28 March 2013

India as a great power

Know your own strength
Mar 30th 2013 | DELHI

India is poised to become one of the four largest military powers in the world by the end of the decade. It needs to think about what that means

UNLIKE many other Asian countries—and in stark contrast to neighbouring Pakistan—India has never been run by its generals. The upper ranks of the powerful civil service of the colonial Raj were largely Hindu, while Muslims were disproportionately represented in the army. On gaining independence the Indian political elite, which had a strong pacifist bent, was determined to keep the generals in their place. In this it has happily succeeded.

But there have been costs. One is that India exhibits a striking lack of what might be called a strategic culture. It has fought a number of limited wars—one with China, which it lost, and several with Pakistan, which it mostly won, if not always convincingly—and it faces a range of threats, including jihadist terrorism and a persistent Maoist insurgency. Yet its political class shows little sign of knowing or caring how the country’s military clout should be deployed.

That clout is growing fast. For the past five years India has been the world’s largest importer of weapons (see chart). A deal for $12 billion or more to buy 126 Rafale fighters from France is slowly drawing towards completion. India has more active military personnel than any Asian country other than China, and its defence budget has risen to $46.8 billion. Today it is the world’s seventh-largest military spender; IHS Jane’s, a consultancy, reckons that by 2020 it will have overtaken Japan, France and Britain to come in fourth. It has a nuclear stockpile of 80 or more warheads to which it could easily add more, and ballistic missiles that can deliver some of them to any point in Pakistan. It has recently tested a missile with a range of 5,000km (3,100 miles), which would reach most of China.

Which way to face?

Apart from the always-vocal press and New Delhi’s lively think-tanks, India and its leaders show little interest in military or strategic issues. Strategic defence reviews like those that take place in America, Britain and France, informed by serving officers and civil servants but led by politicians, are unknown in India. The armed forces regard the Ministry of Defence as woefully ignorant on military matters, with few of the skills needed to provide support in areas such as logistics and procurement (they also resent its control over senior promotions). Civil servants pass through the ministry rather than making careers there. The Ministry of External Affairs, which should be crucial to informing the country’s strategic vision, is puny. Singapore, with a population of 5m, has a foreign service about the same size as India’s. China’s is eight times larger.

The main threats facing India are clear: an unstable, fading but dangerous Pakistan; a swaggering and intimidating China. One invokes feelings of superiority close to contempt, the other inferiority and envy. In terms of India’s regional status and future prospects as a “great power”, China matters most; but the vexatious relationship with Pakistan still dominates military thinking.

A recent attempt to thaw relations between the two countries is having some success. But tension along the “line of control” that separates the two sides in the absence of an agreed border in Kashmir can flare up at any time. To complicate things, China and Pakistan are close, and China is not above encouraging its grateful ally to be a thorn in India’s side. Pakistan also uses jihadist terrorists to conduct a proxy war against India “under its nuclear umbrella”, as exasperated Indians put it. The attack on India’s parliament in 2001 by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist group with close links to Pakistan’s intelligence service, brought the two countries to the brink of war. The memory of the 2008 commando raid on Mumbai by Lashkar-e-Taiba, another terrorist organisation, is still raw.

India’s role in Sri Lanka

Domestic challenges complicating the issue
by G Parthasarathy

WITH a population of barely 20 million, people in Sri Lanka have, in recent years, shed earlier prejudices and fears about India. Roughly one-thirds of its Tamil population of 3 million constitutes the descendants of Indian workers who sought employment there during colonial rule. They live in the central and southern regions and have elected leaders who have a working relationship with the Sinhala majority. Facing discrimination in the years following independence, Tamils, who have inhabited the island’s northeast for centuries, resorted to an armed struggle, in which India rather unwisely associated with armed Tamil groups in the 1980s. Nevertheless, the 1987 India-Sri Lanka Accord provided substantive autonomy to the Tamil-dominated north. This agreement’s provisions were enacted as the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution. India thus has a historical role and responsibility in facilitating the devolution of powers to the Tamil-majority northern province.

After the ethnic conflict became an armed insurrection in the 1980s, sentiments in Tamil Nadu were inflamed and assumed partisan political dimensions between the two major parties, the AIADMK and the DMK. While the AIADMK under MG Ramachandran initially backed the LTTE, the DMK led by Mr Karunanidhi, who is today the only leader in independent India to be elected as Chief Minister on five occasions, chose to back the rival TELO. Mr Karunanidhi strongly condemned Prabhakaran for assassinating TELO leader Sri Sabarathinam in 1985. While he later proclaimed that Prabhakaran was not a terrorist, he asserted in October 2012 that India cannot forgive the LTTE for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. This statement came after the culmination of the bloody civil war in 2010, when Prabhakaran was killed.

While both the DMK and AIADMK governments have performed far better in economic and social development in Tamil Nadu than most other state governments in India, Mr Karunanidhi has opted for dynastic succession, handing over the reins of power to his third son Stalin. This proposed change has come at a time when DMK functionaries and even members of Mr Karunanidhi’s family are facing investigations and charges of corruption in the 2G spectrum scandal. In the meantime, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa moved swiftly to up the ante on the horrendous deaths in the last days of the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Impartial international observers, however, acknowledge that while there were excesses by the Sri Lankan armed forces, the LTTE could not be exempt from blame because of its use of civilians as human shields --- a tactic it regularly used against the IPKF in 1987-1988. The DMK, with its disciplined party cadres responded by organising mass agitations and whipping up public passions, demanding that India should take the lead in getting Colombo condemned for “genocide”.

Given the present domestic environment, New Delhi is having a difficult time navigating its way to get Colombo to ease up on the heaviness of its military presence and organise free and fair elections in the Tamil-dominated north. This process should lead to the establishment of a significantly empowered provincial government to address the day-to-day needs and aspirations of the Tamil people. With the Congress party lacking leaders with a mass base in Tamil Nadu, New Delhi appears to lack the potential to directly explain to people there why reason has to prevail over emotions in the conduct of foreign policy. A number of basic issues were never understood in the debate in Tamil Nadu. It was never realised that however hard New Delhi tried in the UNHRC, it was inconceivable that any resolution moved by India describing Sri Lankan actions as “genocide”’ would have picked up even five votes in the 47-member UNHCR. South Korea was the only Asian country, apart from India, to support the Washington-backed UNHCR resolution. Even Japan abstained. The US alone was capable of getting its nuanced resolution passed and that too with only 25 out of 47 members voting in its favour. Washington was in no mood to accommodate even minor Indian amendments.

India to Possibly Halt All Iran Oil Imports

By Zachary Keck
March 26, 2013

India may completely halt its importation of Iranian oil starting in April, according to a number of media reports citing unnamed officials.

Delhi is currently Iran’s second largest oil consumer and purchases around U.S. $11.5 billion of Iranian oil each year at current prices, according to Bloomberg News. This trade has become increasingly strained as the United States and European Union have enacted third party sanctions against countries that continue doing business with Iran’s energy and financial sectors. Indeed, according to Oxford Analytica, the current terms of the trade are Iranian oil for Indian commodities instead of cash.

Although the U.S. has provided India with a waiver from its sanctions because Delhi has reduced the amount of oil Iran purchases, the EU has threatened to stop insuring India’s refineries if they continue processing Iranian oil. Meanwhile, OPEC members like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait have also reportedly assured the refineries that they will use their own oil reserves to make-up for the loss of Iranian oil should India halt its purchases. Currently Delhi imports more than 300,000 barrels per day (b/d) of Iranian crude.

India’s oil ministry has yet to make an official announcement on the matter.

If the reports are accurate, however, it would be a significant blow to Iran’s already grim economic outlook. Since sanctions went into effect last summer Iran’s oil customers have been reduced almost entirely to India, China, South Korea, and Japan, with India purchasing an estimated 25 percent of Tehran’s oil exports.

As The Diplomat reported last week, China’s investment and bilateral trade with Iran declined sharply in 2012, mostly as a result of Western sanctions going into effect. In the first two months of this year, however, Beijing increased its oil imports from Iran by 2.7 percent.

Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea will also reportedly reduce the amount of oil they purchase from Iran by between 5-15 percent at the start of the new financial year next month. Already Japan reduced its oil imports from Iran by nearly 40 percent in the six months between August 2012 and January 2013. South Korea reduced its oil purchases from Iran by 30 and 25 percent in January and February of this year respectively.

In January Iran’s oil minister told parliament that oil sales had declined by 40 percent in 2012. The FY 2013 Iranian budget (yet to be passed), for the year that began March 21, forecasts a 40 percent decline in oil revenue year-on-year. This figure was based on Iran selling between 0.9 million b/d and 1.3 million b/d in 2013, a quarter of the approximately 4 million b/d Iran sold in 2010 and roughly half the 2.2 million b/d it sold in 2011. 

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei brushed aside these concerns in his speech marking the Iranian New Year last week, when he said the past year “had its sweet moments and bitter moments, its victories and defeats.” Regarding sanctions specifically, Khamenei told his audience:

“Sanctions had some impacts but caused a positive movement within ourselves to use our great capacities and talents. With its successes, our nation proved that living independent of USA does not mean being behind others.”

He went on to say “the fields of economics and politics are of primary importance” in the year ahead, which he named ‘The Year of Epic Politics and Epic Economics,” following closely on the themes of previous years, such as “The Year of Economic Jihad,” and the “Year of National Production.” 

Tankers and the economy of thirst

P. Sainath

BY THE DOZEN: Shrikant Melawane and a helper at Rahuri Factory moving the ‘Rolling Machine.’ In the background are several 5,000-litre ‘tankers,’ sheets of mild steel rolled into drums and welded together. They are then mounted on the trailers of very large vehicles. Photo: P. Sainath
The 'Rolling Machine' on which 15 ft x 18ft sheets of mild steel are curved and thereafter 'rolled' into drums that are then welded together to make the kind of 'tankers' or containers seen in the background at the Rahuri Factory. In this instance, they are each of 5,000-litre capacity. 

The water markets of Marathwada are booming. In the town of Jalna alone, tanker owners transact between Rs.6 million and Rs.7.5 million in water sales each day

Thirst is Marathwada’s greatest crop this season. Forget sugarcane. Thirst, human and industrial, eclipses anything else. Those harvesting it reap tens of millions of rupees each day across the region. The van loads of dried-out cane you see on the roads could end up at cattle camps as fodder. The countless “tankers” you see on the same roads are making it to the towns, villages and industries for profit. Water markets are the biggest things around. Tankers are their symbol.

Thousands of them criss-cross Marathwada daily, collecting, transporting and selling water. Those contracted by the government are a minority and some of them exist only on paper. It’s the privately-operated ones that are crucial to rapidly expanding water markets.

MLAs and Corporators-turned-contractors and contractors-turned-Corporators and MLAs are vital to the tanker economy. Bureaucrats, too. Many own tankers directly or benami.

Water commerce

So what is a tanker? Really, just sheets of mild steel plate rolled into big drums. A 10,000-litre water tanker consists of three sheets of 5 ft x 18 ft, each weighing 198 kilograms. The rolled drums are welded together. These can be carried by trucks, lorries and other large vehicles, mounted on them in different ways. Smaller carriers transport cylinders of lower capacity. A 5,000 litre container can go onto the trailer of a big van. It comes all the way down to 1,000 and 500-litre drums that move on mini-tractors, opened-up auto rickshaws and bullock carts.


- Foreign offices cannot always worry about public response
Diplomacy: K.P. Nayar

Staffan de Mistura: man of conviction

He is Italy’s Jaswant Singh with one significant difference. Like Singh, he undertook the onerous task of escorting men whose transport across national boundaries was necessary to solve a major crisis. But unlike in the case of Singh, the two men whom Staffan de Mistura accompanied from Italy to India are heroes for his people. The three men that India’s minister for external affairs in 1999 took from India to Afghanistan were terrorists, reviled by Singh’s countrymen.

Both transfers of men were hugely unpopular in their respective countries, but they represent diplomacy’s less glamorous aspects and demand leaders of conviction in foreign offices who are prepared to do things for the greater good unmindful of the loss of cheer from the public that such actions entail.

Mistura, the Italian equivalent of a deputy foreign minister, returned the marines, who are accused of killing two fishermen from Kerala 14 months ago, to stand trial in India because failure to do so would have entailed a precipitous decline in relations between New Delhi and Rome. Without Singh delivering the three Pakistani terrorists in Kandahar, the passengers of Indian Airlines flight IC 814 would have been brutally killed by their hijackers.

If bookmakers were taking wagers on what the future holds for the two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, I would wager heavily on a bright future for them. The clue to their future lies in Italian history, where episodes similar to what happened between Rome and New Delhi last week are not hard to recall.

In 255 BC, the Carthaginians defeated the Romans in the First Punic War and the Roman general who led the expedition, Marcus Atilius Regulus, was taken prisoner. In a page from history that has eerie resemblance to the case of the marines, Latorre and Girone, the general was sent on parole to Rome, but not to celebrate Christmas with his family because Jesus Christ was not yet born or to vote in any election.

Regulus was sent home to negotiate a final peace between Rome and Carthage and to work out an exchange of prisoners of war in those days when there were no Geneva Convention to oversee such an aftermath of war. To cut short the long history, Regulus urged Romans to reject the peace proposals that he was personally carrying from the Carthaginians. That in itself was not a problem, but the general insisted that he should go back to Carthage even though there was no peace.

His people were appalled at the suggestion because Regulus was a war hero to them and they wanted him to stay back in Rome now that their enemies had sent him on parole. But the general insisted that the word of a Roman was sacrosanct. Much like what Mistura and his boss, the Italian foreign minister, Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, has been telling the world about the assurances given by Italy’s ambassador in New Delhi, Daniele Mancini, after last week’s decision to return the marines to India to stand trial.

Strategic Horizons: Iraq Today is Afghanistan Tomorrow

on 27 Mar 2013

The recent 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq sparked a flurry of attention. Op-eds, blogs, conferences and panels of all sorts sprouted, most dealing with the "lessons" the United States should draw from its initial decision to invade and subsequent long involvement in the country. As the lesson fest subsides, attention is shifting to Iraq's current security predicament and its relationship with the United States. Unfortunately, it is not a pretty picture.

With war raging in neighboring Syria and the Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad continuing to exclude Sunni Arabs as much as possible, al-Qaida is on the rebound in Iraq, its terrorism growing in scale. In a single day last week, more than a dozen suicide attacks and car bombs killed nearly 60 people in Baghdad's Shiite areas. Yet there is little the United States can do. As Iraq spirals downward with little sign of a political resolution to its sectarian and ethnic conflict, America's voice has "been reduced to a whimper." In the words of Saleh al-Mutlak, an Iraqi deputy prime minister, "No one thinks America has influence now in Iraq."

This matters because Iraq itself matters. But it also offers a window into the future. If everything goes exactly right, Afghanistan tomorrow may look much like Iraq today. This is a depressing thought. It certainly wasn't what Americans expected as they poured blood, money and effort into the two conflicts. No so long ago, the belief was that Iraq and Afghanistan would become stable, pro-American nations playing a major role in combating violent Islamic extremism. But unsurprisingly, things went badly wrong.

Two “big ideas” help explain why counterinsurgency campaigns like those in Iraq and Afghanistan don't turn out the way Americans hope or expect. One is what can be called the "partner problem." When the United States elected to become an active global power following World War II, it recognized that it could not directly apply power everywhere, so it opted for an indirect approach, strengthening partners with advice and aid. That worked in places like Europe, Latin America and Northeast Asia, where allies with effective governments shared American priorities and objectives. But it foundered where America's partners were weak or deeply flawed regimes with radically different priorities and objectives. In those places -- and Iraq and Afghanistan are both examples -- politics is a spoils system. The ethnic group, sect, tribe, clan or region that controls the state uses it to benefit its own narrowly defined group at the expense of all the others. Since the stakes of political competition are so high, participants go to great -- and often nefarious or violent -- lengths to win. Once they win, they cling to power for as long as possible. Being gracious in defeat and alternating power between competitors simply make no sense in such an environment.

Not surprisingly, this type of political system is conflict-prone since the losers have few nonviolent means to promote their interests. And those in power have little incentive to change the system since they have a vested interest in maintaining it. They may make token gestures or engineer superficial reforms to attract outside -- particularly American -- support, but they will not address the structural problems that generate violent opposition. In fact, some degree of violence is helpful for holding Washington's attention and keeping assistance flowing.

What Does Musharraf’s Second Coming Mean for Pakistan?

By Sanjay Kumar
March 27, 2013

Significant political events are taking place in Pakistan that could have far-reaching implications for its democratic evolution. For the first time in the nation’s history, a civilian government has completed its term and elections seem likely to be held on time.

Further, a new caretaker prime minister, the retired Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, has been announced amid a peaceful transition. Of particular significance, former dictator and ex-President Pervez Musharraf, has returned to Pakistan at this time to seek democratic legitimacy, following four years of self-imposed exile. Musharraf’s return adds a new dimension to the country’s political transformation.

Before his exile, the former chief of the Pakistani army ruled the country for more than nine years, from the time he seized power in a 1999 coup when he deposed the democratically elected civilian government headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In 2001, Musharraf was elected president and ruled with a heavy hand until he was ousted by a popular vote in 2008. In the upcoming election, Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) will run against Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), with the latter predicted to win. Further, as the elections approach, Musharraf’s past has come back to haunt him.

Before Musharraf could land in Karachi last Sunday, the Taliban had already issued a threat on his life. In a video message aimed at the former leader, militant Adnan Rasheed warned, "The mujahideen of Islam have prepared a special squad to send Musharraf to hell. There are suicide bombers, snipers, a special assault unit and a close combat team." The Taliban’s grievance with Musharraf stems from his choice to take arms with the United States in its war on terror. His order of a raid on the Red Mosque in 2007 to flush out militants holed up inside was another strike against him in the Taliban’s eyes.

The APML leader also faces a stiff challenge from the judiciary. Musharraf has several cases pending against him. He is wanted for illegally sacking judges in 2007, providing insufficient security for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, as well as for litigation related to the death of popular Baluch leader Akbar Bugti in 2006. Although he secured preemptive bail from the Sindh High Court, analysts say that sooner or later the law will catch up with him.

According to an article in the Washington Post, some analysts predict that Musharraf’s return could create a conflict between the judiciary and the military if he is arrested. This line of thinking suggests that the army that he served for 40 years may defend him in such a case.

Could Pakistan bridge the U.S.-China divide?

By Ziad Haider 
March 25, 2013 

As the Obama administration seeks to "responsibly withdraw" from Afghanistan by 2014, it must also retool its policy toward a more strategically important, nuclear-armed, and volatile Pakistan. Given U.S. engagement and leverage with Pakistan will only further decline, and its current single digit approval rating in Pakistan, it needs all the help it can get to contain a hydra of militant groups from tearing Pakistan apart or triggering a war with India. To the extent that external actors have a role to play in Pakistan's internal stability - the onus, after all, lies with its own leadership - the United States might find the most unlikely of partners in Pakistan's northern neighbor and "all-weather friend:" China.

Sino-Pakistan relations have consisted of four phases. After diplomatic ties were established in 1951, relations cooled as Pakistan sided with the United States against seating China in the United Nations. The 1962 Sino-Indian war and 1963 Sino-Pak boundary agreement cemented ties against a common adversary; China became and remains a vital source of military and nuclear technology for Pakistan. In the late eighties, a thaw in Sino-Indian ties - trade between the two rising economic giants is now six times that between China and Pakistan - and the spread of militancy into China's restive Xinjiang region from Pakistan diluted the relationship. Since 9/11, Chinese concerns about Pakistan's stability have only deepened with attacks on some of the 13,000 Chinese workers living in Pakistan.

Three lessons for the United States emerge from this narrative.

First, while China remains committed to Pakistan, especially to balance India, its position on Indo-Pak relations has shifted. From threatening intervention in the 1965 Indo-Pak war to former President Jiang Zemin urging the Pakistani Parliament to put Kashmir on the back burner and focus on development in the nineties, to the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister engaging in unprecedented shuttle diplomacy following the 2008 Mumbai attacks that nearly brought both sides to war, China is emerging as a key crisis-manager in South Asia - in large part to maintain regional stability for its own economic growth.

Second, despite these shifts, China retains a high favorability rating in Pakistan at 90%. Underpinning this credibility is China's perceived unstinting support vis a vis India and economic assistance, generally in the form of soft loans with no grating conditionalities, that have resulted in a range of prominent infrastructure and defense-related projects in Pakistan.

Third, China is increasingly focused westward. Since 2000, China's "Go West" policy has sought to tackle underdevelopment in its vast western regions, including Xinjiang. Pakistan can potentially provide an outbound route for goods from Xinjiang and an inbound maritime route through its struggling Gwadar port for an increasingly Persian Gulf-oil dependent China. Similarly, an influential essay titled "Marching West" making the rounds in China's policy circles argues for expanding ties with China's western neighbors. In contrast to a tense Pacific, China's west, the essay contends, is also fertile ground for Sino-U.S. cooperation, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Have Americans Forgotten Afghanistan?

As the U.S. grapples with sequestration, the economy, and other policy battles, the war has fallen (even farther) from view. 

Mar 25 2013

Soldiers from the U.S. Army's Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment go on patrol in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on January 31, 2013. (Andrew Burton/Reuters)

On January 20, men of the First Battalion 38th Infantry Regiment gathered at a frigid base camp in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. At Combat Outpost Sperwan Ghar in southern Kandahar, they held a memorial service for Army Sergeant David J. Chambers. A native of Hampton, Va., Chambers had been killed on January 16 by an improvised explosive device while on patrol. His commander said of him, "His subordinates trusted him, his peers learned from the example he set, and his superiors counted on him to get the job done." He had been wounded on a previous deployment to Afghanistan but he hadn't talked about this much because, as his mother said, "he never tried to worry us." 
Afghanistan cries out for attention -- attention equal with the sense of priority that war has traditionally received in American politics. 

The day that the soldiers saluted their fallen comrade at Combat Outpost Sperwan Ghar, Sergeant Mark Schoonhoven died at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, from wounds suffered in Afghanistan. Schoonhoven was from Plainwell, Michigan. His mother and oldest daughter had sat by his hospital bed for nearly six weeks hoping he would recover from the coma. His wife had returned to Michigan to look after the five children at home. He never recovered from the injuries suffered when insurgents detonated explosives as his vehicle passed. At his funeral his wife and his mother received folded flags and each of his children put a rose on his coffin. 

Other than local coverage, there was little attention paid to these deaths. Certainly there was little notice in Washington. In August 2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta expressed his frustration over the absence of any discussion of the war in Afghanistan during the political campaigns. He explained at a Pentagon press briefing, "I thought it was important to remind the American people that there is a war going on." 

This reminder takes on a great importance as Americans reflect on the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. As pundits and politicians debate the origins of that war, they will not dwell too long on the Afghanistan war that started a year and a half earlier -- and still continues. 

Afghanistan did not become an issue during the fall presidential election campaigns, and the war seldom was a substantive issue in congressional races. Candidates scarcely discussed the war other than in passing references. In fact, they focused more on the putative next war in Iran. Ignoring the current war may have been politically or even morally derelict, but it was not of electoral consequence. Voters did not seem to consider war strategy as relevant to their election choices. Afghanistan did not figure in public opinion polls as a major issue and had not for some time. 

China dominates BRICS with an economy larger than that of four other members combined

Harsh V. Pant

With China’s President Xi Jinping planning to make his first foray into international diplomacy since his election at the BRICS annual summit in Durban and his singer wife slated to perform, the organization will hit the headlines. Again, there will be talk about this loose grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa filling the emerging void left by the troubled US and European Union. But yet another summit and ritual show of unity won’t hide the emptiness at the core of BRICS. The strong display of China’s newfound power by its president will only underline the organization’s lopsided nature and lack of actual clout. 

Representing around 40 percent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter of its economic output, BRICS does offer promise of clout. The economic profile of the five nations, especially that of China, has continued to grow with suggestions that BRICS collectively could become bigger than the US by 2018 and by 2050 even surpass the combined economies of G7 states. 

Yet a major challenge for ongoing influence from BRICS is China’s dominance over the other four members. For all its promise, BRICS has remained a talk shop aspiring for greatness. 

The first formal summit meeting was held in Russia in June 2009 with South Africa joining the group in December 2010, changing the nomenclature from BRIC to BRICS. The Yekaterinburg summit called for “a more democratic and just multipolar world order based on the rule of international law, equality, mutual respect, cooperation, coordinated action and collective decision-making of all states.” Since then the joint statements of the various BRICS summits have repeatedly underscored need for a realignment of the post–World War II global order based on the untrammelled supremacy of the US. As the US is preoccupied with internal troubles and the eurozone is mired in a debilitating debt crisis, a vacuum is increasingly being felt in the international system. This presents an opportunity for the BRICS to emerge as major global players. Plans are underway for some joint projects. The New Delhi summit resulted in a proposal to create a joint BRICS development bank that would finance investments in developing nations, and this year’s summit is expected to conclude negotiations for setting up this bank. 

Advantage China

Harsh V Pant
Mar 27, 2013

As a consequence of its domestic political posturing, India has pushed Sri Lanka move further into the arms of China.

After all the drama, India finally voted with 24 other states last week in favour of the controversial UN Human Rights Council resolution on human rights violations in Sri Lanka. In fact, New Delhi was pressing for as many as seven amendments to the draft resolution but given the time constraint had to remain content with the original draft. The main aspect of Indian intervention was the need for the institution of a credible and independent investigation into alleged war crimes and human rights abuses. 

In his remarks, India’s permanent representative to the UNHRC in Geneva, Dilip Sinha underscored the ‘inadequate progress by Sri Lanka in fulfilling its commitment’ to the UN council, and called upon the nation to fully implement the 13th amendment. “India has always been of the view that the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka provided a unique opportunity to pursue a lasting political settlement, acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka, including the Tamils,” Sinha suggested. 

If last year, New Delhi had tried to amend the west-sponsored resolution to make it less intrusive, more balanced and more respectful of Sri Lankan sovereignty, this year it was trying to do the opposite: bringing in amendments to make some words in the resolution stronger. It reportedly pushed for seven written amendments in six paragraphs of the resolution. But if this was aimed at the domestic political landscape, it clearly failed to have any impact as both the AIADMK and the DMK have accused the UPA government of ‘diluting’ the US-sponsored resolution.

As a consequence of this domestic political posturing, India today has not only marginalised itself in the affairs of Tamils in Sri Lanka but has also made sure that one of its most important neighbours will move further into the arms of China. After repeatedly opposing country-specific resolutions at the UNHCR and other such bodies, India has now set a dangerous precedent which will come back to haunt India. India’s foreign policy stands today bereft of both principle and pragmatism.

As it is Sri Lanka has been rapidly slipping out of India’s orbit. India failed to exert its leverage over the humanitarian troubles that the Tamils trapped in the fighting were facing. New Delhi’s attempts to end the war and avert humanitarian tragedy in north-east Sri Lanka proved utterly futile.

The Chinese Navy Has a Problem

By Robert Farley
March 27, 2013

Debates over China’s anti-access system of systems and its desire to pierce the successive Pacific Island chains often overlook the fact that China faces a very basic set of maritime problems. The PRC draws its most important resources from across an ocean that it cannot control, and exports most of its finished goods to overseas partners who similarly lay beyond the reach of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Whether or not the PLAN can deter or defeat the U.S. Navy (USN) in China’s littoral, the organization’s true test lies in its ability to secure the PRC’s critical lines of communication.

The concept of the Sea Control Ship builds on the World War II experience of escort carriers; small, slow aircraft carriers with air wings focused on anti-submarine missions. The Royal Navy and the United States Navy pioneered development of these ships, designed to cover the gaps in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) air coverage over the Atlantic. Escort carriers were remarkably successful in forcing German U-boats to remain submerged, or destroying them outright. 

The United States played with the concept (espoused most vigorously by Admiral Elmo Zumwalt) during the Cold War without ever embracing it outright, although it did convert several old Essex class carriers to perform anti-submarine duties. The USN also experimented with converting USS Guam (an Iwo Jima class LPH) to sea control duties, although the experience was not widely regarded as a success. Nevertheless, healthy debate in the Navy continued into the late 1970s and 1980s.

In practice, the USN did not need to construct dedicated Sea Control Ships, because so many U.S. allies operated (and continue to operate) small carriers that perform basic sea control missions. Ranging from the Colossus class carriers distributed across the world at the end of World War II, to the Spanish Dedalo, to the modern Hyuga class Helicopter Destroyer, the USN could and can depend on allies to conduct escort missions. The USN could also rely on access to airbases worldwide in order to support land-based sea control aviation.

China has none of these advantages. No Chinese ally is likely to devote treasure to the construction of sea control ships in the near future (Pakistan might be the best long term bet), and China lacks access to good bases for counter-sea aviation. For sea control beyond China’s littoral, the PLAN has few, if any, good options.

In a structurally similar position to China (although much less dependent on foreign trade), the Soviet Navy started with what amounted to Sea Control Ships, in the form of the Moskva class helicopter carriers and the Kiev class “heavy aviation cruisers.” Although these ships weren’t designed specifically with commerce protection in mind, they were specialized for anti-submarine warfare, with allowance for air superiority and surface warfare in the Kiev class. Moreover, Soviet naval aviation evolved over time, with new platforms benefitting from experiences earned with older vessels.

China Doesn't Belong in the BRICS

Beijing is in a class of its own 

Mar 26 2013

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then-Chinese president Hu Jintao, and South African president Jacob Zuma meet at a G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico June 18, 2012

China's new president, Xi Jinping, arrives in Durban, South Africa today for a summit of the BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. A geo-economic acronym invented in 2001 by a Goldman Sachs analyst to forecast a convergence among fast-growing emerging economies has spawned a geopolitical association. The leaders who gather, and commentators on this event, will search for what these nations have in common. The larger question, however, is whether this acronym has become an anachronism. Assessing the performance of the BRICS over the past five years and prospects for the next, does lumping these nations under a single label confuse more than it clarifies? 

When Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs coined the term 12 years ago, many expected that economic growth rates in India and Brazil would soon rival China's. That remains O'Neill's bet, his most recent blast foreseeing that "India definitely has the biggest potential for growth among BRIC countries this decade." But the brute fact is that China has continued growing more than twice as fast as other members of this club. Indeed, in every year since 2001, the gap between China's GDP and that of each of the others has widened. In the decade ahead, the gap is likely to become even more pronounced. Given this divergence, it is more appropriate to consider China separately from Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa, which, if an acronym is called for, can be called: "RIBS." 

In 2001, China's GDP was equal to the GDP of all the RIBS combined. In the five years since the global financial crisis, just the increment of growth in China's economy is larger than the entire economies of Russia and India combined. Indeed, in the half decade since the financial crisis, 40 percent of all growth in the global economy has occurred in China. 

Last year, the economy of China expanded by $1 trillion; Russia and India grew by $100 billion; Brazil and South Africa shrank. In 2001, China ranked sixth among the world's economies. Today it stands at number two, on track to overtake the U.S. and become the world's largest economy in the next decade. 

Tibetans in China: Making Sense of a Visit and Five Appointments

March 26, 2013 

The one factor on which Tibet’s future as a distinct political entity would depend more than all others is China’s approach to the Tibetan issue. In recent weeks Chinese authorities undertook two major actions that relate to the present and the future of their Tibetan population. The first was the visit by Yu Zhengsheng, the newly selected member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, to the Ganzi (Garzê in Tibetan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan province on 6-7 January 2013.1 The second was the election/nomination of five Tibetan Buddhist Reincarnates into various organs and levels of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) between January and March 2013. The latter move saw the election of the 11th Pagbalha Hutuktu Geleg Namgyai as one of the 23 Vice-Chairpersons of the 12th CPPCC National Committee, the election of the Chinese Panchen Lama as a member of the Standing Committee of the 12th CPPCC National Committee, the election of the 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo as a member of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC, the election of the Dupkang Tupden Kedup as a member of the CPPCC Standing Committee (all these during the March 2013 session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee), and the nomination of the 7th Reting Rinpoche Lodro Gyatso as a member of the Tibet People’s Political Consultative Conference Committee. 2 All these have far reaching consequences for the 5.4 million Tibetans residing in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan within China and the roughly 160,000 Tibetan diaspora residing outside China. 

Yu’s Visit 

The visit by Yu Zhengsheng saw him interacting with local Han and Tibetan officials, Buddhist figures and the local people in three villages and the capital Kangding (Dardo) of Ganzi Prefecture. His interactions and remarks related to “the local and ethnic issues under the new circumstances” and China’s approach to the low socio-economic indicators, religion and politics of Tibetans. Yu told the Tibetan Buddhist representatives that he expected them to continue adhering to patriotism and understand that the various nationalities of China can live well only when China remains united and strong and the Tibetan people are stable and growth-oriented. Only then, he opined, Tibetan Buddhism too can have a bright future; and only with “deep attainments”, can Buddhism manage its monasteries well and draw the faith of the population. He expressed hope that the Tibetan population continues supporting the government’s administration of the monasteries and that the nuns and lamas would also abide by Chinese laws. Yu further said that the Chinese government would further strengthen its administration of the Tibetan monasteries and also provide them with public facilities to make Tibetan Buddhism and Socialism more relevant to society. 

Poverty, unemployment and the poor health of the local Tibetans were all obvious to Yu, who stated that only improved infrastructure, public services and higher incomes of farmers and herders would bring about development. In his view, special focus has to be laid on solving pressing problems like improving vocational education so that young Tibetans can compete in the job market; and more has to be done for employing Tibetans throughout China so that Tibetan household income rises through such employment. He also noted that health services of the Tibetan region need extensive overhaul. 

The case for kicking all the countries out of the BRICS

Posted By Joshua Keating 
March 27, 2013

In a little over a decade, BRICS has gone from a Wall Street buzzword to a formal international alliance, which is currently holding its fifth summit in Durban, South Africa. The acronym grouping of emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, and China was first coined by Goldman Sachs analyst Jim O'Neill in 2001. In 2010, the S became uppercase as South Africa was invited to join the club. But as enthusiastically as the governments involved have embraced the BRICS concept, it has also spawned a cottage industry of pundits questioning whether one or more members of the club are up to snuff. 

On Foreign Policy today, Cape Town-based writer Roy Robins argues that South Africa never belonged in the alliance in the first place, and that its inclusion is underminind the country's democratic legacy.

Surely a more robust and exciting economy -- Turkey, Mexico, or South Korea -- would be a better fit?

Are the political realities of being a BRIC now undermining South Africa's rainbow legacy? Last July, South Africa initially abstained from a vote sanctioning U.N. action against Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria -- a vote which Russia and China double-vetoed three times. (Bizarrely, Assad has now asked "for intervention by the BRICS to stop the violence in his country and encourage the opening of a dialogue." Human Rights Watch is now advocating a strong BRICS denunciation of the Syrian dictator.) In fact, it's not uncommon for BRICS nations to have questionable U.N. voting records and illiberal policies at home. As Morgan Stanley Emerging Markets analyst Ruchir Sharma, one of the most astute critics of BRICS, notes : "Of the 124 emerging-market countries that have managed to sustain a five percent growth rate for a full decade since 1980, 52 percent were democracies and 48 percent were authoritarian. At least over the short to medium term, what matters is not the type of political system a country has but rather the presence of leaders who understand and can implement the reforms required for growth." 

Some see South Africa's U.N. voting record as evidence of a country moving away from its post-apartheid ideals (a champion of equality and liberal decency) to, in the words of the Economist, "becom[ing] more like most other countries around the world -- putting their own interests before principle." Today's South Africa is a country that has fully transitioned from hopeful adolescence to pragmatic and troubled adulthood. South Africa's membership in the BRICS club is primarily about self-interest, and, despite grandiloquent press releases, it has little to do with principle.

Great Game in Central Asia After Afghanistan

March 27, 2013

Could efforts by Russia and America in Central Asia exacerbate tensions and make matters worse?
As the U.S. and coalition forces prepare to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, with all combat forces out by the end of 2014, the governments of Central Asia are bracing for a possible spillover of instability from their south. Ostensibly to help Central Asian countries protect themselves against the Islamist radicals that may gain strength in post-2014 Afghanistan, the U.S. and Russia are both offering military aid programs to the region's governments. Their rival efforts, though, carry with them possible unintended consequence of exacerbating tensions between Central Asian countries.

Russia has been building up the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a security bloc made up of ex-Soviet states. The organization has promised to take on a variety of security missions in the ex-Soviet space, from cybersecurity and counternarcotics to preventing “Arab Spring”-type revolutions. But more than anything, Russia has promoted the group as a means of bolstering security in Central Asia as a bulwark against Islamist extremists in Afghanistan who may set their sights on Central Asia.

Last year, under the auspices of the CSTO, Russia offered a massive $1.1 billion military aid package to Kyrgyzstan, and another $200 million in assistance for Tajikistan. The aid to Kyrgyzstan will reportedly include armored vehicles, artillery and portable surface-to-air missiles, while Tajikistan is slated to get air defense upgrades and repairs to their current equipment. In the last six months, Russia also renegotiated leases for military bases it operates in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, solidifying its position in those countries.

Meanwhile, neighboring Uzbekistan has been the America's key partner among the ex-Soviet states in its Afghanistan campaign. A large percentage of U.S. military cargo going to Afghanistan passes through Uzbekistan, which has acted as a critical strategic hedge against the volatility of relations with Pakistan. In late 2011, after a NATO incursion from Afghanistan into Pakistan killed several Pakistani soldiers, Islamabad closed its border to Afghanistan for Western military transit, and the supply route through Uzbekistan played a crucial role in ensuring uninterrupted shipments of U.S. troops and materials.

Uzbekistan has seized this opportunity to build closer military ties with the U.S. The country's president, Islam Karimov, has told American officials that he wants to remake his military, replacing its legacy Russian gear with entirely American equipment. In late 2011 the White House loosened restrictions on military aid to Uzbekistan that had been in place for nearly a decade due to human rights concerns, and so far the U.S. has agreed to supply Uzbekistan with “non-lethal” military equipment including night-vision goggles, global positioning systems (GPS) gear and small surveillance drones. And as the U.S. draws down in Afghanistan, it has promised to leave some of its gear behind in Central Asia; Karimov reportedly has expressed interest in heavier equipment, like helicopters and mine-resistant armored vehicles.

One of These BRICS Is Not Like the Other

South Africa is a mess. So why does it get to sit at the BRICS big boy table?

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — This week, 5,000 delegates from developing nations have gathered in the coastal city of Durban for the fifth annual BRICS summit, and the first to be held in South Africa, which joined the association of emerging national economies in 2010, formally becoming the "S" in the BRIC wall. But the location of this year's summit underscores a question often asked: Why exactly is South Africa a BRICS member?

After all, listing Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa sounds like that game on Sesame Street: "One of these things is not like the others." Unlike China, South Africa is not an economic powerhouse. It has neither the profit potential nor the productivity of India or Brazil. Russia's economy (the smallest of the BRIC nations) is four times larger than South Africa's, which accounts for just 2.5 percent of the bloc's gross domestic product (GDP). And with a population of 50 million, South Africa lacks the sizeable citizenry of those other countries.

In relation to its much-larger partners, South Africa exists, with apologies to David Frum, as the axis of asymmetry. Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill, who coined the BRIC acronym in 2001, was himself surprised by South Africa's inclusion. What began as a economist's snappy acronym was actualized as an organization after the foreign ministers of the BRIC countries began a series of meetings in New York City in September 2006. This was followed by a diplomatic summit in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, in May 2008, where the foundation for the organization was established. Shortly after it was announced that his club had gained a member, O'Neill wrote to his clients that "While this is clearly good news for South Africa, it is not entirely obvious to me why the BRIC countries should have agreed" to invite it.

Surely a more robust and exciting economy -- Turkey, Mexico, or South Korea -- would be a better fit?

No doubt. But Turkey, Mexico, and South Korea are not in Africa. South Africa is Africa's largest economy, and Africa is key for BRIC resources, trade, and economic expansion. According to economists at South Africa's Standard Bank, the BRIC nations trade more with South Africa than with each other. Thus it was not particularly surprising, then, that shortly after his 2009 inauguration, South African President Jacob Zuma made partnership with BRIC countries a priority, visiting each state and lobbying for closer ties.

Can the Marines Survive?

If America's amphibious force doesn't adapt, it'll be dead in the water.

On one day in 1965, a large sortie of U.S. Air Force F-105s dropped over 600 750-pound bombs on the Thanh Hoa Bridge, just 70 kilometers south of Hanoi. The result was the loss of five U.S. aircraft and a complete failure to destroy the bridge. Amazingly, the bridge would withstand over 800 more sorties from U.S. aircraft in the next seven years and receive the moniker "The Dragon's Jaw" because of its seeming indestructability and the nearby air defenses that stymied U.S. forces. Finally, in 1972, a sortie of F-4Ds carrying the new Paveway laser-guided bomb destroyed the Thanh Hoa Bridge.

Although not obvious at the time, the advent of the Paveway marked the beginning of a dramatic transformation in U.S. military technology that would change warfare forever. The revolution in precision munitions that began then has so accelerated in recent years that enemy forces can no longer operate in formations and in mass. They simply present too big a target. That, in turn, means that the days of U.S. corps, divisions, and brigades maneuvering on a battlefield with tanks, artillery, and motorized/mechanized infantry are numbered. Our surveillance capabilities allow us to sense everything on the battlefield. Any sizable vehicle formation, or single vehicle for that matter, can be destroyed with the click of a button half a world away. On today's battlefield, movement means death.

A lively debate is taking place within the Pentagon these days over how to adapt to this new reality. The Air Force and the Navy have come up with a new concept called Air-Sea Battle, which focuses on integrating naval and air forces to defeat adversaries with precision weapons backed by robust intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets. Simply put, the Air Force and the Navy are embracing new technology and have come to understand that with an integrated approach they should be able to defeat an enemy that is hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles away.

By contrast, the Marines -- and the Army -- are still trained in infantry tactics that would be recognizable to a World War II vet, organized to fight big land battles with heavy tanks and armored personnel carriers. There's an elephant walking around the Pentagon these days and everyone is trying to ignore it. No one wants to talk about the fact that land forces, as currently organized, are becoming increasingly irrelevant. This is not to say that there is no use for ground troops. They are needed, but in future conflicts they will only play a secondary role. Land forces will no longer win wars. Computers, missiles, planes, and drones will. If the Marines want to survive, we're going to have to adapt -- and fast.

American Space Strategy: Choose to Steer, Not Drift

March 28, 2013
By Scott Pace

America can advance its national interests more effectively by taking an integrated approach to its space capabilities and international cooperation.

Space activities today play critical roles in United States national security, economic growth, and scientific achievements. The Global Positioning System is an integral part of several critical infrastructures and enables functions ranging from survey and construction, to farming, finance, and air traffic management – not to mention supporting U.S. military forces worldwide. The International Space Station represents a unique, collaborative partnership between the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, and Russia. At the same time, new threats to U.S. space activities have emerged, threats that are different from those of the Cold War. In some cases, threats come from a known nation state while in others it is impossible to attribute responsibility.

In 2007, China tested a high altitude anti-satellite weapon against one of its old weather satellites, creating tens of thousands of pieces of orbital debris and increasing the risk of collision and damage to many satellites, and the International Space Station, operating in low Earth orbit. Just recently, on January 22, a piece of debris from that test appears to have damaged a Russian scientific satellite. In 2009, there was an accidental collision over the Arctic between a defunct Russian communications satellite and an active commercial communications satellite that added even more orbital debris to low Earth orbit. North Korea has defied numerous UN Security Council sanctions in developing ballistic missile capabilities, which it portrays as peaceful space launches. Similarly, the Islamic Republic of Iran has continued to jam commercial satellites that broadcast foreign news services into the country as a means of preventing these reports from reaching the Iranian people.

The global space community is a dynamic one with new capabilities and new entrants, particularly in Asia. China has flown several astronauts, becoming only the third country with independent human access to space. China is constructing a space laboratory and has demonstrated unmanned rendezvous and docking operations in preparation for a fully manned space station in 2020 – about the time the International Space Station may be ending its operations. Japan has announced plans to sell radar satellites to Vietnam while South Korea is seeking to sell an optical imaging satellite to the United Arab Emirates. Brazil and China are continuing many years of space cooperation in remote sensing while India and South Africa are close to concluding their own space cooperation agreement. All of these countries recognize that space capabilities are important for both practical and symbolic reasons and that these capabilities are intrinsically “dual-use” in that civil, security, and commercial applications are based on similar technologies.