14 August 2013

*** India and the Age of Acceleration

We live in a world which is changing at an increasingly rapid pace. One may call our era the Age of Acceleration, an age where the only constant seems to be the certainty of even more change.

Laptops have become part of the modern society. Many of us have lived through an era where there was no television, let alone computers, mobile phones or the internet. And yet today, we cannot conceive of a modern economy in which cyber space is not an indispensable and pervasive reality. 

Photo: Thinkstock

WHAT explains this constant flux that now rules our lives? It is mainly the acceleration we witness in technological advancement. The computing power of a micro-chip in our mobile phones is equivalent to several acres of main–frame computers that would have been required a generation ago. The volume of data and the speed with which it can move across vast spaces is difficult to comprehend. And yet, scientists tell us, we are still far from reaching the limits of this technology. There are other domains where potentially disruptive technologies are in the making. These include nano-technology, advanced materials, bio-sciences and artificial intelligence. These developments are pushing the frontiers of knowledge into largely uncharted territory.

We do not know how they will interact with social, political and psychological systems that change only slowly. Human beings are seduced by novelty, but they are reassured by familiarity. Technological change has altered our global landscape. The recent global financial and economic crisis was, in a real sense, caused by the mismatch between the scale of technological change and the adaptability of institutions of both domestic and global governance. What is worth noting is that recovery can never be a return to the pre-crisis terrain. And yet that is what we seem to be seeking. Unless we find new instruments of governance, we are doomed to suffer similar crises in the future, perhaps even worse than the last. An altered landscape, which is still in the throes of further change, is no longer amenable to being managed by the tools that were fashioned to deal with an altogether different environment. Yet our predisposition to familiarity and precedent makes us reluctant to down these tools and look for new ones.

The emerging landscape

Let me point to some of the characteristics of the emerging landscape. It is, in my view, dominated by three critical domains, a terrestrial domain that is increasingly defined by the maritime space, an extra-terrestrial domain which is space-related and lastly, extending both along the terrestrial and extra-terrestrial, cyber space.

As a globalized economy has become more entrenched, as the interconnectedness and integration of economies across the world continues apace, the maritime sphere becomes a critical factor, impacting directly on the overall security of nations. Ocean-going trade now constitutes well over 90% of total trade. The dependence on maritime trade is even more compelling, if we consider the movement of energy resources, particularly oil, and other strategic commodities such as iron ore, coal and, more recently, rare earths. Resource security is now integrally linked to maritime security.

The maritime domain

The maritime domain is also in flux. The melting of Arctic ice due to global warming, for example, is opening up new and much shorter sea routes between Europe and Asia, reducing shipping distance by over 40%. From just over 4 cargo vessels in 2010, the number using the North-East passage along the Russian Arctic coast reached over 200 last summer. New ports and infrastructure are planned along the Russian and Norwegian Arctic coasts. If the current trends continue, it is estimated that over 25% of world shipping may be traversing this route, instead of traditional passage through the Suez Canal by 2030.The Arctic may also hold over 40% of the world’s known energy and mineral resources, which the melting of ice is making accessible. The economic profile of the Arctic littoral countries, in particular, the US, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark, would increase and so will their strategic importance. Whether this will retard or even reverse the current ongoing shift in the centre of gravity of global power to the Asia and Pacific region, remains to be seen, but cannot be ruled out.

The critical role of the maritime domain also implies that countries which can deploy significant maritime capabilities and which can project power over vast ocean spaces, will be the more influential nations of the future, not those who continue to allocate resources to large and increasingly less effective land forces and weaponry.

The domain of space

Let me now turn to the domain of space. Much of the world’s communication systems, its information and media infrastructure, navigation and surveillance systems and resource survey platforms are based in space. The number of operational satellites orbiting in space has grown from just a handful 50 years ago to about 5,000 now. These space-based assets are indispensable to modern economies, but they are also vulnerable. This was brought home to the world by China’s unannounced ASAT test in 2007. The space domain is now completely woven into the fabric of our lives on earth, though few of us fully comprehend this reality. In the none too distant future, space travel may become as ubiquitous as air travel today. The colonization of other planets, the exploitation of rich and rare minerals that lie buried in their soil and their use as remote platforms for future explorations of outer space, are no longer in the realm of fantasy. It stands to reason that countries that have mastery in space sciences and ambitions programmes for future growth, will be significant players in any future world order.

Let me now turn to cyber space, which is a complex hybrid of both terrestrial as well as extra-terrestrial domains. It is terrestrial in the sense that it is dependent upon a vast and dense network of fibre-optic cables that gird our planet, embedded both in land as well as under sea. It is extra-territorial because it is also connected to all the space-based systems referred to earlier. The virtual reality which cyber space creates and maintains, depends upon both land (including maritime) based and space based platforms which are interconnected and enmeshed in a complex and continually expanding system. Again, it is difficult to comprehend how much our day-to-day living and functioning currently is dependent upon this interconnected cyber space. And yet it is only a little over 50 years since the satellite age was born and only 30 years since personal computers and portable phones came into existence. The worldwide internet which created a global cyber-space is only a little over a generation old. Many of us have lived through an era where there were no televisions, let alone computers, mobile phones or the internet. And yet today, we cannot conceive of a modern economy and a modern society in which cyber space is not an indispensable and pervasive reality.

** Talking to Pakistan: A fool’s errand

Aug 14, 2013

Despite India’s willingness to resume a dialogue with Pakistan even after 26/11, Islamabad has evinced little interest in addressing India’s concerns about its continuing dalliance in terror

One can only hope that the deaths of the five Indian soldiers as a consequence of a Pakistani breach of ceasefire along the Line of Control near Poonch might produce a suitable concentration of mind amongst key policymakers in New Delhi about the possibilities of continuing a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan.

Our current regime, and especially Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has persisted with a dialogue with Islamabad despite domestic opposition and continued intransigence from across the border.

The premise of this endeavour is quite straightforward and has a number of votaries both at home and abroad. It holds that if a civilian regime in Pakistan can be bolstered, the military establishment, over time, can be marginalised and constituencies for peace within Pakistan will then be slowly but surely strengthened. This position has much intuitive appeal but simply fails to pass the tests of both theory and experience.

A small but significant body of literature in the field of international politics has dwelt on the value of making unilateral concessions to an adversary with the hope of promoting trust and, eventually, eliciting cooperation. An American political scientist, Robert Axelrod, had pioneered this approach and it has subsequently attracted other adherents. However, even those who have sought to build on Axelrod’s initial proposition have recognised the limits of his path-breaking analysis.

At the outset, states are often deeply divided and fragmented entities. Even if an elected regime may have an interest in promoting cooperation and peace it is far from certain that an entrenched military will allow such a policy to come to fruition. Furthermore, it is not always clear what an adversary deems to be a concession is necessarily construed as such. Finally, as a colleague and international relations scholar, Kanti Bajpai, has suggested, that states frequently face the “shadow of the past”. The history of past dealings, which were quite problematic, often casts a dark penumbra on future interactions.

In the Indo-Pakistani context these problems are magnified. Both civilian and military Pakistani regimes in attempts to shore up domestic support and legitimacy have long demonised India, have nursed both real and imaginary grievances and above all have abjectly failed to come to terms with their own malfeasances. For example, despite the creation of the Justice Hamadoor Commission to examine the civilian-military debacle in 1971, few, if any, within either Pakistan’s state or society have come to terms with the genocide in Bangladesh. Even Pakistan’s most prominent security analysts cannot forthrightly discuss the complicity of the state that led to mass killings in East Pakistan. Instead every effort is made to dwell on India’s military intervention in East Pakistan and its supposed design to dismember Pakistan. Given this “shadow of the past” that is so deftly adumbrated and exploited both at official and societal levels, it is difficult for any regime in New Delhi to promote a climate of trust in Pakistan.

This, however, is not the only hurdle. It is almost a bromide that no civilian regime in Pakistan, barring that of the mercurial Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, after the disastrous 1971 war, has really been the master of its own house. The watchful military and security establishment has ensured that the Pakistan foreign office remains mostly a paper tiger with real power remaining firmly ensconced in Rawalpindi. Consequently, no regime in New Delhi can conduct diplomacy with a reliable, unitary actor who is in a position to make credible commitments. Only with the significant expenditure of the diplomatic resources of a third party has Pakistan been able to credibly commit to a policy shift. For example, it was when the World Bank under the leadership of Eugene Black used its considerable clout that the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 was realised. Despite occasional complaints from Islamabad about India’s apparent cupidity in the water-sharing arrangement, the terms of the treaty have been largely upheld.

India one, mutinies many

Aug 13, 2013

Dr Manmohan Singh says economic reforms cannot take place unless there is political consensus. The question, therefore, is, why has the UPA government failed to build the necessary political consensus over the last nine years and longer?

Exactly two-thirds of a century ago, India became politically independent. To claim that the world’s largest democracy made little progress thereafter would be a travesty. But to argue that the country’s economy has “emerged” from the shadows of under-development would be to gloss over reality.

Many who live in politically independent India are far from economically independent. Hunger, malnutrition and unemployment gnaw at the economic freedom of at least a quarter of the 1.2 billion people who inhabit the planet’s second-most populous country. Yes, one of India’s biggest achievements over the last 66 years is that it is indeed one country. Despite the prognostications of not a few that the world’s most diverse and heterogeneous conglomeration of peoples cannot survive — leave alone prosper — as a nation-state, India and the idea of India have prevailed. Yet, at the same time, what cannot be denied is that over the years substantial sections of the population have become increasingly intolerant of minorities and the underprivileged. An already-unequal country has become even more unequal. The potential for rapid and inclusive development always existed here but progress has been slow, halting and uneven.

The turmoil over the formation of Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh will not die down in a hurry; neither will the agitations in Darjeeling in West Bengal or in parts of Assam. Many see in the move to form India’s 29th state a cynical attempt by the Congress to salvage lost political ground. After all, the party that won as many as 33 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh in 2009, appears unlikely to be able to achieve anywhere near this political performance in the state in the coming general elections. Even more cynical is the perception that acceding to the demand for redrawing the internal political map of India would divert attention from the terrible state of the country’s economy.

The danger of the government defaulting on its international financial obligations is not as palpable as it was in June 1991 when the present Prime Minister became the country’s finance minister in the P.V. Narasimha Rao government. India’s foreign currency reserves have not slumped to the equivalent of a fortnight’s import requirements as it had 22 years ago. But there is a new set of economic crises that seem equally intractable and extremely painful to resolve. The high current account deficit on the external balance of payments has contributed to a fast-falling rupee vis-a-vis the US dollar. On the domestic front, persistently high food inflation and tardy creation of jobs has led to a widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.

Masked men of Kishtwar

Amitabh Mattoo : Wed Aug 14 2013

The anger of a lost generation threatens the idea of J&K

Known in the past as the land of sapphires and saffron, Kishtwar today is a metaphor for the larger collapse of the idea of Jammu and Kashmir. Once, the state's greatest strength was its rich cultural, linguistic, religious and geographical diversity. Today, as most of these identities have morphed into shrill, polarised and communally charged monsters, the real danger to J&K is from within. Unless the nation acts today, the state is sure to implode tomorrow. For, much of what we are witnessing is a consequence of the warped and short-sighted policies of the Centre and the state.

Kishtwar, contrary to the instant commentaries that have appeared in the press, was not always a communal cauldron. I went there first as a child, only a few months old, in 1962, and stayed on till 1964. My father was posted as a divisional forest officer and as a young married couple, some of my parents' best memories are from their time in Kishtwar: picnics in the great meadow, the chowgan, driving along the mighty Chenab and the warmth and simplicity of the Kishtwari people. Every year, they went on horseback for the two-day yatra of Sri Sarthal Deviji, 30 kilometres from Kishtwar, and all the logistics — from the horses and the tents to the food — were arranged by the Kishtwari Muslims. Unlike the adjoining (the more developed and literate) Bhaderwah, there was virtually no communal tension, and as the sun set, everyone would rush home, lest the mythical dayans (witches with twisted feet) of the town preyed on them. There was harmony, a gentle togetherness and a resilience that prevailed until militancy overwhelmed the state in the 1990s. Indeed, in the 1960s, Kishtwar's greatest singer and poet, Ghulam Nabi Doolwal (Jaanbaaz) wrote what was his most popular song: "Maanun tse peyee, sahib chhu kunuyee, yaa yetti maanun yaa taetti maanun (Accept you must that the lord is the same, whether you accept it here or you accept it there)."

What we are witnessing across the state today is the ugliest form of regional and sub-regional chauvinism and sectarianism. And this is being articulated through what the Italian anthropologist Simone Mestroni describes as an assertion of "masculinity", which seems to define the culture of protests in the state. The masked men of Kishtwar, the arsonists of Jammu and the stone pelters of the Valley are the angry young men of a lost generation.

Is there a way forward? Yes, if there is an-all party national consensus on the following minimum agenda.

First, recognise that a J&K fragmented by sharp, conflicting identities is not in anyone's interest. There is a misperceived and dangerous idea, floating as a doctrine within the Indian establishment, that the less united the people, the easier it will be to manage them. This policy of divide and rule led to the partition of the country, and has accelerated demands for a trifurcation of the state.

Second, admit that there are deeply alienated young men across the state whose anger needs to be addressed through multiple initiatives. Jason Burke recently wrote in The Guardian of the possible emergence of a militancy led by educated young men in the Valley, and this anger is by no means restricted to Kashmir.

Third, do not reward chauvinism. Chauvinism is contagious, as we saw during the Amarnath land row controversy, and appeasement of chauvinists is a short-sighted policy fraught with dangerous consequences.

To give you a personal, anecdotal example. In 2010, Kapil Sibal, then HRD minister, asked me to be the first vice chancellor of the Central University of Jammu. I was reluctant to go in the first place, but as the news spread, there were protests in Jammu on the grounds that I was Kashmiri and pro-Kashmiri, despite having served as vice chancellor of the University of Jammu for six years. While I had no intention of going, I was still personally advised by the political leadership in the country to turn down the offer, as it could lead to instability in the state. Subsequently, a retired IAS officer from Jammu was appointed. If the republic of India is ready to compromise even on the appointment of a vice chancellor, will this not give a fillip to regional chauvinism?

Beyond Vikrant

C. Raja Mohan : Wed Aug 14 2013

As it celebrates the launch this week of the Vikrant, the much delayed first indigenous aircraft carrier, India is not the only one in Asia focused on the virtues of airpower at sea. While the Western powers are struggling to maintain their existing aircraft carriers, leading Asian nations are investing, big time, in naval aviation. The residual European capabilities for carrier design and construction are actively feeding into Asian warship-building.

India also plans to build a larger second indigenous aircraft carrier in the coming years. Meanwhile, it has begun the sea trials of the long awaited Vikramaditya, the carrier acquired from Russia (the Gorshkov). By the end of the next decade, the Indian navy should be close to realising the dream of operating three carriers. But India, the first Asian country to acquire an aircraft carrier after World War II, will no longer have monopoly over naval airpower in the region.

China, Japan, Russia, Korea and Australia are all beefing up airpower capabilities at sea. Aircraft carriers were, until recently, the symbol of American naval primacy in Asia. But airpower at sea is now integral to the regional military balance in Asia. As the naval ambitions of the regional powers intersect in the Indo-Pacific, there will be much jockeying for positions of advantage in the waters of Asia.

Beijing's anxieties about the expanding naval capabilities of Japan and India are mirrored by New Delhi's concerns about the rising Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Future maritime balance in Asia will be shaped not just by the individual capabilities of Asian powers, but the kind of alignments they might generate among themselves and with the United States.

Asian Flat--Tops

China, which is building a powerful blue water navy, commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, last year. Like the Vikramaditya, the Liaoning is a refurbished version of a carrier built in the Soviet Union many years ago. Like India, China has plans to have more than one carrier and is building an indigenous carrier of its own. Reports also suggest that a nuclear powered aircraft carrier may be on Beijing's drawing board.

Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea are boosting naval aviation. Both operate helicopter carriers. Japan had commissioned two powerful Hyuga-class destroyers carrying helicopters in 2009 and 2011. Korea has one helicopter carrier called Dokdo in operation since 2005 and is building a second one. Russia too is constructing a helicopter carrier, named Vladivostok, in collaboration with France. If it does join the Russian Pacific fleet, it will underline Moscow's new determination to strengthen its naval power in the waters of Asia. Australia is building two helicopter carriers, Canberra and Adelaide, which are expected to be commissioned in the next few years.

Vice-chancellor of AMU hurt as car hits his bike

Aug 14, 2013 |

Aligarh Muslim University vice-chancellor Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah (Retd) was seriously hurt Tuesday after being hit by a car while travelling to office on his bicycle.

The driver escaped with the car bearing registration number UP81-AP-8802.

Eyewitnesses claimed the driver deliberately hit the vice-chancellor and then sped away. “The vice-chancellor, who cycles to office daily, was near University Guest House No. 2 when the red car tailing him hit his cycle,” one of them said.

He was admitted to J.N. Medical College Hospital, where doctors said he had fractures in his ribs and knee and was badly bruised.

Why Russia is Worried About the “Zero Option” in Afghanistan

By Andrew S. Bowen
August 13, 2013

With America’s decade-long entanglement in Afghanistan coming to a close, the debate over the size and scale of any remaining American involvement in the country has come to the forefront of Washington’s policymaking circuit. From the Department of Defense and the State Department, to USAID and the White House, discussions are being held over not only how many U.S. troops should remain in the country after the withdrawal deadline of the end of 2014, but also on the potential abilities and effects that a force would have—especially regarding the potential of the U.S. retaining no troops in the country, the so called “Zero Option.” Afghanistan, Pakistan, the U.S., and to a lesser degree India and China, are all involved or carefully watching the debates, as vital national interests would be altered, depending on the U.S. commitment after 2014.

But the one country that is watching the debates as closely as Afghanistan and Pakistan is Russia; not only because of its own history of intervention in the country, but because of the potential for instability to spill over into the Central Asian republics.

Russia watched first-hand as Afghanistan descended into chaos and anarchy following its withdrawal in February 1989, enacting its own “Zero Option.” The slow decay of Afghanistan’s institutions and ruling mechanisms led to not only the eventual takeover of the country by the Taliban, but the growth in drug production and the spread of radical Islamist ideologies to Central Asia—particularly Tajikistan, which waged a civil war throughout most of the 1990s.

To prevent the spread of instability, Russia had to support not only the economies and political structures of many of the Central Asian states, but contribute significant military support as well. Tajikistan, one of the poorest countries in the region, whose own military numbers some paltry 16,300 troops, has relied on Russia’s 201st Motor Rifle Division to help maintain security, especially in securing its 1,344-kilometer border with Afghanistan, since the fall of the Soviet Union. And due to the fear of a spillover of violence following the pullout of foreign troops, Putin and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon recently announced that they had reached an agreement extending the presence of the 201st through 2042, and a $200 million support package for the diminutive Tajik military. Russia is also helping to build up Kyrgyzstan, another desperately poor country, which is set to receive a $1 billion support package to help modernize its military.

Steps such as these are aimed at preventing the spread of chaos that Russia witnessed following its own withdrawal. The fear is that Afghanistan’s institutions, both political and military, will be unable to operate without significant U.S. and ISAF support. Putin has urged the Collective Security Treaty Organization (the CSTO is a collection of post-Soviet states: Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) to create “An effective algorithm of practical action … to minimize possible risks for our countries” following the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

The Secretary General of the CSTO, Nikolai Bordyuzha, was hardly less blunt in stating the risks following the withdrawal, “According to our estimates, the forthcoming withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force will only make the situation worse: radical regional and nationalists will intensify their activities in [CSTO] member states.”

Bangladesh’s Year of Violence

August 13, 2013
By Maher Sattar

Understanding the often violent protests that have brought the nation to a near standstill this year.

When Dhaka’s street battles began to intensify earlier this year, the ambulances started to pour out onto the streets. Going to pick up the dead and injured? In many cases, no. Instead, they were often used to shuttle expats, businessmen and rich kids to airports, offices and garment factories.

For much of this turbulent year, Bangladesh’s capital has been devoured by hartals, relentless waves of violent general strikes that cripple the nation’s political, economic and social nerve center.

Cars, buses even trains that defy the strikes have been attacked, torched and bombed (resulting in an impressive array of YouTube videos) – leaving only cycle rickshaws for the public and ambulance “taxis” for a privileged few as safe modes of transportation.

Dhaka-based human rights group Odhikar claims 322 people have already been killed in political clashes this year, as a high-stakes general election looms. It’s the highest death toll outside a conflict zone, and higher than in many of those.

On July 15, a war crimes tribunal convicted Ghulam Azam, the nation’s most prominent Islamist leader, of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during its war of independence. A 9-year-old girl was run over by a bus retreating from Islamists trying to torch it in the protests that followed.

Now the courts have banned Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest religious political party. Bangladesh is bracing for worse, with a fresh round of hartals on the cards.

Originally a cornerstone of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement in India’s independence struggle, hartals used to enjoy the support of the masses, eager to join the cause. Businesses would stop doing business, public and private transport would cease transporting, workers wouldn’t show up for work.

But more recently hartals have transformed into a wholesale replacement for democratic checks and balances in Bangladesh. Upset about inflation? Call a hartal. Think a court verdict is too lenient? Call a hartal. Think that same verdict is too severe? Why not call a competing hartal on the same day? Frustrated by the endless tide of hartals? Well, don’t let a sense of irony stop you.

How to Measure China’s Maritime Power

By James R. Holmes
August 13, 2013

Yesterday, over at Foreign Policy, the Naval Diplomat held forth on the evolution of Chinese sea power over the next decade or so. Check it out. Bumper sticker: it's tough to predict how swiftly and surely PLA Navy hardware and crews will mature, but China will remain a seafaring power in the broadest sense of the term. It will remain a power to reckon with.

Surly lot that they are, the editors refused to let me ramble on ad infinitum about this big, squishy subject. Forsooth! One major idea left quivering on the cutting-room floor was that naval competition is a relative, rather than absolute, process. Or rather, maritime balances are relative things. Asian geography situates so many powers so close to one another that land and air forces can shape events at sea. Indeed, Corbett could've been writing about present-day Asia when he defined maritime strategy as the art of determining "the mutual relations of your army and navy in a plan of war."

Where China's maritime project stands a decade hence, then, depends not just on how the PLA's progress but on how its competitors fare. China can improve its seagoing forces and the shore fire support that shields them all it wants in absolute terms. But if its rivals compete effectively, they can flatten the upward trajectory of Chinese sea power — preserving such advantages as they enjoy today, and staying ahead in the competition.

If they falter, on the other hand, even a so-so Chinese effort to amass maritime might could leave Beijing the regional frontrunner by default. That's a real prospect. The U.S. military's budgetary travails hardly need recounting. Naval leaders now speak darkly about a 257-ship fleet, down from today's already overstretched force. Japanese military budgets remain essentially flat. Tokyo's much-discussed uptick in defense spending is a pittance, less than 1 percent of its GDP. India's naval project trails China's by a wide and, in certain respects, growing margin.

On the other hand — the array of possible futures recalls Harry Truman's wish for a three-handed economist — Beijing's domineering conduct these past few years could prompt fellow Asian powers to make common cause. That's what realist theories of international relations predict. By keeping their sea power strong and aggregating their capabilities, in short, America, its allies, and its friends can have considerable say in the maritime balance. A fateful choice awaits them.

China’s Emerging C4ISR Revolution

August 13, 2013
By Shane Bilsborough

The PLA has made remarkable strides in its systems and capabilities. But operational challenges remain.

China’s military modernization has given rise to an enormous Western literature dissecting its scope and progress. Despite this boom, many analysts have paid relatively little attention to recent advances in the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) command, control, communication, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities.

The PLA’s growing complement of manned and unmanned aircraft, reconnaissance satellites, and sophisticated ground-based infrastructure comprises the operational foundation of China’s emerging network-centric military. It is also the means by which better-known systems, such as the DF-21D “carrier-killer” anti-ship ballistic missile or the J-20 stealth fighter, could actually fulfill their intended roles during a major regional contingency.

From recent developments in China’s C4ISR infrastructure, it is clear that PLA is well on its way to becoming a sophisticated global military possessing many of the same C4ISR capabilities enjoyed by U.S. forces although it remains to be seen whether organizational barriers will short-circuit this trend.
Airborne C4ISR

Much if not most Chinese thinking on C4ISR and military modernization stems from analysis of the United States’ military performance in recent conflicts. For example, learning from the United States’ successful employment of specialized flying C4ISR systems, such as the E-3 Sentry, and the J-8 STARS, the PLA has identified Airborne Early Warning Command and Control (AEWC&C) aircraft as central to waging war against intervening naval and air forces. According to multiple Chinese analyses, a single airborne AEWC&C aircraft is the operational equivalent of roughly ten ground-based systems of comparable sophistication. In addition to facilitating real-time intelligence gathering, border surveillance, and command and control, these systems are expected to make PLAAF and PLAN fighter aircraft less susceptible to detection by affording them enhanced situational awareness without using their own radar systems. Historically, this capability has afforded the U.S. Air Force significant advantages in beyond visual range engagements that may now be lost.

In keeping with the Chinese analyses of their significance, the PLAAF is already fielding advanced systems of this type. The PLAAF’s current top-of-the-line AEWC&C system, the KJ-2000, is believed to be one full generation ahead of U.S. E-3 AWACS and E-2 Hawkeye aircraft. Among other advancements, the KJ-2000 boasts an indigenously produced phased array radar capable of tracking sixty to one hundred aerial targets simultaneously at a distance of up to four hundred and seventy kilometers. Although somewhat less technologically sophisticated, the PLAN’s Y-8J AEW system affords China’s naval air forces a similar upgrade in situational awareness and is reportedly capable of detecting objects as miniscule as a submarine periscope within its effective range of up to one-hundred eighty-five kilometers.

PacNet #62 - Surfing the Waves of Nuclear Change in Myanmar

AUG 7, 2013

Myanmar needs to honor its nonproliferation promises. This, in short, is the key finding of the US Department of State’s 2013 Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments as it pertains to the Southeast Asian country, which it continues to refer to as “Burma.” Published July 12, the report strikes a different note from last year’s, which stressed that concerns about Myanmar’s interest in a nuclear program, including the possibility of cooperation with North Korea, were “partially allayed.”

Can China’s New Strategic Bomber Reach Hawaii?

By Zachary Keck
August 13, 2013

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) took delivery of 15 of China’s new Xian H-6K strategic bombers, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported back in June. This report has now seemingly been confirmed by Chinese state-run media outlets, which noted that “Jane’s Defence was the first media outlet to confirm that the H-6K had formally entered active service.”

The H-6K nuclear-capable bomber is an upgraded version of the H-6 bomber, which is a locally built version of the Russian Tupolev Tu-16 Badger that Moscow first deployed during the 1950s. The PLAAF first received a TU-16 bomber from the Soviet Union in 1958 and has been modifying it ever since.

According to China’s media, the H-6K “is a medium-sized craft designed for long-range attacks, stand-off attacks and large-area air patrol. Unlike its predecessor, the H-6K can carry cruise missiles under its wings. The H-6K also maneuvers more deftly than the H-6 and requires a smaller crew to operate.”

One of the biggest improvements made to the H-6K is its engine. The new strategic bomber reportedly uses a reverse engineered Russian NPO Saturn D-30KP turbofan engine, which boosts its combat range to 3,500 km. It also packs both the YJ-12 Eagle Strike supersonic anti-ship missile, which has a range of around 400 km, as well as up to six nuclear-capable Changjian-10K (CJ-10k) air-launched cruise missiles, which reportedly each have a range of 1,500-2,000 km.

The CJ-10K is the air variant of the CJ-10 ground attack cruise missile that was supposedly developed from the DH-10 (DongHai-10). The DH-10 itself was reportedly based on the Russian Kh-55 missile. First unveiled at a military parade in 2009, Project 2049 Institute reported earlier this year that, “after more than two decades of development and testing, the DH-10 has entered production and deployment at break-neck speeds.”

Thus, with the bomber's strategic combat range of 3,500 km, the CJ-10 extends its strike range to as much as 5,000 km. Chinese media noted that at this combat range, the H-6K can effectively “reach Okinawa, Guam and even Hawaii from China’s mainland.”

This latter figure appears to be an exaggeration, although it has been reported by other sources. Most recently, Want China Times reports that Kanwa Defense Review, a Canadian-based Asia defense publication, estimated that a H-6K equipped with CJ-10K missiles could reach Hawaii, although it puts the bomber’s combat range with CJ-10K missiles at between 5,000-9,000 km.

China Pushes Ahead With Financial Reform… Cautiously

By Eve Cary
August 13, 2013 

In the case of economic reform, Chinese leaders are crossing the river by feeling the stones, as the saying goes, but the river is proving to be much wider than anticipated.

As the Chinese economy confronts the new normal – a decline of the breakneck growth previously enjoyed – the need for financial reform has become even more urgent. Among the ailments plaguing the current system are capital misallocation, overcapacity in certain sectors, and credit risk assessments not grounded in financial realities. Here’s a brief look at some recent reform measures:

One significant and overarching “reform” has been the leadership’s public acceptance of slower growth figures. Last year’s National People’s Congress issued a work report that targeted 7.5 percent growth, in contrast to the long-standing focus on a minimum of 8% growth. Since then, there have been a number of encouraging steps in the direction of reform.

In May, the State Council discussed a list of structural reforms, including liberalizing capital flows and steadily liberalizing interest rates. As The Economist notes, a number of the reforms are currently underway, while others are just beginning. Andrew Batson of the research and advisory firm, GaveKal Dragonomics, commented that the proposed reform agenda “goes far beyond Wen-era platitudes in its boldness and specificity.”

In July, the State Council issued an economic reform plan encompassing 10 financial measures. The plan, called the “Jin Shi Tiao,” includes “making better use of the existing stock of money, promoting industrial upgrading, diversifying the capital market and deepening the participation of private investors in the financial sector,” according to Caixin. The plan focuses on making better use of money supply, and an important part of the policy says that “private capital can be allowed to set up private banks at their own risk on a trial basis,” which Caixin expects will “be a milestone toward engaging private investors in the financial industry.”

In mid-July, the People’s Bank of China announced that it was removing the floor on commercial lending interest rates, a move that The Financial Times called “the biggest change to the country’s interest rate regime since caps on lending rates were removed in 2004.” The central bank had hoped to liberalize the bank deposit rate ceilings at the same time, but China’s state-owned banks put up fierce resistance – much of their revenue comes from the difference between deposit rates and lending rates.

The measure remains significant symbolically, but as a practical matter, will have little impact on financial markets: FT notes that “only 11 percent of all loans in China were priced anywhere below the benchmark interest rate in the first quarter of this year and almost none of them was priced at a 30 percent discount.” Caixin commented that a positive reading of the removal of the lending rate floor would expect the change to “diversify the investment channels for private capital, invigorate the economy and force state-owned banks in particular to improve their pricing mechanism and services.” As The Financial Times noted, interest rate liberalization is crucial for convertibility of the RMB and for expanded cross-border capital flows.

As for the future, Reuters reports that the Chinese government plans on establishing a deposit insurance system later this year, which, by protecting the depositors at smaller banks, could smooth the way for interest rate liberalization. (Smaller banks would be protected from failure amidst increased interest rate competition in a free interest rate market).

Playing responsible Big Brother in Myanmar

Sonu Trivedi

AP A severely burnt Buddhist monk receives treatment at a hospital after police fired water cannon and gas during a pre-dawn crackdown on villagers and monks protesting against a Chinese-backed copper mine, in Monywa northern Myanmar on November 29, 2012.

Protests have forced Chinese companies heavily invested in the country to take social and environmental concerns of local communities seriously

With China's transition from a planned economy to a market-oriented economy, social responsibility has become an essential element of Chinese corporate strategy.

As an evolutionary tool of soft power, CSR requires companies to address social and environmental considerations alongside the drive for profit in businesses. Given the deficiency of laws relevant to CSR in China, it seems, however, a herculean task for companies there to embrace the concept. CSR principles are based on a commitment to the work safety and welfare of their employees, in addition to a commitment to public good. Unfortunately, Chinese companies have fared poorly at both levels, focusing solely on profit maximisation.

Chinese investment in Myanmar provides an insight into its commitment to CSR. China’s role in Myanmar is decisive as it is one of the largest trading partners and biggest sources of foreign investment. There has been an enormous growth in China’s influence in Myanmar, significantly, after economic sanctions were imposed by the West in 1989. Due to growing Sino-Myanmarese energy ties, China is investing heavily in developing ports in Myanmar to gain greater access to the Indian Ocean. With sanctions long blocking Western investments, China has been the biggest investor in Myanmar across infrastructure, mining projects, hydropower dams and twin oil-and-gas pipelines that help meet southern China’s growing energy needs.

Facing setbacks

Though China’s total investment tops $20 billion, many of its big projects have suffered in recent years. The $3.6-billion Myitsone Dam project was suspended in September 2011 and so far, there has been little hope for restarting construction. The Letpadaung copper mine project, in which a Chinese state-owned enterprise invested about $1.065 billion, was forced to stop construction by local protesters. Another target of some anti-Chinese activists is the China-Myanmar oil-and-gas pipeline.

Much of this opposition to Chinese companies has been centred on their complete disregard for and violation of environmental regulations, as well as local customs and traditions. As a result of these setbacks, the companies have agreed to conditions such as social and environmental impact assessment of their projects and occupational health hazards related to ongoing projects.

China is trying hard to improve its image in a changing Myanmar. In order to retain their stake and maintain a foothold in Myanmar, the Chinese companies have sought to publicly embrace corporate social responsibility practices. For instance, Chinese pipeline companies will be spending millions of dollars on schools and health centres to benefit the local community. According to the People’s Daily, the entity undertaking the natural gas pipeline will build around 45 schools, 24 clinics and contribute millions of dollars to be spent on Myanmar’s national power grid.

No end in sight to al-Qaeda

Wed Aug 14 2013

The failings of the Arab awakening may be replenishing the armies of jihad

The global terror alert this month and the evacuation of Americans from Yemen illustrate that, 15 years after its first terror attacks on the United States, al-Qaeda is thriving in the chaos of the Arab awakening. Failing states and failing revolutions are al-Qaeda's incubator. The coup in Egypt is only going to add many more jihadists to al-Qaeda and its sympathisers.

The news that al-Qaeda's Amir Ayman al-Zawahiri and its leader in Yemen, Nasir al-Wuhayshi were communicating about plots to attack Western targets is no surprise. From his hideout in Pakistan, Zawahiri communicates regularly with al-Qaeda's half dozen regional franchises, just as Osama bin Laden used to do before his death. Al-Qaeda leaders often make references to their covert messages in their overt statements. Only rarely do we learn about the substance of the clandestine communications, usually but not always handled by couriers, but we have seen a few messages over the years. The Bush administration revealed Zawahiri's messages to the Jordanian terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in 2005.

Contrary to assertions that al-Qaeda is decimated in Pakistan, Zawahiri keeps up a constant flow of messages to the global jihad movement, both in public and behind the scenes. Al-Qaeda in Pakistan operates in a network of sympathetic groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Pakistani Taliban, which help hide senior al-Qaeda leaders, train recruits and facilitate communications. The leaked Pakistani study on bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad made clear that he had a network of sympathetic connections that made possible the construction of his hideout and his communications with the outside world for six years. Zawahiri has inherited it.

What is new is the rapid growth of al-Qaeda and sympathetic movements and cells associated with it, from Algeria to Aden. Two years ago, the Arab awakening initially threatened al-Qaeda by suggesting a better alternative to terror and jihad in the form of democracy and peaceful change. Now, the revolutions have all but failed. Twitter is not mobilising reform. From Libya to Syria to Yemen, the awakening has produced more chaos than constitutions. In this chaos, al-Qaeda is thriving, just as it has in the past in Somalia and Afghanistan.

Egypt is critical in this. Zawahiri was taken by surprise in 2011 when the revolution swept Hosni Mubarak from power. His first statements on the revolution bordered on incoherent. But now, his message is clear. At the beginning of August, al-Qaeda issued a statement urging Egyptians to fight

the army coup. Zawahiri said the Egyptian army is an American tool and the coup was arranged with Saudi and Gulf money. In an "I told you so" moment, Zawahiri reminded the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Mohamed Morsi that al-Qaeda had always said jihad was the only solution, not the ballot box. Zawahiri calculates that the coup will radicalise millions of Muslim Brotherhood members and drive them to al-Qaeda. Egypt will revert to the terror and violence that wracked it in the early 1990s. He may be right.

In Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, al-Qaeda has made unprecedented gains this year due to growing Sunni anger at Shia-dominated regimes. The growth in these al-Qaeda franchises has been encouraged by Zawahiri in covert and overt messages for two years. Jihadists from Chechnya to Copenhagen have followed his advice and flocked to Syria to join the jihad. Hundreds have "martyred" themselves fighting Bashar al-Assad. Jail breaks in Iraq, Niger, Libya and Pakistan have freed over a thousand al-Qaeda prisoners in the last month, a move Zawahiri has also lauded.

In Yemen, the US-backed government in Sana'a has made some gains this year and has had a better record on reform than many other post-revolutionary regimes. Yet al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is still attracting Yemenis and Saudis angered by drones and poverty.

For now, most of al-Qaeda's energy and Zawahiri's effort are focused on the crisis inside the Arab and Islamic worlds. The new generation of al-Qaeda is more focused on the near enemy at home than the far enemy in America and Europe for now. But easy targets, like the natural gas plant in Algeria attacked last winter by an al-Qaeda cell based in Libya and Mali, allow local groups to kill dozens of foreign "crusaders". Embassies are always favourite targets. That is how al-Qaeda started out 15 years ago this month, when it blew up US missions in Kenya and Tanzania.

This War Game is a Warning to China

U.S. and Japanese troops practice island attacks

Early Monday morning, two mammoth hovercraft blasted in from the sea and stormed ashore near San Diego. The hovercraft dropped their ramps and disgorged military vehicles onto the sand.

America wasn’t being invaded. No, the beach assault by Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft was part of a major U.S.-Japanese amphibious exercise at Red Beach, part of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.

This kind of landing exercise happens every once in a while at Camp Pendleton, but this time there was a key difference: one of the LCACs was American, the other Japanese.

The exercise, called Dawn Blitz, is not only a key part of America’s so-called “Pacific pivot,” but also a milestone in Japan’s new defense policy. The future of Pacific warfare, pitting the U.S. and its closest friends against a rising China, is being rehearsed on a California beach.

Dawn Blitz, run biannually by the Marine Corps, kicked off earlier this month with participation from Japan, Canada and New Zealand. After a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marines are getting back to their amphibious roots. Dawn Blitz is an signal of that return. It’s also a demonstration to America’s friends and rivals that the U.S. is returning to the Pacific with sharpened claws.

Marching in Circles: Egypt’s Dangerous Second Transition

Middle East/North Africa Briefing N°35
7 Aug 2013


Nearly two-and-half years after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow, Egypt is embarking on a transition in many ways disturbingly like the one it just experienced – only with different actors at the helm and far more fraught and violent. Polarisation between supporters and opponents of ousted President Mohamed Morsi is such that one can only fear more bloodshed; the military appears convinced it has a mandate to suppress demonstrators; the Muslim Brotherhood, aggrieved by what it sees as the unlawful overturn of its democratic mandate, seems persuaded it can recover by holding firm. A priority is to lower flames by releasing political prisoners – beginning with Morsi; respect speech and assembly rights; independently investigate killings; and for, all sides, avoid violence and provocation. This could pave the way for what has been missing since 2011: negotiating basic rules first, not rushing through divisive transition plans. An inclusive reconciliation process – notably of the Brotherhood and other Islamists – needs more than lip-service. It is a necessity for which the international community should press.

There are many reasons for the current crisis: the Morsi administration’s dismissive attitude toward its critics; its inability to mobilise the machinery of state to address basic concerns of an impatient citizenry; the opposition’s reliance on extra-institutional means to reverse unfavourable electoral outcomes; state institutions’ disruptive foray into partisan politics; and collective resort to street action to resolve differences. All these served as backdrop to the 30 June popular uprising and Morsi’s overthrow by the military three days later and have left prospects for a successful democratic transition far dimmer than in February 2011. Social and ideological divisions are more pronounced, violence more normalised, a seemingly revanchist security apparatus more emboldened and a winner-takes-all approach more alluring than ever. And all this takes place in a deteriorating fiscal, social and economic environment.

Duelling legitimacies were on display on 30 June. The first was based on popular outcry against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, viewed as incompetent, arrogant, domineering and increasingly out of touch. The second was rooted in the ballot box. Both have been superseded in effect by the legitimacy the military bestowed upon itself as ultimate arbiter of politics. In so doing, the armed forces unquestionably are relying on deep popular backing among Brotherhood opponents. But this hardly is a stable formula. Their support base consists of an eclectic and awkward alliance of liberals, leftists, businessmen, Mubarak-era conservatives and members of the establishment. The contradictions will be evident before long; some already have surfaced. Many Brotherhood critics remain ambivalent about the role of the army, which simultaneously has turned a sizeable portion of the Islamist camp into its foe. In short, and unlike 2011 when it could paint itself as above the fray, the military has sided with one camp against another.

The fate of the Muslim Brotherhood is at the centre of the equation. Reeling from its dramatic loss of power and persecuted in ways unseen since the 1960s, it is reviving its traditional narratives of victimhood and injustice. It is depicting the struggle as a battle between defenders and opponents of both democracy and Islam. It is closing ranks, banking on a war of attrition to expose the new rulers over time as a more repressive version of Mubarak’s old regime; exacerbate divisions among their current backers; and discredit them with domestic and international public opinion. In mirror image, the new authorities believe that, by preventing a return to normalcy, the Islamists will continue to lose popular support and – if they refuse to retreat – justify a more forceful crackdown.

A City of Two Million, Wiped Out

Fighting devastates Aleppo, Syria, amid mass displacement

Two years ago it was a thriving city of more than two million people in northern Syria near the Turkish border — and a U.N. world heritage site rich with the architecture of past rulers: Arabs, Romans, Mongols and Ottomans.

Today Aleppo is a war-ravaged ruin, torn down by a year of intensive fighting between the Syrian government and rebel factions. Tank battles, gunfights and bombardment by government artillery, aircraft and rockets have flattened entire neighborhoods and toppled the minaret of an historic mosque, according to a new analysis of commercial satellite imagery by Amnesty International and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Once a safe haven for refugees displaced by fighting elsewhere in Syria, Aleppo itself became a main battleground in Syria’s two-year-old civil war last summer, when rebel forces launched an offensive to capture the city. The rebel offensive petered out—and in June the government counter-attacked following months of brutal bombardment.Before (left) and after photos of an Aleppo neighborhood showing bombardment damage. Images Digitalglobe/Astrium, provided by AAAS

“Aleppo has been utterly devastated, its people fleeing the conflagration in huge numbers,” said Donatella Rovera, a researcher for Amnesty International who has visited Syria more than 10 times since April 2012.

Across Syria, more than 100,000 people have died in the fighting, the U.N. said in July. Six million of Syria’s 20 million people are refugees, some of them crowding into makeshift camps in Turkey and other countries bordering the war zone. Pres. Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Damascus has apparently begun deploying chemical weapons.

Amnesty and AAAS have combined satellite imagery with the work of on-the-ground researchers such as Rovera to paint a horrifying picture of escalating violence. A montage of space-based snapshots last summer apparently showed government armored vehicles in action as well as “burned industrial buildings, roadblocks and fortifications,” said AAAS program associate Susan Wolfinbarger.A blast at Aleppo University. Flickr photo


AUGUST 7, 2013

Two years ago this month, Tripoli, the capital of Libya, fell to the amalgam of rebel forces that had been closing in on the city. The country’s leader Muammar Qaddafi fled to his home town, Surt, where, on October 20, 2011, rebels stabbed, beat, and shot him to death after his convoy was hit by a NATOmissile strike. Qaddafi’s eccentric, forty-two-year dictatorship was over, signalling the apparent end to a dramatic chain of events that had started nine months earlier, in the eastern city of Benghzi. There, inspired by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, in neighboring Egypt, Libyans had demonstrated against Qaddafi’s rule, and the protests had turned into a bloody national showdown with security forces. The protesters, eventually assisted by French, American, and British bombers under the NATO banner, succeeded. The smoke had not yet cleared when the victory was being touted as a shining example of what Western powers could do on a modern battleground without ever putting “boots on the ground.”

With no further need for war and with Western powers fussing over what was being vaunted as the oil-rich nation’s new democracy, Libya should have once again achieved peace and stability. Instead, the country, of more than six million people, seems to have been fatally destabilized by the war to remove its dictator, and it is increasingly out of control. Militias that arose on various regional battlefronts found themselves in possession of vast arsenals and large swaths of territory. Despite the orchestration of parliamentary elections and the assumption of nominal rule by civilian politicians in Tripoli, those militias have not stood down; instead, they have used their force and their firepower to try to effect change in the capital, even, on several occasions, besieging government buildings. They have also fought one another over long-held regional enmities; the most recent such battle occurred last month.

The current Prime Minister, a lawyer named Ali Zeidan, has defended his government’s powerlessness, saying that its failures derive from the weakness of Libya as a state. There is a great deal of truth to that: assembled from three ancient Ottoman wilayats, the modern state of Libya was only eighteen years old when Qaddafi seized power from the country’s monarchy, in 1969. In his absence, Libya’s nationhood is like a garment worn thin. As the Libyan author Hisham Matar wrote last week, “Under Gaddafi we were afraid of the state; now its weakness imperils all we have achieved. “

The degree to which Libya is out of control became apparent on September 11, 2012, when a large mob, which included extremists both inspired by and affiliated with Al Qaeda, attacked a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, killing the visiting U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and with three others. The incident did not set off a debate about what to do in Libya but, rather, incited an almost entirely America-centric one, characterized by politically motivated finger-pointing about U.S. command-and-control weaknesses and errors. Meanwhile, the NATO-facilitated situation on the ground in Libya has worsened, with extremists operating with increasing impunity.

In June and July, dozens of Libyans were killed in separate clashes between militias in Benghazi and Tripoli. The past week or so has been particularly bad. On Friday, July 26th, a prominent lawyer in Benghazi, Abdelsalam al-Mismari, was shotkilled as he left a mosque after Friday prayers. Mismari was a prominent leader of the 2011 rebellion against Qaddafi, and, more recently, he had emerged as a vocal opponent of the country’s second-largest political group, the Justice and Construction Party, a conservative faction allied with the Muslim Brotherhood. The suspicion is that extremists assassinated him. Two security officials were also killed in the city that day. Then, on July 27th, more than a thousand inmates broke out of a prison outside Benghazi, in still murky circumstances. (This mass jailbreak coincided with others, linked to Al Qaeda, in Baghdad, and to the Taliban, in Pakistan.)