25 November 2013

Shutting his ears to change ****


In July 2011, the government of India set up a task force to examine the processes and procedures related to national security in India and come up with recommendations to fix the problems and plug any gaps that emerged. Chaired by former Cabinet Secretary Naresh Chandra, the task force's aim was to deepen the reforms in the national security system begun by the group of ministers (GOM) in 2001.

In May 2012, the committee submitted its report to prime minister Manmohan Singh who turned it over to the National Security Council Secretariat for processing its recommendations and presenting them to the Cabinet Committee on Security. This writer was a member of the task force, but has had little or no official information on its status since then. But the bureaucratic grapevine suggests that the report is on its way to meet the fate of other similar endeavours: get shelved.


The reason for this is plain: The Ministry of Defence thinks there is no need for change, leave alone, horror of horrors, an overhaul. At first sight this may appear to be counter-intuitive, after all the sorry state of our defence modernisation is an open secret. Last year, the serving Chief of Army Staff wrote a letter to the Prime Minister pointing to shortages of vital equipment. The Air Force chief regularly bemoans the declining numbers of his combat force and the delays in the Navy's submarine and shipbuilding programmes are no secret.

The goal of the civilian part of the ministry appears to be singularly focused on how to retain its power and privileges. For this reason, the only public information of the Chandra Committee recommendations came through a leak of a portion of the report by the MoD itself. Their grouse, according to the media leaks, was apparent - they did not want changes in the way the system is run. Inefficient, incompetent, and wasteful, yes, but the command ought to rest firmly in the inexpert hands of the IAS fraternity. The Chandra Committee, on the other hand, was suggesting reforms - first of the manner in which the armed forces were run, and secondly, of how the ministry itself was functioning. In the case of the armed forces, following the GOM report of 2001, the committee suggested a chief of defence staff (CDS) like figure, a permanent chairman to the chiefs of staff committee, to promote integrated planning and organisations in the armed forces, as well as an expert defence bureaucracy to staff the MoD by cross-posting military officers to key bureaucratic positions.

These were minimalist suggestions, but vital. Most armed forces in the world operate on an integrated principle where planning an execution of combat operations is done through joint planning and command. That is why the GOM of 2001 recommended the beginnings of tri-service organisations and a CDS to head them.

The need for joint planning is crucial given the exponential rise in the cost of weapons systems. Currently, each service puts up its own demands and the Ministry of Defence has little or no expertise to prioritise them. The Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) or five year defence plans have little integrity.

Take for example the case of the Mountain Strike Corps which has been approved by the government recently. It will require capital expenditure of Rs.90,000 crore (plus another Rs.30,000 crore for ancillary units), yet it does not figure in the 2012-2027 LTIPP which was approved with great fanfare last year. To get a perspective on this, consider that in the period 2009-10 to 2013-14, which includes the period of high economic growth the country spent something like Rs.300,000 crore in capital acquisitions.

Strong as the Sun: Vikramaditya is like no other ship Indian Navy ever had

New Delhi, 
Nov 24 2013

Aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is like no other ship Indian Navy has ever had.

In July this year, an old game played out in the Barents Sea — a new warship undergoing exhaustive trials by Russian shipbuilders prior to her induction, being shadowed by NATO ships keen to understand what it would be capable of. During the several weeks that the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier underwent trials, a Norwegian NATO intelligence vessel kept company, steadily building up an electronic dossier.

This was a follow-up to last year when a NATO maritime surveillance aircraft heavily buzzed the same ship, dropping buoys to pick up an acoustic profile.

The game is not just old, it is one that Vikramaditya has played in an earlier avatar — as Soviet aircraft cruiser Baku, patrolling the Mediterranean in the late 1980s. However, the intense interest in Vikramaditya — whose name literally translates as Strong as the Sun — now comes from the extensive refit and modernisation it has gone through.

For a Navy that is proud of its legacy of operating aircraft carriers, the Vikramaditya is like no other ship it has had in the fleet before. It is the Navy's biggest ship for one — surpassing INS Viraat by 10,000 tonnes — and one of the most potent aircraft carriers in this side of the world, in fact the first 'new' ship of its class to be based in the Indian Ocean in over two decades. While India had to acquire older technology often in the past due to non-willingness of nations to share strategic assets, the Vikramaditya with its MiG-29K fighters is top of its game.

With the ship likely to reach its home base of Karwar in January, preparations have been made to ensure that it is operationalised at the earliest. As things stand, it is coming without any fighters on board, with only a small chopper complement for utility missions. The plan is to start the first landings and take-offs of the fighters on board within two-three weeks of Vikramaditya reaching India.

At present, Indian pilots are training on simulators to operate from the confines of the small flight deck. A shore-based facility in Goa, where the fighter squadrons will be based, is set to start training MiG-29K pilots on landing and taking off from the carrier.

US-Iran clinch interim nuclear deal: Blow to Israel and Saudi Arabia; relief for India

TNN | Nov 25, 2013

President Obama said a future in which we can verify that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.

WASHINGTON: The United States plus five world powers reached a landmark deal with Iran on Sunday to curtail the Persian country's purported march towards nuclear weapons.

The agreement, when fully realized, has the potential to dramatically alter the geo-political landscape of the Middle-East, Gulf, and South Asia, affecting the strategic outlook and orientation of major countries from Israel to India and in between.

Under the first phase of the agreement, clinched in a 3am signing ceremony in Geneva, Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond five per cent, effectively giving up the higher levels of enrichment needed to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. It will also divert or convert its stockpile of 20 per cent enriched uranium into an oxide form so it cannot be used for military purposes.

Iran will also not install any new centrifuges nor start up any that are not already in operation or build new enrichment facility, while submitting to daily international inspections that will make it almost impossible for it to work towards making nuclear weapons.

In return, Iran will get to keep its existing centrifuges, be able to enrich uranium below five per cent for civilian nuclear uses, and receive relief from crippling US-led sanctions (including getting some revenues seized by past sanctions) for the next six months, during which a more detailed, longer term agreement will be negotiated.

At a broader level, it will begin the process of recasting strategic alignments in the region. Untrusting Israel, haunted by an existential crisis that comes from a (mutual) pathological fear of a nuclear-armed rival, straightaway rejected the deal, suggesting US and its allies had been suckered by Teheran. Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, which fears its cozy equation with Washington being eclipsed by a Shia-dominated Iran returning to the US sphere of influence, also lashed out at the agreement.

Nearer home, the US-Iranian detente provides an exit route for the United States from landlocked Afghanistan while reducing its dependence on extremist Pakistan, which is extracting a ransom for the 2014 drawdown from Afghanistan.

It will also come as a big relief for India, which has had to do juggle and balance four aspects — its growing strategic partnership with the US, its strong military relationship with Israel, its economic and social investments in Afghanistan, and its civilizational ties with the Persian power. An Indian-built road from the Afghan border town of Zaranj to the Iranian port of Charbahar suddenly comes into play.

For global cooperation on climate change

Nancy J. Powell

The Hindu “The Partnership to Advance Clean Energy is helping, among other things, to develop cutting-edge technologies in solar energy while enriching the technology base of both India and the U.S.” File photo: V.V. Krishnan

Against the backdrop of the U.N. climate change negotiations in Warsaw, the United States Ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, says the U.S. was helping developing countries address climate change by amplifying the impact of public funds by leveraging private investment

Climate change caused by humans is real and it is happening now. Only a high degree of international cooperation can adequately address this global problem. The recently released report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reconfirmed the basic facts: Greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil, as well as other gases emitted as a result of human activity, such as methane, black carbon (a major component of soot), and hydroflourocarbons, or “HFCs,” are responsible for an unprecedented rate of warming of the planet. This warming is already causing severe disruptions and harm to communities. Left unabated, climate change will cause increased droughts, rising seas, and a host of other problems.

Collaboration with India

India is the United States’ biggest partner in the developing world on cooperative ventures to address climate change. The U.S. and India are collaborating on a wide range of climate change issues. For example, our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences are working together to enhance capacity for monsoon prediction on a monthly basis for different States in India. This programme delivers quantifiable improvements in forecasting extreme events, therefore improving India’s resilience to extreme and variable events wrought by climate change, such as flood and drought years, and active and dry spells of monsoons. We are also working jointly to protect India’s forests, which store carbon dioxide while providing great value to local populations and ecosystems.

Beyond the critically important goal of improving our understanding of how the climate works, and putting in place preparedness systems to minimise harm, the United States and India are drawing on the creativity and forward thinking of our best scientists, engineers and policymakers to reduce carbon pollution while building a low-carbon future that promotes economic growth. In the United States we have already greatly reduced our emissions from transportation, and, as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, we will reduce carbon pollution from power plants and further reduce energy waste in appliances and buildings. India is also taking important steps such as ambitious measures to improve energy efficiency and expand renewable energy, including one of the world’s largest national targets for solar power.

There is no doubt that the transition away from fossil fuels and other greenhouse gases requires upfront investment and hard work. The United States is committed to this effort domestically and to partnering with countries with more urgent development needs make this transition.

Economic Implications of the U.S. Afghanistan Withdrawal

The departure of coalition forces from Afghanistan will have a large impact, especially on Pakistan.
By Farooq Yousaf
November 24, 2013

With September 2014 fast approaching, all eyes are fixed on Afghanistan and the announced withdrawal of the U.S.-led coalition forces. Although the Afghan Loya Jirga is still debating a limited presence of the coalition forces, a majority of the contingents are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014.

This mass military exodus from Afghanistan will shift the burden of security responsibility onto the Afghan Army and police. It is hard to predict whether the Afghan forces will able to cope with the post-withdrawal security situation or not. Yet the withdrawal will surely have a negative economic impact – not only on Afghanistan, but also Pakistan.

According to Pakistan’s Post Crisis Needs Assessment (PCNA) 2010 for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would have major economic implications for Pakistan, especially the FATA. Irrespective of the security implications, the Pakistani economy would witness some contraction given that NATO cargo and supply is a major source of U.S. currency.

Clearly, the impact would be greater in Afghanistan, yet considering the number of livelihoods dependent on the transit cargo and ISAF forces, Pakistan is already preparing to provide alternatives for those who will be out of work after 2014. Not only the government, but also major international donors, such as the World Bank, have formed special funds for the region in order to neutralize the negative economic impact.

The NATO cargo influx has created a transport sector boom over the past decade, with contractors and workforce earning three times what they used to make with commercial or national trade. This cargo accounts for a significant 25 percent of the total transit trade taking place from Pakistan into Afghanistan, meaning any halt or drastic decline in the NATO cargo would represent a major loss of revenue for Pakistan.

Numerous businesses have flourished in Pakistan with the influx of NATO cargo since 2001, with transport and logistics firms the biggest winners. Although the accumulation of wealth and contracts has remained in relatively few hands, a large portion of the workforce from the underdeveloped FATA region gained from the overall movement. Khyber and Mohmand agencies (two FATA regions) were two of the main beneficiaries, as their drivers, helpers and security personnel were preferred because of their knowledge of the treacherous terrain.

Goodbye "AfPak" (Can't say I'll miss you)

By Ziad Haider 
November 20, 2013

As I scrolled through my Inbox earlier this week for my daily news clippings from this blog, something seemed amiss. Instead of "AfPak Channel," the header read "South Asia Channel." An error I presumed. Scrolling down further, however, I realized the error was mine: "Next Monday, November 25, the AfPak Channel will be relaunched as the South Asia Channel" with the addition of "key stories and insights from India."

The notification got me thinking about the twists and turns in Washington's conception of South Asia over the past decade. Somewhere along the way "AfPak" had appeared. Due to the distortions it produced, the phrase has for some time now been winding its way into retirement. The 2014 drawdown in Afghanistan will give it the final push. AfPak will no doubt have plenty of company with "hearts and minds" and countless other pithy friends in Washington's little known Archives for Foreign Affairs Shorthands of Fleeting Value. Can't say I'll miss it.

I came to Washington ten years ago to work as an analyst in the Henry L. Stimson Center's South Asia program. Having grown up in Pakistan, I had actually never uttered the phrase "South Asia." The region to me was a simple, if tormented, duality: Pakistan and India. I discovered that in Washington, South Asia meant the same two players, and the issues boiled down to Kashmir, militancy, military, and nuclear issues. Afghanistan was relegated to its own war-torn limbo.

At the time, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf and Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, were talking about peace between the two countries. Both have since fallen silent, with the formerfacing treason charges; between India's upcoming elections and Pakistan's unending turmoil, peace commands little attention in Delhi and Islamabad today. The United States was two years into the war in Afghanistan, yet the lens on South Asia was varied. Afghanistan was a policy imperative, but so was managing the Indo-Pak rivalry and the risk of nuclear escalation.

Those working on South Asia in Washington seemed to fall into two camps. The South Asia wallahshad spent decades working in and on the region, often with formal academic training. The Cold Warriors sought to apply lessons from a superpower rivalry to a relatively nascent nuclear dynamic on the subcontinent. They reflected the fluidity of functional analysts within the strategic community -- crossing boundaries while the regionalists remained in their lanes.

Soon enough, a new crop of functional analysts crossed over. They anchored their world views on a different issue: counterterrorism. Thereafter came "AfPak." The phrase traces back to the first year of the Obama administration and the tenure of the first Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP), Richard Holbrooke. A region that was once viewed as India-Pakistan, with Afghanistan on the margins, gave way to India on one hand and Afghanistan-Pakistan on the other. 

With the change, India got its wish to be "de-hyphenated" from Pakistan. The Bush administration keenly helped facilitate this shift via a civil nuclear deal, in light of India's perceived strategic import in Asia. Meanwhile, AfPak eventually flipped to "PakAf" given deepening concerns about the various militant groups that were "veritable" arms of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the safety of its nuclear arsenal.

China's Beef with Japan is Also a Warning to the U.S.

Posted By Gordon Lubold, Dan Lamothe
November 24, 2013

China just upped the ante over a territorial dispute with Japan. But in doing so, it seems to be sending a message to the United States as it pivots east: Stay out of our way.

China's announcement Saturday that it had created an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) coupled with a demand that any non-commercial air traffic would have to submit flight plans prior to entering the area, represented by all accounts a significant provocation. China is attempting to assert its authority over a group of uninhabited islands south of Japan and just east of the Chinese mainland in the East China Sea. But the creation of the new zone is probably less about the islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus by the Republic of China, as it is China's desire to flex its muscles in its own backyard as the U.S. rebalances its own strategy east.

China's decision will complicate relations as the United States seeks to build a more trusting relationship with the Asian giant and develop diplomatic efforts on a number of fronts. And it will pose a challenge to Vice President Joe Biden, who is expected to make a stop in China on a trip through Asia next month. White House National Security spokesperson Caitlin Hayden wouldn't say if the development would affect Biden's trip.

"We are very concerned about this escalatory development which increases regional tensions and affects U.S. interests and those of our allies. We have conveyed our strong concerns to China and are coordinating closely with allies and partners in the region," she said in a statement.

The area China has created isn't so much a no-fly zone as it is a yellow flag area. If the United States or another country's military flies inside the area without seeking permission first, the Republic of China could respond with military force. Many countries, including the United States have the same kind of zone around their borders. But China's move essentially puts any non-commercial flight through that area on equal footing with a flight over its own airspace.

That makes it virtually impossible for the United States or anyone else operating in the region to ignore China's claim over the area. But it's not clear how far China will really go. The United States has already said it will continue its own military operations in the zone without asking permission. And at least one knowledgeable expert believes the United States will soon assert its authority by doing just that, and test China's resolve.

All for One: China's New Deal

By Andrew Browne
Updated Nov. 22, 2013

What appears to be the country's generous new bargain is actually a move to strengthen the state

China announced both economic and political reforms to pave the way for  the country's future. The WSJ's Andrew Browne tells Deborah Kan what Xi  Jinping's China is shaping up to look like.

If human figures were represented at all by the ancient masters of Chinese landscape painting, they appeared as black specks—mere spatters of ink on a silk scroll. This rendering of people with the flick of a brush was intended to demonstrate man's insignificance before the power of nature, but it also mirrored a political reality that has endured to this day. In Chinese civilization, the individual is inconsequential; the state is almighty.

Few cultures have so thoroughly denigrated the individual and venerated the state. In Mao's day, this hierarchy was illustrated by a population that dressed identically in drab uniform—"blue ants," as one visitor famously put it, assigned to urban "work units" and rural "production brigades"—and by grand monuments erected ostensibly to glorify workers and peasants, like the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, but actually as shrines of the Leninist state.

The Chinese people themselves were, of course, expendable: Tens of millions died through famine and political struggle during Mao's reign.

China's new leader, Xi Jinping, has no wish to diminish the Chinese state and its identical twin, the Communist Party. That has been made very clear by the party's recent Third Plenum meeting. The 60-point document that emerged from last week's session—a blueprint for social and economic change over the next decade—surprised many China-watchers with its ambition and detail. But make no mistake: Though Mr. Xi is prepared to make tactical concessions to individual rights and freedoms, he has emerged as a champion of state power, with himself at the top.

According to an official communiqué, Mr. Xi played the lead role in drafting the historic document. He stands in a long line of Chinese revolutionaries and reformers imbued with a mission to return the state to its golden era of "wealth and power"—fuqiang—before the "century of humiliation" by imperialist powers that began with the First Opium War with Britain in the early 19th century.

China's president, Xi Jinping, is easing the controls to release social pressures as he pursues his long game of keeping the state robust. AFP/Getty Images

In his first year in office, Mr. Xi has revealed himself as a stern authoritarian. He is haunted by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the "color revolutions" that toppled the regimes in former Soviet republics—and he is determined to keep the Chinese party-state from suffering the same fate. In a closed-door speech in December, Mr. Xi excoriated the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for failing to refute attacks on Lenin and Stalin. "Nobody was man enough to stand up and resist," he said.

China, Israel and India: Flexible Coalitions

India and China find that pragmatic flexibility trumps ideology in trade policies. Case in point: Israel.
By K.M. Seethi
November 24, 2013

Business and strategic circles in New Delhi are abuzz with talk that Tel Aviv is moving closer to Beijing, with potential strategic implications for the security architecture of South Asia. Concerns have been triggered by both booming Sino-Israeli trade and ongoing military transactions. The shift raises questions about the possible repercussions for India’s own relations with China and Israel.

Admittedly, Sino-Israeli relations have been growing for the last three decades, particularly following the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two counties in 1992. During the Cold War, however, relations were bumpy, given the strategic considerations that drove Beijing’s policy agenda in the Middle East and South Asia. The situation began to change rapidly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, when China began to look for ways to support the Pakistan-U.S.-Saudi-Israeli strategy. That provided a first opening for Beijing to quietly develop ties in strategic areas, including military transactions. Interestingly, these strategic transactions continued for a decade before Beijing established formal diplomatic ties. Moreover – and to Washington’s surprise – there has been very little change in the Sino-Israeli military relationship.

Clearly, since 1992, the Sino-Israeli relationship has become increasingly robust and mature. Over the years, bilateral trade has expanded in vital areas. In 2009, China was Israel’s 11th-largest foreign market; by 2012, it was second only to the United States. The last two decades have seen high-level exchanges, helping to strengthen political trust. China is currently Israel’s largest trading partner in Asia and the third-largest worldwide. Projections have Israel’s annual trade with China rising from a two-way volume of $8 billion in 2012 to $10 billion over the next half-decade. This could include stronger cooperation in high-tech sectors, joint construction of industrial parks and technology transfer centers, and a boost in agricultural cooperation. This is in addition to strengthening China’s soft power potential by facilitating cultural exchanges such as the celebration of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Israel and “Experience China in Israel.” Confucius Institutes have been set up within Tel Aviv University and The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, offering Israelis a platform to learn about Chinese culture.

The path of India-Israel relations has not been dissimilar. Initially, India-Israel ties were rocky, not helped by the Cold War. India was perhaps the first postcolonial country to have opposed the partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel in 1948. New Delhi refused to establish diplomatic relations until 1992, when the political situation in West Asia transformed following the shift in stance of the Palestine Liberation Organization that eventually led to the Oslo Accord. The change of global political climate after the breakup of the Soviet Union, which forced New Delhi to “Look West,” helped strengthen ties with Tel Aviv. The liberalization drive in India reinforced relations in vital areas. India’s emerging ties with the U.S. helped.

Nepal: Second CA Elections: Too many surprises

by Dr S Chandrasekharan 24/11/13

It looks that this is a season for surprises in the South Asian region. First was the national election in Bhutan where the party that was trailing way behind won in the run off with a clear majority.

Then came Maldives where unexpectedly, the Popular people’s leader Mohamed Nasheed was beaten by a narrow margin by Abdulla Yameen giving rise to a fear of another spell of Gayoom’s dictatorial policy by proxy in the presidential elections just concluded.

The just concluded elections to the Second Constitutional Assembly in Nepal follows the same trend. If this trend continues, both Bangladesh where elections are due before Jan 24th and the continuing current elections to the State assembly and later at the centre in India may throw many surprises! In Sri Lanka on the contrary no surprises will be allowed.

CA II Elections:

Results of all except for four constituencies have been announced in the FPTP ( first past the post) system while counting for the proportional representation is still continuing.

Nepali Congress- 104
UCPN (M) 25
MJF- D 4
Sadbhavana 1
Independants 2
CPN- UML 259080
Nepali Congress 238899
UCPN-M 151556
RPP 81068
RPP-N 29815

Winners and Losers:

UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and party Spokesperson Agni Prasad Sapkota, former PM Baburam Bhattarai, former PM Sher Bahadur Deuba, Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala and Vice -president Ram Chandra Paudel, Secretary Arjun Narsingh KC and the youth leader Gagan Thapa of Nepali Congress, CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal and leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal, KP Sharma Oli and Bamdev Gautam, and MPRF-D Chairman Bijay Gachchhadar, Upendra Yadav of MJF N are among the winners.

Also, some other noted leaders, who got elected would include Krishna Prasad Sitaula, Mahesh Acharya, Bal Krishna Khand, Shekhar Koirala of NC and UML’s Surendra Pandey and Gokarna Bista.Gulmi respectively.

Three influential RPP leaders -- Bikram Pandey, Deepak Bohara and Sunil Bahadur Thapa -- have won the election from Chitwan, Rupandehi and Dhankuta districts.

The losers include- , Narayankaji Shrestha and Barshaman Pun of UCPN (Maoist) and RPP’s senior leader Pashupati Shumsher JB Rana. UML’s Ishwar Pokharel, Shankar Pokharel, Pradeep Gyawali, Prithivi Subba Gurung, Raghuji Panta, Ramnath Adhikari, Ghanshyam Bhusal, Yogesh Bhattarai, NC’s Deep Kumar Upadhyaya and TMDP’s Hridayesh Tripathi are among some noted leaders who lost the election. Another notable loser was Mahant Thakur of TMLP in Sarlahi 5.

The UCPN (Maoist) made a complete sweep in Dolpa their stronghold and in Gorkha ( Baburam Bhattarai’s place) while Narayan man Bijukche of NMKP retained his continued strangle hold in Bakthapur.

Both the Nepali Congress and the UML made considerable inroads into Terai and the UCPN of Dahal did not get the expected dividends in the Terai despite tying up with one of the major Terain parties. The King’s parties- the RPP and the RPP-N have fared satisfactorily in the proportional system.

Chinese Netizens Applaud Beijing’s Aggressive New Defense Zone

Posted By David Wertime 
November 24, 2013

Beijing has just thrown down the latest gauntlet in a long-simmering territorial dispute with Tokyo -- and China's citizens are cheering. On Nov. 23, China's Ministry of Defense released a map showing the "Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone," a wide swath over the East China Sea, and stated China had the right to monitor and possibly take military action against foreign aircraft that come into that territory. But the area also covers territory currently administered by Japan, including the disputed Diaoyu Islands, which the Japanese call the Senkakus. 

The move sharply raised tensions not only with Japan, but with the United States: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement that he was "deeply concerned" by the "destabilizing" announcement, while Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida warned it could "trigger unpredictable events." But on China's Internet, where much of the country's political expression finds its fullest voice, the reaction is far different: Web users hailed China's move against what they derisively call the "abnormal nation" of "little Japan." And they want the United States to stay out of it. 

On Sina Weibo, China's Twitter, over 200,000 recent posts mention the air defense map; of those sampled, the vast majority lauded Beijing for defending China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. As one user wrote, the map "lets the little Japanese know that our power does not stop at the tip of our tongue." Another wrote it was time for China to "take Japan to school and teach it how to act." Netizens seemed aware that the move will probably raise tensions, but they didn't seem to mind. "The likelihood of conflict from ‘polished guns' between the two armies has just risen," Lin Zhibo, a journalist at the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, wrote, invoking a Chinese term for a serious conflict emerging from a small matter. "This is a danger we must have the courage to shoulder." 

The only complaint most Chinese commenters seemed to have was timing: They wanted this to have happened earlier, as pushback against a neighbor many Chinese feel has "never reckoned" with the history of World War II, when Japan committed atrocities in China. A user called "Silent Majority" wrote, "This is a measure aimed at Japan's remilitarization," a process that seems to have begun in earnest following Shinzo Abe's Dec. 2012 election as Japanese prime minister. If China "waits for others to move before we react," the user continued, "there won't be enough time." Military analyst Yue Gang agreed. "This is the correct direction for China's strategic preparations," he wrote on Weibo. "Clenching its fists together to make a breakthrough."

So far, fulmination appears confined to the Internet. But "strident anti-Japanese sentiment expressed online can spill into the street, as we have often seen in the past," says Susan Shirk, an expert on China's international relations at UC San Diego. In Sept. 2012, conflicts over Japan's nationalization of the Senkakus incited a series of violent protests directed at Japanese consulates and carmakers in China. Something similar could happen this time.

But what's different now is the unusual amount of Chinese anger at the United States for getting involved in a dispute that, as one Weibo user wrote, has "not one cent's worth of relevance" to it. Common among anti-U.S. posts were those attacking what commenters termed the "arrogant" "Yanks," a "policeman" of the East China Sea, where the islands lie, who was "going rogue" by interfering with Sino-Japanese ties. Many felt it was time for the United States to acknowledge China's increasingly assertive role. "There will be much that 'seriously concerns' the United States in the future," wrote one user, paraphrasing Hagel's comment. "They should get used to it."


Monday, 25 November 2013

Constitutionally, India is a Union of its States, but from a civilisational standpoint, it extends beyond its borders, across the subcontinent. New Delhi missed this point again when it failed to stand up for Lankan Tamils who look to India for justice

It was under intense pressure from political parties and the public in Tamil Nadu that the Government of India downgraded its representation in the recent Commonwealth Head of Government Meet in Colombo. But it stopped short of boycotting the summit as was demanded of it. The Government subsequently issued a disclaimer that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s non-participation would not affect India’s bilateral ties with Sri Lanka. Why grovel before a puny island state?

The UPA Government’s hobbling decision was a result of political compulsion rather than conviction. By participating per se in the summit, the UPA Government has exposed the lack of its commitment to secure justice for the victims of Colombo’s genocidal operations during the final phase of its war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

But was the attitude of the Indira Gandhi Government any different towards the perpetrators of genocide in erstwhile East Pakistan? An estimated three million people were killed, a bulk of them Hindus. While Prime Minister Gandhi is credited with the formation of a sovereign Bangladesh, she stopped short of securing justice for the victims of the genocide. There were some parliamentarians who wanted a Nuremberg-style trial for those accused of committing war crimes. But the Government of India did nothing except pass the onus on to the newly liberated state of Bangladesh. Nothing happened over the ensuing 40 years, during which many of the war criminals died natural deaths, while others wove their way back into the power structure of Bangladesh. Tikka Khan, a Baloch nicknamed ‘the butcher of Bengal’, lived up to the age of 87, before passing away in Islamabad in 2002. It is only recently that the Awami League Government has set up a tribunal to try the perpetrators. But its mandate is limited only to Bangladeshi citizens. The Pakistanis or the Bihari Razakars, who infiltrated into India, after being declared non-citizens in Bangladesh, are beyond its reach.

The Hindus of East Pakistan were supporters of the freedom movement in India. They were nationalists to the core. But thanks to Jawaharlal Nehru, after partition, they were left at the mercy of Islamists in East Pakistan. Nehru argued that it was for Pakistan to protect the rights of its religious minorities. Pakistan did precious little, apart from plotting to rid its territory of Hindu population. His attitude was similarly lackadaisical towards Indian-origin Tamils in Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was called then), who were deprived of their citizenship rights by the Senanayake Government through the Ceylon Citizenship Act, 1948, and the Indian and Pakistani (Residents) Citizenship Act, 1949. He merely rued in Lok Sabha on September 30, 1954, that, “Normally speaking, people are not driven out of any country, even if they are nationals of another country. Individuals may be sent out if they misbehave, but whole crowds of people, tens and hundreds of thousands, are not sent out. Such a thing is unknown, except under very abnormal conditions such as prevailed under Hitler.” Nehru’s credentials as a speechmaker, like his incapacity as a statesman, were never in dispute!

Ukraine's Hostage Crisis

How one woman's fate is derailing Ukraine's European dream.

Homer sang of Helen of Troy, the woman whose "face launched a thousand ships." This week it's time to write, somewhat more modestly, of another woman -- a flamboyant politician by the name ofYulia Tymoshenko, who played a starring role in Ukraine's storied Orange Revolution a few years ago. Now her fate seems to be determining whether her country's 46 million people take a historic step closer to Europe or slide back into the embrace of the Kremlin.

Next week a group of high-ranking politicians from the European Union and Eastern Europe will be meeting in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius to decide on the prospects of several countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. The small republics of Moldova and Georgia both have good chances of signing agreements with the European Union that will open up paths to expanded trade and travel. That's because both countries have gone a long way toward demonstrating their respect for European values of tolerance, freedom, and the rule of law.

Moscow won't be happy to see these two countries orient themselves to the West -- especially Georgia, which occupies a strategically sensitive spot between Europe and resource-rich Central Asia. But Vladimir Putin and his friends in Moscow undoubtedly know that there's little they can really do to frustrate the European dreams of these smaller countries. Despite intense economic (and military) pressure from Russia, neither Georgia nor Moldova has shown much inclination to join the Moscow-led Customs Union, a rival bloc that embodies Putin's effort to revive the old USSR (and, along with it, Russia's dream of regional dominance).

But Georgia and Moldova, whose combined population is about the same as London's, aren't really the headliners at Vilnius. That role belongs to Ukraine, the giant stepchild of European politics. Ukraine, too, was also supposed to some far-reaching documents at next week's Vilnius summit. That's because its population of 46 million (about the same as Spain's) and its considerable human and natural resources make Ukraine a potentially attractive member of the European family. At the same time, though, Ukraine is a monumental mess -- to an extent that would make it hard to deal with even under normal circumstances.

And circumstances are far from normal. Ukraine is a country of myriad problems. Strictly speaking it's a democracy, since it does have regular competitive elections, a relative degree of media freedom, and a surprisingly vibrant civil society. Yet these pluses are more often than not obscured by entrenched corruption, the nefarious doings of organized crime groups and politically connected business tycoons, and the still-powerful security service, which traces its ancestry straight back to the old Soviet KGB. At the top of it all sits Viktor Yanukovych, an elected president who tends to act more like an entitled monarch.

Yanukovych never tires of repeating his desire to see Ukraine move closer to Europe. Yet he's probably done more than anyone else to complicate his country's progress toward that goal. Since he became president in 2010, Yanukovych has systematically undercut the rule of law. He's pressured the courts and the media, engaged in parliamentary strong-arm tactics, and exacerbated the country's oligarchic system by rewarding his cronies with vast economic privileges. Meanwhile, he's done almost nothing to dry out the morass of corruption.

Iran, 6 world powers in landmark deal

Published on The Asian Age (http://www.asianage.com)
By editor 
25 Nov 2013

Iran and six world powers clinched a deal on Sunday curbing the Iranian nuclear programme in exchange for initial sanctions relief, signalling the start of a game-changing rapprochement that could ease the risk of a wider Middle East war.

Aimed at ending a long-festering standoff, the interim pact between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia won the critical endorsement of Iran’s top cleric and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

US President Barack Obama said the deal struck after marathon, tortuous and politically charged negotiations cut off Tehran’s potential path to a nuclear weapon. But Israel, Iran’s arch-enemy, denounced the agreement as an “historic mistake”.

Halting Iran’s most sensitive nuclear work, its higher-grade enrichment of uranium, it was tailored as a package of confidence-building steps towards reducing decades of tension and banish the spectre of war over Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has been coordinating diplomatic contacts with Iran on behalf of the major powers, said it created time and space for follow-up talks on a comprehensive solution to the dispute.

“This is only a first step,” said Iranian foreign minister and chief negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif. “We need to start moving in the direction of restoring confidence, a direction which we have managed to move against in the past.”

Hard-pressed by sanctions, many Iranians were elated by the breakthrough and the prospect of economic improvement. The Iranian rial currency, decimated earlier this year due to sanctions, jumped more than three per cent on news of the deal on Sunday.

Mr Obama said that if Iran did not meet its commitments during the six-month period covered by the interim deal, Washington would turn off the tap of sanctions relief and “ratchet up the pressure”.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the deal as it left the nuclear fuel-producing infrastructure of its arch-foe intact. “What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it was a historic mistake,” he said.

“Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step towards obtaining the world’s most dangerous weapon,” he said in public remarks to his Cabinet.

Nevertheless, the big power foreign ministers appeared relieved and elated after Ms Ashton read out a statement proclaiming the deal in the middle of the night at the UN office in Geneva. Ms Ashton and US secretary of state John Kerry hugged each other. Mr Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov shook hands. Minutes later, as Iran’s delegation posed for photos, Mr Zarif and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius embraced. France had taken the hardest line on Iran in recent talks.

The West has long suspected that Iran has been seeking covertly to develop a nuclear weapons capability. The Islamic republic, a major oil producer, denies that, saying its nuclear programme is a peaceful quest for an alternative source of electricity to serve a rapidly expanding population.


The United States said the deal halts advances in Iran’s nuclear programme, including construction of the Arak heavy-water reactor that deeply worries the West as it could yield plutonium, another atomic bomb ingredient, once operational.

Now for the Hard Part

The Iran deal is a good first step. Let's see what happens next.

Early Sunday morning in Geneva, the P5+1 and Iran announced that they had reached an interim deal on Iran's nuclear program. Many are heralding the agreement as an historic breakthrough, and the deal does indeed buy us time, but it is much too early to declare victory. Indeed, the Iranian nuclear crisis might still very well end in President Obama making a fateful choice between Iran with the bomb or bombing Iran.

The interim pact is a step in the right direction. It puts strict ceilings on all aspects of Iran's program, including: centrifuge production, number and types of operating centrifuges, stockpiles of low- and medium-enriched uranium, numbers of enrichment facilities, and the start-up of the Arak reactor. In addition, these measures are to be verified by more intrusive inspections. In exchange, the United States offered relatively modest sanctions relief to the tune of roughly $7 billion. The deal will leave the most important aspects of the sanctions regime in place and, if Tehran honors its end of the bargain, prevent Iran from inching ever closer to a nuclear weapons breakout capability while negotiations continue. But we are not out of the woods yet.

The interim deal is, as Secretary of State John Kerry has said, only a "first step." It is to remain in place for six months until a "comprehensive" accord can be reached. In other words, now comes the hard part. 

There remains a chasm between the two sides on fundamental issues, including Iran's erroneous claim to a "right to enrich," Tehran's unwillingness to come clean on its past nuclear weaponization activities, whether Iran will be allowed to continue to enrich at the deeply buried Fordow facility (or to enrich at all), the final status of the Arak reactor, and many other matters.

For the next six months, therefore, we will replay the tape we have been watching since President Rouhani assumed power in August. The Iranians and the P5+1 will attempt to negotiate an accord while a worldwide chorus chimes in on the contours of an acceptable deal and otherwise seeks to influence the outcome. 

Deal Reached to Halt Iran's Nuclear Program

Posted By Yochi Dreazen 
November 24, 2013

GENEVA - The historic nuclear deal Iran signed with the United States and five other world powers early Sunday morning represents the biggest gamble of President Barack Obama's presidency, and the success or failure of that bet will have serious repercussions for the administration's standing on Capitol Hill, Washington's relationships with Israel and other Middle Eastern allies, and the national security of the United States itself.

The deal painstakingly assembled during four days of marathon negotiations at a luxury hotel here calls for Iran to halt most of its uranium enrichment efforts, eliminate its stockpiles of uranium already purified to near weapons grade quality, open its facilities to daily monitoring by international inspectors and significantly slow the construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. Nuclear weapons can be assembled using either enriched uranium or plutonium, and the new pact is designed to make it difficult, if not impossible, for Iran to gain enough of either material for a bomb.

In exchange, Iran would gain some relief from the punishing economic sanctions that had been leveled by Washington and its allies in recent years, freeing up roughly $6 billion. Tehran also won a commitment that the so-called P5+1 nations - the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain - wouldn't impose any new sanctions for the next six months. That was an important win for the Iranians since the existing measures have cut its oil exports in half and driven the price of its currency down to a historic low.

The negotiations between the two sides have been going on in stops and starts for nearly a decade, but the actual unveiling of the deal was strangely muted. The text of the agreement itself was signed at roughly 3:30 AM in Geneva's Palais des Nations in a quiet ceremony open to only a small number of reporters and not televised or otherwise broadcast electronically. Lady Catherine Ashton, the European Union's chief diplomat and one of the prime architects of the deal, didn't participate in the public rollout of the agreement or take any questions from reporters.

President Obama, speaking from the White House, said the deal "halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program" and "cut off Iran's most likely paths to a bomb." He also stressed that the agreement was an interim measure designed to give negotiators from both sides six months to work towards a broader, permanent nuclear agreement. If a deal couldn't be reached - or if the United States found evidence that Iran was trying to secretly continue work on its nuclear weapons program - Obama promised to restore the sanctions that had been lifted and impose harsh new ones.

Did the United States Just Grant Iran the Right to Enrich Uranium?

Posted By Elias Groll 
November 24, 2013

For weeks, Western negotiators have huddled in a luxury hotel in Geneva with their Iranian counterparts to defuse tensions over Tehran's nuclear program. In the early hours Sunday, the diplomats finally secured their long-sought prize: a deal that puts the breaks on Iran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief.

Now comes the hard part. With the details of the agreement public, skeptics of Iran's sudden willingness to compromise with the West have been handed heaps of ammunition with which to attack the Obama administration as a sell-out to Tehran. The Geneva deal bears the hallmarks of a compromise solution, the terms of which do not require Iran to dismantle its nuclear program -- as Israel has demanded -- but to scale back activities over the next six months that are most useful for producing a nuclear weapon. The diplomats who drafted the agreement are describing it as an interim, confidence-building measure. Iran skeptics are describing it as hopelessly naïve. "If five years from now a nuclear suitcase explodes in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the deal that was signed this morning," Naftali Bennett, Israel's economic minister, said in a statement.

At the center of that debate -- whether the agreement represents a clear-eyed test of Iran's true intentions or a victim of Iran's savvy bait-and-switch negotiating tactics -- is the question of whether the document recognizes what Tehran describes as its right to enrich uranium. Immediately after the agreement was announced, Fars News, the Iranian state-sponsored news outlet, proclaimedthat the accord "includes recognition of Tehran's right of uranium enrichment" and that the "right to enrichment has been recognized in two places of the document." Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, made exactly the opposite claim on ABC's This Week on Sunday: "There is no right to enrich. We do not recognize a right to enrich."

Over the next few weeks one of these two narratives will become the dominant interpretation of the Geneva agreement -- and which one catches on will go a long way toward determining its ultimate success. Either the West has by force and calculation compelled Iran into accepting a change in its strategic outlook and abandoned its nuclear ambitions. Or the West has backed down -- "appeased" Iran, if you will -- and allowed Tehran to hold on to its nuclear program in the hopes of avoiding war in the Middle East.