30 November 2013

November 20, 2013

How Is Hamid Karzai Still Standing?


The Karzai family graveyard lies a few miles outside Kandahar, on the edge of the village of Karz. On the day I drove there, burned-out cars stood rusting by the sides of the road, children splashed through open drains and bullet holes riddled the mud walls opposite checkpoints. Amid all this, the graveyard stood out — gleaming, immaculate. Straggling bougainvillea and mulberry trees blossomed over the calligraphic tiles topping the cream-colored walls. Through the double gates were lines of cypresses. In the middle stood a domed enclosure containing the graves of the clan elders.

Hamid Karzai was entering the final lap of his presidency, and I had traveled to Karz with Mahmood, one of the president’s elder brothers, accompanied by a phalanx of his bodyguards. Afghanistan’s presidential election is set for April, and as the deadline for registering candidates approached, the country’s future seemed to hang in part on the fraught internal family politics of the Karzais. Hamid is ineligible to run for a third term, and it had been long rumored in Kabul that he would anoint his brother Qayum as his successor. Mahmood had made it clear that he wanted the presidency to stay in the family; he had even begun to raise campaign funds for Qayum, just as he once had for Hamid.

So far, however, the president had been publicly silent on the subject, and Qayum had yet to tip his hand. Mahmood’s business dealings — banking scandals and supposedly dodgy real estate deals — had long been perceived as Hamid’s Achilles’ heel, and it remained unclear whether family loyalty would trump the president’s growing preoccupation with his own legacy. All this, along with Karzai’s angry rhetoric against the alleged misdeeds of his American backers, had caused some tensions around the family table. “I don’t feel comfortable talking to Hamid these days,” Mahmood said as we rode in his armored Land Cruiser, sandwiched between pickup trucks full of troops. “These ridiculous conspiracy theories. And his cynical view of the West. These ideas aren’t helping Afghanistan. I don’t think he understands the importance of a good economic policy.”

On arrival, however, the sight of the massed Karzai dead quickly brought back Mahmood’s sense of dynastic solidarity. “See over there — the grave with the old carved headstone?” he said. “That was my grandfather, the real leader of the family. He migrated to Karz from the west of the province and bought this land.”

He then pointed to a poster of a mustached man on the guardhouse: “That’s my uncle, Khalil.” Khalil was killed in the 1980s. Some say he was murdered in a family dispute, but Mahmood told me he was assassinated during the war with the Soviets. “And over there,” he continued, “another uncle. Also assassinated.”

We walked into the domed mausoleum where two recumbent gravestones were covered with pink plastic flowers: “My father’s grave,” he said, lowering his voice to a whisper. “He was shot dead leaving a mosque. And that, by his side, is Ahmed Wali, my half brother.”

He didn’t bother saying what we both knew, that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of Kandahar’s provincial council, effectively governor of Kandahar and the man suspected by the West of controlling part of the Afghan heroin trade, but who also helped the C.I.A. operate an anti-Taliban paramilitary group, was himself killed by a trusted member of his inner circle. The shooting took place not far from where we were standing, two years earlier, almost to the day. I asked if anyone else in the family died violently. “Many!” Mahmood replied. He pointed to the different grave plots: “One, two, three . . . altogether about eight. Maybe more.”

From the graveyard, we headed on into Karz, where the brothers spent their childhood. Low mud-brick houses flanked the road. “Imagine having to live in these conditions!” Mahmood said. “If I had my way, I’d demolish the entire village, rehouse everyone in apartments and turn this space over to agriculture.” After decades in the United States, where he started an Afghan restaurant chain, it all seemed a bit of a surprise to him: “Imagine hanging up goat meat in the sun in this heat! So unhygienic. . . . And all these people just sitting there. Do they have nothing to do, for crying out loud? Just look how weak the retail community is here. Call these shops? What era are we in — the Roman Empire?”

I had asked to see the house where the brothers grew up, but after several false turns, we still couldn’t find the place. None of them had been back for years, not least because the village is now in the hands of a rival leader of the clan, their cousin Hashmat Karzai, and relations between the two factions of the family are not cordial.

“It’s changed beyond all recognition,” Mahmood said. “This mosque I remember: I used to play with Hamid over there. But the vineyards! Where have they gone?” Eventually his driver came to a stop. “This is it?” Mahmood asked. “It can’t be.” We got out in a field of dried mud, surrounded by mud houses with egg-carton domes. Mahmood summoned an old man in a turban wandering past and after conferring with him, announced: “The driver’s right. This is our home.” He gestured at the empty space around us.

“What happened?” I asked.

“The Russians.” He paused. “Any clan who were known to be prominent in the mujahedeen had their property seized or demolished.”

For the first time, Mahmood looked deflated: “Qayum and I were in the U.S., but Hamid and my father were prominent in the jihad. These houses here,” he said, pointing at the mud houses, “this was where my cousins lived. The same night the Soviet governor sent troops to demolish our house, they were all called out and lined up. Then they were shot. Every last one of them.”

‘Nothing left at all? Just an empty space?” Hamid Karzai dropped a cherry into his mouth. “Not even the outbuildings?”

Another cherry followed the first: “I haven’t seen it since the 1980s, but I remember it all so well.” He paused to extract the two stones, lining them up neatly on a plate in front of him. “It was a typical Afghan village house,” he continued. “A mud house. With a long tunnel leading in from the main gate on the street. That was where I was born.”

He pushed the fruit bowl toward me. “Have you ever tried Afghan cherries?” he asked. “You don’t get them anywhere else — they are the most delicious of all.” I did as I was bid. “They’re not meaty like the others. They’re juicy, soft and good. Slightly bitter: sweet and sour — what’s the word? Tart.”

It was nearly midnight during the first week of Ramadan. Most business in Kabul had come to a halt, and Karzai, having more time on his hands than usual, had agreed to spend three evenings with me talking about Afghanistan’s future. When I arrived at the palace, security was exceptionally tight. On each visit, my papers and passport were examined seven times. I went through three body scanners, and my BlackBerry and pens were confiscated. When I at last gained admittance, the palace was all but deserted. Only the president’s personal bodyguards were around, clutching their M-16 assault rifles and stalking about under the lights in double-breasted pinstripe suits.

There was good reason for the heightened vigilance. A week earlier, a Taliban raiding party, dressed in Afghan National Army-style uniforms and equipped with fake IDs, penetrated the first two checkpoints in the seven rings of security surrounding the palace before being gunned down in a two-hour battle. They got as far as Ariana Chowk, near C.I.A. headquarters, where, in 1996, Najibullah, the last president of the Soviet-backed government, was killed after being castrated by the victorious Taliban.

The preceding weeks were particularly bad ones for Karzai’s embattled relationship with his Taliban enemies as well as his U.S. backers. After years of postponed negotiations and hedging, Karzai, the United States and the Taliban agreed to meet in Qatar for peace talks. The Americans and Karzai believed that the Taliban would describe their Doha premises as an office. Instead, they erected an embassylike plaque at the entrance that read “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” and unfurled the old Taliban flag. Karzai believed that the Obama administration had secretly agreed to this, and it played on his paranoia that the United States was making secret deals with the Taliban and their Pakistani backers, hoping to break up Afghanistan and create a Taliban entity in the south of the country.

Because of all this, I anticipated meeting a careworn Karzai, coming to terms with the unraveling of his regime. Instead, on our very first evening, he bounded into the room and grasped my hand firmly. I commented how well he looked considering the stress, and he laughed: “I don’t feel under pressure,” he said. “The first days of Ramadan are completely off days — nobody comes. Today was my first totally free day in all these 10 years! I did not even leave my room.” His wife, he said, was in Belgium with the children. “I just took naps and read my newspapers.”

The nervous tic that often makes Karzai wince with his left eye, and which is said to get worse when he is upset, was almost absent. His robust health also gave the lie to the rumor that in adversity, Karzai had become addicted to various narcotics. The rumors had gained credence in Kabul’s gossip mill in part because of the president’s mood swings and fits of anger. They are nonetheless nonsense, according to those who know him well. “He’s very fit indeed,” says Amrullah Saleh, his former security chief, now a political opponent. “He takes at least an hour’s exercise each night and exhausts the guards that have to keep up with him.” Mahmood agrees: “He’s very disciplined physically. And he’s extremely moderate in his eating. You know how delicious our melons are? I’ve often seen his hand hovering over a second slice, and then he resists. He has steely discipline.” After a day of fasting, however, there was no such restraint. As Karzai munched his way through a huge platter of Afghan melons, grapes and figs, as well as mountains of tiny cherries, he merrily began denouncing what he described as the “betrayal” of Afghanistan and its people by what he referred to as his so-called Western allies.

In Search of the Real China Outsiders Still See What They Want to See

By John Pomfret
From our November/December 2013 Issue

A visitor takes pictures of a model of Beijing's downtown at the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall, November 5, 2013. (Kim Kyung-Hoon / Courtesy Reuters)

My First Trip to China: Scholars, Diplomats, and Journalists Reflect on Their First Encounters With China. 
Edited by Kin-Ming Liu. East Slope Publishing, 2012, 316 pp. $28.00.

Over the last decade or so, historians and journalists have chipped away -- some with sledgehammers, others with mallets -- at several long-standing myths about China’s past. China wasn’t all darkness and pain before the communist revolution of 1949, and Western efforts to change the country, long portrayed by historians as a tragic dead end, have been far more successful than anyone could have ever dreamed -- to cite just two. The weight of these and other revelations should demand a fundamental reassessment of China’s position in the world, both in the past and going forward. But don’t hold your breath. China scholars and average citizens alike still cling to their own personal notions of the “authentic” China, deeply rooted in the soil of their imaginations.

A good example of this complex comes from My First Trip to China, a collection of 30 vignettes from a veritable who’s who of China experts relating their initial encounters with “the Promised Land,” as one of the contributors describes the country. Disillusion and nostalgia flow through the book like a river. The course of China’s history was supposed to run across exotic and revolutionary terrain. But sadly, many of these authors seem to say, it hasn’t.

One of the fascinating things about My First Trip is how little the latest research into China’s past has changed the views of the contributors. It’s an indication of the tenacity with which many of us China watchers cling to our beliefs -- no matter how outdated -- about the place. And so the book forces one to ask why so many have harbored such overwrought expectations for China and its revolution, why so many still hold on to those ideas, and why so many react with such vehemence -- or incredulity -- when they are proved wrong.


From insurgency to electoral democracy

Published: November 30, 2013
Vasundhara Sirnate Rahul Verma

Accommodative politics, combined with political incentives, helped pave the way for the Mizo National Front to turn into a mainstream political party

If grievance ever had legitimate reason to be translated into political rebellion, it was in Mizoram. The Mizo National Front (MNF) was an insurgent group that emerged from the Mizo National Famine Front in 1959 — a formation protesting the widespread famine caused by a regular failure of the bamboo crop due to mautam, and the failure of the Indian state to send adequate relief.

Deprivation soon led to open rebellion. On February 28, 1966, the MNF launched Operation Jericho under which about 1,500 MNF cadres overran Lunglei, Aizawl and Champhai districts by beating back the Assam Rifles personnel stationed there. India’s Home Minister at the time was Gulzarilal Nanda who recommended “stern action” against the rebels. This meant a two-column assault by the Indian army on Lunglei and Champhai on March 7, 1966. A week later, the Indian army recaptured these districts, albeit after the air force was called in to launch an aerial assault on Aizawl.

The turning point

Mizoram has just finished polling in its latest round of Assembly elections with a very high voter turnout of 81.19 per cent. How did a decidedly secessionist State turn from the insurgent path towards accepting a place in the Indian Union, and what form of politics developed after the end of the insurgency? Accommodative politics, knitted with political incentives for the insurgents, helped pave the way for the MNF to turn into an electoral force. After that turning point, the tussle between the regional force and the Centre has taken the form of an electoral competition between the Congress and the MNF. We argue that this successful channelling of insurgency into manageable electoral competition is a model that can be emulated in other States of the northeast.

The 20 years that followed Operation Jericho were interspersed with severe counterinsurgency battles that involved not only regular fighting with the rebels but also village resettlement schemes, which resulted in 80 per cent of Mizos being relocated and resettled by 1972 in 102 population centres. The aim of the resettlement was to drive the MNF into the jungles and cut off its recruitment base and supply lines.
Electoral experiment

Alongside, the Indian government also opened a dialogue with the rebels, keeping in mind that the region was remote and the MNF enjoyed immense popularity among various Mizo sub-tribes. Also, for a fledgling country it seemed imperative to address the northeast’s insurgent threats through any means possible — war or diplomacy — so that the rebellions didn’t become a model for other groups in the region. While the latter aim didn’t work as well for the Indian state, what did emerge were negotiations and offers of peaceful elections with the MNF competing in them. When such an electoral experiment was conducted in 1978, the MNF’s Pu Laldenga lost to Brig. Sailo of the People’s Conference. As the MNF stepped up its insurgent activities in response to an electoral loss, the government decided to end the matter more decisively.

In 1986, the Union of India under Rajiv Gandhi and the MNF signed the Mizoram Peace Accord. Pu Lalthanhawla, the Congress Chief Minister, was made to step down and Pu Laldenga of the MNF was made Chief Minister. Rajiv Gandhi was clear about one thing — the MNF violence had to end and Mizoram had to stay in the Union. Practising accommodative politics seemed the right way forward even if it meant replacing the Chief Minister with Pu Laldenga, who had spent the better part of his adult life deep in the jungles of Myanmar raising two armed brigades to fight the Indian state.

‘Indian secularism is about mediating between different communities’ Vaiju Naravane

 November 30, 2013

Sanjay Subrahmanyam: “In India, we are dealing with a situation where for a very long period of time … you had a kind of shifting equilibrium between many different communities.” Photo: Special Arrangement

An interview with Sanjay Subrahmanyam, historian

Professor Sanjay Subrahmanyam, eminent Indian historian, has been elected to the Collège de France in Paris, a prestigious centre of learning, where he will hold a Chair in Early Modern World History. Educated at the Delhi School of Economics, Professor Subrahmanyam taught economics and history in India, France and the U.K. before joining the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2004 as Professor and Doshi Chair of Indian History. Earlier, in 2002, he was the first holder of the Chair in Indian History and Culture at Oxford. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009. He spoke to Vaiju Naravane. Excerpts:

You are a historian of Modernity. What are the kinds of shifts and upheavals we are witnessing today?

In terms of political organisation, there have been many shifts and upheavals. The world I’m dealing with in the 17th century is still really one of monarchies. But the changes today are also visible in the technologies in movement and transportation, changes in notions of distance, social relations and what social groups are, down to the level of the family.

What about past and present migration patterns? How have these changed in the long term? How has the debate on migration changed?

Earlier, there were waves of migration that took place in the context of empire-building and imperial expansion. For instance, migration to colonial America, and even in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was broadly within a matrix of imperial expansion. There were arguments made that we might not accept today: that these were “empty lands” being settled — arguments that were still being made in Australia in the 1940s and 1950s. After World War I and the Depression, European or white migration became a minority phenomenon. What we are looking at now are often population movements from non-European parts of the world, and it is not being done in the context of political restructuring. Today’s constituted states are thus resisting, wishing to shape developments, preferring one type of migrant to another — racially, professionally, etc. However, if the world population density remains unequally distributed like this, there have to be adjustments. But it’s one thing to make broad arguments and another to come down to the fact of how people move and how they are allowed to move.

Do you see a great deal of international tension in the coming years? And how does that link up with the fear of Islam and migration? Are we going to see dual, interlinked tensions?

Yes, certainly. Currently, in the U.S., their main obsession is with population movements from Latin America, but in Europe, the matter is posed differently. At times, this question of Islam is an excuse. Look at the question of the Roma, or “gypsies.” This has nothing to do with Islam, yet absurd ideas, medieval myths of them being child stealers, are resurfacing. This is suggestive of a larger paranoia. In France and Italy, for instance, there are many Bangladeshis, but the public often does not perceive them as Muslims. On the other hand, the Turks, with whom the West has had dealings for a very long time, and who made efforts over the 20th century to abandon a part of their culture to become “western,” got nowhere when they tried to enter the European Union. Apparently, Greece has more in common with Europe than Turkey!

Playing at sea

By Shoikat Roy — November 22, 2013 6:04 pm

India’s policy towards the South China Sea should not be driven by driven by fear.

India’s engagement with South East Asia since the inception of “Look East” has been driven by a dual desire to limit China’s growing influence in SE Asia as well as expand its own strategic space by reaching out to regional markets in an era of economic liberalisation. Although successful to some extent in furthering trade and investment, India’s foreign policy with respect to the South China Sea (SCS) dispute has been sorely lacking in strategic coherence and devoid of definitive long-term objectives.

Zachary Keck, writing for The Diplomat points out the mismatch in recent Indian statements on the issue. Foreign Minister, Salman Khurshid, while talking to the South China Morning Post, said that India would not interfere in the SCS dispute. “We do believe that anything that is a bilateral issue between two nations must be settled by those two nations.” In sharp contrast, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, at last month’s East Asia Summit assertively endorsed the efficacy of multilateral and regional institutions such as ASEAN & EAS in the resolution of the dispute.

In July 2012, retiring Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Verma commented that an active Indian naval presence in the SCS was “not on the cards.” A few months later, the cards seemed to have been shuffled – The new Chief, Admiral Joshi made headlines when he announced that the Indian Navy was “prepared to intervene” in the SCS to protect its economic assets. The statement received a hostile reception in China. South Block was understandably caught off guard and subsequently blamed the “irresponsible media” for misinterpretation.

These are two simple examples of a lack of strategic connect between and within the military, political and bureaucratic establishments over what India’s long-term policy in the SCS really is.

India’s presence in the SCS has been gradually increasing. Since 2000, the Navy has been involved in extensive “military diplomacy” in the form of international naval exercises, friendly visits and port calls by naval ships etc. India’s emphasis on freedom of navigation, resolution of the conflict on the basis of international law and the ‘centrality’ of ASEAN has earned it the goodwill of many ASEAN nations; most of whom, with the possible exception of Malaysia, see India as a benign actor capable of playing a positive role in maintaining the balance of power and ensuring the security of the region.

China, on the other hand, has tried to avoid multilateralisation of the dispute in order to maximise the power advantage that it will enjoy bilaterally with any ASEAN nation. The growing political and economic might of China, has also made them increasingly assertive. Military stand-offs with Philippines over Scarborough Shoal, sabotaging Vietnamese oil exploration in the SCS and reports of the Chinese Navy confronting the INS Airavat in international waters are but a few examples of Chinese military adventurism in recent years. The de-facto annexations of Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef are disturbing indications of an aggressive China willing to use military right to dictate terms and normalise territorial acquisitions over time. It is a trend that has rung alarm bells in Tokyo and Delhi in light of their territorial disputes with China. Similar concerns over China’s military high handedness in asserting sovereignty over the SCS has drawn many SE Asian nations closer to the US and India in order to balance Chinese power.

Western Discourse on Pak Nukes Exposes ‘Double Standards’ Vis-a-Vis India

Arundhati Ghose

It certainly cannot be the cooler days in Delhi that has attracted, in recent weeks, so many concerned western ‘experts’ to the capital, to discuss the abstruse-to the Indian public-subject of “strategic stability” in Asia/ in the sub-continent. Ahmed Rashid, the celebrity commentator on the Af-Pak region, has recently written in the Financial Times that they-the West-should “Beware Pakistan’s small nuclear weapons” and this kind of reporting perhaps is causing some of the excitement. Add to this the fact that apart from an unflurried response from a semi-official source, there has been no other official reaction from India, which should have been the most worried, and the concern of these ‘experts’ is not surprising.

It is public knowledge that since April 2011, Pakistan has conducted three tests of its Hatf-IX (NASR) missile, the latest in February of this year. The Pakistani Army has, after each launch, stated in press statements, that the “missile has been developed to add deterrence value to Pakistan’s Strategic Weapons Development Programme at shorter ranges” and that the 60km NASR “carries a nuclear warhead of appropriate yield with high accuracy, shoot and scoot attributes.” The introduction of battlefield nuclear weapons for use as a deterrent to conventional land based troops has been seen and reported as a reaction to the Indian Army’s doctrine of Cold Start which in turn was drawn up as a possible response to another Mumbai-like terrorist attack. Apart from this widely reported conclusion, it appears clear that the effort behind this development is to signal to both India and to the international community, Pakistan’s willingness to escalate any move by the Indian Army against it to a nuclear level.

Indeed, the Indian strategic community has been discussing the implications of Pakistan’s move for some time-a comprehensive analysis available in the public domain is the one by the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP) of the National Institute of Advanced Studies. At the semi- official level, Ambassador Shyam Saran, Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board pointed out that India’s nuclear doctrine made no difference in the categorisation of nuclear weapons. Any nuclear attack on India or on her troops anywhere would be responded to by the inflicting of ‘unacceptable damage’.

Lest the signal be lost on the international community, Rashid’s article refers, almost with relish, to Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal and that “Pakistan has one of the fastest growing battlefield or tactical weapons programmes in the world “and claims that Pakistan has developed the capacity to miniaturise nuclear weapons “very successfully”. Pointing to the dangers of another terrorist attack like the one on Mumbai in 2008, he appeals to the West (the US?) to translate its concern about Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons “into a larger deal that pushes both Islamabad and New Delhi to contain what is now a runaway bomb.” The logic is truly bizarre: Pakistan makes these terrorists and these weapons and India should be restrained?

Transforming India: Challenges to the World’s Largest Democracy

By Sumantra Bose
Reviewed by Andrew J. Nathan
From our November/December 2013 Issue

Bose lucidly analyzes India’s “decentered democracy,” in which power lies increasingly with the state governments. Their authority grows partly out of the federal constitution, but more substantially, it is the result of the takeover since the 1990s of many state governments by political parties that are rooted in local ethnolinguistic communities and that owe little loyalty to New Delhi. As an example, Bose explores West Bengal, where the long-ruling Left Front coalition built a political machine dependent on landless rural voters, until it was supplanted by a local breakaway faction of the Indian National Congress. He also looks at two communities that are profoundly alienated from the political system: Kashmiri Muslims, who have conducted a long-running rebellion in the face of brutal repression, and tribal groups living in a band of forested districts in the east, where a Maoist (or Naxalite) insurgency has smoldered for decades. The willingness of most Indians to commit to multiple social identities has produced a distinctive form of democratic politics. In revealing both the violence and the vitality of India’s democracy, Bose sees the country’s future prosperity and stability as anything but assured.

Transforming India: Challenges to the World's Largest Democracy
By Sumantra Bose
Barnes & Noble 

India-Japan Relations: New Opportunities

Arvind Gupta

November 29, 2013

Emperor Akihito and his wife Empress Michiko of Japan are visiting India. The visit symbolizes the deepening of global and strategic partnership between the two countries. The couple had last visited India in 1960 as Crown Prince and Princess and had the occasion to meet President Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru during the visit.

Having refined tastes, the Emperor and the Empress write waka, a classical form of poetry dating back to the eighth century. They also host the traditional New Year’s poetry reading at the palace. The Emperor follows a practice instituted by his father Emperor Showa of planting and harvesting rice. The Empress raises silk worms. These practices symbolize the Japanese love for tradition and underline the simplicity of their character which touches the Indian heart.

The Emperor’s visit will further strengthen India-Japan strategic partnership which is developing in the backdrop of major global and regional geopolitical shifts, i.e. the rise of China; the US policy of ‘rebalancing’ and “pivot to Asia;” and the response of regional countries; evolution of a new security architecture in Asia; maritime security challenges in the Indian and Pacific Oceans; nuclear tests by North Korea; tensions on account of territorial disputes in South China Sea and East China; prospects of a new economic order illustrated by RCEP and TPP; evolution of ASEAN into an ASEAN community; turmoil in the Arab world; crisis in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These changes pose challenges to Indian and Japanese diplomacy and security.

Japan is in the midst of political and economic renaissance. Prime Minister Abe’s election last year has brought in perceptible changes in Japan’s security and economic policies. Abe-economics is focused at energizing the stagnant Japanese economy. Japan is also reaching out to “broader Asia”, a concept Abe had talked about in 2007 when he visited India. Japanese troops have arrived in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines for the Humanitarian and Disaster Relief operations. During his visit to India, Prime Minister Abe had spoken about geostrategic coupling of Pacific and Indian Oceans. This has led to a debate on the concept of Indo-Pacific as a geostrategic concept. In Japan’s vision, partnership with India occupies top priority in the backdrop of shifting equations of power. In a notable development, Japan, India and the US have also begun to engage officially in a trilateral format. India, Japan and South Korea have also been engaging in a Track II trilateral format supported by the respective governments. These budding partnerships will make a difference to the balance of power in the region.

India is also shedding its hesitation to engage with a broader world. India’s Look East Policy, now being expanded, seeks to create web of bilateral and multilateral links in Asia. India is strengthening its ties with Japan in the framework of strategic and global partnerships. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Japan in May 2013. Prime Minister Abe is expected to come to India for a short time. India and Japan have put their relationship on a firm basis which includes a “2+2 dialogue”, the foreign secretary dialogue, the defence secretary dialogue and the trilateral dialogue between India, US and Japan.

Confluence of Interests on Seas

Posted on November 29, 2013
by Bharat Karnad

There’s certain symmetry in INS Vikramaditya’s imminent assumption of the flagship role in the Indian Navy, the launch in Japan of the Izumo, quaintly described as a “flat-top destroyer”, and the Japanese Emperor Akihito’s second state visit to this country.

Shinzo Abe made Japan’s strategic interest plain in 2010 in an address to the Indian parliament entitled “Confluence of Two Seas” — the Indian Ocean and the East Sea, and the intertwining of the maritime destinies of the two states. These separated expanses of water permit India and Japan to work together to stretch China militarily at its extremities. A similar coupling of Japan and the United States, sealed by a treaty relationship, has made the latter a fixture in the Far Eastern power balance and security architecture post-1945. From the Japanese perspective, America has been and is the security anchor. However, in the future Tokyo apprehends that the burgeoning economic and trade relationship will result in a faltering American will to protect Japanese interests, such as in the dispute over the Senkaku/Diayou Island chain. It is for that inevitable day when the US economic interests in China will dictate American strategic choices that Abe — the most nationalistic and strategic-minded of post-War prime ministers — has been trying to prepare his country for. Whence, the importance now being accorded India by Tokyo.

Actually, India is in a situation analogous to Japan’s. From the Nineties when P V Narasimha Rao initiated the opening to the West in the guise of globalising the economy, the United States has become more central to Indian policymakers, and India’s foreign, and even domestic, policies. Thus, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, instead of ordering a targeted intelligence operation to take out Dawood Ibrahim, who is hiding in plain sight in Karachi, by whatever means and at any cost, had no qualms indicating he had approached the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to corral this transnational criminal and terrorism funder. The Congress party-led coalition government, in like vein, rather than mount a concerted effort for a counter-cyber operation, readily admitted that US agencies had cyber-penetrated the Indian system and, in effect, advised that because the country can do nothing to prevent such cyber offensives, it may be best to accept it as a fact of life — a variant of the Central Bureau of Investigation director Ranjit Sinha’s counsel to women experiencing rape, to lie back and enjoy it. And, starting with the nuclear deal, prime minister Manmohan Singh suggested by indirection that India’s strategic security deficit against China will be made up by the US when such commitment, as the Japanese are beginning to find, grows iffier by the day.

The immediate escape for India from a bad security situation getting worse is the over-reach that a bumptious Beijing is prone to. Out of the blue, on November 23 it announced an “air defence identification zone (ADIZ)” in the East Sea. It is an airspace version of the “nine dot line” expansively delineating its sea territory that encompasses the legitimate claims over the Exclusive Economic Zones of neighbouring states — Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, and Taiwan in the South China Sea.

India and Asian Geopolitics

P. Stobdan

November 28, 2013

Amidst India’s deep immersion into acrimonious internal political debate, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his address to the Combined Commanders’ Conference on 22 November made a subtle shift in India’s strategic perception. For a while, everyone thought India’s foreign policy was failing due to domestic mess that the administrative strategic thinkers seemed unable to handle. The foreign policy, a shortfall people have long acknowledged, and something which foreigners have also sharply commented upon. For the first time India responded to the strategic shift of focus on Asia-Pacific and on the impending security competition among nations. Importantly, Prime Minister dispelled the notion that India was playing any ancillary role in the US rebalancing or ‘pivoting’ Asia strategy which he thought is a ‘development fraught with uncertainty.’
Response to China’s Regional Influence

In the recent Indian strategic discourse, commentators have been exulting the high profile US ‘Asia Pivot’ strategy and seriously hoped that the idea will offset China’s rising regional outreach, for it also appeared similar to India’s own ‘Look East’ policy, which to an extent enabled New Delhi to ruffle a few feathers in the East Asian region. Of course, Washington too made some rhetorical moves on the South China Sea dispute indicating its intensions to stay put in the Asia Pacific.

However, in the midst of all these, Indian strategic community failed to highlight the point that China had long ‘Pivoted West’ by seeking out backdoor territorial advantages since the Soviet collapse. The Chinese have moved beyond the former-Soviet space to enter Europe, Africa, West Asia, Latin America, and even in South Asia. Remarkably, Beijing has found development partners in all these continents without pursuing containment strategy. Even in the maritime domain, China has already made a significant move to counter the American ‘Asia Pivot’ strategy. When President Xi, visited Southeast Asia in October, he outlined a “maritime Silk Road” plan to expand sea-lane connectivity. Xi scored many strategic points during East Asia Summit where President Obama failed to turn up due to domestic reasons.
China’s Continental March

Nearer in Asia, when the US, for over a decade now, was busy fighting war against terror; China was making plans for sourcing energy supplies from Russia’s traditionally stronghold Central Asia. One does not hear much these days about the American strategic advocacy ‘The Grand Chessboard’ theory of promoting containment and balance of power in Eurasia. In fact, none of the daunting list of US pronouncements: to wipe out the Taliban, to curb opium production, to control Central Asia resources, to thwart the rise of Russia or China – and so on, are brought to fruition. Not a single US company is involved in mining in Afghanistan. The sole US policy goal appears is to exit as quickly as possible.

Nothing is heard about the US ‘New Silk Route’ plans launched essentially for revitalizing and embedding Afghanistan as the link between Central and South Asia. Its key elements among others included implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, the Central Asia-South Asia (CASA-100) hydropower line and the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) plan to connect existing regional roads and railways to Afghanistan. None of these, initiated to bring tangible results in Afghanistan, have been realized to date.

Interestingly, what the Americans failed to gain control over (Central Asian resources) by pursuing a grand strategy, China is achieving them by pursuing capital markets strategy. China’s trade already eclipsed that of Russia’s in the region. The business and security analysts are now trying to fathom the impact of President Xi Jinping’s unveiling of another ‘Silk Route’ gambit in September when he visited Central Asian states laden with multiple agreements. By invoking the memory of First Century Chinese envoy, Zhang Qian, Xi called for creating “Silk Road Economic Belt”; committed tens of billions of dollars investment in energy deals and promised to create a web of overland continental transport and logistics linkages to reach out to Europe. Obviously, the strategy is to embed China’s Western regions into a growth excitement and link them to European market. Washington has recently admitted that China’s plans “mirrored the US own thinking on the New Silk Route.”

China sent no troops to fight global terror outside. It only had to devise an Anti-Terror Structure under the SCO in Tashkent that affectively desisted Central Asian states from encouraging extremism. China might expand the ambit to bring Afghanistan into it. When the US moves out of Manas airport in Kyrgyzstan by July 2014, it will be seen as a victory for China.

In its Westward march, after purchasing the European treasury bonds, China’s new pattern of strategic infiltration is to control European rural and urban assets. China seeks new access points in Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and other countries where not only it plans to build cities and manufacturing hubs but also intends to go for large-scale commercial farming. Western analysts may surely get concerned about the political impact of China’s speedy foray.

In West Asia and Africa, the areas of traditionally Indian influence, Chinese interests appear focused on trading minerals, oil, and gas. China plans to pour more money in Latin America. Within the context of economic benefits of China’s engagements world over, the cynics still view China scavenging around for materials. Sceptics are disquiet about the trend creating a strategic imbalance and lose of influence of other powers. But China’s strategy seems not limited to resource exploitation. It has a much bigger vision than simply copy-cat Western-style imperialism. In all these places, China has made smart benign forward moves and already earned affable global image.
China Sets up New Norms of Relationship

China’s global stride had though begun prior to the tumbling of US treasury, but opportunity for it to make a strategic mark came when Washington got mired into global war against terror. Therefore, judging from China’s moves, its paramount interest appears less about outmanoeuvring others but they seem more about eagerness to learn from the mistakes of the West including from the process of economic downfall. Earlier, the Chinese learnt from the Soviet-type implosion, this time they seem to be learning from the mistakes of another superpower moving on the path of gradual decline.

In trying to understand the causes of existing global drift, the Chinese academic discourse frequently attribute, even the advent of global terrorism, to the lopsided process of globalization that has been underway in the world development pattern for decades. Globalization process, the Chinese notice, had allowed large-scale capital flows, transfer of technology, goods, and ideas across the world, which in the process brought about strategic disparities. The conflict of interests finally gave birth to terrorism to which the US had to face up in the form of 9/11.

Therefore, China’s understanding of the world problems seems reflected in its response to the global challenges i.e., governance, security, trade, and environment etc. Notably, China became closer to the US in the 9/11 aftermath, but Beijing stayed away from participating in the global war against terror. Instead, China only profited by getting its Uighur separatists led by ETIM on the American terrorist watch list. By staying out, China avoided being indicted for pursuing anti-Islamic policy that would dent its political, commercial and investment clout in the Islamic world. All in all the lessons China appeared to have learnt include, a) how a superpower with global reach ultimately becomes prone to or target of terrorist attacks, b) how the Western-style counter-terror strategy fail, c) how terrorism entanglement can bring to the fore domestic economic downward spiral and risk for decline in power. Importantly, Chinese know that if the role of the US on the global stage narrows down further, rising superpower of China could risk a similar danger perhaps with grater magnitude.

Certainly, Chinese are keenly watching the residual impact of the evolving pattern of conflict of ideas and interests manifesting, for example, in the form of ‘Arab Spring’ which have brought extremists to sway power in some West Asian states. China’s West Asia policy, therefore, seems firmly based on preventing chaos not only on the external front, but also for China own security.

It is not that China hasn’t dealt with terrorism. Beijing has so far avoided putting terror on agenda because the issue is linked to China territorial interests. China’s terror definition therefore largely remained indistinct and instead a nebulous phrase ‘three evil’ threat was coined to cover ‘separatism, religious extremism and international terrorism’. Beijing also so far shun ‘pre-emptive strike’-type counter-terror strategy knowing it would trigger more social reactions; instead it had long relied on a diplomatic strategy of sustaining a comfy and incentivising nexus with states having potential to sponsor terror in China. However, amid ‘real threat’ being perceived lately, China, it seems, is considering a fresh draft bill for defining ‘terrorism’ more precisely to be approved by the State Council. But, China may still be loath to imitate Western strategy, even though it will continue to upgrade ‘drone attack’ deterrence capabilities. Internationally, China is likely to pursue more nuanced politico-economic idiom envisaged for achieving a relatively more balanced and equitable global development pattern as counter-terror strategy. This sounds more like laying a socialistic pattern, but the idea perhaps is to reduce the scope for social and political frictions.

China has unveiled a slew of economic reforms intending to curb state capitalism and move for more privatization. This is expected to create a better economic climate and ensure high growth in the next three or four decades. Out of necessity and to avoid Soviet-type implosion, China’s recent economic reforms – disbanding of SOEs - could potentially alter the rules of global economic competition not limited to trade and investment. In its economic rebalancing act, China is going to shift the focus away from exports to domestic consumption. In a nutshell, it seeks transition to a western-style service and consumption driven economy that will boost urban population. This means China becomes less a manufacturer of goods and more an importer of commodities i.e., food, consumer commodities. This is bound to have global impact. It is here, when China wants to venture out globally, it seeks to prepare responses to face future global challenges and in the process establish new norms of relationship. Of course, India’s efforts have been to think in this direction for the role it is seeking in the global order. Prime Minister has alluded to the impact globalization which is nurturing intense competition and rivalries among nations in the security domain. As the main players in the globalization process both China and India should try to understand the evolving pattern and at the moment both are moving in the direction of adopting a common approach to global issues of importance.

The third part of the series will appear on Saturday.

Part I - India’s Strategic Articulation: Shift in Thinking

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.
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Maritime Security Of India: Future Challenges


Admiral (Retd.) Arun Prakash
November 26, 2013
I consider it a privilege to be here this evening, to deliver the YB Chavan memorial talk, honouring an illustrious Defence Minister during whose tenure the IDSA was founded.

Shri YB Chavan, freedom-fighter, social-activist and veteran politician was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra when his services were sought by PM Nehru, at a crucial juncture in our history; to shoulder the defence portfolio in 1962. His firm and resolute handling of national security issues after the trauma of the Sino-Indian war evoked admiration all round. After holding a succession of key portfolios, Sh. Chavan eventually rose to be deputy PM in 1979, but he is best remembered for his contribution as one of India’s ablest Defence Ministers.

With Navy Day just around the corner, this seems to be a most appropriate time to be discussing nautical issues, and there could not be a topic more pertinent than maritime security.

This is a term which connotes different things to different navies. While some perceive maritime security in a narrow sense as measures for force-protection and defense against sabotage, others include actions to combat terrorism and illegal activities like piracy and trafficking; still others expand it to embrace the protection of territorial waters and sea lanes. Adopting an inclusive approach, we in India define maritime security as; comprising a collection of all the issues that pertain to the seas, and have a bearing on national security. These include, inter-alia, seaborne trade and infrastructure for its pursuit, management of sea resources, environmental issues and employment of naval forces.

However, for those of you whose mental picture of ‘maritime security’ evokes images of warships and submarines, a lot has happened in the recent past to draw comfort from. The nuclear reactor of India’s first ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) went critical on 9th August 2013 in Vishakhapatnam, to be followed, three days later, by the launch of the indigenous aircraft-carrier in Kochi. Earlier, in 2012, a Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine had been inducted on a 10-year lease. Over the next decade, the Indian Navy (IN) navy expects delivery of; seven stealth frigates, six diesel submarines, and 30 other warships, apart from over 150 fighters, maritime-patrol aircraft and helicopters. And even as I speak, our brand-new aircraft-carrier INS Vikramaditya is preparing to sail from Russia on her homeward-bound voyage,

All these acquisitions will cost the exchequer in the region of about 25-30 billion US$, and we must note two important aspects in this context. Firstly, there are not many navies, world-wide, which have seen, in recent years, or are likely to see; in the midst of a global economic downturn, such significant accretions to their order-of-battle. Secondly, this force build-up, once complete, will not only enhance the Navy’s combat capability by an order of magnitude, but would also alter the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region, provided necessary strategic guidance is forthcoming from government.

The question that begs an answer, then, is: if such a happy prospect prevails at sea, why do we need to discuss maritime security in today’s forum?
Ambit of Maritime Security

Hate Destroys

Posted: 28 Nov 2013 
By Saad Hafiz

The sectarian schism, which leads to unending violence, is probably the most deadly of Pakistan’s list of self-inflicted problems. The historic manipulation of religion by the state for political purposes has sowed the seeds of hateful intra-religious sectarian division. Sectarian violence is not only pervasive, it also accentuates divisions within Pakistan and underlines the ineptness of the government and security services in stemming this phenomenon. During the last 35 years, thousands of people, mostly from minority sects, have been killed and thousands more maimed in attacks by zealots from rival sects in Pakistan. For hardline Sunni sectarian groups, Ahmedis, Shias and even fellow Sunnis are fair game. Their lethal attacks on Shia ulema (clerics) and professionals have generated a violent Shia backlash. The French political philosopher, Montesquieu said, “If a republic is small, it is destroyed by a foreign force; if it is large, it is destroyed by an internal vice.” Pakistan is at that crossroad as the purveyors of a contemptuous sectarianism ruthlessly sweep the land.

Religious slogans and symbolism were widely used during the campaign for Pakistan’s creation, and remain a potent rallying cry for religion-based politics. Sectarianism can also be attributed to the divergent forces that led to the creation of Pakistan. However, sectarianism in Pakistan today has very little to do with intrinsic religious differences or deeply rooted and irreconcilable cultural differences between groups or with 1,400 years of Islamic history. Contemporary sectarianism has more to do with the projection of majority power and achievement of political aims. It has been helped by the state taking upon itself the role to determine who is and who is not a true Muslim, which has raised religious identity and religious correctness to become larger issues in Pakistan’s political discourse. As the state has increasingly taken on an Islamic character, sectarian differences have become even more firmly embedded in society.

Past governments, particularly since the 1970s, have tolerated significant levels of intimidation and attacks on minorities. Some actively stoked the demonisation of minority religious sects to remain in power. It has been endlessly useful to ruling elites, demagogues and dictators to have some minority to blame for problems, to deflect outrage from their own failures and to bind an otherwise fractious community together against a common enemy. Even secular civilian and military leaders found it expedient to argue, from time to time, that the nation must mobilise to fend off threats to Islam or to Pakistan’s Islamic ideology. These leaders might or might not have truly believed in sectarian differences but they are perfectly happy to take advantage of them when it suits their goals. The painful reality is that sectarianism proved too useful to too many powerful actors, and too compelling a narrative in a violent, turbulent and uncertain time, to be avoided. Conditions for state failure — uncertainty, fear and economic hardship — have added to the toxic conditions for sectarianism to gain traction.

The proliferation and entrenchment of sectarian rhetoric over the previous decade have been especially destructive. The sectarian incitement, which pollutes sections of the media, and which floods through politicised mosques and religious networks, provides the master frame that increasingly makes sense to people who, a decade ago, would have angrily waved such rhetoric away. Televised slaughter, rumours of sectarian or ethnic targeting and the wide circulation of hostile rhetoric are a benefit, not an unfortunate side product of their efforts. This ratcheting effect is the reason for the deepest concern about the trends of the last few years. Sectarian promoters might think that they can turn the hatred on and off as it suits their interests but, at some point, these differences become self-sustaining and internalised. It is far easier to generate and mobilise sectarian animosities than it is to calm them down.
The way back from the abyss will require that deeply entrenched, divisive sectarian narratives change and find wide public circulation and resonance. It will also require the management of the social and political role of religion on numerous institutional levels. A factor that may assist in reversing sectarianism is that the sectarian militias, which were used and controlled by the military for strategic and ideological purposes, have turned against their former masters and bankrollers. The all-powerful military may now have a stake in taking up the serious challenge of rolling back extremist beliefs.

The counter-sectarian narrative could be built around the following argument: first, a modern state should be founded on the basis of democracy and secularism; second, politics and religion should be separable; third, religion is not a nation-building and state consolidation tool; fourth, majoritarianism cannot be the basis of tyranny and last, pluralism and political and cultural differences are essential in a democratic society. Perhaps Pakistan can redeem itself on this basis and crawl out of the sectarian mess it has put itself in. Otherwise, for the foreseeable future, sectarian Islamist militancy will remain a serious threat to Pakistan and regional stability.

The Mullahs are coming!
Posted: 28 Nov 2013 
By Sher Sultan

The Mullas are coming! They are coming in all hues and shades. All styles of facial hair are on display. With close cropped beard, to a totally unkempt one, with heavy moustache accompanying a beard, to a solo beard with clean shaven upper lip – these are not just random fashion statements. Every specific facial hair style represents a specific school of thought, commonly known as a FIRQA. The truth of the school is articulated not just through facial hair style, but through the apparel as well. The close cropped bearded one believes in all secular dresses, and partakes of all secular professions, becoming an engineer, a doctor, or a professor. One of them was teaching me at the Executive MBA classes at I.B.A., and never let go of any opportunity to ridicule modernity, highlight the great conspiracies of the USA, the Freemasons, the Trilateral Commission and curse the outspoken Salman Taseer, and appreciated his killer’s dare, likening him to Ghazi Ilm Din of pre-Pakistan days. He idealized the Brotherhood groups gaining electoral victories in Egypt and other Mid East countries during the Arab Spring, and seemed quite certain that the Pakistan fruit is ripe to fall into his lap very soon. Rest of the fashion spectrum includes black turban and tunic inspired by the famous Iranian fashion icon, white turban with white tunic, and a cheque scarf hung loosely on the left shoulder, green turban with a tail-piece hanging loose like a long pony tail, and a great variety of skull-caps. The interesting fact is that each one of these groups are trying very hard to look like Mohammad, the Prophet as he was described by his contemporaries in various accounts, as there is no picture of him to emulate.

Ignore Karzai’s Arrogant Insults

Published: November 28, 2013 

WASHINGTON — What is going on with President Hamid Karzai? The world’s only superpower, leading a coalition of some 50 nations, is willing to stay on in his country after a war that has already lasted a dozen years and cost the United States more than $600 billion and more than 2,000 fatalities — and yet the Afghan president keeps throwing up roadblocks.

The latest insult is his decision to hold off on signing a bilateral security agreement, the legal basis for American forces to remain in his country past 2014, on the grounds that his successor should have that prerogative next year. Mr. Karzai has also thrown in new demands — just when we thought the security agreement was a done deal. For one, he now seems to believe he can compel the United States to release all Afghan detainees in the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay.

Certainly, part of Mr. Karzai’s attitude comes from the umbrage he has taken at various Americans, especially in recent years. Some United States officials did make mistakes in their handling of the complex Afghan leader, lecturing him in public too stridently about matters such as Afghan government corruption. There can be little doubt, though, that Mr. Karzai’s own peevishness and ingratitude have played a large role.

In addition, Mr. Karzai believes, accurately perhaps, that the talks over the bilateral security agreement provide him with his last remaining leverage with Washington. He is wrong in thinking that Afghanistan remains a center of geopolitics, the location of a modern-day “great game” like the 19th-century competition between Britain and Russia, or the 1980s Cold War struggle pitting the Soviet Union against the United States and others. But Mr. Karzai is right that we are concerned enough about Afghanistan’s future to wish to maintain a presence even after NATO’s combat mission expires in just 13 months. He also rightly perceives that the United States wants to keep a vigilant eye on extremist groups in tribal regions of northwest Pakistan.

Against this backdrop, American officials should stay calm. It would be a mistake to let one man — increasingly detached from Afghan public and political opinion — determine the fate of the American role in South Asia. Even with Osama bin Laden dead, the stakes remain high: Extremist groups from Al Qaeda to Lashkar-e-Taiba (the Pakistani group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attack) could easily put down roots again in Afghanistan if the country were to fall to the Taliban after NATO’s departure.

The recent assembly of Afghan tribal elders, a loya jirga, again demonstrated what we already knew — that the Afghan people want us to stay. After the defeat of the Soviets in 1989, civil war, state collapse and Taliban victory followed. The Afghan people have seen this movie already; they do not want the sequel. The loya jirga urged Mr. Karzai to sign the agreement; he demurred.

The main candidates in Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election also want us to stay. A poll by the Moby Group in Kabul, Afghanistan’s largest private media organization, suggests that the two leading contenders are former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. Both are pro-Western; both are smart and competent. The same is true of Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul, said by some to be President Karzai’s choice to succeed him after elections in April. Other candidates also support a continuing American and international presence.

So the United States should stay patient. It can say to Mr. Karzai, If you want to reinforce Afghan democracy by letting your successor sign this security deal, we can live with that; in the meantime, working with your ministers and other leaders, we will plan on staying — precisely as if the accord were already in place.

5 Questions on China’s Air Defense Identification Zone

By Justin McDonnell
November 29, 2013
In The Diplomat’s continued coverage of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), earlier in the week Justin McDonnell discussed China’s recent moves with David M. Finkelstein vice president of the Center for Naval Analyses and director of CNA’s China Studies Division. Below is a transcript.

1. What does Beijing hope to gain by establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that covers a large part of the East China Sea?

Over the past year, China has been engaged in various military and para-military activities aimed at keeping a physical presence in the vicinity of the disputed islands as a means of asserting its claims to sovereignty and as an attempt to pressure Japan into acknowledging that there is a dispute between Tokyo and Beijing over ownership.

2. Are we seeing a China that is embarking on a bolder, more assertive foreign policy not only toward Japan but other countries as well?

China is certainly being assertive in its approach toward Japan and the dispute over the islands, the latest declaration of the ADIZ upping the ante considerably. Ironically, in late October 2013 Xi Jinping presided over an important internal work conference on foreign affairs that emphasized the need to create a more positive foreign policy and security environment on China’s periphery, linking this to Beijing’s ability to achieve some of its key domestic objectives. Clearly, such a work conference was necessitated by the diplomatic challenges to Beijing from some quarters in Southeast Asia resulting from China’s recent behavior in some of the maritime disputes in the south. Although smiles to the south are now the order of the day, on the issue of the East China Sea and Japan, Beijing seems to have drawn a line. This, the Chinese would adamantly argue, is the result of Japan changing the situation with the purchase of the islands in September 2012. Those arguments notwithstanding, the most recent move by Beijing is not helpful.

3. What do you make of China’s ADIZ and its inclusion of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands as well as the waters off Jeju Island that South Korea claims as its own?

Although the Chinese announcement of the ADIZ reassured that it was not aimed at any country, it is very clear that Japan and the islands in dispute are at the center of this initiative. The fact that the PRC-declared ADIZ overlaps with that of South Korea quickly regionalizes the situation beyond Japan.

Afghanistan-Pakistan Border: Back to Politics as Usual?

Afghan protestors burn Pakistan flag.
Image Credit: REUTERS/Parwiz

The risks of conflict and collapse post-2014 are significant, but disaster is not inevitable.
By Jerry Meyerle 
November 29, 2013
As the U.S. draws down its forces in Afghanistan, disagreements between Afghanistan and Pakistan over their disputed border are again coming to the fore. Over a decade of intense U.S. involvement has shaped the region according to priorities set in Washington. Long-festering regional issues were pushed into the background in favor of combatting al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The insurgency, which spans both countries, is becoming an increasingly bilateral problem – a trend that is likely to continue as the U.S. pulls back from southwest Asia, leaving the region’s leaders to deal with the Taliban threat amongst themselves. Policymakers in Islamabad and Kabul are beginning to forge closer ties as U.S. involvement steadily declines and the shadow of further reductions in Western funding and force levels looms large.

Depending on what happens over the next few years, renewed conflict over the border could lead to fresh bouts of proxy warfare, with intelligence services in both countries backing different factions. Elements of the Pakistani leadership believe that the U.S. will cut and run and that the Afghan government will not survive, making a return to the Taliban and proxy warfare all but inevitable.

On the other hand, a more stable and cooperative Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship could pave the way for an eventual end to fighting that has continued almost unabated since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The Taliban insurgency is ultimately a political problem involving the Pashtuns of the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier and their governments in Kabul and Islamabad.

There are constituencies in both countries, especially among professional military and police officers, who believe that cooperation is possible and necessary. Despite disagreements on many key issues, as well as pervasive mistrust and clashes along the border, relations between Afghan and Pakistani security forces have come a long way over the last decade – largely as a result of U.S. and NATO efforts to improve coordination along the border.

Thorns in the Relationship

Relations between the two countries have been particularly strained ever since the Taliban were forced from power in 2001. Over the years, Afghan leaders have become convinced that Pakistan is actually aiding the Taliban – especially its most virulent faction, the Haqqani Network, which is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in Kabul. They believe that Pakistan intends to destabilize their government and bring the Taliban back to power.

As U.S. forces have pulled back from areas along the border in Afghanistan, elements of the Pakistani Taliban have taken refuge inside Afghanistan. From there they have targeted Pakistani military posts. The Pakistani army has responded by lobbing thousands of artillery shells into Afghanistan, leading to fierce condemnations in Kabul.

In Search of a Mission in Afghanistan

Paul Pilla

Paul R. Pillar |
November 26, 2013

With attention justifiably focused on the new nuclear deal with Iran, much less public notice has been taken of steps to make America's longest war even longer. Negotiations with a difficult Hamid Karzai over a bilateral security agreement (including a just-completed trip to Afghanistan by national security adviser Susan Rice) aim to provide a legal framework for keeping American troops in Afghanistan until 2024. U.S. forces intervened in the Afghan civil war in 2001. If a U.S. military presence continues for the duration of a new agreement, that's 23 years. Some soldiers who were part of the early deployments could have come home, gotten married, and had kids who will enlist and serve in the same war their parents did. The post-2014 missions are supposed to be training and counterterrorism, but amid an ongoing war, U.S. troops will be at war as long as they are there.

Karzai has been acting somewhat strangely lately, most recently with his refusal to sign promptly a draft agreement even though its endorsement by an Afghan loya jirga should have given him sufficient political cover to do so. The demands he has most recently been making of the United States as supposed conditions of signing sound reasonable at first glance, but upon further reflection it is hard to see exactly what the Obama administration could be expected to do in response. One demand is for help in getting peace talks going with the Taliban. The United States is already on the right side of that one. It always could give this cause more effort and priority, but with other diplomatic tasks—especially the Iran negotiations—on the plates of the president and secretary of state, it is probably wise that they not try to burn much more of their energy on this one. The other demand is for release of all Afghan citizens from Guantanamo. As Karzai should know, Mr. Obama's freedom of action to realize his goal of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo has been severely curtailed by Congress, although the Senate recently gave a glimmer of hope that this might change.

Karzai is a short-timer lame duck, and some of these negotiating problems may go away when he completes his term. But there are more fundamental problems with the American approach to Afghanistan that have to do with American politics and stale American conventional wisdom. President Obama avoided what would have been a new political issue when he firmly and correctly refused an earlier Karzai demand to apologize for the actions of American troops in raiding Afghan homes. Against the backdrop of the imaginary “apology tour” he was alleged to have taken in his first term, it is easy to imagine the hay that his domestic political opponents would have made of any acquiescence in that demand. But Mr. Obama is still burdened by the role that Afghanistan has played as the “good war” that has been a counterpoint to the bad war in Iraq that to his credit he opposed from the beginning. Bad war or not, his opponents criticized him for not trying hard enough to seal a deal with the Iraqi government to keep some U.S. troops there. Against that backdrop—and with the importance of his efforts to use diplomacy to avoid what would be another very bad war, with Iran—he cannot afford to do things in Afghanistan that make him look like an isolationist wimp. And so the push for a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan continues.

The stale conventional wisdom is what has led many Americans and American policymakers of both parties to view impoverished Afghanistan, a graveyard of empires half a globe away from the United States, as somehow so key to U.S. security that it would warrant keeping U.S. troops in a civil war there for nearly a quarter century. This attitude is another of the unfortunate aftereffects of the national trauma that was 9/11. The attitude ignores how terrorist threats are not based primarily on possession of a piece of real estate, how the Afghan Taliban has no incentive (at least not without being under constant U.S. attack) for playing host again to al-Qaeda, how even if a piece of real estate is useful to terrorists Afghanistan is hardly the only piece available, and how the radical Sunni terrorist threat has already diffused far beyond Afghanistan.

Even if negotiations with the Taliban acquire momentum, future political arrangements in Afghanistan will depend mostly on what they always have depended on there: a lot of local deals rather than one single national one. And even if U.S. military trainers and advisers make good progress in imparting skills to Afghan troops, the loyalties of those troops will be as fragile and fungible as they always have been in Afghanistan.

The zero option for what kind of military presence the United States should have in Afghanistan after 2014 should not be regarded as just a failure of negotiations. It should be regarded as a possible outcome desirable in its own right. Karzai's frustrating negotiating behavior might be a useful hook for helping to get us there.

"Delusions" and Disappointment in Pakistan

Lisa Curtis |
November 29, 2013

While testifying before a House of Representatives Joint Subcommittee hearing last month, I raised the uncomfortable fact that, despite receiving nearly $27 billion in U.S. aid over the last decade, Islamabad continues to pursue a self-defeating and dangerous policy of supporting some terrorists, while fighting others. Moreover, as terrorist bombs continue to explode—taking the lives of both Pakistani civilians and security personnel—Islamabad is growing its nuclear-weapons arsenal at a faster clip than any other nation in the world today.

If you want a better understanding of why U.S. policy has failed so miserably in Pakistan, you should read Husain Haqqani’s latest book, Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. In this fast-paced and highly readable book, Haqqani illuminates the mistakes of U.S. policy toward Pakistan since the country gained independence from Britain just over sixty-five years ago.

Through careful research and drawing from his own experience as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US from 2008 to 2011, Haqqani shows that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been, in his own words, “a tale of exaggerated expectations, broken promises, and disastrous misunderstandings.”

Haqqani does not reserve his criticism for U.S. policies. He also explains that Pakistan has its own delusions: “Instead of basing international relations on facts, Pakistanis have become accustomed to seeing the world through the prism of an Islamo-nationalist ideology.” During partition of the Subcontinent, Pakistan was apportioned fewer military and financial resources than India, and saw bloody communal riots break out during the migration of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs from one side to the other. This led Pakistani leaders to develop a siege mentality, believing that Hindu India planned to “force Pakistan to its knees.” To unify the state and justify the establishment of a robust military, Pakistan’s early leaders reinforced the idea of Pakistan serving as a protector of the people’s Islamic identity.

Haqqani provides rich detail on the inner workings of U.S. policy toward Pakistan during a crucial period of U.S history, when the fear of Soviet expansion was at its height in the 1950s. He describes how Pakistan exploited this fear by holding itself up as a Muslim bulwark against communism and as a bridge to the Middle East.

But Pakistan never intended to play a strong role against communism, and instead sought to get the US on its side against its larger and threatening neighbor, India. Moreover, in its quest to develop an Islamo-nationalist identity, it cultivated anti-Western Islamists.

While faulting U.S. officials, such as former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, for buying into the “delusions” created by Pakistan’s leaders, Haqqani credits other foreign-policy heavyweights such as George Kennan for seeing through the Pakistani spin and recognizing that Islamabad’s value to Washington was limited by its divergent strategic interests. Kennan encouraged Pakistanis to avoid depending on U.S. assistance, while Dulles contended that Pakistani policies could be influenced by U.S. military aid.

Six decades later, it is apparent that Kennan’s view was closer to the mark. Despite massive amounts of U.S. aid to Pakistan over the last decade, the two countries do not share strategic interests, and Islamabad has not changed its fundamental strategy of supporting militant groups such as the Taliban, the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.

Husain Haqqani (no relation to Jalaluddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani terrorist network) exposes another misconception surrounding US-Pakistan relations by revealing that anti-American sentiment is often fueled—not by U.S. actions—but by Pakistani officials seeking more U.S. aid. In essence, the US spends millions on public diplomacy programs to counter anti-Americanism that is often purposely generated by Pakistani officials trying to bolster their arguments for why the US needs to support them in their efforts to control a volatile population.

“Pakistani public opinion was being shaped against the U.S. long before U.S. foreign policy provided Pakistanis a reason for anti-Americanism,” Haqqani notes. He recounts how major demonstrations were organized with government support outside the US consulate in Karachi in 1979, at the same time Pakistani mobs set fire to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, killing two Americans.

According to Haqqani, one of the biggest mistakes U.S. officials make when developing policy toward Pakistan is putting too much stock in the effectiveness of developing personal relationships with their Pakistani counterparts and believing that good rapport with a power player (usually a military leader) will elicit cooperation on issues important to the United States.

This was the case with former U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen and his relationship with Pakistani Chief of the Army General Ashfaq Kayani. Mullen met Kayani twenty-six times over the course of four years. But shortly before he retired in September 2011, the admiral unleashed his frustration over Pakistan’s continuing support to the Haqqani network during congressional testimony. Calling the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence, Mullen surprised observers with his uncharacteristic bluntness. It seemed Mullen had finally shed his delusions.

It is rare that a foreign ambassador has such deep insight into the flaws of U.S. policy. But Husain Haqqani—being an accomplished academic teaching at a prestigious U.S. university and having served in high-profile positions in various Pakistani governments over the last 25 years—has a unique vantage point.

Haqqani has described with authority the problems inherent in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. Let’s hope U.S. policymakers take note and adjust their Pakistan policies accordingly. For starters, the U.S. should strictly condition further military aid to Pakistan on it cracking down on terrorism in all its forms. In the last year, the Obama administration has waived certifications on U.S. military aid to Pakistan on two separate occasions. If the administration continues to rely on its waiver authority, it will further undermine its ability to influence Pakistani terrorism policies.

Secondly, the United States should focus more on developing ties to Pakistan’s civilian leadership and civil society.Thiswill help give voice to those Pakistanis interested in democracy and good governance and better U.S.-Pakistan ties.

Lastly, the United States needs to be clear-eyed about Pakistan’s differing goals in Afghanistan. While Washington seeks to limit the influence of Taliban ideology in the region, Islamabad wants the Taliban to gain power in Afghanistan to deny India influence there. The United States must be realistic about this disconnect, and avoid sacrificing good strategy in the false hope that placating Pakistan will make it more cooperative with U.S. interests in the region.

Haqqani has provided a well-documented and interesting account of the policy disconnects between the United States and Pakistan. His book should make a tremendous contribution toward grounding U.S. policy toward Pakistan in more realistic assumptions that will help avoid future crises between the two countries.

Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow in the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation.