15 September 2013

The Alternative History of an Undivided India

September 2013

Civil disobedience meeting, Bombay 1930: Historians have overstated the role of Congress direct action in securing Indian indepdence (credit: popperphoto/getty images) 

"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially." Imagine those famous words spoken "at the stroke of the midnight hour", not by Jawaharlal Nehru as leader of a partitioned Indian republic, but by Muhammad Ali Jinnah as prime minister of a confederation of the whole subcontinent, with Dominion status and the British monarch remaining as King Emperor. The new federation has a weak centre and strong, autonomous provinces like undivided Punjab and Bengal. Its constitution is based on the Cabinet Mission Plan, proposed by the British government in 1946 and accepted by both the predominantly Hindu Congress Party and the separatist Muslim League.

To persuade Jinnah, already dying of tuberculosis, to abandon his largely tactical demand for Pakistan, an independent state carved out of India's Muslim-majority provinces, Mahatma Gandhi, the presiding deity of Congress, has given him the premiership of a coalition national government. Nehru, whose arrogance and insistence on the top job had alienated Jinnah, has been slapped down in a realignment of the Congress leadership. Gandhi has joined forces with anti-Nehru conservatives such as Sardar Patel and the south Indian leader Rajaji. Nehru had been collaborating closely with Lord "Dickie" Mountbatten, sent out as viceroy by the new Labour government to "cut and run" as quickly as possible. But the Nehru-Mountbatten axis is seriously discredited by a scandal about Nehru's love affair with Lady Mountbatten, including insinuations that bisexual "Dickie" was a willing participant in aménage à trois.

Mountbatten is packed off home in disgrace, while his perspicacious predecessor, Lord Wavell, returns as viceroy, resuming negotiations for a more gradual transfer of power to a united subcontinent. The result is the new national unity coalition between Jinnah and Congress conservatives. With Jinnah as his Muslim prime minister, Rajaji, a Hindu brahmin, succeeds Wavell as the first Indian governor-general of the new Dominion. 

Hindu-Muslim tension, ratcheted up by the Pakistan demand and Congress opposition, now subsides. Jinnah's main power-base, the influential Muslim minority of India's central Hindi belt, is delighted with the power-sharing deal. For them, Pakistan was always a tactical rather than a practical demand, because it would uproot them from their homes in a partitioned India. The two largest Muslim-majority provinces of Bengal and Punjab are equally pleased, because they remain undivided with powerful, devolved governments of their own. A year later, Jinnah dies, and his successors as leaders of the Muslim League, lacking either his charisma or ambition, accept the role of second fiddle to Congress. Gandhi's gamble has paid off, and he lives happily on for another decade, instead of falling victim to a fanatical Hindu assassin.

This historic Hindu-Muslim compromise avoids the estimated 2 million deaths and 12 million refugees caused by a violent partition and the ethnic cleansing it would involve. It also has profound international implications for the balance of power between the West and the Soviet bloc and for the future of global Islam. A united, pro-Western India, unhampered by wars with Pakistan and a nuclear arms race, acts as a major bulwark against Russian and Chinese expansionism in Central Asia. The world's largest Muslim population — now 500 million — peacefully assimilated into a secular Indian democracy, avoids the jihadism of future generations in Pakistan and Kashmir. It dramatically shifts the Islamic centre of gravity from the turbulent Middle East, preoccupied with the issue of Palestine, because Indian Islam, with its far more tolerant and eclectic Sufic traditions, permeated by indigenous Hinduism, is a potent antidote to the fundamentalism of both Arab Wahabism and Iranian Shi'ism. 

'Where the Mind Is Without Fear...'


Painter Nandalal Bose, seated right, poses with Nobel laureate poet, Rabindranath Tagore, center, with students at Santiniketan, circa 1930s. Image courtesy Supratik Bose

When Indian economist Amartya Sen was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1998, he chose lines from a poem by the beloved Rabindranath Tagore to open his dinner speech. He wasn't the first to have done so. Fifteen years earlier, the Indian physicist, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, quoted the same poem, perhaps the best known in Modern India:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high Where knowledge is free Where the world has not been broken up into fragments By narrow domestic walls [...] Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

For Sen, a professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University, citing Tagore's poem invoked a Nobel tradition that began with Tagore himself, the first non-European to win the prize. But it was also uniquely appropriate to his personal history. A friend of his mother's, Tagore gave Sen his first name and founded the school where Sen spent his most formative years.

Tagore died when Sen was a young child, but, as he notes below, he was fortunate to have other great teachers along the way, formally and informally -- like the esteemed painter,Nandalal Bose, who was a neighbor and close friend of Sen's family. Amid the divisive discourse driving much of Indian politics today, he notes below, the lessons of open-mindedness and global inclusivity taught by educators like Tagore and Bose are as instructive today as they were in his and his nation's youth. Christie's caught up with Sen by phone, who shared his thoughts about their legacy.

My understanding is you received your first name from none other than Rabindranath Tagore. How did that happen, and what's your name mean?

It really means "immortal" -- etymologically, it has the same roots as the European word. And my mother was very close to Rabindranath Tagore. She was lead dancer in some of his dance dramas. So, when I was born, she got a letter from Rabindranath suggesting that, rather than repeating old names, we start inventing new names, and he offered this one. I'm perfectly happy with it but I don't think I had much choice!

You've written that Patha Bhavana, the school founded by Rabindranath Tagore, was where your educational attitudes were formed. In what sense?

Well, I think [it was] the basic idea behind the school -- of having international knowledge and a global outlook be present in a big way, without undermining the valuable elements in national and local culture, civilization and intellectual traditions. And also the focus on reasoning, the focus on freedom, are important parts of the commitment that Tagore had, which I think I benefitted from.

Bad Mandates and Dirty Water

By Francis Fukuyama
September 2, 2013

I could spend the next ten posts or so describing how poorly crafted legislative mandates have led to bad administrative outcomes, but I’ll provide just one here that is quite typical of many developing-world public agencies.

The city of Hyderabad, India, has been one of the fastest growing over the past two decades, and one of the centers of the country’s IT-based service industry. But like much of the rest of India, it has failed dramatically to promote infrastructure development at an adequate pace to keep up with private demand.

This failure to provide basic public services is one of the biggest points of contrast between democratic India and authoritarian China. The latter succeeded in increasing the rate of access to tap water for its urban population from 48 percent in 1990 to 96.1 percent by 2009. Singapore’s performance has been even better, not only providing its own population with clean water, but creating an internationally competitive water industry.

By contrast, the city of Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh, has been able to supply less than half the amount of rationed demand for water in recent years. This shortfall has meant that many residents of the city have access to water only a few hours of the day, and often from communal taps that have to be shared with many other people. This has led to the unsustainable pumping of ground water by residents rich enough to be able to dig private wells, and to companies importing water privately from other jurisdictions in order to ensure continuous supplies.

An earlier reform had consolidated the city’s utilities into a single Hyderabad Municipal Water Supply and Sewerage Board. But the resulting organization could not achieve even basic cost recovery, much less generate the kinds of revenues that would be necessary to fund a major expansion of capacity. The system’s infrastructure was old and inefficient. Some fifty percent of the water it distributed was lost, some to leaky pipes that had not been updated, but a larger amount in the form of illegally diverted water, stolen mostly by the poorer residents of the city.

The solution proposed by the World Bank and other international donors was the one popular during the 1990s, which was to privatize water supply and turn its management over to an outside operator like Suez or Vivendi that would have an incentive to recover costs and turn municipal water into a profitable business. This was not to happen, however, because of politics within the state of Andhra Pradesh. Privatization would have served the interests of the commercial users of water in Hyderabad like the city’s fast-growing IT companies. But the city’s million and a half slum dwellers were represented by politicians who argued that privatization would have raised rates on the poor, absent a credible scheme of cross-subsidization. Even cracking down on the illegal diversion of water met stiff political opposition, since many politicians argued that this was the only way that slum dwellers would have guaranteed access to clean water.

The problem Hyderabad couldn’t solve was thus a political one: it could not reconcile the interests of large commercial users, who wanted reliable supply and were willing to pay for it, with the interests of the poor, who were highly price sensitive and politically powerful. Clean water is not usually considered simply a private good for which individuals are expected to pay the full marginal costs of provision. Like electricity, sewerage, and telecoms it is considered a necessary condition of life and thus something akin to a fundamental right. The municipal water authority was under conflicting political mandates to do contradictory things: to expand supply for commercial users, do cost recovery, and yet provide highly subsidized water to the entire population.

Pipeline politics – A study of India′s proposed cross border gas projects

September 4, 2013

Energy Policy, Elsevier, September 2013.

Hippu Salk Kristle Nathan, Post Doctoral Associate, National Institute of Advanced Studies
Sanket Sudhir Kulkarni, Ph.D Research Scholar, National Institute of Advanced Studies
Dilip R. Ahuja, Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies

India′s energy situation is characterized by increasing energy demand, high fossil fuel dependency, large import shares, and significant portion of population deprived of modern energy services. At this juncture, natural gas, being the cleanest fossil fuel with high efficiency and cost effectiveness, is expected to play an important role. India, with only 0.6% of proven world reserves, is not endowed with adequate natural gas domestically. Nevertheless, there are gas reserves in neighbouring regions which gives rise to the prospects of three cross border gas pipeline projects, namely, Iran–Pakistan–India, Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India, and Myanmar–Bangladesh–India. This study is a political analysis of these pipeline projects. First, it provides justification on use of natural gas and promotion of cross border energy trade. Then it examines these three pipeline projects and analyses the security concerns, role of different actors, their positions, shifting goals, and strategies. The study develops scenarios on the basis of changing circumstances and discusses some of the pertinent issues like technology options for underground/underwater pipelines and role of private players. It also explores impact of India′s broader foreign relations and role of SAARC on the future of pipelines and proposes energy induced mutually assured protection (MAP) as a concept for regional security.
For the complete article click here

Demographic invasion of India from the North East

14 Sep , 2013

Six decades of ‘Indian effort’, still Seven Sisters have not been fully integrated with the main landmass. Thousands of crores of money has been pumped into the North East. In fact our Central Govt is indirectly financing the underground governing bodies who de facto continue to rule the roost. The problem has been further accentuated by uncontrolled illegal migration from Bangladesh, the situation in the ‘Gateway to the North East’, the ‘Siliguri Corridor’, where insurgency is brewing and is likely to become a major security concern for our country.

Kamtapuri movement is making steady progress in carving out yet another autonomous state by amalgamating six districts of North Bengal viz, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar Maldah, South Dinajpur and North Dinajpur.

As per 2001 census the population of India is approximately 1.02 billion, almost three-fold increase in population of 1947. The three-fold increase is attributable to, inadequacy and inconsistency of India’s family planning programme, (bureaucracy had to tow the line of their political masters) illiteracy, religious disbeliefs, backwardness of the people, underprivileged condition of women in India, poor health facility and so on. But no one bothered to mention that one of the reasons is presence of over 26 million Bangladeshi illegal migrants in India.

At the time of partition, in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) the Hindu population was 25.6 percent. It got reduced to 14 percent in 1991 and today it has come down to abysmal 7 percent.

Bangladesh has the highest density of population in the world, the density of its population is 982 persons per/sq km. North Eastern States on the other hand are sparsely populated with average density of little over 215 persons per sq km. Principle of void theory in law of nature has taken its course. In addition not so good economic conditions in Bangladesh have forced people to embrace more lucrative options. This is not only true for this region, Mexican influx into south western United States of America is most recent phenomenon. Large-scale demographic movement continues to take place in the NE, resulting in demographic imbalance in states. In the state of Tripura imbalance has resulted in “demographic inversion”. After the partition, till 1971, there was a massive population influx caused by political, communal and economic reasons, which created serious ethnicity problems in these states. At the time of partition, in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) the Hindu population was 25.6 percent. It got reduced to 14 percent in 1991 and today it has come down to abysmal 7 percent.

Earlier the minority community were literally forced out of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), primarily due to religious reasons and now mass exodus is taking place due to ‘economic reasons’ by both the communities. Flow of illegal migrants though in small measure continues post 1971 and the progressive cumulative effect is acquiring alarming dimensions. However, when secular democracy was replaced by autocracy following the murder of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman in 1975, hard-core Islamic Fundamentalists were encouraged to infiltrate into North-eastern states to carry out anti national activities and destabilise the democratic system. The bulk of these migrants initially egressed into states bordering Bangladesh. In addition a large number have infiltrated into almost all parts of India including Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and other cities for greener pastures creating economic and law and order problems. Vote bank politics as usual supersedes national interests. Assam, Tripura, North Bengal and Meghalaya face maximum threat to the security in this region due to illegal migration. Gradually, this malaise is spreading to other states like Sikkim, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland. Even landlocked Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is also sitting on the brink of demographic implosion.

DAY I: Srinagar-Uri-Srinagar

The majesty of the Pir Panjal mountains. The full flow of the Jhelum river. The stillness of the mountain air, the tranquility all around belies the fact that we were in a major military flash point. One that has sometimes taken India to the brink of war.

We are in the Uri sector of the Line of Control, the 776 km de facto border separating India from Pakistan. For almost ten years now a ceasefire agreement between both countries has more or less held. But a spate of recent violations has renewed tensions all along the LOC. And as the soldiers here will tell you. Ceasefire or not the constant threat of imminent danger means the mind must be battle ready at all times.

Beyond Uri town a kuccha road winds its way up and down the mountain slope over gravel, mud and loose stones. To the border outpost of Silikote, the last village near the LoC. From here we begin our walk up to the forward post. In easy line of sight of the Pakistani troops on the other side of the LOC

Life at the LOC is often a test of nerves. Motivation and morale is key. As we clamber up the sparsely populated mountain ridge, we see some of the slogans that keep the soldiers strong. Dar Sab ko lagta hai, Dar ke aage jeet hai,says one ( Everyone is scared says one. But beyond fear is victory). Paanch minute, paachas gola (5 minutes, 50 rounds), says another.

After the ceasefire the focus has shifted more to counter infiltration strategies. But the soldiers tell us that whether its the ammunition levels, the regular shooting practice, the 24 hour patrolling or the underground communication trenches and observation posts life for them is akin to navigating a high tension wire.

For the 27 families. Roughly 100 people who live in Silikote village every ceasefire violation is a memory too close to the bone. The very sound of gunfire can still trigger tears.

Capital crisis

By A. Srivathsan

Vishalandhra combining Andhra and Telangana was created with Hyderabad as the capital. The city is at the centre of the present struggle. History tells us that decisive action to settle the ‘capital city’ dispute is inevitable.

The dispute between the Andhra and Telangana regions over Hyderabad brings in a sense of déjà vu. The agitation to regain the city, the politics of protests and the solutions proposed to resolve the conflict are reminiscent of the events that took place 55 years ago when the States were reorganised.

Contesting States easily agreed on the border and administrative issues but clashed over the capital city. Andhra and Tamil Nadu fought over Madras; Maharashtra and Gujarat violently wrangled over Bombay; and Haryana and Punjab battled for Chandigarh. Their disputes initially appeared impossible to resolve, but were eventually sorted out. The States that lost their claim moved on, built new capitals, and flourished. It is a story worth recalling, and even the unresolved case of Chandigarh offers an insight into the present.

The Central government found reorganising Bombay State after independence ‘the thorniest problem.’ The Dar commission set up in 1948 by the Central government to look into reorganisation of States, and the 1949 Congress high-power committee, composed of Nehru, Patel and Sitaramayya (JVP committee), recommended that Bombay city must be a separate entity and not part of any State. Nehru and his supporters argued that the city was multilingual and cosmopolitan, and it should retain that character. But the Marathi and Gujarati speaking residents of the State did not agree.

Agitations intensified in 1955 when the States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) recommended a unified bilingual state with Bombay as the capital. Things turned worse when the Central government overlooked the SRC’s recommendations and declared Bombay a Centrally administered territory. Even proposals to merge Vidarbha State with Bombay State did not appease the protesters. Nehru’s personal appeal for “sweet reasonableness” did not work. Violent protests continued, claiming 27 lives in Bombay city and 12 in Ahmedabad.

The Central government dropped its plans for Bombay city but persisted with the idea of a bilingual state. On November 1, 1956, the composite state of Bombay, including areas of Saurashtra and Kutch, was inaugurated. However, the demand for two states — Maharashtra and Gujarat — continued.

The Congress, which did not do well in the following elections, realised that the bifurcation of Bombay was a political necessity. It proposed that Maharashtra get Bombay city and the new State pay Rs. 50 crore to Gujarat for building a new capital and balancing the budget. On May 1, 1960, Gujarat and Maharashtra were formed.

Jivraj Mehta, Chief Minister of Gujarat, complained that the bifurcation was forced on the Gujaratis, but decided to move on. He announced that his government would build a new capital in Gandhinagar, 15 miles north of Ahmedabad.

Maoists’ Urban Movement

September 13, 2013

The apprehension of a few people over the past few days in Maharashtra, which led to searches by the police at the residence of G N Saibaba, an English teacher, in New Delhi on September 12, 2013, has, once again, brought into focus the urban presence and activities of the Maoists. The police recovered a few hard disks and pen drives from the academic’s house. Saibaba is a prominent leader of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), a proscribed front organization of the CPI (Maoist).

Earlier, Prashant Rahi, reportedly a freelance journalist and alleged front organization member/over-ground cadre of the Maoists, and his associate, Vijay Tikri, were arrested by the Gadchiroli police in Deori, Gondia district, Maharashtra, on September 1, 2013. They were arrested following the arrest of Hem Mishra, a former student of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and two others, on August 22. Mishra is alleged to be a courier of the Maoists and was reportedly carrying secret documents and a microchip containing coded information to be delivered to a senior Maoist leader, Narmadakka.

A few days earlier, on August 13, replying to Unstarred Question No. 1267 in the Lok Sabha, Mr RPN Singh, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, said, “ … a few cases have come to notice where the CPI (Maoist) cadres have taken employment in urban areas… The strategy of CPI (Maoist) for urban areas is documented in a paper titled ‘Urban Perspective [Plan]’”. He went on to add, “Briefly stated, the strategy for urban areas of the country includes mobilization and organization of the working classes, building a [Tactical] [U]nited [F]ront, (TUF) on short, of classes similarly placed to the working classes and military tactics involving sabotage actions and select assassinations by ‘action teams’”.

In a nutshell, the TUF serves the agenda of the Maoists in the following ways:

To consolidate various ‘anti-imperialist’ struggles and bring them on to one platform on the basis of a common working understanding;

To expand the reach of the Maoists to various sections of the society by building contacts with them;

To expand over-ground cadre strength, thoroughly indoctrinate them, and then completely incorporate them into organisational work, especially in urban areas;

Poach partners for potential leaders and ideologues;

Serve as a good cover from the long arm of the state; and

Essentially being a political activity, it reinforces the military activities, i.e. armed struggle.

Presently, the organisations with which the Maoists have formed the TUF include the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), the People’s Democratic Front of India (PDFI), the Committee against Violence on Women (CAVOW), and the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), among others.

The activities of the CPI (Maoist) in urban areas –– cities and towns –– need to be understood because of the implications they hold. These activities should be understood together with TUF activities, because urban presence would give a fillip to TUF activities.

For reasons such as merger, consolidation and survival from what the Maoists term as state repression, the Maoists in their earlier avatar did not pay much attention to building their movement in urban areas. However, they always had a presence in towns and cities to cater to logistics needs and stay in safe houses during medical treatment or in transit. As a senior journalist and renowned authority on the Maoists told this author, “Because of the anonymity it accords, it becomes easy for the Maoists to stay and operate in urban centres”.

ISI and other foreign covert agencies are subverting India.

Operating locally, the ISI and other foreign covert agencies are subverting India.

By Gautam Sen (2 September 2013)

London: The Indian trait of being easily gratified and eager to please is a fascinating contrast to self-serving Pakistani truculence. Despite being bankrolled and armed by the United States over fifty years, Pakistan not only refused to play ball with US plans for Afghanistan, it used US-supplied weaponry to embark on a murderously effective counteroffensive against Western forces. It also mobilized its citizens against the US by instigating a relentless hate campaign. By comparison, India has lost no opportunity to prostrate itself to the US in apparent infinite gratitude for the Indo-US nuclear accord.

The shameless United Progressive Alliance government now wishes to mortgage India’s energy security for the next generation by purchasing untried US nuclear reactors though superior contenders are available elsewhere. If prominent Indian politicians are not poised to receive consideration for this devastating betrayal, they are bigger fools than hitherto presumed. But pigs will fly first before such an opportunity fails to prompt Pharaonic enrichment of India’s elite. The alternatives to US nuclear reactors include domestic and international thorium ones that might allow India significant energy autonomy, its principal source of external vulnerability.

India earlier also leapt into the Afghan cauldron and spent unconscionable sums for no obvious long-term gain. It was this unthinking and opportunistic policy impulse that prompted Pakistan’s 26/11 terror assault against Mumbai though no commentator was astute enough to recognize it as such. Evidently, India has also suspended belief, in an example of the triumph of hope over experience, by outsourcing Indian policy towards Pakistan to Washington.

In recent months, a schoolboy penchant for short-cuts and an entirely supine mind-set resulted in a sharp border rebuff from China. Indian initiatives along the Ladakh LAC, in response to calculated earlier Chinese belligerence, failed to adequately prepare for likely retaliatory countermeasures. The antecedent status quo would have been preferable to the humiliating political and legal setback for India of conceding to China, as it has evidently done. Further political and military consequences may follow as the Indian government is impaled on fiscal insolvency and its people lose their fighting spirit in despair.

A more immediate political denouement is looming large as US rapprochement with Pakistan unfolds below the radar. No, the US is not about to settle scores with Pakistan for being thwarted by it in Afghanistan and instigate a state of affairs to provide India regional victory on a platter. The ISI, like the Italian secret service, was created by the US in the context of the Cold War, and their relationship runs deep. The Pakistanis have no doubt reminded the US that its historic, global victory in the Cold War, in the aftermath of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, was facilitated by unstinting Pakistani support. Quite clearly, the outcome was of unprecedented importance to the US and its Western allies. Besides, only by having Pakistan on board can the US realistically hope to secure its residual interests in Afghanistan, as I have been warning since 2005.

No doubt, the US is also aware that if push comes to shove, Pakistan’s professional and reliable military levies will do its dirty work in the Middle East, as the infamous Zia-ul-Haq did, as a mercenary commander, to crush Jordan’s Palestinian militants in 1970. In addition, the Saudi monarchy will surely have interceded on behalf of their cherished Pakistani co-religionists, who may be called upon to save them from the wrath of its own people. The recent dispatch of Pakistani Taliban military trainers to Syria to help unseat Bashar-al Assad of Syria is a clear reaffirmation that the Anglo-Americans never allowed their intimate historic ties with global Jihadis, as researcher Mark Curtis has affirmed, to deteriorate. Their disagreements over the future of Afghanistan are an isolated local difficulty and the larger usefulness of Islamists to Anglo-US policy remains intact. India counts for nothing by comparison.

The India - China Border Conundrum

Issue Vol. 28.3 Jul-Sep 2013 | Date : 12 Sep , 2013

China is becoming increasingly aggressive across the Himalayas for multiple reasons. She takes pride in her ‘Middle Kingdom’ legacy but this mentality is laced with guilt from decades of humiliation. As she faces no serious external threat, chances of conflict in the East China Sea/South China Sea are few unless China herself ups the ante despite conventional inferiority vis-à-vis the US, which she is trying to offset through asymmetric means. Similarly, there is no serious existential threat to China but the restive regions of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Tibet need to be managed deftly. Plus failure to address the imbalance between the neo-rich coastal areas and the majority agricultural heartland is a recipe for instability. China simply wants to accelerate the boundary resolution with India and Bhutan because this will help stabilise Tibet and Xinjiang.

Doklam Plateau, if occupied by China, will turn the flanks of Indian defences in Sikkim and endanger the Siliguri Corridor…

Of the 33 territorial disputes in South Asian Region listed out by Wikipedia, nine are between India and China; Aksai Chin, Shaksgam, Arunachal Pradesh (termed South Tibet by China), and Demchok, Chumar, Kaurik, Shipki La, Jadh and Lapthal – all areas between Aksai Chin and Nepal. Then are 11 territorial disputes between China and Bhutan, some of which can have adverse effects on India, should China resort to occupying these areas forcibly. Additionally, Chinese semi-permanent presence in Gilgit-Baltistan exponentially complicates resolution of India-Pakistan territorial disputes.

China is becoming increasingly aggressive across the Himalayas for multiple reasons. She takes pride in her ‘Middle Kingdom’ legacy but this mentality is laced with guilt from decades of humiliation. As she faces no serious external threat, chances of conflict in the East China Sea/South China Sea are few unless China herself ups the ante despite conventional inferiority vis-à-vis the US, which she is trying to offset through asymmetric means. Similarly, there is no serious existential threat to China but the restive regions of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Tibet need to be managed deftly. Plus failure to address the imbalance between the neo-rich coastal areas and the majority agricultural heartland is a recipe for instability. China simply wants to accelerate the boundary resolution with India and Bhutan because this will help stabilise Tibet and Xinjiang.

Territorial Dispute

Of the nine territory disputes between India and China, two major chunks of territory are the Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. All other disputed areas lie south of the McMahon Line. Aksai Chin’s importance to China is the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway that China surreptitiously built in the 1950s. Arunachal Pradesh lies south of the McMahon Line. With regard to the Aksai Chin, the Sikhs had captured Ladakh and invaded China in 1841 but were defeated which led to a treaty between the Sikhs and China in 1842. This 1842 treaty stipulated no transgressions or interference in the other country’s frontiers.

Of the nine territory disputes between India and China, two major chunks of territory are the Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh…

Choosing Pakistan's next army chief - not a routine affair

By Shahzad Chaudhry
Air Vice Marshal (retired), Pakistan Air Force
Sep 12, 2013

It is time yet again to select the next army chief in Pakistan. Usually, this should be a pretty routine affair, since a government will choose from among the top four or five generals the most suitable. But in Pakistan, and for Pakistan, it is no ordinary affair. Four of the 14 army chiefs thus far in Pakistan’s history as an independent state have carried out coups against sitting civilian governments and taken over power. That is roughly one third of the deviant generals who have charted this extraordinary aspect of the Pakistani history. But the good work of the remaining two-thirds unfortunately remains eclipsed by such anomalous record. Even more worryingly, when once in power most have found it difficult to shed it, which has accounted for 33 years in all - half of Pakistan’s history.

But then this is too generic in formulation. Yahya Khan, the second army chief to run the state, was bequeathed the government by the first army ruler, Ayub Khan, when he relinquished power. Yahya led the country to perhaps the most credible elections in 1970, a year after he assumed control. The real second military dictator was Zia Ul Haq, who displaced Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, an elected prime minister. And in time proceeded to hang him to death after the courts found him guilty of ordering a murder of a political competitor. His tenure elapsed in 1988. Thereon, civilian governments made some stuttering starts amid an uncertain performance record, especially when a clause within the constitution empowered a president, always a civilian, to cause the overthrow by dissolving the parliament.

Pervez Musharraf’s coup was most anomalous; and an aberration. There simply existed no reason for the army to take over, in terms of a deteriorating political climate or any other compelling consideration. Hence, it also is the most difficult to explain, and perhaps along with Zia’s coup hurt Pakistan the most. Musharraf’s rise to the rank of army chief was also not without the necessary twists and turns. Having been once passed over, he was chosen from down the list of possible candidates for his rather weak social and political antecedents. Rather than choose a chief for his professional competence, the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif chose him for reasons other than professional suitability. Musharraf, to prove his credibility as the right choice chose to undertake adventures such as Kargil and a linked consequence, the overthrow of the Nawaz government.

Has Nawaz learnt? Possibly yes. He has also declared that he will choose his army chief from among the most senior choices, which really means that he should be looking at the first three probable names. These are: Lt Gens Haroon Aslam, Rashad Mahmood and Raheel Sharif. Next in line are Lt Gens Tariq Khan and Zaheerul Islam, the current DG ISI. If the choices for the two senior most appointments are made (Chairman Joint Chiefs too is due for a change before Kayani’s term runs out) from within the first three, little change will be needed in the positions held by various incumbents especially in ISI. That will provide continuity on this important assignment. At other places too the changes will be minimal.

On whether army’s views will change on Nawaz government’s current policies because of a change in the army chief; that is a rather insidious supposition. The army remains a subordinate institution of the government and is sworn to follow the dictates of the constitution and the constitutional directives. To view the work of four deviant generals from among 14 as a pervasive institutional proclivity is frivolous as it is indeed mischievous to quote and assume. The military, especially the army is committed to finding solutions to terror and terror related manifestations that are now the bane of the state and the society. It supports government’s endeavours towards peaceful resolution of problems with India, and it is equally committed to working towards its responsibility to help achieve peace for Afghanistan and within Pakistan. Army, under any chief will stay the course. It will also support and protect all initiatives that protect and enhance Pakistan’s national interests. The government and the military find each other on the same page in every manner on all national issues.

(Shahzad Chaudhry is former Air Vice Marshal, Pakistan Air Force. 

The Zardari legacy

By Farahnaz Ispahani 
September 9, 2013 

On Sunday, September 8, 2013, Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stepped down as the president of Pakistan. Many will write about this historic day as it represents the first time a democratically elected president completed a five-year term, followed by a peaceful transition to another democratically elected government. Most of Pakistan's leaders have been removed from office in coups d'état or have been forced to resign. Zardari is the only one to leave office with a formal lunch hosted by his political rivals.

Although Zardari's tenure in office was characterized by judicial activism and media opposition that often bordered on hatred, it will be remembered for its tolerance of that criticism. Since Pakistan's independence 66 years ago, its politics have been intensely polarized. Opponents of the subsequent governments have been routinely jailed and even killed after being labeled "enemies of the state." Zardari, however, chose to take the criticism, preferring the noise of a fledgling democracy to the enforced silence of superficial stability.

Polarization in Pakistan has not ended but it has diminished, at least among the major electable national leaders and parties. Much of what it took to achieve this historic moment is publicly known, but there are many stressful and difficult moments known to just a few. Perhaps one day the entirety of the struggle to deliver democracy and strengthen Pakistan's parliamentary roots will become public knowledge.

What most people do know is that since the February 2008 parliamentary election, and especially after the resignation of former president and military strongman Pervez Musharraf, there has been a powerful lobby in Pakistan hankering for the "good old days"when the reins of authority were held solely by the country's powerful generals, bureaucrats, and judges, who were assisted by powerful media barons and urban industrialists.

When Zardari took office, many politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, and citizens had very little idea of who he was. The picture painted by the country's intelligence agencies and the permanent establishment thrived in a nation obsessed by rumors and hungry for conspiracy theories.

Pakistan's urban elite have often been more comfortable with military rule and historically, elected leaders have been denigrated as incompetent and corrupt. It was not always easy to muddy and blacken the image of democratic leader Benazir Bhutto, especially on the international stage or with her party members, who stood by her like a rock. But it was very easy to scapegoat Zardari, the businessman-consort of the leading pro-democracy politician. He was accused of many things over the past two and a half decades without any charge ever being proved in any court. Anyone who has spent time in political life knows well that once your public image has been defined for you, it is often impossible to change that image.

As such, Zardari took little interest in restoring his personal image once he became president. He did not care that analysts and journalists tied to Pakistan's establishment described him as an "accidental president" and repeated unproved past allegations against him. Instead, his focus was to redress the imbalance in Pakistan's power structure.

Unelected presidents and military dictators had, in the past, accumulated power in that office at the expense of Pakistan's parliament and its provincial governments, the constituting units of the Pakistani federation. Zardari worked with the various parties in parliament to shape amendments that restored the constitution to its original form. Because of his efforts, Pakistan can now be a functional parliamentary democracy and a proper federation, with real authority in the hands of its provinces.

The keyholder

By Jeffrey E. Stern 
September 8, 2013 

This project was made possible by support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. 

Name: Omara Khan Massoudi

Age: 63

Ethnicity: Pashtun

Province: Logar

Omara Khan Massoudi is the Director of Afghanistan's National Museum, guarding its treasures in various positions for more than four decades, and is the reason it has been brought back to life. He is an elegant man and old-fashioned in his habits, but his gentle air belies a ferocity with which he has fought to preserve the country's archeological history, keeping the museum doors open even when there was no roof over head, no visitors in the halls, and hardly any artifacts in the display cases. 

The museum has a grandeur about it, and its well-tended grounds evoke the garden city Kabul once was. But this is a recent development. The museum sits next to Tapa-e Scud -- Scud Hill -- so named for the missiles that were placed there and then left behind by the Soviets, and which helped turn the area into a strategic one for any army trying to control the city. The mujahedeen also paid special attention to this place, going up and down the main road firing all kinds of artillery, leaving roofs collapsed and walls freckled with rounds of various caliber. In this part of the city, buildings survived decades of war but barely, and the collapsed domes of the once-opulent Darulaman palace -- visible from every front-facing window in the museum -- speak powerfully to the condition of a country whose rich cultural heritage is still visible, but in skeleton form. 

The following are the words of Omara Khan Massoudi, as told to Jeffrey E. Stern. 

In 1973, when I graduated from Kabul University I find a job as a teacher. For four years I was teaching history and geography. When the period of revolution came in Afghanistan in 1978, it was a little bit difficult how to teach the young people. At my school, they were really intelligent students, they studied too much, but after the period of revolution, unfortunately, slowly slowly their attention to the learning was day-by-day getting weaker. Especially these young people, these young students, when they had relations with political parties, sometimes they didn't come to their classes. 

That was difficult for me so I took that decision to change my job. At that time I was 24 years old, 25 years old. I come to the Ministry of Information and Culture, for four months I did my job over there, then there was a position here at the national museum. The museum staff gave me some training, day-by-day my interest was too much, I stayed here, and worked. And continued up to now. 

Maybe you know that in 1987 or 1988, when the Soviets left Afghanistan, we Afghan people, we predicted that the Communist party will have to transfer the power to the mujahedeen. Everybody predicted that. Sometimes in the non-developed country, when political changes is coming, sometime there is political gap also. And I think it was the museum people's responsibility to safeguard all the artifacts which were here. In my opinion, the cultural property, the -- how to say, can I use "capital of nation"? -- these artifacts not only belongs to us. We keep these things, but really, they belong to the people all over the world. 

So we thought about if the situation is getting a worse, what should we do? How to protect artifacts here? 

The price of negotiating

By Marvin G. Weinbaum 
September 5, 2013

It is past time to shed the illusion that talks with the Afghan Taliban can result in a grand bargain that somehow resolves the Afghan conflict. The belief that there is, after all, nothing to lose in trying to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table is misguided. Three years of continuing American attempts to get talks going have had consequences that are anything but benign. These efforts have diverted attention from needed domestic reforms; undermined confidence in the critical economic, political, and security transitions underway with the departure of U.S. and other NATO forces; and harmed prospects for a viable Afghan state after 2014.

The damage accruing from mostly wishful thinking about reaching a comprehensive settlement with the insurgents is widely evident. It has planted doubts about American intentions and further strained Washington's testy relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Karzai and his close advisors have interpreted American diplomatic initiatives as deliberately sidelining the Kabul government's participation in negotiations. Fears that the United States and Pakistan are working in tandem to strike a deal with the Taliban that would divide up Afghanistan have also worsened Kabul's already acrimonious relations with Islamabad. The Karzai government's own peace initiatives have also intensified differences with Pakistan, which is accused of blocking Taliban participation in talks. Karzai's recent visit with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while cordial, is unlikely to end those suspicions.

But the most destructive fallout from the ill-founded prospect of a negotiated peace with the insurgency has been its effect on the Afghan people, only a minor fraction of who support the Taliban's return. The possibility that the Taliban might once again wield power has exacerbated ethnic tensions within Afghanistan. In particular, the country's northerners detect what they believe to be a Pakistani solution that cedes the south and east to the Taliban, who are then thought certain to make a bid for power over the entire country.

Overall, the possibility of a Taliban return to power has spread confusion among Afghans and intensified hedging strategies beyond those already occasioned by the withdrawal of foreign forces. Local and foreign economic investment has dried up, and the flight of human and physical capital has accelerated. Afghans in the provinces and districts, many ambivalent in their loyalties, have greater reason to distance themselves from Kabul. While Afghan leaders keep pursuing a political outcome, the country's security forces are being asked to take greater risks against the insurgency.

The allure of a political settlement in Afghanistan for the United States and others is, perhaps, understandable. With an outright military victory against the Taliban unlikely in the foreseeable future and an insurgency that faces great difficulty in overrunning the country, it is tempting to conclude that both sides are ready for a negotiated peace. A power-sharing agreement would presumably avoid further conflict and the high probability of a protracted civil war. Talks hold out the promise that with the Taliban and its allies joining a political process, a stable, inclusive Afghan government could emerge. Necessary compromises might shift the country in a more conservative religious direction, but an agreement, it would be hoped, could preserve the core of the Afghan constitution and protect the social and economic gains of the last 12 years. Certainly the Afghan people are anxious to see an end to 35 years of almost continuous warfare.

For departing coalition forces, a political solution would avoid testing the ability of the Afghan security forces to fend off the insurgency. By fostering an agreement, the United States and its allies could be absolved of the criticism that they will desert the Afghan people. Despite all they have failed to accomplish, these countries could say that the years of military involvement were justified by having laid the groundwork for a durable peace.

Afghanistan's neighbors also see the attractions of a political outcome as they all fear the uncertainties of a civil war that might follow the withdrawal of foreign troops. None would welcome an outright Taliban military victory that might spill extremist ideas and militants across their borders. Even Pakistan recognizes the possible gains from a political accord, albeit one that promotes its interests. Although it firmly backed Taliban efforts to wrest full power in Afghanistan until 2001, that was before Pakistan had to contend with a radical Islamic insurgency of its own.

US subcontracting Afghanistan to Pakistan?

08 Sep , 2013

In early 1970s, a Captain from the Afghan Army attending Junior Command Course in MHOW had this to say about Pakistan, “You attack them from the front and we will take her from the rear – that is the only solution.” What changes such sentiment would have undergone over the years with Pakistan intensifying its viper hatcheries through regular overdoses of radicalized Viagra is not difficult to guess. The reality of the situation is apparent through the statement of General Sher Mohammad Karimi, Afghan Army Chief telling BBC Hardtalk that fighting in Afghanistan could be stopped “in weeks” if Pakistan told the Taliban to end the insurgency, and that Pakistan controlled and gave shelter to Taliban leaders, deliberately unleashing fighters on Afghanistan.

“The Taliban are under [Pakistan's] control – the leadership is in Pakistan.”

Naturally, as always, Pakistan denies this and the US believes it unbelievingly. If the Obama administration refused to act on US and NATO commanders in Afghanistan stating GWOT was being fought on the wrong side of the Pakistan-Afghan border, then who really is General Karimi though Karimi qualified his statement further by saying, “The Taliban are under [Pakistan's] control – the leadership is in Pakistan.” Little doubts this is the handle Pakistan has over the US that deters the latter to play universal policeman in AfPak region though it has no compunctions in bombing Syria.

Failing to defeat the Taliban over more than a decade, no guessing why the US is happy with opening of the Taliban office in Doha and more than thrilled with the Pakistani Taliban office in Syria, with Pakistani-Qatari support adding to the mayhem in Syria. Then is the façade of Afghan peace talks when the Taliban refuse to recognize the Afghan Constitution, refuse to shun arms and violence in name of jihad and want an Islamic Caliphate.

“There is a higher probability of General Kayani converting to Hinduism than there is of the Haqqani Network ever being decoupled from Al Qaeda”.

Yet, the US is playing ball to Pakistan on the googly bowled by Kayani that even Haqqanis will be willing to split from and denounce Al Qaeda, the probability of which was aptly described by Michael Hughes by saying, “There is a higher probability of General Kayani converting to Hinduism than there is of the Haqqani Network ever being decoupled from Al Qaeda”. Yet, the US is not only prepared to side with Pakistan and illegitimate Pakistani interests in Afghanistan but ready to accept Taliban control in areas of Afghanistan, which would facilitate Pakistan expand her viper hatcheries westwards giving free run to her proxies in newfound AfPak sanctuaries. This is aptly described by Robert Kaplan in his book ‘The Revenge of Geography’ wherein he writes, “This would, in effect, a greater Pakistan, giving Pakistan’s ISI the ability to create a clandestine empire composed of the likes of Jallaluddin Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmetyar, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba ….”.

China’s Energy Development in the East China Sea

Publication: China Brief Volume: 13 Issue: 18
September 12, 2013 05:02 PM Age: 7 hrs

China is doubling down on its hydrocarbon resource development in the East China Sea. The China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) wants to double overall oil and gas production to 100 million metric tons per year by 2020 (Petroleum Economist, October 2012). CNOOC’s first licensing round in June 2012 triggered a diplomatic crisis with Vietnam because the nine blocks offered were located in Vietnamese claimed waters in the South China Sea. Three blocks in the East China Sea were included among the 26 CNOOC opened for bids the second round of licensing in August 2012 (Platt’s Oilgram, August 29 2012). Furthermore, CNOOC recently announced plans to begin production at seven existing fields in the East China Sea (Reuters, July 17 2013). Amidst recent tensions with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands it is worth taking stock of China’s offshore resource development efforts and assessing the impact on relations with Japan.

China’s Resource Development in the East China Sea

China opened the East China Sea for exploration in 1994 following its shift to net oil importer status in 1993. Despite early prospects for oil, natural gas is the most commercially viable hydrocarbon. According to CNOOC, proven gas reserves in the East China Sea are 300 billion cubic feet (Bcf), while oil reserves sit at 18 million barrels. Production at the Pinghu field began in April 1999 with gas piped to Shanghai and Ningbo. The field is wholly Chinese operated, with 40% ownership with the operator Shanghai Gas and Oil Company and the remainder split equally between Sinopec and CNOOC subsidiary Donghai Oil. Pinghu has total proven reserves of 26 Bcf of gas and 2.4 million barrels of oil. [1] Natural gas production at Pinghu peaked at 40 million cf per day and has declined. The operator announced the discovery of an additional 176.6 Bcf of natural gas and 9.5 million barrels of oil in October 2010 that is expected to reach markets by 2014 (Platt’s Oilgram, November 15 2010).

The Chunxiao field is located 70 km southeast of the Pinghu field and has been co-owned by CNOOC and Sinopec since September 2004, after UNOCAL and Shell withdrew from the project. Chunxiao is composed of four primary fields: Chunxiao, Can Xue, Duanqiao and Tianwaitian. As of April 2007, Tianwaitian produced 17.65 million cf of gas per day. Ambiguity persists as to whether CNOOC is producing, or has ever produced, gas at Chunxiao. A CNOOC executive said production was ongoing in February 2010 (Platt’s Oilgram, February 3 2010).

Other fields under development in the East China Sea include Baoyuting and Wuyunting, which are directly north of Pinghu, and the Longjing field, located farther north. No commercial discoveries have been made at these three fields. Not all fields are in disputed waters, however. Gas production at Pinghu has been noncontroversial, although Japan considered protesting work there in 1996. Indeed, the Asian Development Bank helped fund the construction of the pipeline to Ningbo. Two independent oil companies operate in the East China Sea in partnership with Chinese state oil companies. Primeline Energy, a small Chinese company, has been active in the Lishui basin, approximately 91 nautical miles (nm) off the coast of Wenzhou, and has made commercial discoveries there. Husky Oil, a Canadian firm, operates one field in the East China Sea. International expertise was integral when China opened the East China Sea for bids, but CNOOC is no longer reliant on foreign capital or technology to produce gas in the East China Sea.

Competing Claims in the East China Sea

Japan and China have overlapping maritime claims in the East China Sea. China claims a 200nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and has recently submitted evidence to the relevant UN organization to support its claims to an extended continental shelf as far as the Okinawa Trough (China Brief, July 9 2009). Japan claims a 200nm EEZ, but its 1996 EEZ law notes that a median line will mark its limit should its claims overlap with those of another state.

Tensions erupted when Japan discovered the drilling platform at Chunxiao in 2004 and protested on the grounds that there was potential for resources to be siphoned off the Japanese side of the median line, located approximately 5km away. China retorted that the Chunxiao field is located in Chinese waters and that the waters east of Japan’s median line are disputed. [2] According to Japanese scholars the median line was never supposed to be a final boundary, simply a starting point for negotiations. [3] Indeed, the precise coordinates of the line have not been specified. Japanese officials recognize that this has not been communicated well. Much of the media and most pundits and scholars assume that Japan’s EEZ claim extends only as far as the median line. In claiming jurisdiction as far as the median line, rather than the 200nm limit, Japan effectively conceded part of its maritime claim to China.

U.S. Strategy in Syria: Having Lost Sight of the Objective…

Sep 12, 2013

Somewhere along the line, the Obama Administration and Congress seem to have lost sight of the U.S. strategic objective in Syria. The focus has shifted almost completely to chemical weapons, and any effort to bring an end to the Syrian civil war has either been forgotten or touched upon almost as a ritual afterthought.

In the process, the issue of chemical weapons has been badly blown out of proportion. No one can ignore the fact they were used in large numbers against civilians after a systematic series of low-level attacks to test the U.S. response, but even if the President (1,000+) and Secretary of State (1,400+) could agree on the number of casualties, they would be a tiny fraction of the more than 117,000 civilian dead estimated by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), the over 2 million external refugees, and 4,250,000 internally displaced Syrian estimated by the UNHCR.

Chemical Weapons are Not the Real Humanitarian Challenge

The scale of the humanitarian problems in Syria not only now exceed 117,000 dead by conservative UN estimates, they affect some 20% of the nation’s population. As the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for the Syrian Arab Republic reported on 9/11 of 2013, in a detailed report on the UN website;

The conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic has taken a dangerous turn. The majority of casualties result from unlawful attacks using conventional weapons. Nevertheless, the debate over what international action to take, if any, has assumed new urgency following the alleged use of chemical weapons in August. As stated by the Secretary-General in a press conference on 9 September, there is a need for accountability, “both to bring to justice those who used them – should Dr. Sellström confirm their use – and to deter anyone else from using these abhorrent methods of warfare”.

As detailed in the Commission’s most recent report, released today, with fighting raging between Government forces, pro-Government forces, anti-Government armed groups and Kurdish armed groups, it is civilians who continue to pay the price for the failure to negotiate an end to this conflict. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost. Over six million Syrians have fled their homes, each with a story of devastation and loss. Entire communities now live in tents or containers outside Syria’s borders, with millions more displaced inside Syria. A society has been ripped apart.

Failure to bring about a political settlement has allowed the conflict not only to deepen in its intransigence but also to widen – expanding to new actors and to new, previously unimaginable crimes. For the Commission, charged with investigating violations of international law committed by all parties to the conflict, any response must be founded upon the protection of civilians. The nature of the war raging in Syria is such that the number of violations by all sides goes hand in hand with the intensity of the conflict itself. With the spectre of international military involvement, Syria – and the region – face further conflagration, leading to increased civilian suffering.

A Global Venture to Counter Violent Extremism

Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 37

Author: Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies

The rise of Islamist radicalism continues to threaten U.S. interests in the greater Middle East. Last year's attacks on U.S. embassies, instability in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings, and an increase in political activism among Salafist movements are all cause for concern. In Pakistan, extremist networks use U.S. drone strikes and the killing of Osama bin Laden to rally people to their cause. Although Muslim organizations in the Middle East, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Europe have had some success countering violent extremism (CVE), these groups desperately need financial assistance to continue their work. The United States should address this funding gap. By using the existing Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), founded by the U.S. State Department in conjunction with Muslim-majority governments (including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey), the United States is now ideally situated to create a long-term funding mechanism, or "global venture," that consolidates existing programs and seeds new initiatives. Done properly, within eight to ten years al-Qaeda's theology and ideology can become as unattractive among young Muslims as communism became to East Germans.

The Problem

Al-Qaeda and its ideological affiliates do not operate in a vacuum; rather, they feed off of ideas that have proliferated in Muslim communities over decades. A combination of religious literalism and conspiracist politics is at the core of their anti-Western ideology. These ideas include the beliefs that democracy is man-made and only extremist understandings of God's law should be enforced; that violent jihad is a Muslim obligation until "God's law" is manifest; that those who die pursuing it, including suicide bombers, are martyrs; and that the greatest obstacle to Islam's dominance is the modern West, led by the United States. Killing Americans, therefore, weakens an enemy that oppresses Muslims. Unless such ideas are challenged and discredited, extremist groups will continue to regenerate no matter how many terrorists are killed.

Developing Alternative Narratives

Organizations in the Middle East, Pakistan, and elsewhere are leading the way in advocating counternarratives to extremist messaging. Organizations like Khudi, a Pakistan-based campus network, use Muslim history to argue against radicals who twist the meaning of the word umma into a "nation united against infidels" (its correct, historical meaning is "community"). The Radical Middle Way, a Muslim organization based in London, holds public "question time" events with clerics from Egypt's prestigious al-Azhar seminary who use scripture to undermine the belief that suicide bombers are martyrs and to support democracy within an Islamic framework. Activists in Saudi Arabia and Egypt are using social media to challenge conspiracy theories and a pervasive sense of victimhood vis-à-vis the West. They work in hubs of extremist recruitment—mosques, community centers, universities, prisons, and websites—and target vulnerable youth with innovative programming.

Building on these and like-minded organizations and activists, CVE efforts must focus on:
Educating Muslim thought leaders in mosques and on university campuses through workshops and testimonies from former radicals about why Islamist hard-liners threaten Muslim communities. In 2009, al-Qaeda and its affiliates killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. Muslims need to reclaim their faith because Islamist extremism endangers the very fabric of mainstream, moderate Islam.