25 February 2014

*** Enhancing India’s maritime security

Though India deploys one of the strongest naval forces in the region and has a true blue water navy, it is not yet a maritime power with the indispensable components of a large shipbuilding industry, modern port handling facilities and a large merchant shipping fleet. The government is seeking to address these shortcomings 

Shyam Saran

WHILE India appears to have a naval strategy, it does not as yet have a maritime strategy. It will be sometime before the country graduates from being a naval power to a true maritime power. Alfred Mahan had observed that a truly powerful nation must have a thriving international trade, a merchant fleet to carry these goods and a strong navy to protect its sea lanes. India has a thriving international trade, but only 11 per cent of its foreign trade is carried in Indian ships. Furthermore, Indian shipbuilding industry has actually declined over the years. Currently, shipbuilding in India by deadweight tonnage (DWT) is only one per cent of the total world shipbuilding, whereas China’s is 35 per cent. India’s port handling capacity is also limited although this is being augmented. As a result of inefficient port-handling capacity and lack of direct shipping links with major markets, India’s share of global shipping is only one per cent of the overall DWT worldwide. By contrast, 35 per cent of all shipping today originates from China and there are 9 Chinese ports in the list of the world’s top 15 ports, with Shanghai the world’s largest container port.

India’s naval footprint is expanding at a time when China is emerging as a major naval and maritime power. Tribune photo: Manoj MAhajan

A large part of India’s overseas trade has to be transhipped because of lack of adequate port handling capacity as well as regular and direct shipping links with major ports of the world. Of the transshipped cargo, 4 per cent passes through Dubai, 35 per cent through Colombo, 29 per cent through Singapore and 15 per cent through Klang (in Malaysia).

Thus, though India deploys one of the strongest naval forces in the region and has a true blue water navy, it is not yet a maritime power, with the indispensable components of a large shipbuilding industry, modern port handing facilities and a large merchant shipping fleet. The government is seeking to address these shortcomings:

The Maritime Agenda, 2010-2020 aims at building port-handling capacities to 3.2 billion tonnes by 2020. In order to encourage the building of modern ports and handling facilities, the government is allowing 100 per cent FDI under the automatic route for projects relating to the construction and maintenance of ports and harbours. There is also a 10-year tax holiday. The shipbuilding industry is similarly being incentivised through government support.

The Indian Maritime University was set up as a Central University in 2008, with HQs at Chennai but campuses at Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Vishakhapatnam, Cochin and Kandla. The campus at Vizag is the venue of the National Ship Design and Research Centre, set up in the 1990s to encourage innovative ship design and engineering. India also has the National Institute of Ocean Technology based in Chennai and the National Institute of Oceanography based in Goa, which provide a critical mass of advanced capabilities and trained personnel, necessary for the efficient management of India’s maritime domain.

Bridging the Gulf

C. Raja Mohan 
February 24, 2014

As the principal source of India’s hydrocarbon imports, the Gulf will remain critical for India’s economic well-being for the foreseeable future.
The stage is set for a more vigorous engagement with the region.

The stage is set for a more vigorous engagement with the region.

Back-to-back visits to Delhi this week by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, underline Delhi’s growing engagement with the Gulf region, which has become vital for India’s economic, political and security interests. The UPA government has often talked about a “look west” policy. Although Delhi is some distance from organising a coherent look west policy, over the last decade, the UPA government has set the stage for a more vigorous engagement with the Gulf.

Any suggestion of a look west policy compels a comparison with India’s much-celebrated Look East policy and presents us with a paradox. India’s relationship with the Gulf is much denser than with Southeast Asia. Yet the Gulf does not resonate as much as Southeast Asia in India’s foreign policy discourse. India’s annual trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for example, is expected to reach $100 billion by 2015. India’s trade with the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen — is expected to cross $200 billion by then.

In pursuing an effective look west policy, the next government will have to take into account a number of factors. For one, it must recognise that the GCC is a weaker regional institution than the ASEAN and makes far fewer diplomatic demands on its partner countries. The membership of the GCC does not encompass two key regional states — Iraq and Iran. Amid a deepening regional divide, it is politically more volatile. This means it is up to Delhi to take the initiative on intensifying the engagement with the region.

Zuckerberg talks on WhatsApp deal, NSA scandal, Internet.org at #MWC2014

February 24, 2014

On the first day of the 2014 Mobile World Congress, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke about various issues that plague the present day internet environment. 

As expected there were questions on Facebook's recent $19 billion aquistion of WhatsApp. 

Mostly, the interaction revolved around his next big project 'Internet.org' with which Zuckerberg said aims at connecting each and everyone in the world. 

He also answered questions on NSA and how it was "way over the line" in terms of not being transparent enough in handling Snowden's case.

On Whatsapp 

Zuckerberg defended his huge $19 billion takeover of free mobile messaging service WhatsApp, saying it is actually worth much more.

The 29-year-old Facebook chief announced the stock and cash purchase on Wednesday, a deal that marries his social network of 1.2 billion active users with Whatsapp's 450 million users.

Asked about the price tag during an on-stage discussion at the February 24-27 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Zuckerberg said WhatsApp was attractive as a company by itself, and as a strategic fit with Facebook.

"I just think that by itself it is worth more than $19 billion [14-billion-euro]," said Zuckerberg, wearing a grey t-shirt, sneakers and black trousers.

"I mean it is hard to exactly make that speech today because they have so little revenue compared to that number," he conceded.

"But the reality is that there are very few services that reach a billion people in the world. They are all incredibly valuable, much more valuable than that," he added.

"I could be wrong. This could be the one service that gets to a billion people and ends up not being that valuable. I don't think I am."

Self-Reliance in Defence Equipment: A Long Journey Ahead


The recently concluded 8th edition of the DefexpoIndia, a biennial exhibition of Land, Naval and Internal Homeland Security Systems, held in New Delhi from 06-09 February 2014 had 567 arms companies and 63 official delegations from 32 countries participating. A look at the level of self-reliance achieved by India in defence equipment makes for dismal reading. Even today, India remains dependent on imports for about 70 percent of her defence equipment requirements and the SIPRI Year Book 2013lists India as the world's largest arms importer, accounting for 12 per cent of the import share during the period 2008-12.

The ramifications of such a high level of India's import dependence for defence equipment on the country's national security are obvious and need no reiteration. The fact that India is a long way off in achieving its goal of being self-reliant in defence equipment, does have a direct bearing on the operational preparedness and operational efficacy of the Indian Armed Forces which are the world's third largest.Such concerns get magnified due to the operational commitment of the Armed Forces in manning disputed borders with two of her adversaries,as also in employment in counter insurgency operations in J&K and the North East.

The Indian Defence Industry as late as 2000 consisted of public sector entities,namely,forty one ordnance factories (OF), nine defence public sector undertakings(DPSUs) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The private sector was permitted only in 2001. The performance of the OFs and the DPSUs, inspite of a large manufacturing base and liberal central funding has been extremely poor because of government’s protective policies, having a captive clientele in the Armed Forces, lacking modernisation and latest technology, and overall inefficiency, which is inherent in most public sector enterprises. The DRDO,with the exception of the successful development of strategic weapon systems, has largely not been able to provide the required technology with many of its important projects having large time and cost over runs.

One of the key reasons for the current state of the Indian defence industry is that it does not have access to the latest technology and there are no two opinions on the issue that availability of latest technology is an imperative and a prerequisite for developing a modern, strong and robust defence industry. The quality of technology that is available is not of the desired standards and is mostly dated. The technology access, besides that made available by the DRDO, has mainly been in the form of transfer of technology (ToT) by the foreign OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) but both have not yielded the desired results.

The defence R&D, which is the responsibility of the DRDO, is the most essential and an important pre requisite for the development of a nation's defence industry. However , the track record of the DRDO has not been encouraging in developing the needed technology except in the area of strategic weapon systems. Most of its important projects like LCA (Tejas), MBT Arjun, ATGM (Nag), Future Infantry Combat Vehicle, to name but a few, have had large time and cost over runs. In addition, the import content in these indigenous projects is high. One of the major constraints of DRDO in developing technology is inadequate funding, as the allocation to DRDO is just about 6 percent of the defence budget, which is inadequate and needs substantial enhancement. As a comparison, US and China have 12 percent and 20 percent of their defence budgets for R&D respectively. The government needs to take a holistic view of the scientific and technology related research funding at the national level since the present research allocations are minuscule in comparison to other developed countries. Talent induction and its retention in the DRDO is another area of major concern, as DRDO is neither able to attract the best talent in the country nor retain the trained and experienced work force which eventually is picked by the corporate world. Thus, the focus needs to be on having a strong scientific and engineering talent base by providing attractive financial packages and incentives. The user interface of DRDO, which is an important requisite, is also inadequate, with very few officers from the armed forces on secondment/ deputation to the DRDO, to provide vital inputs. Even a large number of sanctioned appointments lie vacant. The DRDO also needs to shift focus on critical and cutting-edge technology and co-opt centres of excellence in their R&D projects. Furthermore, the private industry must be integrated and liberal government funding and incentives given.

India’s Interim Defence Budget 2014-15: An Appraisal

February 23, 2014

On February 17, 2014, the Finance Minister while presenting the Interim Union Budget 2014-15 to the Parliament, allocated Rs 2,24,000 crore (US$ 37.15 billion as per the prevailing average exchange rate) for the national defence. The interim defence allocation, which represents a 9.98 per cent increase over the 2013-14 defence budget is exclusive of Rs 53,582.15 crore for defence pension that includes Rs 500 crore on account of the government’s acceptance of the armed forces’ long-standing demand for One Rank One Pension (OROP) principle. Although the interim budget is relevant till the new government presents a regular budget after the 2014 general elections, it nonetheless sets a broad roadmap for various ministries and departments. Defence being a major charge on the central government budget, it is worthwhile to look at the interim allocation that impinges on the modernization and other needs of the Indian armed forces.

Interim Budget: Growth Factors and Key Elements

It is noteworthy that the 10 per cent hike in the interim defence budget is with respect to both budget estimate and revised estimate of 2013-14 allocation. In other words, there has been no upward or downward revision of the defence allocations provided in the previous budget. With the overall 2013-14 allocation remaining same, the capital expenditure has, however, been revised downward by 9.07 per cent or Rs.7868.48 crore, which has been added to the revenue expenditure. Around 46 per cent of upward revision of the revenue expenditure has been necessitated due to the increase in pay and allowances of the three armed forces.

The increase in the pay and allowances is also the main reason for bulk of the hike in the interim defence allocations. Suffice to mention that in the new budget, 48 per cent of the total increase is accounted for by the hike in armed forces salary component. Compared to this, the capital expenditure, which mainly caters to the modernisation requirement of the armed forces, has contributed to only 14 per cent of the total hike.

Table-1 below provides a comparative overview of the key elements of the interim defence budget 2014-15 and the defence budget of 2013-14. Among others, it brings out clearly that although the growth of the interim budget is higher than that of the previous year’s budget, the growth, as mentioned earlier, is consumed by swelling revenue expenditure. Consequently, the capital expenditure, its growth and its share in total defence budget cut an unimpressive outlook. An interesting aspect of the table is that the share of defence in GDP and total Central Government Expenditure (CGE) has moved on opposite direction. It is largely due to the difference in the growth projection of these two parameters. While the nominal GDP is assumed to grow by 13.4 per cent in 2014-15, the CGE is estimated to grow by 5.9 per cent.

Afghanistan: I See Dead People

February 19, 2014: President Karzai and many Pushtuns want all the foreign troops gone so the Pushtuns have a better chance of reestablishing their dominance of the government and all of Afghanistan. The non-Pushtun majority opposes that and wants some of the Americans and other foreign troops to remain. Afghanistan is headed for another civil war.

The Pushtun lost control in 2001 when the Northern Alliance triumphed. The northern Afghan tribes remember that in September 11, 2001 they were still fighting the Taliban government that had not yet gained control over all of Afghanistan. T he "Northern Alliance" of non-Pushtun tribes was still holding out. The United States sent in a few hundred Special Forces and CIA operators, a hundred million dollars in cash and a few thousand smart bombs to help the Northern Alliance out, and the Taliban were broken and fleeing the country within two months. The Pushtun still resent this and the non-Pushtuns tried to accommodate the Pushtuns when a new government was formed. The northern tribes didn't mind Pushtuns getting some of the top jobs in the new government (including the presidency), but were no longer willing to meekly follow the Pushtun lead blindly. The Pushtun see it differently, claiming (with some truth) that they did most of the fighting against the Russians in the 1980s, and that many of the northern tribes cut deals with the Russians (as did some Pushtun tribes, something the Pushtuns don't like to talk about). That had more to do with Afghan politics, (the northern and southern tribes disagreed on how to deal with Russia and modernization) than with anything else. Then came the Taliban (a cynical invention of the Pakistanis, created from Pushtun refugees convinced that a Holy War would bring peace to Afghanistan). Meanwhile, the heroin trade (growing poppies and using a chemical process to turn the sap from these plants into opium and heroin) moved from Pakistan (where the government saw it as a curse) to Afghanistan. Many of the same tribes that produced the refugees who became the Taliban, also produced the most successful drug lords. The Pushtun are many things, including well organized and ambitious and Russia has always been a willing ally of the northern tribes. The Taliban today are basically a faction of the Pushtun tribes and the drug trade is basically run by Pushtuns. For most Afghans, the Pushtuns (40 percent of the population) are the enemy and Russia is a neighbor that has more often than not been a useful friend. The Russians are also interested in stopping the Pushtun drug trade and this gives the northern tribes and Russia a common goal to work towards. Expect to see more of Russia in Afghanistan after NATO forces depart next year. 

Afghan army leaders and most of the troops want the Americans to stay, at least to provide air support and help with logistics, training and intelligence collecting. The military, which is largely non-Pustun, fears that without the American assistance they will be more vulnerable to the Taliban and drug gangs, both of whom are dominated by Pushtuns from the south (mainly Kandahar and Helmand provinces.) President Karzai and his clan are from Kandahar, but the army is largely non-Pushtun. While 40 percent of Afghans are Pushtuns (the majority in the south, and within the Taliban), far fewer Pushtuns are in the army. Most troops are from anti-Taliban northern groups (Tajiks, Hazara, Uzbek). 

An Uncomfortable War in the Graveyard of Empires

by Michael McBride
February 22, 2014

An Uncomfortable War in the Graveyard of Empires: Applying the Manwaring Paradigm to the Soviet-Afghan War

Michael McBride

The decades following World War II were consumed with the global struggle for power between the United States and the Soviet Union. On battlefields were scattered across the developing world the two great superpowers competed for influence through the projection of soft power in the form of investment, development, and the spread of ideology. However at times this influence was resisted and world leaders felt the need to intervene militarily. Afghanistan, one of the last battlefields of the Cold War, was of strategic interest to the Soviets not only because of its geographic location on the southern border of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and because it was a step closer to the oft sought access to a warm water port, but equally as important because it was another sovereignty and people that the Soviets could include in their bloc as a part of the global competition for ideological acceptance.

The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was initially envisioned by Soviet leaders as a short term endeavor to right the direction of the revolution and bring stability to what had devolved into a fractious competition for power within the communist party. However, the conflict quickly escalated into a full blown insurgency that would last nearly a decade, claiming the lives of over 13,000 Soviet soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Afghans, and ultimately end in withdrawal and the collapse of the Soviet backed regime a few years later.[i] The failure of the Soviet counterinsurgency campaign has many parallels to the campaign waged by the United States in Afghanistan today that warrant its detailed analysis. Applying the Manwaring Paradigm to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan uncovers structural flaws in Soviet strategy and numerous operational and tactical mistakes that contributed to the campaigns ultimate demise.

Developed by Max G. Manwaring in the early 1990s, the Manwaring Paradigm, or SWORD Model as it is sometimes referred, introduced a framework that could be used to analyze internal conflicts. The Manwaring Paradigm consists of six dimensions that can help explain the past failures or successes in internal wars and predict the outcome of future conflicts. The six key factors are: legitimacy of the government, organization for the unity of effort, type and consistency of support for the targeted government, ability to reduce outside aid to insurgents, intelligence (or action against subversion), and discipline and capabilities of a government’s armed forces.[ii]

Deep Differences over Reconciliation Process in Afghanistan

Dr. Fatima Al-Smadi

13 January 2014 


While reconciliation in Afghanistan appears to be an internal affair, it is influenced by external mediation efforts as well as political competition between several countries. Within the country, opposing political forces hold some compatible viewpoints, but differ greatly on others – for example, there is no uniform stance on dealing with the Taliban, nor is there consensus on the nature of dialogue with the movement. Some go so far as to argue that there is “nothing going on in Afghanistan that could be called reconciliation,” describing what has happened so far as “a round of negotiations between the Taliban and the US.” Compiled from results of a field study by the author, this report analyses what has already been achieved in this process, describes positions of several actors in the Afghan landscape, discusses how each party assesses progress and examines obstacles that hamper reconciliation efforts. The report concludes that the ground has been set for dialogue in pursuit of reconciliation but that the next step depends on the collective action of all stakeholders, internal and external, particularly the US and Pakistan.


With war waging in Afghanistan, it is incumbent to question how far reconciliation in the country has progressed and whether or not such efforts can succeed in light of decades of war. Reconciliation may be a perquisite to the country’s stability; however, like any conflict-ridden society, there are multiple approaches to framing the process. With the possibility of another civil war and several challenges which threaten progress, there is no doubt 2014 will be a crucial year for the country. Within the country, each political force holds some positions on the reconciliation process that are compatible with those of its opponents, but differs greatly with them on other matters. Compiled from results of a field study by the author, this report analyses what has already been achieved in this process, describes positions of several actors in the Afghan landscape, discusses how each party assesses progress and examines obstacles that hamper reconciliation efforts.


Ms Raakhee Suryaprakash
February 21, 2014

As the new Chinese administration, under President Xi Jinping, is set to complete its first year in office we in India gear up for the Lok Sabha polls—one of the largest exercises in democracy in the world’s most populous democracy. If opinion polls are any indication India is all set to usher in a completely new regime. This seems as good a time as any to re-look at foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with regard to India, its increased interest in the Indian Ocean, and its engagement of India’s neighbours, especially Sri Lanka. India’s foreign policy has a history of being reactive but events unfolding make it essential for the post-election Indian government to engage in a predictive exercise prior to formulating its external course.

The foreign policies of India and China cannot be studied in isolation. The analysis must be done after taking into account domestic developments in each country and international dynamics. Thus this article seeks to answer the following questions keeping in mind events within India, China, Sri Lanka, and in the international arena as a whole.

Is China’s interest in Sri Lanka part of its Indian Ocean strategy?

Is China’s role in Sri Lanka hurting India’s interests?

Professor V. Suryanarayan, a Southeast Asia expert, began his talk in a panel discussion on the Asian Century held recently in Chennai on a lighter note providing an anecdote from the World Astrologists’ Conference, which predicted that Chinese language will gain prominence in the 21st century. Also, fortune tellers have foreseen the Chinese New Year of the Wood Horse as including “increasing violence, turmoil and natural disasters.” From a rationalist point of view, these forecasts may not appear acceptable; however what looks inherent in them is the capacity to arouse curiosity among people.

A ‘Core interest’ concept is dominating China’s strategic course since mid-2009; maintaining territorial integrity and protecting strategic trade routes, have accordingly become central to the PRC’s foreign policy. On territories ranging from the disputed islands in the South China Sea to Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh in India, Beijing, under its “core interest” banner, is more than willing to unflinchingly stick to its perceived sovereign rights. This brings China into conflict with its neighbours as well as the international super powers. It will be in New Delhi’s interest to monitor such developments and align with nations whose interests match with those of India. India seems to be already doing so; its getting closer to Japan is an example.

Beijing’s adoption of a core interest–based foreign policy led the Indian Prime Minister Dr.
Manmohan Singh to comment that “there is a new assertiveness on the part of China; it will be difficult to say which way it will go and India should be prepared.” It is through this lens that one must view India’s growing strategic engagement with the United States, despite the diplomatic hiccups; its support to the U.S.-led resolution in Geneva contrary to that of the Asian bloc probing war crimes in Sri Lanka; the regular international naval exercises in the Indian Ocean such as the MILAN and other bilateral exercises in the Greater Indian Ocean region; and finally the presence of a pacifist prime minister, Japan’s Shinzo Abe, as chief guest at India’s 65th Republic Day parade where India showcased its military might—a highlight of which was the nuclear missile—and our diverse cultural influences.

The PRC has begun to view the situation in India’s Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) as well Arunachal Pradesh strategically. Examples are the presence of Chinese troops in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir, China’s building of ‘economic corridor’ with Pakistan and the PRC’s consistent claim over Arunachal despite its inclination to hold border talks with India. In such a situation, India’s geo- political interest demands that it keeps conditions in border areas stable. New Delhi needs to ensure elimination of damaging dogmas such as a core-periphery approach to relations with the country’s citizens from J&K and the Northeast. The racist attack that led to the death of a teen from Arunachal and the low intensity harassment that continues targeting students from the northeast, both in the capital New Delhi and elsewhere, are revelatory of India’s underperformance in this regard. How can India successfully secure its interests internationally when xenophobia within a nation priding itself in its China has been equally, if not more, active in the international arena. After decades of intensely internal absorption, the PRC—now the world’s banker—is flexing its newly developed international muscle especially since its unprecedented success in organising the Olympics in 2008. It has unquestionably arrived as a power to be reckoned with; indicators include China’s growing collaboration with Russia, its exercises to secure its strategic maritime routes, its development of alternative “silk routes” to secure business supply pathways, and its unflinching use of the veto at the UN Security Council (UNSC) to prevent what it felt was U.S. interference in the domestic developments in Sri Lanka.

Foreign policy, declassified

Jaimini Bhagwati
February 21, 2014 

The external affairs ministry's files, as distinct from those of the ministry of defence or the agencies, at least from before 1974 should be declassified. And if select files that are more than 40 years old are not to be declassified, the ministry should follow explicit guidelines to justify taking such a view, says Jaimini Bhagwat.

It has been in the news that the ministry of external affairs is expediting the weeding out and declassification of files that are more than 25 years old. In the past this work proceeded slowly, since the ministry is short-staffed at the senior level -- particularly in Delhi. It is well recognised that India has a relatively small foreign service and recruitment has been stepped up to meet projected requirements. The ministry's website indicates that retired officers of the Indian Foreign Service are currently helping to weed out and declassify files. This article discusses how best to put the intricacies of foreign policy decision making of the distant past in the public domain.

The book Shaping the Emerging World: India and the Multilateral Order is a compilation of sharply analytical chapters authored by respected foreign policy specialists and practitioners. At a recently-held seminar at Brookings India in Delhi, the discussion was centred on this book. There was a sense at this seminar that India continues to be hamstrung by its foreign and related economic policy choices in the first few decades after Independence -- namely, that in India's early years our policies were influenced by ideological leanings towards the Soviet Union, and in multilateral settings we continue to exhibit an inward-looking, inadequate understanding of the country's longer-term self-interest.

To debunk or confirm such impressions, the external affairs ministry's files, as distinct from those of the ministry of defence or the agencies, at least from before 1974 should be declassified. And if select files that are more than 40 years old are not to be declassified, the ministry should follow explicit guidelines to justify taking such a view.

It could be argued that nothing much that is new would be found in the ministry's old files. The contents of Archer Blood’s telegrams (he was US consul general in Dhaka in 1971) became public even at that time through leaks from the US State Department and the then US Ambassador in Delhi, Kenneth Keating. However, as The Blood Telegram by G J Bass has demonstrated, there was much that remained to be exposed through declassification of White House tapes from the Nixon era. These tapes have added to our understanding of the extent to which the views of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger about South Asia were coloured by cold war animosities and personal bias.

Bangladesh: The Importance of Being Tarique Rahman

By Bhaskar Roy

To many, the title of this article would be a stupid statement. Tarique Rahman, the older son of late President Zia-ur-Rahman, the founder of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), and Begum Khaleda Zia, Chairperson of the BNP and two time prime minister of Bangladesh, is the Vice Chairman of the BNP.

Charged with bribery, extortion, money laundering, proximity to terrorist leaders and the radical Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) whose leaders are being tried for “crimes against humanity” in the country’s independence struggle in 1971, became a power unto himself during the BNP-JEI rule from 2001-2006. 

Tarique’s office at that time located in a building called Hawa Bhavan in Dhaka was the real power center of the government. His mother Khaleda Zia, the prime minister, could do little else but agree to his demands. Despite all the charges against him, Tarique manipulated the highest courts in the country to get bail and permission to move to UK for medical treatment in early 2008. He is politically active in UK, which is against the condition of his visa, but the government there has not made any move to expel him. Nor is such a move expected.

Tarique Rahman continues to direct BNP-JEI policies abroad, as well as his party’s politics in Bangladesh. From where does he draw such enormous power? From international power centers? It should be kept in mind that one UK based weekly of international repute had put its power behind the BNP and JEI and even attacked India’s alleged financial support to the Awami League. Has there been some realignment of the west’s policies, especially that of the US and UK, with regard to Bangladesh?

Recently, the bdnews24.com (Feb. 11) published a Wikileaks report of a confidential cable from the US Embassy in Dhaka of Nov. 3, 2008 to the State Department recommending a ban on the entry of Tarique Rahman into the United States. The reasons cited in the cable are briefly as follows: 

(i) Tarique was “guilty of egregious political corruption that has had a serious adverse effect on US national interests.

Why is China suddenly cozying up to its nemesis

Why is China suddenly cozying up to its nemesis? Are they preparing for war? Reuters

Remember the Bamboo Curtain? It's coming down.

After decades of hostilities, Communist China is eyeing better relations with its old rival and democratic holdout Taiwan.

This friendly move contrasts sharply with the tensions rising between China and many of its other neighbors, including Japan. There have even been fears that those disagreements could lead to armed confrontation.

A week after an unprecedented meeting between officials from Beijing and Taiwan's capital, Taipei, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Fan Liqing, suggested to reporters on Monday that President Xi Jinping is even considering a face-to-face meeting with the Taiwanese president, Ma Ying-jeou.

This presidential summit would come hard on the heels of last week's surprise meeting in Nanjing, in which officials of the two countries that for decades have refused to recognize each other's legitimacy met for the first time in 60 years.

"Compatriots on both sides of the [China] Strait all hope that the leaders can meet," Fan said. "We have said many times that this is something we have upheld for many years, and we have always had an open, positive attitude toward it."

She declined to discuss a possible date for such a meeting, but the mere mention of the possibility indicates a trend that worries some in the region.

"The current situation is a reversal of the 1990s," says Vincent Wang, a political science professor at the University of Richmond. In the past two decades, Beijing adopted an increasingly aggressive stance toward Taiwan. At the same time, it tried to grow its economy by, among other ways, reducing tensions with neighbors like Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

"Now China's policy is more aggressive with those neighbors, but more conciliatory toward Taiwan," Wang says.

Singapore’s Foreigner Problem

A sharp rise in the foreign population has ratcheted up racial tensions.

By Mark Fenn
February 21, 2014

Does Singapore have a problem with xenophobia? It seems that barely a month goes by these days without news reports highlighting friction between Singaporeans and foreign workers in the tiny, multi-ethnic city-state.

The population has increased dramatically in recent decades thanks to an influx of foreigners, who now make up around two out of five residents. This has put a growing strain on jobs, housing and infrastructure, and raised fears about the dilution of the Singaporean national identity.

It has also—predictably—resulted in an angry backlash, with many taking to social media to disparage foreign workers, from highly paid “foreign talent” to heavily exploited laborers from China and the Indian sub-continent.

The abuse is often so vicious that in his 2012 national day rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted the proliferation of posts “tormenting and berating” foreigners, adding: “Very few people stand up to say this is wrong, shameful, we repudiate that. I think that is no good.”

In the latest high-profile incident, British banker Anton Casey lost his job and was forced to flee the island last month with his wife — a former Miss Singapore Universe — and son. The hapless Casey received death threats after making sneering comments on Facebook mocking the “poor people” using public transport, though his comments probably had more to do with social class — a subject rarely discussed in Singapore — than with race per se.

The previous month saw a major backlash on social media after Indian and Bangladeshi workers rioted in Singapore’s Little India district, leading Lee to again warn against “hateful or xenophobic comments, especially online.”

What the West Must Do for Ukraine

FEB. 23, 2014 

Launch media viewer Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

BRUSSELS — Thanks in part to the coordinated efforts of Germany, Poland, France and the United States, irrevocable change has finally come toUkraine, with President Viktor F. Yanukovych’s flight from Kiev and Parliament’s vote to call for new elections in May.

But the powers still have urgent work to do. Ukraine could either descend into chaos or right itself on a path toward a new democratic stability. The European powers and the United States must offer the country all possible support to move toward the latter.

The first and most urgent step for Western leaders is to send unequivocal messages to Moscow that any support by Russia for the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine to break away from the rest of the country would be met harshly, and result in a general reconsideration of relations with Russia on all levels.

In parallel, they must make sure that their own resources, and those of theEuropean Union institutions in Brussels, are available to political leaders in Kiev to assist them in their transition to a new regime.

Moreover, Ukraine’s crisis isn’t just political: The country faces economic default without support. It had been relying on Russia for that help, and now Europeans and Americans must quickly work with the International Monetary Fund to provide a financial lifeline to Kiev and to prepare longer-term economic-assistance programs; they must also be ready to give direct emergency aid by themselves, if needed.

Simply by announcing a readiness to commit to these steps, they would be providing enormous help to the forces committed to change in Ukraine.

Besides getting through the first days and weeks, there are two great political risks the West must help Ukraine to address. One is the inevitable attempt to undermine an emerging order. The protest movement that began last November, centered in Kiev’s Independence Square, has won. But it is quite possible that the forces that supported the former regime, especially in the east and south of the country, are going to contest the new order.

And it is questionable whether the Kremlin will accept a loss of influence in Ukraine. Mr. Putin had high hopes of making Ukraine a key ally in his planned Eurasian Union. He may have decided that Mr. Yanukovych was too unreliable an ally, but that does not mean he will accept a revolution against him. (Mr. Yanukovych, who reportedly fled to the eastern city of Kharkiv, near the border with Russia, said he had been forced to leave the capital because of an illegal “coup d’état.”)

Ukraine’s Oligarchs Need to Step Up

February 22, 2014

After Ukraine’s long and violent nightmare on the Maidan, daybreak at last is at hand. But with President Yanukovich effectively ousted and most levers of state power now in the hands of the opposition, the country may still be at risk of internecine strife and spiraling conflict. The danger now is that those Ukrainians whom Yanukovich and his Party of Regions have purported to represent—Russian speakers in the East and South especially—will perceive the transition underway as the victory of Western-backed Ukrainian nationalists who are hostile to their interests.

To many Ukrainians in the East and South, this transition may be reminiscent not of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, but of the years following the 2004-5 Orange Revolution, when the government of Victor Yushchenko turned overtly and increasingly anti-Russian. Despite their close ties with the liberal democracies of Western Europe and the United States, Yushchenko and his backers were hardly paragons of inclusive pluralism, and left many Russian speakers fearing that there was no place for them in their own country. When the new government declares its intent to sign the EU Association Agreement that Yanukovich spurned, as it surely will, these fears may deepen.

The problem will be how to bring Russian-speaking Ukrainians from the East and South into a national dialogue, now that so many of their high profile representatives have been so thoroughly discredited. The already loose coalition that made up the Party of Regions is a shambles, and there are only a scant handful of politicians from Regions-dominated oblasts that have emerged from the last several months with any national credibility. Moreover, civil society is especially weak in areas of the East and South that have historically depended on Soviet-built mega-industries of mining, metallurgy, and manufacturing, now controlled by a handful of ultra wealthy oligarchs such as Rinat Akhmetov, Victor Pinchuk, and Dmytro Firtash.

In fact, the fall of Yanukovich and his inner circle now thrusts the oligarchic groups, each of which controls a parliamentary faction, into the spotlight. Given the supermajority votes that recently approved a return to Ukraine’s 2004 constitution and the release of Yulia Tymoshenko, the oligarchs themselves have doubtless cut deals to ensure that the future government will not dispossess them of their vast industrial empires and personal fortunes. But it is much less likely that they factored in the concerns of ordinary citizens of Eastern industrial regions like Donetsk and Luhansk, the port city of Odessa, or the beautiful but economically depressed Crimean peninsula.

How to define al-Qaeda as it continues its rise

By Ahmed Rashid.

An intense debate has broken out among western law enforcement officials, intelligence agencies and academics about who or what today constitutesal-Qaeda. It is an important debate because AQ – the network and the ideology – remains a potent force and still one of the greatest threats to global stability.

The US intelligence chief James Clapper said last month that 7,000 foreign fighters have joined AQ affiliates and other groups in Syria to fight Bashar al-Assad’s regime. AQ now officially recognises branches of its network in seven new regions in Africa and the Middle East, while major European cities have become AQ recruiting centres for disaffected Muslim youth.

None of these network branches or recruiting centres existed on September 11 2001, when President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed to crush Al-Qaeda and to never allow failed states to emerge which could threaten the west or be taken over by AQ.

Clearly we are on the cusp of failure as Al-Qaeda expands relentlessly across the Middle East and Africa, even as the US and other western powers announce their withdrawal from these regions. For me the personal shock is to see AQ in Iraq control Fallujah and Ramadi; for AQ to capture cities is something I could not have imagined since meeting my first AQ fighters in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The conflict in Syria has been “a game changer”, in the words of one British counter-terrorism official. The Euphrates valley has become a new FATA, similar to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan where AQ and the Taliban still hang out. Syria has helped escalate the meltdown of Iraq where a thousand people are killed every month in sectarian war.

It has become increasingly difficult for the US to actually define the enemy it calls AQ. Many groups who claim to be affiliated to AQ are actually just Islamic fundamentalist groups with local or regional agendas – not having the desire for global jihad and wanting to attack Washington that constitutes a true AQ group.

Thus the desire to conduct global jihad must remain as a defining principle of who is AQ.

However, many of these local groups such as al-Shabaab in Somalia or the Pakistani Taliban, who control territory, are also training foreigners to carry out bomb attacks in their countries of origin. Such groups may have local political agendas, but satisfy AQ by keeping their interests global. AQ Arab fighters who used to train foreigners have been replaced with Pakistani or Somali trainers, fighters and ideological messengers who carry on as before.

How America’s Soldiers Fight for the Spectrum on the Battlefield

An electromagnetic mystery in northern Iraq changed the course of Jesse Potter’s life. A chemical-weapons specialist with the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division, Potter was deployed to Kirkuk in late 2007, right as the oil-rich city was experiencing a grievous spike in violence. He was already weary upon his arrival, having recently completed an arduous tour in Afghanistan, which left him suffering from multiple injuries that would eventually require surgery. In the rare moments of peace he could find in Kirkuk, Potter began to contemplate whether it was time to trade in his uniform for a more tranquil existence back home—perhaps as a schoolteacher. Of more immediate concern, though, was a technical glitch that was jeopardizing his platoon: The jammers on the unit’s armored vehicles were on the fritz. Jammers clog specific radio frequencies by flooding them with signals, rendering cell phones, radios, and remote control devices useless. They were now a crucial weapon in the American arsenal; in Kirkuk, as in the rest of Iraq, insurgents frequently used cell phones and other wireless devices to detonate IEDs. But Potter’s jammers weren’t working. “In the marketplaces, when we would drive through, there’d still be people able to talk on their cell phones,” he says. “If the jamming systems had been effective, they shouldn’t have been able to do that.” 

A self-described tech guy at heart, Potter relished the chance to study the jammers. It turned out that, among other problems, they weren’t emitting powerful enough radio waves along the threat frequencies—those that carried much of the city’s mobile traffic. Once the necessary tweaks were made, Potter was elated to witness the immediate, lifesaving results on the streets of Kirkuk, where several of his friends had been maimed or killed. “To see an IED detonate safely behind our convoy—that was a win for me,” he says. It was so thrilling, in fact, that when Potter returned from Iraq in 2008, he dedicated himself to becoming one of the Army’s first new specialists in spectrum warfare—the means by which a military seizes and controls the electromagnetic radiation that makes all wireless communication possible. 

It is well known that America’s military dominates both the air and the sea. What’s less celebrated is that the US has also dominated the spectrum, a feat that is just as critical to the success of operations. Communications, navigation, battlefield logistics, precision munitions—all of these depend on complete and unfettered access to the spectrum, territory that must be vigilantly defended from enemy combatants. Having command of electromagnetic waves allows US forces to operate drones from a hemisphere away, guide cruise missiles inland from the sea, and alert patrols to danger on the road ahead. Just as important, blocking enemies from using the spectrum is critical to hindering their ability to cause mayhem, from detonating roadside bombs to organizing ambushes. As tablet computers and semiautonomous robots proliferate on battlefields in the years to come, spectrum dominance will only become more critical. Without clear and reliable access to the electromagnetic realm, many of America’s most effective weapons simply won’t work. 

It's time to break up the NSA

By Bruce Schneier
February 20, 2014
Director of national intelligence said U.S. should haveacknowledged surveillance 

Bruce Schneier: NSA is too big and powerful; it's time to break up the agency

He says all bulk surveillance of Americans should be moved to the FBI

Schneier: Instead of working to weaken security, NSA should try to improve security for all

Editor's note: Bruce Schneier is a security technologist and author of "Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust Society Needs to Thrive."

(CNN) -- The NSA has become too big and too powerful. What was supposed to be a single agency with a dual mission -- protecting the security of U.S. communications and eavesdropping on the communications of our enemies -- has become unbalanced in the post-Cold War, all-terrorism-all-the-time era.

Putting the U.S. Cyber Command, the military's cyberwar wing, in the same location and under the same commander, expanded the NSA's power. The result is an agency that prioritizes intelligence gathering over security, and that's increasingly putting us all at risk. It's time we thought about breaking up the National Security Agency.

Broadly speaking, three types of NSA surveillance programs were exposed by the documents released by Edward Snowden. And while the media tends to lump them together, understanding their differences is critical to understanding how to divide up the NSA's missions.

Bruce Schneier

The first is targeted surveillance.

This is best illustrated by the work of the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group, including its catalog of hardware and software "implants" designed to be surreptitiously installed onto the enemy's computers. This sort of thing represents the best of the NSA and is exactly what we want it to do. That the United States has these capabilities, as scary as they might be, is cause for gratification.

OECD: Reform Failure Could Sink Growth

February 24, 2014

G20 finance ministers pledge to boost global growth by 2 percent or more over the next five years. 

The world economy could sink into a “low-growth trap” if policymakers fail to bite the bullet on reform, the OECD has warned. The message came amid a new pledge by the Group of Twenty (G20) to boost global growth by at least 2 percent above normal over the next five years.

Launching the Paris-based organization’s “Going for Growth” report at Friday’s G20 finance ministers meeting in Sydney, Australia, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said only ambitious reforms could tackle rising unemployment and inequality.

“Signs of a broad-based recovery are becoming more tangible, but governments of advanced and emerging economies now face the risk of falling into a low-growth trap,” Gurria said at a launch event in the harbor city.

“Slowing productivity growth and persistently high unemployment in many advanced economies cry out for further reforms. The vulnerability of many emerging-market economies to the ongoing tightening of monetary policy and the cooling of the commodity boom serves as a reminder that the case for structural reforms is also strong there,” he added.

Despite praising the reform efforts of countries in the southern eurozone, including Greece and Italy, the report pointed to the need for further action amid concern of a “structural downshift” in growth rates compared to before the global financial crisis (GFC).

“Many emerging economies have yet to launch comprehensive structural reform agendas, and should implement wider efforts to improve education, address physical and legal infrastructure bottlenecks and bring more workers into formal sector employment,” the report said, pointing to Mexico as a standout for its reform efforts.

Among the 34-nation OECD, countries facing rapid population ageing, including Japan and South Korea, were urged to speed up integration of women workers into their labor markets, while both advanced and emerging economies should “boost competition across their economies.”

America's Global Retreat

Never mind the Fed's taper, it's the U.S. geopolitical taper that is stirring world anxiety. From Ukraine to Syria to the Pacific, a hands-off foreign policy invites more trouble. 


Feb. 21, 2014 

Since former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke uttered the word "taper" in June 2013, emerging-market stocks and currencies have taken a beating. It is not clear why talk of (thus far) modest reductions in the Fed's large-scale asset-purchase program should have had such big repercussions outside the United States. The best economic explanation is that capital has been flowing out of emerging markets in anticipation of future rises in U.S. interest rates, of which the taper is a harbinger. While plausible, that cannot be the whole story. 

For it is not only U.S. monetary policy that is being tapered. Even more significant is the "geopolitical taper." By this I mean the fundamental shift we are witnessing in the national-security strategy of the U.S.—and like the Fed's tapering, this one also means big repercussions for the world. To see the geopolitical taper at work, consider President Obama's comment Wednesday on the horrific killings of protesters in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. The president said: "There will be consequences if people step over the line." 

No one took that warning seriously—Ukrainian government snipers kept on killing people in Independence Square regardless. The world remembers the red line that Mr. Obama once drew over the use of chemical weapons in Syria . . . and then ignored once the line had been crossed. The compromise deal reached on Friday in Ukraine calling for early elections and a coalition government may or may not spell the end of the crisis. In any case, the negotiations were conducted without concern for Mr. Obama. 

The president, flanked by his foreign-policy team: Chuck Hagel, Susan Rice, and Joe Biden. From L to R: AFP/Getty Images; Bloomberg (2); Getty Images (2) 

The origins of America's geopolitical taper as a strategy can be traced to the confused foreign-policy decisions of the president's first term. The easy part to understand was that Mr. Obama wanted out of Iraq and to leave behind the minimum of U.S. commitments. Less easy to understand was his policy in Afghanistan. After an internal administration struggle, the result in 2009 was a classic bureaucratic compromise: There was a "surge" of additional troops, accompanied by a commitment to begin withdrawing before the last of these troops had even arrived. 

Having passively watched when the Iranian people rose up against their theocratic rulers beginning in 2009, the president was caught off balance by the misnamed "Arab Spring." The vague blandishments of his Cairo speech that year offered no hint of how he would respond when crowds thronged Tahrir Square in 2011 calling for the ouster of a longtime U.S. ally, the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak

The Global Response to Armed Conflict: From Aleppo to Kinshasa

by Stewart M. Patrick
February 19, 2014

Source Link

Members of the anti-terror police arrive at the village of Batu Rengat, where police exchanged fire with suspects in a house in Bandung, West Java province, May 8, 2013 (Courtesy Yurri Erfansyah/Reuters).

As the civil war in Syria rages on, and the United States and its international partners appear unable to mobilize a collective response to stem the bloodshed, CFR’s International Institutions and Global Governance program has launched an update to its Global Governance Monitor: Armed Conflict. The revamped multimedia guide uses a new technology platform to track and analyze recent multilateral efforts to prevent, manage, and respond to armed violence around the globe. Combining stunning images and compelling narrative, it identifies the major successes and failures in global conflict mitigation during 2013.

The Armed Conflict update underscores dramatic changes in international cooperation on conflict prevention and peacekeeping in the past year. While Syria has absorbed most of the international media attention, the United Nations has also launched or bolstered major peace operations in Africa.

“Peacekeeping,” of course, was not even mentioned in the UN Charter, whose World War II architects were preoccupied with preventing and punishing military aggression. Rather, it was an improvisation—something between the peaceful settlement of disputes under Chapter 6 and coercive action under Chapter 7. Initially, these so-called “Chapter 6 and a Half” operations involved the insertion of observers or lightly armed soldiers to maintain ceasefires between warring parties. Over time, however, the scope of peace operations and the number of actors involved expanded dramatically.

Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-World War II Level

FEB. 23, 2014 

Launch media viewer A spending plan that will be released Monday will be the first sweeping initiative set forth by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Susan Walsh/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagelplans to shrink the United States Army to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets in a new spending proposal that officials describe as the first Pentagon budget to aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001.

The proposal, described by several Pentagon officials on the condition of anonymity in advance of its release on Monday, takes into account the fiscal reality of government austerity and the political reality of a president who pledged to end two costly and exhausting land wars. A result, the officials argue, will be a military capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for protracted foreign occupations.

The officials acknowledge that budget cuts will impose greater risk on the armed forces if they are again ordered to carry out two large-scale military actions at the same time: Success would take longer, they say, and there would be a larger number of casualties. Officials also say that a smaller military could invite adventurism by adversaries.

Cuts proposed by the Obama administration would result in the smallest Army since just before the World War II buildup.

Proposed for the future

Source: Department of Defense 

“You have to always keep your institution prepared, but you can’t carry a large land-war Defense Department when there is no large land war,” a senior Pentagon official said.

Outlines of some of the budget initiatives, which are subject to congressional approval, have surfaced, an indication that even in advance of its release the budget is certain to come under political attack.

For example, some members of Congress, given advance notice of plans to retire air wings, have vowed legislative action to block the move, and the National Guard Association, an advocacy group for those part-time military personnel, is circulating talking points urging Congress to reject anticipated cuts. State governors are certain to weigh in, as well. And defense-industry officials and members of Congress in those port communities can be expected to oppose any initiatives to slow Navy shipbuilding.