13 July 2013

The Indian Foreign Service: Worthy of an Emerging Power? *****

July 12, 2013
By Sudha Ramachandran

The IFS has long been the elite. As India’s global reach grows, it now faces serious challenges.

India’s global ambitions have grown remarkably over the past decade. However, questions are being raised about the capacity of its diplomatic corps to act as an effective catalyst in India’s transformation to a global power. Analysts are asking whether the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) has the numerical strength to project India’s influence in a manner befitting an emerging power. Do its officers have the expertise to engage in the kind of complex diplomacy that is required of a global power? Are IFS officers too preoccupied with putting out fires to spare time for crafting a grand strategy based on a long-term vision?

Several of the criticisms being hurled at the IFS are not new. The service has grappled with short staffing, for instance, for decades. Only now, given India’s growing global stature, have these problems acquired a new significance and resonance.

Part of the Ministry of External Affairs, the IFS is the permanent bureaucracy comprising of career diplomats. It works with several other bodies such as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the National Security Council (NSC) and so on in the formulation and implementation of India’s foreign policy.

According to an official source in the Ministry of External Affairs, India’s diplomatic corps consists of around 1,750 officers, which includes roughly 750 IFS Grade-A officers, 250 IFS Grade-B personnel, military attachés, and other officers.

The IFS’ numerical strength is small not only in the context of India’s geographic size and its 1.1-billion population, but also in comparison to the diplomatic corps of its counterparts in other countries. “India is served by the smallest diplomatic corps of any major country, not just far smaller than the big powers but by comparison with most of the larger emerging countries,” wrote Shashi Tharoor, a former junior minister in the MEA (2009-10) and former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his book Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century (Penguin, 2012).

Indeed, the IFS is miniscule compared with its U.S. counterpart, and is also far smaller than the foreign services of countries like China and Brazil. 

The IFS’s short-staffing was identified as a weakness of the Indian foreign policy establishment in a report prepared by N R Pillai as far back as 1965. This shortage of personnel is being acutely felt now with India’s growing global footprint. As the country’s interests and influence extend into more continents, it needs more diplomatic representation. For instance, Africa and Latin America are emerging rapidly on India’s radar and while India has increased the number of missions on those continents, they are inadequate.

The inadequate number of personnel in the IFS has also expanded the workload of India’s diplomats. More importantly, as the Naresh Chandra Task Force Report of 2012 pointed out, the IFS doesn't have enough diplomats to “anticipate, analyze and act on contemporary challenges.” In other words, the IFS is inadequately equipped to act proactively in response to global challenges.

Recruitment to the IFS is through competitive examinations held annually. More than 400,000 aspirants take the preliminary exams. Those who qualify go on to take another round of exams and then an interview. At the end of it all roughly a thousand are recruited into the IFS, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Police Service (IPS), the Indian Revenue Service (IRS), and other agencies.

According to Tharoor, the former MEA official, 30-35 people are recruited annually into the IFS, up from around 12 about 30 years ago. In other words, just 0.01% of those who sit the exam make it to the IFS.

The competitive exam that is used to recruit India’s diplomats also selects its domestic bureaucrats, its police and its customs and tax officials. Thus, those who join the IFS are not necessarily people with the skills or aptitude for a career in diplomacy.

Until the 1970s, a career in the IFS was much coveted; it attracted the brightest in the country. Tharoor observes that Indian diplomats have “long enjoyed a justified reputation as among the world’s best in individual talent and ability.”

However, there has been a visible decline in the quality of IFS recruits in recent years. With jobs in the corporate sector paying better and a career in domestic bureaucracies such as the IAS, IPS and IRS promising more power, the IFS has become a less attractive option. It no longer attracts the very brightest. Increasingly, those who join the IFS do so because they did not make the cut to the other more lucrative services. Several of these younger officers are in fact not interested in diplomacy and international affairs.

Thus the impact of understaffing is compounded by the declining quality of its personnel.

To address the problem of understaffing of the IFS, the Indian government has stepped up the numbers being recruited annually. This is expected to double the service’s strength by the end of the decade, the MEA official said.

Tharoor is among many who have suggested the lateral entry of experts from other departments, universities, think tanks and elsewhere. The need for such lateral recruitment has grown dramatically in recent years. Negotiations on nuclear liability clause-related issues, space laws, climate change, environment security, and other areas require considerable expertise in the subject, which an IFS officer may not have.

However, the IFS has strongly resisted hiring or even consulting outside experts. In contrast to the U.S., where foreign policy and area studies experts from universities and think tanks are often appointed to senior positions in the State Department and are routinely consulted in policy making, in India the IFS is loathe to draw on outside talent and expertise.

“They behave like blue-blooded Brahmins,” who know it all and do not need to draw on specialists in academia, think tanks or the media, observed Srikanth Kondapalli, professor in the School of International Studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Strongly refuting this criticism, Tharoor said that where the situation warranted outside expertise, the IFS doesn’t hesitate to consult. Indeed, experts in space law and trade issues have been taken on board for short periods. In Sri Lanka, where India is involved in a big way in construction of houses in the war-ravaged North, “it is an engineer not a career diplomat who is guiding the project,” he pointed out.

China & India: All Not Quiet on the Western Front

By Pratyush
July 12, 2013

Reports of a fresh Chinese incursion in India’s Ladakh region surfaced in the first week of July, barely two months after a tense border face-off in mid-April when a Chinese platoon set up camp about 19 km inside Indian territory. Reports of the latest incursion, which took place on June 17, came three days after the July 5-6 visit of the Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony to China.

According to reports, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) patrol in the Chumar sector of southern Ladakh smashed Indian bunkers on June 17 and took away a camera placed on the ground, about 6 km ahead of an Indian Army post. The camera was ostensibly installed by the Indian Army to monitor Chinese troop movements along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de-facto border separating Indian-administered Kashmir from the Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin area.

India reportedly raised the issue two days after the incident at a border meeting on June 19. The Chinese returned the non-functional camera in early July. Given that the reports surfaced three weeks following the incident and going by New Delhi and Beijing’s attempts to play down the incident, it seems as if the two countries do not want to see a repeat of the April stand-off.

Reacting to the incident, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying denied the reports saying, “I have seen the relevant reports but I am not aware of the specific situation." She added, “Chinese defence forces have been patrolling along the Chinese side of the LAC of the China-India border. The general situation in the border areas is stable. We have the consensus that pending the final settlement of the boundary question no one of us should change the status quo along the LAC."

However, the Indian government’s attempts to play down the situation did not go well with the opposition, with the Bharatiya Janata Party accusing the government of “suppressing” the information. In the government’s defense, its response may have been guided by an attempt to prevent the situation from snowballing into a raging controversy fuelled by India’s hyper-sensitive media.

Yet the latest incident is a cause of deep concern and raises serious questions about China’s intentions. Even more so, since the incident has occurred against a backdrop of a spate of high-level visits exchanged between the two countries in recent months, including that of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India in May. Interestingly, New Delhi and Beijing held the 16th round of their Special Representatives' talks on the boundary question barely days after the incursion in the Chumar sector, which focused on devising joint mechanisms to avoid repetition of a Depsang-like situation.

However, despite claims by the Chinese interlocutor Yang Jiechi of “breaking new ground”, the two countries seem nowhere close to resolving the boundary dispute. China’s perceived incursions also come at a time when Beijing is involved in territorial disputes with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam – which makes the timing of its territorial row with India all the more curious.

Whichever way one looks at them, these incursions do not bode well for Sino-Indian ties and raise questions about the intentions of the new Chinese dispensation in Beijing, which seems to be potentially testing the waters before forcing the border issue with India. They may also shed light on the multiple factors influencing Chinese decision-making, including domestic constraints and government-military relations, among others. India would do well to expect and be prepared for similar border incursions over the coming months – particularly at a time when the Indian government’s political capital is at its lowest in the lead-up to the 2014 elections.

One way India could strengthen its hand in its dealings with China would be by shedding some of its ambivalence towards the so-called US pivot to Asia and intensifying its diplomatic engagement with other Asian partners like Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Limits to Encirclement in the Indian Ocean

July 8, 2013

The Indian Ocean, the third largest ocean after the Pacific and the Atlantic, connects the Indian sub-continent to Africa, the Middle East, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, and the Persian Gulf. As a result of this overlapping connectivity, the Indian Ocean has emerged as an intersection for vital geo-strategic, economic, and energy connections. Consequently, maintaining the freedom of the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs) via the Indian Ocean has emerged as a vital national security priority for the United States. In 2011, the Obama Administration announced its “pivot to Asia” policy under which the US focused on developing norms and rules in the context of the rise of China as an influential regional power. In its 2012 Strategic Guidance paper, the US Department of Defense (DoD) identified India as a regional strategic partner in providing security in the Indian Ocean region and a regional economic anchor.

Figure I: China-India Naval Deployments in the India Ocean
Source: Background map from Google Maps; data on maps by Namrata Goswami

The identification of India as a strategic partner by the US has not been lost on China. Chinese media, especially state owned papers like the People’s Daily and the Global Times are interpreting it as an encirclement of China. Depicted as external containment strategies, Chinese media argue that the United States is forming strategic partnerships with neighboring countries (read India) in order to ensure that China’s rise is contained and its regional influence limited. China also views the United States as engaged in active maritime encirclement, aimed at attaining dominance in the Indian Ocean, and deliberately creating problems for China in the South China Sea: maritime areas that China views as within its sphere of influence.

One of the points of contention for China is the visible naval exercises between the United States and India in the Indian Ocean. In 2012, the Indian navy and the United States navy jointly conducted the Malabar Exercise in the Indian Ocean; the Malabar series of naval exercises, which started in 1992, also involves Australia, Japan and Singapore. India, by itself, is investing around US $ 47 billion in its naval modernization, which includes purchasing of a new aircraft carrier from Russia, submarines from France, and maritime patrol aircraft from the United States. As part of its larger Indian Ocean strategy, India is also upgrading its naval base in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. This has been followed by agreements with other regional counterparts like Australia and Japan to conduct bilateral naval exercises.

China has also become more assertive in the Indian Ocean by strategically placing attack submarines, and increased naval deployments in and around the Indian Ocean. It is also involved in building port facilities in the Maldives and Sri Lanka, which could potentially be used as bases in the event of a conflict (See Figure I).

As wages rise in China, a huge opportunity beckons India if it can improve ease of doing business

Amitabh Kant 
Jul 11, 2013

The world's largest contract electronics manufacturer, Foxconn, is holding trade union "elections" at its gigantic factories in China which employ 1.2 million workers. This is a radical change demanded by an increasingly restive workforce. The company had moved from Taiwan to Shenzhen at the end of the 1980s. They are beginning to reverse the process and are now opening factories in Brazil and Indonesia.

As wages rise and China evolves into a high-cost economy, will India be able to fill the vacuum to become the global centre of manufacturing? The alarming news is that India's GDP growth has hit a decade low of 5% with manufacturing PMI at a 50-month-low in May, demonstrating that India's industrial recovery is moving sharply into reverse.

While in China, Brazil and South Africa the manufacturing sector has grown at higher rates than the GDP, in India the share of manufacturing in GDP has stagnated at 15% and accounts for a mere 12% of the workforce. However, manufacturing contributes almost 50% of India's exports and every job created in manufacturing has a multiplier effect creating three jobs in the services sector.

The new manufacturing policy envisages a rise of manufacturing's share in India's GDP to 25% by 2022 and the creation of an additional 100 million jobs in the manufacturing sector. Earlier, a study by BCG had highlighted the imperative need for creating 220 million jobs by 2025.

Achieving this will require a single-minded commitment to growth, with emphasis on job creation rather than job protection strategies. India will have to radically transform its manufacturing sector by focussing on large-scale labour-intensive factories producing exportable goods, reducing the share of employment in agriculture from the present 58% to 25% by 2030, with industry doubling its labour demand.

What does India need to do to usher in a manufacturing revolution? First, if the sector has to grow in the region of 12-14% over the medium term, exports have to play a critical role and they must accelerate at a much faster pace and achieve growth rates of 20-25% in real terms.

Secondly, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for 40% of India's workforce and contribute to 45% of India's manufacturing output. SMEs play a signi-ficant role in generating millions of jobs. India needs to enhance their scale of operations, ensure better adoption of technology, provide innovative financing and a mechanism for upgrading skills of workers. Thirdly, labour-intensive sectors like food processing, apparels & textiles, leather and footwear contribute to over 60% of SMEs' employment. Greater focus on growth of labour-intensive sectors will enable absorption of growing surplus of unskilled labour particularly in UP, Bihar and Jharkhand.

Fourthly, as energy costs have a major bearing on the manufacturing sector, India needs to get its power sector cracking by removing constraints on coal and gas. Fifthly, given that freight and logistics' costs are enormously high and 70% of container transportation is through roads, a modal shift from road to rail is necessary. The Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors should lead to radical reduction in freight costs.

Sixthly, port infrastructure needs a radical overhaul as the average turnaround time in India is 3.5 days as against a mere 10 hours in Hong Kong and 16.5 hours in Colombo. Such lack of world-class physical infrastructure has led to the IMD World Competitiveness Survey rating India at a lowly 54th among 57 countries in infrastructure facilities.

For large-scale manufacturing to take off, India must be transformed into an attractive investment, defined by easy availability of land, labour and capital. Starting and closing businesses and getting clearances must become less time-consuming, expensive and cumbersome. Enforcing contracts in India takes twice the time it takes in OECD countries and costs almost 40% of the contract signed. India's archaic labour laws are the most rigid in the world. They protect workers not jobs and adversely impact economies of scales and investment. No wonder, in the World Bank's Doing Business rankings, India was 164th out of 183 in starting a business and 134th in case of doing business.

India needs to really focus on development of industrial clusters where it can create an ecosystem of supply-chain responsiveness, lower logistic costs, availability of labour and technology upgradation. These clusters will convergethe advantages of higher innovation and employment generation for smaller firms with scale and cost advantage of larger organisations. Their advantages are already visible in auto and auto ancillary clusters in Tamil Nadu and pharma clusters in Andhra Pradesh. These clusters will provide cost and productivity gains and drive India up in the manufacturing chain.

Willful Ignorants **


Pakistan’s leaked bin Laden report proves that the country’s vaunted spy agency is either shockingly inept or duplicitous. Or both.

"Everyone, including the United States, thought Osama bin Laden was no longer alive." That was the explanation senior Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officials gave when asked how the world's most-wanted man had eluded them for a decade. But members of a Pakistani government commission charged with investigating the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden didn't buy it, and they said so in a remarkably candid 336-page report published by Al Jazeera this week.

The report, written by a four-man panel that included a retired supreme court judge and general, paints an alarming picture of Pakistan's storied spy agency -- one that hints strongly that ISI is either shockingly inept or duplicitous, or both. The members of the commission were given sweeping authority, and they seem to have used it in a refreshingly thorough manner, summoning more than two hundred witnesses, including Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of ISI and one of the most powerful men in Pakistan.

The report -- which took nine months to produce and another 15 to be leaked -- goes well beyond examining bin Laden's presence in the country, questioning the wisdom of delegating Pakistan's entire counterterrorism effort to a single, secret, military agency that is too proud to share its burden with anyone else. 

At a time when much of the domestic outrage over the raid centers around the Pakistani military's inability to defend against the American incursion, the commission turned the question on its head, saying the best defense would have been capturing al Qaeda's leader a long time ago. 

Refusing to rule out "some degree of connivance inside or outside the government," the commission places the blame for failing to find bin Laden on the ISI. The agency's "naivete and its lack of commitment to eradicating organized extremism, ignorance and violence," the report says, "is the single biggest threat to Pakistan."

At times literary in its retelling, the report gives us the clearest picture so far of what life was like for the 9/11 mastermind in the years leading up to his spectacular demise. Bin Laden was found in an expansive three-story home -- complete with 18-foot walls topped with barbed wire -- situated less than a mile from Kakul, the country's top military academy.

The home's size and placement were not lost on the commission, which questioned why it never came under suspicion so close to the Kakul academy. Pakistan's top military officials, constant targets of al Qaeda and the Taliban, must have passed by the home on a regular basis. Surely, someone in charge of their security detail must have made a mental note to look into what paranoid Pakistani lived in that fortress.

The house had four separate electricity and gas connections, an illegal third story, and its walls were well beyond the maximum height allowed by the cantonment, the military housing scheme the house was situated in. The owners also never paid their taxes, and bin Laden's two handlers, brothers Ibrahim and Abrar, used fabricated identities. All of this should have raised red flags -- except that Pakistan is notorious for its failure to enforce the law.

The cantonment that bin Laden called home contained between 7,000 and 8,000 unregistered buildings, according to the officials who were supposed to regulate them. And less than one percent of Pakistanis pay their taxes. At checkpoints ringing highly secured Pakistani cantonments like the one in Abbottabad, moreover, it is the poor who are disproportionately stopped -- the rickshaw driver, the day laborer on a bicycle, the tired student going home on a motorcycle at the end of a long day.

Of course, authorities simply cannot check everyone all the time. The commission's report acknowledges this fact, however, saying the only institution in Pakistan with the resources to look for high-value targets like bin Laden was the ISI.

"The actual role in counterterrorism," the report says of civilian institutions, "was at best marginal, and in the tracking of Osama bin Laden it was precisely zero."

The lesson from the bin Laden saga, the commission concludes, is that police and other civilian institutions should be given the resources and space to do their jobs. The survivors of the bin Laden raid, the report says, should have been handed over to the police, which should have tracked down what kind of support network they had in Pakistan. The report laments the fact that the Bin Laden raid investigation, like every other major terrorism case in Pakistan, was handled by the ISI, instead of civilian institutions that are readily accountable to others. 

Bin Laden lived with two other families -- dozens of people in all -- in the same home for six years. Before that, he was not sitting in a cave, but moving around what the report refers to as many of Pakistan's "settled areas." He and his family spent time in cities like Karachi, Quetta, and Peshawar. Bin Laden might not have had a Facebook account, but his social network was vast, and some of its members had even been touched by the otherwise non-existent Pakistani state.

We know that Bin Laden's couriers went to extreme lengths to hide their tracks. But they nonetheless had social lives at least until 2003, when they were spooked by the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the self-proclaimed operational mastermind of the 9/11 attacks

Ibrahim's wife Maryam, who was extensively quoted in the commission's report, recalls that her wedding party took place at KSM's home in Karachi. Bin Ladin's wife Amal attended the party, and the pair travelled together to Peshawar, where they met up with a clean-shaven Osama bin Laden and another man dressed in a police uniform. From there, they went to Swat, where they lived for six to eight months, and bin Laden was apparently confident enough to go to the bazaar with his family.

KSM visited them in 2003, bringing his family along and staying for two weeks. A month later, he was picked up in Rawalpindi in a joint U.S.-Pakistani operation. The bin Ladens split up after KSM's arrest, meeting later in the small city of Haripur, where they lived in a relatively small home for two years. Amal gave birth to two children in a local hospital.

End of the military strongman?

By Kathryn Alexeeff 
July 12, 2013

The success of Pakistan's democratic elections in May and the outcome of the recent protests in Egypt point to a shift in both countries' military participation in politics - while they will support or depose governments, they no longer seem interested in ruling the countries themselves.

Part of this seems to be self-preservation on the part of the military; if it does not rule the country, it will not get blamed if and when conditions on the ground don't improve. Both Pakistan and Egypthave severely damaged economies that will likely require several minor miracles to solve. Pakistan is facing domestic insurgencies and ongoing sectarian violence, while Egypt faces the continuing problem of violence against the Coptic minority. If the military stays in the background, it does not have to find solutions to these problems or countless others.

In Pakistan, the lack of military intervention in politics is partially due to its pre-occupation with fighting insurgencies and terrorism within its own borders, and to the security and economic failures of the last military dictator, Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan's military is still recovering from the poor governance of a military dictator, making it more cautious regarding its political involvement. However, the seeming end of overt military interference in Pakistan does not mean that the military will subordinate itself to the will of the people. It remains a powerful interest group that wields enormous power over security policy in Pakistan, including control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ousted over two years ago, and Mohamed Morsi was president for barely one. The military also ruled for about a year but Morsi, the democratically-elected leader, bore the brunt of the anger and frustration of the Egyptian people over the lack of improvements.

It remains difficult to determine the current political position of the Egyptian military. On the one hand, it just enacted a coup, which has resulted in dozens of deaths and calls for resistance by the Muslim Brotherhood, arguably the most organized Egyptian political party. On the other, like so many militaries around the world, it gets to claim it "saved" democracy from a corrupt politician, and its actions have support from a majority of the protesters.

That said, the Egyptian military has removed itself from obvious political power this time around. It has already appointed the chief justice, Adly Mansour, as the interim president until new elections are held. And new elections will be held, although there is always a question of how free and fair they will be.

Economically, it is impossible to know precisely how much control the Pakistani and Egyptian militaries have, but that both have enormous wealth and influence in their respective economies is certain. Beyond their domestic financial empires, both are the recipients of significant American aid and have been for decades. By staying in the shadows, both militaries can expand their economic power without exposing themselves unduly to corruption charges.

This is not to suggest, however, that either country will soon develop a military subservient to the political government. The Pakistani and Egyptian militaries have amassed too much power, physically, politically, and economically, to divest themselves of any of it for the sake of a shaky democracy. But they will continue to develop independent of their respective political governments, overtly involving themselves in political affairs rarely, but always wielding substantial influence.

For both the Pakistani and the Egyptian militaries, the best scenario is not to rule their respective countries. It is to have a ruler that will leave them alone to do whatever they deem necessary to protect the people, the state, and their own interests. Ruling involves numerous constraints, in particular a politicized populace that is demanding a better future. The people in both countries demand a high level of responsiveness from their governments, as the Arab Spring in Egypt and the strong turnout and civil involvement in Pakistan's elections have shown. But staying in the background, with minimal oversight and none of the visible responsibility, is the ideal situation for the militaries.

Unfortunately, this position will severely damage the futures of both countries. By divorcing themselves from the overt political process, these militaries also avoid all political oversight of their actions. Defense, security, and the tools of war will not be under the direct purview of the government or elected officials, ultimately preventing the development of true democracy in both countries. Furthermore, the militaries' economic influence makes it extremely difficult to reform either country's economic system. As powerful economic institutions, both militaries must be included in any economic reforms. Without greater visibility, the militaries can avoid such reforms and thereby damage the overall economic health of both Egypt and Pakistan. 

There's a Good Reason Why So Many Terrorists Are Engineers

Posted By Elias Groll 
July 11, 2013

Whiling away his days in a CIA prison in Romania, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had a simple request for his captors: Would they allow the mechanical engineer to design a vacuum cleaner?

According to a fascinating Associated Press account of Mohammed's detainment published on Thursday, the CIA allowed him to do just that, granting the terrorist access to vacuum schematics available online, which he used to re-engineer the appliance.

Mohammed, who faced brutal interrogation practices, was granted the request because the CIA wanted to prevent him from going insane. But Mohammed's desire to put his engineering acumen to use also raises a question that has long enticed scholars of terrorism: Why is it that so many terrorists have engineering backgrounds?

It's a question that's particularly relevant when it comes to Islamic terrorism. Mohammed Atta, the 9/11 hijacker, was an architectural engineer. Two of the three founders of Lashkar e-Taiba, the Pakistani terrorist group, were professors at the University of Engineering and Technology at Lahore. Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group, is chock full of engineers. Jihad al-Binaa, one of its branches, had more than 2,000 engineers working on reconstruction in Lebanon following the 2006 war with Israel.

But the link isn't just anecdotal. In a 2009 paper, Diego Gambetta, an Oxford sociologist, andSteffen Hertog, a political scientist at the London School of Economics, found that "among violent Islamists with a degree, individuals with an engineering education are three to four times more frequent than we would expect given the share of engineers among university students in Islamic countries." Of a group of 404 members of violent Islamist groups in the Muslim world, Gambetta and Hertog tracked down the course of study for 178 individuals. Of those 178 violent Islamists, 78 (44 percent) were engineers. Broadening the course of study to engineering, medicine, and science, 56.7 percent of their sample had studied these fields.

According to Gambetta and Hertog's findings, this is a problem unique to violent Islamist groups in the Muslim world. Among nonviolent Islamist groups, for example, engineers are present -- but to a far lesser degree than in violent groups. And among violent Islamist groups in the West, education levels tend to be much lower on the whole. Meanwhile, non-Muslim left-wing groups -- Germany's Red Army Faction, Italy's Red Brigades, and Latin American guerrilla groups -- include almost no engineers. Among anarchist groups, engineers are equally absent. Right-wing groups include some engineers, but they are far from overrepresented.

To account for this disparity in occupation among Islamic terrorists in the Muslim world, Gambetta and Hertog sketch out a particular engineering "mindset" in which the profession is "more attractive to individuals seeking cognitive 'closure' and clear-cut answers as opposed to more open-ended sciences -- a disposition which has been empirically linked to conservative political attitudes." Engineers, the authors find, are far more conservative on the whole than members of other professions. Islamic extremism "rejects Western pluralism and argues for a unified ordered society" -- a political worldview that lines up nicely with a profession averse to chaos.

There's also a societal component. In countries like Egypt, the period after the 1970s was one of massively thwarted expectations, with engineers emerging on the job market only to struggle to find employment. Per the classic explanation of the onset of rebellion -- thwarted expectations coupled with relative deprivation -- a generation of highly trained students had been made promises (and made subsequent investments in their education) that their societies could not deliver on. Angry, they turned to violence to restore order in society.

Still, a few objections to this theory immediately emerge. First, certain aspects of work as a terrorist -- placing wires here, installing fuses there -- seem naturally suited to an engineer, raising the possibility that the profession is sought as a preparatory pathway for a career in murder and mayhem. But this criticism, the authors point out, misses the fact that bomb-making is typically handled by a small cadre of specialists and that individuals trained as engineers have frequently ascended to management positions within terrorist organizations, where they have little contact with technical, day-to-day operations. Moreover, engineers simply don't turn up with the same frequency in terrorist groups in other parts of the world.

The Elephant in the Room: How Can Peace Operations Deal with Organized Crime?

Written by Walter Kemp et al., International Peace Institute

From Afghanistan to Kosovo, from Mali to Somalia, organized crime threatens peace and security. And yet, of the current 28 UN peacekeeping, peacebuilding or special political missions, less than half have mandates related to organized crime, and those that do are not well-equipped or well-prepared to face this threat.

This new IPI report, by Walter Kemp, Mark Shaw, and Arthur Boutellis, argues peace operations usually treat organized crime like the elephant in the room: impossible to overlook, but too big to deal with. Why is this so? What can be done to rectify the situation? And what can be done when the gamekeepers are actually the poachers; in other words, when senior officials are themselves complicit in illicit activities?

"The Elephant in the Room" shows how organized crime–once considered a problem isolated to a few, mostly urban, communities–has become globalized and now affects a wide range of the UN’s activities, including the maintenance of international peace and security. It describes how crime has become a serious threat in almost every theater where the UN has peace operations, and juxtaposes this with an analysis of mission mandates which contain few operational references to crime.

Case studies based on field research in Haiti, Guinea-Bissau, and Kosovo show the impact of organized crime on stability, governance, and development and demonstrate the challenges faced by the international community in helping states to deal with this problem.

Read the report here

Why China and the US (Probably) Won’t Go to War

By Zachary Keck
July 12, 2013

As I noted earlier in the week, the diplomatic summits between China and the U.S. over the past month has renewed conversation on whether Beijing and Washington, as rising and established power, can defy history by not going to war. 

Xinhua was the latest to weigh in on this question ahead of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue this week, in an article titled, “China, U.S. Can Avoid ‘Thucydides Trap.’” Like many others, Xinhua’s argument that a U.S.-China war can be avoided is based largely on their strong economic relationship.

This logic is deeply flawed both historically and logically. Strong economic partners have gone to war in the past, most notably in WWI, when Britain and Germany fought on opposite sides despite being each other’s largest trading partners.

More generally, the notion of a “capitalist peace” is problematic at best. Close trading ties can raise the cost of war for each side, but any great power conflict is so costly already that the addition of a temporarily loss of trade with one’s leading partner is a small consideration at best.

And while trade can create powerful stakeholders in each society who oppose war, just as often trading ties can be an important source of friction. Indeed, the fact that Japan relied on the U.S. and British colonies for its oil supplies was actually the reason it opted for war against them. Even today, China’s allegedly unfair trade policies have created resentment among large political constituencies in the United States.

But while trade cannot be relied upon to keep the peace, a U.S.-China war is virtually unthinkable because of two other factors: nuclear weapons and geography.

The fact that both the U.S. and China have nuclear weapons is the most obvious reasons why they won’t clash, even if they remain fiercely competitive. This is because war is the continuation of politics by other means, and nuclear weapons make war extremely bad politics. Put differently, war is fought in pursuit of policy ends, which cannot be achieved through a total war between nuclear-armed states.

This is not only because of nuclear weapons destructive power. As Thomas Schelling outlined brilliantly, nuclear weapons have not actually increased humans destructive capabilities. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that warsbetween nomads usually ended with the victors slaughtering all of the individuals on the losing side, because of the economics of holding slaves in nomadic “societies.” 

What makes nuclear weapons different, then, is not just their destructive power but also the certainty and immediacy of it. While extremely ambitious or desperate leaders can delude themselves into believing they can prevail in a conventional conflict with a stronger adversary because of any number of factors—superior will, superior doctrine, the weather etc.— none of this matters in nuclear war. With nuclear weapons, countries don’t have to prevail on the battlefield or defeat an opposing army to destroy an entire country, and since there are no adequate defenses for a large-scale nuclear attack, every leader can be absolute certain that most of their country can be destroyed in short-order in the event of a total conflict.

Since no policy goal is worth this level of sacrifice, the only possible way for an all-out conflict to ensue is for a miscalculation of some sort to occur. Most of these can and should be dealt by Chinese and the U.S. leaders holding regularly senior level dialogues like the ones of the past month, in which frank and direct talk about redlines are discussed.

These can and should be supplemented with clear and open communication channels, which can be especially useful when unexpected crises arise, like an exchange of fire between low-level naval officers in the increasingly crowded waters in the region. While this possibility is real and frightening, it’s hard to imagine a plausible scenario where it leads to a nuclear exchange between China and the United States. After all, at each stage of the crisis leaders know that if it is not properly contained, a nuclear war could ensue, and the complete destruction of a leader’s country is a more frightening possibility than losing credibility among hawkish elements of society. In any case, measured means of retaliation would be available to the party wronged, and behind-the-scenes diplomacy could help facilitate the process of finding mutually acceptable retaliatory measures.

Geography is the less appreciated factor that will mitigate the chances of a U.S.-China war, but it could be nearly as important as nuclear weapons. Indeed, geography has a history of allowing countries to avoid the Thucydides Trap, and works against a U.S.-China war in a couple of ways.

First, both the United States and China are immensely large countries—according to the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. and China are the third and fourth largest countries in the world by area, at 9,826,675 and 9,596,961 square km respectively. They also have difficult topographical features and complex populations. As such, they are virtually unconquerable by another power.

This is an important point and differentiates the current strategic environment from historical cases where power transitions led to war. For example, in Europe where many of the historical cases derive from, each state genuinely had to worry that the other side could increase their power capabilities to such a degree that they could credibly threaten the other side’s national survival. Neither China nor the U.S. has to realistically entertain such fears, and this will lessen their insecurity and therefore the security dilemma they operate within.

Besides being immensely large countries, China and the U.S. are also separated by the Pacific Ocean, which will also weaken their sense of insecurity and threat perception towards one another. In many of the violent power transitions of the past, starting with Sparta and Athens but also including the European ones, the rival states were located in close proximity to one another. By contrast, when great power conflict has been avoided, the states have often had considerable distance between them, as was the case for the U.S. and British power transition and the peaceful end to the Cold War. The reason is simple and similar to the one above: the difficulty of projecting power across large distances—particularly bodies of waters— reduces each side’s concern that the other will threaten its national survival and most important strategic interests.

China’s great economic leap forward hits the wall

11 Jul 2013

This was supposed to be the Asian century, but the Eastern boom is dying of exhaustion
For many Chinese the promise of industrialisation and prosperity is turning into a nightmare of ill health and curtailed life expectancy Photo: Getty Images

So here’s how it looks. Years of unsustainable, credit-fuelled growth are brought to a halt by a crushing financial crisis which exposes deep structural flaws at the heart of the economy. Rarely has the assumption of ever-rising living standards looked so vulnerable, with younger generations forced to pay not just for the crippling legacy of debt their parents leave behind, but for the mounting costs of an ageing population and the consequences of decades-long environmental degradation. Economic decline, austerity and inter-generational recrimination seem to beckon as populations adjust to the true mediocrity of their circumstances.

I’m referring to the tired old “developed” economies of the West, right? Actually, no: it’s China where these observations seem more appropriate, and perhaps other emerging market economies said to be about to eclipse the hegemony of the old world, with its lazy ways and sense of entitlement.

Western “declinism” of the sort described by Dambisa Moyo in her book How the West was Lost, and more recently by Stephen King, chief economist at HSBC, in When the Money Runs Out, is still the narrative of our times. But sometimes a sense of perspective is demanded; compared with the challenges faced by China and the rest of the developing world, the relatively minor adjustment to expectations that needs to be made in the West is a stroll in the park.

Forecasts that China will overtake the US as the world’s largest economy over the coming years already look like yesterday’s story as once-explosive development in the East slows to a stall amid growing fears of a Chinese credit crunch. The Asian boom is dying of exhaustion.

As ever, public perceptions trail the reality. For the first time in more than a decade, international investors and business leaders are regularly heard referring to the US as a more attractive proposition than China. Investment flows are going into reverse, and while the US banking system is reviving fast, China’s is heading in the other direction after a period of credit expansion that makes our own look positively pedestrian.

Nor is it just the economics of unbridled, politically directed development that are beginning to fracture; for many Chinese the promise of industrialisation and prosperity is turning into a nightmare of ill health and curtailed life expectancy. The social deprivations of China’s one-child policy meanwhile threaten a demographic time-bomb of far worse proportions than that of the supposedly bankrupt West. There is now every likelihood that China will indeed grow old before it gets rich. One shocking story from the past week vividly demonstrates the massive costs that China’s centrally directed dash for growth is fermenting for the future. According to a study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, air pollution has caused an average five-and-a-half year reduction in life expectancy for the 500 million people living north of the Huai River, where use of coal in the home and for electricity generation is most prevalent.

The latest study, pretty much undisputed by the Chinese authorities, adds to mounting evidence of industrial poisoning on a hitherto unimaginable scale. The 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study found that outdoor air pollution caused 1.2 million premature Chinese deaths in 2010, or nearly half the global total.

The fumes are so bad that a growing number of Chinese emigrate, setting in train a potentially devastating brain drain. In a recent interview in the New York Times, the mother of a child made sick by the smog refers to the difference between Britain, where she had studied as a student, and China as heaven and hell.

All industrialisation exacts a heavy human toll in its early years. The miseries of Britain’s industrial revolution are well chronicled. But the speed and scope of China’s attempted catch-up are in a league of their own.

There is also a world of difference between the market-determined development that drove the British and American economic miracles and the state-directed variety of China’s great leap forward.

Bangladesh General Elections 2014: A Preview

Paper No. 5527 Dated 12-Jul-2013
By Dr. Subhash Kapila

Bangladesh is expected to go to the polls for its General Elections with the term of the current Ninth Parliament on January 24, 2014. The present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came into power in January 2009 after Bangladesh had gone through a spell of two years (2006-2008) of a Caretaker Government.

Bangladesh forthcoming General Elections are a matter of intense focus as the political turbulence commencing in January 2013 in the wake of sentencing of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami leaders to death and life imprisonment on charges of war crimes related to Bangladesh Liberation War were announced sent out conflicting portents.

The Shahbagh Awakening in the wake of War Criminal Trials judgements witnessed a virtual violent struggle for Bangladesh’s national identity between the nations’ younger generation and the followers of Islamist parties combine led by the Jamaat.

It was heartening to note that Bangladesh’s Generation X vociferously demanding stiffer sentences for the 1971 war criminals accused of atrocities against their own people in collusion and collaboration with the rapacious Pakistan Army engaged in an ethnic genocide in East Pakistan then. Generation X was also demanding a banning of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh

Contrastingly, the Jamaat combine supporters’ unleashed violent disturbances as if in a last-ditch battle to prevent Bangladesh moving towards stabilising into a moderate democratic Islamic Republic.

Attempting the preview of the forthcoming General Elections in Bangladesh would briefly require the consideration of the historical patterns of Bangladesh electoral politics, Bangladesh’s contextual political dynamics, and the India Factor as an issue in Bangladesh General Elections.

In terms of historical patterns political power has alternated between the two main rival political parties, namely, the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by Begum Khaleda Zia. Going by this, what appears to be a set pattern, the General Elections 2014 portend that Begum Zia should be coming into power in Dhaka. But then there are other imponderables that come into play which will be discussed a little later.

Bangladesh’s contextual political dynamics cannot be said to follow set historical patterns except that the unremitting hostility between Begum Hasina and Begum Zia continues as a constant and is likely to acquire sharper contours in the run-up to General Elections 2014. This arises from Begum Zia’s and the BNP combine demanding that the system of a Caretaker Administration be restored before General Elections are held.

It needs to be recalled that the system of Caretaker Administration was dispensed by the AL Government by a Constitutional Amendment (15th Amendment) arising from a Court judgement pronouncing the system as unconstitutional.

Speculation exists that the BNP may refuse to take part in the General Elections provoking a political crisis of the political legitimacy of General Elections 22014 which may be frowned upon by Bangladesh’s international supporters.

More than the above the factor which may heavily overweigh Bangladesh electoral dynamics is that the main ally of the BNP’s 18 Party electoral alliance is the Jamaat-e-Islami party whose top leaders stand convicted in the War Crimes Tribunal. Association by guilt may perceptionaly count heavily with Bangladesh Generation X voting patterns that spearheaded the Shahbagh Awakening protests calling for stiffer court sentences for War Criminals. They would not be oblivious to the Jamaat being the main political ally of the BNP -led Alliance.

The India Factor has always figured as a political issue in Bangladesh politics and in Bangladesh Elections. India has not done much to solve outstanding irritants in India-Bangladesh relations like the Teesta Water’s sharing dispute, exchange of enclaves and border tensions between the border security forces of both countries.

However, in an indication as to in which directions political winds are blowing in Bangladesh, India seems to have widened its political bets by outreaches to the BNP leader Begum Zia and Lt. Gen. (Retd) Ershad heading the Jatiyo Party.

Begum Zia was invited for a visit to India this year and reports suggest that India got assurances that BNP would not adopt any hard-line posturing on India in the coming General Elections or in the event of assuming power.

As per one Bangladesh newspaper, General Ershad claims that India’s premier intelligence agency RAW backs him and that Indian funds would be funnelled to him.

However both these developments lie in the field of imponderables and cannot be counted as firm indicators that these two political leaders would adopt changed stances on India especially in a much surcharged political environment in Bangladesh in the run-up to Bangladesh General Elections 2014.

Where Apartheid Lives On

Mandela helped South Africans find their way to political freedom. But they still haven’t managed to overcome the economic legacy of the old regime.

There was a time when news from South Africa regularly painted a refreshing picture of hope for the future. The 1994 fall of the racially segregated system of apartheid, combined with the establishment of democratic institutions anchored in one of the most progressive constitutions worldwide, gave hope that it was possible to move from a system of exclusion and inequality to one of inclusive participation and equality. And for a while, the country's mineral-based economy provided respectable economic growth that -- even if not spectacular by East Asian Tiger standards of 8-10 percent per year -- was still able to support rising standards of living for broad segments of the population.

Now the bloom is off. The past year has seen a troubling rise in fighting and strike-related activities reminiscent of the violent clashes between miners and police during the apartheid era. In August 2012, labor unrest at the Marikana platinum mine left 34 protesters dead at the hands of police forces. For some, this incident represented a telling erosion of the 1994 "grand bargain" between the (predominantly white) Nationalist party and the (predominantly black) liberation movements. For others, the subsequent labor strife has brought to light serious weaknesses in the economy that the African National Congress (ANC)-led government seems powerless to confront.

Since then, labor unrest has spread from the platinum mines to gold, iron-ore, chrome, and coal producers. Farm workers and truck drivers have joined the protests. Mining strikes alone caused more than 1 billion dollars in lost output, and by the first quarter of 2013 the economy had slowed to a 0.9 percent rate of growth (sharply down from the 2.6-3.1 percent rates achieved during 2010-2012). With the country's currency, the rand, falling to its lowest value since the early days of the global financial crisis, the economy appears to be spiraling downward and out of control. By mid-May, South Africa's president, finance minister, and top central banker had each acknowledged the nation's darkening economic prospects and urged workers and employers to end the vicious circle of unauthorized strikes and excessive pay-raise demands.

How has it come to this? While the country has made remarkable progress in dismantling the political and social remnants of apartheid, many of that system's economic institutions, practices, and mindsets remain largely intact. As Anne Applebaum has observed, apartheid was, among other things, an elaborate system of job protection for poorer whites, guaranteeing them high wages and benefits. Some aspects of that system now live on -- but with black interest groups privileged where white ones were before. It exists in powerful trade unions (now black rather than white) aligned closely with the dominant political party (ANC rather than the Nationalist Party), and crony capitalism assuring vast fortunes to political insiders. The all-important mining sector is still controlled by a small group of investors, including a new black elite empowered by the country's controversial affirmative action program, that are more interested in profits than working conditions. This isn't to say that whites don't retain considerable economic power in some sectors, though. The largely white-dominated commercial agricultural system remains largely unchanged, preventing it from absorbing many of the unemployed who are ordinarily found on smaller farms and plots of land.

Under white rule, apartheid's economic institutions produced an initial period of high investment and economic growth in the 1960s and into the 1970s. However, its economic institutions prevented the channeling of resources into their most productive uses, and the economy stagnated as a result. (Sanctions helped, of course). Ironically, a similar process is playing out today in South Africa.

The signs are apparent everywhere. By one standard measure of inequality, the Gini coefficient, South Africa stands as one of the most unequal countries in the world. The top 10 percent of the population accounts for 58 percent of the country's income, while the bottom 10 percent accounts for 0.5 percent. The bottom half of South Africans own less than 8 percent.

Also contributing to the country's glaring income disparities is the economy's seeming inability to create sufficient jobs. The unemployment rate has exceeded 20 percent for more than 15 years, and iscurrently around 25 percent. Young people (aged 15-34, mostly black Africans, and mixed-race persons) dominate the unemployed, accounting for around 70 percent of the total. Youth unemployment is around 51 percent.

Chronic unemployment has made it almost impossible to reduce the country's rate of poverty. While overall income poverty has fallen slightly, it persists at acute levels for the black and non-white racial groups. Poverty in urban areas actually increased in the 10 years following the fall of apartheid.

The harsh reality is that South Africa operates as a dual economy: In some ways it is strongly positioned globally with its world class companies competing in finance, engineering, construction and synthetic fuels. Yet the country's educational system is not providing workers with the skills and expertise to compete with workers in China and India in many labor intensive areas.

No doubt some of the skill shortage can be attributed to the deliberate exclusion of black people from the educational system and from skilled occupations under apartheid. During apartheid, education was strictly segregated; spending on white students was ten times higher than for black students. Today, though all groups theoretically have equal access to education, the families of poorer black families cannot afford the tuition charged by the better schools. Furthermore, the quality of education freely available to the poorer segments of South African society is regularly ranked as one of the worst in the world by organizations such as the World Economic Forum. The result is increased polarization with rising incomes for the educated, formal sector workers. The undereducated, burdened by stagnant wages and low productivity, are forced to take refuge in the informal economy.