2 December 2013

An economic agenda for India 2020

  December 2, 2013
Subramanian Swamy

The Indian financial system suffers from a hangover of cronyism and corruption that have brought the government budgets on the verge of bankruptcy

Setting a 2020 Perspective Economic Agenda for India requires clarity about the framework within which economic policy choices have to be made. There is a wide global consensus today that democracy and competitive market economy provide that framework. Democracy is a system of governance by consent of the people. Democracy has become the trend, the accepted system of government globally, and it is spreading worldwide.
Furthermore, devolved democracies better manage contradictions and conflicts arising out of a heterogeneous society and provide effective feedback through an independent press to enable corrective action by the government. It empowers people to question the authorities and make them accountable in an election. 

Moreover, the comparative economic results in East and West Germany, North and South Korea, China before reform and China now, have conclusively proved that a competitive market system driven by incentives is superior to a coercive, state-controlled system, and that transparent democracy is a better system of governance than a closed dictatorship.
With the disintegration of the USSR into 16 countries in 1991, the comparative economic development theory has changed its focus from a study of alternative systems to alternative governance models of democracy, market system and globalisation, that is, change of focus from dictatorship vs. democracy, and state ownership vs. competitive market, to harmonising freedom and choice, with regulation, and how much public sector and how much private, and how the emancipating and enabling power of democracy is to be balanced with the development of a profit-driven and competitive efficient market — what regulatory democratic institutions must do to promote the efficient allocation of resources with good, transparent and accountable governance. 

Governance norms, if properly enforced, can enable India to grow at 12 per cent a year by efficiently using the current 36 per cent rate of investment — by reducing the current incremental capital output ratio from 4.0 to 3.0. This implies a 36 divided by 3 per cent growth rate in GDP, or 12 per cent a year, which will mean a doubling of GDP every 72 divided by 12 years, or just six years, and that of per capita income doubling every seven years. This growth rate can take us to the league of the top three nations of the world, of the U.S., China and India, by 2020 and help overtake China in the next two decades thence. That should be the goal of governance for us today. 

Loss and damage claims in climate justice

December 2, 2013 01

 Sujatha Byravan Sudhir Chella Rajan

AP GOING FORWARD: As India will be one of the most severely affected countries by climate change, it would be in its best interests to understand the issue better and join forces with other developing countries.

Compensation or reparation for damages associated with any country’s contribution to historical emissions amounts to a ‘duty to make amends’ and is not an act of charity

India joined nearly 140 countries in staging a walkout during the recent climate negotiations in Warsaw to oppose the attempt to avoid creating a strong institutional mechanism to address “loss and damage.” In the final moments of the conference, however, some form of compromise was found on loss and damage as well as a future course of action to “initiate or intensify domestic preparations for their intended nationally determined contributions” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Notwithstanding India’s overt solidarity with other developing countries, its lack of engagement in discussions on loss and damage indicates that it does not have a clear understanding of the broader ethical and political implications of the concept, nor how it could be important strategically.

Impact of extreme weather

The term “loss and damage” was introduced into international climate negotiations by small island nations and least developed countries in Cancun in 2010, and is now formally a part of the language of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. As a legal concept, it conveys the historical liability for climate change that is largely borne by the rich countries of the world. During the past century-and-a-half or so, carbon has been mined in enormous quantities from the depths of the earth and burned in engines generating vast amounts of goods and services while releasing about two trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide, much of which remains in the atmosphere today. Developed regions such as the United States, Europe and Japan are responsible for more than two-thirds of the stock of carbon dioxide, with the remaining portion due to India, China and the rest of the developing world.

Climate change is expected to cause severe droughts in some parts of the world and flooding in others, and coastal erosion and an increased frequency of extreme weather events such as cyclones, tornadoes, storm surges and heatwaves. One of the sad ironies, however, is that the countries that have emitted the least amount of greenhouse gases will suffer the worst impacts due to warming. People living on small islands, delta regions, those who will suffer droughts and floods and extreme events, are, for the most part, from poor countries, and the poorest from among them will be the worst affected. Bangladesh, which has been a minuscule contributor of greenhouse gases, will have most of its people at risk due to climate change.

Has India learnt any lessons?

Post 26/11, coastal security remains weak
T.V. Rajeswar

It is now five years since the attack on Mumbai took place in a brazen manner, blackening the faces of the security agencies of the country and demonstrating India's vulnerability to such attacks. The attack was carried out by a Lashkar-e-Taiba team at the instance of the ISI which sent the attackers on a boat from Karachi on November 22, 2008. The team encountered an Indian boat off the Gujarat coast, captured it and killed the occupants and threw them into the sea and continued their sailing to the Mumbai harbour. After reaching Mumbai, they landed at leisure and barged into the Taj Mahal Hotel and carried out a systematic killing of occupants, resulting in the death of 166 people. The attackers split into various groups and one of the teams went to Chhatrapati Shivaji terminal. One of the attackers, Ajmal Kasab, was wounded in the exchange of fire with the Mumbai security forces who were out on the streets. Kasab was the only person who was arrested alive and his interrogation yielded horrible facts of the ISI-LeT attack on Mumbai. Kasab was tried and sentenced to death, and was hanged on November 21, 2012, in Yerwada jail.

Five years since the Mumbai terror attacks there are still many holes in the security system which can be exploited by hostile forces

The main actor in the Mumbai attacks was a Pakistani American called David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani by birth. Headley was a CIA trained agent who was infiltrated into LeT by the CIA for finding out activities of al-Qaida. Headley became an ardent convert to the Pakistani cause. He was thoroughly brainwashed by Hafiz Saeed at Muridke headquarters of LeT. Headley also came under the influence of Ilyas Kashmiri, LeT commander and senior al-Qaida operative, and considered a potential successor to Osama bin Laden. Headley was able to visit Mumbai regularly on his American passport.

Levy and Scott-Clark, investigative journalists, have come out with their book "The Seige", describing in detail how the Mumbai attacks were conceived and carried out. The Americans "sacrificed Mumbai" by not tipping either the IB or R&AW. The CIA, which was the prime mover with the ISI taking the secondary role in operating Headley, chose to keep quiet about the activities and plans of Headley. This is because it considered Headley as the only person who was close to al-Qaida for snooping out their plans in the western world. The CIA put the blame on the Indian security agencies "for their incompetence" but never bothered to explain their deliberate silence over Headley and his activities in Mumbai.

Dangers of cuts in the defence budget

Lt Gen J.S. Bajwa (Retd)

India must strive to develop Comprehensive Nation Power (CNP) to tackle the challenges posed by the shift in the global strategic focus towards the Asia-Pacific region, marked by jostling between the US and China, as well as the intense competition among nations in the security arena despite growing inter-dependence”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the Defence Minister AK Antony and the three service chiefs during the Combined Commanders Conference in New Delhi in November, and (below) an IAF helicopter on a logistic support mission in snow-bound areas of Ladakh

The statement was made by the Prime Minister at the Combined Commanders Conference as reported by the media on November 23, 2013. In his address, to quote media reports, he warned that India might have to trim the defence budget due to the economic slowdown over the last two years. The armed forces will have to exercise “prudence” and “cut our coat according to our cloth” in their defence acquisition plans.

This comes three days after the media reported that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) had finally issued the Government Sanction Letter (GSL) to the Army for raising of the new Mountain Strike Corps (or as some insist to term it as ‘Strategic Reserve’) based on the approval of the same by the Cabinet Committee on Security on July 17, 2013. The GSL is the authority for the Army to initiate all processes for physically raising, equipping, locating and operationalising the Corps. It is also a concrete acceptance by the government of making available funds for this new raising.

However, the PM’s warning of a defence budget cut sends dichotomous signals. In addition, with the PM directing that there is need to exercise prudence in defence acquisitions and that the defence acquisition plans should bear in mind the need to cut the coat according to the cloth hints at a substantial slow down in the whole exercise. This latest direction of the PM will render the new Mountain Strike Corps as the first casualty of a budget cut. As reported earlier in the media, General VK Singh, former Chief of Army Staff, had apprised the PM of the existing “critical hollowness” of the Army in ammunition and equipment which was pegged at a staggering Rs 41,000 crore and would take several years for 100 per cent operational capability to be achieved, provided the defence budget caters for it and the procurement or indigenous Defence Public Sector units can manufacture and deliver these as required.
While the Prime Minister emphasised the need to tackle the challenges as will arise with the global strategic shift towards the Asia-Pacific Region, the likely defence budget cut indicated by him while addressing military commanders is an immediate dampener for the proposed modernisation and critical new raisings


- Ray’s world was deeply embedded in the ordinary
Like his films, Ray was deeply rooted in the culture of Bengal, but was simultaneously international. He straddled effortlessly the East and the West. Consequently, his films are culture-specific and yet manage to transcend language and cultural barriers. Probably that is why, even today, they run to packed houses in places like Los Angeles, where I recently had occasion to be witness to one such ecstatic reception. And it is not just the Indian diaspora that make up the appreciative crowd but a diverse international audience, three or four generations removed from Ray at that. Fifty years after they were made, viewers and film-makers alike continue to be moved and influenced by the wonder of Apu’s first glimpse of a train, the romance of Apur Sansar, the lyricism of the swing scene in Charulata, the memory game in Aranyer Din Ratri. In that regard, Ray’s films constitute a truly successful cross-over cinema that everybody now is aspiring to make.

Ray was often accused of being non-political by several contemporaries as well sections of the audience. To say that Ray’s films were not political would be to take a very narrow definition of politics. He was political but his approach was different. His protagonists are not political demagogues — except perhaps the malevolent Hirak Raja — but characters who are caught on the hinges of historical transformations, like the protagonists of Pratidwandi and Jana Aranya. These films are conversations with the shifting sands of the times through which he lived and which, in turn, shaped his films. The first phase of his career — coinciding with the hope and idealism of the newly emergent nation — saw him make what in effect are his finest films reflecting the spirit of the times. They reflected also his own upbringing, his education in music and the arts, and his belief in the confluence of the East and the West. This vision was both Tagorean and Nehruvian. The political and economic ideals of the Nehruvian era, however, began to disintegrate around the mid-1960s. The uncertainties of the era, the economic, political and social upheavals of the 1970s, found their way into Ray’s films: the alienation and waywardness of the urban youth in Pratidwandi and Jana Aranya and the collapse of the middle-class moral order in Seemabaddha. The grim portrayal of the 1943 Bengal famine in Ashani Sanket showed politics of that time, while Ghare Baire was a very contemporary critique of a Hindu majoritarian nationalism. A secular impulse ran through his films and he often made courageous forays into the domain of blind faith, superstition and religious bigotry (Devi, Mahapurush and Ganashatru). His films were not about political stances; it was about how politics affected people and altered their moral and ethical values.
The trouble with looking at Ray’s cinema is that his own formidable and impressive persona begins to mediate our understanding of his films. His personal charisma, his baritone voice, his erudition and encyclopedic knowledge, his familiarity and comfort with both Bengali and English, made him a towering personality. It has therefore been impossible to extricate him from his films. This has been both good and bad. For those who admired Ray uncritically, he became the avenue by which to understand his films. For those who did not, he became an art-house figure who was distant, unreachable and obscure. This combined with differences in regional sensibilities, lack of suitable marketing and distribution, and of course, the Bengali language has continued to impede a more wide-spread engagement with Ray’s films within the country. Few will disagree that language is an important part of Ray’s films. Those who know the Bengali language will inevitably get more out of his films and for the rest, much will be lost in translation. Contrary to popular perception, his films were not confined to the elite intelligentsia, but have been enjoyed by a large cross-section of audiences belonging to both the Bengals. Many in Bengal accused him of not taking the box office into consideration. Ray had this to say in response: “I did not actually do that. Not just me, no director would want his film to be watched only by his near and dear ones. Films are made for people — everyone wants as large a viewership as possible. I wanted the same for mine. But my own view of the box office is somewhat different from the accepted one. I know that audiences can be entertained even without the tradition- al elements of the box office.”

Are Europeans Giving Up on Europe?

Countries like Italy and Spain are turning away from the world, with grave consequences for the European project. 

Moisés Naím Nov 29 2013,
A protester participates in a demonstration against government austerity measures in Oviedo, Spain, on November 29. (Reuters)

The collective mood of a nation mired in a prolonged economic recession shows many of the symptoms of clinical depression: despair, fatalism, an inability to make decisions, lack of motivation, and irritability. This is one of the impressions I got from a recent trip to Spain and Italy, two nations I know well and visit often. While both countries have recently made small strides on the path to recovery, I nevertheless came away with the strong sense that their economies are in recession and their societies are in depression. In the course of my travels, I also felt more than ever before that Europeans have fallen out of love with Europe—or, more precisely, with the idea of building a Europe-wide union. 

Hopelessness and irascibility are present in spades in statements by politicians, activists, and opinion leaders, and in media reports on the mood of the “people in the street.” Pessimism is the default attitude, and there is a notable paucity of the kinds of exciting ideas and proposals that energize society. All of this is understandable. When a family suffers a major trauma, it is natural for its members to react by becoming more self-absorbed and withdrawing from the world. The same is true for countries. 

In both Italy and Spain—two of the hardest-hit economies in Europe—I found a tendency to turn inward and focus on events at home rather than developments abroad. My visit to Spain, for example, coincided with an incident in the Catalan Parliament in which a lawmaker took off his sandal and threatened Rodrigo Rato, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, who was testifying at a hearing about the large, bailed-out Spanish bank he had led, Bankia. Pessimism is the default attitude, and there is a notable paucity of exciting ideas and proposals.

Article 370: The untold story

By Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal
Issue Vol 26.1 Jan-Mar 2011 | Date : 01 Dec , 2013

Troops patrol in Kashmir

It is often not realized that among the causes of Kashmir problem – inclusion of plebiscite in the Instrument of Accession, reference of Kashmir to UN, halting Indian offensive when it was poised to drive out the invaders from Kashmir, Article 370 has played no less a part in preventing J&K from becoming an integral part of the Indian Union. Not many people are aware as how and why this Article was formulated and included in the Indian Constitution despite grave misgivings of Sardar Patel and indeed a large number of the members of Congress Working Committee and Constituent Assembly.

Article 370 was worked out in late 1947 between Sheikh Abdullah, who had by then been appointed Prime Minister of J&K by the Maharaja and Nehru, who kept the Kashmir portfolio with himself and kept Sardar Patel, the home minister, away from his legitimate function. Hence Nehru is answerable to all acts of commission and omission, consequences of which we are suffering till date as far as J&K is concerned.

“Why should a state of the Indian Union have a special status? It conveys a wrong signal not only to Kashmiris but also to the separatists, Pakistan and indeed the international community that J&K is still to become integral part of India, the sooner Article 370 is done away is better.”

While it was Mountbatten who persuaded Nehru to take the J&K issue to the UN, it was Sheikh Abdullah, who, driven by his ambition to be ruler of an independent Kashmir and his hatred for the Maharaja, persuaded Nehru to give special status to J&K. Among his reasons were – occupation of one third of J&K by Pakistan, reference to the UN and plebiscite. The most sinister aspect of proposed Article 370 was the provision that any changes could be brought about in it only by the concurrence of J&K assembly. Nehru’s promise that Article 370 was a temporary provision and will get eroded over a period of time has turned out to be a chimera. The first thing that Sheikh Abdullah got done was to abolish hereditary monarchy and redesignate him as Sadar-e-Riyasat who was to be elected by the Assembly. The accession of J&K State into Indian Union was approved by J&K Assembly only in 1956.
Dramatis Personal

Jawahar Lal Nehru The handsome Harrow educated aristocrat who gave up a life of luxury to join the freedom movement. Babu’s choose heir and darling of the masses, he had a fatal flaw. He cared for personalities rather than issues and institutions, be it selection of Lord Mountbatten as the first Governor General of free India, retaining a senior British officer as the Commander-in-Chief of India Army or backing Sheikh Abdullah to the hilt – his choices were unfortunate. Finally the Chinese aggression of 1962 shattered his image of a world statesman.

Sardar Patel The Iron Man of India — silent, strong and pragmatic with a complete hold on congress party organization — rightly credited with creating a unified India by integrating 565 princely states in it — he would have included Kashmir also in it if allowed to do so by Nehru. The only blot on him was the insinuation that he failed to protect his beloved Bapu. The slur only hastened his end in Dec 1950.

Nehrus promise that Article 370 was a temporary provision and will get eroded over a period of time has turned out to be a chimera.

Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Charismatic Kashmiri leader who never let go of his dream of ruling an independent Kashmir even while masquerading as a secularist — architect of Article 370 along with Nehru. He must share with Nehru the grave consequences. Lion of Kashmir brought Nehru under his spell from 1938 onwards to the extent that in May 1947 when he was arrested by the Maharaja for sedition, Nehru represented Sheikh as his lawyer and was even arrested in Jun 1947 by the Maharaja while trying to enter J&K. Finally Nehru had to eat the humble pie by arresting Sheikh Abdullah for sedition on 9 Aug 1953.

Maharaja Hari Singh The Maharaja saw an opportunity at the end of British Raj to keep Kashmir as the Switzerland of the East. Trying to repeat history when his ancestors – Maharaja Gulab Singh and Ranbir Singh gained handsome dividends by keeping aloof during the Sikh War and Great Mutiny, Hari Singh tried to sign a standstill Agreement with India and Pak at the time of independence, Pakistan signed, India declined. Maharaja died a lonely man, forced to abdicate and exiled from his beloved land.

A Subtler Intelligence

It takes more than lock-up interviews to tackle Islamist terror
Arun Sinha

Asif Ibrahim, the Intelligence Bureau chief, says the terrorist challenge from the Indian Mujahideen (IM) remains “undiminished”. And the prime minister warns of terrorist threats to disrupt elections. How do we meet the challenge of alienated Muslim youths getting radicalised on our own soil? Here’s what the IB chief offered as a solution: “We will rigorously pursue the leads emerging from investigations to neutralise the IM network.” I seriously wonder if that isn’t self-contradict­ory. If determined pursuit alone were to work, why would the IM challenge remain “undiminished”?

The IM cannot be stopped with surface-level policing. Its recruits grow on the soil of Muslim disaffection. And the violence of policing—especially if mistargeted—itself contributes to it. Don’t blame Pakistan alone for it. India shares the blame. It is just that Pakistan is naturally eager to tap aggrieved Muslim youth. Rahul Gandhi expressed concern over Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) allegedly talking to Muslim youth in Muzaffarnagar after the recent riots there. Why would these youths be talking to the ISI if our institutions had provi­ded full safety to Muslims of the region and immediately addressed the friction that led to the rioting? We should never give room for the erosion of the minorities’ sense of belonging.

The Muslim community is deeply alienated. It does not know where to look for support. Every ‘secular’ political party has cheated Muslims, the Congress above all. Secularism is like a hill stream that cascades on the slopes of political rhetoric but dries out on the sands of governance. Then there is the alarming spread of aggressive Hindutva forces. On one side, attackers; on the other side, no protectors. Muslims feel cornered. The isolation is made worse with stigmatisation. There is a school of thought that is predisposed to seeing them and projecting them as a community of blood-thirsty savages. Some are taken in by that sort of propaganda.

Is it Time to Shred the 'Paper Tiger'?

Posted By Catherine A. Traywick 
Friday, November 29, 2013

At a press briefing at the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, a reporter asked a question that seems to come up whenever China attempts to do anything of global significance: Is China a paper tiger? His question pertained to China's controversial new air defense identification zone, and the government's failure to respond when the United States defied it by flying two B-52 bombers through the area. At the briefing, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson deflected the question, saying: "The word paper tiger has its special meaning. You should look it up."

Well, we did. And guess what: Everyone has a different definition.

Journalists seem to never tire of comparing China, in one way or another, to a paper tiger. Is China's economy a paper tiger? Are its cyber threats a paper tiger? How about its banks? Or it's ability to innovate? The list goes on. Apparently, everyone wants to make a paper tiger out of China. Ironically, it was Mao Zedong who helped popularize the phrase that journalists have now come to rely on when disparaging the country he shaped. But in Mao's usage, it was the United States, not China, that deserved to be called a paper tiger. In a 1956 interview, he had this to say about U.S. imperialism: "In appearance [U.S. imperialism] is very powerful but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of, it is a paper tiger. Outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain."

The paper tiger, according to Mao, has two distinguishing characteristics: It's shallow show of strength and its disengagement from ordinary people. "The wind and the rain" refer to the masses, both in the United States and elsewhere, who will batter the tiger until it finally crumbles. Could this apply to China? To find out, we took Mao's 'paper tiger' interview and replaced all mention of the United States, Americans, and imperialism with the words "China" and "Chinese." Here's an excerpt:

U.S., China Scoreless After One

November 30, 2013
Xi strikes out, Biden comes to the plate, score tied

By Michael Auslin

Chinese President Xi Jinping

A lot has been written in the past week about China’s new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, including by me both on NRO and Politico. Given the Obama administration’s recent flailing on Iran and Syria (not to mention Obamacare), it was easy to assume that the distracted White House would try to sweep China’s new policy under the rug.

I’ll be the first to admit I was too pessimistic, though part of me also assumed that the Chinese challenge was such low-hanging fruit that the administration couldn’t possibly miss out on an easy chance to swat Beijing’s pretensions. Now the first inning has been played, and what follows is my geopolitical box score:

1. Chinese President Xi Jinping has struck out (remember, though, this is only his first plate appearance in this particular game).

Just a week after reports surfaced about how he had taken extraordinary power over defense and security policymaking at the latest Communist-party gathering, he has been shown to be way too overconfident at the plate. China’s ADIZ itself is not a new instrument; as has been noted, Japan has one that’s even larger (for a good article and map, see here). Xi’s attempt to carve out a sphere of predominance backfired because it was so clearly aimed at confronting Japan over the Senkaku islands, and indeed overlapped Japan’s ADIZ, in addition to South Korea’s. Beijing further riled feathers with its precipitous demands that all flights had to identify themselves, regardless of whether they were actually approaching Chinese territory, or it would engage in “emergency defensive measures.” All this made Xi and the government seem like loose cannons.

So far, their strategy has backfired on the military side, hence the strikeout analogy. Within 24 hours, the U.S. Air Force flew two B-52s from Guam into the new zone, and Japan sent up to ten planes, including early-warning and surveillance aircraft and fighter jets. While China said it scrambled its own fighters to monitor the allied planes, it clearly did nothing to get them to identify themselves or change flight path. Moreover, China’s demands were immediately rejected by the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and Australia. After years of accommodating China’s “legitimate” security claims, this latest move was too much.

How China Plans to Use the Su-35

How China Plans to Use the Su-35
A Sukhoi Su-35 fighter
Image Credit: REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

A senior executive at Russia’s state arms export company, Rosoboronexport, has said that Russia will sign a contract to sell the advanced Su-35 jet to China in 2014, while confirming that the deal is not on track to be finished in 2013. This is unlikely to be the last word on the matter – the negotiations have dragged on since 2010, and have been the subject of premature and contradictory announcements before – but it is a strong indication that Russia remains interested in the sale. For the time being, China’s interest in the new-generation fighter is worth examining for what it reveals about the progress of homegrown military technology and China’s strategy for managing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. If successful, the acquisition could have an immediate impact on these disputes. In addition to strengthening China’s hand in a hypothetical conflict, the Su-35’s range and fuel capacity would allow the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF) to undertake extended patrols of the disputed areas, following the model it has used to pressure Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.

The Su-35 is not the first Sukoi to pique the interest of the Chinese military. As previously reported in The Diplomat, the Sukoi-30MKK, and the Chinese version, the J-16, have been touted by the Chinese military as allowing it to project power into the South China Sea.
Previous reports in Chinese and Russian media in June of this year pointed toward a deal having been reached over a sale of Su-35 multi-role jets, but were not viewed as official, given more than a year’s worth of contradictory reports in Chinese and Russian media. At one point, Russian sources claimed that the sale had gone through, only to be categorically refuted by the Chinese Ministry of Defense. Nevertheless, in January both governments paved the way for an eventual sale by signing an agreement in principle that Russia would provide the Su-35 to China.

A big question remaining is the number of aircraft that China will purchase. China’s Global Times reported this summer that a group of Chinese representatives were in Moscow evaluating the Su-35, and would begin acquiring a “considerable number” of the advanced jets. Whether that means that China will purchase more than 48, as mentioned in press statements a year ago, is unclear. Evidence of continued negotiation for the jets indicates a strong desire within the Chinese military to acquire the Sukhoi fighters.

Chinese aviation is still reliant in many ways on Russia. Media attention has focused on China’s domestic development programs, including stealth fighter-bombers and helicopters. The advance of Chinese aviation capabilities is by now a common theme, with every month seeming to bring new revelations about its programs. While the ability to manufacture and perform design work on these projects represents significant progress, “under the hood” these aircraft often feature Russian engines. China continues to try to copy or steal Russian engine technology because of a strong preference for building systems itself. In fact, purchasing the Su-35 does not reflect a shift in the preferences of the Chinese military leadership. Buying the Su-35 reflects the delicate position China now finds itself in, as both a large purchaser and producer of primarily Russian-style weapons. Though self-reliance has always been important to China, it has been superseded by the strategic need to acquire cutting-edge weapons systems quickly. According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), beginning in 1991, China began purchasing the Su-27 long-range fighter jet (an older relative of the Su-35). The data is searchable here.

Japan Threatened by Growing Chinese Naval Presence in East China Sea

December 1, 2013

China’s gradual expansion in the East China Sea poses a challenge for Japan

Chico Harlan

Washington Post, December 1, 2013

TOKYO — When a half-dozen Chinese patrol vessels entered Japanese waters 14 months ago, Japan’s then-prime minister called an emergency meeting. The Chinese ambassador in Tokyo was summoned for a tongue-lashing. A Japanese government spokesman described the move as an “invasion” of “unprecedented scale.”

The vessels eventually backtracked, but the episode signaled the first stage of China’s fundamental maritime strategy — one in which it forges into new areas, withstands the initial fury, and turns groundbreaking gambits into commonplace activity. In most cases, the strategy has worked. Chinese boats now cut through waters around Japan-administered islands almost weekly, drawing complaints from Tokyo but not alarm.

For Japan, China’s piecemeal advance through contested territory represents perhaps its greatest defense challenge since the end of World War II. Although several Asian nations have tried to curb China’s expansionist ambitions, some experts feel Japan is best-equipped for the task: led by a hawkish prime minister, powered by a reviving economy and backed militarily by the United States.

But despite ongoing upgrades to its aircraft and patrol boats and increased coordination with Washington, Japan has yet to find an answer for its increasingly powerful neighbor. Officials here say China continues to push boundaries, sending fighter jets closer to Japanese shores and last week declaring a new air defense identification zone over the East China Sea.

None of China’s moves, by design, has been provocative enough to spark an armed skirmish. That partly explains why deterring China has been so vexing for others in the region.

How a Thai Canal Could Transform Southeast Asia

Kra Isthmus
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

An idea to build a canal through southern Thailand could have broad geopolitical ramifications.

By Ankit Panda
December 01, 2013

Southeast Asia’s salience as a major strategic nexus for maritime trade is well appreciated. The Strait of Malacca is the doorway from the Indian Ocean to the broader Asia-Pacific region and enables the transport of water-borne crude delivery and other strategic resources to East Asia’s many ports, from Manila to Tokyo. It’s not surprising then, that the idea of a canal through the Kra Isthmus in Thailand has been a topic of interest for seafarers, traders, and geostrategists since roughly the late-17th century.

A glance at Southeast Asian geography, and the merits of such an idea are immediately apparent — doubly so to seafarers. The Kra Isthmus, a mere 44 kilometers at its thinnest point, would render the current necessity for navigating south and around the entire Malaysian peninsula in East-West transit obsolete, connecting the Andaman Sea in the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea. The fuel and time savings wouldn’t be as great as they were in the case of the Panama or Suez canals, but a Thai Canal (also known as the Kra Canal) could assuage some of the overcrowding currently experienced in and near the Strait of Malacca.

So, if the canal is such a great idea, why hasn’t it been built?

The answer to that lies partly in history, and partly in contemporary politics. In short, not everyone thinks it’s such a great idea. Historically, one of the first serious attempts to study the feasibility of such a canal was conducted by the French Engineer De Lamar in the late-17th century, at the request of King Narai of Siam. The idea was tabled due to its technological unfeasibility at the time. It resurfaced a century later under King Rama I, again to no avail. During this time, the Thai Monarchy recognized the strategic importance of a canal in facilitating its own troop movements.

Subsequently, the British East India Company tried to conduct a survey but abandoned the project when it became apparent that the mountainous geography inland would make the development of a sea-level canal prohibitively expensive. In the late-19th century, the British Empire – in the interests of protecting the dominance of Singapore as a major regional hub – agreed that it would not build a canal through the Kra Isthmus. This policy later crystallized as Article 7 of the 1946 Anglo-Thai Treaty which states that ”The Siamese Government undertake[s] that no canal linking the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Siam shall be cut across Siamese territory without the prior concurrence of the Government of the United Kingdom.” The Thai government, conceding to the treaty at the end of World War II and Japanese occupation, did not resist these limits on its development.

Is Africa The New Primary Battleground in the War on Terrorism?

December 1, 2013
Mustapha Aijbaili

November 30, 2013

A series of deadly attacks in East, North and West Africa has put Islamist militancy on the continent under the spotlight, raising the question of whether it is turning into the new frontier of international terrorism.

Kenya, Somalia, Algeria, Mali and Nigeria were the scenes of major terrorist attacks in 2013 – prompting leaders at this month’s Africa-Arab summit to pledge their commitment to tackling the problem.

Somalia’s al-Shabaab militant group, a hardline offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union that was removed from power in 2006 by the Ethiopian army, attacked on Sept. 21 the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 61 civilians and six Kenyan soldiers. Four of the attackers were killed by security forces.

Al-Shabaab said the attack was retribution for Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia.

The Westgate atrocity was the second time that al-Shabab struck outside Somalia. In July 2010, it carried out suicide bombings that killed 74 people who had gathered to watch the screening of the FIFA World Cup final at two locations in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

The militant group said it was retaliating against Uganda’s participation in the African Union mission in Somalia.

Women carrying children run for safety as armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree in Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi. (File photo: Reuters)
Al-Qaeda, the Masked Ones and Ansar Dine

In North Africa, a major terrorist attack took place on Jan. 16 when the al-Qaeda-linked Mulathameen Brigade (the “Masked Ones”) attacked the Tigantourine gas facility near Ain Amenas, Algeria.

The group, led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, held more than 800 hostages in the facility. After four days, the Algerian army launched an offensive to rescue them. About 39 foreigners and 29 militants were killed, while 792, including 107 foreigners, were freed.

The group demanded that Washington release Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, also known as “The Blind Sheikh,” and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani female with a PhD in neuroscience jailed in the United States on terrorism charges.
Belmokhtar, an Algerian who fought in Afghanistan and in his country’s civil war in the 1990s, previously masterminded a series of kidnappings in the Sahel.

Fear the military with a timetable of its own


The Globe and Mail

Published Saturday, Nov. 30 2013

What happened Wednesday did not trigger an Asia-wide superpower war. Not quite.

When the United States deliberately flew two B-52 bombers over a group of contested islands between China and Japan to protest China’s seizure of airspace above the islands, Beijing decided not to scramble fighter jets to meet them – though it did, on Friday, against Japan, but without firing any shots. After all, neither Chinese President Xi Jinping nor his U.S. or Japanese counterparts claim to be interested in having a war. It would be profoundly against all their economic and political interests.

But it still worries us, because we know that the Pentagon and China’s military both have detailed plans drawn up for full-scale wars against one another. Could a future incident like this set those plans in motion? “The chances of a real war are still low,” China analyst Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution told The New York Times after the incident. “But sometimes incidents will push leaders into a corner.”

Likewise, what happened last Sunday was not the world pulling back from the brink of a Middle East-wide war of mutual annihilation. Not quite. The decision by Iran, the United States and its allies to strike an interim deal toward limiting Iran’s nuclear program did, at least temporarily, end the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran. Such an attack, supposedly limited and surgical, would almost certainly provoke a far wider and perhaps endless conflagration. By shifting a military standoff into a diplomatic confrontation, this became a political matter rather than a cause for war.

We worry, though, because the Iranian and Israeli militaries and political hawks have their own minds, and their own plans, and those plans might be triggered by figures outside the diplomatic and political loop.

Between these incidents, we find one of the questions of our day: Even though the world is politically at peace, is it possible for our militaries to drag us into war?

That question has deep historical resonance. We used to think that wars were triggered by heated tribal animosities, by the hubris of madmen, by struggles for resources or by powerful economic forces. None of these ideas have been much use in explaining the wars of the past century. All of them were swept away, during my student years, by the new concept formulated by British historian A.J.P. Taylor: the “timetable theory.”

Studying the First World War, Mr. Taylor found that none of Europe’s political leaders had sought a larger war, nor did it serve any of their national interests to enter one. But their huge military bureaucracies had drawn elaborate, clockwork plans to mobilize millions of soldiers on multiple fronts at short notice, and a minor confrontation in Bosnia set all these plans in motion on a continental scale.

This theory is given its ultimate test in Margaret MacMillan’s new book The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, in which the Oxford University historian provides a definitive (and gripping) examination of the factors that led Europe into 30 years of largely unnecessary war. The timetable theory remains important though not crucial to her interpretation, but Dr. MacMillan adds a new dimension.

The danger, she finds, is a military that sees itself as autonomous from the country’s political leadership and civil service, combined with political leaders who are weak, self-interested or too eager to acquiesce to the military’s demands.

“Over the decades, and not just in Germany,” she writes, “both military and civilian leaders had come to accept that military planning was the business of the experts and that civilians had neither the knowledge nor the authority to ask searching questions or dispute their decisions … Such attitudes were dangerous because the two spheres, military and civil, and the two activities, peace and war, could not be so neatly divided; the general staff was to make decisions on military grounds – famously the decision to invade Belgium in 1914 – which were to have serious political implications.”

Today, we live in a different world. Militarized societies and elaborate honour codes have vanished from the West. The lessons of the Great War have, in theory, been learned.

Yet the risk of a timetable war, or something like it, remains real. Limited-scope military actions have turned into decade-long wars in Vietnam and Iraq because of this phenomenon.

We saw this with Canada in Afghanistan, when what should have been a one- or two-year strike against al-Qaeda turned into a decade-long debacle because the military depended on a counterinsurgency plan that would have required decades and tens of thousands of soldiers, and had no tangible plan for its own failure. For the better part of a decade, political leaders (of both governing parties) were too willing to acquiesce to a military schedule whose outcomes were unobtainable.

Politicians and diplomats have been able to intervene to gain control over such military-led agendas. This is what Henry Kissinger did by launching the U.S. détente policies toward China in the 1970s, and what George Schultz attempted with the Soviet Union in the 1980s, turning a military standoff, driven by nuclear-armed schedules and agendas, into a diplomatic confrontation, driven by summits and negotiations. It was imperfect, as schedule-driven forces continued to dominate the militaries of both countries, but it prevented war. This is, in turn, what Barack Obama and John Kerry did this week with Iran: a shift of the centre of confrontation from the military into the diplomatic sphere. The risk of Iran, Israel or the United States triggering a "limited action" that spirals into a greater war is now considerably reduced.

This is an age of peace – there are fewer wars, or people affected by war, than at any previous time in human history – but also an age of brinkmanship and military independence. A century ago, that very combination took us over the brink.

World War I 'sacred soil' ceremony honours Indian soldiers

 The sacrifice made by thousands of Indian soldiers fighting for the British army during the World War I has been recognised as part of a ceremony in London. December 01, 2013

"Sacred soil" from 70 WWI battlefields in Belgium, which arrived by warship to the United Kingdom, was laid at a memorial garden marking the 100th anniversary of the war in 2014 in memory of soldiers from around the world who laid their lives during the Great War.

The soil, collected by British and Belgian schoolchildren and put into 70 sandbags, arrived on the Belgian navy frigate Louisa Marie and went on a ceremonial procession through London on Saturday before reaching its last resting place at Wellington Barracks.

More than 1,000 schoolchildren were involved in collecting 70 bags of soil from the battlefields earlier this year.

The soil was blessed in a ceremony at the Guards' Chapel before eight-year-old schoolboy Patrick Casey was given the honour of pouring a crucible of soil taken from all the battlefields into the heart of the garden.

Queen Elizabeth II's husband Prince Philip, 92, was presented with the soil in a ceremony in the Belgian town of Ypres earlier this month, as a mark of remembrance for the tens of thousands of Commonwealth soldiers who died in the 1914-18 war.

Among them were around 1.2 million soldiers from undivided India who fought for the British Empire, of which 74,000 died.

British junior defence minister John Astor, who attended the ceremony, said, "They were killed for our freedom, they paid a very high price for that, and we are enjoying the freedom now."

The Guards Museum, which funded the project with help from public donations and corporate sponsors, including a contribution from the government of Flanders, described the £700,000 project as "unprecedented" and "historic". Designed by Belgian architect Piet Blanckaert, the "Flanders Fields 1914-2014" Memorial Garden is intended as "a symbol of hope and a better future for all".

Image: Guardsman of Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards watch over 70 bags of sacred soil from cemeteries of First World War battlefields in Flanders onboard the light cruiser HMS Belfast on November 29 in London

Rise of ‘Saudi America’ will alter globe, prolong U.S. superpower role

By Tim Johnson

McClatchy Foreign StaffNovember 28, 2013

A drilling rig sits on a field near Coal Ridge Middle School in Firestone, Colorado on July 8, 2013.

MEXICO CITY — For the past 40 years, U.S. presidents have launched distant wars, allied with autocratic sheikhs and dispatched naval fleets to protect sea lanes, all for the imperative of keeping foreign oil spigots flowing.

That imperative has now subsided. Rather suddenly, the center of gravity of global energy production has swung toward the Americas as shale oil and gas fields in North Dakota and Texas hum with activity. America is moving to the fore as the world’s largest producer of petroleum and natural gas.

That change will reorder the globe in ways large and small.

U.S. experts say it will prolong the United States’ position as the predominant global superpower. Arab nations that shook the world with the 1973 oil embargo almost certainly will be weakened. Russia will find its power ebb as European nations find alternate suppliers for natural gas. New energy technologies will reorder the scales of global winners and losers.

“There are not many times in history where you can see the balance of power shift,” said David L. Goldwyn, founder of Goldwyn Global Strategies, an energy intelligence consultancy in Washington. “We are going to see that.”

Coinciding with America’s shale oil boom, Goldwyn said, are cutting-edge technologies that allow new parts of the globe to tap into unconventional energy resources, including deep offshore natural gas beds. Places like Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, Mozambique in Africa and Colombia in South America hold promise with energy reserves.

“We’re really seeing the small ‘d’ democratization of access to energy in more countries and more places,” Goldwyn said.

There are skeptics, of course, whose doubts range from distrust of the geological forecasts to analysts who say an environmental disaster could derail the shale oil and gas boom, just as the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan sapped global enthusiasm for nuclear energy.

“The implications of the U.S. shale revolution are so great for its economy and security that you don’t want to kill it with stupidity,” said Robert A. Manning, an energy expert at the Atlantic Council, a public policy think tank on trans-Atlantic issues. He advocates more federal regulation on the process of extracting energy from hydraulically fractured shale formations, a process known as “fracking,” to ensure that environmental or other setbacks do not occur.

Meet the Super-Fast, Radar-Jamming, Unnervingly Intelligent Missiles of 2030

Posted By Zach Rosenberg 
 Friday, November 15, 2013

In the past few weeks, the Pentagon and its major contractors have been trotting out their designs for the aircraft of the future -- from a stealthy, hypersonic spy plane to a combat, carrier-hopping drone to a futuristic bomber. But ironically, none of these planes will likely define the U.S. armed forces of, say, 2030. It's the wild weapons they'll carry that could be military game-changers.

The crown jewel is the Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B), being designed under tight secrecy. LRS-B is supposed to replace either the B-52 or B-1 or some combination thereof (nobody's quite sure yet). Designed for penetrating strike and nuclear weapons, it is this bomber that is meant to lead any bombing campaign, slipping into enemy airspace undetected and dropping bombs on the most heavily-defended targets. Northrop Grumman (which designed the B-2) and a Boeing-Lockheed team are both designing competitors, but details are scarce -- nearly everything about the program is classified.

The F-35, currently under production, is supposed to become the backbone of the USAF fleet. By 2030 the oldest operational aircraft will have a decade in service, and new versions might still be rolling out of the factory. It's designed to be the new catch-all, a performer of all but master of none. But as the most modern aircraft on the production line it can do things its predecessors can't, and it shows how the USAF is changing the way it fights.

The F-35 is stealthy, but it's not that stealthy. It won't be able to dip into enemy airspace unnoticed like the LRS-B will, so the focus is how to make it more effective from further away. The radar is designed to share detailed targeting information via datalink with other aircraft -- one F-35 can hang back and turn on its radar, which gives its position away to the target but keeps it far from danger, while another can sneak in and fire a missile without giving itself away.

More and more, those missiles are going to be smarter and capable of new things, not just blowing things up. Rather than risk people and valuable airplanes, why not just let the missile do the work? It's getting easier to pack missiles full of fuel and electronics, making them more like miniature drones than the old dumb-bombs. Some missiles, like Raytheon's new MALD-J, contain small radar jammers and can be fired almost 600 miles from the target.

Encryption War Between NSA and Private Computer Security Industry Escalating Because of Snowden Revelations

November 30, 2013

Techies vs. NSA: Encryption arms race escalates

Associated PressNovember 29, 2013

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Encrypted email, secure instant messaging and other privacy services are booming in the wake of the National Security Agency’s recently revealed surveillance programs. But the flood of new computer security services is of variable quality, and much of it, experts say, can bog down computers and isn’t likely to keep out spies.

In the end, the new geek wars —between tech industry programmers on the one side and government spooks, fraudsters and hacktivists on the other— may leave people’s PCs and businesses’ computer systems encrypted to the teeth but no better protected from hordes of savvy code crackers.

"Every time a situation like this erupts you’re going to have a frenzy of snake oil sellers who are going to throw their products into the street," says Carson Sweet, CEO of San Francisco-based data storage security firm CloudPassage. "It’s quite a quandary for the consumer."

Encryption isn’t meant to keep hackers out, but when it’s designed and implemented correctly, it alters the way messages look. Intruders who don’t have a decryption key see only gobbledygook.

A series of disclosures from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden this year has exposed sweeping U.S. government surveillance programs. The revelations are sparking fury and calls for better encryption from citizens and leaders in France, Germany, Spain and Brazil who were reportedly among those tapped. Both Google and Yahoo, whose data center communications lines were also reportedly tapped, have committed to boosting encryption and online security. Although there’s no indication Facebook was tapped, the social network is also upping its encryption systems.

"Yahoo has never given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency. Ever," wrote Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in a Nov. 18 post on the company’s Tumblr blog announcing plans to encrypt all of its services by early next year. "There is nothing more important to us than protecting our users’ privacy."

For those who want to take matters into their own hands, encryption software has been proliferating across the Internet since the Snowden revelations broke. Heml.is — Swedish for “secret” — is marketed as a secure messaging app for your phone. MailPile aims to combine a Gmail-like user friendly interface with a sometimes clunky technique known as public key encryption. Younited hopes to keep spies out of your cloud storage, and Pirate Browser aims to keep spies from seeing your search history. A host of other security-centered programs with names like Silent Circle, RedPhone, Threema, TextSecure, and Wickr all promise privacy.