11 March 2013

Nepal invaded by China, for India's good?

11 Mar , 2013 

The Chinese are slowly invading Nepal. 

A Nepali anaylsyt told AFP “In Tibet, unrest has significantly increased, so Chinese investment in Nepal should be understood in the context of China’s integrity, which is very important for the giant nation.” 

…China has built these ports to prepare for a war with India… 

He added: “Some Indian analysts repeatedly warn that China has built these ports to prepare for a war with India, it will definitely provide China with an edge but at heart, its goal is to expand the economic opportunity to its workforce and make them loyal to the state.” 

From Mao’s time, the Chinese have always spoken of dual use for infrastructure. In Tibet’s Nyingchi prefecture for example, infrastructure has tremendously been developed, with the first objective to accommodate more than 1 million tourists every year. But the same infrastructure can be used in case of conflict with India (Nyingchi is just north of the McMahon Line). 

Ditto in Nepal which is fast invaded by China. 

In this context, it is interesting to mention an article published by The Hindustan Times on November 11, 1950. The title is “Sardar Patel Exhorts people to stand unitedly to see conditions in Tibet and Nepal and defend their country”. The article quotes Patel in one of his last speech (probably the last in Delhi). His conclusion was “In this kalyug we shall return ahimsa for ahimsa. But if anybody resorted to force against us we shall meet it with force.” 

Sardar Patel emphasized that the “internal feud” in Nepal had laid India’s frontiers in the north wide open to outside dangers. It was imperative, therefore, for Indians to be well prepared to meet any challenge that might come from any quarter. 

Success in Indo-Pak talks not a one-day affair: Khurshid

Tribune News Service 
March 10, 2013

Refusing to set a timeline on the possible resumption of bilateral talks with Pakistan, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today said success in issues involving the two neighbours cannot be achieved in a day, suggesting a long haul.

A day after he hosted lunch in Jaipur for Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf during a private visit to offer prayers at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, the minister reiterated that it was “not an official” trip for which the government extended courtesy. 

However, he did stress that success on issues involving India and Pakistan cannot be achieved in a day, suggesting that a firm foundation will have to be laid by both sides to move forward.

The minister made the statement at Ghaziabad on the sidelines of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) Raising Day parade at Indirapuram today. Responding to questions on possible timelines for bilateral talks, Khurshid said he would not be able to give a timeframe.

Since the visit of then External Affairs Minister SM Krishna to Islamabad last September, progress in Indo-Pak talks hit a roadblock after the incident of mutilation of bodies of two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

After the brutal incident, New Delhi lodged a strong protest stating that it cannot be business as usual and asked Islamabad to take action and issued a statement: “It should not be felt that the brazen denial and the lack of a proper response from the Government of Pakistan to our repeated demarches on this incident will be ignored and that bilateral relations could be unaffected or that there will be business as usual.” 


Progress in Indo-Pak talks hit a roadblock after the incident of mutilation of bodies of two Indian soldiers on the LoC

After the brutal incident, New Delhi lodged a strong protest 

It issued a statement saying it cannot be business as usual and asked Islamabad to take action

The minister suggested that a firm foundation will have to be laid by both sides to move forward 

Return of Haji Pir Pass in 1965 – Myth and the Reality

04 Mar , 2013 

In 1965 war, Indian Army had captured the strategic Haji Pir Pass. During the Tashkent talks between Indian and Pakistan, held through the good offices of Soviet Union, India agreed to return Haji Pir Pass, Pt 13620 which dominated Kargil town and many other tactically important areas. To add mystery to the whole process, Prime Minister Shastri died on 10th January, 1966 after signing the Tashkent Declaration with President Ayub Khan of Pakistan. He was denounced by all and sundry for caving in to the Russian pressure and made to return Haji Pir Pass to Pakistan, resulted in two grave disadvantages to us: One- had the pass been held by us, the distance from Jammu to Srinagar through Poonch and Uri would have been reduced by over 200 Kms. Two – later on Pak commenced its infiltration into J & K in 1965, through the Uri – Poonch Bulge which continues even today. They why did we commit this error of judgement? 

Haji Pir Operations: 

India, China, and Bangladesh: The Contentious Politics of the Brahmaputra River

By Roomana Hukil
9 March 2013 

The Brahmaputra River is one of the most significant confidence-building measures between India, China, and Bangladesh. Despite a well-functioned relationship between India and China in recent decades, the Brahmaputra River may pose new challenges to the continued supply of fresh water for both countries in the future. In addition, China’s announcement, last month, of its plans to construct three hydropower dams – Dagu, Jiacha, and Jiexy along the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra basin, has raged anxiety in India and Bangladesh in terms of erosion, flood protective measures, and the potential ecological damage to the downstream regions.

The article delves into a strategic-techno analysis of the issues festering around the proposed dam construction projects that may open a new front of contentious politics amongst the neighbours. It examines whether ‘water rationality’ will continue to govern the riparian relationship, and also reasons that in spite of no water sharing agreement between India and China, vis-à-vis only one water treaty between India and Bangladesh; coupled with the enormous potential of sharing the benefits, it is unlikely to envision the three countries agreeing to sign a portioned water resource development treaty in the near future.

Fresh Strategic Insights: Issues and Steps The Brahmaputra River consolidated the water rights between all the riparian states pertaining to their water usage, and requirements in the growing region. In spite of there having being no official water sharing accord between India and China, the two countries manifest a paradigm to maintaining cordial water diplomacy in the present international scenario of water conflicts. Hitherto, the dilemma over future water supply regulations, amidst the issue of ecological upkeep, persists for both India and Bangladesh.

China's vigorous push in favour of the hydropower base construction on the Brahmaputra or Yarlung Zangbo River (as known in China) is foreseen as an attempt to harm the downstream interests, particularly of Northeast India. The construction of the 100 meters Zangmu dam (510 MW project) in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in 2010, is an approximate case in point. The current proposed construction of the 124 metres Dagu dam, which has a 640 MW capacity, triggers a maximum impact on the downstream flows in India. Post the ‘flurry of dam-building’, China has tried to leverage its hydropower requirements in the north and central regions; however, India’s Northeast, and neighbouring Bangladesh could face an undeniably reduced water supply, if not for acute water shortage. This is reasoned since the watercourse feeds on seven rivulets originating from the glaciers in the Tibetan plateau, hence damming the river upstream could result in the lower riparian regions facing an intense water division from these snow-fed rivulets during the summer months.

Pakistan: Anxiously waiting for its first democratic transfer of power

By Louis Ritzinger
11 March 2013

The fast-approaching March 16 deadline for the dissolution of the Zardari-led government ahead of scheduled May elections is an occasion worthy of note and reflection. At the beginning of his term, few, if any, gave the President’s fragile coalition much of a chance of completing its five-year mandate. Such an accomplishment has, after all, never come to pass in Pakistan’s 65 years, and there was little to suggest five years ago that this government had the capacity to be the first. Civilian authorities had a thin line to walk, with the PPP-led coalition facing threats not only from the ever-looming military (which, while perhaps not in condition to take power directly, could very well have engineered defections to topple the coalition government and install one more to its liking, as it did throughout the 90’s), but also from an increasingly-assertive judiciary, who went so far as to effectively sack former Prime Minister Gillani on contempt of court charges in April, 2012. Yet, now that the most recent attempts to interrupt the democratic transfer of power, in the forms of Tahir Qadri’s "Long March" and subsequent short-lived court case, have been decidedly squelched, the stage appears to be set. Negotiations for an interim government are entering their final stages, and virtually all the major stakeholders have voiced their commitment to the electoral process, including - most importantly - Army chief Ashfaq Kayani, whose most recent statement in favour of constitutional supremacy and a peaceful transfer of power between civilian authorities garnered significant attention. 

It may not have been pretty, but the finish-line is within sight.

This is, no doubt, a milestone for Pakistan - one worthy of a moment’s pause to take note of the accomplishment and reflect upon the importance of the precedent that has been set. There are few within Pakistan, and even fewer outside of it, who doubt the importance of strengthening civilian institutions to the country’s future stability. If all goes well, the upcoming elections could indeed be a significant boost to the notion of civilian supremacy, the strength of which will grow with future civilian transitions of power, for which this election can serve as a template. Unfortunately, Pakistan can spare little more than a moment for self-congratulatory pause, however deserved. The future governing coalition, whatever its make-up, will have its hands full, to say the least. The following are among the country’s most significant challenges.

Meet China’s New Foreign-Policy Team

MARCH 8, 2013 

Is Beijing using its latest appointments to send a message to Washington? 

HONG KONG — As the United States pivots to Asia, lining up allies against China's rise, Beijing is pivoting right back, boosting its diplomatic offensive in the Asia Pacific by putting together a new foreign-policy team consisting of U.S. and regional specialists. 

While the new appointments won't be formally announced by the National People's Congress, China's parliament, until mid-March, two senior party sources in Beijing have confirmed promotions for veteran diplomats Yang Jiechi, Wang Yi, and Cui Tiankai. Together, the appointments suggest that China wants to improve the optics of its relationship with the United States, if not the substance. 

Yang, having run the Foreign Ministry for five years, will be promoted to State Councilor, one rung below vice premier. The 62-year-old fluent English speaker and former ambassador to the United States is expected to focus on big-picture strategies, including new thinking that will bolster China's influence in the key Asia-Pacific theater. 

Day-to-day implementation of foreign policy will be in the hands of Foreign Minister-designate Wang Yi, 59, who spent his entire career at that ministry (except for the past five years, when he headed the ministerial-level Taiwan Affairs Office, tasked with managing the mainland's policy towards Taiwan). Wang, ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2007 as well as a former director of the Foreign Ministry's Asia department, will be the first-ever Asia hand to become foreign minister. Previous holders of the post have been either Russia or U.S. specialists. 

Cui, 60, a U.S. expert whose current post is vice foreign minister in charge of North American affairs, will become China's ambassador to the United States. Cui also has ample Asia experience. He previously succeeded Wang as ambassador to Tokyo, a post he held from 2007 to 2009. 

While all three foreign-policy professionals have a reputation for favoring negotiation over bluster, it is far from clear that their appointment signals a change in the aggressive turn Beijing's policy has taken toward sovereignty disputes in its neighborhood. 

In China, major policies on diplomacy and national security are made not by the Foreign Ministry but by the Chinese Communist Party's Central Leading Group on Foreign Affairs, which General Secretary Xi Jinping heads. Members of this top-level interdepartmental organ include representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the army, and the Ministry of State Security, as well as departments handling energy and foreign trade. But two Beijing sources close to the foreign-policy establishment say that Xi, who doubles as commander-in-chief of the military, has given the generals -- many of them fellow princelings, the offspring of party elders -- a bigger say in national-security issues than his predecessor Hu Jintao. 

US Sanctions against North Korea: Have they Worked?


The reverberations of North Korea’s third and latest nuclear test conducted on 12 February 2013 can be felt across Northeast Asia, tending to suggest that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions may never be deterred after all. Ever since signing of Agreed Framework between the US and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1994, until it effectively broke down in 2003, Pyongyang’s nuclear defiance has continued unabated with the pattern of seemingly stringent international sanctions being unable to prevent the North Korean regime from developing a full-fledged nuclear warhead along with its means of delivery. 

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is reportedly taking steps to adopt a new resolution that would elevate existing sanctions against North Korea. Additionally, South Korea and the US are considering imposition of independent, supplementary sanctions following the UNSC’s decision on future sanctions. Sanctions, in fact, play a critical tenet of the larger bilateral equation between Washington and Pyongyang and there is a legislative basis for US economic sanctions against North Korea. 

A facet that needs to be underscored is that contrary to most commonly expressed views, the United States does not maintain a comprehensive embargo against North Korea. The US government does not prohibit travel to North Korea, or for that matter does not deny trade in basic goods. However, trading activity between the two countries is minimal, mostly limited to food, medicine, and other humanitarian-related goods. According to the US Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, North Korea is denied direct foreign aid, economic support funds (ESF) for energy-related programs, and direct loans, credits, insurance and guarantees of the Export-Import Bank. 

When it comes to defining its trade status, North Korea does not possess any advantageous position and is denied luxury goods and trade financing. The US Department of Commerce has placed North Korea among the two most restricted country groups for exports in that imports require a license from the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and using a North Korea-flagged vessel for any transaction, whatsoever, remains strictly prohibited. Moreover foreign aid to North Korea is nominal, with most of it being limited to refugees fleeing North Korea, NGOs working towards promotion of democracy, human rights, and issues pertaining governance. Besides, minimal aid is available in the form of emergency food aid and related to halting and consequent dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme infrastructure. 

North Korea Scraps Armistice Today (Again)

March 10, 2013 

What happens today, March 11, 2013, local time off the Korean Peninsula could become a historic event, so I want to make sure it is noted what happened. This was the threat as reported by BNO.

A spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry Thursday issued the following statement:

The U.S. is now working hard to ignite a nuclear war to stifle the DPRK.

Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises kicked off by the U.S., putting the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war, are maneuvers for a nuclear war aimed to mount a preemptive strike on the DPRK from A to Z.

The U.S. is massively deploying armed forces for aggression, including nuclear carrier task force and strategic bombers, enough to fight a nuclear war under the smokescreen of "annual drills."

What should not be overlooked is that the war maneuvers are timed to coincide with the moves to fabricate a new "resolution" of the UN Security Council against the DPRK, pursuant to a war scenario of the U.S. to ignite a nuclear war under the pretext of "nuclear nonproliferation".

It is a trite war method of the U.S. to cook up "a resolution" at the UNSC to justify its war of aggression and then unleash it under the berets of "UN forces."

That is why the U.S. is hurling into the war maneuvers even armed forces of its satellite countries which participated in the past Korean War as "UN forces".

After directing the strategic pivot for world hegemony to the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. regards it as its primary goal to put the whole of the Korean Peninsula under its control in a bid to secure a bridgehead for landing in the Eurasian continent. It also seeks a way out of a serious economic crisis at home in unleashing the second Korean war.

The U.S. is, indeed, the very criminal threatening global peace and security as it is staging dangerous war drills in this region, the biggest hotspot in the world and a nuclear arsenal where nuclear weapons and facilities are densely deployed.

The DPRK has so far made every possible effort while exercising maximum self-restraint in order to defend the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.

Villages disappearing as rivers change course in Arunachal

Return to frontpage
10 Mar 2013

The Hindu A bird's view of the difficult terrain and hills of Arunachal Pradesh near the Brahmaputra basin. 

A numbers of hamlets in the foothills of Arunachal Pradesh and upper Assam have disappeared under water in the last few decades with climate change causing rivers to migrate from their route, experts say.

Many such cases of inundation were initially described as flash floods by the administration, but gradually it has emerged that rivers like Bikram, Ranga, Bogi, etc, originating from the Arunachal mountains have actually changed their course due to long spells of high intensity rainfall.

A number of small villages like Hatkhola, Kapisala, Tenga, Bango and Vikram Chapori in Assam’s Lakhimpur and Dhemaji district and Papum Pare district in Arunachal have been among the worst affected as a number of settlements have gradually submerged under water, this visiting correspondent found.

An analysis of geological data shows that in some places the rivers have changed their course by 300 metres while in other areas the change was as high as 1.8 km in between 1963 and 2009.

“As a result, parts of some villages have gone under water while in other cases the entire villages have simply vanished,” points out geologist S K Patnaik of Arunachal’s Rajiv Gandhi University.

A study under climate change fellowship by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) shows that this has not rendered hundreds of people homeless but also damaged agricultural fields and the rich biodiversity of this north-eastern state.

Although the total rainfall hasn’t changed much all these years, yet there has been an unprecedented increase in the duration and intensity of rainfall as well as cloudbursts in the Eastern Himalayas, explains Dr Prasanna K Samal, scientist in-charge at the G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development in Itanagar.

As the river channel gets more rainwater supply, it discharges excess water and sediments on reaching the plains. 

Unshining India


The struggle for justice does not end with decolonisation and democratisation.

A report from a roundtable discussion on the scope and impact of Subaltern Studies on the discipline of history. 

For those interested in Indian history, one of the most significant developments in the past four decades has been the rise and efflorescence of a school of historiography known as Subaltern Studies. Deeply influenced by Marx, as refracted through the Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci, Ranajit Guha (b. 1923) and his associates moved away from both colonial and nationalist history- writing, and began to look at the vast underclass that constituted the flip side of the rulers and elites of the British Empire in India, between 1757 and 1947.

To mark 30 years of Guha’s seminal book, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (1983), on February 15 and 16, 2013 the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi hosted a two-day workshop and a roundtable discussing the scope and impact of Subaltern Studies on the discipline of history in India and elsewhere. The 89-year old Guha himself was too frail to travel to Delhi from Vienna. But leading Subaltern intellectuals Partha Chatterjee, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Shahid Amin, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Gyan Prakash, Susie Tharu, David Hardiman, Shail Mayaram and Gyanendra Pandey were invited to reflect upon their relationship with Guha, their work as a group over the years, as well as future directions, if not for the Subaltern Studies school (which has more or less wound up its organised activities), then for historiography in and about India as such. Intense deliberations about Guha’s foundational text, his method and language, his philosophical assumptions, and his personality as a teacher, mentor, colleague and friend to an entire generation of historians took up a good portion of the time. 

The most promising papers, however, came from cultural anthropologists and not historians; at least three of whom suggested new ways in which to move forward with Guha’s ideas, after Subaltern Studies. For these scholars, Guha’s categories of thought and analysis — located in and developed specifically for the historical context of colonialism — served as starting points for thinking about Indian society as it unfolds in our own time. While many of the methods suggested by Guha for constituting and reading colonial archives were never really meant to be extended either into the pre-colonial past or into the postcolonial present, certain fundamental themes of domination, resistance, power, mobilisation, state, collectivity and identity persist in different time periods and invite attention, deployment and reinvention, no matter which phase of history one might be interested in. Even if Guha’s original formulations of conceptual categories break down when taken out of their proper setting, the promise of unexpected findings in research are nevertheless attractive for a subsequent generation of post-Subaltern scholars. 

The Promise and Peril of India’s Youth Bulge

By Danielle Rajendram 
March 10, 2013 

"...in order to accommodate the 300 million people that will join India's workforce between 2010 and 2040, India needs to create roughly 10 million jobs a year." 

As China, Japan and many other nations face an aging demographic profile, the youth segment of India’s population is growing rapidly, and is projected to continue to do so for the next 30 years. Provided India can act quickly on health, education and employment, this demographic dividend has the potential to inject new dynamism into its flagging economy. Failure to do so, however, will result in demographic disaster. 

Today, more than half of India’s population is under the age of 25, with 65 percent of the population under 35. By 2020, India’s average age will be just 29 years, in comparison with 37 in China and the United States, 45 in Western Europe and 48 in Japan.This demographic trend will confer a significant competitive advantage upon India. About a quarter of the global increase in the working age population (ages 15-64) between 2010 and 2040 is projected to occur in India, during which time this segment is set to rise by 5 percent to 69 percent of its total population. Roughly a million people are expected to enter the labor market every month, peaking at 653 million people in 2031. As a result the IMF projects that India’s demographic dividend has the potential to produce an additional 2 percent per capita GDP growth each year for the next twenty years. 

However, India’s ability to reap the rewards of its huge demographic advantage is far from guaranteed.The failure of a number of Latin American countries with the same demographic profile as Southeast Asia to achieve similarly impressive economic outcomes is a cautionary tale for India. The key to transforming the demographic dividend into economic growth lies not just in having more people, but having greater numbers of better trained, healthier and more productive people. The relationship here is mutually reinforcing; India must harness the advantage of its youth to fulfill its economic potential, and in turn must generate growth in order to continue to support its growing population. As noted by India's former Minister of Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, “it will be a dividend if we empower our young. It will be a disaster if we fail to put in place a policy and framework where they can be empowered.” 

At the most basic level, India must focus on improving the overall health and well-being of its children in order to make the most of their immense potential. The Asian Development Bank estimated that 32.7 percent of India's population lives below the poverty line of $1.25 a day (PPP), and India is home to one-third of the world's poor. At 44 deaths per 1,000 live births, India's mortality rate is high. The World Bank notes a direct link between undernourishment and impaired cognitive development, so should India fail to ensure the health and well-being of its children, its future productivity and development will be severely curtailed. With a Human Development Indicators ranking of 134 out of 187 countries, India has a long way to go, and must swiftly invest in developing the potential of its enormous human capital. 

India must stand by Sri Lanka, vote against US resolution

By  Kanchan Gupta

How Colombo deals with its domestic Tamil problem is entirely its business. New Delhi must mind India's interest and not succumb to DMK's political blackmail 

Nothing would be more disastrous for India’s national interest if the Congress were to decide to force Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid to vote for the resolution against Sri Lanka moved by the US in the United Nations Human Rights Council. At the fag end of UPA 2’s tenure, the Congress would be tempted to appease the DMK rather than risk the alliance collapsing and dying a premature death. But as Khurshid knows, succumbing to political blackmail at home can lead to possibilities of more than embarrassment abroad: It required Herculean effort to stave off a similar anti-India vote at the UNHRC when PV Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister and President Bill Clinton was determined to rub India’s nose in the dirt. Robin Raphael was implementing a Democratic Administration’s South Asia agenda which could witness a revival with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel pitching for Pakistan against India. 

As Minister of State in South Block, Khurshid barely managed to prevent the anti-India resolution from being put to vote in Geneva —had it not been for Atal Bihari Vajpayee stepping in to retrieve the situation by deploying his diplomatic skills and calling in favours, Pakistan would have scored a splendid victory. Times have changed, India is in a far more stronger position today than it was in the 1990s and the US is no more the sole and dominant global power. Ironically, it is precisely for those very reasons that Khurshid will find it impossible to prevent an anti-India resolution from being carried through on the back of a majority vote. Among those voting against India would be Sri Lanka and all sundry countries who stood by that country when New Delhi broke ranks to vote against Colombo in March last year. Not that Sonia Gandhi would want to take the Opposition’s help in such a situation, but even if she were to do so, Khurshid would not have Vajpayee leading the counter-offensive. 

Even the most casual reading of the draft resolution circulated by the US would show that a similar resolution can be moved against India at the UNHRC to demonstrate care and concern for Kashmiris. There would be more than enough takers for that, even if the care is bogus and the concern treacly — make no mistake of that. For, if Sri Lanka is accused of unfair use of state power against civilians and ‘armed opposition’, so is India charged in some quarters about counter-terrorism operations in the Kashmir Valley. If Sri Lanka is guilty of suppressing Tamil aspirations (including the right to self-determination), India stands accused of doing far worse, not only in Pakistan but also in Europe and America. If Sri Lanka must open its doors to international rapporteurs and allow unfettered access to the UN Human Rights Commissioner and other UNHRC staff, then a similar and seemingly credible demand can be made of India. Are we willing to accept this and other demands? Are we willing to subjugate our national sovereignty to illegitimate interference in our domestic affairs? These and other questions must be confronted and answered before we push for punitive action against Sri Lanka. 

Indian warships closed in as crisis played out in Maldives

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times
March 11, 2013 

India backed its diplomacy with naval muscle to resolve the crisis that broke out last month when Maldivian opposition leader Mohammed Nasheed sought refuge in the Indian high commission. While New Delhi was negotiating an understanding with Male that would allow the former president to leave the high commission, seven Indian Navy guided missile destroyers and frigates were exercising just outside Maldivian waters. Days earlier, an Indian Navy fast-attack craft had entered the territorial waters, apparently to conduct joint exercises with the coast guard there.

Present Indian policy to the Maldives has sought to ensure the country holds free and fair elections later this year. The attempt by the Male government to arrest Nasheed was seen as a threat to that goal.

A naval exercise, ‘TROPEX-2013’, involving 50 ships and submarines, 2,000 troops and tanks on India’s western seaboard was originally scheduled for the eastern seaboard. It was shifted to the western coast in January as New Delhi’s concerns about developments in Male began to increase. 

The political situation in the island nation reached breaking point soon after the exercise began. It concluded on March 1 after a full 30 days with all warships returning to harbour. Nasheed fled to the mission on February 13 and left 10 days later. He was arrested on March 5 and let off the next day. 

During this time, seven ships — including Delhi class destroyers with the western navy fleet commander on board and Talwar and Shivalik class frigates — exercised outside Maldivian waters. Senior defence ministry sources said none of the big warships entered the country’s territorial limits. 

In another coincidence, a day before Nasheed sought refuge at the mission, an Indian Navy fast-attack craft, Kalpeni, entered Maldivian waters, apparently to conduct joint exercises with the coast guard there for the next five days. It stayed an extra three days at the Male harbour. 

Government sources say India has no intention of interfering in Maldivian politics. But New Delhi is determined that President Mohammed Waheed should hold early free and fair elections to prevent further instability in the region — which has 16 political parties for a population of just 300,000 and straddles some of India’s most vital sea lanes.

Arc of Crisis 2.0?

March 7, 2013 

The infuriating charm of history, the writer Aldous Huxley once quipped, is that nothing ever changes—and yet somehow everything is completely different. One of the defining geopolitical narratives of this past half-decade has been the emergence of the Indo-Pacific as the maritime epicenter of global activity. Influential thinkers such as Robert D. Kaplan have drawn attention to the growing importance of the Indian Ocean, both as a hub of world trade and as a potential breeding pool for great-power rivalry. In reality, however, the sudden recognition of the Indian Ocean’s centrality is anything but a new phenomenon. 

Everything Old Is New Again 

During the second half of the Cold War, a series of crises and tectonic shocks—the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan—sent out ripples of unease across the entire Indian Ocean basin. These shocks led to a deluge of articles in various academic and policy journals that invariably called for an end to the U.S. tradition of benign neglect of the region. In 1978, Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke in vivid and foreboding terms of an “arc of crisis,” which stretched “along the shores of the Indian Ocean, with fragile and social and political structures in a region of vital importance to us threatened with fragmentation. The resulting political chaos could well be filled by elements hostile to our values and sympathetic to our adversaries.” 

The adversaries to which Brzezinski referred, of course, were the Soviets, who were then in the process of expanding their navy’s reach into the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean. Fearful that U.S. submarines could lash out at the Soviet Union’s southern continental landmass through its soft maritime underbelly, Moscow’s naval planners also fretted that NATO forces could interdict Soviet energy shipments meandering their way through the congested channels of the Persian Gulf. The United States no longer faces such a formidable peer competitor in the region. Nevertheless, close to three decades later, many other aspects of Brzezinski’s speech appear astonishingly enduring. 

The Indian Ocean remains a tumultuous zone, where a lack of governance along its shores has spawned a series of security chasms offshore. This spillover effect has been most apparent off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, where rampant piracy has prompted a continuous rotation of multinational naval taskforces. Meanwhile, an upsurge in Islamic extremism in countries such as Pakistan and Somalia has heightened regional anxiety over maritime terrorism and seaborne infiltration. These concerns have been exacerbated by the chronic deficiencies of many of the smaller, more impoverished nations in areas such as maritime-domain awareness and coastal surveillance. In 2008, a French Ministry of Defense white paper spoke in language strongly reminiscent of the Carter era: an “arc of instability” stretches from “Dakar (in Senegal) all the way to Peshawar (in Pakistan).” 

Other changes are transforming the wider maritime environment. The first, more insidious in nature, is the rapid diffusion of what military analysts refer to as “anti-access and area denial” (A2/AD) technologies. The second, more sudden and dramatic, is the gradual displacement of nuclear interactions from land to sea. 

The great American betrayal

By  Manoj Joshi 
March 11, 2013 

However else it is dressed up, the reality is that the world is about to witness a U.S. retreat from Afghanistan, one that can have disastrous consequences for the region 

It is well known that of all military operations, retreat is the most difficult and complicated. A victorious march that takes a wrong turn can end in a stalemate, but a retreat gone wrong will most likely turn into a disaster. These are the grim forebodings that come to mind when we think of the forthcoming withdrawal of the American-led military forces from Afghanistan. 
Whistling in the dark 

The Obama Administration is putting it out as though the withdrawal is a great achievement, since it will pull it out of the quagmire that it has been stuck in ever since George Bush declared a “global war on terror.” But the reality is shoddier — we are witnessing yet another western retreat from Afghanistan, one that can have baleful consequences for others. No matter what the Americans say or do officially, they are, essentially, whistling in the dark. 

The departure of the Americans and their allies — even though reports suggest that a small force will remain — is a fraught moment for the Afghans, the United States and neighbouring countries. Last month, representatives of India, Russia and China met in Moscow. According to an official in the know, the discussion was businesslike and devoid of the double-speak that often marks the occasion. The subject was Afghanistan. Faced with the withdrawal of the American-led alliance from the country, the three regional powers are scrambling to see how they can stabilise the situation. Each of them has interests there, and none of these really clash. 

But all three have an interest in ensuring that Afghanistan is stable and secure, witnesses economic growth and reconstruction, and is integrated into the regional economy. India and China are interested in ensuring that a war-ravaged Afghanistan does not once again become a place where militants are able to establish training camps freely. Both have important investments — India’s $ 2 billion are spread in development projects to promote Afghan stability, while China’s $ 3 billion could aid in its prosperity. As for Russia, it is the primary security provider to the Central Asian states and has an interest in preventing the return of a situation of civil war. 

It is important that the post-U.S. situation does not degenerate into an India-Pakistan battlefield. The responsibility here lies heavier with New Delhi, since Pakistan can be trusted to follow its baser instincts. Indeed, New Delhi’s strategy must be to prevent Islamabad from trying to turn the Afghan clock back to the pre-American days. In this, it can fruitfully use the dialogue processes it has established with Russia and China and, separately, the U.S. Interestingly, in the recent India-China-Russia talks, the Chinese pointedly avoided projecting Islamabad’s case and spoke for their own interests, just as the other interlocutors did. 

Death by a thousand cuts

By  Farahnaz Ispahani 

Land of the pure or land of the purge? Saturday’s mob attack on a Christian colony in Lahore is a reminder of how unsafe Pakistan has become for minorities such as Shias, Hindus, Ahmadis and Christians. 

After each act of violence against religious minorities, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or Sipah-e-Sahaba proudly own up to it without fear of punishment 

The recent mob attack on Christians in Lahore, resulting in the burning down of over one hundred Christian homes while the police stood by, is a reminder of how unsafe Pakistan has become for religious minorities. The attacks on Christians follows a rising tide of attacks on Pakistan’s Shia Muslims, sometimes mischaracterised in the media as the product of sectarian conflict. In reality, these increasingly ferocious attacks reflect the ambitious project of Islamists to purify Pakistan, making it a bastion of a narrow version of Islam Sunni. Pakistan literally translates as “the land of the pure”. But, what started in an imperceptible way as early as the 1940s, picking up momentum in the 1990s, is a drive to transform Pakistan into a land of religious purification. 

Muslim groups such as the Shias that account for possibly 20-25% of Pakistan’s Muslim population and Non-Muslim minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have been target-killed, forcibly converted, kidnapped and had their religious places bombed and vandalised with alarming regularity. At the time of partition in 1947, Pakistan had a healthy 23% of its population comprise non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately three per cent. The distinctions among Muslim denominations have also become far more accentuated over the years. 

Changing times 

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and his two closest political and personal lieutenants, the Raja of Mahmoodabad and my grandfather Mirza Abol Hassan Ispahani, were all Shia Muslims. All three devoted their political lives and personal finances to the creation of Pakistan. Mr. Jinnah named Sir Zafrulla Khan, member of the embattled Ahmadiyya sect, as Pakistan’s first foreign minister. As originally conceived, Pakistan did not discriminate among various Muslim denominations, and non-Muslim minorities too were assured of equal rights as citizens. But things have changed over the last several decades. Last week, the massacre of the Shia community of Abbas Town in Karachi took place on and around a road named after my Shia grandfather. 


By Rudra Chaudhuri

Limited reconciliation is not impossible for India 

Unrestrained “generosity,” wrote Jawaharlal Nehru of Afghanistan “is a risky business in the long run.” An approach shaped by the need for balance, the then vice-president of the interim cabinet argued, better suited India’s interests. It was not that Nehru took a less than charitable view of a nation then beginning to invest in what Mohammad Zahir Shah called modernization, but that both the advantages and pitfalls associated with closer Indian engagement with Afghanistan were clear to India’s future prime minister. At some level, and notwithstanding the six or so decades since Indian independence, the issues that most exercised India’s early foreign policy bureaucracy were only somewhat different from those confronted by officials in the present day. 

‘Fruitful cooperation’, as both Nehru and K.P.S. Menon — India’s first foreign secretary — agreed, was to be designed in such a way as to institutionalize economic assistance whilst staying clear of military alliances with the Afghan state. The latter, the prime minister made plain, was “neither feasible nor desirable”. Similarly, nothing in India’s advance was to undermine Pakistani sovereignty. After all, and as is well documented, Afghanistan’s approach to an independent Pakistan was anything but affable. Zahir Shah’s government not only demanded the erasing of the Durand Line, the 1,500 mile-long border inked in 1893 that separates the two states, but also laid claim to the Pashtun majority regions in the frontier territories of northwestern Pakistan. 

India’s objective was to expand its presence within Afghanistan whilst making sure not to peeve Pakistani elites. Hence, and at various times, Indian leaders stressed that ‘Pashtunistan’ — a term apparently coined by All India Radio — or Zahir Shah’s call in 1947 to extend Afghanistan’s borders was misplaced. The imperial border, Nehru made clear, was sacrosanct. Aside from the few years of Taliban rule in the last decade of the last century, successive Indian governments did well to establish India’s credentials as a donor nation in the imagination of ordinary Afghans. Likewise, such popularity expectedly riled Pakistan’s military tsars. 

In the present milieu, the test seems to lie in maintaining a sense of and intuition for balance, whilst remaining alive to the fresh challenges apparent in a less than predictable future. This is not to suggest that conciliation with Islamabad be placed at the centre of India’s advance. Rather, that the changes and challenges faced by Pakistan could be creatively considered as New Delhi charts a course for itself. In this respect, and whilst admittedly less important than shoring up economic investments or working more closely with the Afghan army, the curious and unappealing questions around reconciliation — or the process of talking to the Taliban — is in need of desperate attention. 

Karzai slams US: 'Engaging in talks with Taliban over troop exit'

Mar 11 2013

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday accused the Taliban and the US of working in concert to convince Afghans that violence will worsen if most foreign troops leave — an allegation the top American commander in Afghanistan rejected as "categorically false.'' 

Karzai said two suicide bombings that killed 19 people on Saturday — one outside the Afghan Defence Ministry and the other near a police checkpoint in eastern Khost province — show the insurgent group is conducting attacks to demonstrate that international forces will still be needed to keep the peace after their current combat mission ends in 2014. 

"The explosions in Kabul and Khost yesterday showed that they are at the service of America and at the service of this phrase: 2014. They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners are not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents,'' he said during a nationally televised speech about the state of Afghan women. 

Karzai is known for making incendiary comments in his public speeches, a tactic that is often attributed to him trying to appeal to Taliban sympathisers or to gain leverage when he feels his international allies are ignoring his country's sovereignty. 

US and NATO forces commander Gen Joseph Dunford said Karzai had never expressed such views to him. "We have fought too hard over the past 12 years, we have shed too much blood over the last 12 years, to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage,'' Dunford said. 

Karzai's latest comments come during US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel's first visit to Afghanistan since becoming the Pentagon chief, a trip made in part to meet with Karzai. Hours after Karzai's speech, their joint news conference was cancelled by officials citing security concerns, though officials said the two men still planned to meet privately. 

A nation divided

Mar 9th 2013 

A flawed tribunal opens old wounds and threatens Bangladesh’s future 

IT WAS supposed to help Bangladesh come to terms with the horrors that accompanied its birth as a nation in 1971. But the “International Crimes Tribunal” has provoked the worst political violence the country has endured in the 42 years since. Actually a domestic court, the tribunal is trying men accused of atrocities in the war that won independence from Pakistan. 

According to Odhikar, a Bangladeshi human-rights watchdog, more than 100 people died between February 5th and March 7th in what it called a “killing spree” by law-enforcement agencies on the pretext of controlling the violence. At least 67 people were killed after the court delivered its third sentence on February 28th. That was death by hanging for Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, one of the leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s biggest Islamic party, for the murder, abduction, rape, torture and persecution of his countrymen. 

The sentence had been expected. But members of Shibir, Jamaat’s student wing, reacted furiously. Mr Sayeedi is a fiery Islamic orator who draws bigger crowds than any other preacher in Bangladesh. Within a day of the verdict police and paramilitary forces had shot dead at least 23 protesters. On March 3rd the government deployed troops in Bogra district, north-west of the capital, Dhaka, after over 10,000 Jamaat supporters armed with sticks and home-made bombs attacked police stations and government offices. 

Jamaat has been behaving more like an insurgency than a political party. Thugs have used children as human shields, attacked Hindu homes and temples and hacked policemen to death. In Jhenidah, in the south-west, they gouged out the eyes of a policeman they had murdered. Near Chittagong in the east they failed in an attempt to burn 19 policemen alive, but killed one with a pick through the neck. 

The violence saps hope that a public act of vengeance against Jamaat, delivered through a broken justice system, might inspire some sort of catharsis for the country. Rumours spread on Facebook of a sighting of Mr Sayeedi’s face on the moon. Some saw this as a sign of his innocence and it mobilised pious supporters very different from the thuggish core of Shibir. 

Seven more verdicts are due. Most are expected in a matter of months. Next on the list is Ghulam Azam, the head of Jamaat in 1971, accused of overseeing the setting up of pro-Pakistani death squads manned by the party’s student wing. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for Mr Azam, whom it likened, in its closing arguments this week, to Adolf Hitler. Observers say a verdict may come by March 26th, the day the 1971 war broke out, now celebrated as Independence Day. 

War crimes, Army rank issues keep consensus at bay in Nepal

By Gyanu Adhikari 
10 Mar 2013

Despite the daily meetings among the leaders of Nepal’s four major political forces, a package deal on the contentious issues failed to materialise on Saturday, jeopardising the parties’ goal of holding elections by June. 

The parties, which want to appoint the Chief Justice as the head of new cabinet to hold elections for another Constituent Assembly, are divided over the issues of updating the voter rolls and providing citizenship certificates to disenfranchised Nepalis, in addition to the creation of transitional justice mechanisms to look into human rights abuses committed during the Maoist ‘People’s War’. 

“We will have a deal tomorrow,” Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, repeated to the journalists on Saturday what has been a consistent refrain all of last week. 

Although the top leaders of the four forces — UCPN (Maoist); Nepali Congress; Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninists (CPN-UML); and United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) — have repeated publicly that elections by June is the only way out of the impasse, they appear to have realised it may be a difficult-to-meet target. On Saturday, the parties tried to lay the blame on each other for the delay. 

Two of the difficult issues relate to the peace agreement that ended the Maoist ‘People’s War’ in 2006. As a part of the agreement [in 2011] among the parties that resulted in Dr. Baburam Bhattarai becoming the Prime Minister, the Maoists disbanded their ‘People’s Liberation Army’. 

But out of the less than 1,500 soldiers who chose to join the Nepal Army, the Maoists want at least one to be made a Colonel and two to be made Lieutenant-Colonels, according to one of the negotiators. The Nepali Congress, however, would prefer not to confer any rank above that of Lieutenant-Colonel. 

Also, the parties have been unable to agree on an ordinance on transitional justice mechanisms to look into war-time crimes. The UCPN (Maoist) has insisted that the ordinance must be enacted before forming a new government. 

“The bill in the Parliament, which was abruptly withdrawn last year, had a ‘negative list’ for crimes like rape, murder, disappearance and torture, on which amnesty wasn’t possible, but the ordinance has no such list,” said Radheshyam Adhikari, a lawmaker from Nepali Congress in the lapsed Constituent Assembly. 

Ten years after the invasion, did we win the Iraq war?

By Andrew J. Bacevich, 
March 8, 2013

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University and a retired Army officer. An updated edition of his book “The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War” will be published this month. 

Judgments rendered by history tend to be tentative, incomplete and reversible. More than occasionally, they arrive seasoned with irony. This is especially true when it comes to war, where battlefield outcomes thought to be conclusive often prove anything but. 

Rather than yielding peace, victory frequently serves as a prelude to more war. Once opened, wounds fester. Things begun stubbornly refuse to end. As the renowned strategic analyst F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed, “The victor belongs to the spoils.”

Next year marks the centennial of the conflict once known as the Great War. Germany lost that war. Whether France and Britain can be said to have won in any meaningful sense is another matter. Besides planting the seeds for an even more horrific bloodletting just two decades later, the fighting of 1914-1918 served chiefly to provide expansion-minded British politicians with a pretext for carving up the Ottoman Empire. It proved a fateful move.

What London wanted from this new Middle East that it nonchalantly cut and pasted was profit and submission; what it got was resentment and resistance, yielding a host of intractable problems that in due time it bequeathed to Washington. In effect, victory in 1918 expanded Britain’s imperial domain only to accelerate its demise, with the United States naively assuming the mantle of imperial responsibility (euphemistically termed “leadership”). Thank you, Perfidious Albion.

Many another storied triumph has contained its own poison pill. More recent examples include the Six Day War, which saddled Israel with a large, restive minority that it can neither pacify nor assimilate; the ouster of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, giving rise to the Taliban; and Operation Desert Storm, after which the garrisoning of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia helped light the long fuse that would eventually detonate on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Think you’ve won? Wait until all the returns are in.

With the passage of time, near-term military results matter less than long-term political consequences. Fifty years ago, when the Korean War ended in an apparent stalemate, most Americans considered Harry Truman’s “police action” a horrendous mistake. Viewed today, that brutal conflict may qualify as the most successful U.S. military action of recent decades. Consider what came next: a half-century of stability in Northeast Asia that allowed the Republic of Korea to emerge as a prosperous democracy and a loyal ally. Not too shabby.

The Biggest Blunder America Ever Made

I was there. And "there" was nowhere. And nowhere was the place to be if you wanted to see the signs of end times for the American Empire up close. It was the place to be if you wanted to see the madness -- and oh yes, it was madness -- not filtered through a complacent and sleepy media that made Washington's war policy seem, if not sensible, at least sane and serious enough. I stood at Ground Zero of what was intended to be the new centerpiece for a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East. 

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the invasion of Iraq turned out to be a joke. Not for the Iraqis, of course, and not for American soldiers, and not the ha-ha sort of joke either. And here's the saddest truth of all: on March 20th as we mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion from hell, we still don't get it. In case you want to jump to the punch line, though, it's this: by invading Iraq, the U.S. did more to destabilize the Middle East than we could possibly have imagined at the time. And we -- and so many others -- will pay the price for it for a long, long time. 

The Madness of King George 

It's easy to forget just how normal the madness looked back then. By 2009, when I arrived in Iraq, we were already at the last-gasp moment when it came to salvaging something from what may yet be seen as the single worst foreign policy decision in American history. It was then that, as a State Department officer assigned to lead two provincial reconstruction teams in eastern Iraq, I first walked into the chicken processing plant in the middle of nowhere.

By then, the U.S. "reconstruction" plan for that country was drowning in rivers of money foolishly spent. As the centerpiece for those American efforts -- at least after Plan A, that our invading troops would be greeted with flowers and sweets as liberators, crashed and burned -- we had managed to reconstruct nothing of significance. First conceived as a Marshall Plan for the New American Century, six long years later it had devolved into farce. 

In my act of the play, the U.S. spent some $2.2 million dollars to build a huge facility in the boondocks. Ignoring the stark reality that Iraqis had raised and sold chickens locally for some 2,000 years, the U.S. decided to finance the construction of a central processing facility, have the Iraqis running the plant purchase local chickens, pluck them and slice them up with complex machinery brought in from Chicago, package the breasts and wings in plastic wrap, and then truck it all to local grocery stores. Perhaps it was the desert heat, but this made sense at the time, and the plan was supported by the Army, the State Department, and the White House. 

Elegant in conception, at least to us, it failed to account for a few simple things, like a lack of regular electricity, or logistics systems to bring the chickens to and from the plant, or working capital, or... um... grocery stores. As a result, the gleaming $2.2 million plant processed no chickens. To use a few of the catchwords of that moment, it transformed nothing, empowered no one, stabilized and economically uplifted not a single Iraqi. It just sat there empty, dark, and unused in the middle of the desert. Like the chickens, we were plucked.