28 December 2013

India’s First Supersonic Jet MiG-21

IssueCourtesy: Uday India| Date : 27 Dec , 2013

Mig-21 FL C-1125 being towed out of the parade square at Kalikunda airbase during the phasing out ceremony held at Kalaikunda

Every one of us wants to fly high above the sky and therefore our fascination towards the sky always remains in our dreams and therefore we keep watching aircraft and feel envy of them. There would hardly be any occasion when we looked at the sky and did not think of a fighter jet, which always formed part of our dreams. Yes, we are talking about MiG-21 FL. But the sad part is that the deafening roar of the MiG-21 FL afterburner, an iconic delta-wing fighter aircraft that heralded the ‘supersonic era’ in Indian Air Force (IAF), will no longer be heard.

From its pivotal role in the 1971 war against Pakistan to Kargil war three decades later, the MiG-21 formed the bedrock for most of the IAF’s operations over the last five decades.

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 FL, which formed the combat backbone of the IAF, took off for its last sortie from the Kalaikunda airbase near Kharagpur in West Bengal on December 11, 2013, with this it stands decommissioned from the Indian Air Force forever, bidding adieu after half a century in the skies. Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, who was present at the fly-past, termed the phase-out of India’s first supersonic aircraft a “watershed moment”. “Today’s event marks a watershed moment in (the) IAF’s history as we reach the end of nearly five decades of remarkable operational service rendered by this iconic fighter,” Browne said at the base from where the MiG-21 FL had taken off for the first time in 1963.

The iconic fighter designed in the erstwhile USSR was inducted in the IAF in 1963. From its pivotal role in the 1971 war against Pakistan to Kargil war three decades later, the MiG-21 formed the bedrock for most of the IAF’s operations over the last five decades. Although the MiG-21 was commissioned in the Indian Air Force in the early 60s, it was in the 1971 war with Pakistan—leading to the formation of Bangladesh—that it provided an edge to the Indian defence. “In that one war alone, it claimed eight fighter planes of Pakistan. It played a pivotal role in the Kargil war, too,” recalled a retired Air Force pilot.

Being limited in numbers, MiG-21s played a restricted role in the 1965 war. They, however, played a crucial role in the 1971 war giving the IAF the air superiority over vital points and areas in the western theatre. Four MiG-21s had entered the enemy territory in the erstwhile East Pakistan, striking with precision the Governor’s house in Dhaka in attacks that turned the war in India’s favour. In the first-ever supersonic air combat that ensued over the subcontinent in 1971, an Indian Mig-21 FL claimed a PAF F-104 Starfighter with its internal twin-barrelled guns alone. By end of the hostilities, the IAF MiG-21s had claimed four Pakistani F-104s, two F-6s, one F-86 Sabre and a Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The pin-point accurate attack on the Governor’s House at Dhaka by IAF pilots flying the MiG-21s proved to be a turning point in the war, forcing the adversary to negotiate an eventual surrender.

India’s Maoists: Financing the war machinery

December 27, 2013

The raising of finances by terrorist/extremist groups has been a major source of concern for different world governments, as well as the United Nations, since the past many years. In its now well-known Security Council Resolution No. 1373, the United Nations asked various world governments to “Criminalize the wilful provision or collection, by any means, directly or indirectly, of funds by their nationals or in their territories with the intention that the funds should be used, or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in order to carry out terrorist acts”, as well as “Freeze without delay funds and other financial assets or economic resources of persons who commit, or attempt to commit, terrorist acts or participate in or facilitate the commission of terrorist acts…”

Similarly, extortion by terrorist groups in the various theatres of conflict in India has been a cause of serious concern for the Union government and the various State governments. Within the context of extortion by the Naxalites, the Union government, perhaps for the first time, admitted what has been suspected.

The Rajya Sabha, India’s Upper House of Parliament, was informed on December 18, 2013, that the Naxalites of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or Maoists, in short, extort money from a variety of sources to finance their activities. Replying to Unstarred Question No. 1457, the Minister of State in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs said, “The main source of funds for the Maoists include(s) extortion from tendu patta contractors, infrastructure/development work contractors, businessmen, corporate houses, etc. In addition, they rob banks and public/private property to augment their finances.

Barely a week later three contractors were arrested on December 26, 2013 from Madanpura-Kasma road, Salaiya police station limits, Aurangabad district, Bihar. They were apprehended by the police while they were on their way to pass on Rs 75,00,000 lakh extortion money to the Maoists. This is, but, just once instance. Earlier, too, several such instances were reported, and more have likely gone un-reported.

In a document entitled ‘Our Financial Policy’, the Maoists mention that, in the main, they have three types of economic needs, viz. the needs of war, political propaganda and the people. To cater to these needs there are three broad categories of resources, viz. (a) membership fee, levy and contributions from the people; (b) confiscation of the wealth and income of the enemy; and (c) ‘revolutionary taxes’ collected in guerrilla zones and base areas.

Thus, money is collected from individuals as well as businesses –– ranging from petty to big industries. Development Works (PWD) contractors, government schemes such as MGNREGS, IAY, mining industry, illegal mining of all minerals, big industries, businessmen, timber contractors, bamboo contractors, contractors dealing in Minor Forest Produce (MFP), small-time shop keepers, protection racket –– including for the cultivation of ganja –– PDS, tendu (kendu) leaf contractors, etc. The rebels also levy taxes in their strongholds. In fact, as one government official told this researcher, ‘there is a symbiotic relationship between the Maoists and illegal mining, as well as forest produce’.


 28 December 2013 | SASMIT PATRA

If Karzai is still obstinate about his decision, it is not because of India's willingness to work with him but on account of the US inability perhaps to keep its diplomatic linkages with his administration

With the date of withdrawal of the US forces drawing nearer, Afghanistan is bracing for a season of gloom ahead. The Americans are insistent on an early conclusion of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that would facilitate their continued presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, while Karzai, the outgoing President serving his last term in office, is quite adamant and unrelenting that the decision to sign the BSA should be left to his successor.

Implications of Karzai’s intransigence

Long held as an American stooge in Afghanistan, Karzai is subjecting the future of Afghanistan to his whims and his personal differences with the US. While he enabled a Loya Jirga, consisting of members chosen by his administration, to facilitate signing of the BSA, he has chosen to stand down the decision of the Jirga and refused to sign the BSA in a hurry. Perhaps he wants to redeem himself and signal it to fellow Pashtuns that he is not all that bad as was made out of him. He may also be playing the game of brinkmanship to extract some more concessions from the Americans. Many Afghans would even tell you, he may suspend the whole electoral process and with American help prolong his stay in office beyond 2014.

His brinkmanship has so far had negative implications for Afghanistan. Some Americans find in it an excuse to advocate zero option which involves wholesale pull out from Afghanistan and could involve withdrawal of financial commitments beyond 2014. Labouring under economic downturn, there is perhaps no appetite for prolonging American commitments abroad.

If the Americans, God forbid, abandon Afghanistan at such a critical juncture, it would not take long to reverse all the positive steps taken by the international community under American leadership to lay the foundation of a democratic and liberal Afghanistan.

Karzai fiddling while…

American grunts against Karzai must be music to Taliban ears. However, Karzai is fiddling too, while Afghanistan is undergoing a critical churning process. He is oblivious of the fact that his inflexibility over the BSA is not earning him any good repute among the Afghan people. While Afghans are beginning to panic, he seems to enjoy the negative attention that he is receiving from the Americans. Recently, as the US media reported, responding to an Iranian top official’s advice that he must sign the BSA as soon as possible, Karzai was heard saying: “You see?.. The Americans want this deal so badly they are even getting the Iraqis to pressure me.” American impatience seems to add to his intransigence.

Things are slowly coming to such a pass that by pitching his anti-US rhetoric high, Karzai is even making his successor’s task difficult to go ahead with the BSA. On the other hand, by dangling the threat of zero-option in front of Karzai, the US is unnecessarily lionising Karzai at one level, and betraying its helplessness vis-à-vis Karzai at another.

Perhaps the constituency favouring long-term economic and security commitment in Afghanistan is shrinking in the US, which makes zero-option an “option” for the US at the moment in Afghanistan. But, if one looks at the way the strategic environment is shaping up around Afghanistan, any American decision to exercise a zero-option will only concede strategic space to countries like China and Pakistan and embolden al Qaeda-Taliban forces in the region.

Karzai wooing India?

Against this backdrop, Karzai’s visit to New Delhi with a long shopping list for robust strategic engagement with India assumes some significance. There is a view gaining ground in the US that India is seeking to gain some strategic advantage by strengthening its linkage with the outgoing Karzai administration and by responding positively to Karzai’s advances it is only adding to Karzai’s confidence and his stubbornness about the BSA. However, this may not be true.


28 December 2013 | Sanjeev Pal

Much to the chagrin of Americans, Mr Karzai opted to disregard the overwhelming view of Loya Jirga to sign the BSA. Instead, he added new conditions — the US must halt raids on Afghan homes, launch peace talks with the Taliban, and release 20 Afghans from Guantanamo Bay

America is in its year-end holiday mode, while a potentially explosive situation is building up in faraway Afghanistan. President Barack Obama is on a fortnight-long family vacation in Hawaii. Holidaying elsewhere are his Secretary of State John Kerry and some other big guns of his administration. Clearly, one of their top priorities on return to Washington will be to bring round Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who continues to cock a snook at the American establishment, this time over sealing the long-pending Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). Without that pact, the United States will be left with the “zero option” of having to withdraw all its troops by the end of 2014 — a grim foreboding for Afghanistan itself, India and the region.

The United States, for its part, may do well to avoid its proclivity for tough talk and be a little more persuasive in its dealings with Mr Karzai at this critical juncture of Afghan transition. The Obama administration had set December 31 as the deadline for Mr Karzai to sign the security pact that would ensure a limited American presence beyond 2014 in a non-combat role, largely for training of and assistance for Afghan forces in counter-terrorism operations. But the deadline approach is just not washing with Mr Karzai, who has brushed aside American warnings of complete withdrawal of its forces by the end of 2014 and set his own conditions in a clear bid for an Afghan leverage on the US forces.

A full month has passed since US National Security Advisor Susan Rice visited Kabul to force Mr Karzai’s hand, but returned empty-handed. The Afghan leader has taken the stand that the BSA should be signed not by him, but his successor to be chosen in the presidential election, slated for April 2014. Much to the surprise of Americans, Mr Karzai opted to disregard the overwhelming view of the Loya Jirga conference of tribal and regional leaders that he should sign the security pact. That apart, he has added new conditions that include the US halting raids on Afghan homes, launching peace talks with the Taliban and releasing 20 Afghan prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Although President Obama has already sent him a letter affirming respect for “Afghan sovereignty” and promising to eschew military raids on Afghan homes except under “extraordinary circumstances” involving danger to American nationals, Mr Karzai is apparently far from convinced. So he is striving for a leverage before any signing on the dotted line. Washington has sought to make it clear that any delay in concluding the pact would leave it with no option but to pull out all troops by the end of 2014, arguing that the United States and NATO would not have enough time to work out alternative plans.

In the present scheme of things, most of the 75,000 US-led NATO troops would be pulled out at the end of 2014. The Obama administration says that if Mr Karzai signs the BSA, about 8,000 American troops would continue to stay in Afghanistan beyond the withdrawal deadline. Peeved at his dithering, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said, “We believe it’s untenable and impractical to wait until January to have this thing concluded. We want it closed. The American government wants it. The Afghan people want it, so Karzai needs to sign.” That was at the time of Rice’s unsuccessful Kabul mission. A month later, Mr Karzai has still not changed his mind on the issue,leaving the Americans bemused and unsure what to do, except for the talk of a complete pullout, with all its attendant consequences.

The Great Game East

Dec 27, 2013

Pak’s quest for strategic depth, and China’s for greater access to Afghanistan, are tied into lopping off J&K from Indian control and limiting Indian influence in Kabul, where ties are predicated on a non-Taliban government

In the summer of 2006, then foreign secretary Shyam Saran was chairing a meeting of the China Study Group, when he was brought up to speed by the defence secretary on the deliberate destruction by Chinese troops of stone crags that helped India mark the un-demarcated border with China in Sikkim.

It was one among a series of small infringements that the Dogra regiment had noticed, the so-called “nibbling” of the border by the People’s Liberation Army.

In Delhi it was seen and understood for what it was — part of Beijing’s long- running strategy to signal to the world that the border issue was far from settled and that it was India that infringes on Chinese territory.

As we head towards a fractious national election in 2014, that many fear will throw up a fractured mandate and a leader unschooled in foreign policy, not the strong, informed leadership that is the need of the hour, Beijing is already flexing its muscles; this time on its maritime boundaries which challenge India’s putative ally, Japan, and, by extension, the US, by setting up an air zone in the East China Sea.

Beijing’s Air Defence Identification Zone, part of a long-running, continuing reinforcement of its borders is the invisible marker at sea, and air. In India’s case it was, and will always be, on land, which is where, in 2014, many believe, the Chinese will seek a robust test of India’s resolve.

Can a Delhi, distracted by the demands of its raucous democracy, tackle the challenge of a no longer “peacefully rising China”, much closer home? Equally, as a tumultuous year comes to a close, the reverse — of a rising India’s challenge to China’s supremacy — could also be the story of 2014.

Beijing’s preferred area of strength is not maritime. It’s certainly not in the skies — its Air Force suffered reverses, as did its second rate armour at the hands of Vietnam in 1979 — but on land.

The first real test to come, therefore, could be in Ladakh, where we are continually provoked; or, with its preferred tactic of confrontation being through an indirect use of proxies, it could come through China’s cat’s paw, Islamabad, which has raised the contentious issue of India’s occupation of Siachen in recent weeks while stepping up support for the Kashmir insurgency, weakening India’s hold over Jammu and Kashmir.

SILENT ARCHIVISTS- Historians and newspapers

POLITICS AND PLAY - Ramachandra Guha

Old newspapers reading room, National Library, Calcutta

For a very long time, historians of modern India relied largely on government records — printed as well as unpublished. Files of different departments, deposited in state and national archives, were the staple source for the writing of dissertations, research papers and monographs. Some historians innovatively tapped the private papers of politicians and social reformers; others reached out into oral history, conducting interviews with eye-witnesses or participants in important historical events. Yet the periodical press per se remained an under-utilized resource.

I was myself alerted to the richness of newspaper sources by two historians I befriended early in my career. One, the Bengali polymath, Hiteshranjan Sanyal, worked in the next room to mine at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences in Calcutta. The other, the scholar-activist Shekhar Pathak, who taught in Kumaun University in Naini Tal. Sanyal had used a range of Bengali newspapers in writing about peasant nationalism in Medinipur in the 1930s and 1940s. Pathak, who wrote a pioneering thesis on popular movements against forced labour in Kumaun, had extensively used Hindi newspapers published in the district of Almora.

I was myself working on peasant protest in Garhwal, the region of Uttarakhand immediately to the west of Kumaun. Inspired by Pathak and Sanyal, I went in search of a local paper whose old issues might give me insights sarkari files could not. I found one in my home town, Dehra Dun. Called Yugvani, it was founded in the 1940s by a Gandhian named Acharya Gopeshwar Narain Kothiyal. Acharyaji had gone to jail in the Quit India movement; freed on completion of his term, he settled in Dehra Dun, and started a newspaper devoted to the ideals of the freedom struggle.

Issues of Yugvani, carefully filed in the newspaper’s office near the town’s Clock Tower, provided invaluable in my research. From them I gleaned many new facts about peasant protests of the 1940s as well as the Chipko movement of the 1970s. An additional pleasure was that the editor-proprietor of Yugvani worked in the next room. Two or three times a day he would call me in for tea, where I would tell him about what I had found, and he would reflectively set my findings in context.

I worked in the Yugvani office in 1982 and 1983. Ever since, I have turned again and again to old newspapers as a source for my research. I have read African newspapers in London, British newspapers in New Providence, Indian newspapers in Cambridge and in New Haven. On occasion, I have even read old files of newspapers in the towns in which they were (and sometimes still are) printed and published.

However, the place where I have done most of my newspaper research is the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. I discovered the NMML at about the same time as I discovered Acharya Kothiyal and Yugvani. For the past three decades, this wonderful institution has been the bedrock of my professional life. I have used its vast collection of private papers, its holdings of books and journals, its series of parliamentary proceedings, and not least the newspapers and magazines it has collected from all parts of the subcontinent.

The newspaper holdings at the Nehru Library are mostly on microfilm. To maintain its collections an archive must be airconditioned — which means that once I enter NMML I manage to keep out the dust and the heat of the North Indian plains. The staff is courteous and co-operative. But the microfilms are old and faded, and the microfilm readers somewhat antiquated. To make sense of the type as one scrolls down those pages is very strenuous (besides, I wear glasses). The stress and the strain have always been compensated by the fabulous things uncovered within.

Time for Adopting a Life Cycle Approach to Defence Acquisitions


Till very recently Indian Army has been looking at acquiring weapon systems and platforms to meet operational voids and emerging requirements to deal with known and perceived threats, without due diligence to sustenance of the system through its lifecycle. This has resulted in a flawed acquisition strategy and a fractured approach to acquisition resulting in abysmally low equipment serviceability and even worse impacting mission reliability, particularly after the expiry of warranty periods, which is crucial to planning operational reach and effectiveness.

The management of legacy systems such as Tank T-72, Smerch and OSA –AK weapon systems has brought forth the challenges in maintaining these systems procured ex-import and now being a liability of strike formations on account of poor mission reliability and sub-optimal serviceability. The non-availability of spares, rotables and MUAs such as power packs, transmission assemblies, control systems etc ex OEM have led to the present situation. The OEM in the meanwhile have shut down assembly lines and moved on to a higher technology threshold. This is primarily attributable to lack of foresight and due diligence towards lifecycle sustenance at acquisition stage. 

While acquisition phase activities are critical to designing, developing and implementing a successful and affordable sustainment strategy, the ultimate measure of success lies in the application of the formulated strategy after the system has been deployed for operational exploitation. Therefore, a sustainment philosophy cannot be preordained and applicable to all equipment / class of equipment across the equipment profile. It needs to be proactive, evolving and in-sync with the operational and employment philosophies of equipment based on capability desired from the weapon system/ platform to be inducted. Further it may also further evolve once equipment is exploited post-induction, based on operational, technological and environmental factors.

Drawbacks in the Present System. There are multiple agencies responsible for closely interlinked activities of equipment management (EM). The system has proved to be sub-optimal for high-tech equipment and is not suitable for the emerging operational scenarios. The major short on the comings of the existing system are:-

China Holds a Looking Glass to Itself; Finds 29.4 % of People in 14 Countries Describe China as “Belligerent”

Dated 27-Dec-2013
Guest Column by Rajeev Sharma

Is China becoming more tolerant of criticism? After embarking upon an ambitious economic reform process towards a market-oriented economy way back in 1978, is China now turning towards political reforms? Is China, which for decades has muzzled criticism of government policies and not allowed freedom of expression in its media and social media, now turning a new leaf and becoming more tolerant of criticism?

The answer could be ‘yes’, though it is too early to come to a definitive conclusion. There are signs of important changes taking place in China and the Chinese media, all of which is state controlled.

Earlier this month I was surprised to get an email from the Op-Ed department of Global Times, a premier Chinese English daily with a US edition, requesting for my opinion on several questions, including whether China is arrogant and what steps can be taken by China to improve its image internationally.

I am a regular contributor to Global Times for quite some time but this was the first time when I got this strange request from its editors. Apparently, the Global Times editors embarked on the task of contacting foreign experts after a Chinese media agency conducted the country’s first-ever political survey on a global scale, titled "China's Global Image and International Influence in 2013". More than 14,400 residents from 14 countries, including the US, Russia, Japan, India, Vietnam and South Korea, were polled between 11 November to 26 November.

Interestingly, the survey revealed that 29.4 percent people described China as “belligerent” while 25 percent found China “arrogant”. And Global Times duly published these findings in its 10 December edition.

The English version of the Global Times survey can be seen herehttp://www.globaltimes.cn/NEWS/tabid/99/ID/831108/Arrogant-or-confident.... while the Chinese version can be accessed here http://world.huanqiu.com/depth_report/2013-12/4645699.html.

The Global Times’ questions were fairly exhaustive. Expectedly, the newspaper did not publish their Q&A with me in full for obvious reasons of space constraints as it had interviewed many foreign experts. I am reproducing the Global Times Q&A with me in full here below with the hope that the readers will take a cue from the uncanny questions about the winds of change that may be sweeping through the dragon land.

Q: According to the survey, most interviewees saw China as a country of confidence (30%), complicated or militaristic (30% respectively), and tough/arrogant (about 30%). Why do you think China leaves an impression of being confident to the world? What does “complicated” imply? Is China more complicated than your native country? At the same time, how should China reduce the negative image such as militaristic, tough and arrogant?

Afghanistan: Security Trends and Implications for India

Brig (Retd) Vinod Anand, Senior Fellow, VIF

The events in Afghanistan seem to be turning a full circle. ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ that commenced in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is drawing to a close and plans are afoot to hand over Afghanistan to the very forces that were the root cause of the problems in Afghanistan. The American strategy has been shifting and its objectives have been diluted over a period of time. Disruption and dismantling of the Taliban networks is no more their objective. While their current strategy definition aims to build capable and transparent Afghan security and governing institutions and move to a supporting role and then transfer full responsibility to the Afghans by the end of 2014, it cannot be said that they have been successful in their endeavours so far.

The neighbours of Afghanistan and Pakistan would be the worst sufferers of the adverse fallout from a Talibanised Afghanistan. Laying down of timeline for withdrawal without attaining the necessary benchmarks for ensuring a self-sustaining Afghanistan in terms of governance, security and economic parameters has created its own dynamics which does not bode well for the future of Afghanistan.

If the politics of Afghanistan holds, then the security scenario is expected to improve with concomitant positive impact on economy. However, the most dangerous trend which is apparent from a series of attempts by the American leaders is to outsource reconciliation with the Taliban to the Pakistani establishment. Afghanistan’s High Peace Council’s ‘Peace Process Roadmap to 2015’document points towards Pakistan becoming the main arbiter of Afghanistan’s destiny at the cost of Afghans and the regional stakeholders. In any case the Afghan reconciliation process remains stymied because of the competing interests of all the entities involved in the process. Further, the Afghan war is not popular domestically and there is no upside to the European and American economies for the time being.

The current situation in Afghanistan can be best described as ‘complex and uncertain’. Afghanistan is a country amid transition and 2014 is the year when many of the components of the transition are supposed to reach fruition. However, many elements of these Afghan transitions themselves remain inextricably entwined influencing each other in different and complex ways. For example, it may not be possible to usher in economic development in Afghanistan till some modicum of political stability and security has been achieved.

Afghanistan of today is much different from that of 2001; years of infusion of western aid coupled with many million Afghan children going to school and many other accomplishments and the gains of the last decade or so of western engagement would be lost if the Taliban were allowed to return to power. Despite the fact that Taliban continues to carry out targeted operations there is still a semblance of relative stability and prosperity due to presence of western troops.

Nepal: Parties Back to their Old Ways Despite a Fresh Mandate: Update No. 290

Note No. 706 Dated 27-Dec-2013
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

Despite a successful election with an overwhelming and peaceful participation of the people, the political parties have gone back to their old ways and no effort is being made to quickly convene the parliament and go ahead with the constitution making process. In one sense, nothing has changed and this is sad.

After five weeks of negotiations, the High Level Political Committee that has been revived to placate some of the parties, reached a four-point agreement to go ahead with the political process. The points agreed to were:

1. A Parliamentary panel is to be formed to investigate into anomalies during the CA elections.
2. A Political Mechanism is to be found to facilitate the peace process and constitution drafting.
3. A new constitution is to be promulgated within one year.
4. Parties to formulate a new TRC bill at the earliest.

The points are too general and it looks that these have been formulated to placate one group or other. For example, while everyone agrees that the elections were most credible, to placate Prachanda and his party, point number one has been agreed to as if there was any whole sale flaw in the election process! It was also known that Prachanda raised the bogey of “rigging” more to satisfy his own cadres as he had no other way to explain the debacle of his party in the elections. For his own survival within his party, Prachanda could continue to be more and more obstructive in the days to come. 

The way the parties are going about their task, it is doubtful whether the new constituent assembly would be able to complete the constitution making within six months and promulgate it “within one year” as agreed to by the eight party meeting of the HLPC held on the 24th of this month.

Most of the parties are still unable to produce even the lists under the PR system as this is necessary for the parliament to convene. The interim constitution mentions that the parliament is to be convened within 21 days of the elections and yet even the lists are not ready. The parties are unable to take a decisive stand because of internal wrangling over the choice of the candidates.

Strangely, semantic discussions which are of no relevance right now are taking place amongst the parties. Jhalanath Khanal is busy arguing whether the new assembly should be called “second Constituent Assembly” or “Constituent Assembly after the second elections”! 

Prachanda has begun demanding another election to a parliament once again within nine months after the promulgation of the new parliament! If the party had a good showing in the present elections as in 2008, he and his party would be the last to call for elections again and instead would have opposed it tooth and nail!

Bangladesh Liberation 1971: Recalling United States and China’s Record

Paper No. 5625 Dated 27-Dec-2013
By Dr. Subhash Kapila

Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation in December 1971after a horrendous ethnic genocide inflicted by the Pakistan Army beginning March 1971 on the Bengali East Pakistan even though the Pakistan Bengalis constituted Pakistan’s majority population.

The genocide was vicious and brutal leading to the slaughter of nearly a million Bangladeshis. It was meant to stifle the Bangladeshi demands for independence.

The Pakistan Army genocide onslaught on Bengali East Pakistan was launched to nullify the General Elections results which would have swept the Awami League of Sheikh Mijibur Rahman into power in Pakistan. The Pakistan Army had the tacit support of Pakistani prominent leaders like Zulfiqar Bhutto.

Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation soaked in blood and violence. The Pakistan Army can be said to have virtually wiped out a generation of the best intellectual brains of Bangladesh.

The whole of 2013 has witnessed Bangladesh engulfed in a series of externally funded or inspired violent demonstrations operating with dual political objectives.

The first objective was to pre-empt or prevent the International Crimes Tribunal War Crimes trials of Bangladeshis who collaborated with the Pakistan Army in its genocide against Bangladeshis who happened to be their fellow citizens and co-religionists. These Bangladeshi collaborators of the Pakistan Army genocide were predominantly of the Jamaat-i-Islami. The first execution has taken place and some more are awaited.

Bangladesh’s present ruling Awami Party cannot be faulted for exorcising the Bangladeshi psyche of the ghosts of its genocide and cleansing the political ethos if violence which still persists. Bangladesh’s Generation Next has widely welcomed and supported these moves of the Government.

The second political objective operating in Bangladesh is to somehow prevent or discredit the January5 2014 General Elections ordered and being considered as per the existing Constitution. Spearheading incessantly this unending disruptive strikes and violence is the main Opposition Party, the BNP, which presumably feels politically toothless by its main coalition partner the Jammat-i-Islami being debarred by the Supreme Court from contesting elections. Jammat-i-Islami the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh

In essence what Bangladesh is witnessing today are some shades of the Liberation War 1971, Then it was a violent war being fought for liberation and independence. Today it is a political war with more violence than dialogue as Bangladesh’s Generation Next aspires that the ruling Government goes firmly ahead with exorcising the ghosts of Liberation War 1971. Then too the Islamist parties were on the wrong side of history and now too they are on the wrong side of history.

Japan and the United States Renew Commitments to Maritime Security

The U.S. and Japan have taken to strengthening their alliances across Southeast Asia.
December 28, 2013

In the second half of December, Japan and the United States separately made renewed commitments to maintaining maritime security in Southeast Asia. Prime Minister Abe hosted the ASEAN-Japan summit on December 14, and held separate summit meetings with the leaders of nine ASEAN states plus the Thai Deputy Prime Minister from December 12-15.

U.S Secretary of State John Kerry visited Vietnam from December 14-16 and the Philippines from December 17-18.

The year 2013 will be remembered for Prime Minister Abe’s renewal of Japan’s security ties with Southeast Asia. During the year he visited each of the ten member states comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

On October 9, Prime Minister Abe also attended the 16th ASEAN-Japan Summit in Brunei. Maritime security was listed at point twenty-three of the twenty-nine-point Chairman’s Statement.

This stood in contrast to the Joint Statement issued after the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit held in Tokyo to mark the fortieth anniversary of Japan-ASEAN relations.

The Commemorative Summit was held under the shadow of China’s unilateral declaration on November 23 of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea and the right to establish an ADIZ over the South China Sea.

Although the Joint Statement made no reference to China’s ADIZ, maritime issues featured prominently at the Commemorative Summit. This was reflected in the Joint Statement that listed “maritime security and cooperation” and “free and safe maritime navigation and aviation” second and third among the substantive issues discussed.

At the Commemorative Summit, ASEAN leaders expressed their appreciation for Japan’s initiatives and active participation in the efforts to foster the dialogue with ASEAN Member States on maritime issues.

ASEAN and Japan also agreed “to strengthen cooperation on air and maritime linkages” and “to enhance cooperation in ensuring the freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law.”

According to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs “Prime Minister Abe explained Japan’s position on China’s establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone” in each of his nine separate bilateral summit meetings with ASEAN heads of government. The South China Sea was also raised at each of these meetings.

Is Japan Now Finally a Normal Country?

What the recent changes to Japanese defense mean in the context of a return to “normalcy.”
By Lionel Pierre Fatton
December 27, 2013

So is Japan now finally a normal country? The question has been asked and debated for about two decades, the answer quite naturally depending on the definition given to the concept of “normal country.” A first step to address this question is to approach it in reverse, asking why Japan was seen as “abnormal” in the first place. The answer lies in the contextual reality that surrounded the emergence of the debate on Japan’s “normalcy.”

That debate began with the end of the Cold War, which marked the most important systemic change in international relations since the Second World War. Ichiro Ozawa’s Blueprint for a New Japan, a book that pioneered the debate on Japan’s normalcy, was written shortly after the bitter experience of the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Mainly because of constitutional and other legal impediments, Japan was able to offer only financial support to the multilateral war effort against Saddam Hussein, aid that went almost completely unacknowledged by the international community despite the huge amount of money it entailed.

Ozawa’s book drew lessons from this experience and consequently called for the re-appropriation of Japanese politics by politicians at the expense of the slow and inefficient bureaucracy and for a more active role for Japan in international affairs, including through deeper participation of the Self-Defense Forces to U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Japan thus started being labeled “abnormal” because its legislation that framed the use of armed forces prevented the country from adjusting its foreign policy to a rapidly changing international environment and from playing an active role in the redefinition of the international order underway in the wake of the Cold War.

In other words, Japan was abnormal because of the discrepancy between the foreign policy tools at its disposal and the nature of the international system the country was dealing with. If a foreign policy almost exclusively based on economic power was judged adequate to cope with the relatively stable and slowly evolving East Asian environment during Cold War era, the early 1990s showed Japan that this policy could rapidly become outdated in the new, more flexible international environment. To return to normalcy, Tokyo had to find its place and redefine its role in the new international order, which implied a reorientation of its foreign policy and thus a diversification of the instruments for implementing this policy.

Never, ever forget those sacrifices

Vikram Sood
26 December 2013

It was on February 5, 2013 that the young in Dhaka came out to Shahbag Square to protest and demand capital punishment for the Butcher of Mirpur, Abdul Quader Mollah, along with others who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, for their war crimes during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The movement had quickly spread to the rest of the country and the Jamaat Islami reaction was immediate and has remained violent. Nevertheless, Sheikh Hasina has remained constant in her action against the right wing fundamentalists who, aided by the BNP, acting out of electoralcompulsions and its own convictions, has encouraged nationwide violence. 

Shahbag was about closure. It was a war against fundamentalism and was not about revenge. Many of the protestors were young boys and girls born after 1971 who gave the famous slogan 'Joy Bangla' a new relevance and a new meaning. It is in Bangladesh that they wish to remember the discrimination in all the 25 years preceding 1971 and the genocide in the nine months that preceded that December 16. It was too soon after independence to find out what happened during those horrible months as the new nation had to be built from the debris and the devastation that the West Pakistanis had left behind. Yet they needed to remember all that to build their future. 

The then Karachi-based journalist, Anthony Mascarhenas, was the first in June 1971 to break the news internationally of the genocide in East Pakistan, leading the Pakistan Government to white wash the events in its white paper of August that year. The young nation needed more than anecdotal references. 

The Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order soon after liberation and the 1973 War Crimes Tribunals Act were lost in the assassination of Bangabandhu and some members of his family. It took the Awami League twenty years to regain power in 1996 only to lose it to the right wing BNP supported by the Jamaat-e-Islami, the party that had supported the Pakistan Army and had opposed independence. 

Attempts at discovering what happened in 1971 and to record Pakistani atrocities remained haphazard. There was no systematic fact finding and War and Secession — Pakistan, India and the creation of Bangladesh by Richard Sisson and Leo Rose in 1991 was more an account covering the military aspects of the war and did not cover the activites of the Pakistan Army before the war. 

Robert Payne's Massacre has several anecdotal references but his book was published soon after independence as was Mascarenhas' book The Rape of Bangladesh, so could not give accurate estimates. Susan Brownmiller (Against Our Will) refers to 400000 rapes by the Pakistan Army and its collaborators, of which nearly 80 per cent were Muslim women. 

Centuries of Genocide (4th edition in 2013) edited by Samuel Totten and William S Parsons has a chapter — Genocide in Bangladesh by Rounaq Jahan that has detailed graphic descriptions of the killings and depredations. She also says 3 million were killed. Yet Sarmila Bose's book Dead Reckoning has remained controversial as it sought to find proof for a predetermined finding that the Bengali claim was grossly exaggerated and accepts the Pakistan Army figure of 26,000 Bengalis killed. Bose is dismissive of Bengali claims about the extent of genocide. 

It was left to Dr M A Hasan, a medical student in 1971 who had joined the Mukti Bahini resistance movement. He painstakingly researched the events of 1971 through his NGO, The War Crimes Fact Finding Commission established in 1999 produced an accurate report entitled War Crimes, Genocide and the Quest for Justice in 2008. This report should ideally be in research and history libraries given the meticulous details and perhaps not something the average reader would read. Fortunately, Dr Hasan has now published Beyond Denial — The Evidence of a Genocide for the average reader. Hasan's study says that the figure of 3 million innocent civilians killed is the more likely figure. The book describes in considerable detail some truly blood curdling systematic massacres; only those with strong hearts should read these pages. 

3 Ways Mao Shaped Naval Warfare

While PLAN officers might not quote Mao anymore, their strategy bears his mark.
December 27, 2013

As China commemorates the 120th birthday of Chairman Mao Zedong, most Western commentaries have dwelt on how he shaped present-day China for good or, mostly, for ill. This is right and fitting. It helps outsiders know the new, old Asian titan rising in the Pacific.

Mao’s impact on Chinese strategic thought has attracted less scrutiny. It’s worth remembering that the communist supremo was a strategist — one who’s still studied in war colleges across the globe, including my own — as well as an ideologue and a tyrant. It’s not so much that strategists quote Mao incessantly. Nowadays he’s far from a staple of Chinese strategic discourses. But his imprint remains visible. He shapes assumptions about China’s geostrategic environment and how China should manage that environment.

In short, Maoist theory is woven into China’s strategic culture. People need not quote Mao all the time to take inspiration from his ideas and example. It’s unwieldy to restate the source of your assumptions every time you make an argument. Heck, you may not even know where they come from. That’s why they’re assumptions. For instance, the ghost of Alfred Thayer Mahan flits about whenever American military folk discuss command of the global commons. Few have made a study of Mahan’s works; some have never heard of him; many who have want to forget his leaden prose. His ideas endure nonetheless.

Strategy comes in threes, it appears. Thucydides explains human conflict in terms of fear, honor and interest, Clausewitz has his “paradoxical trinity,” Mahan has his tridents of sea power, and so forth. In that spirit, here are three Maoist axioms underlying Chinese strategic thought today:

China is the weaker party. The Chinese Communist Party started every campaign of Mao’s lifetime from a lopsided military disadvantage. Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists drove the Red Army to the brink of extinction during the encirclement-and-suppression campaigns of the 1920s. Japan likewise proved a deadly adversary during the 1930s and 40s. Such near-death experiences constituted a prism through which Mao surveyed China’s surroundings.

Beijing brings a similar outlook to competition with the United States and its allies today. When you accept hard reality — the reality that you’re the lesser antagonist — you’re apt to think harder than a stronger yet complacent foe. A Maoist People’s Liberation Army will prove a flinty-eyed competitor.

Putin’s Mediterranean Move

The race is on to exploit off-shore energy around Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus -- and Moscow is crashing the party.
DECEMBER 27, 2013

On Christmas Day, Russian state-owned gas company Soyuzneftegaz inked a $90 million, 25-year deal with Damascus to start exploring for the first time some of Syria's offshore energy resources. On the surface, it represents another show of support from Russia for the beleaguered regime of Bashar al Assad. But the deal also fits into a larger pattern of Russian energy adventurism in one of the world's newest frontiers for oil and gas development. If the investments there work out as planned, they could help cement Russia's eroding hold over Europe's energy supply -- and help boost Moscow's standing as a global power on the rise.

At a time when the whole post-war architecture of the Eastern Mediterranean is crumbling, from the breakdown of Egypt's relations with Israel to tensions in the U.S.-Turkish relationship, Moscow seems to spy an opportunity to reassert itself in a region where it once loomed large, get a grip on a potentially big alternative to Russian energy, and make it easier to flex its military muscles. 

"They can kill two birds with one stone," Jeff Mankoff, Deputy Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said of the Russians. "They want to be in the Eastern Mediterranean, and if they can get the added bonus of bolstering this relationship with Syria, that's two for the price of one."

Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and now Syria are all agog over the seemingly vast reserves of natural gas discovered offshore; the U.S. geological survey estimates there could be as much as 120 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Levant basin, bigger than any single gas play in the U.S.

Israel, long plagued by energy poverty, dreams of turning its offshore finds into energy independence and export earnings. That's especially important now that Egypt cut off its gas exports to Israel. 

Cyprus has visions of becoming a regional energy hub, exporting gas to Europe and Asia, but never-ending tensions between the Greek south and the Turkish north cast a pall of uncertainty over gas exploration. Cypriot gas plans also bring Turkey, the champion of north Cyprus, and Russia, Cyprus's main backer, into conflict. 

Lebanon, for its part, eyes a potential economic boost by tapping hydrocarbons for the first time. Now Syria, undismayed by the ongoing civil war, is hoping to tap offshore gas resources to limit its own reliance on imported gas and boost revenues that have been hammered by the war and sanctions. Much of the country's on-shore production is in the east, and is either held by rebels or in contested areas.

Killing Mohammad Chatah

DECEMBER 27, 2013 

BEIRUT - The last time I met Mohammad Chatah, a former Lebanese minister opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's regime, he expressed a sense of relief that Lebanon had been spared the worst of the violence raging in Syria. Today, a few hundred yards from where we had that conversation, Chatah was killed when a car bomb blew apart his convoy, scattering twisted metal across the streets of downtown Beirut and leaving a plume of gray smoke over the city's skyline.

The explosion today claimed the lives of at least six people and wounded more than 70 others. It follows a double suicide bomb attack targeting the Iranian embassy in Beirut, two car bombings in Beirut's Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs, and worsening sectarian violence in the northern city of Tripoli and along the eastern border with Syria. The Syrian war, which has long destabilized Lebanon's peripheries, has come to the heart of the Lebanese capital.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, to whom Chatah served as a senior advisor, implicitly blamed Hezbollah for the killing. Chatah's killers, he said, "are the ones who assassinated Rafiq Hariri; they are the ones who want to assassinate Lebanon."

The explosion that killed Chatah occurred only a short walk away from the 2005 blast that killed former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, his political ally. Next month, an international tribunal will begin a trial that has indicted top Hezbollah operatives of orchestrating the bombing that killed Hariri, along with 21 other people.

Some officials saw a connection between the assassination of Chatah -- who worked to establish the international tribunal and was the Hariri team's interlocutor with the United Nations -- and the looming trial.

"It is a message that their bombs are stronger and louder than justice," said Amal Mudallali, an advisor to Hariri who worked closely with Chatah. "They are saying they will continue killing with impunity...The world has tolerated them, and this was taken as a green light."

Chatah, who had previously served as Lebanon's ambassador to the United States, made no secret of his political views. He ran a blog and a Twitter feed that blasted both Hezbollah and the Assad regime. He criticized the Lebanese Shiite paramilitary group on Twitter an hour before his death, writing that it "is pressing hard to be granted similar powers in security & foreign policy matters that Syria exercised in Lebanon for 15 yrs."

He was even more hostile to the Assad regime, which he saw as a ruthless dictatorship that was being kept alive only by Iranian support in the face of a popular uprising. "The Assad regime is incapable of adapting to a powersharing arrangement," he wrote in his last blog post. "The regime is brittle and fragile as it is brutal and ruthless. It can break but cannot bend. Assad knows it and Iran knows it."

China's Angry Spirits

Online whispers paint an eerie parallel between Japanese war criminals and dead Chinese strongman Mao Zedong.
DECEMBER 27, 2013

It's not every day that men who have been dead for decades make headlines, but on Dec. 26, ghosts figured prominently in Chinese news. President Xi Jinping's tribute to the People's Republic of China founding Chairman Mao Zedong, who would have turned 120, was the top story in state-run media, which still treats him kindly. Xi acknowledged Mao's mistakes but emphasized, "We will always hold high the flag of Mao Zedong thought." Also in that day's Chinese headlines was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese war dead -- including 14 Class A war criminals -- are honored. Chinese officials lodged "solemn" critiques with Abe; Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang stated that by going there, Japanese leaders "call back the ghost of militarism and whitewash Japan's history of aggression and colonialism" toward China. But some Chinese felt Japanese war criminals and Mao Zedong had something in common: Millions of people died because of them.

Prominent author and activist Li Chengpeng complained on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter, about unspecified people "bowing to ghosts," warning that "a tragedy in which tens of millions were killed, died of starvation, and were torn from their families" could not be covered up easily. "I strongly oppose politicians paying their respects, in any form, to ghosts," he concluded. His statement,censored shortly after its posting, was purposefully vague: The "tens of millions" could refer to the estimated 15 to 20 million Chinese who died during the Japanese occupation, or to those who perished in Mao's campaigns. (Experts believe that between 18 and 45 million died from violence and starvation during Mao's Great Leap Forward, a horrifically botched economic and social reform campaign that took place from 1958 to 1961. And in 1966, Mao initiated the Cultural Revolution, a decade-long period of ideological struggles that set China's society and economy even further behind.) He Weifang, a law professor at China's prestigious Peking University, wrote that Xi was paying tribute to someone who had "badly harmed the Chinese people." One anonymous Internet user was more explicit: "Japanese are paying respects to assholes who killed others," he wrote, "but we are paying respects to assholes who killed our own people."

A few critical voices aside, online chatter about Xi's praise for Mao and Abe's controversial visit was muted. That's partly because censorship of both topics was at full throttle, with commentary disabled or restricted on many sites, and also because Mao figures prominently in the Chinese Communist Party's official narrative of contemporary history, with challenges to that party line carefully monitored. Many Chinese might feel that Mao did more harm than good, but they could hardly be surprised that their president would voice support.

Some were less concerned with Mao's historical import and more concerned with his monetary value. "We all have a deep love for this man," joked one Weibo user as he posted a picture of China's currency, which features Mao's face on most denominations. "No need to say why."

- See more at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/20/Chinese_government_idiot_proof_cellphone#sthash.y4Dz6GJp.dpuf