14 June 2013

Asia's New Power Brokers***

June 13, 2013

Significant movements in world affairs often go unnoticed by the media. For what fits inside the strictures of hard news are usually dramatic statements by politicians, dramatic actions by military units or dramatic economic shifts. But what also really changes history are the gradual developments that accrue over time. That's one of the reasons you are liable to learn more by reading serious books or scholarly reports than by reading newspapers. Asia is a case in point. 

The news about Asia is relentlessly repetitive and often insignificant, however tragic in human terms sometimes. Indeed, the recent building collapse in Bangladesh was heartrending, but geopolitically it was of marginal importance. The jousting between China and Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea is important -- but after reading about it for months on end, unrevealing. The same with the islands in the South China Sea. We already know that Japan has a more activist prime minister and for years his country has been shedding its quasi-pacifism, if only the media would finally tell us more. 

So what is really going on in Asia, slowly and undramatically in news terms but critically in historical terms? It is the demonstrable tendency of Asian countries to strengthen ties with each other rather than solely depend on the United States for balancing against China. According to the Center for a New American Security in Washington, a centrist think tank with which I am affiliated, the growing momentum of bilateral links of nearly every country with nearly every other one is nothing less than an "emerging Asian power web." Over the past decade, this expanding network of relationships within the Indo-Pacific has included high-level defense visits, bilateral security arrangements, joint operations and military exercises, arms sales and military education programs. 

The bottom line: As Asian countries -- from India to Vietnam to Indonesia to Malaysia to Japan and so on -- arise out of poverty, guerrilla war and stagnation, they are forging robust relationships with each other, providing a whole new security dynamic to go alongside the U.S.-China rivalry. The Asian power web is also an offshoot of the emergence of midlevel powers, which are now forging deeper links with each other -- thus "widening the analytical aperture," in the words of the report, through which international relations must be viewed.

Egypt's Limited Military Options to Stop an Ethiopian Dam Project

JUNE 10, 2013 

The Blue Nile in Guba, Ethiopia, during its diversion ceremony on May 28. 


Ethiopia's initiation of a dam project on the Blue Nile has quickly drawn the ire of Egypt, which is critically dependent on it as a source of much of the country's freshwater needs. As Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said June 9 following Ethiopia's refusal to halt construction of the dam and ahead of his trip to Addis Ababa to discuss the project, Egypt will not give up a "single drop of water from the Nile." "No Nile, no Egypt," he said. 

While Egypt has struggled to attract diplomatic intervention on its behalf to thwart Ethiopia's dam construction, tensions have reached the point where Egypt has suggested the use of force to keep the dam from potentially lowering the Nile's water levels downstream to unacceptable levels. There will be serious international pressure to keep the dispute over the dam in the realm of diplomacy, but there are also fairly significant constraints on the physical possibility of an Egyptian military solution. 


It varies depending on the dimensions of the dam, but dams can be and usually are very tough targets to destroy. In World War II the British proved that it could be done despite considerable difficulties and were the first to seriously develop the art of dam busting. The British used delayed-action bouncing bombs from Lancaster bombers, but fortunately for the Egyptians, advancements in weapons technology would enable them to target the Ethiopian dam in a less risky way. The best way for Egypt to knock out a standing dam is to use retarded and delayed-action bombs deployed from very low altitudes, or even better, delayed-action joint direct attack munitions deployed at medium altitude. The difficulty is that the bomb needs to be deployed at the very base of the dam, underwater, where the concussive effect and pressure wave is greatly amplified. Preferably more than one bomb would be deployed in this manner, and the force would be sufficient to breach the dam. 

To avoid the hassle of hitting a standing dam and creating major flooding downstream in Sudan and even potentially Egypt, Cairo would probably prefer to hit it while it is under construction. But it also has to be careful not to hit the dam too early, because then Ethiopia may not be fully deterred from restarting the project. 

Distance is a major obstacle for the Egyptian military option. Ethiopia is simply too far from Egypt, and since Egypt has not invested in any sort of aerial refueling capability, it is beyond the combat radius of all Egyptian aircraft staging from Egyptian airfields. The only consolation for Egypt is that the dam is very close to the Sudanese border. Access to Sudanese airfields would place some of Egypt's air force within range. However, operating from Sudanese territory could be politically complicated and would have international repercussions for Sudan along with Egypt. Sudan's proximity to Ethiopia would also leave it vulnerable to direct military retaliation. 

Another option is the insertion of special operations forces into Sudan. From there, the forces could move across the border and either harass the construction of the dam or attempt to sabotage the structure under the guise of militants. This would allow Khartoum to realistically pledge that it had no idea there were "militants" there. The harassment tactic by special operations forces or militants would likely only delay the project, not arrest construction. 

Special operations forces teams would face their own series of obstacles in trying to destroy the dam. Dams are critical infrastructure and routinely protected relatively well in most countries by dedicated military units. Ethiopia would be no exception, especially with all the contention already surrounding the project. So Egyptian special operations forces would need luck and skill to gain access to the dam successfully. There is also the problem that a small team of ground forces, no matter how elite, would likely be physically unable to carry enough ordnance to critically damage or destroy the dam. 

Egypt does have military options, but distance will heavily constrain its ability to project the full force of its military. Any option Cairo chooses to exercise will be risky at best and will also come with severe international consequences. 
Reprinting or republication of this report on websites is authorized by prominently displaying the following sentence, including the hyperlink to Stratfor, at the beginning or end of the report. 
"Egypt's Limited Military Options to Stop an Ethiopian Dam Project is republished with permission of Stratfor." 

Why Maoist Insurgency Will Flourish in India

13 Jun , 2013 

It was amusing to view the Singh Duo RPN Singh, Minister of State for Home Affairs and RK Singh, Home Secretary describing the Maoist attack on a train in Bihar as “Frustration” on the part of Maoists due to the “Pressure” mounted on them post the Chhattisgarh attack of 25th May on the Congress convoy killing 27 (17 Congressmen and 10 policemen) and wounding 36. Equally amusing was the all-party meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the Maoist problem unanimously agreeing to fight the Maoists. Reminds you of the 1994 Parliament Resolution stating whole of undivided J&K is integral part of India, followed by a second Parliament Resolution to the same effect this year under Manmohan Singh amidst much thumping of tables. But despite these two resolutions, when the Chinese intruded 19 kilometres deep, it only turned out to be a “small acme” on Salman Khurshid’s cheek that has kept him guessing to-date why this acme apeared. Less said about the Singh Duo’s political master who washed off his hand by saying, “we have no jurisdiction in the area”. 

If the “pressure” assessment is because they attacked a train, well attack on soft target is the modus operandi of terrorists and insurgents globally – whether it was Ajmal Qasab and Co in Mumbai or the bombings during the Boston Marathon. 

But coming to this business of “Frustration” and “Pressure on the Maoists”, can the Singh Duo explain what this pressure is, where was it applied, in what manner and more importantly with what results? Yes, additional 1000 CRPF were pumped into Bastar post the 25th May attack, but what has been achieved? By the looks of it, this Maoist attack on the train in Bihar was perhaps the final exercise for a new batch of women cadre Maoists. If the “pressure” assessment is because they attacked a train, well attack on soft target is the modus operandi of terrorists and insurgents globally – whether it was Ajmal Qasab and Co in Mumbai or the bombings during the Boston Marathon. 

But what the Singh Duo did not talk about is that the Maoists took away the weapons of all the Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel killed and abducted. Axiomatically these RPF personnel would not have fired a shot as was the case of 10 policemen killed on 25th May whose weapons were taken away by the Maoists. Media reports of the Maoists having fired some 10,000 rounds of ammunition on 25th May are also laughable considering insurgent / terrorist organizations are trained for rigorous ammunition control besides they hardly needed to expend 10,000 rounds to kill 27 and wound 36 with firing positions next to the road. 

Dr Singh's mantra for conflict resolution: military and money

June 14, 2013

Political conflicts with deep social roots are not resolved through ill-conceived surreptitious deals. They require a bold political vision to resolve them. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [ Images]’s speech at the recent annual conference on internal security showed a vision that is cynical, sterile and bureaucratic, writes RN Ravi, former special diretor of the Intelligence Bureau 

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, while addressing the chief ministers at the annual conference on internal security on June 5, informed the country about the state of security in the country and his government’s achievements. 

His speech, like his previous ones on such occasions, was banal, a load of trite, inanities and platitudes. Still worse, it was replete with half-truths -- a devilish cousin of lies. With no flash of light or a fleck of hope, it was indeed an insipid piece of dull bureaucratese. 

One’s language reflects one’s train of thoughts and depths of understanding. To the consternation of the countrymen, Dr Singh, in his speech, once again, betrayed his bureaucratic-military orientation to internal conflicts and total absence of a statesman’s vision. 

On all the fronts that constantly undermine the internal security of India [ Images ] -- the left wing extremism, militancy in Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ], and insurgencies in the North-East -- Dr Singh echoed the language and thoughts of his joint secretaries in the ministry of home affairs. According to him, all that could be done has been done and is being done, and the country should be beholden to him and his government for that! 

Dr Singh, on the Maoist front, claimed credit for the relative statistical decline in “deaths caused by the left wing extremists” in 2012. 

He asserted that his “two-pronged strategy” against the Maoists -- “proactive operations” (read more militarisation and indiscriminate killings including those of innocents) and “development” (read pumping more money) is bearing fruit and needed to be “pursued with rigour”. 

He reposed unwavering faith in his team of bureaucrats comprising the cabinet secretary, the home secretary and the Prime Minister’s Office for overseeing implementation of this strategy for building ‘offensive and defensive capabilities’ against the Maoists. 

Does nuclear power have a future in India?

By: T P Sreenivasan 
Jun 13 2013

India cannot but be affected by the gloomy nuclear energy scenario around the globe. 

The development of nuclear power in India is driven as much by fantasy and romance as by scientific and strategic calculations. Like its foreign policy, planning and scientific temperament, Pandit Nehru bequeathed nuclear policy to India, on which there has always been a national consensus. Homi Bhabha is a national hero and his tragic death in an air crash is considered part of a conspiracy against India. Extreme secrecy surrounds nuclear policy and programs in a country, which is brutally open about other matters of national importance. Even when prophecies and projections are proved wrong and official actions become inexplicable, no system exists to explain the unforeseen developments, which may have altered the course. Sanctity is attributed to policies formulated and projects launched many years ago and course correction, even when it is made, is projected as business as usual. Much has happened in the nuclear arena, but India is, by and large, committed to its nuclear future. 

A quick and direct answer to the question that we ask ourselves today is, therefore, yes, India will have nuclear power for the foreseeable future. It will certainly grow despite dire predictions to the contrary and the fact that public opposition is growing both on account of safety considerations and new scientific information, which calls into question the feasibility, the cost effectiveness and the wisdom of long term reliance on nuclear power. The way India has dealt with the issues arising out of the India-US nuclear deal, Kudankulam and Fukushima confirms that its faith in nuclear power still abides. The three-stage nuclear power development program, adopted more than half a century ago, is alive and well, though the pace of progress from the second to the third stage has been slow and the envisaged use of thorium has not become viable as yet. 

Many of us in this room have been champions of the India-US nuclear deal and some, like our moderator today, Ashley Tellis, are its architects. The bewildering twists and turns in the negotiations and the political storm it created in both countries are evidence of its complexity. The steadfast pursuit of the deal on the part of President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was admirable. For diplomats like me, who worked at the IAEA, with just Pakistan and partly Israel for company, it was a dream come true. India emerged out of its isolation in the nuclear community and it became possible for India to import nuclear fuel and other materials for its nuclear power industry. We paid a heavy price for it, but it was considered small to usher in a brave new world of international nuclear cooperation. But as of today, no new imported reactor has been commissioned, no dramatic increase has been achieved in power generation and our non-signatory status in NPT and CTBT regimes is still an impediment, when it comes to bilateral agreements or membership of bodies like the NSG. Some frontiers of nuclear science are still closed to us. No nuclear trade has started with the US, the prime mover and an intended beneficiary of nuclear trade with India. 

Indeed, everyone knows that the villain is the Indian liability law, which makes the supplier liable to damages in the event of an accident, in contravention of the existing international practice. In reality, the opponents of the nuclear deal, particularly its provisions for trade with the US, achieved with the liability law what they failed to achieve by opposing the deal. They created an aura of sentiment around the issue by invoking the plight of the Bhopal victims and got the law passed. It is arguable that the existing laws were quite sufficient to deal with the liability issue, if it ever arose. 

Massacre at km 43 : The Unanswered questions

Much has been written and said about the Maoist ambush on 25 May at Km 43 in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar Division, which eliminated a large part of the Congress Party’s state leadership. Among the 31 people killed were the state Congress President, Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh and some present and former MLAs. Amongst these was Mahendra Karma, a powerful tribal leader form Bastar who had founded the Salwa Judum movement. VC Shukla, a former union minister was seriously injured and succumbed to his injuries 16 days later on 11 June 2011. The tragedy however leaves many important questions unanswered, primarily because the questions were not asked or if asked were suppressed. 

The first of these is the strength of the police party with the ambushed convoy. Personal security officers accompanied some of the Congress leaders, but their total number as also the total number of state police personnel in the convoy remains shrouded in secrecy. There is also no information available of the number of weapons and ammunition carried by the police forces, communications available within the police protection party, and who was the police officer in charge of security of the convoy. While most press reports suggest that about 50 police personnel accompanied the convoy, the more realistic assessment is that the number was about 20 police personnel only. Even Karma was not moving with his full complement of personal security officers despite having Z category security, which has a complement of 26 personnel from the CRPF/ITBP along with an escort vehicle. Personal security officers move on the orders of the person whom they are protecting. Evidently, Karma and some others chose to dilute the strength of the protection afforded to them. Karma in all likelihood had less than half a dozen personnel with him, which to an extent proved to be his undoing. These lapses must be avoided when VIP protection is afforded. 

The second question pertains to the change in route. From Sukma, the convoy was to go to Dantewada and then head for Jagdalpur on NH 16. The delay in Sukma, where the Congress held its ‘Parivartan Yatra’ presumably caused a change in plans and the group decided to return via Darbha, on the route it had earlier come. It is true that this route was shorter and would have saved some time, but plans are not changed just for an hours saving in time. There were security issues involved in terms of road opening, which would be difficult to do at short notice. Why then was this decision taken? Based on the original plan, Congress workers had organised a reception for their leaders at Dantewada, which is also a district HQ and welcome buntings dotted the area. From there, the move would have been on the relatively more secure NH 16. This aspect has not received the attention it deserves.

The third question is what gave the Maoists the level of assurance that the Congress convoy would return on the same route? This was not an opportunity ambush but a deliberately planned one. The ambush party would have assembled at least a day prior in the general area. UAV pictures taken two days before the ambush indicate the presence of a large group of Maoists in the area, which substantiates the assessment that the ambush was pre planned. Why then was the convoy not attacked while moving to Sukma? The ambush was located on a series of bends on the road and the placement of the improvised explosive device (IED) on the northern side of the bends indicates it was planned for the returning convoy. For the incoming convoy, the IED would have been placed on the southern side of the bends. The return journey of the convoy was planned on a different route, yet the Maoists set up the ambush for the returning convoy. What made them so sure that the convoy would come back on that route when the convoy was supposed to go back via Dantewada? Evidently, the Maoists had insider information, which enabled continuous tracking of the movement of the convoy. This shows up intelligence deficits, both in assessing Maoist intentions and in preventing breach of information security. 

With respect to police operations, the prime weakness appears to be an organisational failure. The small contingent accompanying the convoy, consisting of both personal security officers and state police personnel operated as individuals and were not grouped to function as a team. When the Maoists opened fire at 4.30 in the afternoon after blasting the third vehicle, the convoy was spread over a distance of about 200 meters. There was however, no organised resistance. In a couple of minutes, the firing ceased and the Maoists were in total control of the area. Eight police personnel lost their lives and seven were injured. Some were killed after the Maoists had taken over the area. The Maoists also took away all their weapons and ammunition. 

Lashkar-e-Taiba Capable of Threatening U.S. Homeland

By Stephen Tankel Testimony June 12, 2013 House Homeland Security Committee 



Lashkar-e-Taiba is clearly capable of posing a threat to the United States, but one that must be kept in perspective. 

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is one of Pakistan’s oldest and most powerful militant groups, says Stephen Tankel. In testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, he explains the group’s operational capabilities and assesses the prospects for an attack on the American homeland. 

Policy Recommendations 

Reallocate intelligence resources: With the decimation of al-Qaeda’s central leadership, Washington should increase the number of intelligence officers and analysts focused on LeT and other emerging terrorist threats. 

Degrade overseas networks: The United States should deepen counterterrorism cooperation with India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom to disrupt LeT’s overseas financing and recruitment. 

Target Western trainees: Washington should increase pressure on Pakistan to identify, arrest, and extradite any Westerners training or attempting to train with LeT. 

Warn Pakistan: The United States should signal to Pakistan’s military and intelligence services the severe repercussions that would result if LeT, or elements within it, mounted an attack on American soil. 

Tankel concludes, “LeT is clearly capable of posing a threat to the United States, but one that must be kept in perspective. . . . The United States must remain attentive to the evolving threat and vigilant in taking steps to degrade the group.” 

Lashkar-e-Taiba (the Army of the Pure or LeT) is one of Pakistan’s oldest and most powerful militant groups. India has been its primary enemy since the early 1990s and the group has never considered itself to be an al-Qaeda affiliate, but the U.S. is clearly on its enemies list. Since 9/11, the group’s anti-American rhetoric has turned into action. LeT has been actively attacking U.S. and Coalition forces in Afghanistan since 2004-2005, its presence there increased in the last several years and it deployed a small number of fighters to Iraq following the U.S. invasion of that country. LeT has also killed Americans and other Westerners in terrorist attacks in India and contributed to other plots targeting them as well. The group has the capabilities to launch terrorist attacks outside of South Asia, including against the U.S., and is likely working to augment those capabilities. However, the question of LeT’s intent to engage in a unilateral attack against the U.S. homeland remains hotly debated. 

Before turning to LeT’s capabilities and intent, it is important to recognize why Pakistan is unlikely to attempt dismantling the group in the near term. First, the Pakistani military and its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) have long considered LeT to be the country’s most reliable proxy against India and the group still provides utility in this regard. Second, Pakistan is facing a serious jihadist insurgency. LeT remains one of the few militant outfits whose policy is to refrain from launching attacks against the Pakistani state. Fearing LeT’s capability to execute or assist with terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s heartland, the security establishment does not want to take any action to change this calculus. LeT has built a robust social welfare apparatus via its above-ground wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), and assorted other legitimate relief organizations. As a result, concerns also exist regarding its capability to provoke social unrest in strongholds such as Lahore. Moreover, LeT actually provides assistance at times against some of the groups involved in anti-state violence. This assistance includes challenging the ideological underpinnings of waging jihad against a Muslim government, providing intelligence regarding anti-state militants’ activities, and in some instances even targeting anti-state militants directly.1 LeT has provided similar intelligence and direct action assistance against separatists in Balochistan as well. In short, the group has utility both externally and internally. Third, some of LeT’s members enjoy strong personal relationships with members of Pakistan’s armed forces.2 

A Taliban demand, a Pakistani consensus

Jun 14 2013 
By vocally condemning drones, Pakistan's army and political parties have chosen populism over realism 

There is a political consensus in Pakistan against the American strategy of using unmanned drone aircraft against targets inside the country's territory. In the past, an all-party gathering has condemned the drone attacks and parliament too has passed a consensual resolution against them. The Pakistan army, pursuing a populist course in the post-Musharraf era, has positioned itself against the drones. The media hype against the drones has heightened the sense of sovereignty of a state that has otherwise been rendered dysfunctional by the men targeted by drones. 

No democratic state can avoid populism even when populism challenges its capacity to act autonomously. It is a measure of new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's defiance of populism that in his first speech in parliament after being sworn in, he has not denounced the drones or asserted state sovereignty over the Iranian gas pipeline opposed by the US. A grand congregation of clerics in Islamabad has called upon him to stop the US drone attacks and get out of the "war against terrorism" imposed by the US on an unwilling Pakistan. Sharif's ministers, bowing to political wisdom, have condemned the drones too. 

The new parliament will be shrill on the drones soon enough, led by Imran Khan and his party who, as a preliminary measure to cut the ground from under the feet of the ruling Muslim League, will present Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to the electorate as the more attractive alternative. In the past, the ruling PPP (at the centre) and ANP (in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) knew that the drones actually did the job that the state was unable to do, but fell back on the safer policy of condemning them. 

The US and its NATO allies in Afghanistan more or less favour the drone policy because it helps them withdraw post-haste from the battlefield under pressure from their own domestic "come home" populism that doesn't care any more about the menace of global terrorism. There is however growing criticism of the drones from inside the US because of the collateral damage they cause in the shape of innocent casualties. President Obama has taken care of that by promising that he will subject the drones operations to stricter scrutiny. 

Nawaz Sharif was well-advised not to pledge "going to court" against America on the drones in his speech because their "attacks violated Pakistan's sovereignty without a declaration of war". The clerical consensus, close to the Taliban despite the fact that some of their leaders have been murdered by them, wants Sharif to kick the American ambassador out of Pakistan, and after which to also consider the possibility of breaking off relations with Washington. Lawyers make fine points about how America could be challenged under international law, but don't say which forum apart from the UN Security Council can hear a case brought by one of the world's most isolated states. 

Those who get targeted by the drones are mostly terrorists with little or no collateral damage: the Taliban, Punjabi Taliban, the Haqqani group, al-Qaeda Arabs and (if and when the Pakistan army wants) the warlords of Khyber and other tribal agencies. Nek Muhammad, Baitullah Mehsud, Qari Hussain Mehsud, Ilyas Kashmiri, etc, should have been killed by Pakistan but were disposed of by the drones. (Mullah Nazir, favoured by Pakistan, was killed by a drone because he raided inside Afghanistan.) 


Pashtunabad—a poor, wind- and flyblown suburb of Quetta—is the type of Pakistani town where commanders in the Afghan Taliban generally lived after being kicked out of their home country in 2001. Modest cement-block and mud-brick, one- and two-story homes sit cheek by jowl along the narrow, largely unpaved streets and open sewers. Graffiti such as “Long Live Mullah Omar” and “Long Live the Jihad” are scrawled on walls; the black-and-white flag of a pro-Taliban political party flies over many homes.

Living in a town like Pashtunabad carried advantages for the Afghan Taliban’s leadership: it allowed them to fly under the radar and cultivate an image as average Joes, even as they were directing an insurgency against U.S. troops across the border. But in recent years, some Taliban commanders have begun moving out of places like Pashtunabad—and into new neighborhoods that could not be more different. They have transformed rural districts of mud-brick homes in places like Kuchlak—a stretch of poor and arid land populated largely by fruit and vegetable farmers, located on the road from Quetta to the Afghan border—into little boomtowns. Farther to the south, they have abandoned Karachi’s poor Sohrab Goth neighborhood for wealthier developments like Clifton, where they live in the vicinity of the Pakistani elite, including businessmen, entertainers, artists, and politicians. (The Bhutto family has a sprawling compound in the area, and Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Pakistani President Ali Asif Zardari, often stays there.) Many Clifton residents live in such a heavy security bubble, they probably don’t even know the Taliban are in town.

In these wealthier neighborhoods, Taliban members are building and buying flashy mansions featuring faux Grecian columns, silver-tinted blastproof windows, and 10-foot-high walls topped with concertina wire. Once, the stereotype of a Taliban leader was that he drove around in an old, secondhand, beaten-up Toyota Corolla; these men, by contrast, drive new Toyota Land Cruisers or other luxury cars.

Taliban leaders, in other words, are a lot richer than they used to be just a few years ago—and the source of their sudden influx of wealth is no secret in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The Taliban are more involved than ever in systematically promoting, financing, organizing, and protecting the drug trade,” Ahmad Woror, the director of narcotics control in Helmand province, tells Newsweek. “Drugs are ultimately providing the money, food, weapons, and suicide bombers to the insurgency and the good life to Taliban leaders in Quetta, Karachi, and across Afghanistan.”

Beware the “Thucydides Trap” Trap

By James R. Holmes 
June 13, 2013 

Professor Graham Allison of the Kennedy School at Harvard commonly warns the United States and China not to fall into the "Thucydides Trap.” This trap, he opines, yawns wide because of "the dangers two parties face when a rising power rivals a ruling power — as Athens did in 5th century BC and Germany did at the end of the 19th century. Most such challenges have ended in war. Peaceful cases required huge adjustments in the attitudes and actions of the governments and the societies of both countries involved." 

Allison is referring to Thucydides' famous statement that it was the rise of Athenian power and the fear it inspired in Sparta that constituted the true cause of the Peloponnesian War. I have my doubts about this rather mechanical reading of Thucydides' history, and about whether the father of history meant to propound a general rule of international affairs. Straight-line projections often say something important. They help reveal the context within which power politics unfolds. But human decisions, actions, and interactions matter as much as any measure of national power or any trend the observer may chart — often more so. 

The Greek precedent maps to contemporary circumstances imperfectly at best. Indeed, this is one historical analogy that's instructive precisely because of the differences it exposes. Simple realities of power were at work in the Greek world, but Sparta was no America. Far from being an established custodian of the regional order, the Spartans were loath to exercise leadership. That's different from a Great Britain or an America at its zenith, a global marine power jealous of its standing. 

The Spartans' reticence frustrated their allies while opening the door for Athens to vie for regional supremacy. It was the Athenians who led the effort to mop up the remnants of the Persian incursion following such apocalyptic battles as Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea. They rode their success to leadership first of a league of city-states, and ultimately of a nautical empire scattered across much of the Mediterranean world. That sounds more like Britain or the United States. 

But it was the character of Athens' rise, not the mere fact of its rise, that helped set the Peloponnesian War in motion. Hubris — overweening pride that brings forth divine punishment — is a central theme in Greek history and literature. The Athenians contracted a bad case of it while rolling back the Persians and founding their empire. Half a century after the fact, as Thucydides tells it, Athenian emissaries were still regaling anyone who would listen about the city's part in defeating Persia. Meanwhile, their consensual league of states mutated into a tyranny. Small wonder the Spartans fretted over Athens' rise. Economic and naval might joined to such bombast must have looked menacing indeed. 

China South Asia Think Tank Forum (CSATTF) at Kunming – A report and analysis

Guest Column by Commodore R. S. Vasan (Retd.) 


The first ever forum of selected think tanks in South Asia was conducted at Kunming in the Yunnan province from 06 to 07 Jun 2013. This was planned along with the EXPO which is being conducted for many years. 

The event was fully supported by the Chinese Government, think tanks in China and the Yunnan province. The first CSATTF was co-sponsored by the Chinese academy of Social Sciences and Yunnan Provincial People’s Government and was organized by the Institute of Asia Pacific and Global Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, Yunnan Provincial Foreign Culture Exchange Association. The collaborative efforts were provided from China Institute of International Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, Shanghai Institute of International Studies, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, China Foundation for Peace and development, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi. The forum with participation of over 120 resource persons provided an opportunity for the participants from South Asian countries to meet in a happening province that has a lot of relevance to connectivity between the Asian neighbours. China capitalized on the opportunity and ensured that it remained an active player in the academic discussions about the role of China in furthering trade and commerce and also regional integration in the Asian century. The forum doubtlessly has allowed China to play a pivotal role in enabling the meeting. 

There was a mega performance with wonderful dynamic settings on the eve of the conference which show cased the agility and potential of many performers who put up a song and dance show. The show with many themes enthralled the audience and gave a glimpse of the cultural extravaganza as performed by Chinese artists. The audience was encouraged to participate by providing all of them with colourful torches and clapping devices. Even a scintillating number from Bollywood was sung in an effortless manner to the accompanying music and dance by the team members. The showcasing of the cultural event again was an effort to bring out the professional way in which Chinese artists were able to put up a great show in some extra ordinary settings for both the domestic and international audience. 

The inaugural ceremony was conducted in a new EXPO facility which apparently was built about a month ahead of schedule specifically for the EXPO.The airport itself is imaginatively built and is very different from the run of the mill one sees around the world including India. Various dignitaries from South Asian countries were present and delivered the opening address during the morning ceremony on 06th June 2013. India was conspicuous by its absence on the stage during the inauguration of the EXPO. The reasons for the absence are best known to the Indian Government as there were no indications in the media or in the public domain to suggest a possible explanation. The Premier of China and the PM of India had gone ahead with the meeting in India after the issue of incursion along the LAC was resolved after some behind the scene efforts and it was expected that there would be some representation at the inaugural by a Government representative. The EXPO would have provided a wonderful opportunity to understand the areas of concern in bilateral and multilateral trade amongst the South Asian countries. .This was even more important as India continues to feel that the bilateral trade with China is heavily skewed in China’s favour and there is a need to expand the range of trade activity based on ground realities. There were many Indian stalls who alongside their counterparts from other South Asian countries were trying to do business as they were showcasing their products. 

Coming to the event itself, the think tank dialogue consisted again of the inaugural addresses by dignitaries after the EXPO in an International Conference Hall at a beautifully maintained picturesque resort (Dianchi Garden Hotel) some distance away from the city. The range of dignitaries for this forum included many former Ambassadors and other representatives including from India. The subsequent parallel sessions were divided in to the following streams.- 

China in Africa: The New Imperialists?

It happened in Zambia like it could happen elsewhere in Africa. Chinese investors made deals with the government to mine its natural resources, filling federal coffers with billions of dollars. Chinese immigrants moved into cities and rural towns. They started construction companies; opened copper, coal, and gem mines; and built hotels and restaurants, all providing new jobs. They set up schools and hospitals. But then instances of corruption, labor abuse, and criminal coverups began to set the relationship between the Chinese and the Africans aflame. 

The Chinese have managed to accomplish at least one impressive thing in Africa—they have made everyone else uncomfortable. The Americans are uneasy, worried about (and perhaps jealous of) China’s rapid and profitable investments throughout the continent, and the developmental assistance that it has started to provide in some areas. Europeans have only to look at trade figures: the share of Africa’s exports that China receives has shot from one to fifteen per cent over the past decade, while the European Union’s share fell from thirty-six to twenty-three per cent. China is now Africa’s largest trading partner. 

Some Africans have become resentful, though, unhappy with unbalanced relationships in which China has taken proprietorship of African natural resources using Chinese labor and equipment without transferring skills and technology. “China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism,” Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, wrote in the Financial Times earlier this year. 

The threat (whether real or imagined) of a looming Chinese imperialist presence in Africa has given way to what has been called “resource nationalism,” in which countries aim to take control of the exploitation of their natural resources. But this idea potentially fails to address the fact that the Chinese in Africa are people, and not just part of a faceless imperialist mass. I’ve spoken to Chinese investors in Zambia who appear to genuinely want to not just make money but integrate into Zambian communities and run responsible companies. One complained about how immoral businessmen ruin the efforts of others who want to pay fair wages and keep their workers safe. 

In Zambia, a copper-rich country in southern Africa and the beneficiary of the continent’s third-highest level of Chinese investment, persistent unemployment and poverty have left Zambians wondering where exactly the fruits of their government’s lucrative deals with the Chinese have gone. President Michael Sata won election in 2011 partly thanks to anti-Chinese sentiment (he likened work at Chinese mines to slave labor and said he would deport any abusive investors), but immediately forged close ties with Chinese leaders. Still, his government has tried, at least on the surface, to even its playing field with China by launching criminal proceedings against former government officials who made corrupt deals with the Chinese, and by reforming the way foreign investors have to do business in Zambia. It is likely that the country will be only the first of many to do so. 

The looming U.S.-China rivalry over Latin America

By Gary Regenstreif 
June 12, 2013 


President Barack Obama meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) in California, June 7, 2013. 

Though the U.S. and Chinese presidents heralded a “new model” of cooperation at their weekend summit, a growing competition looks more likely. The whirlwind of activity before President Barack Obama met with President Xi Jinping in the California desert revealed that Beijing and Washington’s sights are set on a similar prize — and face differing challenges to attain it. 

Their focus is Latin America and the prize is increased trade and investment opportunities in a region where economic reforms have pulled millions out of poverty and into the middle class. Latin America is rich in the commodities and energy that both China and the United States need, largely stable politically and eager to do deals. 

Consider the travel itinerary: Obama visited Mexico and Costa Rica last month. Vice President Joe Biden recently went to Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil. Chile’s president paid Obama a visit last week, Peru’s leader arrived Tuesday and Brazil’s is due in October. 

Meanwhile, just after Biden left Trinidad, Xi arrived, part of a tour that also took him to Costa Rica and Mexico to promote trade and cooperation. 

Both U.S. and Chinese officials, however, are finding a more self-confident Latin America, able to leverage its new strength to forge better agreements and find multiple trading partners. That will likely force Washington to work harder to maintain its leading trade position against China — which has money to burn in the region. 

“There is a more energetic [U.S.] tone, a more optimistic mood about economic agenda in second term than [the] first time,” Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington policy group, told me. “There’s something happening in the region and the U.S. wants to be part of it. Whether there’s a well-thought-out vision or policy remains a question. But there is more of an affirmation of the region and a willingness to engage.” 

The United States, Latin America’s largest trading partner throughout much of its history, still retains this position. Washington has now signed free trade agreements with more than a third of the hemisphere’s nations and annually exchanges more than $800 billion in goods and services with Latin America — more than three times the region’s commerce with China. 

Will India go dirty like US on cyber snooping?

June 13, 2013 

India may have security concerns on its mind as it prepares to roll out its own version of an Internet spying programme. But activists are concerned about its misuse. Vicky Nanjappa reports

Even as United States battled to make amends following the global outrage over the secret Internet spying programme, codenamed PRISM -- leaked to the media by whistle-blower Edward Snowden -- India is getting ready to roll out its own cyber snooping agency called the National Cyber Coordination Centre.

New Delhi has been concerned over reports on PRISM, which gives the US agencies access to almost everything that anyone is doing online. Worse, India figures fifth in the list of most-snooped countries online.

India’s NCCC is similar in nature, but agencies assure that there would be absolutely no invasion to privacy and the necessary safeguards will be taken. 

The primary job of the NCCC is to carry out a real-time assessment of cyber security threats and also provide actionable reports.

An officer working with the programme told rediff.com that the nature of India’s programme is largely to do with the analysis of meta data; it would not involve watching content. 

However, based on the analysis and also the large manpower monitoring the Internet, any suspicious flow of activity will raise a flag.

“We face a major problem on the Internet space today. Our systems have been hacked in the past. Because we have been in a reactionary mode, it becomes important to roll out such a programme which could prevent an attack,” the officer said.

The NCCC team would ensure that critical data belonging to individuals would not be watched unless it aroused suspicion.

Allaying fears of misuse, the government is taking steps to ensure that there is accountability and has named the Department of Electronics and Information Technology as the nodal agency. 

Can the State avoid monitoring Internet?

By Manoj Joshi
12 June 2013

The report that the US National Security Agency is mining a huge amount of information from the Internet is not surprising. Since 9/11 and the burgeoning growth of the Internet and the social media in the 2000s, the need to access this data has been a major compulsion for the intelligence agencies. The fact that jihadist networks soon proliferated all over the Internet made this even more important. 

Most of the world's communications flow through the United States, providing it fortuitous access to it. According to the Guardian newspaper of UK, companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, PayTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL have been the source of data from e-mail, chat (video and voice), photos, stored files, VOIP, file transfers, video conferencing, banking, travel, and so on. 

There was a time when people wondered whether even huge agencies like the NSA could cope with the massive increase in data that had taken place because of the internet. One estimate is that the world's daily output of data is currently of the order of 2.5 quintillion bytes. But the PRISM data collection programme which was leaked to The Guardian and Washington Post revealed that the Americans have indeed mastered the challenge. 

Advances in software technology had made it possible to carry out largely automatic and rapid searches through vast amounts of data. The software can, for example, match time and location data from cellphones with credit card purchases. Indeed, the kind of information available is much more than the one that could be obtained through simply carrying out physical surveillance on a target or tapping their phones. 

More important, this surveillance can be carried out on individuals living thousands of miles away. Metadata analysis - such as who is calling who, and who is traveling where, or who is purchasing what and where - is extremely useful in tracking the movements of suspect individuals. 

The PRISM leak showed, for example, that the "Boundless Informant" data mining tool collected 97 billion pieces of data in March 2013 alone. Of this, 14 per cent was from Iran, 13.5 from Pakistan, Jordan 12.7, Egypt 7.6, India 6.3, and about 3 per cent came from within the US. The target countries suggest that besides Iran, which is viewed as a US adversary because of its nuclear programme, the surveillance related to jihadist terrorism. You must also take into account that internet usage in most of these countries is not particularly high as a proportion to their population. 

Type 'S' for Suspicious

DARPA's far-out, high-tech plan to catch the next Edward Snowden. 

JUNE 12, 2013 


Government-funded trolls. Decoy documents. Software that identifies you by how you type. Those are just a few of the methods the Pentagon has pursued in order to find the next Edward Snowden before he leaks. The small problem, military-backed researchers tell Foreign Policy, is that every spot-the-leaker solution creates almost as many headaches as it's supposed to resolve. 

With more than 1.4 million Americans holding top-secret clearance throughout a complex network of military, government, and private agencies, rooting out the next Snowden or Bradley Manning is a daunting task. But even before last week's National Security Agency (NSA) revelations, the government was funding research to see whether there are telltale signs in the mountains of data that can help detect internal threats in advance. 

In the months following the WikiLeaks revelations, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) -- the U.S. military's far-out tech arm -- put out a number of requests for research on methods to detect suspicious behavior in large datasets as a way to root out rogue actors like Manning (or in more extreme cases, ones like Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan.) 

The most ambitious of these is known as Anomaly Detection at Multiple Scales (ADAMS), a program that as an October 2010 research request put it, is meant "to create, adapt and apply technology to the problem of anomaly characterization and detection in massive data sets." The hope is that ADAMS would develop computers that could analyze a large set of user-generated data -- the emails and data requests passing through an NSA office in Honolulu for instance -- and learn to detect abnormal behavior in the system. 

The tricky part of this kind of analysis is not so much training a computer to detect aberrant behavior -- there's plenty of that going around on any large network -- it's training a computer what to ignore. 

"I like to use the example of learning to recognize the difference between reindeer and elk," wrote Oregon State University computer scientist Tom Dietterich, who worked on developing anomaly detection methods for ADAMS, in an email to Foreign Policy. "If all I need to do is tell these species apart, I can focus on the size [of] their antlers and whether the antlers have velvety fur, and I don't need to consider color. But if I only focus on these features, I won't notice that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is anomalous, because I'm ignoring color (and noses, for that matter). So in an anomaly detection system, it is important to consider any attribute (or behavior) that might possibly be relevant rather than trying to focus on a very few specific characteristics." 

Will 'Digital Ethnic Cleansing' Be Part of the Internet's Future?

Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen, and Steve Clemons discuss the political limitations of the Internet. 

May 18 2013

It's easy to assume that a global Internet, with all its promise of scaled communication and education and democratization, will eventually help to foster democracy. But it's also not entirely accurate to assume that. In a conversation with The Atlantic's Steve Clemons yesterday evening, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen -- co-Googlers and co-authors of The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations, and Business -- made a point of emphasizing the limitations of technological innovation. Particularly when it comes to geopolitical change. 

"We're very concerned about the balkanization of the Internet," Schmidt said -- and not just because division itself in so many ways runs contrary to the ideals the Internet, and the web, were founded on. Splintering, especially based on geopolitical divisions, could also have direct political and physical consequences. If you're an autocratic government that feels threatened by the existence of an open Internet, Schmidt noted, you're going to resist that Internet -- in the way that, say, Iran has resisted it. Last month, he pointed out, Iran announced plans for a state-run digital map that would function as an "Islamic Google Earth." ("I'm not making this up," Schmidt insisted, as the crowd laughed at the sad absurdity. "This is actually what they announced.") 

Iran's willful exclusion of its citizens from the Internet much of the rest of the world knows -- its attempt to take the "worldwide" aspect out of the World Wide Web -- may well indicate weakness in the regime itself. ("If this is what passes for leadership," Schmidt put it, "these guys have a problem.") If so, though, it's a weakness belied by technological capabilities: the Iranian regime, at this point, does have the infrastructural power to filter the Internet. It can censor its citizens with increasingly surgical precision. It can create its own version of YouTube. It can bypass Google and Facebook and other American companies, shaping the experience of the Internet for all but the most technologically savvy of its citizens. "Islamic Google Earth" may be a joke; it may also be, however, a harbinger of what's to come.
Clemons, Cohen, and Schmidt discuss the new digital age. (The Atlantic) 

NSA chief defends his dual cyber, intel roles


The nation’s largest spy agency shares the same building and the same leader with the Pentagon’s cyberwar unit — and the man who runs both told Capitol Hill on Wednesday that the two shouldn’t be divorced despite growing criticism of U.S. surveillance tactics.

Gen. Keith Alexander told a Senate panel that the closely intertwined relationship between the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command has helped the country successfully defend against foreign hackers and spies — despite privacy hawks’ fears that the arrangement concentrates too much power over the nation’s cybersecurity and intelligence operations in one person’s hands. 

“There are close working relationships that enable seamless, deconflicted operations that are vital to the success of the cyber mission,” Alexander said in prepared testimony released for the hearing. 

“Only a tightly integrated team and tightly integrated solutions can do what is required to address cyberthreats at net speed,” he added. 

Alexander’s testimony Wednesday arrives at a perilous time for both the infamous “No Such Agency” and its quieter, cybersecurity-minded cousin at the Pentagon. 

For one thing, the NSA now faces historic scrutiny over a broad and ill-defined program called PRISM, which appears designed to siphon information about foreign targets from Internet companies. Meanwhile, the NSA remains caught in new political and legal crosshairs for seeking an unprecedented amount of phone-record data from millions of Verizon customers. 

Questions about both programs quickly dominated Alexander’s appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee, whose leader, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), called the session to explore the country’s cybersecurity budget needs. 

For her part, Mikulski has been an instrumental force in housing CyberCom alongside the NSA at Fort Meade, Md. — and she has promised “a lot of hearings” on the intelligence leaks attributed to former contractor Edward Snowden. 

For all the talk about leaks, however, Congress is grappling with a more fundamental question: Should the same individual lead the nation’s intelligence and military agencies? 

On one side is Alexander, who was confirmed to lead the Pentagon’s primary cyber force in 2010 even though lawmakers expressed concern they didn’t understand the full scope of CyberCom’s powers and responsibilities. 

Alexander on Wednesday detailed in prepared remarks that his dual hatting as the leader of both the NSA and CyberCom “unifies the capabilities” to detect and respond to cyberthreats. And he emphasized his agencies’ work to ensure “we keep the trust of the American people.” 

“We do not see a trade-off between security and liberty,” Alexander emphasized. 

Still, there’s some new congressional interest in re-evaluating that relationship.