9 May 2013

For American Foreign Policy, No Good Options *

May 8, 2013
By Robert D. Kaplan

One feels sympathy for U.S. President Barack Obama. Whatever he does in Syria, he is doomed. Had he intervened a year ago, as many pundits demanded, he might presently be in the midst of a quagmire with even more pundits angry at him, and with his approval ratings far lower than they are. If he intervenes now, the results might be even worse. Journalists often demand action for action's sake, seemingly unaware that many international problems have no solution, given the limits of U.S. power. The United States can topple regimes; it cannot even modestly remake societies unless, perhaps, it commits itself to the level of time and expense it did in post-war Germany and Japan.

Indeed, Obama has onerous calculations: If I intervene, which group do I arm? Am I assured the weapons won't fall into the wrong hands? Am I assured the group or groups I choose to help really are acceptable to the West, and even if they are, will they matter in Damascus in the long run? And, by the way, what if toppling Syrian leader Bashar al Assad through the establishment of a no-fly zone leads to even more chaos, and therefore results in an even worse human rights situation? Do I really want to own that mess? And even were I to come out of it successfully, do I want to devote my entire second term to Syria? Because that's what getting more deeply involved militarily there might entail.

In the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, intervention did not provoke other powers in the region such as Russia, because Russia in the first decade after the Cold War was a weak and chaotic state unable to project its usual historical influence in the Balkans. But intervention in Syria could get the United States into a proxy war with a strengthened Russia and with Iran.

In a media-driven world, holding power is truly thankless. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will have his term in office defined by three things: a withdrawal from Afghanistan, a serious reduction in the defense budget and responses to any overseas emergencies that crop up. There is no good way to accomplish the first two, and the third usually presents the same sort of awful choices the administration now faces in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry energetically engages in negotiations with Iran and Afghanistan, and with Israel and the Palestinian territories, not because he necessarily wants to, but because he must. Anything less would indicate an abdication of America's responsibility as a great power. And yet the chances of good outcomes in all of those cases are slim.

The overarching theme here is that the media assumes American policymakers have significant control over events overseas, whereas in truth they often have very little. The complex, messy realities of ground-level war and politics in Syria, Iran and Afghanistan – short of aerial and naval bombardments or tens of thousands of boots on the ground – are probably not going to be pivotally shaped by American officials.

During the Cold War, when chaos was relatively limited and much of the globe was divided up into two ideological camps, it was at least possible to formulate creative diplomatic strategies through the mechanical manipulation of this or that country or group of countries against others. But in a world of weak and fragmented democracies, considerable anarchy and anemic alliance systems, it is much harder to manipulate reality. There is no night watchman. No one is in control, even as the media is more relentless than ever. (Indeed, could one imagine in today's media climate a Henry Kissinger or a James Baker constructively and sternly pressuring Israel as they once did?)

A relentless media means policies have little time to mature before they are declared failures. It means there is less secrecy because of so many leaks. And because so much is leaked, government officials themselves have less incentive to be candid, even in private meetings, on account of the assumption that no transcript stays secret forever, whatever the security classification given it. So the quality of discussion inside government deteriorates, even as the public policy climate outside also worsens. In sum, the semi-anarchic, post-Cold War world narrows the space for foreign policy success at the same time that the quality of foreign policy itself wanes.

The Great Sino-Indian Alpine Tent Party of 2013


China's latest border squabble with India might seem trivial, but the consequences could set Asia on edge.


On Sunday, May 5, several dozen soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) pulled down their tents and withdrew from disputed territory claimed and administered by India, thus ending a bizarre but tense confrontation between two of the world's largest armies. The three-week encampment by Chinese forces in the remote and desolate Depsang plain generated little comment in China but caused a political and media storm in New Delhi, where Beijing's actions were seen as a clear violation of the territorial status quo.

As the dust settles, questions remain about the motives behind the Chinese troop advancement, which came at a delicate juncture for both Sino-Indian relations and China's own evolution into a regional and global superpower. What were the Chinese security forces and their leaders thinking when they authorized the incursion? More importantly, what does this mismanaged and unnecessary provocation augur for Asia's future stability?

The PLA troops' precise motivations are hard to discern and may never be fully explained. Chinese forces might have wanted to stall the development of roads on India's side of the Line of Actual Control, as the de facto border is known. India's 2008 reactivation of a remote military airfield near Depsang -- less than 70 miles from the crucial highway connecting western China's vast, unstable regions of Xinjiang and Tibet -- may also have been viewed as threatening. Some Indian commentators claimed that the PLA's advancement was a "sincere" move resulting from different understandings of where the border lies. But that view found little sympathy in New Delhi, as images of Chinese soldiers holding banners emblazoned with "You've crossed the border, please go back" flashed across Indian television screens.

The timing is even more puzzling. China-India relations have been growing warmer; Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held his first meeting with China's new president, Xi Jinping, in March, and Li Keqiang was preparing to make India the destination for his first international trip as China's premier, later in May. The diplomatic setback also followed a year of deteriorating relations between Beijing and other Asian countries, including a sharp downturn in Sino-Japanese ties, the embarrassing release of a new Chinese passport that outraged several Asian states (including India), a severe test of Beijing's relationship with Pyongyang, a diplomatic reversal in Burma, and the release of worrying information on China's cyber-espionage capabilities. Antagonizing India at this juncture seems inexplicable.

The incursion will undoubtedly provoke greater skepticism in India about China's peaceful intentions. In recent years, an aggressive China has had a poor record of managing its disputed borders. Unlike Japan or the many Southeast Asian countries, India has been reluctant to identify itself as a U.S. partner in any attempt to hedge against China's rise. Yet repeated Chinese provocations, as well as concerns about India's ability to compete economically and militarily with China, might force India's policymakers to cooperate more closely with other states that share its concerns. Moreover, India's accelerating defense modernization might produce additional confrontational Chinese responses, perpetuating a classic security dilemma.

A Global Threat

Post 26/11, the LeT has matured 'from a Punjabi-based Pakistani terror group targeting India exclusively, to a member of the global Islamic jihad targeting the enemies of al Qaeda: the Crusader West, Zionist Israel, and Hindu India.'

Emphasizing the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) clout and survival capabilities in South Asia, Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), observed, on April 9, 2013, “LeT remains one, if not the most operationally capable terrorist groups through all of South Asia. LeT was responsible for the November 2008 attack in Mumbai, India, that killed over 160 people, including six Americans, and has supported or executed a number of other attacks in South Asia in recent years.” 

Significantly, the Combating Terrorism Centre (CTC) at the US Military Academy, West Point, published a paper, The Fighters of Lashkar-e-Taiba: Recruitment, Training, Deployment and Death, on April 4, 2013, based on the biographies of 917 LeT militants killed in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) between 1989 and 2008. Unsurprisingly, the report found that 94 percent of the selected LeT militants listed J&K as the ‘fighting front’. The vast majority of the LeT fighters was from Pakistan and was killed in the districts of Kupwara, Baramulla and Poonch in J&K. According to J&K police data, out of 184 identified foreign terrorists killed in the state (a total of 568 foreign terrorists were killed in the state since 1998), more than half, (96) belonged to the LeT. 

Partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management indicates that a total of 1,791 people, including 1,305 terrorists, 274 security force (SF) personnel and 212 civilians died in 710 incidents of killing connected with the LeT, since 2001 (data till May 5, 2013). The group, along with the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), has been responsible for the greatest proportion of violence in the state. 

LeT has remained active outside Kashmir as well. Out of the 45 prominent terror attacks witnessed outside theatres of violence in J&K and the North East since August 14, 2000, the LeT was alleged to be involved in no less than 17 incidents, which resulted in at least 630 fatalities. Though the outfit had established linkages and operational capabilities across India much earlier, disclosures by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) suggest that the February 13, 2010, Pune German Bakery blast (in which 17 people were killed and 60 others sustained injuries) was the first act of terror in which LeT coordinated with the Indian Mujahiddeen (IM). Maharashtra ATS Chief Rakesh Maria observed, "We proved in court that the LeT and IM joined hands for the first time to create terror in India.” IM’s parent group, the Student’s Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) had, however, been cooperating and coordinating with the LeT, among other Islamist terrorist formations in India, since the late 1990s.

The LeT has also continuously attempted to make its presence felt elsewhere in India’s immediate neighbourhood, though primarily, in the past, with the aim of targeting India. Of late, however, the group has emerged as a force multiplier to militant outfits operating in Afghanistan. It has established bases in the Afghan provinces of Kunar, Nuristan, Nangarhar, Wardak, Laghman, Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Kabul and Kandahar. The LeT has already been responsible for several attacks on Indian establishments, Coalition and Afghan Forces in Afghanistan. Indeed, on August 30, 2012, US Treasury Department designated eight LeT leaders— Sajid Mir, Abdullah Mujahid, Ahmed Yaqub, Hafiz Khalid Walid, Qari Muhammad Yaqoob Sheikh, Amir Hamza, Abdullah Muntazir and Talha Saeed— as terrorists, holding them accountable for attacks on Coalition and Afghan forces in Afghanistan as well as for the November 26, 2008, (26/11) Mumbai (Maharashtra, India) attacks. Again, on April 15, 2013, Coalition and Afghan Special Operations Forces arrested a “senior LeT leader” (name not disclosed) in the Andar District of Ghazni province. Sources indicated that he had "planned and participated in multiple attacks against Afghan and Coalition forces throughout Kunar, Kandahar and Ghazni provinces" and "was actively planning a high-profile attack at the time of his arrest." 

China and India's rivalry extends to the Arctic

By LOUISE WATT | Associated Press 

Associated Press/File - FILE - In this Sunday, May 5, 2013 photo, Chinese troops hold a banner which reads: "You've crossed the border, please go back," in Ladakh, India. While the recent troop standoff in …more 

BEIJING (AP) — While the recent troop standoff in a remote Himalayan desert spotlights a long-running border dispute between China and India, the two emerging giants are engaged in a rivalry for global influence that spreads much farther afield.

From Africa to the Arctic, the world's two most populous countries are bumping up against each other in their search for resources and new markets. Their rivalry is spilling over into global diplomacy and international institutions where Beijing and Delhi have elbow-jabbed over development loans and a seat for India on the U.N. Security Council.

It is visible in the building of infrastructure in nations like Ghana, which is rich in gold, cocoa and timber and is a new oil producer. Ghana's government moved into a presidential palace financed by India in February. A month later, China handed over a new foreign ministry building.

An outright clash between the two remains unlikely. But bickering on the global stage could make bodies such as the World Bank and the United Nations less efficient, and send ripples through institutions that are increasingly important in guiding global trade, commerce and diplomacy and influence policies that affect people around the world.

"They have their tentacles throughout this global infrastructure," said Ashwin Kaja, an American lawyer leading an initiative to establish a China-India institute at Beijing's Renmin University and Jindal University in Sonipat, India. "If they start fighting, the threat becomes bigger and bigger as their influence grows. They are one third of humanity; it's not a small figure. They are not just countries."

Though the two nations once celebrated a shared vision as leaders of developing nations in the 1950s, that amity was shredded by a 1962 border war that still clouds relations. The recent crisis began April 15 when about 50 Chinese soldiers pitched tents on territory that both countries claim and set off finger-pointing about territorial grabs.

On Monday, Beijing and New Delhi announced an end to the three-week standoff, agreeing for troops on both sides to pull back before the fracas threatened several high-level meetings.

The two governments are publicly trying to put the best face on relations, accentuating the positive benefits of trade and diplomatic cooperation. The Indian foreign minister travels to Beijing on Thursday to prepare for a visit to Delhi later this month by Li Keqiang, his first overseas trip since becoming Chinese premier in March.

Neither country wants to threaten booming business ties. China became India's biggest trading partner in 2011 when two-way trade hit nearly $75 billion, up from $5 billion in 2002. It declined slightly last year because of the global economic downturn, and it is also heavily skewed in China's favor. Next month, China will host its first South Asian trade expo, designed to lure companies from India and elsewhere in the region.

But distrust runs high. China is a longtime ally and weapons supplier to Pakistan, India's bitter rival, and has been building strong ties with Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, feeding Indian fears of encirclement. China is wary of India's growing ties with the United States.

Chinese dam-building on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra River has raised fears in India that Beijing might one day reduce or turn off critical water supplies. A dispute over territorial claims in Arunachal Pradesh led to Beijing in 2009 trying to block part of a loan to India from the Asian Development Bank earmarked for a flood control project there.

China was upset in 2011 when India's state oil company, Oil and Natural Gas Corp., accepted an invitation from Vietnam to explore for oil and gas in the disputed South China Sea, bringing New Delhi into a festering territorial spat on China's doorstep.

Kowtowing to Middle Kingdom

India’s territorial integrity compromised?
by G Parthasarathy

CHINA has a long history of imperial arrogance, regarding itself as the centre of the earth, being labelled “the Middle Kingdom”. According to an ancient Chinese diplomatic practice, “barbarians”, including rulers and diplomats representing European powers, and neighbours like Korea had to “kowtow” while appearing before the Emperor, acknowledging the Emperor as the “son of heaven”. The Chinese practice of “kowtow” required others to kneel and bow so low as to have one’s head touching the ground! As China’s power declined, this practice ended. But China is rising now and has used, or threatened to use force in asserting its ever-expanding claims on its maritime frontiers with countries ranging from Japan, South Korea and Vietnam to the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. As tensions between Japan and China grew over provocative Chinese naval manoeuvres in territorial waters surrounding the disputed Senkaku islands, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently issued a stark warning to China, asserting: “I have ordered the authorities to respond decisively to any attempt to enter territorial waters and land on the islands”. 

China had evidently calculated that with its leadership under siege, while facing an economic downturn, India cannot respond in the robust manner that Japan has and that India would not be averse to kowtowing, when confronted by Chinese power. Mr. Salman Khurshid had, after all, labelled the Chinese intrusion in Depsang as “acne”. The Prime Minister had described the intrusion as a “localised problem”. Government spokespersons and sympathetic hacks have claimed that hundreds of such intrusions occur every year. They refuse to accept that while routine intrusions involve troops moving in and out of contested areas, in the present case the intruders had pitched tents and contested Indian sovereignty. Apologists for the Chinese assert the problem arises because the Line of Control arising from the 1962 conflict has not been determined. What they fail to mention is that it is the Chinese who have refused to exchange maps defining the LAC in order to enable them to intrude at a time and place of their choosing.

Worse still, the Chinese are guilty of violating their commitment to resolve the border issue in terms of the “guiding principles” that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Dr. Manmohan Singh agreed to in 2005. These principles stated that in resolving the border issue the boundary would be along “well defined and easily identifiable natural geographical features” and that “interests of their settled populations” in the border areas should be safeguarded. This clearly indicates that there will be no change in the status of populated areas. Rather than abiding by this agreement, the Chinese responded by declaring that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh a part of “South Tibet,” thereby requiring that the entire “settled population” of Arunachal Pradesh should become Chinese citizens!

In the western sector in Ladakh, going by India’s definition of the LAC, the areas China was intruding in Depsang are clearly on the Indian side of the Ladakh-Tibet border. The Macdonald-McCartney proposals, which China implicitly endorsed in 1899, were based on “well defined and easily identifiable geographical features”. India’s delineation of the LAC broadly conforms to the Macdonald-McCartney Line, which was tacitly accepted by China. The Ladakh-China border was then determined as lying along the Karakoram Mountains, up to the Indus river watershed. Chinese official maps issued in 1853, 1917 and 1919 depicted the Ladakh-Tibet border accordingly. China has thus to accept this Indian definition of the LAC as it has agreed that the boundary should be along “well defined and easily identifiable natural geographical features”. What has transpired is not merely “acne,” but a violation of India’s territorial integrity. New Delhi has been so pusillanimous that it deliberately chooses not to articulate how China has refused to agree to exchanging maps for determining the LAC and how it has gone back of the framework for a border settlement that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao agreed to in 2005.

The last time a similar intrusion across the LAC occurred was in Sumdorong Chu near the McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh in 1986. The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi did not describe the Chinese action as “acne” or a “localised problem”. Indian forces were quietly mobilised and three Mountain Divisions were moved to the Sumdorong Chu area, occupying hilltops around the Chinese forces. In a message conveyed through the then US Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger, China’s supreme leader Deng Xiao Ping warned that China would have to “teach India a lesson” if it did not pull back. New Delhi refused to oblige. A beaming Deng Xiao Ping received the Indian Prime Minister in Beijing in December 1988. The Joint Working Group set up after the 1988 agreed in 1995 that there would be a simultaneous withdrawal of troops from two border posts each by China and India in the Sumdorong Chu valley.

Why is New Delhi clueless on Chinese assertiveness?

G Parthasarathy
May 5, 2013 

Almost coinciding with the 19-km intrusion of Chinese forces into the Depsang Bulge area of Ladakh, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a stark warning to China as tensions between Japan and China grew over provocative Chinese naval manoeuvres in territorial waters surrounding the disputed Senkaku Islands. 

Abe warned that Japan would block any Chinese attempt to land on the Islands, adding: “I have ordered the authorities to respond decisively to any attempt to enter territorial waters and land on the Islands.” 

China has used force to enforce territorial claims on neighbouring Vietnam and the Philippines. It has made unprecedented territorial claims on Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia. It has also used a combination of intimidation and economic clout to divide ASEAN and prevent the emergence of a united opposition to its territorial claims.

Government spokesmen in New Delhi have described the Chinese incursion as being no different from the hundreds of incursions by Chinese forces in the past into areas which China claimed was on its side of the ‘Line of Actual Control’ (LAC).

The reality is, however, that in this instance, the Chinese have not immediately returned to their bases, as in the past. Moreover, such intrusions have been deliberately facilitated by China’s refusal to exchange maps with India spelling out clearly where, in its view, the LAC lies. 

The areas China is intruding into are clearly on the Indian side, in terms the Macdonald- McCartney proposals, which China implicitly endorsed in 1899. The Ladakh-China border was then determined as lying along the Karakoram Mountains up to the Indus River Watershed. India’s delineation of the LAC broadly depicts the Macdonald-McCartney Line.

The last time such an intrusion where the Chinese troops established a physical presence was in 1986, when they intruded into Sumdorong Chu in Arunachal Pradesh. 

When diplomatic protests proved of no avail, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi approved a large army deployment, which resulted in the intruding Chinese troops facing Indian forces deployed on surrounding hills. India did not relent despite a warning that China would “teach India a lesson”. 

Relations improved after Rajiv visited China in 1988 and met a beaming Deng Xiaoping. A number of confidence building measures to maintain peace and tranquillity of the border were subsequently concluded between India and China, leading to substantial de-escalation by 1995.

India should realise it is dealing with an assertive China prepared to use force to overawe others, across its maritime and land borders, to enforce its insatiable territorial claims. China has obviously noted that it is dealing with a government in Delhi that is under siege domestically, amid an economic downturn. 

It would also have noted that given the downturn, India’s plans to modernise its armed forces and raise a strike Corps on eastern borders are being put on the backburner. China is simultaneously stepping up military, nuclear and maritime cooperation with Pakistan and encouraging and instigating neighbours like Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan to erode Indian influence.

There appears little realisation in South Block that it is widely perceived as being unable to handle challenges ranging from terrorism sponsored by Pakistan and being snubbed by Maldives, to dealing with an assertive China, which has no qualms in blocking India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and undermining its influence across Asia. 

This is not to suggest that India needs to get adventurist in dealing with its arrogant northern neighbour, which appears intoxicated by its growing economic power and military might. It is now crucial to increasingly make common cause with countries like Japan and Vietnam and by extending military cooperation to eastern neighbours, akin to what China is prepared to do in our South Asian neighbourhood. 

Moreover, China’s intrusions can also be countered by well-planned and calibrated Indian moves along the border into areas of concern for China.

India demolishes Himalaya outpost to end China standoff

Map of the Himalayas locating disputed borders and territory. Reuters/Graphics

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - India has agreed to a Chinese demand to demolish a remote army position near their de facto border in the Himalayas, Indian sources said, as part of a deal to end a standoff that threatened to scupper slowly improving relations.

Indian and Chinese soldiers faced off 100 metres (330 feet) apart on a plateau near the Karakoram mountain range, where they fought a war 50 years ago, for three weeks until they reached a deal on Sunday for both sides to withdraw.

The tension had threatened to overshadow a visit by the Indian foreign minister to Beijing on May 9. China's Premier Li Keqiang is expected to visit India later this month.

India said up to 50 Chinese soldiers set up camp in its territory on the western rim of the Himalayas on April 15. Some Indian officials and experts believed the incursion signalled Chinese concern about increased Indian activity in the area.

The Chinese camp was in an area India said was 19 km (12 miles) beyond what it understands to be the border in the Ladakh region of Kashmir, a vaguely defined line called the Line of Actual Control, which neither side agrees on.

Details of the deal have not been made public and there were differing versions about what had been dismantled. A source with direct knowledge of the decision making in New Delhi said India agreed to take down a temporary metal-roofed shelter in the Chumar area, further south along the disputed border.

The source said the dismantled shelter had been erected in Chumar shortly after China set up camp on the plateau.

However, an official from the Indian army's northern command said India had taken down more permanent structures from Chumar.

"The bunkers in Chumar were dismantled after we acceded to Chinese demand in the last flag meeting. These bunkers were live-in bunkers," the army officer told Reuters on Tuesday.

China won the border war they fought in 1962, which soured relations for decades, but ties between the Asian giants have been improving. China is India's top trade partner and the two occasionally hold joint military exercises.

India has been beefing up its military presence for several years on the remote Ladakh plateau, building roads and runways to catch up with Chinese development across the border in a disputed area known as Aksai Chin

The decision to agree to the Chinese demand followed heavy criticism of the Indian government over its handling of the incident by the opposition.

An official in India's Defence Ministry said on Monday the deal to end the standoff was "quid pro quo" and said China had also demanded India take down listening and observation posts in the Chumar area, which is close to a Chinese road through Tibet.

The source in New Delhi denied India was dismantling anything more than the border shelter.

(Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in SRINAGAR; Additional reporting by Nigam Prusty; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Alison Williams)

Can Pakistan legally shoot down U.S. drones?

By Dawood I. Ahmed
May 8, 2013

Pakistan's election hopefuls have expressed strong and vocal opposition to U.S. drone strikes within the country.

Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who participated in a government that visibly failed to do much to prevent drone strikes for five years, recently insisted that such strikes are "counter-productive."

Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and two-time former prime minister, similarly lambasted the U.S. policy saying that "Drone attacks are against the national sovereignty and a challenge for the country's autonomy and independence. Therefore, we won't tolerate these attacks in our territorial jurisdictions."

And no one has been more vocal and stringent in his opposition to drones than the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, Imran Khan, the increasingly popular and charismatic contender for prime minister. Khan has even gone so far as to promise that, if elected, his government will shoot downany drone that crosses into Pakistan after May 11.

Yet, despite all the heavy pre-election posturing and rhetoric, the million rupee question remains: is Pakistan legally entitled to shoot down U.S. drones that enter its territory?

The short answer is yes. Unless it has consented to the use of drones in its territory, Pakistan most certainly can shoot them down as a matter of international law.

The United Nations Charter-a treaty which virtually all states in the world have agreed to follow and one that is sometimes touted as the "constitution of the international community"-forbids states from using force in another state unless it is used 1) in self-defense to repel an "armed attack"; 2) with the approval of the U.N. Security Council; or 3) because the state in which force is being used has consented to it.

That is, the U.S. drone war must fall within one of these exceptions to be legal.

We know the U.N. Security Council has never authorized the use of U.S. drones in Pakistan. And neither has Pakistan ever engaged in an "armed attack" against the United States, nor has the United States claimed as much. That leaves consent as the only legal justification for the program.

Wading into the quagmire

By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
May 7, 2013 

When Amb. James Dobbins arrives at the ground-floor offices of the State Department's Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan he will find a depleted staff, a moribund peace process and a mandate riddled with colossal diplomatic challenges. Secretary of State John Kerry called today's state of affairs a "pivotal moment" for the two nations. But it is also a critical moment for U.S. involvement in ending the conflict President Barack Obama once called the war "that we have to win" and now wants only to "responsibly" wind down.

Dobbins is a veteran of uphill assignments. He oversaw the return of the American flag over a newly reopened U.S. Embassy in Kabul in 2001. In addition to Afghanistan, he has served in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia. Not exactly a list of luxe diplomatic posts.

As Dobbins prepares to assume his post on 23rd St, a series of open questions await his attention. Three of the biggest are below.

1) Troops: Just how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014? That question remains unanswered as the United States continues to negotiate an agreement with Afghanistan on the shape of the U.S. military presence post-2014. Gen. James Mattis, who most recently served as the commander of U.S. Central Command, is on the record pushing for more than 13,000 troops. Most numbers out of the Pentagon and the White House come in at less than that. The State Department's Robert Blake noted recently that "we are still in the process of thinking through what our final military presence will be in Afghanistan after the end of the transition at the end of 2014." Exactly when that will be and what shape it will take remains to be seen.

Also an open question: how many Afghan troops will be needed? And how many will be funded? Those two numbers may well end up being different. And the latter should be known sooner rather than later.

2) Peace process: Right now there is not one of substance to speak of. What shape might one take? The window for action is rapidly closing as frustration between Pakistan and Afghanistan remains very much alive, with Afghanistan arguing that Pakistan looks favorably on Afghan instability. Will Afghanistan and Pakistan agree to agree on conditions for talks? And what role will the Americans take? Sec. Kerry met last month in Belgium with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and vowed to "under-promise but deliver" as the sides "continue a very specific dialogue on both the political track as well as the security track." What, if anything, the dialed-down dialog yields will be watched carefully as nearly all sides agree that a diplomatic solution - one in which human rights are not made the price of peace - is the lone shot at a lasting and durable peace.

Where Is The Fountainhead Of Jihad?


A tremendous compendium of information on local, regional and global dimensions and designs of the HQN known to date.

The general elections in Pakistan scheduled in 10 days from now are easily the bloodiest in the country’s history. The secular parties like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have come under deadly attacks by the jihadists. But the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has literally unleashed a war on the liberal Pashtun Awami National Party (ANP), killing scores of its leaders and cadres. The TTP is supposedly the ‘bad’ Taliban—an arbitrary distinction applied by many but most importantly the Pakistani security establishment. The ostensibly ‘good’ Taliban are the groups not directly attacking the Pakistani interests and oriented towards Afghanistan and the US and allied forces stationed there.

The capacity of the TTP to strike at will and with ferocious impunity, with an abysmal response from the Pakistani state, suggests that the outfit enjoys an ideological strategic depth within the country, where Punjab-based parties like the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and the religious parties across the board, are reluctant to even condemn its terrorist activities. Perhaps more important is the logistic sanctuary that the TTP has maintained in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA) courtesy the Jalaluddin Haqqani terrorist network (HQN) to train and plan for the operations elsewhere in Pakistan. The current work by Vahid Brown, a specialist in the history of Islamist militancy and author of Cracks in the Foundation: Leadership Schisms in al-Qaedaand Don Rassler, of the South Asia research program at the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the US Military Academy, meticulously describes the identity and evolution of the HQN and how the jihadist-terrorist network came to enjoy de facto rule over large swathes of the Pakistani tribal territory of the NWA.

While the HQN has been previously called the ‘veritable arm’ of the ISI, the authors state that the HQN ‘is an Afghan and Pakistani insurgent group whose senior leadership structure is hierarchical and mostly familial in nature’. Correctly assigning the HQN’s dual identity is key to the authors’ remarkable scholarship that approaches the network’s nexus position and role as a group that did not operate merely as a local sidekick to the Arab al-Qaeda but also as a major enabler of global terrorism — it actually helped shape the al-Qaeda and provided it with operational support, logistics and battleground training. Brown and Rassler describe in fascinating detail the unique role the HQN has played ‘in the region due to its interpersonal relations, geographic position and strategic approach’ spanning more than 30 years and that ‘part of the network’s power also stems from its close ties to Pakistan’s Army and its intelligence agencies, which have historically used the group as a proxy to exert influence in Afghanistan and to mediate disputes in Pakistan’s FATA’. The book details the ideological and logistic ties between the HQN and the TTP to the extent that Siraj Haqqani and Qari Hussain (killed in a drone strike in 2010) jointly ran the suicide bomber training camp at Shawal near Miran Shah in the NWA. The deep ties between the HQN and the TTP raise a question about Pakistan consistently dragging its feet to act against the former while fighting the latter.

The title of the book is actually the name of the magazine Manba’ al-Jihad literally meaning the fountainhead of jihad, that the HQN published in Pashto and Arabic in the 1980s and 1990s, the 1000-page record of which along with the written communication by the group’s members and leaders, media productions by its studio (also called Manba’ al-Jihad) and the articles and correspondence by the al-Qaeda leaders and operatives form the backbone of this painstaking research. The HQN-related primary sources archive thus assembled by the authors is a first and describes the HQN as a brand distinct from al-Qaeda and the Taliban though overlapping and sharing with both at times. The authors write that from its bases in the Loya Paktia—Khost, Paktia, and Paktika in Afghanistan —and the NWA in Pakistan “the network has provided a variety of state sponsors, private donors, and entrepreneur revolutionaries with a particularly valuable resource in the global economy of conflict: a platform for delivery of violence’. To understand the HQN’s rise to its preeminent position of power in conflict economy the book ‘unpacks’ the three themes in its title viz. the fountainhead, jihad and nexus in extensive detail.

China: Year Zero

1979 and the birth of an economic miracle.


It is inevitable, perhaps, that we tend to focus on leaders when we examine grand political and economic transitions. But they are not the only actors in these dramas. Deng Xiaoping and his colleagues triumphed precisely because they unleashed the creativity and the entrepreneurial urges of millions of Chinese. Many of them -- shocking though it might be to think -- were not even members of the Chinese Communist Party.

In January 1979, around the time that Deng was preparing for his trip to the United States, a young man named Rong Zhiren returned to his hometown of Guangzhou, historically known as Canton, the largest city in Guangdong province, up the river from Hong Kong. Rong had just turned 30, but he had relatively little in the way of concrete achievements to show for someone of his age. The reason was the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. A central part of the Cultural Revolution was Mao Zedong's campaign against intellectualism, book learning, and the "Four Olds" (old habits, old ideas, old customs, and old culture). In 1966, he had ordered the closure of China's institutions of higher education. Over the ensuing years, 17 million students were dispatched to the countryside to learn the virtues of the simple life from the peasantry. University entrance examinations did not resume in China until autumn 1977. By early 1979, only 7 million students had made it back to the cities.

As the Cultural Revolution played out, the overwhelming majority of students stayed where they were assigned, which usually meant wasting their best years tilling the land in remote agricultural communes. Rong did not. Sent out to the countryside in 1969, he snuck away as soon as he had the chance. He spent the next decade dodging the police and living from odd jobs, such as drawing and tutoring. He lived with friends, moving from place to place. In December 1978, back in Guangzhou but still on the run, he heard a radio broadcast publicizing the results of the historic Third Plenum in Beijing, the meeting that sealed the triumph of Deng's pragmatic course of economic reform. Like millions of other Chinese, Rong understood that something fundamentally transformative was under way -- and that included an opening for entrepreneurship. "I knew this policy would last because Chinese people would want to get rich," as he later put it. In January 1979, he decided that he would be one of the first to take a chance. He applied for a business license. The bureaucratic obstacles sounded daunting: One of the requirements was a complete physical checkup to ensure that he had no infectious diseases. But it turned out to be a cinch. Rong sailed through the procedure in just a few days. (Nowadays it takes nearly three weeks.) The Guangdong government, eager to get things going, was already trying to encourage business creation.

China and the West May Soon Compete for Troubled Iceland

BRUSSELS-In front of the dominating church of Hallgrímur, in Iceland's capital Reykjavik, stands the statue of Leif Ericson. He is described as the "son of Iceland, discoverer of Vinland," the Norse name for what would become North America. The inscription serves as a reminder of the island's physical and symbolic position in the middle of the Atlantic.

On April 27, Icelandic voters brought back to power the center-right conservatives they had ousted after the financial crisis of 2008 in favor of a pro-European socialist-green coalition. Beyond the political result, the elections exacerbated some of the pressing economic and strategic challenges that lie ahead for Iceland. Between accession to the European Union, the potential for a renewed relationship with the United States, and a strengthened partnership with China, Iceland faces numerous choices concerning its role in the transatlantic relationship.

Five years after a financial crisis made Iceland the center of international attention, a disconnect between the country's economic and social recovery is palpable. Emergency measures taken in the wake of the crisis with the blessing of the International Monetary Fund may have protected domestic depositors and assets, but they have led to higher taxes, currency devaluation, repossessions, and lower paying jobs. Despite steady 2.5 percent growth, unemployment projected to be below 5 percent by the end of the year, a positive current account balance, and government debt now below 100 percent of GDP, much of the population is still struggling. Growth may have returned sooner than expected, but it has been weaker. More pressing, household debts are still crippling; in 2012, 10 percent of homes were still in default with mortgages or rent.

Iceland's economy relies heavily - perhaps too heavily - on its geography and geology, which have enabled the development of successful fishing, geothermal energy, aluminum production, and tourism industries. With diversification now needed, Iceland must create the necessary conditions to attract foreign direct investment. This would require foreign creditors to suffer losses in an orderly way and the lifting of capital controls in a manner that avoids the further depreciation of the króna. The new Icelandic government will need to convince its people that it is capable of helping those still most affected by the crisis. 

But beyond economic recovery, it is Iceland's role in global affairs that may be at a critical juncture. Despite continuing skepticism over the country's accession to the European Union and the euro, reinforced by the overwhelming victory of the center-right parties opposed to EU membership, talks might still go ahead under the new coalition government. Many Icelanders have voiced their interest in seeing what a finalized accession package would look like, with particular attention focused on the thorny issue of fisheries.

Iceland is also proving a strategic gateway of another kind. In early April, it became the first European country to sign a free trade agreement with China. The large size of the Chinese embassy in Reykjavik is a fair representation of the ambitions that Beijing may have in the region, and why it has been seeking for support to become a permanent observer of the Arctic Council. By 2020, approximately 15 percent of Chinese trade may be transiting through the Northern Sea Route.

Iceland's proximity to the Northwest Passage and to the resources of the Arctic confer it a key position in the region, and the island could become a hub for maritime transport or an advanced base for rescue missions in the north. Iceland has already signaled its willingness to play a central role in the region by forming the Arctic Circle, a non-profit, non-partisan platform designed "to facilitate dialogue and build relationships to confront the Arctic's greatest challenges." One of these challenges might yet be for Iceland to find signs of renewed interest in Washington following the closing of the Keflavik air and naval base in 2006.

Chinese are coming…

Issue Vol. 28.2 Apr-Jun 2013 | Date : 09 May , 2013

After the Mughals and the British, it now appears to be China’s turn to encircle, enslave and make India a surrogate power. Apparently, China firmly believes that two tigers cannot live on the same mountain.

Under the weight of its collective incompetence, New Delhi continues to fiddle while Beijing unleashes a creeping invasion.

Pacifism may be good for the individual’s soul but it is suicidal for a nation’s security. With the advent of Buddhism, Tibet, wallowing in pacifism, lost its freedom. Yet South Block refuses to learn. Nehru was too petrified to come to the rescue of a small nation like Tibet. Nepal realized this and as insurance, opened up communication channels with China. The total collapse of India’s foreign policy saw Kathmandu exit our sphere of influence and become a vassal state of China. Bhutan will soon follow suit as it watches a helpless India unable to protect itself.

Under the weight of its collective incompetence, New Delhi continues to fiddle while Beijing unleashes a creeping invasion. The Chinese grand design envisions India as a surrogate power in Asia led by Beijing. However, the chinks in the Chinese armour are Tibet and Sinkiang. Despite the extraordinary infrastructure developed and the ability to induct multiple military divisions in Tibet, Beijing faces a rebellion, a wound that continues to fester.

Owing to the extraordinary incompetence of the Indian Defence Minister, the modernization of the Indian armed forces unfortunately is stuck in a groove for the last decade. Help of Western technology and India’s belated move to upgrade infrastructure in the North-east are points of major concern for China. Very few may have noticed that every time India moved closer to the United States, Beijing was upset and it successfully unleashed its lobby in India to counter this. Controlled media in Beijing vehemently criticized when the French Rafale was chosen by India for the Indian Air Force, terming France as ‘irresponsible’! Rapid induction of far superior Western technology into the Indian military and denied to the Dragon will upset the balance of power enjoyed by China in Tibet which the former is even today unable to fully integrate with the mainland. This chink in China’s armour needs to be exploited.

India will need robust minds and not pacifists, who lose the battle in their minds even before it begins…

With Japan, Taiwan and others fortified by a commitment by the US for protection against China’s foray in South China Sea disputes, Beijing is likely to make noises but will, for multiple reasons, concentrate militarily on the softest target available, the Indo-Tibet border.

First, Beijing’s assessment that the leadership in New Delhi is extremely weak and will not be able to respond to any developing crises is accurate. Second, the Chinese who minutely monitor all internal developments within India are aware of the deficiencies in manpower and the equipment within the military. They are witness to the veterans returning their medals in disgust to the President. Like Nehru, bereft of pragmatism, the political masters have simply not equipped the military with adequate lethality. Third, and possibly the most important consideration is that with the withdrawal of the American forces from Afghanistan, the strategic vacuum needs to be filled. Therefore, it is intelligent to not only keep India away from Afghanistan but also acquire as much territory as possible without firing a single shot in the Eastern Sector.

Some countries just cannot be trusted

Thursday, 09 May 2013 | Claude Arpi 

The latest Chinese infiltration in Ladakh, even if the issue has been ‘successfully' resolved by both diplomacies, will remain for years a scar on the Sino-Indian relations

Hua Chunying, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, was at her elusive best when she announced ‘progress’ in the Sino-Indian ‘stand-off’ in Ladakh: “So far as I know, relevant departments of the two countries have made positive progress in their friendly consultations”, she stated

According to Xinhua, she said, “I believe that both sides have the will and capability to properly resolve this incident as soon as possible and jointly maintain the healthy and stable growth of China-India relations.” The ‘will to resolve’ the issue clearly means that it is not solved. Even if the troops’ withdrawal remains shrouded in vagueness, it is important to take an initial trial balance of the incident in the High Himalayas. A first point to be noticed: New Delhi was taken by surprise; was not ready to tackle the situation, whether militarily or even diplomatically.

There is no doubt that the terrain favours China; after months of being posted in Western Tibet, Chinese jawans and officers are usually well acclimatised and it is relatively easy for them to go on an outing, like at Daulat Beg Oldi.

In his memoirs, Colonel Chewang Rinchen, the brave Ladakhi soldier who was twice awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (in 1948 and 1971) for his exploits in the region, recounts: “The entire area between Murgo, which is known as ‘Gateway to Hell’, and DBO is notorious for treacherous weather and snow blizzards. …After crossing Saser La, we proceeded towards DBO. On the way, we came across skeletons of human beings and animals lying scattered all along the track.” Interestingly, he added, “On September 3, 1961, I proceeded with a patrol party, along the Chip Chap river… I noted the hoof marks of camels and horses and, a little further, tyre marks of a three-ton vehicle. It clearly indicated the possible presence of the Chinese in that area.”

While the toughest soldiers of the Indian Army took more than a week to reached DBO, the Chinese could drive in a three-tonner! And that was in 1961. The topography and the difficulty to survive in the area was obviously known to the Indian Army and intelligence agencies, but they did not envisage that the Chinese would plant tents in what Beijing considers to be its side of the Line of Actual Control.

From the Chinese side, everything seemed to have been programmed to the minutest details, including the ‘withdrawal’ — if withdrawal it really is.

For future bilateral relations, one worrying issue is that China is ready to break formal treaties or agreements when it suits its interests. On September 7, 1993, India and China signed an ‘Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas’. Amongst other things, the agreement stipulated: “Neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other by any means. Pending an ultimate solution to the boundary question between the two countries, the two sides shall strictly respect and observe the line of actual control between the two sides. No activities of either side shall overstep the line of actual control.” The DBO episode is clearly a breach of the 1993 agreement. Delhi should remember this.

India has discovered that, while it has many experts on China, so far nobody has been able to explain why Beijing took the risk of provoking a clash at this particular point in time. If China had some grievance against India (which may or may not be valid), it could have first taken the issue up at one of the scheduled bilateral meetings (Mr Salman Khurshid in Beijing or Mr Li Keqiang in Delhi). A visit of Mr AK Antony to China is also planned for later this year. There were at least three forthcoming occasions to resolve pending issues and make ‘positive progress’.

By the way, did you notice that China had only one speaker for the issue? The Central Military Commission, the PLA, the State Council, the Party — all kept quiet. Apart from the spokeswoman, the websites of The PLA Daily, The People's Daily, The Global Times, etc remained extremely discreet.

Interestingly, some experts in India seem to regret the Indian ‘open’ system. The Global Times in one rare comment said: “Some Indian officials caution that China should pay no heed to the radical voices among some Indian media which sensationalise news.”

Seven Reasons Why China May Be the World Leader in Fighting Climate Change

Posted Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Despite its smoggy reputation, China is doing better than the United States. Much better.

A tourist at Beijing's Forbidden City wears a mask to guard against the pollution covering the city in January.

China is an environmental mess. Smog in Beijing is so bad it’s literally broken the air-quality index. In Shanghai, it’s at times turned the city into a scene from Blade Runner. (It almost matches the infamous Cleveland smog of the 1970s.) Meanwhile, thousands of dead pigs—cause of death not yet known—have been floating down a river that cuts through Shanghai and provides part of the region’s drinking water. More than half of China’s water is so polluted, in fact, that even treatment plants can’t make it safe to drink. And China is now responsible for almost half the world’s coal consumption. That coal burning not only contributes to climate change—it’s also saddled China with severe cases of acid rain, something the United States dealt with a generation ago.

All of that makes what I’m about to say sound even crazier: China may one day be the world’s leader in combating climate change. In almost every way you cut it, China is already taking a much more aggressive approach toward climate change than the United States is.

This is important for two reasons. First, China is seeing the world’s fastest growth in energy consumption and in CO2 emissions. In the United States and Europe, by contrast, energy usage is nearly flat and CO2 emissions are down. So China’s policies exert a huge lever on future CO2 emissions. Second, one of the prime arguments against U.S. action on climate change has been that it doesn’t matter what the United States does if China isn’t on board.

Well, China already is on board in a number of ways that the United States isn’t. Consider the following:

1. China is launching a cap-and-trade plan.

In the United States, the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade plan fizzled in the Senate in 2009. In China, meanwhile, authorities have moved forward with pilot cap-and-trade systems covering seven regions, including the manufacturing hub provinces of Guangdong and Hubei, as well as the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, and Shenzhen. The first of those cap-and-trade systems, in Shenzhen, will start operation June 17. By 2020, the Chinese government plans to link those regional systems into a national carbon market. Just last month, the governments of China and Australia announced their intent to link the two countries’ carbon markets into a regional one.

2. China is also launching a carbon tax.

In March, the U.S. Senate unceremoniously voted down an amendment that would have opened the way to a carbon tax. Not so, China. Officials there have announced their intent to institute a tax on CO2 emissions, likely starting in 2015 or 2016.

3. China is investing more in renewable energy.
Not satisfied with those future plans? Consider the here-and-now. In 2012, the United States spent $35 billion on renewable energy—actually down 37 percent from $56 billion in 2011. China, meanwhile, spent a whopping $65 billion on renewable energy in 2012, or 85 percent more than the United States did in the same year.