4 January 2014


Friday, 03 January 2014 | 

G Parthasarathy

How should India judge whether Nawaz Sharif is going to respect the sanctity of the Line of Control? In his first term as Prime Minister, his handpicked ISI chief staged the 1993 Mumbai blasts

The return of Mr Nawaz Sharif to power in Pakistan was marked by pious statements by him on peace and stability on the one hand and by inflammatory rhetoric describing Kashmir as Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’ on the other. Whether it was at the United Nations in New York or at the White House, Mr Sharif chose to return to his stale rhetoric of Kashmir being the ‘core issue’ between India and Pakistan, implicitly asserting that there could be a nuclear holocaust unless Pakistan reached a satisfactory solution to the issue with India. This rhetoric was accompanied by the unleashing of an old Sharif family retainer Hafiz Mohammed Saeed to spew venom, threatening conflict against India not only on Kashmir, but also for allegedly diverting and depriving Pakistan’s people of their vital water resources. The Pakistan Army has augmented this diplomatic effort, by claiming that it will use tactical nuclear weapons in the event of Indian retribution to future 26/11 Mumbai style terrorist attacks.

Mr Sharif’s apologists in South Block, of course claimed that he had really had a “change of heart” and that he cherished nothing more than peace and harmony with India. Yet, Mr Sharif’s return to power was marked by 195 cease-fire violations, with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba even choosing to attack an Army officers’ mess in the Jammu Sector and with Indian jawans being beheaded elsewhere, by infiltrators crossing the Line of Control. South Block did not do its credibility any good by misleading the Union Minister for Defence AK Antony to first claim and then retract from a statement he made, absolving the Pakistan Army of its sins. It was against this background that it was agreed at the New York Summit that the Directors General of Military Operations would meet and devise measures to deescalate tensions across the LoC.

Given their desire for a civilian shield, behind which they like to avoid responsibility for their actions on the LoC the Pakistan Army stalled on the proposal, by insisting that delegations should by headed by civilian officials. But, they ultimately had to yield when India insisted that the talks should be between DGMOs as agreed to in New York. Firmness pays and the DGMO talks held on the Wagah border yielded some positive results. The most important part of the Joint Statement issued at Wagah on December 24 was agreement between the DGMO’s to “maintain the sanctity (of) and ceasefire on the Line of Control”. They also agreed to make the existing hotline between them more effective. Two flag meetings between Brigade Commanders on the LoC were also agreed to, for maintaining peace and tranquillity across the LoC.

The successful meeting of the DGMOs was followed by a meeting between Commanders of the Border Security Force and the Pakistan Rangers in which there was forward movement on effective use of existing communications and on illegal constructions close to the border. Most importantly, people who cross the border inadvertently do not, hopefully, have to spend months incarcerated.

While some tend to link these developments to the exit of the hard-nosed former General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, this ignores the reality that there is nothing to suggest that there is any change in the Pakistani Army’s long-term policies of supporting radical groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, for promoting violence across Pakistan’s borders with India and Afghanistan. It also now appears that there are differences between the Army and the political establishment on using force against the Tehriq-e-Taliban e Pakistan, in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Mr Sharif, Imran Khan’s Tehriq-e-Insaf, which rules the Pakhtunkhwa Province and Islamist Parties like the Jamat-e-Islami are all opposed to the use of force against the TTP. But, the Army has interestingly commenced operations against the TTP, in North Waziristan, home of the infamous Haqqani network, which operates from this area against Afghan and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Bitcoins: missing the real revolution

January 4, 2014 
Vasudevan Mukunth

APBTC: Some investors have been smart enough to spot the potential for innovations that are proliferating on diverse fronts. A representational picture.

The strength of cryptocurrencies like bitcoins has little to do with its monetary potential and more to do with its technical potential

The year 2013 was unequivocally the year of bitcoins, more than it will be the year of the commercialisation of 3D printers or the advent of private space flight. The bitcoins mining and transactions network first came online in late 2008, saw an adoption boom in early 2012, and got the attention of investors and governments late last year. It’s not really been as much a roller-coaster ride as an initiation into the Gartner hype cycle, and the slope of enlightenment is nowhere in the vicinity.

Unfortunately for it, there’s a bigger problem: people have been having the wrong debate, all the way from those who want to get on the bandwagon because they know a bitcoin is worth $825.43 (1616 IST, January 3), to regulators arguing over whether or not cryptocurrencies can replace American dollars, to political economists asking if this is a libertarian agenda plotting to subvert the federal reserve. Needless to say, they’re all wrong.

There are two aspects to bitcoins: one as the digital currency that uses complex mathematical functions to be acquired, moved around and secured; the other as the transaction verification system. The former is the honey that attracts the bees, the occupant of mainstream imagination; the latter is the hive of the future, the real revolution.

The strength of cryptocurrencies like bitcoins has little to do with its monetary potential and more to do with its technical potential. What Satoshi Nakamoto, the enigmatic Japanese programmer(s) who conceived the bitcoins system, created is pertinent to the notion of a transaction cost: the price of mobilising your resources, irrespective of the nature of these resources.

Within the bitcoins transaction verification network, both value and validity are established democratically. The person who intends to use a bitcoin needs to show proof of work — that he mined or acquired the coin through legitimate means — and proof of knowledge — that the transaction being requested is verifiable. If most users on the network agree that a transaction was legitimate to the tune of some amount, then that’s that. The identities of the transactors are irrelevant.

India: Security and Strategic Challenges in 2014

2 January 2014

C Uday Bhaskar
Member, Executive Committee, IPCS

The twin terrorist attacks in the Russian city of Volgograd that have killed more than 30 innocent people and grievously injured scores of others on two successive days (29 and 30 December 2013) which are suspected to be the handiwork of an Islamist separatist group are illustrative of the most complex and abiding internal security challenge that India will have to confront in 2014. The scars of 26/11 that terrorised Mumbai in November 2008 serve as a reminder of the worst-case exigency that the Indian security establishment needs to successfully pre-empt – often unobtrusively – given the undesirable polarisation of the terrorism discourse in India.

In like fashion, the April 2013 Depsang incident with China and the more recent politico-diplomatic tension with the US over the Khobragade case are indicative of the complexity and the fragility of the two most critical strategic bilateral relationships for Delhi as the new year dawns.

The nature of the challenges in the security and strategic spectrum that are likely to acquire greater salience for India in 2014 will be compounded by the fact that the UPA II government is in its last lap and the country will be in election mode for the early part of the year. Whether the new central government in Delhi in mid 2014 will be a stable coalition led by one of the major political parties (BJP or Congress), or an uneasy coalition of a Third Front type remains moot. 

Concurrently, the security environment in the extended South Asian region with specific implications for India will be shaped by two regions – Afghanistan-Pakistan in the first instance and Bangladesh at a remove. The withdrawal of US and ISAF military presence from Afghanistan will also take place in mid 2014 and the ability of the Afghan security forces to maintain the necessary level of peace and stability in the face of a resurgent Taliban will be severely tested. 

The Afghan elections and a post Karzai scenario are fraught with many uncertainties and for Delhi, the recall of December 1999 and the IC 814 hijacking episode reiterate the truth that the ideological orientation of Kabul can impact India’s internal security situation. In like fashion, the current turbulence in Dhaka between the caretaker ANP and the right-wing BNP could adversely impact the Indian security environment. The worst-case scenario for Delhi would be the rise of radical right-wing Islamist forces in the domestic political framework of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Indian Air Force: Is it an Expeditionary Force?

2 January 2014

Gp Capt (Retd) PI Muralidharan

Reporting on the recent assumption of office by the new Chief of the Indian Air Force,The Times of India on 31 December 2013 carried a piece by Rajat Pandit stating that the new Chief would have to focus on faster induction of planned air assets if his force has to eventually become a truly ‘expeditionary aerospace power’ (sic). Whilst this may just be misplaced reportage and not an official policy declaration by the IAF or the government, it needs gainsaying that as per the IAP 2000 IAF Air Power Manual, the IAF does not have an expeditionary role.

Doctrinal Background

Whilst it is true that the IAF now has the assets to function effectively in ‘Out of Area Operations’ (such as Aerial Refuellers, strategic airlifters like the C17s , the AWACS, Special Forces aircraft like the C130 Js and long-range fighters such as the Sukhoi 30s), India’s polity does not expect the IAF to function in an expeditionary role. This is reinforced in the Union War Book and the RM’s Op Directive emanating there from. An Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) - the USAF recently and the Allied Air Forces during WWII would fall under this definition - is one that, in today’s’ context, is capable of deploying a package of ‘shooter’ air power, including air- to-air, precision air-to-ground and defence suppression aircraft into a theatre to begin delivering combat air power within a short period - 48 hours or so. For the USAF, an expeditionary element has been a long felt need, mainly on account of their shrinking overseas basing infrastructure. Thus they look to expeditionary elements to give them a ‘plug- and-play’ 911 policing capability in a theatre in keeping with their strategy of global engagement’. This, in effect, gives them the option, in a contingency, of not having to rely on direct overseas deployment of air power from mainland US. Hence the evolution of their expeditionary air elements to seek to provide rapid, responsive air power tailored to the obtaining geopolitical situation - read ‘adventurism by a rogue nation’ in US parlance - often to give them a ’filler’ capability to overcome naval air power gaps such as absence of an aircraft carrier in the vicinity. The genesis of the USAF Expeditionary Air Force can be traced to Gulf War II around Oct 1994 when Saddam’s forces were threatening to invade Kuwait for a second time a la Gulf War I in 1990, and the USAF had to re -position itself in the region at short call. Later, USAF‘s AEF II deployed to Jordan for several months in 1996. These deployments indeed demonstrated the real ‘speed’ characteristic of air power. Now, the IAF is firstly not geared for a theatre type of military scenario, not still having a CDS nor Theatre Commanders yet. Nor does our country officially advocate functioning like a regional policeman, regardless of what we may have done over the Maldives during Op Cactus Lily or Sri Lanka during Op Pawan, enforcing the writ of the Indian State over a ‘rogue’ neighbouring State.

Out of Area Ops vs. Expedition

So what is the real difference between having Out of Area air capability and being an expeditionary air force? Clearly, it is the prevailing political stance that governs IAF’s operational employment. Like we do not subscribe to employing air power against our own citizens, our country surely would not like to be seen as a regional hegemon that enforces its political will through use of offensive air power, as the US is wont to do globally, especially post 9/11. Also, the USAF sees the AEF as a via media for coalition-building and regional cooperation. The IAF may have carried out a Maldives, a Goa or a Sri Lanka, but an expeditionary military is not in our national psyche. That is not to say that a repeat air action as was done in the cases mentioned is not foreseeable or doable. However, should the Indian government decide in the future to task the IAF with an expeditionary role, the IAF will not only have to buttress its Out Of Area capabilities in terms of further increased inventory in key assets, but more importantly perhaps, exercise the same periodically, to be effective when called upon to do so. There are several aspects to an expeditionary role than just deploying Out of Area. There are airfield management, academic and doctrinal training, flight safety and ground safety, joint exercises etc to be considered. Incidentally, the USAF expeditionary elements do not believe in having ‘full spectrum’ capability, so as not to lose out on staying ‘lean and mean’. This again is an area that would demand rigorous planning and training, were the IAF to assume on an expeditionary avatar.

Is it the dawn of an electronic age in India?

R. Swaminathan

03 January 2014
There is an element of tautological rhetoric in India's claim to be an Information Technology superpower all set to enter the era of ubiquitous digitalisation. It has all the visible bells and whistles of an electronics giant, from software revenues touching US$100 billion last year to consumption of electronic goods and gadgets breaching the US$125 billion mark this year. If all goes to script, with nothing to indicate that it will not, India would be gobbling up US$400 billion worth of gadgets and goods by 2020. That's a 300 percent increase in just about seven years. Yet amidst this healthy, prosperous glow there is an underlying structural flaw that's been bedevilling our policy makers for at least four decades. The flaw in simple terms is that India doesn't produce enough of what it consumes. In fact it just about produces 10% of the electronics goods internally. The rest of it is imported. And this flaw is only expected to get bigger with over 70 percent of the 2020 demand, that's US$300 billion, being sourced from outside the country. The coming decades are going to see an intensification of digitalisation, so much so that our daily life will necessarily get intersected and interwoven with chips, intelligent electronics, smart algorithms and digital devices. That's the future. In short, India's dreams of becoming a superpower will remain just that if the country doesn't establish an electronic design and manufacturing foundation. Some history is necessary before we jump into the National Electronics Manufacturing Policy of 2012. To its credit India started quite early in establishing a technological base with the first two five year plans channelising a substantial amount of the Indian State's resources in building up institutions devoted to fundamental research, higher education and research and development. In fact, a 22 member committee of scholars and entrepreneurs under the chairmanship of N R Sarkar was set up immediately after independence to set up world class institutions of higher science education. The renowned Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) was a product of this commission. By the late 1950s the government had acquired computers, EVS EM, from the Soviet Union to use in large companies and research laboratories. Unlike the popular perception that ties in India's exposure to computerisation to the early 1990s, the country experienced it way earlier during the last years of 1950s. Of course the story of Tata Consultancy Services, established in 1968, is quite well known to bear any repetition here. 

The country appeared to be on the right course in establishing what were then romantically referred to as 'temples of modern India' when the first Electronic Commission was set up in the early 1970s under the legendary science and technology policy leader MGK Menon. The Mission received support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and it formulated a strategy for establishing regional computer centres. The idea behind setting up such centres was to create hubs of manpower development and diffuse informatics and technology into the local economic processes. One of the crucial decisions of the Commission was to channelise the country's resources and energies into creating intellectual capital and knowledge base, rather than large-scale hardware production base. Almost every single institution from the National Informatics Centre, set up in 1975, the iconic Computer Maintenance Company (CMC), established the following year, to Tata Infotech, Patni Computer Systems and Wipro, can trace their roots to that single decision of MGK Menon Commission. However, in retrospect, that single decision can also be held largely accountable for India missing the microchip revolution of the 1980s; a revolution that propelled Taiwan and South Korea, and later on China, to leadership positions in the world. First Indira Gandhi and later Rajiv Gandhi recognised the importance of developing an ecosystem for electronics and telecommunications as future drivers of India's growth. They were right. Yet despite efforts to set up an indigenous electronics manufacturing base, the most notable being the effort to set up semi-conductor manufacturing plants in Mohali, the growth remained stymied due to a variety of factors, ranging from the easier access to electronic goods and gadgets post liberalisation, a flawed tax structure that made imported gadgets cheaper than domestically produced or assembled ones, a weak R&D culture to economies of scale fostered by a globalised economy and a weak system of vocational and technical training. While the three decades between 1990 and 2010 saw a massive growth in software services sector, with a major push coming from exports, the growth in the hardware sector was primarily fuelled by imports. The worldwide electronics industry is one of the fastest growing in the world, with an estimated billing of US$1.75 trillion. Ironically, the Indian market has contributed over US$100 billion to that bill, with over 90% as imports. Of course, as indicated earlier, the Indian import bill will be over US$300 billion in 2020. The National Electronics Manufacturing Policy of 2012 has to be positioned within this background. It directly tries to address three interconnected challenges.

Revenue Procurement Practices in the Indian Army

IDSA Monograph Series No. 29

This monograph examines some aspects of the Indian Army’s revenue procurement practices. It discusses the peculiarities of these practices in the Indian defence and security setup, relating it to the contemporary risk scenario. Keeping in mind the latest advances in the logistics management of other defence forces, this study draws attention to the corresponding trends in the private or commercial sector. Due consideration has been given to the feasibility of competitive outsourcing for qualitative assurance, cost-effectiveness and operational excellence. A case study of the equipping of the UN-bound Indian troops throws light on the requirement and expectations of the Indian soldier within international boundaries. This study assures of the best support from the material managers of the Indian Army, provided a focused approach, the latest technology, a calibrated system and modernisation are incorporated in the extant procurement procedures.
About the Author

Brigadier Venu Gopal was commissioned in the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) in December 1986, and has specialised in the field of Supply Chain and Material Management, and Strategic Management. He has held varied appointments including the Command of an Infantry Divisional Ordnance Unit (DOU), and as Director, Ordnance Services in the Service Headquarters (IHQ) dealing with Provisioning and Procurement of Ordnance Stores, which paved the way for researching the complexities and problems of revenue procurement procedures being faced during central procurement, and suggesting ways and means to overcome these to provide effective and efficient logistic support to the Indian Army against requirements of General Stores and Clothing Items. He was a Research Fellow at IDSA from June 2011 to June 2013.

Indian Diplomacy Hostage to Anti-Piracy


In February 2012, Italian marines aboard an oil tanker MT Enrica Lexie, travelling from Singapore to Egypt, fired on a Indian fishing trawler St Antony, approximately 21 nm off the coast of Kerala, mistaking it as a vessel engaged in piracy. Two Indian fishermen Ajesh Binki and Valentine aka Gelastine were killed. The Italian defence ministry portrayed it as a successful anti-piracy operation. The Italian vessel had a crew of 34, which included 19 Indians. The two marines of the Italian Navy, Massi Milano Latoree and Salvatore Girone responsible for killing the fisherman were taken into custody. What followed was unprecedented bitterness and acrimony between India and Italy. No responsible authority in India explained to the people the Italian highhandedness in proper geopolitical and maritime perspective. Again on October 12, 2013 an American vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio, belonging to the US firm AdvanFort, was apprehended by the Indian Coast Guard off Tamil Nadu Coast for unauthorised presence in India’s territorial waters. The crew and guard of the American vessel, which included Indians, were taken into custody. Thus in a matter of 20 months, two major incidents off the Western Coast of India have taken place, both triggering enormous diplomatic bad blood.

Some quarters state that the incident involving the American vessel in October 2013 has symbiotic linkage with the issue of maltreatment of the Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade. There are suggestions that the Devyani issue was contrived to pressurise India into releasing the crew and guards of MV Seaman Guard Ohio. The vicissitudes of the Devyani story have indeed fluctuated with India’s position on the release of the personnel onboard the American vessel. Finally on 26 December 2013 the said personnel comprising 22 foreigners and 12 Indians were granted bail (stayed by higher court). Concurrently the American rhetoric on the Devyani issue could be seen to undergo a sea-change. Suddenly Deviyani the diplomat, from a ‘perpetrator of human right abuses’, became a ‘victim of misunderstanding’.

The change in posturing on part of the US was too stark to go unnoticed. Nevertheless, a section of our media, who were seen to be totally in sync with the US, did not report the news of the grant of bail to the personnel belonging to the American vessel. These two incidents which caused massive diplomatic upheavals were actually triggered by an illogical and provocative maritime framework decided by the international community to prevent piracy. Besides these two incidents, many have gone unrecorded and unreported; in fact it has become an endemic feature. It is therefore imperative to comprehend the larger dynamics behind these incidents.

The case of the American vessel acquired gravitas as it was not only being replenished with 1600 liters of high speed diesel by an Indian fishing trawler inside India’s territorial waters, but also because its 35 members (10 crew and 25 security guards), in contravention of law, carried 35 assault rifles and 5680 rounds of ammunition. The crew and the guards were of various nationalities, i.e. Estonians, British, Ukrainian and Indian. All the 35 members were arrested for illegally carrying arms in India’s water and lodged at Palayamkottai Central Jail in Tamil Nadu. Even though there was no US citizen on the vessel, three officials from the US Consulate General at Chennai visited them the very next day. The US authorities maintained that the vessel was engaged in anti-piracy operations for protection of American merchant vessels, and were well beyond the Indian maritime territorial limit of 12 nm.

U.S. (In)justice in Afghanistan

JANUARY 2, 2014

Questions of jurisprudence are useless abstractions in Afghanistan, where the perceptions and pursuit of justice are based on customs -- not the rule of law. The American concept of "justice" and methods of dispute mediation are dramatically different from the customary laws and tribal justice of Afghanistan. Because of this, even if the United States brings American perpetrators of crimes in Afghanistan to court, as they did in the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, Afghan victims and their families often feel as though they've missed out on true justice. The United States should take note of this, as an understanding of "justice" through the eyes of Afghans is essential to moving forward in a post-NATO environment.

The Case

The trial of Staff Sgt. Bales helps illustrate the importance of this discrepancy and the way in which the United States failed to take Afghan traditions of dispute mediation into account, ultimately causing many Afghans to feel that Americans hold the lives of U.S. criminals in higher regard than those of innocent Afghans.

In 2012, when Bales murdered 16 Afghan civilians in Panjwai, a small district in Kandahar province, the Afghan government could not prevent his extradition back to the United States for a military court martial. For Afghans, removing the perpetrator of the crimes from the purview and judgment of his victims and their families seemed an audacious act. While Afghan witnesses and family members of the victims were flown from Kandahar to Joint Base Fort Lewis-McChord in Washington state by the U.S. military to testify at Bales' trial, the six witnesses who made this journey -- on two separate occasions -- found the American justice system in general, and the military court martial in particular, unfamiliar, grotesquely protracted, and in essence, unjust.

Afghanistan gains will be lost quickly after drawdown, U.S. intelligence estimate warns

By Ernesto Londoño, Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller
Published: December 28 

A new American intelligence assessment on the Afghan war predicts that the gains the United States and its allies have made during the past three years are likely to have been significantly eroded by 2017, even if Washington leaves behind a few thousand troops and continues bankrolling the impoverished nation, according to officials familiar with the report.

The National Intelligence Estimate, which includes input from the country’s 16 intelligence agencies, predicts that the Taliban and other power brokers will become increasingly influential as the United States winds down its longest war in history, according to officials who have read the classified report or received briefings on its conclusions. The grim outlook is fueling a policy debate inside the Obama administration about the steps it should take over the next year as the U.S. military draws down its remaining troops.

War-torn Afghanistan is searching for security amid vast uncertainty as U.S. troops continue to drawdown. Post Kabul bureau chief Kevin Seiff and Col. Tony Schaeffer, a fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, join On Background to discuss.

The report predicts that Afghanistan would likely descend into chaos quickly if Washington and Kabul don’t sign a security pact that would keep an international military contingent there beyond 2014 — a precondition for the delivery of billions of dollars in aid that the United States and its allies have pledged to spend in Afghanistan over the coming years.

“In the absence of a continuing presence and continuing financial support,” the intelligence assessment “suggests the situation would deteriorate very rapidly,” said one U.S. official familiar with the report.

That conclusion is widely shared among U.S. officials working on Afghanistan, said the official, who was among five people familiar with the report who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity to discuss the assessment.

  1. Some officials have taken umbrage at the underlying pessimism in the report, arguing that it does not adequately reflect how strong Afghanistan’s security forces have become. One American official, who described the NIE as “more dark” than past intelligence assessments on the war, said there are too many uncertainties to make an educated prediction on how the conflict will unfold between now and 2017, chief among them the outcome of next year’s presidential election.

“I think what we’re going to see is a recalibration of political power, territory and that kind of thing,” said one U.S. official who felt the assessment was unfairly negative. “It’s not going to be an inevitable rise of the Taliban.”

A senior administration official said that the intelligence community has long underestimated Afghanistan’s security forces.

“An assessment that says things are going to be gloomy no matter what you do, that you’re just delaying the inevitable, that’s just a view,” said the official. “I would not think it would be the determining view.”

U.S. intelligence analysts did not provide a detailed mapping of areas they believe are likely to become controlled by specific groups or warlords in coming years, said one of the officials. But the analysts anticipate that the central government in Kabul is all but certain to become increasingly irrelevant as it loses “purchase” over parts of the country, the official said.

Some have interpreted the intelligence assessment as an implicit indictment of the 2009 troop surge, which President Obama authorized under heavy pressure from the U.S. military in a bid to strengthen Afghan institutions and weaken the insurgency. The senior administration official said the surge enabled the development of a credible and increasingly proficient Afghan army and made it unlikely that al-Qaeda could reestablish a foothold in the country where the Sept. 11 attacks were plotted.

“By no means has the surge defeated the Taliban,” the official said, but its stated goal was to “reverse the Taliban’s momentum and give the government more of an edge. I think we achieved that.”

A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which issues intelligence estimates, declined to comment. Officials at the White House declined to speak about the NIE’s findings. In an e-mailed statement, a senior administration official said intelligence assessments are “only one tool in our policy analysis toolbox.”

“One of the intelligence community’s principal duties is to warn about potential upsides and downsides to U.S. policy, and we frequently use their assessments to identify vulnerabilities and take steps to correct them,” the statement said. “We will be weighing inputs from the [intelligence community] alongside those of the military, our diplomats and development experts as we look at the consequential decisions ahead of us, including making a decision on whether to leave troops in Afghanistan after the end of 2014.”

The Obama administration has sought to get permission from Kabul to keep troops that would carry out counterterrorism and training missions beyond 2014. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States and has made demands that Washington calls unrealistic.

Karzai’s intransigence has emboldened those in the administration and Congress who favor a quick drawdown. The latest intelligence assessment, some U.S. officials noted, has provided those inclined to abandon Afghanistan with strong fodder.

NIEs are issued periodically, normally ahead of a major policy decisions. One issued in 2008 was seen by international diplomats as having presented an “unrelentingly gloomy” picture of the state of affairs in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable that was released by WikiLeaks.

Another one issued in 2010, when the U.S. troop surge was at its peak, also offered a decidedly grim assessment. U.S. war commanders have submitted rebuttal letters to make note of their disagreements or highlight success stories they felt were not being taken into account.

The issue came to a head when Gen. David E. Petraeus left command of the international coalition in Kabul to take the helm of the CIA in 2011. He instructed analysts at the agency, which plays the dominant role in shaping NIEs, to consult more closely with commanders on the ground as they put together future war zone intelligence estimates. The directive was seen by some as an affront to the agency’s mandate to provide policymakers with independent, fact-based analysis.

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, the commander of international troops in Afghanistan, chose not to submit a rebuttal to the latest NIE, according to two U.S. officials. A spokesman for the general said he would not comment on the report.

Stephen Biddle, a defense policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Afghanistan experts in and out of government have a range of outlooks. The optimists see Afghan security forces expanding their territorial control until the Taliban is forced into a peace deal. Pessimists fear the government could eventually lose control of the capital and other big cities. Biddle said he predicts a stalemate for years to come.

“Whether it’s a worse or better stalemate depends on the rate at which Congress defunds the war,” he said.

Brookings Institute Analyst Says New CIA Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan Is Wrong

January 3, 2014

The intelligence assessment is too pessimistic about Afghanistan
Michael O’Hanlon
Washington Post, January 2, 2014

Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “Healing the Wounded Giant: Maintaining Military Preeminence While Cutting the Defense Budget,” among other books.

According to The Post, U.S. intelligence recently predicted a bleak future for Afghanistan after most international troops leave by the end of 2014. The situation would be worse, of course, if no bilateral security agreement is signed between Washington and Kabul and thus, in a year, no international troops at all remained in Afghanistan. But the tenor of the national intelligence estimate is reportedly pessimistic regardless of such specifics.

From my trips to the region and my former role as a member of the CIA’s external advisory board, I know many U.S. intelligence analysts who focus on Afghanistan. In my experience, they are, without exception, diligent, hardworking, brave and thoughtful. In this case, they also are wrong. Or, to be fairer, a bumper-sticker interpretation of their report that confidently makes fatalistic prognostications about Afghanistan’s future cannot be substantiated.

To be sure, there are numerous scenarios under which Afghanistan could falter or even fail in the years ahead. That could mean a possible return to power of the Taliban and its allies, as well as future sanctuaries on Afghan soil for al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (the terror organization that carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks) and other extremists. But there is little reason to consider this the most likely outcome and no basis for confidently predicting it.

Given the U.S. national mood of fatigue, doom and gloom toward Afghanistan, this kind of report, however well-intentioned and well-informed, requires rebuttal. It is also worth remembering that, as a breed, intelligence analysts tend toward pessimism because it is far less professionally embarrassing to be pleasantly surprised by developments in a given country than to appear complacent as troubles brew. But premature predictions of failure in some places can be as harmful to the national interest as blind optimism. The case for hopefulness on Afghanistan is built largely on what were probably its three most notable developments of 2013:

●The Afghan army and police held their ground. The number of U.S. troops declined steadily in 2013 and will soon total 34,000, down two-thirds from the peak in 2011. NATO and other international forces have been reduced by a comparable percentage. Last year was the first that Afghan security forces have been in the lead in most operations throughout the country at all times. NATO’s fatality figures, down nearly 75 percent from the peaks of recent years, prove the point. The Taliban made few inroads into major cities and put few major transportation arteries at risk, the occasional spectacular attack notwithstanding.Cities such as Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Jalalabad and Khost are safer today than many Latin American and African cities . No one knows whether Afghan forces, which sustained large losses, can continue to absorb punishment at the same pace. But in broad terms the record has been good so far.

CIA Conducted 27 Drone Attacks in Pakistan in 2013 Which Killed 181 People, Report

January 3, 2014

Only 27 drone attacks in 2013
Waseem Abbasi
The News International (Karachi), January 2, 2013

Amidst mounting political pressure from Pakistan, the US administration was forced to significantly reduce the number of deadly drone attacks in the country in 2013. The year witnessed 27 drone attacks, which killed 181 people.

However, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-run drone campaign accounted for some high-profile militant killings including that of former Chief of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Hakeemullah Mehsud and his deputy Wali ur Rehman Mehsud, during the year.

According to a study by the Conflict Monitoring Centre, an Islamabad based independent think tank, the CIA carried out 27 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2013, the lowest number of such attacks since 2007.

However despite reduction in the numbers of attacks the scope of drone strikes has widened during 2013 as the CIA extended its drone strikes beyond FATA by hitting a madrassa in Hangu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).

During the year, drone strikes killed some senior militant commanders including Al-Qaeda commanders Sheikh Yaseen As Sumali, Sheikh Abu Majid Al-Iraq, Sheikh Abu Waqas, and Abu Ubaidullah Abdullah Al-Adam.

Overall, the unmanned US planes killed 181 people in Pakistan during the year including some senior militant commanders. Since 2004, the CIA-operated drones have killed 3306 people in 391 strikes inside Pakistan, most of them unknown suspected militants and hundreds of civilians.

Last year witnessed a change of government in Pakistan with anti-drone political parties assuming government at the centre and in three provinces.

Russia and China Headed for an Inevitable Geopolitical Clash

Paper No. 5628 Dated 02-Jan-2013

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Introductory Observations

Russia’s “Great Power Aspirations” and China’s “Chinese Dream” (euphemism for China’s bid for global power status on par with United States) inherently carry the seed of an inevitable geopolitical clash of interests.

The so-called Russia-China strategic nexus amounts to nothing more than strategic expediency which could dissolve anytime with China’s propensity for strategic swings.

Russia and China have seemingly stood glued loosely together only because United States foreign policy formulations towards both Russia and China have been strategically naïve.

Russia’s strategic pivot to Asia Pacific has set the cat amongst the pigeons in so far as China and the United States are concerned.

United States and China have seemingly been forced into a reactive foreign policy mode in face of the pro-active foreign policy initiatives of Russia’s strategic pivot to Asia Pacific.

Reverting to the main theme of the inevitability of a Russia-China geopolitical clash is the singular fact that in Chinese strategic calculations as it proceeds with its “Chinese Dream”, it envisages a new bipolar global power structure comprising United States and China. China has ruled out Russia from emerging as a “Great Power”

This in itself and by itself adds to the inevitability of a geopolitical clash of interests between Russia and China,

Russia and China Clash of Geopolitical Interests in North East Asia

Both during the Cold War and more in focus now is the strategic reality that North East Asia was a region of intense geopolitical rivalry. It is in this region that the strategic interests of the United States, Russia and China intersect significantly.

In recent times North East Asia has been witness to a number of significant strategic developments. China has sharpened its adversarial postures against Japan bordering on military brinkmanship. Both United States and Russia have strategically pivoted to Asia Pacific in which Japan emerges as the lynch-pin of both their strategic initiatives. Japan prodded by China’s intransigence and military brinkmanship has embarked on enhancement of its military profile.

China's Military Strategy in the Asia-Pacific: Implications for Regional Stability

Ian Easton 

The military modernization program being undertaken by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is changing the security environment in the Asia-Pacific. Driven by a strategy to achieve the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership’s goals through the exploitation of advantageous conditions, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is investing in capabilities that are aimed at eroding the conventional military superiority of the United States and its allies in the region. Should the PLA’s modernization campaign succeed the likelihood of conflict and regional instability can be expected to increase as China’s authoritarian leadership is empowered with greater coercive leverage over its neighbors.

China's Near-Seas Challenges

January 2, 2014

THE U.S. National Intelligence Council forecasts that China will become the world’s largest economy (measured by purchasing-power parity) in 2022. Jane’s predicts that by 2015 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) funding will double to $238 billion, surpassing that of NATO’s eight largest militaries after the United States combined. The International Institute for Strategic Studies says that China’s defense spending might surpass America’s as early as 2025. Even if these projections prove exaggerated, economic, technical and industrial activity of an amazing scope and intensity is already affording China potent military capabilities. This is especially the case when such capabilities are applied—most likely through peacetime deterrence, or a limited skirmish with a neighbor such as Vietnam—to the “near seas” (the Yellow, East China and South China Seas), currently a major Chinese strategic focus.

Allowing Beijing to use force, or even the threat of force, to alter the regional status quo would have a number of pernicious effects. It would undermine the functioning of the most vibrant portion of the global commons—sea and air mediums that all nations rely on for trade and prosperity, but that none own. It would undermine important international norms and encourage the application of force to more of the world’s many persistent disputes. Finally, it would threaten to destabilize a region haunted by history that has prospered during nearly seven decades of U.S. forces helping to preserve peace. No other nation has the capability and lack of territorial claims necessary to play this still-vital role.

A number of strategists appear to believe that America faces the threat of conflict with China in the future, but that it can be avoided through accommodation or prepared for over a protracted period. In fact, a different scenario is more likely: even as the two Pacific powers are sufficiently interdependent to avoid direct hostilities—and share significant interests on which they may cooperate increasingly—China is already beginning to pose its greatest challenge to U.S. influence and interests in the Asia-Pacific.

China: Can Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream” Vision be realized?

Paper No. 5629 Dated 03-Jan-2013
By D. S. Rajan

Essentially, the “Chinese Dream” vision reflects the aspiration of the supreme leader Xi Jinping to transform the People’s Republic of China (PRC) into a strong and fully modernized nation by 2050, with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) playing a leading role. 

The paper finds that the situation in which reforms, a sure means to realize the vision, are progressing without a matching political liberalization programme in the country. This may prove to be a major handicap to realization of the dream. It also traces the implications of the dream for the Chinese society, military modernization and the PRC’s foreign policy.

“Realizing the Chinese dream of the great national rejuvenation would mean China’s becoming a prosperous country, a revitalized nation, and having happy people”
– Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party- CCP, 19 August 2013

The quote above captures the essence of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s vision of a ‘Chinese Dream’, which began to take shape soon after his take over as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief last year. A key question is whether or not the dream can be realised, that too within the officially declared time limit of middle of the current century? Prior to trying for an answer, a close look at the background to and evolution of the vision might be necessary.

Inspiration for the “Chinese Dream”

There seems to be some justification in believing that the ideas of retired Senior Colonel and former Professor in the National Defence University, Beijing, Liu Mingfu could have influenced the making of “Chinese Dream” concept of Xi Jinping. There is indeed a striking similarity between Xi’s postulates and Liu’s writings in his book called “the China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-America Era in 2010”. Liu said that “since the 19th Century, China has been lagging on the world stage. The “Chinese Dream” should be for a ‘strong nation with a strong military’. China should aim to surpass the U.S. as the world’s top military power”. Also being seen as influencing is an article entitled “China Needs its Own Dream”, contributed by Thomas Friedman[1] that wanted Xi to come up with a ‘new Chinese Dream’ in order to meet expectations of the people on prosperity and sustainable economy. A Xinhua publication ‘Globe’ described Xi’s “ China Dream” concept as ‘best response to Friedman’; Professor Zhang Ming of Renmin University, Beijing , viewed the concept as one used by Xi to improve China’s ties with the US[2].

Evolution of “Chinese Dream” concept

Speaking at the National Museum “Road to Revival” exhibition at Beijing, Xi announced (29 November 2012) his vision for the achievement of ‘great renewal or rejuvenation of Chinese nation’ which would reflect a “national aspiration for a ‘Chinese Dream’ about making the country stronger through development”. Significant has been his choice of the occasion which was meant to recall the humiliations suffered by China in the past, for contrasting a China to emerge after ‘renewal’ with the ‘status of weakness prevailed in the country for 170 years since the Opium War, subjecting China to bullying.’ [3]

China Establishing Joint Command Structure for Its Military

January 3, 2014

China to Centralize Military Command to Improve Operations

Reuters, January 3, 2014

BEIJING — China’s increasingly sophisticated military will establish a joint operational command structure for its forces to improve coordination between different parts of the country’s defense system, the official China Daily reported on Friday.

China has been moving rapidly to upgrade its military hardware, but military analysts say operational integration of complex and disparate systems across a regionalized command structure is a major challenge for Beijing.

In the past, regional level military commanders have enjoyed major latitude over their forces and branches of the military have remained highly independent of each other, making it difficult to exercise the centralized control necessary to use new weapons systems effectively in concert.

The English-language newspaper, citing the Defense Ministry, said that China will implement a joint command system “in due course” and that it has already launched pilot programs to that effect.

"Setting up the system is a basic requirement in a era of information, and the military has launched positive programs in this regard," the report said, quoting a ministry statement. It provided no further details.

In November, the ruling Communist Party announced the establishment of a new national security commission, to enable the country to speak with a single voice on crises at home and abroad, as part of a slew of mostly economic reforms announced at the end of a key party meeting.

China currently has seven military regions traditionally focused around ground-based army units, but China’s changing security interests, including over claims to potentially rich energy reserves in the East and South China Seas, has highlighted its need to focus more on air and naval forces.

Why Japan Isn’t Back

Population decline will limit Tokyo’s ability to be a major power in the decades ahead.
January 03, 2014

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s economic policies and more nationalistic rhetoric have led to much talk about a Japanese resurgence. As Abe himself put it confidently in a speech last year: “So ladies and gentlemen, Japan is back. Keep counting on my country.”

But whatever the merits of Abe’s policies—and regardless of whether he is able to pull the Japanese economy out of its two-decade long slump—the truth is that Tokyo does not have the potential to be a dominant force in Asia in the 21st Century.

This was reaffirmed earlier this week when Japan’s Health Ministry released its annual population figures.According to the Health Ministry, Japan’s population declined by 244,000 people in 2013. Although this was the seventh consecutive year in which Tokyo saw its population dwindle, this was the largest annual decrease to date.

Nor does the future offer reason for optimism. Japan’s population, which is currently at 126.3 million, is expected to decline to 116 million in 2030. By 2050, that number will shrink to just 97 million. As it shrinks, the population will also grow older; currently Japanese 65 years of age and older make up 25 percent of the population, a figure expected to jump to 40 percent by 2060.

This is all directly related to Japan’s ability to be a major force in the region in the Asia Century. For most of human history, the major sources of societies’ power were the size of its population and the size and quality of its territory. The last two centuries or so have been the exception to this rule as the industrial revolution created such disparities in labor productivity as to make land and population far less relevant to national power. Thus, Britain could once legitimately claim to be the world’s greatest power despite having a fraction of the world’s population and territory.

The transitory impact of the industrial revolution quickly became obvious, however. Notably, as the U.S., Russia, and a unified Germany modernized, they surpassed England in terms of national power. It was no accident, for instance, that the U.S. and Russia emerged as the superpowers of the second half of the 20thcentury. Alexis de Tocqueville foresaw this in the early 19th century.

Southeast Asian states continue to procure submarines for a variety of strategic goals.

January 03, 2014

On December 31, Vietnamese media reported the delivery of the first Russian Project 636 Varshavyanka-class (enhanced Kilo) conventional submarine to Cam Ranh Bay. The sub was transported from the port of St. Petersburg on the heavy lift vessel Rolldock Sea.

The submarine was accompanied by experts from Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg who will undertake final work before the formal handover ceremonies. The submarine will be named HQ 182 Hanoi. The last of the remaining five Project 636 Varshavyanka-class submarines is expected to be delivered by 2016.

In late November, during the visit of Vietnam’s party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong to India, it was announced that India would provide training for up to 500 submarines as part of its defense cooperation program with Vietnam. Training will be conducted at the Indian Navy’s modern submarine training center INS Satavahana in Visakhapatnam. The Indian Navy has operated Russian Kilo-class submarines since the mid-1980s.

The arrival of HQ 182 Hanoi provides a timely reminder that regional navies are embarking on naval modernization programs that increasingly include the acquisition of conventional submarines.

As long ago as 1967 Indonesia became one of the first Southeast Asian countries to acquire an undersea capability when it took delivery of a batch of Soviet Whiskey-class submarines. These were later replaced in 1978 by two West German diesel submarines.

In 2012 Indonesia’s Defense Ministry announced it was planning to expand its submarine fleet to twelve by 2020. Twelve is the minimum number of submarines required to cover strategic choke points or maritime entry passages into the archipelago.

Europe’s Tea Parties

Source Link
Insurgent parties are likely to do better in 2014 than at any time since the second world war
Jan 4th 2014 

SINCE 2010 or so, the Tea Party, a Republican insurgency, has turned American politics upside down. It comes in many blends, but most of its members share three convictions: that the ruling elite has lost touch with the founding ideals of America, that the federal government is a bloated, self-serving Leviathan, and that illegal immigration is a threat to social order. The Tea Party movement is central to the conflict that has riven American politics and the difficulty of reforming budgets and immigration laws.

Now something similar is happening in Europe (see article). Insurgent parties are on the rise. For mainstream parties and voters worried by their success, America’s experience of dealing with the Tea Party holds useful lessons.

The squeezed, and angry, middle

There are big differences between the Tea Party and the European insurgents. Whereas the Tea Party’s factions operate within one of America’s mainstream parties, and have roots in a venerable tradition of small-government conservatism, their counterparts in Europe are small, rebellious outfits, some from the far right. The Europeans are even more diverse than the Americans. Norway’s Progress Party is a world away from Hungary’s thuggish Jobbik. Nigel Farage and the saloon-bar bores of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) look askance at Marine Le Pen and her Front National (FN) across the Channel. But there are common threads linking the European insurgents and the Tea Party. They are angry people, harking back to simpler times. They worry about immigration. They spring from the squeezed middle—people who feel that the elite at the top and the scroungers at the bottom are prospering at the expense of ordinary working people. And they believe the centre of power—Washington or Brussels—is bulging with bureaucrats hatching schemes to run people’s lives.

America Unhinged

January 2, 2014

SINCE EARLY 2011, political developments in Egypt and Syria have repeatedly captured the attention of the American foreign-policy elite. The Obama administration has tried to guide the turbulent political situation in post-Mubarak Egypt and become increasingly engaged in Syria’s bloody civil war. The United States is already helping arm some of the forces fighting against the Assad regime, and President Obama came close to attacking Syria following its use of chemical weapons in August 2013. Washington is now directly involved in the effort to locate and destroy Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpiles.

These responses reflect three widespread beliefs about Egypt and Syria. The first is that the two states are of great strategic importance to the United States. There is a deep-seated fear that if the Obama administration does not fix the problems plaguing those countries, serious damage will be done to vital American interests. The second one is that there are compelling moral reasons for U.S. involvement in Syria, mainly because of large-scale civilian deaths. And the third is that the United States possesses the capability to affect Egyptian and Syrian politics in significant and positive ways, in large part by making sure the right person is in charge in Cairo and Damascus.

Packaged together, such beliefs create a powerful mandate for continuous American involvement in the politics of these two troubled countries.

Anyone paying even cursory attention to U.S. foreign policy in recent decades will recognize that Washington’s response to Egypt and Syria is part of a much bigger story. The story is this: America’s national-security elites act on the assumption that every nook and cranny of the globe is of great strategic significance and that there are threats to U.S. interests everywhere. Not surprisingly, they live in a constant state of fear. This fearful outlook is reflected in the comments of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, before Congress in February 2012: “I can’t impress upon you that in my personal military judgment, formed over thirty-eight years, we are living in the most dangerous time in my lifetime, right now.” In February 2013, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that Americans “live in very complex and dangerous times,” and the following month Senator James Inhofe said, “I don’t remember a time in my life where the world has been more dangerous and the threats more diverse.”

Egypt: A Tinderbox Waiting for a Spark

Behind the government's political transition and security measures lies a deeply unstable country.
JAN 2 2014

A supporter of the Egyptian army and police throws back a Molotov cocktail at students of Al-Azhar University who support the Muslim Brotherhood during clashes in Cairo, on December 27, 2013. (Reuters)

Nearly six months after the mass uprising-cum-coup that toppled Mohammed Morsi, the key cleavages of Egypt’s domestic political conflict are not only unresolved, but unresolvable. The generals who removed Morsi are engaged in an existential struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood: They believe they must destroy the Brotherhood—by, for instance, designating it a terrorist organization—or else the Brotherhood will return to power and destroy them. Meanwhile, Sinai-based jihadists have used Morsi’s removal as a pretext for intensifying their violence, and have increasingly hit targets west of the Suez Canal. Even the Brotherhood’s fiercest opponents are fighting among themselves: the coalition of entrenched state institutions and leftist political parties that rebelled against Morsi is fraying, and the youth activists who backed Morsi’s ouster in July are now protesting against the military-backed government, which has responded byarresting their leaders.The key cleavages of Egypt’s domestic political conflict are not only unresolved, but unresolvable.

So despite the fact that Egypt’s post-Morsi transition is technically moving forward, with a new draft constitution expected to pass via referendum in mid-January and elections to follow shortly thereafter, the country is a tinderbox that could ignite with any spark, entirely derailing the political process and converting Egypt’s episodic tumult into severe instability. What might that spark be? Here are three possibilities:

1. A high-profile political assassination

While he may be as well-guarded as any top official, Egyptian Defense Minister (and de facto ruler) Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is squarely in the Muslim Brotherhood’s crosshairs. He is, after all, the face of the coup that toppled Morsi, and he latercalled Egyptians to the streets to seek their “authorization” for a subsequent crackdown that killed more than 1,000 Morsi supporters.

How a Mega Project Snafu Could Snarl America’s Gas Exports

The expansion of the Panama Canal is on hold -- and so is the U.S. dream of sending energy to Asia.
JANUARY 2, 2014

The biggest construction project in the world is on the rocks. And that could have big negative implications for the United States as it tries to turn its natural-gas bonanza into an engine of export earnings and geopolitical influence.

The project is the expansion of the Panama Canal to allow more and bigger ships to pass through -- for instance, the large tankers that carry liquefied natural gas (LNG). Today, only about 6 percent of the global LNG tanker fleet can pass through the canal; after the expansion, about 90 percent of tankers will be able to use it, according to a U.S. government study. The bigger canal would provide a quicker and cheaper way to ship natural gas from the U.S. Gulf Coast and East Coast to markets in Asia that are desperate to secure supplies of natural gas.

But those plans now could be jeopardized because of a dispute over cost overruns -- which means America's gas export dreams could be in jeopardy, too.

The consortium building the third set of locks on the canal, which is the biggest part of the $5 billion canal expansion, said it can't continue work unless the Panama Canal Authority picks up the tab for about $1.6 billion in cost overruns. The construction of the new locks is a $3 billion contract, won by an international consortium with firms from Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Panama.

"If the customer doesn't provide additional funds to cover the unexpected costs, the project will soon face a cash crunch," a spokesman for Sacyr, the Spanish firm in the consortium, told Foreign Policy. Sacyr reportedly told the canal authority it must provide the funds within three weeks, or work will come to a halt.

The canal authority says the consortium has to complete the work, which has already fallen behind schedule and been plagued with a spate of construction problems, including fatal accidents and costly delays due to record rainfall.

The dispute could carry important consequences because the canal expansion has special importance for the United States, which hopes to start exporting natural gas, and Asia, which is desperate to buy it.

Japan, in particular, is eager to tap into the U.S. natural-gas boom: Since the 2011 accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Japan has been importing energy at high prices. Japanese shipbuilders plan to spend about $18 billion on new LNG tankers through the end of the decade, which, needless to say, would require the expanded canal to shave shipping times.

The End of the U.S.-India Honeymoon

By Sadanand Dhume
Dec. 30, 2013

This columnist appears not to know that Russian diplomats got away with major frauds on Medicare under Bharara's nose, and that this would never happen to British or German diplomat


New Delhi's overwrought reaction to a diplomatic kerfuffle jeopardizes ties that had been strengthening.

With the so-called Khobragade affair, involving the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York, stretching into its third week with little sign of resolution, it looks increasingly likely that the damage to U.S.-India ties will be long-term. Widely held assumptions in Washington and New Delhi—that both countries had found a way to forge a stable, mutually beneficial partnership—turn out to have been premature.
. . .
There's enough blame to go around. To describe the State Department's role in the showdown as clumsy would be an understatement. . . . Even expelling Ms. Khobragade would have been less inflammatory than arresting her. And if an arrest was unavoidable, it's still hard to justify treating a diplomat in a wage dispute like a Colombian drug lord.

To add insult to Indian injury, U.S. Embassy officials in New Delhi reportedly helped spirit out the former nanny's family days before Ms. Khobragade's arrest. To many Indians, both acts smacked of hostility. . . .

But while Indian anger is understandable, the government's overwrought response shows how far New Delhi remains from conducting itself like a major power. Removing security barriers in front of the U.S. Embassy little more than a year after the deadly attack in Benghazi shows a foreign office tone deaf to how the issue would play in the U.S. The withdrawal of diplomatic perks—a relatively trivial matter in itself—suggests less steely resolve and more smallness of spirit. Should a rising superpower care about where an American diplomat shops for wine and cheese?

In the weeks ahead, pundits will continue to quibble over the case. For much of the Indian media, Ms. Khobragade has emerged as a heroic figure, a young diplomat needlessly humiliated by a callous superpower. Most Indian journalists have portrayed Sangeeta Richard, the former nanny, as a scam artist who gamed the U.S. immigration system by falsely alleging mistreatment to secure visas for herself and her immediate family. Ms. Richard's supporters, of course, claim the opposite: that she, not Ms. Khobragade, is the victim of the piece.