21 February 2014

A long battle is won for pension parity

Armed forces personnel have to be young, in keeping with their role that requires high standards of physical fitness. Therefore, unlike other government employees, they are compulsorily retired at an early age. Grant of One Rank-One Pension is considered a partial compensation for the curtailment of their service

Lt Gen Raj Kadyan (Retd)

The Ex-servicemen’s contingent on parade at Rajpath during Republic Day. While announcing grant of One Rank -- One Pension, the government has not fully removed apprehensions in the minds of the veterans

FOR students of military history, the only significance of February 17 is that on this day in 1864, Hunley became the first submarine ever to engage and sink a warship during the American Civil War. But for Indian veterans, February 17, 2014 marks another important milestone. It was on this day the Union Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, during his presentation of the interim budget in the Parliament made an announcement of the government accepting the concept of “One Rank — One Pension” (OROP). If many veterans who were watching the live telecast wanted to reconfirm if what they heard was correct, it was understandable. They had been short-changed and their expectations had been belied so many times that hope was almost lost. Many are still not reconciled to the reality that it has actually happened.

OROP had been projected as a demand for the first time in 1982. It had been simmering since then. It was rekindled and put on the front burner and truly on the national map by the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement staring in 2008. Today almost everyone in the country is familiar with the term, though not many outside the uniform may understand its nuances. Armed forces personnel have to be young in age in keeping with their roles and tasks that require a high standard of physical fitness. Therefore, unlike all other central government employees, they are compulsorily retired at an early age. Nearly 85 per cent defence personnel retire before they reach 40 years of age. It is a big blow to a person to be thrown out of his job at an age when his financial commitments are at the peak. There is no provision for him to be absorbed in another government job till his normal age of superannuation. Nor is there any compensation worth the name. OROP is designed to partially address this issue.

What is OROP? The central pay commissions are constituted every 10 years. Every pay commission recommends enhancement of salaries keeping in view the prevailing cost of living and other relevant factors. Rise in salaries leads to an increase in pensions, which are a percentage of the salaries. The increase in pension is always applied prospectively and past pensioners are left out. This creates a gap in the emoluments of old and new pensioners and this gaps keeps widening with every successive pay commission. Since pension is a remuneration for services rendered, this is an unfair disparity between two defence pensioners that have rendered equal service and have handled the same level of responsibility. To remove this anomaly it is essential that persons retiring after rendering the same length of service and from the same rank always get the same pension. In other words, “equal service, equal rank, equal pension.” This is referred by its shortened version of “One Rank — One Pension.”

Blue scars of 1984 Feb 21, 2014

Operation Bluestar was a national catastrophe. Its traumatic impact on the country, especially in Punjab, lingers till today. It was the beginning of the Punjab insurgency. Operation Bluestar should have never happened.

With the recent declassification of confidential documents by the United Kingdom’s National Archives under the 30-year rule, details of cooperation between the British and Indian governments have emerged regarding Operation Bluestar — the clearing operation at the Golden Temple undertaken by the Indian Army in June 1984.

Media anchors and political agitators in the country have revived three-decade-old controversies about one of the most dangerously fraught periods in India’s post-Independence history.

Operation Bluestar remains a highly emotive issue. It is difficult to retrospect dispassionately, even after almost three decades. Was a military operation to clear the Golden Temple at all necessary? There are many views on that, none pleasant or palatable. However, what is very clear is that in the overall national interest, Operation Bluestar was a self-inflicted, politico-military trauma that India could well have done without.

And who was to blame for the whole sorry state of affairs that precipitated the situation? A simple question with an easy answer — as always, the blame must rest on the politics and politicians of the time. The Indian Army, on whom much vituperation is invariably directed, was merely an instrument. It was a warhorse carrying out its assigned tasks. Its own professional advice about the advisability of doing so under the dangerously sensitive politico-religious conditions prevalent at that time was brushed aside by the political class.

The overall factors and personalities of the players involved in the drama must never be forgotten. At the time of Operation Bluestar, the President of Pakistan, an ever-hostile neighbour was Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. Before his self-elevation to the supreme national office, Zia-ul-Haq was a serving general of the Pakistan Army that constituted the ruling class in Pakistan.
The Pakistan Army nursed a deep and abiding hatred towards India for the catastrophic humiliation it had suffered in Bangladesh in 1971. The internal unrest in India’s Punjab was just too tempting an opportunity to be passed.

The roots of the deteriorating political situation in India in the 1980s lay in clumsy, ham-fisted handling of the Punjabi Suba agitation by the Indian government as well as the state governments of Punjab and later Haryana.

The young rebels of Jhumra hills

February 21, 2014 
Anumeha Yadav

People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army of CPI(Maoist) Sub Zonal Commander Rakesh Ji(M) addressing The Hindu at Jhumra hill Forest in Bokaro on Thursday. Photo: Manob Chowdhury

Youth in former ‘liberated zone’ are still drawn to Maoists

In a small clearing in the forest, the village barber gets down to work, shaving the stubble of a man in a brown sweater and olive combats. Three young women in dark green uniform stand at the centre of the clearing, soaking in the late afternoon sun, rifles slung over their shoulders. These young men and women are members of two local guerilla squads of the CPI (Maoist).

Almost all of them grew up in villages nearby and were recruited in the last one year, they said, sitting down on two black plastic sheets spread over fallen leaves. This forest in Jhumra in central Jharkhand is one of the areas that according to the government was once part of the Maoists’ ‘liberated territory’ but is now under government control.

But the village youth continue to be steadily drawn to the movement. After undergoing military and ideological training for 12 to 18 months, these recruits are placed in the rebels’ People’s Liberation Guerilla Army.

Soft-spoken and with a broad smile, Babita Mahto, who has been with the squad for a year, said that joining the party gave her a sense of purpose and immortality. “So many women in the Mahto community kill themselves due to the stress from dowry, tilak [social ceremonies]. If I die at home, my parents will mourn for some months; we had a daughter who died, they will say. But here, there are so many of us who will remember — there was such and such didi [older sister], our comrade; she died for the people.”

Babita attended several of the outlawed group’s meetings in her village, hearing stories of their strength.

After appearing for her Class X exams, she left home to join them without informing her parents. “This is what I am interested in. Why are people hungry, or deprived? Here, we have decided that we will fight. If they have weapons, we do too. If they kill, we will too.”

“The forest makes a better home. We are always the first to breathe the air here,” said Anita Mandal, a recent recruit to the squad. “When I go back to my village, after say two, three minutes I want to get back here. Everything is messy in my village — the streets, the drains. Here it is fresh,” she quipped.

Kabul, Buzkashi and palachman: Photos from life in Afghanistan

20 February 2014

Source Link

The Panjshir Valley, situated about four hours north of Kabul, is known as the birthplace of legendary mujahedeen leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, and as home to some of the best Buzkashi players in the country. The sport, which is a cross between rugby and polo, is fast paced and rough. Teams of about thirty players each form a semi-circle and wait for the ringleader to drop a headless goat carcass in the middle of the field. Rules are difficult to ascertain, especially for foreigners, but the gist is for riders (or wrestlers as they are known) to converge at high speed, bend down from the saddle and grab the goat by any means possible, race to a green flag at the far end of the field and race back, to drop the carcass at the foot of the crowd. The carcass ended this match with just two legs left intact. Rumour has it that until not so long ago, the preference was to start the match with a live goat.
Buzkashi games in the Panjshir Valley, unlike other popular locations like the northern city of Mazar e Sharif, have a couple of benefits: incredible scenery and no sidelines. The crowd sits as close as possible to the action without risking the loss of a limb. No barriers or crowd control here. And strictly no women.

Normally winter snow in Kabul is nothing special. But warmer weather this season has meant an unusually dry few months, with falls of the white stuff intermittent at best. Kabulians are already predicting another year of drought for their regional counterparts, who rely on snow melt to fill the rivers and irrigation systems. This is Kart e Sakhi mosque, which sits below TV Hill in the suburb of the same name.

Few foreigners make the effort to scale the mountains around Kabul or track the Great Wall the remnants of which mark the ridge of the first hill 'captured' by iconic mujahideen leader Ahmad Shah Massoud in 1992, as the civil war took hold in the city. Each warlord held a different hill position from where they launched rockets at each other, most of which invariably fell short, razing the old city centre below. At the top of Massoud’s hill, bits and pieces of an original British outpost still stand, patrolled by two bored twenty-something guards and a pair of scarecrows, assembled from war junk and clothed in old police and army uniforms.

Taliban Civil War Looms as Peacemaker is Shot


A Taliban minister tries to negotiate with the Afghan government, and ends up dead—maybe at the hands of his fellow militants.

Taliban minister Mulvi Abdul Raqib was assassinated in Peshawar, Pakistan on Monday. And the most likely suspects are other, hardline members of the Taliban.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for Raqib’s killing. But according to both Taliban and Afghan government sources, the assassination was in retaliation for Raqib’s attempts to make peace with the government of Afghan president Hamid Karzai. That’s something many Taliban factions vehemently oppose—perhaps with lethal force. In other words, Raqib’s slaying could signal an internal war within the Taliban, with those supporting a negotiated end to the 13-year conflict in Afghanistan on one side, and the Taliban’s most hardcore elements on the other.

The American, Afghan, and Pakistani governments are all making efforts to find a way to come to some sort of political settlement with the Taliban and its allies before U.S. troops begin leaving Afghanistan later this year. If the Taliban is indeed at the early stages of some sort of civil war, that wouldn’t just complicate the peace process. It could render it useless.

Before he was killed, Raqib was working with Aga Jan Mohtism, a former high-ranking Taliban minister, who has been engaged in informal talks with the Afghan government’s peace council in Dubai. Official negotiations are expected to begin soon. Mohtism has been involved in previous peace talks and was himself shot in Pakistan in 2010 in an unclaimed attack.

Though Mohtism claims to represent the Afghan Taliban, his relationship to the Taliban’s official leadership is unclear. In a statement to the Associated Press, Mohtism said, “I can say that generally [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar has never disowned us. I am sure we have his support,” while also acknowledging that Omar had not expressed any public support for the peace talks or for Mohtism’s efforts.

A Taliban sub-commander from Northern Afghanistan who goes by the name Qari Nusrat spoke with The Daily Beast about Raqib’s killing and the question of Mullah Omar’s possible involvement.

Syria, Iraq, Lebanon: The New AfPak

February 19, 2014

Developments in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon are so deeply intertwined that we might start speaking about these countries as a common space, as we do now with “AfPak.”

In less than a decade, pro-Iranian forces have entrenched themselves in Damascus and seized near absolute power in neighbouring Baghdad and Beirut. The structural marginalization of the Sunnis in Iraq and Lebanon is splitting these communities, as evident from the rise of jihadi groups. This is the context of Syrian conflict.

Three years after the Arab uprising the “Syrian revolution” is dead and to label it the “Syrian conflict” would not entirely be right either. Due to its entanglement with existing political and sectarian divisions in Iraq and Lebanon the war is no longer strictly confined to Syria: the region is witnessing the emergence of a single theatre of war in what we could call the SIL region—Syria, Iraq, Lebanon.

Some would argue this is solely the consequence of a spillover of the Syrian conflict into neighbouring states but that is too simplistic. After all, the consequences of the war are totally different to its other neighbours Turkey, Jordan and Israel. They too feel the burden (notably Jordan, in terms of refugees) but their fate is far less dependent on developments in Aleppo and Damascus.

The social fabric of society and the political alignments in Iraq and Lebanon, however, follow very similar fault lines as is the case in Syria. The SIL region faces a shared predicament: fragile state institutions, growing Sunni marginalization and, consequently, the rise of Al Qaeda-affiliated (or originated) groups that increasingly operate irrespective of national borders. As a result, domestic politics in all three countries is no isolated affair.

Myanmar: The Cycle Of Death And Destruction

February 17, 2014:
The government has negotiated another group of ceasefire deals with northern tribal rebel groups. This does not mean peace is finally coming to the north. These ceasefire deals are just that and an opportunity for the tribes to rebuild their resources and have a bit of relief from army raids and random firepower. The ceasefires also allow the southerners and their tribal allies to continue exploiting the tribal peoples. That sort of abuse has been going on for decades and it eventually (after a few months or years) triggers another round of armed rebellion. In theory all this bad behavior by troops and government officials is illegal and not happening. In practice the abuse continues. There’s money to be made up there, especially with the Chinese coming in with large amounts of cash looking to set up mines, dams, oil and gas operations and all manner of development that benefits China. Burmese troops and government officials take bribes and fees from the Chinese to help make it happen (and keep the angry tribes out of the way). It does little for the people who have long lived up there and actually does much harm to the locals. Despite the peace negotiations the army continues to attack, but not on a large scale. The rebels continue to make travel on the few roads dangerous. This makes life difficult for the troops, who get most of their food and other supplies via truck. The unrest also cuts off pro-rebel villages from road traffic and makes consumer goods more expensive as they have to be smuggled in past the army roadblocks.

Some of the rebel groups in the north are improving their military forces, even though they participate in peace negotiations. For example the Wa rebels (UWSA or United Wa State Army) are establishing an air force. This consists of some Mi-17 helicopters from China. Some 30 Wa tribesmen are in China training to operate and maintain the helicopters. In Shan state the UWSA is a major factor and the army tends to respect UWSA military capabilities. Half the tribal militiamen in the far north belong to the UWSA, which has about 30,000 armed men operating along the Chinese border. The Wa are ethnic Chinese, and many other Wa live across the border in China. The Chinese has made it clear to the Burmese government that any attack on the Wa would not be appreciated and have pressured the Burmese on behalf of the Wa. Burmese troops continue interfering with truck traffic entering Wa territory. The Wa can get what they need from China, but some Burmese Wa live closer to roads coming from the south, rather than those coming from China. Many Wa believe that the Burmese would like to push all the Wa into China, but that is not likely to happen because of UWSA resistance and Chinese support.

It is true that the ethnic Burmese in the south would prefer the northern tribes to just disappear. The tribes feel the same way towards the southerners and point out that the tribesmen are not going south to rape and rob the southerners where they live. While many tribal groups try to coexist with the southern invaders, the abuse is only reduced, not eliminated because of that support. The corrupt cops and marauding soldiers see all tribal people as potential victims.

Avoiding Scrapes with China


Congressmen Randy Forbes of Virginia and Mike Rogers of Alabama convened a hearing on January 28th of their House Armed Services Subcommittees to raise awareness of China’s counter-space capabilities. Members asked thoughtful questions about a genuine strategic dilemma: US satellites are becoming more essential and more vulnerable. What will this mean for US-China relations?

My testimony tried to apply some historical perspective. The United States and the Soviet Union managed to avoid a “space Pearl Harbor” despite an intense ideological and geopolitical competition, severe crises and proxy wars, not to mention a nuclear arms race and a space race.

So how did we avoid scrapes in space? Washington and Moscow understood the escalatory potential of hostile actions in space, acknowledged satellite vulnerability, and retained significant capabilities to wage warfare in space, if the need arose. The last two conditions now apply to Washington and Beijing – but this won’t help unless the first does, as well.

What wavelength are China’s leaders on? We don’t know. Nor do we know whether Chinese leaders and the PLA are on the same wavelength. Civilian and military leaders in the United States and the Soviet Union were definitely not on the same page in preparing to negotiate on strategic arms and missile defenses. Eventually, there were many communication channels to discuss nuclear and space issues with the Soviet Union. Over time, veteran observers were able to figure out stratagems, habits, and red lines. Patterns of cooperation were hammered out despite competitive practices.

In space, the United States and the Soviet Union tested anti-satellite capabilities over sixty times. ASAT talks in the Carter administration went nowhere. And yet, Washington and Moscow agreed in 1975 to a docking of the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft. We cooperate every day on the International Space Station.

China Overtakes India As Top Gold Consumer

February 20, 2014

The World Gold Council’s 2013 trend report finds that Chinese demand for gold surpassed India’s.

According to the World Gold Council (WGC), 2013 marked the year that gold consumption in China surpassed that of India, making it the world’s largest consumer of gold. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Chinese demand for gold bars, coins and jewelry soared by 32% to record levels in 2013.” Despite the sharp uptick in Chinese consumers’ demand for gold, prices slumped 28 percent last year. The findings are available in the WGC’s complete Gold Demand Trends 2013 report.

The WGC figures place Chinese imports at 1,066 metric tons and Indian imports at 975 metric tons, rendering the ratio of imports between these two countries more in line with their population ratios. Gold consumption rose in India by 13 percent and was partially stymied by import restrictions on the precious metal to combat the country’s ballooning current account deficit.

Gold analysts see the uptick in Chinese demand and consumption emerging from a drop in prices and a rise in middle-class incomes. ”When prices drop, there’ll always be buyers,” notes one Shanghai-based analyst cited by the The Wall Street Journal. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the largest Chinese bank by assets, found its precious-metals trading business to have grown 22 percent year-over-year in 2013 to $176.6 billion.



China could trigger a paradigm shift in the disputes in the South China Sea if it were to issue charts indicating the outer limit of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claims from the islands over which it claims sovereignty. A full effect ‘equidistance line’ from the largest islands towards the surrounding coasts would create a large area of overlap between the EEZ claims of the ASEAN claimants and the EEZ claim of China from the disputed islands. This could lead to possible provisional arrangements of a practical nature, including joint development zones, in the areas of overlapping claims.

By Robert C Beckman and Clive H Schofield

CALLS ON China to clarify its maritime claims in the South China Sea have been reopened following the testimony on 5 February 2014 by US Assistant Secretary of State for the Asia-Pacific Daniel Russel, before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

Mr Russel stated that the United States takes a strong position that maritime claims must accord with customary international law, and that this means all maritime claims must be derived from land features and otherwise comport with the international law of the sea. He further stated that claims in the South China Sea that are not derived from land features, such as those apparently based on China’s so-called nine-dash line, are fundamentally flawed. He called upon China to clarify or adjust its maritime claims so as to bring them into accordance with the international law of the sea.
Bringing China’s claim under international law

Mr Russel’s testimony raises a fundamental question that has long been at the heart of the legal disputes in the South China Sea. Can China bring its maritime claims into conformity with the international law and still protect its legitimate interests in the South China Sea? We believe that it can, and that it would be in China’s interests to do so, not least because this could open the door to serious discussions on joint development in areas of overlapping maritime claims.

To begin with, China could trigger a paradigm shift in the disputes in the South China Sea if it were to issue charts indicating the outer limit of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claims from the islands over which it claims sovereignty. China could limit its EEZ claim to just the 12 largest islands in the Spratlys. Although the total land area of these islands is only about two square kilometres, they all have vegetation and in some cases roads and structures have been built on them.

China: The Insecure Global Power

Faced with growing expectations, China’s foreign policy is actually becoming more insecure. 

February 18, 2014

We speak of China now as more assertive, confident and sure of its position in the world. And yet wealth and the hard power that has come with it seem in fact to have made China’s behavior more insecure, not less so. Insecurity above all is the more accurate description of China’s diplomatic character at the moment, rather than a newfound confidence.

One can see this most easily not in grand geopolitics but on the granular level of China’s relations with regional powers around its borders. Cambodia stands as a kind of bellwether state. During the late Maoist period, it is now increasingly clear, Cambodia did little without leaders in Beijing knowing. In particular, China’s links with the Khmer Rouge leadership from 1975 on were profound and varied. Pol Pot, according to a superb account in veteran journalist Francis Deron’s Le Procès Des Khmers Rouges, visited Beijing secretly three times: in 1966, in 1970 and then, only two months after seizing power, in June 1975. He had his only ever state visit abroad to Beijing in 1977. Mao Zedong would grant Khieu Samphan, the regime’s Head of State, an audience in 1974 before they had even come to power, and Ieng Sary, who was to become Kampuchea’s Foreign Minister, ran what was in effect a liaison office from Beijing from 1971. Andrew Mertha of Cornell University has just written a further account of the immense amounts of Chinese aid that went to the Khmer Rouge regime. In light of this evidence, it is hard to not see Cambodia during this era as almost akin to a client state. No principles of “non-interference in the affairs of others” stopped China from having a huge say in the way the country was run and how it acted diplomatically.

China is Marching West for Food

20 February 2014 
By Zhang Hongzhou

As the United States pivots towards the east, China launched the so-called “Marching West” strategy to avoid a direct confrontation with the Americans – a strategy first articulated by a prominent Chinese scholar Wang Jisi.

While much of the attention has been given to the strategic and diplomatic importance of countering the US pivot to Asia and on China’s overseas quest for energy resources, food could be an important driver behind China’s Marching West strategy.
Diversifying from the US

For decades, self-sufficiency has been the cornerstone of China’s food security strategy. Yet, facing dual challenges of rapidly growing demand for food and fast-depleting water, land and labour resources, China has to import large quantities of food from other countries. As it relies more on foreign imports to feed itself, an overdependence on US imports, amid deep-seated Sino-US strategic distrust, is drawing serious concern.

To better safeguard the country’s food security, China aims to diversify its food imports away from the US and build its own global food supply system by investing in overseas agricultural resources. To secure its food supplies, China is marching west, particularly to Russia, Central Asia and Europe, where food and agricultural resources abound.


In contrast to China, Russia, especially its Far East region, has wide swathes of unfarmed fertile land. As China faces increasing difficulties to produce enough food to feed its people, the Chinese government opened talks on investing in Russian farmland. In 2012, China Investment Corporation contributed US$ 1 billion to a joint Russian-Chinese fund to invest in agriculture and timber in Russia and other former Soviet states. Chinese firms, led by state-owned firms have leased at least 600,000 hectares of land, and 800,000 hectares of forests.

Defending Japan's Pacifism

February 20, 2014

Recently a Japanese government panel, headed by former Japanese ambassador to the United States Shunji Yanai, indicated that with some alterations to its current interpretation of the Japanese Constitution, the government ought to be able to slip out of its self-imposed ban on collective defense. Of course, this is nothing new. Japan has been reinterpreting itself away from Article 9 of its constitution for a very long time, often using an almost Orwellian Newspeak to describe its military as “self defense forces” (jietai) or its new flat-topped ships that carry aircraft as “helicopter destroyers.” I’ll leave that twist of the tongue to the military experts, but from the perspective of an anthropologist, if it looks like a duck, it’s a duck—a flat-topped ship designed to transport aircraft is an aircraft carrier.

In any case, the announcement by Yanai’s panel provides a good opportunity to think about the latest unfortunate development in the generally unfortunate history of Article 9. Let’s begin by quoting the article:

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

The origin of the clause has been debated, although the US certainly had a significant hand in it, as it did in framing the Japanese Constitution in general. And, despite its authorship, the meaning seems pretty clear: Japan will not maintain a military and does not recognize the right of belligerency.

Troubled Waters: Indonesia’s Growing Maritime Disputes

Indonesia has become embroiled in maritime disputes with neighbors like Singapore, Australia, and Papua New Guinea.

By Scott Cheney-Peters
February 19, 2014

Indonesia has had a rocky couple of weeks in its relations with its neighbors. While Ted Piccone and Bimo Yusman wrote last week about Indonesia’sdecade of qualified diplomatic successes, in a series of separate and mostly unrelated naval developments the archipelagic nation has in turn aggrieved, or been aggrieved by, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, and Australia.


In the first incident, the Indonesian Navy sparked a row with Singapore after it announced it was renaming the final of three refitted frigates it purchased from Britain the KRI Usman Harun, in honor of Usman Ali and Harun Said. The pair of Indonesian marines conducted the 1965 bombing of MacDonald House in Singapore, killing three and wounding another 33, part of then-President Sukarno’s Konfrontasi—a violent effort to destabilize the formation of Malaysia, of which Singapore was then a part.

After their subsequent execution three years later in Singapore, Usman and Harun were in Indonesia memorialized as martyrs, prisoners of war wrongly killed, receiving a state funeral in the Kalibata Heroes Cemetery in South Jakarta and inspiring the sacking of the Singaporean embassy. Relations remained frosty between the two countries for the next five years until restoration of formal ties following a state visit from Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who sprinkled flowers on the marines’ graves in a highly symbolic act for the Javanese.

Indonesia’s defense chief stated the decision to rename the vessels was made in December 2012, but only widely publicized this month, stressing the vessel’s name will not be changed. Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, or SBY, has himself cautioned Singapore about reacting “proportionally” to the naming.

Many Singaporeans understandably view the pair, who disregarded their orders to bomb an electric plant and infiltrated the city in civilian clothes, in a slightly different light. While other things throughout Indonesia have or are planned to be named after the marines, in the words of a Singaporean, naming a warship after them is particularly onerous.

India and Japan Draw Closer: Risks and Rewards

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
Source URL (retrieved on Feb 20, 2014): http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/india-japan-draw-closer-risks-rewards-9898

In a thoughtful commentary for The National Interest published on January 24 (“A Fine Balance: India, Japan and the United States [3]”), Dhruva Jaishankar used the occasion of a New Delhi visit by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to discuss the evolving relationship between Asia’s second- and third-largest economies. Jaishankar identified strategic advantages that both could realize through security collaboration, and also emphasized the importance of Japan-India ties for the United States, arguing that “there are good enough reasons for all three countries to invest further in trilateral security cooperation,” even as each is wary of antagonizing China.

In his final paragraph, Jaishankar observes that India makes a particularly appealing partner for Japan because New Delhi broached no objection to Abe’s December 26 visit Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni shrine [4]—a move that not only exacerbated tensions with China and further alienated should-be ally South Korea, but also elicited public “disappointment [5]” from Washington. Even as other Asian nations were still fuming over Abe’s visit to a religious edifice that, since 1978, has enshrined the souls of fourteen men convicted of “Class A” war crimes after World War II, New Delhi was preparing to welcome Japan’s hawkish premier with open arms.

Indeed, far from dividing Japan and India, the twentieth century actually provides each country with a narrative that may facilitate future cooperation, reinforcing a sense of shared purpose and personal affinity between their leaders. While the historical roots of ongoing Sino-Japanese animosity [6] are widely understood, fewer in the West are familiar with the events that poisoned relations between the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China before either state had reached the age of fifteen. Not only does India share a rival with Japan, but the slim history of these nations’ own bilateral relationship also includes a strange chapter which might have faded into obscurity if not for Abe’s personal obsession with the past.

Ominous Divide: Shiite Iran v Sunni Gulf


 FEBRUARY 18, 2014

Sectarian tensions have become a major part of political life in the Gulf Arab states, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. Shiites in each state suffer varying degrees of religious discrimination and political marginalization. Tensions are typically portrayed as a spillover effect of sectarian strife elsewhere in the region (the Iraq War, and, more recently, the Syria conflict) or Iran’s deliberate incitement of local Shiite communities in the Gulf. But they are only part of the story.

The roots of Shiite-Sunni tensions in the Gulf are more complex and ultimately more local. They are deeply woven into the political fabric of individual states. Sectarian identities have been further sharpened by uneven access to political and economic capital, official and quasi-official discrimination, and the absence of truly inclusive governing structures. This is true in virtually every field: government bureaucracies, the security sector, the labor market, clerical establishments, the legal system, provincial development and so on.

The recent rise in tensions is particularly tied to the failure of reforms promised at the turn of the millennium that has left young Shiites deeply embittered and frustrated. Young activists claim that their generation is susceptible to sectarian mobilization because it is shut out of the social compact, deprived of access to economic and political capital, and instilled with a sense of “otherness.”

During the Iraq War, Gulf regimes—particularly Bahrain and Saudi Arabia—increasingly viewed Shiite demands for reform as a security threat. Tensions reached an apogee after the 2011 Arab uprisings, when Sunni clerics and Gulf media attempted to portray initial demands for democracy as narrowly Shiite in character and inspired by Iran. This strategy created fissures within the reform movement by exacerbating Shiite-Sunni identities, as it implicitly highlighted the ruling families as arbiters over a fractious and divided citizenry.

The war in Syria has amplified tensions. The “sectarianization” of that conflict—due to both Assad’s policies and outside intervention by Arab states and Iran—has rippled across the Gulf. Sunni clerics in the Gulf have demonized the Alawite regime and its allies, with blowback on local Shiites. Many Gulf Shiites are now ambivalent, if not opposed, to supporting the Syrian opposition, which is increasingly seen as anti-Shiite.


FEBRUARY 6, 2014 

Based on the warming trend in the Arctic Region, large portions of the Arctic Ocean are projected to be seasonally ice free by mid-century; between 2030 and 2050. This warming trend carries with it the risks and opportunities associated with seasonal access to the Arctic Ocean, rivers, and coastline which includes mineral deposits, petroleum resources, fishing stocks, and economically advantageous shipping routes. The central question is how the United States should prepare for the effects of a potential seasonal thaw of Arctic ice by mid-century.

US National Interest

Seasonal access to the Arctic Ocean significantly impacts US national interests. It has the potential to increase national economic security, encourage global economic stability, and create new theaters for global leadership in international cooperation.

The Arctic region is estimated to have over $1 trillion worth of precious minerals and the equivalent to 812 billion barrels of oil. All of which will become increasingly available for extraction. The U.S. could make great strides toward energy independence by developing these resources within its Arctic territory and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Actors and Governance

1. Actors

The actors involved in strategic prepositioning for the Arctic thaw fall into two categories. The Primary Actors hold legal rights to Arctic territory in accordance with internationally accepted legal structures. These include the Arctic Nations(United States, Russia, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark) and indigenous populations (Athabasca, Inuit, Saami, etc.). Influential Actors have significant stakes in Arctic policy outcomes but do not hold legal rights. While some such actors may not yet be apparent, the most obvious are large environmental advocacy groups and multinational corporations in the energy, mining, shipping, and fishing industries.

2. Governance

Governance in the Arctic Region, particularly the maritime domain, remains in nascent form. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) broadly applies international law but does not address unique requirements for Arctic shipping. For example, there are no ship construction specifications or crew proficiency requirements for sailing within proximity to ice fields. Under the United Nations charter, the International Maritime Organization has begun to analyze potential Arctic regulatory actions.

The Arctic Council was established in 1996 as an intergovernmental forum to coordinate Arctic policy and resolve disputes diplomatically. This forum does not establish international law but provides a venue for Arctic Nations to settle bilateral or multilateral disputes as well as coordinate initiatives to be brought before the International Maritime Organization.

At the national level, laws pertaining to environmental protection and the rights of indigenous peoples produce a complicated legal landscape the policy makers will have to navigate in coming years. Shell’s recent decision to postpone drillingoperations in the Alaskan Arctic highlights this tension.


1. Unclear Impacts of the Thaw

While a seasonal ice-free thaw by mid-century is generally accepted, several second order effects remain controversial or unpredictable. The total magnitude of shipping traffic, intensity of mineral and oil extraction, as well as weather impacts on fishing stocks and agricultural growing conditions are not commonly understood.

Most shipping estimates focus on the economically viable trans-Arctic shipping traffic between North Asia and Europe. By 2030, 1.4 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) could be transported across the Arctic on 480 total transits. By 2050, a potential 2.5 million TEU could be transported across the Arctic on 850 total transits. The wide array of other potential waterborne activities (i.e., commercial fishing, offshore drilling/exploration service traffic, and tourism) is not adequately captured in shipping estimates.

America risks becoming a Downton Abbey economy

February 16, 2014

Inequality will have to be addressed, with free markets playing a pivotal role

Inequality has emerged as a major issue in the US and beyond. A generation ago it could reasonably have been asserted that the overall growth rate of the economy was the main influence on the growth in middle-class incomes and progress in reducing poverty. This is no longer a plausible claim.

The share of income going to the top 1 per cent of earners has increased sharply. A rising share of output is going to profits. Real wages are stagnant. Family incomes have not risen as fast as productivity. The cumulative effect of all these developments is that the US may well be on the way to becoming a Downton Abbey economy. It is very likely that these issues will be with us long after the cyclical conditions have normalized and budget deficits have at last been addressed.

President Barack Obama is right to be concerned. Those who condemn him for “tearing down the wealthy” and engaging in un-American populism are, to put it politely, lacking in historical perspective. Presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Harry Truman railed against the excesses of a privileged few in finance and business. Some have gone beyond rhetoric. Confronted with rising steel prices, John Kennedy sent the FBI storming into corporate offices and is widely thought to have ordered the authorities to audit executives’ personal tax returns. Richard Nixon used the same weapon in 1973, announcing tax investigations “of the books of companies which raised their prices more than 1.5 per cent above the January ceiling.” All were reacting in their own way to a phenomenon that Bill Clinton has described best: “Although America’s rich got richer . . . the country did not . . . the stock market tripled but wages went down.”

The US Military's Ethics Crisis

FEBRUARY 13, 2014

Soldiers stand at parade rest during the deployment ceremony for the 164th Military Police Company (Photo: US Air Force/Justin Connaher/Public Domain)

Military officers behaving badly have been making headlines. But, rather than a sign of widespread corruption, the fact that they're being caught and disciplined is an indication of how seriously the profession takes its ethical responsibilities.

From massive cheating scandals with Air Force and Navy nuclear officers and Army National Guard recruiters to generals and admirals abusing the perks of their office or sending wildly inappropriate emails detailing the things they'd like to do with female Members of Congress, the string of reports have many seeing an ethical crisis in the American armed forces. 

They prompted TNI contributing editor Paul Pillar to ask, "What's going on with military officers?" The Pentagon's senior leadership is apparently asking themselves the same thing. Earlier this month, the DoD's press secretary put out word that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is "concerned about the health of the force and the health of the strong culture of accountability and responsibility that Americans have come to expect from their military" and "generally concerned that there could be at least at some level a breakdown in ethical behavior and in the demonstration of moral courage." Friday, the other shoe dropped, with Hagel himself announcing that he would appoint a senior general as an ethics czar and that "It will be an individual who is experienced in not just this building, but I want someone who understands the outside, who understands the pressures of combat, the pressures of curriculums and testing, and who has a good, well-rounded background in command."

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agrees, proclaiming that, "It is not the war that has caused this. It is the pace, and our failure to understand that at that pace, we were neglecting the tools that manage us as a profession over time." This was Pillar's instinct as well. He observed that "The U.S. armed forces are coming off more than a decade of continuous involvement in overseas warfare, with the particular wars in question not having gone especially well" and noted "One thinks, by way of comparison, of the years immediately after the Vietnam War, another overseas war that did not go well and a time when aberrant conduct in the military such as drug abuse was high."



The U.S. Navy’s Information Dominance Corps (IDC) is comprised of four major communities: Information Professional, Information Warfare (including Cyber Warfare Engineers), Intelligence, and Meteorology/Oceanography. Its enlisted members are some of the most well trained members of the military. There have been some efforts made to grow the active duty community into a mature force since its inception in 2009, and as a Naval community it collectively has the greatest understanding of using social media and the internet-although that may be damning with faint praise.

IDC’s reserve component is more interesting. Unencumbered by active duty career paths, the reserve IDC has members with a phenomenal amount of knowledge about network administration, network security, coding, software development, and a lot more areas of expertise that are often missing in our active component.

The reserve IDC should be a lab for innovation and a tremendous opportunity to bring true experts in the industry in for targeted part-time work and help that could keep the Navy at the leading edge of network dominance. Unfortunately, we’ve handcuffed them with bureaucratic nonsense that is sure to drum out the best and leave us with the rest.

I spoke to LTjg Kevin Schmidt last week for the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell podcast, and I was both excited and disappointed to hear how the Navy handles this group of experts. Excited because we’re hiring some amazingly talented people in the reserve, disappointed because their drilling weekends comprise of death by powerpoint.

My interviewee is a subject matter expert in Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), a network protocol. He’s expert enough to have written a book on it (two if you count the 2nd edition update). He’s had officers with PhD’s in his drilling unit. This is a cadre with deep skills and talents we don’t normally see in the military.

Battle of the internet giants: Facebook, WhatsApp and the rise of China's WeChat

20 February 2014
Facebook's hefty US$19 billion purchase in cash and stocks of WhatsApp has stunned Silicon Valley, but could it be that the acquisition was partly motivated by the stunning rise of Asian messaging apps like China's WeChat?

From fake iPhones to pirated DVDs and imitation architecture of the Sydney Opera House, China is a nation notorious for its copycat culture. But WeChat, a messaging app by Chinese internet giant Tencent, may be an example of the innovation that exists within this culture.

Inspired by messaging apps like WhatsApp and Japan's Line, WeChat has since evolved into a mega online platform — part Facebook, part Instagram, a mobile news platform, mobile wallet and e-commerce store. It even comes complete with its own online mutual fund. Facebook's announcement to buy Whatsapp, combined with its $1 billion purchase of photo-sharing app Instagram last year, may have been influenced by the rise of mega-platform messaging apps across the Pacific.

Facebook and WeChat appear to have distinct business models. In a Facebook release, founder Mark Zuckerberg said 'WhatsApp will continue to operate independently within Facebook.' Similarly, when Facebook purchased Instagram, Zuckerberg noted that the two platforms were 'different experiences that complement each other...we need to be mindful about keeping and building on Instagram's strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook'

By contrast, WeChat provides a centralised smorgasbord of experiences. Users can post and view their friends' feeds, filled with status updates, photos, videos and news articles. There’s a 'hold to talk' walkie-talkie function, group chats, and individuals can literally 'shake' their phone to find fellow users in the vicinity. On the eve of Chinese New Year this year, 10 million messages were sent over WeChat each minute.

Over the Chinese New Year period, 40 million virtual 'hongbao' were sent by WeChat users to friends and family, a smartphone spin on the Chinese tradition of exchanging red packets of money to celebrate festive occasions.

The genius behind this was that in order for WeChat users to give and receive these red packets, they had to bind their bankcard to their WeChat account. This is a huge win for WeChat, which is hoping to become a mobile wallet and one-stop-shop for users. Already, WeChatters can buy movie tickets, pay taxi fares and make purchases atvending machines scattered throughout Beijing's subway network.

It's not just large companies hedging their bets on WeChat's online sales. There have been tens of books written on how individuals can turn their WeChat account into an e-commerce hub. This Valentine's Day, WeChatters could buychocolates, roses and even rent wedding dresses through the app. Taking orders via WeChat, university students have turned their dorm rooms into fruit stores. The success of Powerful, one of China's high-end sex store chains, is partially attributed to the co-founders' avid use of the online platform.

This Is How You Predict The Future Of Warfare

February 17, 2014: 
How will warfare change in the next 30 years? Military leaders, and the people they protect, are always trying to figure this out. There's an easy way to get some good insight on the future. Simply go back 120 years (1894) and note the state of warfare and military technology at the time, then advance, 30 years at a time, until you reach 2014. At that point, making an educated guess at what 2044 will be like will like will be, if not easy, at least a lot less daunting.

In 1894, many infantry were still using single shot black powder rifles. Change was in the air though, and the United States had just begun to adopt the newfangled smokeless powder, a few years after it became widely available. In 1894 American troops were still replacing their black power rifles with a smokeless powder model (the Krag-Jorgensen). The modern machine-gun had been invented in 1883 but armies took about two decades before they began adopting them on a large scale. Most artillery was still short ranged, not very accurate, and could only fire at targets the crew could see. Horses pulled or carried stuff and the infantry marched a lot when they were not being moved long distances by railroad or steamships. But the modern, quick-firing artillery was recently introduced and still unproven in battle. Communications still relied on the telegraph, a half century old invention that revolutionized, in only a few decades, the way commanders could talk to each other over long distances. They could now do it in minutes. This was a big change for warfare. Very big. At this time telephones were all local and not portable. Cavalry was still important for scouting, although less useful for charging infantry (a trend that began when infantry got muskets with bayonets two centuries earlier).

By 1924, 30 years of unprecedented changes had an enormous impact on warfare. This was largely because the industrial revolution was unleashing even more new technology in much less time. This is a process that continues, at an increasing rate. By 1924, all the troops had smokeless powder rifles. This made the infantry much more lethal and made the modern sniper possible. These new rifles (millions of which are still in use) fired faster, more accurately, without a cloud of smoke, and were far more effective than many 1894 models. The modern machine-gun had arrived and every infantry battalion had many of them. There were even light machine-guns that individual troops could carry. Artillery was much more accurate and capable (due to hydraulic recoil systems). Armies were beginning to use trucks to replace horses, a process that would take another three decades to complete. There were aircraft available now, which proved to be the perfect scouts, able to see what distant enemy troops were up to. Now there was a wireless telegraph (radio) which revolutionized warfare more so than the telegraph. This was especially true for the navy. No longer were ships out of touch with their governments for long periods. On the ground armies were now rapidly laying temporary telephone lines in the field. The critical problem with all this was that the major armies had not figured out exactly what to do with all this new technology. This produced years of stalemate and millions of casualties in World War I (1914-18). But that conflict also saw the development of chemical weapons, assault rifles, paratroopers, and tanks. Nothing like a major war to really speed up weapons development. In the early 1920s, military experts were still trying to figure out what to do with all this new stuff.

From India, Proof That a Trip to Mars Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank


Launch media viewerThe Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Spacecraft mounted atop a rocket at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in India. Indian Space Research Organization/European Pressphoto Agency
BANGALORE, India — While India’s recent launch of a spacecraft to Mars was a remarkable feat in its own right, it is the $75 million mission’s thrifty approach to time, money and materials that is getting attention.

Just days after the launch of India’s Mangalyaan satellite, NASA sent off its own Mars mission, five years in the making, named Maven. Its cost: $671 million. The budget of India’s Mars mission, by contrast, was just three-quarters of the $100 million that Hollywood spent on last year’s space-based hit, “Gravity.”

“The mission is a triumph of low-cost Indian engineering,” said Roddam Narasimha, an aerospace scientist and a professor at Bangalore’s Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research.

“By excelling in getting so much out of so little, we are establishing ourselves as the most cost-effective center globewide for a variety of advanced technologies,” said Mr. Narasimha.

India’s 3,000-pound Mars satellite carries five instruments that will measure methane gas, a marker of life on the planet. Maven (for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution), weighs nearly twice as much but carries eight heavy-duty instruments that will investigate what went wrong in the Martian climate, which could have once supported life.

Launch media viewerThe tracking center in Bangalore, which will track the Mars mission. Manjunath Kiran/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Ours is a contrasting, inexpensive and innovative approach to the very complex mission,” said K. Radhakrishnan, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, in an interview at the space agency’s heavily guarded Bangalore headquarters. “Yet it is a technically well-conceived and designed mission,” he said. Wealthier countries may have little incentive to pursue technological advances on the cheap, but not a populous, resource-starved country. So jugaad, or building things creatively and inexpensively, has become a national strength. India built the world’s cheapest car ($2,500), the world’s cheapest tablet ($49), and even quirkier creations like flour mills powered by scooters.