12 June 2013

Geopolitical Journey: Azerbaijan and America

By George Friedman 
JUNE 11, 2013 


There is a point where three great powers -- Russia, Turkey and Persia -- meet: the Caucasus. At the moment they converge in a country called Azerbaijan. That fact makes Azerbaijan a battleground for these three great powers, which have competed with each other along various borders for centuries. Until 1991 Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union, as was the rest of the South Caucasus. But as the Russian border moved north, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan were once more unveiled by history. Of the three, Azerbaijan won the geopolitical prize of bordering the three great regional powers. 

It also emerged as a major energy producer. At the end of the 19th century, half of the oil in the world was produced in Azerbaijan, whose oil fields around the capital, Baku, were developed by the Nobel brothers, famed for dynamite and prizes. This is where they made their fortune. I had the pleasure of dining at their mansion a few years ago, a guest of government officials. Whatever others might have thought in that elegant house, I thought of Hitler urgently trying to reach Baku and its oil, and the fact that his disaster at Stalingrad was actually part of his attempt to seize Azerbaijan's oil fields. Azerbaijan was once the prize of empire. It is now independent in a very dangerous place. 

The United States: An Adolescent Global Power

I have visited Azerbaijan several times since 2008, when I published a book called The Next 100 Years, which identified Azerbaijan as geopolitically critical in the emerging global system. This brought with it an invitation to visit Azerbaijan and see the place on which my theory focused. Since I continue to regard Azerbaijan as critical both in the struggle emerging in the Caucasus and to the United States, I continue to visit and continue to enjoy dinners that never end and rounds of toasts that test my liver. But I never forget one thing: Hitler risked everything to get to Baku and its oil. He failed to reach it, and the history of our time turns on that fact. 

My latest trip had to do with a conference on U.S.-Azerbaijani relations. There are a small number of people in the United States who care about Azerbaijan and most of them were there, along with some congressmen, state representatives and a large numbers of Azeris. Compared with my first encounter with Azerbaijan, the number of people interested in the country has risen dramatically. 

Conferences on subjects like this are global. You can be in Washington, Singapore or Baku and it all looks the same. When you are in my business, you meet the same people several times a year. Sometimes they have something new to say; sometimes I have something new to say. It is too infrequent. What is interesting is the people you don't normally meet: the local academics, government officials, businessmen and others. Over time you create a group of friends in the countries you visit. These are the ones from whom you learn the most. And in Azerbaijan, you listen to their desire to be friends with the United States and bewilderment at American indifference. 

India's Feeble Foreign Policy

A Would-Be Great Power Resists Its Own Rise 

Independence Day celebrations in the southern Indian city of Chennai August 15, 2012. (Courtesy Reuters) 

For the last decade, few trends have captured the world’s attention as much as the so-called rise of the rest, the spectacular economic and political emergence of powers such as China and India. Particularly in the United States, India watchers point to the country’s large and rapidly expanding economy, its huge population, and its nuclear weapons as signs of its imminent greatness. Other observers fret about the pace of India’s rise, asking whether New Delhi is living up to its potential, whether the country’s shoddy infrastructure will hold it back, and whether it is strong enough to counter an increasingly ambitious China. All of this frenzied discussion, however, overlooks a simple fact: within India itself, the foreign policy elite shies away from any talk of the country’s rising status. As a senior official who has worked on India’s relations with Western countries recently told me, “There is a hysterical sense, encouraged by the West, about India’s rise.” A top-level official in India’s foreign ministry echoed the sentiment: “When do we Indians talk about it? We don’t.” 

What explains this discrepancy? As I found through a series of interviews with senior officials in the Indian government, many of whom requested anonymity, it is a result of three important facts that have gone largely unnoticed in the West. First, New Delhi’s foreign policy decisions are often highly individualistic -- the province of senior officials responsible for particular policy areas, not strategic planners at the top. As a result, India rarely engages in long-term thinking about its foreign policy goals, which prevents it from spelling out the role it aims to play in global affairs. Second, Indian foreign-policy makers are insulated from outside influences, such as think tanks, which in other countries reinforce a government’s sense of its place in the world. Third, the Indian elite fears that the notion of the country’s rise is a Western construct, which has unrealistically raised expectations for both Indian economic growth and the country’s international commitments. As one senior official with experience in the prime minister’s office said, the West’s labeling of India as a rising power is “a rope to hang ourselves.” By contrast, Chinese political leaders and intellectuals pay a great deal of attention to the international hype surrounding their country’s emergence, and Chinese think tanks and media outlets regularly try to shape and respond to this discourse. 

India’s discomfort with being labeled a rising power should lower Washington’s ambitions for its partnership with New Delhi. India can be convinced to play an international role in areas where its narrow interests are at stake, but it will not respond positively to abstract calls for it to assume more global responsibility. 


By and large, three bodies in the Indian government work together to make foreign policy: the prime minister’s office; the National Security Council, led by a powerful national security adviser; and the foreign ministry. The prime minister’s office is seen as the ultimate seat of authority, and other foreign-policy makers jockey to move closer to it. One factor, however, cuts across all three bodies. All three offices and their top positions are filled by Indian Foreign Service officers. Understanding the structure of the foreign service and the role of its officers is essential to explaining why the rise of India garners more attention in New York than it does in New Delhi. 

The Indian civil service was created by the British government in the nineteenth century to help administer its vast colonial empire. Known as “the steel frame” of British rule on the subcontinent, the civil service was retained by India after it won its independence in 1947. The service remains highly prestigious today: new officers are selected through a competitive civil-service exam and sorted into the various branches based on their rank. The foreign service stands out as one of India’s most elite institutions, reportedly accepting recruits at a rate of only 0.01 percent. Unlike the diplomatic corps in China, for example, in which officers are recruited according to need, a fixed number of Indians are admitted into the foreign service each year. And unlike in the United States, in India, the most significant ambassadorial and foreign policy jobs are usually filled by career civil servants rather than political appointees. 

India’s Strategic Failure in Central Asia

By Stephen Blank
June 11, 2013 

As Western forces depart the region, New Delhi will need to act to translate potential into reality.

India’s political, cultural, and historical ties to Central Asia date back to antiquity. But contemporary circumstances, namely the quest for energy and the threat of terrorism, have imparted a new urgency, adding strategic realities to historical tradition. Indeed, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has said that India’s energy requirements are growing at a “terrifying pace.” Consequently, India’s government recently announced that it refuses to lay down a quota for importing oil (and presumably gas) from any country, including Iran. Instead, India will buy oil (and, again, presumably gas if not other energy sources) from wherever “it gets the best deal.” In this context it is even looking at the Arctic for energy sources. Not surprisingly in this context the Caspian basin is seen as an “important source” of hydrocarbons and ONGC is buying an 8.42% share of Conoco Phillips’ holidngs in Kazakhstan. It also is buying equity (albeit modest) in Azeri fields around the Caspian. 

Yet despite the urgency for India, if not Central Asia, of strengthening those ties, India is failing to keep pace with its rivals, particularly China. New Delhi knows this to be true as does every analyst who observes its efforts in Central Asia. For example, despite the importance of the so-called TAPI pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India, no international firm is ready to finance the project. This failure occurs even though the U.S. supports an expanded Indian role in Central Asia, and the American presence vastly enlarges the political, economic and military space available to India. Indeed, Washington’s presence allows India to play, or at least aspire to, a greater Central Asian role than it could achieve on its own. Washington also counts on New Delhi playing an expanded role in Afghanistan and Central Asia as its troops depart Afghanistan. 

While India plays a large role in Afghanistan, focused principally on building human capital and physical infrastructure, improving security, and helping the agricultural and other important sectors of the country’s economy, it nevertheless continues to lag China and Russia. India’s difficulties in Central Asia also confirm that, unlike Russia, China sees India as not just an obstacle in its own right, but as a U.S. stalking horse and continues to obstruct Indian efforts to enhance its presence in Central Asia. As we approach 2014 it seems clear that absent that U.S. role (and despite Russian support), China and Pakistan will probably succeed in checking India’s ability to project meaningful economic or military power into the region, including its ability to negotiate contracts for energy supplies. 

Yet India certainly cannot depend on Russia to advance its Central Asian interests. Indeed, according to U.S. experts, India’s effort to refurbish and maintain an air base at Ayni in Tajikistan was quashed when the Tajik government told India that Moscow opposed any foreign bases there regardless of whom they belonged to. 

India clearly needs a partner to be effective in Central Asia, while China does not, and China intends to exploit that advantage for as long as possible. Certainly China has far outpaced India to date throughout the region, regarding both energy acquisitions and the building of a long-distance transportation, trade and infrastructure network despite India’s rising wealth and power. China’s ability to compete successfully against India is visible in its accelerating consolidation of its own version of the Silk Road. Neither is this rivalry occurring only in Central Asia. The same process took place in the Sino-Indian competition that China won for a gas pipeline from Bangladesh and Myanmar to China rather than India. And Indian analysts worry with good reason about China’s increasing presence in the smaller countries of South Asia. 

Nuclear Energy: Infeasibility and Unimportance

By M.V. Ramana

Program on Science and Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University 

In January 2013, speaking at a function to honour nuclear scientists, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserted, “Nuclear energy will remain an essential and increasingly important element of our energy mix.” The PM did not specify what essential means or how important it is going to become. Nevertheless, an examination of the history of nuclear energy in India suggests what is likely.

Let us start with whether nuclear power is essential. The current nuclear capacity in the country - more than sixty years after the atomic energy programme was established - is just 4.78 GW, about 2.3 percent of the total generation capacity, hardly a level to befit the term essential. Currently, about 5.3 GW of new capacity is under construction. In stark contrast, the renewable generation capacity is currently over 27 GW. Less striking, but more significant, is the fact that despite being subject to natural intermittency, renewables generated roughly twice as much electricity than nuclear power in the last year.

How about the long term? The book, The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India, enunciates several reasons why nuclear power’s share is likely to remain at the level of a few percent for decades.

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has a long history of making ambitious projections, none of which have been fulfilled despite extravagant budgets. In 1970, for example, they projected that by the year 2000 there would be 43.5 GW; whereas, the actual installed capacity was only 2.72 GW. The trend has continued. During the debates over the US-India nuclear deal, as a way to assert its importance, the DAE projected a figure of 470 GW by about 2050. Given the appalling history of the DAE’s inability to meet targets it set itself, such claims are implausible.

Technically, the DAE is unlikely to achieve these targets because its plans involve constructing hundreds of fast breeder reactors - the much-touted three stage nuclear programme. In the early decades of nuclear power, many countries pursued breeder programmes, but practically all of them have given up because breeder reactors have proven to be unsafe and uneconomical. The DAE has simply not absorbed this lesson, and shows a lack of organisational learning.

In addition, the DAE’s projections have not properly accounted for the future availability of plutonium, because its calculations do not include the lag between the time a certain amount of plutonium is committed to a breeder reactor and when it is recovered in sufficient quantities from spent fuel to allow for refuelling the same reactor and contributing to the start-up fuel for a new breeder reactor. These problems with the projected growth rates are not due to differences in assumptions, but in scientific impossibilities. In addition, the DAE has adopted various unrealistic assumptions in its plutonium calculations.

The DAE’s Plan B, which became enabled by the US-India deal, is to shift to imported light water reactors, from Russia, France, and the US. Unfortunately for it, these reactors, especially the ones from France and the US, are incredibly expensive and would make nuclear electricity even more uncompetitive than it already is. For example, the cost of the six proposed EPR reactors at the Jaitapur site might be upwards of Rs. 3 lakh crores. Electricity from such reactors would cost up to Rs. 15 per unit. Even if a few such projects are commissioned, to satisfy geo-strategic calculations, it cannot be sustained if nuclear power were to become a major source of electricity in the country.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group at the Crossroads

By Daniel Painter 
June 10, 2013 

The Group needs to adhere to its principles, if its role in nonproliferation is to continue. 

Members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will meet in Prague this month for the group’s annual plenary meeting. At the top of this year’s agenda will be the completion of the first-ever comprehensive review of the NSG’s export control lists. This is a priority for the group given the complex and expanding landscape of global nuclear commerce and the associated proliferation risks. There are, however, two other issues looming over the NSG – India’s bid for membership and China’s continued flouting of the export guidelines. These issues have significant implications for the credibility of the NSG and its ability to support non-proliferation norms and international security. 

The NSG’s Background 

The NSG was established in 1975 to supplement the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by addressing nuclear commerce. The need for it became clear when the NPT, which was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970, failed to prevent India from conducting a “peaceful nuclear explosion.” 

With the goal of preventing the spread of nuclear technology proliferation, seven nuclear supplier states established the NSG. It has since grown to include 47 participating governments (PGs) and has become the principle multilateral export control body for nuclear-related trade. Prospective members are evaluated on several factors and admission must be agreed on by all PGs. One inflexible criterion in this determination has been the adherence to the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty – effectively barring any non-NPT nuclear weapon state. 

India’s Prospective Membership 

India is not a party to the NPT. It could not become a nuclear-weapon state under the treaty, which limited admission to the nuclear club to the five states that tested before 1967. By testing after that date and by continuing to pursue nuclear weapons rather than accede to the NPT, India has long been a nuclear outlier. As such, it has been kept outside of the NSG and until recently barred from international nuclear commerce. While it has expressed interest in joining the NSG, New Delhi is waiting for broad international support before formally applying to the group. 

Such support appears to be gaining momentum. During a state visit to India in November 2010, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would back India’s membership in the NSG, as well as the other multilateral export control regimes: the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australian Group, and the Wassanaar Arrangement. Several other countries have since echoed their support, especially those hoping to profit from India’s nuclear market. 

This support is derived from the U.S.-led effort over the last few years to incorporate India into the global nuclear order. The watershed event in this process occurred in 2008, when the NSG issued an India-specific waiver allowing it to engage in nuclear trade. India has since signed civilian nuclear cooperation agreements with the U.S., UK, France, Canada, Argentina, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Namibia, and South Korea. 

The Indian way? No way

By Dinesh Thakur 
June 12, 2013 

The national culture of unquestioned obedience to authority along with an acceptance of shoddiness must not be used as an excuse to overlook violations of corporate ethics, says the Ranbaxy whistle-blower 

During my tenure at Ranbaxy, I was surprised by the unchallenged conformity to the poor decisions of senior leadership. Ranbaxy was my first Indian employer following my tenure at two different American corporations. Reflecting on this experience from cultural and comparative perspectives highlights the organizational peril of such behaviour. 

It is in our culture to respect authority. We are taught from childhood to listen and obey our elders. We grow up with the notion that our managers, the function heads and business heads within our respective organisations, know more than anyone else. Hierarchy is revered, authority is seldom questioned. Those who dare to ask questions are renegades. 

Asking questions 

My investigation into the discrepancies between Ranbaxy’s records and the data filed with regulatory agencies in 2004 showed me how wide the questionable behaviour was within the organisation. It was systematic. It had penetrated the DNA of the organisation. 

I often asked myself how was it that smart, well-intentioned people tolerated systematic fraudulent behaviour? This question led me to the Milgram Experiment, which was conducted by the Yale University psychologist, Stanley Milgram, in 1961. In the 1971 paper summarising its results, he stated: 

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority. 

Why is this important? In my view, as much as we value and respect our traditions, it is imperative that we not lose sight that being a “renegade” — a nonconformist — is acceptable when motivated by honourable intentions. It is acceptable to think that managers possess neither omniscience nor omnipotence. Our colleagues who are at the lowest rung of the corporate ladder sometimes know more than we do about an issue. It is important to encourage them to question authority, even if we find it uncomfortable and disconcerting. 

The other aspect of my search for answers led me to introspection. What kind of society have we become? D.G. Shah, the secretary general of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, recently penned an elegant op-ed that called out our culture for tolerating corruption, even with needs as basic as drinking water, personal hygiene, food and medicine. Why is it that we have come to accept poor governance, corruption, incompetence and entitlement as facts of life? 

Israel exported military equipment to Pakistan, says report

By Hasan Suroor
June 11, 2013 

The claim was made by the Israeli liberal newspaper “Haaretz” citing a report of the British Government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills which oversees security exports.

Israel is reported to have exported to Pakistan a range of military equipment purchased from Britain, but Islamabad denied the claim with a spokesman for the Directorate of Inter-Services Public Relations describing it as “baseless”.

“The report is misleading and not based on facts,” he said.

The claim was made by the Israeli liberal newspaper Haaretz citing a report of the British Government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) which oversees security exports.

“According to the government report, Israel has exported security equipment over the past five years to Pakistan and four Arab countries. The report, which deals with British government permits for arms and security equipment exports, says that in addition to Pakistan, Israel has exported such equipment to Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco,” it said.

A BIS spokesperson said there was no specific report on Israeli export of British security equipment to Pakistan, but it routinely released data on arms exports, including details of whether the arms were intended to be passed on to a third country. The Haaretz claim appeared to have been based on data indicating that British components sold to Israel eventually found their way to Pakistan. These included radar systems and parts for fighter jets.

Britain, however, refused licences for systems that Israel intended to export to India, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.

According to Haaretz, from January 2008 to December 2012, British authorities processed hundreds of Israeli applications to purchase military items for use by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), or to go into systems exported to third countries. 

Among the countries to which Israel exported equipment were several with which it did not have diplomatic relations. Besides Pakistan, its clients included Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco.

Pakistan’s Afghan challenge

National security remains a major concern

By Gurmeet Kanwal
June 11, 2014 

IN a historical first, an elected civilian government in Pakistan surprisingly survived its full term of five years – even though its record was uninspiring. Elections were held reasonably smoothly and the transition to a new government has been hassle-free. This has led to the hope that the Nawaz Sharif government will be able to stem the rot in Pakistan. In the recent past, governance has been abysmal, the economy is in a shambles and sectarian violence and creeping Talibanisation have shaken the very foundations of society and are eroding the idea of Pakistan as an Islamic state. 

The greatest challenge that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will face will be on the national security front. Fissiparous tendencies in Balochistan and the restive Gilgit-Baltistan Northern Areas are a perpetual security nightmare. Karachi remains a tinderbox that is ready to explode. Al-Qaida has gradually made inroads into Pakistani terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Harkat-ul-Jihad Al-Islami (HuJI), Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), and while it is still far from forming an umbrella organisation encompassing all of them, it is moving perceptibly in that direction. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has consolidated its position in North and South Waziristan despite the army’s counter-insurgency campaign over the last two summers and appears capable of breaking out of its stronghold to neighbouring areas. Only concerted army operations launched with single-mindedness of purpose can stop the TTP juggernaut. 

However, the fallout of the draw-down of the US-led NATO-ISAF forces by the end of 2014 will pose the most complex challenge to the new government as it is an external security threat with internal security linkages. The security vacuum that will be created by the departure of foreign troops from Afghan soil is likely to lead to a Taliban resurgence as the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF – army plus the police) will be incapable of independently assuming responsibility for security for all of Afghanistan. Though the numbers of the ANSF have gone up to the planned figure of 3,52,000, these are insufficient for the task at hand. The ANSF are inadequately equipped – they lack heavy weapons, artillery, air support and helicopters for logistics support. They are poorly trained, badly led and lack the motivation necessary to sustain complex counter-insurgency operations on a prolonged basis. Fratricide and desertions with weapons are commonplace. 

The present situation is best described as a stalemate at the tactical level as the US-led forces are not exactly losing and the Taliban are not winning. A stalemate between a superpower and a motley array of rag-tag militiamen of a non-state actor will be seen as a moral victory for the Taliban. The US strategy to clear-hold-build-transfer-exit has succeeded only partially as al-Qaida has not been completely eliminated. Hence, no matter whether the Afghan government agrees to limit the US presence to 10,000 to 12,000 soldiers or a lower number, special forces and drone strikes against the remnants of al-Qaida and the leaders of other organisations considered inimical to US national interest will continue, including on Pakistani soil, with or without the concurrence of the Pakistan government and the army. The recent killing of Wali-ur-Rehman, the deputy chief of the TTP, is a case in point. This will pose a dilemma that Nawaz Sharif, who seeks to bring the army and the ISI firmly under the control of the civilian government, will find hard to resolve. 

A guide to Afghanistan in four scenarios

By Shanthie Mariet D’Souza 
June 12, 2013 

WISH LIST: New Delhi will be laying the path for enduring influence if it helps design and implement development programmes to address poverty, illiteracy and administrative faults. An open-air classroom on the outskirts of Mihtarlam in Laghman province. Photo:AP 

In the run-up to the 2014 election and after, the state of the country gives India many opportunities to use its political, military and economic tools for long-term engagement

New Delhi will be confronted by a host of rapidly changing scenarios in Afghanistan as the country heads for transition in the security and political sectors in 2014. The interplay between different actors jockeying for power could either allow India to retain its present level of engagement, provide opportunities to expand its influence or bring an abrupt end to its presence in that country. If it wishes to remain relevant and engaged in playing a key role in the long-term stabilisation of Afghanistan, India will have to recalibrate its strategy to deal with a range of options emerging from the four most probable scenarios. 

Four points 

Scenario 1: A new Afghan president is chosen in 2014 through a relatively free and fair election process. The Afghan security forces, with continuing assistance from the residual U.S. forces on Afghan soil, thwart the Taliban insurgency. Violence would continue, but would not escalate enough to destabilise the government. This optimal scenario would mean business as usual for India. However, to ensure this, New Delhi would need to work with the present Afghan government and other political groups to ensure free and fair elections. It will also have to play a more proactive role in building the capabilities of the Afghan security sector. 

Scenario 2: The presidential elections scheduled for April 2014 could either be delayed indefinitely or marred by widespread malpractices and fraud, thereby undermining the role and power of the new Afghan president. Alternately, Hamid Karzai could extend his term by amending the constitution and convening a Loya Jirgah, or nominate a successor to assume the presidency, leading the Opposition political groups as well as the influential warlords and power brokers to call for regime change. Afghan society could fracture along ethnic and tribal lines with regional powers supporting their proxies. With Afghanistan divided into various spheres of influence, India would be constrained to choose sides not just among the present regime and other political groups, but also among the warlords and regional commanders. This would be a case of high risk involvement with diminishing returns, with little guarantee of securing India's interest in the long term. 

China is bada bhai

Jun 11, 2013 

“Why embarrass him? If he has the answer, he may share it… If he doesn’t he will have to discover it.”
— Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid told the media during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India

Atithi Devo Bhava — Mr Khurshid might well have been upholding India’s traditional culture of sparing embarrassment to a visitor, but he definitely pushed the envelope of courtesy when he let visiting Chinese premier Li Keqiang off the hook by not even mentioning the Chinese military intrusion 19 kilometres into Indian territory near Daulat Beg Oldi last month. 

If Mr Khurshid’s intention was to maintain appearances by showing India at its softest, willing to go to any lengths to maintain peace, he was certainly successful. His shallow platitudes only aggravated the simmering public outrage, which the government’s publicity minders tried to dismiss as politically motivated, pointing at the Opposition. But it was, in fact, an almost cringing deference to the Chinese delegation by India’s highest leadership.

Is this hesitancy to be firm with China a subconscious carry-over from 1962? If so, then it is time for the government and its ministers to “wake up and smell the coffee”. Sela Pass is long over and done with and should not cause the Indian government to throw nervous backward glances when dealing with China. India must shake off the past and not be inhibited in its interaction on hard issues while maintaining the norms of diplomatic courtesy.

China’s progress in developing all elements of Comprehensive National Power (CNP) has been remarkable, outstripping India by a wide margin. It is also important to note that unlike India, China in its “peaceful rise” has accorded the highest priority to its armed forces. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) exercises huge influence over national policies, and its background presence (as is the case in Pakistan with the Pakistan Army), looms large in all Sino-Indian matters.

The Chinese leadership is also aware of a new phenomenon emerging in India’s political environment. Pro-China groups of students within the Indian Left are attempting to bring in these parties from the cold and into the mainstream of electoral politics again, after they were banished to the outer darkness in the aftermath of 1962. Pro-China sentiments that have lingered amongst Left theologians and apparatchiks are now coming out in the open as the run-up to the Indian elections in 2014 gathers momentum. Traditional “anti-imperialist” political rallies are already being organised by party commissars.

It would be prudent to assume that China is carrying out its own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis to assess the potential and capabilities of various players within the Indian political system, particularly the Left. Pointers would be gained from the almost mute response by the Left to Mr Li’s re-assertion of Chinese suzerainty over Ladakh during his recent visit. This is similar to the actions of Sun Xi, former Chinese ambassador to India, who had caused a diplomatic uproar by suddenly reiterating China’s claims to Tawang and Arunachal Pradesh as part of “Xhang Nan” (“Southern Tibet”) on the eve of President Hu Jintao’s visit to India in 2006.

There are other straws in the wind that should be examined — for example, the Zhong Guo Zhan Lue dissertation on the strategic imperative for China to facilitate dismemberment of the “Indian Federation” into 30 or more states with the help of Indian fifth columnists, along with the reported spike in Chinese intrusions in Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and the Indo-Pacific maritime region? Do these form a deliberate pattern, or are they merely local aberrations?

Beijing Does It Better

The Charm Offensive And Chinese Soft Power 

June 9, 2013 

China Daily, November 2012. (Ron Cogswell / Flickr) 

This weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with U.S. President Barack Obama at Sunnylands estate in California for what has been called a “shirtsleeves summit." The unusually informal meeting was designed to allow the two leaders to freely discuss a broad range of topics, signaling that both Washington and Beijing have hopes for a closer partnership. The United States is not the only audience that Xi hopes to win over. During the last few years, Beijing’s efforts to improve its international standing have included not just various media and cultural campaigns but also vigorous diplomatic initiatives and billions of dollars in no-strings-attached aid to developing economies. 

Western critics tend to focus on the media and cultural components of this push while ignoring the rest. At a time when anxious prognostications about China’s rise dominate media headlines, deriding China’s soft-power strategy -- in particular, its failure to grasp the global appeal of the free press and the free market -- has become a popular act of reassurance for Western academics and media analysts. For example, a bevy of notable China hands and media experts recently convened on ChinaFile, the online magazine of the Asia Society, to discuss why Chinese soft power is such a “hard sell.” Their discussions focused primarily on China’s inability to build brands and produce movies whose name recognition rivals that of their U.S. peers. 

In fact, China’s failure to churn out globally marketable sneakers and pop stars is the source of no small amount of handwringing among Chinese cultural officials and young nationalists. Yet the actual strategic impact of such brand building is difficult to determine. There are plenty of young Chinese who see no contradiction between their loyalty to brands like Nike and KFC and their condemnation of U.S. foreign policy or their mistrust of Western media, which they view as heavily biased against China. Those who believe most passionately in the power of civil society cling tightly to the idea that its virtues are somehow transmitted through American movie stars and material goods. But if non-governmrny origin of U.S. cultural exports is what allows them to succeed globally, as many contend, this also makes them unlikely vehicles for the promotion of American interests. 

The political scientist Joseph Nye, who first popularized the term “soft power” in the early 1990s, has been especially critical of state-centered soft power strategies, scoffing at the futility of China’s efforts in a recent column. He is wary of China’s push to open Confucius Institutes all over the world to teach its language and culture, along with foreign bureaus and editions of state-controlled media such as China Daily and CCTV to spread “brittle propaganda.” According to Nye, in soft power, credibility is everything. Countries such as China fail to understand that cultural exports originating from a controlling state will never rival the credibility of those born of a vibrant civil society. Indeed, could any but the freest of societies hope to produce credible, influential narratives like Ironman 3, which recently topped the Chinese box office? (The website of The New York Times, of course, remains blocked.) 

India in China’s “New Age Diplomacy”

By Bhaskar Roy 

India needs to carefully monitor China’s “New age diplomacy”, a new slogan, being energetically pushed by the sixth generation leadership of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Leqiang. 

The ‘blue book’ published by China’s top think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), looks squarely at the Indian Ocean Region, its littoral states, and India’s ‘Look East’ policy. Although the blue book is not yet available in India in an English translated version, media reports from Beijing suggests it is concerned that China was falling behind India and the US in the strategic domination of the Indian Ocean. It warns that if India, the US and China did not engage each other in this region then the Indian Ocean will become an Ocean of conflict. 

The book also exhibits some concerns about India’s Look East Policy. The Chinese official media has been showing some discomfort with this. In fact, this issue became prominent when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Japan recently for upgrading of India-Japan relations to a new level. Liu Zhangyi, a research fellow at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies (SIS), an important think tank, wrote this in the official Global Times (May 31): “As an embodiment of the Look East Policy, India has strengthened economic, strategic and security co-operation with countries like Japan, South Korea and Vietnam. It has interfered in the South China Sea disputes in a high profile manner against the backdrop of the US pivot to Asia. Some Indian scholars acknowledge that some parts of the Look East Policy target China”. 

To make things clear, the ‘blue book’ produced by the CASS is not an official publication. But the CASS is finally under the Communist Party and the government, and the President of CASS holds a position equivalent to a member of the politburo of the Party Central Committee. Such books and papers are produced as per the parameters laid down by the establishment not only for the consideration of the policy makers, but also to elicit reactions from abroad. 

The media is fully in control of the Party and the government, though views of powerful factions on internal issues are also carried by them. A Party propaganda department directive announced earlier this year that the media is not independent and serves the Party and the government. 

Before Premier Li Keqiang embarked on his historic (historic, because it was the first time that a top Chinese leaders made India the first stop on his maiden foreign trip) to India, the authentic Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily (May 14) said China’s diplomatic stance “especially in the matter of core interests” had become “strong and bold”. The article gave several reasons for this boldness including its comprehensive national power with its military strength increasing by the day, and a clear understanding of “enemies and friends” in its diplomatic strategy. Very interestingly, the article added maritime security had become China’s focus, and its diplomacy had become “particularly ruthless” in protecting its maritime interests. The reference was obviously to Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands’ sovereignty issue and South China Sea disputes. 

The Li Keqiang visit did not yield any spectacular result, nor was it expected to. The visit was proposed by Xi Jinping to Manmohan Singh at the BRICS Summit in the last week of March, and he arrived in India on May 20. 

The visit was initially clouded by the establishing of a camp by a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) battalion on April 15 at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) in the Western Sector of the India-China border, in India’s perceived side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The incident made news in the Indian media though not a word was mentioned in the Chinese media. From the military point of view it did not appear the PLA detachment had come to engage the Indian border troops. They had no back up. It can, therefore, be concluded that they came in to make a point – that the Indians should not think the border issue was going to be smooth. 

In this connection it may be recalled that on the last day of Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to China in 2003, a PLA detachment surrounded an Indian non-army patrol in the Eastern Sector, disarmed them, and sent them back with a lecture. Only one Indian newspaper reported the incident which was, otherwise, brushed under the carpet by the Indian government. 

How China Got There First: Beijing’s Unique Path to ASBM Development and Deployment

June 7, 2013 

China’s deployment of the world’s first operational anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) has just been confirmed with unprecedented clarity by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The ASBM’s development path was unusual in many respects, but may increasingly represent the shape of things to come for China’s defense industry. In explaining these critical dynamics, this article builds on an occasional paper just published by the Jamestown Foundation that represents the most comprehensive open source analysis to date on China’s ASBM program [1]. 

To purchase the full report, China's Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Development: Drivers, Trajectories and Strategic Implications, clickHERE

A Clear Step Forward

On May 6, 2013, DOD published its latest annual report to Congress on China’s military [2]. The report contained the most comprehensive authoritative statement to date concerning the status of China’s DF-21D ASBM. China began deploying the 1,500+ km-range DF-21D (CSS-5) medium-range ballistic missile, with its maneuverable warhead, in 2010. DOD assesses that it “gives the PLA the capability to attack large ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean” (CMPR 2013, pp. 5–6, 38). In related comments, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Helvey explained that “deployment…implies a limited operational capability”[3]. As for the missile’s targeting, DOD states “The PLA Navy is also improving its over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting capability with sky wave and surface wave OTH radars, which can be used in conjunction with reconnaissance satellites to locate targets at great distances from China (thereby supporting long-range precision strikes, including employment of ASBMs)”(CMPR 2013, pg. 42). Helvey added that while their degree of completion remains unclear at the public level, “the pretty significant number of space launches that China conducted over the past year… help put elements of” space-based “architecture in place” to facilitate ASBM mid-course and terminal guidance [4]. 

DOD’s statements related to the annual reports build on 2013 testimony by other U.S. military officials. On April 9, 2013, Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee “There are a number of notable examples of China’s improving military capabilities, including five new stealth and conventional aircraft programs and the initial deployment of a new anti-ship ballistic missile that we believe is designed to target U.S. aircraft carriers" [5]. On April 19, 2013, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, stated that China is “augmenting the over 1,200 conventional short-range ballistic missiles deployed opposite Taiwan with a limited but growing number of conventionally armed, medium-range ballistic missiles, including the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile” [6]. 

Blazing a New Technological Trail

China’s ASBM development displays three major dynamics. Heretofore rarely seen, they are likely to become increasingly common in the future as China’s defense industry continues to improve. It offers an example of China developing and deploying a unique weapons system. It also represents an instance of Chinese researchers deemphasizing Soviet/Russian models in favor of U.S. examples. China did so through an eclectic “architectural innovation” approach in which it imported, developed indigenously and combined existing technologies in new ways to produce what might be termed a “Frankenweapon.” 

The South China Sea Dispute (Part One): Negative Trends Continue in 2013

June 7, 2013 


The Chinese and Indonesian Foreign Ministers Together in May

From January through May, the South China Sea dispute continued to trend in a negative direction. Consistent with the pattern of developments over the past several years, the dispute continued to be characterized by an action-reaction dynamic in which attempts by one of the claimants—most notably, China, the Philippines and Vietnam—to uphold its territorial or jurisdictional claims led to protests and countermoves from the other claimants.

Although the United Nations appointed a panel of judges to examine a Philippine legal challenge to China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, and tentative steps were taken by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to begin talks on a Code of Conduct (CoC), there was little optimism that either of these processes would reduce tensions in the short term or provide an environment conductive to a resolution of the problem in the medium to long term.

The action-reaction dynamic, and urgent need to stem ongoing tensions, were brought into sharp relief on May 9 when Philippine authorities shot dead a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters, provoking a major crisis in Philippines-Taiwan relations. The tragic incident was not the first of its kind in the South China Sea nor, sadly, is it likely to be the last.

Part One of this essay will examine these recent developments and their immediate implications. Part Two will examine these developments through the lens of Chinese policy on maritime territorial disputes, relevant regional perspectives and provide an outlook for the South China Sea over the course of the next 18 months.

The Philippine Legal Submission to the UN

On January 22, the Philippines angered China by unilaterally submitting the Sino-Philippine dispute over jurisdictional rights in the South China Sea for legal arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (“Manila Ups the Ante in the South China Sea,” China Brief, February 1, 2013). Manila’s submission argues that China’s nine-dash line, and apparent claims to sovereign or historic rights within the line, are incompatible with UNCLOS and therefore invalid.

Given China’s long-standing preference to resolve territorial and boundary disputes with neighboring countries through bilateral negotiations rather than international legal arbitration, it came as no surprise that it formally rejected the Philippine submission on February 19. China’s foreign ministry declared the Philippine submission was “factually flawed,” “contained false accusations” and violated the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC) (Xinhua, February 19). The Philippines, however, remained firmly committed to the arbitration process. Speaking in Tokyo on May 23, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario emphasized that, unless the claimants pursued a “rules-based” solution, the “status quo will favor military and economic might, and diplomacy will veer toward appeasement, which undermines any attempt to build a system based on equity and rules” (Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, May 24).

China’s rejection of the Philippine submission was met with disappointment by a number of legal experts. Law professor Jerome Cohen, for instance, argued that by refusing to participate in the proceedings, China was projecting the image of a “bully” and a “violator” of international law, while Peter Dutton noted that China had missed an important opportunity to reassure “increasingly anxious neighbors that it is committed to institutional rather than power-based resolution of disputes” (South China Morning Post, May 25) [1].

NEPAL: Who Needs Elections?

By Dr S Chandrasekharan 

It is more than one year now since the last CA was disbanded and yet no new constitution is in place. Will it be possible to complete the constitution at least in the next one year? It looks very doubtful now. But why? 

The political parties are themselves to blame as they seem to show no sense of urgency and for them it is “business as usual.” They also seem to be in total disconnect with people outside Kathmandu valley who are keen to have the elections and give a finality to constitution making! 

A visit to Kathmandu Valley, gives the impression that none of the political parties is serious about conducting elections. Since they continue to wield power through the high-level committee, they seem to be in no hurry to push for early elections. They are still unable to decide whether the new constitutional making body should have 601 members as before or reduce it to 491. It would not have mattered either way! 

Similarly, some of the politicians are after the poor Chief Justice who reluctantly took over as chief of the interim administration, to make him resign from his original lien as chief justice as otherwise there is supposed to be “conflict of interests.” If only the elections had taken place by June as was envisaged, the Chief Justice would have by now gone back to his job. 

The controversy over the appointment of Karki as chairman of the CVCC has not died down though one is not sure the extent of damage he could possibly do in the short span available before a regular government takes over! 

Most importantly, the four major political parties are yet to decide on the configuration of provinces. Both the UML and the Nepali Congress continue to harp on multiple identity-based federalism while others are not sure. One does not know where the Maoists stand as they seem to be shifting their goal posts on every issue. Recently, during his visit to China Prachanda was told categorically that China was against “ethnic federalism.” A compromise is possible if the Terai is left alone with two Madhesi provinces. 

Though there is no official announcement, the time for conducting the elections by May/June is over and if the present attitude of the political parties who do not seem to feel any urgency to go ahead with the elections, it is doubtful whether elections will be held at all even in November- the next window available. 

Outside the valley, on the contrary, the people are more enthusiastic and are looking forward to the elections as soon as possible. The civil society which had taken a leading role in the Jana Andolan II seems to have lost its steam and is no where to be seen. 

President Yadav sensing the general drift of “inaction”of the four major political parties, asked Jhalanath Khanal of UML who is currently the chairman of the High Level Political Committee, to focus on the coming elections and elections alone. 

The latest controversy that is going to consume some time is the opposition to disallow people with criminal background to contest the elections. The Election Commission in taking this decision had none in their mind but the Maoists think that these provisions have the potential for mischief to prevent their cadres from contesting! The intention is- “do not hold the elections until we are ready”- a tactic they followed in the last CA elections. 

The four major parties the UCPN (M), Nepali Congress, UML and the Gacchadaar led Madhesi Group do not seem to make any effort to consult other smaller parties as they seem to think that the four could manage the election through. As a reaction to this attitude, the CPN Maoist of Baidya, the Federal Socialist Party of Nepal led by Ashok Rai and that of the Federal Democratic Forum led by Upendra Yadav have agreed to launch a joint agitation against the “four party political syndicate.” This they should, to put some sense into the High Level Committee! 

How Can International Assistance to Burma Avoid Mistakes of the Past?

May 9, 2012 

Burma (also known as Myanmar) may be on the verge of a dramatic expansion of international assistance. After last month’s parliamentary by-elections, there is likely to be more support for easing sanctions and increasing foreign assistance to the country to support the changes underway. Several major donor governments have announced easing of sanctions and increased aid to Myanmar, including Canada, the European Union, and Denmark. Dozens of donors and international NGOs are poised to establish new programs in the country in the coming months. 

Monks collect alms in a neighborhood market in Yangon. After Burma’s parliamentary bi-elections last month, there is likely to be more support for easing sanctions and increasing foreign assistance to the country. Photo: Geoffrey Hiller. 

The hotels in Yangon are packed with international aid professionals. According to one NGO leader, “there are many ‘Burma experts’ in Burma right now” – an allusion to the dozens of researchers and aid workers that keep his phone ringing constantly. The development and humanitarian needs in the country are enormous, so this new wave of assistance is likely to bring much needed aid to millions of people. But in these heady days of Burma’s opening up to the world, let’s not forget the risks and lessons from scaling up the level of foreign aid too quickly. 

There are several recent cases in Asia where the international community dramatically increased aid to a country that was not previously a major recipient. This scenario has generally played out in response to a major political transition, a post-conflict moment, or in the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster. Burma is a unique case. In most of the other cases, rapid scale-up of international assistance has come on the heels of civil wars that have left the country devastated. Burma is neither a post-conflict nor a “fragile state.” So, in many ways, this will be new territory for the international community. 

The Government in Naypyidaw is preparing the groundwork for an expected increase in foreign aid. In a speech on March 1, President U Thein Sein spoke of the government’s interest to open up the economy, expand services, stabilize the currency, and achieve reconciliation with ethnic minorities. By preparing a “roadmap,” the Government is sending a clear message that it expects international aid to support its plans for development and reconciliation. 

At this stage, it is important to reflect on some of the key lessons from other countries that have been down this road with rapid scale-up of assistance. For example, during the post-tsunami response in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and in the immediate post-conflict periods in Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and Afghanistan, the international community responded with an outpouring of support in the form of technical assistance, democratization and elections support, budget support, and humanitarian aid. In the past 25 years, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent in transitional, conflict-affected countries. While Burma is not at the same level of risk as these other countries have been, these comparisons may provide some useful guides for the international community given that the scale of assistance and the diversity of international organizations involved are likely to create similar challenges. 


By Kanwar Sibal 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan from May 27 to 30 was opportune as the circumstances today are more propitious than ever for India and Japan to forge a solid strategic partnership. 

Japan’s ties with China have frayed badly, with massive trade and investment ties between the two failing to shield Japan politically from aggressive Chinese territorial claims on Senkaku islands. Even if the two countries manage to defuse the situation to avert the incalculable risks of an actual military brawl, China has lit a fire under the relationship that would be very difficult to douse.

To deal with the emerging Chinese threat, Japan has to develop a new mix of diplomatic and military tools. In addition to a defense cordon provided by its US alliance, it needs a diplomatic cordon comprising of select countries anxious about the unpredictable consequences of China’s rise visible in its aggressive posturing in the South China and East China waters and its recent incursion into Ladakh. Japan’s ties with India have thus become more relevant strategically. 


Economic reasons too favour close India-Japan bonds. Japan is already heavily over-invested in China; China’s politically motivated squeeze of Japan on rare-earth supplies carried a lesson. Rising India, with all its shortcomings, has the market, consumption potential, investment needs and manpower assets of interest to an ageing Japanese society and the Abeconomics-pushed revival of Japan’s economy. 

Prime Minister Abe lays stress on democracy as a source of security and has proposed in that perspective the concept of an Asian Security Diamond comprising of US, Japan, India and Australia. Tactically, grouping select countries sharing similar poitical values to work together to promote regional security is a defensible approach, and China’s protests, as an opaque, authoritarian state have no legs.

Japan’s current political overtures towards India are unprecedented. Sensing this, the Chinese have tried to interfere with the developing momentum of Indo-Japanese partnership, with Premier Li Keqiang inserting his visit to India before that of our Prime Minister’s Japan travel, and manipulating its results in rhetoric and substance to suit China’s diplomatic strategy.

We went along with Li Keqiang to describe the India-China relationship as “an effective model of friendly co-existence between...neighbouring countries” and emphasized its “regional, global and strategic significance”. We agreed to establish a Joint Study Group to develop a BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar) Economic Corridor. Enhanced bilateral cooperation on maritime security and cooperation in safeguarding sea-lanes and freedom of navigation was also endorsed, as well as the establishment of an open and inclusive security framework in the Asia-Pacific region. We even approved bilateral cooperation in civil nuclear energy.