26 February 2014

*****Centre may raise age of retirement by 2 years to 62

General elections' dates may be notified on March 5

Shine Jacob
February 26, 2014 
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is likely to take a major decision of increasing the retirement age ofCentral government employees by two years, from 60 to 62 this week. This would be applicable from March 1.

It would be one of the major decisions to be taken by the Cabinet before the model code of conduct for the general elections kicks in. In the Thursday meeting, the Cabinet is also likely to recommend dates for the elections. These could be notified on March 5.

"The government may clear the increase in age this week," said a source. It is likely to be a part of the terms of reference of the Seventh Pay Commission, expected to file its report in 2017. The panel, however, can recommend an interim relief through the move.

The increase in retirement age would be happening after 15 years. In 1998, it was increased to 60 from 58 following implementation of the Fifth Pay Commission. Experts said it would defer payment of retirement benefits. However, sources confirmed this would not be applicable for employees retiring on February 28.

The cabinet is expected to discuss a proposal to increase the dearness allowance by 10 per cent from January 1, to make it 100 per cent and merge 50 per cent of the increased dearness allowance with basic pay. The terms and conditions of the panel include a proposal to merge 50 per cent of dearness allowance with basic pay.

The move to increase the retirement age may pressure the states to follow. The department of personnel and training was working on the proposal for quite some time. The Budget estimate on the pension outgo for 2014-15 is Rs 80,982 crore, 0.6 per cent of the gross domestic product.

*** Ukraine Turns From Revolution to Recovery

Geopolitical Weekly MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2014 


The uprising in Kiev has apparently reached its conclusion. President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition reached an agreement, negotiated by the Polish, German and French foreign ministers. The parliament is now effectively in charge, deciding who will be ministers and when elections will be held, whether to dismiss judges and so on. It isn't clear whether the parliament can fire the sitting president without impeachment and trial, but all of this is now moot. What is interesting is that the Polish, French and German foreign ministers negotiated an outcome that, for practical purposes, ignored the Constitution of Ukraine. It sets an interesting precedent. But for Ukraine, the constitution didn't have the patina of tradition that a true constitution requires, and few will miss Yanukovich. 

The question now is whether all of this makes any real difference in Ukraine or the world. There is a new temporary leadership, although it is still factionalized and the leaders of the factions have not fully emerged. The effect of hostile gunfire will forge unity in Kiev for a while, but in due course, ideology, ambition and animosity will re-emerge. That will make governing Ukraine as difficult as in the past, particularly because the differences among the neo-Nazis, the liberals and groups in between -- all of which manned the barricades -- are profound. A government of national unity will be difficult to form.

Another issue is what will happen the next time crowds storm government buildings. The precedent has been set -- or rather, it was set during the 2004 Orange Revolution -- that governments and regimes can be changed by a legalistic sleight of hand. At some point a large crowd will gather and occupy buildings. If the government opens fire, it is run by monsters. I don't mean that ironically; I mean it literally. But if the government allows itself to be paralyzed by demonstrators, then how can it carry out its constitutional responsibilities? I don't mean that ironically either. The Ukrainian Constitution, new or old, is meaningless because Ukrainians will not endure the pain of following it -- and because foreign powers will pressure them to deviate from constitutional democracy in order to create a new one.

There should be no mistake. The Yanukovich government was rotten to the core, and he will not be missed. But most governments of Ukraine will be rotten to the core, partly because there is no tradition of respect for the law and because of the way property was privatized. How could there be a tradition of law in a country that was reduced to a province of another state and that numbered among its rulers Josef Stalin? Privatization, following the fall of the Soviet Union, occurred suddenly with vague rules that gave the advantage to the fast and ruthless. These people now own Ukraine, and however much the crowd despises them, it can't unseat them. The oligarchs, as rich people in the former Soviet Union are called, are free; they can eliminate their critics or bribe them into silence. The only thing that is more powerful than money is a gun. But guns cost money and lives.


India must sit up to the tide of change in Ukraine

26 Feb 2014

Those in New Delhi who assume that the turmoil in Ukraine is happening on another planet and is of no concern to them ought to recall one of the many variants of the perceptive adage from George Santayana that “those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes”.

Flashback to Ukraine in 1995. The post-Soviet government in Kiev decided that year to sell arms to Pakistan — a heresy in New Delhi’s eyes because, for decades, those very armament factories that would now make killing machines for Rawalpindi’s Army General Headquarters had guaranteed the territorial integrity and security of India against its most troublesome adversary. Unlike today, the United States of America had been unwilling, then, to supply even the most basic defence items to India. In any case, the country had no foreign exchange for such purchases: with Moscow, such equipment — indeed, like everything else — had been traded through rupee payments. Besides, the ink had not fully dried on a comprehensive report on how New Delhi should cope with the break-up of the Soviet Union, which had a finger in every Indian national pie since the 1950s. The report had been painstakingly prepared after 12 secretaries to the government of India visited Moscow to map a future of picking up pieces from the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

A high-level emissary was sent to Moscow — mind you, not to Kiev — to deal with this Ukrainian problem. As a result of that emissary’s visit, which had the stamp of the government of India at its highest level, Yevgeny Primakov travelled to Kiev in secret. Primakov was then head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, better known by its Russian acronym of SVR, the successor organization to the First Directorate of the Soviet spy agency, almost universally known by its Russian acronym, KGB. Shortly thereafter, he became Russia’s prime minister.

Modi’s frontier

February 26, 2014

Narendra Modi, dwelt on foreign policy issues during his swing through the northeastern states earlier this week.


Modi also inherits the foreign policy legacy of the NDA government (1998-2004), which had a pragmatic orientation towards China.

The frontier is where domestic politics meets diplomacy. It was no surprise then that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, dwelt on foreign policy issues during his swing through the northeastern states earlier this week. Flanked by China, Bangladesh and Myanmar, the Northeast is a crucible where many of India’s foreign and security challenges come together. Speaking at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh, a state claimed in its entirety by Beijing, Modi declared that China must shed its “expansionist mindset”. He also insisted that Arunachal is an integral part of India and that “no power can snatch it from us”.

As the leader of the BJP, which sees itself as a champion of national security, Modi’s tough rhetoric in the election campaign was understandable. It is also in line with the mainstream national narrative on the territorial dispute with Beijing. It might not be accurate to see Modi’s statement on the territorial question as representing the China policy of a future government headed by him after the elections. Modi had earlier travelled to China to a warm reception in Beijing as the chief minister of Gujarat and a potential prime minister of India. In his engagement with Chinese leaders, Modi had signalled his openness towards more business ties with Beijing, while apparently not mincing words on India’s security concerns.

Modi also inherits the foreign policy legacy of the NDA government (1998-2004), which had a pragmatic orientation towards China. Then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee sought to expand the engagement with China, resolve the boundary dispute, end the nuclear imbalance with Beijing and strengthen India’s military capabilities. In Beijing, a spokesperson of the ministry of foreign affairs offered a bland response to Modi’s comments by affirming China’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of the boundary dispute. Beijing has no apparent reason to get into an argument with Modi on the contentious boundary question.

Indo–US workshop on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism in 2014 and Beyond

February 3-5, 2014 
National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

Executive Summary

The United States and India have long been victims of terrorist attacks. These attacks have affected the moral fabric of both the countries. This workshop aimed at bringing scientists and technical experts in contact with the agencies combating terrorism in the field so that there will be greater exchange of knowledge and experience. Through this the workshop aspired to identify specific areas of joint collaboration.

This workshop built upon a highly successful joint NIAS-NAS workshop on technical aspects of nuclear materials security, which was held in 2012. It was a follow-on to a similar event held in 2004, which involved then current and future leaders in science, security, and policy.

During the planning stage of the workshop, the planning committee members of both the countries felt that it will be useful to approach the issues related to counter terrorism by a “systems approach”. It was also emphasized that presenting a few case studies during the workshop will make it more worthwhile; which will highlight the lessons learnt by the respective countries.

Since both the countries have been affected by natural disasters, it was also felt that there is a lot to be learnt from the efforts made towards mitigation and rescue operations. Technologies used for this purpose may well be useful in combating a terrorist attack. A session on “Emergency Management and Response” thus was included.
Venue and Participants

The Workshop was inaugurated on February 3, 2014 and concluded on February 5, 2014. All the sessions were held in the Lecture Hall, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore.

The participants included researchers from the U.S. institutes such as Brookings, Sandia National laboratory, Los Alamos National laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, Committee for International Security and Arms Control (CISAC), New Mexico Tech, and the University of Hawaii.

The participants from India included representatives from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Home, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Atomic Energy, National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Vels University, Indian Institute of Science, Prism Consultants, Cyber Security Works Pvt. Ltd., and the members of the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme of the National Institute of Advanced Studies.

*** Unhappy soldiers

Feb 23, 2014

 India’s armed forces personnel, who put their lives on the line for the country, are denied what is their due in terms of pay, perks and pension in spite of several Supreme Court directives. 

KAUTILYA, the ancient master political strategist, once told Chandragupta Maurya that the day the soldier would have to demand his dues would be the saddest day for his empire because on that day, he would lose the moral sanction to be the king. This holds true today too. Unfortunately, in independent India, not only have soldiers been reduced to demanding their dues continuously, but the government has become so indifferent that it has ignored their demands for years now. Despite the soldiers, including personnel of the armed forces as well as the paramilitary forces, going to court to secure their just dues, such as rank pay, perks and pension, the government has refused to act.

Issues relating to the salary and pension of armed forces personnel have been pending for years now. Despite clear Supreme Court orders, the matter continues to remain unresolved. Serious anomalies in the pay structure of defence personnel and petty mischief in the implementation of Central Pay Commission recommendations have been a point of concern for armed forces personnel since the time the Fourth Pay Commission was announced. Incidentally, until 1973, the armed forces had a separate pay commission and the salaries of soldiers were higher than that of their civilian counterparts. But with the setting up of the Fourth Pay Commission, the armed forces pay commission was done away with and the attempt was to bring parity in wages with civilians.

It was then that the long story of neglect, apathy, mischief and resentment began. When the Fourth Pay Commission recommendations were announced, the bureaucracy manipulated the implementation of the recommendations in such a way that armed forces personnel did not benefit from the recommendations. In order to keep the armed forces’ edge in salary, the Fourth Pay Commission had recommended rank pay, which varied between Rs.200 and Rs.1,200 depending on the rank, in addition to the basic pay and perks. But during the implementation of the report, the basic salary of armed forces personnel was reduced by an amount equivalent to the rank pay and the net result was that they did not get any increase in their salaries.

Nobody noticed this anomaly until one retired major, A.K. Dhanapalan, filed a case in the Kerala High Court in 1996-97 and won it. As the news spread, many officers filed similar petitions across the country. On the government’s request, all these cases were shifted to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of the defence personnel on March 8, 2010, and ordered the government to pay arrears with 6 per cent interest to over 20,000 retired and serving defence personnel. The government, however, sought a modification/recall of the order.

Partition — an unfinished oral story

February 25, 2014 

Special Arrangement TRAUMATIC LEGACY: The Citizens Archive of Pakistan was started by a group of young people in 2008 to document narratives of Partition.

Khalid Chima and others have recorded interviews for the Citizens Archive of Pakistan Oral History Project, documenting stories of Partition

“My father came back in early August 1947 to take us away from Lahore. ‘I don’t like the stampede and the rush,’ he said. But he couldn’t leave because of the riots,” recalls Khalid Chima, a former bureaucrat, of his father’s attempt to go to East Punjab during Partition.

In Lahore, where he lived in 1947 as a child, Mr. Chima remembers the arson, the bodies on the streets and in the canal. “In June and July, in the bright sunlight, you could see the flames of the Shalmi market from as far as Model Town.” Eighty-one year-old Mr. Chima along with others, has been recording interviews for the Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) Oral History Project started by a group of young people in 2008 to document narratives of Partition. Swaleha Alam Shahzada, CAP executive director, says the experience over the years has been interesting, especially with no organisation serving as a reference point. CAP, which aims to have a consolidated archive accessible to the public, has over 2,500 hours of audio and 50,000 images.

Archiving the past for the future

While more books on Partition with new approaches are emerging, this project is a reminder that Partition is not just a footnote of history; the social consequences of it must be taken stock of.

More than what he was witness to at that time, Mr. Chima says it is the effect of the whole process of Partition that he considers important. “We had very friendly relations with Hindus and Sikhs, and families used to go out together on picnics. In Lahore we used to visit each other for a whole day. That was the pattern in those days — no short quick visits.” He also recently came across some of his father’s papers which included a letter from one of his friends, discussing intimate family matters with his father.

No outrage over carnage

February 26, 2014 

The Tehreek-e-Taliban see themselves as patriots — and that goes to the rupture at the heart of the idea of Pakistan

He resembles nothing so much as a supermarket Santa, the man in the dust-brown Pakul cap who drags the corpses off the blue pickup truck, each missing the head that was severed by a Taliban executioner’s axe. There’s no pretence at dignifying the dead, their blood etching dark red stains as they are dragged across the road. Then, for reasons we’ll probably never know, the man carefully rearranges their clothes, covering up unseemly displays of flesh.

“The pornography of death,” the scholar Geoffrey Gorer called it, except, in a Pakistan washed over by a tidal wave of blood, even images like these seem to have lost the power to shock.

Last week’s execution of 23 prisoners of war by the Tehreek-e-Taliban, its macabre ending displayed online by the jihadist group, is remarkable mainly for the absence of impact it has had in Pakistan. The government has suspended peace talks with the Taliban, which began early in February; combat jets have bombed jihadist-held territory in North Waziristan.

Yet, there’s been little real outrage: no giant protest rallies, nor politicians vowing vengeance. Nor has the door been closed on future talks, even with the killers. “Such incidents have an extremely negative impact on the ongoing dialogue aimed at promoting peace,” said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — words with all the passion of a telemarketing call.

For reasons that aren’t hard to understand, the massacre will most likely be remembered — just like a welter of other massacres of both civilians and troops — as just another milestone towards Pakistan’s disintegration into a theocratic dystopia.Failing peace talks

In another video, this one recorded in the spring of 2004, Nek Muhammad Wazir stands on a stage set up near his home in the Shakai valley, happiness suffusing his face as the commander of Pakistan’s XI corps places a wreath around his neck. “The tribal people,” he tells Lieutenant General Safdar Husain, “are Pakistan’s atomic bomb. When India attacks Pakistan, you will see the tribals defending 14,000 kilometres of the border.” Less than a few months later, the two men were at war again.

The years after 9/11 had seen foreign jihadists from Afghanistan seep into Pakistan’s north-west. Helped by Pakistan’s intelligence services, who had long seen them as strategic assets, they allied with Islamists in the region, violently displacing the traditional tribal leadership.

Facing intense pressure from the United States, President Pervez Musharraf eventually ordered a limited offensive into South Waziristan, only to find his commanders didn’t have the resolve or skills to win the war.

He turned, instead, to deal-making. The so-called Shakai agreement, with Nek Muhammad Wazir, was hailed as a major success for this policy.

Pakistan-Saudi Arabia Military Pact — Implications for China, India, Iran, And All Others

Pakistan – Saudi Arabia: The initial features of a bilateral strategic security and defense agreement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been agreed upon, according to unconfirmed sources.

Under the agreement, Pakistan reportedly will provide all possible support to the Saudi army for defense of Saudi soil in any case of foreign aggression. Rumors in Pakistan report that two Pakistan Army divisions will be designated for deployment to Saudi Arabia on short notice.

As to arms sales, Saudi Arabia is interested in purchasing from Pakistan 50 JF-Thunder 17 and 20 other modern aircraft and 80 Al Khalid tanks – all built in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia also has expressed interest in purchasing light tactical weapons and missile technology.

Saudi Arabia reportedly will invest in Pakistan’s defense industries and will use its influence to facilitate the sale of Pakistani defense products, tools, equipment and technical skills in the markets of the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia reportedly intends to seek technical assistance from China and Pakistan for establishing a modern aviation industry in Saudi Arabia. Pakistani aeronautical engineers, technicians and other staff will work jointly with Saudis and Chinese technicians and advisors.

Comment: No officials have confirmed the agreement, but the Pakistani defense media have been buzzing for weeks about it. If the reports of a strategic defense agreement are even partly accurate, then Iran now must represent a close second to India as the “enemy” in Pakistani strategic military planning. That might be good news for stability in South Asia, at least.

In principle, this reported agreement might be understood as the next stage in a longstanding, less formal security arrangement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In the past, Pakistan deployed entire units, up to brigade echelon, for Saudi security. In return, concessional Saudi oil sales prevented Pakistan from simply grinding to a halt.

In fact the agreement appears to represent a strategic shift in several senses. First, it is the next stage — after large US arms purchases — in Saudi Arabia’s preparations for an eventual war against Shiite Islam, backed by Iran. Saudi Arabia has made major purchases of US anti-tank weapons that far exceed the manpower of Saudi forces. This report suggests Pakistani soldiers will fire them.

Warning: Saudi mayhem ahead

By Pepe Escobar 

Move over, Peter O' Toole. It's Charles of Arabia time. Prince Charles switched to Lawrence mode when he went schmoozing and dancing in Riyadh this past Tuesday with the natives. And just like clockwork, the next day BAE Systems - Europe's number one weapons peddler - announced that the UK and the House of Saud had agreed on "new pricing" for an extremely juicy deal; 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets. 

The Eurofighter is a direct competitor of the spectacularly unsalable French Rafale and the very expensive American F-35s and F-16s. The Associated Press duly included in its dispatch - reproduced by virtually every newspaper around the world - the

Washington-enforced meme "Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are fortifying their military capabilities to counter a perceived threat from regional rivals, particularly Iran." As if Tehran was going to bomb the House of Saud tomorrow. 

The Eurofighter, on the other hand, has already been employed against fellow Arabs - as in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's humanitarian bombing of Libya back to failed-state status. It's open to debate whether the House of Saud might be tempted to employ it against the enemy within: aspiring Saudi women drivers. 

Brandishing the official excuse that near-nonagenarian King Abdullah was not able to receive him, Charles of Arabia declined to discuss with the House of Saud the absolutely appalling women's rights, migrant workers' rights and for that matter the full human rights situation in the kingdom. Of course not; this is only brought up when demonizing Russia, China and/or Iran. 

Moreover, Charles of Arabia could not possibly ruffle feathers as the French are also positioning themselves as contenders in the Snuggle-Up-with-a-Saudi industrial-military complex game show (worth more than US$70 billion in these past few years). French President Francois Hollande - an abysmal nullity at home but a Great Liberator of Africa and Syria - visited Riyadh in December trying hard to steal significant market share from the Anglo-Americans. The problem is, no sentient being anywhere would even contemplate buying a Rafale. 

Here's the dough, now gimme a bomb

So the House of Saud is stockpiling weapons. Check. Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, remains on the loose, financing/weaponizing his growing army of mercenaries in the Levant. Check. And the House of Saud is up to something with its ally Pakistan. Check. 

Just one day before Charles of Arabia hit Riyadh, Saudi Defense Minister - and, crucially, Crown Prince - Salam bin Abdul Aziz was in Islamabad. The heart of the matter was - what else - a "defense pact". [1] 

Crucially, there's also a Pipelineistan reverberation. By mid-2013, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was all excited over the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline, which should theoretically go online in 2015. Now he's not so sure. One doesn't need to be the perspicacious Charles of Arabia to detect a Saudi hand on all this - actively spoiling the Iran-Pakistan energy partnership. 

The House of Saud's Iranian paranoia has no equal in the whole solar system, and regime change in Syria is a key plank in the retribution scenario. No matter Washington's non-denial denials of the "we're not involved" kind, Bandar Bush's network will soon be supplying mercenary gangs in the Levant with anti-aircraft weaponry. 

Saudi Arabia Has Reportedly Asked Pakistan to Send Anti-Tank and Anti-Aircraft Weapons to Syrian Rebels

Agence France-Presse
February 23, 2014

Saudi ‘seeking Pakistani arms for Syrian rebels’

Saudi Arabia is in talks with Pakistan to provide anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets to Syrian rebels to try to tip the balance in the war to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a Saudi source said Sunday.

The United States has long opposed arming the rebels with such weapons, fearing they might end up in the hands of extremists, but Syrian opposition figures say the failure of Geneva peace talks seems to have led Washington to soften its opposition.

Pakistan makes its own version of Chinese shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, known as Anza, and anti-tank rockets — both of which Riyadh is trying to get for the rebels, said the source, who is close to Saudi decision-makers, requesting anonymity.

The source pointed to a visit to Riyadh earlier this month by Pakistan’s army chief of staff, General Raheel Sharif, who met Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz.

Prince Salman himself last week led a large delegation to Pakistan, shortly after Saudi’s chief diplomat Prince Saud al-Faisal visited the kingdom’s key ally.

Hundreds of unexploded anti-tank rockets lie on the ground inside the bombed compound of Osama bin Laden in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on November 18, 2001

Jordan will be providing facilities to store the weapons before they are delivered to rebels within Syria, the same source said.

AFP could not obtain confirmation from officials in Saudi, Pakistan or Jordan.

The head of the Syrian opposition, Ahmad Jarba, promised during a flying visit to northern Syria last week that “powerful arms will be arriving soon.”

"The United States could allow their allies provide the rebels with anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons following the failure of Geneva talks and the renewed tension with Russia," said the head of the Gulf Research Centre, Abdel Aziz al-Sager.

Providing those weapons to the rebels “relieves pressure on the US in the short-term,” said Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Programme at the Washington Institue for Near East Policy.

"But the long-term political worry is that Manpads (Man-portable air-defence systems) will leak and be used to bring down a civilian airliner somewhere in the world."

Asmatullah Shaheen, Top Pakistani Taliban Commander, Shot Dead by Unknown Gunman in Waziristan

Associated Press
February 24, 2014

Pakistani Taliban Commander Shot Dead in Waziristan

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan — A top commander of the Pakistani Taliban was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Monday in the militant stronghold of North Waziristan, security sources and family members in the tribal region told Reuters.

Asmatullah Shaheen was on the Pakistan army’s list of twenty most wanted Taliban commanders, and had had a $120,000 bounty placed on his head since 2009.

He was appointed as interim chief of the Pakistan Taliban following the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, the previous leader, in a U.S. drone strike on November 1.

Shaheen’s killers ambushed his car as it passed through Dargah Mandi, a village 5 km (3 miles) northwest of Miranshah, the regional capital of North Waziristan.

"Unidentified gunmen in another car shot and killed Shaheen as well as the driver and guards," a family member told Reuters.

Security sources also confirmed the deaths.

The Pakistani Taliban insurgency is fighting to topple Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s democratically elected government and impose Sharia law in the nuclear-armed nation.

Attacks have been on the rise since Sharif came to power in May, promising a negotiated end to violence. His stance unnerved global powers already worried that withdrawal of most U.S.-led troops from Afghanistan in 2014 would leave a security vacuum.

Peace talks between the Pakistani government and Taliban insurgents began on February 6 but broke down last week after insurgents said they executed 23 men from a government paramilitary force in revenge for the killing of their fighters by army forces.

Shaheen was considered one of the proponents of peace talks, according to sources close to the Taliban.

Asia Is in America's DNA

February 25, 2014

ON FEBRUARY 7, 1845, Congressman John D. Cummins rose in the House of Representatives to add his voice to those clamoring for U.S. possession of the Oregon Territory, then occupied jointly by the United States and Britain. He declared that these opulent Northwest lands were “the master key of the commerce of the universe.” Put that territory under U.S. jurisdiction, he argued, and soon the country would witness “an industrious, thriving, American population” and “flourishing towns and embryo cities” facing west upon the Pacific within four thousand miles of vast Asian markets. Contemplate, he added, ribbons of railroad track across America, connecting New York, Boston and Philadelphia to those burgeoning West Coast cities and ports.

Furthermore, he said, the “inevitable eternal laws of trade” would make America the necessary passageway for “the whole eastern commerce of Europe.” European goods, traversing the American continent, could get to Asia in little more than seven weeks, whereas the traditional sea routes generally required seven months. “The commerce of the world would thus be revolutionized,” said Cummins. “Great Britain must lose her commercial supremacy in the Pacific; and the portion of its commerce which forced its destination there must pay tribute to us.”

Cummins’s speech reflected a fundamental reality about America: its quest for expansion and national grandeur was pretty much irrepressible. There were, as always, the naysayers and critics. Henry Clay argued for confining American settlement to lands east of the Rocky Mountains and postponing occupation of Oregon for some forty years. But most Americans recoiled at such a cramped view, and Clay’s similarly blinkered opposition to the annexation of Texas probably cost him the presidency in 1844. If America was a country of vast designs, as Emerson said, then its westward push, known then and now as Manifest Destiny, was never destined to stop at the Pacific.

This history is worth pondering in the aftermath of China’s declaration last November that its so-called air defense identification zone now encompassed most of the East China Sea. U.S. secretary of defense Chuck Hagel promptly called the action “a destabilizing attempt to alter the [region’s] status quo.” And Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, warned that the move could set China on a collision course with Japan over disputed islands in the area. China’s provocation, he said, renders “the already dangerous area surrounding the islands even more ripe for an inadvertent collision.” Such a collision almost inevitably would draw in America, given its defense treaty with Japan.

It wasn’t surprising that commentators and analysts would see China’s action, and the tensions it could unleash, as a harbinger of growing hostility between China and the United States over which country will dominate East Asia. Many see the situation as a classic confrontation of the kind that ensues when a rising power challenges an established power—as when, for example, Rome challenged Carthage, Britain challenged Spain, America challenged a reduced Spain and Wilhelmine Germany challenged Great Britain for preeminence. As the BBC’s Jonny Dymond put it, “For seven decades the US has been the dominant military power in the region. China has given Washington notice that change is afoot. Peaceful management of that change is one of the great strategic challenges of the 21st Century.”

Balochistan: The untold story of Pakistan's other war

BBC Online. 
22 February 2014 

Ahmed Rashid

Pakistan's on-off dialogue with the Taliban has been commanding headlines and the attention of politicians and diplomats. But there has been little interest in a dialogue that could end the longest civil war in Pakistan's history

On 17 January, 13 bodies were discovered from a mass grave in the village of Tutak near Khuzdar in Balochistan province. Only two of the mutilated, decomposed bodies have been identified so far - both were men who had disappeared four months earlier.

A heartbreaking account of the mass grave by Saher Baloch, a journalist for Dawn newspaper, ends with the ominous prediction by an official that there are more bodies waiting to be found.

The Frontier Corps, the anti-Shia group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other groups are all enmeshed in a decade-long campaign of "pick up and dump" in which Baloch nationalists, militants or even innocent bystanders are picked up, disappeared, tortured, mutilated and then killed.

The army, paramilitaries and the government have consistently denied being responsible for violence in Balochistan, pointing instead to the myriad of armed groups operating in the region.

But even though the Supreme Court has taken up some of the cases of the disappeared, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has failed to engage with the issue.

Untold story . Nobody even knows how many people have disappeared - the figures are between hundreds and several thousand. Now the families of those disappeared are on a long march through the winter months from Karachi to Islamabad to register their loss and grievances with the government.

Wizened old men and women wrapped in chadors have been dragging children along and braving the cold and the rain. They entered Lahore earlier this month and have already been on the road for nearly four months.

They said they do not even have a dead body to bury and want to know where the men of their families are. But the government has ignored them - it is almost as if they did not exist.

So many journalists have been killed in Balochistan that there are few honest reports from the province in the national print or electronic media because journalists are too scared. The story of this bloody civil war is going untold. The chief minister of Balochistan Abdul Malik Baloch, who heads the weak provincial government in Quetta, has demanded a dialogue with the nationalist leaders.

He is powerless unless the federal government and the army agree to rein in the violence many believe they are responsible for - something they utterly deny - and the militants agree to a ceasefire.

China in the Multipolar World

Guest Column by Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi

China, under the new leadership and also in the prevailing scenario of post-Cold War multi-polar world, has clearly decided to continue its hitherto aggressive and expansionist foreign policy not only all around its territory including maritime claims and air space security but also towards far-flung areas in Far east, Africa besides Southeast and South Asia including Indian Ocean. Obviously, the real aim is not confined to maintaining only its regional predominance in the East but, beyond that, to replace the US as a lone global hegemon.

With the recent change in the erstwhile leadership in China, the new incumbent, President Xi Jinping has elucidated his vision as the “China Dream”, which sets out a new package of reforms on the anvil with a view to ensure economic progress matching with its rising population and their so rising aspirations and expectations, besides enlarging its sphere of influence not only in its vicinity but also in the far flung areas of the world including Far east, Africa, Southeast and South Asia besides Indian Ocean.

The new leader has made it clear in no ambiguous terms that the world is left with no option but to deal with China’s ever escalating imperialistic-militaristic aggressions and assertions in future which it has already shown with respect to its extended claims in South China Sea and also by setting up its Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the recent past, which overlaps the part of the territory claimed by Japan and South Korea. Obviously, all these are the clear manifestation of China’s all-out effort to maintain not only its regional predominance in the Asia-Pacific zone but also to achieve a big leap forward so as to be recognised as a dominant and responsible player in international relations against its long held desire to proceed towards assuming the role of a global hegemon next only to the U.S. though replacing the U.S. must be its ultimate goal, as it has not yet overcome from its Middle Kingdom complex of the yore.

The new leader has expounded his Dream for the people of China and above all for the Communist Party of China and the People’s Liberation Army. As a matter of fact there are no illusions in the immediate neighbourhood of China as to where the Dream is leading to. In the projected model for its growth, it is clear that the one adopted by the People’s Republic of China corresponds to the Aggressive-Dynamic Expansion Model. In fact, China now sees the post-Cold War multi-polarity in the world as given, calling these developments along with on-going process of economic liberalisation & globalisation as ‘irreversible’.

What is very surprising and also perplexing here is the fact that China has declared itself to be essential to the peace, security, stability, and prosperity of the international system. This promulgation by China, though ostensibly for good, is particularly challenging and also threatening to the sole hyper power in the world as if the future course of the world will be markedly influenced by it, if not to be decided. With the suspicion and counter moves against China increasing, the current security challenges are being realised as worrisome to the entire world, with the major powers increasing their strategic investment and making the realignment of their strategies and also the US reinforcing its military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region.

This realisation has prompted the Chinese leadership to accelerate its economic, political and security co-operation with the developing countries all over the world. Apart from security threats, surge in sophisticated military technology among major powers are driving China’s own desire to revolutionise its military. The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) was explored in 2000 and 2002 white papers, where it showcased it as a security reality. From 2004 onwards, it draws on China’s own foray in to RMA and acquisition of high-tech weaponry and systems. Hence, China regularly highlights the new security concept in managing relations among states. 

Vietnam’s Epochal Saga of Beating Back Massive Chinese Invasion 1979

By Dr. Subhash Kapila

China’s impulsiveness to launch a militarily flawed massive invasion of Vietnam in1979 was impelled by a greater Chinese geopolitical blueprint of checkmating the perceived former Soviet Union’s strategic intrusiveness in South East Asia courtesy Vietnam, and also thereby ingratiating itself geopolitically with the United States that China was available to play the role of a quasi-strategic ally of the United States in the region to counterbalance the former Soviet Union.

The latter stands substantiated by the fact that Deng Xiao Peng who headed China then visited Washington in January 1979 and briefed US President Carter about China’s plans to nip in the bud the emergence of a “Cuba of the East”. Reportedly, the United States did not raise any objections to the Chinese plan of a massive invasion of Vietnam, logically too, when placed in the context of the United States being forced into an inglorious military exit from Vietnam in 1974 after its prolonged military intervention and occupation.

Two major developments concerning Vietnam occurred in 1978 which irked China considerably and China perceived them as Vietnamese strategic provocations aimed at China. The first was the signing of a Mutual Treaty of Friendship between the Former Soviet Union and Vietnam and the second was Vietnam’s military intervention in Cambodia to contain the genocide underway there by the Chinese-backed regime.

The major Chinese military aim in launching the massive military invasion in 1979 was to force Vietnam to withdraw Vietnamese military formations from Cambodia to stem the Chinese invasion of Vietnam. Nothing of that sort happened as Vietnam employed its battle-hardened Border Guards and Local Militias only to combat the Chinese invasion and did not divert any of the Vietnam Army Regular Divisions from Cambodia. In fact despite the Chinese invasion, Vietnam continued to maintain its regular army forces in Cambodia for another ten years. Vietnam thereby negated China’s larger strategic aims.

Consequently, in 1979, China embarked on a massive invasion of Vietnam by Chinese Army formations numbering over 200,000 supported by 200 tanks and with savage artillery bombardments which lasted for 29 days from February 17 to March 16 1979. Notably China stood checkmated by Vietnam and repulsed by use of only Vietnamese Border Troops and Local Militias. That Chinese Divisions were soon forced into retreat from Vietnamese territory and thereby stood exposed at that time the serious limitations in China’s military to strategize and execute large scale military operations.

China’s invasion of Vietnam involved massive major ‘human wave’ attacks at 26 points besides smaller actions across a front of 900 kilometres and in the first phase from February 17-25 1979 managed to intrude 20 kilometres deep into Vietnamese territory capturing some small border towns. This was made possible by the element of major surprise as Vietnam never expected that China as a fraternal Communist country would attack a smaller Communist country.

What happens when a Navy officer gets real on China?

February 24, 2014

U.S. Navy Capt. James Fanell, Director, Intelligence and Information Operations

The Navy’s Pacific Fleet chief of intelligence recently cemented his reputation for blunt assessments of China about as well as the Washington establishment cemented its reputation for sticking to China talking points.

Capt. James Fanell made waves during his 2013 appearance at the U.S. Naval Institute’s West conference, during which he stated that the Chinese PLA Navy’s expansion was focused on sinking an opposing fleet and largely about countering the U.S. Navy.

At this year’s USNI conference, Fanell’s assessment that China is gathering the capability to fight Japan made it to Fox News, The New York Times and several international news outlets.

“[We] concluded that the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short, sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea, following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu [island] — as some of their academics say,” Fanell said on Feb. 13, according to USNI’s coverage of their event.


February 25, 2014 

Analysis is easy when you assume your opponent is just a lesser version of yourself; a likely reason we often defer to simple defense budget comparisons when talking about China. When we focus solely on the dollar-for-dollar budget of the People’s Liberation Army, we’d find it disturbingly close to the U.S. budget and certainly beyond those budgets of U.S. allies. The reality, however, is more complex – but it is even less optimistic.

Though “China is not the United States,” is a simple statement, it digs at many comparative biases we retain when comparing our position to the oncoming PLA freight train. Outside the typical discussion of expanding budgets and the asymmetric advantage through anti-access/area denial (A2/AD), comparative advantages can also be found in China’s superior purchasing power, superior force distribution, and a first-mover advantage. These are the silent advantages missing when we focus narrowly on budgets or tactics.

1. The Big Mac Defense Index: Purchasing Power Parity

The trends of pure budget estimates, while themselves disturbing, only scratch the surface. Instead of comparing dollar-for-dollar defense budgets, we should be comparing value-for-dollar based on price-baskets, or the purchasing power parity (PPP). A quick reality check would intuit that Chinese personnel costs will be lower – the quality of quantity can be fielded at far lower prices. However, from bombs to bacon, the PLA has a completely different price basket: different supplies, suppliers, middlemen, safety and administration costs, etc.

A more telling comparison would be using a comparative price-basket: in this case, an admittedly rough analysis usingThe Economist’s ubiquitous Big Mac Index (BMI) to measure the “value” of each dollar spent. Looking at a burgers-to-burgers PPP analysis at Real Clear Defense, the picture is rather dire. In the best case scenario dollar-for-dollar comparison, China’s defense budget is 24% of that of the U.S. For a weighted purchasing power estimate, we spend the entire Chinese defense budget on Chinese-priced Big Macs, then convert those burgers by their US prices. The best case BMI weighted assessment reveals a budget of 42% of that of the U.S. In a worst-case dollar-to-dollar estimate, China’s budget is 36% of the American defense budget. A weighted analysis of this scenario reveals a budget of as much as 63% of that of the U.S.

Nine-hour tests and lots of pressure: welcome to the Chinese school system

As education minister Liz Truss heads for China to learn the lessons of its success, Jonathan Kaiman reports from the classrooms of Beijing

Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing 

22 February 2014 

High-pressure Chinese education? A crowd in Anhui province waves off a coachload of students on their way to take the nine-hour 'gaokao' college entrance exam Photograph: China Daily/Corbis

The streets surrounding Shijia primary school in Beijing were mobbed by a crowd of parents so dense that cars were obliged to beat a retreat.

At 3.45pm on Friday, 11-year-old Zou Tingting, five minutes late, bounded through the school's west gate and into her waiting mother's arms. Tingting's classes were over, but her day was just beginning – she had an hour of homework, plus lessons in ping pong, swimming, art, calligraphy and piano.

Tingting's mother, Huang Chunhua, said that, like many Chinese mothers, she once considered Tingting's academic performance her top priority; now she realises the importance of a well-rounded education. "I've seen British curricular materials, and I'm actually kind of jealous," she said. "British teachers guide students to discover things on their own – they don't just feed them the answers, like in China."

In recent weeks British parents and educators have been in a panic about the discrepancy between the Chinese education system and the UK's. In December the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the 2012 results for its triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) test – a reading, maths and science examination administered to half a million 15-year-olds in 65 countries. Shanghai students topped the rankings; the UK ranked 26th.

Next week education minister Elizabeth Truss will lead a "fact-finding mission" to Shanghai to learn the secrets of China's success. She plans to adjust the UK's education policy accordingly.

Yet Chinese parents and educators see their own system as corrupt, dehumanising, pressurised and unfair. In fact, many are looking to the west for answers. Huang said that some parents bribe Shijia primary school to admit their children (though she declined to say whether she had done so herself).

Tingting attends an expensive cramming school at weekends, leaving her tired. She will probably have to abandon extracurricular activities in high school to devote more time to the college admission exam, called thegaokao. Many parents consider the gruelling nine-hour test a sorting mechanism that will determine the trajectory of their children's lives.

Getting Tough in the South China Sea

February 25, 2014

The Obama administration may have finally lost its patience with China’s salami-slicing in the East and South China Seas. Remarks over the past few weeks from administration officials show a tougher line and may foreshadow “red lines” to ward off further Chinese encroachments. These developments may show a White House increasingly ready to abandon a previous policy of forbearance toward China. It could also mean an impending tilt away from explicit U.S. neutrality toward the many territorial disputes in both seas. Given China’s stepped-up assertiveness, the drawing of red lines seems inevitable. The next question though is whether the U.S. will be able to back up these red lines with convincing military power. China’s military modernization program has long anticipated this move [3], leaving the answer anything but clear.

Heretofore, the U.S. has pursued a policy of forbearance with China, with the hope that by going out its way to show respect for China’s emerging great power status, Washington would avoid a ruinous security competition. In remarks at a Washington, D.C. think-tank in January 2014, Kurt Campbell, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs during President Obama’s first term, explained the administration’s theory. According to Campbell [4], previous historical examples of rising powers clashing with established powers were typically the result of insufficient respect being paid to the rising power (see 55:00 in). In the case of China, Campbell explained that the Obama administration would not repeat that mistake. In her first speech on Asia as President Obama’s new National Security Advisor, Susan Rice mimicked [5]China’s call for “a new model of major power relations” between the U.S. and China and then recited a long list of issues on which she hoped the two countries would cooperate. Rice made no mention ofChina’s 2012 takeover of Scarborough Reef [6] from the Philippines or China’s establishment that same year of a government headquarters and military garrison on Woody Island in the Paracel island group, which China seized from Vietnam in 1974. Three days after Rice’s speech, China declared an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea [7].

In alignment with the China forbearance policy is the U.S. declaration of neutrality regarding the long list of territorial disputes over islands, rocks, and reefs in the East and South China Seas. In a speech on June 1, 2013 to the Shangri-la Dialogue conference of regional defense ministers in Singapore, U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel repeated America’s long-standing position that [8], “we do not take a position on the question of sovereignty in these cases,” only that the U.S. opposes the use of coercion to alter the status quo. This U.S. position has served two purposes. It has allowed the U.S. to avoid writing a blank check to a hypothetically reckless ally, one that could theoretically entrap the U.S. in an unwanted conflict. Second, it supported the forbearance policy by providing U.S. policymakers with a convenient talking point whenever territorial squabbles in the region flared up.