28 May 2013

The Wages Of Self-Deception ***

This was a disaster waiting to happen. Deliberate and sustained falsification of realities led to the complacency that resulted in the Maoist massacre of May 25 


Police jawans paying 'Guard of Honour' to Chhattisgah Congress President Nand Kumar Patel and others at Jagdalpur a day after they were killed in a Maoists' attack

The Maoists are currently in a phase of tactical retreat, focusing on a reconsolidation of strengths, the enhancement of recruitment to the PLGA, the construction of alternative communication channels to prevent leakage of information, the intensification of propaganda through mass contacts, and escalating overground activities and protests... The state must not mistake the decline in intensity of violence as a destruction of capacity of the Maoists to engage in violence. 

Maoists: Tactical Retreat, March 11, 2013 

28 persons have been killed, and another 30 have been injured, some of them critically, in the latest swarming attack by cadres of the Communist Party of India— Maoist (CPI-Maoist), executed, on this occasion, in the Darbha Ghati region of the Sukma district in Chhattisgarh's ailing Bastar division. Those killed most prominently include Mahendra Karma, the controversial architect of the armed Salwa Judum anti-Maoist 'people's movement' in the state, which long received support from both the state government and from the centre, and was projected as a model for 'popular resistance' in other theatres afflicted by Maoist violence, till the strategy was excoriated by the Supreme Court for its indiscriminate violence and the violation of human rights, both of its victims and of its own uneducated, backward, often underage cadres. The Pradesh (State) Congress Committee chief, Nandkumar Patel, and his son, former Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Uday Mudaliyar, were also killed, as were eight security force (SF) personnel in the contingents guarding the political leaders. Several Congress party workers and three labourers were also killed in the improvised explosive device (IED) blast engineered by the Maoists, and in the subsequent crossfire. Former union minister Vidya Charan Shukla and Konta MLA Kawasi Lakhma were among the injured. The 84-year old Shukla is now in critical condition in a Gurgaon hospital. Most of the fatalities were inflicted after the personal guards of the various protected persons ran out of ammunition. In a telling gesture of contempt, the Maoists reportedly did not execute the policemen after the crossfire ended, and targeted their political victims alone.

Initial reports suggest that no special arrangement had been made for the Congress party's high profile political rally Parivartan Yatra (Trek for Change) through one of the worst afflicted regions of the Maoist heartland in Chhattisgarh, and that virtually every element of Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) had been violated by the 20 to 25 vehicle convoy, and by those inevitably responsible for its protection, including state police officials.

The centre has quickly deputed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate the debacle— another smokescreen that will help silence anxious inquiries, at least for a few days, while the nation awaits the NIA's learned prognostications.

In the interim, it is useful to turn attention to what is already known.

Unending menace of Naxalism

Time to meet the threat militarily

By Harsh V. Pant 

FINALLY, the Congress party is speaking in one voice. After sending mixed signals in the fight against Naxalism for years, the Congress has now been forced to come to terms with the reality that many had identified long back — the Maoists are fighting a war to the finish with the Indian State. And unless the Indian State can credibly demonstrate its ability to stand up to the threat being posed by the Naxalites, it is by no means certain that the Maoists will lose. The Maoists are not only targeting the nation's security forces but are also going after innocent civilians and the political class.

For some time now we have been hearing the government talking of Naxalism and Maoism in grave terms, labelling them as the greatest internal security threat facing the nation. Yet the policy response has not been up to the mark. It has been full of sound and fury signifying nothing. The United Progressive Alliance government in its first term failed to see the Naxalite threat for what it was — one of the most significant challenges facing India today. As a result, its response was a mixture of denial accommodation and neglect.

With the Left parties as coalition partners and an ineffective Shivraj Patil as the Home Minister, the government ended up worsening an already serious situation, giving ample opportunities to the Naxalites to demonstrate their might across an ever expanding swathe of territory called the “Red Corridor”. In the absence of leadership from New Delhi, the states decided to chart their own courses and their approaches ranged from offering amnesty to the raising of armed militias like the Salwa Judum.

Realising that the situation has got out of control, the UPA government in its second term had no option but to take the threat head on as the then Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, admitted in Parliament that the national security threat posed by the Maoists had been underestimated for the last few years. He launched Operation Green Hunt, the 100,000-troop-strong counter-offensive against the Maoists launched though it did not work as per the expectations of its planners.

Chidambaram's detractors were more interested in neutralising the Home Minister than in confronting the Maoists. Mr Digvijay Singh not only publicly questioned Mr Chidambaram's approach in tackling Naxalism but also attacked him for not knowing the terrain of the area. He openly demanded a rethink of the government's strategy of fighting Naxalism and accused Mr Chidambaram of “intellectual arrogance.” And his own remedy refused to move away from banalities: “We have to win over the people of the area…” One wonders where Mr Digvijay Singh is now when his party colleagues are labelling the Naxalite attack on Congress party workers a “holocaust”.

A winnable war

May 28 2013, 

But a democratic state cannot turn around the Maoist insurgency in two or three years 

A few days after a major and devastating attack on some of the most prominent political leaders in Chhattisgarh may not be the right moment to attempt a dispassionate review of the government's counter-insurgency strategy. Immediately after a traumatic event like the Darbha massacre, passions tend to run high and discussions tend to become irrational. Hence it was reassuring to note Jairam Ramesh's averment that there would be no immediate rethink on the government's two-pronged strategy of providing security and carrying out developmental activities. 

The state must have a plan of action for the short term, which would focus on containing the spread of the menace by resolute governance. It has to be prepared for the long haul in its quest to regain its democratically legitimate power in the areas currently under the control of the LWE forces. 

Not many details are available as of now. Some questions, however, can be answered on the basis of past data. The most significant among them is the question as to whether the attacks on political leaders indicate a new strategy of the Maoists. No, there have been past instances of attacks on politicians, notably in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. What happened on Saturday in Darbha was that the Maoists made use of an opportunity that was given to them on a platter. As stated in the document on "Strategy and Tactics" adopted in 2004, when the CPI (Maoist) was founded, "By following the tactics of sudden attack and annihilation, it is absolutely possible to defeat the enemy and achieve victory for the people in single battles." 

The second question that arises is whether there was an intelligence failure. It seems unlikely that the victims, who included high-value targets (for the Maoists), would have been unaware of the existential threat they faced. Specific intelligence regarding the gathering of a Maoist militia to attack them was not really required for the police to have been pro-active in such a context, but would certainly have been useful. Whether there was a failure of the human or technical intelligence mechanisms in place, or both, is something that can only be established by a departmental probe, not necessarily to find fault, but to learn lessons. 

The next question is whether there was a security failure. When and where specific intelligence is not available, security arrangements are made on the basis of threat perceptions and assessments. If it had been assessed that sufficient security for such a high-profile convoy could be provided by the PSOs escorting them, it was indeed a wrong assessment. The questions as to whether the PSOs were armed with appropriate weaponry, whether standard operating procedures like route sanitisation were carried out would need to be looked into. 

However, even if there were intelligence and security failures, it does not follow that the strategy being pursued by the state and Central governments is wrong. The Central government's response is based on the three-stage strategy of "clear, hold and develop" — counter-insurgency operations followed by re-establishment of civil administration and economic development. When the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved, in November 2010, the "Unified Action Plan" to develop areas affected by left-wing extremism (LWE) in nine states, the Central Committee of the CPI (Maoist) resolutely opposed it. The CC was understandably concerned that the government's development strategy would actually work. 


There is an urgent need to discuss the roots of strategy in the Indian context and to debate on the legal instruments required to make ‘strategy’ an effective term, writes Rudra Chaudhuri


In the March 2013 edition of The Economist, an article assertively argued that India’s “lack of strategic culture” was telling. Frustrated by what the article refers to as a “modest power,” its authors recommend thinking urgently about India’s “own destiny” and the “fate of its region”. Doing so, the authors suggest, can introduce India to the rank and file of “great powers”. To be sure, scholars, commentators and Indian practitioners have long argued that India needs a strategic culture, one which guides and directs its fortune. According to this line of argument, such guidelines ought to be articulated in an all-encompassing document. The National Security Strategy report published periodically in the United States of America is usually referred to as an exemplar of what such a scripture should look like. Indeed, the recent 20-day gridlock between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh and the heated debates over making allowances for prisoners accused of espionage and terrorism in both India and Pakistan have once again highlighted the need for greater strategic direction. 

The want for such direction appears to have mesmerized observers into thinking that well-chosen words printed on a government letterhead can push incumbents and their bureaucracies into spelling out a grand strategy for India. This is, in no small measure, a straw-man thesis. To think that India can be given a strategic culture or that a forced vocabulary can be produced to outline its aspirations and strategic choices is, in part, a self-defeating argument. Culture cannot be manufactured. Rather than harping on the need for written output there is a pressing requirement to first deliberate on and discuss the roots of strategy in an Indian context. Similarly, there is a dire need for debate on the legal instruments required to make ‘strategy’ an effective and well-meaning term. To be sure, the NSS document of the US was a product of an act of Congress passed in 1986. Two points are worth keeping in mind. 

First, there is much confusion over what strategic culture is. If one goes by The Economist’s reading, simply thinking “coherently about how to cope” ought to produce strategic culture. In turn, it is said to fill a void that its authors purport can help solve India’s problems with Pakistan and even the region. It cannot. In its simplest expression, strategic culture can be understood to mean “the sum total of ideas, conditioned emotional responses, and patterns of habitual behaviour”. This definition was constructed and used in the first recorded work on strategic culture (in 1977) authored by the American political scientist, Jack Snyder. Snyder’s aim was to unpick the roots of Soviet decision-making. It was necessarily a work that relied on history. 

Similarly, as pointed out by K. Subrahmanyam, unmasking an Indian strategic culture is directly dependent on “a sense of history, of recording, evaluating and assessing it”. If commentators and officials in the present milieu are serious about this much-abused term then rather than screaming about its invocation by way of a written script, they might train their attention on the urgent need to re-form the historical division in the Indian ministry of external affairs. 

Created at the behest of K.P.S. Menon, India’s first foreign secretary, the historical division was meant to explore the breaks and consistencies in the making of history and policy. In 1980, it became a part of the policy planning division and was closed altogether in the early 1990s. For a democracy as large and ambitious as India, it is simply unfathomable as to how strategic choices can be made minus the constant reference to cutting-edge historical research available in a moment’s notice. As Sarvepalli Gopal, who headed the division for over a decade starting in 1954, writes (in an inspiring and largely unpublished set of essays carefully chosen and edited by the historian, Srinath Raghavan): “If the compulsions of the present lead us to fresh awareness of the past, that knowledge in turn conditions our view of the present.” After all, as Gopal concludes, “the past is not all that has merely happened but what has survived to a later age, and perhaps still influences situations.” It is the essential ingredient in even beginning to think seriously about strategic culture. 

Syrian ripples reach India

May 28, 2013 

The Syrian situation is an advance warning of the armed Islamist extremism in the region with the long-term potential to adversely impact India 

The wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq reflect a common socio-political pattern — patchwork of ethno-religious tribal communities held in place by a hereditary central elite that’s progressively disintegrating under the impact of the Arab Spring. 

Syria has been devastated for over two years by an internal war that now resembles an uncontrollable street-corner gang war for control of territory with bystanders watching at their own peril. West-backed rebel forces, grouped into the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, are fighting the Russia-backed ruling Alawite elite led by President Bashar al-Assad. Also involved are Shia groups linked to Hezbollah that are backed by Iran and assorted Christian and Kurdish militias on the fringes, whose objectives cannot quite be deciphered yet.

Ironically, a militant Sunni Al-Nusra Front linked with Al Qaeda also supports some rebel factions, theoretically placing Al Qaeda and the West on the same side. The rebels appear to be gradually gaining the upper hand, but through the drifting smoke it can be discerned that irrespective of the domestic issues involved, the Syrian conflict has been subsumed into the broader pattern of the new rivalry rising between Russia and the United States that’s reminiscent of the Cold War. Russia has decided that its best interests lie in upholding the Assad regime and is providing its latest weaponry to the government forces. China does not have a visible presence in the Syrian conflict, but would, no doubt, be closely tracking events and assessing its own responses for future contingencies.

Meanwhile, the chief sufferers in this mindless conflict continue to be the local people as the situation drags on and deteriorates into a fratricidal war of insensate savagery.

Syria has never been one of the “most favoured nations” of the West, so it is no surprise that international media is generally partisan and favours the United States and their regional associates. There are hyped-up reports in the Western media of alleged chemical warfare that are being exploited to demonise

Mr Assad on a pattern identical with that of President Saddam Hussein in Iraq earlier.

Also, as in Iraq, the aim of the Western bloc in Syria is regime change — to replace Mr Assad with someone more favourable towards the West. Would Mr Assad also meet with a fate similar to Saddam Hussein if he, too, is ultimately overthrown by the Syrian rebel forces? For now, the answer to that question is blowing in the wind.

The situation has been superheated by violation of Syrian airspace by Israeli aircraft around the Damascus region, reportedly to interdict road consignments of surface-to-surface missiles in transit to Lebanon, and intended for Hezbollah.

The US has always been averse to any type of interaction with the Assad regime in Syria, though Israel, considered a cantankerous and abrasive protégé, has its own interests in maintaining back-channel contacts with Syria — to maintain peace along its border with Syria.
The studied silence by the US regarding the recent Israeli airstrikes on the missile convoy and the stereotypical calls for peace from the United Nations indicate tacit approval of Israel’s action because, in the larger context, it is seen as a deterrent response against the larger threat of militant Islam spreading across the Levant and North Africa.

Russia’s Three Red Lines for the Kudankulam N Plant

By Rajeev Sharma

Russia’s collaboration with India in the Indian civilian nuclear program is currently under test – a test by fire.

The Russians have been helping the Indians for over a decade in a multi-billion dollar nuclear project in Kudankulam for the Kudankulan Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in the Indian southern state of Tamil Nadu for well over a decade, a plant that is set to add several thousands of megawatts to the Indian nuclear energy basket.

The first unit of the KNPP should have been commissioned three years ago. But as has been happening with a lot of other Indo-Russian strategic ventures, the KNPP too has routinely missed deadlines after deadlines over the years.

KNPP’s first unit is ready for commissioning. But there is no word from the Indian stakeholders concerned when it would start generating power, and more importantly, when the KNPP power generation would be connected to the grid.

This is despite the recent green signal from the Indian Supreme Court which cleared all obstacles in a landmark judgment on 6 May, 2013. The Indian government, doubly sensitized in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in early 2011, has sent a word to all KNPP stakeholders not to worry about the deadlines and go for a fool-proof security and safety architecture of the plant. After all, it is a flagship project of the Indo-Russian collaboration in the civilian nuclear sector.

Three Red Lines

KNPP 1 is ready. All it is waiting for is a nod from the stakeholders for commissioning it. This nod has more political considerations than considerations of technocrats and bureaucrats. There is still some work to be done before the plant actually starts producing electricity.

The Russians cannot take it as a finished business till three things happen. One, the
people's protests should get over. Signals emanating from the plant site in southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are to the contrary.

The activists have vowed to intensify their agitation. M.Pushparayan of the People's Movement
Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and one of the prominent local leaders who have been spearheading the agitation against the Kudankulam plant, criticized the court judgment and said the agitation will continue. "It is a delayed and unjust judgment. It will not bind us and our protest against the project will continue," Pushpanarayan said, adding that 25 school children had submitted a petition to the Tirunelveli district collector to shut down the nuclear plant due to its "substandard" equipment.


India should join Pakistan in making money 

Writing on the wall - ASHOK V. DESAI

The general election in Pakistan has brought to power a government with zero investment in hostility towards India. Governments tend to be slow and conservative in their international relations; this is particularly true of the government under our present prime minister. But even he would see that the triumph of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz creates a favourable environment, and should ask himself how he can use the opportunity. 

A change in government does not change the people. Pakistan will continue to harbour people intent on spreading terror, murder and disorder in India. As long as they exist, the Indian government will continue to be cautious on movement of people. A more trivial step is difficult to imagine than visa-free movement of the very young and very old that was introduced some time ago; I doubt if a single person has crossed the borders under this concession. But this is the kind of action that government types come up with. One cannot expect any better of them. They may perhaps be prepared to make it easier for sick Pakistanis to come to India for treatment; it would have been very good, for example, if Malala had been able to come. Starting from there, they may be prepared to allow flows of professionals — doctors, engineers, scientists, economists etc — on medium-term visas. If they feel very brave, they may even allow some students. But that is the limit of what can be expected on movement of people. 

Goods, however, cannot hurt once they have been checked by bomb experts and customs men; services do not even have to be checked, though officials will want to police messages. Hence bolder action may be possible on trade. Here, the Indian government has a well-defined policy. It has made a negative list of a few hundred goods whose import it allows only with a licence; and it imposes absurdly high import duties on some agricultural goods, principally foodgrains. Both lists are irrelevant when it comes to South Asian countries. Except for Bangladeshi jute and Pakistani cotton, none of them produces anything in significant volumes that can compete with India; and Indian producers can live with South Asian competition even in these two commodities if the government would allow it. The time has come for introduction of what I call unilateral free trade: everything from South Asian countries should enter India duty-free. 

The government will still want to quibble about rules of origin: it would not allow other countries’ goods to jump our import restrictions by entering through a South Asian country. There are few goods that are entirely South Asian or entirely foreign. That means that the government would want to define what proportion of the value of a product must have been added in a South Asian country or, what comes to the same thing, what should be the maximum import content of a product if it is to enter India duty-free. It favours a low import content like 20 per cent; it should learn to be more liberal and allow, say, up to 50 per cent. Import content can be difficult to estimate since inputs into a product themselves may contain imports. But our customs men have centuries of experience in calculating import content. We have too many of them because import liberalization has reduced their work. A few hundred should be stationed in each of the neighbouring countries; and they should be given liberal travel allowances so that they would go to exporters’ factories and farms and do their calculations on the spot. Similarly, India should give visas to hundreds of customs men of neighbouring countries to come and police the value added in Indian exports. It would be stupid to give liberal visas to customs men and be stern with importers and exporters; the visa regime should be liberalized for them too, and for all producers. 

China displays its war preparedness

The Chinese perspective of raising tensions in Ladakh is not shaped by any altruistic motives of improving its positions on the border or lay claims to new areas. It is a well-planned strategic response aimed at coercion to prevent India from improving its strategic posture in the region. 

Brig Arun Sahgal (retd) 

IN 2009 the media was abuzz with revelations that China had replicated the whole of Aksai Chin and a large part of the disputed Indo-China border on a large-sized sand model equivalent to the size of six cricket fields, thousands of kilometres away in Huanyangton village near Yinchuan in the Ningxia Autonomous Region (Northern China). The fundamental question then and today remains the motivation for China to spend money and resources to replicate whole mountains, valleys and water bodies of the disputed area. This, in a sense, puts a question mark on China's peaceful intentions towards India. Satellite images show that China has replicated around 1,57,500 square kilometres on a map scale of 900x700 meters. This is about 500:1 ratio. 

What is more intriguing is the attachment of a military unit and an artillery firing range in the proximity of the terrain model. Satellite images obtained from Google-Earth suggest this to be a major facility to train PLA troops for operations in high altitude areas of the Ladakh Sector. The large scale model appears to indicate that it is not only for operational planning but also to familiarise both combat arms and combat support arms like artillery, combat engineers and communication experts with the terrain conditions prevailing in the region. The associated firing range indicates facilities for live firing to train for target engagement with various weapons systems in these high altitude conditions. 

The training is not at a platoon or company level but at the regiment (brigade) level. Today simulators and large sized electronic map boards are the preferred means for training, particularly in modern armies. What provoked China to replicate such a vast area remains unanswered. Probably China wants its troops to have a perception about the world's most tough terrain so that in case of a conflict situation with India, its troops can understand the terrain constraints and plan in realistic manner.

Pentagon’s view 

Despite increased political and economic relations over the years between China and India, tensions remain along their shared 4,057 km border, most notably over Arunachal Pradesh (which China asserts is part of Tibet, and therefore of China), and over the Aksai Chin region at the western end of the Tibetan Plateau. Both countries in 2009 stepped up efforts to assert their claims. China tried to block a $2.9 billion loan to India from the Asian Development Bank, claiming part of the loan would have been used for water projects in Arunachal Pradesh. This represented the first time China sought to influence this dispute through a multilateral institution. The then-governor of Arunachal Pradesh announced that India would deploy more troops and fighter jets to the area. An Indian newspaper reported that the number of Chinese border violations had risen from 180 in 2011 to more than 400 by September 2012. 

India can look to the Cold War for examples of creative diplomacy

By Robert M. Hathaway
May 28 2013


Li Keqiang, China's shiny new premier, has come and gone, and the commentariat is already looking toward Manmohan Singh's visit to Beijing later this year. Yet, troubling questions about China's intrusion into Ladakh last month linger. 

India was understandably aggrieved by China's surprise incursion. The move embarrassed the Singh government and was an affront to India's dignity. Indeed, given the almost non-existent strategic value of the territory temporarily occupied, some speculate this was its principal purpose. 

Reopening issues of risk management and reduction ought to be high on New Delhi's agenda for Manmohan Singh's trip to China later this year. 

New Delhi's response — it could have done no less — was to dispatch troops of its own, resulting in a potentially dangerous standoff that, through poor communication, faulty decision-making, or plain bad luck, could have escalated into a genuinely dangerous confrontation. Fortunately, prudence and common sense prevailed and both sides withdrew their forces, reverting to the status quo ante and clearing the way first for External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid's previously planned trip to Beijing, and last week, Li's visit to India. 

Singh's detractors criticise the prime minister for a timid response to Beijing's Ladakh intrusion. His supporters insist the resolution of the mini-crisis vindicates the low-key manner in which New Delhi handled the affair. Standing alongside Li, Singh noted that "existing mechanisms proved their worth" in connection with "the recent incident in the western sector." Perhaps, perhaps not — but they certainly didn't prevent the infiltration and its attendant risks in the first place. 

What the Chinese were up to in Ladakh remains unclear. To what extent the infiltration was sanctioned at the highest levels in Beijing and whether it presages further moves of a similar nature is also unclear. Until New Delhi receives satisfactory answers to these questions — and don't bet on that — Indian defence officials will remain on-edge. 

The matter of porous, disputed or ill-defined borders represents an ongoing challenge not only for India, but for many of its neighbours as well. That China is at the centre of many of these disputes has helped awaken anxieties across the region. In several instances, impartial observers have been astounded by the sweeping audacity of Beijing's claims, most notably in its South China Sea disputes with Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and others. 

Explanations for this Chinese assertiveness are varied. Some describe the disputes as routine geopolitical jockeying for regional pre-eminence. Others point to confirmed or anticipated oil and gas discoveries within the contested territories. Domestic politics and bureaucratic and budgetary competition within the opaque Chinese decision-making process are almost certainly part of the equation. Some analysts speak more darkly of an aggressive Chinese design to become the regional hegemon. The Chinese, of course, insist they are doing no more than reasserting traditional and legally valid claims over territories unjustly seized when China was too weak to defend its borders. 

Hillary Clinton, then US secretary of state, directly challenged China on its territorial ambitions during a meeting of regional leaders in Hanoi several years ago in a manner that shocked Beijing. China has done little to moderate its behaviour in any appreciable manner since then, but a number of the smaller Southeast Asian disputants were fortified by Clinton's strong words and encouraged to believe they had options other than simply backing down before Beijing's bullying. 

Scaling the great wall of symbolism

May 24, 2013 

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to India [ Images ] showed the impact of patient and persuasive diplomacy on both sides - but it's the outcome that will matter, says Nitin Pai

That sound you hear emanating from the direction of New Delhi [Images ] is a huge, collective sigh of relief.

First, from ordinary Delhiites, already irritated by the heat of the summer, who had to put up with traffic management and securitycordons for the Chinese premier's visit.

Second, from the entire foreign service establishment, on whose shoulders lay the unenviable task of ensuring that the visit took place in the manner it did, after a month-long crisis over boundary incursions in eastern Ladakh.

Third, from the Chinese delegation itself, which would not have wanted the new premier's maiden outing to be spoiled by diplomatic failures or untoward incidents.

The principal challenge for officials on both sides was to ensure that the India-China relationship builds on shared interests while managing the nagging, complex and proximate bilateral problems. Political leaders on both sides are sensitive to the fact that stable, amicable bilateral relations are crucial to their ability to navigate their manifold domestic and international challenges. They also know that they cannot overrule domestic stakeholders in their disputes with the other side. It requires sagacity, statesmanship and astute diplomacy to walk this tightrope. Some of this was visible in New Delhi this week.

Premier Li Keqiang got the "strategic consensus and deepened strategic trust" he wanted. As S Jaishankar, our ambassador to China, explained, this "both indicates... the long-term nature of the understandings between us and the enormity of the implications of what it is that we were discussing". Bilateral mechanisms exist, but it is people that make them work. Given that Li is likely to remain in his position for the next decade, it is important for him and his team to establish a working relationship with the Indian side.

For his part, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [ Images ], we are informed, took a hard position on the boundary incursions. The use of the words "candid" and "frank" to describe the official meetings supports this contention. So, too, the activation of the special representatives to meet promptly and sort out the matter. Essentially, the Indian government's audience here was the Indian public, which had been treated to a higher dose of the usual narrative of pusillanimity in recent months. How much this show satisfies the nation and its representatives in the media remains to be seen.

Afghanistan's Economic Hope

May 23, 2013 


The key to Afghanistan’s long-term stability is economic prosperity and development anchored in a secure and sound society. Sitting at the heart of the Eurasian continent, its prospects are important to the UK, China and India. Harnessing a common interest in Afghanistan’s economic future into an agenda could provide the foundations for a long-term solution to that nation’s intractable problems. 

Fellow BRICS members China and India do not see eye to eye on a number of issues. Longstanding border disputes plague the relationship and both have different views of Islamabad as a partner. Nevertheless, both share concerns about Afghanistan’s future and recognize the importance of stability in the country for broader regional peace. As a NATO power exiting militarily alongside the United States, the United Kingdom is eager to continue its aid program and other work with regional partners to develop a stable structure that guarantees Afghanistan does not return to its former state as a haven for terrorism and extremism. 

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Afghanistan may be sitting on mineral wealth worth around $1 trillion. Its potential lithium deposits have been described as having the potential to turn the country into the ‘Saudi Arabia of lithium’ while it is estimated to have some $421 billion’s worth of iron ore, and a further $273 billion in copper. In the north, Afghanistan sits atop the lower end of the hydrocarbon rich Amu Darya basin. But the ongoing security and governance problems mean that this untapped prosperity remains stuck underground. 

The threat of attack and uncertainty about post-2014 have meant that companies have been hesitant to proceed with investments. Security issues aside, problems with a lack of local-government capacity and a difficult business environment mean that while it is easy to get into Afghanistan, setting up shop is only the first hurdle. The result is an Afghanistan that cries out for investment and is unable to profit from its natural wealth. It is here that China and India could play a greater role. 

As regional powers with booming economies hungry for raw materials, they are exactly the consumer that would benefit from this mineral wealth. Currently, foreign direct investment into Afghanistan is dominated by Chinese and Indian state-owned enterprises (SOEs). There is MCC, Jiangxi Copper (owners of the Mes Aynak copper mine) and CNPC (responsible for an oil project in Amu Darya), all Chinese SOEs, and SAIL-AFISCO (majority owner of the Hajigak iron ore mine), an Indian firm. 

As SOEs, the firms are better able to take on large projects: governments have greater ability to influence company direction and harness it for Afghanistan’s long-term benefit. The key is to get firms to invest in both the project and the country. 

Japan the Model

May 23, 2013


A generation ago, Japan was widely admired — and feared — as an economic paragon. Business best sellers put samurai warriors on their covers, promising to teach you the secrets of Japanese management; thrillers by the likes of Michael Crichton portrayed Japanese corporations as unstoppable juggernauts rapidly consolidating their domination of world markets. 

Then Japan fell into a seemingly endless slump, and most of the world lost interest. The main exceptions were a relative handful of economists, a group that happened to include Ben Bernanke, now the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and yours truly. These Japan-obsessed economists viewed the island nation’s economic troubles, not as a demonstration of Japanese incompetence, but as an omen for all of us. If one big, wealthy, politically stable country could stumble so badly, they wondered, couldn’t much the same thing happen to other such countries? 

Sure enough, it both could and did. These days we are, in economic terms, all Japanese — which is why the ongoing economic experiment in the country that started it all is so important, not just for Japan, but for the world. 

In a sense, the really remarkable thing about “Abenomics” — the sharp turn toward monetary and fiscal stimulus adopted by the government of Prime Minster Shinzo Abe — is that nobody else in the advanced world is trying anything similar. In fact, the Western world seems overtaken by economic defeatism. 

In America, for example, there are still more than four times as many long-term unemployed workers as there were before the economic crisis, but Republicans only seem to want to talk about fake scandals. And, to be fair, it has also been a long time since President Obama said anything forceful publicly about job creation. 

Still, at least we’re growing. Europe’s economy is back in recession, and it has actually grown a bit less over the past six years than it did between 1929 and 1935; meanwhile, it keeps hitting new highs for unemployment. Yet there is no hint of a major change in policy. At best, we may be looking at a slight relaxation of the savage austerity programs Brussels and Berlin are imposing on debtor nations. 

It would be easy for Japanese officials to make the same excuses for inaction that we hear all around the North Atlantic: they are hamstrung by a rapidly aging population; the economy is weighed down by structural problems (and Japan’s structural problems, especially its discrimination against women, are legendary); debt is too high (far higher, as a share of the economy, than that of Greece). And in the past, Japanese officials have, indeed, been very fond of making such excuses. 

Sweden: reading the riots

Sweden's centre-right coalition leaders should resist the temptation of undoing decades of enlightened social policy 

26 May 2013

Reading the Riots – the Guardian's study of four nights of looting and arson which left five dead and 2,000 arrested in London and other UK cities two years ago – was an extensive exercise in data journalism, with 1.3m words of first-person accounts collected. The study found that widespread anger at the way police engage with communities was a significant cause. Gangs were not at the heart of the summer riots, as David Cameron had claimed at the time. Much of the looting was down to simple opportunism.

So, when another European country is hit by a week of rioting, as Sweden has been, it should not come as a surprise that there is not so much a rush to judgment as a stampede. With more than a little schadenfreude, Sweden's reputation for equality, its relaxed immigration policy and generous asylum system have all been placed in the dock. The "Nordic model" of progressive politics, low unemployment and a generous social safety net appears to have been singed in the flames.

Modern Sweden is certainly under pressure, and not just from those who think it is fun to throw rocks at firemen and set cars, schools and police stations ablaze. About £14bn of tax cuts have been introduced since 2006, inevitably squeezing the welfare state. Homelessness has quadrupled. A Save the Children report in 2010 found that 12% of children in Sweden were living in poverty, and children from immigrant families or with a lone parent were the most vulnerable. The OECD said that inequality is growing faster in Sweden than in any other developed nation. Inequality drives segregation, particularly for immigrants. The unemployment rate for Swedish-born people is one-third of that for immigrants. Those born outside Sweden are 15% of the country's population but 35% of its unemployed.

Shaken by the success of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, who in 2010 got enough votes to enter parliament for the first time, Fredrik Reinfeldt's governing centre-right Moderate party has been banging the immigration drum. In February, migration minister Tobias Billström said that current immigration levels were unsustainable.

Sweden's centre-right coalition leaders should resist the temptation of undoing decades of enlightened social policy. Instead they should ask themselves some humbler, lower-order questions about how the riots in Husby spread to cities around the country. Why did relations between the immigrant population and the police break down to the extent they have? What worked for the asylum seekers of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s that has stopped working now for Somalis and north Africans? These need to be openly debated and honestly answered. Sweden needs to read its own riots with care.

Swedish Multiculturalism Goes Awry

May 24, 2013

Hundreds of Muslim immigrants have rampaged through parts of the Swedish capital of Stockholm, torching cars and buses, setting fires, and hurling rocks at police. 

The unrest -- a predictable consequence of Sweden's failed model of multiculturalism, which does not encourage Muslim immigrants to assimilate or integrate into Swedish society -- is an ominous sign of things to come.

The trouble began after police fatally shot an elderly man brandishing a machete in a Muslim-majority neighborhood. Although the exact circumstances of the May 13 incident remain unclear, police say they shot the 69-year-old man (his nationality has not been disclosed) in self-defense after he allegedly threatened them with the weapon. 

Two days later, on May 15, a Muslim youth organization called Megafonen arranged a protest against alleged police brutality and demanded an independent investigation and a public apology. 

On May 19, Muslim youths initiated a riot in Husby, a heavily Muslim suburb in the western part of Stockholm where more than 80% of the residents originate from Africa and the Middle East. 

At least 100 masked Muslim youths set fire to cars and buildings, smashed windows, vandalized property and hurled rocks and bottles at police and rescue services in Husby. The riots quickly spread to at least 15 other parts of Stockholm, including the districts of Fittja, Hagsätra, Kista, Jakobsberg, Norsborg, Skaerholmen, Skogås and Vaarberg. 

After two nights of spiraling violence, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt appealed for calm, condemning the riots as hooliganism. But his plea ("Everyone must pitch in to restore calm -- parents, adults") failed to prevent more nights of unrest, during which Muslim youth set fire to two schools, a police station, a restaurant, and a cultural center, and burned more than 50 cars and buses. 

The unrest -- which has many parallels to the Muslim riots that occurred in France in 2005 -- has shocked Swedes who have long turned a blind eye to immigration policies that have encouraged the establishment of a parallel Muslim society in Sweden. 

Although there are no official statistics of Muslims in Sweden, the US State Department reported in 2011 that there are now between 450,000 and 500,000 Muslims in the country, or about 5% of the total population of 9.5 million. 

Muslim immigration to Sweden has been fostered by open-door asylum policies that are among the most generous in the world. 

During the early 1990s, for example, Sweden granted asylum to nearly 100,000 refugees fleeing the wars in the Balkans. Sweden has also been a magnet for refugees from Iraq; as a result of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the Gulf War (1990-1991) and the Iraq War (2003-2011), there are now more than 120,000 Iraqis living in Sweden. In fact, Iraqis (both Christians and Muslims) now make up the second-largest ethnic minority group in Sweden, second only to ethnic Finns. 

More recently, Sweden has granted asylum to thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria, as well as from Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Yemen. 

The War for the Arab World

Sunni-Shiite hatreds are the least of the Middle East's problems -- it's the struggle within the Sunni world that will define the region for years to come. 

MAY 23, 2013 

A video of a rebel commander eating the lung of an enemy fighter and the horrific scenes of children massacred by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are only a few of Syria's ever-growing catalog of atrocities. This stuff of nightmares has raised fears that Syria's civil war is spreading Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict across the Middle East -- fears galvanized by the escalating body count in Iraq, the dismal standoff in Bahrain, and the seemingly uncontainable tensions in Lebanon. 

Many now see this sectarianism as the new master narrative rewriting regional politics, with Syria the frontline of a sectarian cold war permeating every corner of public life. The Sunni-Shiite divide, argues Brookings Institution fellow Geneive Abdo in a report released last month, "is well on its way to displacing the broader conflict between Muslims and the West ... and likely to supplant the Palestinian occupation as the central mobilizing factor for Arab political life." 

Perhaps. But think about how little deep Arab sympathy for the Palestinian cause has actually produced effective or unified Arab official action in its support. Will Sunni solidarity be any more effective? 

The sectarian master narrative obscures rather than reveals the most important lines of conflict in the emerging Middle East. The coming era will be defined by competition between (mostly Sunni) domestic contenders for power in radically uncertain transitional countries, and (mostly Sunni) pretenders to the mantle of regional Arab leadership. Anti-Shiism no more guarantees Sunni unity than pan-Arabism delivered Arab unity in the 1950s. Indeed, if the vicious infighting among Arab regimes during Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's years is any guide, the competition between "Sunni" regimes and political movements is likely to grow even more intense as the sectarian narrative takes hold. 

That certainly seems to be the story thus far. Sunni identity is hardly unifying Egypt, Libya, or Tunisia -- just look at the raucous political debates occurring in each of these countries. The rise of Islamist movements since the Arab uprisings, especially the public emergence of Salafi trends with noxiously anti-Shiite prejudices, has certainly introduced a new edge to the region's sectarianism. But that's nothing compared to how it has affected intra-Sunni politics. Muslim Brothers and Salafis are at each other's throats in Egypt, while Tunisia's Ennahda Party has just cracked down hard on its own Salafi challengers. 

Islamist governments in Egypt and Tunisia have also divided the Arab Sunni world more profoundly than they have united it, antagonizing Saudis and Emiratis rather than unifying them around a Sunni identity. Newly open political arenas, like the war in Syria, have provided new opportunities for the region's would-be leaders to compete with each other. Qatar similarly faces a fierce Saudi and Emirati-driven backlash despite their common Sunni identity, partly because of its alleged support for the Brotherhood, but mostly due to the long-standing competition for power between these Arab Gulf states. 

The sectarian narrative radically exaggerates both the coherence of the "Sunni" side of the conflict and the novelty of a long-standing power struggle with Iran. It is better understood as a justification for domestic repression and regional power plays than as an explanation for Middle Eastern regimes' behavior. Arab autocrats, particularly those in the Gulf with significant Shia populations, find Sunni-Shiite tensions a useful way to delegitimize the political demands of their Shiite citizens. Shiite citizens of Saudi Arabia in the kingdom's Eastern Province and the Shiite majority of Bahrain who attempt to protest their systematic dispossession are demonized as an Iranian fifth column because this is useful to the ruling regimes. 

Tell Me How This Ends

May 21, 2013


SANLIURFA, Turkey — I’ve been traveling to Yemen, Syria and Turkey to film a documentary on how environmental stresses contributed to the Arab awakening. As I looked back on the trip, it occurred to me that three of our main characters — the leaders of the two Yemeni villages that have been fighting over a single water well and the leader of the Free Syrian Army in Raqqa Province, whose cotton farm was wiped out by drought — have 36 children among them: 10, 10 and 16. 

It is why you can’t come away from a journey like this without wondering not just who will rule in these countries but how will anyone rule in these countries? 

Of course, we should hope for those with sincere democratic aspirations to prevail, but clearly theirs is not the only vision being put on the table. These aspiring democrats are having to compete with Islamist, sectarian and tribal opposition groups, which also have deep roots in these societies. But no matter which trend triumphs, the real issue here is whether 50 years of population explosion, environmental mismanagement and educational stagnation have made some of these countries ungovernable by any group or ideology. 

In Egypt, Yemen or Syria, it is common to see primary-school classes of 60 to 70 kids with one undertrained teacher, no computers and no science instruction. How are the 36 kids whose three fathers I met going to have a chance in a world where not only are robots replacing manual blue-collar workers but software is increasingly replacing routine white-collar jobs — and where some of them can’t go back to the family farm because the water and topsoil have been depleted? 

And then I go across the Turkish border to Tel Abyad, in northeastern Syria, and I see broken buildings, electricity lines on the ground, half-finished homes and a gaping hole in a grain storage tower, and I think: Not only are they behind, but this war is still destroying what little they have left. They are in a hole and still digging. 

The only way for these countries to catch up is by people uniting to mobilize all their strength. It is for Sunnis, Christians and Alawites in Syria to work together; for the tribes in Yemen and Libya to work together; for the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and liberals in Egypt to do so as well, particularly in implementing the proposed International Monetary Fund economic reforms. In today’s globalized world, you fall behind faster than ever if you are not building the education, infrastructure and economic foundation to take advantage of this world — but you catch up faster if you do. 

But to pull together requires trust — that intangible thing that says you can rule over me even though you come from a different tribe, sect or political party — and that is what is missing here. In the absence of any Nelson Mandela-like leaders able and eager to build trust, I don’t see how any of these awakenings succeed. I keep thinking about the Free Syrian Army commander, whom I quoted on Sunday, introducing me to his leadership team: “My nephew, my cousin, my brother, my cousin, my nephew, my son, my cousin ...” What does that tell you? 

We can only properly answer the question — should we be arming the Syrian rebels? — if we first answer what kind of Syria do we want to see emerge and what will it take, beyond arms, to get there? 

The London Terror Attack Was More Than 'Unforgivable'

Britain has been in denial about the Islamist threat. Time to face it down.


How many ignored warnings does it take? That is one question that should hang over Britain after the horror of the daytime murder of a British soldier on the streets of south London. On Wednesday afternoon, Drummer Lee Rigby was killed in Woolwich by two men wielding large knives and shouting "Allahu akbar"—God is great. 

Islamists have been saying for years they would do this. They have planned to do it. And now they have done it. 

WSJ Europe editorial writer Ray Zhong on the alleged terror attack in London Wednesday, and what it says about the wider war on terrorism. 

The attack itself is not surprising. What is surprising is that British society remains so utterly unwilling not just to deal with this threat, but even to admit its existence. Politicians have called the Woolwich killing "unforgivable" and "barbarous." But expressions of anger should not really be enough. 

Attempts to attack military targets in Britain go back to before the millennium and even before, it is important to note, the war on terror. In 1998 Amer Mirza, a member of the now-banned extremist group al Muhajiroun, attempted to petrol-bomb British army barracks. In 2007, a cell of Muslim men was found guilty of plotting to kidnap and behead a British soldier in Birmingham. The plan had been to take the soldier to a lock-up garage and cut off his head "like a pig." They wanted to film this act on camera and send it around the world to cause maximum terror. 

In 2009, al Muhajiroun protested at a homecoming parade in Luton for British troops returning from Afghanistan. Carrying banners saying "go to hell," "butchers" and "terrorists," the group was protected by British police officers from an increasingly irate crowd of locals. The resulting outrage toward the police gave rise to the deeply troubling English Defence League, a street protest movement that often turns violent. 
National News/Zuma Press 

Police in Woolwich, south London, after Wednesday's attack. 

Now comes the attack in Woolwich, which the perpetrators—as with the earlier cell—wished to be observed and even filmed. Reports suggest that they invited people to capture their actions on video. The perpetrators gave interviews, machetes in hand, to bystanders with cameras. This horrific scene is something that will stick in the memory. 

40 days after Boston bombing: we must stop radical jihad

We must stop trying to make excuses for the Tsarnaev brothers or jihad. It is wrong. Let's support peaceful Muslims around world 

25 May 2013 


The Boston Marathon bombing poses searching questions for counter-terrorism agencies across the world. 

In many Muslim societies, the 40th day after a death is a time to gather and grieve again with loved ones. So, in honor of this the 40th day after the atrocities in Boston, I find myself thinking again about the 264 injured people, some of whom are learning to live without their legs, and about the dead victims: 23-year-old Chinese graduate student Lingzi Lu, who had just passed her exams, friendly 29-year-old waitress Krystle Campbell, and eight year-old Martin Richard who famously carried a sign that said "No more hurting people. Peace."

Bearing such losses in mind, I would ask anyone who wants to support the rights of people of Muslim heritage in the United States in the wake of the Boston bombings, please do not so by explaining that jihadist terrorism is simply a response to US foreign policy, or a consequence of the alleged difficulties faced by Muslim youth in integrating into American culture, or the result of Russian bombing of Chechnya. 

Many of us have criticisms of US foreign policy and that of other countries; integrating may indeed be challenging for those from immigrant backgrounds in many contexts; and Chechens did suffer through the intolerable flattening of their country by the Russian military between 1992 and 2009. (As far as I know the United States never bombed the province.) However, most Muslims, immigrants and Chechens have not become terrorists as a result. These things are no excuse for – or even explanation of – the choice to deliberately murder children and young people at a sporting event. Such a grave international crime has nothing to do with legitimate grievances and everything to do with extremist ideology and movements that indoctrinate and instrumentalize young people. We must defeat those movements which have killed so many civilians, especially in Muslim majority countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq and Pakistan.

I have just wrapped up three years of interviewing hundreds of people of Muslim heritage working against fundamentalism and terrorism around the world, and I learned many lessons from them that are helpful today. For example, Cherifa Kheddar, president of Algeria's Association of Victims of Islamist Terrorism, or Djazairouna, who wrote right after 15 April to say how terrible the Boston bombings were. She told me that 

"We cannot defeat terrorism by an anti-terrorist battle without doing the anti-fundamentalist battle."