10 August 2013

Strangling Self Esteem

IssueNet Edition| Date : 10 Aug , 2013

The Defence Minister’s flip flop statements and eventfully blaming the Pakistani Army for the barbaric killing of five India soldiers through a cross-border raid yet again indicates the bane India’s cancerous policies – obfuscating facts for political mileage, demeaning not only the country’s self esteem in the process but also that of the Indian Army. Did we not notice the alacrity with which Obama cancelled his summit with Putin merely because Russia gave one year asylum to Snowden? Then where is the requirement of even discussing the need for the Prime Minister to go touring Pakistan and press the button to electrify his own native village, even as we give electricity to Pakistan while hundreds of our villages are sans electricity and we ourselves are buying power from Bhutan?

There should have been no hesitation in naming the Pakistani Army in the first instance during the recent cross border raid. Self respect of a nation cannot be sacrificed…

If Indian troops had launched a cross border raid and killed five Pakistani soldiers you would have had the Pakistani corps level artillery brought on to the post from which the raid was launched. That is what India should have done but we have a situation here where the military is being officially gagged to speak anything on China, leave aside Chinese intrusions. That too by people who have no idea about the vital requirement of unity of command in terms of border defence. But then despite the demonstrated ineffectiveness of the ITBP against the Chinese intruders and deliberate intransigence of the political hierarchy, what is stopping the Army from establishing training camps in supposedly ITBP held areas especially when one third of the ITBP strength is generally floating in metros to cater for personal needs of the polity?

Nawaz Sharif is reportedly sorry about Pakistan’s cross-border raid but then he was also sorry about the Kargil intrusions of which he feigned ignorance. The fact is that he was clueless then and can now be more easily marketed by the Pakistani military as a titular commodity. Leave aside taming the military, Nawaz Sharif cannot dare to even cross the path of the military, having burnt his fingers once before. That is why he talks of the need for India and Pakistan cutting down defence expenditure while his military steps up attacks on India. Then you also have the Obama administration taking the India-US strategic partnership to the next level by saying both directly and through its think tanks that the problems in Pakistan, Baluchistan and Afghanistan are India’s doing – a good effort to deflect blame from own misdeeds including assisting Pakistan lead the path of self destruction. Now that the Al Qaeda, Taliban have been recruited as US proxies, hopefully another next level of India-US strategic partnership will not see the US absolving Al Qaeda of 9/11 and blaming it on India instead.

India's First Indigenous Carrier Faces Delays, Cost Growth

Ship Scheduled for Aug. 12 Launch
Aug. 8, 2013

An illustration of the Vikrant, the Indian Navy's indigenous aircraft carrier. (Indian Navy)

NEW DELHI — While India claims that its first home-built carrier, the Vikrant, will be fully operational by 2018, Indian Navy sources say that date is closer to 2020 since the ship is only about 30 percent complete.

On Aug. 12, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1) will be launched nearly four years behind schedule. The ship is being built by state-owned Cochin Shipyard Limited at Kochi in southern India.

The aircraft carrier will be floated out of dry dock, then redocked in order to mount the propulsion system. Work will then begin on the deck and the weapon systems before sea trials. And while Defence Ministry officials say those trials will begin by 2016, Indian Navy sources say it will not be before 2018-19.

“Launch merely means they will float the IAC-1 from the dry dock [to outfit the interior],, which includes laying of pipes, and after that it will be dry docked again for integration of propulsion systems,” an Indian Navy source said

Not only will Vikrant’s induction be delayed, but sources add that the total cost of the carrier will be more than US $5 billion, including the aircraft and weapons systems. When the project was approved in 2003, the ship was estimated to cost around $500 million. Sources said the construction of the carrier, minus the weapon systems and aircraft, will cost more than $2.2 billion.

Indian Navy spokesman Cmdr. P.V. Satish insisted that IAC-1 will be inducted in 2018.

“First and foremost, it needs to be understood that constructing an aircraft carrier is a very complex task. At the time of keel laying of the IAC in 2009, it was estimated that the ship would be delivered by 2014-15,” he said. “However, due to delays in arrival of some machinery from foreign sources, which are essential prior to the launch of the ship, the Phase I launch of the ship has been delayed by around three years. There have been certain other delays also in finalizing the detailed design aspects due to uniqueness of the systems. Things are now in place and we look forward to a targeted delivery by 2018.”

The Trouble With India’s MIG-21 Fighter Jets

August 8, 2013

Bikas Das/Associated Press MIG-21 fighter jets parked at the Kalaikunda Air Force Station in West Bengal.

On July 15, a Russian-made MIG-21 Bison fighter jet, operated by the Indian Air Force, crashed while attempting to land at the Uttarlai air base in the Barmer district of Rajasthan. This was the second MIG-21 crash, at the very same air base, in two months. However, unlike in the previous accident, which had no casualties, this time the pilot was killed. The crash has been attributed to pilot error.

Only a day after the second accident in Rajasthan, a serving officer of the Indian Air Force, Wing Commander Sanjeet Singh Kaila, who himself is a MIG-21 crash survivor, petitioned the courts for the scrapping of the entire fleet. Wing Commander Kaila has contended that flying the aircraft has violated his right to work in a safe environment. The wing commander was involved in a crash during a flight exercise in 2005 after his aircraft caught fire. He delayed in ejecting to safety from his burning aircraft because he was flying over a populated region. His accident also took place in Rajasthan.

The MIG-21, which marked 50 years of service with the Indian Air Force in April this year, has been the backbone of the air force’s fleet. The aircraft has participated in every major conflict involving India since 1963, and still forms the bedrock for most of the air force’s operations.

Even as the MIG-21 stands tall in its performance for the Indian armed forces, its safety record, specifically in the past decade, has come under harsh criticism. A few months back, India’s defense minister, A.K. Antony, said that out of 29 crashes over the past three years in the Indian Air Force, 12 have been MIG-21 airframes. Two more MIG-21s have crashed since Mr. Antony put out those numbers.

Because of the MIG’s poor safety record, the aircraft has been given grim tags in the public sphere like the “Flying Coffin” and the “Widow Maker.” More than 170 Indian Air Force pilots have been killed in MIG-21 accidents since 1970. These accidents have also resulted in the deaths of 40 civilians.

The Indian Air Force has inducted more than 1,200 MIG variants in its fleet since 1963, when it was first used by the military. Currently, at least 252 MIG-21s are known to be operational in the air force,according to the Indian military enthusiast site Bharat Rakshak, including the latest upgraded version, the Bison.

The aircraft is the most-produced combat jet in aviation history since World War II. Over 11,000 air frames of the original MIG variant and its copies, like the Chinese-made Chengdu J-7, have been built since 1959.

When the MIG-21, given the reporting name “Fishbed” by NATO, reigned supreme in the 1960s and 1970s, many Western bloc fighters like the American F-104 Starfighter and the English Electric Lightning were also plagued by high accident rates. According to James J. Halley, author of “Broken Wings: Post War R.A.F. Accidents,” more than 100 Lightning jets crashed out of the 345 in service with Britain between 1959 and 1988.

India has depended a lot on the MIG-21 for maintaining air superiority in and around its neighborhood. The success of the aircraft has been recognized globally. According to the authors David Nicolle and Tom Cooper in “Arab MIG 19 and MIG 21 Units in Combat,” India even provided MIG pilot training to countries like Iraq. Mr. Nicolle and Mr. Cooper say, contrary to popular beliefs, Iraqi pilots in the 1970s were trained more on the MIG-21s by India than by Pakistan or the Soviet Union.

Strike Corps for the Mountains: Upgrading India’s Military Strategy from Dissuasion to Deterrence

On July 17, 2013, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) finally approved the army’s proposal for raising a Strike Corps for the mountains. Though the approval came after considerable delay, it is a pragmatic move that will send an appropriate message across the Himalayas. It will help India to upgrade its military strategy against China from dissuasion to genuine deterrence as the Strike Corps, in conjunction with the Indian Air Force (IAF), will provide the capability to launch offensive operations across the Himalayas so as to take the next war into Chinese territory.

The new Strike Corps will comprise two infantry divisions and will be supported by three independent armoured brigades, three artillery brigades to provide potent firepower, an engineer and air defence brigade each, an aviation brigade and units providing logistics services. The Corps will cost Rs 64,000 crore to raise and equip over a period of five to seven years. Approximately 90,000 new personnel will be added to the army’s manpower strength, including those in ancillary support and logistics units. The army has already raised 56 and 71 Mountain Divisions and deployed them in Arunachal Pradesh to fill existing gaps in the defences. Some elements of these divisions will act as readily available reserves for the new Strike Corps to add weight along the axis of attack and exploit success. These divisions will also be employed to secure launch pads for offensive operations across the Himalayas. Hence, these must be seen as playing a significant supporting role for the Strike Corps.

Territorial Dispute

Of all the areas of concern that have dampened relations between India and China, it is the long-standing territorial and boundary dispute that is the most disconcerting. Since well before the 1962 border war, China is in occupation of large areas of Indian territory. In Aksai Chin in Ladakh, China is in physical possession of approximately 38,000 square kilometres (sq km) of Indian territory since the mid-1950s. China surreptitiously built its alternative route from Tibet to Xinjiang through this part of Aksai Chin. In addition, in March 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in the Shaksgam Valley of the Northern Areas of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (north of the Siachen Glacier and west of the Karakoram Pass) to China under a bilateral boundary agreement that India does not recognise. Through this area China built the Karakoram highway that now provides a strategic land link between Xinjiang, Tibet and Pakistan.

In India’s north-eastern region, China continues to stake its claim to about 96,000 sq km of Indian territory that includes the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, even though physically the territory has always been under Indian control. In terms of area, Arunachal Pradesh is over three times the size of Taiwan. Sun Yuxi, the then Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi, had publicly reiterated this claim just before President Hu Jintao’s visit in November 2006. The ambassador single-handedly ensured that his President received a cold shoulder in Delhi and the visit turned out to be inconsequential. Since then, Chinese interlocutors have claimed several times that the Tawang Tract is part of Tibet because one of the Dalai Lamas was born there. Chinese scholars visiting New Delhi always hint that the merger of the Tawang Tract with Tibet is non-negotiable. China’s often stated official position on such issues is that the reunification of Chinese territories is a sacred duty.

Capture Kabul, cripple Kashmir: Pakistan's new two-faced war

By Shishir Gupta 
Hindustan Times 
Thu 8 Aug, 2013 

New Delhi, Aug. 8 -- It was around 4.30 am on July 1 when a Pakistani suicide bomber crossed the Line of Control and blew himself up about 25 meters from an Indian Army picket at Saujiyan in the Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir. Other than the bomber, there were no casualties. A week later, in the same area, a Pakistani improvised explosive device - a roadside bomb - proved more lethal and killed an Indian Army porter.

India believes these attacks, and other such activity along the de facto border and inside Jammu and Kashmir, are part of a deliberate Pakistani game plan to push in as many militants as possible across the LoC. The goal of all this: escalate violence in the run-up to and possibly disrupt the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections next year.

On the other side of Pakistan, though this may not seem obvious to people in India, is a related attempt by Rawalpindi to use the same terrorists to drive India out of Afghanistan. US intelligence had confirmed to India that Lashkar e Taiba cadre were being moved into the provinces of Kunar and Nuristan in expectation of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan next year. The recent suicide bomb attack on the Indian consulate in Jalalabad which killed a dozen people was part and parcel of this larger strategy. "Pakistan is using Lashkar to target Indian interests in Kabul," said a senior Indian official. "The Jalalabad attack was orchestrated by Lashkar."

Pakistan is similarly transferring militant cadre recruited from its Khyber Paktunkhwa province to boost militant ranks in the Kashmir Valley.

The broad Indian assessment is that the LoC and Kashmir in general have seen relatively low levels of Pakistani action because Rawalpindi was forced to divert as many as 150,000 troops to the Pakistan-Afghan border. With the US troop withdrawal approaching and Pakistan sensing that it may soon have a friendly regime ensconced in Kabul, the Pakistani army and Lashkar are once more concentrating on destabilizing Kashmir.

Lashkar chief Hafiz Sayeed declared this in a recent India Today interview saying, "Full-scale armed jihad will begin soon in Kashmir after American forces withdraw from Afghanistan."

Kashmir is starting to simmer again. Attempts by Lashkar's border action teams, groups that are backed by the Pakistani Army, to ambush Indian Army patrols have gone up this year. The decapitation of two soldiers in Krishnaghati area of Poonch sector on January 8, 2013, and the recent killing of five Indian soldiers in the same sector on Tuesday morning are just two of the more bloody examples.

"The escalation is evident from the fact that till July 2012 only 13 infiltrators had been killed but during the same period this year more than 23 infiltrators have been killed on the LoC," said a source. "There have been no less than 10 border actions undertaken by Pakistan Army backed terrorists on the Jammu LoC ," said a senior official. He warned that the infiltration figures are expected to rise this month.

Why Are Foreigners Fleeing India's Economy?

August 9, 2013

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh knows that India's flagging economy badly needs foreign capital. And he's desperately trying to do something about it.

This week, he appointed an influential former International Monetary Fund economist to head India's central bank. Last week he rolled back regulations and stumped for new economic reforms. "Once again, we will prove the naysayers and Cassandras of doom wrong," he vowed.

Meanwhile, the stock market has been tumbling.

Everybody loves an optimist. But a more jaded speechwriter might have replaced the prime minister's ancient Greek reference with a phrase adapted from contemporary Detroit: Would the last one out of India please turn out the lights?

Over the past year and a half, formerly bullish investors have been climbing over each other to get out of India, leaving billions of dollars on the floor. Worse, despite repeated moves to make the country look more attractive, the great pullout shows little sign of slowing.

It turns out that new decrees and fine sounding speeches don't make up for years spent attempting to machete-hack through India's extra-strength red tape.

"They promise the moon, but they can't deliver," said Rajinder Singh, whose firm, LexJurists, is working to extricate several US investors from stymied hotel and resort projects in the state of Rajasthan.

Apart from what the central government offers, the states promise single-window clearances for investments; help with acquiring land at below market prices; and an easy path through reams of rules and regulations.

But once the money is committed, something as simple as getting a liquor license can take years. And if there's an election and a new government comes to power, you just might have to start over, one lawyer explained.

In the latest move to staunch the bleeding, last week India eased rules on foreign direct investment (FDI) by multi-brand retail chains like Walmart, and boosted limits or streamlined procedures for investing in other potentially attractive areas, such as the booming telecommunications sector.

For retailers, it scrapped requirements that they only operate in cities with more than a million people, and that compelled them to source 30 percent of their products from local small and medium-sized companies - anathema to the Walmart business model.

But observers point out these moves hardly amounted to acting "boldly and decisively" - the prime minister's own analysis of what will be required to bring back the days of 8 percent economic growth.

"It has an effect on sentiment, but investment is not going to flow in just because you open the gates," said Dharmakirti Joshi, chief economist at Crisil, the India arm of Standard & Poor's.

In fact, the reforms were not even as bold as advertised in mid-July, when 13 business sectors, including the potentially lucrative defense and insurance industries, were slated for liberalization. The cap on defense investments, for instance, was not raised from 26 percent, as expected. For the insurance sector, parliament must pass a bill before the FDI cap can be increased 26 to 49 percent.

Lies, White Lies and Indian Mujahideen

July 31, 2013 by Team SAISA
Filed under internal security

Ravi Shanker Kapoor 

Union Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan says that the “popular perception of Muslims” is that Indian Mujahideen (IM) does not exist. As for his own perception… well, he is unambiguously ambiguous: “I have no opinion.”

But his government has an opinion: IM not only exists but is a terrorist organization, responsible for many attacks and killings. There is no point in giving details such as how IM was banned by India, the US, the UK, and New Zealand, how it has spread terror in different parts of India, how its members were caught for terror activities, and so on. There is a mountain of evidence to prove the nefarious activities of IM; the mainstream media has covered the outfit extensively.

It is also pointless to say that Khan’s statements are untenable and shake the very foundation of collective responsibility which is supposed to be hallmark of parliamentary democracy, for no such things survives in Gandhi’s India. Propriety, conventions, decency, correctness, constitutionality—such concepts have no value today. Nor do overarching concerns like internal security and national defence have any meaning. What matters is power; everything else has little importance. Any action is good to gain and retain power: ends justify means.

But even that is not the worst aspect of the governance model. Its biggest assault is not on democracy or national security; it is on the reality and the Indian mind. As the antagonist in George Orwell’s 1984, O’Brien, tells the protagonist, Winston, “Reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.”

Men and women in power think about something—an entitlement (howsoever stupid it might be), a policy (regardless of consequences), a threat (‘communalism’), a non-threat (Islamic terror), and so on. And such mental constructs, with the aid of the intellectual class, acquire a life of their own. So, Rahul Gandhi supposedly told an American official that Hindu terror is more dangerous than the Islamic one. This despite the fact that the existence of saffron terror is yet to be proved, while jihadist violence is a well-known fact.

Here it is important to disabuse ourselves of a couple of myths: first, all faiths preach peace and harmony; and, second, terror has no religion. Fact is that religions do teach many things that the popes and bishops of political correctness are unwilling to acknowledge. There are many messages and commandments in Hindu, Islamic, and Christian which militate against the modern concepts of liberty, equality, and fairness. Religions do inspire their adherents to become terrorists. The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was Hindu terror; violence in Punjab was the result of Sikh terror; and the manifestations of Muslim terror can be seen all over the world.

Leaders like K. Rahman Khan are trying to not just deny the reality but also present fiction as reality. Making the Cartesian Cogito stand on its head, the honorable minister seems to be saying, “I think, therefore, there is no IM.”

Why is Indian economy sinking? 5 glaring mistakes

Last updated on:
August 09, 2013

There were several mistakes, all reflecting policy and governance weaknesses.

Yes, we are in an economic crisis, albeit in its early stages. 

How else would you describe a situation where economic growth has collapsed, industrial output has stagnated for two years, jobs are being shed, consumer inflation is close to 10 per cent, the current account deficit (CAD) in the balance of payments is nearly five per cent of GDP at last count, investment is fleeing abroad, external debt maturing in the current fiscal year exceeds $170 billion and the rupee is touching new lows (or highs against the dollar!) each week? 

It was all avoidable, if our policy-makers had been more competent and effective (and less venal, some might add). 

There was plenty of warning commentary by independent analysts (this columnist included) over the past five years as each major policy misstep was taken. 

For the record and for future lesson-drawing, it is useful to briefly outline the five biggest economic policy mistakes (out of a long list), aside from the pervasive nine-year long drought of productivity-enhancing economic reforms.

The Taliban's Plans for Afghanistan after Karzai ***

The impending departure of Afghan President Hamid Karzai poses the following critical challenge to the United States: Broker a political power-sharing agreement with a jihadist movement without undermining the democratic institutions that the United States has tried to build over the past decade. Given that both the Taliban and anti-Taliban camps in the region are extremely divided, such an agreement will remain elusive well beyond next year's drawdown of Western forces from the southwest Asian nation.

Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar on Tuesday issued a statement saying the jihadist movement does not wish to monopolize power when Western troops withdraw from Afghanistan next year; instead the Taliban seeks "an inclusive government." This has been the Taliban's mantra since the group's 2011 Eid al-Fitr message. Over the past two years, the Taliban have engaged the United States in negotiations toward this end, but Washington has long struggled to find a balance between the Taliban and what has come to be known as the Karzai regime.

Ideally, Washington hopes that negotiations with the Taliban can bring the Afghan jihadist movement into the political mainstream. But negotiations have been extremely difficult for Washington, not only because of the Taliban's radical Islamist ideology, but also because of stiff resistance from the Afghan government, which fears that a deal between Washington and the Taliban would undermine Kabul.

A little less than two months ago there was a major showdown with the Karzai administration within hours of the opening of the Taliban's political bureau in Qatar. Washington was forced to pull back from talks with the Taliban following protests in Kabul over the Taliban's display of their flag at the bureau, along with signage that carried the name of their ousted regime.

The highly anticipated public talks have not taken place since that time, but as is the case in all such sensitive negotiations, the back channels remain active. Washington has likely been trying to steer both sides back to the formal negotiating table. At the same time, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has been working with Pakistan. Islamabad over the past decade has lost a great deal of influence over the Taliban, but it is still the state actor with the most leverage over the group.

This was most evident when Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to new Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, visited Kabul on July 21, followed by a visit to Islamabad by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on July 31. Karzai is also due to visit Islamabad later this month to discuss improving Afghan-Pakistani ties and to urge Pakistan to prod the Taliban toward a settlement.

However, Karzai is fast approaching the end of his second and final term in office, and all players are adjusting to the reality of an impending post-Karzai Afghan state. Elections are due to be held early next year to find a successor to Karzai, who has been all but synonymous with the Afghan state since its inception a few months after the United States toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001. It is not clear who will rule next, but Karzai's successor will face the daunting task of managing the disparate elements of the Afghan state, entering office at the same time Western forces, and the modicum of stability they brought with them, will be leaving the country.

While the Americans and the Pakistanis do not have a clear strategy for the impending succession, the Taliban appear to have some semblance of a plan. In his latest message, Mullah Omar denounced the forthcoming elections, calling them a waste of time. From the Taliban's perspective, the impending transition represents an opportunity for the group to enter the political mainstream and maximize its share of power.

A Big New Idea for U.S.-Pakistan Relations

August 7, 2013

Late last week, with all of Washington’s attention focused on Israel-Palestine diplomacy, Secretary of State John Kerry quietly sneaked out the back door and flew off to tackle another thorny challenge: Pakistan. While in Islamabad, Kerry announced that the United States-Pakistan strategic dialogue would be resumed in order to foster "deeper, broader and more comprehensive partnership." These fine words will need a lot of hard work to back them up. It would help if President Obama’s administration also came to the table with a big new idea to re-energize its difficult relationship with Islamabad.

Relations between the two sides hit rock bottom in 2011 and 2012 and have barely leveled-off since then. Policymakers on both sides now say they appreciate the need for better cooperation and are looking for a way to turn the page. Such a change would be welcome, since the U.S. has important stakes in Pakistan that will persist for decades to come. Nuclear-armed and likely to be the fifth-most populous state in the world by mid-century, Pakistan’s trajectory will affect more than just Afghanistan and the battle against Islamist extremism, if only because it shares borders with the two rising giants of Asia: China and India. Pakistan is a long-term challenge from which the U.S. cannot shy away.


Daniel Markey is a senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of No Exit from Pakistan (forthcoming). Full Bio

A “turning of the page” with Pakistan would also be timely, since 2013 is a year of leadership transition in Islamabad, starting with the May election of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and continuing this fall with the appointment of a new army chief. They will sit across the negotiating table from a strikingly new cast of U.S. diplomats and national security officials as well.

But change will not come easily. The chief obstacle to comprehensive partnership is that many of the issues that have tormented U.S.-Pakistan relations over the past decade remain unresolved. As Pakistan’s recently-leaked draft Abbottabad Commission report makes clear, Pakistan’s security agencies -- both military and civilian -- have routinely demonstrated such incompetence and negligence that Washington is correct not to see them as dependable counterterror partners. Moreover, there is so far little reason to expect that the new Pakistani government will tackle its broader problem of violent extremism (including terrorist groups that operate against India, like Lashkar-e-Taiba) with greater vigor than its predecessor.

Pakistan’s frustrating lack of will and capacity has left the U.S. with few options other than to continue its unilateral counterterror campaign, at least for the time being. That campaign includes flying armed drones over Pakistan’s tribal areas even though Pakistan’s parliament has condemned the practice as a violation of national sovereignty. And if al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri is discovered in one of Pakistan’s cities tomorrow, another Abbottabad-style raid would be easy to imagine even though it would send relations between Washington and Islamabad over yet another cliff.

Pakistan's number one threat

By Farahnaz Ispahani 
August 8, 2013 

For the last few days, Pakistan's capital has been on high alert due to the threat of a possible terrorist attack. Police and military vehicles have paraded around the city, commandos and snipers have been posted on Islamabad's picturesque Margalla Hills, and Pakistan's Navy has been deployed to protect a city that is 915 miles away from the sea. But the mobilization is being portrayed by the country's media as more of an inconvenience than a necessity.

Almost 12 years after it joined the rest of the world in fighting terrorism, Pakistan still remains uncomfortable with the idea of confronting the terrorists. Pakistani politicians, clerics, and journalists see terrorism only as a consequence of their country's alliance with the West, not as Pakistan's problem to handle. 

The high alert in Islamabad follows the recent jailbreak in the country's northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan. On July 29, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an al-Qaeda ally, freed 253 prisoners, including 45 top terrorists, after storming a high-security prison. Besides five of the attackers, 24 people were killed, including 12 policemen, 4 prisoners, and 3 civilians.

But the brazen attack remained the top story in the country's media for barely a few hours. Squabbling among Pakistan's politicians over electing a figurehead president garnered greater attention. Soon after, the antics of Pakistan's Supreme Court, which accused populist cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan of contempt of court, became the focus of the nation's media attention. Interestingly, Khan's political party rules the Khyber-Pahtunkhwa province where the jailbreak took place.

After 9/11, Pakistan joined the ranks of nations united to fight the war against terror. But 12 years later, many Pakistanis remain unconvinced that terrorism must be fought as the greatest threat facing them. It's odd that this confusion about national priorities persists as at least 5,152 Pakistani civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda and its associated groups since 2008, while the total number of Pakistanis killed by terrorism and the military's effort to fight it since 2001 stands at 49,000.

The Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak could have been averted if lessons had been learnt from an earlier attack almost a year ago on the Bannu Central jail in southern Khyber-Pahtunkhwa province. Around 400 prisoners were freed by over 200 heavily armed Taliban fighters during that assault. In Bannu, the Taliban attacked with 150 suicide bombers and took over the area for more than two hours. Their goal was to set some of their imprisoned comrades free.


The best memorial is one that reconciles, not disrupts

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jerusalem

In the past year, three wealthy and well-read individuals have separately sounded me out on the same idea — that of having a museum or memorial to the victims of the Partition of India. In each case, the example or model invoked was that of the Holocaust. The Jews who perished in Nazi deathcamps, said my interlocutors, have their memorials in Israel, Europe, and North America. The existence of these multiple memorials to the Holocaust, they went on, is a standing rebuke to the inability of south Asians to honour the memory of those who perished during Partition.

That the same proposal independently surfaced three times may not be a coincidence. India now has a class of men and women who have become rich through their own intelligence and entrepreneurial skills. None of the individuals who spoke to me inherited his or her wealth from fathers (or mothers). These were also widely travelled men — in one case, a widely travelled woman— educated in the West and with strong personal and professional connections to the United States of America in particular. There the memory of the Jewish tragedy is ever present, spoken of, written about, filmed, and remembered in museums which act as a warning not to repeat those horrific crimes again. Why then, these well-meaning, public-spirited, rich Indians ask, do we not similarly memorialize the sufferings of our own people?

In each case, the individual mooting the idea has been prepared to help raise funds for such a museum, and ready to chip in with the first cheque. In each case, I have had regrettably to raise a metaphorical hand to stop them. For a Partition museum is —notwithstanding the good intentions that lie behind it — a somewhat unworkable idea. To understand why, pursue the comparison with the Holocaust a little further, just so far as to realize that the two situations were radically different. In the case of the Holocaust, it was very clear who were the perpetrators, and who the victims. In the case of Partition, on the other hand, the victims were also the perpetrators.

During World War II, in pursuance of their theories of Aryan supremacy, Germans led by the Nazi party collectively murdered an estimated six million Jewish people in Europe. On the other hand, the violence that accompanied the Partition of India was carried out by all the relevant groups. Hindus and Sikhs ethnically cleansed East Punjab of Muslims. Thus Amritsar went from being a city whose largest community were Muslims to having not a single Muslim resident. On the other side of the border, Muslims ethnically cleansed West Punjab of Hindus and Sikhs. Thus Lahore went from being a city beloved of Hindus and Sikhs to being a city dominated and peopled by Muslims alone. The homogenization of the cities was accompanied by a similar homogenization of the countryside.

China's Hopes for Bridging the Taiwan Strait ***

August 7, 2013

Taiwanese missile boats patrol the Taiwan Strait during a military drill in May. (SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)


More than six decades after Taiwan's estrangement from mainland China, the Taiwan Strait still represents the most physically formidable and symbolically inaccessible barrier to Beijing's objective of eventual reunification with the island. Over the course of its history, Taiwan switched hands from European and Japanese colonial occupiers before becoming the prospective battleground between China and Taiwan in the second half of the 20th century. In recent years, military tensions between China and Taiwan have eased, and Beijing hopes that enhanced economic integration and the physical infrastructure it wants to build one day across the Taiwan Strait could bring the country a step closer to fulfilling a core geopolitical imperative by reuniting with the island.


The South China Morning Post reported Aug. 5 that in its recently approved National Highway Network Plan for 2013-2030, the State Council included two highway projects linking Taiwan to the mainland. One involves the long-proposed Beijing-Taipei Expressway, which would start in Beijing and pass through Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang and Fujian's Fuzhou before crossing the strait and reaching Taipei. Another inland route would start in Chengdu and pass through Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi and Fujian's Xiamen, and cross the Taipei-administered Kinmen archipelago before eventually ending at Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

Can China clean up fast enough ?

Climate change
The world’s biggest polluter is going green, but it needs to speed up the transition
Aug 10th 2013

“HELL is a city much like London—a populous and a smoky city,” wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1819. It is a description that would suit many Chinese cities today for, like Britain in the early 19th century, China is going through an industrial-powered growth spurt. Like Britain back then, the urge to get rich outweighs the desire for clean air, so the Chinese are chucking all manner of filth into the atmosphere. And, rather sooner than Britain did, China is beginning to clean up its act (see article).

If China were simply following the path of rich countries from poverty through pollution to fresh air, there would be little to worry about (unless you lived in one of those hellish cities). But the parallels fall apart, for two reasons. One is time. When Britain’s industrial engine was gaining speed, levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were the same as they had been for millennia. Now they are half as high again, and not far off 450 parts per million, which most scientists think is the danger level. The other is place. China is so vast and its economy is growing so rapidly that its effect on the world is far greater than that of any other single country.

Dragon breath

The muck that spews from Chinese factories most immediately affects those unlucky enough to live nearby. In January 2013 the air of Beijing hit a level of toxicity 40 times above what the World Health Organisation deems safe. A tenth of the country’s farmland is poisoned with chemicals and heavy metals. Half of China’s urban water supplies are unfit even to wash in, let alone drink. In the northern half of the country air pollution lops five-and-a-half years off the average life.

All this has led to an explosion of protest across China, including among a middle class that has discovered nimbyism. That worries the government, which fears that environmental activism could become the foundation for more general political opposition. It is therefore dealing with pollution in two ways—suppression and mitigation. It has jailed environmental activists and is planning to limit the power of judicial oversight by handing a state-approved body a monopoly over bringing environmental lawsuits. At the same time, it is pouring money into cleaning up the country. It has just said that China will spend $275 billion over the next five years improving air quality—roughly the same as the GDP of Hong Kong, and twice the size of the annual defence budget. Even by Chinese standards it is a massive sum.

China’s “All-Weather” Threat to India

By Robert Farley
August 8, 2013

A recent Toby Dalton op-ed discussed the role that China may have played (and may continue to play) in Pakistan’s nuclear program. Dalton argued that, apart from the specifics of the dispute, relations between Pakistan and China need to be understood in context of growing strategic tension between China and India.

This is nothing new. China and Pakistan have seen each other as (semi-) reliable allies since the 1950s, when tensions between China and India grew over Tibet and other issues. With the increasing strategic complexity associated with growing Chinese and Indian military power, however, the relationship takes on multiple new dimensions. The Pakistan-China-India triangle (with, as Dalton notes, one antagonistic, one competitive, and one cooperative leg) is embedded within a larger set of triangular relationships, including Japan, Russia, and the United States. 

Pakistan is, in an important sense, Beijing’s answer to every step India takes to expand its influence in the South China Sea. To the extent that India evinces a willingness to either support the aspirations of China’s smaller neighbors (such as Vietnam) or ally with China’s more serious antagonists (such as Japan and the United States), China can respond by increasing the size and sophistication of its arms shipments to Pakistan, as well as supporting Pakistan in various international fora.

And in the end, India has no good answer for China’s support of Pakistan; it cannot blockade Pakistan, cannot peel it away from Beijing, cannot plausibly change the regime, and cannot likely find an ally as willing and capable of irritating China as Pakistan is of India. As Anatol Lieven has argued, while the current Pakistani regime has great difficult exerting control over its own territory, it sits upon a network of social relations sufficiently robust as to not seriously fear being overthrown.

Of course, Pakistan could certainly reconsider whether it can do better than act as a Chinese bargaining chip in the Sino-Indian relationship. There are limits on the extent to which China can dial up or dial down Pakistan’s threat profile towards India; as Pakistan found in 1971, friendship with China can’t immunize it from Indian power. And although Pakistani relations with the United States are at a low point, stronger relations with Beijing seem hardly likely to improve the situation.

Japan’s Grandstanding in the East China Sea

By James R. Holmes
August 8, 2013

Nifty bit of one-upmanship, Japan. The Naval Diplomat salutes the nonchalance with which the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) "unveiled" the 22DDH, its latest light aircraft carrier— I mean… helicopter destroyer — on Tuesday. It left the impression of a service that's accustomed to accomplishing great things, and thus takes them in stride. Cool beats braggadocio any day.

By "unveiled," incidentally, news reports evidently mean the JMSDF conducted its equivalent to a formal christening ceremony for Izumo. You know, patriotic speeches, bottles of champagne broken across the bow, that sort of thing. Shipwrights laid the flattop's keel in 2011. It has been in the water awhile — that's the launch — but it has a long way to go before being commissioned into the Self-Defense Fleet in 2015. That's when the ship goes on regular duty. So … much remains to be done to make Izumo a working ship.

But I digress. Mature naval powers construct and deploy warships in a matter-of-fact way, without the chest-thumping that's standard fare for a certain big Asian power across the Yellow Sea from Japan. They take care of business rather than monologuing about how feeble competitors are, how inevitable their defeat is, how Asia will soon be theirs, yadda yadda yadda.

Think about it. Why all the pomp and circumstance that accompanies ship launches, christenings, and commissionings? Well, ceremony conveys power, purpose, and resolve to important audiences, both domestic and foreign.

Izumo is an impressive-looking vessel, with clean lines and a flight deck roughly as long as that of a U.S. Navy amphibious helicopter carrier. (It displaces far less than an LHA or LHD, however.) It sports a sizable complement of helicopters. Should the JMSDF acquire vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft, a handful could presumably operate from the its flight deck — much as Harrier jump jets fly off American flight decks.

The 22DDH is a serious platform. Displaying it reminds the Japanese people that theirs is a seafaring society guarded by a world-class if modest-sized navy. Ceremonies, then, are a form of upkeep for a nation's maritime strategic culture. They rally popular support for seaborne ventures. That's especially important for Japan, which is mulling a return to normalcy in world affairs after decades of pacifism.

Is Arab Chaos America's Problem? ***

August 8, 2013
By Robert D. Kaplan

Chaos is sweeping the Arab world. Tunisia is in political disarray and can barely control its borders. Libya hardly exists: Tripoli is not the capital of a country but the weak point of arbitration for tribes and militias in far-flung desert reaches. Egypt wallows in a political stasis in which the government has trouble functioning, ideological divisions between the military and Islamists split the country and guns and vigilantism abound. The Sinai Peninsula has become a mini-Afghanistan. The government of Yemen may on a good day control half of its territory. Syria is in a full-fledged civil war with over 100,000 dead. Iraq, too, barely exists as a state and low-intensity violence there is a feature of life. Bahrain and Jordan are much weakened states compared to previous decades. Significantly, none of this anywhere will be solved anytime soon.

The conventional wisdom is that such chaos is bad for the United States: that anarchy anywhere presents a challenge and threat to the American people. That is certainly true in a values sense, particularly about what it says about our planet. I wrote about that in a 1994 Atlantic Monthly essay, "The Coming Anarchy," in which, among other things, I foresaw chaos in places like Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, both of which collapsed a few years later. But what if that is not true in terms of the cold logic of power politics? What if Middle Eastern chaos, in terms of America's geopolitical interests, is not quite as bad as we think?

But don't transnational Islamist terrorists like al Qaeda thrive in weakly governed areas? To a degree, yes. And there is a significant "threat stream" emerging now from new and more autonomous al Qaeda cells throughout a Middle East crumbling into anarchy, as Washington experts and officials have correctly noted during the recent spate of embassy shutdowns. There is another side to the story, however. Transnational terrorists certainly exist in weakly governed areas -- witness post-Gadhafi Libya and the attack on the U. S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi last year. But really thriving is another matter. Thriving in an ungoverned area means to have a zone of control, where you don't have to worry about security threats, so that you can build training camps and develop plans for sophisticated attacks on third countries -- like al Qaeda did in Afghanistan in the late 1990s through 2001. Yet, that is hard to do when anarchy is all around. In fact, Afghanistan back in the late 1990s was not wholly in chaos. Rather, substantial areas were governed by the Taliban, which formally hosted al Qaeda. The areas under Taliban control constituted a hostile state more than a chaotic one. Thus, while smaller attacks emanating from al Qaeda are more likely now because of widespread anarchy -- again, witness Benghazi -- an attack on the level of 9/11 probably requires a more stable environment in parts of an otherwise unstable country. Think Yemen.

Transnational jihadists currently establishing themselves throughout the Middle East are primarily a threat to their host governments, such as they still exist. Yet, from the American perspective the greatest security threat to the regional balance of power is not so much a chaotic state as a stable and strongly governed one: Iran. Iran, precisely because it is not in chaos, is now able to develop a nuclear capacity through a sophisticated and dispersed network of facilities that the Americans and Israelis have found difficult to dismantle without going to war. Would only Iran have been in chaos for years now -- then its nuclear program would likely not be so far along!

Because Iran is both radical and strongly governed, Israel's security is fundamentally undermined, even as chaos elsewhere in the Middle East has been in some ways favorable to Israel, an American ally by the way. The Israeli military recently announced that because militaries in Egypt and Syria, as well as in other Arab states, no longer present a conventional threat to its territory, Israel now has the luxury to concentrate more on unconventional threats like guerrilla infiltrations and cyberattacks. Thus, thanks to chaos in the Arab world, Israel no longer faces a strategic threat on its borders: Rather, the threat has deteriorated to a tactical one. Hezbollah and Hamas cannot send tanks into Israel's population zones like Egypt and Syria -- back when they were strongly governed states -- were once theoretically able to do.

Little al-Qaedas Loom Large

Monday, Aug. 19, 2013
By Fareed Zakaria

The Obama administration's warning about a possible al-Qaeda plot against American interests in the Middle East has triggered a volley of criticism back home. For those who always suspected that President Obama was somehow soft in fighting the war on terrorism, this was vindication. The Weekly Standard, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorialists all piled on, saying the President had claimed that al-Qaeda had been devastated and that the tide of war was receding, but this terrorism warning proved him wrong.

In part, the Administration has only itself to blame. The State Department issued a global travel alert for the entire month of August and explained that an attack could come anywhere. Congressmen who were briefed by Administration officials explained that although al-Qaeda's targets were cities in the Arab world and Africa, there could also be attacks in Europe or North America. (If it is a global travel alert, then it isn't really a travel alert but rather an existence alert.) So, what exactly were Westerners supposed to do for the month of August?

The Administration did the right thing in sharing its intelligence with foreign governments, alerting U.S. embassies and consulates and expanding its counterterrorism activities to disrupt any and all plots. But its public announcement had all the hallmarks of the old color-coded alerts of the Bush era--threatening enough to make people anxious yet vague enough to give them little to do about it.

On the broader question of the state of al-Qaeda, there's room for debate. Al-Qaeda Central, the organization based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is battered and broke. But the idea of al-Qaeda remains vibrant in other places--notably places where the government is extremely weak and cannot actually control territory. Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups are not flourishing in hotbeds of Islamic radicalism like Saudi Arabia. They thrive instead in Yemen, Somalia, Mali and northern Nigeria. Some of these groups have real ties to al-Qaeda and share its goals. Others, like the ones in Africa, look like local warlords using the label to burnish their brand.

So what kind of strategy should the U.S. pursue against these small groups in weak states? There are three possible paths. The first would be a full-bore counterinsurgency strategy, the kind that General David Petraeus executed in Iraq and (to a lesser degree) in Afghanistan. But does anyone think that sending thousands of U.S. troops into these countries is a smart idea? Does anyone think keeping more troops in Afghanistan would make terrorists in Mali tremble? As Michael Hayden, CIA director under George W. Bush, has pointed out, there is a delicate balance between doing too little in these countries and doing so much that you exaggerate the importance of local thugs, Americanize local grievances and create a global threat that didn't really exist.

The second strategy would be counterterrorism--using drones, missiles, Special Forces and other kinetic tools to disrupt al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. By anyone's measure, the Obama Administration has been aggressive on this front. Obama has used more drones in each year than Bush did in his presidency. In fact, many experts believe that Obama's counterterrorism strategy has been too aggressive. Gregory Johnsen, author of a detailed account of the U.S. war in Yemen, argues that drones have been overused in that country, triggering considerable backlash. He points out that drones have worked better in Afghanistan and Pakistan because the people killed were often foreigners--Arab militants--rather than locals with deep ties in their communities.

Russia's Tiny Cold War ***

August 6, 2013

Stratfor has been chronicling what we call the end of the Post-Cold War world, a world with three pillars: the United States, Europe and China. Two of these three have been shifting their behavior over the past few years. We've discussed the end of China's high-growth, low-wage expansion. We've also discussed the deep institutional crisis in Europe resulting from its economic problems. We have discussed some of China's potential successors. What needs to be discussed now is the system that will emerge from the Post-Cold War world, and to do that, we need to discuss shifts in Russia's behavior.

Chaos in Russia

Russia went through two phases in the Post-Cold War world. The first was the chaos that inevitably followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Chaos sometimes can be confused with liberalism and many think of Russia in the decade after the Soviet Union as being liberal. But Russia under Boris Yeltsin was less liberal than chaotic, with a privatization program that enriched those who rapidly organized to take advantage of the poorly defined process, a public life that had little shape or form and a West that was both pleased with the fall of Soviet power and deluded into thinking that Russia was reshaping itself into a Western constitutional democracy.

The second phase was a reaction to the first. The havoc of Yeltsin could not continue. To a great extent Russia was not working. The only structure that had survived the Soviet Union and that was still working was the security services -- and even those were being seriously degraded by Yeltsin's efforts. The security services had both held the country together to the extent possible and had participated in the accumulation of wealth through the privatization process. In the course of that they not only retained the power they had in the Soviet Union but also dramatically increased their power. At the same time, a class of oligarchs emerged and the two groups oscillated between competition and cooperation.

Russia could not continue as it was. It was sinking into extraordinary poverty, worse than the Soviet Union; there were regions that were seeking to break away from the Russian Federation; and it had little to no international standing.

The United States and NATO waged a war in Kosovo, completely indifferent to Russian opposition. Russia opposed the war both because Serbia was an ally and because one of the principles of Europe since World War II was that there would be no shifts in borders. This was regarded as sacred inasmuch as redrawing borders was one of the origins of the war. Russia's wishes were disregarded.

When Serbia did not collapse immediately under air attack and the war dragged out, the Russians were asked to negotiate its end. In return they were promised a significant role in managing post-war Kosovo. That didn't happen; the future of Kosovo became a matter for European and American decision-making.

Influence is not something given to a country. It has that influence because of its power, because the consequences of ignoring its wishes would have unacceptable consequences. By 1999, Russia had reached the low point of its influence.

Putin Brings Russia Back

It was logical that a man like Vladimir Putin would emerge from the chaos of the 1990s. Putin was deeply embedded in the KGB and the old security apparatus. During his time in St. Petersburg, he was integrated with the emerging oligarchs as well as the new generation of economic reformists. Putin understood that in order to revive Russia, two things had to happen. First, the oligarchs had to be intimidated into aligning their activities with the Russian government. He owed too much to them to try to break them -- though he made an example or two -- but he did not owe them so much as to allow them to continue to loot Russia.