12 March 2014

Blueprint to tackle Maoists

11 Mar , 2014


Confronted with the Maoist menace, Civil Administration’s incompetence is making mountain out of a molehill by suggesting induction of the military.

The threat posed by the Maoists to the Union cannot be compared to the LoC in Kashmir or the Northeast. On borders, there is direct support of the external players. Both, in terms of creeping invasion by Islamic fundamentalists that results in demographic changes, as well as, to infiltrate fundamentalists to equip and train the local sympathizers to subvert the Civil Administration. Couple this with the military threat posed by China and Pakistan directly. If the military dilutes its vigil on the volatile borders, Union of India will soon lose major chunks of its territory.

The biggest threat to India today is posed by Indians and not by the Chinese or Pakistanis.

This constitutes the primary role of the army.

The clamor by many to bring in the Army and the Air Force to resolve the Maoist threat ignores the key question: Is the threat posed gigantic enough to warrant deployment of the army? Or is the Civil Administration creating mountain out of the molehill because its level of incompetence is now beyond redemption?

The schedule and the resources required to host the Commonwealth Games by India were well considered at the time of bidding for the games. With barely 60 days left, we are not prepared. There was no threat posed by the Maoists, the Northeast insurgents or the terrorists to disrupt the preparations. Yet the Civil Administration flounders despite a well-defined objective and demands induction of 300 military personnel.

The same incompetence is visible in other aspects of the civil administration.

The same incompetence is visible in other aspects of the civil administration. Millions of ton of wheat procured at the taxpayer’s expense for distribution to the poor segment of society was allowed to rot in the rains. A state within the Union creates ‘counter insurgency’ school for the police without basic facilities like firing range and skilled officers to train personnel. Two courses pass out and declared ready to take on the Maoists! If the CRPF or the state police personnel remain unskilled, untrained and underequipped, and led by ‘incompetence’, causalities are bound to be high.

Way to a Credible Deterrent

10 Mar , 2014

Ten years after the Pokhran (POK-2) series of tests in May 1998, it is useful to examine the progress on the diplomatic front and see what is needed further.

The recently concluded India-US nuclear deal was preceded by interactions with all major powers — economic and nuclear countries in the neighborhood. It is comforting to note that while the western global economies are in recession, the Indian economy is still growing, albeit at a lower 5-7 percent rate. Overall economic strength and financial ratings of India today is in a much better situation than pre-May 1998 levels. The domestic political scene is fractious as ever and elections are to be held soon.

Due to ideological ties and possible command of such movements by surrogates or regulars on leave, the state players might not feel they are violating their sovereign commitments of non-transfer of WMD.

The strategic weapons and policy impact of India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement (IUCNA) split the Indian strategic thinkers and stakeholders in a highly divisive debate. The quality of debate and horse trading in Indian parliament raised the rhetoric and obfuscated and confused the Indian people, the defence forces, and the scientific establishment. It is now an opportune moment to examine India’s deterrent posture and assess the path forward and actions necessary to safeguard, preserve and expand Indian interests.

Immediately after the POK-2 round of tests, India declared the following elements of its policy — No First Use1 (NFU) and non-use against non-weapon states which constitute negative assurances to non- NWS. An additional element was credible minimum deterrent posture to assure the world that the Indian position was not open-ended and India had no intention of seeking parity or indulging in an arms race in and outside Asia. While India remains committed to its nuclear No-First-Use policy that does not mean India will not have a first-strike capability.2

It is important to examine the role of nuclear weapons in an Indian thought. The primary role is to deter other nuclear weapons. Hence this role exists as long as other states possess these weapons. They are not to deter war and the Indian leadership has acknowledged this. They only deter escalation.

Elements of A Credible Deterrent

Nuclear Doctrine

The first element is to have a clear doctrine stating the conditions under which the Indian State would resort to nuclear weapons. It has to keep in mind the commitment to No First Use and the negative assurances to non-weapon states. This doctrine has to address all threats — state and non-state actors.

There is no real basis for distinguishing between tactical and strategic weapons. All nuclear weapons are strategic and the decision to use them is a political step on the escalation ladder. The real distinction is between low and high yield devices.

Managing the nation's defence, somehow

10 Mar , 2014

The Navy, with its aging fleet, was increasingly deployed on coast guard anti-terror duties and not for its primary role, preparing for the defence of the nation in times of war

Nine officers and men dead in the last six months in two submarine accidents with one submarine written off and another grounded.

Who is responsible for the death of these persons and the loss of expensive vital equipment? What did we tell their families? That someone somewhere kept tossing files while the political masters showed little concern?

Who else is responsible for the state of affairs of our security apparatus? We have shortages of fighter aircraft, artillery guns, naval vessels. We have shortages of manpower in the armed forces, paramilitaries and intelligence services.

Presumably we will pay off the families and clear our sarkari conscience. Apart from the human loss and recurring tragedy which is born of an attitude of a government that refuses to take its responsibilities seriously, there are other serious questions and worries.

True Admiral Joshi did the honourable thing by resigning and accepting moral responsibility. But what about the government? It accepted the resignation with an alacrity which makes one suspicious that it did so to avoid taking responsibility for its continued neglect and cavalier indifference in handling vital issues of defence and security of the nation.

Who else is responsible for the state of affairs of our security apparatus? We have shortages of fighter aircraft, artillery guns, naval vessels. We have shortages of manpower in the armed forces, paramilitaries and intelligence services.

Why do these incidents keep happening? What did successive governments do to secure the nation after Mumbai 1993, Kargil 1999, New Delhi 2001 or Mumbai 2008, beyond cannibalising existing establishments?

Did we do anything to improve the calibre of the recruits, their numbers, training and acquisition and maintenance of equipment in consonance with today’s needs and adequate for future threats? In the Sindhuratna case, was there neglect or was there sabotage. And many more questions, perhaps, which experts could divine.

15 years ago the cabinet had drawn up a 30-year submarine modernisation plan to have 24 submarines by 2030. Half-way through this period we now have more than half of the 14 submarines which have completed three-fourths of their operational lives. What is more, the Navy, with its aging fleet, was increasingly deployed on coast guard anti-terror duties and not for its primary role, preparing for the defence of the nation in times of war.

What better testimony to our collective incompetence and disinterest in our enhancing the country’s security systems. Four years ago, the Navy pointed out that the submarine fleet was getting vulnerable as the batteries would be outliving their life but red-tape prevented indigenous replacements. Sindhuratna was an accident waiting to happen.

Indian Navy: Responding to Perceptions of Being ‘All at Sea’

10 March 2014
C Uday Bhaskar
Member, Executive Committee, IPCS

A tragic industrial accident occurred on 07 March on a naval warship under construction in the Mazagon Docks, Mumbai, resulting in the death of a naval officer. The fire-fighting equipment on board the Kolkata class destroyer was being tested and a malfunction of the valves led to the sudden discharge of carbon-dioxide and the subsequent death of Commander Kuntal Wadhwa - the engineer officer designate of the ship.

This missile destroyer is to be commissioned in the Indian Navy later in the year as the INS Kolkata and will be followed by two other ships – the Chennai and Kochi. Part of the Indian Navy's ambitious indigenous design and ship-building effort, when inducted, these three ships will add considerable punch to the country's overall naval capability.

While this ship is still under construction and yet to be handed over to the Navy by the shipyard, the fact that another naval officer lost his life - albeit in an industrial accident - soon after the loss of two other naval officers on the submarine INS Sindhuratna in February 2014 adds to the sadness of the Navy as a family. The loss of life is always cause for anguish and hopefully this will be the last of such mishaps for a long time.

Operational mishaps for the military as an institution occur often during peacetime training and depending on how and when they occur, the necessary lessons are learnt and policy correctives applied. The Indian Navy has had a particularly challenging phase since August 2013 when the INS Sindhurakshak had an explosion on board while in the Mumbai harbour that resulted in the loss of precious lives. The submarine is yet to be salvaged from where it is still semi-submerged. In the intervening months some sections of the print and audio-visual media have given inordinate attention and space to every operational lapse of the Navy, thereby creating a perception that all is not well with the Indian navy and its top leadership.

Regrettably, the senior political leadership was stampeded by this dominant perception in the public domain and unable to take a confident and informed professional assessment about this string of incidents and accidents and the Naval Chief at the time, Admiral DK Joshi, was chastised in public. While recognising the democratic principle that the political leadership has the mandate and responsibility to monitor and admonish the highest echelons of the military, there is a certain protocol that needs to be maintained on all sides and sadly this was not the case which led to the unprecedented resignation of Admiral Joshi from the high-office of the Chief of Naval Staff on 26 February.

More than ten days have lapsed since this resignation and at the time of writing, the Government is yet to announce the successor to Admiral Joshi. It needs little reiteration that the military as an institution is based on well-defined hierarchy and related operational responsibility and the opaque uncertainty that now prevails in the Navy ought to be redressed at the very earliest.

The kind of media focus that recent naval incidents and accidents have received in the public domain has led to some very undesirable perceptions and misplaced conclusions. Even as the Indian Navy was undergoing a trial by the audiovisual media in particular - most of the operational units of the service were deployed in the biggest annual exercise - TROPEX - in the Indian Ocean region. This exercise included the deployment of the aircraft carrier, a nuclear submarine, missile destroyers and the recently inducted maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Some aspects of the exercise also involved units of the Indian Air Force. This should set at rest the invalid perception that the Indian Navy is 'all at sea'.

India as an Arms Exporter: Election Rhetoric or a Possible Reality?


Defence matters, like foreign policy matters, seldom become election issues. Therefore, it was pleasantly surprising when the issue of making India an arms exporter in next five years cropped up recently. Import substitution and weapons export have always been an issue in independent India. However, given the endemic impasse in India’s domestic military–industrial complex (MIC) and its overt dependence on foreign weapons, such election promises may engender new expectations but defy ground realities.

The promise of making India an arms exporter brings home the larger malaise in the Indian political discourse, i.e. the disinclination to discuss security issues from a dispassionate perspective. Expansion of the MIC has been part of this problem. India simply failed to build on the nascent MIC that it inherited from the British Raj. Piecemeal expansions and capacity building was resorted to only during crisis times. India has been importing almost 70 percent of its weaponry for the last six decades. In a tragic twist of tale, India has emerged as the largest arms importer since 2011 with a 109 percent lead over China, its archrival and second largest importer. In addition, while China has also emerged as the fifth largest arms exporter overtaking UK in 2013, India remains a distant 26th. With 12 percent of global weapons import, India has single handedly revived the sick arms industry of Russia and UK and created jobs in other foreign MICs while depriving the much-required spur to drive the domestic MIC. While the global arms companies are euphoric about India’s market potential, India’s ‘consistent and persistent dependency’ belies its great power status. As things stand, India simply does not have the inbuilt structural capacity to become an arms exporter in next five years. According to a Deloitte and CII estimate, ‘the Indian arms industry would need to double its production output every year for five years’. This is indeed a very difficult task.

One of the main reasons for this stalemate is the mainstream political parties’ shyness in biting the bullet and forge a consensus on a comprehensive reforms package for expanding the MIC. When the economic reforms were unleashed in early 1990s, the defence production sector was left untouched from ‘de-licensing’ since it was considered ‘sensitive’ subject. In the process, the country paid the price for treating defence production as a ‘holy cow’ in the Kargil War when there was a demand supply mismatch in spare parts and ancillary products. Learning from the bitter experience, the then NDA Government opened up the defence production for private sector in 2001; the UPA Government subsequently pitched in through an offset policy in 2005 and a defence production policy in 2011 apart from streamlining procurement guidelines. However, several reform proposals have run into problems due to lack of political consensus.First, the Government could not implement the Kelkar Committee recommendations on the corporatisation of ordnance factories due to opposition from various stakeholders. The domestic MIC is certain to benefit if these reforms become a reality. Second, FDI remains a controversial issue. As per Government’s own estimate, half of the domestically produced equipment is obsolete and only 15 percent is considered as state-of-the art. Lack of FDI also explains why India remains a producer of tier II or III weapons. The present cap of 26 percent is insufficient to bring in foreign investment, desired technology and manufacturing capabilities. The private sector suggestion for lifting this to at least 49 percent is yet to receive support across the political spectrum. Third, the ideological divide on defence–development correlation, often reflected through the polemics on defence budget share in national GDP, is also responsible for low domestic arms production. The protagonists of higher defence budget allocation have cared little to ensure the development of a domestic manufacturing base and instead have clamoured, rather openly, for imported defence weaponry. While the Prime Minister has been speaking of ‘inclusive growth’ for quite some time, there has been little political debate on this model to suggest how defence sector can contribute to the nation’s growth story.

India-Pakistan-China: Nuclear Policy and Deterrence Stability

10 March 2014
Vijay Shankar
Former Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Forces Command of India

“Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call life:………behind, lurk Fear 
And Hope…”
Persy Bysshe Shelley
Cold War Mantra 

In September 1950, responding to a directive from the President of the US to re-examine objectives in peace and war with the emergence of the nuclear weapons capability of the Soviet Union; the Secretaries of Defense and State tabled a report titled NSC-68. This report was, in general terms, to become the mantra that guided world order till the end of the Cold War and in particular formed the source that defined and drove doctrines for the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons. As a founding policy document of contemporary world order the memorandum contrasted the fundamental design of the Authoritarian State with that of the Free State. Briefly put, the coming clash was seen as a life and death struggle between the powers of ‘evil’ with that of ‘perfection’. 

NSC-68 came at a time when the previous 35 years had witnessed some of the most cataclysmic events that history was subjected to; two devastating World Wars, two revolutions that mocked the global status quo (Russia and China), collapse of five empires and the decline and degeneration of two imperial powers. The dynamics that brought about these changes also wrought drastic transformation in power distribution with the elements of influence, weight and the means of mass nuclear destruction having decisively gravitated to the US and the USSR. The belief that the USSR was motivated by a fanatic communist faith antithetical to that of the West and driven by ambitions of world domination provided the logic and a verdict that conflict and violence would become endemic. And thus was presented to the world a choice to either watch helplessly the end of civilisation or take sides in a ‘just cause’ to confront the possibility of Armageddon. World order rested upon a division along ideological lines, and more importantly to our study, the formulation of a self-fulfilling logic for the use of nuclear weapons. The 1950s naissance of a nuclear theology was consequently cast in the mould of armed rivalry; its nature was characterised by friction and probing peripheral conflicts. The scheme that carved the world was Containment versus burgeoning Communism. In turn, rationality gave way to the threat of catastrophic force as the basis of stability.

Quest for a New Paradigm 

The crumbling of the Soviet Union in the last decade of the twentieth century and the end of the Cold War killed this paradigm. In its wake, scholarly works suggested the emergence of one world and an end to the turbulent history of man’s ideological evolution. Some saw the emergence of a multi-polar order and the arrival of China. Yet others saw in the First Iraq War, the continuing war in the Levant, the admission of former Soviet satellite nations into NATO and the splintering of Yugoslavia, an emerging clash of civilisations marked by violent discord shaped by cultural and civilisational similitude. However, these illusions within a decade were dispelled and found little use in understanding and coming to grips with the realities of the post Cold War world as each of them represented a candour of its own. The paradigm of the day (if there is one) is the tensions of the multi-polar; the tyranny of economics; the anarchy of expectations; and a polarization along religio-cultural lines all compacted in the cauldron of globalisation in a state of continuous technology agitation.

Clearing the waters

March 11, 2014 

Corruption has to be fought, but to use the fear of corruption to allow the country’s fighting capability to be run down reflects mismanagement and incompetence. CR Sasikumar


Look for the real causes of the accidents instead of undermining the reputation of a first-rate navy with ill-informed speculation.

Look for the real causes of the accidents instead of undermining the reputation of a first-rate navy with ill-informed speculation.

The resignation of the naval chief with 15 months of service remaining is unprecedented and laudable, and represents the highest standards of professionalism. The spate of accidents, however, raises questions that the stepping down of the naval chief is unlikely to lay to rest. The theatre of the absurd that followed in terms of ill-informed comment has muddied the waters and threatens to undermine the reputation of a first-rate navy.

Speculating on the causes of an accident, especially one that claims lives, before a board of inquiry has submitted its report borders on the reckless. In the case of the Sindhuratna, much attention was focused on the batteries. The preliminary finding reportedly is that the problem was not with the batteries but in the concealed life-cable of the submarine. Confirmation will have to wait until the final report.

Speculation and ill-informed analyses have led to allegations being made in three categories. One, that an apathetic civil bureaucracy and an indifferent political class have starved the defence forces in general and the navy in particular of much-needed funds. Two, there have been inordinate delays in ordering replacements, resulting in force levels being reduced to dangerous levels and that our young men and women have been given substandard equipment that endangers their lives. And three, the entire civil-military relationship has broken down.

Each of these allegations merits examination. The defence budget, presently at Rs 2,03,672 crore (US $37.4 billion) has been on the rise. The Indian navy’s share has been around 16-17 per cent. Clearly, the navy would want, and perhaps deserves, more. It has pegged its demands for several years at 18-20 per cent. Funds, on the other hand, are not unlimited and need to be prioritised. The navy recently acquired the 44,500-tonne aircraft carrier, the Vikramaditya, the erstwhile Gorshkov, for a whopping $2.5 billion. It has an expensive, leased nuclear-powered submarine and the indigenously produced Arihant presently undergoing sea trials. Clearly, therefore, the allegation of the navy being deprived of funds does not wash.

The navy has a total of 138 platforms, both ships and submarines, almost 50 per cent of which are 20 years old. Ships and submarines are periodically refitted and modernised in order to keep them in active service well beyond 30 years. Aircraft carrier Viraat is over 50 years old. As rightly pointed out by Admiral Arun Prakash, by international standards, the Indian navy is young, with a large proportion of modern and newly constructed ships, with some approaching middle age and others nearing their stipulated retirement age. Moreover, 45 newly constructed warships will join the fleet in the coming decade. The Indian navy presently has 13 conventional submarines in its inventory, excluding Sindhurakshak. The Perspective Plan envisages a fleet of 18-24 submarines.

Why Pakistan cannot defeat the Taliban

March 10, 2014

Is Pakistan fighting a losing war against the Islamists? It would appear so given the sort of confusion in the country about what this war is all about. There is also a lack of clarity on what is desirable (reconciling and reintegrating the Taliban, entering into a negotiated settlement the terms and conditions of which remain an enigma, or even an elimination and extermination of the Pakistani Taliban) and whether this is theoretically, let alone practically, possible. Then there is the nagging doubt about how much of what is achievable will be sustainable. Compounding to the problem are the multiple and often contradictory objectives (internal and external, tactical and strategic) which different agencies and organs of state seem to be pursuing. Worse still no one seems to have a clear idea on how to obtain these objectives, which is leading to state entities working at cross-purposes. The Taliban also have their internecine conflicts, turf wars, ego clashes and differences over tactics, for instance, on whether or not to talk with the Pakistani state. But despite this, they all are working (and killing) towards a common objective in pursuit of their ‘grand idea’ of grabbing power and imposing their brand of Islam, first in Afghanistan and Pakistan and eventually in rest of the world. The Pakistani state and society, on the other hand, is split on who or what is the enemy, where it wants to go and how it wants to get there.

Shortly after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, the then ISI chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha declared Pakistan’s then enemy no. 1, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud, a loyal and patriotic Pakistani. The message that Pasha was sending was clear: in the event of hostilities breaking out with India (the eternal enemy!), he expected Mehsud to throw in his weight behind the Pakistan Army. This was almost as though the Pakistan army had more confidence in the TTPs fanatics than on its own firepower in taking on India.

The current Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar, who is trying to take on the mantle of security czar and chief peacemaker rolled into one, took a leaf out of Pasha’s book when he declared in the National Assembly that ‘a clear majority of the Taliban were not enemies of the country…most Taliban groups had no animosity to the state of Pakistan’ and that the elements that were targeting the state were doing to at the behest of foreign agencies (read CIA, RAW and Mossad). 1 Amazingly, just days before he gave the Taliban a certificate of patriotism, Chaudhry Nisar had triumphantly unveiled the National Internal Security Policy to stem the tide of terrorism and Talibanisation in the country.

Surely there is something seriously wrong. In a country where the government spends nearly nine months to come up with a policy document to fight terrorists responsible for the deaths of nearly 50,000 people, and yet the man who makes the policy doesn’t consider these terrorists enemies of the country! Of course, this comes as no surprise in a country where TTPs denials of involvement in an attack readily lapped up even though their fingerprints and footprints are clear in the involvement. Instead of condemning terror and demanding action against the perpetrators, politicians and religious leaders blame the government for its lapses and its inability to make peace with the terrorists. It is also a country where politicians and ministers in charge of the security policy are so terrified of coming into the cross-hairs of the terrorists that they are reported to be sending messages to the TTP about how they have carefully avoided saying anything against the Taliban. In these messages these leaders have washed their hands off the air strikes which they have explained as being ordered by the army in retaliation to TTP attacks, and have pleaded with the TTP to announce a ceasefire so that they could push ahead with a dialogue with them. From this it should be quite clear how this ‘phony war’ is being fought and why it can’t be won.2

Drawdown questions

March 10, 2014 


US withdrawal from Afghanistan may not go according to plan.

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?

Bhutan: The Refugee Issue. PM Koirala of Nepal speaks to PM Tobgay

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

While attending the BIMSTEC Conference in Myanmar, Prime Minister Koirala took the opportunity to speak to his Bhutanese counterpart on the still "unresolved" issue of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.

This happened when both leaders were participating in the Third Summit of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical ad Economic Cooperation.

While speaking to the RSS Nepal, Koirala said and I quote " I have requested him ( Bhutanese Prime Minister) to create (an) environment conducive for respectful return of refugees to their homes at a time when most of their offspring had set out abroad under third country rehabilitation bid and the elderly are still languishing in refugee camp."

PM Koirala is supposed to have made a plea to the Bhutanese PM to be serious to give early solution to the problem. The response of Dr. Tobgay was a non committal "We will see".

The Figures:

Perhaps Koirala is not aware of the latest situation on the position of the refugees in the camps. There is going to be only one camp left at Beldangi with a residue of less than 17000 refugees.

The old and the infirm have gone with their children and are now longing to come back and spend their last days in the country (here Bhutan) where they lived. There appears to be not may old persons left in the camps and the Nepal PM’s request is not based on ground realities.

In the last official figures given out by UNHCR, it is learnt that as of end 2013, a total of 87,706 refugees have been settled abroad out of a total of roughly 105,000 in the camps. That leaves a balance of 17,294 and this will be less as on today. ( 11th March 2014)

Of these, 9000 and odd refugees are said to be waiting for third country settlement and have already given their willingness to go abroad.

That would leave around 8000 refugees who at the moment do not appear to be interested for third country settlement. They will have to be settled elsewhere and the camps closed once and for all. This will be in the interest of every one including Bhutan, Nepal and even India.

Of the 8000 and odd refugees still left, roughly one third are those who developed local interests by marriage, property acquisition etc. and thus unwilling to leave Nepal. Another one third would be the radicalised group associated with the Maoists of Nepal and ideologically not inclined to leave Nepal. There is the third category who are not well educated, old, infirm and having no younger relatives around. These people being unsure of their future in the countries abroad have decided not to opt for third country settlement.

US-China Cold Confrontation: New Paradigm of Asian Security


10 March 2014
Chintamani Mahapatra
Professor, School of International Studies, JNU

The US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to China exemplified a complex dynamics of relations between the existing superpower and an aspiring one.
The US’ “Manifest Destiny” and China’s “Middle Kingdom Mentality” appear ready to accelerate cold confrontation between the US and China. Both the US and Chinese officials reject the theory of “Great Power Transition” that stipulate armed conflict between the departing hegemonic power and the new hegemon. 

Former Chinese President Hu Jintao was of the opinion that war was not inevitable between a declining power and a rising power. His successor, Xi Jinping, is pushing for a new kind of Great Power relations. 

On the eve of Kerry’s trip to China, Evan Madeiros, a senior US National Security Council official, remarked, “We’re aware of the historical predictions that a rising power and an established power are destined for rivalry and confrontation. We simply reject that premise.” 

Although a military clash between the US and China is progressively becoming improbable, a kind of cold confrontation between them has been quietly developing in the Asian theatre. 

The Sino-US cold confrontation is the result of an altered geopolitical order in the Asia Pacific from the early years of 21st century. As the US stayed engaged in warring against the Afghan insurgents and the Al Qaeda activists; indulged in misplaced military intervention in Iraq; and experienced a faltering economy, Chinese economic influence in Asia sky-rocketed, and its military modernisation perceptually began to threaten US hegemonic presence in the region. 

The People’s Liberation Army of China developed anti-access and area-denial capability, threatening the hitherto uninterrupted movement of the US naval vessels in the region. The wide-ranging debate over the relative decline of the US influence and China’s drive towards a superpower status reflected an indisputable contest for influence in the Asia Pacific.

Currently, the US consternation that China may surface as an Asian hegemon, and the Chinese angst that the US intends to restrict the growth of the Chinese power, will shape strategic landscape in Asia in coming years. 

The current Sino-US cold confrontation has taken the shape of a passionate competition for regional influence, an occasional show of force, and conflicting positions on bilateral and regional disputes. 

Instances of the Sino-US cold confrontation are discernible in critical differences between Washington and Beijing on the North Korean and Iranian nuclear issues; the Syrian civil war; the Sino-Japanese disputes over the Shenkaku/Diaoyu islands; the Sino-Filipino disputes over Mischief Reef and the Scharborough shoal; and the Chinese declaration of a nine-dash-line encompassing its sovereignty in the South China Sea.

China’s muscle flexing in the region has bamboozled the Obama Administration. In 2012, Chinese ships occupied a reef 125 miles off the coast of the Philippines and blocked access to Filipino ships. In November 2013, China declared an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in East China Sea and in December 2013, a Chinese ship, by design, came close to a US-guided missile destroyer Cowpens, and risked dangerous collision. 

Japan, U.S. Differ on China in Talks on 'Grey Zone' Military Threats

MARCH 9, 2014

TOKYO/WASHINGTON — As Japan and the United States start talks on how to respond to armed incidents that fall short of a full-scale attack on Japan, officials in Tokyo worry that their ally is reluctant to send China a strong message of deterrence.

Military officials meet this week in Hawaii to review bilateral defense guidelines for the first time in 17 years. Tokyo hopes to zero in on specific perceived threats, notably China's claims to Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea, while Washington is emphasizing broader discussions, officials on both sides say.

Washington takes no position on the sovereignty of the islands, called the Senkaku by Japan and the Diaoyu by China, but recognizes that Japan administers them and says they fall under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which obligates America to come to Japan's defense.

But even as Asia-Pacific security tensions mount, U.S. officials have made clear they do not want to get pulled into a conflict between the world's second- and third-biggest economies.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government is alarmed at China's rapid military buildup. Beijing in turn accuses Tokyo of being a regional threat, citing Abe's more nationalist stance, his reversal of years of falling military spending and his visit to a shrine that Asian countries see as glorifying Japan's wartime past.

"Japan wants to prioritize discussions on China and clarify the respective U.S. and Japanese roles in the event of a 'grey zone' incident," said a Japanese government official, referring to less than full-scale, systematic military attacks backed by a state but still representing a threat to Japan's security.

Tokyo wants Washington to join in drafting scenarios for how the two allies would respond in specific cases, he said.

But Washington is worried about provoking China by being too specific, say Japanese officials and experts.

"The United States is certainly ambivalent about this because they think it would drag them into a confrontation and possibly a conflict with China," said Narushige Michishita, who was a national security adviser to the government of Junichiro Koizumi from 2001-2006.

Chinese Energy Explorations in Afghanistan: A Case Study

10 March 2014
Madhavi Chakravarti
Research Intern, IPCS

China’s energy demand has increased manifold in the past decade. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that in the coming years, China will account for one-third of the world’s energy consumption. This quest for energy resources to meet its growing demand motivates Beijing towards Afghanistan’s untapped reserves of minerals, and oil and natural gas.

The Mines Project

In 2007, two Chinese state-owned companies – the China Metallurgical group Corporation (MCC) and the Jiangxi Copper Company – signed a 30-year deal with the Afghan government to mine copper in the eastern region of the country. This reserve, with an estimated 240 million metric tonnes of ore, pegged at $88 billion, is believed to be the world’s second-largest unexplored copper cache. China’s $3.5 billion-worth investment in the Mes Aynak copper mines located in Logar province has been the largest foreign direct investment in the Afghan history. Initially, this copper mine project included the construction of a 400 megawatt power plant, a copper smelter, and a railway line. 

However, this ambitious project has since been plagued by delays. First, unstable security situation resultant of the ongoing insurgency has made this site vulnerable to attacks. Ever since the MCC undertook this project, rampant looting and rocket-attacks have targeted the site, with 19 attacks in 2013 alone. Furthermore, abduction threats aimed at the staff have compelled the employees to pull out of the project. 

Second, Mes Aynak is home to an archeological site as well. Following the discovery of the historical site, international archeologists and organizations began campaigning and undertaking efforts to save the relics and artifacts. 

Six years since the signing of the deal, the Chinese have not been able to extract even a single gram of copper from this mine; and, now Beijing wants to renegotiate the deal that would cut their royalties towards the Afghan government, and postpone the construction of the railway line, the power plant and the smelter. This alteration in the plan has the potential to negatively affect any future foreign investment in Afghanistan.

Although the probability of China pulling out of this project is low, in an event of a Chinese pullout, India can fill in. 

China: On Li Keqiang’s Government Work Report 2014

Guest Column by Prof. B. R. Deepak

Premier Li’s government work report at Wednesday’s opening session of China’s annual session of the National People’s Congress comes three days after the Kunming railway station carnage allegedly carried out by the militants from the restive region of Xinjiang.

The meeting attended by about 3,000 deputies observed a moment of silence for the victims of the attack, and Li reiterated President Xi JInping’s remarks that China would ‘crack down hard on violent crimes of terrorism’ and safeguard China’s national security.

Premier Li’s report is divided into three parts: 2013 in retrospect; major targets for 2014; and major tasks for 2014. As regards the economic performance in 2013, Li’s said that ‘over the past year, we faced more difficulties than expected, however, the results were better than we expected.’ China had set a target of 7.5% growth rate but achieved 7.7% growth rate catapulting the GDP to 56.9 trillion yuan ($9.1 trillion). The per capita disposable income of urban residents also rose by around 7 percent. In contrast the per capita income of rural residents rose by 9.3 percent.

For the first time in Chinese economic history the service sector surpassed the industrial sector, contributing 46.1 percent to the GDP. In the urbanization drive, China undertook to build 6.6 million units of subsidized houses of which 5.4 million were completed; 7 million more would be built in 2014. The austerity drive in terms of government spending on transport, banquets and foreign tours that was initiated by President Xi after assuming office, Li reported that the central government spending was cut by 35% and that of provincial governments’ by 26%. It is another story that the drive have shut down many businesses catering to such services, as was revealed to this author by some friends while in China.

Austerity drive apart, China has contributed to the stabilization of world economy, especially when many countries across the world are reeling under the wrath of global economic meltdown.

As far as the year 2014 is concerned, GDP growth has been projected at about 7.5%. Li has intended to create 10 million urban jobs in this year and restrict the urban unemployment rate at a maximum 4.6%. The budget deficit is projected to be $218 billion accounting for 2.1% of the GDP. Nine major tasks outlined for the year 2014, are in sync with the general debate on development in China.

These include breakthroughs in reform in important areas, fostering domestic demand as the main engine of growth, agricultural modernization, people-centered urbanization, accelerating the development of education, health, culture etc. Li has also promised to cancel or delegate to lower-level governments another 200 administrative approvals in addition to last year’s 400 and more approvals.

Ukraine – A Case for Chinese Involvement

A Chinese scholar explains why Beijing may not want to sit this crisis out.

By Andong Peng
March 10, 2014

The situation in the Ukraine is delicate, to say the least. On balance, Russia is probably where it wants to be given its inability to prevent the initial ouster of Yanukovych: it controls a region over which it has a strong historical claim, and has managed to do this without creating any antagonism in the rest of the Ukraine that did not already exist. This has been done without fatalities, and Russia remains a potential “friend.” Having said that, with every passing day it is Russia rather than the West that will be under increasing pressure to come up a resolution to the impasse, especially given the U.S. position.

China has, as usual, sat on the sidelines without getting even remotely involved. And why should it? Neville Chamberlain’s description of conflict in “a far away country between people of whom we know nothing” was never more apt than in understanding China’s view of Eastern Europe, which holds little in the way of natural resources and for the moment does not represent a significant export market. True, the Chinese own 9 percent of Ukrainian farmland now; but the crisis has probably been welcomed insofar as it has relegated deeper analysis of the recent Kunming terrorist attack and the broader Xinjiang problem to the back pages.

Yet China is mistaken to sit back and do nothing on Ukraine, because there is something at stake. Strategically, Beijing may calculate that letting the Americans become “involved” in the Ukraine means a further weakening of Obama’s already rudderless efforts in the Pacific. But this is only half the story: if this involvement went on to constitute a “defeat” (any scenario where Russia ends up with a more secure border than before) it would help weaken the strongest weapon in the U.S. arsenal: the soft power effect. This would further dent belief across the world in the efficacy of American action, helping China in its own Asian strategy. Moreover, China has no interest in helping legitimize public protests as a form of sociopolitical reform and development. In Kiev, just as in comparable situations such as Istanbul, Cairo and Bangkok, there is an ongoing battle over the question of whether mass urban protest is justifiable and productive, and how outside powers should intervene with support or otherwise. China clearly is not incentivized to see the overthrow of incumbent regimes.

There is also a longer term calculation. China is in many ways an imperialistic power utilizing a “big country” approach towards diplomacy. It has demonstrated a reluctance to engage in diplomacy as viewed through the Westphalian paradigm, and its insensitivity constantly surprises Western observers. But there is one issue which it cares deeply about: Taiwan. And the Russian seizure of the Crimea provides an interesting template for China as to how eventual reunification might take place in the “worst case” scenario, namely through force. What the Russians have managed on their peninsula is to act quickly and decisively, presenting the world with a fait accompli. It has done so with very little violence, and through the mobilization of insiders supportive to the region, whether or not they are in the majority, it can present photogenic welcoming parties to the arriving forces. At the very least, the situation is not (even in the Western media) a black-and-white case of aggression. That is all that Russia needed; it is difficult to envisage any outcome of the crisis now which does not see Russia with a strengthened position in the Crimea, irrespective of what happens with the rest of the Ukraine. A corresponding outcome with Taiwan would suit China nicely.

Chinese Cheat Code

Mar 11, 2014

China’s story of ingress into Africa to displace the Americans and the Europeans has been studied. Western commentators are jealous of China’s status as No. 1 economic player in Africa.

Driving through Gaborone, the picturesque capital city of the tiny African nation of Botswana, is a visual delight. Abject poverty is unheard of, the traffic is orderly, and nature-friendly landscaping is akin to the mythical Xanadu. But last week, as I was taking in the clean evening air there, a power blackout suddenly brought everything to a standstill. Even the thoroughfare lights went blank and the famed Botswanan propensity to follow rules on the road came under strain. And then, my local driver began to curse China.
Botswana is at the receiving end of a massive Chinese con act in the field of infrastructure growth. A scantly populated, landlocked, medium-income country with an enviable GDP per capita of $7,600, Botswana has everything going for it except that it is desperately deficient in electricity. A few years ago, China arrived on this scene with its overgenerous cheque book and promised to launch a blitzkrieg of power sector construction projects that would render Botswana self-sufficient in energy.

What transpired thereafter was that Botswanans got cheated by China in a way they can never forget or forgive. Beijing’s state-owned China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) initially looked like a knight in shining armour in 2008 when it bagged a $970 million contract to deliver a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant in four years. Come 2012, however, CNEEC handed over a small fraction of the finished work, that too with serious technical flaws and flouting of safety standards that claimed the lives of Botswanan workers.

What began on a triumphant note as a shining example of South-South cooperation between China and Africa concluded in a shameful expulsion of CNEEC by an outraged Botswanan government, which incurred huge costs and earned the ire of the population for failure to overcome the worsening power outages. Instead of the Chinese project living up to the billing as Africa’s “fastest power station development”, it glaringly displayed the ethical and technical incompetence of China’s giant infrastructure corporations.

The sight of Botswanan security forces filing into the factory site at one point in time, to enforce labour and industrial standards which the Chinese operators had consistently breached, was an indicator of how exploitative the whole enterprise had become. One Botswanan intellectual reminiscing about that episode told me, “We had to take back not only our precious national resource, but also our high governance standards that were being blatantly flouted by the Chinese.”

The Black Box of China’s Military

Beijing is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on defense, but no one quite knows what they're up to.

MARCH 7, 2014

The People's Liberation Army does not have a website. There isChina Military Online, which boasts that it's "approved by the Central Military Commission," (CMC) the 11-member body chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which oversees the PLA, and is the military's "only news portal website." There are other Chinese news sites, like Chinamil, which hosts Liberation Daily, a newspaper put out by the PLA's general political department, the shadowy department tasked with running the army's political activities. And there's a website for China's Ministry of National Defense, an organ which is subordinate to the CMC, and which is nominally the public face of the PLA. But the world's largest standing army, and the CMC which oversees it, has decided not to bother.

On March 5, during an annual meeting of its legislature, Beijingannounced that it is increasing its military budget by 12.2 percent, to a total of $131.6 billion in 2014. While still less than a third of the $496 billion that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed in February for the U.S. military in 2015, it still represents a significant expansion, even after two decades of double-digit growth in the PLA's official budget. But few doubt that the grand total allocated to China's military is yet higher, and many in the U.S. government wish they had more insight into the method to the darkness surrounding the PLA.

There is general consensus that China, like many nations, spends more on its military than it reports: In February, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said that China's military budget reached $240 billion in 2013, according to Bloomberg. As the most salient data point of China's military, Beijing's official budget gets a lot of attention. And that's largely because there's little other information that comes with it. "The single number, without any accompanying detail, represents the sum total of public transparency by the world's second-largest defence spender and the fastest rising military power, pored over by intelligence agencies and military experts from around the world in an effort to glean any clues about China's future strategic intentions,"reported the Financial Times.

So how opaque is the PLA, and how much insight and information does the United States possess? It's important to distinguish between what the general public and the media understands, and classified information on the PLA available to U.S. government officials. "There's a big difference between what you know and what we know," said a senior Pentagon official, who asked to speak on background because of the sensitivity of the matter. The United States has long worried about the Chinese military's lack of openness. "They mock us some times, for how much we repeat" this call for a higher level of transparency, said the senior Pentagon official. Most recently, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, expressed concerns about the "aggressive" growth of the Chinese military and "their lack of transparency" in a February speech.

In Malaysia Airlines Disappearance, Terrorism Fears Fly in China

The country's netizens speculate about the missing plane, while its state media stays muzzled.

MARCH 10, 2014

Anguish, grief, and frustration have gripped China after the still-unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) en route from Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur to the Chinese capital of Beijing. There were 153 Chinese nationals among the 239 passengers and crew on board the plane when it vanished from radar screens in the early hours of March 8. At least two passengers on MH370 traveled on stolen passports, raising the possibility of foul play. Chatter and speculation about the flight have gripped Chinese social media -- as of this article's publication, seven of the 10 most-searched terms on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter, relate to the flight -- even as the country's state media remains relatively quiet.

The news of the plane's disappearance has struck a China already on high alert for terrorism.
The news of the plane's disappearance has struck a China already on high alert for terrorism. Only a week earlier on March 1, a gruesome knife attack in the train station of provincial capital Kunming in southern Yunnan province left at least 29 dead and more than 140 injured. Chinese authorities have deemed the carnage in Kunming a terrorist attack carried out by separatists from Xinjiang, a region in northwest China heavily populated by Uighur Muslims. On Chinese social media, a particularly anxious place after the Kunming horror, some speculation about the cause of MH370's disappearance has linked it to terrorism or sabotage. On March 10, well-known television host Yang Lan wrote to her 34 million followers on Weibo that "more and more signs are pointing to a terrorist attack." Huang Sheng, a professional investor and author, compared MH370's disappearance to the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 in 1988. Ran Xiongfei, a sports commentator, also wrote, "Everything is unknown, but signs of terrorism are becoming more noticeable."

By contrast, Chinese state-owned media have been very cautious not to draw conclusions about MH370's disappearance. While some state-owned media have translated international reports about possible probes into terrorism, People's Daily and China Central Television (CCTV), two of the Communist Party's flagship media outlets, have not explicitly associated the plane's disappearance with terrorism. Although many readers would likely prefer those outlets to engage the question directly, state media's hands are tied. According to the U.S.-based China Digital Times, China's Central Propaganda Department hasissued instructions prohibiting "independent analysis or commentary" of the incident. (The department frequently issues directives instructing Chinese media on what to say, or what not to.)