27 December 2013

Delegation of Powers to the Armed Forces in a Time Warp

December 26, 2013

The substance of the inquiry report prepared by the Director General of Military operations on the functioning of the Technical Support Division (TSD) – a Military Intelligence (MI) unit – set up by a former Army Chief, as reported in the press1, is as follows: A secret unit was set up without the knowledge or specific approval of the Ministry of Defence (MoD)/Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the unit undertook activities that went beyond the MI’s mandate, and there was widespread misuse of powers given to the unit.

Going by this press report, MoD has instructed the Army HQ that its permission will need to be taken before changing the structure or role of the units in future. This could easily be interpreted to mean that there are no existing instructions on such vital issues. But such an impression would be wrong. Indeed, there is a large scale delegation of administrative and financial powers to various functionaries in the Services down to the unit level. There are several instructions/orders (government letters, to use the MoD parlance) that lay down what the Services can do on their own and what they cannot under the powers delegated to them. Why then, one may ask, the need arose for MoD to instruct the Army HQ that henceforth permission would need to be taken to alter the structure or the role of a unit? There are three reasons for this.

One, the government letters delegating the administrative powers are more than a decade old. The financial powers were last reviewed in 2006. Much has changed since then both in terms of what needs to be delegated as well as the manner in which the delegated powers should be exercised. For example, there were no dedicated Integrated Financial Advisors with the Service HQ when the administrative powers were last delegated. Now each Service HQ has at least a Principal Integrated Financial Advisor – an officer of the level of Additional Secretary to the Government of India. More administrative powers can easily be delegated to the Service HQ with the stipulation that those which have financial implication will be exercised with the concurrence of these advisors. Similarly, the financial powers delegated to the Services in 2006 have become grossly inadequate because of inflation and change in the exchange rate in the intervening period.

Two, the scheme of delegation of administrative and financial powers has become anachronistic. There are problems relating to interpretation of some of the provisions of the government letters and new areas of decision-making have emerged which call for delegation of powers. To illustrate: the Naval Officers heading the dockyards, though responsible for meeting the targets, do not have full financial powers to buy whatever is needed to meet those targets. Thus, the authority vested in them is not commensurate with their responsibility. A somewhat archaic notion of splitting of financial powers continues to pervade the scheme of financial delegation, resulting in frequent tussle between the financial advisors and the executive officers over its interpretation. A simple provision that the funds allotted to an authority may be spent in any manner required, as long as the requirement is managed within the allotted funds, could solve this problem. As an added measure, exercise of financial powers could be linked with measurable outcomes.

CHINA: Mao’s 120th Birthday- The undiminished Importance of his Legacy for the CCP

Paper No. 5623 Dated 26-Dec-2013
By D. S. Rajan 
Chairman Mao’s 120th birth anniversary falls today (26 December 2013). 

1. Events in China to mark the occasion are going to be “solemn, austere and practical”, as per the instructions of the Chinese Communist Party General Secretary and President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Xi Jinping. The Planned programmes include issuing of commemorative stamps, publication of books, holding of photographic exhibitions and concerts especially at Beijing’s Great Hall of People as well as functions at the revolutionary base at Yanan and Mao’s birth place of Shao Shan.

2. A key question assuming importance on the occasion will be- how the current evaluation of the Chinese authorities on Mao’s role compares with that seen in the past. In this connection, meriting attention are the following three quotes revealing that the PRC has always taken a consistent stand- ‘On the whole, Mao’s contributions outweigh his mistakes’. 

“Comrade Mao Zedong was a great Marxist and a great proletarian revolutionary, strategist and theorist. It is entirely wrong to adopt a dogmatic attitude towards the sayings of Comrade Mao Zedong, to regard whatever he said as the immutable truth which must be mechanically applied everywhere, and to be unwilling to admit honestly that he made mistakes in his later years, and even try to stick to them in our new activities. Both these attitudes fail to make a distinction between Mao Zedong Thought - a scientific theory formed and tested over a long period of time - and the mistakes Comrade Mao Zedong made in his later years. And it is absolutely necessary that this distinction should be made.It is true that he made gross mistakes during the "cultural revolution", but, if we judge his activities as a whole, his contributions to the Chinese revolution far outweigh his mistakes. His merits are primary and his errors secondary”- “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People's Republic of China, adopted by the Sixth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on June 27, 1981.

“Chairman Mao’s contributions are 70 % positive, 30 % negative”- Veteran Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, 1981.

“Mao Zedong’s achievements outweigh his mistakes” – as ‘agreed’ by 78.3% of respondents , ‘strongly agreed’ by 6.8% , ‘disagreed’ by 11.7% and ‘did not know’ by about 3% - Survey conducted by the party-affiliated Global Times , Chinese language edition, 25 December 2013

3. Statements from party leaders, contents of important official documents and details of lead articles that appeared in the PRC’s authoritative media and mentioned below, also confirm the prevailing consistency in China in assessing Mao’s contributions. What looks new, however, is the caveat being introduced of late by the Xi Jinping regime – Do not fully repudiate Mao era policies. This theme is finding a strong echo in China ever since Xi made a demand himself (5 January 2013) that “what was achieved before reforms cannot be denied on the basis of what happened after it and vice-versa”, along with a warning that a full repudiation of Mao-era policies could lead to “great chaos under the heavens’. The political significance of the caveat looks beyond doubt; apparently, some elements in the society, nurturing blind opposition to Mao, are coming under the party attack.

Terror and Violence in China

IssueNet Edition| Date : 26 Dec , 2013

Ethnic Uighurs look on as Chinese security forces stand by the entrance to the Uighurs neighborhood in Urumqi in China's Xinjiang autonomous region (Photo © www.voanews.com)

The recent skirmishes between the Chinese security forces and the separatist Uygur Muslims in the Xinjiang province on Tuesday have once again created vulnerable ground for serious ethnic crisis in China. Earlier in 2009 the province has already witnessed deadly ethnic conflict between the Uygurs ( Sunni Muslims of Turkish roots ) and the natives Hans. The roots of conflict lies in the historical inner dynamics of China. According to official Chinese data there are 56 minority nationalities comprising 8.2 percent of China’s total population scattered over 64.5 per cent of total land area, mainly in the north east, north-west, and south west. The main nationalities are some 15 million Zhuang in Guangxi, 10 million Manchu in Liaoning, 8 million Hui in Ningxia, Gansu, 7 million Miao in Guizhou and 7 million Uygur in Xinjiang.

Chinese occupation of Xinjiang was primarily aimed at keeping the non-Chinese inhabitants under control and protecting China’s core territories in Gansu and Shanxi provinces.

The Uygurs are Sunni Muslims and constitute 46 per cent of Xinjiang’s population, with smaller percentages of Han (36 per cent) Kazakh (7.7 percent) Hui (4 per cent) Tajiks (2 percent) and Kyrgyz (1 percent).Xinjiang, formerly known as Turkestan is China’s largest administrative unit covering about one-sixth of the total area of the country. The presence of Taklamakan desert in southern Xinjiang makes much of the region uninhabitable. Another formidable barrier to human habitation is the Tian Shan range, at the centre of this vast territory. Towards the north of the Tian Shan are the towns of Urumqi (Capital of Xinjiang), Turfan and Kudia, and towards further north there are Dzungarian Steppelands. Northern Xinjiang shares borders with the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan and Tajikistan. To the south are the oases and towns of the Tarim River Basin, Yarkhand, Khotan and others. The southern boundary is clearly delineated by the Kuniun mountains which separate Xinjiang from Kashmir.

Xinjiang is of immense importance to China because of its strategic location. Throughout history, Xinjiang functioned as the main gateway to south and west Asia and presence of such oases as Hami and Turfan in the North and Khotan and Keriya in the south were vital to the operation of the silk Route. The trade caravans needed these halting places for food, water and other supplies. The northern routes led to central Asia and the Middle east.

China’s interest in Xinjiang is not limited to commerce alone. Concerned about the defence of their territories the Chinese sought buffer zones as a means of protecting their borderlands. Chinese occupation of Xinjiang was primarily aimed at keeping the non-Chinese inhabitants under control and protecting China’s core territories in Gansu and Shanxi provinces.

Cloud intelligence in Nepal

Published: December 27, 2013
Kanak Mani Dixit

With the people having voted with their head and heart, Nepal is back on the track to constitution-writing and a turbulent democracy

The elections on November 19, largely unsoiled, returned Nepal to representative democracy, ending a period of rule by a political syndicate that had severely weakened the polity. Until the last moment, it was feared that the UCPN-Maoist may be able to mount the kind of election-time blitzkrieg of the earlier polls in 2008. It was not for the wanting, but the party failed to hijack the process, weakened by a split in the organisation, a disbanding of ex-combatants, and the evaporation of fear across the land.

The run-up to the elections was anything but promising. The interim government of Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi had been formed against the principle of separation of powers, and he seemed much too beholden to the “High Level Committee” dominated by UCPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal (‘Prachanda’). Many believed that the breakaway Maoist party of Mr. Mohan Baidya was secretly aligned with Mr. Dahal, even more so when the campaign period was vitiated by the former’s bombings and bandhs. While Mr. Baidya will have to answer for the violence, as the election date drew near it became clear that his agenda was Mr. Dahal’s all-out defeat.

Critical issues were being bypassed in these second-time elections for the Constituent Assembly — the plunder of the exchequer, the stonewalling on local government, the weakening of state administration, a liaison with alien “agencies,” communal adventurism, the wounding of the judiciary and the candidature of accused war criminals. The last-minute leak of an audio tape, with Mr. Dahal exhorting his followers to use all instruments of electoral fraud, had everyone expecting the worst.


The worries proved unfounded, mainly because the UCPN-Maoist leaders had already converted into the feudal oligarchs of Animal Farm. Distanced from even their own cadre, wallowing in nepotism, and unwilling to descend from their mansions and helicopters, the cohort did not seem to know that the ground had shifted. Without their ability to intimidate, the people would vote with their eyes and ears.

It helped enormously that the Home Ministry and Election Commission had ensured security, assisted by unprecedented support from the Indian government in preventing politico-criminals using the open border to cause mayhem. The first-time introduction of voter ID cards changed the atmospherics at the ballot centres.

Kept informed by an alert media, including Nepal’s energetic network of FM radio stations, the voters of plains, midhill and montane regions acted in unison to penalise the miscreants. All over the disparate communities and geographies, a kind of “cloud intelligence” emerged, with the people voting in favour of democratic sanity. The absence of debate on the issues did not matter — the voters did not need coaching.


27 December 2013

Things are changing all over the world. The era of capitalism has undergone multiple changes. A few decades ago, it was about creating higher levels of comfort, but today it is more about nurturing ideas that can change the world

Different adjectives are used for the times we are living through. Up-market expressions currently in vogue include ‘churning’, ‘samundra manthan’, ‘turbulence’ and more on these lines. When delivered in a Western environment with cocktails flowing, and degrees from Oxbridge or Harvard being the common denominator, such expressions are particularly impressive. Heads shake despondently and the front foot is tapped with great wisdom. In-depth analysis is offered and carefully calibrated agreements and disagreements are exchanged, in a know-all atmosphere. Then, the whole conversation is pushed in to oblivion more sooner than later.

But this is only one part of the story. From here, the affected domain is forks into two. One part does not adequately realise that turbulence is global and not exclusively Indian. The other part has never travelled without aide to register what life in the raw can be like.

Things are changing all over the world. The era of capitalism has undergone multiple forms. A few decades ago, it was about creating higher levels of comfort, but is now more concerned about nurturing ideas that can change lives.

Similarly, after the disintegration of the USSR, China became the face of communism. As is now widely realised, one of the many things significant about China is its ability to change prices of various items across the world. When there is turbulence at the foundation, the shaking of the leaves is only symptomatic.

New building materials, like new sources of energy, are redefining life. Old palaces are not only passé but fit only for use as offices or resorts. The fast-moving, consumer goods firms stand transformed and the consultant does not have a clue about the paradigm that has changed so dramatically.

Tata Nano cars may not be a success in India but similar models across the world are encouraging innovation in fuel-consumption and emission technology. The fuel ecosystem has moved on to use of gas. In Gujarat alone cost efficiency of industries have gone up by about 32 per cent with gas use. Across the world, people are looking to the heritage variable for alternative models.

In India, while we believe that for 67 years we have worked to create a secular state, the reality is of ‘competitive communalism’. The world over communities are breaking barriers for better internal egalitarianism; in India, the state is erecting barriers to social egalitarianism. The world is talking of creating new labour opportunities and new market values; in India, we like to provide political harvest to inherited castes.

The cocktail circles will be largely oblivious to the state of the roads in the unfashionable parts of India. Forget the romanticised version of the countryside, even the national highways in many parts are in a poor state. Take the case of NH-34. Say in West Bengal, between Dhalkola to Raiganj, roughly a 65 to 75km stretch, the condition of the highway is such when one starts on that road, he does not know how he will emerge at the other end. I went to this unfashionable part of the world, a few days ago.

Our Indian Feudal Service

Shekhar Gupta
Dec 21 2013
Of course, they have a right to fleece a maid, break the law — and claim immunity

Indian diplomacy has a well-deserved reputation for conservative understatedness. You’ve rarely seen a professional Indian diplomat grandstanding or headline-hunting. Not even Mani Shankar Aiyar, when he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Probably no one after Krishna Menon’s days of acid filibustery more than half a century ago. Not for any “proper” Indian diplomat the arrogant, stupid swagger of the occasional Pakistani — if anybody can recall an Indian insult to rival the unspeakable Munir Akram (later Pakistan representative to the UN) dismissing Salman Khurshid as a rented Muslim, and India as the sick man of Asia, please do let me know and I will stand corrected. To my recollection, the funniest Indian diplomatic comment came from K. Natwar Singh. When asked if he was a hawk or a dove, he said, “I am running foreign policy, not a bird sanctuary.” For someone who represented Bharatpur in the Lok Sabha, that was really smart. And the most cutting in recent memory was also possibly the most subtle. As India and Pakistan seemed to be drawing close to war in 2001-02 following the attack on Parliament, Pakistan responded by test-firing several “new” missiles, all named after medieval invaders of India: Abdali, Ghazni, Ghori, etc. Asked for comment at her daily press briefing, Nirupama Rao, then MEA spokesperson, simply said, “We are not impressed”. Just four brilliant, inoffensive words were enough to infuriate Pervez Musharraf.

What is to explain such a radical shift in the style and manner of such a classy, sophisticated and patient foreign service bureaucracy? Words like barbaric, despicable, inhuman, perfidy, betrayal, withdraw-all-charges-and-apologise and so on do not belong to the usual diplomatic vocabulary. These are the last resort of editorial writers and TV anchors always short of ideas or a clever turn of phrase. The same foreign service has handled three relatively recent incidents that amount to enormous perfidies — the torture and killing of Captain Saurabh Kalia and his patrol of five in Kargil (June, 1999), the beheading of an Indian soldier and disfiguring of the other on the LoC (January, 2013) and, in between, the greatest and continuing betrayal of all, the American double games over David Coleman Headley — with such mature equanimity.

It is not even as if Indian diplomats haven’t been put through harassment and worse in the past. Ravindra Mhatre, our assistant high commissioner in Birmingham, was kidnapped and killed by the JKLF to free Maqbool Butt and much later, following the destruction of Babri Masjid, the residence of our consul-general in Karachi, Rajiv Dogra, was ransacked. But never did our hallowed foreign service reach for the holster as they have done now. Nothing, not the CIA, PLA or ISI has roused this country to come together against a common enemy as this. It took just one perfidious, conspiring maid to stand up and ask for her rights.

A diplomatic pickle

Published on The Asian Age (http://www.asianage.com)
By editor
25 Dec 2013
At best India can hope to extricate Devyani from the US and let the judicial process take its course. Calls for an out-of-court settlement must be rejected as India cannot submit to blackmail by a domestic assistant.

Two hashtags dominated news for a week on social networking website Twitter — #Devyani and #Khobragade. The questions arising are: why is she in a diplomatic pickle, and how do India and US restore normalcy in their relations?

Much comment on the electronic, print and social media is based on partial information, jealousy or chauvinism. There exists a two-decade old arrangement with the US embassy in New Delhi that an affidavit could be given on the US’ minimum wage rules to be observed. Both sides knew that the Indian employers would in reality be offering a package consisting of cash-in-hand, free boarding and lodging, in addition to the government-provided free medical care and air passages, including a mid-term home leave passage.

According to the US’ calculation if the domestic assistant stays with the employer the working hours are taken to be the entire period other than sleep time. A day off, which Devyani claims was provided, can be disbelieved if the servant alleges she slaved interminably and so on. Whether the domestic assistant was treated as a family member or a veritable serf would depend on whom you believe. The new state department guidelines specify all package items to be excluded when calculating minimum wage.

For two decades, very few domestic assistants seem to have deserted their employers or were repatriated, considering that at any given moment there would be 20 to 30 servants attached to officers in the embassy/United Nations mission and the four consulate-generals. But once the domestic assistant absconds, largely to melt away into the population of illegal immigrants in the US, the arrangement gets tested. Generally in the past the state department was informed, visas cancelled, and the officers sometimes even got replacements from India. However, over the past few years, with changes in the US legislation on human trafficking and illegal migration and the advent of the democratic administration of President Barack Obama the fleeing domestic assistant has an easier path to a residence visa if allegations of abuse are levelled.

A few civil suits were filed by absconders claiming damages for abuse, low payment etc. One consul-general had to pay $75,000, another officer has an outstanding claim of over a million. It should have been obvious to the ministry of external affairs that new arrangements or systems were required. But either due to the smugness that the India-US relations had consolidated and were immune from misunderstanding on such minor issues or due to a proclivity, that begins with the prime minister and permeates the system, to not raise irritants forcefully with the US, the issue was allowed to drift.

The lesson from Machhil encounter

Published: December 27, 2013 

The Army’s decision to court-martial six military personnel, including a Colonel, for the heinous murder of three civilians in a fake encounter at Machhil in the Kashmir Valley in April 2010, is a rare, but significant event. For once, internal processes in the military, such as the Court of Inquiry that recommended that these suspects be tried by a military court for murder, abduction and conspiracy, seem to show some resolve towards securing justice to the families of victims of bogus encounters. Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Riyaz Ahmad Lone and Mohammad Shafi Lone had gone missing in April 2010 after they went looking for “an army job.” On April 30 that year, an Army unit claimed that it had killed three militants in an encounter at Machhil in Kupwara district, but the families questioned the claim and insisted on a police probe. As the police investigation progressed, the bodies were exhumed and an autopsy concluded that the three had been shot at point blank range. Eleven persons, including Colonel D.K. Pathania and two Majors were charge-sheeted in a criminal court at Sopore. Three “counter-insurgents,” it emerged, had pocketed cash from an Army unit for handing over the three men, and the men in uniform had, in turn, killed the trio and earned cash rewards for eliminating “militants.” Despite the police charge sheet, the Army successfully stalled the proceedings before a trial court and opted for a Court of Inquiry. The CoI came to the same conclusion as the police.

If the experience of the Pathribal fake encounter, which dates back to 2000, is anything to go by, denial, delay and obfuscation have been the reflexive responses of the military establishment to credible complaints that some rogue elements in the armed forces are staging killings, passing them off as encounters with “terrorists” and staking claim to rewards. Often, the process pits the military establishment against the police, which investigate such incidents and seek to prosecute armed forces personnel in regular criminal courts. After the Supreme Court ruled that the CBI required prior sanction under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to prosecute the Army personnel involved in the Pathribal encounter, but not if they were tried by court-martial, the Army opted for its own internal probe. Perhaps chastened by this experience, the Army, in the Machhil case, departed from its routine practice of taking cover under AFSPA to evade investigation and scrutiny. Accountability for military misdeeds during counter-insurgency operations is undoubtedly a great challenge to the Indian state. If there is a lesson in this, it is that statutory shields granting impunity have ultimately to give way to the cry for justice and accountability.

Passing the nuclear baton in Pakistan

December 27, 2013
ISSSP Reflections No. 9, December 27, 2013
Authors: Ms. Aditi Malhotra

A lot has changed since Pakistan went nuclear in 1998. Pakistan has successfully tested and deployed longer range nuclear-capable missiles while continuing to expand its fissile material stockpile and of late has ventured towards flight-testing its short range missile Nasr/Hatf-IX which it claims carries a nuclear warhead. Nevertheless, one person has remained a constant fixture throughout Pakistan’s nuclear odyssey. This individual has been Lt General Khalid Kidwai, an Artillery officer who took over the reins of Strategic Plans Division (SPD) as Director General (DG) in February 2000 and continued in the position for almost 14 years. Kidwai’s seemingly unending tenure draws to a close on December 31, 2013. The revelation of his impending retirement and appointment of Lt Gen Zubair Mehmood Hayat as the new DG, SPD was made on December 18.

Kidwai’s retirement marks a landmark moment for Pakistan’s Nuclear Command and Control (C2) structure. This is not only because it marks the first major change in SPD’s leadership but also due to the other changes which have occurred in Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA) after PM Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Army Chief assumed office in June 2013 and November 2013 respectively.

After PM Nawaz Sharif’s accession, a new set of people were ushered into civilian positions in the NCA. Nawaz Sharif assumed the position of Chairman, NCA (a position held by the PM since 2010). Additionally, two new individuals, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Mohammad Ishaq Dar, part of Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet (Minister of Interior and Minister of Finance ) have also became part of the Employment Control Committee (ECC) of the NCA.

NATO Supplies: Endgame


Anurag Tripathi
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

As the US drawdown in Afghanistan approaches its culmination, Pakistan continues to extract all it can from its reluctant alliance in the War against Terror, leveraging its 'strategic location' to a maximum. Nevertheless, this strategy appears to be approaching its natural limits and, on December 9, 2013, the United State (US) Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, during his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, reportedly warned Pakistan that, if it failed to secure the supply routes to and from Afghanistan, the US Congress may withhold military aid to Pakistan. An unnamed US defense official stated, “The Secretary made the point that we need to demonstrate the continued flow of goods in order to be able to continue fulfilling their reimbursements.”

Significantly, on October 19, 2013, the US had decided to give USD 1.6 billion in assistance to Pakistan. The sum had earlier been blocked because of tensions between the two countries over events inside Pakistan, including the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden at Abottabad, on May 2, 2011.

On December 12, 2013, however, the Pakistan Government denied having received any US warning. An official spokesperson of the Foreign Office declared, “I am not aware from where those reports appeared in the media. These were misleading reports.”

It is, nevertheless, the case that, on December 4, 2013, the US announced the suspension of NATO shipments to and from Afghanistan via the Torkham Gate route of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The action was taken following violent protests across the Province by the Imran Khan led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its partners - Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) and Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan (AJIP) - in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government. The alliance of three parties formed the Government in KP in June 2013. Thousands of party supporters have been protesting against US drone strikes. The protests escalated following the killing of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud on November 1, 2013, in a US drone strike in the Dandy Darpakhel area of North Waziristan Agency in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Pakistan Begins Producing Block-II JF-17 Aircraft

The Block-II variant of the JF-17s entered production recently, with more advanced weapon systems and avionics.
December 27, 2013

According to reports by DefenseNews and DefenseTalk, Pakistan launched production of the Block-II JF-17 combat aircraft at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex near Islamabad. The Diplomat reported earlier this year that Pakistan expected to begin exporting the JF-17 in 2014; the beginning of production last week is set to keep it on track to meet that deadline.

The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex has already produced 50 older, less-advanced Block-I JF-17s for the Pakistan air force. The newer Block-II variants possess more advanced weapons systems and avionics. The JF-17s are low-cost multirole single engine fighters jointly developed between Pakistan and China. China refers to the JF-17 as the FC-1 Xiaolong.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex last week for “briefings on the exports of the Pakistan Air Force’s aircraft, the JF-17 Thunder,” according to a report by The Tribune. The event was intended to inaugurate the beginning of the production of the Block-II JF-17s and was attended by Chinese delegates and the Pakistan air force. Sharif said the JF-17 project would “expand the friendship between China and Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s air force intends the JF-17 to replace its aging Dassault Mirage-III/5 and Chengdu F-7P aircraft. The first batch of JF-17s replaced the Nanchang A-5 Fantan attack aircraft, according to DefenseNews.

The JF-17s could be a commercial coup for China and Pakistan. There is a major cadre of countries interested in importing the aircraft, which is appealing given its low price and performance. A 2010 report indicates a long list of potential buyers including Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Congo, Egypt, Indonesia (which has already signed an agreement with Pakistan), Iran, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Air Marshal Sohail Gul Khan of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex has also reiterated the interest earlier this year: “We’ve been getting inquiries and expressions of interest for the JF-17 Thunder from many countries in the Middle East, Africa and from as far as South America.”

Regardless, Pakistan remains the only country to have formally purchased the JF-17 for use in its air force so far. The JF-17 has begun to enter Pakistan’s strategic community as an important asset. Usman Shabbir, an analyst of the Pakistan Military Consortium, described the value added by the Block-II JF-17s for Pakistan’s air defense capabilities. According to Shabbir, 50 JF-17s “are enough to form three squadrons with a typical squadron strength of 16 aircraft.” He adds, “From early 2014 the first Block-II will rollout. Block-II has no airframe changes other than the addition of [an in-flight refuelling probe] which would later also be refitted to all Block-I aircraft. Most of the improvements are in radar and avionics.”

Political Crisis in Bangladesh: A Question of National Identity

Bangladeshi politics are currently mired in crisis around questions of national identity.
December 27, 2013

In August this year, when I was in Bangladesh, a common theme of concern among the people I spoke to was the looming uncertainty in the country. Masud Rana, an informational technology professional, had started preparing for the hard days ahead. He bought a second-hand motorcycle to commute from his home to his office, to avoid taking the risk of traveling by his own car during the protests. In 2007, his new car was torched by protesters when he was driving down to his office during a week-long general strike.

Rana’s fear was not unfounded.

The capital Dhaka and other parts of the country have been witnessing a series of shutdowns and violent protests in the past few months. Violent protests and large scale destruction have claimed more than 100 lives so far across the country and the crisis shows no signs of abating.

At the center of the continuous political crisis is the 10th parliamentary election, but a larger issue is at hand: the fight between moderate and secular forces on the one hand and radical Islamic forces on the other.

Ever since democracy was restored in Bangladesh in the early 1990s, the country has been marred by a deep distrust between the two main political parties – the Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). This distrust stands in the way of strengthening democratic institutions, such as the Electoral Commission (EC). As a result the main opposition does not want to run for elections while the ruling party controls the EC and is demanding the formation of a neutral government to oversee the poll. This issue led to a logjam in 1995 and 2001 and the suspension of democratic processes between 2006 to 2008. When the Awami League government, led by Sheikh Hasina, came to power in 2008 with an overwhelming majority, it nullified the system of caretaker government despite opposition from rival political parties.

Despite the constitutional amendment, the BNP is not willing to participate in elections unless its demand for a caretaker government is met. Intervention from the international community and the United Nations has failed to bring any kind of reconciliation between the major political parties. The general elections on January 5 would be held without any participation from the largest opposition party and its alliance partners, thereby raising serious question about the legitimacy of the electoral process and the future of Bangladesh’s nascent democracy.

Why Japan's Shinzo Abe went to Yasukuni shrine

26 December 2013
By Rupert Wingfield-HayesBBC News, Tokyo

Whatever Shinzo Abe says, any visit to the Yasakuni shrine by a Japanese prime minister is deeply political and sure to cause offence.

In the 1960s and 70s, the spirits of scores of convicted Japanese war criminals were "enshrined" there.

The most controversial were the 14 "Class A" war criminals, including wartime leader Hideki Tojo, who were "enshrined" in the late 1970s.

These men were the ones who ordered and oversaw Japan's brutal war in China and South East Asia.

It was a war in which millions died, in which there were widespread massacres of civilians, in which rape was routinely used as a weapon and where Japan used chemical and biological warfare against civilians.'Tough guy'

So if the shrine is so offensive to China and South Korea why did Mr Abe go?

Firstly, because he wanted to.

Close observers of the Japanese prime minister say he is at heart a nationalist and a historical revisionist.

He believes the trials that convicted Japan's wartime leaders were "victors' justice".

His own grandfather Nobusuke Kishi served in the war cabinet and was arrested by the Americans on suspicion of being a Class A war criminal. He was later released without charge.

But the stain of association with Japan's war crimes in China never completely went away.

Secondly, Mr Abe's support base comes from the right wing of the Liberal Democratic Party.

According to Professor Jeff Kingston of Temple University in Tokyo, Mr Abe is "showing he is a tough guy", that he is not afraid of China. It is something that plays very well to his base.'Shrewd political calculus'

But there is perhaps a bigger goal that Mr Abe has in mind.

He wants to radically revise Japan's post-war constitution.

This, too, is a long-held dream that started with his grandfather in the 1950s.

Mr Abe believes he is the man to complete the historic task of getting rid of the hated "peace constitution".

Like many on the right here, Mr Abe believes that constitution was forced on Japan by America and is a humiliation.

It imposes not only pacifism, but also Western notions of human rights and civil liberties. It rejects Japan's uniqueness in favour of "universal values".

Mr Abe would like to change a lot of this. But it will be very hard. And so he will need some help.

"Abe has provoked China, and China has reacted just as Abe wanted it to," says Prof Kingston. "There is a shrewd political calculus at work here."

What he means is that having an external threat in the shape of big and frightening China may be just what Mr Abe wants to help push through his controversial nationalist agenda at home.

In 2013, France outplayed us at the diplomatic game

David Blair became Chief Foreign Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph in November 2011. He previously worked for the paper as Diplomatic Editor, Africa Correspondent and Middle East Correspondent.
By David Blair World Last updated: December 26th, 2013

Three French Mirage 2000D fighter planes fly over N'Djamena, Chad, before carrying out strikes in Mali. (Photo: EPA)

An anonymous British diplomat in Brussels once summed up his job as "sticking it to the French day after day". In fairness, he was joking – or at least half-joking. But his words betrayed how the emissaries of Britain and France retain the habit of measuring themselves against one another.

As 2013 draws to a close, the verdict when it comes to foreign policy is clear and uncomfortable: we have a great deal to learn from them.

For all his domestic follies, President François Hollande has been remarkably effective abroad; indeed France under his leadership has done far better than Britain at maximising the influence of a medium-sized power with global interests.

Whisper it softly, but Britain and France have much in common. By any measure, our weight on the world stage should be equal. Broadly speaking, our populations, national economies and defence budgets are the same size. Our armed forces are of comparable strength, giving us a similar ability to project power. And we are the only European nations with permanent seats on the Security Council, along with global networks of post-imperial interests and contacts.

So Britain and France find themselves in the same league: we are both positioned in the second division of world powers, with the ability to play at the very top of that level if we are clever enough.

The first division, incidentally, only has one-and-a-half members. America retains its pre-eminence, but China's new economic strength has allowed it to plant at least one foot in that league.

The Mass Line Campaign in the 21st Century

Xi Jinping’s “mass line” campaign reveals the Party’s convoluted relationship with China’s citizens.
December 27, 2013

Mao Zedong’s 120th birthday is today, but Xi Jinping gave the venerable leader an early present this past summer— a revival of one of Mao’s old ideas, the “mass line” campaign. As 2013 winds to a close, Chinese media outlets are reflecting on the successes of the campaign, and wondering what new form the “mass line” will take in 2014.

The mass line campaign was rolled out with great fanfare in June by Xi Jinping. The campaign was supposed to result in what Xi called a “thorough cleanup” of the Party by weeding out the “four undesirable work styles”: formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance. A China Daily article explaining the concept noted the ties to Chairman Mao and the other “founding fathers of the People’s Republic of China.” ““Though the mass line has been followed in different times,” the article continued, “the need to prioritize the interests of the people, to make efforts to solve their problems, and to share their successes and failures was never more urgent than now.”

In order to bring Party officials closer to the people, the mass line campaign called for officials to practice self-criticism and to spend time interacting with the masses. A Xinhua “yearender” article looking back on the campaign described the “democratic life meetings” where self-criticism takes place. The article interviewed several officials who said that self-criticisms and interactions with average citizens helped them realize and correct their mistakes. The report noted with satisfaction that, thanks to campaign, “officials fear they will face hard times unless they get closer to the people.”

A recent New York Times piece had a much different take on the mass line campaign, especially the self-criticisms. According to this perspective, the self-criticisms by Party officials are watered-down to ensure that no one will face too harsh of a punishment. The strategy, according to an anonymous official interviewed in the piece, is to “act sincere” without actually saying anything that could threaten either yourself or your colleagues. In other words, the mass line campaign is self-criticism with all the pageantry and none of the consequences.

The Xinhua article recognizes the cynical perspective by mentioning the danger that “the campaign would become ritualized or a formality.” But according to the piece, Xi Jinping is determined to make sure the mass line campaign is taken seriously. Xinhua says that almost 20,000 Party officials have been punished this year for violating the new anti-bureaucracy and anti-waste guidelines. And Xi isn’t done yet: Xinhua quotes China’s leader as saying that officials “should not have the wrong idea that they have passed the test just because the sessions are over.”

2013 Chinese Air Force Review

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

This was the year when many of China's new military aviation projects appeared, so it was very exciting to all of the PLAAF followers. Although there weren't as many news coming out this year about J-20 and J-31, many other projects really came out and took center stage. So this entry will try to look at them.

Y-20 - Although we started see pictures of Y-20 performing low speed taxiing late last year, it did not make it's maiden flight until late January of this year. The second Y-20 prototype made its maiden flight very recently. It looks like this program is progressing well so far. PLAAF is desperate for something like Y-20 to not only do the role of strategic transport but also as the platform for next generation AWACS (and other C4ISR roles), large aerial tanker and airborne laser platform. It has been forced to purchase a number of refurbished IL-76s from Russia in the past couple of years as a stop gap until Y-20 comes into service in 3 to 5 years. I think there is a chance that they will also purchase some new built IL-476 since the production rate for Y-20 is likely to be low in the beginning. In my opinion, this is the most important aviation project for PLA.

J-20/J-31 - It has been a less eventful year for the 5th generation projects. Many of us expect the prototype 2003 to come out this year, but we were disappointed for most of the year (although there is some recent photo that indicate 2003 might be ready). It looks like major improvements are to be made in this third prototype, whereas the first 2 are probably more like technology demonstrators. J-31 has been making some more test flights, but it's not known at the moment what exact role it will have for PLAAF. Similar to J-20, this first prototype is probably more like a technology demonstrator while 601 Institute works on creating a prototype that satisifies all of PLAAF requirements.

China Must Purge Mao's Ghost

December 25, 2013

NEW YORK — Thursday marks the 120th birthday of Mao Zedong, founding father of the People’s Republic of China, but the leadership’s celebrations of his legacy are an alarming reminder that China has a long way to go before it can join the league of modern nations.

President Xi Jinping has called for Mao commemorations that are “solemn, austere and practical.” The Communist Party machine is publishing essays, signed by high-level members of the official policy think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The Great Hall of the People in Beijing, seat of China’s legislature, is organizing a concert of revolutionary songs in praise of Mao for 10,000 people.

These displays of ardor extend across the country. Mao’s hometown, Xiangtan City, in Hunan Province, is spending $2.5 billion on public events celebrating him. In the southern city of Shenzhen, a gold statue of Mao on a jade pedestal, costing $16.5 million, has just been unveiled.

It’s no surprise that China’s leaders have chosen to honor Mao with such pomp. In the decades following the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, Mao’s cult of personality formed the cornerstone of the one-party system. Under the next paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, the cult of Mao moderated, and limited criticism of his worst disasters was permitted. Chinese rule became more consensus-based: by no means democratic, but guided by the Politburo Standing Committee rather than a single person’s whims. But now, as the economy has slowed, China’s leaders have found it necessary to defend the Community Party’s monopoly on power by invoking the nation’s “glorious” history — with Mao’s legacy its most potent tool.

It is certainly not taught in textbooks, but Mao’s record was nothing short of a disaster: The Great Famine of 1958-61 — the result of a course of industrialization known as the Great Leap Forward — caused starvation not seen on a scale since Stalin’s collectivization. Meticulous research by the journalist Yang Jisheng and the historian Frank Dikötter has estimated the death toll at anywhere from 36 million to 45 million.

Meanwhile, Mao lived in luxury. As a young cadre inside the system in the late 1970s, I visited several of “Mao’s No. 1 guesthouses” when I accompanied high-ranking Chinese officials on work trips. Built during the years of the Great Famine, they were surrounded by lush courtyard gardens and furnished with wall-to-wall carpeting and red velvet curtains.

Politically weakened by the economic disaster, Mao in 1966 launched the Cultural Revolution, plunging the country into a decade of turmoil, tearing families apart and eliminating what decency remained in society. His death in 1976 — and the subsequent ouster of the radical Gang of Four, led by Mao’s wife Jiang Qing — brought a halt to the chaos.

Given this blood-soaked legacy, why does Mao continue to hold a spell over much of the population? Why does his portrait still adorn the Gate of Heavenly Peace on Tiananmen Square?

More U.N. Peacekeeping Troops Going to South Sudan As Sectarian Fighting Intensifies

December 24, 2013

Security Council Authorizes More Peacekeeping Troops for South Sudan

Nicholas Kulish and Rick Gladstone
New York Times, December 24, 2013

JUBA, South Sudan — The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday voted to nearly double its peacekeeping contingent force in South Sudan, hoping that a rapid influx of additional international soldiers would help quell the violence threatening to tear the young nation apart.

With tens of thousands of civilians in the country seeking refuge at United Nations compounds, some of which have come under direct threat or attack by armed forces as well, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the move. It will add about 6,000 international troops and police officers to the more than 7,600 peacekeeping forces already on the ground in the nation.

“We have reports of horrific attacks,” Mr. Ban said after the Security Council vote. “Tens of thousands have fled their homes,” he said, adding that “innocent civilians are being targeted because of their ethnicity.”

Mr. Ban raised the prospect that targeted attacks against civilians or United Nations personnel could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. But he warned that “this is a political crisis which requires a peaceful, political solution” involving the nation’s clashing leaders.

The vote came hours after the top human rights official at the United Nations, Navi Pillay, expressed deep concern about the escalating conflict in South Sudan, reporting the discovery of at least one mass grave in recent days and the arrests of hundreds of civilians in searches of homes and hotels in the capital of Juba and elsewhere.

The statement by Ms. Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights, added a new level of urgency to the crisis in South Sudan, a fledgling nation that has moved closer to civil war in the past week, fueled by political rivalries that have stoked longstanding ethnic divisions.

Hundreds of people, and possibly many more, have been killed in more than a week of clashes and confusion around the country.

In a statement, Ms. Pillay said, “Mass extrajudicial killings, the targeting of individuals on the basis of their ethnicity and arbitrary detentions have been documented in recent days.”

China and Russie bring back Cold War tactics

“Is this a new Cold War?”

Every time I say anything to anyone anywhere about Russia nowadays, that’s what I’m asked. And there is a clear answer: No. This is not a new Cold War. Neither the United States nor Europe is locked in a deadly, apocalyptic competition with Russia, China or anyone else. We are not fighting proxy wars. The world has not been divided into two Orwellian halves, democrats vs. communists.

But although we are not fighting a new Cold War, the tactics of the old Cold War are now, at the dawn of 2014, suddenly being deployed in a manner not seen since the early 1980s. We in the United States may not believe that we are engaged in an ideological struggle with anybody, but other people are engaged in an ideological struggle with us. We in the United States may not believe that there is any real threat to our longtime alliance structures in Europe and Asia, but other people think those alliances are vulnerable and have set out to undermine them.

Sometimes these gestures are quite open. China’s recent, unilateral declaration of anew air defense zone in the East China Sea was a clear attempt to warn its neighbors that its navy is preparing to compete with the U.S. fleet. The Chinese naval ship that recently cut in front of a U.S. destroyer, forcing it to change course, sent a similar message. Neither of these incidents signals the start of a cold, hot or any other kind of war. But they do mean that China intends to chip away at the status quo, to undermine the faith of U.S. allies — Japan, South Korea, the Philippines — in American power and force them to think twice, at the very least, about their old economic, military and trade agreements.

Over the past year, Russia has been playing the same kind of games with NATO: no open threats, just hints. Last spring, the Russian air force staged a mock attack on Sweden, came perilously close to Swedish air space and buzzed Gotland Island. The Swedish air force failed to react — it was after midnight on Good Friday — though eventually two Danish planes scrambled to follow the Russian planes back across the Baltic. Russian officials have also made veiled (and not so veiled) threats to Finland, selectively boycotted industries in the Baltic states and dropped hints that Russia intends to put, or might already have put,longer-range missiles on its Western border — missiles designed to hit Germany.

I repeat: Russia does not intend to start a war. Russia, rather, intends in the short term to undermine regional confidence in NATO, in U.S. military guarantees, in West European solidarity. In the longer term, Russia wants Scandinavia, the Baltic states and eventually all of Europe to accept Russian policies in other spheres.

Russia and China do not coordinate these actions, and there isn’t much love lost between them, either. But the elites of both of these countries do have one thing in common: They dislike the institutions of liberal democracy as practiced in Europe, the United States, Japan and elsewhere, and they are determined to prevent them from spreading to Moscow or Beijing. These same elites believe that Western media, Western ideas and especially Western capitalism — as opposed to state capitalism — pose a threat to their personal domination of their economies. They want the world to remain safe for their particular form of authoritarian oligarchy, and they are increasingly prepared to pay a high price for it.

Last week, the Russian president effectively bought the goodwill of the Ukrainian president,offering him some $15 billion to prop up his budget in exchange for not signing a free-trade agreement with the European Union. That agreement would eventually have made Ukraine better governed, more prosperous — and less accessible to corrupt Russian businesses. China has also made clear that Western journalists who write about Chinese corruption are no longer welcome in the country. Good Sino-American relations are important to Beijing, but not as important as blocking Western investigative reporters who might pose a threat to China’s ruling families.

It would be silly to take any one of these incidents too seriously. But it would be equally silly to ignore them. We spent the 1990s enjoying the fruits of post-Cold War prosperity, the early 2000s fighting the war on terrorism. We are intellectually, economically and militarily unprepared to contemplate Great Power conflict, let alone engage in the hard work of renewing alliances and sharpening strategy. But History is back, whether we want it to be or not. Happy New Year.