16 August 2013

The Indian Army’s Role in Nation Building

14 August 2013


India's army has seen its role as the nation’s “ultimate weapon” diminish.

The Indian nation should have been able to look back at the country’s journey from 1947 and justifiably feel proud of the progress it has made so far. Unfortunately, the overwhelming mood in India today is that of gloom, despondency, and low self-confidence.

Institutions have been systematically emasculated, some even destroyed. The country’s economy is in the doldrums. The rupee is in a free fall. Experts say that the economy will improve and the rupee will also recover.

Since I have no expertise in those matters, I am willing to go with the optimism of the sarkari experts. But as a student of India’s armed forces, my worry is more long term and I am going to try and highlight the dangers inherent in this development.

The Soldier

It essential to understand why the soldier (in the broader sense) is pivotal for the wellbeing of a nation-state. Military scholars may quote Sun Tzu often when it comes to military strategy, but my favorite is the worldly-wise Chanakya. Centuries ago he toldthe king of Magadh:

"The Mauryan soldier does not himself the Royal treasuries enrich nor does he the Royal granaries fill... The soldier only and merely ensures that... He is thus the very basis and silent, barely visible cornerstone of our fame, culture, physical well-being and prosperity; in short, of the entire nation building activity.

The Indian nation state has, however, forgotten Chanakya’s advice. The Indian soldier today stands at the crossroads, confused about his status in the society and unsure about his own role in a nation led by “faux peaceniks” who will compromise national security for short-term gains like a Nobel Peace Prize. The havoc wrought by an indifferent polity and insensitive bureaucracy to India’s armed forces and changing societal norms, has hit the ordinary soldier hard.

The society no longer respects the soldier and his work in protecting the nation. They may pay lip service in times of crisis but that’s it. Bihar politician Bhim Singh’s utterly tasteless remark that “people join armed forces to die,” in the wake of the killing of five Indian soldiers on the line of control, is symptomatic of the bitter reality. Although forced to withdraw his remark, the Bihar politician symbolizes how a large section of Indian society view soldiering.

India’s Experiment in Economic Diplomacy

By Radu Botez
August 14, 2013

Indian companies are increasingly investing abroad, and demanding that New Delhi’s economic diplomacy backs their endeavors. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has hitherto largely ignored the pressures resulting from a more internationally oriented Indian business sector and the larger processes of globalization, which have brought economic matters to the forefront of foreign policy.

However, plans that foresee people from trade and industry bodies joining diplomatic missions temporarily, recently hinted at by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, suggest that New Delhi is ready to adapt to the new reality. This follows a number of initiatives launched earlier this year by the MEA to better represent India Inc.’s concerns abroad.

Economic liberalization in the 1990s brought with it changes in outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) from India. Restrictions were continuously eased from the early 1990s on, albeit at a slower pace than in other areas. Towards the end of the 1990s, the upper limit for investments not requiring approval was raised to 100 per cent of a company’s net worth, before reaching 200 per cent in 2004, among other measures to facilitate OFDI. This allowed India Inc. to invest abroad on an unprecedented scale, with OFDI going up significantly in the early-2000s. The acquisition of Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus for $12 billion by Tata Steel in 2007 and of the Africa operations of Zain, a Kuwaiti telecommunications group, for $10.7 billion by Bharti Airtel in 2010 are but two outcomes of this relaxation of OFDI rules.

Bearing in mind the current situation of the Indian economy, as well as commercial interests, Indian companies can be expected to continue looking abroad for new opportunities to grow and diversify investments.

Corporate India’s increased footprint in most of the world’s regions, along with a changing international economic environment, has created significant pressures on New Delhi’s economic diplomacy to represent business interest and obtain better terms for investment. External Affairs Minister Khurshid highlighted this development during the announcement of the latest initiative when stating that the “External Affairs ministry is undergoing a change because of the requirements that Indian diplomats may have to fulfil.”

At the same time, the outward orientation of the Indian business sector has increased the interest of organizations that represent them, principally the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), in shaping foreign economic policy. These bodies regularly bring together business leaders and decision-makers, facilitating interaction and allowing companies to voice their concerns with regards to India’s foreign policy and economic diplomacy.

More importantly, FICCI and CII also regularly organize forums where foreign and domestic business and political leaders meet and build relations. This, in turn, has increased pressures on the government to develop state-to-state relations. For instance, conclaves and meetings organized by CII and FICCI from the mid 2000s on led to the first India–Africa summit in 2008.

The issue of state support for Indian companies gained more attention last November, when the Maldives cancelled a $500 million agreement with Indian company GMR to develop Male’s airport. Drawing conclusions from the failed deal, C. Raja Mohan aptly pointed out that “the real lesson is that India is utterly unprepared to protect the interests of its companies operating abroad.”

A weak steel frame

By editor
Created 16 Aug 2013

Today, political leaders make bureaucrats their partners in corruption and those who don’t fall in line are punished. No wonder the steel frame has lost its old character. Action taken against Durga Shakti Nagpal only highlights this fact.

Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, called the Indian Civil Service (ICS) the steel frame of their administration in India. Though the British exploited India’s wealth and impoverished the country, they ensured good governance, rated the best in Asia.

The ICS, comprising mostly British officers, was the backbone of the British administration in India. A small trickle of Indians started getting into the ICS in the 19th century. Their numbers gradually increased. In 1947, the majority of ICS officers were still British. But Indians had managed to reach the top positions in the service. They could serve with dignity and could express their views freely. This tradition continued for the first decade and more after Independence.

The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is the successor service of the ICS. Indira Gandhi wanted a committed bureaucracy. This led to undermining its objective and impartial functioning. As the years passed, our criminal and corrupt politicians began wreaking havoc with the functioning of the bureaucracy. The recent case of Durga Shakti Nagpal, a young IAS officer in Uttar Pradesh, highlights to what depths our present-day politicians can descend.

Ramesh Chandra Dutt competed into the ICS around 1870. At the turn of the 20th Century he was the commissioner of Dhaka. In those days a commissioner was a very high rank, next only to the governor in a province. As commissioner of Dhaka, he was the highest civilian authority in the whole of present-day Bangladesh. Lord Curzon was then the Viceroy of India. He was an imperialist to the core and, perhaps, the most capable Viceroy who came to India. He had formulated the “famine code” (an early famine scale) and Dutt did not agree with some provisions of the code. He wrote a paper critical of it. Even at the height of imperialism, Indians in the administration could assert their views and were not deterred.

After provincial autonomy was introduced in 1937, a nephew of the first Prime Minister of Bihar, now designated chief minister, was going on a bicycle without the mandatory lamp in his bicycle during the dark. A traffic constable stopped him. This infuriated him and he slapped the constable. He was arrested and detained. The next morning he was released and the law took its course without anyone interfering in the process. Compare this with some recent incidents of flagrant misuse of authority.

A minister’s convoy with his police escort was stopped at a road crossing in Srinagar by a traffic constable to allow traffic proceeding in another direction to continue. This infuriated the minister’s escort who beat up the constable in the presence of the minister. The constable had to be hospitalised. No action was taken against anyone.

In November 2011, some workers of the Trinamul Congress were arrested by the police for breach of law and were taken to the police station. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee stormed the police station and had the workers released, reprimanding the policemen.

Made outside India

Aug 10th 2013

As growth slows and reforms falter, economic activity is shifting out of India

INDIA’S diaspora of 25m people is something to behold. In colonial times Indian labourers and traders spread across the world, from Fiji to the Caribbean. A second wave of Indians left between the 1970s and mid-1990s, when the economy was in a semi-socialist rut. Migrant workers rushed to the Persian Gulf and South-East Asia, then booming. Educated folk and entrepreneurs fled to the rich world. Plenty struck gold, including engineers in Silicon Valley and Lakshmi Mittal, boss of ArcelorMittal, a giant steel firm. Often they now have little to do with India beyond sending cash to relatives and groaning as the once-vaunted economic miracle fades.

Yet alongside this distant diaspora, a network of people and places is more directly engaged with India’s economy. Its most conspicuous element is the plutocrat who owns firms in India, but like his Russian and Chinese peers shops in Paris, educates his children in America and Britain and sometimes has foreign citizenship: Cyrus Mistry, the boss of Tata Sons, India’s biggest firm, has an Irish passport. At the network’s core, however, is not the gilded elite but offshore hubs, including Dubai and Singapore, often with sizeable Indian populations and with their own economic strengths.

The idea that some things are better done abroad is hardly new. Hong Kong was a gateway to imperial and then Red China. In 1985 Yash Chopra, an Indian film-maker, led a trend of shooting Bollywood “dream sequences”—in which the hero and heroine sing amid meadows and snowy crags—in Switzerland. The Alps were easier, cheaper and safer than the more familiar location of Kashmir.

Film buffs now view Swiss dream-sequences as cheesy, but India’s big offshore hubs are more in fashion than ever. They present a mirror image of India’s red tape, weak infrastructure and graft. Dubai is a prime example. For long-haul flights Indians prefer its airline, Emirates, to their own. More than 40% of long-haul journeys from India go via a non-Indian hub, often in the Gulf. Indian airports no longer make grown men cry (Delhi’s is first rate), but few foreign airlines want to make them their base. Indian planes are usually serviced in Dubai, Malaysia and Singapore, reflecting a history of penal taxes in India and high customs duties on imported spare parts.

A stroll round Dubai’s gold souk, a glittering warren of shops and discreet offices, housing bullion worth $3 billion-4 billion, points to another specialism—trading jewellery as well as precious stones and metals. A third of demand is from India, reckons Chandu Siroya, one of the market’s big participants. Indians go to Dubai to avoid taxes at home and because they trust its certification and inspection regime.

Dubai’s ports, air links and immigration rules also make it a better logistical base than India. Dawood Ibrahim, a Mumbai mafia don, ruled from Dubai by “remote control” before eloping to Pakistan in 1994. Since those wild days legitimate Indian firms have thrived in Dubai. Dabur, which makes herbal soaps, oils and creams, runs its international arm from there. Dodsal, which spans oil exploration in Africa to Pizza Huts in Hyderabad, is based in the emirate. Its boss, Rajen Kilachand, moved from Mumbai in 2003. “Dubai is a good place to headquarter yourself,” he says, adding that a “Who’s Who” of Indian tycoons has a presence. Dubai is gaining traction in finance, too. Rikin Patel, the chief executive of Que Capital, an investment bank, says Indian firms are raising debt in Dubai to avoid sky-high interest rates at home.

Treasure Island

About 5,000km (3,000 miles) south of Dubai lies Mauritius, an island so beautiful that Mark Twain said God had modelled heaven on it. About half its people are descended from labourers brought from India when Britain ruled both places. It is the main conduit for foreign investment into India with 30-40% of the stock of foreign capital sitting in funds domiciled in the island. A 1982 tax treaty allows investors using Mauritius to pay tax at the island’s rate (which, in practice, is zero), not the Indian rate. Foreigners also like the stability of Mauritius’s rules and its army of book-keepers and administrators. Many investors also use “P-Notes”—a kind of derivative with banks that gives them exposure to Indian shares without having the hassle of directly owning them.

U.S. n-energy: unviable at home; strategic instrument abroad

S. Nagesh Kumar

THE HINDU FRENTETIC PACE: A view of the Vogtle nuclear energy plant near Atlanta, the first among the few being built after a gap of over three decades in the United States. Photo: S.NAGESH KUMAR

The first nuclear energy plant constructed after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident will be commissioned in 2017 at Waynesboro in the State of Georgia.

Powered by an advanced light water reactor, this will be a milestone in what many describe as U.S.’ ‘nuclear renaissance’. It has considerable significance for India too. The two reactors are called AP-1000 which the manufacturer, Westinghouse, is trying to hard sell for the nuclear energy plant proposed at Mithivirdi in Gujarat.Westinghouse is building these reactors in the U.S. as well as in China, a country that is developing its nuclear energy capacity at a galloping pace. According to Scott Peterson, Senior Vice-President of the Nuclear Energy Institute, 29 reactors are under construction in the Communist nationChina while 51 more are being planned For Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, owned by a consortia led by Georgia Power Company, the two reactors will cost $14 billiondollars, an investment being made after the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) made rigorous evaluation to make them safe against natural or man-made disasters. The consortia already runs two units at the same site on which construction began in 1974 and which began commercial operations in the late 1980s.

The USP of AP-1000 is its passive design under which a large reservoir of water sits atop the reactor. If the reactor has to be shut down in the event of an emergency, say an earthquake, and alternative power sources do not kick off to pump water into the core as happened at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, the water will flow by gravity. As the condensed water keeps flowing back, a melt-down can be prevented for a considerable period of time.

Nuclear energy policy in U.S. is going through a churning like never before. Fukushima looms over every narrative, making safety and security paramount. As a result, licensing of new plants has become a time-consuming affair, making time and cost overruns become inevitable as in the Vogtle plant. A new challenge is emerging for the nuclear power sector from natural gas which is cheaper and available in abundance in the U.S.

Victor McCree, Atlanta-based Regional Administrator of NRC, said nuclear energy accounts 20 per cent of power supplied in the U.S. through 100 plants, down from 104 earlier . Some are being retired and others shut down for being commercially unviable. Together, these constituteconstituting more than 10 per cent of the generating capacity. Yet, more are under construction, he hastened to add.

Will the replacement level (of reactors) exceed the number of plants being retired? “The answer would be yes, before Fukushima happened. Lots of plants were being ordered and licences being issued. But, Fukushima has put a dampener to this trend while the financial meltdown has caused a slowdown. A 550 MW n-plant in Wisconsin shut down recently as it could not sell power at rates that were competitive with natural gas-based plants,” S. I. Abdel-Khalik, Southern Nuclear Distinguished Professor at Georgia Tech, said in a counterpoint to the NRC’s regional chief.

Can India’s Agriculture Sector be Saved?

By Shreyasi Singh
August 15, 2013

Onions are front-page news these days across newspapers in Delhi. Onion prices, along with those of several other vegetables, have been steadily rising. There is almost a sense of déjà vu, as each year one or two vegetables become a cause célèbre for the middle class. What it also does is indicate the vast inefficiencies across the agricultural supply chain in India.

That India’s farm economy must be made more efficient and productive – urgently – hardly bears repeating. Despite a glut of seemingly pro-agriculture subsidies, policies and sops given to the agricultural community by successive governments, the outlook on India’s farm economy remains anything but healthy. Thousands of tons of grains are wasted because of lack of storage and transport facilities, even as farming remains a gritty battle of a profession. 

Clearly, the multitude of policies and short-term thinking has only made Indian agriculture unsustainable, although there was some good news in 2012: India overtook Thailand as the world’s largest rice exporter, and emerged as the world’s top exporter of buffalo meat (known as carabeef in the global market).

Still, agricultural experts and observers fear these advantages and strides are unlikely to last. Agricultural scientist Professor M S Swaminathan recently said, “unless a productivity-cum-quality revolution take place the apprehension voiced by experts about the India becoming a net importer of food grains in another 20-30 years cannot be ignored.”

It doesn’t seem likely that we will stumble on a silver lining in the agriculture sector, or much else in the Indian economy right now. But, as with most things in India, while things remain the same (or get worse), there are also smart and worthy efforts at improvement. In the case of agriculture, a handful of venture capital and private equity players are focused on making Indian agriculture both more productive and more profitable.

Mumbai-based Omnivore Partners is one such venture capital fund. Founded in 2010, Omnivore has already invested in six start-ups in what they call “ag-tech” (agriculture technology). Mark Kahn, a founding partner at the firm, believes agriculture in India urgently requires the application of technology. It’s difficult not to romanticize Kahn’s journey so far. A Harvard Business School grad, his passion for – and knowledge of – Indian agriculture are impressive. As is his spoken Hindi, picked up over the past several years spent living in India. I recently had the chance to chat with Kahn in Delhi, where he laid out his wish list for Indian agriculture, and the big fix-it’s the sector needs to mature.

Mumbai Submarine Explosion Clouds India’s Naval Progress

By Pratyush
August 15, 2013

In an event Indian Defence Minister AK Antony has called a “shocking tragedy,” 18 sailors aboard an Indian submarine called the INS Sindhurakshak are feared dead after two huge explosions occurred on a submarine berthed in Mumbai after midnight on Thursday. No bodies have yet been recovered, as divers are currently working to refloat the partially submerged submarine.

The cause of the explosions is still being determined and sabotage has not yet been ruled out. "A board of inquiry will cover the entire spectrum of the incident, we cannot rule out sabotage at this stage but all the indicators at this point do not support that theory," Navy chief Admiral DK Joshi said.

What makes this explosion even more tragic is that it occurred on the heels of two landmark events for the South Asian power's naval ambitions. The Indian Navy recently announced progress in its efforts to build a homegrown nuclear-powered submarine as well as an aircraft carrier in quick succession. After over two decades of research and development in a particularly challenging area of defense technology, India announced on August 12 that the nuclear reactor in its first indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine, the INS Arihant, had achieved criticality in a crucial step before becoming fully operational. With the move, India joins a select group of countries with the technology to build a nuclear reactor compact enough to fit into a submarine. Currently, only the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain possess nuclear submarines.

The Arihant will be fitted with K-15 nuclear-tipped missiles that will be able to hit targets 700km away, completing India's nuclear triad – the ability to fire nuclear missiles by land, air and sea. India already has the ability to launch nuclear missiles from land, with the Prithvi and Agni missiles, as well as from air from its French Mirage and Russian Su-30 MKI fighter jets. Indeed, having a second strike capability from sea is considered critical for India which has a declared “no first use” nuclear policy. The possession of a submarine with nuclear-tipped missiles would enable India to develop a credible deterrence policy with the ability to launch a counterattack following a first strike. Nuclear submarines also have an edge over conventional diesel-powered submarines as they can stay under water for longer periods making their detection more difficult.

On August 13, India launched its first indigenously built aircraft carrier – the INS Vikrant – which will have a displacement of 37,500 tons when completed in 2018. With its launch, India becomes the fifth country after the U.S., Britain, France and Russia to have the capability to develop its own aircraft carrier. Built at the Cochin Shipyard in the southern state of Kerala, the Vikrant will carry Russian-made MiG-29K fighter jets and a set of helicopters. India already has the INS Viraat, a vintage British-built aircraft carrier, in its fleet and will acquire another Russian-made aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, in 2014, once the warship completes its sea trials.

The moves are part of India's plans to develop a blue-water navy, with the ability to project power beyond the confines of the Indian Ocean into the South and East China seas. To achieve this, India is building three more nuclear submarines and two more aircraft carriers. India's naval build-up coincides with growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the South China Sea, where a slew of territorial disputes are ongoing between China and several Southeast Asian nations, as well as with Japan. With a more robust naval presence, New Delhi seeks to protect its commercial interests, including plans to jointly explore potential oil and gas reserves with Vietnam in the South China Sea.

India-China Rivalry Threatens US Sanctions On Iran

By Zachary Keck
August 15, 2013

As Andrew Detsch reported last week, before leaving for August recess, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a new sanctions bill against Iran, which will become law if the Senate also passes it and the president signs it.

The bill aims to virtually eliminate all of Iran’s oil exports by severely limiting President Obama’s ability to issue waivers to countries that have continued purchasing Iranian crude, albeit at greatly reduced quantities.

Many have criticized the House for wanting to enact more sanctions before the U.S. and its allies have held diplomatic talks with Iran’s new administration. In the Wall Street Journal yesterday, two Congressmen, a Republican and Democratic, defended their institution’s actions by arguing that only by “bringing the [Iranian] regime to the verge of economic collapse” can the U.S. force “Iran to comply with all international obligations, including suspending all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.”

Even as U.S. lawmakers try to ramp up sanctions against Iran’s oil exports, the existing Western sanctions campaign has come under threat from a geopolitical force not previously part of the equation: China and India’s strategic rivalry.

Previously, avoiding an oil shortage on the global market was the main factor Western nations had to contend with in implementing sanctions against Iran’s oil industry. The initial U.S. legislation, for example, gave the president enough flexibility in implementing the sanctions to ensure that taking Iranian crude off the market would not cause a significant spike in the price of oil worldwide. Additionally, by allowing the president to issue waivers to specific countries that continuously reduced their Iranian crude imports, the sanctions legislation allowed the U.S. to avoid significantly impacting key bilateral relationships.

So far, then, the West has been successful at implementing the sanctions. The U.S. and EU have managed to drastically reduce Iran’s oil exports without rattling oil markets. This is partly due to the inherent flexibility of the sanctions, but a number of exogenous factors have been equally important, such as the increased supplies from Arab countries and North America, and reduced demand in emerging markets in Asia.

But managing the balancing act between reducing Iran’s exports without causing oil shortages is primarily an economic endeavor. Although many countries protested the unilateral nature of the sanctions, Iran’s oil customers were not willing to risk the ire of the U.S. and EU as long as they were able to find other sources of supply.

But geopolitics is a much more zero-sum game, and it now appears to be entering into the Iranian oil equation in a big way.

For example, the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations is likely to reduce pressure on Iran. Although Russia benefits economically from the loss of Iranian oil and natural gas on the global market, the Kremlin has long used Iran as a pawn in its dealings with the U.S. Specifically, it has held out its relative cooperation or resistance on Iran as a bargaining chip on its other dealings with the West. With the deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations, President Vladimir Putin is likely to strengthen engagement with Iran if only to demonstrate Moscow’s leverage with the U.S. Indeed, Putin was contemplating a visit to Iran this month but instead with meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani next month on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Scuppering national good under pressure

Friday, 16 August 2013 

India must wake up to the individual and joint efforts its immediate neighbours are making to destabilise the security environment in the country. Unfortunately, the Centre remains passive

With its economy in the doldrums, New Delhi is now confronted with a situation where two of its neighbours — China and Pakistan — are jointly and separately undermining its security and influence worldwide. Emboldened by Chinese assistance leading to the strengthening of its Navy (four new frigates), Air Force (JF 17 fighters) and nuclear armoury (plutonium-based tactical nuclear weapons), Pakistan now believes that it can effectively deter India from responding firmly to terrorist strikes emanating from its soil. India’s mandarins, resorting to clichés like, “Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism”, and “Action on terrorism (by Pakistan) should not be linked (by India) to the Composite Dialogue Process”, now referred to as the ‘Sharm el-Sheikh Syndrome’, would like us to believe that Pakistan is having a change of heart.

It is this approach to diplomacy that has led Mr Nawaz Sharif to insist that the Composite Dialogue Process with India should commence at where it was, when he was ousted in 1999. He wants us to forget that the Red Fort was attacked by the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (now generously financed by his brother, the Chief Minister of Punjab) in 2001, and ignore the attack on our Parliament in 2001 and the 2008 26/11 carnage in Mumbai, executed by jihadis from Pakistan. Despite the outrage over the recent killings of our soldiers, we should have no doubt that our ‘dialogue at all costs’ security establishment in South Block will stealthily return to the recipes of the Sharm el-Sheikh surrender. Mr Sharif has returned from China, fully assured that the Chinese will build a highway linking their Xingjian Province to Gwadar Port, which they now manage, through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The strategic implications of this project, which will be largely executed by Chinese Army engineers, together with their development of hydro-electric projects and infrastructure in Gilgit-Baltistan, give the Chinese the ability to establish a security presence adjacent to the Line of Control, astride our lines of communication to Ladakh and Siachen.

If Pakistan had succeeded in pushing New Delhi to delink the Composite Dialogue Process from its support for terrorism, China has successfully scuttled all possibility of an early border settlement, by upping its border claims in both Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, even as it waxes eloquent on the dialogue on the border issue between the designated Special Representatives. Successive Indian National Security Advisers have strutted around pretending that they have devised brilliant new ideas to resolve the vexed border issue. The reality is somewhat different. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao agreed in 2005 that the “boundary should be along well defined and easily identifiable natural geographical features” and that in “reaching a border settlement, the two sides shall safeguard the interests of their settled populations in the border areas”. Yet, just a year later, the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi proclaimed that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, re-designated as ‘South Tibet’, is part of China.

It should have been evident to New Delhi that China had no intention of resolving the border issue, when it refused to exchange maps delineating the Line of Control in the crucial western (Ladakh) and eastern (Arunachal Pradesh) sectors. India claims the Line of Actual Control in the Ladakh sector lies along the Karakoram mountains up to the Indus river watershed. This conforms to the 2005 Guiding Principles that the border would be along “well defined and easily identifiable natural geographical features”. Chinese intrusions in Debsang, Chumar, Chushul, Pangong Lake, Daulat Beg Oldi and Demchok are clearly in areas where they have no business intruding, going by the terms of the Guiding Principles of 2005. Moreover, India’s claims are also validated by agreements on the Ladakh-Tibet border, starting with the 1683 Ladakh Tibet Agreement defining the border as lying along “the Lhari stream at Demchok”, to the September 1842 Treaty with Tibet/China concluded by Ladakh’s Sikh rulers, and the Macartney-Macdonald Line presented by the British to China in 1899.

Afghanistan’s Rare Earth Element Bonanza

By Alan W. Dowd Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Filed under: World Watch

Afghanistan’s recently mapped deposits of rare earth elements provide hope that the war-torn nation can achieve peace and prosperity.

After more than a decade of war and nation building, members of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan are heading for the exits. Although what the ISAF will leave behind is better than what was there in 2001, Afghanistan remains a battered land. However, the resources Afghanistan’s land holds — copper, cobalt, iron, barite, sulfur, lead, silver, zinc, niobium, and 1.4 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REEs) — may be a silver lining.

U.S. agencies estimate Afghanistan’s mineral deposits to be worth upwards of $1 trillion. In fact, a classified Pentagon memo called Afghanistan the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” (Although lithium is technically not a rare earth element, it serves some of the same purposes.)

Of course, the fact that Afghanistan is rich in minerals is not necessarily new information. The Soviets identified mineral deposits in Afghanistan during their decade-long occupation. What is new is the volume and precision of mineral-related information. Afghanistan has been mapped using what is known as “broad-scale hyper-spectral data” — highly precise technologies deployed by aircraft that, in effect, allow U.S. military and geological experts to peer beneath Afghanistan’s skin and paint a picture of its vast mineral wealth. According to Jim Bullion, who heads a Pentagon task force on postwar development, these maps reveal that Afghanistan could “become a world leader in the minerals sector.”

There’s another set of factors at work today that were not present during the Soviet period: REEs are in high demand, the dependability of the REE supply chain is in question, and Afghanistan’s mineral wealth may be able to help knit the country back together after decades of war.

Iran’s Unavoidable Influence Over Afghanistan’s Future

Article August 15, 2013
Senior Associate
Russia and Eurasia Program and
al-Farabi Carnegie Program on Central AsiaMore from this author...


As the U.S. troop withdrawal approaches, Washington should consider how improving U.S.-Iranian relations can further its long-term goals in Afghanistan and the region.

Iran has positioned itself as an important regional actor in Central Asia and is committed to playing a role in neighboring Afghanistan. As U.S. troops draw down their numbers in Afghanistan, Washington should consider how improved U.S.-Iranian relations could further long-term U.S. policy goals in Afghanistan and in the region.

While the future of U.S.-Iranian relations remains unclear, any improvement in the relationship would facilitate the success of U.S.-supported initiatives in Afghanistan: the “New Silk Road” strategy, which seeks to improve Afghanistan’s economic ties with Central and South Asia, and the “Heart of Asia” confidence-building process, which fosters high-level dialogue on security, political, and economic cooperation among Afghanistan and its neighbors. Both are catchwords for Washington’s policy of trying to shift more responsibility for Afghanistan’s reconstruction to the states of the region. But the international sanctions against Iran and the state of U.S.-Iranian relations are making it difficult for policymakers in Washington to implement this regional approach.

Iran’s Close Ties to Central Asia

Iranian leaders pride themselves on being important actors in Central Asia, and they take advantage of all available international forums to make this case. For their part, the region’s other countries maintain normal diplomatic and trade relations with Iran.

The respect accorded to Iran in Central Asia was underscored by the presence of the presidents of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration. The presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan attended as well. Uzbekistan, which has kept somewhat more distance from Iran, sent the head of its parliament, as did Russia.

The three Central Asian presidents used their presence to bring up the topics of greatest importance to them. For the Tajiks, who share a language and culture with the Iranians and call Iran a “strategic partner,” this meant discussing Tajikistan’s hydroelectric plans.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev used his visit to reiterate his country’s interest in continuing to host the P5+1 nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, which are under the chairmanship of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. Kazakhstan hosted P5+1 sessions in Almaty in February and April 2013.

Transport links were major themes for both the Kazakh and Turkmen leaders. With Iran, these countries are constructing a new railroad to link Uzen in Kazakhstan with Gyzylgaya, Bereket, and Etrek in Turkmenistan and end at Gorgan in the Iranian province of Golestan. The railroad will expand access for the Central Asian nations to Persian Gulf ports.

The Kazakh and Turkmen presidents jointly opened the first section of the railroad on May 11, 2013, during Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s official visit to Kazakhstan. The nearly 50-mileIranian portion was inaugurated later that month.

But international sanctions against Iran have complicated Tehran’s attempts to gain influence in Central Asia. Given Iran’s participation in the project, for example, the new railroad could not secure international multilateral institution funding. Instead, it is being built with funds of the national railway companies of Iran, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.

Xi Jinping’s Overlooked Revelation on China’s Maritime Disputes

August 15, 2013
By M. Taylor Fravel

Although unnoticed by foreign analysts, Xi Jinping recently signaled a desire to dial back tensions in the South and East China Seas.

At the end of July, the Chinese Communist Party’s ruling Politburo held a special study session on the nation’s growing maritime power, which has helped cause controversy with several neighboring states.Official media reports about the meeting emphasized a speech by President Xi Jinping that repeated the main policy themes from the recent 18th Party Congress, calling for China to become a major maritime power by developing its maritime resources and protecting the ocean environment.

But Xi’s most interesting remarks have received scant attention. Under China’s system of collective leadership, speeches at Politburo meetings usually reflect the consensus of the participants – in this case, China’s top 25 leaders. Near the end of his address at the most recent study session, Xi discussed China’s ongoing maritime disputes and predictably repeated many now common talking points, such as “never giving up its legitimate rights and interests,” especially the nation’s core interests. Nevertheless, two other phrases he used may illuminate how Beijing may handle these disputes and therefore deserve greater attention. Xi’s remarks suggest that Beijing may be reconsidering the merits of its most assertive actions in the East and South China Seas—ones that have caused grave diplomatic problems with Japan and many Southeast Asian countries.

First, Xi repeated the late Deng Xiaoping’s 12-character guideline for dealing with territorial disputes over offshore islands such as the Spratlys and Senkaku/Diaoyu. In a series of statements between 1979 and 1984, Deng had outlined his more moderate approach, later summarized as “sovereignty remains ours; shelve disputes; pursue joint development.” In recent years, Chinese scholars and analysts have debated the merits of that approach, sometimes criticized for failing to prevent what have been perceived infringements of Chinese sovereignty. For example, just last year a prominent analyst at the China Contemporary Institutes of International Relations, Chen Xiangyang, called for a more assertive policy. In particular, he suggested that Deng’s guideline be replaced with a tougher approach: “sovereignty of course is ours; maintain the dispute stage; seize the initiative to pursue development; strengthen crisis management and control” (zhuquan dangran zaiwo, jieduanxing baochi zhengyi, zhuajin zizhu kaifa, qianghua weiji guangkong).

However, by repeating Deng’s 12-character guideline, Xi endorsed and affirmed Deng’s earlier position on behalf of the entire Politburo (including two of the People’s Liberation Army’s top generals, Fan Changlong and Xu Qiliang). By stating what the party line should be, Xi indirectly addressed the internal debate about Deng’s guideline. Of course, Deng did not offer a plan for resolving the underlying sovereignty disputes, but the Politburo’s affirmation of Deng’s approach indicates that Beijing will be patient, and pursue temporary measures to reduce tensions. It also undermines a growing belief overseas that China is becoming increasingly impatient at sea.

As Egypt erupts, U.S. dithers

The Muslim Brotherhood is no friend of democracy
August 15, 2013

Chaos in Cairo is dangerous for peace and U.S. interests.

Egypt’s security forces have now moved decisively to eliminate Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo, producing the bloodshed foretold by daily confrontations between the Brotherhood’s supporters and opponents. Six weeks after the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt remains deeply and violently divided — and American policy is confused and irresolute.

While confusion and irresolution are nothing new to the Obama administration, this is not the place to dither or make strategic mistakes. We must define precisely what U.S. priorities are in light of Egypt’s strategic significance, and given the potential for protracted hostilities there between armed combatants.

By identifying our interests, we can concentrate our energies and resources on advancing them in practical ways, avoiding an essentially academic debate over issues we can’t significantly influence. Because our resources are not unlimited, we have to focus our political time and attention, as well as our more tangible assets and capabilities, where they can do the most good.

First, Egypt’s continued adherence to the 1979 Camp David peace agreements with Israel is essential. Anwar Sadat’s courageous decision to negotiate directly with Israel was critical not only to establishing this foundation of America’s overall Middle East policy, but also evidenced Egypt’s momentous shift, after the death of longtime dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser, away from the Soviet Union. Sadat’s sea change in allegiance provided an opening the U.S. used to undermine Moscow’s extensive regional influence, and was an early sign that the Cold War was entirely winnable.

Hezbollah’s Refugee Problem

Rami Bleibel/Reuters/Corbis

Children in Qusayr, Syria, after Hezbollah recaptured the town for the regime, June 8, 2013

On a hot afternoon in late July, Lebanese aid workers were handing out boxes of food to Syrian exiles in a town just a few kilometers from the Syrian border: on the face of it, an unremarkable event in a war that has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee to Lebanon. But the town was Hermel, a Hezbollah stronghold in the northernmost part of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley that has sent numerous young men to fight for the Syrian regime. And the food boxes were donated by the Red Crescent of the United Arab Emirates, a Sunni country in the Arabian Gulf that, along with Qatar and Saudi Arabia, has backed the Syrian opposition.

Though little noted, it is one of the more paradoxical consequences of the Syrian conflict: while the war has deeply divided the Middle East, the refugee crisis it has produced is forcing the opposing sides to work together outside Syria’s borders—above all in Lebanon, a tiny, fractious country with large Sunni and Shia populations and especially complicated ties to Syria. “It’s a big problem,” a local man told me during my visit to Hermel. “We have Syrians living alongside our own families here, and the sons of both are meanwhile killing each other in Syria.”

Over the past few months, as Hezbollah has very publicly entered the Syrian war, much has been said about how the conflict is spreading to Lebanon. Hermel is just across the border from Qusayr, the strategic Syrian city that Hezbollah fighters, along with Syrian government forces, dramatically conquered in early June. Many Lebanese, including some in neighboring villages, support the Syrian opposition and have been enraged by Hezbollah’s readiness to fight for the regime. In June, following Hezbollah’s victory in Qusayr, a Lebanese Sunni extremist group engaged in a shootout with Hezbollah fighters and Lebanese military forces in the southern city of Sidon. And on July 9, a large car bomb was detonated in a Hezbollah-controlled area of southern Beirut. Since Qusayr, there have also been an alarming series of attacks and kidnappings by both Sunni and Shia tribes in the area around Hermel.

But the rapid influx of Syrians—who have now settled in almost every part of Lebanon—is challenging the country’s sectarian divisions in unexpected ways. At present, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says there are around 680,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon; the Lebanese government says that the number of Syrians in its borders, including many who have not registered with UNHCR, is more like 1.2 million, or about a quarter of the entire Lebanese population. And while many fleeing Syrians have gone to communities of their own sect—Christians to Christian villages, Sunnis to Sunni areas—many more have ended up in places where the local population supports the other side.

Hugh Eakin

Food boxes from the United Arab Emirates in Hermel, Lebanon, July 27 2013

All of which has made for some challenging situations for the aid community. Take the experience of the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU), an organization established last winter under the auspices of the Syrian National Coalition, the group representing the Syrian opposition, to channel international aid to Syrians. Although the ACU says its mission is strictly humanitarian, its affiliation with the SNC has meant that the aid it receives comes from countries that have backed the rebels, including the United States, Western European nations, and countries in the Arab Gulf; inside Syria, its aid is directed primarily to rebel-held areas. Moreover, many of these donors, including the US and now the European Union, regard Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group.

In Lebanon, however, the lines have become blurred. This summer, the ACU has been trying to distribute $20 million of food vouchers in twenty days to refugee populations across the Bekaa Valley—a Ramadan gift from a Kuwaiti charity. As Wissam Tarif, a coordinator with the ACU’s Beirut office, told me, some of this aid is now going to towns under Hezbollah control. “We work very well with those mayors—they have precise lists of the refugees, they are very organized,” Tarif said. “I don’t care if it’s Hezbollah. There are thousands of people we need to reach.”

Obama's "I'm Not George W. Bush" Foreign Policy **

On the face of it, President Barack Obama's foreign policy is not at all terrible. He ended U.S. military involvement in Iraq. He is severely reducing U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. He kept U.S. involvement in Libya to a reasonable minimum, and has not gotten drawn into the infernally complex civil war in Syria. Meanwhile, his secretary of state, John Kerry, is engaged in the first serious attempt at achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace in 13 years, even while Obama has kept his trigger-finger calm on Iran, thus positioning the United States for some sort of rapprochement with Tehran in the event that the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, is serious about improving relations. Moreover, given the humanitarian impulses of his new national security adviser and U.N. ambassador, Obama can now more easily talk like an idealist while practicing realism: the combination that usually works in foreign affairs.

Helping Obama is the fact that the Republican Party presently offers no serious alternative. The GOP appears torn between isolationists and neoconservatives. Isolationism is simply not a viable viewpoint in an age of globalization when geopolitics requires a sustained engagement with the world. Neoconservatism, meanwhile -- a combination of nationalism and extreme Wilsonianism -- has a tendency to see military force as a first resort, rather than as a last resort. And it is as a last resort with which most Americans are comfortable. Republicans were politically strongest when their foreign policy emanated a unified, pragmatic internationalism. That is not the case at the moment.

So with Obama's foreign policy not at all terrible, and with the Republicans not wholly serious, why is there such dissatisfaction with the administration's approach to the world? True, the media is never satisfied and the 24/7 news cycle means any administration is now always on the defensive, no matter what it does. But that does not quite account for the realization among many serious, bipartisan people in Washington that Obama's record is -- at least so far -- forgettable.

There is simply not the excitement that accompanied the diplomatic forays of Henry Kissinger and Richard Holbrooke. There is not the sense of profound deftness in reaction to momentous geopolitical events that accompanied the performance of the elder Bush's administration; nor is there is the dramatic sense of purpose that accompanied so much of President Ronald Reagan's foreign policy. Indeed, Kissinger, Holbrooke, and the secretaries of state of both Reagan and the elder Bush were often so adroit at talking to the media that they practically wrote their lead paragraphs for them. That is not the case with the Obama team.

The media shapes not only public opinion but also elite opinion. And with past administrations there was, at the very least, the media intuition that something was happening in foreign policy; the current media intuition is that despite episodic news events that must be reported on, nothing is happening.

Nothing is happening because Obama has no grand geopolitical conception. He and his top officials are not great European-style improvisers like Kissinger. They don't have a plan for America, like Holbrooke had, to be a great moral force while promoting its geopolitical interests at the same time. They don't intend to upend a utopian ideology (communism) like Reagan did. And unlike the elder Bush team, they have no design for stabilizing the world once that ideology was, in fact, upended. (After all, jihadism and terrorism are disease germs like malaria, which can be suppressed but probably not wholly eliminated. This is a different order of threat from communism.) In sum, Obama offers only a negative: I am not George W. Bush. He started wars. I will end them, and avoid future ones. I will kill individual terrorists as they crop up. That's all, thank you.

Umpire Strikes Out

American Umpire, Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, Harvard University Press, 440 pages

“William Appleman Williams viewed world history through the wrong end of the telescope,” writes Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman in her novel reinterpretation of American statecraft. “On balance, American diplomacy in the twentieth century has been far more triumphant than tragic.” While others might characterize the 20th century as dismal or barbaric, Hoffman looks past the bad news and finds much to celebrate. Most importantly, during the 20th century imperialism went out of fashion. In place of empire, new norms—“access to opportunity, arbitration of disputes, and transparency in government and business”—evolved and have now “taken hold around the world.” They have today become “the leitmotifs of national policy and global history.” Further, these new norms fostered the spread of “democratic capitalism,” which “drove material progress and facilitated enough peace and cooperation for humanity to flourish.” For Hoffman, a professor of history at San Diego State University, this describes the world in which we live.

Many factors account for this happy development. Chief among them, however, has been the role played by the United States, the “bellwether” and “pivot of this worldwide transformation.” America “nurtured new global trends” and “pioneer[ed] the new norms.” It provided “the cutting edge of a larger and growing international critique” of colonialism. As these “new international norms took hold… America gave history a decisive shove.”

In 1789 the Constitution had established the federal government as arbiter of disputes among the several states comprising the Union. By fits and starts over the next two centuries, the United States established itself as arbiter of disputes among the growing roster of nations comprising the international order. Unlike the imperial powers of old, the United States established itself as an “umperial power,” assigned the responsibility “to compel acquiescence as necessary with rules that had earned broad legitimacy.” Today, writes Hoffman, America has become “the enforcer of what is, most of the time, the collective will.” To charge the United States with committing the sin of imperialism, therefore, “is not simply improbable but false.” It’s also a pernicious slander. Those who perpetrate this do immense harm: “Diagnosing America’s problem as ‘imperialism’ is damaging,” she writes. Rather than suggesting an alternative approach to policy, “this flawed characterization merely saps morale.” Hoffman worries about American morale.

In any human endeavor requiring supreme effort, morale helps determine outcome. If citizens are uncertain about their own or their government’s motivation, they will find it difficult to prevail against enemies, inertia, pessimism, and all the other forces that continuously complicate human achievement.

By implication, historians bear some responsibility for bolstering the nation’s collective spirits, lest inertia and pessimism impede the onward march of progress.

Were that not enough, those falsely charging the United States with imperialism sow the seeds of anti-Americanism abroad. Take terrorism, for example. As Hoffman sees it, American critics of U.S. foreign policy helped persuade violent Islamists that “all Americans [are] part of a malignant imperialist plot,” thereby providing ammunition to the likes of Osama bin Laden. Put simply, she writes, “the events of 9/11 teach that words must be as precise as possible, for they can become like slippery knives. An umpire accused of being an empire may bleed out, to everyone’s detriment.”

As a determinant of the way that others see the United States, Hoffman implies, scholarly judgments carry greater weight than do the words and actions of those who actually make policy. By extension, historians should keep their criticism of U.S. policy within bounds. “American academics have a sober responsibility,” Hoffman warns, “to make sure that incriminations of their country and fellow citizens are made only to the extent warranted.”

The cyberwar against the media

By: Mackenzie Weinger
August 14, 2013 06:23 PM EDT

News organizations have been chronicling the cyberwar against the nation’s high-value targets — financial institutions, the defense establishment and government.

Now, it’s the media that finds itself under attack like never before.

On Thursday, The Washington Post announced that its website had been hacked, “with readers on certain stories being redirected to the site” of a group supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. And the New York Post on Tuesday became another victim as several reporters’ Twitter accounts were apparently hacked by the same group, the Syrian Electronic Army.

Cybersecurity experts say that hackers — ranging from those linked to foreign governments to shadowy, “hacktivist” groups to lone wolves — are increasingly targeting the press. In the past year, a host of other prominent news outlets, including The Associated Press, The New York Times, Reuters and NPR, among others, have been hit by high-profile assaults. Experts say it’s high time journalists recognize their vulnerability and adopt more safeguards to protect themselves and the information they have.

The media have become a major front on the cyber battlefield because hackers can use news outlets to put out false information instantly to a large audience, exploit a big platform for political propaganda and acquire confidential information on sources or upcoming stories, experts told POLITICO.

“It’s certainly on the rise this year. It is a big ego thing. It’s great publicity, if you want to get your name out, and that’s satisfying all those buttons for them,” said attorney Claudia Rast at the law firm of Butzel Long, who has counseled companies on legal issues related to privacy and data security. “It’s not going away.”

Major news organizations are simply “a great, high-profile target,” said Adam Meyers, the vice president of intelligence at CrowdStrike, an Internet security start-up that approaches hacking by focusing on the attackers. “You can use the media to put out your own messaging, you can use it to just to get access to lots of information,” he said. “There’s plenty of reasons why you would want to get access to a media organization.”

From penetrating an outlet’s social media feeds or its internal networks, hackers have found success in infiltrating the media, experts note.

The most notable case this year was the attack on the AP’s Twitter in April. The wire service’s official account was commandeered by hackers to send a tweet to its 1.9 million followers that falsely claimed, “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.” The single bogus message caused the financial markets to briefly plummet, and also brought worldwide attention to the mysterious group that claimed responsibility, the Syrian Electronic Army, which supports Assad’s government and is the same group that apparently hacked the New York Post.

“If [hackers] can hack the AP’s Twitter account or another news organization, all it takes is really one bad link [or tweet] to go out and there are potentially millions of followers that can see that, and it only takes a couple of minutes,” said Tom Eston, a manager at SecureState. “Even if they realize that their site’s been hacked, the damage is already done.”

“That’s really what [the hackers are] going for — they want people to start thinking about some type of political message, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes,” he added. “They’ve made the news just because they hacked the AP, and then they’ll come out and say, ‘Yep, we’re the ones who did it and here’s our message,’ and now they’ve gotten even more media attention because they’ve gone after a high-profile target.”

The Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for the AP attack with a message on its website stating that “SEA published a false news about an explosion in the whitehouse and Obama got injured This small tweet created some chaos in the United States in addition to a decline in some U.S. stocks.”

Along with the wide range of tactics used against the media, there are a number of different types of hackers who are specifically focusing on news organizations, including state actors — a country or a person or group working on behalf of a government — who often hack news outlets to target journalists’ confidential sources or try to gain insight into the coverage of their country.