16 April 2013

A Stable Bangladesh is in India’s Interest

Published on The Asian Age (http://www.asianage.com)
By editor
Created 16 Apr 2013

Mere ideological support is not enough, and there has to be other more concrete manifestations of Indo-Bangladesh cooperation

Of the total population of neighbouring Bangladesh, 96.4 per cent of the people profess Islam as their faith, while a small minority of 14 per cent covers Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and others. The population of minorities in Bangladesh has shrunk progressively under the harsh impact of earlier military and quasi-civilian dictatorships.

It is, therefore, worth noting that the present Bangladesh Awami League dispensation in that country, under the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has emphasised the designation of Bangladesh as people’s republic rather than an Islamic one.
This is a significant statement of political and social intent by the Awami League, because it encapsulates the course of secular governance which the party intends to adhere to during its present and hopefully future tenures in office. It is also a bold declaration of defiance by Ms Hasina against the assorted jihadi and fundamentalist forces which have made Bangladesh their home under the political umbrella of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) headed by Begum Khaleda Zia. Ms Hasina knows what she is up against because it is no secret that Ms Zia and the BNP command significant support and adherence amongst the radical and fundamentalist elements within the country, including sections of the country’s police, paramilitary as well as the armed forces. The entire Liberation War of 1971 in Bangladesh is sought to be depicted as a mere misunderstanding between the senior and junior members of the same family, i.e. the Punjabis of West Pakistan and the Bengalis of East Pakistan, cleverly exploited by wily Hindu outsiders to tear the Muslim homeland of Pakistan apart.

The BNP is externally supported by the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan. Even though in accordance with the shadowy rules of the game such support will always remain plausibly deniable, it provides operational resources for surrogates like the Islami Chhatra Shibir, the BNP’s student front of political storm troopers for street warfare.

India must note the possibility of a spillover into its territory of the fallout from the ferocious street clashes in Dhaka over the prosecution of Razakars and other religious extremists as war criminals for the most abominable atrocities against the Bengali people during the War of Liberation in 1971.

This is important because an insidious counterpoint to “peace within Bangladesh” calling for an end to the war crimes trials in Dhaka is being increasingly raised by certain elements in India as well, particularly where strongholds of the minority community constitute strategic electoral pivots. These are dangerous portents, which must be checked at the earliest.

India understands that a secular Bangladesh is in the larger interest of this country as well. The ongoing turmoil and violent street confrontations in Dhaka and elsewhere between the Awami League and its opponents are centred on the preservation of secularism, which distinguishes Bangladesh under the government of Ms Hasina from more fundamentalist Islamic regimes elsewhere, especially across India’s western borders. As she articulated during her speech in Dhaka on March 24, honouring the Friends of Liberation War “…we recommit ourselves to noble ideas and principles — equity, democracy and democratic practice, inclusive development, social justice and rule of law.”

Do nothing Delhi

Apr 16 2013

Finding reasons for inaction will reduce India's relevance for Washington and Beijing

As the United States seeks reconciliation with China in the second term of the Obama administration, New Delhi must end its current policy paralysis, dressed up as non-alignment between the world's two most important powers. China's warm reception to US Secretary of State John Kerry in Beijing over the weekend and the new emphasis on jointly addressing the current crisis in the Korean peninsula could help reduce some of the recent tensions in the Sino-US relationship.

On the face of it, President Barack Obama's "pivot to Asia", unveiled two years ago, raised the geopolitical significance of India in the construction of a new Asian balance of power. If Washington underlined the importance of India in its strategy of rebalancing to Asia, Beijing signalled greater interest in strengthening ties with Delhi amidst fears that the US planned to contain China. What seemed a rare strategic opportunity for India, however, froze the UPA government into an awful immobility. Delhi slowed its engagement with the US and remained too timid to widen cooperation with Beijing.

"Beijing will not like it" has become the standard excuse in Delhi for not pursuing India's interests with the US and other Asian neighbours like Japan and Vietnam. Delhi, of course, finds many more reasons for not moving forward with China. Delhi's "do-nothing" drift is probably the worst of all options India has in coping with the current dynamism in the relationship between Washington and Beijing.

If the professional worriers in South Block have been concerned in the last two years about the impact of Sino-US rivalry on India's freedom of action, they also lose sleep over the prospect of political collaboration between Washington and Beijing in Asia. Recall that in the first year of the Obama administration, Delhi went into a tizzy over the prospects of a G-2 that many in the US were advocating. Kerry's just concluded visit to Beijing is bound to raise those concerns again.

In the last few weeks, the Chinese media have revelled in trashing Kerry's predecessor, Hillary Clinton, for promoting an assertive American policy in Asia. Kerry's publicly expressed reservations about the wisdom of the US pivot to Asia have raised Beijing's expectations that the Obama administration might now step back a bit and show greater deference to Chinese concerns.

Kerry did not disappoint Beijing. After his meetings with the Chinese leaders, including the new president, Xi Jinping, Kerry affirmed the American commitment to building a "strong and special" relationship with China.

For more than a year, Beijing has been calling for a "new type of great power relationship" between China and the US. Under Kerry, the Obama administration appears to have accepted Beijing's call to avoid conflict and respect each other's core interests. Kerry declared that the US "welcomes a stable and prosperous China, a China that is a great power already, and that has the ability to be able to play a major role in world affairs. We have a stake in China's success, and frankly, China has a stake in the success of the United States. That became clear in all of our conversations here today."

No one is betting that the contradictions between the interests of the US and China will be resolved overnight. But the two sides are now committed to responsibly addressing bilateral differences.

India needs to recognise that the Sino-US relationship will see elements of competition as well as cooperation in the decades to come. That in turn begs the question, how should Delhi secure its own interests as Washington and Beijing struggle to manage their profound economic interdependence, even as they strive for national primacy in Asia?

India to develop Iran port for access to Afghanistan

Ashok Tuteja/TNS
New Delhi, April 14

With Pakistan continuing to deny India transit access to Afghanistan, New Delhi is trying to complete as early as possible the formalities for entering into an agreement with Iran for the development of the Chabahar Port which will provide it a vital link to transport its goods to the war-ravaged nation.

The Union Cabinet is expected to shortly approve a proposal to invest about $ 100 million for the development of the south-eastern Iranian port city of Chabahar to sustain India’s presence in Afghanistan and through it to Central Asia.

The Chinese presence at Pakistan’s Gwadar Port has accentuated the need for India to move fast on the Chabahar project, keeping in mind its geo-strategic interests in the region after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

Iran, it is learnt, is also keen on attracting Indian investment in the Chabahar project since port infrastructure is one of the areas which does not attract US sanctions against the Islamic republic. Iranian Ambassador to India Gholamreza Ansari recently met Opposition leaders like BJP president Rajnath Singh and CPM general secretary Prakash Karat to discuss the Chabahar project.

Pakistan had signed a trade and transit agreement with Afghanistan in 2010, allowing Kabul to transport goods to Pakistani ports and also to the Indian border. But India cannot utilise that arrangement for transporting its cargo to Afghanistan since Pakistan continues to be vehemently opposed to any Indian role in the war-torn country. 

The Chabahar project has been hanging fire for a few years now because of different reasons. First, it was India’s vote against Iran at IAEA that had strained relations between the two countries and then US sanctions against the Islamic republic had made it difficult for New Delhi to enhance its commercial engagement with Tehran.

But things have changed over the past one or two years. Officials say Tehran has given the green signal to India to develop the port as that would also boost Iran’s economy at a time when it is grappling with crippling sanctions imposed against it by the West because of its controversial nuclear programme.

Chabahar Portvital link

Chabahar Port will provide India a vital link to transport goods to Afghanistan

Port will help sustain India’s presence in Afghanistan and through it to Central Asia

The Chinese presence at Pakistan’s Gwadar Port has accentuated the need for India to move fast on this project

It will help India safeguard its geo-strategic interests in the region after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2014

Iran is keen on attracting Indian investment since port infrastructure is one of the areas which does not attract US sanctions

Containing India

Harsh V Pant, April 13, 2013:

China and Pakistan reached a strategic understanding in mid-1950s, which has only strengthened ever since.

Last month Beijing confirmed its plans to sell a new 1,000 mw nuclear reactor to Pakistan in a deal signed in February. This pact was secretly concluded between the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission during the visit of the Pakistani nuclear industry officials to Beijing from February 15 to 18. 

This sale would once again violate China’s commitment to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and is in contravention to China’s promise in 2004 while joining the NSG not to sell additional reactors to Pakistan’s Chashma nuclear facility beyond the two reactors that began operation in 2000 and 2011. 

While this issue is likely to come up for discussion at the June meeting of the NSG in Prague, Beijing has already made it clear that nuclear cooperation between China and Pakistan “does not violate relevant principles of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.” This when the CNNC is not merely constructing civilian reactors in Chashma, it is also developing Pakistan’s nuclear fuel reprocessing capabilities and working to modernise Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. 

At a time when concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear programme are causing jitters around the world, China has made its intention clear to go all out in helping Pakistan’s nuclear development. At a time when many in India are contemplating a new bonhomie in Sino-Indian ties under the new Chinese leadership, China is busy trying its best to maintain nuclear parity between India and Pakistan. 

After all, this is what China has been doing for the last five decades. Based on their convergent interests vis-a-vis India, China and Pakistan reached a strategic understanding in mid-1950s, a bond that has only strengthened ever since. Sino-Pakistan ties gained particular momentum in aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian war when the two states signed a boundary agreement recognising Chinese control over portions of the disputed Kashmir territory and since then the ties have been so strong that the former Chinese President Hu Jintao has described the relationship as “higher than mountains and deeper than oceans.” 

Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, has suggested that “No relationship between two sovereign states is as unique and durable as that between Pakistan and China.” Maintaining close ties with China has been a priority for Islamabad and Beijing has provided extensive economic, military and technical assistance to Pakistan over the years. It was Pakistan that in early 1970s enabled China to cultivate its ties with the west and the US in particular, becoming the conduit for Henry Kissinger’s landmark secret visit to China in 1971 and has been instrumental in bringing China closer to the larger Muslim world. 

Over the years China emerged Pakistan’s largest defence supplier. Military cooperation between the two has deepened with joint projects producing armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates. China is a steady source of military hardware to the resource-deficient Pakistani army. It has not only given technology assistance to Pakistan but has also helped Pakistan to set-up mass weapons production factories. 

A TUSSLE OF POWER- The changing Centre-state relationship

Commentarao: S.L. Rao

Watering the relationship

India is a Union of states. The Centre has always had considerably more power to make policies and take action. The balance had to change in favour of state governments. But it is changing dramatically in this era of weak coalition governments at the Centre. Policies that affect the interests of the nation as a whole are being encroached upon by state governments. This does not augur well for the fabric of the unity of the Union.

The Constitution demarcates the areas that can be exclusively legislated by the Centre, those exclusively by the states, and those concurrently. If any law passed by a state legislature is in conflict with a law of Parliament in the concurrent list, Parliament shall prevail. Thus the Indian constitutional framework gives precedence to the laws passed by Parliament over those of the states. This is clearly even more the case with subjects that are in the Central list, like foreign affairs, admission into and expulsion from India, among others.

On around 100 occasions since Independence, and mostly till the late 1980s, the Central government dismissed incumbent state governments and took over their powers under Article 356 of the Constitution. The Centre exercised great power over the states, also made possible because the Congress ruled at the Centre and in most states. State chief ministers, however powerful, were subservient to the prime minister who was also the most powerful person in the party.

An early challenge to the power of the Centre was the national language. Tamils threatened secession if Hindi was imposed. Hence the Constitution (Article 348) gave primacy to the English language in all courts and legislation, providing for the use of Hindi or any other language.

Another important challenge to the Centre was when the states reorganization commission reported on the formation of linguistic states. The SRC was a result of violent agitation for the creation of the linguistic state of Andhra Pradesh. After the report, violent agitations led to the incorporation of Bombay city in the state of Maharashtra instead of being a separate entity as recommended.

The advent of regional parties in coalition governments at the Centre led to the weakening of the Centre in relation to the states. The United Progressive Alliance governments since 2004 exposed the greater inability of the Centre to impose its will on state governments. Among economic issues, there has been the resistance of many state governments to foreign direct investment in retail. This is now subject to the willingness of the state government to allow it. The goods and services tax was a major reform measure to make India into a true common market, with single rates of indirect taxes all over the country. This has been held up for many years as the states bargained with the Centre for adequate compensation for loss of revenues. What might emerge is a compromise with more than one tax rate and the possibility of staggered adoption by some states.

The Constitution provides for a finance commission that every five years will lay down the principles and methods of transferring financial resources from the Centre to the states. The Planning Commission also considers and decides on the size of state plans. These fund transfers are part of the constitutional framework. They are not charity from the Centre to the states. But central ministers like Kapil Sibal seem to make it so. He said that development in Gujarat resulted from the Centre providing Gujarat with funds, and apparently not from Gujarat’s efforts.

The Central government has tried to introduce more unified information and control systems over gathering, analysing and sharing intelligence and actions to contain domestic and imported terrorism. Developing unified counter-terrorism capabilities is resisted by state governments. The reason lies in the apparent misuse by the Centre of agencies like the Intelligence Bureau and the Central Bureau of Investigation. This restricts our capability to deal with terrorism.

Now the Punjab government is making martyrs of the Khalistani terrorists and the assassin of a chief minister of Punjab. They are making heroes out of criminals. Surely this is also in violation of the unitary fabric of India?

Great power ambition sans the attitude

Raja Menon

Although there are people and institutions capable of articulating a strategic vision, bureaucratic lethargy and turf battles prevent them from executing it

A reputed international weekly recently devoted a cover article to arguing that India’s quest for greatness would be stymied by the absence of a strategic culture. Ever since George Tanham’s seminal essay onIndian strategic thought, published in 1992 by RAND, suggested the absence of strategic thinking, many writers and commentators have weighed in, both supporting and contradicting Tanham. Interestingly, what Tanham suggested was that India was indeed a “strong” cultural entity, but somehow the nature and characteristics of that culture either prevented or avoided strategic thought. The article in the Economist (April 5, 2013) goes much farther, and says there are many in India who write and comment on the absence of institutions capable of giving the country strategic direction. But those in power have deliberately taken decisions to deny the country those institutions out of departmental jealousies, lethargy or plain wrongheadedness.

Criticism of our strategic culture is not new, and to those who have worked in South Block for decades, the history of trying to put in place procedures and institutions are most often a case of one step forward, two steps back. Paraphrasing Rahul Gandhi’s speech at the CII recently, he said what is wrong in India is that as few as 5,000 people take all the decisions for a billion Indians. Are there really as many as 5,000 is the first question that comes to mind because the number of people crippling this country’s strategic culture is less than 10.

Defence Planning Group

Between the publication of Tanham’s essay in 1992 and the weekly’s justifiably disparaging remarks, attempts have been made to build institutions. The earliest attempt goes as far back as 1986 when a Defence Planning Group was set up under a rotating three star officer with vacancies for scientists and diplomats. Since the absence of a military input is one of the chief complaints of both Tanham and the Economist, it is bizarre to note that the Defence Planning Group was eventually allowed to wither by the armed forces themselves and inter-services rivalry. So the blame has to be shared pretty widely. Tanham was so bemused by the absence of thinking beyond continental and territorial defence that he blamed both history and culture.

Historically, India was just a part of the greater British Empire, the defence of which was strategised in Whitehall. Within the folds of the empire, India had two roles — one, as provider of troops and, secondly, as a continental command under an army Commander-in-Chief. The C-in-C therefore often saw himself as an independent commander who chafed at the bit at being ‘directed’ by a Viceroy, who according to the C-in-C, was merely the civilian head of government. A classic instance is the creation of the present state of Iraq after the First World War when the troops and government administration departments were sent from India, the political direction came from Whitehall and the naval element from the C-in-C of the Far East Fleet in Singapore. The air force element was under the land force commander. This arrangement was repeated every so often, as to disable New Delhi’s independent strategic thinking and limit Indian army HQ thinking to territorial defence. So crippling was the empire’s straitjacket that in 1939, in the absence of any strategic directive, New Delhi’s first operational order for the Second World War was the digging of defences in the North-West frontier against a Russian attack — a replay of the great game of the previous century! Culturally, Tanham ascribed the absence of forward planning to abstruse theories of Hindu concepts of tomorrow and time.

Since Tanham’s time, India has become a nuclear weapons state, China has risen astonishingly and Pakistan has ceased to grow and turned into a state at war with itself. The Indian armed forces have grown exponentially, but no civilian leader, according to the Economist, has the faintest idea of how to use India’s growing military clout. The army seems most of all to be structured for a blitzkrieg against Pakistan while the navy is preparing to counter China’s ‘blue water adventurism.’

Stateless in Burma

Published on The Asian Age (http://www.asianage.com)
By editor
Created 16 Apr 2013

The views against the Muslims in Burma are growing stronger. Often referred to as ‘kala’ (black), they are looked down upon as secondary citizens

Over the past three weeks the racial and ethnic tensions that engulfed Burma have reached such a high that government efforts to mitigate the problem seems too little. The recent violence has been around the regions of Meiktila in central Burma. The burning of mosques, villages and Muslim homes has left more than 42 people dead and several others injured and homeless.

This violence has been virtually ignored by the Burmese leaders and leaves little scope for the reform process, especially in terms of addressing the need for greater protection and inclusion of the minorities within the Burmese state and Constitution, ensuring that the political reforms are more broad-based and comprehensive.

The tension started when a Buddhist monk was killed around Meiktila, a town where 30 per cent of its inhabitants are Muslims. Mostly they are shop owners and small-time businessmen. The Muslims in Burma comprise of two main migratory groups — those who came from the Arab countries around eighth century and Muslims who migrated from India. However, there has been much intermingling and inter-marriage leading to dilution of ethnic identities. While there is some ambiguity over the manner in which the incident actually evolved, there is a strong view that external factors were mainly responsible for the violence than the locals of Meiktila. But there is no denial of the fact that the views against the Muslim community are growing stronger and the derogatory treatment meted out to them is indicative of this. Often referred to as “kala” (black), they are looked down upon as secondary citizens within Burma.

The history of this form of violence against the Muslim community dates back to the colonial period when the Muslims from India migrated to Burma. Many of the migrants found jobs within the British administration and had also set up small-time businesses and continued there even after the British granted Independence to Burma in 1948. Racial riots and ethnic tensions have been visible as early as 1930s and, in fact, when the Second World War took place many people of Indian origin returned to India. The Muslim community, however, migrated to areas of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

Till 1962 when the coup took place under General Ne Win their citizenship rights were recognised. It was after the 1962 coup that several minority communities lost their rights. The Muslims constitute four per cent of the population, nearly two million in numbers. From this period onwards a certain degree of xenophobia developed particularly with regards to the Muslim population that was seen as anti-Burmese. The revocation of their citizenship rights following the 1962 coup was the most crucial policy implemented by the government where the Muslims lost all identity and recognition. As a result, their social position has been severely affected since they do not have proper access to education, no rights to move freely in Burma and no rights to hold government position and jobs. This leaves them to take up menial labour, small-time trade and businesses.

While in the past the violence against the Muslims within Burma was limited to the Rohingya Muslims, this time the violence is against all Muslims communities in Burma. A more worrying factor is that in Meiktila, the community leadership is under the Buddhist sangha. For the first time this violence throws light on the role of the Buddhist sangha and the monks within Burma. The monks have been very vocal in their anti-Muslim rhetoric and this has fanned the violence. Several members of the Buddhist Sangha see Muslims as anti-Burmese.

Losing Pakistan: An Insider’s Look at How the U.S. Deals With Its Ally

April 14, 201

One evening in June 2009, Richard Holbrooke paid a visit to Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari at the presidential palace in Islamabad. It was one of his first visits to the region as the Obama Administration’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. In that role, Holbrooke — who died in December 2010 — wanted to broaden and deepen engagement with the country many had come to see as the most dangerous place in the world. And Zardari had his own ideas about how Washington could help. 

“Pakistan is like AIG,” Zardari told Holbrooke, comparing his country to the U.S. insurance giant that was bailed out in 2008. “Too big to fail.” Washington, Zardari keenly recalled, had given AIG “$100 billion. You should give Pakistan the same,” Zardari said. Holbrooke smiled throughout the meeting. 

Sitting with Holbrooke was Vali Nasr, then his senior adviser. Nasr recalls the episode in his new book, The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat, a searing critique of how the Obama Administration has been too timid to transform American foreign policy. Holbrooke, writes Nasr, was troubled by Zardari’s display of dependence on the U.S. and the sense of entitlement that went with it. “Holbrooke didn’t like the image of Pakistan holding a gun to its own head as it shook down America for aid,” writes Nasr, now dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. 

Holbrooke did agree, however, with Zardari that Pakistan was important and the U.S. had a long-term interest in its stability. For the next year and a half, Holbrooke and his team pursued a policy of diplomatic engagement with Pakistan. It went beyond the traditional approach narrowly based on security concerns. The idea was to try and address Pakistan’s strategic calculus — an ambitious target that may have underestimated how far Pakistan was willing to go without changing its ways. “What Holbrooke wanted,” Nasr tells TIME in an interview, “was to engage big and try and change the course of this country and its relationship with Washington once and for all.” 

But from the very start, President Barack Obama and the White House never really bought into the idea. “The White House tolerated Holbrooke’s approach for a while,” Nasr writes in the book, “but in the end decided that a policy of coercion and confrontation would better achieve our goals in Pakistan.” Washington was less interested in working with Pakistan, Nasr says, than pressuring it into compliance. That strategy, he says, has failed. And now, he warns, the U.S. risks pivoting away from the region at the cost of abandoning vital interests that remain there. 

“When you look at Pakistan today,” says Nasr, “it is nuclear-armed, in near conflict with India, has a dangerous civil war with its own extremists, is now subject to one of the most brutal terrorism campaigns against its population, that is now coming apart along sectarian lines.” If the U.S. does not maintain influence in Pakistan, he says, it won’t be able to have a positive impact on the direction of the country. “Looking at it from an American perspective,” Nasr says, “we’re just going to be basically saying, ‘We’re going to sit on the sideline and look at this roller coaster go off this rail.’” 

Holbrooke’s approach was ambitious. A strategic dialogue was established between the two countries. Nonmilitary aid was tripled. Washington began to reach out to civilian centers in Pakistan for the first time. “There was a discussion on energy and electricity and water and women,” says Nasr. “These were ways of laying out for Pakistan a longer road map with the U.S., and alternately trying to put on the table for Pakistan interests that would gradually wean it away from its strategic outlook and bring it in a new direction.” There would be no quick fix. It was a longer strategy aimed at slowly undoing decades of alienation and mistrust. 

Balochistan: The State Versus the Nation -I

PAPER APRIL 11, 2013



Pakistan’s Balochistan Province is descending into anarchy. Only a political agreement between the central government and the nationalist Baloch is likely to end the crisis.

Balochistan, the largest but least populous province of Pakistan, is slowly descending into anarchy. Since 2005, Pakistani security forces have brutally repressed the Baloch nationalist movement, fueling ethnic and sectarian violence in the province. But the Pakistani armed forces have failed to eliminate the insurgency—and the bloodshed continues. Any social structures in Balochistan capable of containing the rise of radicalism have been weakened by repressive tactics. A power vacuum is emerging, creating a potentially explosive situation that abuts the most vulnerable provinces of Afghanistan. Only a political solution is likely to end the current chaos.

Key Themes

Before the state began repressing Balochistan in an effort to maintain authority, most Baloch nationalist parties were not radicalized or fighting for independence. They were working within the framework of the federal constitution to achieve more political autonomy and socioeconomic rights.

State institutions such as the Supreme Court have been unable to convince security forces to respect the law, but they have been instrumental in drawing attention to violence and atrocities in Balochistan.

Many Pakistanis now view the security forces—not the separatists—as the biggest obstacle to national unity and stability.

A negotiated solution is politically feasible. The nationalist movement is weak and divided, and a majority of Baloch favors more autonomy, not the more extreme position of independence. Islamabad may be willing to seek a political solution now that it has failed to eliminate the nationalists by force of arms.

Finding a Way Out

The nationalist parties should participate in provincial elections in May. Only their participation in Balochistan’s administration can confer sufficient legitimacy on the provincial government. A legitimate and credible Baloch government can reestablish local control over the province, help reduce violence, and advocate for Balochistan on the federal level.

The Pakistani security establishment should show greater respect for human rights in Balochistan by disbanding death squads, stopping extrajudicial executions, and ending forced disappearances. Serious negotiations and political solutions are impossible as long as these violations persist.

Security forces should disavow the use of proxy groups and use legitimate state authority to combat sectarian violence.

The United Nations should send a permanent observation mission to Balochistan to monitor the human rights situation. Such a mission would create greater transparency, promote accountability, and build confidence should the security establishment decide to change its policies in the province.


In 2005, a conflict erupted in the province of Balochistan, the largest and least populated of Pakistan’s four provinces, straddling three countries—Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.1 For months, tension had been rising over the price of natural gas produced in the southwest province, the construction of additional military cantonments, and the development of the port of Gwadar, which the locals felt benefited people from other provinces. The eruption of violence, led by Baloch nationalists, was generally perceived as merely another expression of restiveness in a province traditionally uneasy with Pakistan’s central government—after all, the two groups had come into conflict on four occasions in the past.2

The uprising was triggered by the rape of a female doctor, Shazia Khalid, in the small Baloch town of Sui. A military man allegedly perpetrated the rape, but the culprit was never arrested. The military establishment’s alleged effort to cover up the incident triggered a series of attacks against the Defense Security Guards and the Frontier Constabulary by members of the Bugti tribe that hails from Balochistan.

Battle For Afghanistan

Given the brutal track record of the Taliban treatment of women and their violent opposition to girls’ education, the fate of women in post-NATO Afghanistan remains in question.


As NATO troops plan to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, the world worries about the country’s stability and especially for Afghan women. On his first trip to Afghanistan in March as US secretary of state, John Kerry pointedly met with Afghan businesswomen at the US embassy in Kabul, fielding questions about security.

Given the brutal track record of the Taliban treatment of women and their violent opposition to girls’ education, the fate of women in post-NATO Afghanistan remains in question. Armies of NGOs spread throughout in Afghanistan, often working alongside the troops, advising and building infrastructure for education and health care. Over the past decade, many Afghans have witnessed an alternative course for the future and wonder if all will be imperiled after withdrawal of protective forces.

How Afghanistan and its women fare depends on the kind of political power and economic opportunities that emerge in the country. One example of the NGO role in preparing women for a new Afghanistan is a tiny college in Arizona, a US state known for its opposition to immigration. Thunderbird School of Global Management recruited women from Afghanistan to attend Project Artemis, an intensive two-week program for entrepreneurs. Students are then paired with US, Canadian or European mentors. For at least two years, the mentors connect over Skype and email for questions and chats with Afghan women who craft soccer balls, embroider clothes and linens, or raise bees. 

Early on, at open houses, college officials fielded questions from puzzled Arizonans like “Why are you helping terrorists?” Thunderbird carried on with its small program, securing funding from the US State Department, Goldman-Sachs 10,000 Women, the Australian Agency for International Development, the Business Development Center in Jordan and more. The program has graduated 74 Afghan entrepreneurs who have since returned to their homeland, armed with a training toolkit, in turn training at least 15,000 other Afghan women and men.

Project Artemis is one of many programs reshaping Afghan life: The military sent in female engagement teams to establish relationships with Afghan women and collect information to propose community projects. Provincial reconstruction teams, including NATO troops and civilian specialists, organized projects, technical advice and training in every province in an array of fields.

The US Agency for International Development reports that the US alone trained more than 633,000 men and women in farm and business skills, financed more than 500 health facilities, trained more than 21,000 health providers, including more than 1,700 midwives. School enrollment over the decade grew sevenfold, including 30 percent females, with millions of textbooks distributed. Since 2002, NATO developed internet connections throughout Central Asia, including connectivity for Afghan provinces and 18 universities, as part of its Virtual Silk Highway Progam. Thanks perhaps to women’s education, Afghanistan’s fertility ratehas fallen, from 8 children per women in the mid-1990s to 5.54 projected for this year.

The Afghan puzzle

Chintamani Mahapatra, 
April 15, 2013

The Afghan war has cost the US more than half a trillion dollars national debt, budget deficit and, of course, thousands of American lives.

The Obama Administration has made it amply clear that the US forces will leave Afghanistan by end of 2014. However, deadly war has not ceased in Afghanistan. Will Afghans be able to manage their affairs after foreign forces leave?

The end-game is softly unfolding, even as behind-the-scene negotiations are inaudibly taking place. How will India handle the situation in coming months and years? India already seems to be in an election mode. Amidst corruption exposes, economic downturn, and off-and-on turmoil in UPA coalition, New Delhi these days has not as much of focus on foreign affairs. Domestic politics will largely consume attention of Indian leadership well until the elections due in 2014.

Pakistan may be in a better position, since national elections in that country will take place this year. There will be less political uncertainty in Islamabad during Afghan transition. China is luckier, as ten-year political transition in Beijing was over last year. Nor is Russia going to witness any political uncertainty in coming few years. 

The big question is how and how many American forces will leave Afghanistan in 2014 and in what condition. Slow recovery of US economy and resilience of the Taliban make it abundantly obvious that Washington would not risk carrying on the war in that country.

Afghan war has cost the US more than half a trillion dollars, a huge national debt, a large budget deficit and, of course, thousands of American lives. Yet victory to the United States is not in sight. 

The Taliban leadership has shown no great eagerness for dialogue with the US. In fact, the Taliban are patiently waiting, so that Nato forces leave their country with war-weariness. In a stalemate, the insurgents generally hesitate to make compromises. The Taliban thus are not in a hurry to end the war and trying to push foreign “occupying forces” to the corner.

What are the future scenarios of Afghanistan? It is hardest to predict anything in Afghanistan. The US Administration does not seem to be united on withdrawal time-table and the modalities. Taliban seem to have been embroiled in internal differences among the moderates and the hardliners. Pakistan no longer enjoys the comfort of dealing with a Taliban it created and put about a hundred Taliban behind the bars for attempting to negotiate with President Karzai or the Americans. 

Nonetheless, among the multiple scenarios, the first one is Afghanistan becomes the second Vietnam for the Americans. They just cannot carry on a losing war and; instead of dealing with head-strong Taliban leadership; they make a deal with Pakistan and get out of the country. In that case, Pakistan-backed Taliban are back to power in Kabul! The second scenario is the US successfully strikes a deal with a faction of the Taliban that are not under the influence of Islamabad and puts in place a coalition government that would allow Washington to station about ten thousand trainers in Afghanistan and end the major military operations. 

The third scenario suggests that the US successfully persuades Pakistan to rope in the like-minded Taliban factions for dialogue and for creation of a broad coalition government consisting of pro-US Afghan factions and pro-Pakistan Taliban factions. 

Common factor

All three scenarios have one common factor—the Taliban will be an important segment of any future government in Kabul! In the first scenario, the implications of old Taliban returning to power in Kabul can be disastrous for regional peace and stability. The Kabul regime may return to its old ways, claiming victory over the mighty US-led Nato forces, and executing Jihad with ever more zeal and ruthlessness. 

Bypassing the Malacca Strait : China circumnavigating ‘Risk-Prone’ Conduit to secure Energy Contingencies

Shanta Maree Surendran, Research Intern, IPCS

In May 2013, China will be linked directly to the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean by virtue of a gas pipeline running from Kyaukpyu port in Myanmar to China’s Yunnan Province. This will mark the completion of the first in a number of projects aimed towards circumnavigating the Malacca Strait as an energy conduit for China. This article examines existing and long-term considerations to determine as to why China is pursuing this agenda, and why the Malacca Strait is perceived to be ‘risk-prone’.

Malacca Strait: Southeast Asia's Main Artery

The Malacca Strait links economies and enables the fulfilment of energy needs. Joining the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, it is one of the busiest commercial shipping pathways in the world, and is home to the busiest port. Littoral states including Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, are dependent on business in the Strait to sustain their GDPs. User nations, including China and Japan, depend on the smooth functioning of the Malacca Strait for foreign energy sources and economic trade routes. The status quo serves both; however, the long-term implications of three key areas, logistics, security, and power strategies, need to be considered.


The Strait offers a route that is faster and more economic than alternate pathways around the Indonesian islands. The infrastructure, with respect to berthing and refuelling, is well established and therefore offers a clear and predictable logistical pathway.The current volume of traffic along the Malacca Strait is estimated to range from 60,000-85,000 commercial ships passing through per year. Compounding traffic flow is the structure of the Strait, which has a natural bottleneck near Singapore, as well as a number of shallow sections requiring ‘Malaccamax’ cargo ships for passage. Investments in ship design as well as in the Strait, to enhance navigation, aims to prevent disruption through traffic jams and grounding. Presently, the Strait offers a relatively smooth transit but the phrase, ‘just enough, just in time’, used to describe oil shipments implies that there is not much room for disruption.Continued development and growth, particularly in China, are likely to catalyse an exponential increase in the quantity of traffic on the Strait within the next ten years. As needs increase, so will the rate at which needs must be addressed, which will heighten delivery pressures. Higher numbers and greater stakes may translate to increased risks of incidents of disruptive events, such as collision or grounding, as well as more substantial bottlenecking and longer delays. In addition to impacting delivery, this outcome would enhance security concerns.


In 2004, Cooperation Measures (CMs) between littoral and user nations were devised to address a spate of piracy and armed robberies in the Strait. The unified approach made piracy a more hazardous venture, and incidents declined. The need for constant vigilance, however, was emphasised in February when a Japanese cargo ship was hijacked. A number of attacks in Indonesian waters during the early part of 2013 also demonstrate the pervading nature of this threat, and renews the perception of risk associated with the Strait.Pirate attacks, separatist groups, and underground economies each present a threat, but of greater concern is the potential for terror groups to exploit these respective methods, sentiments, and networks. The Al Qaeda, Jema’ah Islamiyah, and Free Aceh separatist movement are cited as groups with the infrastructure, connections, local knowledge, and agenda to most likely attempt a terror attack at sea. The logistics of conducting such an attack make this an unlikely scenario, but it is the ‘high impact’ aspect of the ‘low probability’ event that is important to consider.


Strategy page
April 15, 2013

North Korea is again running one of its big extortion campaigns against the rest of the world. This is the biggest and boldest yet, with threats of nuclear weapon armed missiles being fired at Japan and otheChina Sends A Nastygram To The Boy General

April 15, 2013: North Korea is again running one of its big extortion campaigns against the rest of the world. This is the biggest and boldest yet, with threats of nuclear weapon armed missiles being fired at Japan and other enemies. All this media theater has more impact the farther you get from North Korea. In the two Koreas it is pretty much business as usual. The planting season has begun in the north and that has ended the token military mobilizations (used as a media event to scare the foreigners). Most troops are now doing what they normally do this time of year, help with growing food. North Korea desperately needs this food, especially since reforms (incentives for farmers) in the last year appear to have worked and increased production a bit. That’s remarkable considering the growing fuel, fertilizer and other shortages farmers have to deal with. The weather has been bad in many parts of the country for the last two years and there has been a noticeable increase in starvation related deaths and illness. Scaring foreigners does not help much if you are very hungry.

The implicit message in all the North Korean threats is that if someone offers some free food and fuel the aggressive messages would disappear. No one has stepped up and China has apparently quietly threatened cuts in aid if the North Korean don’t quiet down. As these campaigns go, they usually end abruptly with the northerners declaring some kind of victory and that’s it. While it would be nice if all this theater produced some free stuff from fearful foreigners, Kim Jong Un could win inside North Korea without getting a payoff from the foreigners, because he has shown his henchmen that the new boss can work the foreign media even more adroitly than daddy or grandpa.

China is angry at all this North Korean theater. The current barrage of threats from North Korea is upsetting Chinese trading partners and is bad for business. North Korean actions have caused a massive amount of international media speculation and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). While this is not much of a problem for China, which strictly controls its own media, it forces politicians in nations with a free press to respond to their anxious voters. This can lead to decisions that are not favorable for China. The most unfavorable such decision would be for Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear weapons. Both could do so quickly and would complicate Chinese foreign policy. Currently, Chinese diplomacy is backed up the fact that China has nukes and that limits how far other nations can go in threatening China. That works both ways and China tries to maintain reasonably good relations with South Korea and Japan because both nations are trading partners and tension and threats are bad for business. China may be a communist police state, but the leadership remains in power only because they keep the economy growing. The neighbors know this, and have not felt compelled to go through the political, economic and diplomatic hassle of building their own nuclear weapons capability. But the current hysteria could force Japan and North Korea to go nuclear. China would lose a diplomatic edge and there would be an increase in the risk of someone actually using nukes.

China does not like to publicly criticize an ally and has been low-key in its public comments to North Korea over the current unpleasantness. But China has other ways to send a nastygram to the Boy General (one of the official nicknames for Kim Jong Un). China has ordered its Internet media operatives to say what they think about the Boy General. As a result popular Chinese Internet personalities are saying what the government prefers not to say (that Kim Jong Un is a fat little dork, asshole, maniac or whatever). Chinese Internet commentators are often local celebrities who are allowed to spout on their website or microblog (the tightly controlled Chinese version of Twitter) as long as they do not say anything the government censors do not approve of. The Chinese people understand how this works and know which blog posts are crap and which are sincere. The jabs at the Boy General are largely sincere, with the posters saying what a lot of Chinese think about North Korea.

Yet China is unwilling, or unable, to actually replace Kim Jong Un. Since the Cold War (and Russian subsidies that kept the economy afloat) ended in 1991 China has picked up some of the slack. China has become unhappy with the incompetent leadership in North Korea as the Kim dynasty refuses to undergo the kind of economic reform that has kept the Chinese Communists comfortably in power. Staging a coup in North Korea has always been a possibility but the paranoid (for good reason in this case) North Korea leadership has made it difficult for China to recruit enough North Korean officials to make this feasible. That said, the potential is still there and China could still go this route.

Many North Koreans believe that the Chinese will take over if it appears that the North Korean government is about to fall apart. The Chinese plan to install pro-Chinese North Koreans as head of a new "North Korean" government, and institute the kind of economic reforms they have been urging the North Korean to undertake for over a decade. The Chinese do not want North Korea to merge with South Korea, nor do they want North Korea to collapse (and send millions of starving refugees into northern China). China and South Korea both want North Korea to stay independent, and harmless. Thus China is willing to unofficially annex North Korea, knowing that the South Koreans would go along with this as long as the fiction of North Korean independence was maintained. South Korea won't admit this, but most South Koreans know that absorbing North Korea would put a big dent in South Korean living standards. That is more unpopular than any other outcome. While all Koreans would like a united Korea, far fewer are willing to pay the price.


Bhaskar Roy
April 15, 2013

While in Durban, South Africa, recently to attend the BRICS summit, new Chinese President Xi Jinping told (Mar.27) The Xinhua news agency that “China and India should improve and make good use of the mechanism of Special Representatives to strive for a fair, rational solution framework acceptable to both sides as soon as possible”.

Xi Jinping is the most powerful man in China today. He is head of the Communist Party, the only ruling party in the country. He is also the supreme head of the military as the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC). One difference he has with his predecessor is that he is the first top Chinese leader who is the son of a leading revolutionary Xi Zhongxun who fought on the side of Mao Zedong during the revolutionary years and also worked with Deng Xiaoping to redirect China’s course from revolution to reform and opening up to the outside world in quest of economic development and rejuvenation. He is known as a “princeling”. Princelings, privileged as they were at the early stages also suffered at certain points of time in the early history of Communist China. Not all princelings have the same ideas, though.

Whatever is known about Xi Jinping is mostly what is given out officially by the Chinese authorities. These details indicate that from an early age he prepared himself to be highly discreet, while at the same time planting his career saplings in rural areas, county and provincial level politics and the military. In fact, he created mentors through his work. As secretary to Defence Minister Geng Biao for a period of time he broke through the Military citadel to make friends without ruffling any feather.

Xi’s marriage to Peng Liyuan, another blue blood, a suave renowned singer who currently holds the rank of Maj. General in the PLA, has turned out to be an asset in international diplomacy. The couples have already made a mark.

People in China expected Xi to break away from the old, rigid economic and political thinking. Abroad, observers are watching him very closely, particularly for glimpes of new thinking and controlling the PLA hawks.

In India, the main question is whether Beijing under Xi Jinping is willing to shift from its rigid position on the border issue and steer a new road where there is real adjustment. To note, Xi is the only person in the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee who has an understanding of foreign-cum-strategic policy. The old foreign policy interlocutors retired in March, and new incumbents with experience but not on India specifically, have replaced them.

On border/territorial issues, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a major say especially on territory and strategic alignment. The Party Central Committee group on foreign relations, however, holds a nationalistic position.

Contrast Xi’s position on the border issue in Durban to his statement on the same issue on March 19 in Beijing, when he addressed journalists from BRICS countries. Xi said “The boundary question is a complex issue left over from history, and solving the issue won’t be easy”.

This was not only a reiteration of the old position, but even worse. The words “won’t be easy” suggested some kind of frustration especially with the 2005 agreement between the two sides at the Prime Ministerial level on modalities for resolution of the border issue. The 2005 agreement said that there would be no exchange of “settled population” territories.

How China’s Jets Threaten Russia

Uncategorized | China December 13, 2010
By Richard Weitz 

China’s suspected proclivity for copying weapons systems has made Russia wary of exporting its technology. Still, the Russians may one day end up with a taste for ‘Made in China’ hardware. 

The China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, better known as ‘Airshow China,’ used to see Russian arms dealers descend on the event to peddle their wares to potential Chinese customers. Held every other year in the city of Zhuhai, the Russians were eager to persuade potential Chinese customers to part with their cash. 

But last month, few Russian sellers showed up. Their absence is part of a broader trend in defence ties between the two nations, a trend that has seen a dip in the volume of Russian sales of military equipment and technologies to China. 

Up until a few years ago, Beijing was buying large quantities of Moscow’s surplus Soviet-era military products, including expensive tanks, warships and warplanes. But over the last few years, the Chinese have declined to sign contracts for any major weapons systems from Russia, while the dwindling number of major weapons systems China now receives are items that Beijing purchased years ago. 

All this leaves China buying mostly select subsystems or replacement items for larger platforms it has already acquired from Russia. For example, during a November 9 meeting in Beijing of the Russian-Chinese intergovernmental commission on military cooperation, the head of China's Central Military Commission, Guo Boxiong, and Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov signed contracts to provide China with ‘spare parts for air defence systems, aviation and navy equipment.’ 

So why the change? Essentially, China no longer needs Soviet-era systems as the Chinese defence industry can now manufacture Soviet-era military technologies when it needs to (and in many cases can exceed this level). Beijing now wants to purchase more sophisticated armaments, often the latest-generation Russian systems. 

The problem for China is that Moscow’s policymakers are reluctant to sell for fear that the Chinese will simply copy its technology and incorporate these advances into indigenous systems, some of which Chinese arms dealers can then offer to export to other countries in direct competition with Russian offerings. 

China certainly appears to have form in this department. Russian and international sources agree that Chinese engineers and technicians copied one of Russia’s most famous and lucrative military export items, the Sukhoi-27 fighter jet. Looking to acquire advanced military technology from new sources following the imposition of the Western arms embargo in 1989, the Chinese government spent $1 billion in 1992 on acquiring two dozen turn-key Su-27s from a Russian military-industrial complex that had gone broke following the collapse of the Soviet military-industrial complex. After trying out the plane, the Chinese decided to buy 200 more, but they wanted to build them in China. 

The Biggest Threat To China's Economy

Gordon G. Chang, Contributor 

I write primarily on China, Asia, and nuclear proliferation.             

On Tuesday, Fitch Ratings downgraded China’s long-term local currency debt one notch, from AA- to A+. The primary reason for the move was the country’s too-rapid expansion of credit, one of the “underlying structural weaknesses” the agency cited in its announcement. Many analysts in fact think the debt resulting from then Premier Wen Jiabao’s borrowing binge, which began to accumulate in earnest in late 2008, is now China’s number one economic risk. 

There are, of course, other risk factors now undermining the country’s economic growth. Among them are an eroding environment, unfavorable demographic trends, and persistent internal discontent. 

Yet the events since early last month in North Asia—the tearing up of the Korean War armistice, Pyongyang’s promises of pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the U.S., and the deployment of North Korea’s mobile missiles, to name just a few of them—suggest the biggest threat to the Chinese economy may be the least discussed one: turmoil in the region. As Fitch carefully noted in its explanation of Tuesday’s downgrade, “The ratings assume there is no significant deterioration of geopolitical risk, for example a conflict between China and Japan or an outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula.” 

North Asia looks like the world’s most volatile region at the moment. An assertive China is working to push America aside, grab territory from an arc of nations from India in the south to South Korea in the north, and close off the South China Sea so that it becomes an internal Chinese lake. Last month, while Chinese leaders talked about enhancing cooperation in the region, two Chinese vessels attacked a Vietnamese fishing boat, setting it on fire. 

There are many reasons for Beijing new assertiveness, but one stands out: slowing GDP growth, evident since the early summer of 2011. The economic problems in particular have created a dangerous dynamic, trapping China in a self-reinforcing—and self-defeating—loop. In this loop, the slumping economy is leading to a crisis of legitimacy, the legitimacy crisis is causing Beijing to fall back on nationalism and increase friction with its neighbors, and the increased friction is aggravating the country’s economic difficulties. 

Caught in a trap of their own making, Beijing leaders will continue to blame foreigners for the problems evident in Chinese society and then lash out, as they did in September against Japan, over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. 

And as they lash out, they are making their problems worse. The anti-Japan protests in China last fall, for instance, are resulting in Japanese industry reducing its commitment to China by shifting investments into Southeast Asia, as Nissan announced at the end of October. That, in turn, could push the Chinese economy past the tipping point.