10 March 2014

**The cost of a stupor

M J Akbar
Mar 10, 2014 

Donald Rumsfeld, who was America’s defence secretary during the Iraq war, pointed out that you fight with the army you have rather than the one you want. 

This truism underscores the basic responsibility of a defence minister: to maintain and hone during periods of peace the army that will be needed during times of conflict.

Every war is different. Armies train to fight the next battles rather than repeat previous ones. The set-piece formations of military engagement now seem what they are, history. The enemy no longer necessarily wears a uniform, creating a dysfunctional battlefield. It fights as a disparate militia, in bands that slip through populations like Mao Zedong’s famous fish in water. But Mao’s guerrilla fish were all red, and obeyed the command structure of a Communist party. These bands answer to just their frenzied imaginations.

The fighting units of a loose trans-national conglomeration like Taliban and its partners hit when they can, and rest when they cannot. It is a war of attrition. They do not have artillery or an air force, but they have numbers, motivation, firepower, objectives and that invaluable resource called time. These methods have seen off the Soviet Union as well as America-led Nato from Afghanistan, which is a significant military achievement. Politically, they are leading the crusade to turn Afghanistan and Pakistan into a theocracy that will spread out and engulf adjacent regions where Muslims live, like Kashmir in India, Xinjiang in China and of course the many “stans” of Central Asia which still believe in a non-theocratic state.

It is easy to be gulled by seeming contradictions. Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba might, in their confrontation with India, serve as terrorist ancillaries of a larger and older war, even as they pursue their dream of changing the nature of the Pak and Afghan state. But for them these are two sides of the same ideological coin. They have the freedom to expand strategies with impunity.

Newspapers are already giving us a glimpse of what the withdrawal of Nato from south and central Asia will mean. There is a visible sense of triumph as theocratic forces pause and regroup in their long march towards the ‘liberation’ of ‘Muslim lands.’ They do not accept the concept of a secular state; for them Muslims, whether in India or Pakistan or China, who believe in secular societies are enemies twice over.

We know only too well how difficult it was for the Indian Army to restore peace in Kashmir after the onslaught that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan two decades ago. Today, China is also on their radar, as are southern Russia and Central Asia.

Drawdown questions

For the US to take its final decisions, it needs to also view the survivability of post-withdrawal Afghanistan. (Reuters)
March 10,2014
Recent weeks have seen a turn of events in the Middle East that is likely to have significant effects on the strategic picture emerging in the Af-Pak region specifically and the new Great Game in general. These are being discussed in muted terms in strategic discussions in New Delhi without much clarity or consensus.

The sudden upsurge of violence in Iraq, in the Fallujah and Ramadi tribal strongholds, has seen the return of al-Qaeda to seek its place in the sun in areas where it had been effectively neutralised or evicted by US and Iraqi forces. Obviously, with this message to the West about its survivability, al-Qaeda also appears to be spreading itself to gain an expanded footprint in areas beyond Syria, lest its effectiveness be questioned within its rank and file. The expanded footprint in Africa does not satisfy its ambitions and would probably be seen as just a temporary hold out. Fallujah and Ramadi in the Anbar area are symbols of radical resurgence, a message to the world about what could be expected in Afghanistan after the ISAF drawdown and eventual pull-out. How seriously should this be taken by those analysing the post-ISAF scenario in the Af-Pak region?

Three aspects impinge on the events in Iraq. One, the internal Shia-Sunni discord within Islam in the Middle East is now reaching serious proportions. The rising power of the Hezbollah and the nascent improvement of US-Iran relations are possibly being viewed as the strengthening of Shia Islam. Two, the failure of the Arab Spring and the hopes it sparked creates a psychological space that needs to be filled.

If liberalism could not find place, then its replacement must be the radical ideology of one of the segments of Islam. Three, declining interest of the US in the affairs of the Middle East is leaving Israel freer to pro-actively confront its foes; its power cannot be allowed to proliferate. In the light of these, has al-Qaeda acted prematurely and revealed its possible intent and capability of what it can do in Afghanistan once it is vacated by foreign forces? Is this, therefore, an inadvertent message that the Western powers must factor in while assessing what post withdrawal Afghanistan may look like?

The US, while being convinced about the necessity to leave Afghanistan to the Afghans, would probably have to look at this turn of events more seriously. A trillion dollars each invested in Iraq and Afghanistan must give the US and its allies the payoffs of security and influence in these crucial regions. The strong Israeli presence in the Middle East and the balance the Iran-Saudi antipathy provides may worry the US less about the immediate future there. However, such a balance of influence is not available in Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot be expected to be a reliable ally, given its own internal struggle with radicalism and anti-Americanism.

While India could be expected to play a proactive role to secure its interests, its physical and geographical displacement and lack of direct communication links would be a major dampener unless some very bold decisions are taken by the new government in power after May 2014. With the Pakistan army’s continuing conflict with the Pakistani Taliban on the one hand and backroom linkages with the Afghan Taliban on the other, the situation remains utterly diffused and unclear.

In the light of the above situation, what other factors should the US consider before taking decisions on its future strategy? A timebound drawdown and withdrawal plan was always being looked upon sceptically and any pragmatic observer would have surmised that this was only a guideline. Afghanistan cannot be looked upon in isolation and a super/big power would have to examine the linkages that the region has with other neighbouring regions.

The issue of radical Islam, its apparent resurgence in the Middle East and the portents that it holds of further spread into Central Asia, will need serious consideration for US interests. In the light of this, the assumption of fading US interest in West Asia may be an incorrect surmise. Perhaps too much is being read into the apparent cooling of US-Saudi Arabia relations and the emerging energy transformation from basic hydrocarbons to shale gas. We also need to factor in the position of China and the interests it continues to have in Afghanistan. Without going into details, China’s interests are linked to the mineral potential of Afghanistan, its proximity to the emerging energy and trade infrastructure that China is pursuing to short-circuit its long lines of communication to its east coast and the apparent worry it has about the possibility of creeping radicalism into its sensitive Xinjiang area.

For the US to take its final decisions, it needs to also view the survivability of post-withdrawal Afghanistan. Conflicting views are being expressed by the Afghan people themselves. Western educated and upper crust Afghans are confident about the future and the ability to withstand pressure from the Taliban and other radicals and continue on the path of nation-building on the western model; grounded and earthier representatives project scepticism but yet feel they will muddle through; the Afghan National Army (ANA) holds the key to stability because its survival as a military entity will be crucial.

The ANA is well-manned quantitatively and has gained much confidence in recent months while undertaking independent operations, albeit with heavy casualties. Military analysts allude to the confidence of any armed force if it can fight and absorb casualties without a dent on morale and command and control. However, it needs to be remembered that the ANA is seeking lethal military equipment that all supporters are reluctant to promise due to the inherent fear that the equipment could fall into Taliban hands due to desertions or defeat on the battlefield. In the light of this indecision, the effectiveness of the ANA may remain suspect and observers may continue to dedicate its recent success to the psychological advantage of ISAF presence on Afghan soil.

It may be early yet to assess the fallout of the Ukraine stand-off on other strategic interests of the US. Putin’s ability to wrest the advantage for the second time after the row over Syria could have its effects. The US may then be even more reluctant to be seen in withdrawal from a strategic region of the new Great Game.

Overall, it is unlikely that US interests will be served by a drawdown and withdrawal on planned lines. Events in the Middle East, which probably did not find much significance in earlier assessments, may well emerge as issues of prime concern. This could add another page to the considerations of the Bilateral Security Accord the US seeks with the Karzai government. The improving US economy may be another aspect that has not been factored in so far; a trillion dollars down the drain without commensurate security may demand a few billion more for a better reassurance. The Iran factor is as yet premature for consideration but with the apparent positive direction that Iran appears to be moving in, this could well be another factor that could alter perceptions and force the US to rethink to give itself more time for greater clarity.

With factors old and new and the emerging realities of a dangerous situation in the Middle East, belief in an imminent abandoning of Afghanistan by the western world led by the US may well be diluted as we progress into this year of uncertainty. 2014 promises to be a strategic analyst’s delight.

Syed Ata Hasnain is a Lt Gen (retd) of the Indian Army, is a senior fellow of the Delhi Policy Group and visiting fellow of the Vivekanand International Foundation

WHAT PEOPLE THINK - Symbolic democracy in the United Nations

Even as it is busy trying to resolve other people’s conflicts in so many parts of the world, the United Nations has recently created a conflict of its own.
It began innocuously enough. The organization has always tried to get consensus around matters on which it is often very difficult to arrive at such consensus. The usual strategy to achieve this is to sufficiently water down the language in its documents. By the time these documents need ratification by individual countries, there is very little that is binding in them, so frequent are the caveats and the nods to escape routes like ‘national sovereignty’ and ‘culture’.

But this time, the stakes are higher because countries are required to sign on to specific and measurable goals. I am talking about what is called the post-2015 or post-MDG (Millennium Development Goals) agenda that the UN and its various arms are currently frantically trying to design.

Consensus building here requires a different strategy and the UN has chosen the strategy of inclusiveness: canvassing and listening to the voices of all kinds ofstakeholders. So it has been organizing theme meetings in town halls at national, regional and global levels; with governments, subject experts, civil society groups and the private sector, as well as with important individuals like Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and David Cameron who head a high level panel.The amount of energy, time and money that has gone into organizing and making sense of these consultations could have made a significant dent in a few countries’ poverty if it had been diverted there, but it is probably still not wasted effort because it will help to sharpen the post-2015 agenda as well as make more member states feel invested in it.

But the inclusiveness does not end there. To allow many more voices to enter the conversation, the UN has set up a survey for ordinary citizens of all countries to state an opinion on what will make for a better world. Called My World: The United Nations Global Survey for a Better World, this survey asks individuals to choose six of the most important things that countries should focus on out of a list of 16 (plus one space for priorities that may be missing from that list). These 16 options are loosely based on the 14 items that the secretary general’s report calls for priority action on: poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, gender equality, education, health, hunger, demographic change, migration, urbanization, sanitation, governance and global co-operation.

The March–April 2014 issue Air and Space Power Journal

Mar 4 at 10:14 PM
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The MarchApril 2014 issue is now available at http://www.au.af.mil/au/afri/aspj/. To support todays electronic reading devices, ASPJ makes all articles available in multiple formats. 
In this issue. . . . 

  Gen Mark A. Welsh III, USAF
  Maj Gen Jake Polumbo, USAF
  Mr. Wesley Long, USAF
A Different Air Force Tiger  Brig Gen Buck Elton, USAF   
  Dr. Danny Lam  Dr. Brian Paul Cozzarin
  Col Phillip S. Meilinger, USAF, Retired
  Dr. Stephen J. Cimbala  

Satellite Imagery of 2 Ukrainian Warships Being Bloacked Inside Sevastopol Harbor

New York Times
March 7, 2014

Ukraine Crisis in Maps: On Thursday, Crimea remained under the control of Russian forces that continued their blockade of several critical Ukrainian military sites.

A Russian Naval Base in Crimea

Ukraine Crisis in Maps: On Thursday, Crimea remained under the control of Russian forces that continued their blockade of several critical Ukrainian military sites.
New York Times
March 6, 2014
A Russian Naval Base in Crimea
Airbus Defense and Space/CNES
Areas where vessels from the Black Sea Fleet were observed
A Russian Naval Base in Crimea
Sevastopol has been the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since 1783. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia leased part of the port from Ukraine to continue using the base. The Ukrainian Navy also uses the bay. An analysis by IHS Jane’s of satellite imagery captured Monday by Airbus Defense and Space/CNES reveals the positions of some of the Russian vessels.
Apparent Blockade
command ship
Ukrainian frigate
Ukrainian tug
Russian tugs
Russian minesweeper
Russian ships
Airbus Defense and Space/CNES
Apparent Blockade
The satellite image from Monday showed three Russian naval ships in an apparent attempt to prevent three Ukrainian naval ships from leaving port. The largest Ukrainian vessel was formerly a research ship that had been converted for use as a command ship.Related Article »
Russian Warships
Troop formation
Guided missile
destroyer Smetlivy
Guided missile
cruiser Kerch
Airbus Defense and Space/CNES
Russian Warships
Two guided missile warships were parked on the north side of the harbor on Monday.
Combat Hovercraft
Airbus Defense and Space/CNES
Combat Hovercraft
One of the fleet’s two hovercraft was parked here on Monday. The second one could not be seen in the satellite imagery. These two hovercraft are primarily used as combat vessels and are equipped with missiles.
Analysis by Sean O’Connor, IHS Jane’s Imagery Analyst

** A Stolen Momentum

Stranded in the middle The UPA forgot that the point of social sector spending is to enable economic participation in real jobs, not just episodic income growth
Lesson for the GoI-to-be: growth is not a panacea, but if it falters, all else does too, even a re-election

As India approaches a general election, much agitation, tumult and uncertainty have seized the land. Many different apprehensions are casting a shadow on its promise. That India has become apprehensive is itself a surprise. After all, the country had recently experienced a record decade of growth. Millions have been lifted out of poverty and are on the move. Its democracy, for all its rough edges, looked vibrant. Its entrepreneurs were ready to take on the world. Its civil society was teeming with experiments. India had a youthful energy, cla­mouring to take its place at the world’s high table. Even the millions still not fully participating in this growth story could, for the first time, believe that India can change. And yet how swiftly did that confidence vanish. It was almost as if a climber on a steep rock, having made steady progress on her ascent, suddenly decided to look down, and was struck by a sense of vertigo. In the resulting headiness, she could not decide whether to go up or down. There was a deep sense of confusion, a loss of resolve and direction. She remained frozen, yelling and precariously per­ched. Anything could happen. The vertigo could grow and result in a free fall. Someone might throw a lifeline and rescue the cli­mber. Or more optimistically, all she needed to do was look up again at her goal, in the right direction and conti­nue the steady march upwards. India seemed similarly perched. For a distant observer, it all looked tense and thrilling. Any outcome was possible. Would India just hang precariously? Would it fall? Would it begin to rise again?

Much ink has been spilled trying to diagnose India’s malaise. After all, the country had a massive challenge to overcome. It had to accomplish four transitions simultaneously, and it appeared to be faltering on all four. The first transition was economic: the creation of a sustainable high-growth economy in which more and more citizens could participate. The second was institutional: the transition from a state based on vertical accountability, secrecy, centralisation and wide discretion to a state based on horizontal accountability, transparency, participation and the exercise of discretion governed by public reason (see Tocsin for an Ancien Regime, Feb 4, 2013). The third transition was political: the movement from a plutocratic, closed, patronage-based system invested in mobilising identities in a debilitating way to a less corrupt, open competition-based system where identity did not disable reason. The fourth was a social transition. In addition to state and market failures, India also needed to focus on social failures. What were the social processes that constantly produced a low-trust society that wrecked its ability to cooperate? As old forms of authority, family and religion dissolve, what will be the sites where new norms are produced? Would modernity manifest itself in the move to a society where we recognise what norms freedom and equality entail? Or would it get manifested in the pathologies of violence?

These transitions are, of course, all linked in subtle ways. The growth project, as India discovered, could come to a grinding halt if institutions lose their legitimacy, ability to mediate social conflict and capacity to take decisions. Politics in turn is more likely to take dangerous turns when the economic dream is faltering. A society rife with mistrust cannot be a liberal one. The mutual hostility between citizens will always empower the state at the expense of the former. Social norms in turn have huge economic consequences. A society that consistently marginalises women will diminish its own prospects. These are platitudes central to any modernisation process. During the last decade, it seemed that India was beginning to make progress on all four transitions. It appeared that something deep was beginning to stir, unsettling old uncertainties, challenging new power structures, even generating new and more productive forms of conflict. But then India’s elites decided to wilfully wreck the story on all our fronts. In each case, there was an underlying social momentum that held promise; in each case, elites decided to go against the flow and squelch emerging possibilities. This election is about dealing with the aftermath.
India Backs Russia’s ‘Legitimate Interests’ in Ukraine
Image Credit: Secretary of Defense
India Backs Russia’s ‘Legitimate Interests’ in Ukraine

India broke with the international community in acknowledging that Russia has legitimate interests in Ukraine.

By Zachary Keck
March 08, 2014

On Thursday a senior Indian official appeared to endorse Russia’s position in Ukraine in recent days, even as Delhi urged all parties involved to seek a peaceful resolution to the diplomatic crisis.

When asked for India’s official assessment of the events in Ukraine, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon responded:

“We hope that whatever internal issues there are within Ukraine are settled peacefully, and the broader issues of reconciling various interests involved, and there are legitimate Russian and other interests involved…. We hope those are discussed, negotiated and that there is a satisfactory resolution to them.”

The statement was made on the same day that Crimea’s parliament voted to hold a referendum for secession from Ukraine.

Local Indian media noted that Menon’s statement about Russia’s legitimate interests in Ukraine made it the first major nation to publicly lean toward Russia. As my colleague Shannon has reported throughout the week,many of China’s public statements could be interpreted as backing Russia in Ukraine, despite Beijing’s own concerns about ethnic breakaway states and its principle of non-interference.

However, at other times, including at the UN Security Council, Beijing has appeared to be subtly rebuking Moscow by suggesting that its unilateral path threatened regional and global stability. At the very least, however, Beijing has characteristically not gone as far as the U.S. and the West in publicly scolding Vladimir Putin for the military intervention in Crimea.

Ukraine certainly appeared to interpret India’s endorsement of Russia’s legitimate interests as far more hostile than Beijing’s position on Russia’s actions. According to the Telegraph India, a Ukrainian embassy spokesperson stationed in Delhi responded to Menon’s comments by saying: “We are not sure how Russia can be seen having legitimate interests in the territory of another country. In our view, and in the view of much of the international community, this is a direct act of aggression and we cannot accept any justification for it.”

As Talking Heads Roll

Investigators examine an Express News vehicle that was attacked in Karachi in January
Pakistan’s media cowers under the TTP’s glare

When a certain TV channel in Karachi started receiving a string of phone calls from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP in Peshawar for not running a statement they had sent on its ‘ticker’, the battle-hardened office prepared to shrug it off as another pesky bother in a day’s work. Till news reached them of a bomb blast near their Peshawar bureau office. And the ticker flow promptly yielded to the TTP demand.

In recent years, Pakistan has rivalled Syria in being dangerous for journalists—so many have been assassinated so frequently. The needle of suspicion is shared by political parties, intelligence agencies, jehadi groups and the mesh of mafia. But that was before the TTP appeared on the scene. The TTP—responsible for much of the recent vio­lence against the Pakistani army, and itself at the receiving end of state ret­ribution in the form of airstrikes—does not issue empty threats. And now they have the journalists in Pakistan in a vice-like grip.

“The TTP behaves like a powerful state and is media savvy, realising its value, and becoming categorical in its dem­ands,” confesses Nusrat Javeed, host of the popular talk show Bolta Pakistan, on Aaj TV. “Like it or not, it can dictate terms to the Pakistan media. The state cannot ensure my safety, so we are forced to carry their statements.” Javeed says he has survived so far because he hasn’t ever crossed what he calls a vital ‘red line’—he does not unduly provoke militants.

Indeed, so confident is the TTP of its clout that it literally dictates terms to the channels. “They will call the producer and say ‘control this anchor’. I have been asked to use my judgement, but I have not stopped my criticism,” says Javeed. Like other anchors of wide influence, Javeed is well aware that on them rests great responsibility, because every TV channel employs hundreds of journalists and non-journalists whose lives are at risk. The crowds on the streets are innocent, too. A single step across the ‘red line’ may bring about an angry bomb attack that would spare no one.

“TTP apologists in the media can be trusted to quietly urge the government to remain on the course for peace talks.”Ayaz Amir, Pakistani Columnist

Al-Qaeda Turns Its Gaze to Bangladesh

March 7, 2014
By Hassan Mneimneh

The fluidity and flexibility of al Qaeda is undergoing a defining test in Syria, where two of its affiliates, the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), are engaged in a full-scale conflict with each other. Suicide attacks, mass executions, and random bombardment of disputed areas have rendered the conflict indistinguishable in its scope and violence from the presumably central confrontation between regime and opposition. Beyond the depletion of its ranks, al Qaeda also faces a severe challenge to its credibility, due to the abject failure in governance in the areas under its affiliates' control. Yet, in the midst of this, the jihadist cyberspace witnessed the circulation of a recording by al Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri on a so-far unexplored topic: Bangladesh. But what may at first glance seem to be a diversion or digression on the part of Zawahiri could be part of al Qaeda's repositioning and its promotion of new vision and mission for the global network.

Bangladesh is presented in Zawahiri's words as an exemplary Muslim society. He stipulates that the true popular will is that a religious order be instituted in society and politics. Democracy, he opines, is illegitimate, and is also a farce, selectively withdrawn to disempower Islamists and applied to empower their detractors. Islamists who accept the democratic political process are thus in error and ought to radicalize. The Bangladeshi government, he insists, is on a campaign to undermine Islam and impose Western-style secularism. Radical apolitical Islamists, therefore, ought to politicize in their turn. While previous messages by al Qaeda ideologues had disparaged Islamists who do not subscribe to political radicalism, Zawahiri has now widened the demarcation line to be more inclusive. And contrary to the unforgiving rhetoric and practices of ISIS, Zawahiri proposes a code of conduct that dramatically moves the al Qaeda ethos toward more mainstream acceptability.

Zawahiri's message is notable for slamming Bangladesh's 1971 War of Independence, and it has been vocally condemned in Bangladesh. The fractured political culture of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, has seen the ruling coalition use Zawahiri's statement to accuse the opposition of harboring terrorist sympathizers, while the opposition has in turn accused the government of leveraging the message to obscure the retreat of democracy and secure international support. Zawahiri's statement seems to be of no relevance to the dispute raging in Bangladesh between the two main political blocs. However, it does address the ongoing discord among Bangladeshi Islamists.

China to Foreign Fishing Boats: ‘Get Out’ of South China Sea

China to Foreign Fishing Boats: ‘Get Out’ of South China Sea
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Back in November, Hainan Province issued new maritime regulations, including an article stating that “foreigners or foreign fishing ships entering sea areas administered by Hainan and engaged in fishery production or fishery resource surveys should receive approval from relevant departments of the State Council.” As many, including “Naval Diplomat” James Holmes, pointed out, this provision would apply to over half of the South China Sea.  However, experts wondered if China would be willing or able to enforce the regulation. M Taylor Fravel, writing for The Diplomat, noted that the new regulations had no information on how the provision would be enforced. “The sheer size of the waters nominally under Hainan’s administration indicates that actual implementation of these new rules would be a daunting operational task,” Fravel wrote.
Now, the question of whether these rules are being enforced seems to have been answered. Reuters reports that Hainan Party Secretary Luo Baoming said that authorities based on Sansha city have been regularly confronting unauthorized foreign fishing vessels. It’s apparently quite a common occurrence: “There’s something like this happening if not every day then at least once a week,” Luo said.
Luo also stressed that “the majority [of such incidents] are dealt with by negotiating and persuasion.” “We negotiate and dissuade as much as possible,” Luo said, although from his comments it seems the “negotiation” is actually an order. Authorities “tell them [unauthorized vessels] to get out, this is our area,” according to Luo.
Sansha city, a prefecture of Hainan province, administers several groups of disputed islands, including the Paracels (where Sansha is located), the Macclesfield Bank, and the Spratlys. Beijing established Sansha as aprefecture in July 2012, in what many saw as an attempt to increase de facto control over these disputed areas. Chinese officials agreed—Hainan’s Party Secretary said at the time that Sansha city would be “an important base to safeguard China’s sovereignty and serve marine resource development.” China has also established a military base on Sansha, and stationed a 5,000 ton patrol ship on the island.
Luo Baoming’s remarks confirm that Sansha is being used as a base to drive foreign fishing boats away from waters claimed by China. The fishing boats in question most likely originate from Vietnam and the Philippines, as the Paracels are claimed by both China and Vietnam and various islands in the Spratlys group are claimed by China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Taiwan also claims these territories, and has rejected Hainan’s fishing regulations.
The Chief of Staff of the Philippines Arms Forces claimed recently that Chinese Coast Guard ships used water cannons to drive Philippine fishing vessels away from the Scarborough Shoal. The Scarborough Shoal is not under Sansha’s administration, and it’s unclear whether Sansha authorities have used similarly aggressive tactics to force foreign vessels to leave. But given the unease caused by the mere announcement of Hainan’s new fishing regulations, confirmation that the provisions are being enforced is likely to stir up more tensions.

China’s Hard Line: ‘No Room for Compromise’


MARCH 8, 2014

BEIJING — The Chinese foreign minister took a strong stand Saturday on China’s growing territorial disputes with neighboring nations, saying that “there is no room for compromise” with Japan and that China would “never accept unreasonable demands from smaller countries,” an apparent reference to Southeast Asian nations.

The foreign minister, Wang Yi, a former ambassador to Japan, made his comments at a news conference on the fourth day of the National People’s Congress, an annual meeting of China’s rubber-stamp legislature. Mr. Wang took questions from foreign and Chinese news organizations on the same morning he learned that a Malaysia Airlines flight bound for Beijing had disappeared, and he spoke on a range of subjects that included Ukraine, the Korean Peninsula and relations between China and the United States. Mr. Wang stressed several times that China was committed to regional peace.

But Mr. Wang did not mince words on the subject of Japan and its prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who has angered Chinese leaders with recent public remarks on China-Japan relations and with a visit in December to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where Japanese war dead are honored, including 14 Class A war criminals. In the East China Sea, China refuses to accept Japan’s administration of, or its claims to, islands that Japan calls the Senkaku and China calls the Diaoyu.

“On the two issues of principle — history and territory — there is no room for compromise,” Mr. Wang said in answer to a question from a Japanese reporter on the deterioration of China-Japan relations. “If some people in Japan insist on overturning the verdict on its past aggression, I don’t think the international community and all peace-loving people in the world will ever tolerate or condone that.”
China gains from U.S.-Russia face-off
MAR 7, 2014
The U.S.-backed putsch that deposed Ukraine’s constitutional order and triggered the Russian military intervention in the Crimean Peninsula has shifted the international spotlight from Asia’s festering fault lines and territorial feuds to the new threat to European peace. The crisis over Ukraine cannot obscure Asia’s growing geopolitical risks for long.

In fact, the clear geopolitical winner from the U.S.-Russian face-off over Ukraine will be an increasingly muscular China, which harps on historical grievances — real or imaginary — to justify its claims to territories and fishing areas long held by other Asian states. Whether it is strategic islands in the East and South China Seas or the resource-rich Himalayan Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, China is dangling the threat of force to assert its claims.

China will gain significantly from a new U.S.-Russian cold war, just as it became a major beneficiary from America’s Cold War-era “ping-pong diplomacy,” which led to President Richard Nixon’s historic handshake with Mao Zedong in 1972 in an “opening” designed to employ a newly assertive, nuclear-armed China to countervail Soviet power in the Asia-Pacific region. Since the 1970s, the U.S. has followed a conscious policy to aid China’s rise — an approach that remains intact today, even as America seeks to hedge against the risk of Chinese power sliding into arrogance.

A new U.S.-Russian cold war will leave greater space for China to advance its territorial creep in Asia.

Asia’s geopolitical risks were highlighted recently by the comments of both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — who noted that Britain and Germany went to war in 1914 despite being economically interdependent in the same way Japan and China now are — and Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III, who compared China’s territorial creep with Nazi Germany’s expansionism.

Two fault lines in particular are putting Asia’s sustained rise at risk, with the adverse geopolitical trends carrying significant ramifications for global markets.

Support: The Kinder And Gentler China

March 7, 2014: 
Since 1982 Thai and American troops have held a joint training exercise (Cobra Gold) each year. Usually the event is held in Thailand and over the years has come to include troops from other countries in the region. This year, for the first time China will participate. There were only 17 Chinese troops in attendance, but it’s a big deal because China’s neighbors would rather be training with Chinese troops than confronting them. 

Most of the troops at Cobra Gold 2014 were American (9,000) followed by Thailand (4,000). There were also 80 from Singapore, 120 from Japan, 300 from South Korea, 160 from Indonesia, and 120 from Malaysia. Burma, Laos, Vietnam and several other nations sent observers. The 17 Chinese were there to observe, and participate a bit. 

The Chinese were actually there for the disaster relief and humanitarian operations sessions. All the nations in the region stand ready to send military specialists to help with natural disasters, or as part of international peacekeeping operations. China became active in international peacekeeping in the 1990s, after the Cold War ended. Since then nearly 20,000 Chinese have served on peacekeeping operations and Chinese financial contributions to UN peacekeeping have increased considerably in the past decade. For 2015 Chinese contributions will take care of six percent of the UN peacekeeping budget. 

Many of China’s neighbors see this increased Chinese participation in peacekeeping and international disaster as part of a Chinese campaign to reduce hostility over growing Chinese aggressiveness in asserting its territorial claims in the region. Despite that the Chinese contribution is appreciated and encouraged. 


Dangers in China's Confucianism nostalgia

By Thorsten Pattberg

There have been rumors in recent months about the possibility of a revival of Confucianism in China. Powerful scholars, not without personal agendas, have called for a "Confucian constitution". Some people have likened President Xi Jinping's concepts of"Zhongguomeng" (the Chinese dream) and "Zhonghua Minzu de Fuxing" (rejuvenation of the Chinese nation) to the teachings of the sage. There are even voices that claim that Xi's anti-corruption campaign, including a recent sex trade clampdown, can be directly attributed to Confucian values that aim for an ideal society led by "uncorrupt men". [1]

Reading Confucius is fascinating, just like reading the works of Socrates, Plato or any other archaic thinker. The aphorisms are simple and basic - how can their words not be true? It can be argued that certain elements of the Greco-Roman tradition always remain with Europe, such as an emphasis on individualism and reason. In the same way, Confucian values such as filial piety, a love for learning, and lofty pragmatism have prevailed in China, without necessarily making mention of Confucius.

However, I have a notion that actions such as the crackdown on prostitution and corruption are based on reason and a common sense of modern statesmanship. They should not be attributed to the recommendations of Jesus Christ, the Buddha, Confucius or any figures who lived in the first millennium BC.

Confucianism, a 2,500-year-old tradition, is anything but "uncorrupt" from a modern perspective. Confucianism is about hierarchies, patriarchy, nepotism, abuse of officialdom, pure inequality and moral dictatorship. Some critics, including Lu Xun, Mao Zedong, European philosophers, and historians from places like Japan - which freed itself from the Chinese tradition - have argued that Confucianism is the main reason for China's cultural backwardness. In fact, China may be so corrupt today not despite the Confucian legacy but partly because of it.

The Confucian Canon, often referred to as a code of conduct rather than a proper religion, could essentially be seen as an instruction manual for cult leaders and dictators on how to morally blackmail the people into obedience. Hence the absence of universal concepts of freedom, individualism, and human rights - although there's a lot in it about human responsibilities, like filial piety, obedience and dependency.

*** Interests Always Need to be Protected Russian View

8 march 2014
Gevorg Mirzayan

Resume: Russia had to move its troops into Crimea. If we confine ourselves to addressing the initial tasks and do not rush ‘to take Vienna’, to borrow Bismarck’s words, the West is unlikely to impose tough sanctions against Russia.

Before talking about the consequences and the cost of the Russian intervention, one has to make it clear that, under the circumstances, Russia had no choice. It was not that, as the West claims, Russia wanted to subjectUkraine. First, that country saw a violent coup which toppled the legitimately elected president. The people who took his place, instead of setting about to consolidate the country, acted on the ‘woe to the vanquished’ principle. In thiscase, the ‘vanquished’ were thought to be the Russian-speaking population of the country’s south-east. Thus, the Supreme Rada voted to repeal of the law on languages that granted regional status to the Russian language (acting president OleksandrTurchynov has now vetoed the move, but it was too late) and launched a lustrationprocedure with regard to them. The newly appointed Ministerof Education,SerhiyKvit, a nationalist, lost no time in declaring his intention to rewrite history and ban all the textbooks that children used under the previous government. There is a danger that West Ukrainian nationalism might become the official state ideology. The authorities are turning a blind eye to the sway of the representatives of that ideology from the Right Sector. Under the pretext of ‘defending law and order, the local Nazis are plundering, extorting, persecutingundesirables and committing other acts of lawlessness. They have promised to come to the south-east soon“to protect law and order” there. In this situation, Russia was duty-bound to protect its citizens and Russian-speaking people in the south-east of Ukraine.

Second, the course elected by the new authorities posed a serious threat to Russian interests in the whole country. This was not only because the new authorities might renounce Yanukovych’s obligations to Moscow (credit, debts for gas, the Kharkov Accords). The new Prime Minister, ArseniyYatsenyuk, said he wasready to sign an association agreement with the European Union at any moment, ignoring Moscow’s position. For Russia, that would spell a total loss of economic ties with Ukraine and the future loss of Sebastopol as the base of the Black Sea Fleet, as Ukraine would turn into a kind of cordon sanitaire.

Finally, there was thequestion of losing face. The agreementof February 21 was signed to a large extent because Vladimir Putin, at the request of the Western countries, demandedthat Yanukovych make a compromise with the opposition. In return,we were promised that the agreement (that envisaged the creation of a national unity government and the withdrawal of demonstrators from the streets) would be honoured. But we were cheated. The agreement was thrown out within hours, and Russia is supposed to reconcile itself to that. A great power cannot turn a blind eye to such things.

Asia Is in America's DNA

Robert W. Merry |

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.”

Dymond has a point. But it doesn’t capture the extent to which America has considered its Pacific dominance to be a national birthright almost from the time it first conceived of itself as a potential transcontinental nation. Cummins’s prophecy, in other words, was widely shared.