19 March 2014

Recent Trends in Vietnam-Japan Ties and Implications for India


Japan has been an important trading partner of Vietnam from the 16th century. The port of Hoi An close to Danang in Central Vietnam was an important trading port and Japanese ships visited this location frequently to undertake trading activities. During the Second World War, Japan exercised control over this region and thereafter relations remained dormant up to 1972. Diplomatic ties were established on 21 September 1972, but active commercial activities between the two countries resumed only after the return of the Vietnamese Army from Cambodia in 1989.

Thereafter relations between the two countries strengthened with Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) resuming in full swing in the year 1992. Since then both the countries have left no stone unturned to enhance their relationship.

Recent Trends

As stated, the new chapter in Vietnamese Japanese relationship began in 1992. Vietnam became a member of the ASEAN in 1995. ASEAN and Japan established formal relations in 1973, which was formalised in March 1977.

Japan has consistently backed all the initiatives of ASEAN and in 1997 Japan became a part of ASEAN+3 along with China and South Korea. Further with the formation of the East Asia Summit in 2005, Japan and Vietnam became part of a larger organisation and currently both of them are active members. They also are official negotiating partners of the Trans Pacific Partnership which also includes the United States.

Japan has contributed immensely to Vietnam’s economic development. ODA contribution itself is more than $ 21 billion. Foreign Direct Investment by Japan in Vietnam translates into 2103 projects with a registered capital of $ 34.5 billion. More than 500,000 Japanese tourists visited Vietnam in the preceding year. The point to note is that both the countries are bonding very closely resulting in mutual benefit.

The current geo political situation presents us with a few hard realities regarding Asia Pacific. China has become the most dominant economic and military power of Asia. Great powers have great ambitions and China has stirred up issues regarding its claims on the islands of the East China Sea, South China Sea and along the Sino-Indian border. This has caused tensions between China on the one hand and Japan, Vietnam and India on the other. The United States with its pivot to Asia policy is attempting to rebalance her naval deployment by positioning six of her Carrier Battle Groups to be positioned in the Asia Pacific Region. Further the US is trying to form a tri lateral alliance between US, India and Japan. Meanwhile, Russia is also gradually entering this region, with arms supplies to China, Vietnam and India. In this situation, the US is looking for a more assertive Japan which could possibly handle security situations independently. This obviously calls for a stronger Japanese Self Defence Forces which can play an operational role in the Western Pacific. It is pertinent to note that due to economic reasons the US is reducing its Defence budget as also the manpower of her Army which would be below the strength that existed during the First World War. Accordingly it is obvious that Japan would have to a large extent resolve strategic issues in the Western Pacific using its Self Defence Forces with limited support from the US.

Revealed: the MoD's secret cyberwarfare programme

Multimillion pound project will look at how internet users can be influenced by social media and other psychological techniques 

The Guardian, Sunday 16 March 2014

The MoD will explore how emerging technologies such as Twitter and Facebook can be harnessed by the military.

The Ministry of Defence is developing a secret, multimillion-pound research programme into the future of cyberwarfare, including how emerging technologies such as social media and psychological techniques can be harnessed by the military to influence people's beliefs.

Programmes ranging from studies into the role of online avatars to research drawing on psychological theories and the impact of live video-sharing are being funded by the MoD in partnership with arms companies, academics, marketing experts and thinktanks.

The Guardian has seen a list of those hired to deliver research projects, which have titles such as Understanding Online Avatars, Cognitive and Behaviour Concepts of Cyber Activities, and Novel Techniques for Public Sentiment and Perception Elicitation.

The projects are being awarded by a "centre of excellence" managed byBAE Systems, which has received about £20m-worth of MoD funding since 2012. The MoD plans to procure a further £10m-worth of research through the centre this year.

While the centre commissions a wide range of research, such as studies of alcohol consumption in the armed forces, a substantial stream of research comes under the heading of "information activities and outreach". The term is significant in that it has its roots in Britain's 2010 strategic defence review and national security strategy. Its aims include understanding the behaviour of internet users from different cultures, the influence of social media such as Twitter and Facebook and the psychological impact of increased online video usage on sites such as YouTube.

Typical targets, for now, would include groups of young internet users deemed at risk of being incited or recruited online to commit terrorism.

Kunming Terrorist Attack: A Resident’s Perspective

Our correspondent recounts the aftermath of the deadly knife attack. 
By William Smith
March 16, 2014 

At around 11 pm on March 1, I was in bed and about to fall asleep, when I saw a post on Facebook from a journalist friend of mine in the U.S. It said that a major violent incident had occurred at the Kunming Railway Station. Given that the station is only a 20-minute walk from where I live, I sent a text message to my girlfriend and a few close friends who live in the area advising them to be careful.

Normally, China is a safe place to live and the government puts a lot of emphasis on trying to keep society stable and harmonious. Nonetheless, it is a country still undergoing enormous change, and as elsewhere, this doesn’t come without its fair share of problems. Whether it’s ethnic strife or the widening gap between rich and poor, China has yet to arrive at a place of domestic stability.

I stayed up late checking for stories online about the attack. By midnight Chinese media had published a couple of stories, describing a knife attack at the station that had left dozens dead and more than a hundred injured. By 2 am, Google News was filling up with reports from news agencies around the world. My social network accounts were also overflowing with posts about the story. On Weibo, when the news came out that the attack might have been carried out by a group of people belonging to the Uyghur minority, one angry Chinese person started venting hate indiscriminately at all Muslims while offering exhortations such as “Kunming stay strong, let’s fight!” and “Pray for Kunming.”

The next morning, after a very poor sleep, I woke up and immediately returned to scouring the news from around the world, searching for answers. Eventually I pulled myself away from the computer and ventured out to meet up with friends. Over the next two days, I spoke with a number of Chinese and non-Chinese residents about the incident. One of the first Chinese people I met was a nurse who works at one of the main hospitals. She didn’t happen to be working the night of the attack, but said some of the casualties had been sent to her hospital and at least one of them had died in the emergency room soon after. “There was a lot of blood everywhere, it was very bad. The attackers knew what they were doing because they aimed at people’s vital organs.”

Hyderabad techie uploads satellite image of missing plane on CNN site

March 19, 2014 
Rahul Devulapalli

The satellite image of the purported Malaysian plane over Andaman Islands.

Going about his work nonchalantly at his office in Gachibowli, this techie probably beat search teams of various countries in finding a probable vital clue related to the missing Malaysian plane.

An IT analyst by profession, Anoop Madhav Yeggina had been scurrying through innumerable images of DigitalGlobe Satellite QB02 over the past few days until he stumbled upon an image which almost took his breath away.

He had found a satellite image of a large aircraft flying very low above the Andaman Islands on March 8 which he believes is the Boeing 777 of Malaysian airlines.

The 29-year-old is among the lakhs of people from across the globe involved in the ‘crowd-sourcing’ project to find the missing plane with more than 200 passengers on board. He had uploaded his “discovery” along with a write-up on the CNN website on Friday, March 14, and since then received more than 16,000 views, followed by many comments from viewers. “I am confident that the image is that of the missing plane because of many reasons. First giveaway is the fact that the image was captured just above a forest and very close to the Shibpur air strip of Andaman Islands. The air strip is exclusively used by the defence forces with no permission for civilian aircraft in this area. A close look at the image will reveal if it is flying extremely low so much so that the clouds are above it which suggests it was done to avoid detection by radar. Most importantly, the standard scale measurement and colour of the missing plane matches with that of the plane in the image,” said Mr. Anoop. Wishing for safety of the passengers, he had appealed online to people with technical know-how of aircraft to further investigate the image in order to trace its whereabouts.

© The Hindu

***** The Henderson-Brooks Report is out by Neville Maxwell

By IDR News Network
IssueNet Edition| Date : 18 Mar , 2014

The Henderson-Brooks/Bhagat Report of the 1962 is out!

Neville Maxwell, the author of India’s China War has posted the famous Report on his website. Here are his explanations.

(It is 17 MB low-resolution file and will take time to download completely)
My Henderson Brooks Albatross
Published 7th February, 2014

Those who gave me access to the Henderson Brooks Report when I was researching my study of the Sino-Indian border dispute laid down no conditions as to how I should use it. That they would remain anonymous went without saying, an implicit condition I will always observe, otherwise how the material was used was left to my judgement. I decided that while I would quote freelyfrom the Report, thus revealing that I had had access to it (and indeed had a copy), I would neither proclaim nor deny that fact; and my assumption was that the gist of the report having been published in 1970 in the detailed account of the Army’s debacle given in my India’s China War, the Indian government would release it after a decent interval.

In 1962, noting that all attempts in India to make the government release the Report had failed, I decided on a more direct approach and made the text available to the editors of three of India’s leading publications, asking that they observe the usual journalistic practice of keeping their source to themselves. To my surprise the editors concerned decided, unanimously, not to publish.

The passing of years showed that assumption to have been mistaken and left me in a quandary. I did not have to rely on memory to tell the falsity of the government’s assertion that keeping the Report secret was necessary for reasons of national security, I had taken a copy and the text nowhere touches on issues that could have current strategic or tactical relevance. The reasons for the long-term withholding of the report must be political, indeed probably partisan, perhaps even familial. While I kept the Report to myself I was therefore complicit in a continuing cover-up.

I marked the new century by publishing as an “Introduction to the Henderson Brooks Report” a detailed description, and account of the circumstances in which it was written, explaining its political and military context and summarising its findings (EPW, April 14, 2001): there was no public reaction in the Indian press or even among the chauvinist ranks of the academic security establishment. My first attempt to put the Report itself on the public record was indirect and low-key: after I retired from the University I donated my copy to Oxford’s Bodleian Library, where, I thought, it could be studied in a setting of scholarly calm. The Library initially welcomed it as a valuable contribution in that “grey area” between actions and printed books, in which I had given them material previously. But after some months the librarian to whom I had entrusted it warned me that, under a new regulation, before the Report was put on to the shelves and opened to the public it would have to be cleared by the British government with the government which might be adversely interested! Shocked by that admission of a secret process of censorship to which the Bodleian had supinely acceded I protested to the head Librarian, then an American, but received no response. Fortunately I was able to retrieve my donation before the Indian High Commission in London was alerted in the Bodleian’s procedures and was perhaps given the Report.

**** Russia Examines Its Options

March 18, 2014

By George Friedman

The fall of the Ukrainian government and its replacement with one that appears to be oriented toward the West represents a major defeat for the Russian Federation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia accepted the reality that the former Eastern European satellite states would be absorbed into the Western economic and political systems. Moscow claims to have been assured that former Soviet republics would be left as a neutral buffer zone and not absorbed. Washington and others have disputed that this was promised. In any case, it was rendered meaningless when the Baltic states were admitted to NATO and the European Union. The result was that NATO, which had been almost 1,000 miles from St. Petersburg, was now less than approximately 100 miles away.

This left Belarus and Ukraine as buffers. Ukraine is about 300 miles from Moscow at its closest point. Were Belarus and Ukraine both admitted to NATO, the city of Smolensk, which had been deep inside the Soviet Union, would have become a border town. Russia has historically protected itself with its depth. It moved its borders as far west as possible, and that depth deterred adventurers -- or, as it did with Hitler and Napoleon, destroyed them. The loss of Ukraine as a buffer to the West leaves Russia without that depth and hostage to the intentions and capabilities of Europe and the United States.

There are those in the West who dismiss Russia's fears as archaic. No one wishes to invade Russia, and no one can invade Russia. Such views appear sophisticated but are in fact simplistic. Intent means relatively little in terms of assessing threats. They can change very fast. So too can capabilities. The American performance in World War I and the German performance in the 1930s show how quickly threats and capabilities shift. In 1932, Germany was a shambles economically and militarily. By 1938, it was the dominant economic and military power on the European Peninsula. In 1941, it was at the gates of Moscow. In 1916, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson ran a sincere anti-war campaign in a country with hardly any army. In 1917, he deployed more than a million American soldiers to Europe.

Russia's viewpoint is appropriately pessimistic. If Russia loses Belarus or Ukraine, it loses its strategic depth, which accounts for much of its ability to defend the Russian heartland. If the intention of the West is not hostile, then why is it so eager to see the regime in Ukraine transformed? It may be a profound love of liberal democracy, but from Moscow's perspective, Russia must assume more sinister motives.

Defining India’s role in Nuclear Summit


India needs to highlight the dichotomy between word and deed in the matter of nuclear security at the summit being held next week in the Netherlands. Many countries subscribe to international agreements to protect their nuclear materials. However, they often transfer nuclear materials, technology and equipment in violation of these prohibitions
P. R. Chari

Participating countries at the Summit will be persuaded to commit themselves to reducing the use of highly enriched uranium and plutonium in reactors Photo: AFP 

HOW do we define nuclear security? Essentially, nuclear security involves the protection of nuclear materials to guard against its theft or diversion, or sabotage of a nuclear facility; it involves physical protection, deployment of guards to meet on sites and respond from off site to emergencies. Besides, it also involves automated systems to prevent unauthorised persons from gaining access to nuclear materials.

The Nuclear Security Summits that have reviewed these issues owe greatly to the initiatives taken by President Obama. It would be recollected that the break-up of the erstwhile Soviet Union and dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1990 had led to an acute angst regarding “loose nukes”.

Great fears arose that chaotic conditions in the erstwhile Soviet Republics would invite non-state actors to acquire nuclear materials and, perhaps, even operational nuclear weapons.

In his historic Prague speech (2009), President Obama highlighted the need to bring nuclear materials around the world under national and international control, and set a target of four years to accomplish this task.

Towards this end, he had declared that: “We will set new standards, expand our cooperation with Russia, pursue new partnerships to lock down these sensitive materials.” This task has yet to be completed, but it brooks no delay.

Significantly, IAEA Director-General Amano confessed that, “More than 100 incidents of thefts and other unauthorised activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials are reported to the IAEA every year…Some material goes missing and is never found.”

His predecessor, Mohamed El Baradei, had revealed that, “A large percentage of materials, which are recovered have not been previously reported as missing.”

Are we even aware then of the dimensions of this problem? Fortunately, no nuclear terrorist attack has occurred till now. But, the first such event would be as traumatic for the international system as the first use of nuclear weapons in 1945.

Two Nuclear Security Summits have been held earlier in Washington (2010) and Seoul (2012) that have underlined the need for maintaining strict security over weapons-usable nuclear materials. The Third Summit is scheduled to be held in the Netherlands on March 23 and 24. Holding the Third Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands has symbolic significance because the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court are situated in the Hague. Moreover, nuclear security in the Netherlands has been lax in the past. Apropos, A.Q Khan had stolen the blueprints for a uranium-enrichment plant from the Almelo plant in the Netherlands where he was employed.

Nuclear terrorism

What were the broad conclusions of the first two Summits? The danger of nuclear terrorism was appreciated in the Washington Summit. All world leaders present agreed to pool their efforts to secure nuclear materials, particularly such materials present in their own territory, apart from jointly improving global nuclear security. In Seoul, the participants further appreciated the need to protect radiological sources, which can be used to make a “dirty bomb” that releases radiation, causing panic and massive social disruption. In general, these two Summit meetings have sought to raise consciousness about the need to tighten controls over nuclear materials and establish greater transparency in regard to counter-measures taken.

In the upcoming 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, the United States, Netherlands and South Korea are likely to persuade participants to commit themselves to reducing the use of highly enriched uranium and plutonium in reactors; more frequent reviews by IAEA advisory missions; national registration and protection of radioactive sources; a greater role for industry in nuclear security issues; and more information being published by states on what steps they have taken to secure their nuclear materials and facilities. A major objective would also be gaining more adherents to implement the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines for protecting nuclear materials. These guidelines automatically become the national law in some Western countries, but this is not a universal practice.

Resolutions apart, what has been the success achieved so far? Significantly, the number of countries possessing one kilogramme or more of weapons-usable nuclear materials — a criterion used by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) in the US to estimate nuclear security worldwide — has reduced from 32 to 25 in the last two years, implying that seven states have removed dangerous nuclear materials from their territories. Some 12 others have reduced their holdings and arranged for their better security.

What has been India’s record in contributing to the goals of the Nuclear Security Summits? What could it do further to strengthen its own nuclear security, which is the main objective of these Summits meetings? Finally, what are the positions India could adopt in the next Summit meeting to refresh the debate?

India’s nuclear programme

Here, it would be fair to mention that India’s record is mixed. On the credit side. it might be highlighted that India has accepted its international legal obligations in regard to the security of its nuclear materials by entering the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials with its 2005 Amendment, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. India’s record in implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, concerned with preventing trafficking in materials, technology and equipment relevant to nuclear security has been exemplary. More significantly, no case of leakage of nuclear materials from India’s extensive nuclear programme has ever come to light.

On the debit side, however, it also needs mention that India has been reluctant to inform what are its on-site and off-site emergency response arrangements for its civilian nuclear facilities, although they have been established and are believed to be working satisfactorily. Nothing apart from a general penchant for secrecy can explain this reticence, apart from the belief that transparency compromises national security.

Further, India had committed to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit that it would establish an independent regulatory board to oversee its nuclear programme. It had also laid its Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill before Parliament in 2011. However, this Bill has not been passed, and has now lapsed with the last session of Parliament having ended. Hopefully, the next government will accord priority to this matter. But this issue would have to be suitably explained to the Summit participants. Some apologists for the government have claimed that India already has adequate oversight provisions through its Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB); since it functions under the administrative control of the Atomic Energy Department, there is scepticism about its independence.

Besides, India had also volunteered to establish a Centre of Excellence for sensitising and training personnel in nuclear safety and security issues. It is believed that land has been acquired for this Centre in Haryana, and buildings and other infrastructure will come up soon. Apparently, its charter of duties and mode of functioning have also been decided upon, but this information, too, is not in the public domain. There is still time for New Delhi to finalise remaining issues make a public announcement, and inform the Summit meeting accordingly.

A general issue that India should highlight in the Summit meeting is the dichotomy between words and deeds in the matter of nuclear security. Many countries subscribe to international agreements to protect their nuclear materials, establish regulatory authorities to oversee their nuclear programmes and so on. But, several have also transferred nuclear materials, technology and equipment clandestinely in violation of these prohibitions with impunity. The usual suspects hardly need mention, but they present major security threats to India. That apart, several firms in the West have also indulged in such illicit trade for commercial reasons, and with official indulgence. For instance, there is incontrovertible evidence that supplies to Iraq’s nuclear program in the Saddam era were made by several European countries and the United States. An airing of these uncomfortable issues could be initiated by India. How could India contribute further to the success of this Summit? Two suggestions are made here. First, its gifting of $1 m to the IAEA for strengthening its supervisory functions has been appreciated. India could raise the relevance of this UN body by making a further donation and also by offering to train IAEA personnel in its newly created Centre of Excellence. Second, India might erode its penchant for secrecy, become more forthcoming, and agree to a “peer review” of its nuclear security arrangements by international experts or the IAEA.

Some part of its present reluctance to accept this dispensation derives from the inability of the nuclear establishment to coordinate its policies with the foreign policy and defence bureaucracies.

Besides, India could also draw attention to the dangers involved in transporting nuclear materials, which will increase in future as appreciation grows regarding the need to keep spent fuel away from nuclear facilities, post the Fukushima disaster. Apropos. India’s atomic power plants are also situated along its coastline, and are vulnerable to cyclones and other turbulences. This also applies to transferring radiological substances like Cobalt-60, which came into a Delhi market some years back. The need, therefore, to establish international norms for transferring nuclear materials by different modes of transport should be pressed by India.

Nuke talks

The Nuclear Security Summit was establisehd with the aim of preventing terrorism around the globe.

The first summit was held in Washington, DC on April 12-13, 2010. It saw participation by 47 countries

The 2014 summit, to be held in the Netherlands, will be attended by 58 world leaders, nearly 5,000 delegates and some 3,000 journalists

India Adrift


US-India relations are not in great shape. One indicator: India’s National Security Adviser, Shivshankar Menon, reacted to the arrest and strip search of an Indian diplomat for visa fraud and disregarding US labor laws as “despicable and barbaric.” In contrast, Menon had difficulty finding his voice when a battalion of PLA soldiers camped out for three weeks nine miles inside India’s disputed border with China. Granted, the strip search was extremely worthy of outrage. But still, the differential in official Indian indignation was telling.

Another indicator: India’s liability laws have so far prevented US corporations from constructing nuclear powers plants on Indian soil. The George W. Bush administration and its backers worked very hard to secure a special exemption for India from the international guidelines of nuclear commerce, hoping to build up India as a counterweight to China. So far, they have little to show for their efforts. Bilateral ties will continue to improve, as evidenced by India becoming the number one recipient of US arms sales. But hiccups are the rule, rather than the exception when two democratically unruly, independent-minded, and exceptional states try to work together.

The malaise in bilateral relations reflects a deeper malaise within India itself. How can a country with so much potential, entrepreneurship, and vitality become so torpid? For a start: tired leadership with an absence of ambition, endemic corruption, and an inability to tackle longstanding, structural pathologies, including those relating to national security.

The Kargil Review Commission, led by K. Subrahmanyam, clarified a laundry list of failings after dissecting India’s intelligence and military deficiencies associated with Pakistan’s surprise initiative along the Kashmir divide in 1999. Failure at the macro level, Subrahmanyam wrote, was one of stasis:

There has been very little change over the past 52 years despite the 1962 debacle, the 1965 stalemate, and the 1971 victory, the growing nuclear threat, end of the cold war, continuance of proxy war in Kashmir for over a decade and the revolution in military affairs.

Fifteen years later, very little has been done to follow up on the Kargil Commission’s recommendations, prompting a spate of new reports and critiques. Here’s a sampler:.

“[S]tagnation of thought hardly serves the national interests.” – “India’s Nuclear Doctrine: An Alternative Blueprint,” Task Force Report convened by P.R. Chari of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, 2012

“Dealing with the challenges presented by Pakistan and China requires several crucial changes to our defence and security structures. First, we should establish a Maritime Commission that will guide the development of India’s maritime capabilities… Second, we need to increase functional efficiency and improve civil-military relations, and this will require the establishment of an integrated Ministry of Defence by populating the ministry with civilian and armed forces personnel… A Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff should head the existing Integrated Defence Staff, which should become the Military Department of the Ministry of Defence. Third, we should establish integrated commands—which will be both regional and functional that includes Special Forces, Air Defence and Logistics. Fourth, the regional commanders should report to a Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff…” — “Nonalignment 2.0: A Foreign and Strategic Policy for India in the Twenty-First Century,” Sunil Khilnani et. al., 2012.

Three pitfalls of democracy

A 2013 UN report stated that a third of the world’s poorest people live in India. 
Written by Shombit Sengupta | March 16, 2014

Political parties are ferreting out silver screen personalities as candidates to woo and gloriously pull in their fan base.

India, the world’s most populous democracy, never converges to nation building. A 2013 UN report stated that a third of the world’s poorest people live in India.

Democratic pitfalls in politics: In our democracy, anybody can get a party ticket to become an MLA or MP and wield power. Even a murderous criminal, slapped with court cases, can become an electoral candidate; as also a jailbird who can pull strings to emerge on bail. Political parties are ferreting out silver screen personalities as candidates to woo and gloriously pull in their fan base. They mostly win, but it is not clear whether it is through popularity or arm-twisting the public.

In empowering retired film stars as politicians, their on-screen fame gets transferred to political power. What can a film star deliver to the country? Indian film audiences particularly favour fantastical and theatrical plots, so that’s become the standard output from Bollywood and regional cinema. Short on real social relevance, these films do not project new ideas nor any futuristic social or technology trends. Their documentation of history does not help the public learn something beyond the obvious. Through cinematography, film personalities such as Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Meryl Streep, Georges Lucas, Luis Buñuel, Ingmar Bergman, Vittorio Gassman, among others, have incited a paradigm shift in people’s ideation, inspired invention, and shown different dimensions that combine art, socio-cultural change and philosophical debates.

India’s film personalities are yet to be credited with having bought in newness that’s changed society. Their popularity is based on their professional talent of dancing, acting and off-screen love affairs. Most live in a paradisiacal world; they provide low-cost entertainment, particularly to the poor. Non-resident Indians (NRI) also lap up these films of unbelievable, mythical or ideal social life stories not seen in Western society.

Can filmy people solve administrative or development issues through politics? Do they understand the requirements of the poor, of employment, of city infrastructure? Poverty-stricken voters, who have no choice in the way they live, imagine that these film personalities who create miracles in cinema may also create fantasy in politics. They like the idea of unreachable stars being physically visible. Political parties use stars to camouflage that which is unsavoury. It’s almost like FMCG products using film stars in advertisements or as brand ambassador to gloss over the product’s quality deficiencies. Should professionally active stars paint their faces for the studio floor or the floor of Parliament? The answer is part of democratic India’s political science.

In this context, a candidate like Nandan Nilekani is unique in every sense but his party should not use him to hide its defects. I’d earlier written (in October 2009 http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/romancing-the-unpredictable/524662/0 and October 2013http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/entrepreneurial-politicians/1187806/0) that India needs high quality technocrats and visionary entrepreneurs to govern. I consider Nilekani an apolitical doer. He has displayed integrity, entrepreneurship with ingenuity, managerial leadership in his business career and successfully devised the mammoth Aadhaar project. Even if his political party does not win the election, whoever forms the government should be obliged to take him in a paradigm changing role. I have seen such an example made by French President Francois Mitterrand who took people from the Opposition as ministers. He played the role of a national president, not a political party’s president.

Underprivileged people’s democratic pitfall: The disastrous way that most of our underprivileged people live —- with no shelter, work, education or food and non-existent social security — seems to be a democratic right. Nobody, least of all the government, has made sufficient effort to educate them practically, provide jobs, improve their living style. The longer they live in such non-empowered situations, the less will they know about how to fight for their rights. Is this their democracy? Political parties enjoy the underprivileged people vote bank, and make promises that are rarely kept after the votes come in. Political dramas pop up on TV nowadays. It’s all about candidates, ink smearing, polls predictions, analysts interpreting poll results, rallies, violence, dynasties and tea-seller politics. Does the underprivileged 80 per cent understand this circus? They know that the day they cast their vote is a ceremonial one; they expect no return.

Social and infrastructure democratic pitfall: Our democratic code is so tolerant that a man can urinate anywhere on the street with no civic consideration and no social respect. He’s oblivious to women walking past him. This act becomes disgraceful because it’s done in full public view, but who cares? Is tampering with public infrastructure another democratic right? Overloaded trucks damage smaller roads they are not supposed to ply on. To place underground broadband or electrical cables, a road contractor digs trench-like holes. Sometimes he does not refill the hole for months, even years. Obviously cars and motorbikes get stuck at night; people fall in, at times even break bones. After one contractor loosely fixes the road, the next, the contractor for drain pipes, starts digging again. There’s just no respite for citizens. The trend is never to finish any work elegantly or on time. This is the continuity of jugaad, an intrinsic part of our democracy.

Comparing pitfalls in our democracy to the Rubik cube puzzle, it’s almost impossible to get the single colour winning pattern. As all political parties in India are looking for coalition partners, perhaps we need to learn from European league football clubs like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Manchester United on how to lease and mix players of different political parties to make an exciting team. World Cup football represents individual countries, but league football very successfully gets the best players from different countries. Should we get a league team coach to train us on how to manage a coalition like European league football?

Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management. 

** On the Wrong Side of Globalization


Trade agreements are a subject that can cause the eyes to glaze over, but we should all be paying attention. Right now, there are trade proposals in the works that threaten to put most Americans on the wrong side of globalization.

The conflicting views about the agreements are actually tearing at the fabric of the Democratic Party, though you wouldn’t know it from President Obama’s rhetoric. In his State of the Union address, for example, he blandly referred to “new trade partnerships” that would “create more jobs.” Most immediately at issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which would bring together 12 countries along the Pacific Rim in what would be the largest free trade area in the world.

Negotiations for the TPP began in 2010, for the purpose, according to the United States Trade Representative, of increasing trade and investment, through lowering tariffs and other trade barriers among participating countries. But the TPP negotiations have been taking place in secret, forcing us to rely on leaked drafts to guess at the proposed provisions. At the same time, Congress introduced a billthis year that would grant the White House filibuster-proof fast-track authority, under which Congress simply approves or rejects whatever trade agreement is put before it, without revisions or amendments.

Controversy has erupted, and justifiably so. Based on the leaks — and the history of arrangements in past trade pacts — it is easy to infer the shape of the whole TPP, and it doesn’t look good. There is a real risk that it will benefit the wealthiest sliver of the American and global elite at the expense of everyone else. The fact that such a plan is under consideration at all is testament to how deeply inequality reverberates through our economic policies.

Worse, agreements like the TPP are only one aspect of a larger problem: our gross mismanagement of globalization.

Let’s tackle the history first. In general, trade deals today are markedly different from those made in the decades following World War II, when negotiations focused on lowering tariffs. As tariffs came down on all sides, trade expanded, and each country could develop the sectors in which it had strengths and as a result, standards of living would rise. Some jobs would be lost, but new jobs would be created.

Today, the purpose of trade agreements is different. Tariffs around the world are already low. The focus has shifted to “nontariff barriers,” and the most important of these — for the corporate interests pushing agreements — are regulations. Huge multinational corporations complain that inconsistent regulations make business costly. But most of the regulations, even if they are imperfect, are there for a reason: to protect workers, consumers, the economy and the environment.

What’s more, those regulations were often put in place by governments responding to the democratic demands of their citizens. Trade agreements’ new boosters euphemistically claim that they are simply after regulatory harmonization, a clean-sounding phrase that implies an innocent plan to promote efficiency. One could, of course, get regulatory harmonization by strengthening regulations to the highest standards everywhere. But when corporations call for harmonization, what they really mean is a race to the bottom.

When agreements like the TPP govern international trade — when every country has agreed to similarly minimal regulations — multinational corporations can return to the practices that were common before the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts became law (in 1970 and 1972, respectively) and before the latest financial crisis hit. Corporations everywhere may well agree that getting rid of regulations would be good for corporate profits. Trade negotiators might be persuaded that these trade agreements would be good for trade and corporate profits. But there would be some big losers — namely, the rest of us.

AFGHANISTAN’S CHOICES - India would gain if Hamid Karzai signs the BSA

Rudra Chaudhuri 

In an interview on February 26, 2014, the American secretary of state, John Kerry, argued that his nation was entering a phase of “new isolationism”. “We,” he asserted, “are beginning to behave like a poor nation.” Kerry was referring to what he felt was the United State of America’s growing political intolerance for continued engagement in world politics. His observations could not have been better timed. It coincided with the insistence of the Afghanistan president, Hamid Karzai, that his administration will not enter into what is widely known as the bilateral security agreement or BSA. This is, according to most American interlocutors, an essential legal instrument designed to allow at least some US troops to remain in Afghanistan following the planned (and, in fact, ongoing) withdrawal of a majority of Western forces. As the US secretary of defence, Chuck Hagel, put it, if left unsigned, the Pentagon will have to exercise a “zero option” or a complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

So far, Karzai has refused to sign the BSA. Insiders argue that his outright rejection of the BSA has to do with factors shaped by both domestic compulsions — matters to do with perception and the upcoming elections — and self-preservation. There is no doubt that Karzai is looking to secure a set of assurances to remain politically active in Kabul. Constitutionally, he is supposed to step down. That he will probably do so following the elections in the first week of April is in little doubt. Equally, that he will continue to remain an unofficial but central figure in Afghan politics in the immediate future is also in little doubt.

The fact that he is to be given a palatial property once occupied by the monarchy and till recently the United Nations across from the current presidential palace is perhaps the clearest signal that the president — in his late 50s — intends to serve as a non-executive elder shaping politics and policy. Yet, and his personal and political rationales aside, Karzai’s non-committal approach to the BSA and his somewhat flirtatious attitude towards the future security of Afghanistan have immediate repercussions. It strengthens the hands of those in Washington who advocate isolationism, pushing the US president, Barack Obama, to focus even more on economic growth, employment and pay greater attention to fortifying the US against future recessionary trends.

Further, it is likely to encourage insurgent factions committed to fighting rather than talking to either silence or towards marginalizing their comrades attracted to the idea of peace. Either way, for India, there are no optimum options. Afghanistan without US troops will almost certainly move to civil war. Given a raging insurgency determined to squash prospects of peace, India’s ability to even lightly shape the future of Afghanistan and cement its presence within it will remain a key challenge for the government following the general elections. In the immediate future, that is between now and the general elections within India, it might well be worth considering the following two points of argument.

First, it is in India’s interests to persuade Karzai to sign the BSA. From the outset, some might argue that New Delhi simply does not have the adequate leverage or the need to do so. Indeed, maintaining a degree of distance from what has already become a public and deeply entrenched political fight between Obama and Karzai might be thought to better serve Indian interests. This is a short-sighted view. Karzai may not be dependent on India — as he is on Iran and Pakistan, for altogether different reasons — but he is pre-disposed to what might be considered the politics of counter-vulnerability, or simply put: diplomatic balance. It is in Karzai’s interest to demonstrate to Pakistan that Kabul has diplomatic and economic options available in India’s willingness to continue to remain economically and politically engaged in Afghanistan. To be sure, such alternative realities have done well to further embed a degree of paranoia amongst Pakistan’s security elites, many of whom are at least partially convinced that India seeks nothing less than political control of Afghanistan. That such ideas are completely disconnected from reality or capability is another matter altogether. What matters is that the perceptions of India’s reach that serve to check Pakistani over-reach in Kabul, providing Karzai with a mirage of influence that Pakistan’s military tsars simply cannot ignore.

Of course, and apart from the value of making the best of diplomatic psychology, Karzai is acutely aware of the relatively modest but still imperative economic assistance India provides — details of which are widely understood. To be sure, a reduction in the numbers of American-led troops in Afghanistan has a direct causal impact on India’s ability to continue to exert influence within the state. This is of course not to say that India is wholly dependent on the security cover provided by the Western alliance. Many in India would argue that Iranian intelligence assets and cooperation as well as India’s more traditional connections with Tajik and Uzbek elites do well to at least provide New Delhi with minimal security guarantees. However, the US military’s ability to operationally function across most of the country only helps to serve Indian interests. It, at least in part, places checks on Taliban factions determined to politically and militarily control larger parts of Afghanistan than they already do. Hence, gently pushing Karzai to sign the BSA (or a politically more acceptable formulation) before the Afghan elections is squarely in India’s interests.

Second, most insiders suggest that the security situation within Afghanistan is likely to worsen. The Taliban — a ubiquitous term used to label a number of groups often fighting for competing interests — is said to be highly diffused. Indeed, the politically moderate elements — once led by Mullah Omar — based out of Quetta, or the so-called Quetta Shura, are said to lack respect amongst those fighting on the frontlines. Rather, the military faction of the Afghan Taliban is said to function out of Peshawar with little or no concern for a political solution. Most of these leaders appear convinced that all-out victory is not only possible but within their reach.

An Afghan army of 2,00,000 or more hardly restrains those who are only kept in check by drones, sophisticated surveillance assets run by the US and the physical existence of troops and equipment along the treacherous border areas with Pakistan. Withdrawal of such assets will, according to well placed Afghan watchers, have a direct impact on the Afghan Taliban’s military committee’s ability to exert further control over much of eastern and southern Afghanistan. This will also marginalize the select supporters of reconciliation within the movement. Karzai’s acceptance of the BSA will help temper the kinetic enthusiasm of those fighting a war out of Peshawar. The longer he dithers, the deadlier the risks to countries like India. In fact, New Delhi ought to read the impending crisis between Karzai and Obama as a matter of a “zero option” for itself. The math is simple: the scale of reduction in the number of American troops equals the relative reduction in India’s ability to wield continued political influence.

Untimely death blows Afghan election wide open

BBC, 15 March 2014
By Ahmed Rashid

When US General Joseph Dunford, the senior coalition commander in Afghanistan, addressed the Senate Armed Services Committee on 12 March, he spoke largely to the four walls and empty seats in a room that once used to be packed with journalists, diplomats and academics analysing every twist of US policy in Afghanistan.

The empty room illustrated how Afghanistan has disappeared from the top of the agenda of US and European policy makers and public and media consciousness.

However, in a few weeks, Afghans go to the polls to elect a new president. A fraud-free election and a peaceful political transition from President Hamid Karzai to a new president, accepted by the majority of the people, will ultimately matter far more for the future stability of Afghanistan and the region than speculation about the US troop withdrawal or the machinations of the Taliban.

Yet critically, even after thousands of dead and $1 trillion (£602bn) spent, no-one has a clue as to the outcome of the elections or what will happen next.

A series of recent events has left Afghans and the international community even more uncertain as to the outcome of the elections on 5 April and whether they will be free and fair.

The untimely death of Vice-President Marshal Mohammed Fahim has left a huge vacuum in Mr Karzai's plans to get his favoured candidate - the former Pashtun national security adviser Zalmai Rassoul - elected.

As the leader of the powerful Panjsheri Tajiks and the designated leader of the former Shura-e Nezar or what used to be called the Northern Alliance made up of all the non-Pashtun ethnic groups and warlords, Mr Fahim's powers of wheeling and dealing with those groups were vital to Mr Karzai's plans.


By Balasubramaniyan Viswanathan

Recent revelations pointing to links between Al Qaeda and the Indian Mujahideen have surprised many counter terrorism experts. These revelations have largely come in the form of a charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India, stating that the Indian Mujahideen leadership has been on the lookout for an opportunity to establish links with Al Qaeda and the Pakistan Taliban.

This alliance, if it takes shape or has already materialized, will have huge ramifications for the security and stability of the South Asian region as a whole. Unequivocally, this development would be pertinent to policymakers in India as it would directly impact the country’s internal security. However, apart from India, there would be another country with cause for concern: Pakistan.

Pakistan has been at the center of the war on terror owing to its proximity to Afghanistan. It is also home to different fundamentalist and terrorist constituents who have varied interests and objectives. They are can be broadly divided as follows:

Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have used Pakistani territory in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) for sanctuary or as a strategic retreat when faced with NATO operations in Afghanistan. Their primary objective is to overthrow the Afghan government.

Pakistan Taliban. The Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), better known as the Pakistan Taliban, is based in and around the Waziristan area. Their main objective is to overthrow the Pakistani state.

Kashmiri Militants. Groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) are some of the more prominent groups whose interest is geared towards jihad in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. Their principle objective is to “liberate” Kashmir from India.

Given the existence of groups with such divergent objectives, Pakistan has been known to support some groups with various ideological bents in one way or another. However, Pakistan has more consistently supported non-state actors from the Kashmiri coterie as an unofficial foreign policy measure against India.

On the other hand, Pakistan was instrumental in supporting the Afghan Taliban prior to the 9/11 attacks. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the only countries which recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan’s honeymoon with the Taliban ended soon after the 9/11 attacks; even if elements within the Pakistani armed forces are still sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda cause. An ample testimony to this is the discovery of Osama bin laden in Abbottabad, located in northeastern Pakistan. Common sense dictates that this would not have been possible without some official Pakistani help. These instances point to assistance from certain influential pockets within the Pakistani government, who are opposed to the US-led war on terror and have tacitly supported these groups in all forms.

The US focus is predominantly on the Afghan region and areas dominated by the Pakistan Taliban in Pakistan’s western frontier. US cooperation with the Pakistani government is against Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and the Pakistan Taliban, all of which threaten US interests. At the same time, The United States has outlawed Kashmiri Jihadi groups like LeT, HM, and JeM. Notwithstanding the ban on Kashmiri groups, these outfits have continued to thrive thanks to tacit support from elements of the Pakistani government.

The Tatmadaw’s Divide-and-Rule Tactics in Myanmar

Who is the ultimate target of the ongoing armed ethnic conflict? 
By David Brenner
March 17, 2014

Myanmar’s army – the Tatmadaw – has a successful track-record of employing divide-and-rule tactics to counter ethnic armed insurgency in the country’s restive borderlands. Preventing the formation of a united front of ethnic armed groups has long been of major importance to the country’s military. The Burmese Communist Party (BCP), a former umbrella group that encompassed various ethnic armies, has proven how dangerous unity among the country’s numerous ethnic rebel movements can be. Since the BCP’s breakup in the late 1980s, the Tatmadaw has done everything it can to single out individual armed groups. While it struck ceasefire deals with some, it concentrated its firepower on others.

These ceasefire accords have mostly been accompanied by lucrative business concessions, which had another divide-and-rule effect. It sparked factionalizing within armed ethnic groups, with some leaders getting rich and corrupt while others held on to their revolutionary principles. It also created an ever widening divide between rebel organizations and local ethnic minority communities. While rebels turned into businessmen, exploiting their territories’ natural resources in collaboration with the Tatmadaw and foreign companies, little wealth trickled down to the ordinary populace. These internal splits often created turmoil within ethnic armed groups and significantly weakened their military strength.

While divide-and-rule tactics have worked to curtail insurgency, it has been argued elsewhere that they might actually be detrimental to the country’s peace process. This is because divided interests among armed groups have repeatedly complicated the finding of a common stance towards negotiating with the government, as was evidenced by the latest marathon armed ethnic conference in Karen State. This stands in the way of a nationwide ceasefire accord, on which peace negotiations need to build upon. Moreover, agreements that might eventually be reached at the negotiation table between Naypyidaw and ethnic insurgency movements need be implemented afterwards. If armed group leaders do not enjoy the full support of their movements, this will be impossible.

Chinese Engagement in Africa

Drivers, Reactions, and Implications for U.S. Policy

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Research Questions 
  • What are China's and African countries' respective goals, in both the political and economic spheres, for Chinese-African engagement, and how do they work to achieve these goals? 
  • How have African governments and populations reacted to Chinese engagement, and how has China adjusted its policies to accommodate these often-hostile responses? 
  • Are the United States and China are competing for influence, access, and resources in Africa? 
  • What opportunities might exist for the China and the United States to cooperate in Africa in ways that advance their mutual interests, as well as those of their African partners? 


Most analyses of Chinese engagement in Africa focus either on what China gets out of these partnerships or the impacts that China's aid and investment have had on African countries. This analysis approaches Sino-African relations as a vibrant, two-way dynamic in which both sides adjust to policy initiatives and popular perceptions emanating from the other. The authors focus on (1) Chinese and African objectives in the political and economic spheres and how they work to achieve them, (2) African perceptions of Chinese engagement, (3) how China has adjusted its policies to accommodate often-hostile African responses, and (4) whether the United States and China are competing for influence, access, and resources in Africa and how they might cooperate in the region.

Fallen Tiger, Shaken Dragon

MAR 14, 2014 2

Minxin Pei is Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and a non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. 

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Less than 18 months after becoming General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping is poised to cage the biggest political “tiger” – a corrupt top official – in the history of the People’s Republic. Although rumors of the imminent fall of former internal security chief Zhou Yongkang have been swirling for months, many observers remained unsure whether Xi would prosecute Zhou and thus break the party’s long-established unwritten rule of immunity for sitting or retired members of the Politburo Standing Committee.

But doubts about Zhou’s fate have now been dispelled by a recent flurry of uncensored news stories in the Chinese media that revealed shocking details of corruption involving Zhou’s family and former subordinates. One newspaper reported that the authorities recently searched the homes of Zhou’s two brothers. Though these stories have yet to implicate Zhou directly, it will be only a matter of time before the Chinese government officially charges him with corruption.

Whispered reports are even more lurid. Zhou is said to have plotted to murder his first wife, and there are rumors that at the height of last year’s scandal involving disgraced former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, he attempted to assassinate Xi in the leadership compound at Zhongnanhai.

Based on what the Chinese press has disclosed thus far, it is clear that the Zhou case will be the ugliest and most sensational scandal involving a senior party leader that the country has ever seen. It will make Bo, an ally of Zhou and a former Politburo member who was sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption, look like a petty thief.

Apparently, the Chinese government is meticulously building a case against Zhou by pursuing two critical leads. The first one targets his son, Zhou Bin, a businessman who has amassed a huge fortune through shady deals and possibly criminal activities.

With so many officials and private businessmen eager to curry favor with his father, Zhou Bin had no difficulty cashing in. His business activities include brokering sales of oil-field equipment to Iraq (causing huge losses for Chinese state-owned oil companies); construction of hydroelectric power stations in Sichuan (where his father was the provincial party boss from 1997 to 2002); providing information technology for 8,000 state-owned gas stations; and investments in real estate, oil exploration, and toll roads.

The most damaging revelation so far concerns Zhou Bin’s friendship with a billionaire mafia boss, Liu Han, who is now standing trial for organized crime and murder. Liu made his fortune with Zhou Bin’s help. In one case, the younger Zhou allegedly used his political connections to help Liu sell two hydroelectric power stations to a state-owned power company for a profit of ¥2.2 billion ($330 million).

The second lead centers on Zhou Yongkang’s former lieutenants. A tactic favored by Chinese anti-corruption investigators is to detain junior officials who have worked closely with their primary target. Typically, these minions are threatened with long prison sentences, or even the death penalty, unless they cooperate.

In this case, a dozen officials who worked for Zhou in the energy sector in Sichuan and in the Ministry of Public Security (where Zhou was Minister from 2003 to 2008) have been arrested. Most ominously for Zhou, the officials include two of his former executive assistants, who presumably have intimate knowledge of Zhou’s activities.

When the Chinese government formally announces Zhou’s arrest – probably after the conclusion of the annual session of the National People’s Congress in mid-March – the revelations of the rot within the Chinese party-state will stun even the most jaded observers. What Zhou, his family, and their cronies have done can be described only as insatiable looting and blatant gangsterism.

More important, the Zhou scandal will almost certainly implicate a record number of senior officials. As of now, one minister, two provincial vice governors, one vice minister, and several senior executives in state-owned oil companies have been detained. More officials are expected to fall in the coming year.

For Xi, ensnaring Zhou in his anti-corruption net will likely provide a boost in his popular standing. He can show a skeptical Chinese public that he has the political will to take down one of the country’s most powerful politicians. Moreover, vanquishing a once-untouchable politician will leave no doubt about Xi’s personal authority.

For the rest of the world, the unfolding Zhou scandal reconfirms a profoundly worrisome fact: the Middle Kingdom remains deeply corrupt. Caging a tiger will not destroy a vampire.