget. It is also unlikely that there will be a cut in the budget for the next fiscal vis-à-vis the current year’s budgetary allocation, implying thereby that next year’s defence budget would be less than the current year’s budget. That is an unlikely scenario because of the following reasons. 

The defence budget is divided into revenue and capital segments. The revenue segment caters for expenditure on pay and allowances, stores and equipment, transportation, maintenance-related civil works and miscellaneous charges. In the Budget Estimates (BE) for the current year, pay & allowances accounted for 65.93 per cent of the total revenue budget. Stores, transportation, works and miscellaneous charges accounted for 19.17 per cent, 3.14 per cent, 7.41 per cent and 4.34 per cent, respectively. This has been the pattern in the past as well. (These percentages, mentioned in the Defence Services Estimates 2012-13, relate to the total revenue allocation for the three services, defence research & development and the ordnance factories.) The biggest dilemma would be to decide for which of these areas the allocation could be reduced vis-à-vis the current year’s allocation. 

Aero India: A Non-Expert View

By Srdjan Vucetic

February 11, 2013 

This is my first visit to Aero India, one of Asia’s premier aviation shows [1], and what I gather is that it may be my last – if I don’t make it to its 10th edition in 2015, that is. Apparently, the flying activities at the Yelahanka air base have grown so big over the years that they are adversely affecting the operation of the Bengaluru International Airport. 

Whatever venue is selected in the future, the air show is likely to stay in Karnataka. The state, after all, is home to the much-maligned [2] Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), India’s most important military aerospace manufacturer, which traces its roots to a shop set up in 1940 by a Jain industrialist and the princely State of Mysore. Further, India’s main space and defence centres are based in Bengaluru, as are assorted technology and engineering service centres, R&D operations, joint ventures and tie-ups with Boeing, EADS, Rolls-Royce, Honeywell and other global industry players. A 2011 PricewaterhouseCoopers India report [3] sees it thus: “There is a buzz in the air – not just from the engines of global [Original Equipment Manufacturers] landing in Karnataka, but also from the activity in the Government to promote the State as the aerospace hub of not just India but Asia.” Indeed, right next to the International Airport, the state government is developing a 1000-acre park dedicated specifically to aerospace, which will come with its own Special Economic Zone [4]. On the first day of the air show, Karnataka’s chief minister issued an “order” [5] that establishes a broad platform for attracting investment through private-public partnerships. Thousands of new jobs will be created before 2023, he said. 

Given current trends, the Indian aerospace sector is expected to outperform the global average for years, even decades. On the civilian side, rapid consumer market growth in India promises sales of almost 1000 planes before 2030; on the military side, more multi-billion dollar military hardware deals are on the way – like the one for the Dassault Rafale fighter [6] (now delayed, but French president Francois Hollande will be arriving on Valentine’s Day to push the contract negotiations [7] forward). In theory, this type of growth is likely to lead to more technological know-how and know-why at home, which should lead to even more business down the line. 

The military market is particularly interesting to watch, as it constitutes an index of India’s strategic and high politics doings. New Delhi has indeed been busy exchanging a lot of bucks for a lot of bang. Already the world’s second or third buyer of arms [8], the Indian government has earmarked over U.S.$ 100 billion for new weaponry in the coming decade. Judging by the past record, this spending spree is likely to benefit multiple suppliers. Smith’s India’s Ad Hoc Arsenal [9] (1994), Subrahmanyam and Monteiro’s Shedding Shibboleths [10] (2005) and Cohen and Dasgupta’s Arming without Aiming [11] (2010) all agree that streamlined inventories are not a priority in India’s military acquisitions. Browsing the show’s Indian Air Force display involves learning about a bewildering variety of aircraft and equipment made in all corners of the world. Not surprisingly, those in the business of selling bang for the buck flock to Bengaluru. 

US starts using Pakistan route for Afghan pullout

By editor 
11 Feb 2013

Kicking-off the first phase of the American pull-out from Afghanistan, US has started using Pakistani land routes to withdraw its military hardware from Afghanistan, with 50 shipping containers moved over the weekend. 

Two convoys of 25 containers each crossed the Torkham and Chaman border check posts in Pakistan. The containers will be transported to the port city of Karachi to be shipped back to the US. Two US military convoys, hauling 25 shipping containers each, entered Pakistan via the Chaman and Torkham border posts yesterday, the international security assistance force in Afghanistan said. 

The convoys were “part of the US redeployment of equipment from Afghanistan” and traffic is currently “moving both ways through the Pakistan border, with material coming in as well as going out”, ISAF said. 

Fawad Khan, an official of the shipping company Bilal Associates, told reporters that his firm had received clearance to move the US equipment across the border on Friday. 

He said the first convoy of 25 containers cleared by Pakistani customs was on its way to Karachi. Another Pakistani official, who did not want to be named, said another convoy of containers was expected this week. 

“It is a huge operation...Many more containers will follow,” he said. Pakistan will be a key route for the US to withdraw equipment from landlocked Afghanistan as it pulls out most of its troops by the end of 2014. 

Pakistan closed the route for nearly seven months after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 of its soldiers in November 2011. The route was reopened after the US apologised for the deaths. Islamabad has linked the transit of US military cargo with certification that Washington will not transport any hazardous waste or radioactive material.

U.S. Marine general takes over NATO forces in Afghanistan

By Chelsea J. Carter and Aliza Kassim, CNN 

February 11, 2013

U.S. General Joseph F. Dunford (right) pictured with former NATO commander U.S. General John Allen in Kabul. 


Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford replaces Gen John Allen as ISAF commander 

Dunford will over the final two years of the war and the withdrawal of troops 

Dunford assumed command during a ceremony in Kabul 

(CNN) -- U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford took command Sunday of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, where he will oversee the final two years of the war and the withdrawal of nearly all troops. 

"Today is not about change, it's about continuity," Dunford said at a change-of-command ceremony in Kabul attended by his predecessor Marine Gen. John Allen and other senior NATO and Afghan officials. 

"I'll endeavor to continue the momentum of the campaign and support the people of Afghanistan as they seize the opportunity for a brighter future." 

Dunford replaces Allen, whose final days as ISAF commander were marred by an investigation linked to the scandal that led to the resignation of his predecessor David Petreaus as the director of the CIA. 

Allen, who has been nominated as NATO's supreme allied commander, was cleared in January of allegations he wrote potentially inappropriate emails to a Florida woman who claimed she was being threatened by Petreaus' mistress Paula Broadwell. 

Bangladesh: Quest For a New Progressive Era:

Paper No.5387, 11-Feb-2013 

By Kazi Anwarul Masud 

In a harsh but realistic assessment of the US economy Columbia Professor Jeffrey Sachs observed that it was yet too early to predict that President Obama would be able to usher in a new progressive era for the US where policies would be legislated and implemented for the benefit of the large majority of the Americans who since the Reagan administration till now have been at the receiving end resulting in making the US one of the most inequitable advanced economies of the world. 

"It is certainly too early to declare" writes Jeffrey Sachs "a new Progressive Era in America. Vested interests remain powerful, certainly in Congress – and even within the White House. These wealthy groups and individuals gave billions of dollars to the candidates in the recent election campaign, and they expect their contributions to yield benefits. 

Moreover, 30 years of tax cutting has left the US government without the financial resources needed to carry out effective programs in key areas such as the transition to low-carbon energy..... Billed as a "free-market" revolution, because it promised to reduce the role of government, in practice it was the beginning of an assault on the middle class and the poor by wealthy special interests. These special interests included Wall Street, Big Oil, the big health insurers, and arms manufacturers. They demanded tax cuts, and got them; they demanded a rollback of environmental protection, and got it; they demanded, and received, the right to attack unions; and they demanded lucrative government contracts, even for paramilitary operations, and got those, too. 

For more than three decades, no one really challenged the consequences of turning political power over to the highest bidders. In the meantime, America went from being a middle-class society to one increasingly divided between rich and poor." Are we any different? With gini coefficient of more than 33%( 2005) that measures the inequality of wealth distribution in a nation Bangladesh displays a picture of a mirage where the great majority of the people think the water is round the corner while the oasis is controlled by a small segment of the population where the large majority is denied entry. 

Powerful interest groups were always opposed to progressivism because it meant more equitable distribution of national wealth. From a historical point Princeton Professor Charles Boix wrote: Big landowners have always opposed democracy, whether in Prussia, Russia, the American South of the nineteenth century, or Central America in the twentieth. By contrast, for democratic institutions to prevail, at least before industrialization, there had to be a radical equality of conditions. The Alpine cantons of Switzerland in the Middle and Modern Ages or the Northeastern states of the United States in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are cases in point. 

Under China's Shadow, India Looks to Australia

By Ashok Malik
11 February 2013

For the past few years, as China's emergence has cast an increasing shadow over the region, Canberra's strategic thinkers have tried to interest New Delhi in the concept of the "Indo-Pacific" as the two former colonies of Britain, now two leading democracies, find common ground. 

Those strategists in Australia, the shores of which are washed by both Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, may have cheered as the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit, marking 20 years of "dialogue partnership" between the South Asian country and the Southeast Asian bloc, opened on 20 December in New Delhi. Addressing guests, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was expansive in ambition and geographic reach: "Our future is inter-linked and a stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region is crucial for our own progress and prosperity. There is, therefore, mutual benefit in these aspects of our engagement." 

Contrasting enthusiasm for the Indo-Pacific as a cornerstone of strategic architecture - even occasional differences of opinion as to its physical boundaries - has been apparent in Australia and India. This formed a backdrop to deliberations in December at the Australia-India Roundtable - semi-official dialogue supported by both governments and facilitated by three think-tanks, the Lowy Institute in Sydney, the Australia-India Institute in Melbourne and the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. 

The Australians returned from the Roundtable in New Delhi with little clarity as to where India stood in terms of the Indo-Pacific and naval synergy in the region. The Indian Navy is undergoing the most rapid expansion in history and has ordered more than 40 ships, to be delivered over the next five years. Senior naval officers have spoken of augmenting fleet strength by another 80 ships as and when money is available. 

The key question is where will these ships be used? The traditional Indian position has been to emphasize a natural role in the Indian Ocean. Despite occasionally ambiguous statements, military and political spokespersons in India have shied away from committing to the Pacific. Even as China has made forays into the Indian Ocean, India has been wary of acknowledging that it considers the South China Sea within its legitimate domain, despite investment in offshore oil exploration in Vietnamese blocks by India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation. 

How to Steady the Senkaku Situation

Jeffrey W. Hornung
February 11, 2013 

Things just got a whole lot more serious in the East China Sea. 

Last week, Japanese officials announced a Chinese naval vessel had locked its weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese military helicopter and naval vessel in separate January incidents. This new escalatory step in Chinese behavior is one in a series of many, prompting Japan to respond. The tit-for-tat spiraling brings China and Japan closer to one mistake away from potential armed conflict. The two sides need to talk, but questions of sovereignty over a group of disputed islands should be the last thing on their agenda. Instead, Beijing and Tokyo need rules to regulate the interaction of their coast guards, navies, and other vessels and aircraft to prevent a mistake becoming a pretext for conflict. 

The dispute between Beijing and Tokyo is not new. Called the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China, the dispute involves a group of uninhabited islands controlled by Japan in the East China Sea but claimed by China (and Taiwan). The situation was fairly calm until spring 2012 when then Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara made moves to buy three of the islands with a plan to build on them. Because this contradicts central government policy of no landing, no development, then premier Yoshihiko Noda blocked Ishihara by buying them with central government resources instead. 

Not surprisingly, Noda’s move angered China. In addition to setting off large-scale, violent and destructive anti-Japanese protests throughout China, it initiated a now near-daily presence of Chinese ships and planes near the islands. Much to the detriment of regional peace and stability, China’s moves have increasingly become bolder, forcing Japan to respond. 

A Pentagon Budget Primer, Leading to Two Questions for the Defense Secretary

By Chuck Spinney
Feb. 11, 2013

Air Force photo / Val Gempis)

Retired U.S. Air Force aircraft consigned to the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. 

President Obama will submit a new five-year spending plan for the entire federal government in his annual budget message to Congress later this month. 

Included in his message will be the Pentagon’s five-year spending plan. The new plan covers Fiscal Years (FY) 2014 to FY18, and FY14 will begin in October 2013. 

That means the last year of this plan, i.e., FY18, will begin in October 2017, or nine months after Mr. Obama has left the White House and moved on to greener pastures. 

So, although the President has submitted a plan that includes budget details for FY18, two-thirds of that budget will be executed, and no doubt modified, by his successor as well as unfolding events. 

In other words, Obama can only be responsible for only the first four years of his new five-year plan — i.e., FY14 thru FY17. 

Lets take a look that these years. 

The new defense plan will embody a reduction of about $140 to $160 billion over the comparable four-year period in the five-year plan Obama sent to Congress last year (i.e., the FY13-17 plan). 

The looming possibility of a budget sequestration in March, however, could lop off another $50 billion per year, or a total of about $200 billion between FY14 and FY17 of the new plan. 

Assuming the sequester goes into effect as scheduled on March 1, we are looking at a total reduction over Obama’s second term of about $360 billion when compared to the four common years of last year’s plan. It is this cutback that outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is peddling as a doomsday scenario that will turn the United States into a second-rate power. 

The White Paper and it’s Critics

February 11th, 2013 

Someone for reasons unknown last week leaked the classified Department of Justice “White Paper” on targeting with drone attacks the numerically tiny number of US citizens overseas who have joined al Qaida or affiliated groups. The leak set off an outburst of public debate, much of it ill-informed by people who did not bother to read the white paper and some of it intentionally misleading by those who had and, frankly, know better. 

Generally, I’m a harsh critic of the Holder DOJ, but their white paper, though not without some minor flaws of reasoning and one point of policy, is – unlike some of the critics – solidly in compliance with the laws of war, broader questions of international law and the major SCOTUS decisions on war powers. It was a political error to classify this document in the first place rather than properly share it with the relevant Congressional committees conducting oversight 

Here it is and I encourage you to read it for yourself: 

Much of this white paper debate has been over a legitimate policy dispute (“Is it a good idea if we use drones to kill AQ terrorists, including American ones?”) intentionally being mischaracterized by opponents of the policy (or the war) as a legal or constitutional question. It is not. The law is fairly settled as is the question if the conflict with AQ rises to a state of armed conflict, which SCOTUS dealt with as recently as Hamdi and for which there are ample precedents from previous wars and prior SCOTUS decisions to build upon. At best, framed as a legal dispute, the opponents of the drone policy would have a very long uphill climb with the Supreme Court. So why do it? 

The reason, as I discern it, is substituting a legalistic argument and judicial process (“FISA court to decide drone killings”) to conceal what is really a debate over American war policy and the President’s war powers in order to accrue domestic political advantage or at least avoid paying the costs of advocating a potentially unpopular position. Otherwise, opponents have to argue on the merits that the US should not as a matter of policy kill al Qaida terrorists sheltered by Pakistan or beyond the reach of government control in Yemen. Or that we are not “really” at war or that Federal judges are better suited for picking bombing targets than Air Force and CIA analysts and that “due process” should apply to enemy combatants on the battlefield. Many of these arguments are valid ones to raise and debate but are unlikely to be persuasive to the public or Congress; if they were, they would have prevailed in 2010 (drones) or 2001 (“are we at war?). 

The Bangalore Aeroshow 2013: Musings

By Claude Arpi

10 Feb 2013

The thought that kept coming to my mind while walking kilometers under the hot sun of the Yelahanka Air Force Station, near Bengaluru (where the 9th International Exhibition on Aerospace, Defence & Civil Aviation was held between February 6 and 10), was what happened 50 years ago on the Himalayan slopes. 

India was taken by surprise and treacherously attacked by the People’s Liberation Army and badly thrashed in the NEFA sector as well as in Ladakh. Mao Zedong used the pretext that India would have crossed the McMahon line in the Tawang area to teach Nehru (and India) a lesson. 

One of the features of this tragic event was that India did not use its Air Force during the one-month conflict. 

…it is clear who is India’s main potential enemy and in which direction, the defence preparedness needs to be focused. 

Why? Some historians have said that it was because the ‘leaders’ in Delhi feared that Kolkata (Calcutta then) would be bombed; others wrote that the services of the IAF were not utilized in the combats because the ‘leaders’ thought that China, a friend, a brother, would never attack India. The argument did not hold, as even after the attack, the IAF was not used. 

The truth is probably that the ‘generals’ in the Army Headquarters (as well as the IV Corps Commander in Tezpur) were so arrogant that they believed that the Indian Army did not need the ‘external aid’ of the Air Force to capture the Thagla ridge. Such foolishness! 

A peace process gone missing

By Radha Kumar
Feb 11 2013,

On the day Afzal Guru was given the death penalty, TV talk shows were abuzz about whether the decision was political. Their assumption, clearly, was that it should not be. I accept the government's position that it was not. My point is that it should have been. 

The politics most anchors have referred to are basic. Indeed, it is absurd to claim that the decision to hang was taken with elections in view, or to silence the BJP's disingenuous clamour over right-wing extremism. The larger political question is whether, and in what ways, the government factored in the impact that Afzal Guru's hanging was likely to have in Jammu and Kashmir. This question has different dimensions: first, how to handle the inevitable protests; second, how to deal with the longer term, and equally predictable, consequences. 

The preventive steps the government took indicate that they were aware there would be protests. If so, they must have considered whether a clampdown would help. Certainly, they have plenty of evidence on how it has been counter-productive in all but the immediate term, both from the 1990s and from 2010-11. My conclusion is that they decided there was no other strategy — in other words, they made the decision first and then decided how best to mitigate its impact in J&K. 

We can only speculate on what impact this decision would have had, had it been executed in the backdrop of a full-fledged peace process. It would most likely have caused a severe setback to talks with the Hurriyat and allied groups. More likely, though, the decision would not have been taken if there had been a full-fledged peace process, in order to avert a setback. Instead, Afzal Guru would have spent the rest of his life in jail. 

For a man in his 30s, to spend 50 or more years on death row, is a considerable punishment. David Headley, whose crimes are similar to the ones Afzal was convicted for — perhaps even more heinous, given that he planned several terrorist attacks — was given 35 years under a plea bargain. Afzal gave the same type of information that Headley gave, without a plea bargain. 

India’s big bet at the UN

By Richard Gowan 
February 8, 2013

India’s recent stint at the United Nations Security Council leaves some questions unanswered. 

India’s recent tenure at the Security Council was, to borrow a phrase used by English football commentators, a game of two halves. In the first half (2011) India played an attacking game. It was loudly critical of NATO’s air campaign in Libya and tried to play a leading role in diplomacy over Syria. Perhaps most importantly from New Delhi’s perspective, it launched a drive for Security Council reform. 

All this activity secured international attention. India coordinated closely with Brazil and South Africa, both of which also held temporary seats on the Security Council. They worked together particularly closely over Syria in mid-2011, launching a brief peace initiative as violence began to escalate. By the end of the year, even representatives of the five permanent members of the Council admitted that the IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) trio had affected the diplomatic dynamics in New York. But in diplomacy, as in soccer, it’s important to score a few goals, and India struggled to do so. NATO simply ignored its criticisms of the Libyan war. IBSA had no impact in Syria. There was no leap forward towards Security Council reform. 

In 2012, India switched tactics and began to play a more defensive game. It took a lower profile on Syria, supporting American and European positions in the Security Council, leaving China and Russia isolated in their opposition to serious pressure on Damascus. Indian officials continued to look for new openings on Security Council reform, trying to whip up support among developing countries. But they used their presidency of the Council in November 2012 to highlight the uncontroversial issue of piracy. 

India-China business ties stumble on quality

By Mahua Venkatesh, Hindustan Times

February 10, 2013 

As Indian and Chinese government officials brainstorm over a broad spectrum of sectors to pitch-fork bilateral trade to $100 billion by next year, niggling disputes in routine trade dealings are emerging as irritants in mending a relationship that is already fraught with misgivings, businessmen here say.

Sample this: After years of purchasing products from China, Gyan Chand, who runs a small-scale chemicals and plastic company in Delhi, Manya International, now prefers Korea to source raw material. Reason: Chinese vendors have repeatedly shipped products that were much below the standards specified in the original contracts. 

"The quality of products that I was sourcing from China was so sub-standard that it was turning into a nightmare, as the specifications were never followed and I lost crores (of rupees) in the process," he said. 

Chand is not alone. Dozens of entrepreneurs have similar tales to tell. And like Chand, several of them are shifting their import base to other countries to ensure that more money is not lost. 

India is trying to crack down on the flood of counterfeits and cheap products using globally agreed-upon laws to prevent dumping - the practice of a manufacturer exporting a product to a country at a price below the one prevalent in the home market, or even the cost of production. 

The 900-odd shops in the Old Lajpat Rai market here are filled with cheap unbranded Chinese goods, as are thousands of markets across India. 

All that has made China, which fought a brief and bitter mountain war with India in 1962, its largest trading partner at $75 billion in 2011-12. 

It is also the single largest source of imports at $57 billion, accounting for more than 10% of India's total imports in 2011-12. 

Good news: World War I is over and will not happen again

By Stephen M. Walt 
February 8, 2013 

Gideon Rachman is one of the best-informed and most sensible columnists writing on foreign affairs these days, and he's one of the reasons you ought to subscribe to the Financial Times. (Compared to the FT oped page, Wall Street Journal opeds on foreign affairs often read like a weird combination of yellow journalism and worst-case planning, with a shot of Mad Magazine thrown in). 

It therefore pains me to have to take issue with Rachman's recent column warning of rising tensions in East Asia, and all the more so because he quotes two respected colleagues, Joe Nye and Graham Allison. His concern is the possibility of some sort of clash between China and Japan, precipitated by the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands exacerbated by rising nationalism in both countries and concerns over shifting balances of power. These are all legitimate worries, although it's hard to know just how serious or volatile the situation really is. 

The problem lies in Rachman's use of the World War I analogy -- specifically, the July Crisis that led to the war -- to illustrate the dangers we might be facing in East Asia. The 1914 analogy has been invoked by many experts over the years, of course, in part because World War I is correctly seen as an exceptionally foolhardy and destructive war that left virtually all of the participants far worse off. Moreover, popular histories like Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August (which is said to have influenced John F. Kennedy's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis), and A.J.P. Taylor's War by Timetable have reinforced an image of World War I as a tragic accident, a war that nobody really intended. In this version of history, the European great powers stumbled into a war that nobody wanted, due to miscalculations, rigid mobilization plans, extended alliance commitments, and poor communications. 

North Korea: Rumblings from below

The Economist
Feb 9th 2013


A sealed and monstrously unjust society is changing in ways its despotic ruler may not be able to control

WITH her turquoise top, Dayglo trainers and Hello Kitty mobile phone, Jeon Geum Ju fits right in among the young latte-sippers in a Starbucks in downtown Seoul. Her dark eyes sparkle as she talks—and she talks a lot. The only time that the 26-year-old hesitates, and tugs at her hair awkwardly, is when she is asked about Kim Jong Un, the young leader of North Korea who took over her country in 2011, a year after she fled to South Korea. She was, she says, so brainwashed from a very early age that she still cannot bring herself to criticise him. 

Ms Jeon is no apologist for the regime. Though her escape from North Korea was not caused by the starvation and abject cruelty that force others to leave, it was, she says, still a flight from oppression. What she craved was the freedom to wear flared jeans and jewellery and to let her hair, which most North Korean women keep in a bun, grow long and wavy. She even fantasised about driving a red sports car, with dark glasses on. 

She nurtured such dreams in her bedroom, watching illegal South Korean and American TV dramas smuggled in from China and shared among her friends on memory sticks which they plugged into black-market computers, some made by South Korea’s Samsung. She even flaunted her tastes in public. That was until the fashion police—no figure of speech in North Korea—arrested her for wearing a winter hat with “New York” on it. She was screamed at as “bourgeois trash” and released only when her mother, then a black-market trader, handed over two dozen packets of cigarettes as a bribe. 

Minority report

Feb 11, 2013 

By Shankari Sundararaman

This use of force to quell an ethnic conflict reflects the impunity of Burma’s military machinery and has undermined the pace of reform in Burma

The recent military crackdown on the Kachin Independence Army in Burma (KIA) is again drawing attention to the need for more focused political reforms in Burma. Since the end of the ceasefire in June 2011, approximately 700 Kachin fighters have been killed (government sources claim the figure to be 300). 

While there have been conciliatory statements from the Centre and from President Thein Sein, and both sides have tried to arrive at a ceasefire with China trying to assist in the negotiation, the ground reality is serious — both sides seem to be gearing up for battle.

The use of force to quell an ethnic conflict reflects the impunity of Burma’s military machinery. It has also undermined the steps taken by the government to move on the path of national reconciliation and left little room for a negotiated settlement to the problems of ethnic minorities in Burma.

The reform process, still in its nascent stage, should seek to be more inclusive towards the minority ethnic groups and this current standoff will only widen the gap between the government and these groups.

Throughout December 2012 and January 2013, there has been a regular onslaught on the KIA along the borders with China, particularly in the border town of Laiza.

Of all the ethnic issues in Burma, the Kachin rebellion is the most protracted. The Kachins are spread across northern Burma and comprise several tribes. They are also found in the inland areas of Yunnan and in India’s north-eastern region. The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) represents their political aspirations and their military wing is called the KIA.

The KIA was formed in 1962, in the aftermath of the coup led by General Ne Win. The formation of the KIA is linked to the fact that the military attempted to consolidate its control over all the ethnic groups in the country and centralise its authority vis-à-vis these groups. In fact, the KIA was part of the Burmese military forces till the 1962 coup, after which it separated to fight for independence from the Burmese state.

Enhanced Warfighters: Risk, Ethics, and Policy

10 Feb 2013
By  Patrick Lin, Maxwell J. Mehlman, and Keith Abney.

Enhanced Warfighters: Risk, Ethics, and Policy

The United States military is making substantial investments to develop technologies that would 
enhance the ability of warfighters to complete their missions safely and effectively. Driven by neuroscience, biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, and other emerging technologies, this research includes combating sleep deprivation, improving cognitive performance, increasing strength, reducing muscle fatigue, and other enhancements to the human body and mind.

As with other emerging military technologies, such as robotics and cyber-capabilities, human enhancement technologies challenge existing laws and policy, as well as underlying ethical values. But while the implications of human enhancement generally have been widely discussed, little analysis currently exists for the military context—specifically operational, ethical, and legal implications of enhancing warfighters, such as: 

How safe should these human enhancements and new medical treatments be prior to their deployment (considering recent controversies such as mandatory anthrax vaccinations)? Must enhancements be reversible or temporary (considering that most warfighters will return to society as civilians)? Could enhancements count as “biological weapons” under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (considering that the term is not clearly defined)?

This report begins an investigation into these and other issues in order to identify problems that policymakers and society may need to confront. 

We start with an analysis of international and domestic law, military policy, bioethics, and risk assessments. Then we offer a new framework for evaluating human enhancement technologies in a military context. As an initial model, we also discuss further considerations—related to character and honor, as well as broader social impacts—that can be integrated later into this evaluative framework. 

Given a significant lag time between ethics and technology, it is imperative to start considering the issues before novel technologies fully arrive on the scene and in the theater of war. Consider, for instance, the sudden explosion in number of robots in war and the ensuing confusion and controversies over their use. This report, therefore, is intended to help avoid similar ethical, legal, and policy surprises, as well as technology misuses that affect national 
reputations and real lives. 

Tiny Helicopter Drones Help Protect British Army In Afghanistan

February 4, 2013 

Image Credit: Prox Dynamics AS 

In terms of safely gathering surveillance data on the battlefield without risking human life, it’s hard to get any better than an unmanned drone. Yet, the British Army has found a way to improve on this platform by simply making these drones smaller. According to Sky News, the British Army has begun to use tiny 4-inch by 1-inch, remote controlled helicopter drones to scope out the battlefield in Afghanistan and send back live video and images to soldiers waiting safely in the wings. 

The helicopter in question, called the “Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle” is said to be no larger than a child’s plaything, weighing only 16 grams, or 0.5 ounces. Carrying only a small camera, these nano helicopters give soldiers the ability to safely peer around corners or over walls to locate any hidden dangers. The image is broadcast to a handheld screen carried by a nearby soldier. 

Speaking to Sky News, Sergeant Christopher Petherbridge of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Afghanistan said his troops are already benefitting from these tiny eyes-in-the-sky. 

“Black Hornet is definitely adding value, especially considering the light weight nature of it,” said Petherbridge. 

“We used it to look for insurgent firing points and check out exposed areas of the ground before crossing, which is a real asset. It is very easy to operate and offers amazing capability to the guys on the ground.” 

According to Petherbridge, these drones, though small, are even sturdy enough to maneuver through high winds. 

According to the BBC, these Black Hornet drones have been built as a part of a $31 million contract between Marlborough Communications and the drones’ maker, Prox Dynamics AS in Norway. They were originally created to conduct rescue operations and are able to be piloted via remote control or programmed to follow a set of GPS coordinates. 

This week’s Brussels lesson for the UK: as Germany goes, so goes Europe

By Mats Persson

08 Feb 2013

David Cameron and his allies have just agreed a historic cut to the EU’s long-term budget (as I predicted yesterday). 

But forget the figures and maths for one second – after all the cut to the EU budget is only the equivalent of 0.3 per cent of EU 2011 GNI – the most interesting part of this summit is political: 
The UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, formed an alliance around a real-terms cut, outflanking France and Italy (though both countries are likely to get their own sweeteners in the end). The UK Government should be given credit for pulling this one off – it isn’t permanently isolated as some commentators would have us believe. 
Contrary to reports in the French media yesterday, François Hollande and Angela Merkel did not reach a common position going into the talks – the only time I can remember a major deal being struck without this happening. This was another step towards a more self-confident Germany, which doesn’t simply write blank cheques – and another spanner in the Franco-German engine. 
As expected, Angela Merkel acted as the lynchpin, conducting smaller meetings with Cameron and the ‘Northern bloc’ on the one hand, and Hollande and the ‘Southern bloc’ on the other. 

But, when the dust has settled, there may be some valuable political lessons for the UK to consider. 

First, its two staunchest allies in these talks, Sweden and the Netherlands, deliberately positioned themselves beyond the UK , to avoid London being seen as the outlier. The UK should show some gratitude and sensitivity to this – particularly as the two countries may see their rebates cut. 

A Sea Change in the Muslim World

By David Ignatius
February 10, 2013 

WASHINGTON - Something startling is happening in the Muslim world  and no, I don't mean the Arab Spring or the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. According to a leading demographer, a "sea change" is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a "flight from marriage" among Arab women. 

Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, documented these findings in two recent papers. They tell a story that contradicts the usual picture of a continuing population explosion in Muslim lands. Population is indeed rising, but if current trends continue, the bulge won't last long.

Eberstadt's first paper was expressively titled "Fertility Decline in the Muslim World: A Veritable Sea-Change, Still Curiously Unnoticed." Using data for 49 Muslim-majority countries and territories, he found that fertility rates declined an average of 41 percent between 1975-80 and 2005-10, compared with a 33 percent decline for the world as a whole. 

Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories had fertility declines of 50 percent or more. The sharpest drops were in Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Libya, Albania, Qatar and Kuwait, which all recorded declines of 60 percent or more over these three decades. 

Fertility in Iran declined an astonishing 70 percent over the 30-year period, which Eberstadt says was "one of the most rapid and pronounced fertility declines ever recorded in human history." By 2000, Iran's fertility rate had fallen to two births per woman, below the level necessary to replace current population, according to Eberstadt and his co-author, Apoorva Shah. 

A July 2012 Financial Times story placed the Iranian fertility rate even lower and cited a U.N. report warning that Iran's population will begin to shrink in two decades and will decline by more than 50 percent by the end of the century if current trends continue. 

War Machines

February 8, 2013


The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War
By Paul Kennedy
Illustrated. 436 pp. Random House. $30.

The historian Daniel Boorstin once complained to me about the Smithsonian Institution’s decision in 1980 to delete the final two words from the name of its Museum of History and Technology. Boorstin had a point. Scholars of other fields do often tend to underestimate the influence of technology. Although most of us know that World War II brought us radar, the literature of that titanic conflict is by no means exempt from this phenomenon. For instance, the biographer Joseph P. Lash subtitled his 1976 wartime account of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill “The Partnership That Saved the West,” in response to which I once heard a British scholar carp, “If Lash is right, then why did all those scientists and intelligence officers and factory workers bother working so hard?” 

With this fresh and discursive new work, the Yale historian Paul Kennedy, best known for his widely debated “Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” published in 1987, calls attention to the way “small groups of individuals and institutions” surmounted seemingly insuperable operational obstacles to enable Roosevelt, Truman, Churchill and Stalin ultimately to grasp the laurels for an Allied triumph. “Engineers of Victory” achieves the difficult task of being a consistently original book about one of the most relentlessly examined episodes in human history. Unlike most studies of the war, this one is not primarily about politics, generalship or battlefield glories. References to the Big Three are few. Instead, like an engineer who pries open a pocket watch to reveal its inner mechanics, Kennedy tells how ­little-known men and women at lower ­levels helped win the war. 

Will He Fight or Compromise?

Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 
By Fareed Zakaria 

One of the great political debates in Washington--and around the country--has been about whether Barack Obama is a highly partisan Democrat bent on a liberal agenda or a centrist searching for compromise. It's still early in his second term, but he has recently made moves that seem to answer the question. Obama could easily choose a partisan strategy that would be politically effective: Don't make deals with the Republicans on immigration or entitlement reform, and go into the 2014 congressional elections with those problems still live. A deal on either front would allow Republicans to share credit and, most important, take the issue off the table. With no deal, Democrats could campaign as the guardians of Medicare and advocates of immigration reform, both electoral winners. For this reason, some Democratic Senators have begun to make demands well beyond what Republicans can accept. 

But Obama has chosen the second path. In late January, as soon as a group of Republican and Democratic Senators joined forces behind a unified approach to immigration reform, Obama signaled his support for it. And this week, in urging Congress not to allow the so-called sequestration process to force massive spending cuts, the White House said Obama's budget proposals to House Speaker John Boehner were "very much on the table." Those proposals include entitlement reforms that arouse immediate opposition from Democrats. Obama might be doing this because he wants to notch some legislative accomplishments and leave a legacy. Even if that's the case, the strategy might be good not only for Obama but also for the country. 

The real question is, Will anyone follow him? Is Washington so polarized and dysfunctional that it will not be able to find a way to pass any compromise package on these--or other--issues? 

There are many who argue that Washington, rather than being broken, simply represents a country that is deeply divided. If so, the issues at hand should provide a useful set of tests. Thumping majorities of Americans support immigration reform. Some 72% say undocumented workers should be given green cards or citizenship. A similar percentage wants to give more visas to high-technology workers. A solid majority opposes the sequestration cuts. On gun control, large majorities favor some commonsense controls: 85% of Americans support universal background checks; 80% support preventing those with mental illnesses from buying guns; 58% and 55%, respectively, would ban semiautomatic and assault-style weapons. Interestingly, even on energy policy, large majorities want more action. Seven out of 10 favor higher emissions and pollution standards; 69% want more funding for wind and solar energy. 

The protest and the predators

09 Feb 2013 

Rafia Zakaria

If John Brennan is accepted as CIA director, unchecked drone strikes will increase with little-to-no accountability. 

Protesters from anti-war group Code Pink disrupted the confirmation hearing of John Brennan, US President Barack Obama's nominee to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, resulting in a closed hearing [AFP] 

The meeting room where CIA Director nominee John Brennan's confirmation hearings were being held was crammed by mid-afternoon on Thursday, February 7, 2013. The US Senators who had questions for the nominee sat talking softly among themselves as they waited for the proceedings to begin. Many of them had spent the morning going through the pages of legal opinions they had been requesting from the Obama Administration for several months. 

It was not the Senators who broke the constrained decorum of the hearing that day. Just as the staid, suit-clad John Brennan took to the microphone, beginning his answers with thank yous to his wife and then to his grandmother, protesters in the audience disrupted the hearing. They were able to stop it once, then twice and a third time until it had to be stopped completely and the room cleared of anyone but the Senators with questions for Brennan. Belonging to the anti-war group Code Pink, one of the protesters tried to remind Brennan of children being killed by the drones, another held up a list of victims in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan and another a sign saying "Drones Make Enemies". 

Their protest was well directed. During his tenure serving as counter terrorism advisor to the Obama Administration, John Brennan pushed the use of unmanned Predator drones - often armed with Hellfire missiles - to the centre of the Obama Administration's redefined War on Terror. The route to drone supremacy has been a surreptitious one relying sometimes on exaggerations of their "surgical accuracy" and precision. In a speech in July 2011, Brennan claimed that not a single "collateral" death had taken place as a result of drone strikes in Pakistan. This was proven untrue by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which looked at 116 secret drone strikes during the period in which 45 or more civilians appeared to have died. According to figures compiled by the UK based Bureau, a total of 311 drone strikes have been ordered during the Obama Administration, with casualties anywhere numbering between 473 to 893, 176 of them reportedly children. 

Refighting the Last Wars

Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 
By Joe Klein 

There was a time when John McCain was a reasonable man. It was a while back, but I remember it well. It was, specifically, about seven or eight years ago, when we were in a terrible mess in Iraq. There were two options on the table at that point: stay the course or leave. McCain understood that both were wrong. The Bush Administration's path had, from the start, been criminally stupid. Many top members of the uniformed military had thought the war a bad idea, and even those who supported it were appalled that the dreadful Donald Rumsfeld had formulated a plan without a final phase of operations--Phase IV, in military parlance--to stabilize the country and hand it back to the Iraqis. 

But there we were, stuck, and McCain believed we couldn't just leave. His main concern was that we not hand al-Qaeda a victory. There was also a moral consideration: having wrecked their country, we owed the Iraqis a fighting chance to rebuild. And so McCain was one of a handful of officials searching for answers in 2005 and 2006. The answers were found at Fort Leavenworth, where General David Petraeus and a formidable team of military intellectuals were designing a clever and humane way to do Phase IV. This became the counterinsurgency doctrine that worked well enough to calm Iraq--but not so well in Afghanistan. 

I was thinking about this as I watched McCain's rude badgering of Chuck Hagel, the nominee for Secretary of Defense, at Hagel's confirmation hearing on Jan. 31. McCain wanted to know, yes or no, if Hagel regretted opposing the 2007 troop surge in Iraq that brought Petraeus' tactics to the battlefield. We've all now seen the footage of McCain steaming like a beady-eyed madman and Hagel's fumbling response--indeed, it was one of more than a few fumbling responses by Hagel, to questions both friendly and rude. This was a dispiriting event on several levels. Hagel stepped away from the moderate, realistic and candid positions he had taken in the past. He allowed himself to be hectored into submission about his criticism of the Israel lobby, which does indeed bully politicians into "dumb" acts like meaningless expressions of protest of Iranian behavior that Hagel refused to vote for, and on far more serious issues like Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.