6 May 2013

Shadow on the line

by Ajai Shukla and Sonia Trikha Shukla
Business Standard, 4th May 13


This map does not reflect India's claims or actual holding, but accurately represents the area

Even for the most intrepid helicopter pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF), flying a sortie to the desolate outpost of Daulat Beg Oldi on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, has always meant pushing the limits. Wing Commander Abdul Hanfee, who had won a Vir Chakra for his devil-may-care flying in Siachen, would take off from the Siachen Base Camp with his Mi-17 helicopter loaded with rations and fuel and set course for Saser La, the towering 17,753-foot pass on the Karakoram range. With the helicopter rotors shuddering as they clawed through the thin air, Hanfee would look down from his cockpit as he flew over the pass, still littered with the bones of camels, ponies and human wayfarers --- the detritus of a bygone era when arbitrary frontiers had not disrupted centuries-old patterns of trade and connectivity.

This was the Old Silk Route that connected Ladakh and Kashmir with Xinjiang --- now, like Tibet, an “autonomous region” of China. Well into the 20th century, camel caravans laden with silk, jade and hemp would set out from Yarkand and Khotan in East Turkestan, and travel to Leh and Kashmir from where they would bring back Pashmina wool, Kashmiri zafran (saffron), tea and calligraphy. After crossing the Karakoram Pass into India, the traders would leave their camels at what is now Daulat Beg Oldi, and transfer their goods onto pack ponies for the cruel journey over the Saser La into the more hospitable Shyok river valley that led on to Leh, Turtok or Srinagar. For the merchants and pilgrims who carried considerable sums in gold and silver, the treacherous Karakoram was far less hazardous than the robber bands and insecurity on the other route to Central Asia through Punjab and Afghanistan.

This isolation has defeated even the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which has laboured for over a decade, so far unsuccessfully, to build an all-weather road over Saser La that will connect Daulat Beg Oldi (or DBO, in military phraseology) with Leh, Partapur and Kargil. The BRO has failed equally in bringing another road northwards to DBO from the Pangong Tso Lake, along the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Without road links to the rest of Ladakh, DBO remains an isolated enclave across the Karakoram and Ladakh ranges, dependent upon the IAF for food, fuel, ammunition and quick troop replenishments. Going there on foot involves an exhausting five-day march at altitudes that would exhaust an ibex. The military calls this enclave Sub-Sector North (SSN) and regards it as crucial for the defence of Siachen and Leh.

According to Lt Gen Kamleshwar Davar, a former commander of 3 Infantry Division under which this area comes, “SSN has major strategic value for India. If the Chinese were to come up to Saser La, our control over the Siachen Glacier would be seriously compromised since Saser La overlooks that area. SSN provides a protective buffer to the Siachen sector and also provides depth to the northeastern approaches to Leh. Furthermore, SSN is our land access to Central Asia, along the Old Silk Route through the Karakoram Pass.”

Now, India’s control over SSN is being challenged by the increasingly assertive presence of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). On Apr 15 the Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP), which holds and patrols SSN, discovered four Chinese tents pitched on a flat area called the Depsang Plain, with 30-40 uniformed Chinese personnel in the camp well inside the Indian side of the LAC. New Delhi was informed and the MEA contacted the Chinese Foreign Minister to activate a joint consultative mechanism that was set up in 2011 to resolve border incidents like this one. On Apr 18, the Chinese ambassador to India was called to the MEA and conveyed India’s concerns. But to little avail; in three flag meetings held on Apr 18, 23 and 30, the PLA has conveyed a simple message: its patrol has not violated the LAC; but it will withdraw if the Indian Army dismantles bunkers that it has built in two places near Chushul, in southeastern Ladakh.

India's sea-based nuclear deterrent soon

Published: April 2013
Shyam Saran

New Delhi. India's nuclear deterrent is based on a credible nuclear doctrine and is sustained by a "systematic drive to operationalise" its various delivery components, including a sea-based one by 2015-16, Shyam Saran, according to chairman of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB).

Countering critics of India's nuclear weapons programme that it was driven by notions of prestige rather than considerations of national security, Saran, also a former foreign secetary who was closely connected with the negotiation of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, said India's nuclear doctrine is based on the current geopolitical environment, especially with Pakistan actively building up its nuclear arsenal and keeping its aggressive actions and strategies against India in mind.

Giving a talk April 24 on "Is India's nuclear deterrent credible?" organised by the at the India Habitat Centre, Saran said: "India does have a credible theory of how its nuclear weapons may be used and that is spelt out in its nuclear doctrine."

He said India's nuclear doctrine, which was formally adopted at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in Jan 4, 2003, and the regular checks that are held have strengthened the level of confidence in India's nuclear deterrent.

While further reforms would be required "to make our deterrent more robust, it is unhelpful to peddle the impression that it is dysfunctional or worse that it is non-existent", he said at the lecture, held by the Subbu Forum and the Society for Policy Studies (SPS).

He said since the May 1998 nuclear tests, India has demonstrated "quite clearly a sustained and systematic drive to operationalise the various components of the nuclear deterrent in a manner best suited to India's security environment. This is not the record of a state which considers nuclear weapons an instrument of national pride and propaganda".

"It is expected that a modest sea-based deterrence will be in place by 2015 or 2016," Saran said and termed the development of the "third leg of the triad (of nuclear delivery systems) which is submarine based" as "work in progress".

He said Pakistan has given the excuse of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal as the reason for the "relentless build up of its nuclear arsenal", its refusal to allow the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to undertake multilateral negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) as well as its threat to deploy theatre nuclear weapons to meet a so-called conventional Indian armed thrust across the border.

"The votaries of non-proliferation in the West have criticised the Indo-US civil nucear agreement as having allowed exceptionalism in favour of India, which has encouraged a nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan," Saran said.

The exception provided to India in clinching the deal "rests on India's universally acknowledged and exceptional record as a responsible nuclear state as contrasted with Pakistan's equally exceptional record as a source of serial proliferation and in possession of a nuclear programme born in deceit and deception", he said.

"There is no moral equivalence in this respect between the two countries and this point must be driven home every time Pakistan claims parity. We should not allow such an insiduous campaign to affect our proposed membership of the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) and the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime)".

Saran said Pakistan's nuclear weapons are focused in large part on the threat from India, real or imagined.

In the buildup of its nuclear arsenal, "what Pakistan is signalling to India and to the world is that India should not contemplate retaliation even if there is another Mumbai because Pakistan has lowered the threshold of nuclear use to the theatre level".

This he said, is "nothing short of nuclear blackmail, no different from the irresponsible behaviour one witnesses in North Korea" and deserves condemnation by the international community as it is a threat not just to India but to international peace and security".

Saran said Pakistan's nuclear build-up is "driven by a mind-set which seeks parity with and even overtaking India, irrespective of the cost this entails".
Islamabad is also driven by the fear that the US may carry out an operation, like the top secret one to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, "to disable, destroy or confiscate, its nuclear weapons".

Saran added that "in the current world scenario of multiple nuclear actors, there is pervasive uncertainty about how the nuclear dynamics will play itself out even if a nuclear exchange commenced with only two actors".

Saran said the "mostly self-serving and misconceived notions" about India's nuclear deterrent "have much to do with the failure on the part of both the state as well as India's strategic community to confront and to refute them".

He termed the "motivated assessments" and "speculative judments" as "deeply troubling".

He blamed it on an "information vaccum" and hoped the government makes public its nuclear doctrine and releases data regularly on what steps have been taken and are being taken to put the requirements of the doctrine in place.
"It is not necessary to share operational details but an overall survey, such as an annual Strategic Posture Review, should be shared with the citizens of the country who, after all, pay for the security which the deterrent is supposed to provide to them.

Another welcome step would be to hold an "informed and vigorous debate based on accurate and factual information". 

The people of the country also need to be taken into confidence about the risks and benefits of maintaining a nuclear deterrent.

India's China Syndrome

by Air Marshal R K Nehra in IDR. 

The first major test of the Indian armed forces came in 1962 when India was involved in a border conflict with China. In 1914, an Englishman, Sir Arthur Haney McMahon tried to define the border between India and Tibet (China) on the highest watershed principle. The effort was only partially successful, as the central Chinese government of that time did not ratify the agreement. In the late 1950s, the border dispute between India and China (who had incorporated Tibet) started simmering. Some border posts were set up by the Chinese; India considered it as incursions in Indian territory.

Around October 1962, Jawaharlal Nehru gave a public statement that he had asked the armed forces to get the offensive posts vacated. In the event, it appears that China took the initiative. Before the Indians could act, the Chinese attacked over the Eastern border. Skirmishes also occurred in the Western (Ladakh) region, where the Indian troops gave an extremely good account of themselves.

The actual reasons for the 1962 debacle were: Failure of higher direction and control at Army HQs and Ministry of Defense, almost total failure of generalship at the field level, and failure of the troops to do what they are trained and expected to do, i.e. stand up and fight.

But in the East, the Indian army, for some inexplicable reason, failed to offer any credible resistance. There were unconfirmed reports of battalions and even perhaps a brigade, giving up their positions (hard facts are difficult to come by). The Chinese forces advanced with extra-ordinary ease. It was not the defeat, but the manner of defeat which was most humiliating. Matters were made worst by the Chinese declaring a unilateral ceasefire on 21 November 1962; the Chinese withdrew to their original positions.

The Indian nation was staggered beyond belief; no one had imagined that such a situation could develop. The great visionary Nehru himself was forced to declare that they had been living in a dream world of their own making. Nehru could not survive the shock, suffered a stroke and died in 1964.

After the great debacle, the market was awash with books mostly written by (defeated) generals and Intelligence top brass, whose failures in the first instance had resulted in the disastrous situation. Their first (in fact only) priority was to blame everyone else, except themselves. There was a liberal use of words like ‘if’ and ‘but‘. Over the centuries, Indian (read Hindu) commanders never learnt the basic lesson that ‘victory’ speaks for itself and does not have to rely on ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.

Every type and manner of imaginary and untenable excuses were trotted out for the defeat and the humiliation, e.g.:
  • Lack of Intelligence
  • Lack of acclimatization
  • Shortage of equipment; proper (winter) clothing and boots were stressed
  • Inadequacy of all types and manner of resources

The (trusting) Indian public was led to believe that the troops could not fight due to inadequacy of equipment; till date (2009), most Indians believe that that was the case. That it was not so is proven by the fact that the Indian troops fought well on the Western front, where the winter was much more severe.

At this stage, it would be relevant to record some views of Napoleon Bonaparte, the great French general. Napoleon was made a major-general at the age of 26, and given command of some 40,000 French troops, one of the most ill-equipped army of those days. Napoleon was asked to conquer Northern Italy, which France had been trying to occupy unsuccessfully, for a century or so. There were some two hundred thousand Italian and Austrian troops in Northern Italy at that time. Napoleon addressed his troops with words somewhat on the following lines — ‘I know you have neither food nor clothing, nor boots; but, we are going to win in any case’. (These are not his exact words, but only convey the sense.) Napoleon went on to conquer Northern Italy with that army. The moral of the story is that generals may fight many times with adequate equipment; but sometimes they may have to do that with inadequate equipment. That is the nature of war, which must be won under all circumstances.

India-China stand-off in Ladakh

The emerging lessons that need to be learnt 
by Gurmeet Kanwal 

THE Chinese patrol that crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector of Ladakh in mid-April and pitched tents 19 km inside Indian territory is still there. It is most likely a tactical-level incursion in response to a proactive Indian stance along the LoC. Eventually, the unprecedented stand-off will be resolved through diplomacy as neither country stands to gain from a border skirmish.

However, given the nuances of the known rift between the PLA and China’s Foreign Ministry in the execution of border management policies, it is possible that the stand-off may have to be resolved at the political level. 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 counties’ 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 of the LAC in the western sector 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 the so-called “no man’s land”, which 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 must go back. 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 to mark their presence. 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 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 immediately 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 directly to the MHA through its own channels. This arrangement is not conducive to fostering a professional relationship between the two forces and for reacting quickly and cohesively to border violations of the kind that has occurred in the DBO sector.

The responsibility for the management of disputed borders that are active (like the LoC with Pakistan) and semi-active (like the LAC with China) should be solely that of the Army even during peace time so that the duality of command is avoided. The principle of “single point control” must be followed if the borders are to be effectively managed. Divided responsibilities invariably lead to ineffective control. Maintaining the unity of command is a fundamental principle of war. Hence, it is imperative that the ITBP battalions deployed on the Ladakh border be placed under the Army’s operational control for greater synergy in border management.

A key prerequisite for effective border management is the employment of available national technical means for continuous all-weather surveillance and reconnaissance. These include satellite, aerial and electronic surveillance to detect and warn about suspicious movements and construction activities through photographic reconnaissance by day and night, the employment of UAVs for real-time intelligence and the use of electronic eavesdropping. India has not invested adequately in these modern methods and continues to rely primarily on human “eyes and ears”. This manpower-intensive approach must change immediately. Also, networks need to be developed to constantly share available information with all those who need to act on it.

Finally, as long as the territorial dispute is not resolved, China remains India’s foremost military threat. The Ministry of External Affairs must make all-out efforts to seek an early resolution of the dispute and not be lulled by Deng Xiao Ping’s gratuitous advice to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi that it is a dispute left over from history and should be left to future generations to resolve. This strategy of postponing dispute resolution may suit China, but it certainly does not suit India.n

The writer is a Delhi-based strategic analyst.

Border face-off ends: India, China withdraw troops, remove tents

New Delhi, Mon May 06 2013,

An earlier aerial view of Chinese tents in Indian territory. PTI
The border stand-off between India and China in the cold plains of Depsang in eastern Ladakh ended on Sunday evening with both the countries withdrawing their troops to their original positions and removing the temporary camps.

After the debacle of three flag meetings that were called by India to defuse the situation, the agreement to end the troop face-off — that had soured bilateral relations after a Chinese patrol party set up a temporary camp 10 km inside the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on April 15 — was reached after the Chinese side initiated two back-to-back flag meetings to discuss disengagement.

The development follows consultations at the level of National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Indian ambassador to China S Jaishankar. While the resolution was reached diplomatically, the modalities will be discused at another flag meeting scheduled to be held on Monday to authenticate the withdrawal of troops.

Sources said the Chinese side called a flag meeting on Saturday and their first proposal was that Indian troops should withdraw from their current position in Depsang, where they have pitched tents opposite a Chinese encampment, after which they could consider a withdrawal.

The Indian side, on the other hand, stuck to its stand on Saturday that the process of disengagement should be a simultaneous withdrawal of forces from the site that is 10 km inside the Indian side of the LAC.

Sources said that after the meeting on Saturday, the Chinese side again called for a flag meet on Sunday to further discuss the proposals. While details are not yet available, sources said the disengagement took place after both sides reached a mutual agreement on the matter.

However, the devil would lie in the details as China has not given up its demands that concrete structures and fortifications that have been built by India on its side of the border need to be destroyed. Specific objections have been made to Indian positions in Chumar.

After the failure of the first three flag meetings in which these demands had been raised, the Indian side had decided that it would not initiate any more meetings in the near future, especially since the third meet was set up after the joint border mechanism had apparently agreed on certain aspects of a simultaneous withdrawal.

However, when the two sides met on April 30 for the third meeting, the tone and tenor was completely different and the Chinese local commander stuck to their original position, leaving little room for a resolution.

While the mood has now changed with the two latest back-to-back meetings and the agreement to disengage, trust levels remain low and the Indian side will maintain a keen lookout on the border in coming days.

The face-off in Ladakh had also cast a shadow over the visit of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to China on May 9, to prepare the ground for the new Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang's visit to India from May 20.

The build-up, five flag meetings

April 15: Chinese set up temporary camp 10 km inside Indian side of LAC in Depsang.

April 18: India calls flag meeting; Chinese troops maintain they have not crossed border.

April 23: Second flag meeting; China demands destruction of Indian bunkers in Ladakh.

April 30: Third flag meet fails; India decides not to call any more flag meetings.

May 4: China calls flag meeting; India demands mutual withdrawal.

May 5: China calls another flag meeting; both sides return to original positions behind LAC.

May 9: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid set to leave for Beijing.- See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/border-faceoff-ends-india-china-withdraw-troops-remove-tents/1111970/0#sthash.t7h1mJei.dpuf

No First Use Nuclear Doctrine with “Chinese Characteristics”

May 04, 2013
Dr. Adityanjee


Like a chameleon, the dragon, very predictably is changing its colors with regards to its often stated nuclear doctrine of "no first use" (NFU). Since 1964 when China conducted its first nuclear weapon test, China has repeatedly and vociferously insisted that it would not be the first nuclear power to use a tactical or strategic nuclear weapon in pursuit of its strategic objectives. This NFU pledge was explicitly and unconditionally included in each of China's defense white papers from the first in 1998 through the seventh one in 2011. Recently, there is some international debate about possible changes in China's NFU doctrine following publication of China's biannual 2013 Defense White Paper. However, it appears that China may have moved beyond its so-called NFU doctrine and its duplicitous pledges do not hold any sincere meaning. Strategic deception has been an important part of China's military DNA since the times of Sun Tzu who wrote in his treatise the Art of War: "All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away. Since achieving a great economic success and flush with $ 3.4 trillion foreign exchange reserves, China has increased its list of core national issues and has adopted a more belligerent strategic posture and hegemonic attitude towards international community in general and its neighbors in particular. Disregarding the Deng's advice of lying low and bidding your time, the current (5th) generation of China's leaders are adopting aggressive postures militarily though the transformation into visibly hardened strategic claims started really during the reign of the 4th generation leaders (Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao and Wu Bangguo).

The last time a Chinese paramount leader reaffirmed the so-called NFU pledge was on March 27th 2012 in Seoul Nuclear Conference when Hu Jintao mentioned it in his address. However, in December 2012, the new 5th generation Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping failed to mention about the so-called no first use pledge in a speech given to Second Artillery Force of the PLA which manages China's land-based nuclear weapons. Apparently, he also stated that nuclear weapons create strategic support for China's status as a major world power. This is a significant departure from the previously stated public positions citing Mao Zedong's ideas about the use of nuclear weapons as a taboo and labeling the nuclear weapons essentially as "paper tigers".

Fundamentals of NFU Commitment

Out of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons currently, only two, China and India had explicitly stated "No First Use" as the guiding principle of their strategic nuclear doctrine.

An absolute and unconditional NFU commitment would have four following components:

  • Not to use nuclear weapons first against countries that possess nuclear weapons
  • Not to threaten use nuclear weapons first against countries that possess nuclear weapons
  • Not to use nuclear weapons first against countries that do not possess nuclear weapons
  • Not to threaten to use nuclear weapons first against countries that do not possess nuclear weapons
NFU policy has been a core feature of the Chinese defense policy having been decided apparently by Chairman Mao himself in 1964. Critics of the Chinese NFU commitment claim that it is completely unverifiable and is mere rhetoric. Self-described "China hawks" in the West have derisively dismissed the Chinese NFU pledge as pure propaganda for the last five decades. Chinese strategists have debated the merits of dropping or altering the NFU policy. This debate was reportedly very intense from mid to late 2000s. There are assertions from Chinese officials that Chinese NFU commitment is not applicable to perceived claims on territories. China has territorial disputes with multiple neighbors including India. Presumably since China continues to claim that Arunachal Pradesh is its own territory, in a hypothetical scenario, it may use tactical nuclear weapons in a war with India in eastern sector because China will consider this use not against any other country but in its own perceived territory. Similarly, China will not be bound by its NFU if the US were to intervene in Taiwan in case of a Sino-Taiwanese war as it considers Taiwan as a renegade province. Chinese NFU is not applicable if it apprehends annihilation of its top leadership by conventional means. Similarly, a conventional attack on strategic target like the Three Gorges Dam would be an exception to the NFU pledge. More recently, Chinese have discussed other possible exceptions from their NFU commitment including a massive precision guided conventional attack on their intercontinental ballistic missile silos or their strategic facilities. As China moves away from minimal credible deterrence to "limited deterrence", a more sophisticated delivery mechanism and an exponential increase in its nuclear stockpile, it has also moved towards greater flexibility and continued opacity in its nuclear operational doctrine. It is pertinent to say that the so-called Chinese NFU commitment has never been taken seriously by both the US and Russia at any time in their policy matrix.

Taliban Face Complex Battlefield as Foreign Troops Withdraw

May 3, 2013

While the Afghan Taliban are promising a “monumental” offensive, they must cope with the hard fact that many of their targets may be local Afghans. Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau report. In what has become an annual rite, the Afghan Taliban announced on its website, Voice of Jihad, this past weekend that it was kicking off this year’s “monumental spring” offensive. This time it boasted that the threatened “special military” operations outlined in the communiqué would feature more “insider attackers” byTaliban infiltrators inside Western bases, and stepped up “collective martyrdom operations,” or coordinated suicide attacks, against coalition military facilities and “diplomatic centers” in an effort to “inflict heavy casualties on the foreign aggressors.”

Afghanistan National Police (ANP) cadets are directed by an Afghanistan police officer during a live fire training exercise at the police academy on the outskirts of Jalalabad on April 9, 2013. (Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty ) 

While the website’s rhetoric and the threats are menacing enough, at least some Taliban commanders and intelligence officers in the field say they are less than optimistic about the chances for success of this spring offensive that the insurgents have dubbed “Khalid bin Waleed” after a seventh-century Islamic general and companion of the Prophet Muhammad. The big difference this year is that as U.S. and coalition forces withdraw—the bulk of the remaining 100,000 coalition troops will be gone by the end of this year—the insurgents are facing a fight in the countryside against largely local people, not against the more emotionally resonant target of foreigners.

As a result, even drawing up the planning for this year’s so-called offensive was more difficult and complex than in the past, says a senior Taliban intelligence officer who declines to be named for security reasons. “The military strategy for this year has been more difficult to make than in the past,” says the intelligence officer. “Then we had simple and clear enemies: the U.S., NATO, and the Kabul regime forces. Now we have to worry about another force at the village level: local police militias and villagers who have risen up against us.” He was referring to Afghan Local Police (ALP) units that have been organized, trained, and financed by U.S. Special Operations troops, and to the “popular” uprisings by villagers against abusive Taliban commanders that have taken place this past year in several southern provinces. A local insurgent commander in southern Zabul province agrees. “This year there was not as much preparation for jihad as there has been in the past,” says the commander, Mullah Wali Muhammad. “We are facing new challenges.”

Those challenges largely involve local villagers whose support was one of the insurgency’s strengths. Now in order to regain control of their traditional strongholds in countryside that they lost over the past three years to American “surge” troops, the insurgents will first have to face these lightly armed but determined local forces. “The Taliban are taking very seriously the police militias and the uprising of local people in many areas and will cruelly try to dismantle both,” says the intelligence officer. He says this year’s plan is for suicide bombers to lead those attacks in the villages. “We have a good number of bombers who will teach a lesson to the rebelling villages and to the ALP,” the intelligence officer says.

This fight won’t be easy. “This year is confusing,” admits Muhammad, the commander. “We are not just fighting U.S., NATO, and Kabul’s forces. Locals will be involved and I don’t feel easy or enjoy killing local Afghans.”

“This year is confusing. We are not just fighting US, NATO, and Kabul’s forces. Locals will be involved and I don’t feel easy or enjoy killing local Afghans.”

The Vietnam syndrome

By Frank Snepp
May 5, 2013

Regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, are we telling ourselves — and believing — the same false story we told in 1975? 

U.S. military and civilian personnel rush to board a Marine helicopter during the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon on April 29, 1975. (Neal Ulevich / Associated Press)

Thirty-eight years ago last week, I was among the last CIA officers to be choppered off the U.S. Embassy roof in Saigon as the North Vietnamese took the country. Just two years before that chaotic rush for the exits, the Nixon administration had withdrawn the last American troops from the war zone and had declared indigenous forces strong enough, and the government reliable enough, to withstand whatever the enemy might throw into the fray after U.S. forces were gone.

That's the same story we told ourselves in Iraq when we pulled out of that country in 2011. And today, as American troops are being drawn down in Afghanistan, we're hearing variations on the same claims once again. Yet security remains so fragile in both Iraq and Afghanistan, it is impossible not to worry that we are deluding ourselves and that we failed to learn the most important lessons of Vietnam.

One major ingredient of both the Afghanistan and Iraqi experiments was the use of American dollars to buy off insurgents, wean them from their Al Qaeda or Taliban suitors and win the indulgence, however grudging, of the leadership in Kabul or Baghdad. Such payments may help ensure a lull in the violence to allow U.S. forces to withdraw. But the enduring fallacy of such tactics was made clear in Vietnam.

The strategic hamlet and pacification programs of the early and mid-1960s featured U.S. operatives fanning out through the countryside to buy the quiescence of village and hamlet chiefs. But in the end, the only thing that this money purchased was a continued Balkanization of the political landscape. The local beneficiaries, including special police and paramilitary units, identified with their American bagmen, not with Vietnam's central government, and the government in turn remained suspicious of their loyalties. The moment U.S. dollars and protection were withdrawn, the central government cracked down, destroying whatever calm existed.

Such an adjustment is now going on in Iraq, where reports are mounting of Shiite vengeance against Sunnis. In Afghanistan, the "stabilizing" effect of U.S. forces and money is belied by a ragged security picture throughout the country and the resurgence of warlords.

In the last year and a half, as the Obama administration has staggered into its Afghan end-game, armed American drones and special commando operations have replaced the expensive counter-

insurgency template designed by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus. But the resulting campaign of targeted killing may not be an improvement because it contains the same ghastly flaws the Phoenix program had in Vietnam. The Phoenix program, a de facto assassination operation run by the CIA and U.S. military and carried out by provincial Vietnamese units, helped put the Viet Cong on the ropes temporarily, by eliminating many of their most experienced fighters and political operatives.

But for all this, the North Vietnamese went on to win. In the end, Phoenix drove people into the arms of the enemy by killing civilians. The cause was often imperfect intelligence from local sources more interested in settling personal scores than in taking out the real enemy. News reports suggest that today's drone program suffers from similarly tainted targeting, as do periodic security sweeps that continue to deliver Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects to allied detention centers.

Tough phase in Kabul

May 06, 2013


This country is on the threshold of the most challenging phase of its engagement with Afghanistan in the post-Taliban period, one which raises the question whether engagement should proceed at all.

The phase we leave behind was leavened by favourable factors. The US and the Nato forces were present in the country. The Taliban leadership had scattered to Pakistan (after its 2001 military defeat), although there it received shelter and willing military assistance to try and re-take Kabul. On the whole, it was relatively easy to be in Afghanistan, all things considered.

The issue before India now is this: Should it seek to deepen its links with the emerging new Afghan state and society when the protective canopy of Western military presence will not be available after 2014? Indeed, does India have the capacity to do so — the needed resources, the political will?

More, does India desire to be in a position to think along the lines of promoting the incipient democratic system in that country so that it may be enabled to take on the Taliban if the extremists come on a military rampage with Islamabad’s help, or to defeat them in a fair and square electoral struggle for political power?

Needless to say, if pro-Pakistan forces prevail when Western contingents withdraw, the contours of the nascent Afghan state will change radically. There would then be not much left for India to salvage.

In the years since 2001, India has recorded landmarks in the area of development cooperation in Afghanistan that have been noticed by all, especially since these were achieved in very difficult circumstances. These have earned India the affection of the people of that country, helped Afghanistan stand on its own feet to some extent, and received international approbation. India has also stood its ground determinedly in the face of repeated Pakistani attempts to literally hound it out of Kabul by bombing its embassy and attacking its civilians working in Afghanistan, on occasion with murderous force.

Is this Indian posture of defiant persistence sustainable when the Westerners go home with their fighting men and war materials, drastically reducing their economic commitments in Afghanistan, return to being chums with Islamabad’s military establishment unmindful of its patronage of the Taliban, or indeed pretend — as many have begun doing —that the duly elected Afghan government is just one faction among several contending for power in Kabul, along with Pakistan-armed Taliban and other extremist outfits?

This is an important question. And the answer depends on what we, as a nation, think of being in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a strategically situated important country. Its vast natural resources, the tried and tested inner resources of all sections of its populace in the face of extreme adversity caused by nearly forty years of civil wars and foreign invasions, its political timbre, and its uniquely benign disposition toward India, mark it out as a current ally and an ally for the future.

But there is also the flip side. An Afghanistan with anti-India moorings (of an extremist ideological persuasion, and pro-Pakistan by definition) can exert pressure on India’s security environment by promoting subversive terrorist warfare in cahoots with Islamabad, especially in Kashmir but also elsewhere in the country.

Further, the possibility cannot be ruled out that an egregious Kabul-Islamabad axis based on religious extremism with terrorism as its instrumentalist vector, for the reason that it can be the bad boy of the region and threaten all neighbouring countries (Iran, Russia, the former Central Asian republics of the erstwhile USSR, and China), will be wooed or coddled by them, to India’s detriment. If such an axis is thus courted, Western powers, especially the US, will treat it with kid gloves because they would not want to be outdone for regional influence by Iran or Russia.

Is Pakistan’s Behavior Changing?

January 30, 2013


Pakistan’s policy shifts are often signs of weakness, not strategic evolution. To encourage positive change, Islamabad should be left to face the consequences of its actions.

Islamabad has been trying to send signals over the last few months indicating that it is pursuing a new course of action, both internally and externally, that is more in line with international norms. Pakistan has tried to improve its relationship with India. It has also indicated a preference for a negotiated peace in Afghanistan and demonstrated a new attitude toward terrorism. 

Of course, claims that Pakistan’s policies are changing in one way or another are not new. And in the past, the status quo ante has almost always prevailed. But this could be different. The context is different this time. The looming international troop withdrawal from Afghanistan brings considerable risks for the region in general and for Pakistan in particular. Islamabad fears that, come 2014, it will face an unstable Afghanistan and find itself isolated regionally and globally. 

For the United States, as new faces enter the Departments of State and Defense, reasonably good relations with Pakistan are a prerequisite for a dignified and safe exit from Afghanistan. Politically, their main challenge will be to work out necessary compromises with Islamabad without risking further deterioration of the regional situation, which could affect Washington’s larger strategic objectives in Asia. 

In this context, understanding Pakistan’s new policies and their limits is key. Change in Pakistan’s relations with India and Afghanistan and in its sponsorship of terrorism for political purposes is real but does not yet indicate a fundamental shift in strategic thinking. The shift thus far has been prompted by short-term considerations and reflects Pakistan’s weakness and isolation. However, if the tentative changes lead to improvement in the country’s economy and security, a meaningful shift in Pakistan’s strategic character could take hold.

The Pakistan-India Normalization Process 

Relations with India are a good indicator of the reality of any change in Pakistan’s foreign policy. The relationship was notably bad following the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, but it has warmed up since the March 2011 resumption of the so-called composite dialogue on bilateral issues. Later that year, Pakistan announced that it would grant India most-favored-nation trade status by the end of 2012, thus reciprocating India’s gesture of 1996. Interior Ministers Sushil Kumar Shinde and Rehman Malik also agreed on a new visa regime, hailed as another sign of change. 

But the most-favored-nation decision has not yet been implemented, and the visa regime agreement was put on hold after clashes began on January 6 along the Line of Control that forms India’s border with Pakistan in Kashmir. 

The two countries seem willing to ease tensions and avoid escalation, but questions about the sustainability of the normalization process are legitimate. They can be partly answered through a careful examination of the motivations behind the rapprochement. 

Short-term considerations may have played a part. President Asif Ali Zardari needed to show some political achievement in the face of increasing domestic criticism due to the country’s perceived poor economic performance, while the army seemed to be overstretched and in need of a respite on the eastern front so it could focus on its war against militancy in western Pakistan. This has been particularly true because relations with the United States remain complicated and characterized by deep mistrust on both sides. 

Why Beijing Could Win the Great China-America Showdown of 2030


A Navy Hornet fighter takes off from the carrier USS John C. Stennis sailing in the South China Sea last month.

Over the next 15-20 years, the U.S. and China are headed for a confrontation in the western Pacific, with Japan caught in the middle. And China, currently the underdog, could very well come out on top. That’s the unnerving conclusion of a new report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

The nine authors of “China’s Military & the U.S.-Japan Alliance in 2030,” released Thursday, stress that a full-blown shooting war is not in the cards. “The threat is not a war with China,” the report states. Rather, Washington and its close ally Tokyo could find themselves losing influence and disputed island territory to an increasingly unconstrained Beijing that finds it can “win without fighting” owing to a combination of its own military rise and its rivals’ relative declines.

But Chinese “victory” in this projected 2030 conflict is not preordained. It’s also feasible the U.S. and Japan could “win” as their own armies and economies rally against a China dragged down by shrinking exports and demographic stagnation.

In any event, change of some sort is probably coming, the report authors say, although what change is unclear. The status quo – a western Pacific comfortably dominated by the U.S. with its aircraft carriers, bombers and Marine regiments, with Japan playing a key supporting role and China steadily adding to its military arsenal while biding its time — is “unsustainable,” they claim.

What follows are sketches of three possible scenarios from the report, representing two extremes plus a sort of strategic middle ground in the anticipated Great China-America Showdown of 2030.

A Chinese jet fighter at a recent training exercise. Photo: via China Defense Blog
New World Order

China’s 10-percent annual economic growth continues unabated despite high debt, an aging population and vexing ecological concerns. The People’s Liberation Army enjoys year after year of elevated spending. Its homegrown ships, planes and missiles get better and better alongside improving Chinese military doctrine, leadership and training.

But on the opposite side of the Pacific, the United States succumbs to its own internal problems. Economic growth slows to just 1.5 percent per year, leading to what the Carnegie experts describe as “enormous downward pressures on U.S. defense spending and U.S. military deployments in Asia.”

The stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, meant to rescue U.S. air power from obsolescence, instead falters, as does an ambitious program to develop a new, affordable stealth bomber. A shrinking American naval fleet runs low on floating sonobuoys used to detect the new and improved Chinese submarines pouring out of the country’s shipyards.

Broke and demoralized, America retreats from the Pacific, leaving an equally struggling Japan to fend for itself against its powerful neighbor. Instead of ramping up its own military spending in order to confront China, Japan strikes a conciliatory tone with the world’s new Pacific hegemony.


May 05, 2013


1. According to the Xinhua news agency, the Xinjiang authorities have arrested 11 more suspected terrorists in connection with the investigation of a violent incident on April 23,2013, in a town in Kashgar'sBachu county, 1200 kms south-west of Urumqi, in which 21 persons allegedly belonging to different communities were killed.

2. Since the clash, 19 arrests have been made by the police from the Kashgar Prefecture, the Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture of Bayingolin and Urumqi.

3. The Xinjiang Police have blamed the clash on a new terrorist group headed by one QasimMuhammat, which, according to them, was founded in September 2012.

4. The Police have alleged that since early December 2012, the members of this groupused to gather at the house of oneMuhanmetemin Barat, to undergo training with the help of video clips.

5. The Police further alleged that in March, they fabricated explosive devices and tested them.The clash occurred when the Police and some members of the local community co-operating with the police tried to arrest them.

6. The World Uighur Congress (WUC) based in Munich and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples' Organisation (UNPO) based in Holland have strongly questioned the police version and called upon the European Parliament to urge an international enquiry into the incident.

7.The Chinese authorities are worried that despite frequent occurrence of violent incidents in different parts of Xinjiang, they have not been able to convince the international community that these incidents are due to terrorism sponsored from outside.

8. In an article contributed to the "Global Times" of the Communist Party of China,an associate research fellow of the Sociology Institute with the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences has stated: "The Bachuincident reflects the severe social conflicts within Xinjiang. In recent years, Xinjiang has achieved substantial progress in terms of economic development, the social insurance system and people's livelihoods. However, the social conflicts in Xinjiang remain complicated.

"While the policies made by local authorities are mainly to improve the economy, they are still inadequate in fully and timely responding to the political demands of ethnic groups. Social conflicts have been accumulating rather than being resolved.

"The Bachu incident has aroused international attention, and external observers mainly cast doubt on whether this violent attack was really terrorism.

"The nature of terrorist attacks in China is not very different with that in Western countries. They are, cruelly and inhumanely, targeted randomly at innocent civilians.

"What's different is that the terrorist attacks in Western countries can be traced to external input, while those in Xinjiang have shown a tendency to come from inside.

"There have been terrorist activities in Xinjiang, but so far there hasn't been enough evidence to show a concrete terrorist organization exists.

"A terrorist organization needs an explicit political doctrine, leading figures and a set of organizational bodies to raise funds, train its staff, purchase arms and support logistics. Judging from this, there is no terrorist organization in Xinjiang.

"The terrorist activities are committed mainly under the influence of terrorist thought and partly because of dissatisfaction with local governments and the Han people.

"In the long run, violent terrorism is likely to take place in Xinjiang again, and a terrorist organization in the real sense may emerge. But terrorism is preventable and its head can be lowered. It depends on whether we conduct solid work."

9.The PLA's concerns over the internal security situation in the peripheral regions inhabited by Tibetans and Uighurs were reflected at a meeting convened by the Central Military Commission at Beijing on May 2,2013, to underline the PLA's role in the economic development and internal stability of China's soft Western region.

10.According to Xinhua, addressing the meeting,XuQiliang, Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission, said the military should prioritize improving people's livelihoods and addressing issues that affect their most immediate interests, while participating in the development of western regions.

Reading China’s White Paper

Sam Roggeveen : Mon May 06 2013, 

Neighbours will make their judgements based on Beijing's military capabilities, not its stated beliefs

China's newly released Defence White Paper (WP) is nobody's idea of light reading. It is at least mercifully short, yet the propaganda content, combined with dense verbiage about war under "informationised conditions" and the "transformation of the generating mode of combat effectiveness" are enough to test even the most committed of China defence watchers. Nevertheless, when we consider what is in the document and what is left out, we learn a few things about how China sees itself and its place in the world.

Let's begin with the omissions. Notably, American defence expert James Acton has pointed out that the WP lacks a specific reference to China's policy of "no first use" of nuclear weapons, a promise that China would only use nuclear weapons if others used them against China first, and heretofore considered a central element of China's nuclear strategy. The significance of this omission is still being debated among experts, with some saying it might indicate a major change to Chinese nuclear doctrine, and others saying nothing has changed. The fact that there is now some ambiguity about this is itself damaging and potentially destabilising, and recent news suggests China has reinforced its no-first-use stance in Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiations in Geneva. It is to be hoped that a clarifying statement will come from a more senior source within the Chinese leadership also.

The second notable omission is of any reference to the Communist Party. Unlike India and most Western countries, the ultimate authority over the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is not the state but the Party. The relationship between the PLA and the Party is a complex and sometimes delicate one, and Western experts have observed that, as the PLA has modernised and professionalised, it has taken on a reduced role in enforcing the Party's ideology and is less influential in policymaking. But the military remains a central element of Party control and it remains loyal to the Party.

As for the notable inclusions in the WP, let's begin with the fact that it was published at all. China deserves some credit for seemingly bending to constant international calls for greater military transparency by releasing a WP which gives us some new details about China's military forces. But although transparency can be reassuring, it has limits. For no matter how much China tells us about its military structure and how earnestly it reassures the world about its intentions, China's neighbours will rightly make their judgements based on its capabilities, not its stated beliefs. So the claims in the WP's introduction that China's defence policy is "defensive in nature" and that China "opposes hegemony" and "will not engage in military expansion" will reassure precisely no one in the region. Even if all those statements could be taken at face value, intentions can change quickly.

In this context, it is interesting to see the WP place such explicit emphasis on China's aircraft carrier programme, with a claim that China's first carrier, commissioned in late 2012, has had a "profound impact" on building a strong PLA Navy. Western experts have for many years stressed the importance of "anti-access" in China's maritime strategy; China's goal, it has been said, is not so much to build a navy that can control the Asia Pacific but to deny others (that is, the US) the ability to exert such control. Such a "denial" strategy tends to lead to the development of submarines and anti-ship missile forces. Large ocean-going surface ships are seen as redundant.

China bolsters military’s role on its western border

Published: May 4, 2013 
Ananth Krishnan

China’s top Communist Party and military officials have held a meeting to review security and development strategies in western China, including regions bordering India.

Xu Qiliang, a senior PLA General and Vice Chairman of the Party’s powerful Central Military Commission, which is the top military body and is headed by President Xi Jinping, told the meeting the military should take on a more prominent role in developing western regions.

At the meeting, which took place in Beijing on Thursday, General Xu “ordered the military to make utmost efforts to maintain border security”, according to a brief report by the official Xinhua news agency.

General Xu described the “development and stability” of western regions as being “of strategic importance to national security and development”.

He also called on the PLA “to be fully aware that helping develop the west boosts the military’s capacity to carry out diversified tasks”.

The meeting takes place amid on-going tensions with India along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the western section of the border.

General Xu also stressed the need to “enhance solidarity between the military, local governments and the public” and “to uphold ethnic solidarity”, in an apparent reference to recent unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang.