3 May 2013

Turkey's Geopolitical Ambition *

At a time when Europe and other parts of the world are governed by forgettable mediocrities, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister for a decade now, seethes with ambition. Perhaps the only other leader of a major world nation who emanates such a dynamic force field around him is Russia's Vladimir Putin, with whom the West is also supremely uncomfortable.

Erdogan and Putin are ambitious because they are men who unrepentantly grasp geopolitics. Putin knows that any responsible Russian leader ensures that Russia has buffer zones of some sort in places like Eastern Europe and the Caucasus; Erdogan knows that Turkey must become a substantial power in the Near East in order to give him leverage in Europe. Erdogan's problem is that Turkey's geography between East and West contains as many vulnerabilities as it does benefits. This makes Erdogan at times overreach. But there is a historical and geographical logic to his excesses.

The story begins after World War I.

Because Ottoman Turkey was on the losing side of that war (along with Wilhelmine Germany and Hapsburg Austria), the victorious allies in the Treaty of Sevres of 1920 carved up Turkey and its environs, giving territory and zones of influence to Greece, Armenia, Italy, Britain and France. Turkey's reaction to this humiliation was Kemalism, the philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the surname "Ataturk" means "Father of the Turks"), the only undefeated Ottoman general, who would lead a military revolt against the new occupying powers and thus create a sovereign Turkish state throughout the Anatolian heartland. Kemalism willingly ceded away the non-Anatolian parts of the Ottoman Empire but compensated by demanding a uniethnic Turkish state within Anatolia itself. Gone were the "Kurds," for example. They would henceforth be known as "Mountain Turks." Gone, in fact, was the entire multicultural edifice of the Ottoman Empire.

Kemalism not only rejected minorities, it rejected the Arabic script of the Turkish language. Ataturk risked higher illiteracy rates to give the language a Latin script. He abolished the Muslim religious courts and discouraged women from wearing the veil and men from wearing fezzes. Ataturk further recast Turks as Europeans (without giving much thought to whether the Europeans would accept them as such), all in an attempt to reorient Turkey away from the now defunct Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and toward Europe.

Kemalism was a call to arms: the martial Turkish reaction to the Treaty of Sevres, to the same degree that Putin's neo-czarism was the authoritarian reaction to Boris Yeltsin's anarchy of 1990s' Russia. For decades the reverence for Ataturk in Turkey went beyond a personality cult: He was more like a stern, benevolent and protective demigod, whose portrait looked down upon every public interior.

The problem was that Ataturk's vision of orienting Turkey so firmly to the West clashed with Turkey's geographic situation, one that straddled both West and East. An adjustment was in order. Turgut Ozal, a religious Turk with

Sufi tendencies who was elected prime minister in 1983, provided it.

Ozal's political skill enabled him to gradually wrest control of domestic policy and -- to an impressive degree -- foreign policy away from the staunchly Kemalist Turkish military. Whereas Ataturk and the generations of Turkish officers who followed him thought in terms of a Turkey that was an appendage of Europe, Ozal spoke of a Turkey whose influence stretched from the Aegean to the Great Wall of China. In Ozal's mind, Turkey did not have to choose between East and West. It was geographically enshrined in both and should thus politically embody both worlds. Ozal made Islam publicly respected again in Turkey, even as he enthusiastically supported U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the last phase of the Cold War. By being so pro-American and so adroit in managing the Kemalist establishment, in the West at least Ozal -- more than his predecessors -- was able to get away with being so Islamic.

Ozal used the cultural language of Islam to open the door to an acceptance of the Kurds. Turkey's alienation from Europe following the 1980 military coup d'etat enabled Ozal to develop economic linkages to Turkey's east. He also gradually empowered the devout Muslims of inner Anatolia. Ozal, two decades before Erdogan, saw Turkey as a champion of moderate Islam throughout the Muslim world, defying Ataturk's warning that such a pan-Islamic policy would sap Turkey's strength and expose the Turks to voracious foreign powers. The term neo-Ottomanism was, in fact, first used in the last years of Ozal's rule.

India-China Stand Off:Emerging Lessons

The Chinese patrol that crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector of Ladakh and pitched tents 19 km inside Indian territory is still there. It is a tactical level incursion possibly in response to a pro-active Indian stance along the LoC. There is a fairly high probability that eventually the unprecedented stand-off will be resolved through diplomacy as neither country stands to gain from a border skirmish.

While the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs, agreed during the 15th round of border talks held in New Delhi in January 2012 between the two Special Representatives, is at work, it is time to reflect upon the lessons that are beginning to emerge from this avoidable episode.

It is not so well known that the LAC between India and Tibet, implying de facto control since the 1962 war, is yet to be physically demarcated on the ground and delineated on military maps. The un-delineated LAC is a major destabilising factor. Incidents such as the Nathu La clash of 1967 and the Wang Dung stand-off of 1986 have occurred in the past and the present impasse was waiting to happen. In fact, the two sides have failed to even exchange maps showing each other’s ‘perception’ of where the LAC runs. According to the grapevine, at one of the meetings of the Joint Working group the two sides ‘showed’ their respective maps to each other. The Chinese took one look at the Indian map and said please take it back.

Both sides habitually send patrols up to the point at which, in their perception, the LAC runs. Patrol face-offs in ‘no man’s land’, that lies between the two LACs as perceived by both sides, are commonplace. A drill has been evolved to tell the other patrol to withdraw peacefully. Both sides carry large banners in each other’s language and English. These are unfurled to tell the other patrol that it has transgressed the LAC and so far both sides have been going back peacefully after leaving some tell-tale signs like biscuit and cigarette wrappers and creating a ‘burji’ or a pile of stones. However, such meetings have an element of tension built into them and despite the best of military training the possibility of an armed clash can never be ruled out. Such a clash with heavy casualties can lead to a larger border incident that may not remain localised.

While the government invariably advises caution, it is extremely difficult for commanders of troops to advocate a soft line to their subordinates. There is an inherent contradiction in sending soldiers to patrol what they are told and believe are Indian areas and simultaneously telling them that they must not under any circumstances fire on the intruding Chinese soldiers. This is the reason why it is important to demarcate the LAC without prejudice to each other’s territorial claims. Once that is done, GPS technology can be exploited to accurately navigate up to the agreed and well-defined LAC on the ground and even unintentional transgressions can be avoided. The present stand-off clearly shows how intractable the challenge is and how loaded the situation can become. Hence, the topmost priority of Indian diplomatic engagement with the Chinese should be to clearly demarcate the LAC.

The LAC in Ladakh is manned during peace time by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police that is a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) police force. The army often sends troops to maintain its forward defences and conducts periodic operational alerts to practice fighting a defensive battle should the need arise. The army has little knowledge of the ITBP’s patrolling plans and other movements as this border management force reports to the MHA through its own channels. This arrangement is not conducive to fostering a professional relationship between the two forces and for reacting to border violations of the kind that has occurred in the DBO sector.

Analysing the Chinese Intrusion

The Defence Secretary has reportedly informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence that the Chinese intrusion at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) in Ladakh region is actually 19 kilometers deep inside Indian Territory. This should dispel any doubts that the intrusion is a localised affair. With the hold of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the PLA, promotions of PLA officers contingent upon favourable recommendations by the concerned Political Commissar overseeing particular unit/ formation, plus the PLA Chief reporting directly to the CCP instead of the Chinese Government, there is absolutely no possibility of a local commander taking an independent decision of this nature. If media reports of government having surmised this as a ‘localised affair’ are true, then the assessment appears misguided. Media also reports that this assessment is based on some inputs received during a flag meeting with the Chinese. Even if this has been conveyed by the Chinese during a flag meeting, its fallibility should be weighed against the Chinese Government assertion that there has not been any transgression across the LAC at all.

Under no circumstances can this intrusion be categorised as routine transgression based on Chinese perception of the LAC even as the 400 transgressions by PLA across the LAC during 2012 (as stated by the RakshaMantri) and similar intrusions in previous years were being brushed away routinely as the PLA coming up to “their perception of the LAC”. The seriousness of this intrusion (so far some 50 PLA in tented camp) must be viewed in light of the following:
  • As per MEA, the presence of Chinese in the DBO Sector is kilometers ahead of even the Chinese perception of the LAC, records of which are available with the MEA.
  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry is repeatedly asserting that there is no intrusion at DBO and that the PLA platoon is camping in Chinese territory.
  • As reported in media, Chinese have put forward unacceptable preconditions to India as quid pro quo to withdraw from DBO.

Above should make it amply clear that China does not intend to vacate this intrusion and dialogue is not going to lead to this unless additional measures are enforced by India without beating of war drums to create situation for China to vacate DBO. However, before discussing such measures, it is important to look at the implications in the event that Chinese firm in permanently at DBO, which are as follows:
  • Strategic importance of DBO lying astride the old silk route leading to Karakoram Pass (KK Pass) and beyond to Yarkand in China.
  • Chinese occupation of DBO hindering Indian patrolling to KK Pass.
  • Possibility of DBO being used as a base to threaten the rout to Siachen Base Camp. The significance of DBO should also be linked with the strategically unsound proposal to withdraw from Siachen. 
The situation in Demchok on account of Chinese incursions and claims.

During Operation ‘Vijay’ in 1999, China quietly developed a road in eastern Aksai Chin towards DBO, significance of which was apparently glossed over. In 2012, China called upon Japan and South Korea to establish astronomical observatories in Aksai Chin.Google imagery of 2006 shows an extraordinary large scale (1:500) terrain model extensively duplicating eastern Aksai Chin built close to Yinchuan (capital of Ningxia Autonomous Region). The 3,000 × 2,300 feet model is being used for tank war-games – in preparation of a future battle in East Sikkim.

Chinese provocation: Is India prepared?

Gen. (retd) Deepak Kapoor, May 2, 2013, IANS:

The Chinese intrusion into Depsang Bulge in East Ladakh, approximately 19 km inside our perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on April 15, has raised temperatures both militarily and politically on either side. 

A series of border personnel meetings between the militaries of the two sides have not been able to resolve the issue so far and the standoff continues till date. It would not be incorrect to presume that this latest provocation from the Chinese side has been undertaken with the tacit approval of the highest levels in the Chinese hierarchy. 

As we grapple with the current situation, it has reignited introspection as to our level of preparedness should things go from bad to worse.

Fifty years have elapsed since the Chinese aggression took place in 1962. A number of articles have appeared in the media covering that period as well as the events preceding it. While there are many reasons for the Indian Army's debacle, and these have been discussed threadbare in the past 50 years, there is no doubt about the valour, courage and heroism of the Indian soldier even in the most adverse circumstances which obtained then. Given the right training, equipment and battlefield support, he is better than the best in the world. With that as the takeaway, we need to ensure that such a setback is never ever repeated. 

For a realistic assessment, first and foremost, there is need for clarity on some basic issues. Many an analyst has discounted the very possibility of a future Sino-Indian conflict on the grounds that both countries stand to gain from a cooperative engagement, that trade between the two countries is increasing exponentially over time, that there is enough space for both to grow simultaneously and that both are speaking in the same voice at global forums on issues like global warming, climate change, global economy, trade barriers, etc. 

It is further suggested that China already being at the global level, has more important issues like Taiwan, South China Sea and finally Pacific Ocean dominance to worry about in consonance with its stature; therefore, it would not like to get involved in a border skirmish with India.

While it is good to be optimistic, we should not veer too far away from pragmatism and reality, especially where issues of national security are concerned. The possibility of a standoff like the present one on the LAC flaring up into a bigger confrontation can never be ruled out.

There is no getting away from the fact that China has assiduously tried to create an impression that India does not figure in its scheme of things and that India's rise and growth over the past decade has little significance and in no way threatens China.

In an analysis carried out by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in January 2013 titled "Crux of Asia: China, India and the Emerging Global Order", Ashley J. Tellis and Sean Mirski highlight that "Differences in the Chinese and Indian positions sometimes arise from the two countries' competing visions but more often from their underlying geopolitical rivalry, which appears to be sufficiently deep-rooted so as to prevent the two states from realising any natural accommodation. 

To be sure, both sides bend over backward to conceal their differences in public, and both have often struggled to reach some accommodation that might permit occasional practical cooperation. But the differences in national power and performance between the two countries, the seeming disdain with which China treats India, and the deep fears that India harbors about China's policies and intentions lead to a never-ending contest for securing strategic advantages."

While cooperation and healthy competition are welcome and desirable, the seeds of confrontation are inherent between the two nations engaged in competition, at both the regional and global level.

India: Latest Chinese Intrusion Needs Deeper Examination

Paper No. 5477 Dated 30-Apr-2013

By Bhaskar Roy

The April 15 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) camp in Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) in the Ladakh sector on the India-China undemarcated border is definitely worrying. It is not the regular intrusion of patrols who come in, drop some markers, and return. It is a camp which can turn into a permanent Chinese post in a contested area which held on peacefully for more than twenty years.

The two countries have invested much in stabilising the borders through various agreements and protocols starting with the Peace and Tranquillity Treaty (PNT) in 1993 when Prime Minister Narasimha Rao visited Beijing. All such agreements have been signed at no less than the Prime Ministerial level.

The ice was broken between India and China when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi took the initiative to visit China. The Chinese position on the border issue became sharp in the run up to the visit. Then Chinese Premier Li Peng, reportedly adopted a hard line. It was Chinese pre-eminent leader late Deng Xiaoping who retrieved the situation through his personal intervention.

Although that was some years before Deng Xiaoping enunciated his famous strategic theory of “hide your strength, bide your time”, he was trying to secure a peaceful environment for China for economic development. He also advocated if the country’s various territorial issues could not be solved immediately, they should be shelved, if needed for the next generation or even a hundred years and to develop relations in other areas.

India-China relations have come a long way since then. China is now India’s biggest trading partner, though the contents need urgent assessment from the Indian side. Cheap and shoddy Chinese goods are coming in while exports to China are of more strategic nature like iron ore and other basic material. Trade still remains heavily in China’s favour.

The Chinese leaders have agreed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s strategic view that there is enough space in Asia for both India and China. But there are other players like Japan and the new US pivot to Asia, with US President Barack Obama’s rebalancing in Asia apparently to reaffirm US position for economic reasons which, of course, required building stability through security intervention.

The Chinese strategic think tank was content with US engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, which allowed Beijing to dominate Asia especially its maritime claims with Japan and the South East Asian countries.

Unfortunately, the Chinese leadership has been actively considering from as early as 2003 the concept of China as the “Central Kingdom”. This is not an idle concept but a very serious one from the time of the great Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Mao was neither an economist nor a social manager. Otherwise, the disastrous “Great Leap forward” and the “Great People’s Cultural Revolution” would not have been unleashed by him. He was a ruthless politician. Becoming the fifth nuclear power in 1964 was the first significant step towards the central kingdom syndrome.

Deng Xiaoping’s strategy was to maintain a stable environment to build a strong economy which was to be ploughed into military and high technology. 

They are following the basic security platform. Development and security are interdependent, and a strong military ensures peace under China’s conditions.

This strategy in turn led to the PLA becoming not only a military force but also a political force. The Party commands the gun, and the gun protects the Party. This mutual interdependence is almost one of the most unique political structures in the world. After years of study Chinese official researchers have concluded that the Soviet Communist Party fell because the armed forces were depoliticised in the sense of western military practice.

The first two generations of communist leadership in China led by Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping and their contemporaries fought in the liberation war and, in fact, led revolutionary movements. Both were, therefore, able to control the military leaders.

Since then, successive party chiefs Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and currently Xi Jinping have not been military leaders, though Xi’s father fought in the liberation war’s long march and Xi himself has worked in the PLA in civilian roles.

But the Party-PLA interdependence has given the PLA strong policy strength, even though the PLA (except for a few exceptions) are aware their future also depends on the power of the Party. Jiang and Hu had to buy PLA loyalty and not command it. Xi also has few other options. 

Chinese strategists especially the military believe strongly that Deng’s theory of keeping a low profile had served the purpose at a certain historical period. In the recent past with its economic, strategic and diplomatic power China is in a position to demand its own sphere of influence – a Chinese version of the American Monroe doctrine and, perhaps, a Marshall Plan.

Too much restraint, too little resolve

May 01, 2013 

The gap between the econo- mic and military power of India and China is great and growing. This is how China wants it to remain.

Restraint in the conduct of foreign and security policies, especially in relation to neighbours with whom one has a long-standing dispute and particularly in a time of tension, is a commendable attribute. New Delhi has, therefore, been wise not to overplay the provocation China has offered in Depsang valley in eastern Ladakh since as far back as April 15.

This has suited Beijing that has since upped the ante. It has been content with proclaiming that “both sides” are anxious to solve the “problem through peaceful negotiations”. This may be good as far as it goes, but, regrettably, it does not go, and cannot go, far enough. Indeed, there is the other side of the squalid story of eastern Ladakh that has hitherto been ignored by the powers that be in the Indian capital but must not be brushed under the carpet any longer.

The first and foremost point to ponder is that whatever has been going on in Depsang Valley need not have happened at all. But, of course, incidents like this have been taking place for long years, ever since India and China agreed to put the boundary question — “left behind by history”, according to Beijing — on the backburner and improve their relations in other spheres. This agreement was accompanied by the commitment that “peace and tranquillity” would be maintained along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This could never be achieved because having promised to “confirm and clarify” the LAC, Beijing chose to renege on this assurance.

Consequently, hundreds of times every year Chinese troops come into areas that both countries claim and, similarly, Indian patrols go into places that China claims as its own. However, these small formations usually stay for a day or two and then go back. This is the only time since the eventually resolved Sumdorong Chu affair in 1986-87 that Chinese soldiers have come to a disputed area, set up tents and have stayed put.

The messy situation has aggravated because no spokesperson of the Chinese government has as yet bothered to explain what prompted the Chinese troops to change the established pattern of behaviour this time around. On the contrary, each one of them has stridently insisted that China’s troops are not in any part of the Indian territory, and that they have not violated any treaty between the two governments. If so, then what is there to settle?

All those in this country — including, sadly, foreign minister Salman Khurshid — who are slurring over this and pretending that there is only a “local” little difficulty ought to realise that the Chinese never do anything in a fit of absent-mindedness. They obviously have a clear objective behind the eastern Ladakh adventure — staged so close to the new Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s visit to India. Mr Khurshid seems hopeful, if not confident, that the troublesome issue would be settled before his own visit to Beijing on May 9. Why then are the Chinese spokespersons maintaining that if the problem is not settled before Mr Li’s arrival in Delhi on May 20, it would “cast a cloud” on the Chinese Prime Minister’s first visit not just to India but to any foreign country? One theory doing the rounds is that China is suddenly concerned over the belated spurt in improving this country’s infrastructure on the Himalayan border ignored for too long. What, perhaps, is most worrisome for it is the capacity we have built up for aerial action in places like Daulat Beg Oldi which is precisely where the intruding Chinese troops are ensconced.

It cannot be overlooked that from India Mr Li would be going to Pakistan, China’s “all-weather friend”. Nor can it be ignored that China has always used India’s neighbours, especially Pakistan, to see to it that India remains cribbed and confined within South Asia. Not for nothing had a Chinese general declared publicly, “Pakistan is our Israel.”

Maybe, it would be instructive to view the India-China relationship, a complex mixture of cooperation and competition at the best of times, in the broader context of the Asian power play. China and India are the two largest powers in Asia with great potential. In not too distant a future, “rising India” believed that it would catch up with the “risen China”. That hope has been reduced to a dupe at a time when the global centre of gravity has moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Not to put any gloss on the situation, the gap between the economic and military power of the two Asian giants is great and growing. This is how China wants it to remain.

This must be read together with another rude reality of life — China has never considered India to be its equal. The Chinese must, therefore, be drawing some comfort from the way in which most Indians — the political class, general public, the strident media and even sections of the strategic community — have reacted to the government’s “wishy-washy” handling of the Depsang valley crisis. It confirms the Chinese estimate of the India-China power equation. It is also noteworthy that not a single foreign country has even taken note of what is currently going on in Ladakh, leave alone comment on it.

Borderline personality disorder

May 03, 2013 

The unwillingness of our political class to take a rational view of territorial settlements has also been a major obstacle in concluding an agreement with China

When it comes to the borders, our public debates tend to verge on the irrational. For a country that has several major and minor territorial disputes, we seem to proceed on curious premises. All our neighbours must accept our claims and we need to make no concessions whatsoever.

In the latest uproar over Chinese “incursions”, it was repeatedly argued that India is the only country — apart from Bhutan — with which China has not yet settled its border dispute. It may be more interesting to flip the question around and ask: Why is India the only country that is unable to reach an agreement with China? A clue to the answer may be found in a recent development that has gone largely unremarked.

Last week the government was looking to introduce the Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha. The bill is required to implement the land border agreement with Bangladesh. A Supreme Court ruling of 1960 states that the executive could not, by itself, change the boundaries of India either by ceding or accepting territory. Such a move would require an amendment of the Constitution by two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament.

Interestingly, this ruling was given on a petition challenging the division of the Berubari enclave with erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The border dividing India and Bangladesh had been problematic since the Radcliffe award of 1947. The outstanding disputes were sought to be resolved by India and Pakistan during the 1950s. An agreement reached between Jawaharlal Nehru and Feroze Khan Noon in 1958 failed to be implemented by India in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on Berubari.

Following the emergence of independent Bangladesh, Indira Gandhi and Mujibur Rahman signed an agreement on the land borders in May 1974. As earlier, India failed to proceed further owing to pressure from West Bengal and Assam. Thirty-seven years passed before India signed a protocol to this agreement in September 2011, resolving to implement the 1974 agreement. It took another year and seven months for the government to prepare the Constitution Amendment Bill.

The agreement and the bill seek to settle two sets of problem. The first pertains to “enclaves”. These are small pockets of one country’s territory surrounded completely by the territory of the other. The second relates to “adverse possessions” or land used by Indians and Bangladeshis, which are actually located in the other country. The solution arrived at in 2011 is straightforward. The enclaves will be merged with the territory within which they are located. India will give up 111 enclaves (around 69 square kilometres) and will acquire 51 enclaves (about 29 square kilometres). Adverse possessions, amounting to a total of about 28 square kilometres, have also been rationalised. India will get nearly 16 square kilometres of territory.

India-China stand-off: Sun Tzu in action

Issue Net Edition | Date : 30 Apr , 2013

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.

…as a nation we are not prepared for prolonged war both mentally and physically with a major power like China.

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.”

…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.

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?

Indian activists burned a Chinese flag during a protest against the alleged Chinese incursion

on April 26.
Published: May 2, 2013

Where China Meets India in a High-Altitude Desert, Push Comes to Shove

NEW DELHI — The disputed border region between India and China attracts troops from both countries, but two weeks ago the Chinese sent an unusual number of military patrols into the mountains of Ladakh, a remote high-altitude desert at the northern tip of India.

The ancient Nathu La border crossing between India and China, pictured in 2008. The disputed border region attracts troops from both countries.

Two Chinese patrols came on foot, two more arrived in military vehicles and a Chinese helicopter flew overhead. With all the activity, the Indian authorities failed to notice until the next morning that about 30 Chinese soldiers had pitched three tents in an area both countries claim.

Indian military officials protested. The Chinese stayed put. India protested again. The Chinese, who had with them a few high-altitude guard dogs, responded by erecting two more tents and raising a sign saying, “You are in Chinese side.”

As the dispute enters its third week, alarm in the Indian capital is growing. At a Thursday news briefing, Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said, “There is no doubt that in the entire country this is a matter of concern.”

But the prime minister has sought to play down the dispute.

“It is a localized problem,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Saturday. “We do believe it can be solved. We have a plan. We do not want to accentuate the situation.”

Still, jingoistic comments are growing by politicians linked to both the opposition and the government.

“This government is cowardly, incompetent and good for nothing,” said Mulayam Singh Yadav, an important regional leader allied with the ruling coalition. Arun Jaitley, a leading opposition politician, said in Parliament on Thursday, “You may have some security options, you may have some diplomatic options, but being clueless is not an option.”

In China, a foreign ministry spokeswoman denied that Chinese troops had crossed into Indian territory and said the dispute would be resolved peacefully and through appropriate channels.

“I would also like to point out that China and India are neighbors and their borders haven’t been demarcated,” said the spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, at a news conference last week in Beijing. “As such, it is difficult to avoid border disputes.”

On Thursday, the online edition of People’s Daily ran an editorial that urged China to continue friendly relations with India, but said China should not “indulge” India’s “bad habits,” and in particular the “lies” of the Indian news media.

Though Indian and Chinese politicians have not described the reasons for the dispute, Indian press reports have stated that Chinese officials have demanded the Indian authorities demolish some newly constructed bunkers and reduce patrols in the area.

As its economic might has grown, China has become increasingly assertive in its territorial claims across Asia. In disputes with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, among others, China’s claims revolve around islands or sea lanes that are potentially rich in oil and gas deposits. What puzzles Indian analysts is that China has chosen to squabble over a barren moonscape frequented only by nomadic cattle herders.

“It’s an inexplicable provocation,” said Gen. Vasantha R. Raghavan, a former top Indian military commander who once commanded the region in dispute. “There is something happening inside China which is making the military act in an irrational manner.”

India-China Relations: A New Paradigm


IDSA Monograph Series No. 19

India-China relations may not be ideal in the narrative of a bilateral relationship between the countries. But given the complexity of the engagement and interaction between the two countries and taking into account the divergent political systems, the unresolved territorial issues, compulsions of geo-politics, the quest for resources and markets, and aspirations of the two countries for global influence and power, the relations between the two countries are certainly a matter of reassurance and optimism. In spite of the occasional hiccups, the two countries have shown a certain degree of resilience and have learnt to live together.

About the Author

Dr Rup Narayan Das is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), on deputation from the Lok Sabha Secretariat, where he is Director in the Research Division. He holds a Ph.D from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid" 
- Gen Eisenhower

Why America Gets a B+ in Counterterrorism

May 2 2013


On the second anniversary of the death of Osama Bin Laden, there have been laudable achievements in the fight against al-Qaeda, but we can do better on human rights.

Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam hold an image of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during an anti-American rally in Quetta May 2, 2012. (Naseer Ahmed/Reuters)

On May 2, 2011, the American people celebrated the news that Osama bin Laden, mastermind behind 9/11 and international symbol of al-Qaeda, had been brought to justice. Addressing the nation that night, President Obama praised the U.S. special forces that killed the terrorist leader in Pakistan, calling bin Laden's death "the most significant achievement to date" in the United States' efforts to defeat al-Qaeda. Yet, he cautioned that this victory was not the end of the fight against terrorism: "We must --and we will--remain vigilant at home and abroad."

The President was right. Although al-Qaeda has been degraded and become far more decentralized in recent years, its Salafist ideology continues to resonate among jihadis in many corners of the world. Over the past year alone, we have witnessed Islamic militants join forces with al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb to seize northern Mali, declaring the short-lived independent state of Azawad and imposing harsh sharia law; increased violence from al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups Boko Haram and Ansaru in Nigeria; and the alignment of the al Nusra Front rebel group in Syria with al-Qaeda. Even in the United States, the " self-radicalized " Tsarnaev brothers drew inspiration from jihadist internet sites in planning April's Boston Marathon bombing.

This litany of carnage should not obscure the considerable counterterrorism successes of the international community. The United States and its partners have indeed remained vigilant, and shown commendable stamina against this persistent threat.

This is a point we make in the Global Governance Report Card, recently released by the Council on Foreign Relations. The first effort to grade multilateral cooperation in addressing major global challenges, the Report Card gives both the international community and the United States high marks--a 'B' and 'B+', respectively--for their counterterrorism efforts.

These grades reflect several laudable achievements, including cooperation in eliminating high level al-Qaeda leaders, progress in developing counterradicalization strategies to reduce al Qaeda's attraction, and active measures to ensure that terrorists never get their hands on weapons of mass destruction or the materials necessary to build them. But perhaps most significant has been the effective international collaboration to crack down on terrorist financing, by stemming the flow of funds to terrorists' hands and providing legal frameworks to prosecute those providing them.

The United States stands out as the leader of counterterrorism efforts worldwide. Beyond the elimination of Osama bin Laden, the United States has denied safe-haven to al-Qaeda through its operations in Afghanistan and has thwarted at least thirty attempted al-Qaeda inspired attacks on U.S. soil since 2008, contributing to the deterioration of the network. Alongside Saudi Arabia, the United States established the influential Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), increasing multilateral coordination in counterterrorism strategies, and has worked with Russia and other nations to secure the world's stocks of fissile material, reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism.

That said, while a 'B' or a 'B+' is commendable, it also indicates room for improvement. The United States must work with partners to close remaining gaps in the counterterrorism regime, both at the international and domestic level. So what would it take to earn an 'A'? Well, finally forging international consensus at the UN on a definition of "terrorism" would be an admirable start. Beyond that goal, the Report Card suggests the following tangible steps:

Water Sector in Pakistan: Policy, Politics, Management

IDSA Monograph Series No. 18

This monograph undertakes a descriptive analysis of the water sector in Pakistan and underlines issues related to Pakistan’s water policies, politics and management practices. While the thematic focus is on developing linkages between the British colonial legacy - the creation of canal colonies in west Punjab, the impact of partition on the Indus Water Treaty and Pakistan’s water sector, the study explains why Pakistan followed a technocratic paradigm to manage its water resources. As societal norms play an influential role in water distribution and allocation, the monograph highlights the interface between policy and politics. It argues that domestic water management is perhaps one of the key areas which requires urgent attention in Pakistan.

About the Author

Dr Medha Bisht is Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations, South Asian University, New Delhi. Before joining SAU, she was Associate Fellow at IDSA, with the South Asia Cluster. She studied International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University and holds a doctorate from the Diplomatic and Disarmament Studies Division, JNU, New Delhi. Her area of interests are South Asian Politics, particularly Bhutan, international negotiations, political and strategic thought, state-society interface and strategic dimensions of non-traditional security issues. She has widely published and presented papers at national and international fora. Some of her recent publications include: Bhutan-India Power Cooperation: Benefits Beyond Bilateralism,Strategic Analysis, 36 (5), September 2012, Routledge and Bhutan and Climate Change: Identifying Strategic Implications, Contemporary South Asia, 2013 (forthcoming), Routledge.

Understanding Afghan Insurgents: Motivations, Goals, and the Reconciliation and Reintegration Process

Andrew Garfield is Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and President of Glevum Associates, LLC, a firm that has been conducting sociocultural field research in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2006. Alicia Boyd is Director of Research for Glevum Associates. An important contribution was also made by former Glevum analyst Pascale Siegel. Glevum has undertaken more than 300 major Afghan related research projects, covering a wide range of topics from Rule of Law to Quality of Life and interviewed over 300,000 eminent and ordinary Afghans, using a variety of techniques including polling, depth interviews and focus groups. Glevum’s Afghan research partners have visited more than 5,000 Afghan towns and villages. In the winter of 2010-2011 and the two succeeding winters, Glevum and its research partners undertook a total of 78 in-depth interviews with active insurgents, living and operating in many of Afghanistan’s most restive provinces. These interviews were analyzed and written up in an E-Book to be released jointly by FPRI and Glevum Associates LLC. In advance of publication, we print below the Executive Summary. 


78 in-depth interviews were conducted with self-identified Afghan insurgents in Baghlan, Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Khost, Kunar, Kunduz, Nangarhar, Nimruz, Nuristan, Paktia, Parwan, Uruzgan, Wardak, and Zabul. Interviewees were between the ages of 16 and 53 and varied considerably in educational and professional backgrounds. These interviewees were predominantly ethnically Pashtun; however, one identified himself as Tajik and another as an Arab.

In each interview, interviewees were asked to provide personal information including their place of birth, current residence, level of education, tribal affiliation, and marital status. Interviewees were then asked to detail their experiences within their respective insurgent group and to describe factors that influenced their decision to join and actively participate in insurgent operations against the Afghan Government and ISAF. Next, interviewees discussed their goals, hopes for the future, and how they believed the conflict in Afghanistan might be brought to an end. Finally, interviewees commented on the efficacy of—and prospects for—the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP). They even offered suggestions for what could be done to improve its effectiveness, or commented on the impending withdrawal of ISAF forces and the Afghan presidential elections, both scheduled for 2014.

The in-depth interview method was chosen because it is designed to explore topics in considerable depth in a semi-structured discussion, enabling sensitive and thoughtful responses. However it is not intended to produce results that are statistically representative. Thus, the general conclusions and findings of this report cannot be guaranteed to carry over to the wider district, provincial, or national populations. At interviewees’ request, audio from the interviews was not captured. Moderators recorded interviewees’ responses by hand; these responses were then translated into English for analysis. This method has been used extensively and successfully by Glevum in Afghanistan and has proven to be a reliable way of conducting this type of field research. Significantly, Afghans have an oral tradition, which typically means they are able to listen, hear and memorize what they are told, far more reliably than researchers from other communities and ethnicities. Interviewers were also provided with training to improve their interview and recording skills. Interviewers were also debriefed and questioned each other to further illuminate their interaction with the insurgents.

The interviews were conducted in Pashtu by ethnic Pashtun interviewers and the original transcripts were written in Pashtu. Subsequent translation has been quality checked to ensure accuracy and reliability. Our primary findings are below.
Ordinary Men

When one studies the demographics and words of the 78 Taliban fighters interviewed for this project, one is struck by just how ordinary they really are. While these insurgents represent different backgrounds, experiences and allegiances, they are all similar in one key respect. They are average ordinary men, similar in almost every respect to the majority of Pashtun Afghans. They are not exceptional men by any measure but they are highly motivated and committed to the cause and seem likely to have the endurance needed to fight for years and even decades. They are not a small cadre of indoctrinated fanatics whose elimination will undermine the fighting ability of the Taliban. Rather, they are ordinary men motivated to fight against those who they feel are destroying their way of life and attacking their values, community and faith. Some are motivated by need, fear and a desire for revenge but most— if not all—are motivated by a complex range of goals, beliefs and emotions that are not going to be easily changed nor undermined. In many respects, this is a far more dangerous and enduring adversary than the radicalized zealots in groups like al Qaeda. 

A Sense of Impunity

Perhaps the most significant finding of this project is simply the fact that not one of the Taliban fighters interviewed voiced any concerns, fears or objections about participating in this project. All 78 interviewees agreed to participate in a lengthy and intensive in-depth interview, with an Afghan interviewer from outside of their group, extended family and even district. They freely admitted that they were active members of an illegal insurgent group. They offered detailed insights into their insurgent activities and motivations. And they offered all this sensitive information to a relative stranger, albeit to an ethnically similar Afghan researcher. 

Déjà Vu All Over Again in Afghanistan


I am not an optimist when it comes to Afghanistan. The United States lost the Afghan war the second President Obama issued a public timeline for withdrawal and when diplomats offered to negotiate with the Taliban. Officials endorsing such timelines—too often out of political perspicacity rather than military wisdom—are culpable in setting the stage for defeat. Momentum matters in Afghanistan more than spin, as Afghans have never lost a war: they simply defect to the winning side.

The White House may believe its spin, but no one in Afghanistan does. Whereas the Taliban once embraced the narrative of the First Anglo-Afghan War, describing Mullah Omar as Dost Muhammad and Hamid Karzai as Shah Shujah, with the implication that ISAF forces would play the role of the British heading into a disastrous retreat, the historical allusions have changed in recent months as Afghans filter events through the living memory of the Soviet withdrawal. Hence, Hamid Karzai has become Najibullah in the current Afghan narrative. Najibullah, of course, was the last Communist leader of Afghanistan. True, Najibullah managed to hold onto power for three years following the Soviet withdrawal, but he fell as soon as the rubles—about $3 billion per year—dried up. Afghans recognize that most of the money promised in the past years’ series of international donor conferences will never get delivered.

Further, when the World Bank estimates the foreign assistance that Afghanistan will require to stay afloat, they too often assume that the Afghan mining industry will be far more advanced than reality will dictate. In the past year, real estate prices have dropped 20 percent in Afghanistan as Afghans recognize that the long-term prospects for rule of law are dim.

When the Afghan civil war resumes—and with neighbors like Iran and Pakistan, it will—it will be bloody. If in 1989, the Soviets left Najibullah behind to face the so-called Peshawar-7, the Americans and ISAF appear prepared to leave the country behind with an even greater array of warlords or, as the State Department prefers to say, regional power-brokers. The ill-conceived strategy to prop up local militias will only exacerbate the conflict to come.

Negotiations with the Taliban only make things worse. Let’s forget that the State Department has never conducted a lessons-learned exercise to explain why their previous round of negotiations with the Taliban—between 1995 and 2000—failed so precipitously or why they should expect different results now, when negotiating with many of the same figures.

Those who propose a soft partition, ceding predominantly Pushtun southern Afghanistan to the Taliban, forget that such a system has been tried and failed. After the Taliban consolidated control over southern Afghanistan in 1994, they had agreed not to enter Herat, an overwhelmingly Persian city, but did anyhow the following year. Ditto their entry into Kabul in 1996, against the backdrop of UN power-sharing talks. The only thing the Taliban were interested in sharing, it turned out, was their idea of God’s wrath upon anyone who did not share their twisted interpretations of Islam and culture. 

From early in the Soviet occupation through the Red Army’s withdrawal a quarter century ago, the United Nations worked to broker a withdrawal. Diego Cordovez, Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim’s special representative, credited the persistence of the United Nations (rather than the arming of the Mujahedin) with achieving the Soviet withdrawal. Again, it’s déjà vu. In 2011 and 2012, respectively, the International Crisis Group and the RAND Corporation published reports calling for UN-led mediation as, in the words of David Cortright, director of policy studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, “The U.N. is perhaps the only organization that is able to garner the political clout needed to successfully achieve a peace settlement.” This, of course, is nonsense. It may be dogma for the conflict resolution community, but foisting off responsibility for Afghanistan to UN officials will simply lead to a repeat of the bloodshed that swept over Afghanistan with renewed vigor in 1992.

The United States went into Afghanistan in 2001 to help the Afghan government fill a vacuum in which terrorism thrived, and to help Afghanistan rebuild a military that could monopolize the use of force within its borders. That mission is not yet complete. Perhaps politicians and diplomats will still push forward with withdrawal. As they do so, however, they should recognize that they are not leaving in victory, but rather condemning Afghans to repeat the past.

On Pakistan’s Election Trail, the Old Feudal Elites Struggle for Votes

May 02, 2013
Muhammed Muheisen / AP

A Pakistani in a Christian slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, on April 5, 2013.

Yousaf Raza Gilani throws himself behind the wheel of his white SUV and sets off into the countryside outside Multan, an ancient city in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Gilani, 60, used to be the prime minister, but he was booted from office last year by the country’s Supreme Court for refusing to reopen old corruption charges against his boss, President Asif Ali Zardari. Gilani has been disqualified for running for public office for five years, but, in the May 11 general elections, he is trying to have his three sons and a brother win parliamentary seats in Multan.

When Pakistan goes to the polls this month, it will be the first time a democratically elected government will have completed its full five-year term to be replaced by another democratically elected government. The chief players are the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), to which Gilani belongs, former cricket legend Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party, and the frontrunner, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League—Nawaz. Against the backdrop of a violent campaign—the Taliban are mounting bomb attacks on politicians and their offices—candidates are desperately casting around for votes.

That includes Gilani, even if he’s not doing it for himself. “People are surprised by how little security I have,” Gilani says, turning a corner on to the main road. As prime minister, Gilani had a thundering escort of blacked-out vehicles speeding through emptied roads. Now there are only two police cars with him. “We’re just like commoners,” says Gilani, a little fancifully, waving to passersby, who offer startled smiles as their former PM negotiates the disorderly traffic himself.

Gilani is one of the political giants of Multan, which, as vast billboards announce, is known as the city of saints. The landscape is dotted by centuries-old, beautifully carved shrines consecrated to some of South Asia’s most prominent Sufi saints. The two leading political families of the area —­ the Gilanis and the Qureshis ­ — are rival makhdooms, custodians of the local shrines, as well as large landowners. In the past, their religious clout and agricultural wealth were key to winning votes, especially in the countryside. But as Pakistan has increasingly urbanized, the political hold of so-called feudals has loosened, making them vulnerable to the increasingly assertive demands of voters.

Driving through Multan, Gilani eagerly points out the improvements he has made. “You probably don’t recognize Multan,” he says, pointing to the bridges and roads he had built. As he arrives at a campaign rally, a group of supporters from the PPP burst into cheers. Some are children who are too young to vote. They hurl fistfuls of rose petals at Gilani and chant his name. Costumed drummers rouse the party faithful with fast-paced rhythms.

In urban parts of Pakistan, Gilani has been criticized for defying the judiciary and channeling money to his constituency. At home in Multan, he’s hailed for disbursing patronage. “To us, he’s still Prime Minister,” booms a local party hack. The crowd exults, waving party flags to loud drumming. “The Gilanis have done lots of work in the area,” says Sher Muhammad Abid, an accountant, referring to recently developed infrastructure projects in the city. He shrugs at widespread allegations of venality. “Which politician doesn’t have cases against them?” Two of Gilani’s sons fighting elections have faced corruption charges that they deny.

Other supporters offer more opaque reasons. “We’ve been voting for the PPP for several decades,” says Muhammad Shahid, an electrician. Why? “I don’t know, ask our elders. They’re the ones who made the decision.” Where are the elders? “They’re all dead.” Gilani is keen to tap that sense of party loyalty. “I fought every election since 1988 as the PPP’s candidate,” he says in his speech. “If people aren’t loyal to their party, how can they be loyal to you, the people?”

Kabul's Unlikely New Ally

MAY 1, 2013


Has Pakistan decided it's finally time to embrace Afghanistan?

The recent meeting of Afghan and Pakistani leaders with Secretary of State John Kerry in Brussels marked a renewed effort by the Obama administration to get these two South Asian nations to resolve hostilities that have fueled the war in Afghanistan. 

"It's fair to say that there's good feeling among all of us that we made progress," Kerry said after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan's top military officer. "We will continue a very specific dialogue on both the political track as well as the security track.... [A]ll of us agreed we are committed to try to find stability and peace within both countries and the region itself."

The meeting came at a time when American officials believe that after years of supporting militants who were trying to undermine the Afghan government -- and as U.S. forces prepare to leave the region -- Pakistan has changed its approach to Kabul and has become more cooperative in seeking a political solution to the conflict raging next door, American officials say. However, even as they insist there is a new approach, those same officials acknowledge there has been no "measurable change" in support for the combatant groups U.S. and allied troops confront in Afghanistan.

Such a shift, if actually executed, would be significant. Pakistan's support for the Haqqani network, the Quetta Shura, and other Afghan Taliban militants -- whom it has sheltered, trained, and armed -- has perpetuated the insurgency in Afghanistan and angered the United States, which has spent billions of dollars and lost thousands of troops trying to stabilize the country since ousting the Taliban from power in 2001. Pakistan's support for these groups has been motivated by its fear that Afghanistan could become an ally of longtime enemy India and nurture separatist movements in the western part of its territory. Supporting the Taliban was seen as a means of keeping Indian influence in Afghanistan to a minimum.

"The growing regional pivot in Pakistan's foreign policy is a reflection of our democratic policymaking," Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said last September at the United Nations General Assembly. "A brighter Afghan future will only be possible when the search for peace is Afghan-owned, Afghan-driven, and Afghan-led." Zardari -- who has led the Pakistan People's Party since his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in 2007 -- said his nation would support Afghan efforts toward "reconciliation and peace."

Pakistan's government was dissolved in March ahead of national elections this month, but support for the regional shift is shared across the nation's major political parties. Among those embracing this view is the odds-on favorite to become the nation's next leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and his wing of the Pakistan Muslim League.

One U.S. official who deals with Pakistan notes that Hina Rabbani Khar -- until recently, the country's foreign minister -- has been saying, "This is for real, we really are turning a corner in the way we approach Afghanistan. It's a state in its own right, it's not just rubbish in our backyard."