18 December 2013

*** The drift in the valley

Posted online: Wed Dec 18 2013, 02:07 hrs
H S Panag

Military strategy is contingent on political direction, which has been sorely missing in Kashmir.

There has been a volatile reaction within the strategic community both for and against Shekhar Gupta’s views in his article ‘Disarming Kashmir’ (National Interest, IE, December 7). The article focuses on the need for change in political and military strategy to break the current impasse in Jammu and Kashmir; politically through proactive engagement, emotional healing and empowerment of the people, and militarily by the removal of the AFSPA and reduction of military presence in the hinterland. Interestingly, Gupta makes change in the political strategy and commencement of the political process contingent upon a change in military strategy. But the armed forces cannot be blamed for the failure of the political process and poor governance. It is to their credit that they have performed despite the government never having defined strategic political aims and contingent strategic military objectives, and in so doing may, by default, have partly assumed the role of the government, leading to fears of status quo ante in the event of a “pullout” or major redeployment.

In this context, Clausewitz’s quote on the relationship between political aims and military means is pertinent: “War is simply the continuation of political intercourse with addition of other means. We deliberately use the phrase, ‘with the addition of other means’ because we also want to make it clear that war in itself does not suspend political intercourse or change it into something entirely different. In essentials that intercourse continues, irrespective of the means it employs. The main lines along which military events progress, and to which they are restricted, are political lines that continue throughout the war into the subsequent peace.” Thus it is the government that must formulate the political strategy on which military strategy is contingent, and commit and de-commit its armed forces to war or counter-insurgency (CI).The absence of this process is the bane of strategic decision-making in India. The government never clearly defines its political objectives or approves contingent military objectives, leading to a situation of continuous strategic drift.

This is also true for J&K. Forget formal direction, there is not even a periodic dialogue between the armed forces and the prime minister, national security advisor, defence minister or home minister regarding the conduct of the CI campaign. The unified command at the state level has never functioned, except during president’s rule. With the Central and state governments abdicating their strategic responsibility, the armed forces or the Northern Command are left to pursue the perceived military goals of eliminating terrorists, countering infiltration and creating conditions for the political process to take over. Four governments have functioned since 1996, and the number of active terrorists has been reduced to two figures. The violence is at its lowest. Yet the political goals have neither been formally defined nor achieved. People are sullen and alienated and little development is seen on the ground. By default, the military has also assumed the responsibility of winning hearts and minds and even, to some extent, development — a mission for which it is ill-equipped. It is the politicians who have to get their act together and effect a radical change in political strategy. A change in military strategy will facilitate this process, but it is political strategy that must drive military strategy, not vice versa. The military’s recommendation for status quo based on the perception that the insurgency may resume and its unfinished, assumed quasi-political role must not be used as a shield for strategic indecision. Far from exercising a “veto power”, this is a desperate — albeit ill-conceived — attempt by the military to prevent a return to 1990. So, the media and the public must force the government to fulfil its strategic responsibility.

Control near seas

Dec 18 2013

The incident in the South China Sea earlier this month between the US and Chinese naval vessels did not arise out of a misjudgement on either side. It is a reflection of the unfolding contest between the American forward military presence in the Western Pacific and the Chinese desire to dominate its near seas. As the US missile cruiser Cowpens tailed China's new aircraft carrier, Liaoning, in the South China Sea, a ship accompanying the carrier moved right in front of the Cowpens in an attempt to make it stop. The captain of the American vessel had to swerve sharply to avoid a collision.

The game of chicken between US and Chinese naval and air forceswill continue as Beijing flexes its new military muscle and Washington signals its resolve to stay put. The first known incident occurred in 2009, when Chinese naval vessels confronted the US surveillance ship Impeccable that was on a routine surveillance mission near the Hainan island. Since then, the Chinese navy's capabilities have grown and the Chinese political leadership's will to assert the nation's maritime rights has deepened.

The message from Beijing is that if the US wants to sustain its historic military dominance over the East China Sea, Yellow Sea and the South China Sea, it must be prepared for continuous tension with the PLA Navy. And if Washington does not like the heat, it should cease its military operations in Beijing's near seas. The US is not ready to do this, not now at least.

The Cowpens might have had to change course to avoid a collision with the PLA ship, but the US is beefing up its naval presence in theWestern Pacific as part of its pivot to Asia announced by President Barack Obama in 2012.


Even as it seeks to control its near seas, China is determined to expand its naval presence in the "far seas". This is what great powers have always done — sanitise your neighbourhood against foreign military presence and increase your strategic influence in distant theatres. As China's economic interests become global and dispersed, the PLA Navy has begun to transform itself into a genuine bluewater force with the necessary reach, endurance and skills to operate far from its national shores. This month marks five years of unbroken Chinese naval operations in the Gulf of Aden. Since December 2008, China has dispatched task forces to the Arabian Sea to participate in the anti-piracy activities.

According to a leading US naval expert, Andrew Erickson, "anti-piracy operations have sharpened the Far Seas operational capacity of Chinese PLAN crewmen, Special Forces soldiers, naval aviators, and various surface platforms deployed off Somalia". They have also helped PLAN learn the crafts of at-sea replenishment for its naval task forces and create logistical networks to support the extended deployments away from the homeland.

In the words of the Chinese newspaper Global Times, the forces participating in this mission over the last five years have been transformed from "maritime rookies into confident sea dogs".


China's maritime rise is not all about military technical capabilities. It is about aligning naval power with political purposes. Although the PLAN is some distance away from mastering the naval operational arts, it has benefited immensely from a civilian leadership that has developed an effective maritime strategy.

Central to this has been the focus on alliances, both positive and negative. In the far seas, China is building special political relationships and deepening military partnerships with key countries in the Indo-Pacific littoral. In the near seas, Beijing's emphasis is on loosening the traditional US alliances and preventing its Asian neighbours from developing a united front against China. As part of this strategy, Beijing has focused on isolating Japan, stoking American ambiguities and probing the cleavage between Tokyo and Seoul.

It is also developing a differentiated approach to the Southeast Asian neighbours. It acts rough with the Philippines but offers Vietnam a productive bilateral engagement. Manila and Hanoi are the main disputants of Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea. China is also embracing those ASEAN countries that don't have a territorial dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea.

Above all, Beijing is warning Washington that any US intervention on behalf of its allies against China would be costly; at the same time, Beijing is teasing Washington with the idea of building a "new type of great power relationship" — or a mutual accommodation with America on Chinese terms.

The writer is a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi and a contributing editor for The Indian Express'.

The Kashmir Question: What Next?

Narendra Modi has re-ignited an exhausted debate: What should be done about Kashmir?
December 18, 2013

During a high-profile rally in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) earlier this month Narendra Modi announced, “The time has come for at least a debate [on] Article 370.” Article 370 is a controversial constitutional provision that grants the state “special status” and by calling for a national conversation on it Modi – the prime ministerial candidate for India’s right-wing opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – re-ignited an exhausted debate: what should be done about Kashmir?

The state – the birthplace of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister – is central to India’s nation-building vision of a secular, diverse and decentralized union, and J&K’s status vis-à-vis India remains an emotive issue. The BJP have long demanded Article 370 be scrapped and that Kashmir be fully integrated. The absence of any such absolutist demands in Modi’s speech triggered many excited murmurs that the BJP had shifted their position. But the party quickly dispelled any doubts, going into overdrive after the speech to reassure supporters that there had been “no deviation [from] or dilution [of]” the BJP’s commitment to integrating Jammu and Kashmir. Indeed M. Venkaiah Naidu, a party elder, pledged that the BJP would repeal Article 370 if they are elected into office in next year’s general election.

Scrapping the provision would be no easy feat, and many have asked if repealing the law is necessary, desirable or even possible. Article 370 grants Kashmir legislative autonomy and limits the power of the central Indian government to pass laws affecting the state. But since the provision came into force in 1954, successive Presidential Orders have stripped away the autonomy of J&K’s Constituent Assembly (governing body), extending New Delhi’s power over the state. Article 370 also plays a valuable accommodative role: as a majority Muslim state on the India-Pakistan border, J&K is afflicted by ethnic rivalries, terrorism and an ongoing territorial war. The resulting instability provides all the conditions required for a violent separatist revolt. India has historically granted political concessions to neuter such insurgencies and incorporate troubled regions, and Article 370 has achieved both of these ends in J&K. Finally as explained by Amitabh Matooh, a professor at the University of Melbourne, in The Hindu, J&K’s Constituent Assembly adopted Article 370 in 1956 giving it quasi-permanent force. Constitutionalists are unsure whether the sovereign federal parliament in Delhi can override the decision of a semi-autonomous state legislature. Any attempt to amend the Constitution would ultimately be subject to judicial review, leaving India’s Supreme Court with the final say on the matter.

A sleepwalking economy

Dec 18 2013

There is no passion for growth, and no one is taking up the cudgels on its behalf.

If you followed Indian debates over the last couple of years you would struggle to hear one simple word: growth. India has been through several crises recently. There is an institutional crisis, evidenced in debates over corruption. There is the loss of legitimacy of India's elites. There is a social crisis as India struggles to develop norms for a new society. Each of these crises is playing out, spewing more poison on one hand, but also, in some instances, creating conditions and opportunities for renewal. The jury is out on how this dialectic will work. But one crisis seems to have dropped out of our consciousness: the economic crisis. It occupied us for a while, when the current account deficit was a headline number. Once that number nominally came under control, the economy once again passed into background noise, where the crisis still festers.

The crisis is still real. We can pat ourselves on the back and say 4 to 5 per cent growth is still good, foreign institutional investment is still coming in, we are in a better position to deal with the Fed's taper, we adjusted well to currency depreciation and the fiscal deficit number will not look bad on March 31. But these surface truths cannot hide real anxieties: inflation is structurally endemic. India's inflation has been higher than that of its peer economies for over three years in a row. Inflation messes with everything, from the prospects of the poor to high-end investment decisions. The fiscal deficit may not look alarming, but behind it is a story of creative accounting and arbitrary administrative suppression of payments. Many banks are tottering, with the true extent of their vulnerability disguised by creative ever-greening. The index of industrial production is still falling; the balance sheets of companies are not an encouraging mixed bag, to put it mildly. But more importantly, even if we have managed to avoid a catastrophe, we are not leveraging this historical moment to our advantage and laying the foundations for long-term success. We will pass all kinds of laws, have a new high of daily outrage, but sleepwalk through the economy.

This curious lack of urgency over the economy requires some explanation. There is a lot of loose talk about the new aspirational voter. But the aspirational voter doesn't seem to be translating into an aspirational India. The narrative of our place in the world has suddenly become one of consolation rather than ambition. Oh, we are not Nigeria, is the new benchmark of aspiration. And even this is complacency. Except for shedding a momentary onion tear, no political party seriously wants to debate a plan to get India back to an intelligently executed 8 per cent growth rate. There are some genuine growth sceptics. But what is going on with the rest? It seems the thinking on the economy is now a victim of different but converging fatalisms.

Chinese intrusions across the LAC

December 17, 2013

Reacting to President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh in November of this year, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang stated that “We hope that India will proceed along with China, protecting our broad relationship, and will not take any measures that could complicate the problem, and together we can protect peace and security in the border regions”.1 China has routinely protested top Indian policymakers visiting Arunachal Pradesh which it claims as its territory along with Aksai Chin. In October 2009, China expressed deep dissatisfaction when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh as part of an election campaign for the state assembly elections. China again reacted sharply to the visit of the Indian Defence Minister, A K Antony to Arunachal Pradesh when on February 25, 2012, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Hong Lei stated that such visits create complications towards resolution of the border issues. This issue is further complicated by a 4, 000 km border dispute.

Recently, a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) was signed between China and India during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to China.2 Both sides agreed to refrain from military offensives at the border and share information on military exercises near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) through regular border personnel meetings. The good news about the BDCA is that it institutionalizes the process of conflict management at the border, if and when intrusions take place.

The bad news is that the agreement does not resolve the differing perceptions of the LAC itself. Hence, intrusions will continue to occur. The other critical issue which remains unresolved is China’s claim over 90, 000 square kms of territory in India’s eastern sector and 38, 000 square kms of territory in the Western sector. History will tell us that territorial disputes between major powers with geographic proximity have resulted in military conflict. Moreover, the likelihood of conflict is high when the political systems embroiled in territorial disputes differ: China’s authoritarian system versus India’s democracy.

Border Defence Cooperation Agreement Kaput!

IssueNet Edition| Date : 18 Dec , 2013

If the ruling coterie was looking for brownie points for the coming elections by hyping that signing of the BDCA with China had put at rest all border problems till eventual peaceful resolution, China has lost no time in reciprocating with a tight slap on the face. That the coterie would play it down, there is absolutely no doubt. They would have kept the abduction of Indian nationals by the Chinese from Chumar under the wraps but alas the cat came out from the bag once the Chinese eventually did release them. What went on during the flag meeting (s) / parleys is not difficult to guess; which side obdurate and which one pleading. The advantage of controlling the media is that the spin doctors can successfully mislead you.

Exchange of information implies next time India wants to make a landing at DBO, prior intimation is to be given to China.

Look at the current media blitz about India’s unprecedented stand against the US with regard to the India-US diplomatic row over the arrest of Indian Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade in New York. Our media is blaring “US shown its place” and the like. Agreed measures taken are warranted but then why did Salman Khurshid himself meet the US congressional delegation. If the foreign minister is entertaining the delegation, others not meeting them are of little consequence.

Why a complete boycott could not be affected unless it was to sound them quietly not to take seriously some temporary muscle flexing being undertaken to save face.

This is quite possible considering the same minister instead of denouncing the US NSA snooping on our missions abroad under PRISM, palmed it off the issue saying, “This is not scrutiny and access to actual messages. It is only computer analysis of patterns of calls and emails that are being sent. It is not actually snooping specifically on content of anybody’s message or conversation. ….”. The irony is that while our foreign minister was hell bent to please the US, a Federal District Court judge in the US has ruled that the NSA’s PRISM probably violates the Constitution and is an infringement of privacy; challenging legality of the PRISM program. It is precisely such pussyfooting that we are not taken seriously, and perhaps the very reason that our diplomats have in the past and will continue to face similar humiliation.

India’s Aspirational Volcano

Published: December 16, 2013 

NEW DELHI — In a few hours it is possible to drive out through the car-clogged, rickshaw-ridden streets of leafy Delhi into the dusty churning sprawl of Gurgaon, with its sprouting apartment towers and 21-hole golf course (18 holes would not be sufficient for its upwardly mobile achievers) and shopping malls and water problems, and from there, down a bumpy lane, to a village like Abheypur, where high-rises with names like “The Masterpiece” seem a distant memory and illiterate women pat cow dung into cakes to dry on the nearby hill for use as fuel.

Multiple Indias have always existed in Gandhi’s land of 700,000 villages, but never perhaps in such proximity or with such access to one another, a rising class of conspicuous consumers hoisted through a decade of now faltering growth hard by villages where unemployed men dim boredom with alcohol. Images of a hyper-materialistic and hyper-sexualized world are transmitted to the cell phone of a street vendor. People see but learn not to see how surfeit and suffering coexist. A bon mot doing the rounds in Delhi is that the only successful secession movement in India’s history is that of the burgeoning middle class, with its gated communities, private security, private hospitals and private education for pampered kids.

There is truth in that but only up to a point. In fact the contradictions and tensions of this country, where the average Indian is in his or her mid-20s and per-capita income has almost tripled over the past decade, have reached a tipping-point. The old politics are over. The governing Indian National Congress, the centrist reference point of the nation’s democracy, seems out of touch, and with it the Gandhi dynasty. Passivity is giving way to a ferocious engagement. It is driven by anger over corruption, incompetence, inequality and inertia. The skewed development that skewers the commonweal, or public space, seems unsustainable. New forces and parties are emerging with unpredictable, perhaps even dangerous, consequences. If China is a top-down nation and India bottom-up, then the world’s largest democracy is about to witness what happens when social media connects the long voiceless bottom.

“Aspirations have been unleashed and a child in a slum wants to be a doctor or an astronaut,” Nandan Nilekani, a billionaire software mogul now in a cabinet-level position overseeing the building of a huge identity database, tells me. “We are sitting on an aspirational volcano. But the political system is clogged. People want change in real time.”

That frustration was evident in state elections this month that saw the Congress Party hammered by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party on its right flank and the year-old Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, on its left. The aggressive, take-no-prisoners B.J.P. leader, Narendra Modi, has parlayed his brand of Hindu nationalism, his red-tape slashing economic success in Gujarat (where he is chief minister), and his much-vaunted decisiveness into Modi mania, a fever fed by Indians intent on climbing the economic ladder who are tired of the muddling-through politics of handouts and believe Modi (with his 2.9 million Twitter followers) can at once give business a boost (a view shared by Goldman Sachs) and assert the new India’s place on the world stage.

Modi, of course, was governing Gujarat in 2002 when more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in communal rioting. The Supreme Court cleared him in a belated inquiry (official India specializes in the belated) but allegations of complicity in a pogrom persist, and a recent remark to Reuters equating his remorse with that of a driver who inadvertently kills a puppy sparked renewed controversy. His hardline fans were unfazed; they know the subtext of his ascendancy. Still — such is India — Modi would not become prime minister in elections next May without significant coalition-building compromise, a bulwark, but not a wholly secure one, against the sharp tensions his rise provokes.

The other man lifted by the volcanic turbulence of Indian development is Arvind Kejriwal whose Aam Aadmi has learned lessons from Obama’s campaigns — including fund-raising through small contributions from millions of people — to develop a new political force at record speed. It is new not only in its techniques. The party has shunned habitual emotional platforms of caste, religion, language and region in favor of channeling the anger of an undifferentiated citizenry. That anger over rampant corruption and indifferent service is boiling. Kejriwal’s Twitter account proclaims, “Political revolution in India has begun.”

On the road from Abheypur back into Gurgaon’s tentacles, there were women washing cattle on one side of the road. On the other walked dozens of adolescents in maroon school uniforms, literate boys and girls who will not live as their forebears. How their demands are met, how various Indias reconcile themselves, hangs in the balance. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, of mild demeanor, may well be recalled as the calm before the storm.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on December 17, 2013, in The International New York Times.


December 17, 2013

Editor’s Note: This is another article in a short series on the legacy of the recently retired Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

General Kayani and U.S.-Pakistani Relations, 2007-2013When General Ashfaq Kayani retired from his position as Pakistani Army Chief of Staff on November 29, 2013, he completed a turbulent and noteworthy six-year tenure as the most powerful man in Pakistan. I do not know Kayani personally, but have interacted with him several times and tracked him closely for senior U.S. military leaders with whom I served throughout his tenure. From this vantage point, my assessment of his legacy is a mixed one. Kayani will be remembered well for his caution when it comes to internal politics, but he will not fare as well when judged on the basis of his interaction with the international community and especially the United States.

His tenure as Army Chief was unique in many ways. True to his word, General Kayani kept the Pakistan Army out of overt participation in politics and oversaw the first peaceful transition of power from one elected civilian government to another—a modest feat by the standards of most democratic countries, but one never before achieved in Pakistan’s 65-year history. It is even more impressive considering Kayani served an extended, six-year term, making him the longest serving Army chief not to take over the country. I know that General Kayani repeatedly assured my former boss, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, that he was committed to this outcome despite the challenges. In many ways this was testimony to his stoic demeanor, for it was a poorly held secret that he—as most Pakistan Army generals of his generation—held President Asif Zardari and his hardscrabble cohort of Pakistani People’s Party politicians in extremely low regard. General Kayani kept his commitment, and for this Pakistan can be grateful.

But there were clear limits to this public restraint. Kayani did not suffer unacceptable civilian political machinations kindly or passively. When then-Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani tried to put the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) firmly under civilian government control, Kayani’s rebuff forced the government to back-off. Months later, when Gilani announced the government’s intent to send the head of the ISI to India to conduct a joint-investigation into the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 2008, the offer was swiftly withdrawn by announcement of the Army’s public relations directorate—and Gilani suffered another publicly humiliating back-down. In the spring of 2009, Kayani is known to havecounseled Zardari to reconcile with lawyers marching for the reinstatement of their Chief Justice, making it clear that the Army would not intervene on Zardari’s behalf under the thin pretense of civil order. He may not have threatened the civilian government, but General Kayani did little to actively empower civilian leaders, keeping them on a very short leash.

In matters of international relations, especially relations with the United States, General Kayani’s era showed almost no deviation from the past. Upon becoming Chief of Army Staff (CoAS), Kayani continued Musharraf’s approach to relations with the United States that made a virtue of necessity. In the words of longtime American diplomats in South Asia, Howard and Teresita Schaffer in their 2011 book How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States: Riding the Roller Coaster, General Kayani cultivated a “guilt trip” mindset with American interlocutors. He extracted maximum gains from the United States for Pakistan’s reluctant role in the Global War on Terror, while simultaneously safeguarding Pakistan’s linkages to many of the terrorist groups that most concern the United States.

General Kayani’s role in portraying Pakistan as victim and preserving military dominance in the Washington-Islamabad relationship was clearly visible in many instances during his watch. Among these I’d cite Pakistan’s military and intelligence services carefully management of outside assistance to 2010 summer flood victims. The message managementlimited direct involvement of American and British military aircraft in the delivery of much needed supplies directly to the flood victims, mandating that this mission and its important public relations optics be left to the under-resourced Pakistani military. Aid workers complained that innocent Pakistani flood victims suffered from this policy, but Kayani’s protection of his military’s reputation and its undisputed sovereignty trumped humanitarian effectiveness.

Along with his Corps commanders, Kayani assured that India remained at the core of Pakistani security concerns, despite a meaningful although far from revolutionary redirection of military efforts against some—but never all—of the radical Islamist militants waging an insurgency in Pakistan’s west. American officials repeatedly failed to grasp this fact. Like President Musharraf, General Kayani cautiously accepted United States assistance to conduct counterinsurgency operations against those radical groups that directly threatened Pakistan’s government national order (aka: “bad militants”), concurrently prevaricating action against and denying association with those deemed useful in provoking Indian interests in Jammu Kashmir, India and Afghanistan (aka: “good militants”). Finally, he continued a Pakistani tradition of obfuscation and denial in matters impacting what I’ve called “the necessary fiction of Pakistani national sovereignty”—an approach best exemplified by the Pakistani military’s Janus-faced approach to American drone strikes against terrorists in the western reaches.

Pakistan Opts to Talk With Taliban, Not Destroy Them Militarily

December 17, 2013
Pakistan Says No to Military Action Against Taliban

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan ruled out military action against the Taliban on Tuesday and promised to persuade insurgents to lay down their weapons through peace negotiations.

Mullah Fazlullah, the Pakistani Taliban’s new hardline leader, has rejected outright the idea of peace talks and vowed to step up attacks as part of his campaign to topple the central government and establish Islamist rule in Pakistan.

The emergence of Fazlullah has prompted speculation that Pakistan might have to ditch hopes for a negotiated ceasefire and resort to military action against militants holed up in lawless ethnic Pashtun areas on the Afghan border.

But on Tuesday, the government said the Taliban’s tough rhetoric did not mean negotiations had failed.

"Their public posturing is different from what’s going on in the background," said Tariq Azeem, a senior official in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s team. "They want to appear tough but back channels show that they are also interested in talks."

The Taliban could not be immediately reached for comment.

Under Fazlullah, Taliban fighters took over Pakistan’s Swat valley in 2009, imposing austere Islamic rule and eventually prompting the army to launch a major offensive to flush them out of the strategic region just 160 km (100 miles) northwest of Islamabad.

Sharif chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security on Tuesday where officials confirmed their commitment to talks rather than military action.

"The Committee deliberated upon the government’s strategy to engage various groups of Pakistani Taliban to address issues of extremism and militancy," Sharif’s office said in a statement.

"The Committee reaffirmed (the) government’s commitment to the strategy of negotiations with TTP (Pakistani Taliban) and consider the use of other options only as a last resort."

Fazlullah, who fled to Afghanistan after the 2009 operation, has now returned to his homeland to lead the insurgency. He was named the leader last month after his predecessor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a U.S. drone strike on November 1.

Nicknamed “Mullah Radio” for his fiery broadcasts in Swat, Fazlullah is best known for ordering the assassination of teenage female education activist Malala Yousafzai. She survived the attack and now lives in Britain.

Fazlullah has now promised a new campaign of shootings and bombings against the government, particularly in densely populated Punjab province - Sharif’s political powerbase.

But, a month after he took over as the Taliban chief, there have been no major attacks in Pakistan.

The Pakistani Taliban are allied with the Afghan Taliban but Afghan Taliban militants are intent on expelling foreign forces from Afghanistan and do not fight the Pakistani government.

How Bin Laden Escaped in 2001—The lessons of Tora Bora

By Yaniv Barzilai
December 15th 2013

In 2001, a small U.S. special operations force had won extraordinary victories in Afghanistan and closed in on Bin Laden before high-level blunders allowed him to escape into Pakistan.

This week marks the most important anniversary in the global war against al Qaeda that no one remembers.

Exactly twelve years ago, during the cold Winter days between December 10-16, in the jagged mountains of Tora Bora that separate Afghanistan from Pakistan,Osama bin Laden walked unencumbered into Pakistan and disappeared for nine and a half years.

Just before, however, bin Laden had made an egregious error. After spending a couple seconds too long on his radio, the CIA pinpointed bin Laden’s location to within ten meters. One hour later, forty of America’s most elite special operations forces raced to kill the most infamous man alive.

It was the only day for nearly a decade in which the United States knew exactly where Osama bin Laden was. And, it was the last time that the majority of al Qaeda’s leadership would ever be in the same place.

Only three months had passed since the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, and the horrific images remained seared into everyone’s mind: thenews reports that a plane had hit the World Trade Center’s north tower, a Boeing 767 calmly and deliberately banking left just as it slammed into the south tower, the smoldering wreckage of the Pentagon, the crater in Pennsylvania, and the surreal collapse of the twin towers broadcast live on national television.

The failure to prevent the escape of al Qaeda and the Taliban into Pakistan represented a catastrophic blunder that allowed America’s enemies to survive 2001.

One official surveying the destruction likened it to a nuclear detonation. During Vice President Dick Cheney’s first visit to ground zero, his deputy national security advisor pulled him aside to tell him that the White House’s biological detectors had picked up traces of botulinum toxin. Botulinum is the most deadly poison in the world: one gram spread evenly can kill one million people. If accurate, everyone at the White House – including the President – would be dead in the next 48 hours.

For those officials responsible for America’s national security, the attacks were deeply personal. The botulinum scare turned out to be a false positive, but for one day in October of 2001 the very existence of anexecutive branch of government seemed in jeopardy.

So, perhaps the most surprising fact about the Bush Administration’s response to September 11, was that no one in the White House was paying attention when bin Laden was cornered at Tora Bora.

The Blood Telegram

DECEMBER 17, 2013

Gary J. Bass, The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013).

The Nixon presidency will long be remembered for its many contradictions. This was especially true in foreign policy. Despite being an old cold warrior, Nixon was also a far-sighted strategic thinker who understood the changing forces of history. With the brilliant Henry Kissinger as his wingman, he orchestrated the détente with the Soviet Union and the historic opening to China,

While these achievements are generally lauded, Nixon and Kissinger also presided over some of the more egregious episodes of U.S. duplicity abroad. And by centralizing control of U.S. foreign policy in the White House and excluding the State Department and the CIA from any significant decision-making, Nixon undermined the very institutions of government that might have mitigated some of his administration's more disastrous decisions.

Nixon's foreign policy blunders in places like Cambodia and Chile have been well picked over by historians. One area that has until now been overlooked is South Asia. The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide, by Gary J. Bass, remedies that omission. The book is a meticulously researched and searing indictment of the shameful role the United States played from 1970-1971 in the events that resulted in the breakup of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh.

When it was first created in 1947, Pakistan was, as Bass describes it, a "cartographic oddity," divided in two by a thousand miles of "enemy" Indian territory. West Pakistan (current day Pakistan) was dominated by the Punjabis, who controlled the military and much of the government. East Pakistan, which was to become Bangladesh, had a larger population that was predominantly Bengali, was much poorer, and lay mostly below sea level. The two had little in common ethnically, culturally or linguistically. The West looked down on the East; their only common bond was religion.

By 1970, Pakistan was a country in crisis. Relations between the two Pakistans had frayed. Bengalis, resentful of the lack of economic development and investment in the East, had begun to press for greater autonomy. There was talk of secession.

In the White House, South Asia was viewed at the time as a sideshow. While much of the administration's energy in Asia was devoted to the problem of Vietnam, Nixon was also focused on finding an opening to China. As far back as 1967, Nixon advocated ending China's isolation from the West. As president, he became obsessed with making it his foreign policy legacy, but finding the right conduit proved challenging. Pakistan offered to help. The Pakistanis were on good terms with the Chinese, and of the various tracks Nixon and Kissinger tried, the Pakistani channel was the one that delivered.

As the Pakistanis were in the process of helping to organize Kissinger's trip to China, events within Pakistan suddenly spiraled out of control. On the night on November 12, 1970, a cyclone with 150-mile-per-hour winds hit East Pakistan, leaving half a million dead and 2.5 million homeless. The West Pakistan-based central government was slow to react and anemic in its response. The Blood Telegram contains horrific eyewitness accounts of the devastation.

A few weeks later on December 7, the country held elections, and an East Pakistani, Mujibur Rahman, was elected president for the first time. But he was never allowed to assume office. Massive demonstrations erupted in East Pakistan that quickly escalated into a civil war. In March, West Pakistan sent in the army, which using U.S.-supplied arms embarked on a killing spree against its own citizens that resulted in the genocide of some 200,000 Bengalis, many of them students. Hindus in particular were singled out. Ten million refugees were displaced and fled into India, bringing it into the conflict.

In spite of increasingly frantic cables sent by the U.S. consulate in Dacca and the embassy in New Delhi confirming the atrocities, Nixon and Kissinger chose to ignore them. They disparaged Archer Blood, the U.S. consul-general in Dacca, as "the maniac in Dacca," and accused Kenneth Keating, the U.S. ambassador in India and a formidable former Republican senator, of being a mouthpiece for the Indians. Instead, indebted to Gen. Yayha Khan, the military dictator of Pakistan, for his help in arranging Kissinger's visit to China in July 1971, they continued to find ways to channel arms and aid to Pakistan. 

Myanmar’s ‘Big Sister’ Leads in HIV Fight

An organization formed by sex workers for sex workers is making strides in reducing the rate of infections.
By Michelle Tolson
December 18, 2013

Myanmar may have grabbed the world’s eye by opening its borders and ushering in a foreign investment surge, but one story has slipped quietly under the radar. The country has also significantly reduced the rate of HIV infections in its sex worker population from its previous high of 40 percent in females 2005, according to Population Services International (PSI) down to less than 10 percent today.

“Myanmar allowed sex worker-run programs to organize and scale up over the last eight years using an empowerment-based model, rather than a coercive testing model like the 100 percent condom programs in Thailand and Cambodia. The success of the program in reducing HIV rates so dramatically shows investing in sex worker-run programming works,” Andrew Hunter, program and policy manager of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW), told The Diplomat.

Myanmar’s HIV epidemic paralleled Cambodia’s, which peaked at over 42 percent for brothel-based workers and 18 percent for entertainment workers a decade ago, according to the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology, STD (NCHADS), but its peer-led outreach did so with far less media attention and international NGO fanfare.

Not Smothered by INGOs

Melissa Hope Ditmore, one of the foremost researchers on worker-led initiatives in the sex industry, documented a case study of Targeted Outreach Program (TOP), the largest HIV prevention program in Myanmar initiated by PSI. The project has been unique for reaching up to 55 percent of female sex workers and 70 percent of MSM out of the country’s estimated 60,000 sex workers. From NYC, Ditmore told The Diplomat “TOP was very successful working against HIV and STIs. We know that community-lead initiatives are the most effective.”

Kay Thi Win started working in 2004 with TOP in peer education after being approached by them while employed as a sex worker. It was a job she came to from economic hardship after her father died in 1998, while she was studying at high school. Win’s mother could not support the family and they lost their home. In 2000, a friend introduced her to sex work as a way to support her family. Initially she told them she was working at a factory near the Thai border, but now they know about her work and support her. According to Raks Thai, an NGO that helps migrant workers, reports that migrants from Myanmar comprise the largest groups of all migrants in Thailand due to limited work options, but Win preferred to stay in the country.

She learned about the HIV epidemic sweeping the country from TOP and how to use condoms for protection. Win told The Diplomat from a conference on HIV in Bangkok that by 2012 the rate of HIV had declined to just 7.1 for sex workers. Though no longer working for TOP, she still refers sex workers to the project for health services.

Win now heads the AIDS Myanmar Association (AMA). AMA is Burmese for “big sister.” Win says that AMA is the only 100 percent sex worker-led organization in the country. “AMA does health education, HIV and STI counseling and treatment. [There is] sexual and reproductive health treatment, also for our members who are getting sick,” said Win.

Soft Power and China-Japan Relations

Soft power won’t solve all problems for these East Asian neighbors, but it can ease the path away from brinksmanship.
December 18, 2013

Hard power is the predominant realist mode of measuring power, relative and absolute. We measure military and economic capabilities and draw conclusions about a given state’s ability to seek the outcomes it desires from other political actors – friend or foe. Generally, this is a useful model for thinking about states’ options and underlies a good deal of contemporary analysis in international security. In East Asia, hard power distributions, buttressed by U.S. alliance networks (particularly with South Korea and Japan), have kept conflict at bay, despite widespread mistrust and resentment (between U.S. allies and China).

In the East Asian security equation, there seems to be little interest in challenging the tense current status quo. Using the East China Sea dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands as a case in point, it is evident that the stand off between China and Japan shows no signs of drawing down due to third-party mediation, international arbitration, bilateral diplomacy, or unilateral capitulation. While current trends are subject to change with a unilateral policy revision by either China or Japan, the probability of a skirmish – or indeed war – is not remote.

Much has been said of China’s approach to the dispute – especially recently following its decision to unilaterally declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over a large swathe of the East China Sea, claiming airspace over the disputed islets in the process. What is remarkable about the escalation over the islets, which really came to the fore of the mainstream media after a Chinese fishing boat collided with a Japanese Coast Guard patrol in 2010, is that so far we’ve seen hard power brinksmanship almost exclusively. Neither China nor Japan – both relatively mature international actors – have taken steps outside this rubric to address the dispute.

Most visibly, soft power is almost entirely absent from the Beijing-Tokyo relationship today. If there were some soft power coefficient to describe the rate at which perceptions between the two countries are changing, it would be a negative number. Opinion surveys show that perceptions that close to nine in ten Chinese feel negatively about Japan, and eight in ten Japanese harbor negative sentiments towards China.

Back in 2007, when China’s “peaceful rise” rhetoric was in vogue in the Hu-Wen era, certain analysts of Chinese affairs grew optimistic at Hu Jintao’s declaration that China would pursue “soft power” globally – that Hu proclaimed this in his keynote speech to the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China suggested that as China rose, it might escape the Thucydidean trap in East Asia.

Massive New Water Project Opens, But Will It Work?

China just took another step toward easing its water crisis. Water began flowing along the Eastern Route of the unassuming sounding South-North Water Diversion Project a few days ago. The project is perhaps the largest and most expensive infrastructure enterprise in the history of the human race. It will draw water from China’s fertile south to the parched north, through three sets of canals and tunnels called the Western, Middle, and Eastern routes (see map). Why? Because northern China is dying.

Last Sunday, top Chinese leaders celebrated the opening of the Eastern route and urged workers to continue the invaluable work they are doing on all the routes. The project, though controversial, is deemed by China’s leaders to be the remedy to northern China’s lack of water. “China is dangerously short of water,” the Economist reported in October. “While the south is a lush, lake-filled region, the north—which has half the population and most of the farmland—is more like a desert. The international definition of water stress is 1,000 cubic metres of usable water per person per year. The average northern Chinese has less than a fifth of that amount. China has 20% of the world’s population but only 7% of its fresh water. A former prime minister, Wen Jiabao, once said water shortages threaten ‘the very survival of the Chinese nation’.” And to make matters worse, China is horribly polluting what little water it has left.

The Project aims to ensure the Chinese nation survives by physically moving tons of water from south to north. The logistics are simply stunning. It will connect the Yangtze and the Yellow Rivers, two of Asia’s largest, taking 44.8 billion cubic meters of water each year out of the Yangtze and putting it into the northern Yellow River basin. There will be 3,000 kilometers of tunnels and canals through mountains, across farmland and underground—not much less than the entire length of the Mississippi River. As is normal when China builds something big, hundreds of thousands of people will be forcibly moved out of the way. The Eastern section, the one that opened recently, will eventually pump 14.8 billion cubic meters of water a year, as the Economist reports; so far, the liquid in it has been so dirty and polluted that millions of dollars have been spent on purification. The Western link is the most controversial: it crosses fragile Himalayan terrain. The Middle section should be open in a year. Together it is projected to cost $79.4 billion. “It would be cheaper to desalinate the equivalent amount of seawater,” notes the Economist, though of course much of the desalinated water would then have to be shipped uphill from the coast.

There are serious financial and environmental consequences to consider with this project, and it seems doomed to be less of a triumph than China’s leaders hope. There are political damages to consider too: several of China’s water projects will affect downstream nations like Bangladesh, Myanmar, and India. China desperately needs a solution to its water crisis. Whatever else it is, the South-North Water Diversion Project is unlikely to be the final or complete answer to one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems.

China in 2014: The three Rs

December 16th, 2013
By Robert Daly, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Robert Daly is director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center. The views expressed are his own. This is the first in the '14 in 2014' series, looking at what the year ahead holds for key countries.

Three stories dominate American coverage of China at the close of 2013: the recent plenum that outlined China’s direction for the next decade, China’s establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, and Beijing’s delayed issuance of visas to American journalists. The common thread in these stories is Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping. Xi’s vision and political acumen are the driving force behind reform proposals that could reshape China. Xi would have had to sign off on an ADIZ that has deepened suspicion that China seeks regional hegemony. And Xi has spearheaded a year-long campaign against freedom of information that may culminate in the closing of the China offices of Bloomberg and the New York Times.

Xi’s program to date is Reform, Resurgence, and Repression. What China becomes under his leadership in 2014 and beyond will depend on whether this modern strongman is truly modern and truly strong, or whether he is cultivating an image of strength in an attempt to rein in a dynamic but fragile nation which an anachronistic CCP can no longer control.

Reform. The policy goals Xi set at the plenum demonstrated that he shares the Chinese people’s concerns for social welfare, sustainable growth, a cleaner environment, and cleaner government. Xi’s self confidence and specificity gave plenum documents the feel of a new social contract. They were a populist’s promise to the masses.

To keep his promise, Xi must take on vested interests in state-owned enterprises, local governments, and the CCP itself, which connected families treat as a spoils system. This will be the test of Xi’s power and China’s progress in 2014: if he is able to eliminate the perquisites and rent-taking opportunities of entrenched elites – and we’re talking about tens of millions of people, not just a corrupt official now and then – we may see major and beneficial change in China. If Xi opts instead for creating the illusion of progress through token prosecutions, self-criticism sessions, and constricted free trade zones, the strongman pose will be revealed as a sham and we should expect more signs of fragility and stagnation in China.

Resurgence. Xi has made “The Chinese Dream” the rallying cry of his administration. On the international front, the China Dream entails creation of a zone of deference within the Western Pacific – a region in which Chinese primacy is understood to be natural, inevitable, and desirable: natural means China is blameless for seeking it, inevitable means there is no point in other nations’ resisting it, and desirable means it is self-evident that China is a benign power. China’s sense of destiny, and other nations’ concern that China may soon have the means to fulfill it, is the major cause of tension in East Asia. It is the reason that China ADIZ in the East China Sea and may declare zones in the Yellow and South China Seas in 2014.

China Responds to Japan’s Defense Package

China’s response to Japan’s national security strategy reveals the underlying issues of history, distrust and hypocrisy.
December 18, 2013

On Tuesday, Japan approved a 10-year security strategy. Over the next five years, Japan will increase military spending by about 1 trillion Yen ($9.73 billion) over the past five year period. Much of the spending will involve new military assets, including additional destroyers and submarines as well as drones, fighter jets, and amphibious vehicles. The increase in military spending and the type of technology seems to confirm that Japan’s defense strategy is aimed at defending the territories which are also claimed by China. “China’s stance toward other countries and military moves, coupled with a lack of transparency regarding its military and national security policies, represent a concern to Japan and the wider international community and require close watch,” BBC quoted the security strategy as saying.

Not surprisingly, the new security strategy caused an immediate backlash in China. An English-language editorialpublished by Xinhua called the security package “a turning point in Tokyo’s understanding of security and a signal that the dangerous ‘Abe-military’ has come on stage.” The details of the Chinese response highlight several underlying sources of tension in the region.

First, the historic background of the Sino-Japanese Wars continue to haunt China’s interpretation of Japan’s present actions. Every increase in military spending or remark about removing the self-defense limitations on Japan’s military is seen not just as a present-day threat, but as an echo of Japan’s actions during World War II. A recent Global Timeseditorial commented that Japan’s “rightist and militarist maneuvers, coupled with Abenomics, have reminded people around the world of Japan’s likely return to a political stance echoing the perilous WWII era.” Likewise, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying explained China’s concern in historical terms: “Given all the negative moves taken by Japan on historical issues, Asian countries and the international community, including China, cannot but pay high attention and stay on high alert.”

On a related note, such viewpoints always skirt the edge of daring Japan to repeat history. The Global Times editorial warned Japan that “the present international landscape makes it hard for Tokyo to embark on a militarist road, notwithstanding Abe’s desire for the glory of a fascist Japan.” During the early 20th century, China was undergoing a historically abnormal period of military and political weakness. Now that China is once again a regional power, there is a sense that, should Japan try to repeat its strategy of aggression, China will be ready. Such comments serve as a warning, but also can be disturbingly wistful. The most extreme elements in China are eager to avenge the period of occupation by Japan, and would almost welcome a conflict between the two nations so that China can prove its current strength.

Binding Vietnam and India: Joint energy exploration in South China Sea

P K Ghosh
17 December 2013

Vietnam's recent granting of seven oil blocks in the South China Sea for exploration by India is part of a plan to internationalise Hanoi's territorial dispute with China. Hanoi hopes to create more stakeholders who can withstand Chinese hegemonic ambitions in the area. 


The recent news that Vietnam has offered India seven oil blocks for exploration during the visit of the Vietnamese Communist Party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong failed to create headlines even though it is pregnant with implications on Hanoi's relations with China and on its South China Sea policy. 

It is well known that the Indian Government has made heavy investments in energy exploration in the South China Sea. Awarded through the global bidding process, India earlier had three blocks in the Vietnamese region in which about US$360 million was invested through the state-run ONGC Videsh (OVL). 

Disputed and undisputed areas 

OVL has been prospecting for oil in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in Blocks 127 and 128 (Phu Khanh Bay) in territories under dispute. It withdrew from Block 127 which proved unviable and dry, while Block 128 was bogged down by layers of hard rock and unfavourable geological conditions which made it difficult to penetrate. 

Despite these issues, India decided not to withdraw from Block 128 due to complex geo-strategic reasons including a request from the Vietnamese to stay on for another two years. In the meantime Indian operations of extracting natural gas in Block 6.1 since 2003 in the region which is not under dispute continues from where it got two billion cubic metres (BCM) of gas in 2011-12 for its 45% participating interest. 

While the Chinese had not objected to Vietnam allotting the lucrative Block 6.1 to India in Nam Con Son Basin, it objected to India taking up exploration in blocks 127 and 128. Chinese objections have included demarches, pressure on companies not to sell equipment to India and the alleged buzzing of an Indian warship that had transited through the disputed portion of the South China Sea. 

Following talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and General Secretary Trong during the Vietnamese leader's recent high profile visit to India, eight agreements were signed. There was also an MoU between both countries in which Vietnam offered seven oil blocks in the South China Sea to India - including three on an exclusive basis - and joint prospecting in some Central Asian countries with which both Hanoi and New Delhi have good political ties.