13 April 2014

‘Militants using global SIM cards’

Published: April 13, 2014

Sandeep Joshi

The HinduIronically, despite the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommending a four-pronged action plan for improving telecom services in Assam, neither the DoT nor the USOF has managed to implement any plan on the ground.

Poor telecom connectivity hindering security operations: Assam government

Alarmed at growing use of international SIM cards by insurgents in the north-east and poor mobile connectivity affecting the maintenance of law and order, the Assam government has asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to install more mobile towers in the State, particularly along the international borders and in remote areas.

The Assam government has raised with the DoT the issue of slow pace of expansion of mobile tower infrastructure in the State and sought strengthening of mobile network in “sensitive areas” on priority.

In a letter to Telecom Secretary M.F. Farooqui, Assam Chief Secretary Jitesh Khosla has explained how poor telecom connectivity was hindering security forces in carrying out operations against insurgent groups and manning international borders.

“Due to its geographical location and history of insurgency and extremism, Assam faces many challenges to maintenance of law and order and many threats from forces inimical to national security. It shares a long international border with Bangladesh and Bhutan and faces several serious ethno/communal sub-nationalist conflicts and militancy. Besides, there are equally contentious inter-State border disputes which need constant monitoring. In this background, an effective communication system is sine qua non for effective security monitoring of the State,” says the letter, a copy of which is in the possession of The Hindu.

Pointing out that mobile communication network in Assam is far from satisfactory, particularly in forest and hilly areas, and on inter-State and international borders, the letter says: “Due to several communication shadow areas, some miscreants even use mobile SIM cards of foreign countries. This hinders proper reporting of incidents, effective surveillance and coordinated response by the security forces.”

“Given such a backdrop, it is desirable that the projects for installation of base transmission stations [BTS] in the communication shadow areas of Assam, particularly in Karbi-Anglong, Dima-Hasao, Goalpara, BTAD [Bodo Territorial Autonomous District] areas and along the Assam-Arunachal border and the Assam-Nagaland border be taken up on priority basis,” it adds.

China Expands Cyber Spying

Mandiant’s latest report concludes Chinese cyber espionage has expanded despite embarrassing public exposures.

April 12, 2014

A new industry report says that the Chinese government has expanded the scope of its cyber espionage despite the greater public scrutiny these operations received in 2013.

The new report was published by Mandiant, now part of FireEye, the same company that in February 2013 published the much discussed APT1 report directly linking a unit of the People’s Liberation Army to a massive cyber espionage campaign against foreign businesses. APT1 was the hacking unit the report profiled.

The APT1 report was one of a number of very public exposures of China’s cyber operations in 2013. Others included the New York Times revealing its website had been repeatedly targeted by China-based hackers (a unit called APT-12) after the newspaper published an article tracing the the massive wealth senior Chinese leaders accumulated while in power. The Mandiant and New York Times’ reports led the Obama administration to raise the profile of cyber issues in U.S.-China relations, an effort that was partially undercut by thesubsequent Edward Snowden leaks. The U.S. Defense Department also began more openly discussing Chinese cyber operations against the U.S. military and defense industrial base.

In its new annual report, M-trends, Mandiant explains that the “release of the APT1 report in February 2013 provided a unique opportunity to observe whether revelations of China’s state-sponsored cyber activity could spur a diplomatic solution to the problem of nation-state cyber espionage on behalf of private sector entities.”

It concludes that the exposure has failed to do so thus far. In the report, Mandiant states that APT1 and APT12 responded to being exposed in two ways: first, the units delayed restarting operations ; second, “both groups quickly shifted their operational infrastructure to continue their activities.” Notably, Mandiant found that in the case of APT1, the group had only changed the parts of its infrastructure that Mandiant had exposed in the report, while keeping the rest of its infrastructure in place.

More importantly, despite waiting between one and two months to resume any operations following each of their exposures, and waiting roughly six-months to resume operations at the same tempo as before, Mandiant’s observations suggest that the APT1 and APT 12 have neither ceased nor scaled back their activities. In fact, by mid-summer of last year, APT12’s activities were well above the baseline averages Mandiant had observed in 2011 and 2012.

Kazakhstan Opposition Fears Ukraine's "Russian Spring"

Many Kazakhs worry about Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and what it means for their own country’s relations with Russia.

By Ryskeldi Satke
April 12, 2014

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea have alarmed the ranks of the marginalized opposition of Kazakhstan, along with local experts who see Moscow’s integration projects as a threat to Kazakhstan’s independence.

At the outset of the regional crisis in Ukraine, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev appeared to be respectful of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Within weeks, however, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs changed tack and endorsed the outcome of the controversial Crimea referendum. In light of the rapid developments in Ukraine, a number of Kazakh public figures, experts and anti-Eurasian Union activists have voiced concern over the possible implications of Russia’s actions for the future of their country. Some leading Kazakh experts agree that Kazakhstan is facing potential political consequences set by the new realities in the former Soviet bloc. Overall, however, opinion in Kazakhstan on the Crimea crisis appears to be divided along ethnic lines: Northern Kazakhstan, which is dominated by an ethnic Russian population tends to be supportive of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy in Ukraine, whereas the rest of the republic harbors decidedly mixed feelings on the subject.

Kazakhstan’s mission to the UN abstained from voting on the recent resolution that called on the international community not to recognize any change in the status of Crimea. Kazakh activists have meanwhile announced plans for an anti-Eurasian Forum in the city of Almaty this weekend. The “Russian spring” in southeastern Ukraine seems to have encouraged more anti-integration sentiment than ever before in Kazakhstan. The forum organizers had this to say: “Before entering the Customs Union, prominent Kazakh figures did not support membership, emphasizing misguided decision-making by the authorities. Back then, experts foresaw ‘rising prices,’ ‘limits on imported automobiles’ and a deteriorating socioeconomic situation in the republic. Unfortunately, the public was not listening. And now those predictions have come true: Russia dominates the Kazakhstan market. And where is the guarantee that the Kazakh government, known for ignoring the will of its own people, will not allow the country to lose its independence. The future of the state must not be decided by a handful of individuals, but all the people of Kazakhstan.

A week prior to the March 16 referendum in Crimea, Nazarbayev conveyed to Putin in a telephone conversation Kazakhstan’s strategic partnership with Russia and said that Astana “understands” the Kremlin’s oversight in Ukraine is to protect the security interests of the ethnic Russian population in the peninsula. In contrast, Kazakhstan’s neighbor Uzbekistan called for respect of UN Charter principles on the territorial integrity and political independence of any state.

India’s Latin American Policy: Looking Beyond Brazil

For many years, India has focused its Latin American policy almost exclusively on Brazil. It is time for that to change.

By Tridivesh Singh Maini and Sridhar Ramaswamy
April 12, 2014 

For many years, if you asked the average Indian about Latin America, you would receive either a blank look or perhaps mention of the region’s football powerhouses. Likewise for Latin Americans, for whom India was a distant land known for Ayurveda, yoga, and philosophy.

Yet the history is there. Following the Cuban revolution in 1959, for instance, India was one of the few countries to recognize the new regime under Fidel Castro, opening an embassy in Havana the next year. Both countries were members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and shared a similar worldview. Jawaharlal Nehru was among the first world leaders to visit Havana, with the then Indian prime minister making the trip in 1960. In many ways, Cuba was a gateway to Latin America for India.

By the 1990s, India was beginning to attract international notice for its economic growth, and for beginning to open of its markets to foreign investors. Around the same time, Latin America was beginning to sow the seeds for political and economic stability. Brazil, in particular, began to emerge as one of the region’s star performers. It was among one of the first countries in the region to conclude bilateral agreements with India and later clubbed together with New Delhi in numerous multilateral forums. In 1997, the Indian government launched its FOCUS LAC (Latin America and Caribbean) strategy, hoping to boost exports to the region.

During the Cold War era, the world tended to look at Latin American countries in the context of the United States, and many countries based their policies towards the region on that perspective. After the 2008 financial crisis, though, the resilience shown by emerging Latin America economies such as Brazil forced a rethink, and Latin America became increasingly viewed as a rising regional and economic power in a multipolar world.

Apart from trade and investment, ties with Latin America have much to offer India, in areas such as energy, knowledge sharing, and cooperation in multilateral forums on issues such as climate change and the environment. Brazil and India are already partnering in forums such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India, China), and IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa). New Delhi has also signed preferential trade agreements (PTA) with Chile and MERCOSUR. Yet many Latin American countries (with their huge potential market for services) have not received India’s due attention.

A look at India’s policy towards Latin America over the years is revealing. While many Latin American heads of state have made India an important priority and have visited India, there has been little reciprocity from New Delhi. With a few exceptions—Brazil, Cuba and Chile—Latin American countries have received minimal high-level attention. Most visits to the region have been for multilateral gatherings, such as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting summit at Port of Spain in 2009, the IBSA and BRICS summits in Brazil in 2010, the Rio+20 summit in 2012, and the G-20 summit held in Mexico.

The focus on Brazil is perhaps not surprising, given that both countries are major emerging economies and as such partner in multiple forums, with growing diplomatic interdependence. For instance, Brazil and India are backing each other for a permanent seat in a reformed United Nations Security Council. While most countries may have looked at Latin America through a U.S. prism in the past, India seems to look at the region from a Brazilian perspective.

Trade and economic ties with other countries in the region, such as Venezuela—currently India’s largest trade partner in the region with trade topping $14 billion in 2012/13—as well as Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Colombia are gradually rising. Nonetheless, New Delhi’s emphasis remains resolutely on Brazil.

It is time for that to change. The next Indian government should both act to harness the economic potential of the entire Latin American region, while also leveraging its soft power and strengths in areas like services to bolster its presence within the region.

Tridivesh Singh Maini is associated with the Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat. Sridhar Ramaswamy is a final year Master’s student of Foreign Policy, with the Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat.

Armor: India Stocks Up On APFSDS

April 9, 2014: 

India has ordered 66,000 Russian 3VBM17 APFSDS (Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot) shells for the 125mm guns on their T-90 tanks. Each of these shells will cost $6,556. The 3VBM17 entered service in 1986, weighs 20.4 kg (45 pounds) and employs a 4.85 kg (10.7 pound) tungsten penetrator that will go through 450mm of steel. The penetrator and its sabot leaves the gun at 1,700 meters (5,610 feet) a second. India wanted to buy an Israeli APFSDS shell but the supplier got tied up in an Indian anti-corruption investigation so, rather than wait for that to blow over, and because the army was running low on these shells, they went for the Russian supplier. The Israeli shell would have been more reliable and penetrate over 20 percent more armor, but considering the tanks likely opponents (China and Pakistan) have, the 3VBM17 is adequate and a little cheaper. 

Most modern 120/125mm tank guns fire a shell that uses a smaller 25mm “penetrator.” The 25mm rod of tungsten (or depleted uranium) is surrounded by a “sabot” that falls away once the shell clears the barrel. This gives the penetrator higher velocity and penetrating power. This is the most expensive type of 120/125mm shell and already comes in several variants. There is APDS (Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot) and APFSDS (Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot, for smooth bore guns). The armor piercing element of discarding sabot rounds is less than half the diameter of the shell and made of very expensive, high density metal. Its smaller size enables it to hit the target at very high speeds, up to 1,900 meters (6,270 feet) a second. This is the most common type of anti-tank shell and is constantly being improved. 

India uses other times of 125mm ammo as well. In 2013 India obtained a manufacturing license to build 15,000 Russian Invar anti-tank missiles for their T-90s. India has earlier purchased 10,000 of these missiles from Russia (that were built in Russia) and with the manufacturing license the average cost will be about $2,000 per missile. The Invar 9M119M1 (Invar-M) is fired from the 125mm gun, like a shell, but operates like a guided missile. The 17.2 kg (37.8 pound) missile is 680mm (26.7 inches) long and has pop-out fins (with a 250mm/9 inch span) that aid in guidance (laser beam riding, controlled by the tank gunner). The missile has a max range of 5,000 meters at a speed of 350 meters a second (14 seconds max flight time). The Invar enables the tank to hit targets at twice the range of the 125mm shells. The tandem warhead can penetrate up to 900mm of armor (35.4 inches), twice what the 3VBM17 can. Invar has been around for two decades and India is buying the latest version. 

India expects to have about 1,400 T-90s by the end of the decade. The first T-90 entered service in 1993, and India is the largest user. The T-90 is basically an upgraded T-72, which India already builds under license. The T-90 weighs about 15 percent more than the 41 ton T-72. The T-90 has a better fire control system, night vision that is good out to about 1,500 meters, and electronic countermeasures against anti-tank missiles. The autoloader, which often failed in the T-72, is more reliable and that makes the three man crew (commander, gunner, driver) more effective. The T-90 has ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) in addition to its composite armor. 

The Problem with Arbitrary Timelines in Afghanistan

APRIL 8, 2014 

Only days after a historic election in Afghanistan, Afghans are excited about ushering a new President and moving forward but also apprehensive of how the international community will embrace whoever replaces President Karzai in earnest. Although the election process will undoubtedly be far from perfect, a winner will emerge to replace Mr. Karzai within months. But, one cannot ignore that in the last six months of President Karzai's term, enmity and mistrust between the U.S. and Afghan administrations have shifted expectations from an "Afghan good enough" situation -- transitioning security responsibilities to the Afghans, with all sorts of caveats, and ending the security assistance mission by 2014 -- to an "Afghan bad enough" one -- a total withdrawal of U.S. forces and attention from Afghanistan. 

With no Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) in place, leaving zero U.S. troops in Afghanistan has become the preferred option of many critics of the war effort, including perhaps President Obama. Some, including this author, hope that this shortsighted outcome can be averted with the election of a new Afghan president that will be concluded in the next couple of months. To be clear, however, the election on its own is not enough to offer a positive course correction. Other factors are at play, namely President Obama's insistence on arbitrary and ill-considered timelines, and on an "emerging" threat from expansionist Russia. 

No doubt the relationship will shift significantly with a new Afghan President; a BSA will undoubtedly be forthcoming soon. But the "bad enough" scenario may still come to fruition if the White House retains forces in Afghanistan yet places unrealistic and damaging timelines on its military and economic support, just as it did when it announced the surge of U.S. troops back in 2009. 

I remember the "Afghan good enough" phrase coming into being in the foreign policy debate. It led to President Obama's decision to supply the war in Afghanistan with an additional 30,000 troops in December 2009, but then bring the troop levels below pre-surge levels within 18 months and conclude the combat mission by December 2014. This caveat at the end of the announcement introduced uncertainty and questioned American resolve to the point of emboldening insurgents and terrorists, and allowing them to believe that they could outlast the surge. 

As an aside, I must confess that, as late as October 2009, I argued against the surge while working as a Pentagon strategist. In my mind, most "counter-insurgency" (COIN) doctrine was well-intentioned but ill-conceived -- more guess than doctrine, unrealistic, hugely ambitious, and inefficient. But I did believe in the attempt to make lemonade out of lemons by one leader -- General Stan McChrystal. 

Pakistan : On the Edge


In the 2013 elections in Pakistan, all the mainstream political parties emphasised their commitment to seek a durable peace with the Tehrik-e-TalibanPakistan (TTP). A peace deal is off course a welcome step to control violence, especially as the terror initiated by the TTP in 2013 has led to heavy loss of life of both civilians and security force personnel. How the TTP is to be enticed into accepting a peace dealon government terms however remains a moot point. Taliban attacks in 2013 were abnormally high and this trend spilt over to the New Year. Across Pakistan, terror attacks in January 2014 itself claimed the lives of 241 civilians and 86 security force personnel.[i] As the TTP was largely responsible for the above attacks, it was widely believed that the only way to restore peace in the country was through military action against TTP strongholds in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and other parts of FATA. A sufficiently weakened TTP through military action could be forced to the negotiating table. The political establishment however was been hesitant to unleash the military. Pakistan’s prime minister, Mr Nawaz Sharif informed his Army Chief in a meeting held on 28 January 2014 that a decision to launch an offensive against NWA could only be taken with the consent of all stakeholders and that such a decision must serve the national interest. That notwithstanding, the initiation of peace talks with the TTP by the Nawaz Sharif government in February 2014 came as somewhat of a surprise.

In early February, Nawaz Sharif, named a team to kick-start the process of initiating a dialogue with the TTP, choosing figures loyal to him to represent the government and those considered sympathetic to the Taliban, to represent the TTP.[ii]The government team comprised the Prime Minister's Advisor on National Affairs, Mr IrfanSiddiqui, senior journalist RahimullahYusufzai, Mr Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former diplomat and Major (retired) Mohammad Aamir. Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, a former chief cleric of Islamabad’s Red Mosque,represented the TTP. With him were Professor Mohammad Ibrahim of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Maulana Abdul Aziz, and Mufti Kifayatullah, a former lawmaker of the JamiatUlema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).The meeting was an exploratory one, to create grounds for a meeting with the Taliban and Pakistan government. A ceasefire came into effect between the two sides. However, on 16 February, the Taliban executed 23 Frontier Corps personnel who had been abducted on 14 June 2010 from the Shoonki Post of Mohmand Agency. Three days later, on January 19, 2014, a bomb ripped through a military convoy in Bannu Town of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killing 26 soldiers and injuring another 26. The military retaliated with air strikes on suspected Taliban hideouts in the Mir Ali, Shawal and DattaKhel areas of NWA and in Khyber Agency on 19 and 20 February. Though the talks broke down, the TTP announced on March 1, a month long ceasefire.However, the very fact that the Pakistan government initiated peace talks with groups, which it had long held to be terrorists and anti-state, gave such groups a sense of legitimacy and enhanced their standing in the eyes of the local population.

Afghanistan Elections: The Irreversible Journey of Afghan Women

Afghans turned out in strong numbers for the presidential and provincial council elections on April 5, with an estimated seven million people casting their votes for the candidates of their choice. The presidential election is Afghanistan's first ever democratic transition of power, with current President Hamid Karzai, the dominant political figure of the past 12 years, unable to run again. However, much more is at stake than a power shift from Karzai to whoever succeeds him; the country's stability after the pending withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces at the end of 2014, civil liberties, and women's rights all hang in the balance. 

As such, Afghan women took their civic duty seriously -- according to the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan, 35 percent of the 16 million eligible voters in 2014 were women. However, with votes still being counted and preliminary results that might lead to a run-off scheduled to be announced next week, there are now indications that the percentage of Afghan women voters might be much higher.

In 2009, due to security threats and rampant election fraud, only 4.6 million votes were cast from a voting population of 15 million, with women constituting 38 percent of registered voters. In 2004, when the country was filled with optimism and the Taliban threat was minimal, women represented 42 percent of the eligible voting population, then totaling 12 million registered voters. 

This election season also featured pictures of female candidates alongside male contenders. That fact alone speaks volumes about the country's transition from the oppressive rule of the Taliban more than 13 years ago, when women were considered non-citizens and were forbidden to participate in public life. 

In 2014, 323 female politicians openly campaigned for seats in the provincial councils, elevating the status of Afghan women in a traditionally patriarchal society. Both young and old, ambitious female contenders used promising mottos such as the one on Khatera Ishaqzai's provincial council campaign poster promising to "ensure justice, human rights and women's rights" for all Afghans. A civil society activist, Ms. Ishaqzai is running for a seat on Kabul's provincial council. 

Counter-Terrorism: Bangladesh Encourages Islamic Radicals

April 9, 2014: Bangladesh has much less of an Islamic terrorism problem than India and Pakistan but it also has Islamic political parties and these are becoming more of a problem. While most Bangladeshis are hostile to Islamic terrorism, a growing number back the Islamic politicians. The reason can be summed up in one word; corruption. The two largest secular political parties are notoriously corrupt and have been for decades. The secular politicians talk about eliminating corruption but never do anything about it. The Islamic politicians are seen as (and generally are, for the most part) less corrupt. While the Islamic politicians are not as hostile to Islamic radicals as their secular counterparts are, they do support and practice democracy. Recently the secular politicians got a shock when the Islamic parties won an unexpected number of local elections. In fact the Islamic candidates won more often than the ruling party. This effort was led by Jamaat e Islami (or just Jamaat) a political party that advocates running Bangladesh according to Islamic law and has been known to tolerate violence against non-Moslems. Jamaat was banned from participating in national elections in 2013 because Jamaat refused to change it stance on imposing Islamic law on Bangladesh. Jamaat can still get the vote out and urge its followers to support other party (Islamic or not) candidates. This year Jamaat showed it was quite popular at the local level. 

The secular parties seem to be responding to this with their usual vote rigging and physical intimidation of voters and candidates who oppose them. This just makes the Islamic politicians more popular. The way this usually plays out the Islamic parties eventually get a majority and then comes a military coup to prevent the Islamic politicians gaining power via a vote. The military intervention usually causes lots of moderate Islamic activists to become radicalized and turn to Islamic terrorism. It’s all downhill from there with years of violence and lots of dead people. 

Meanwhile there is still some Islamic terrorism out there. This was seen on February 23rd when a prison van carrying three convicted Islamic terrorists was ambushed. One of the police escorts was killed and the attackers wounded three others. The three prisoners made a getaway with their liberators. Two of the escapees had been convicted of terrorism and sentenced to death. One of these men was found the next day and shot to death when he refused to surrender. The Islamic terrorists declared all this a victory and promised more. 

Bring China Into TPP

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
Source URL (retrieved on Apr 11, 2014): http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/bring-china-tpp-10227
April 11, 2014

Negotiations to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership closed in Singapore in late February with no agreement. A main cause was Japan’s unwillingness to budge on any of its “sacred” farm products, though also involved was Washington’s insistence to retain import limits in several U.S. sectors. Nevertheless, Vice President Biden, just days after the Singapore talks ended, strongly reaffirmed his and the President’s commitment to complete the TPP, and the negotiators hope to reconvene in May.

The interruption presents an opportunity now to deal with an issue that has been in the background but won’t go away: China’s relationship with the TPP project. Beijing has long complained that Washington opposes its membership, and now is the time to neutralize that complaint. There are three reasons, beginning with changes in how Chinese leaders think about their place in the global economy. Second is a clear U.S. signal that the TPP door is open to Beijing. Third is that bringing China into the TPP will be good for America and for the region overall.

What needs to be dealt with first is China’s complaint that it has been “excluded” from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That stems from Beijing’s view that the TPP is the economic side of Obama’s pivot to Asia, both of which it sees as part of a U.S. policy to “contain” China. Neither is true, and the TPP in particular owes its start to a 2002-03 plan by Singapore, New Zealand and Chile that had nothing to do with China. The goal of those three small but open economies was “a closer economic partnership.”

That idea then grew to include some others, initially Brunei, then Peru, Australia and Vietnam, and now includes a dozen nations. America’s involvement dates from 2008, as the George W. Bush presidency was ending. Susan Schwab, his Trade Representative, was concerned about the decline in the Pacific region’s imports from the United States, and saw the TPP as a way to assure continued U.S. exports there. The issue was trade, not China, and President Obama formalized America’s TPP involvement soon after taking office, in early 2009.

That’s when China began the drumbeat of its TPP exclusion, although America’s “pivot” to Asia came two years later. Nevertheless, some think tanks and Asia specialists, particularly some prominent Australians whose views have gained traction, continue to insist the TPP is part of an American policy to “contain” China. That stems from their view that the U.S. goal in the Pacific region is “primacy,” but that too is not true. What is true is that the long-standing U.S. aim has been to oppose any single nation’s dominance in the Asia-Pacific region. That principle dates from America’s Open Door policy at the beginning of the twentieth century, and it has continued through the present

Nevertheless, the belief that America seeks primacy in Asia took hold in China, and visitors have found that Chinese specialists cite precisely those Western arguments to support their view. The upshot has been China’s belief that the TPP is anti-China, which led to its coldness to the TPP, and its sponsorship of the “RCEP” (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), an Asian trade group that specifically excludes the U.S.

What Would Winston Churchill Do?

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
April 11, 2014

Russia's naked grab of Crimea, its continuing intimidation of Kiev and Putin's proffered justification—that he is merely protecting ethnic Russians—parallel a much darker time in European history. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made this point last month [3]: "Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the '30s. All the Germans that were ... the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they're not being treated right. I must go and protect my people, and that's what's gotten everybody so nervous."

In the Pacific, China has not undertaken military action as dramatic as the Russian invasion of Crimea but it has staked a claim to almost the entirety of the South China Sea with its "nine-dash line [4]." In the process, China's Navy and Coast Guard has expelled the Philippines from the Scarborough Shoal, a reef just under 150 miles from the Philippines but almost 550 miles from Hainan Island, the nearest Chinese port. Responding to U.S. and regional concerns raised about China's position on the South China Sea, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi proclaimed in July 2010 [5], “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact."

China is also actively contesting long-time Japanese administration of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and it unilaterally imposed an Air Defense Identification Zone covering waters and islands administered by both Japan and South Korea [6]. It is widely reported that the West's lack of response to Russia's Crimean adventure has spooked America's Pacific allies, particularly Japan [7], which believe the lesson China has drawn from the situation is that a military resolution of its territorial claims would be likewise countenanced by the West.

While regional powers have unsuccessfully sought to conquer their neighbors in recent decades—most notably Argentina's invasion and occupation of the Falklands in 1982 and Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1991—the major powers have eschewed such conduct since China's 1951 annexation of Tibet. Given events in Ukraine and the Pacific, that long period of relative stability appears to be at an end, notwithstanding President Obama's comment following Russia's invasion of Crimea [8], "because you’re bigger and stronger taking a piece of the country—that is not how international law and international norms are observed in the 21st century.“

China’s Residential Property Market: Ghost Towns and Gilded Lilies

Change is coming to the Chinese property market, but the impacts on the middle class and the rich are likely to differ.
By Sara Hsu
April 10, 2014

For China’s residents, the property glut is now quite evident, and despite unusually generous price cuts they have for now stopped buying mass market real estate in a number of cities. Ghost towns are more prominent than ever. At the same time, high-net-worth individuals continue to purchase luxury apartments in Beijing and suburban homes in California. How can we describe this bifurcation of the residential property market, and what implications does it have for China’s economy?

Residential real estate investment accounts for the majority of China’s real estate market. However, recent reports have revealed that Chinese property prices, particularly in second- and third-tier cities, are falling. Cities such as Hangzhou and Changsha face burgeoning swaths of empty apartment units, and developers have slashed prices in an attempt to lure home buyers. These developers are finding that the price elasticity of demand for residential real estate in China is inelastic: once consumers stop buying, deep discounts are ineffective in drawing them back. Mass market residential property purchases represent much of this decline. Most of those who purchase mass market apartments are middle class, and have invested most of their savings in their homes as primary residences (particularly since purchasing apartments for investment purposes was curbed in 2011).

At the other end of the spectrum are the high-net-worth individuals, those with more than 10 million RMB (about $1.6 million). Their number is rapidly approaching 1 million, or 0.07 percent of the population, according to Bain & Company, and they invest in high end apartments largely in first-tier cities in China, and in homes and apartments in urban and suburban areas abroad. As with all Chinese citizens, wealthy individuals have few alternative options for investing their money, but they also invest abroad to take money out of China, particularly to destinations in which they wish to attend university or live. High-net-worth individuals are more discriminating in their acquisitions and often seek luxury residences.

Chinese and the Crimea Crisis

Russia’s annexation of Crimea could embolden China to intervene in Southeast Asia and Russia’s Far East.
April 10, 2014

As I noted last week, one of the more interesting aspects of the international response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea was the reaction of emerging powers like China and India.

Despite the importance they have long placed on respect for sovereignty, all the emerging nations refused to criticize Russia’s seizure of territory belonging to Ukraine. Some, most notably India but also China to a lesser degree, came out in strong support of Russia. As I pointed out last week, this support was all the more surprising given that most of the emerging powers have potential secessionist groups within their borders. Why would China support Russia when Crimea declaring independence from Ukraine might inspire China’s Uyghurs, Tibetans and even people in Hong Kong?

As The Naval Diplomat and others have pointed out, Russia’s annexation of Crimea also could also benefit China in its territorial disputes throughout the Asia-Pacific. Indeed, there has been a lot of concern among U.S. allies and partners in the region that Russia’s seizure of Crimea will embolden China. This concern grew so vocal that a number of American officials have now openly warned China against trying to use the Russian model to advance its claims vis-à-vis Taiwan, the Senkaku Islands or in the South China Sea.

To my mind, this concern is largely overblown. True, Russia’s seizure of Crimea could weaken the supposed long-standing international norm against realigning one’s borders by force, which China could someday use to its advantage. At the same time, the actual model Russia used to annex Crimea offers little advantage to China in its territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Those territorial disputes are over uninhabited islands, rocks and reefs. China cannot seize the islands by claiming a need to protect ethnic Chinese residents, as Russia did with Crimea. Nor could it hold a referendum on joining the Chinese state.

China’s Nuclear Modernization and the End of Nuclear Opacity

Could a more modern arsenal encourage China to allow more nuclear transparency?
By Nicolas Giacometti
April 10, 2014

Recent events in late 2013 and early 2014, including China’sdemonstration of its nuclear submarine force, have once again brought the issue of the country’s policy of nuclear opacity to the fore. Among the P5 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council), China officially communicates the least about the size, status and capabilities of its nuclear forces. Indeed, although some uncertainty remains, the other members of the P5 all give public approximations of the size and characteristics of their deployed arsenal. Beijing’s policy of nuclear opacity or nuclear secrecy is often noted in official reports and mentioned by specialized NGOs as limiting the possibility for strategic dialogue with other great powers (especially the U.S.) and as arousing suspicions and misperceptions about China’s intentions.

Indeed, an absence of information favors the development of alarmist reports about the modernization of China’s nuclear arsenal, which is depicted by some analysts as dangerous, aggressive and destabilizing. Although some of the concerns of those who increasingly worry about Beijing’s nuclear capabilities are surely legitimate, there is an alternative view: the potential for China’s nuclear modernization to remove some of the incentives driving the opacity policy.

Since the first Chinese nuclear test in 1964, opacity has been a strategic tool for Beijing to compensate for the material shortcomings and limitations of its nuclear forces in terms of survivability and destructive power, and thus to increase their overall deterrent effect on would-be aggressors (mainly the Soviet Union/Russia and the U.S.).

Can China Become a High-Income Economy?

The IMF thinks so, but some challenging reforms will be needed if China is to avoid the middle-income trap.

By Christopher Ernest Barber
April 11, 2014

In the Asia-Pacific, the inevitability of China’s economic rise has been a reality for a number of years. Already we are witnessing the changingpolitical dynamics of the shifting economic balance of power. New Zealand’s economy, for example, now relies heavily on Chinese markets. As a result, the Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman visitedBeijing in November 2013 in order “to balance” out New Zealand’s diplomacy; maintaining a “path” between the U.S. and China. The purpose of the visit was to emphasize to the Chinese government that New Zealand would not take sides in disputes such as China’s Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea, preferring to utilize “international processes” to resolve issues.

For a nation that traditionally takes great comfort in its network of Western allies and friends, such a move would have been unthinkable were it not for China’s newfound significance in the region. In years to come, other pragmatic nations who wish to benefit from China’s economic affluence will also find themselves displaying comparable degrees of neutralitytowards China’s foreign policy initiatives. If one is inclined to view the current situation between China and the U.S. as a “struggle for mastery” in Asia, then China’s future economic mastery over the region is likely to make the projection of a few U.S. warships in terms of its pivot to Asia, a largely symbolic exercise. Of course, the foregoing sentiments and those of many other pundits are dramatic reductions of the future dynamics of Asia-Pacific politics that need to be qualified for a future date.

String of ports

C. Raja Mohan
11 April 2014

In its manifesto released this week, the BJP promises to build new world-class ports and modernise the old ones all along the Indian coastline, as part of what it calls "port-led development". The BJP's name for the project, "Sagar Mala", evokes, perhaps unintentionally, China's "String of Pearls" in the Indian Ocean. Over the last decade, China has embarked on the construction of a number of ports in India's neighbourhood, starting with Gwadar, in Pakistan, and Hambantota in Sri Lanka. New Delhi worries that some of these ports might turn into forward bases for the People's Liberation Army. 

India's immediate problem, however, is not the prospect of China acquiring military facilities in the Indian Ocean. Given the long and vulnerable lines of communication from China's eastern seaboard to the Indian Ocean, China's bases will be easy pickings in a war. 

The real problem for India is the massive maritime gap with China in the civilian domain. Out of the top 10 busiest container ports in the world, China has seven. India's JNPT is placed at number 30 and is the only one in the list of top 50. 

The story is much the same when we compare the tonnage of merchant fleet or the ship-building capacities. If the BJP is serious about generating millions of jobs through manufacturing and trade, it must necessarily focus on a rapid expansion of India's maritime infrastructure. "Sagar Mala" could be a good first step. 


Without strong national maritime capabilities, Delhi will find it hard to either compete or cooperate with Beijing in Asia's waters. Beijing has trumped the talk of rivalry with India by inviting Delhi to join China in the building of a maritime silk road across the Indo-Pacific. This has put Delhi in a spot of bother. It is in no position to stop China from building up its presence in the Indian Ocean. But Delhi is also reluctant to "endorse" China's rising maritime profile in what India considers its backwaters. There is only one way out of this corner. 

China: The Pundits Of War Are Unleashed

April 8, 2014:

China watched, and supported the recent Russian operation to take the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine with great interest. The land grab had a bracing effect on the other countries that, until 1991, were part of the ancient Russian Empire. The Crimean operation was the second such land grab Russia has undertaken in the last five years. The first was against tiny Georgia in 2008. Many of these former Russian subjects feel that the Russians are trying to get their empire back. Ask many Russians that question and most agree that it would be a nice thing. Some Russians are more outspoken and bluntly call for the empire to be reassembled no matter what. Poland and the Baltic States managed to join NATO after the Cold War ended and are hoping that the mutual defense terms of the NATO alliance will dissuade Russia. Nevertheless all four, plus Finland, have increased their military readiness this year and are seeking assurances from the West that they will have help against Russia. 

Many Finns have called for Finland to join NATO, but a large minority has opposed this because of the fear it would anger the Russians. There was a similar division in Ukraine but now more Finns are thinking that NATO membership is preferable to trusting Russia to always behave. Even Sweden, never part of the Russian empire and successfully neutral since the early 19th century is thinking about joining NATO for protection from an increasingly aggressive Russia.

China sees an opportunity here. That’s because the former Soviet stans of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) have another option; China. The stans have been very receptive to Chinese diplomatic and economic cooperation. This bothers Russia, but not to the extent that threats are being made, as was the case with the former imperial provinces to the west. The stans also have a problem with never having been democracies. When the Russians conquered them in the 19th century the local governments were monarchies or tribes. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, locals who were former Soviet officials held elections and manipulated the vote to get themselves elected "president for life." But many people in the Stans want clean government and democracy, as well as continued independence from Russia. China is no help with that because the Chinese prefer dictators. But China does offer more economic opportunities and protection from what happened ti Ukraine and Georgia. 

Africa’s new Number One

Nigeria’s suddenly supersized economy is indeed a wonder; but so are its still-huge problems
Apr 12th 2014

HEY PRESTO: as if by magic, Nigeria has declared itself the biggest economy in Africa. Overnight, with the wave of a statistical wand, it has added 89% to its GDP, now worth $510 billion, and soared past the previous leader, South Africa, worth $370 billion. Nothing has changed in Nigeria’s real economy, except the way it is measured. Yet the magic matters.

The GDP revision is not mere trickery. It provides a truer picture of Nigeria’s size by giving due weight to the bits of the economy, such as telecoms, banking and the Nollywood film industry, that have been growing fast in recent years (see article). Other countries perform similar statistical magic—Ghana, for example, added 60% to its economy in 2010—though few wait two decades, as Nigeria inexcusably did, to update the national accounts. In Nigeria’s case, the new numbers confirm that it really is the colossus of the continent.

Its economy has been growing at an average rate of around 7% a year over the past decade. It is rich in resources, especially oil. It has energetic entrepreneurs and aspirations to be the tech hub of Africa, boasting startups such as Konga and Jumia, budding Nigerian Alibabas. In other industries it has giants such as Dangote Cement (see article), which plans to list in London—as a big oil firm, Seplat, did this week—and is likely to become part of the portfolio of many pension funds. Growing numbers of foreigners wanting to invest in Africa’s rise will buy Nigerian stocks; after Johannesburg, Lagos has the biggest, most liquid market in the region. Above all, Nigeria has lots of people: more than 170m of them. One in five people in sub-Saharan Africa is Nigerian. Come 2050, the UN expects there to be around 440m Nigerians, by then far outnumbering the 400m or so Americans.

Playing Hockey With Putin

APRIL 8, 2014 

Shortly before the Sochi Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin played in an exhibition hockey game there. In retrospect, he was clearly warming up for his takeover of Crimea. Putin doesn’t strike me as a chess player, in geopolitical terms. He prefers hockey, without a referee, so elbowing, tripping and cross-checking are all permitted. Never go to a hockey game with Putin and expect to play by the rules of touch football. The struggle over Ukraine is a hockey game, with no referee. If we’re going to play — we, the Europeans and the pro-Western Ukrainians need to be serious. If we’re not, we need to tell the Ukrainians now: Cut the best deal with Putin that you can.

Are we serious? It depends on the meaning of the word “serious.” It starts with recognizing what a huge lift it will be to help those Ukrainians who want to break free of Russia’s orbit. Are we and our allies ready — through the International Monetary Fund — to finance Ukraine’s massive rebuilding and fuel needs, roughly $14 billion for starters, knowing that this money is going to a Ukrainian government that, before the overthrow of the previous president, ranked 144 out of 177 on the Transparency International list of most corrupt countries in the world, equal with Nigeria?

Moreover, we can’t help Ukraine unless we and the European Union have a serious renewable energy and economic sanctions strategy — which requires us to sacrifice — to undermine Putin and Putinism, because Ukraine will never have self-determination as long as Putin and Putinism thrive. Putin’s foreign policy and domestic policy are inextricably linked: His domestic policy of looting Russia and keeping himself permanently in power with oil and gas revenue, despite a weakening economy, seems to require adventures like Ukraine that gin up nationalism and anti-Westernism to distract the Russian public. And are we ready to play dirty, too? Putin is busy using pro-Russian Ukrainian proxies to take over government buildings in Eastern Ukraine — to lay the predicate either for a Russian invasion there or de facto control there by Russia’s allies.

Aging Equipment and Poor Logistics Means Russia’s Army Has Limited Offensive Capability Today

April 8, 2014
US Official: In Key Ways, Russian Military is ‘Very Limited’
John T.Bennett
Defense News

Russian armored vehicles drive on the road between Simferopol and Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula. (Agence France-Presse)

WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials on Tuesday described a Russian military that possesses “very limited” ability to punch outside its neighborhood due to poor logistics and “aging equipment.”

In addition, Defense Department officials vowed to a House committee that the Obama administration is prepared to “punish Russia” for invading Ukraine’s Crimea region, and for any possible future aggressive acts. But Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told lawmakers any US actions will be “mostly economic.”

A handful of Republican House Armed Services Committee members called on the Obama administration to use more military means to counter Russian moves and prevent future ones.

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, co-author of a coming bill calling for a beefed-up US military presence in the European region to counter Russia, cited a recent Washington Post editorial that said the Obama administration’s Russia policies are rooted in “fantasy.”

He also said that senior US commanders in Europe say up to 80,000 Russian troops appear to be amassed on that nation’s border with Ukraine. Turner tried to get Chollet and Vice Adm. Frank Pandolfe, director of strategic plans and policy on the Joint Staff, to describe the combat punch and reach of the Russian forces.

Pandolfe did not directly address that part of Turner’s inquiry, saying a classified session slated for later Tuesday would provide a better setting for his answer. But he did say Moscow has fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles and other combat systems along that border.

Russia Using Full Range of Paramilitary Assets in Ukraine

April 9, 2014
Putin steals the CIA’s playbook on anti-Soviet covert operations
David Ignatius
Washington Post

The West has made NATO’s military alliance the heart of its response to Russia’s power grab in Ukraine. But we may be fighting the wrong battle: The weapons Russian President Vladimir Putin has used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine look more like paramilitary “covert action” than conventional military force.

Putin, the former KGB officer, may in fact be taking a page out of the United States’ playbook during the Ronald Reagan presidency, when the Soviet empire began to unravel thanks to a relentless U.S. covert-action campaign. Rather than confront Moscow head-on, Reagan nibbled at the edges, by supporting movements that destabilized Russian power in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola and, finally, Poland and eastern Europe.

It was a clever American strategy back then, pushing a wounded Soviet Union and opportunistically exploiting local grievances wherever possible. And it’s an equally clever Russian approach now, offering maximum gain at minimum potential cost.

The parallel was drawn for me this week by John Ma­guire, a former CIA paramilitary covert-action officer, who served in the contras program in Nicaragua and later in the Middle East. “At the end of the day, Putin is a case officer,” says Maguire. “He watched what we did in the 1980s, and now he’s playing it back against us.”

From the beginning in Crimea, Putin ran the campaign there as a “black” operation. Russian troops wore no insignia, to preserve a fig leaf of deniability. Russian officials, from Putin on down, insisted they weren’t seizing Crimea even as their forces consolidated positions. They controlled information flows and coordinated their messaging.

The false promise of Arab regime-led reform

April 09, 2014 
The Daily Star 

The humiliations and scorn that many Arab leaders heap on their populations seem to have no end. While a few Arab dictators having been toppled or challenged by their disgruntled citizens in the last three years, the remaining ones appear not to have learned any lessons and persist in their cruel ways.

They seize power through military coups, control all government power through a web of security agencies and the armed forces, drive the economy into the ground, wreak havoc with the environment, drain cultural and educational life of their vitality, shut down all credible politics, siphon off massive amounts of money for themselves and their cronies, cause the smartest youth to emigrate to a better life in other countries and ultimately send the majority of their citizens into a downward cycle of pauperization, marginalization, vulnerability and existential fear.

And this goes on for decades, until the country implodes like Somalia, acts so brutally that it is invaded and shattered such as Iraq or Libya, sinks into internal warfare such as Yemen or Syria, or sees its own citizens rise up in revolt in search of rights and dignity, such as Tunisia, Egypt and others to smaller degrees.

I mentioned recently the pitiful aged and ailing Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who insists on claiming a fourth consecutive term in office, which of course he will obtain because the “elections” for the post will be configured to produce his victory. The latest sad example is the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, who assumed power through a military coup, has been president for a quarter of a century and has committed just about every mistake and crime that a national leader can commit against his own people.

His misrule and cruelty was capped by his indictment a few years ago by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the war in Darfur that has killed and displaced millions of Sudanese – and continues today. He is such a disliked leader that some of his own nationals seceded and created their own country of South Sudan in 2011.