30 April 2013

India’s Korean worries

Apr 30, 2013 

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or, North Korea, and its internal politics rarely intrude into the public consciousness in India because not too much is known here about that country.

The elementary fact sheet about the DPRK would reveal its nuclear and missile capability and its rigidly Communist, tightly controlled government that’s run more or less as a family concern by the descendants of the “Great Leader”, Kim Il Sung, the country’s founding father. He was a hardline autocrat of the old school and a contemporary of Joseph Stalin.

So the current spate of inflammatory and provocative rhetoric by Kim Jong-un, the grandson of Kim Il Sung and now the Supreme Leader of North Korea, threatening a nuclear war against the United States, South Korea and Japan leaves India somewhat bemused and nonplussed while it tries to decipher and make sense of this totally baffling vituperation. Indeed, the situation might even be considered comical, if it were not so potentially dangerous for the neighbourhood.

China has always been North Korea’s mentor in geopolitics, as well as its manager and minder in handling international relations. North Korea has functioned as some kind of ideological protectorate vis-a-vis China, and as its strategic proxy — it’s a lightning conductor
against charges of nuclear and missile proliferation from both Nato as well as post-Communist Russia.

All these would have been of academic interest to India were it not for the North Korea-Pakistan connection which has come into existence as an offshoot of the basic equation between China and Pakistan. It has long been clear that radicalised jihadist Islam has no ideological connections with ultra-rigid Stalinist Communism, but the North Korea-Pakistan linkage is of concern to India because Pakistan, through the intermediary good offices of China, has acquired North Korean technology for the Nodong missile, in exchange for nuclear weapons technology from the Pakistani bazaar presided over by Prof. A.Q. Khan. North Korea’s Nodong technology has since been incorporated into Pakistan’s Ghauri and Ghaznavi missiles, and both, like all Pakistani strategic missiles, are India-specific.

There are also other, more advanced strategic missiles in the North Korean stable, which reportedly include the Taepodong-1 (2,200 km), the BM25 Musudan (4,000 km) and the Taepodong-2 (6,000 km). Some of these may be prototypes in various stages of development. For India, it is prudent to note that the BM25 Musudan can cover north-eastern India from launch pads in North Korea, while the reach of Taepodong-2 from the same locations can stretch across the entire subcontinent. These missiles will certainly be issues of immense concern if they are acquired by Pakistan through China as has been the case in the past.

North Korea appears to be in the throes of an internal power play as Kim Jong-un attempts to consolidate his hold over the state on his ascension as the national leader after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in 2011. Kim Jong-un is said to be a psychologically fraught young princeling with hedonistic tastes, given to outbursts of blind, tearing rage, mannerisms which make him difficult to control and tend to reinforce stereotypes of staple themes for doomsday fiction featuring nuclear and missile-capable states under unstable rogue dictators. So, as a cautionary measure, it is important for India to listen carefully and decipher, as much as possible, the totally incomprehensible outbursts of Kim Jong-un threatening the world with nuclear fire and brimstone if economic sanctions against North Korea are not lifted and suitable concessions granted immediately.

The North Korean Army is a tough and ruggedised military machine which gave a nasty surprise to the American Army during the initial stages of the now almost forgotten Korean War of the 1950s. It swept south across the 38th Parallel and pushed the mighty American forces into a precarious toehold within the Pusan Perimeter in the extreme south of the Korean peninsula. As in most dictatorships, Communist or otherwise, the North Korean Army and its commanders consider themselves to be the Praetorian Guard and the ultimate custodians of the state against threats real or imagined. Even hereditary claimants to national leadership, like Kim Jong-un,well understand the necessity of having the support of the Army and keeping it on his side, so that rival claimants (in this case possibly his siblings of whom there has been no mention as yet) are kept at bay or otherwise disposed of, a frequent enough phenomenon in the immediate period of chaos after the demise of the “Great Helmsman”, Mao Zedong, and the tragedy of Marshal Lin Biao.

But even China periodically loses control from time to time over its erratic and balky protégé, which seems to be the case at present. During the recent visit to China of the American secretary of state, John Kerry, the governments of the United States and China jointly declared a mutual political understanding to manage North Korea and corral its nukes. How their efforts will progress is a wide open question, to which no answers can be hazarded as yet.

Relations between North Korea and India have been totally normal and the chances of a conflict between them is far-fetched to the point of absurdity. Not much is known about the military leadership of North Korea, but scenes of enhanced military activity are familiar thanks to news bulletins. Yet, even the outside possibility of Taepodongs in Pakistani hands are a cause of worry for India, which should be conveyed to Kim Jong-un, best done perhaps by those whom he accepts as confidantes.

A Pak-DPRK strategic missile linkage targeting India with the tacit approval of China is a possibility India has to contend with and resolve. India should cast around for interlocutors in the North Korean establishment to convey its concerns.

The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

Old Tensions, Big Stakes In China-India Border Dispute

Guarding the border - (rajkumar1220) By Tao Duanfang

On April 15th, India announced that an "intrusion" of around 50 Chinese military personnel had crossed onto the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, and set up a tent camp. The Indian military immediately responded with tit for tat camp of tents nearby. Thus started the so-called “Tents Confrontation” standoff.

The Ladakh region belongs to Indian-controlled Kashmir, and is known for both its very harsh weather, and its historic place as part of the extended Silk Road. It has also always been the source of a sovereignty dispute between China and India.

Although in recent years both sides have acknowledged the principle of “not breaking up the status quo on the basis of the Line Of Actual Control” and the “peaceful settlement of disputes”, each country nonetheless holds very different views as to what the “line of actual control” specifically refers to -- in part because of the complex topography of the Ladakh region.

Since this Tents Confrontation started, the Indian-controlled Kashmir authority has raised the stakes, claiming that there had been a “Chinese invasion” and calling on Delhi to “fight back strongly.”

Ranjan Mathai, India’s Foreign Secretary, called in the Chinese ambassador to lodge a formal protest and demand an “immediate solution.” A. K. Anthony, the Indian Defense Minister, and the Chief of the Army Staff, General Bikram Singh, have both shown a tough stance, with the latter flying in to inspect the hotspot in person on April 24.

Since taking office in September, General Singh has spared no grandiloquence on his eastern flank, declaring that India “won’t allow the tragic failure of the 1962 Sino-India War to be repeated.” Others in New Delhi have also declared that India is capable of handling two fronts with Pakistan and China at the same time. All this leaves certain observers worried that India might use this incident to set off a military adventure and that the two most populated countries might end up having a large scale conflict.

The current confrontation coincides with frequent Sino-Japan disputes over the Diaoyu Islands. Meanwhile the Ya’an region adjacent to Tibet suffered a major earthquake so that regional military forces, equipment and attention has been diverted and constrained. It goes without saying that the waters around the South China Sea are not calm either.

Certain Chinese are convinced that India is either exploiting the disastrous situation China is facing, or is simply joining other anti-China forces as part of the “big conspiracy” aimed at containing China.

China and India’s border dispute is both longstanding and deep-rooted. With the halo of a “most vivid great power” and “Third World leader,” India was defeated by China in the 1962 war, a great blow to the nation's military image, and a lingering wound for the Indian government as well as its people. Despite progress in bilateral economic and trade relations in the past decades, as well as collaboration in various fields, the border issue and the war complex linger on.

After 14 rounds of bilateral negotiations, the two nations have yet to reach an agreement. Both sides still strongly distrust each other.

In recent years, India has spent an enormous amount of money in introducing advanced military hardware. From 2011 it also set forward a Sino-Indian border “five-year force-enhancing plan,” at a cost of $13 billion, reinforcing four divisions and two independent army brigades, a total of nearly 100,000 soldiers, as well as building high altitude airports, fortifications, roads, and adding light artillery adapted to the region’s terrain. The goal is to match China every step of the way.

High-stakes crossroads

Though Ladakh is a barren region, it is located at the hub between Tibet, Xinjiang, India and Pakistan, and much of the new deployment is concentrated in this region. Not only is it in the front line of the Sino-Indian confrontation but is also key to the India-Pakistan, as well as a thorn in the side of Kashmir’s armed separatists. The Indians are extra sensitive to any sign of trouble in the region.

India has long been building up China as its imaginary enemy, even as it is so often distracted by having to deal with the old enemy, Pakistan, and with nonstop armed violence domestically.

Not just another border incident

Sushil Kumar : Tue Apr 30 2013

The Ladakh intrusion by China points to India's imperative to review its strategic priorities

It is almost with disdain that a bunch of Chinese soldiers have set up camp inside Indian territory. Baffled by this defiant Chinese intrusion into Ladakh, the Indian establishment has chosen to downplay the incident. What is worrisome is that we seem to have no answers to such repeated Chinese provocations across the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

This stand-off may be defused diplomatically, but what it really shows is the PLA's contempt for our military capability. This raises a serious question: why do we continue to remain militarily fragile vis-a-vis China, despite being nuclear-armed, with a deterrent that boasts of an ICBM capability?

A candid assessment will reveal we are operationally disadvantaged across the LAC. In handling border situations, nuclear deterrence is hardly of consequence, as the military equation is determined solely by "conventional" war-fighting capability. In this respect, it would be absurd to compare our war-fighting capability with that of the PLA. China belongs to a different league and we would only be deluding ourselves if we believe that our nuclear deterrent has a sobering influence on China.

Removing the intrusion during the Kargil war, or launching Operation Parakram, may have worked with Pakistan, but against the PLA, a coercive manoeuvre would be a different ballgame. Our strategic calculations would need to keep in mind the PLA's aggressive war-fighting doctrine of "Forward Defence", matched by its robust build-up along the entire McMahon Line.

Handling the Sumdorong Chu situation in 1986 was commendable, but we need to remember that the PLA has come a long way since then. With a vastly upgraded conventional war-fighting capability, the PLA has rapidly modernised its armed forces in comparison to ours, which have been degraded through years of neglect. We consequently lack the refinements needed for manoeuvre warfare in our mountainous borders with China. With improved border infrastructure and massive airlift resources, the PLA can deploy up to four full-fledged mountain divisions to any point along the LAC within 24 hours. In contrast, our troops remain bogged down by decrepit border infrastructure and lack of mobility. That is the ground reality.

As the chairman of the chiefs of staffs committee, when I visited our forward outposts on the Chinese border, I was heartened by the brave faces of our field commanders, though they knew they would be outclassed.

But why are we in such a paradox — nuclear-armed, yet militarily fragile? It is because we have deluded ourselves that nuclear deterrence reduces the need for conventional force levels and, taken in by this flawed proposition, scarce national resources have been diverted to build a nuclear war-fighting machine that will never be used. Influenced by nuclear warfare gurus with a "nuclear mindset", we have misplaced our strategic priorities. Where our foremost need has always been to equip and modernise our conventional force levels to match our vastly superior northern neighbour, we have merrily stockpiled a nuclear arsenal. The overriding need has always been to build up our conventional combat capability, for that is what credible deterrence is about. More, nuclear deterrence remains counterproductive unless matched by an effective and credible conventional war-fighting capability. What ultimately matters is "conventional deterrence", which not only prevents a war but, if the need arises, ensures a credible response. And that is the dilemma we face, with the Chinese soldiers defiantly squatting inside our territory in Ladakh.

It is mistakenly believed in some quarters that China is preoccupied with its domestic agenda and problems in the South and East China Seas and would rather not stir up a border conflict with India. To military professionals, this would seem unconvincing, for it is China's belligerence and huge capability that remains our concern. Moreover, China has always been a non-status quo power, which remains miffed at being constantly compared to India. Dismissing the PLA's intrusion into Ladakh as just another border incident may have geostrategic implications viewed in the context of China's longstanding territorial claims.

Hopefully, we are not going to make the type of strategic blunder Great Britain made in the 1960s and 1970s, when it opted for the Polaris-Trident programme to bolster its nuclear deterrence. Massive resources were diverted that emasculated Britain's conventional war-fighting capability. It cost the Royal Navy dearly. An atrophied Royal Navy realised the consequences of this folly much later in1982, when it could barely assemble a motley group of ships to sail for the Falklands. A navy that took centuries to build and proudly ruled the waves was eclipsed by the misplaced strategic priorities of its government. The Ladakh incident may blow over, but it ought to act as a wake-up call to review our strategic priorities.

The writer is a former chief of the Indian navy and chairman, COSC

India-China stand-off: Sun Tzu in action

Paper no. 5476 Dated 29-Apr-2013
By Col. R. Hariharan

Merely by sending a platoon of their troops to camp 19 km (upgraded after 10 days from 10 km reported earlier) inside our territory on February 15 near Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Aksai Chin region the Chinese have made the Indian government look weak and helpless in the eyes of its billion plus people. 

We are seeing the classic SunTzu (Sun Tzi to the purist) ploy “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” in Chinese action. 

Whether this act is tactical and limited to a remote icy waste, it is a strategic victory for Chinese policy because it is the Indian authorities – not the Chinese - who have been compelled to explain why the Chinese intruded.

Over the years, India and China have stepped up functional cooperation in all areas. In the words of Indian Embassy, Beijing: “The two foreign ministries have instituted dialogue mechanisms on issues relating to counter-terrorism, policy planning and security, besides strategic dialogue and regular consultations. There are also close cooperation in areas as diverse as water resources, judiciary, science and technology, audit, personnel, finance, labour etc.” for the last five years, an Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) had been taking place. The latest one was held in Beijing on January 14, 2013 at which both sides discussed bilateral and international security issues of common interest including those of the India-China border issues.

In spite of such a growing climate of friendship, the Chinese have chosen to embarrass the Indian government by creating a minor crisis for their own reasons. For the average Indian it is difficult to take it in the stride, like politicians do. Despite this unseemly action, except for hawks, most of the people in India do not want a war with China, but all of them want India to be treated as a nation with dignity. This is a minimum China cannot ignore in its Machiavellian calculations regarding India. 

And to face facts, as a nation we are not prepared for prolonged war both mentally and physically with a major power like China. Among the people, China does not generate the fratricidal genes Pakistan kindles.

Probably, China also does not want a shooting war for a very different reason. They remember the Sun Tzu’s quote “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

So it does not make sense for the Chinese to go to war when they can achieve what they want without firing a shot. Why should they? After all by the simple act of moving a platoon of troops into the disputed area, they have managed to divide the nation, confuse the government, frustrate the armed forces and get away with what they want to do.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh took 12 days to come out with a comment on the issue that had been dominating national media. Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a defence investiture ceremony he said India does not want to "accentuate" the situation and is working on a plan. “We do believe that it is possible to resolve this problem. It is a localized problem. I think the talks are going on," he added.

But can we ignore foreign troops intruding into our territorial claims and camping in tents for 12 days in an icy waste at over 16,000 ft altitude where maximum temperature is -4 degrees C as a local problem?

Even if the national leadership chooses to do so, no military force can be lulled into such complacency. It has to be studied in the overall doctrine of PLA and its activities in Xinjiang and Tibet and along the Indian border with China and in the series of PLA violations on ground, and air and in the waters of Pangong Tse in the past.

Actually, the government expects the issue to be resolved when the Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid visits Beijing on May 9. In other words, already we have accepted the Chinese status quo rather than the Chinese listening to our call. This is not surprising because no responsible person has asked the Chinese the simple questions: why are they intruding? Why don’t the Chinese troops to go back to Depsang Valley – where they came from? Semantics, on which diplomacy depends so heavily, are not only indicators of the mind and but also our lack of clarity.

8 Myths About India's Growth

On closer inspection, the Indian miracle turns out to be pretty ordinary after all.

Is India different? Last month, India's finance minister confidently declared that nothing could stop his country from becoming the world's third-biggest economy. He may well be right, but size alone does not make India a special case. Its growth has been fast, but it is no trailblazer.

Here are eight popular myths about India's growth, all of which are easily debunked:

India has outperformed other emerging economies in the recent past. In the two decades from 1992 to 2012, average living standards in India did rise faster than those in most countries that started from a similar level. In fact, only nine other countries in the world saw living standards, measured by purchasing power, climb more quickly: Albania, Armenia, Bhutan, China, Equatorial Guinea, the Maldives, Mozambique, Sudan, and Vietnam. Faster growth was to be expected in countries that started out with lower living standards than India's, but several of these -- Albania, Armenia, Bhutan, China, and the Maldives -- actually started out with higher purchasing power. Relative to them, India underperformed.

India will grow faster than other emerging economies in the future. For the next five years, the International Monetary Fund projects that living standards in several countries will grow faster than India's. Among them, again, are countries with a higher starting position: Bhutan, China, the Republic of Congo, and Georgia. India will likely outperform many other economies that have similar living standards today, but it hasn't unlocked every secret of economic growth just yet.

When India finally opens its markets to trade, exports will supercharge its growth. India is not the easiest place to be an exporter, but it's hardly the most difficult, either. In terms of both time and money needed to ship a container of goods, India ranks in the middle of the pack, according to the World Bank. If anything, exports could become more expensive for Indian companies if the United States and others forced India to drop some of its remaining export subsidies. In 2011, India's exports and imports represented 54 percent of GDP, about the same share as in China. It's unlikely that exports will change the growth story anytime soon.

The urbanization of India's huge rural population will lead to unprecedented increases in living standards. Urbanization has been a critical ingredient to economic growth for many countries. Simply putting labor next to capital by attracting people into cities tends to raise workers' productivity and, eventually, their incomes. More than two thirds of India's population still lives in rural areas, compared with less than half in China. But India is not under-urbanized compared to other poor countries; if you look at how living standards compare to urbanization among all the world's countries, India sits right on the best-fit line. There's no reason to believe that urbanization will help India's growth more than it has for any other country.

How Nepali Maoists chose democracy

Prashant Jha

The Hindu Pushpa Kamal Dahal PrachandaPushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

Prachanda talks of how his party made fundamental changes to its ideology

In August 2010, at the nadir of relations between India and Nepali Maoists, the former Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, went to Kathmandu as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy.

With the Maoists blaming India for blocking their ascent to power, Mr. Saran conveyed a clear message to Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’: “You can either be a revolutionary force with a coercive apparatus or a civilian party abiding by the discipline of multiparty democracy. Make a choice.”

Almost three years later, Mr. Prachanda — at a function chaired by his ‘old friend’ Mr. Saran in the Indian capital on Monday evening — declared that the party had made a choice in favour of ‘democracy’ and ‘progressive nationalism.’

The Maoist leader announced that his party, through a national congress in the southern town of Hetauda in February, made three fundamental changes to its ideology.

“One, we have accepted peaceful transition, peaceful multiparty democratic politics.” Mr. Prachanda referred to the integration and rehabilitation of the ‘Maoist armed cadres’ as proof, and pointed out, “My party has also given up its ruling mandate, to form a government led by the Chief Justice, to hold elections in a free, fair, and acceptable manner.”

The second shift was the ‘focus on economic prosperity and development’ as a party strategy. He thanked India for being Nepal’s biggest development partner, sought investment in a range of sectors, and said, “Economic development is essential for political stability, and a prosperous and developed Nepal will help address the security concerns of our neighbours.”

He also floated the idea of ‘trilateral cooperation’ between China, India and Nepal in hydropower and for the development of Lumbini. Mr. Prachanda was quick to add this was a ‘long-term vision,’ not meant to ‘undermine or replace’ bilateral relations between the countries.

And three, in a reference to apprehensions about the sporadic ‘anti-Indian’ rhetoric emanating from the Maoist leadership and its broader strategic vision, Mr. Prachanda said, “For the first time, we have criticised narrow nationalism, feudal nationalism and adopted progressive nationalism. We want good relations with India. Our relations must be the best example of bilateral ties in the rest of the world.” He added that on his visit to Beijing last week, where he met President Xi Jinping, the Chinese leadership too encouraged them to have good ties with India.

This, Mr. Prachanda said, was where they differed with the “dogmatic and sectarian” view of extremist colleagues like Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’, who have split and continue to criticise Indian ‘expansionism’.

So why did he not make the choice earlier? In a meeting with National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon on Monday morning, Mr. Prachanda said that had he acted earlier, the “engine would have moved, but the bogies would have got left behind.”

“It took time because we were attempting something unique, and needed to get our cadre and machinery along. But now, the choice is made,” he told The Hindu.

Meaningless posturing must end

Tuesday, 30 April 2013 | Abhijit Iyer-Mitra | in Oped

It's high time we saw past the nationalist gobbledygook and knee-jerk anti-West diffidence that our External Affairs Ministry feeds us, because what in effect it has done is to give the LeT and the JeM a free ticket to the next attack, a la Mumbai

Nationalism can be a great thing when it brings together a nation to act with a purpose. It can also, when abused, become a shield behind which rot and corruption hide. The latter, it seems, is exactly what happened with India’s negotiation on the Arms Trade Treaty.

According to media reports, India’s opposition to this treaty was principled and based on two pillars: The illicit supply of weapons to non-state actors, and the skewing of obligations in favour of exporters and against importers. Curiously, however, the Press reports are not only at complete variance with the actual statements India’s diplomats made at the conference but also at times completely contradictory to Indian law.

What Indian newspapers reported was that India objected to the weakening of the clause on supply of weapons to non-state actors. This was largely attributed to Western powers wanting to maintain their artificial rebellions in Syria and the ability to pull off another Libya. Yet, in the seven interventions that India made, at no point were these specific objections raised. What India asked for consistently was greater clarity of language, since clarity, according to India, meant greater enforceability. Critically, though, India rejected the criminalisation of such trade. One wonders why would India seek greater clarity if it did not wish to dole out punishment for such transgressions in the first place. What this means is that even if Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence gets caught red-handed transferring arms to Jolly Jihadis, under international law it would not be prone to criminal prosecution. An extension of this would be that, if Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar did in fact transfer arms to and provide support for the Mumbai attackers, as per India’s diplomatic position, they should not be criminalised for their actions. Effectively India, then, was condoning Pakistan’s lack of action against the duo. The question is: Why?

India’s second major objection ostensibly revolved around the skewing of obligations in favour of the seller to invoke force majeure on the grounds of human rights violations or genocide. Yet, even in the opening remark, India accepted this as a core principle that should allow the cancellation of a deal. What India’s objections focussed on — 70 per cent by word count of the seven speeches combined — was the avoidance of reporting. The treaty required member states to report what they purchased and keep detailed inventories of the same. How this translates into a skewing of the balance, is anybody’s guess. The excuse used incredulously was that it led to too much paperwork and the creation of unnecessary bureaucracies. That is a particularly galling excuse for a bureaucracy prone to expanding itself and creating copious quantities of useless paperwork in arcane 19th century English. Take, for example, the special Kuwait cell, created in the wake of the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. This cell continues to exist in South Block even though Saddam Hussein and his sons have long since gone.

At the same time, India, for this particular section, insisted that language be kept to a minimum — in cases of illicit weapons transfer to terrorists being verbose connotes effectiveness, but in cases of reporting and verifying of end user agreements, verbosity is a nuisance! If ever a country was plagued by foot-in-the-mouth disease, then this was it.

At no point was causality demonstrated — that is to say, despite lengthy speeches, how exactly the reporting and the verification clauses actually skewed the balance in favour of the exporter, was not explained.

Perhaps the most disturbing part, quite possibly illegal intervention on India’s part, was its resistance to common laws on the registry of arms dealers, their conduct and criminalisation. India has very clear laws governing this, and equally clearly these laws have been ineffective given that every second person entering South Block is quite possibly an arms middleman. Yet, we maintain the façade that this law works. We now have a golden opportunity that would have either made this process transparent or would have unformed its criminalisation across the world. Yet, India chooses to reject it. By extension, this would have meant that extraditing Ottavio Quattrocchi or any Bofors or AgustaWestland dealers would have been automatic, guided by similar laws and virtually impossible to get out of. India, however, does not want this.

How the CIA’s Bags of Cash Undermined the Afghanistan War


Afghan President Hamid Karzai shows love to Secretary of State John Kerry during a Brussels meeting, April 26.

It’s the most understandable, intuitive and tempting mistake in geopolitics: secretly pay a powerful foreigner to do what you want. The CIA, like many spy agencies, has done it throughout its history, and now we know it helped undermine the America’s longest war.

Nearly every month since the war began in 2001, the CIA has sent a guy over to Afghan President Hamid Karzai with a bag — sometimes a suitcase, sometimes a backpack, sometimes a shopping bag — full of cash. His former chief of staff says they used to call it “ghost money,” and it totals tens of millions of dollars, according to an eye-opening New York Times story. Quite the hypocritical twist from a sponsor country that so frequently hectors Karzai about corruption. “The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,” a U.S. official levels with the paper’s Matthew Rosenberg, “was the United States.”

When Iran pays off Karzai, it’s disruptive foreign meddling. But when the CIA does it, it’s supposed to be an insurance policy to entrench U.S. influence in the president’s office. Alas, there’s something more important than influence in geopolitics: leverage. When Washington most needed leverage with Karzai, it didn’t have much — at least not that it was prepared to use — and the CIA ghost money helps explain why.

Consider some of the U.S.’ goals in Afghanistan over the past several years. (Put aside whether you think they’re smart or stupid.) In 2009, the Obama administration began pressing Karzai to clean up his kleptocratic government and expand its institutional capacity to provide services to a dispersed population. Where once the U.S. hugged Karzai close and publicly praised him, diplomats and top officials began talking more about free and fair presidential elections. During that election season, someone decided to let slip that Karzai’s brother was on the CIA payroll.

Ultimately, Karzai won the race under dubious circumstances, now with the backdrop of a frosty diplomatic relationship with Washington. The general in charge of the war effort, Stanley McChrystal, has written about how he buttered Karzai up in order to keep Karzai on board with U.S. war aims, which involved Karzai displaying competent and energetic governance. The U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, saw the bigger picture. Karzai is “not an adequate strategic partner,” Eikenberry cabled home. “He and much of his circle do not want the U.S. to leave and are only too happy to see us invest further.”

Of course he wanted the U.S. to stay. The CIA, it now turns out, was his meal ticket. While it’s surely a mistake to presume Karzai is only motivated by money — human beings are more complex than that — whenever the U.S. came calling about reform, Karzai has always been able to nod politely, secure in the knowledge the CIA bag man will still make his rounds. Perversely, the money removes U.S. leverage over Karzai: the Afghan president is free to demand an end to U.S. night raids and air strikes or to denounce America or to claim thatthe Taliban kill Afghan civilians at America’s behest. If the secret money keeps flowing and the U.S. goes along with his reelection, Karzai is free to pursue his agenda, not Washington’s, defeating the purpose of the payments while undermining the public aspects of U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

Paying off foreign leaders doesn’t always fail. Sometimes it’s expedient for an immediate goal, as when the CIA rented the anti-Taliban opposition in 2001 to gain a network of local fighters. And bribery can be an insurance policy for a broader goal, as with the U.S. arms purchases to Mubarak-era Egypt to secure the peace with Israel.

But just as foreign aid distorts a local economy and prompts corruption, so too does attempting to purchase a foreign leader. The CIA has learned this again and again: Mobuto Sese Seko in Zaire/Congo; Nguyen Van Thieu in South Vietnam; Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya. Shortcutting the arduous work of foreign policy through cash payments rarely works as intended: at best, it can paper over deeper dysfunctions for a time, as with Hosni Mubarak in Egypt or with Pakistan’s duplicitous intelligence service. But over the long term, it ends up leaving the client in a stronger position than the patron, since the patron is rarely willing to walk away from the messy foreign entanglement that prompted the payout in the first place.

Worst of all is when U.S. policy is schizophrenic. The U.S. didn’t want to rely on Karzai as the indispensable force in Afghan politics — that’s why it briefly tried, around 2009-11, to build governance in the hinterlands — but paying Karzai encourages him to consolidate his power. The U.S. didn’t want to create a “Central Asian Valhalla” in Afghanistan, as a former defense chief memorably put it, but it came to call corruption the biggest threat to the entire war effort while funneling money straight into Karzai’s pockets.

Eikenberry saw all this in 2009 and warned Washington to use its real leverage — its military that stood between Karzai and death — and scale back the war, not escalate it. Eikenberry lost that debate.

When the history of the Afghanistan war is written, it may turn out to be three histories: the military’s history, the CIA’s history, and the broader diplomatic history that never took control of the other two. Karzai can’t be faulted for taking the money that the CIA (and Iran) were just handing him. He should instead be the cautionary tale for the next time the CIA starts stuffing stacks inside backpacks.

Is Israel really Pakistan’s enemy?

April 27, 2013

Never have we been told why people should believe that Israel is the root of most evils in Pakistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

Growing up in Peshawar, a slightly conservative city of Pakistan, my sentiments as a child were nothing different from those of others in most parts of the country. I had a slight disliking for India, and sheer hatred for Israel.

Words such as ‘Jewish lobby’, ‘Zionists’, ‘Freemasons’, and many others – whose meanings many of us did not even know – kept ringing in our ears through religious scholars, teachers, friends and peers, and we used to associate all of them directly with Jews, especially Jews of Israel and those having major shares in US corporations.

The Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad were always being linked to any terrorist happening in Pakistani, making these two countries as sole conspirators against Pakistan.

A few years ago, this very thought came to my mind while I was wondering why we don’t have any diplomatic ties with Israel. Not surprisingly, I failed to find even one solid reason to justify this lack of diplomatic relations.

Even our passport, explicitly barring us from entering Israel, is a forced decision imposed on Pakistanis, especially for those who would like to visit Palestine or Israel for religious, academic or economic purposes.

I think there are two primary reasons for our hatred for Israel: One, the religious structures, among which I grew up, and still respect, and number two, the curriculum I was taught at school, and even at college.

It’s a bit naive to think now that till my late teens, I was busy hating India and Israel without any historical background or logic. The curriculum never taught us historical narratives of both Kashmir and Palestine, and thus gave us only one side of the picture.

I remember attending Friday sermons which would end in curses on India and Israel. Apparently, it was a “positive note”. If those sermons were directed towards policymakers or governments, maybe in some sense, they would have sounded logical. However, praying for deaths of innocent people -all the Jews- is nothing but making a scapegoat for religious sympathies.

Citizens of the same country came forward to support Palestinians against settlements, which proved all fundamentalist anti-Semitic theories wrong.

The situation concerning India luckily has settled to some extent with increasing awareness and education, but Israel holds the top spot when it comes to ‘enemies of Islam’, for a layman.

True, there are violations going on in Palestine; true, that Israel has fought multiple wars with Arab states, and true that Israel is a strong ally of India and the USA, but does it provide any rationale for us to not have any sort of relationship with Israel?

If foreign interventions or occupations are to be used as a criterion, then first and foremost Pakistan should cut off its ties with of the Western states on whose aid the country is relying.

Pakistan’s hopeful general election

Apr 27th 2013

The N is nigh After 14 years in exile and opposition, Nawaz Sharif expects to win a third spell as prime minister

POSTERS are up on lampposts, television advertisements blare, but only some politicians dare hold election rallies. Campaigning for Pakistan’s general elections on May 11th has so far been subdued. Threats by the Taliban, and the killing of at least 34 people, discourage public events.

Yet these polls are likely to prove historic. An elected government will, for the first time, succeed an elected predecessor that completed a full term. Despite the violence, democracy in Pakistan may be bedding down.

A high turnout is likely, perhaps a record-breaker. Enthusiasm for a series of recent by-elections was notable. Young first-time voters look motivated. One pollster expects a rise of ten percentage points, or more, from the 44% who came out in 2008. And the election seems likely to be a fair one, with minimal meddling or rigging.

Polls put Nawaz Sharif, twice prime minister in the 1990s, comfortably ahead. Punjab is the most populous province. It is also Mr Sharif’s home, where his younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, seeks re-election as chief minister. A survey there in February gave his Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz, or PML (N)—or, more simply, just “N”—a whopping 59% share.

The brothers Sharif have a decent record on getting things done. In Lahore alone, a bus system set up last year was opened in January; officials nearly eradicated dengue in 2012; and Mr Sharif built a motorway to Islamabad, the capital, in the 1990s. Such tangible schemes are popular. Business likes the brothers, too.

It helps that most other parties are stumbling. A splinter from the Muslim League, known as PML (Q), has all but collapsed. It was a vehicle for General Pervez Musharraf, the general who toppled Mr Sharif as prime minister in a coup in 1999.

Now it is Mr Musharraf’s turn to suffer, as his return from self-imposed exile becomes a fiasco. He arrived to lacklustre effect in March. Courts barred him as unsuitable to contest any election. Then he was arrested on April 19th over the illegal sacking of judges when he ran the country. His high-walled farmhouse on the edge of Islamabad has become his jail. Mr Sharif presumably relishes every moment.

Nationally, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is weak. Its five years in office were dismal; it held on only because Mr Sharif, establishing a principle of “friendly opposition”, refused to join efforts to topple it. It failed to enact economic reforms and left urban voters fuming over power cuts, rising prices and worsening violence.

Its figurehead, Asif Ali Zardari, who was propelled into office after the murder of his wife, Benazir Bhutto, is widely despised as corrupt, isolated and ineffective. In any case, as the country’s president, he is barred from campaigning. Thus the PPP is in effect leaderless: its chairman is his 24-year-old son, who is said to be too fearful of assassination to meet any voters.

Why the Sheikhs Will Fall


The Gulf monarchies were once thought immune to the uprisings sweeping the Arab world. Not anymore.

On April 22, a Kuwaiti judge announced that opposition figure Musallam al-Barrak would be released on bail, prompting cheers from his supporters packing the court. Barrak's refusal to hand himself over to the authorities last week to serve a five-year sentence for criticizing the emir symbolized the intensifying resistance to autocracy in the oil-rich state.

In the wake of Barrak's sentencing, thousands of Kuwaitis took to the streets in solidarity, sporadic clashes broke out with security forces, and dozens of key activists recited his controversial speech. The stage now seems set for a long summer of confrontations between large sections of Kuwait's emboldened citizenry and an entrenched, traditional monarchy that has abandoned its democratic pretensions and is pressing ahead with police state strategies.

The contrast between now and summer 2012, when the British edition of my book After the Sheikhs went to press, could not be starker. Back then, there was little, if any, mainstream discussion outside the Middle East itself of the prospect of serious political unrest in the Gulf monarchies. Academics and policy wonks, at least in the monarchies' Western allies, had for the most part set these states apart as somehow exceptional and aloof from the Arab Spring movements sweeping the region.

This position was both predictable and understandable. Using a mixture of carrots and sticks, the poorer Gulf monarchies had managed to contain most of the protests that had spilled onto their streets in the immediate aftermath of the revolutions in North Africa. Meanwhile, the wealthier monarchies seemingly remained in command of largely apolitical, well-heeled societies with little if anything in common with those dwelling in the angry tenements of Tunis, Cairo, or Tripoli.

Since then, however, much has changed. By winter 2012, Western media had begun carrying articles foreshadowing either monarchical collapse -- or at least some serious impending turbulence. Reports on protests, trials, growing poverty, and cyberspace activism in the Gulf states became commonplace -- even leading U.S. think tanks broached the topic of "Revolution in Riyadh."

The international commentariat seemed to have finally become aware of the rising discontent among large swathes of Gulf nationals, and better plugged into regional grassroots campaigns and emerging opposition groups. The world was starting to pay attention to the struggle between the people of the region and their increasingly authoritarian and reactionary elites.

This current, unprecedented international interest in Gulf politics -- and the possibility of a "Gulf Spring" -- is in many ways due to the hundreds of headline-grabbing incidents that have taken place in the region over the past six months. Almost without exception, these stories have provided compelling evidence in support of the central thesis of the book: namely, that traditional monarchy as a legitimate regime type in the region is soon going to reach the end of its lifespan.

Most of the Gulf states are now caught between unsustainable wealth distribution mechanisms and increasingly powerful "super modernizing forces" that can no longer be controlled or co-opted by elites. The former dynamic continues to manifest itself in widening wealth gaps and increasing real unemployment, despite ramped up public spending programs and urgent public sector job creation schemes. These counter-revolutionary "rentier outlays" are likely to keep spiraling -- the International Monetary Fund has already predicted that even the wealthiest of the monarchies will run budget deficits within a few years. And in the poorer states, where this strategy is now increasingly inapplicable, street protests keep growing and regimes have had little option but to openly crack down on dissidents.

As for "super modernizing forces," notably including social media, a veritable battle in cyberspace has now begun. New legislation has been introduced, or is about to be introduced, in all six monarchies, with the aim of tightly policing online dissent and meting out heavy punishments to all would-be critics. But this strategy seems as unsustainable as sky-high public spending: Several of these states now have the highest social media usage rates in the world -- massive online political discussions have made Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube the region's new de facto parliament.

Why all this fuss over Gwadar?

February 22, 2013

Gwadar not only provides an important sea trade route and centre but also joins Pakistan - or in current case China - with most of the oil producing countries. PHOTO: REUTERS

It came as no surprise when, on Monday, the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zaradri handed over the operating rights of the Gwadar port officially to China in a high profile ceremony arranged at the President house in Islamabad.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Pakistani officials and the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Liu Jian, which meant that the world renowned, yet little functional, Gwadar port was transferred from the Singapore based Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), which had initially signed a 40 year lease deal in 2007, to the Chinese state-owned China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC).

Pakistan tagged it as the second most important investment by China in the country after the Karakoram Highway.

So why did the PSA leave?

One is forced to ponder as to why a firm like the PSA, having all the capital and a 40 year lease contract, left within five years of its contract.

The reason is simple and obvious; frustration.

The firm was demanding a piece of land annexed to the port, belonging to the navy, in order to develop the port and industrial estate but the navy refused to vacate, citing security reasons, and thus leading to PSA’s exit – as it meant the government failed to fulfill its promises made while signing the agreement with the PSA.

It will now be imperative to see whether China also demands the same piece of land and if the navy will change its stance considering Pakistan’s ties with China.

Global attention

From East to West, the event gathered worldwide media attention. The western media, in particular, gave high profile coverage to this deal solely on the basis of Gwadar’s strategic location coupled with Chinese involvement in the project. The concern and focus laid by the western media on this issue was particularly seen in various headlines of mainstream newspapers, such as The New York Times which titled the story as “Chinese Company Will Run Strategic Pakistani Port”. 

An interesting fact, overlooked by most, is that even after this supposedly multi-billion-dollar deal, the ownership of the port still remains with Pakistan. China would initially be investing huge sums of money to make the port completely functional after which the question of its productivity would come into the equation.

Strategic Location of Gwadar

As seen from the image above, Gwadar is indeed located at a very strategic location. It not only provides an important sea trade route and centre but also joins Pakistan – or in current case China – with most of the oil producing countries through the Strait of Hormuz.

This means that the port can serve as a key for solving major trade woes not only for China, by reducing thousands of trade miles, but also for Pakistan, which once deemed Gwadar as a potential answer to Dubai’s international port.

Ironic though, Gwadar is far from even being labelled as a fully operational port as it lacks basic infrastructure facilities such as roads and storage houses.

Indian concerns

Among its critics, India is the most prominent that raised concerns over Gwadar agreement calling it a threat to India’s maritime security. Indian military analysts are of the opinion that the port’s only objective for China is to encircle India in the sea through the famously known concept of String of Pearls, or the Chinese ally ports encircling India.

Gwadar port, if taken in Indian security context, is a port nearest to the West, and thus serves as an important link to this string of pearls.

In response to such concerns, China’s national People’s Daily wrote that the strategic importance or location of the port is still in its potential stage, rejecting Indian concerns on the basis of economic arguments.

In the past three days, the Indian media and defence analysts have gone to great extents on national TV to target Pakistan and China for this deal calling it purely a strategic-military manoeuvre against Indian security.

China's rebalancing act

Ila Patnaik : Tue Apr 30 2013, 

Its tilt to consumption-led growth is good news for India and the global economy

Unlike in India, the slowdown in Chinese growth appears to be not merely a cyclical downturn, but lower trend growth rate that Chinese policymakers see as desirable. It forms part of China's strategy to rebalance the domestic macroeconomy towards a slower growth rate of employment, lower investment and higher consumption. This is good news for global rebalancing as China's exchange rate policy should now become more flexible, Chinese current account surpluses should come down and accumulation of Chinese forex reserves should slow down or stop. For India, a relatively more consumption-oriented China could mean higher exports, both to China and the rest of the world, lower commodity prices and less of a pressure from exporters for exchange rate intervention.

After growth at double digits for many years, China grew at a much slower 7.7 per cent in the first quarter of the year. At a recent conference in Beijing, I heard Chinese policymakers sounding fairly comfortable with this lower growth. Indeed, they argued lower growth in China was desirable. It almost seemed that it was planned.

The main arguments in favour of lower growth — an average of 8 per cent in the next 10 years and 7 per cent thereafter — was mainly China's demographics. As the Chinese working-age population starts shrinking due to the replacement of the current working population by those born after the one-child policy was put in place, there is less need for high job growth. The last few decades were ones in which China was trying to meet two objectives: earn foreign exchange and create jobs. The high growth rate of job creation was necessary to absorb the large number of people joining the labour force. If the same growth rate continues, China will have labour shortages. With a slower growth of the working population and labour force, wage growth rather than employment growth will be the focus.

Second, China has undertaken significant infrastructure investment in recent decades. In coastal areas, China has met its targets for infrastructure investment. It now needs to utilise better the infrastructure that it has created. Some estimates even show that China's infrastructure investment has been excessive. The need for additional investment in infrastructure is lower, and so the investment strategy will be modified accordingly.

A shift towards domestic consumption-led growth will make the Chinese growth model less dependent on exports. In episodes of global slowdown like the recent one, the Chinese economy can then continue to grow more steadily. The decline in the Chinese trade surplus and slower exports after the crisis have made it evident that, even if desirable, the policy of export-led growth was unlikely to be sustainable.

At the recent IMF-World Bank meetings in Washington DC, China has indicated that it will allow the renminbi to move in a wider band than it has hitherto. This effectively means that it will allow the yuan to appreciate. This will make Chinese exports more expensive and imports into China cheaper. Such an exchange rate regime will be more suitable for a domestic consumption-led, rather than an export-led growth strategy.